15 November 2019

Patristic Passages of Import to Lutheran Christians

Patristic Passages of Interest for Lutherans

Note, I've offered many of these before but I put it out there now as a resource for folks who are interested. As always I encourage not merely to read the section I quote but to read the document as a whole. I don't believe at any place I've ignored context, but you should check that nonetheless - and there are a couple listed here that I gleaned from a secondary source (and so didn't read the original in context), but that will be clear in the citation. 

Many times, Lutherans are challenged with: "Well, where was Lutheranism before Luther?" The implication is that Rome or the Eastern Orthodox have some sort of "corner" on the great church Fathers. But Lutherans have never believed this to be true. The Fathers repeatedly present the same or quite similar approaches to doctrine as the Lutheran Confessions do. Here are some citations from the Fathers that may be of help in dispelling the notion that "Lutheranism" is a johnny-come-lately to the Church scene. Yet do be aware of this truth, as Krauth put it so memorably: If we find our faith in the Fathers, we must not always expect to find it couched in the terms which we should now employ.  It is their faith rather than their theology we are seeking; and we should compare our faith with their faith rather than our dogmatics with theirs.  Systematic thinking and nicely balanced expression are the growth of ages in the Church.  We must not suppose that the faith of the Church in not found in a particular writer, because we miss many of its now current phrases.... The oak of a thousand years is not a fac-simile of itself at a hundred years; yet less a fac-simile of the acorn from which it grew.  Yet the oak is but the acorn developed, its growth is its history; and if the bond with its past be broken anywhere, the oak dies.  -- C. P. Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* pp. 726, 727.


There comes a heathen and says, "I wish to become a Christian, but I know not whom to join: there is much fighting and faction among you, much confusion: which doctrine am I to choose?" How shall we answer him? "Each of you" (says he) "asserts, 'I speak the truth.'"  No  doubt: this is in our favor. For if we told you to be persuaded by arguments, you might well be perplexed: but if we bid you believe the Scriptures, and these are simple and true, the decision is easy for you. If any agree with the Scriptures, he is the Christian; if any fight against them, he is far from this rule.  -- St. John Chrysostom, (Homily 33 in Acts of the Apostles [NPNF1,11:210-11; PG 60.243-44])

"Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast." St. John Chrysostom (Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96 TFOTC)

"Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Holy Trinity, NPNF, p. 327).

"We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection NPNF II, V:439)

"What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if 'all that is not of faith is sin' as the Apostle says, and 'faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,' everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin." Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).

"For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures." St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in NPNF, Volume VII, p. 23.)

"It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments." St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 2

"Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): "Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning."--St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8


Let us see, however, whether the brigand gave evidence of effort and upright deeds and a good yield. Far from his being able to claim even this, he made his way into paradise before the apostles with a mere word, on the basis of faith alone, the intention being for you to learn that it was not so much a case of his sound values prevailing as the Lord's lovingkindness being completely responsible.  What, in fact, did the brigand say? What did he do? Did he fast? Did he weep? Did he tear his garments? Did he display repentance in good time? Not at all: on the cross itself after his utterance he won salvation. Note the rapidity: from cross to heaven, from condemnation to salvation. What were those wonderful words, then? What great power did they have that they brought him such marvelous good things? "Remember me in your kingdom." What sort of word is that? He asked to receive good things, he showed no concern for them in action; but the one who knew his heart paid attention not to the words but to the attitude of mind. --John Chrysostom, Sermon 7 on Genesis, in St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis, pp. 123-24 (2004), Robert C. Hill translator.

"Similarly we also, who by His will have been called in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, or our own wisdom or understanding or godliness, nor by such deeds as we have done in holiness of heart, but by that faith through which Almighty God has justified all men since the beginning of time. Glory be to Him, forever and ever, Amen." - St. Clement of Rome (Letter to the Corinthians, par. 32)

"To this end has His Grace and Goodness been formed upon us in Christ Jesus, that being dead according to works, redeemed through faith and saved by grace, we might receive the gift
of this great deliverance." (Ambrose, Letter 76 to Irenaeus, a layman)

