Archive for the 'Church Fathers' Category

Authorship of the Book of Hebrews

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

By Spencer D Gear PhD

(image courtesy Eerdmans)

One of the most controversial books of the New Testament to determine authorship is the Book of Hebrews. Statements about who wrote it have included:[1]

coil-gold-sm ‘neither do we know by whom it was sent’;

coil-gold-sm The author was Clement of Rome;

coil-gold-sm ‘an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas’;

coil-gold-sm ‘who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows’;

coil-gold-sm ‘Luke, who was an excellent advocate, translated it from Hebrew into that elegant Greek’;

coil-gold-sm One made a brilliant guess that Apollos was the author.

Let’s examine some of the evidence from church history. This is not meant to be an extensive examination, but an overview of some of the most prominent people suggested since the time of the early church fathers.

Some of the evidence

To accept Clement as the author of Book of Hebrews,[2] supposed author of First Clement (ca 80-140 AD), would place the dating of Hebrews in the late first century (Clement was martyred in ca. 100 AD). No author’s name is officially attached to First Clement. F F Bruce in his commentary on the Book of Hebrews has a sound discussion of the authorship options (Bruce 1964:xxxv-xlii).

Clement of Rome (ca. 30-100)[3]

Pope Clement I.jpg(image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Of the authorship of Hebrews, Bruce wrote,

‘If we do not know for certain to whom the epistle was sent, neither do we know by whom it was sent. If Clement of Rome had any inkling of the author’s identity, he gives us no indication of it. But we can be quite sure that he himself was not the author, although it has been suggested at various times that he was. In spite of Clement’s familiarity with the epistle, he “turns his back on its central argument in order to buttress his own arguments about the Church’s Ministry by an appeal to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament’ (Bruce 1964:xxxv-xxxvi).

Bruce cites T W Manson’s statement that describes Clement’s procedure in regard to the Church’s Ministry as ‘a retrogression of the worst kind’ (in Bruce 1964:xxxvi, n 57).

 

Barnabas

Barnabas.jpgTertullian (ca. 155/160-220)[4] appealed to the Epistle to the Hebrews as having greater authority than the Shepherd of Hermas, a second century writing, because of the eminence of the author of Hebrews. He wrote, ‘For there is extant withal an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas— a man sufficiently accredited by God, as being one whom Paul has stationed next to himself in the uninterrupted observance of abstinence’ (On Modesty ch 20).

(icon of St Barnabas, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 Only God knows

The church father, Origen (ca. 185-254),[5] stated,

Origen3.jpg(image of Origen, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

‘If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are those of some one who remembered the apostolic teachings, and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul’s.

But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. The statement of some who have gone before us is that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and of others that Luke, the author of the Gospel and the Acts, wrote it. But let this suffice on these matters’ (cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.25.13-14).

Paul or Luke

Bruce further notes that from the Festal Letter of AD 367 [by Athanasius, Letter XXXIX],

from then on the Pauline ascription became traditional in the west as in the east, although commentators of critical judgment continued to speak of Clement of Rome or Luke as translator or editor of the epistle. Thus Thomas Aquinas says that “Luke, who was an excellent advocate, translated it from Hebrew into that elegant Greek…. Calvin thought of Luke or Clement of Rome as the author, not merely translator or editor; while Luther was apparently the first to make the brilliant guess that the author was Apollos – a guess which has commended itself to many since his day (Bruce 1964:xxxix).

Conclusion

Therefore, after 2,000 years no definitive answer has been found to the question: Who wrote the Book of Hebrews? I am happy to conclude that Hebrews was firmly established in the NT canon when the NT was affirmed in the late fourth century. F F Bruce rightly stated the issue:

The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa — at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397 — but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities (Bruce 1959:ch 3).

designRed-small See ‘The Canon of the New Testament’ by F F Bruce.

Works consulted

Bruce, F F 1959. ‘The canon of the New Testament’, Chapter 3 in The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (5th ed, Leicester: Intervarsity Press). Available at: http://www.bible-researcher.com/bruce1.html (Accessed 5 April 2016).

Bruce, F F 1964. The Epistle to the Hebrews (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the Centuries, rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] These citations are identified below.

[2] I posted this information at Christianity Board, ‘Common Ground’, 5 April 2016, OzSpen#117. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22418-common-ground/page-4?hl=%20common%20%20ground (Accessed 5 April 2016).

[3] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:73).

[4] Lifespan dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Tertullian).

[5] Lifespan dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Origen).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 April 2016.

