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Свт. Марк Эфесский


Интернет-содружество преподавателей и студентов православных духовных учебных заведений, монашествующих и мирян, ищущих чистоты православной веры.


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Engish texts

Fr. Lev Gillet

The Sunday of the Holy Fathers of Nicaea

 

syn 1 in

The Sunday which follows the Ascension, the sixth Sunday after Easter, is called the Sunday of the Holy Fathers. We commemorate then the bishops who met at the Synod of Nicaea, the earliest of the seven ecumenical Synods in terms of date.

Regardless of each synod viewed separately, the synods as a whole and the very concept of a synod are of great importance for the Orthodox Church. The Synod of Nicaea, however, occupies a special position in the history of Christian doctrine, since it affirmed the divinity of Christ and thus laid the foundation for all subsequent definitions. Since the sixteenth century, the great temptation for ‘modern’ theology has been, if not exactly a return to Arianism then at least a drift towards a ‘humanist’ view of the person of Jesus Christ, Who is seen more or less as a deified creature. In proclaiming that our Lord is truly God, equal to the Father, the Nicene Creed guarantees the integrity of the message of love and of the divine gift: that God so loved the world that He gave Himself to us and became a person as the unique Son. Were we to change even a single iota of the Nicene Creed, this would diminish the magnificence and generosity of God’s gift. It would alter the very essence of Orthodox Christianity in a radical way.

The commemoration of the Fathers of Nicaea on this Sunday doesn’t mean that the Church proclaims or honours the personal sanctity of each of the bishops who took part. Rather, the Church pays homage to the collective witness that the Synod of Nicaea bore to the Christian truth. In the liturgy, the epistle (Acts 20, 16-18, 28-36) refers to the duties of pastoral care, especially that of combating deviations from doctrine: ‘Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. I know that, after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come, distorting the truth, in order to entice the disciples to follow them. Therefore be alert…’ This is how Paul spoke to the elders of Ephesus. The Liturgy Gospel (Jn. 17, 1-13), taken from the words spoken by our Lord after the Last Supper, expresses the same pastoral and doctrinal concern: ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent… for the words that you gave me I have given to them and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you. I am asking on their behalf…’

This Sunday belongs more to the realm of ideas connected with Pentecost rather the Ascension, since the universal Church believes that the Synod of Nicaea, like the other ecumenical Synods, and, indeed, the apostles themselves when they gathered at Jerusalem, taught at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The first verse of the epistle in fact directs our thoughts towards Pentecost: ‘he [Paul] was eager to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost’. To be with the apostles in Jerusalem, in spirit, at next Sunday’s great feast- isn’t this what we also desire and humbly ask for?

Source: L’An de Grâce du Seigneur, Editions An Nour, 1972.

http://pemptousia.com/2017/05/the-sunday-of-the-holy-fathers-of-nicaea/

In the Metropolis of the Patriarchate of Antioch – America, July 2016 - Orthodox and Western Theology

In the Metropolis of the Patriarchate of Antioch – America, July 2016

First Paper

Православное и Западное богословие

лекция, прочитанная в Антиохийском патриархате в Америке в июле 2016г.

Orthodox and Western Theology

Его Высокопреосвященства Митрополита Навпактского Иерофея

His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St Vlassios

074-114

(Lectures given by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos (Vlachos) at the July 18–22 Archdiocesan Clergy Symposium, convened by Metropolitan Joseph and hosted at Antiochian Village by the Antiochian House of Studies.)

When I am invited to speak to members of the Clergy who exercise the pastoral ministry I usually stress that theology is pastoral and the pastoral ministry is theology. When someone wants to shepherd a particular flock, and when he is shepherding human beings, he must necessarily speak theologically.

Theology, according to Fr. John Romanides, is distinguishing what is created from what is uncreated. Experienced theologians, those who behold God, have received God’s revelation, so they can make the distinction between created and uncreated. They know very well that God’s Light is uncreated, and that all the other things He has made, including, of course, the light of the sun, are created. When the Apostle Paul was on his way to Damascus, he declares that a light shone around him that was “brighter than the sun” (Acts 26:13). It was midday and he saw two lights: the created light with his physical eyes, and the uncreated light with the eyes of his soul, with his nous.

Because the saints realise from their experience that there is no similarity at all between what is uncreated and what is created, they also know from their experience that there is a difference between uncreated and created energy. As a consequence, they know for certain when energy comes from God, when it comes from created things, and when it comes from the devil. This is how they guide their spiritual children, and this is actually what pastoral ministry is. We therefore assert that true theology is discerning between uncreated and created energies, and a theologian is someone who discerns “the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).

There is usually confusion nowadays between true theology and the ‘pseudomorphosis’ of theology, between the theology of the Fathers and secularised theology as it was, and still is, expressed by Western theology, which you know so well here in America.

I shall divide my first paper into two parts: the first will look at what patristic theology is, and the second at what Western theology is.

1. Patristic Theology

The holy Fathers are the genuine teachers of the Church, as they are the spiritual successors of the Prophets and the Apostles. The well-known apolytikion (dismissal hymn) that is sung on the feasts of many Fathers of the Church, including the Hieromartyr St Ignatius the God-bearer, says: “You shared the Apostles’ way of life and succeeded to their thrones; you found praxis a way up to theoria, O divinely-inspired Father; rightly proclaiming the word of truth, you struggled bravely in faith to the point of shedding your blood, Bishop and Martyr Ignatius, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.”

There is a connection between the way of life of the Apostles and their thrones, between praxis (practical virtue) and theoria (divine vision), and between right faith and martyrdom.

When we mention Prophets and Apostles, we ought to emphasise that the Prophets saw the unincarnate Word, the Angel of Great Counsel, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity without flesh, whereas the Apostles saw the incarnate Word, the Son and Word of God in the flesh. This is an important point when considering the relationship between the Prophets and the Apostles. The Fathers were genuine successors of these great God-seeing theologians and inherited their spirit.

There is amazing unity between the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers. In the whole ecclesiastical tradition it is taken for granted that the Church’s theology is not speculation but the revelation of God to the deified, to the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers down through the ages.

The Synodikon of Orthodoxy often repeats the statement that we proceed “in accordance with the divinely-inspired theologies of the saints and the devout mind of the Church.” This phrase is alleged to have been formulated by Philotheos Kokkinos, a fellow-monk of St Gregory Palamas and Patriarch of Constantinople. It refers, of course, to the theology of the hesychast Fathers, particularly St Gregory Palamas. No other theology – whether post-apostolic, pre-patristic, or post-patristic – exists in the Church.