"But when the Lord Jesus came, He forgave all men that sin which none could escape, and blotted out the handwriting against us by the shedding of His own Blood. This then is the Apostle's meaning; sin abounded by the Law, but grace abounded by Jesus; for after that the whole world became guilty, He took away the sin of the whole world, as John bore witness, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Wherefore let no man glory in works, for by his works no man shall be justified, for he that is just hath a free gift, for he is justified by the Bath. It is faith then which delivers by the blood of Christ, for Blessed is the man to whom sin is remitted, and, pardon granted." (Ambrose, Letter 73, to Irenaeus, a layman)

"Human beings can be saved from the ancient wound of the serpent in no other way than by believing in him who, when he was raised up from the earth on the tree of martyrdom in the likeness of sinful flesh, drew all things to himself and gave life to the dead." - St. Irenaeus (Against the Heresies, IV, 2, 7)

"Indeed, this is the perfect and complete glorification of God, when one does not exult in his own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness to be justified by faith alone in Christ." - St. Basil the Great (Homily on Humility, PG 31.532; TFoTC vol. 9, p. 479)

"But we all escape the condemnation for our sins referred to above, if we believe in the grace of God through His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who said: 'This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins.'" – St. Basil the Great (Concerning Baptism, TfoTC vol. 9, p. 344)

"They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed." - St. John Chrysostom (Homily on Galatians 3)

"But he calls it their 'own righteousness,' either because the Law was no longer of force, or because it was one of trouble and toil. But this he calls God's righteousness, that from faith, because it comes entirely from the grace from above, and because men are justified in this case, not by labors, but by the gift of God." – St. John Chrysostom (Homily 17 on Romans 10:3)

"Here he shows God's power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only." Homily 7 on Romans – St. John Chrysostom

"For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law." - St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to Titus, Homily 3, PG 62.651)

"'To declare His righteousness.' What is declaring of righteousness? Like the declaring of His riches, not only for Him to be rich Himself, but also to make others rich, or of life, not only that He is Himself living, but also that He makes the dead to live; and of His power, not only that He is Himself powerful, but also that He makes the feeble powerful. So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He doth also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores (katasapentaj) of sin suddenly righteous. And it is to explain this, viz. what is "declaring," that he has added, "That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Doubt not then: for it is not of works, but of faith: and shun not the righteousness of God, for it is a blessing in two ways; because it is easy, and also open to all men. And be not abashed and shamefaced. For if He Himself openly declareth (endeiknutai) Himself to do so, and He, so to say, findeth a delight and a pride therein, how comest thou to be dejected and to hide thy face at what thy Master glorieth in?" - St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 3

"But what is the 'law of faith?' It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God's power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 3

"For the Law requires not only Faith but works also, but grace saves and justifies by Faith. (Eph. ii: 8)
You see how he proves that they are under the curse who cleave to the Law, because it is impossible to fulfill it; next, how comes Faith to have this justifying power? for to this doctrine he already stood pledged, and now maintains it with great force of argument. The Law being too weak to lead man to righteousness, an effectual remedy was provided in Faith, which is the means of rendering that possible which was "impossible by the Law." (Rom. viii: 3) Now as the Scripture says, "the just shall live by faith," thus repudiating salvation by the Law, and moreover as Abraham was justified by Faith, it is evident that its efficacy is very great. And it is also clear, that he who abides not by the Law is cursed, and that he who keeps to Faith is just. But, you may ask me, how I prove that this curse is not still of force? Abraham lived before the Law, but we, who once were subject to the yoke of bondage, have made ourselves liable to the curse; and who shall release us therefrom? Observe his ready answer to this; his former remark was sufficient; for, if a man be once justified, and has died to the Law and embraced a novel life, how can such a one be subject to the curse?" - St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians 3

"God does not wait for time to elapse after repentance. You state your sin, you are justified. You repented, you have been shown mercy." – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 7 On Repentance and Compunction, p. 95 in FOTC, vol. 96.

"Gain for yourself the pardon coming from faith, since he is his own worst enemy who does not believe that he is given what the very generous Bestower of mercy promises in all kindness." St. Peter Chrysologus – Sermon 58 (On the Creed), par. 13 (TFOTC, Vol. 109, p. 224)

"Give yourself, O man, pardon by believing, since you fell into all the sins by despairing." St. Peter Chrysologus – Sermon 62 (On the Creed), par. 16 (TFOTC, Vol. 109, p. 245)

"We need none of those legal observances, he says; faith suffices to obtain for us the Spirit, and by Him righteousness, and many and great benefits." - Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians 4

"And he well said, "a righteousness of mine own," not that which I gained by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then he who was so excellent is saved by grace, much more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other? That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence." Chrysostom, Homily on Philippians 3

Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned. 

Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo 
punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor's favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift.

This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. "All have sinned," says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins.

All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King's loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification.

What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: "But now the justice of God has been made manifest apart from the Law." But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering. Chrysostom on Justification, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians. Discourse I:6-II:1:

"Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of His incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace. When Scripture says, 'He will reward every man according to his works' (Matt 16:27), do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but our Creator and Redeemer." St. Mark the Ascetic (ca. 425), On those who think that they are made righteous by works.

"Confess Jesus Christ, and believe that He is risen from the dead, and you will be saved. For indeed righteousness is only to be believed; but a complete salvation must also be confessed and knowledge must be added to confidence." - St. Gregory Nazianzus (On Moderation, PG 36.204)

"While I was sick in the flesh, the Savior was sent to me in the likeness of sinful flesh, fulfilling such a dispensation, to redeem me from slavery, from corruption, and from death. And He became to me righteousness, and sanctification, and salvation. Righteousness, by setting me free from sin through faith in Him. Sanctification, in having set me free through water and the Spirit and His word. And salvation, His blood being the ransom of the true Lamb, having given Himself on my behalf." - St. Epiphanios (Against Heresies 3.1,2 PG 42.477)

Where Christ enters, there necessarily is also salvation. May he therefore also be in us: and He is in us when we believe; for he dwells in our hearts by faith, and we are His abode. It would have been better then for the Jews to have rejoiced because Zaccheus was wonderfully saved, for he too was counted among the sons of Abraham, to whom God promised salvation in Christ by the holy prophets, saying, There shall come a Savior from Zion, and he shall take away iniquities from Jacob, and this is my covenant with them, when I will bear their sins. Christ, therefore, arose to deliver the inhabitants of the earth from their sins, and to seek them that were lost, and to save them that had perished. For this is His office, and, so to say, the fruit of His godlike gentleness. Of this will he also count all those worthy who have believed in him. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 127

What is meant by mercy? and what by sacrifice? By mercy then is signified, Justification and grace in Christ, even that which is by faith. For we have been justified, not by the works of the law that we have done, but by His great mercy. And sacrifice means the law of Moses. - St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 23

Be not troubled when thou meditatest upon the greatness of thy former sins; but rather know, that still greater is the grace that justifieth the sinner and absolveth the wicked. Faith then in Christ is found to be the pledge to us of these great blessings; for it is the way that leadeth unto life, that bids us go to the mansions that are above, that raises us to the inheritance of the saints, that makes us members of the kingdom of Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 40 on St. Luke.


To be pleasing in the judgment of human beings derives from superior human virtue and achievement; in the sight of God, who examines hearts, to be righteous does not derive from human achievement, but from a divine gift. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 89, par. 5

"Why then are you afraid of drawing nigh, since you have no works demanded of you? Why are you bickering and quarrelsome, when grace is before you, and why keep putting me the Law forward to no purpose whatsoever? For you will not be saved by that, and will mar this gift also; since if you pertinaciously insist on being saved by it, you do away with this grace of God." – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 18 on Romans 10,11

"After speaking of the wages of sin, in the case of blessings, he has not kept to the same order: for he does not say, the wages of your good deeds, but the gift of God: to show, that it was not of themselves that they were freed, nor was it a due they received, neither yet a return, nor a recompense of labors, but by grace all these things came about. And so there was superiority for this cause also, in that He did not free them only, or change their condition for the better, but that He did it without any labor or trouble upon their part: and that He not only freed them, but also gave them more than before, and that through His Son." - St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to the Romans, Homily 12, Rom 6:23)

"And if any were to cast in prison a person who owed ten mites, and not the man himself only, but wife and children and servants for his sake; and another were to come and not to pay down the ten mites only, but to give also ten thousand talents of gold, and to lead the prisoner into the king's courts, and to the throne of the highest power, and were to make him partaker of the highest honour and every kind of magnificence, the creditor would not be able to remember the ten mites; so hath our case been. For Christ hath paid down far more than we owe, yea as much more as the illimitable ocean is than a little drop." - St. John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, Homily X, Rom 5:17

