St. Paul’s Home Church

 

Icon - St. Paul
Icon – St. Paul

Many Evangelicals love to read and study St. Paul’s letters and consider Paul the greatest missionary of all time.  But few stop to think about which church Paul came from.  Many know that he was born in Tarsus, was educated in Jerusalem under Rabbi Gamaliel, and that he spent three years in the Arabian dessert after his encounter with Christ.  But many would draw a blank if asked: Where was Apostle Paul’s home church?  Fewer yet would think to ask: Is Paul’s home church still around today?

Modern Evangelicalism’s historical amnesia has caused many Evangelicals to neglect or ignore the history and practice of this early Church.  It is tragic to see how this unspoken Protestant bias is playing out in our day!  Learning from church history can provide a valuable corrective.

 

We read in the book of Acts:

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.  (Acts 13:1-3, NIV; emphasis added)

The Church in Antioch played a significant role in the book of Acts and in early church history.  Christianity had its origins in Jerusalem but very little cross cultural missions was done in the early days.  As Luke noted in Acts 11:19 at the time Jews evangelized only their fellow Jews.  It was not until Jews from Cyprus and Cyrene began to share the Good News of Christ with non-Jews in the city of Antioch that a major evangelistic breakthrough was made (Acts 11:20-21).  Then when Paul and Barnabas were commissioned to do missionary work the Church of Antioch became a sending church – another milestone in world missions.

During Paul’s time Antioch was the third largest city following Rome and Alexandria.  The city was also a major administrative and military outpost for the eastern edge of the Roman Empire.  Its population was multi ethnic comprising native Syrians, Romans, Greeks, and Jews.  Antioch had a sizable Jewish presence, of the 300,000 residents about 50,000 were Jews.  Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity (1997) gives a grim description of what urban living in Antioch must have been like in ancient times.  In addition to the overall squalor due to the lack of modern sewers and sanitation, social interaction was marked by ethnic divisions (there were at least 18 different ethnic groups at the time) and numerous newcomers “deficient in interpersonal attachments” (pp. 156-158).  Christianity brought hope to many with the promise of new life in Jesus Christ and a new basis for social solidarity in the Church (pp. 161-162).

In terms of religion Antioch was an interesting amalgam.  In addition to the pagan religions and Judaism, there was also a certain amount of syncretism taking place.  Some of the Jews were drawn to the freedom of Hellenism, while a number of Gentiles were drawn to Jewish monotheism.  Many became God fearers, Gentiles who accepted Jewish monotheistic faith but refrained from full conversion to Judaism.  Paul’s message that one could become right with God apart from the Jewish Law would appeal to many causing them to become Christians.

Paul Barnett in Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity (1999) notes that Christianity came to Antioch in two waves.  The first wave stemming from the persecution of the church in Jerusalem likely took place in AD 34 – a year after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The second wave stemming from men from Cyprus and Cyrene evangelizing non-Jews likely took place in the late thirties – nearly a decade after Christ’s death and resurrection.  This points to rapid growth and expansion of early Christianity.  Barnett is of the opinion that the majority of the converts came not from the Jews or the pagans, but from the God fearers.

 

They were Called “Christians”

Luke’s observation: “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26) indicates that the number of converts had grown to the point where it had the attention of the general public.  The term Christianoi reflected the practice of naming followers of a noted ruler, e.g., Herodianoi and Augustiani. The context for Isaiah’s prophecy in 56:5 points to God’s missionary outreach to the Gentiles and the ingathering of the Jews along with that of the non-Jews.   Acts 11:26 can also be viewed as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction of a new covenant and a new name for God’s elect in the Messianic Age.

I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. (Isaiah 56:5)

And,

. . . you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. (Isaiah 62:2)

The bestowal of a new name is significant.  When Jesus gave Simon the fisherman the name “Peter,” this signaled a new life and a new vocation.  Similarly, the emergence of the name “Christian” can be understood as signaling the emergence of a faith community which would take the place of the old Israel and the dawn of a new dispensation of grace.

"The Lamb of God is broken and shared, broken but divided; forever eaten yet never consumed, but sanctifying those who partake of Him."
Holy Communion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is striking about Acts 13:1-3 is how central and important worship is for world missions.  Paul received his missionary call in the context of worship.  To be precise, Paul received his missionary call during the Liturgy! The original Greek in Acts 13:2 is λειτουργωντων (leitourgounton) which can be translated: “as they performed the liturgy” (Orthodox Study Bible commentary notes for 13:2).  As an Evangelical I have heard many missions sermons but not one linking missions to the Sacraments or the Eucharist as the basis for Christian missions!