St Gregory Palamas proclaimed that the teaching of the Prophets, Apostles, and Fathers is one: “What else but that saving perfection in knowledge and dogmas consists in thinking in the same way as the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, with all those, basically, through whom the Holy Spirit bears witness concerning God and His creatures.” The Prophets of the Old Testament beheld the unincarnate Word and the Apostles and Fathers of the New Testament are in communion with the incarnate Word.

There is unity in faith, as they share a common experience and the common precondition for this experience, which is Orthodox hesychasm combined with the Mysteries of the Church. This experience is participation in the mystery of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection, but also experience of the mystery of Pentecost. In the Church we do not accept in isolation the Christ of history or the Christ of faith, that is to say, the faith that the first Christians held concerning Him. We also accept the Christ of revelation, the Christ of glory, Who is manifested to those who are worthy of the revelation. The Christ of revelation cannot be linked with philosophical speculation.

It is clear from the whole tradition of the Church that to be a theologian someone must meet the necessary preconditions. Otherwise, instead of being an exponent of the empirical life of the Church, he expresses himself alone.

We shall look at the teaching of St Gregory the Theologian on this point.

Through his ‘Theological Orations’ St Gregory the Theologian opposed the heresy of the Arians, and particularly of the Eunomians of his time, who were the predominant heretical group among the Arians. The Arians used philosophical arguments, and St Gregory the Theologian needed to set out at the beginning of his ‘Theological Orations’ the preconditions for speaking about God. He pointed out who could and should speak about theology.

St Gregory the Theologian refers there to “those who pride themselves on their eloquence”, who rejoice in “profane and vain babblings” and the contradictions “of what is falsely called knowledge”. They are also “sophists, and absurd and strange jugglers of words.” On account of the philosophical reasoning of the Eunomians, “our great mystery is in danger of becoming a triviality.”

He calls the Eunomian, who talks philosophically about God and lives outside the tradition of the Church, “a dialectician fond of words.” This is why he clarifies what the basic preconditions for Orthodox theology are. He says that theology is not just any occupation, and certainly not one of lowly origin. To speak theologically is not for everyone, but for “those who have been tested and made progress in theoria, and have been previously purified in soul and body, or at very least are being purified.” This is essential, because it is dangerous for “the impure to touch what is pure,” just as the sun’s rays are dangerous for ailing eyes. Someone who speaks about God, therefore, ought first to be purified, otherwise he will end up a heretic. And in order to meet these preconditions for theology, one must pass through hesychia. In other words, we can speak theologically “when we are free from all external defilement or disturbance, and our commanding faculty is not confused by illusory or erring images,” which is like mixing fine handwriting with ugly scrawl, or the fragrance of myrrh with filth. One must first be quiet in order to know God. “For it is necessary actually to be still to know God.”

This teaching of St Gregory the Theologian, which comes at the beginning of his ‘Theological Orations’, clearly shows that the preconditions of Orthodox theology are regarded as very important. If these preconditions are altered, people are inevitably led to deviate from the truth, and they fall into false beliefs and heresy as a consequence. The essential preconditions for Orthodox theology are sacred hesychia, godly stillness, purification of the heart from passions, and illumination of the nous. What St Gregory the Theologian talks about is not a different, more recent ecclesiology, but correct ecclesiology as we encounter it in the Apostles and the Prophets of the Old Testament. When this is abolished, it is not at all certain that Orthodox teaching and ecclesiology are being expressed.

In his oration on Theophany, St Gregory the Theologian speaks about purification, illumination and deification as the essential preconditions for Orthodox theology, in order to attain the spiritual gift of truth and serve “the living and true God”. It is only then that someone can “philosophise” or speak theologically about God. He goes on to define the method of Orthodox theology: “Where fear is, there is keeping of the commandments; and where there is keeping of the commandments, there is purification of the flesh, that cloud which covers the soul and does not allow it to see the divine rays clearly. Where there is purification there is illumination; and illumination is the satisfying of the desire of those who long for the greatest things, or the greatest thing, or that which is beyond the great.” This is indispensable, “so we must purify ourselves first, and then converse with Him Who is Pure.” This is obviously a reference to purification, enlightenment and illumination, and to progress towards “the great”: the vision of the uncreated Light, beholding God, when true knowledge of God is acquired.

Sacred hesychia is the Orthodox way of life as we encounter it in Holy Scripture and the Church’s tradition, and as it was lived by the Prophets, the Apostles and the saints throughout the centuries. This is not a later form of ecclesiology that undermined and did away with ‘primitive ecclesiology’, as some theologians claim.

When we speak about the hesychastic way of life we mean the whole life of the Gospel, which refers to the struggle against the devil, death and sin; the healing of thoughts; purification of the heart; activation of the noetic faculty so that the nous pray purely to God; the acquisition of unselfish love; the therapy of the three parts of soul, and so on. This ascetic lifestyle is very closely linked with the sacramental life and is the very essence of the evangelical and ecclesiastical way of living.

All this experience of the Church found concrete expression in the three degrees of spiritual perfection that we encounter in Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church of the early centuries, in St Gregory the Theologian, St Dionysius the Areopagite, St Maximus the Confessor, St Symeon the New Theologian, St Gregory Palamas, and all the later ‘neptic’ Fathers. These three stages are purification of the heart, illumination of the nous and deification. This is also the subject-matter of the Philokalia of the Neptic Saints, which is subtitled: Collected from our holy and God-bearing Fathers, through which, by moral philosophy in praxis and theoria, the nous is purified, illumined and perfected.

Within the tradition of the Church there are, of course, three different stages of the spiritual life, as we see in St Macarius of Egypt, St Symeon the New Theologian, but especially in our own time in St Silouan the Athonite and the teaching of Elder Sophrony. These are: God’s appearance to man in the Light, the withdrawal of divine grace, and its coming anew.

No essential difference exists, however, between these two traditions, as they are mutually complementary. Someone is able to realise how unclean his heart is when he receives a ray of Light, and the desire for repentance kindles. Later on, divine grace reduces, this first love is lost, and then, after a great struggle, he acquires stability. In both traditions, depending on each one’s way of life, there is purification, illumination and deification, as well as the coming of divine grace, its withdrawal and its return.

It is significant that we encounter both these traditions in the teaching of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, which means that they are intertwined with each other even within the life of one man.

When we speak about degrees of spiritual perfection, we mean that divine grace is one but has many powers, and it is given different names according to its results. When grace purifies human beings it is described as purifying, when it illuminates them it is called illuminating, and when it deifies them it is said to be deifying.

Obviously, a theologian is someone who is familiar with the mystical life of the Church and by it he leads his spiritual children – like another Moses, as St Gregory of Nyssa analyses in his treatise On the Life of Moses – so that they pass through these stages of the spiritual life.