"Is it possible, Scripture says, for one to repent and be saved? It is absolutely and most certainly the case. What, though, if I have wasted my life in sins and then repent: will I be saved? Yes, indeed! What source indicates this? The philanthropy of your Master. Can I take courage from your repentance? Could it be that your repentance has the power to wipe clean so many evils? If it were only up to repentance, then assuredly be afraid. However, since repentance is mixed together with the philanthropy of God, take courage. For God's philanthropy is immeasurable, nor can any word provide the measure of his goodness. Your wickedness is measurable, but the medicine is immeasurable. Your wickedness, whatever it may be, is human wickedness; but God's philanthropy is ineffable. Have courage because it surpasses your wickedness. Just think of one spark that fell into the sea; could it stand or be seen? What one spark is in comparison to the sea, so wickedness is before the philanthropy of God; not even this much, but much more so. For the sea, even though it is vast, has limits; but God's philanthropy is unlimited." – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church FOTC: vol 96, p. 112,113

"Well done, O Christ, O Wisdom and Power and Word of God, and God almighty! What should we resourceless people give Thee in return for all things? For all things are Thine and Thou askest nothing of us but that we be saved. Even this Thou hast given us, and by Thy ineffable goodness Thou art grateful to those who accept it. Thanks be to Thee who hast given being and grace of well-being and who by Thy ineffable condescension hast brought back to this state those who fell from it!" - St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Chapter 4.

"And so the power is conquered in the name of him who assumed human nature and whose life was without sin, so that in him, who was both priest and sacrifice, remission of sins might be effected, that is, through the 'mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus', through whom we are purified from our sins and reconciled to God. For it is only sins that separate men from God; and in this life purification from sins is not effected by our merit, but by the compassion of God, through his indulgence, not through our power; for even that poor little virtue which we call ours has itself been granted to us by his bounty."– St. Augustine, City of God, X, Chapter 22


Of faults thus grievous, Christ proved them guilty who professed to be skilled in the law; the scribes, I mean, and lawyers; and for this reason he said unto them, Also to you lawyers, woe! who have taken away the key of knowledge. By the key of knowledge we consider that the law itself is meant, and justification in Christ, by faith I mean in Him. For though the law was in shadow and type, yet those types shape out to us the truth and those shadows depict to us in manifold ways the mystery of Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 86 on St. Luke


And so the human race was lying under a just condemnation, and all men were the children of wrath. Of which wrath it is written: "All our days are passed away in Your wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told." Of which wrath also Job says: "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." Of which wrath also the Lord Jesus says: "He that believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him." He does not say it will come, but it "abides on him." For every man is born with it; wherefore the apostle says: "We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Now, as men were lying under this wrath by reason of their original sin, and as this original sin was the more heavy and deadly in proportion to the number and magnitude of the actual sins which were added to it, there was need for a Mediator, that is, for a reconciler, who, by the offering of one sacrifice, of which all the sacrifices of the law and the prophets were types, should take away this wrath. Wherefore the apostle says: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Now when God is said to be angry, we do not attribute to Him such a disturbed feeling as exists in the mind of an angry man; but we call His just displeasure against sin by the name "anger," a word transferred by analogy from human emotions. But our being reconciled to God through a Mediator, and receiving the Holy Spirit, so that we who were enemies are made sons ("For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God"): this is the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. – St. Augustine, Enchiridion 33

"The psalmist does not suppose that he is living this life, for he had said, See, I was conceived in iniquities and my mother bore me in sins. He know that he was born from a sinful origin and under the law of sin." - St. Hilary (Commentary on Psalm 118, 22)

"The words 'the Jordan turned backward' (Ps 114:3), signified the future mysteries of the bath of salvation through which the little ones who have been baptized are changed from wickedness back to their original state." - St. Ambrose (Commentary on Luke 1, 37)

"We then say, that in many things we all of us offend, and that no man is pure from uncleanness, even though his life upon earth be but one day. Let us ask then of God mercy; which if we do, Christ will justify us; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen." - Homily 120 on Luke 18 - St. Cyril of Alexandria

And if you like to hear what other saints also have felt in regard to physical birth, listen to David when he says, I was conceived, so it runs, in iniquity and in sin my mother hath borne me, proving that every soul which is born in the flesh is tainted with the stain of iniquity and sin.  This is the reason for that saying which we have already quoted above, No man is clean from sin, not even if his life be one day long. To these, as a further point, may be added an enquiry into the reason for which, while the church's baptism is given for the remission of sin, it is the custom of the church that baptism be administered even to infants. Certainly, if there were nothing in infants that required remission and called for lenient treatment, the grace of baptism would seem unnecessary.  (R.B. Tollinton, Selections From The Commentaries And Homilies of Origen, 1929, p. 211)