 

Middle Wall of Partition
Middle Wall of Partition Separating Jews from Non-Jews  Source

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Church of Antioch is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of “a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7) The sizable influx of Gentile converts described in Acts 11:20-21 changed the church demographics significantly, from predominantly Jewish to predominantly Gentile.  There were so many new converts that Barnabas recruited Paul to assist him in the catechizing of the Gentile converts (Acts 11:25-26).  Where before Gentiles were separated by a dividing wall in the Jerusalem temple, in the Church Gentiles prayed and worshiped alongside with Jews in the Liturgy.  What is happening here in Antioch is historically unprecedented!  Here in the Eucharist Christ the Passover sacrifice reconciled Jews and Gentiles with God the Father giving rise to a new Israel! No wall separated them now. Rather, in united fellowship Jews together with their Gentile brothers and sisters partook of the most holy Body and Blood of Christ!  Memory of this powerful worship experience in Antioch probably inspired Paul as he wrote in Ephesians 2:11-22 of Christ abolishing the dividing wall in his flesh (v. 15) and making “one new man out of the two”’(v. 15).

 

Paul's Missionary Journeys  Source
Paul’s Missionary Journeys Source

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Paul’s apostolic ministry was translocal in scope, he was very much rooted in the life of the Church and its sacramental ministry.  Acts 13 and 14 describe Paul’s first missionary journey.  We read in Acts 13:3: “they placed their hands on them (Barnabas and Paul) and sent them off.”  Later we read in Acts 14:26-28 that at the end of the first mission Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch and reported to their home base on their ministry.  A similar pattern can be seen in Paul’s second mission.  Paul started out from Antioch, his home base (Acts 15:35-36), and returned to the church at Antioch at the conclusion of the mission (Acts 18:22-23).  The strong role of the church in Acts stands in contrast to modern Evangelicalism where parachurch ministries quite often overshadow the local church.

 

Antioch in Church History

Icon - Ignatius of Antioch (d. 98/117)
Ignatius – 3rd bishop of Antioch

Just as Antioch played a major role in the book of Acts it would likewise play a major role in church history.  Ignatius of Antioch was an early bishop and one of the Apostolic Fathers, i.e., Christians who knew the Apostles personally. Prior to his death circa AD 98/117 Ignatius wrote a series of letters that shed light on what the early Christians believed.  In his Letter to the Philadelphians Ignatius wrote:

Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God. (Philadelphians 4.1; emphasis added)

Ignatius’ high view of the Eucharist stands in contrast to popular Evangelicalism’s low view of the Lord’s Supper as purely symbolic.  Just as striking is Ignatius’ high view of the office of the bishop.  Where many Evangelicals hold to a congregationalist ecclesiology or Reformed Christians prefer a presbyterian polity, Ignatius held to an episcopal view of the Church!  This is not a momentary quirk but an integral part of his theology.  We find in Ignatius’ Letter to the Smyrnaeans:

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. (Smyrnaeans 8:1-2; emphasis added)

 

John X, Patriarch of Antioch
John X – 171st Bishop of Antioch

These passages shed valuable light on Acts 13:1-3.  They underscore the importance of the Eucharist in the life of the early Christian Church.  Furthermore, they show that the Church in Antioch during Paul’s time was under the rule of a bishop.  According to Orthodox Tradition, St. Peter was the first bishop of Antioch.  He was then succeeded by Euodius who was followed by Ignatius (cf. Eusebius’ Church History 3.22).  The current Patriarch of Antioch, John X, can trace his apostolic succession back to St. Peter as well as to St. Ignatius.  According to the list of patriarchs John X is the 171st bishop since St. Peter.

For two millennia the Church of Antioch would guard the Faith and evangelize the nations.  The renowned preacher John Chrysostom (Golden Mouth) was born and raised in Antioch.  He later edited the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom which is still in use today.  The church was also known as the home of Antiochene Theology which emphasized a more literal and historical reading of Scripture than the allegorical method favored in Alexandria.  With respect to Christology the Antiochene School insisted on Christ’s true humanity.

 

Patriarchate of Antioch, Damascus, Syria
Patriarchate of Antioch, Damascus, Syria Source

The city of Antioch has not been sheltered from the upheavals of history.  Shifts in trade routes, numerous Crusades, and the Mongol invasion resulted in the city’s decline and the removal of the ancient Patriarchate in the 1200s to present day Damascus.  Today it is known as Antakya in present day Syria.

