Thursday, May 18, 2017

Henry Newcome on Ignatius and Transubstantiation

Henry Newcome, in 1705, tackled the question of Ignatius and Transubstantiation, in response to a Roman Catholic priest identified as T.B.:
He begins with Ignatius, concerning some Heretics, (Ignatius' Epistle to the Smyrneans) that received not Eucharist or Oblations, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the Flesh of Christ. (T. B. Section 1)

The Heretics he means, were the Followers of Simon and Menander, who denied the reality of Christ's Flesh, and for that Reason admitted not the Eucharist. And what is this to Transubstantiation, that some Heretics, because they did not believe that Christ was really Incarnate, would not admit the Eucharist, the Symbols whereof represented and supposed a real Incarnation? Heresy is prolific of Heresy, and their Disbelief of the Incarnation made them reject the Eucharist, lest they would be forced to confess the Flesh of Christ. For if they allowed the Symbols of a true Body, they would be obliged to grant a true Body, since a mere Phantom can have no Sign or Symbol. Thus your Cardinal Bellarmine answers for us (Bellarmine On the Eucharist, book 1, chapter 1, p. 400), Lest the Calvinists (says he) should Glory of the Antiquity of their Opinion, it is to be observed, that those ancient Heretics did not so much oppose the Eucharist as the Mystery of the Incarnation. For therefore (as Ignatius shows in the same place) they denied the Eucharist to be the Flesh of the Lord, because they denied the Lord to have Flesh. If then in the Judgment of your Cardinal these Heretics were no Calvinists, Ignatius in condemning them, neither condemns Calvinists, nor countenances Transubstantiators: What we teach, that the Elements are Sacramental Signs of Christ's Body, is as inconsistent with the Sentiments of those Heretics as Transubstantiation, since such Figures of a Body (as Tertullian argues against the Marcionites) prove the Reality of Christ's Flesh, and that it was no Phantom, which can have no Figure. I may add, That Theodoret, out of whose third Dialogue this Passage of Ignatius is restored (which was not to be found in former Editions of Ignatius) hath plainly declared against the Eutychians (as I have formerly observed) that the Symbols after Consecration recede not from their own Nature, but remain in their former Substance. And he must have a very mean Opinion of Theodoret's Judgment, who can think he imagined this Passage of Ignatius inconsistent with his own Opinion; which would have been to have helped the Heretics instead of confuting them. To conclude, examine this Testimony by the latter part of my fifth Rule, and show us where Ignatius says a Word of the changing of the Substance of the Bread into the Substance of Christ's Body: Which is the Doctrine of the Trent Council, and what T. B. was to prove.
(Part 1, "An Answer to Some Testimonies produced by T. B. from the Fathers of the Six First Centuries, for Transubstantiation," pp. 49-50 - spellings modernized)

Theodoret's Dialogue 3 "The Impasible" (mentioned by Bellarmine)

I should caution that I believe Bellarmine may, on some other occasion, have attempted to use Ignatius against a symbolic understanding of the Eucharist. In any event, however, Bellarmine (as alleged by Newcome) is correct in stating that the objection of the heretics to the Eucharist was a denial of Christ's true humanity - not a denial of a change of the elements.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dr Joe Mizzi on Ignatius and Transubstantiation

Dr Joe Mizzi has an interesting article (link to article) on the church fathers and transubstantiation, which includes the following:

Ignatius argued against the Gnostic Docetists. They denied the true physical existence of our Lord; thus they also denied his death and resurrection. Ignatius wrote:

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again.

The problem with the Gnostics concerned the person of Christ and not the nature of the Eucharist. The heretics did not participate in the Eucharist because they did not believe in what the Eucharist represents, namely the true, physical flesh of Jesus, who actually and really suffered on the cross, and who was really resurrected from the dead.

We do not have to take the phrase "the Eucharist is the flesh" in a literalistic manner. As in everyday speech, as well as in the Bible, it could simply mean that the Eucharist represents the flesh of Christ. To illustrate, take a similar argument by Tertullian. He is also using the Eucharist to combat Docetism:

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. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body (Against Marcion, Bk 4).

