Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Three Days and Three Nights - Hebrew Idiom for Three Consecutive Calendar Days

Jonah's use of "three days and three nights" repeated by Jesus in prophesying his own death, burial, and resurrection has led to some confusion. As you may recall, in Jonah, it is written:

Jonah 1:15-17
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Similarly, Jesus states:

Matthew 12:38-41
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Some people have taken this expression as expressing emphasis on both daylight and and dark periods, instead of understanding the expression as simply meaning three consecutive calendar days. Interestingly enough, the same expression is found in one other place, where it is fairly clear that three calendar days is meant:

1 Samuel 30:1 & 11-14
And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; ... And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water; and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins: and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him: for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights. And David said unto him, To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou? And he said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite; and my master left me, because three days agone I fell sick. We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.

The point of "three days and three nights" is just that the Egyptian had been continuously without food and water for three calendar days. The point is not the day and light portions, but the continuity. We see that from the fact that David returned "on the third day" (vs. 1) and from the fact that the Egyptian had only fallen sick "three days agone."

The way that "on the third day" worked for the Hebrew way of counting days can be seen from Jesus' own use:

Luke 13:32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.

Similarly, in Leviticus:

Leviticus 19:6 It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire.

Even in 1 Samuel, we see the same way of counting:

1 Samuel 20:5 And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to morrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even.

Regarding the use of days and nights, the point is not to emphasize the period of darkness, as though the Egyptian had been 72 hours without food, but simply to emphasize the continuity of his involuntary fast. We see the same principle employed in other situations where continuity is the point:
  • "forty days and forty nights" of the rain in the great flood (Genesis 7:4 and 12).
  • "forty days and forty nights" of Moses' fasts on the mount (Exodus 24:18 and 34:28, Deuteronomy 9:9, 11, 18, and 24, Deuteronomy 10:10).
  • "forty days and forty nights" of Elijah's fast on his journey to Horeb (1 Kings 19:8)
  • "seven days and seven nights" of Jobs' friends' silence (Job 2:13)
  • "forty days and forty nights" of Jesus' fast in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2)


We also see the same thing in the use of the expression "day and night," which is used to mean "continuously." A few examples:

Leviticus 8:35 Therefore shall ye abide at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation day and night seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, that ye die not: for so I am commanded.

Deuteronomy 28:66 And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

1 Kings 8:59 And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the Lord, be nigh unto the Lord our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require:

1 Chronicles 9:33 And these are the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, who remaining in the chambers were free: for they were employed in that work day and night.

2 Chronicles 6:20 That thine eyes may be open upon this house day and night, upon the place whereof thou hast said that thou wouldest put thy name there; to hearken unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth toward this place.

Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Psalm 32:4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.

Psalm 42:3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?

Luke 18:7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

Acts 9:24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

Acts 26:7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

Revelation 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

Finally, recall that Jesus prophesied explicitly that he would rise "the third day":
Matthew 16:21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Matthew 17:23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

Matthew 20:19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

Matthew 27:64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

Mark 9:31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.

Mark 10:34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

Luke 9:22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.

Luke 18:33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.

Luke 24:7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
Moreover, Jesus himself confirmed that this was true:
Luke 24:21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.

Luke 24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
Moreover, Paul tells us the same thing:
1 Corinthians 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
So, it is clear that the reference to "Three days and three nights" refers simply to three successive or consecutive calendar days, as opposed to meaning three periods of light and darkness. Otherwise, Jesus would rise on the fourth day after having been buried for 72 hours.

Finally, of course, we know that Jesus was killed on Friday, which is also called "Preparation":
Mark 15:42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,

Luke 23:54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.