 

 

The Antiochian presence was established in the US during 1800s when political events and economic conditions forced many in the Middle East, especially Syria, to emigrate.  An account of the challenges the young immigrant community faced in America can be found in Peter Gillquist’s Metropolitan Philip: His Life and His Dreams (1991).  The Antiochian Archdiocese was instrumental in receiving some 2000 Evangelicals into the Orthodox Church.  To become Orthodox these Evangelicals needed to adopt the faith and worship of the Antiochian Patriarchate.  The welcoming of the Evangelicals in 1987 has done much to dispel the notion that Orthodoxy is an ethnic church constrained by ties to language and customs of the old world.  One thing I have noticed in my visits to Antiochian Orthodox churches is that while their parishes tend to reflect mainstream American culture their doctrine and worship are identical to other Orthodox churches whether Greek, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian, etc.

 

Antioch’s Challenge to Protestants

If the Church of Antioch is Apostle Paul’s home church and if it still exists today then Evangelicals and Protestants are faced with some challenging questions.  Is my church like the Church of Antioch?  Do the doctrines and practices of my church resemble that of Antioch?

The Church in Antioch as described in Acts 13:1-3 and Ignatius’ letters provides three markers of early Christianity: (1) it was liturgical, (2) it practiced fasting, and (3) it was episcopal in structure.  Inquiring Protestants and Evangelicals can use these three markers (among others) as a means of evaluating their church tradition.

Evangelicalism’s historical amnesia has created a huge blind spot in their theology.  One of the basic assumptions of Protestantism is that the early Church fell into heresy soon after the first generation of Apostles passed away but when one looks at history one can find no evidence of such apostasy.  The absence of apostasy points to a fundamental continuity in the Church of Antioch.  Antiochian Orthodox parishes today like Acts 13:1-3 use liturgical worship and fast on a regular basis.  As a matter of fact, liturgy and fasting are very much a part of Orthodox Christianity everywhere.  And like Ignatius’ letters all Antiochian Orthodox parishes live under the authority of a bishop whose apostolic lineage goes back to Acts 13.

The Protestant Reformation resulted in a number of developments that diverged from Acts 13:1-3.  The doctrine of sola scriptura (Scripture alone) has resulted in the sermon displacing the Eucharist as the focal point of Sunday worship.  Under the influence of Puritanism worship was simplified to the point where the Lord’s Supper became a mere symbol.  Fasting which was an important spiritual discipline to both Judaism and historic Christianity is for all purposes absent in Evangelicalism. The Reformed tradition has been inconsistent and erratic in its approach to fasting, and more recently, at times hostile.

 

Come and See!

Evangelicals and Protestants have the opportunity to go beyond reading Paul’s letters by visiting a local church that has a direct historical link to Paul’s home church, the Church of Antioch.  Today there are over 250 Antiochian Orthodox parishes in the US, many within driving distance.  The curious inquirer may find reading Orthodox books and blogs very helpful for understanding Orthodoxy, but there is no substitute for an actual visit to an Orthodox worship service.  There you will experience firsthand the hymns, prayers, incense, and ritual of the Divine Liturgy (usually of St. John Chrysostom originally of Antioch!).  A visit to an Orthodox Liturgy offers an Evangelical or Protestant a unique and holy opportunity to reconnect with the ancient roots of the Christian Faith.

Go and visit! And let us know what you think of the ancient Liturgy.

Robert Arakaki

A Peek Into Orthodoxy” — a video preview of a visit to an Orthodox Church

 

18 comments:

  1. Several thoughts:

    **If the Church of Antioch is Apostle Paul’s home church and if it still exists today then Evangelicals and Protestants are faced with some challenging questions. ***

    [A] The second protasis in the sentence is what we see as “needs to be proven.”

    ** Inquiring Protestants and Evangelicals can use these three markers (among others) as a means of evaluating their church tradition.**

    [B] The bishopric as mentioned by Ignatius is not a 1:1 identity of that today. Ignatius’ used “bishop” in the sense of president of the local Eucharist and not necessarily an administrator over a group of churches from whom they receive grace. This has been documented by non-evangelicals like Robert Jenson and Fr. Francis Sullivan.

    ***One of the basic assumptions of Protestantism is that the early Church fell into heresy soon after the first generation of Apostles passed away but when one looks at history one can find no evidence of such apostasy.***

    [C] This has been challenged and successfully disputed, simply on the fact that if Calvin thought the early church fell into heresy, it’s rather odd that he quoted ECFs approvingly!