Tertullian is even more emphatic than Ignatius. He says that Jesus made the bread his own body. But unlike Ignatius, Tertullian goes on to clarify what he meant. Rather than saying that the bread ceases to exist, he calls it the “the figure” of the body of Christ and maintains a clear distinction between the figure and what it represents, namely the “veritable body” of our Lord.
Mizzi is right. Ignatius was arguing against the Docetists, who denied that Jesus had flesh, who denied that he suffered, and denied that he was raised to life (because they denied he died). They said he only "seemed" to be a man. This explains, therefore, why they abstain from the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is a memorial specifically of Jesus body and blood.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Problems in Doctrines and Covenants: Discovery and Naming of Egypt

Doctrine and Covenants, Book of Abraham 1:23, states:
The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden;
There are a number of issues here.

a) Egyptus

The -us ending is typical of masculine Latin nouns. It's not a typical way of ending Chaldean nouns (masculine or otherwise).

b) Egypt's Discovery

If one of Ham's daughters discovered Egypt, she would roughly precede Nimrod (the grandson of Ham), who founded Babel.
Genesis 10:8-10
And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
Thus, there would be no reason that her name would have any particular "Chaldean" meaning.

c) Etymology of Egypt

Old English Egipte "the Egyptians," from French Egypte, from Greek Aigyptos "the river Nile, Egypt," from Amarna Hikuptah, corresponding to Egyptian Ha(t)-ka-ptah "temple of the soul of Ptah," the creative god associated with Memphis, the ancient city of Egypt.

Strictly one of the names of Memphis, it was taken by the Greeks as the name of the whole country. The Egyptian name, Kemet, means "black country," possibly in reference to the rich delta soil. The Arabic is Misr, which is derived from Mizraim, the name of a son of Biblical Ham.
So, notice that the name "Egypt" comes from the Amarna language, and means "temple of the soul of Ptah," not something to do with being forbidden.


Muller on Turretin and Textual Criticism - Follow-Up Response to Jeff Riddle (and company)

Our brother in Christ, Jeff Riddle, provided a follow-up post (link to post) responding to my previous post (link to post) to him.

Unfortunately, brother Riddle's post entirely misses the main point of my response. I argued:
Moreover, methodologically, Turretin agrees with JW. For example, Turretin endorses the approach of using the collation of various copies to restore the original readings.
Riddle responded by quoting Richard Muller's discussion of views of issues related to inerrancy, contrasting folks like Turretin with later folks like B.B. Warfield. Even assuming that what Muller says is correct, Muller is addressing a different issue from the one I was addressing.

When Muller gets to the issue I was discussing, you will find him saying things like this:
Not only was the era of orthodoxy a time of the flowering of textual criticism, it was also an era in which the critical establishment of the text of the Bible on the basis of collation and comparison of manuscripts and codices was understood as fundamental to the task of the orthodox exegete and theologian.
(Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Scripture: the Cognitive Foundation of Theology, p. 398)

Similarly (and more telling):
... Testament published in Geneva and the annotated texts offered by Beza were all produced by using the critically established texts of Erasmus and the Complutensian Polyglot together with an examination of the available codices, with variants noted, typically in the annotations. Beza and other humanistically trained editors of the Bible saw no problem in establishing the text on the basis of a comparison of the available codices, nor did they blanch at the work of sorting out corruptions that had crept in during the historical transmission of the text - drew the line, however, at the point of emendation of an original language of the text on the basis of pure conjecture, or of the witness of a single variant codex, or of the sole witness of ancient versions, unconfirmed by the original languages. Using a method similar to that of Beatus Rhenanus, Protestant editors of the biblical text typically confined such variant readings to the annotations and viewed them as a matter of interpretation rather than as a basis of textual emendation. We have, for example, Beza's comment ont he publication of a highly variant Greek New Testament by Simon de Colines: Beza commented that he could not "give much weight to it" unless its variant readings were "supported by other codices" and criticized what he viewed as unsupported conjectural emendation. Emendation of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the Greek text of the New on the basis of ancient versions would become a matter of extended controversy in the seventeenth century.
It needs be noted here that the so-called textus receptus, was merely a part of the sixteenth- and seventeen-century process of establishing a normative or definitive text of the New Testament. The phrase "textus receptus" or "received text" comes from the Elzevir New Testament of 1633 — and as the context of the phrase itself and the use of the Greek New Testament in the seventeenth century both testify, there was no claim, in the era of orthodoxy, of a sacrosanct text in this particular edition. Nor did it, in the era of orthodoxy, provide some sort of terminus ad quem for the editing of the text of the Bible: the statement that this was the "text now received by all" simply meant that it was the text, produced by Stephanus and Beza, and slightly reedited by the Elzevirs, that was then regarded (by Protestants!) as the best available text of the Bible: namely, the critically examined combination of the Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the so-called Byzantine ...
(Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Scripture: the Cognitive Foundation of Theology, p. 399)

Hopefully you get the point this discussion.