Once the true theologian has acquired unerring knowledge of God, he is usually sent by Him to lead His people in various ways, as happened in the case of the Prophets, Moses, the Apostles and the great Fathers of the Church. This spiritual knowledge is indispensable for the salvation of human beings. This is how St Gregory of Nyssa interprets the work of Moses. Without examining the subject in more detail here, we shall draw attention to some of the points that St Gregory of Nyssa stresses in his analysis of the life of Moses.

Each human being’s journey from the land of Egypt to the promised land is very difficult and dangerous. Only a prophet and theologian can bring this task to a successful conclusion.

St Gregory of Nyssa repeatedly speaks of “the Egyptian life”, which we must reject and put to death. At one point he says that we should leave “the Egyptian life” behind. In another passage he speaks about liberation from “the Egyptian tyranny”. Elsewhere he refers to those who “live as the Egyptians do.” These are all allusions to the life of slavery to the passions and to the ruler who cultivates the passions.

Liberation comes about through repeated purifications, which are achieved by means of temptations and God’s miraculous interventions. The indispensable guide on this journey is, of course, the theologian who beholds God. He will discern between delusion and truth. He will point out the true path, and lead the people safely to the land of freedom, which is deification, man’s union and communion with God.

A characteristic passage refers to purification from the Egyptian and foreign life, in order that every kind of Egyptian food may be emptied out of the depths of the soul, to enable it to receive heavenly food within it. It says:

“[We learn] by what purifications one should purify oneself of the Egyptian and foreign life, in order to empty the bag of one’s soul of all the evil food prepared by the Egyptians and thus to receive within oneself with a pure soul the food that comes down from above. This food was not grown for us by sowing the earth, but it comes from heaven and is found upon earth as ready bread without sowing or cultivation.”

In this context St Gregory of Nyssa says that we should flee from the Egyptian life and wipe out “the first birth of evil”, because when the very beginning of evil, which is desire, is destroyed and killed, as happened with the slaying of the firstborn Egyptians, we have no fear that adultery and murder may follow. At this point he borrows the teachings of secular philosophy about the soul having three parts: its rational, desiring and incensive aspects. The desiring and incensive aspects are below, whereas the rational aspect is above, like the beam of a pair of scales and its scale-pans. Reason keeps desire and anger secure, and they do the same for reason. When, however, this arrangement of the scales is overturned – when reason falls down underfoot, and desire and anger are on top of it, the destroying angel enters into the human being.

It is not sufficient for us merely to put the firstborn of the Egyptian children to death. At the same time we must anoint the doors with blood to protect the Israelite offspring, so that what is good may come to perfection.

The account in Exodus and St Gregory of Nyssa’s interpretation of it vividly show the therapeutic treatment that people must undergo as they travel to the promised land under the supervision and guidance of a theologian Father, who performs his task with God’s energy. There is obviously an eschatological perspective to this journey. It is not a journey to transitory happiness, but to the entrance of the Kingdom of God.

Examining the true meaning of the day of Preparation (Friday) in relation to the Sabbath (Saturday), which was the day of rest, St Gregory of Nyssa says that the day of Preparation is this life in which we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Sabbath, when we shall live at leisure and enjoy the fruits that we sowed in this life.

Man’s journey has a definite starting-point. It begins with catechism, during which he is purified from the passions, and proceeds to Baptism and Chrismation, by which he is illuminated and receives life through the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist. It is an ongoing journey, an endless submersion, which takes place under the guidance of a theologian Father. This shows that in the Orthodox Church theology is linked with spiritual fatherhood, and spiritual fatherhood is a complete science of freeing people from slavery in the land of Egypt and journeying to freedom in the promised land.

Essentially, people want to fulfil the aim for which they were created, namely, to progress from being in God’s image to being in His likeness. The purpose of obedience to spiritual fathers is not merely that Christians should subject their free will to them, and certainly not that they should become psychologically and socially dependent, or even sick from the Church’s point of view. Its purpose is to cleanse their hearts and the eyes of their souls, so that they may see the face of Christ in His glory.

2. Western Theology

By Western theology we mean the theology that has departed from the basic principles of patristic theology, which we considered earlier. It is scholastic theology and biblical theology.

Scholastic theology is divided into four periods: pre-scholastic theology that began in the eighth and ninth centuries; scholastic theology proper that developed between the eleventh and thirteen centuries; the decline of scholastic theology during the fourteenth century; and the appearance later on of neo-scholastic theology.

The term ‘scholastic theology’ derived from the schools that functioned in the universities of that time. Theological subjects were studied in these schools, always in combination with philosophy. The word ‘scholastic’ was synonymous with “belonging to the university” or “academic”. (P. Trembelas)

Originally in the West there were three important schools from which universities later grew: “the school of St Geneviève”, “the monastery school of St Victor”, and “the school of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris”. Subsequently the first universities developed in Salerno, Bologna and Paris.

Literature, the arts, philosophy and theology were cultivated at the universities. The University of Bologna was called “the teacher of Europe”, and Pope Honorius III described it as “the Governor of Christians”. At the University of Paris the largest school was the school of arts, which was equivalent to the philosophical faculty. In this school the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic) and the quadrivium (music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy) were taught. Graduates of this school were called artistes (masters of the liberal arts). (P. Drakopoulos)

In order to study scholastic theology, students must have graduated from the school of arts. They had, therefore, necessarily learnt the dialectic method of investigating things, and they used reasoning and logic. As a result “the main features of scholastic theology are the methodical use of reasoning, and the systematic classification of the subject-matter of faith into closed, structured units.”

With scholasticism, theology ceased to be empirical and charismatic, and became academic and rationalistic, in other words, scholastic. “Theology adopted basically the same method used by secular branches of learning, and the scholastics accepted that what is capable of being known in theology had the same characteristic features as the known facts in other branches of knowledge.” Scholastic theology, therefore, laid particular emphasis on dealing with subjects through rational processes.

The Fathers of the Church spoke about two different methodologies. The method of scientific investigation, which uses rational processes, is different from the theological method, which uses the nous situated in the heart. Scholastic theology, by contrast, had only one methodology, so the rational faculty investigates the knowledge of created things and also investigates God. In fact, scholastic theologians claimed that only “the dialectical method of syllogisms is a superior and secure path to knowledge of God, whereas the Fathers of the Church based theology on experience.” (N. Matsoukas)

Obviously, scholastic theology in the West, which had departed from the theology of the Fathers of the Church, aimed, on the one hand, to establish the dogmas of the Church through reason and to make Christian teaching systematic, and, on the other hand, to study the writings of Aristotle thoroughly. The meticulous study Aristotle’s writings in every detail was the reason why later on the term ‘scholastic’ “came to denote someone who is obsessed with details, trivialities and banal matters, and is indifferent to the essence of things.” (T. Pelegrinis)

The fundamental characteristic of Western theology was that it used the classical metaphysics of Plato, Aristotle and the Neoplatonists. Above all, it was shaped by the principles of the feudal social system of the Franks.