Through a man sin came and clearly through this sin we are seen to have come under the control of death. O sin, you cruel beast – and a beast not content to vent your fury against the human race from merely one head. We have seen this beast, brethren, devouring with a triple head all the highly precious sprouts of the human family. Yes, brethren, with a mouth that is triple: as sin this beast captures, as death it devours, as hell it swallows down. (ibid, p. 176, 177)

For the whole nature of man became guilty in the person of him who was first formed; but now it is wholly justified again in Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 42 on St. Luke


That Lamb of Moses took not at once away the sin of any one; but this took away the sin of all the world; for when it was in danger of perishing, He quickly delivered it from the wrath of God.—Chrys. Hom 17 on Jn 

For our sins, says the Apostle; we had pierced ourselves with ten thousand evils, and had deserved the gravest punishment; and the Law not only did not deliver us, but it even condemned us, making sin more manifest, without the power to release us from it, or to stay the anger of God. But the Son of God made this impossibility possible for he remitted our sins, He restored us from enmity to the condition of friends, He freely bestowed on us numberless other blessings. – St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Galatians 1

If Phinees, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind?…Further; if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save?…Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also…These things the Saviour endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth. For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness. Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness.--St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XIII 

"And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: "By his stripes we were healed," and "The Lord delivered him for our sins," with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, "I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee." - Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, X.1 

"A sacrifice was needed to reconcile the Father on high with us and to sanctify us, since we had been soiled by fellowship with the evil one. There had to be a sacrifice which both cleansed and was clean, and a purified, sinless priest…. God overturned the devil through suffering and His Flesh which He offered as a sacrifice to God the Father, as a pure and altogether holy victim – how great is His gift! – and reconciled God to the human race…Since He gave His Blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from our guilt. He forgave us our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and delivered us from the devil's tyranny." --St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 16, 21, 24, 31 

For the wrath of man reaches at most the body, and the death of the flesh is the utmost that they can contrive against us, but when God punishes, the loss reaches not to the flesh alone – how could it – but the wretched soul also is cast along with it into torments. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 87 on Luke

For it was by reason of Adam's transgression of the commandment that we, having our faces turned away from God, returned to our dust; for the sentence of God upon human nature was, Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return; but at the time of the consummation of this world, the face of the earth shall be renewed; for God the Father by the Son in the Spirit will give life to all those who are laid within it.--St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 36 on St. Luke


"Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, This is my body,  that is, the figure of my body." – Tertullian, Against Marcian, Book IV, Chapter 40.

For even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before. But they are regarded as what they are become, and believed so to be, and are worshipped  as being what they are believed to be. – Theodoret, Dialogues II

Certainly the sacraments of the body and blood of Christ are a divine thing, through which we are made partakers of the divine nature; and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to be. – Pope Gelasius, De duabis nature. In Chr. Adv. Eutych. Et Nestor. Patrology IV, 1:422 (cited p. 741 in Krauth)

Let us then in everything believe God, and gainsay Him in nothing, though what is said seem to be contrary to our thoughts and senses, but let His word be of higher authority than both reasonings and sight. Thus let us do in the mysteries also, not looking at the things set before us, but keeping in mind His sayings.  For His word cannot deceive, but our senses are easily beguiled. That has never failed, but this in most things goes wrong. Since then the word says, This is my body, let us both be persuaded and believe, and look at it with the eyes of the mind.  For Christ has given nothing sensible, but though in things sensible yet all to be perceived by the mind. So also in baptism, the gift is bestowed by a sensible thing, that is, by water; but that which is done is perceived by the mind, the birth, I mean, and the renewal. For if you had been incorporeal, He would have delivered you the incorporeal gifts bare; but because the soul has been locked up in a body, He delivers you the things that the mind perceives, in things sensible.  How many now say, I would wish to see His form, the mark, His clothes, His shoes. Lo! you see Him, Thou touchest Him, you eat Him. And thou indeed desirest to see His clothes, but He gives Himself to you not to see only, but also to touch and eat and receive within you. – Chrysostom, Homily 81 on Matthew
Irenaeus:  When the mingled cup and bread receives the word of God it becomes the Eucharist of the body and blood of Christ. Ad Haer V