John 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Moreover, we know that Jesus rose in the morning on the first day of the week:
Matthew 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

Mark 16:2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

Mark 16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

Luke 24:1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

John 20:1The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

John 20:19Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
So, again, we can see that the three consecutive days were Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

In short, while the expression "three days and three nights" is a little unfamiliar as an idiom to our English-listening ears, with all the Biblical data, it becomes clear what was meant, and that what was meant was fully consistent with the rest of Scripture.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

John Calvin on the Church Fathers

It is a calumny to represent us as opposed to the Fathers (I mean the ancient writers of a purer age), as if the Fathers were supporters of their impiety. Were the contest to be decided by such authority (to speak in the most moderate terms), the better part of the victory would be ours. While there is much that is admirable and wise in the writings of those Fathers, and while in some things it has fared with them as with ordinary men; these pious sons, forsooth, with the peculiar acuteness of intellect, and judgment, and soul, which belongs to them, adore only their slips and errors, while those things which are well said they either overlook, or disguise, or corrupt; so that it may be truly said their only care has been to gather dross among gold. Then, with dishonest clamour, they assail us as enemies and despisers of the Fathers. So far are we from despising them, that if this were the proper place, it would give us no trouble to support the greater part of the doctrines which we now hold by their suffrages. Still, in studying their writings, we have endeavoured to remember (1 Cor. 3:21-23; see also Augustin. Ep. 28), that all things are ours, to serve, not lord it over us, but that we axe Christ’s only, and must obey him in all things without exception. He who does not draw this distinction will not have any fixed principles in religion; for those holy men were ignorant of many things, are often opposed to each other, and are sometimes at variance with themselves.

It is not without cause (remark our opponents) we are thus warned by Solomon, “Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28). But the same rule applies not to the measuring of fields and the obedience of faith. The rule applicable to the latter is, “Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house” (Ps. 45:10). But if they are so fond of allegory, why do they not understand the apostles, rather than any other class of Fathers, to be meant by those whose landmarks it is unlawful to remove? This is the interpretation of Jerome, whose words they have quoted in their canons. But as regards those to whom they apply the passage, if they wish the landmarks to be fixed, why do they, whenever it suits their purpose, so freely overleap them?

Among the Fathers there were two, the one of whom said,(FN: i. Acatius in lib. 11 cap 16, F. Triport. Hist.) “Our God neither eats nor drinks, and therefore has no need of chalices and salvers;” and the other (FN: ii. Ambr. lib. 2. De Officiis, cap. 28.) “Sacred rites do not require gold, and things which are not bought with gold, please not by gold.” They step beyond the boundary, therefore, when in sacred matters they are so much delighted with gold, driver, ivory, marble, gems, and silks, that unless everything is overlaid with costly show, or rather insane luxury, they think God is not duly worshipped.

It was a Father who said,(FN: iii. Spiridion. Trip. Hist. lib. 1 cap. 10.) “He ate flesh freely on the day on which others abstained from it, because he was a Christian.” They overleap the boundaries, therefore, when they doom to perdition every soul that, during Lent, shall have tasted flesh.

There were two Fathers, the one of whom said,(FN: 20 iv. Trip. Hist. lib. 8 cap 1) “A monk not labouring with his own hands is no better than a violent man and a robber;” and the other,(FN: August. De Opere Monach cap 7) “Monks, however assiduous they may be in study, meditation, and prayer, must not live by others.” This boundary, too, they transgressed, when they placed lazy gormandising monks in dens and stews, to gorge themselves on other men’s substance.

It was a Father who said,(FN: vi. Epiph. Epist. ab Hieron. versa) “It is a horrid abomination to see in Christian temples a painted image either of Christ or of any saint.” Nor was this pronounced by the voice era single individual; but an Ecclesiastical Council also decreed,(FN: vii. Conc. Elibert. can. 36.) “Let nought that is worshipped be depicted on walls.”24 Very far are they from keeping within these boundaries when they leave not a corner without images.

Another Father counselled,(FN: viii. Ambr de Abraha. lib. i c. 7) “That after performing the office of humanity to the dead in their burial, we should leave them at rest.” These limits they burst through when they keep up a perpetual anxiety about the dead.

It is a Father who testifies,(FN: ix. Gelasius Papa in Conc. Rom.) “That the substance of bread and wine in the Eucharist does not cease but remains, just as the nature and substance of man remains united to the Godhead in the Lord Jesus Christ.” This boundary they pass in pretending that, as soon as the words of our Lord are pronounced, the substance of bread and wine ceases, and is transubstantiated into body and blood.