Now, was Turretin's view of textual criticism exactly the same as ours today? Probably not. For example, as hinted at in Muller's discussion above, folks like Turretin insisted that the Vulgate, Septuagint, and other ancient translations should essentially have no weight at all in textual criticism. By contrast, we would probably grant them at least a little weight. That, however, actually puts Turretin (and company) farther from Textus Receptus advocates of today, as the latter adopt a number of passages where the strongest textual transmission evidence comes from translations (1 John 5:7 is the most prominent example).

I got a few other responses, as well, so I'll briefly address them here:

Robert Wieland wrote: "Since the matter of collating mss is not the issue, then it would follow that your statement above is a non sequiter. The issue is not collation. The issue is what is collated."

I respectfully disagree that collating manuscripts is not the issue. It is the main issue. Certain TR advocates would like to (in essence) lock in the TR on the basis of it (or some form of it) being widely accepted by Protestants in the 17th century. There are separate (and less significant) debates over things like whether the Byzantine text type should be given priority, or whether non-Greek sources should be used for determining the text of the NT. Likewise, there are questions about whether to give priority to age of the manuscripts or number of the manuscripts, how much weight to give to internal evidence, and the like. These are all subordinate questions to the question of whether collation should be used.

RW again: "Again, the issue is not the use of Textual Criticism, but the practice of it. Turretin/Calvin/Stephens/Beza did not use modern principles like: Genealogy, The Shorter Reading is to be Preferred, the Harder Reading is to be Preferred, or Conflation (to name a few)."

The tools of textual criticism have improved over the years, but they all flow from the basic idea of the need for collation. If TR advocates (or anyone else) can make a case for why alternatives to these tools are better, then that's one of those subordinate debates I mentioned above. Turretin didn't have all the original language study tools that we have today, but his basic principles of exegesis are the same. The same goes for textual criticism.

I had written: "...those ancients texts certainly have the advantage of being older..."
RW responded: "This is the part of the modern philosophy where if it is older it is better, and if it is younger it is false. (I am parodying JW)."

Having older copies is advantageous, if you're trying to do collation to determine the original readings. That's not "modern philosophy." For example, even if one has a Byzantine priority view, one is going to favor older Byzantine copies to a copy that a seminary student created for his Greek class last week. It doesn't mean that the younger copy is "false," just that it carries less evidentiary weight.

RW: "Can you define for us what an "Alexandrian Text Type" or "Alexandrian Form" (as JW puts it) looks like? Can you show us in the apparatus of the Nestle/Aland text (any of the 28 editions) the symbol used for the Alexandrian Text Type? Maybe you can answer these questions that JW has been avoiding for years? One has to say that when two mss P75 and B happen to agree in many parts (not all) means that all mss fall into families? Such defies credibility."

You can read about it here: (link to wikipedia page). In very short, it's a label that textual critics apply to a group of texts that have similar characteristics and some historical connection with Alexandria, Egypt. The other two main groupings are Byzantine and Western, although the use of the Western label is (I think) falling out of favor.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Responding to Jeff Riddle - Regarding James White and (the real) Turretin

Our brother in Christ, Jeff Riddle (JR), has posted some comments regarding James White (JW) and the real Francis Turretin (FT), which because I'm a friend of the former and a fan of the latter, I would like to address:

JR wrote:
1. JW typically confuses the TR and Majority text position with KJV-Onlyism. Furthermore, he criticizes KJV-Onlyism for all the wrong reason.

I note that the problem with KJV-Onlyism is not, as JW argues, that the KJV was translated from 1604-11 and is, therefore, outdated, but that KJV-Onlyism is inconsistent with confessional Christianity’s assertion that the Bible was immediately inspired in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek) and not in an English translation.
a) JW distinguishes amongst a variety of related positions in his book, the King James Only Controversy. So, I don't think "typically confuses" is very accurate. He does sometimes lump them together, but that's because they often use similar (flawed) arguments.
b) JW agrees with JR that one reason KJVO is wrong is that the text was inspired in the original languages as distinct from the translations. However, there are also other reasons for opposing the KJVO position. Moreover, not all KJVO folks necessarily say that the KJV/KJB was immediately inspired.