Ambrose (at least anciently attributed to him):  How can what is bread be the Body of Christ? By the consecration. The consecration takes place by certain words; but whose words? Those of the Lord Jesus. Like all the rest of the things said beforehand, they are said by the priest; praises are referred to God, prayer of petition is offered for the people, for kings, for other persons; but when the time comes for the confection of the venerable Sacrament, then the priest uses not his own words but the words of Christ. Therefore it is the word of Christ that confects this Sacrament. (The Sacraments 4:4:14)

Gregory of Nyssa:  Rightly, then, do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word. For that Body was once, by implication, bread, but has been consecrated by the inhabitation of the Word that tabernacled in the flesh. Therefore, from the same cause as that by which the bread that was transformed in that Body was changed to a Divine potency, a similar result takes place now. For as in that case, too, the grace of the Word used to make holy the Body, the substance of which came of the bread, and in a manner was itself bread, so also in this case the bread, as says the Apostle 1 Timothy 4:5, is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer; not that it advances by the process of eating to the stage of passing into the body of the Word, but it is at once changed into the body by means of the Word, as the Word itself said, This is My Body. (Great Catechism, Part III, Chapter 37)

Chrysostom:  It is not man who makes the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ, but Christ himself, who was crucified for us.  By the power of God, those things which are set forth are consecrated through the medium of the words: This is my body.  - Homilies on John
The body which is born of the holy Virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God's body and blood . But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit. And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energises and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out . But one can put it well thus, that just as in nature the bread by the eating and the wine and the water by the drinking are changed into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, and do not  become a different body from the former one, so the bread of the table  and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, and are not two but one  and the same. – John of Damascus On the Orthodox Faith IV:16
Apostolic Succession - Identity of Priests and Bishops

So then, as I said, both the Presbyters were of old called Bishops and Deacons of Christ, and the Bishops Presbyters; and hence even now many Bishops write, "To my fellow-Presbyter," and, "To my fellow-Deacon." But otherwise the specific name is distinctly appropriated to each, the Bishop and the Presbyter. "To the fellow-Bishops," he says, and Deacons.—St. John Chrys. On Philippians 1:1

Therefore as the presbyters know that they are subject to the one who has been placed over them by an ecclesiastical custom, the bishops should know that they are greater than the presbyters more through custom than through the verity of an ordinance of the Lord and that they all ought to rule the church in common. —St. Jerome, Commentary on Titus 1:5

The presbyter accordingly is the same as a bishop....But because at that time the same persons were called bishops and presbyters, so he speaks on that account without distinction about bishops as he does about priests. St. Jerome, Commentary on Titus 1:5

The apostle clearly teaches that presbyters are the same as bishops. St. Jerome 146 Letter to Evangelus

Therefore, appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, 1 Timothy 3:4 and truthful and proven; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers.—Didache 15


Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

Well done, Pr. Weedon. Thank you.

Pastor Paul McCain

Caleb said...

Insofar as Lutheranism agrees with the Orthodox Church about some of these theological topics, it's obvious that there will be some overlap between what the fathers and the reformation teachers believe. It's very easy to quote-mine though, and deeper investigation of the works in question, especially of the early fathers, will suffice to show that they do not confess Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, or any other Reformation distinctives. One doesn't have to read far into any of Chrysostom (just as an example of a frequently cited father here) to see that he was, as C.F.W. Walther and others easily concluded, a synergist when it came to salvation. It's also rather disingenuous to cite Basil in favor of Sola Scriptura, when in "On the Holy Spirit," he writes

"Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in a mystery" by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay — no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more."

For Basil, and all of the fathers, unwritten tradition of the apostles and written teaching "have the same force." It's worth noting, that this passage is central to his argument for one of the most central teachings of our faith, the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and to my knowledge, was a sentiment totally unchallenged as such throughout all church history until Luther. It's easy to find the fathers saying things that may "sound" Lutheran, just as Lutheranism holds to a lot of things that are mostly true. I don't have the time to refute every topic, but I'd encourage the reader to actually read the cited works of the fathers. Once I started, as a Lutheran, I found that they taught a very different faith than I had been led to believe, the faith of the Holy Orthodox Church.

William Weedon said...