They were Fathers, who, as they exhibited only one Eucharist to the whole Church,(FN: x. Chrys. in 1. cap. Ephes.) and kept back from it the profane and flagitious; so they, in the severest terms, censured all those (FN: xi. Calixt. Papa, De Consecrat. dist. 2) who, being present, did not communicate How far have they removed these landmarks, in filling not churches only, but also private houses, with their masses, admitting all and sundry to be present, each the more willingly the more largely he pays, however wicked and impure he may be,—not inviting any one to faith in Christ and faithful communion in the sacraments, but rather vending their own work for the grace and merits of Christ!

There were two Fathers, the one of whom decided that those were to be excluded altogether from partaking of Christ’s sacred supper,(FN: xii. Gelas. can. Comperimus, De Consec. dist. 2.) who, contented with communion in one kind, abstained from the other; while the other Father strongly contends (FN: xiii. Cypr. Epist. 2, lib. 1. De Lapsis.) that the blood of the Lord ought not to be denied to the Christian people, who, in confessing him, are enjoined to shed their own blood. These landmarks, also, they removed, when, by an unalterable law, they ordered the very thing which the former Father punished with excommunication, and the latter condemned for a valid reason.

It was a Father who pronounced it rashness, (FN: xiv. August. lib. 2 De Peccat. Mer. cap. uit.) in an obscure question, to decide in either way without clear and evident authority from Scripture. They forgot this landmark when they enacted so many constitutions, so many canons, and so many dogmatical decisions, without sanction from the word of God.

It was a Father who reproved Montanus, among other heresies, (FN: xv. Apollon. De quo Eccles. Hist. lib 5 cap. 12.) for being the first who imposed laws of fasting. They have gone far beyond this landmark also in enjoining fasting under the strictest laws.

It was a Father who denied (FN: xvi. Paphnut. Tripart. Hist. lib. 2 cap. 14.) that the ministers of the Church should be interdicted from marrying, and pronounced married life to be a state of chastity; and there were other Fathers who assented to his decision. These boundaries they overstepped in rigidly binding their priests to celibacy.

It was a Father who thought (FN: xvii. Cypr. Epist. 2, lib. 2) that Christ only should be listened to, from its being said, “hear him;” and that regard is due not to what others before us have said or done, but only to what Christ, the head of all, has commanded. This landmark they neither observe themselves nor allow to be observed by others, while they subject themselves and others to any master whatever, rather than Christ.

There is a Father who contends (FN: xviii. Aug. cap. 2, Cont. Cresconium Grammat.) that the Church ought not to prefer herself to Christ, who always judges truly, whereas ecclesiastical judges, who are but men, are generally deceived. Having burst through this barrier also, they hesitate not to suspend the whole authority of Scripture on the judgment of the Church.

All the Fathers with one heart execrated, and with one mouth protested (FN: xix. Calv. De Scholast. Doctor. Judicium. Vid. Book II. cap. 2 sec. 6; Book III. cap. 4 sec. 1, 2, 7, 13, 14, 26-29; Book III. cap. 11 sec. 14, 15; Book IV. cap. 18 sec. 1; and cap. 19 sec. 10, 11, 22, 23.) against, contaminating the word of God with the subtleties sophists, and involving it in the brawls of dialecticians. Do they keep within these limits when the sole occupation of their lives is to entwine and entangle the simplicity of Scripture with endless disputes, and worse than sophistical jargon? So much so, that were the Fathers to rise from their graves, and listen to the brawling art which bears the name of speculative theology, there is nothing they would suppose it less to be than a discussion of a religious nature.

But my discourse would far exceed its just limits were I to show, in detail, how petulantly those men shake off the yoke of the Fathers, while they wish to be thought their most obedient sons. Months, nay, years would fail me; and yet so deplorable and desperate is their effrontery, that they presume to chastise us for overstepping the ancient landmarks!


