Chapter II:47: Critique of the Roman Catholic Position on the Authority of the Fathers, Part 3

To the Objections of the Papists our AUTHOR responds in the best possible manner, at whose nervous and exceedingly concise strictures all their devices readily vanish.

1.  For example, they argue: What infallible Norm and Criterion of true Interpretation the Scripture itself sets forth and commends to us, the same without doubt is to be acknowledged and received: but it sets forth or commends to us the sayings and writings of the Ancients, or Fathers:  Therefore.  But we deny the Minor in the sense controverted:  neither is this proven by Job 8:8, and similar passages alleged by them.

From 1 Corinthians 14:32, 33, only a seemly subordination is evident, which the Apostle wills for good reason to obtain in the Church among men living at the same time:  while he ascribed to no one of those men judging a Judgment normative, authentical, supreme, and infallible:  but the spirit of those prophesying is willing to be tested by the sole norm and Lydian stone of the Word of God, by comparison with 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11; thus 1 John 4:1.

2.  When they allege Reasons in addition, and say, for example, that the Fathers are not members of the parties in today’s Controversies; We Respond, It is not sufficient that a Judge not be a member of the parties, for thus children playing in the street could most frequently be constituted as Judges to settle disputes: accurate knowledge of the controverted cause is additionally required; which is wanting in the Fathers in today’s various controversies, whence those paying less attention often also spoke with more imprudence than they would have done after the quarrel concerning such a cause was brought forward.

In order to enervate the Objections of the Papists in this cause, see also the Writers cited on § 46; HEINRICH ALTING, Theologia Elenctica nova, locus II, controversy IV with the Papists, pages 82-84; TURRETIN, Theologiæ Elencticæ, locus II, question XXI, § 11-18.

On § 46, 47, in addition consult VOETIUS’ Disputations I and II de Patribus seu Ecclesiæ antiquæ Doctoribus, Disputationum theologicarum, volume I, pages 75-106.

Chapter II:36: Opponents of Bible Reading: the Gnosimachi

The principal opponents are:

The Ancients following the Gnosimachi,[1] concerning whom JOHN OF DAMASCUS, de Hæresibus, opera, page m. 585, says, “The Gnosimachi are those that are opposed to the inquiry and knowledge of the Christians, to such an extent that they say that vain and unnecessary is the labor of those that seek any Knowledge out of the divine writings.  Neither does God require anything from the Christian, except noble and good actions.  And so it is better for one to follow their own intention with a simple and untutored heart, say they, than to expend much care in learning doctrines and sentences.”

[1] It is doubtful that the Gnosimachi were actually a well-defined sect, but they stood in opposition to the Gnostics, that is, they were doctrinally indifferent, and believed that true religion consists of a good life.

Chapter II:24: Socinian and Remonstrant Denial of the Necessity of Divine Illumination for Saving Understanding

The Socinians deny this, among whom Ostorodus, Institutionibus, chapter I, pages 3, 4, writes, “they err grievously and dangerously, who think think that the Sacred Scripture is in no way able to effect faith and obedience in men without the internal illumination and special revelation of the Holy Spirit; and that man is no otherwise able to have any use regarding salvation from the Scripture read or heard.”  And in chapter XXXIV de libero Arbitrio, page 285, § 3, “Whence it appears in what a dangerous error the Evangelicals abide, especially the Calvinists, etc., who think this, that men have no help from the hearing of the external Word of God, unless the Holy Spirit teaches them internally in a peculiar and hidden manner, and works faith and obedience in them”:  consult ARNOLDI’S Refutationem Catecheseos Racovianæ, pages 39-41, chapter IV, de Scriptura Sacra, § 1-4.

The Remonstrants understand things similarly, for example, in their Confessione, chapter I, § 14, “Such is the clarity and perspicuity of the Sacred Books (say they), especially ideas necessary to be understood for eternal salvation, that all Readers, not only the learned, but also the unlearned (indeed, furnished with common sense and judgment), are able to follow their meaning sufficiently:  only let them not allow themselves to be blinded by prejudice, vain confidence, or other depraved affections; but let them search this Scripture piously and painstakingly, etc.”  Add the words of Episcopius, harsh enough, Disputationibus Theologicis, part I, Disputation III, § 1-9, and part III, Disputation III, § 1-3, opera, tome 2, part 2, compared with TRIGLAND’S Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, volume 4, page 636a.  Nevertheless, sometimes our Adversaries, either teasing with words, or compelled by the force of truth, also speak of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and its use for the understanding of the Scriptures; as it is done in Catechesi Racoviensis “de Scriptura Sacra”, chapter III, question 3, pages 16, 17, upon which place consult ARNOLDI’S Refutationem Catecheseos Racovianæ, § 1, page 39, § 2, page 40, § 10, page 43.  You also may find that JAMES ARMINIUS, in Disputationibus Theologicis publicis, thesis XI, § 8, has a sounder understanding at this point than his followers.