It was not unkindly meant when Sasse suggested that the Orthodox would do well to study St. John Chrysostom and not just venerate his icon. He meant that it was entirely possible to ASSUME that his position fully informs Orthodoxy, when it might in fact contain some challenges. Note what Krauth said in the intro I posted. Obviously, it is important to note what the Fathers actually say and teach. I supply the locations so anyone can look them up in their context and see what they say. I am very familiar with what St. Basil wrote in On the Holy Spirit. I used to think that must be his definitive word on the subject, but then I realized the more I read his writings that IT was the outlier and not typical. Typical is insistence on the sufficiency of Scripture! In any case, Lutherans and Orthodox will not agree on this. But to any fair minded reader, the Lutheran appeal is just READ them. Check out what they say. And remember that when they differ from the sacred Scriptures, you have not just their permission but their insistence that you stick with the Sacred Scriptures!


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

I have, in the past, accused you of cherry picking your citations. I’d like to take a different tack here to illustrate what I’ve meant. In what follows, I’m “spitballing,” but I will try to take conservative assumptions throughout.

There are two standard sets of texts for the Fathers—Migne’s Patrologia Latina and his Patrologia Graeca.

I’ll take just one: the Patrologia Graeca. It has 161 volumes. Just for fun, I took one of those volumes, #150, as a basis. (Some are thicker, some are thinner.) Volume 150 has approximately 1372 columns of text, about ½ Greek and ½ Latin. So there are roughly 686 columns of Greek text. I took a random page, and calculated 362 Greek words on that page.

If you take 362 Greek words per column times 686 columns of Greek text, you get 248,332 Greek words per volume. That many words, times 161 volumes, equals 39,981,452 Greek words in the PG.

Let’s be conservative, and cut that number of Greek words in half. That would still leave about 20 million Greek words in the PG.

Through the magic of the computer, I cut and pasted your citations into MS Word. I came up with 7,084 words of citations from the fathers. That includes the bibliographical detail. (Those citations are from both Greek and Latin fathers. But I’m being conservative, so I’m not adding in all the words from the PL, which includes 217 volumes.)

Assuming a one-to-one correspondence between Greek and English words (which is illegitimate for scholarly purposes, but I’m spitballing, as I said above), your 7,084 words represent a sample of approximately .034%. That’s 3/100 of a percent of the words.

To give a sense of perspective: Long Island has about 1400 square miles. The US has about 3,800,000 square miles. Long Island is about .035 percent of the US territorially. Your claim is analogous to saying that Long Island represents the entirety of the US.

And remember, I’m being conservative. The actual percent, assuming an equal number of words in the PL (which is itself a conservative assumption, since the PL has 217 volumes), would be about four times less.

Further, the same authors you cite in your texts also say things that, at the very least, put a different light on the citations. You take none of those other texts into consideration. It’s a little like saying, “If you take Alexander the Great, dress him in a three piece suit, teach him English, and give him twenty years’ experience in corporate America, he’d be a CEO…”

So, yeah. Cherrypicking.

Scott said...

You have a lot of quotes here, but not enough to capture the essence or understanding of the Church.

You show St John and others talking about Scripture, but you try to imply that when they say something that sounds like "sola scriptura," they don't include a particular *understanding* of that Scripture. That's misleading. They are talking about Scripture as understood and interpreted by the Church and in its place (without competition) as part of the very Tradition that gave birth to it.

You show St. John talking about faith, but you imply he means the same thing as modern Lutherans who say the word. That is misleading. The Church, and everyone quoted above, understood "faith" the way the Scriptures do: a thing that, without works, is dead, for there are many good works prepared for us by God. Ephesians 2 has a verse 10. ;)
Oh! Here! I have found a quote:

Let us not then vainly flatter our own souls with speeches like these; no, let us take heed, let us have a regard for our own salvation, let us make virtue our care, let us rouse ourselves to the practice of good works, that we may be counted worthy to attain to this exceeding glory, in Jesus Christ our Lord with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit be glory, might, honor, now and ever, and for ages of ages. Amen.

-St John Chrysostom

Now, let's be clear and honest. No Orthodox person believes that by doing works of the Torah, or anything else, that they can earn salvation.
But we also know that the Scriptures and the Church view faith as something much more than "the faith that trusts" or some other internal exercise. God changes people, including their actions. Vines bear fruit according to their kind. See the story of the sheep and goats.

It's ironic because, for people so insistent on the concept "Sola Scriptura," Lutherans have such a hard time with the clearest passages. "Faith without works is dead." Period.