  2. ***One of the basic assumptions of Protestantism is that the early Church fell into heresy soon after the first generation of Apostles passed away but when one looks at history one can find no evidence of such apostasy.***

    I was indoctrinated in this strange historical slur. But soon after the first generation of Apostles passed away the Early Church was robust enough that even some of their catechumens willingly suffered and died. These martyrs bear witness to us today, as they did before Roman magistrates, of the true faith in Jesus Christ.

    1. Yes Piet, Robert has demonstrated in another Blog (can’t find it in the very incomplete Archives) that Calvin does hold that the ‘Fallen Church’ idea…and only selectively quotes the Fathers…while often scorning them in the most intemperate language. Like isolated fundamentalist proof-texting, the early Reformers do quote the Fathers almost as selectively as do modern Roman Catholics and CREC men today.

      The real question is, “Has the Church believed a continuing Pentecost and presence of the Holy Spirit (as promised by Christ) who leads the Church into all Truth?” Yes, and this unity of Truth in the seven Ecumenical Counsils of the Bishops gathered. Select isolated statements of individual Bishops can and do err — regardless who might or might not be expressing the consensus of the Church at any one point. I’ll try to find us that link to the Blog mentioned above.

  3. I do wonder if it is not so much a matter of BOBO as it is that in many cases there simply wasn’t a lot of theology to go on. Justin Martyr, for example, couldn’t really get the Trinity right. A Russian priest told me that the 18th century was utter darkness for the Orthodox world (which is far more critical language than Calvin ever used).

    1. I would debate whether St. Justin didn’t get the Trinity right. He referred to three distinct persons sharing a single will.

      The central problem addressed in the original post is that of Holy Tradition or lack thereof. Calvin, Luther, and other Western reformers were cut off from the Apostolic Tradition due to the Great Schism and the papal supremacy that came with it. Yet Calvin and Luther (and others) ended up seeing themselves and their interpretations as supreme. This is why Luther removed books from the OT and why Calvin leaned on his own understanding to construct his Institutes – and both leaned on a very weak understanding of Greek in the process.

      I’ve read much Calvin and there is some good and some bad. Yet in my encounters, I see him put the Fathers in a negative light when it suits him. It’s putting down someone to prop yourself up. In the modern day, I have seen Dispensationalists do the same as they have not seen validation for their Church/Israel dichotomy in ancient writings, so they dismiss them entirely and adhere to something akin to the BOBO theory; although in this case they don’t think the lights truly came on until the 1820s. It’s eerily similar to the arguments made by Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

      As for the darkness of the 18th century, I do not know what the Russian priest referred to directly, although I can make some assumptions based on my knowledge of Russian history. The Orthodox were hounded in Russia due to the western outlook of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. This was pervasive throughout the century. In addition, the Orthodox were also under the thumbs of the Turks throughout the Middle East. Not much theology was written, yet the Church emerged from that period with the same Holy Tradition it had entered it with. It didn’t blink out or go away and the Apostolic Succession was maintained and documented. I think it far less critical to see a dark century as opposed to 1500 years of spottiness at best as Calvin saw. I often have wondered just who Calvin thought preserved Scripture during that time without alteration? Why would he trust the Catholics? Even as we move to Luther, he trusted more in the Masoretic text than the LXX despite the history of the Church (and even St. Augustine’s support of the LXX). Yet our modern studies of recovered ancient texts offer strong support for the LXX.

      And this all ties into Apostolic Succession and the Church of Antioch. We can speak of other claimed Patriarchs, yet only one stands canonically with the Church. Some do no accept all Seven Ecumenical Councils. Another claims to, but stands with the See of Rome that felt it had the authority to unilaterally edit the Creed, defying the canons that were ratified at the same time the full Creed was (and Eastern Catholics are very hit and miss as to actually standing with the Pope in my discussions with them – most I have talked to do not believe he is the universal pontiff, they don’t use the filioque, etc). So only one Church in Antioch fully stands in Holy Tradition and in line of succession down from Peter and Paul’s time, because Apostolic Succession is not merely the laying on of hands, but also the adherence to Holy Tradition. That is Patriarch John X.

      1. ***I would debate whether St. Justin didn’t get the Trinity right. He referred to three distinct persons sharing a single will. ***

        He posited both a Logos aphorikos and a Logos enthietos. He never could clearly answer whether the Logos was eternal or relative to creation (since the terms above give conflicting answers).