Chapter II:24: The Clarity of Scripture, considered generally

Furthermore, Sacred Scripture delivers the substance of Religion Perspicuously.  So that we might demonstrate this Perspicuity, it is to be observed:

1.  In general,

α. That that does not so much have regard unto the Things related, as unto the Manner of relating.  For Scripture treats the sublimest mysteries of salvation, even those that far transcend human capacity; but the Spirit in marvelous συνκαταβάσει/condescension sets forth the same in the Scriptures in so Perspicuous a manner that, although the proposed Matter in all its fullness often flees the sight fo the mind, yet the pious mind pursues the Word clearly setting forth that matter, and thence learns to understand the matter itself, which has been related, as far as understanding is required for salvation.  Thus clearly and perspicuously the Scripture reveals τὸ ὅτι, the fact, of mysteries, for example, the Trinity, the eternal Generation of the Son, etc., which is necessary for us to know and to believe for salvation:  but τὸ πῶς, τὸ διότι, the how and wherefore, lie hidden to us, and one is not required to know this for salvation.

β. We observe that nevertheless the Degrees of Perspicuity vary in the Sacred Scripture;

1.  In various Passages and parts of Scripture, of which variegated style of Scriptures AUGUSTINE teaches us that there is manifest use, both in book II de Doctrina Christiana, chapter VI, opera, tome 3, part I, column 17, “ Therefore, the Holy Spirit magnificently and profitably has modified the holy Scriptures in such a way that by the plainer passage He might meet need, but by the more obscure remove contempt”; and in Sermon XI or LXXI de Verbis Domini, chapter VII, opera, tome 5, column 272, “In all the abundance of the holy Scriptures, we are fed by the plain passages, exercised by the obscure:  in the former hunger is banished, in the latter contempt.”

2.  In various Matters; thus prophetical matters are often of a more profound research, which God has left for our diligent investigation and for the exercise of our faith, and the Church’s necessary understanding of which He nevertheless does not exclude. Dogmatic matters are more perspicuous, especially those that are absolutely necessary for salvation; not in such a way that no industry is needful for the understanding of these things:  to such an extent that with the help of legitimate means they are able to be understood from the Scriptures by individual believers unto salvation:  so that common people are not to be kept from the reading of Scripture as harmful and dangerous to them, nor is it necessary to depend the tradition and pronouncement of the Church.

Chapter II:23: Resolution of Apparent Contradictions, Part 2

3.  With our AUTHOR we say that God with good reason willed that there be Diversity in the Scripture, α. both so that all suspicion of hidden collusion in writing might be banished; which in a striking manner is thus removed by the Evangelists, who otherwise would have most easily fallen into the same: consult § 6 of this Chapter: β. and so that we might have exercise for our industry and faith.

4.  If in the ways already proposed in the case of ἐναντιοφανέσι, apparent contradictions, a clear Reconciliation is not soon found, we further observe with our AUTHOR that it is not necessary in the Reconciliation of texts that we assert Positively that thus the matter stands, or assert Proofs, which on account the want of history or other requisites often is not able to be done: but it suffices, if we conjecture that the matter is able to stand in this or that way.

Chapter II:21: The Principal Subject Matter of Scripture

A consideration of the Object or Argument of the Scriptures now follows, and of the Mode in which that is delivered in Scripture.