JR wrote:
2. JW wrongly describes Scrivener’s edition of the Greek NT as “not a real Greek NT” since it represents an edition of the TR which underlies the KJV.
Scrivener's edition is an attempt to (in essence) create a Greek text from the English text, by matching up the corresponding Greek reading that would go with the English reading. In that sense, it's like a back translation into Greek from another language, and consequently although it is in Greek, it's not a Greek text in the usual sense.

3. JW rejects the TR and Majority text positions on the basis of the fact that this is not, at present, the position taught “in every major” Reformed seminary” or by “leading scholars.”
JW may mention that point, but it's not the main reason for rejecting the TR position or any of the Majority text positions.

4. JW asserts that Protestant scholastics, like Francis Turretin, were just “wrong” when they defended the traditional text of the Bible, including texts like the traditional rendering of 1 Corinthians 15:47, the ending of Mark, the pericope adulterae, and the comma Johanneum.

I point out that Turretin likely was not denying the existence of textual variants but affirming that the traditional text was indeed found in all “faithful,” “received,” or “orthodox” copies of the Bible. See my upcoming article in PRJ “John Calvin and Text Criticism.”
He does assert that they were wrong (in specific cases), but he also explains why they were wrong (in those cases where JW thinks they are wrong). Moreover, methodologically, Turretin agrees with JW. For example, Turretin endorses the approach of using the collation of various copies to restore the original readings.

5. JW argues that p75 and Vaticanus (B) were “the text of the early church” and were more reliable than the text which was affirmed in the Reformation era.
There was not one single text that was affirmed in the Reformation era. There were multiple printed editions, and folks like Calvin and Turretin endorsed the use of textual criticism to restore the original text. Hopefully it is also clear that there was not one single text of the early church, either, for the ancient uncials and papyri have differences amongst them. Nevertheless, those ancients texts certainly have the advantage of being older, whatever else one might say about their reliability.

I point out that although the TR was not printed until the Reformation era, it was based on mss. with antiquity equal to that of p75 and B. In addition, the line represented by p75 and B came to an end in the 500s and ceased to be copied, not appearing again till revived in the 1800s.
a) It's simply not true that the TR was based on manuscripts with antiquity equal to P75 and B.
b) The Alexandrian text type definitely was copied less after Muslims decimated the Christian populations in North Africa and the middle east.
c) But there is at least one Alexandrian text type manuscript from as late as 1044 (minuscule 81). There is also ninth century minuscules (minuscules 33 and 892), which are from the Alexandrian text type. So, the "ceased to be copied" claim is not really true.

JW and other Reformed evangelicals who embrace the modern critical text have a rather difficult problem on their hands. They express admiration for the Protestant fathers (like Turretin—or Calvin, Owen, the framers of the 1689 confession, etc.) then are rather embarrassed to discover that these men defended the traditional text out of conviction and not, as they too often assume, out of ignorance.
Conviction and ignorance aren't opposites. Knowledge and ignorance are opposites. As mentioned above, Turretin (and other Reformers) methodologically agreed with the use of collation to obtain the original readings. We have more knowledge of the text than they did. Thus, the difference between JW's position and FT's position is not so much much because of different convictions, but because of different information.

Lastly, I make reference to my sermon last Sunday on the Trinity based on chapter two, paragraph three of the 1689 confession, noting not only the use of 1 John 5:7 there as a leading prooftext for the Trinity but also how the 1689 Baptist Confession refers to the second person of the Godhead as “the Word or the Son,” making specific and explicit use of the comma Johanneum in the articulation of the Trinity (cf. chapter two, paragraph three in the 1689 with the WCF and the Savoy here). This represents a significant problem for those who affirm the 1689 confession but reject the comma.
John 1:1 teaches that Jesus is the Word, and John 1:34 teaches that Jesus is the Son of God. So, there is no problem. The comma does not use the phrase "Word or the Son," so that is not an explicit or specific use of the comma. Moreover, while the prooftexts of the confessions include I John 5:7, that's obviously not the only prooftext provided, and the doctrine of the Trinity does not depend on the authenticity of that text.


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)


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.]
[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)