The Franks imposed a system according to which God has absolute mastery in the world. There is order in creation, so every sin is the abolition of this order. As a result, God becomes angry and punishes rebellious humankind. Therefore Christ had to become man in order to propitiate divine justice and to restore order in creation. This belief began with Anselm of Canterbury and entered Protestant theology as well.

It is impossible to understand Western theology completely without analysing the terms analogia entis and analogia fidei. What do these expressions mean?

Analogia (‘analogy’ in English) means correspondence or correlation. It signifies the analogy and correlation that exists between the supreme Being and beings that are in the world. The word entismeans ‘being’, and fidei means ‘faith’, so analogia entis denotes ‘analogy of being’ and analogia fidei denotes ‘analogy of faith’. In reality this is a way of linking the Christian faith with metaphysics, as happened in the West.

The analogia entis (analogy of being) regards philosophy as the source of faith, as demonstrated in scholastic theology. The analogia fidei (analogy of faith) regards Holy Scripture as the source of faith, as do the Protestants. These two traditions express Western Christianity absolutely. In the West, a Christian worldview developed that resembled that found in the metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle. For that reason, Western Christian theology was identified absolutely with metaphysics, whereas this is not the case with Orthodox theology.

Apart from scholastic theology, biblical theology also evolved in the West. The term ‘biblical theology’ is encountered for the first time in 1652 in C. Zeller, and in 1708 it was used as the title of a book by C. Haymann. This branch of learning was created after the accusations made by the Protestants against the dogmatics of scholasticism, in an attempt to base Christian teaching on Holy Scripture. It is a reaction by the Protestants against the scholastic theology of the Roman Catholics.

The Fathers of the Church certainly interpret the texts of Holy Scripture through the experience of the Church. Biblical theology, however, in the form in which it exists today –completely or partially isolated from patristic and dogmatic theology – is a Protestant achievement. In the medieval West biblical studies had died out, so the Protestants, influenced by humanism, were interested in the interpretation of Holy Scripture. Philip Melanchthon in 1521, John Calvin in 1536 and Sebastian Schmidt in 1671 played a leading role in this work, by revising the dogmatic teaching of the Bible.

The main characteristic features of biblical theology in the age of reason of the seventeenth century and the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century were as follows: a) research into all the historical subjects in Holy Scripture; b) the examination, together with historical subjects, of subjects referred to outside the Bible and in other religions, including the religions of the Egyptians, Babylonians and Persians, and all other spiritual phenomena; c) the comparison of Judaism with early Christianity; and d) the historico-literary analysis of the sources of Christianity.

With Ferdinand C. Baur (1792-1866) and the Tübingen School that he founded, biblical theology began to flourish in earnest. Baur completely severed the link between biblical theology and the concept of revelation, and it became a historical science. He regarded Christ’s teaching as the starting-point for the historical development of the New Testament, and he interpreted the New Testament as the product of very intense antagonism between the ‘Gentilism’ of St Paul, on the one hand, and the Judaism of the synoptic Gospels, the General Epistles, and the book of Revelation, on the other hand, together with the compromise between these two trends attempted by St John the Evangelist.

Historical pragmatism and positivism in the early twentieth century gave a new impetus to biblical theology. All the spiritual trends, including pietism, scepticism and romanticism, influenced the character of biblical theology in different ways. Thus the historical branches of theology developed, whereas biblical theology became the history of religions. As a result, ‘religious historicism’ dominated, according to which biblical theology is not expounded systematically, but is regarded as an expression of the personal faith and life of each writer in Holy Scripture. Since then, biblical theology of the Old Testament has assumed the character of the history of the religion of Israel, and biblical theology of the New Testament has become the life of the first Church.

This means that biblical theology, a Protestant creation, was detached from dogmatics. It took a polemical stance against the scholastic theology of the Middle Ages and it became linked with history. Subsequently it not only created a split between the Prophets and the Apostles, but it also studied the theology of each individual writer in the New Testament as though no organic unity existed between them.

After the First World War there was a noticeable change in the research undertaken in biblical theology, because its interests turned away from its historical basis towards the deeper spiritual meaning of religious things. The systematic examination of the content of the biblical theology of the Old and New Testaments prevailed, although interest in comparative religious aspects of issues of biblical theology was not completely set aside.

Biblical theology is a creation of Protestant theology. Roman Catholic theologians, however, have also worked on biblical theology, particularly since the First World War. Their biblical theology is distinguished by three main characteristics. Firstly, it is opposed to Protestant scepticism, to historicism, and to the extreme views of the exponents of comparative religious studies. Secondly, it examines the essence of revealed divine truths outside the historical forms of the Old and New Testaments. Thirdly, it looks at the subject-matter of biblical theology from the perspective of the dogmatic principles of the ‘Roman Catholic Church’.

It is clear from all this that throughout the historical development of biblical theology four main methods of research stood out. The first method is the strict separation of biblical teaching from all other teaching of the Church. The second method is historical research into the content of biblical teaching. The third method is simply that of comparative religious studies. And the fourth method is the systematic exposition of the subject-matter of biblical theology in such a way as to promote and build up the Christian faith. There have also been attempts to combine methods, such as, for example, the historical and systematic methods, or the structural and historical methods.

In the Orthodox Church, although the historical character of biblical theology is not overlooked, divine revelations are investigated, where it is clear that God acts through the circumstances of human history in order to instruct people. And everything is examined through the life of the Church.

Also, there is no distinction in Orthodox theology between biblical and dogmatic theology, or between the Old and New Testaments. Nor is there any antagonism between the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers. The deified Prophets, Apostles and Fathers have the same experience. They simply differ in how they record this experience, as there is a difference between uncreated words and created words, concepts and images. The theology of the Church is one and indivisible.

3. The ‘Pseudomorphosis’ of Contemporary Orthodox Theology

There is a great difference between patristic, ecclesiastical theology, which is basically empirical, and both scholastic and biblical theology, which are rational and moral. When Western-style theology is prevalent even among the Orthodox, there is ‘pseudomorphosis’ in Orthodox theology, as Fr. Georges Florovsky has observed and Fr. John Romanides underlines.

Such cases of ‘pseudomorphosis’ are “the ontology of the person”, so-called “eucharistic ecclesiology”, and “the dichotomy between the mystery of the Cross and the mystery of glory.” Andrew Sopko, in his book The Prophet of Roman Orthodoxy: The Theology of John Romanides,in the chapter ‘Romanides and Contemporary Orthodox Theology’, refers to these ‘pseudomorphoses’.