The Argument of Scripture is true Religion, which is the Right Manner of coming to know and of worshipping/serving God for the salvation of man as sinner and the glory of God, as we shall see in Chapter III.  Now, that this is delivered in the Scripture both dogmatically, and habitually, as our AUTHOR says in his Compendio, is proven by these passages:  1.  Psalm 19:7, in which there is discussion of the Scripture as converting to the Worship of God and instilling true wisdom, which is found in the Knowledge of God.  2.  John 5:39, in which the Scriptures are presented as relating the way of arriving at eternal life, which is true Religion, specifically through the testimony which they gave concerning Christ, the knowledge and faith of whom is principally required in true Religion.  3.  2 Timothy 3:15-17:  in which it is asserted of the Scriptures that they are able σοφίσαι εἰς σωτηρίαν, to make wise unto salvation, which is the scope/goal of Religion; now, the means tending to this are faith upon Christ Jesus, the knowledge of God, and the practice of all good works, whither Scripture leads man by means of διδασκαλίαν/teaching, ἔλεγχον/elenctics, παιδείαν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, training in righteousness, rendering the man of God ἐξηρτισμένον, thoroughly furnished, for every good work.

And to this principal Argument of Scripture are to be referred and subordinated all the other things that are delivered in the Scriptures, α. Things Natural, for in these the manifold glory of God, worthy to be known and worshipped, shines forth, as was already seen in § 13 of Chapter I, and to this are able to be directed the most pious Contemplationes Mundi of the Most Distinguished NIEUWENTYT, and similar works.  β. Things Historical, which according to the manifold works of God unfold the things allotted to the Church.  γ. Things Chronological, from which the fullness of the times is able to be learned.  δ. Things Topographical, which set up the successive seats of the Church for our contemplation, and together with Things Chronological are the lights and eyes of Sacred History, and contribute much to the confirmation of the same.  ε. Likewise Things Genealogical, which relate the succession of the holy people in the promise land, and prove from ancestry that Jesus of Nazareth is the true Messiah.  And whatever least things thus have their uses, or perhaps formerly also had more:  and, if perhaps not all things related in the Scriptures are equally necessary, the goodness of God is to be acknowledged, which desired to consult not only our necessity, but also our abundance and delight.

Chapter II:19: The Apocrypha, Part 8

But neither do the ψευδεπίγραφοι/pseudepigraphical Apostolic Constitutions and Canons agree with the opinion of the Papists:  while the Constitutions in a review of the Sacred Books omit the Apocryphal Books, consult GERHARD’S Confessionem Catholicam, tome 2, book II, special part I, article I, chapter I, page 32; and Apostolic Canon LXXXV with Judith numbers not two, but three, Books of the Maccabees among the Canonical Books; it does not have Tobit; it omits either the Book of Wisdom or Ecclesiasticus, and places the other outside of the Canon, when after the survey of the Canon of the Old Testament it adds,  ἔξωθεν δὲ, but besides these it is commended to you, that your young people learn τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ πολυμαθοῦς Σιράχ, the wisdom of the learned Sirach.  Indeed, that the Greek Church today does not esteem the Apocryphal Books, received by the Papists into the Canon, as Canonical, is observed by JAKOB ELSNER’S nieuwste Beschzyving van de Grieksche Christenen in Turkyen, chapter V, § 15, pages 174-176.

On the Exceptions of the Papists against this our Argument, 1.  That at that time, when the Fathers agreeing with us lived, the Canon had not yet been defined by the public judgment of the Church.  2.  That the Fathers that exclude those controverted Books from the Canon speak of the Canon of the Hebrews, not of the Christians:  see GERHARD’S Confessionem Catholicam, tome 2, book II, special part I, article I, chapter I, pages 23, 24.

BINGHAM,[1] Originibus ecclesiasticis, book XIV, chapter III, § 15, 16, volume 6, pages 91-97, observes that the Books today called Apocryphal were formerly read in some Churches, but not in all:  and in some Churches under the title of Canonical Scripture, with this term taken in a somewhat broader sense.

On § 19, consult also STEPHANUS GAUSSENUS’ Theses Theologicas inaugurales de Verbo Dei, thesis 81, pages 460-462.

[1] Joseph Bingham (1668-1723) was an Anglican churchman and theologian.  In his great work, Origines Ecclesiasticæ, he endeavored to provide a definitive treatment of the ancient rites and customs of the Church.