        ***The central problem addressed in the original post is that of Holy Tradition or lack thereof. Calvin, Luther, and other Western reformers were cut off from the Apostolic Tradition due to the Great Schism and the papal supremacy that came with it. Yet Calvin and Luther (and others) ended up seeing themselves and their interpretations as supreme. This is why Luther removed books from the OT and why Calvin leaned on his own understanding to construct his Institutes – and both leaned on a very weak understanding of Greek in the process. ***

        Assertions

        ***I’ve read much Calvin and there is some good and some bad. Yet in my encounters, I see him put the Fathers in a negative light when it suits him. It’s putting down someone to prop yourself up. ***

        If he is “scorning” the Fathers, then perhaps that’s a bit uncouth on Calvin’s part. If he is simply marking where he thinks that’s wrong, where is the sin? God said we stand or fall before our own master. God assumed he gave us rational judgment.

        I am not sure what Mormons and JWs and such have with me, unless you secretly tar all Protestants with that (and many people have challenged this site’s use of BOBO and other models).

        *** yet the Church emerged from that period with the same Holy Tradition it had entered it with.***

        I challenge that since Patriarch NIKON changed the liturgy. The Old Believers at least had that part of history on their side. And of course, that doesn’t even bring up the modern day Calendar controversies.

        *** I think it far less critical to see a dark century as opposed to 1500 years of spottiness at best as Calvin saw. I often have wondered just who Calvin thought preserved Scripture during that time without alteration? ***

        You say you read Calvin, but this isn’t Calvin’s position. In Book IV he is largely appreciative of the Fathers. Before you make sweeping assertions at least read something like Anthony Lane’s book on the Patristics and Calvin’s position.

        *** Even as we move to Luther, he trusted more in the Masoretic text than the LXX despite the history of the Church (and even St. Augustine’s support of the LXX). Yet our modern studies of recovered ancient texts offer strong support for the LXX.***

        Yeah, I’ll go with the Hebrew any day (it’s what I read in the mornings). The LXX was debate on this site and the “strong evidence” is anything but. Yes, the LXX has helpful readings at times, but it is a logical fallacy to move from an individual usage of the LXX (or multiple spots) to the fact that the LXX trumps the Hebrew.

        As for Apostolic Succession, I have not seen a normative argument for it that is not circular in form.

        1. ***He posited both a Logos aphorikos and a Logos enthietos. He never could clearly answer whether the Logos was eternal or relative to creation (since the terms above give conflicting answers).***

          Yes, St. Justin’s Logos theology is not complete, however the concept of the Trinity is not foreign nor does he explicitly diminish any member of the Trinity. The complexity of the eternal nature of being begotten of the Father has never been easy to explain. That is a central tenant of apophatic theology – even the very term “begotten” does not and cannot function in the sense we perceive it when applying to the Uncreated.

          ***Assertions***

          Not assertions. We know why Luther expurgated books for the Old Testament. He felt that Hebrew should be the controlling factor. That conflicts with St. Augustine, who felt that the Greek was good enough for Jesus and the Apostles. Luther took Jerome’s side and removed books from the German Bible that the whole Protestant world followed. No councils were held.

          It is also far from assertion that Western theology differed greatly from Eastern and was rarely in contact with it after the Schism – and certainly after the fall of Constantinople. Calvin did not even have what we have. St. Clement of Rome’s epistle to the Corinthians existed in the East, not the West. It was rediscovered in the West after the time of Calvin.

          And as a reader of Greek and of Calvin, I can attest that his understanding of Greek was poor. So was Jerome’s, to be honest. Thus, Calvin leaned more on Jerome’s Latin translation in many ways – as did so much of the West.

          ***If he is “scorning” the Fathers, then perhaps that’s a bit uncouth on Calvin’s part. If he is simply marking where he thinks that’s wrong, where is the sin? God said we stand or fall before our own master. God assumed he gave us rational judgment. ***

          The problem with Calvin is he often uses the Fathers to prop himself up at times, but he largely denigrates them on the whole quite often as well. He says they are in error and fallen, yet he uses them as vindication through himself via cherry picking while basically saying they are clueless in everything.

          ***I am not sure what Mormons and JWs and such have with me, unless you secretly tar all Protestants with that (and many people have challenged this site’s use of BOBO and other models).***

          My point is purely that Protestantism (and not all branches) has developed its own eccentricities in some areas that mirror that of those Protestantism itself considers cult or heresy.

          ***I challenge that since Patriarch NIKON changed the liturgy. The Old Believers at least had that part of history on their side. And of course, that doesn’t even bring up the modern day Calendar controversies.***

          The Old Believers had some history on their side, but Nikon also had good reason to engage in reform and bring the Liturgy into line with the Greek practice of the time. The changes to the Liturgy did not change the underlying theology or belief of the Church itself and many changes were made by the Greek churches to bring the entire Liturgy into greater conformity with itself (such as the thrice Alleluias instead of twice).