According to Andrew Sopko, Romanides stresses three basic dangers that Orthodox theology faces today: “personalism”, which is connected with existentialism and has threatened Orthodoxy since the collapse of the credibility of scholasticism; “eucharistic ecclesiology”, the idea that the Divine Eucharist “makes the Church”, whereas the opposite applies: the Church is what makes the Eucharist really the Eucharist; and the split between “the theology of the Cross and the theology of Christ’s glory”.

More specifically, the first danger for the Orthodox today is “the theology of the person”.Vladimir Lossky, in spite of his contribution to Orthodox theology, “was tempted to look to Trinitarian theology as an inspiration” for “an anthropological dogma.” This was something that patristic theology did not do, because it did not accept the analogia entis, but recognised that there is absolutely no similarity between God and the world. Other theologians developed “the theology of the person” further.

God, however, transcends all the categories of human and created existence. For that reason, we can use personal names for God, such as Father and Son, but also impersonal names, such as Holy Spirit, Cloud, Light, Darkness, Rock, Fire, and so on.

Fr. John Romanides rejects personalism in theology, bearing in mind the following points of patristic teaching: in God there are properties that are common and properties that are not common, so there is no communion of Persons; the union of the divine nature with the human nature in Christ is hypostatic; and man’s communion with God is participation in God’s energy. Thus, according to Fr. John Romanides, personalism is a ‘pseudomorphosis’ in contemporary Orthodox theology, just as scholastic theology was a ‘pseudomorphosis’ in the past. There is actually a resemblance between the two, because in personalism divine energy is identified with the divine hypostases, whereas in scholasticism divine energy is identified with the divine essence.

Personalism “has tried to make ecclesial community analogous to the Trinity.” Such a theory downgrades the therapeutic method of purification, illumination and glorification, which gives man the possibility of being in God’s image and likeness. This is the perspective in which man acquires unselfish love “which is identified with the life of the Trinity.” This unity “is expressed neither by persons or essences, but by selfless love. For this reason neither personalism nor essentialism reveals this, but only the glory of the Lord.”

The second danger that becomes a ‘pseudomorphosis’ in contemporary Orthodoxy is “eucharistic ecclesiology”. The release of the Orthodox tradition from Western captivity may lead to a misunderstanding of the theology of the Mysteries and to an ecclesiology that identifies the Church with celebrating the Divine Eucharist.

Nikolai Afanasiev regarded the Divine Eucharist as the foundation of the Church and left out the therapeutic method of purification, illumination and glorification. This came to be accepted by many theologians (Zizioulas).

According to Sopko, Fr. John Romanides, in one of his early studies on Ignatius of Antioch “leaned towards a eucharistic ecclesiology, but soon found it unconvincing,” because this whole theory omits other essential expressions of ecclesiology. In the end, he considers that, because of the bishop’s charismatic authority, other aspects of Church life should also be emphasised as well as the celebration of the Divine Eucharist, such as prophetic preaching and the non-eucharistic assemblies of the faithful for the purpose of prayer. “Thus, the life of the Church comprises a unity of the celebration of the mysteries, scripture and prayer”, and no one activity ought to be overemphasised at the expenses of the others. He thinks that correct ecclesiology exists when every local community has its bishop, who presides at the Divine Eucharist, but who also preaches as a prophet.

Ultimately, for Romanides, “the Divine Eucharist is not an end in itself, but the confirmation of this end”, “putting the Divine Eucharist before and above everything else in the life of the Church leads unavoidably to a form of eucharistic idolatry.”

The third point stressed in this section is “simul Theologia Crucis et Theologia Gloriae”, in other words, the theology of the Cross is at the same time the theology of Christ’s glory. The separation for centuries of the theology of the Cross from the theology of glory constituted a ‘pseudomorphosis’ in Christianity. It is usually said that Protestantism and Roman Catholicism stress the Cross, whereas the Orthodox emphasise Christ’s Resurrection. Andrew Sopko asserts that Fr. John Romanides considered that in the entire tradition of the Church the theology of the Cross and the theology of glory are synonymous, and this constitutes “probably the greatest gift that Romanides has given contemporary Orthodox theology and the whole of Christianity.” Fr. John Romanides continuously stressed that “the uncreated cross” of illumination and glorification “places the historical crucifixion in its correct perspective”, as “the uncreated, unselfish love of the Trinity reveals the glory of the Cross from eternity and it is revealed anew to all who love unselfishly by means of illumination and glorification.”

Anselm of Canterbury’s theory about the propitiation of divine justice through the sacrifice on the Cross contributed to the creation of a ‘pseudomorphosis’ in the Christian theology of the Western world, and this has influenced the Orthodox as well. Fr. John Romanides emphasised that the real miracle was that the Lord of Glory was crucified and rose again. That is to say, he equated the theologia crucis with the theologia gloriae. He also saw the Mysteries in the light of the mystery of the Cross: he saw the Mysteries of the Church (Baptism, Chrismation, Divine Eucharist, Ordination) in the context of purification, illumination and glorification. When Baptism in water was separated from Baptism in the Spirit, and the other Mysteries were removed from the context of therapeutic treatment, this can be interpreted “as a form of sacramental minimalism”. Fr. John Romanides does not doubt the paschal character of Baptism and Holy Communion, but he also connects this paschal character with the glory of the Cross, with purification, illumination and glorification. For Romanides the true ‘mysteries’ “are first and foremost purification, illumination and glorification, because they reveal the mystery of the Cross in its fullness.”

This identification of the theology of the Cross with the theology of glory in the Mysteries and the eucharistic life of the faithful, which Fr. John Romanides made in his theological work, provoked, and continues to provoke, major reactions, because it constitutes the very core of the Orthodox tradition, as this has been expressed by the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers. It overturns all the new ‘pseudomorphoses’, the influences of Western theology on the Orthodox Church.

The conclusion of this first paper is that there is a wide difference between patristic ecclesiastical theology and both scholastic and biblical theology. When scholastic or biblical theology prevails, there is ‘pseudomorphosis’ in Orthodox theology, as Fr. Georges Florovsky has observed and Fr. John Romanides underlines.

Such ‘pseudomorphoses’ include so-called “eucharistic ecclesiology”, “the ontology of the person”, and “the dichotomy between the mystery of the Cross and the mystery of glory”. But these issues will be analysed in the papers that follow.

© 2013 Holy Metropolis of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlassios.

 

Saint Mark Eugenikos (the Courteous)

 

Saint Mark Eugenikos (the Courteous)

Saint Mark Eugenikos - the star of Ephesus.