Women in ministry in church history

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

clip_image002

A female Quaker preaches at a meeting in London in the 18th century (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Is there support for this kind of statement that I picked up on a Christian forum:

If we go by what the Scripture says, how the earliest Christians that actually read and wrote in Koine Greek interpreted, and how Christian tradition for nearly 2,000 years interpreted until people 50 years ago thought they knew better than all those people read the same Bible, then know women should not be ordained pastors.[1]

Carolyn Osiek’s research has uncovered support for silence and non-silence of women in ministry in the early church fathers. See:

blue-arrow-smallThe Ministry and Ordination of Women According to the Early Church Fathers‘.

blue-arrow-small See also her assessment, ‘The Church Fathers and the Ministry of Women’.

Elizabeth Hooton (1628-1671) was the first Quaker woman preacher.

How do you think that that person would respond to the first article by Carolyn Osiek? Here goes:

Did you actually bother reading that link? It provided no evidence that within the catholic/orthodox tradition that there have ever been female preachers. There were heretical female preachers, however, as the link points out…

Quakers had heretical beliefs. Then you have Quaker offshoots called Shakers who believed that the second Jesus already came, and its a woman. If all you have are a few odd occurrences amongst the vast preponderance of Christian practice, it does not help your case.

Again, you probably don’t really care about how the vast majority of interpreters for all time have viewed the subject. You are more concerned about modern notions of egalitarianism than the view that is in simple terms presented in the Bible.[2]

My response was:[3]

Yes, I did read the link, but it seems that you have missed this part of the link that does not support your view:

In support of the second interpretation, i.e., that deaconesses did receive an actual ordination, are three additional pieces of evidence. First, they appear with other members of the clergy, for example in the distribution of leftover gifts from the offerings of the faithful; even though they are mentioned last, they are the only group of women included in a list that stops with rector or cantor.(27) Second, a later Epitome or summary of this part of the Apostolic Constitutions entitles the two sections on deaconesses (Ap. Const. 8.19-20) “About the Ordination (Cheirotonia) of a Deaconess” and “Prayer for the Ordination (Cheirotonia) of a Deaconess.”(28) Third, Canon 15 of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) directs that a woman shall not receive the ordination (cheirontonia) of a deaconess until she is at least 40 years of age, and she must remain unmarried.(29) Here in an independent source from approximately the same period the ordination of deaconesses is taken for granted.

This person provided not one example of Quaker ‘heretical’ beliefs. I don’t take generalised statements as an indicator of heresy. I need specifics. Then we can discuss them when compared with Scripture.

Extreme examples do not define the regular

As for mentioning Shakers as an offshoot from the Quakers, have you not heard of offshoots from evangelical Christianity today? I’m thinking of the Pensacola & Toronto ‘blessings’ within Pentecostalism. Do these invalidate the legitimacy of evangelical and/or Pentecostal beliefs? I think not. Extremists should not be used to redefine the norm.

Are the actions of Rick Warren and the Pope meant to contaminate evangelical Christianity? It represents one leader and his actions.
See Carolyn Osiek’s assessment: The Church Fathers and the Ministry of Women
Why did he make this kind of false allegation against me?

You probably don’t really care about how the vast majority of interpreters for all time have viewed the subject. You are more concerned about modern notions of egalitarianism than the view that is in simple terms presented in the Bible.

When tradition is allowed to dictate

I am not the slightest bit interested in ‘modern notions of egalitarianism’ – a secular approach to egalitarianism. I’m interested in the equality of all people before God (see Galatians 3:28 NLT).

I support a high view of Scripture and I’m interested in careful exegesis of the biblical text, including consideration of culture and context. When I pursue this approach, I come out with a version of women in ministry that is different from the one this person promoting on this Forum.

(Martin Luther, courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image004I’m very concerned that God’s gifts should be allowed to function and not closed down by faulty hermeneutics. I find it interesting that you claim that I’m interested in modern notions of egalitarianism. I wonder what the interpreters of the traditional way would have thought about the history of interpretation when Martin Luther promoted justification by faith and nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. I wonder what had been taught in the centuries preceding Luther about justification by faith.

I’m not going to allow the traditional teaching against women in ministry in the centuries prior to my lifetime to stop me from carefully examining the biblical text to find what it states in the inerrant text (in the autographa). I’m excited about what I’m finding from the biblical text that contradicts the traditional view. It gives me insights into how Martin Luther might have felt after he discovered in Scripture, justification by faith, after centuries of a different interpretation.

This is a range of my articles on women in ministry (there may be a repeat of information in some of them):

3d-red-star-small Anti-women in ministry juices flowing

3d-red-star-small Women in ministry in church history

3d-red-star-small Women in ministry: an overview of some biblical passages

3d-red-star-small Women in ministry in I Corinthians: A brief inquiry

3d-red-star-small Women wrongly closed down in ministry

3d-red-star-small Amazing contemporary opposition to women in public ministry

3d-red-star-small The heresy of women preachers?