          ***You say you read Calvin, but this isn’t Calvin’s position. In Book IV he is largely appreciative of the Fathers. Before you make sweeping assertions at least read something like Anthony Lane’s book on the Patristics and Calvin’s position. ***

          Except Calvin can’t seem to get his position right and changes it throughout his writings. He can’t seem to decide if he thinks the Church fully disappeared after the Apostles, partially disappeared, etc.

          ***Yeah, I’ll go with the Hebrew any day (it’s what I read in the mornings). The LXX was debate on this site and the “strong evidence” is anything but. Yes, the LXX has helpful readings at times, but it is a logical fallacy to move from an individual usage of the LXX (or multiple spots) to the fact that the LXX trumps the Hebrew.***

          Great book by Timothy Michael Hall (a scholar from Oxford) called When God Spoke Greek may be worth your time. He examines the DSS and other ancient texts that predate Christianity and finds consistently that the LXX appears older than the Masoretic.

          Of course there is the old argument that Paul, Peter, and Jesus all use the Greek, not the Hebrew. Some are not direct LXX quotes, but a vast majority of scholars agree that the Apostles used the LXX or a variant of it and the early Church used the LXX as well – which was a reason why the modern Hebrew text was constructed by the Great Sanhedrin.

          It is worthwhile to read the Hebrew, but I tend to agree with Philo Judaeus – that the full meaning of it was hidden until the Greek translation was completed.

          ***As for Apostolic Succession, I have not seen a normative argument for it that is not circular in form.***

          Nor have a seen a normative argument for Biblical authority that does not recognize Apostolic Succession that is not circular. Who had the authority to even make the Bible or declare something Scripture? Or did we have to wait for Martin Luther to come along before we finally knew what it was?

          1. I think there was some misunderstanding between us.

            I was not saying you were “asserting” about Luther. Yes, early in his career he questioned some books of the bible. Later he rejected his earlier position.

            I said “assertions” in response to the claim that there is this unbroken body of Patrum Consensus. I, and others, have demonstrated how problematic a claim that is.

            As to the difference between West and East, no argument here.

            ***And as a reader of Greek and of Calvin, I can attest that his understanding of Greek was poor. So was Jerome’s, to be honest.***

            You have yet to give examples or evidence of this claim, and it runs counter to the fact that many standard commentators today (not Calvinists themselves) will refer to Calvin’s Greek on a passage.

            ***The problem with Calvin is he often uses the Fathers to prop himself up at times, but he largely denigrates them on the whole quite often as well. He says they are in error and fallen, yet he uses them as vindication through himself via cherry picking while basically saying they are clueless in everything.***

            Are the Fathers right 100% of the time? Of course not. I don’t see how this is problematic. Given your standards, it’s hard to see how anyone can appeal to anybody on anything, since everybody is flawed.

            ***Except Calvin can’t seem to get his position right and changes it throughout his writings. He can’t seem to decide if he thinks the Church fully disappeared after the Apostles, partially disappeared, etc. ***

            Again, you haven’t provided evidence, so I can only scratch my head and wonder.

            ***but I tend to agree with Philo Judaeus – that the full meaning of it was hidden until the Greek translation was completed. ***

            I disagree.

            ***Who had the authority to even make the Bible or declare something Scripture? ***

            Only God is sufficient to witness to himself. I have no problem saying the church was involved in the transmission. No Protestant has ever denied that. It is a leap in logic to move from that claim to the church has the following rights x, y, z.

  4. Jeff & Bayou (Jacob),

    Nice substantive discussion.
    Jacob says:
    “…I have no problem saying the church was involved in the transmission. No Protestant has ever denied that. It is a leap in logic to move from that claim to the church has the following rights x, y, z.”

    It does, at least to some degree, all come down to Ecclesiology, and what one might “logically” deduce from Scripture & history. Of course, “no Protestant has ever denied” the Apostle said, “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”…any more than they deny those same Apostles said, “the Church IS the pillar and ground of truth”, or that the Apostles chided and exhorted their disciples to “keep the tradition” you’ve been taught by deed, verbal words and writings.