     This year will be 560 years since the repose of the holy father and confessor Mark Eugenikos, archbishop of Ephesus.
     St. Mark (nee Emmanuel), was born of pious parents in 1392 in the queen of cities, Constantinople. His father was called George and was the Chief Justice of Sakellion and deacon of the Great Church, his mother was Maria, the daughter of the pious doctor Luka.
     Both parents tried and succeeded in raising little Emmanuel in teaching and upbringing in the Lord. But the death of their father left him and his younger brother John orphans at a tender age.
     His first letters, the saint learnt from his father George, who had a famous private school. After the death of his father, his mother sent him to continue his studies to the then most famous teachers, John Cartasmeno (later Metropolitan Ignatius of Selmyria) and the mathematician and philosopher George Gemiston Plithona. Among his classmates was the later sworn enemy Bissarion the Cardinal.

Teacher and Monk

     When the young Emmanuel completed his studies he assumed the administration of the patristic school and soon was recognized as the brightest teacher of the declining city. Among his students who later excelled were George Gennadius Scollarius, the first Patriarch following the fall of the city, Theodore Agallianus, Theophanus, Metropolitan of Midia and his brother John Eugenikos.
     The divine love however, did not leave Emannuel to be carried away by the most promising teaching career not even the very friendly relationship with the emperor stopped him from denying the world and fleeing to the island of Pringiponison (princely island) Andigoni close to the famous ascetic Symeon. There he remained in a spiritual struggle for two years and then, after the Turkish assaults on the islands, he came with his elder to the fabulous monastery of St George of Magganon, in Constantinople.
     Monk Mark continued in his new confession, the tough ascetic life. In the monastery of Magganon, St Mark composed almost all of the more than 100 works, that are saved to this day. Especially important are the works he wrote against the Latin leaning rivals of St Gregorius Palamas whom he respected a lot and was his model. In this monastery Mark was tonsured to the priesthood, after being pressured to do so, because he thought of himself as unworthy of such a high calling. Soon though he acquired such great spiritual fame, that many clerics and lay people wrote to him requesting his opinion on different topics.

At the Synod of Ferraras .

     In 1436 and while still a Hieromonk, the Patriarch of Alexandria named him as his representative at the convened synod on the Union of Churches. The same year Emperor John Paleologos forced him to accept the Metropolitan throne of Ephesus which became vacant that year.
     The emperor showed his great appreciation he nurtured for St Mark, by naming him General Exarch of the Synod. This saint was forced to follow the Patriarch and the rest of the representatives to Italy.
     St Mark went to the synods with the best intentions and demonstrated his conciliatory stance with the speech he composed for the Pope, even before the start of the proceedings of the Ferrara Synod. Some Orthodox representatives, even criticized Mark for his conciliatory stance in the dialogue with Cardinal Cessarini and demanded that from then on the Metropolitan Bessarion of Nicea should speak instead.
     The first topic of discussion was on purgatory. Bissarion feeling not capable of speaking (due to his inadequate theological training), let Mark to speak instead for the Orthodox, who then expressed four points of disagreement on the topic.
     The crystal clear Orthodox views as presented by our saint, greatly pleased the emperor who looked forward to Mark as the lone Orthodox theologian who could easily answer the arguments of the Papists. But the theologically inadequate byzantine emperor was hopeful that the Orthodox views will prevail, not knowing that the papists would have insisted without budging from their deceits. For this reason when he saw the irrational persistence of the Latins would have sank his political agenda- namely the union of the Churches and by this, the expected papist help to confront the Turks- he began to pressure the Orthodox to follow a milder or better, a more yielding way.

The Pseudo-Union.

          The Latins began to apply their known tactics of whisperings, lies and pressures and during that time they distributed in Ferrara, hundreds of leaflets which contained 54 heretical Orthodox practices!! Seeing that the situation was worsening against the Orthodox, two of the sanctioning members of the Byzantine representation, Metropolitan Anthony of Iraklia, and Metropolitan John, first in rank to the Ecumenical throne, and brother of Mark, tried to flee from Ferrara, but were impeded by the emperor. Because John was being accompanied by his brother to the harbor, the emperor and the Patriarch fearing other attempts at fleeing, in agreement with the papist, they transferred their Synodal work from Ferrara which was close to the sea, to Florence.
     When the proceedings of the synod re-started the one from Ephesus, was the main speaker of the Orthodox. The clear responses however and the reversals by the Latin false believers, caused the wrath of the Latin leaning Orthodox who with the silent consent and sufferance of the emperor, they tried to overcome Saint Mark, even distributing the information that the one from Ephesus was mad. During the conference of the Orthodox representatives, when the Metropolitan from Ephesus referred to the papists as "heretics", the Metropolitan of Lakedemon and of Mytelini insulted the Saint and tried to hit him.

Mark of Ephesus will not sign.

     The Saint ascertaining that all his attempts to persuade the Orthodox not to proceed towards Union- thus becoming victims of the papists- were in vain, he stopped taking active part in the proceedings of the synod.
     Finally on the 5 July 1439, the union was endorsed and as reported by Syropoulos, most of the Orthodox representatives signed against their will fearful of the emperor. When the Pope asked if Mark had also signed and received a negative response he remarked orally, "well we have accomplished nothing". The arrogant and despotic Pope asked the undecided byzantine emperor to send Mark to him to be judged in front of the Synodal Court, but luckily the emperor refused.
     Later on though, he begged Mark, having first received oral assurances from the Pope on his safety, that he present himself in front of the Pope to explain his position. Mark obeying the emperor's order went to the Pope. In vain the arch- heretic of the West tried to force him to accept the freakish union. When he saw that Mark remained immovable in his views, he reverted to abuses and threatened to declare him a heretic. But St Mark unintimidated responded by saying, " the synodics pass judgment on the unconvinced of the Church, but praise the ones that stood against her, yet those that preach of her and struggle for her, they call them heretics. I however do not preach my own beliefs nor have I innovated anything, nor do I stand for some strange dogma or rule but I abide to her extreme glory.

The people test Mark.              

     Following the treasonous union at Ferraras-Florence, the Byzantines left Italy to return to the besieged city. The emperor received St Mark on the imperial ship. After a trip of three and a half months, they finally arrived at Constantinople. There the people received them with averse feelings and tested those that signed the union but tested and honoured our saint, and as reported by his insulter, the greekolatin bishop Joseph of Methonis, "the one of Ephesus saw the crowd praising him for not signing and the crowd kneeling to him as if he were Moses and Aaron, and praised him calling him a saint". The simple people of God looked at St Mark as the lone hierarch who had the courage and capability to protect his Orthodox faith. They were already aware that quite a few who signed the union were bribed by the pope, while the hands of St Mark were clean. When the emperor decided to fill the Patriarchal throne, he sent representatives to St. Mark asking him to accept the high honour of the Patriarch, but he did not accept.