(Institutes, Prefatory Address, 4th point)

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Fourth Commandment in the New Testament

Is the fourth commandment repeated in the New Testament? The answer is both yes and no. The "no" is easy: the phrase "remember the sabbath day" is not used in the New Testament. On the other hand, one example of the way in which the fourth commandment is persent is that the command to labor is found in a variety of post-ascension sections of the New Testament. For example:

2 Thessalonians 3:8-12
Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

Ephesians 4:28
Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Acts 20:33-35
I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

1 Corinthians 4:11-13
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Trust Jesus More than Francis Trusts Joseph!

It is reported that Jorge Bergoglio aka Pope Francis explained that he deals with stresses (for example, "There is corruption in the Vatican.") by writing letters to Joseph and entrusting them to him. According to the article, "The 80-year-old says his secret for dealing with stress is to write down all his problems in letters to Saint Joseph." In fairness, the alleged supreme pontiff does not attribute this entirely to Joseph:
"And now he is sleeping on a mattress of letters! That's why I sleep well: it is the grace of God. I always sleep six hours. And I pray," Francis said.
The obvious polemical point is that the pope is engaging in 1st commandment idolatry here, by trusting in Joseph and worshiping him, rather than only praying to God.

But the practical note is this: do you trust in God as much as this alleged vicar of Christ trusts in Joseph? I think that's a high bar. It's easy to let our troubles stress us. We must instead be, as Peter tells us, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Peter 5:7)

Similarly:

Psalm 11:1 In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?

Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 32:10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.

Psalm 37:5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Psalm 91:2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Psalm 112:7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

And so on. There are many more such verses.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Responding to Patrick Madrid's Claims about Athanasius and Sola Scriptura

Patrick Madrid in "Envoy for Christ" accuses us of selective patristic quotation. He writes:
Sometimes Protestant apologists try to bolster their case for sola Scriptura by using highly selective quotes from Church Fathers such as Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine, and Basil Caesarea. ... These quotes, isolated from the rest of what the Father in question wrote about church authority, Tradition and Scripture, can give the appearance that these Fathers were hard-core Evangelicals who promoted an unvarnished sola Scriptura principle that would have done John Calvin proud.
John Calvin would likely retort that Madrid is reversing the order - Calvin inherited his view of sola Scriptura in large part from his extensive study of patristics. It's certainly true that the "Church Fathers" were not Presbyterians or Reformed Baptists, but they did treat Scripture as being the only infallible writing they had. The accusations of isolation and selection are misleading at best. If one reads the works of Athanasius, one finds an almost constant appeal to the authority of Scripture, either implicitly or explicitly. It's easy to allege that something has been misleadingly taken out of context, and it is quite another thing to provide the context that clarifies the meaning of the quotation.

Madrid argues:
Athanasius's writings show no signs of sola Scriptura, but rather of his staunchly orthodox Catholicism. Athanasius, for example, wrote:
The confession arrived at Nicaea was, we say more, sufficient and enough by itself for the subversion of all irreligious heresy and for the security and furtherance of the doctrine of the Church. [Ad Afros, 1.]
And:
[T]he very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning was preached by the Apostles and preserved by the Fathers. On this the Church was founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is nor any longer ought to be called a Christian. [Ad Serapion, 1:28]
These are his two go-to quotations from Athanasius, but neither of these statements involves any rejection of sola Scriptura. The first statement, for example, does not say that it is because of the authority of Nicaea that the confession is sufficient. Nor does the second statement refer to some extra-scriptural tradition. On the contrary, it refers explicitly to Matthew 28:19. Look at the complete statement in its context:
28. But, beyond these sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers kept. Upon this the Church is founded, and he who should fall away from it would not be a Christian, and should no longer be so called. There is, then, a Triad, holy and complete, confessed to be God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, having nothing foreign or external mixed with it, not composed of one that creates and one that is originated, but all creative; and it is consistent and in nature indivisible, and its activity is one. The Father does all things through the Word in the Holy Spirit. Thus the unity of the holy Triad is preserved. Thus one God is preached in the Church, 'who is over all,and through all, and in all' — 'over all', as Father, as beginning, as fountain; 'through all', through the Word; 'in all', in the Holy Spirit. It is a Triad not only in name and form of speech, but in truth and actuality. For as the Father is he that is, so also his Word is one that is and God over all. And the Holy Spirit is not without actual existence, but exists and has true being. Less than these (Persons) the Catholic Church does not hold, lest she sink to the level of the modern Jews, imitators of Caiaphas, and to the level of Sabellius. Nor does she add to them by speculation, lest she be carried into the polytheism of the heathen. And that they may know this to be the faith of the Church, let them learn how the Lord, when sending forth the Apostles, ordered them to lay this foundation for the Church, saying: 'Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.' The Apostles went, and thus they taught; and this is the preaching that extends to the whole Church which is under heaven.
The final line of the section clarifies and explains the first line of the section, quoted by Madrid. Thus, it turns out that Madrid has misled his readers by quoting Athanasius out of context, as though Athanasius were referring to something other than Scripture.