    Yet what they do Deny is that the Church, men like Bishop Ignatius, Ireneaus with a host of thousands of Bishops after them, understood the Apostles rightly a few decades later. The Fathers within decades got a whole lot of stuff dead wrong. BUT that Calvin and other Protestants BETTER understand them today centuries later…is a more “logical” deduction! Really? Even without the presence of the Holy Spirit sent to the Church and the thousands of pious martyrs as Christ promised — this is “logical”. [Is this not like the modern liberal argument, that today’s constitutional scholars know far better the meaning of the US Constitution…than did the Constitution’s writers and their immediate heirs?] “Logical”

    Jacob also says, “Only God is sufficient to witness to himself.” What does this mean? Does not the Psalmist assure us that “All Creation” witnesses to God “day unto day uttering speech”…including Man/Prophets and even once, a jackass? The Apostle assures us also that the “invisible things of God” are clearly seen and known by men “by the things that are made” even “His eternal power and Godhead” so they are without excuse”. God holds us accountable to the host of these indirect “witnesses” to himself. Again, I’m missing the “logic” of this thinking.

    [Also Jacob, as my friend and a sincere believer, it is unseemly to see how openly you comment here — but elsewhere often trash this blog in smug condescension…with further “comments closed” for not posting ALL your comments you deem worthy. It’s beneath you. It could make you look small and petty to some.]

    1. ***“keep the tradition” you’ve been taught by deed, verbal words and writings.***

      And what I have challenged is for you to show that what Paul said in verbal words matches what you say by tradition today. It cannot be done.

      ***Yet what they do Deny is that the Church, men like Bishop Ignatius, Ireneaus with a host of thousands of Bishops after them, understood the Apostles rightly a few decades later.***

      Ignatius didn’t leave a whole bunch of writings. Both Protestants and Orthodox are reading into Ignatius stuff he may or may not have said. I am not saying he is wrong, per se, I am simply saying he didn’t say all that much for me to say he is wrong (or right).

      As for Irenaeus, as I said to Jeff–where am I disagreeing with Irenaeus on specifics?

      *** BUT that Calvin and other Protestants BETTER understand them today centuries later…is a more “logical” deduction***

      I don’t remember making this claim (especially since I think Calvin got a lot wrong). But I also don’t have a problem with The Holy Spirit growing and maturing his church.

      ***Jacob also says, “Only God is sufficient to witness to himself.” What does this mean?***

      The Bible gains its ultimate authority because it comes from God. If it is God’s speech, then God’s speech bears God’s authority. I have never denied penultimate causes as they relate to the church.

      ***[Also Jacob, as my friend and a sincere believer, it is unseemly to see how openly you comment here — but elsewhere often trash this blog in smug condescension…with further “comments closed” for not posting ALL your comments you deem worthy. It’s beneath you. It could make you look small and petty to some.]***

      I had to read this paragraph several times. WordPress automatically closes my comments after two weeks. I have nothing to do with it. I suppose I could change the settings. I might do that if I get around to it today.

  5. A brief comment here on “Only God is sufficient to witness to himself”…

    This logic carried out presents, as I see it, actually undermines the authority of Scripture. If I were to fully adopt this idea as a first principle, on what basis should I regard Peter or Paul as any different than Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp, or Iraneas? On what basis am I to treat them any different?

    Jacob does provide an answer… “If it is God’s speech, then God’s speech bears God’s authority.”

    …However, I’m not sure I can adopt that view, at least in the same way I think he does. For example, was it God’s speech when John seems to boast about his outrunning Peter back to the open tomb? (I realize not everyone reads John this way, but some do) Or, we might indict all of Solomon’s writings, since he rounded out his life by building altars to false Gods.

    Now, obviously I am not actually going all liberal and rejecting that “all Scripture is God-breathed”, but I am also saying that He has worked out his Scripture through people I could roundly criticize and question. Am I to treat Scriptural authors differently because they happened to be alive at a certain time, and because their works ‘made the cut’?

    And right there I get to my final point… it’s not like Scripture was given to us as a completed work at Pentacost. These same Fathers contributed to the formation of canonical Scripture, both in what writings were included as well as excluded. These same fathers contributed to the dogmatic standards of the Trinity and Christology, inferred from Scripture, but codified in the councils, in no small part because they were consistent with the traditions carried on from the Apostles, unlike Arias who could not lean on a continuing tradition to back his claims.

    So, my point here is simply that if I acknowledge that I rely on the early Fathers’ discernment every time I open my Bible, and I rely on their work to provide a dogmatic filter by which to read it, on what basis exactly do I have to say their speech is any less God’s than the apostles themselves? Or, looking at it the other way, if I have free license to disagree with them, then on what basis can I be held accountable if I grocery-shop the councils, creeds, and contested books/epistles/gospels that were and weren’t included in Scripture?