The imprisonment of the Saint in Limnos

     The 4th of May 1440 Saint Mark was forced to flee from the Royal City, because his life was in danger and to go to his metropolitan area, Ephesus, that was under the Turks. There having shepherded for a short while his sane flock, he was forced again, now due to the Turks and unionists, to leave Ephesus and board a ship destined for the Holy Mountain, where he decided to live the rest of his life. However when the ship made a stop at Limnos, the Saint was recognized and arrested under imperial order and was imprisoned there for two years. During this period of imprisonment he suffered greatly, but as he wrote to the Hieromonk Theophanis of Evia "the word of God and the power of truth cannot be tied down, instead it proceeds and prospers and most of the brothers encouraged by my exile check the scamps and transgressors of the true faith.
     From Limnos the Saint sent his superb encyclical epistle for all people around the world and the Orthodox Christians who lived on the islands. With this he severely rebuked those Orthodox who accepted the union and with uncompromising facts proved that the Latins are innovators and because of this he says, "as they are heretics we turned ourselves away and for this we separated. The Saint then invites the believers to avoid the unionists because they are false apostles and crafty servants".

Continuation of the struggle from the Magganon monastery.    

     After he was released from prison, Saint Mark, because of his sickness, he could not withdraw to the Holy Mountain, but returned to the monastery in Constantinople where he was received by the people with honours as a saint and confessor. From the monastery of St George of Magganon, the new confessor directed the struggle against the unionists, writing letters to the monks and clerics, encouraging them to hold onto the true faith and not to cooperate with the unionists. The persecutions, the despising and the pressures worsened the state of health of the holy father, so that on the 23rd June 1444 having called by his side his spiritual children and passed on the leadership of the anti union struggle, he departed to the Lord. He was 52 years old.

Honours for the Saint after his repose    

     The faithful people of the Lord, now orphaned mourned greatly for the loss of their spiritual father. George Scollarius gave a eulogy during which he recalled among other things, that the holy one, "as a cleric he excelled, as arch hierarch he shined, suffered for the Church, so that she will be seen with the highest possible stability in her passing on....... Now the naked soul of blessedness which is well recognized and received, here he studied the living in Christ life and emulated the faith of the holy teachers of faith so that he may be as just as them. 
     Immediately following his holy repose, Mark was honoured as saint and confessor. Thus testifies with pain, his contemporary and sworn enemy Joseph, the uniate bishop of Methonis by saying, "Among many and divers, even the one called Palamas and Mark of Ephesus, people not only stopped but inundated them with glorious words, while being deplete of any virtue and holiness, only because they spoke and wrote against the Latins, you glorify and praise them and you depict them with icons and feast and hold them as saints and you venerate them".
     The first service in honour of the saint was given by his brother John, the philosopher. In the beginning he was commemorated on June 23, but later it was changed to January 19- the day the relics of the saint were transferred to the monastery of Lazarus in Galata. The struggles of Mark as well as of his student Gennadius were recognized and justified by the great synod of Constantinople that was concluded in 1484 and recorded their names as holy fathers in the Synodic of Orthodoxy.

http://www.impantokratoros.gr/saintmark.en.aspx

The Church or a Parasynagogue? A Short Reflection

By Fr. Peter Heers

 

A brother in Christ reacted to the decision of some Athonite Fathers to call for cessation of commemoration of the Patriarch of Constantinople by calling them a "parasynagogue." This is an interesting response, for it brings to light the question of how to discern where the Church is and where are heresy, schism and "illegal assemblies" (an English translation of the Greek word παρασυναγωγή).

Before one rashly "outs" these Athonites from the assembly of the Faithful, it is incumbent upon him to study the matter in its context, in its entirely. In doing so, he will see that the parasynagogue one should be referring to here, in this context of the struggle between the Athonites and the Patriarch, is the Latin's heretical parasynagogue, which the Patriarch of Constantinople claims is a church, an ecclesial reality with mysteries. This is immediately relevant. For, in doing this, the Patriarch has separated himself from the Holy Fathers and Saints of the Church who have spoken over these past 500+ years, both individually and in council (1484, 1755, 1848, etc.) and have considered the Latin parasynagogue a heresy and not a part of the One Church.

By the Patriarch's acceptance of this parasynagogue as "the Church", he has introduced division into the Church, first of all separating himself from all the faithful of the past who confessed their belief in the Theanthropic nature of the Church, a nature which cannot be divided, is indivisible and is manifest in time and space as the One, Orthodox Church. It is this "scandal of the particular" which has become such a stumbling block for all sycretistic ecumenists which insist that the Church is divided (and includes Orthodoxy and the heretical parasynagogue). The Patriarch of Constantinople, the bishop the Athonites say is introducing division by preaching heresy, has repeatedly stated his belief that the Church is divided (in Jerusalem, in Rome, etc.) and needs to be united again, and in doing so he has departed from the synaxis of the Faithful and abandoned the confession of faith upon which the unity of the Church rests, that Rock of which our Lord spoke to the Apostle Peter - belief in His Divinity, His Divine-Human nature, a belief which is necessarily carried over to His Body, the Church. If, however, the Church is "divided," then we do not believe this, and we have abandoned this confession. . .

In this context, then, one can see that the monks on Athos are, in fact, rushing to put an end to THIS division, to prevent [further] schism, not cause it. Yet, if one only looks at things superficially, as if we are viewing a corporation or a human organization, and does not analyze the implications of the apostasy from faith in the One, Theanthropic Church, he will see a parasynagogue where there is the Church and a "church" where there is a parasynagogue.

https://orthodoxethos.com/post/the-church-or-a-parasynagogue-a-short-reflection

 

All Scripture Is Inspired by God: The case of Apocrypha

15 January 2015

Joel Kalvesmaki authJoel Kalvesmaki is Editor in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, overseeing the production of Dumbarton Oaks’ flagship Byzantine publications, print and digital. He is active in the digital humanities and his research covers intellectual history in late antiquity, with a focus on ancient number symbolism and the writings of Evagrius Ponticus.

***

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
(II Tim 3:16)

***

What? The Apocrypha inspired? Never! As Evangelicals we have been raised with the understanding that there are only 39 books of the Old Testament, unique and unlike any other. No Christian could seriously believe in the Apocrypha! This attitude is exemplefied by Geisler and Nix, who, in their book From God to Us, give reasons why the Apocrypha cannot be accepted: because…

…of the testimony of Jesus and the New Testament writers

It is true there is no direct quotation in the New Testament of the Apocrypha. But, before smugly moving on, we should recognize that the New Testament alludes to and uses the Apocrypha.