The letters of Athanasius to Serapion were translated a bit later than some of his more famous works. The editor of the translation, however, points out that there weren't any contemporary critics of authenticity of these letters, and that Erasmus is the most notable person to reject letter 1 (the one that Madrid directed us to). The editor provides this interesting observation (p. 14 - bold emphasis mine):
That the style of these letters is heavier and less attractive than that of Athanasius's best works will readily be admitted. But it must be remembered that it was written under very difficult circumstances, and that the writer himself regards it as needing correction and polish. Parts of it are little more than a series of Scriptural quotations. As Montfaucon says, to complain of a stiff and heavy style in the handling of such material, 'idipsum sit quod nodum in scirpo quaerere'. If further proof is needed, the reader is referred to the notes, which illustrate at many points the close connexion in thought and language between these letters and the other works of Athanasius.

Apart from isolated references in later works, we cannot be certain that Athanasius ever wrote anything further on the doctrine of the Spirit. Few genuine works survive from the last decade of his ministry. Had we, for instance, his correspondence with Basil, the story might be different. As it is, two works which Montfaucon thinks genuine and dates after 362 fall to be considered. The de Incarnatione et contra Arianos deals with the Godhead of the Spirit, 9-10 and 13-19; and the de Trinitate et Spiritu Sancto, which survives only in Latin, is chiefly a series of proof texts in support of that doctrine. The two works are closely connected; without being a transcript, one of them is clearly dependent upon the other.
Notice that this is a comment from someone intimately familiar with the works, not someone considering an isolated quote own its own.

As to the letter Ad Afros, keep in mind that this was a group letter by ninety Egyptian and Liberian bishops (including Athanasius) to the other bishops of Africa. The quotation may sound strongly worded in favor of Nicaea, but consider the opening line of the letter:
The letters are sufficient which were written by our beloved fellow-minister Damasus, bishop of the Great Rome, and the large number of bishops who assembled along with him; and equally so are those of the other synods which were held, both in Gaul and in Italy, concerning the sound Faith which Christ gave us, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers, who met at Nicæa from all this world of ours, have handed down.
Notice the parity with which the African bishops treat the various councils, including those presided over by Damasus. So, it is definitely true that we should be careful about jumping to conclusions just because the group of bishops uses the word "sufficient."

The group of bishops, in Ad Afros, advanced the argument of the council of Nicaea against the council of Ariminum. However, to prove that Nicaea is superior to Ariminum, the group of bishops argue that the Nicene foruma is in accordance with Scripture (section 4) of the letter. Moreover, the bishops defend the term "co-essential" as expressing the sense of Scripture, even though it is not the express term used in Scripture.

Although the letter does appeal to the allegedly ecumenical nature of the council as a persuasive reason for adopting its position, nowhere in the letter does the group of bishops say or suggest that the council's decision has equal authority in itself with Scripture, simply by virtue of being ecumenical. Furthermore, the letter expressly states, section 5, that the council fathers "wished to set down in writing the acknowledged language of Scripture" and that the only reason they used a word not from Scripture was that the Arian party kept twisting the meaning of those phrases. Thus, section 6 explains: "And lastly they wrote more plainly, and concisely, that the Son was coessential with the Father; for all the above passages signify this." In other words, the Nicene fathers weren't passing on unwritten tradition or defining dogma by their authority, but simply expressing the teachings of Scripture.

(Letter Ad Afros) (Letters to Serapion)