3d-red-star-small Women bishops – how to get the Christians up in arms!

3d-red-star-small Are women supposed to be permanently silent in the church gathering?

3d-red-star-small Must women never teach men in the church?

Notes


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, Women’s pastors, abacabb3#155. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7856138-17/#post66790550 (Accessed 18 December 2014).

[2] Ibid., abacabb3#169.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#170.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

Salvation by faith according to the Church Fathers

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

StClement1.jpg   Justin Martyr.jpg  Burghers michael saintpolycarp.jpg  Johnchrysostom.jpg  Augustinus 1.jpg

(Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Chrysostom, Augustine – courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Justification or salvation by faith is taught by these church fathers:

Clement of Rome (ca 30-100):

‘All these, therefore, have been glorified and magnified, not through themselves or through their works, or through the righteousness that they have done, but through his will.And we who through his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified, not by ourselves, or through our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or the works that we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith, by which all men from the beginning have been justified by Almighty God, to whom be glory world without end. Amen’ (The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 32:3-4).

Justin Martyr (ca 100-165):

‘For Isaiah did not send you to a bath, there to wash away murder and other sins, which not even all the water of the sea were sufficient to purge; but, as might have been expected, this was that saving bath of the olden time which followed s those who repented, and who no longer were purified by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of an heifer, or by the offerings of fine flour, but by faith through the blood of Christ, and through His death, who died for this very reason, as Isaiah himself said’ (Dialogue with Trypho, ch 13).

Polycarp (ca 70-155):

‘Though you did not see him, you believed in unspeakable and glorified joy,” — into which joy many desire to come, knowing that “by grace ye are saved, not by works” but by the will of God through Jesus Christ. (Polycarp to the Philippians chap. 1, v. 3).

Chrysostom (ca 347-407):

‘But no one, he says, is justified by works, in order that the grace and loving-kindness of God may be shown. He did not reject us as having works, but as abandoned of works He has saved us by grace; so that no man henceforth may have whereof to boast. And then, lest when you hear that the whole work is accomplished not of works but by faith, you should become idle, observe how he continues’ (Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 4, ch 2, v 9).

Augustine (ca 354-430):

“Having now to the best of my ability, and as I think sufficiently, replied to the reasonings of this author, if I be asked what is my own opinion in this matter, I answer, after carefully pondering the question, that in the Gospels and Epistles, and the entire collection of books for our instruction called the New Testament, I see that fasting is enjoined. But I do not discover any rule definitely laid down by the Lord or by the apostles as to days on which we ought or ought not to fast. And by this I am persuaded that exemption from fasting on the seventh day is more suitable, not indeed to obtain, but to foreshadow, that eternal rest in which the true Sabbath is realized, and which is obtained only by faith, and by that righteousness whereby the daughter of the King is all glorious within” (Letter 36, ch 11, v 25).

(Courtesy Loyal Books)

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

Did St Augustine say this to a prostitute?

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Augustinus 1.jpg

By Spencer D Gear

 

Augustine of Hippo (image courtesy Wikipedia)

This is a story floating around the Internet about St. Augustine, his former sinful life and what a prostitute said to him after he became a changed man through Christ. This story has been repeated by some conservative evangelical preachers.

‘Grace to You’ cited it

John MacArthur’s organisation, Grace to You, is one such group telling this story:

Augustine, great saint of God had lived with a prostitute before his conversion.  After he was wonderfully saved, he was walking down the street and this prostitute saw him.  She shouted his name and he kept walking.  He saw her, but kept his eyes straightforward and walked. She continued crying after him and ran after him.  And finally, she said, Augustine, it is I.  To which he replied, I know, but it is no longer I (Grace to You, ‘Whose fault is our temptation?‘)

Spurgeon also used it

C H Spurgeon’s sermon quotes a view that is now espoused on the Internet in Spurgeon’s sermon, ‘The way to honor‘:

This was the teaching of our baptism. When we were baptized we were buried in the water. The teaching was that we were henceforth to be dead and buried to the world and alive alone for Jesus. It was the crossing of the Rubicon—the drawing of the sword and the flinging away of the scabbard. If the world should call us we now reply, “We are dead to thee, O world!” One of the early saints, I think it was Augustine, had indulged in great sins in his younger days. After his conversion he met with a woman who had been the sharer of his wicked follies; she approached him winningly and said to him, “Augustine,” but he ran away from her with all speed. She called after him and said, “Augustine, it is I,” mentioning her name; but he then turned round and said, “But it is not I; the old Augustine is dead and I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.” That—to Madam Bubble and to Madam Wanton, to the world, the flesh, and the devil—should be the answer of every true servant of Christ: “I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. Thou art the same, O fair false world— thou art the same, but not I. I have passed from death unto life, from darkness into light. Thy siren charms can fascinate me no more. A nobler music is in my ear and I am drawn forward by a more sovereign spell towards other than yours. My bark shall cut her way through all seas and waves till it reaches the fair haven and I see my Savior face to face.” ‘Tis irretrievable, then, this step which we have taken, the absolute surrender of our whole nature to the sway of the Prince of peace. We are the Lord’s. We are his for ever and for ever. We cannot draw back, and blessed be his name, his grace will not suffer us to do so. The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

