16 April 2009

Patristic Quote of the Day

[Note: I've been hunting this down for a long time. Migne published it in DIATRlBA AD OPUS IMPERFECTUM IN MATTHAEUM, QUOD CHRYSOSTOMI NOMINE CIRCUMFERTUR. Thus it was attributed to St. John Chrysostom commenting on Matthew 24 (flee to the hills), but no one knows if it is from his hand. I find the exegesis in the larger passage to be a tad more Alexandrian than he was wont to employ. In any case, it is found in PG volume 56, page 908, 909 and apparently exists only in the Latin. Chemnitz knew the citation and included in it in his Examination of the Council of Trent I:156. Big thanks to Robert Smith of the Fort Wayne seminary for sending me a PDF of the citation.]

Because in this period in which heresy has taken possession of the churches there can be no proof of true Christianity nor any other refuge for Christians who want to know the truth of the faith except the divine Scriptures. Earlier we showed in many ways which is the church of Christ, and which heathenism. But now there is for those who want to know which is the true church of Christ no way to know it except only through the Scriptures. -- attributed St. John Chrysostom, Homily 49 on Matthew 24


Bryce P Wandrey said...

It sounds "worse" than it probably is.

What I mean is I doubt Chrysosotom or Augustine or (fill in the blank) would allow Scriptures to stand seperate from the persons who wrote them, ie. they aren't documents that fell from the sky that said "Read me: I am authoritative." They are inevitably tied to a person which is one of the only reasons they are in the canon. (Content-author-community-???).

If that is the case, then when we speak of Scriptures we also speak of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, John, etc. Yes, we speak of their writings but we necessarily speak of them as well. Real persons who wrote real books in real situations. So, when we speak of them we speak about people in the Church who wrote documents for a certain reason, informed by and influenced by everything that informs and influences a human being. Of course, the Holy Spirit was one of those influences.

And so, really, when Chrysostom speaks about the Scriptures he doesn't mean something as harsh as a sepratist notion which may conclude with, "You can't completely trust the Church, you can't completely trust Bishops, you can't completely trust canons and councils, but you can completely trust the Scriptures." That would be nonsensical--to divorce the Scriptures from their symbiotic relationships. If that is what he meant, then I think he was nonsensical in writing it (but I doubt that is what the author meant).

**See what you do when you quote something like that purporting to have found the Holy Grail of proof texts. :D

William Weedon said...

LOL. It's a very interesting section. I just don't trust my Latin (self-taught and quite fallible) to get the rest of it out. But he does point out that the false church has everything like the true: similar churches, similar bishops, similar orders of clergy, similar divine Scriptures, yes, even similar Christ! And yet the false does not have the power to sanctify. There's some more stuff that I don't quite get, and then he wraps up with asking again, how to know the true from the false except solely (tantummodo) through the Scriptures.

Now, this is purely speculation on my part, but would it not be interesting if those quote from Chrysostom surfaced about the time of the three claimants to the papal see?

Bryce P Wandrey said...

But of course Tertullian witnesses to the tradition that Churches were known to be apostolic based upon the list of bishops. The list was created for the sole purpose of distinguishing the false claimants from the true claimants.

Now, I wouldn't want to take that to one extreme and say no matter what a church taught or confessed, that as long as it was on the list it was apostolic. Would anyone want to take these words of Chrysostom to another extreme?

In the end, every heretic "had the Bible on his/her side." But who determined the "right"/orthodox interpretation?

William Weedon said...

If this is Chrysostom we're dealing with here (which I doubt), it would be of a piece with the passage I cited earlier from him in his Acts commentary where he made the same sort of argument: Want to know which is true? Here are the Scriptures. Read them! I think that some, no doubt out of the chaos that a false understanding of sola Scriptura has spurred on among Protestants, have trouble getting their mind around this rather typical approach of the Fathers and their great confidence in the Sacred Scriptures.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Could you briefly lay out for me the differences presented in this statement?

"I think that some, no doubt out of the chaos that a false understanding of sola Scriptura has spurred on among Protestants, have trouble getting their mind around this rather typical approach of the Fathers and their great confidence in the Sacred Scriptures."What is the false position of "some Protestants" compared to the "rather typical approach of the Fathers" in regards to holy scripture?

William Weedon said...

Sure. The Fathers do not hesitate to appeal to the Scriptures to establish the veracity of their teaching; and they urge their hearers not to accept what is not demonstrable from the Scriptures as divine dogma, even if they are the ones teaching it. In other words, they invite the confidence of their hearers in the divine revelation to the apostles and prophets.

They do not, however, treat the Scriptures as though their authority existed in a vacuum, but recognize them as being unlocked by the canon of truth which the Church herself possesses as she reads the texts through the lens of Christ crucified and risen and coming in glory. There is a Christological key, if you will, that is safe-guarded in the Church's dogmatic and symbolic and liturgical Tradition which unfolds the proper reading of the same, so that one ends up (as St. Irenaeus would put it) with the picture of the great King and not of the fox. The danger of the typical Protestant approach is to treat the Scriptures as source unto themselves instead of as norm existing within the context of the Church's life, and so read Christologically.

William Weedon said...

Oh, and I should also have added that the Fathers do not need a specific Scriptural mandate for every ceremony they've received; they recognize that apostolic Tradition embraces more than the text of the Sacred Scriptures and more than the proper canon of how to read those Sacred Scriptures; it includes also various ceremonies and practices in harmony with, but not explicit from the Scriptures. Thus, the sign of the cross; the words of the Eucharistia; and other things like that (which St. Basil recounts in *On The Holy Spirit*). Obviously, that was a huge historic distinction between the Lutheran and the Reformed communions, for Lutherans similarly sought to retain whatever in the Tradition was not opposed to the Sacred Scriptures or obscuring of the canon of truth of those Scriptures, the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I've posted stuff from St. John Chrysostom before to show clearly enough that he was not any sola Scripturist. But as I'm paying by the minute just now for Internet service, I haven't time to hunt it up again.

But William, it's just not right to post stuff that makes this Saint appear to be other than he was.

William Weedon said...

Dear Anastasia,

You probably didn't notice that I didn't think St. John Chrysostom is the author of the quote, though many in former ages apparently did. He did, however, regard Scripture as the norm to which the Church's teaching was to be held.

It IS interesting that the author of this quote obviously didn't buy the notion that the Church cannot err.

Anonymous said...

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Bryce P Wandrey said...
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