There's more that *could* be said, but I'm going to stop there.

It makes me sad to see this. When I read this post, watched your Redeemer talk, saw your interview with Pr. Fisk, I got a strong sense that you are struggling to convince yourself. You are a really smart man, and you know what the Fathers mean by "faith" and you know what they think about the Scriptures, but it seems like your conscience may still prick you a little, so you search for ways that might make it more comfortable. That's the impression I get. I bet I'm not alone. I did the same thing. Looked for all the points where I could say "see, the same!" But I finally stopped protesting too much and converted because we're not the same on some really important points.

God leads us all. May we not resist Him, and may He bless you richly.

William Weedon said...

Thanks, both, for your contributions. This Lutheran has ZERO problem with faith without works being dead. Absolutely right. No genuine Lutheran denies that at all. As for the Fathers being a wide ocean, of course they are! Massive. The more I read, the more I enjoy the exploration. I’d encourage everyone to do so. Read them, ponder them, they’re pondering the very words in which God chose to give us the good news of salvation. See again Krauth’s words at the start of my post: they may not always say things as we would today, but it’s worth listening to their testimony always. This Lutheran will always love them and enjoy growing in learning them. I hope my Orthodox and Roman brothers and sisters do as well. Pax Christi!

Herr B. said...

Pr. Weedon,

Where does the Sasse comment come from? I've tried to find it but can't put my finger on it.


Herr B. said...

Fr. Hogg,

You spend a lot of words making an argument that percentage of words is an indication of importance. What percentage of holy scripture is "this is my body"? Of the Fathers? Are you saying that indicates its importance?


Unknown said...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Typical Lutheran cherry-picking of quotes divorced of context from Church fathers, NONE of whom, mind you, were Lutheran or would recognize much of anything in the Lutheran church of the 16th century and especially today. I love how Lutherans love the Church fathers and claim them to be on their side but then in the same sentence of veneration for them put them down for beliefs and defenses of doctrines such as, but not limited to: invocation and prayers to the saints, especially the Mother of God; transformation of the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of our Lord; ALL the sacraments, including confession, ordination, and marriage; monasticism; faith AND works together; defense of the use of images; ad orientem for the posture of the priests; feast days of great saints and retention of the calendar; fasting for the discipline of the flesh. no Church father was Lutheran. Please stop deluding yourselves.--Chris

Unknown said...

If you read the fathers in the original Greek, it will lead you to a conversion experience you will not believe. That was the case with me. I didn't learn Greek as a Greek Orthodox, but my knowledge of Greek made me become Greek Orthodox.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

David, I did not say that percentage of words is an indication of importance. I made two claims:

(1) That Rev'd. Weedon is cherrypicking. From Wikipedia: "Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position."

Since I wrote that post, I came up with another analogy. I recently purchased Tarkovsky's "The Sacrifice." It's about 149 minutes of complex cinematic feast. If we took the same percentage of that film as Rev'd Weedon has taken of the fathers, it would amount to 3 seconds of that 149 minutes.

The oft-cited Jerome passage comes to mind as not representing the consensus patrum..

(2) There is evidence, easily accessible, that the selfsame writers Pr. Weedon cites say things at odds with Lutheranism, as some other commenters have noted.

In Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Pr. Weedon specifically selected passages that I said would be OF INTEREST to Lutherans from the Fathers. Nowhere is there a claim that everything the fathers taught about everything would agree with the Lutherans (for that matter, neither does that agree with the Orthodox or the Roman Catholics). The citations are offered so they can be checked out in context. Of course, Chrysostom or Augustine or Leo will say things we disagree with, just as Pope Gelasius (cited above) says something that now Roman Catholics (and I assume, Eastern Orthodox) will disagree with. The whole point of the citation Summa quoting Augustine was to show that the Fathers themselves instruct us in how to READ the Fathers. As to Jerome being the consensus patrem, where on earth was that said? I know perfectly well that his is an unusual voice on the question, but it is a voice that has great weight to a Lutheran because of its exegetical basis. Jerome was a very careful student of the Sacred Scriptures, indeed, and Chemnitz praises him for that. But we are NOT going to fight this whole thing out here again. I provided it for the benefit of Lutheran Christians, not for Orthodox to take potshots at it.

Rob Olson said...

Thank you, Pastor Weedon!