Searching for the truth

I’ve searched quite a bit on the Internet, including an electronic search through all of the 13 chapters of Augustine’s Confessions, but couldn’t find any mention of this story. I did find this comment by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild who wrote:

Sources: Using Google I tried in 2005 to locate the St. Augustine quote (first taken from a sermon illustration journal many years ago) but could not find it. It seems that online at least, ours is the oldest citation of what may be an apocryphal reference?

It is said that St. Augustine was accosted one day on the street by a former mistress some time after he had become a Christian. When he saw her he turned and walked the other way. Surprised, the woman called out, “Augustine, it is I”. Augustine as he kept going the other way, answered her, “Yes, but it is not I.”

Did Augustine say it or not?

Seems like it was fiction

This is on a website by Timothy Kauffman, ‘Speaking the love in love‘, in which he exposes this story about Augustine as fiction:

In the process of this self-revelation, Brown[1] instead reveals how woefully uninformed he actually is about Church history. His first example is of Augustine’s encounter with his mistress in the streets of Milan. Brown tells his listeners that if they have not read Augustine’s Confessions as he has, “you’ve missed one of the great books of western civilization.” (12:05). Then he continues with the story:

“And there’s a wonderful story about the time that his mistress saw him down town and he saw her and turned and started running. And she said, ‘Augustine, Augustine, it is I.’ And Augustine looked back over his shoulder and said ‘Yes, but it is not I!’” (12:30 – 12:50).

This sort of creative historical revisionism makes for great sermon illustrations, especially when the preacher does not, as Brown does not, care about truth. What Brown relates as a key point in Augustine’s life was, as Ambrose clearly stated, a fable that had nothing to do with Augustine at all:

Let the man deny himself and be wholly changed, as in the fable they relate of a certain youth, who left his home because of his love for a harlot, and, having subdued his love, returned; then one day meeting his old favourite and not speaking to her, she, being surprised and supposing that he had not recognized her, said, when they met again, “It is I”. “But,” was his answer, “I am not the former I”. (Ambrose, Concerning Repentance, Book II, Ch 10.96)

This story floating around the Internet and in sermons has no relation to Augustine at all and certainly is not to be found anywhere in Augustine’s Confessions. It was, as Ambrose said, a ‘fable’. But Kauffman goes on with “the rest of the story”:

I’ve told that story for years. Let me tell you the rest of the story. She wasn’t looking for sex, she was looking for food. They had a son together and she wanted him to acknowledge their son and give them something to eat. What’s with that? When he did his Confessions, he confessed to stealing apples when he wasn’t hungry, but he {Brown pauses here, getting choked up} … he never mentioned his son. I love Augustine. Augustine R Us. (12:50 – 13:30)

Yet “the rest of the story” is as much a fabrication as the beginning. We believe Brown has probably read Augustine’s Confessions, but the passage of time seems to have dimmed his memory, for in his Confessions Augustine explicitly acknowledges his illegitimate son by name. He not only confesses his great sin, but also thanks God for giving the son to him, and acknowledges that he even took custody of the boy:

“Meanwhile my sins were being multiplied. My mistress was torn from my side as an impediment to my marriage, and my heart which clung to her was torn and wounded till it bled. And she went back to Africa, vowing to thee never to know any other man and leaving with me my natural son by her.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 6, Chapter 15.25)

“When the time arrived for me to give in my name, we left the country and returned to Milan.  … We took with us the boy Adeodatus, my son after the flesh, the offspring of my sin. Thou hadst made of him a noble lad.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 9, Chapter 6.14)

Clearly Augustine acknowledges his son in his Confessions, but Steve Brown’s point is moot because the fabled encounter with Augustine’s former mistress or prostitute never occurred in the first place. Whence, therefore, the fabrication? Surely Brown has a source for this story but it was not mentioned.

All we can conclude is that the beautiful and emotionally charged story about Augustine and the prostitute is a heart-throb of fabrication that has no relation to fact.

Notes


[1] Kauffman is referring to ‘Steve Brown [who] is a radio show host, author, seminary professor, PCA [Presbyterian Church of America] pastor and occasional “shock jock.”’. Available at: http://www.whitehorseblog.com/2014/08/10/speaking-the-love-in-love/ (Accessed 17 November 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.