For instance, when the Sadducees came to Jesus to challenge him on the issue of the Resurrection (Mt 22:23-33), they referred to seven brothers among them who, each in turn, married the same woman, dying before having children. This story is neither ludicrous nor an invention. Rather, it is a speculative question probably based on the situation of Sarah in Tobit (Tob 3:7-17). She found herself facing childlessness as seven marriages had resulted in death, each husband dying on the night of their marriage. “In the resurrection therefore, whose wife of the seven shall she be?” asked the Sadducees regarding Sarah’s plight.

Jesus’ parable of the widow and the uncaring judge (Lk 18:1-8) is a variation of a set of proverbs found in the Wisdom of Sirach (Eccl 35:13-15).

St. Paul often alludes to the wisdom and power of God, and his treatment shows a strong affinity with the Book of Wisdom, the theology of which is strongly Christian. One fine example of this is in Romans:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mean, because all sinned. (Rom 5:12)

St. Paul’s understanding of the Fall does not depend only on Genesis 2-3, which does not explicitly state that sin entered the world because of Adam’s transgression. It can be interpreted this way, but St. Paul’s exegesis depends more on the book of Wisdom:

But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it. (Wis 2:24)

It is true that the authors do not call these books inspired. But what books do the NT authors declare to be inspired? The argument can work the other direction. There are seventeen books the New Testament does not quote, e.g., Joshua, Judges, Ezekiel, Ezra/Nehemiah and Chronicles, to name but a few. Are these then dubious? Using Geisler and Dix’s rule, shouldn’t we exclude these from the canon? The nearest citation to the Chronicles is, with a stretch of details, a reference by Jesus to the killing of a certain Zechariah (Mt 23:35, Lk 11:51). Does an indirect reference like this really establish that the Chronicles are inspired? In fact, the Bible doesn’t specifically call any book inspired. Why should we?

…of the testimony of early Christian synods

The purpose of local synods, before the advent of the ecumenical councils, was to decide regional disputes, not to establish the fundamental doctrines of the faith. Establishing a “canon of Scripture” was never up for discussion. The earliest synods to make a statement about what was in Scripture were in North Africa, around A.D. 400. Even then, though, the statement was made in light of regional problems in North Africa. The rest of the Church did not seem to notice, or have the need of convening a council to declare what was in the “canon.” But even if the had, the Apocryphal books would have certainly received a warm response. Here are excerpts from the acts of two early local synods.

…Holy Scripture meets and warns us, saying….”And fear not the words of a sinful man, for his glory shall be dung and worms. Today he is lifted up, and tomorrow he shall not be found, because he is turned into his earth, and his thought shall perish (I Mac 2:62,63)” Cyprian, Ep. 14, 2nd council of Carthage, AD 252, (ANF V:339)

Quietus of Baruch said: We who live by faith ought to obey with careful observance those things which before have been foretold for our instruction. For it is written in Solomon: “He that is baptized from the dead, (and again toucheth the dead,) what availeth his washing (Ecclus 34:25)?” The 7th council of Carthage, AD 256, (ANF V:568)

…of the testimony of the great Fathers of the early church

Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Athanasius are specifically cited by Geisler and Nix as speaking against the Apocrypha. This is quite an interesting allegation because anyone familiar with the writings of these, and other Church Fathers, will know that precisely the opposite is true.

Origen, in his commentaries on the Gospels of St. John and St. Matthew, cites Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, additions to Daniel and Esdras I. Other Fathers before Origen, such as Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, and Irenaeus all quote from the Apocrypha. It is difficult to find a Father who does not quote the Apocrypha and treat it as Scripture.

St. Athanasius, in his festal letter of 367, lists the books of the Old Testament and includes in his canon those parts of the Apocrypha associated with Jeremiah and Daniel (all the while he excludes Esther!). He also commends other books of the Apocrypha as suitable for the instruction of new Christians, although he does not rate them as Scripture. St. Athanasius’s wrote the letter to exclude the apocryphal and spurious gospels of the second century and later, not the writings we know today as the Apocrypha.

…of the testimony of Luther & the Reformers

It is true that the Reformers generally subscribed to the Hebrew canon. And yet even then they were not hostile towards the Apocrypha. Luther included them in his translation of the Bible as being helpful to read. Editions of the King James Version until the 19th century included the Apocrypha. According to the Book of Common Prayer “the [English] Church doth read [the Apocrypha] for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine…” (Art 6). What a long way we have come, where these books, once honored by Protestants, have fallen from to derision!

…of the innovation of the council of Trent

Although the council of Trent was late, it did not mark a change in the canon, but rather reflected what had been used as Scripture for the previous fifteen centuries. Generally, if an issue is not disputed, it doesn’t need to be clarified. Up to then Rome had no need to define her canon. No church in the world, from Armenia to Ethiopia to Rome, had questioned the Apocrypha. Only Protestants, preferring their own wisdom to that of the rest of Christendom, prompted the canon to be defined.

…of the testimony of Philo, Josephus, and the Council of Jamnia

As mentioned before, the testimony, or lack thereof, of these Jewish scholars carried little weight with Christians in the early centuries. Should it be any different for us? Were the sons of the Pharisees spiritually fit to establish the canon? In trying to direct authority to the Jews, Geisler and Nix state:

“Palestine was the home of the Jewish canon, not Alexandria, Egypt. The great Greek learning center in Egypt was no authority in determining which books belonged in the Jewish Old Testament.” (Geisler & Nix, 96)

Certainly Alexandria was not the “home” of the Jewish canon, but this misses the point. Does the Old Testament belong to Jews or Christians? The question for us revolves around, not what was in the Jewish Old Testament, but what was in the Christian one! Who are the competent authorities on this question? If we respect the Jewish decision on the canon, should we then reconsider our position regarding the Messiah, the Sabbath, and the Law? Why should we care what the Pharisees determined?

…of St. Jerome’s testimony

The opinions of one man do not form the mind of the Church. St. Augustine, his contemporary, begged to differ with him, as did previous and later Fathers.

…of the testimony of Reformation-period Roman Catholic scholars

Geisler and Nix cite Cardinals Cajetan and Ximenes as distinguishing the Apocrypha, in an effort to show that Rome was divided on the subject. This may result from our long misunderstanding of Catholicism. Through history Catholics have recognized differences within the Old Testament, not just of the Apocrypha, but of the Histories, Prophets, and the Law. The Roman Catholic Church still recognizes that distinction by calling the apocryphal books deuterocanonical (second canon). Catholics distinguish, but do not separate, the Apocrypha. This harmonizes nicely with the teaching of Cajetan and Ximenes.


Source: http://www.kalvesmaki.com/

 



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