    1. Nathan,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! You raised some interesting points. One key difference between the biblical writings and that of the church fathers is that the biblical writings are read out loud during the church services. The writings of the church fathers are viewed more as inspired commentary on Scripture. In other words the church fathers are inspired but to a lesser degree than the Apostles and the other biblical writers. For me as an Orthodox Christians I understand Scripture through the mind of the Church, the body of Christ. To say that the early fathers provide a dogmatic filter oversimplifies the situation. I read the early fathers fairly often but my understanding of the meaning of Scripture is shaped primarily by the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church.

      Everyone belongs to a particular hermeneutical community whether one is Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, etc. which leads to their reading and understanding Scripture from the “fathers” of that particular tradition. There were a fair number of ‘scriptures’ written at the same time as the New Testament writings but just because their authors happened to be alive at the same time as the Apostles does not mean we should treat their writings as ‘Scripture.’ We know that Mark and Luke were not Apostles but companions to the Apostles. I would say that there is no hard and fast rational objective criteria by which one can say that this is Scripture and that is not. Ultimately, we depend on the bishops of the early Church deciding what would be allowed to be read during the Liturgy and which were not to be allowed to be read during the Liturgy. If the early bishops were not divinely guided by the Holy Spirit, then we are all in trouble! The same Holy Spirit who inspired the New Testament authors is the same Holy Spirit who guided the early Church.

      Robert

      1. Thanks Robert!

        I appreciate your response. I’ve been ‘hovering’ around the site here and there, and I really enjoy your thoughts. I’m ordering my Schaff volumes today on account of your post on he and Nevin. So, if you grow to dislike me, you have only yourself to blame!

        I certainly affirm what you’ve said here. I’m ‘not yet orthodox’ as I’ve been told, but I’m becoming familiar with the concept of understanding Scripture through the life of the church. With that, I want to take a second swipe at my main point here, which is a little more towards the abstract.

        I am growing (I hope) more to a point such that when I look at the Bible, and especially the New Testament, I see the fingerprints of the early Fathers all over it. Or, another way of saying it: When I read Hebrews, I don’t just think of it as ‘The Book of Hebrews in the Bible — I wonder Who Wrote It’. I think of it as ‘Hebrews, the Letter Affirmed as Holy Scripture by the Fathers’. I’m no scholar, but I understand Hebrews was to some degree contentious. I know Revelation had it’s naysayers.

        A more historical understanding of the formation of Scripture almost forces you to view the Fathers and the Scripture writers as in the same boat; not with regards to their writings being read in the liturgy as you pointed out, but in terms of the authority given to Scripture, that it may have its special place. That is why I insinuate that if you feel free license to call the early Fathers, their work and their councils into question, I really don’t understand what stops someone from repackaging your Bible to include or exclude whatever they want, since any hesitation to go that far must include some acceptance of the inspiration of those Fathers supposedly open to dissent.

        You can let me know whether or not that says anything different than what I already wrote — I hope so!

        Final clarification — ‘dogmatic filter’ — here I am thinking of the Nicene Creed, and the accompanying doctrines of Christ (fully God, fully Man) and of the Trinity (homoousian). There’s good reasons those are dogmatic, because they really shape a person’s entire perception of God’s character, his work, and his relationship to us and to himself. That is my thinking here, and I think it supports what you are saying…. your understanding of Scripture is shaped by the liturgical services, and to a major extent those liturgical services are grounded in the Nicene Creed. Thus, the Fathers’ work in developing said creed and the doctrines around it supplies a dogmatic filter for understanding Scripture and, in consequence, allowing the liturgy to be what it is, and not be what it is not.

        Thanks again.

        1. Excellent conversation here Robert and Nathan through all this “tweaking” of how we mentally approach both Scripture and the Fathers…both inside the Divine Liturgy and outside in our private life. Robert’s comment:

          “Everyone belongs to a particular hermeneutical community whether one is Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, etc. which leads to their reading and understanding Scripture from the “fathers” of that particular tradition.”

          was an important “mental/reality Shift” when I began reading Orthodoxy. Realizing we all live within and understand the Faith delivered within a “Tradition-Paradigm” make one begin to examine the claims of that Tradition…compared to the “claims” of other Traditions upon us…and the “logic” of those claims.

          I suppose that is why Prof. Carlton’s point in my quote above made me confront “Holy-Tradition” actually has a claim on me…and continues to have such a impact on my thinking. Let us all Beware of the “logic” the Tradition to which we have yielded…has a claim on us. Lord have mercy.

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