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Chapter II:5: All the Substance of Scripture as an Object of Inspiration, Part 1

2.  Inspiration pertains to all Matters contained in Sacred Scripture, α.  whether Dogmatic, or Historical, of whatever time these might be, whether conducted in the age of the Writers or before.  Indeed, the Historians often knew without new revelation and infallible inspiration the matters which they relate, whether by the power of memory, or by the testimony of ἀξιοπίστων/ trustworthy men, from a comparison with Luke 1:2:  but if in narrating these things they were not enjoying θεοπνευστίᾳ/ inspiration, their history would only be a human narration, which would not be able to be the foundation of divine Faith, by which on account of the testimony of God we receive something, as what is not liable, nor is able to be, to any error at all.

This is to be held against Grotius, who in Voto pro Pace Ecclesiastica, pages 99, 100, has:  “Verily I have said that not all the books that are in the Hebrew Canon were dictated by the Holy Spirit.  —I was not needful that the histories be dictated by the Holy Spirit.  It was enough that the writer by memory be proficient concerning the matters observed, or by diligence be proficient in describing the historical journals the forefathers.  —If Luke, with the divine afflatus dictating, had written his own, thence he would have taken authority to himself, as the Prophets did, rather than from witnesses, whose faith he followed.[1]  Thus in writing those things that he saw Paul doing, no afflatus dictating to him was necessary.  What, therefore, is the reason why they books of Luke are Canonical? because the Church of the first ages judged them to be written piously and faithfully, and concerning matters of the greatest moment to salvation.”  This opinion of Grotius is followed by Spinoza,[2] in his Tractato Theologico-Politico, chapter XI, and by the Author of the book, Sentimens de quelques Theologiens de Hollande:[3]  see SIMON’S[4] Critique de Nouveau Testament, chapter XXIII, pages 273, 274.  Thus also Hobbes in Leviathan, chapter VII:  “The same is the manner of the histories written by a Prophet in the name of God and the others written, for example, by Livy,[5] Curtius;[6] so, if we would not believe Livy, that an ox spoke,[7] we do not disbelieve God, Livy, etc.”:  against whom see COCQUIUS’[8] Hobbesianismi Anatomen, locus I, chapter I, § 3, pages 5-7.  This also is the objection of the Jews against the divinity of the Books of the New Testament, that Luke himself, Luke 1:1-3, testifies that he did not write his Gospel by the afflatus and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but of his own will and according to the relation of trustworthy witnesses; unto which STAPFER responds, in his Theologicæ polemicæ, tome 3, chapter XI, section I, § 331, 333, 334, pages 265, 266, 268-271.  Consult CARPZOV’S Critica Sacra Veteris Testamenti, part I, chapter I, § 8, canon 1, 2, pages 54-56; RIVET’S[9] Isagoge ad Scripturam Sacram, chapter II, § 4-8, opera, tome 2, page 856.  Add SPANHEMIUS’ de Historicis Euangeliorum Scriptoribus, in the Appendix to book II of Miscellanea Sacrorum Antiquorum, § 2-9, opera, tome 2, column 266-274, where he goes against Henry Dodwell, in whose Dissertationibus in Irenæum he relates, “He, being unwilling, and not without some upset, read some things, which, as they lie, appear not a little to disturb the authenticity and reverence of the Gospels.  That is, that the Writers of the Gospel History have no other infallibility than that they be faithful witnesses of those things that either they had seen of heard, in an ordinary manner of relating, with no interposition of any afflatus, or θεοπνευστίας/inspiration.  Thus Tradition, upon which the belief of the Books of the New Testament, and of the Gospels in particular, rests, is no firmer than that which belongs to Irenæus; Irenæus, Clement, and the rest have an Equal Authority with them, nor were these Fathers of the second Century less infallible, in matters of history and of fact; —Neither does any note appear from which you might gather that less was attributed to the Apocryphal Gospels, than to the true; the Apocryphal is praised with equal honor, for example, by Ignatius of Antioch, with which the true are also honored:”  then read Spanhemius disputing against these things.  Consult also the things to be taught below, Chapter 33, § 10.  That θεοπνευστίαν/inspiration is not to be denied to the Writers of the Historical Books, whether of the Old or New Testament, DINANT also contends in his de Achtbaarheid van Godts Woord, chapter III, § 16, 20, pages 387-390, 399-404, § 22, pages 405-414, § 30-33, pages 427-444, § 38, 39, 458-465.

[1] Hebrews 13:7.

[2] Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher, and one of the great Rationalists in the tradition of Descartes.

[3] Jean Le Clerc (1657-1736) was educated in Geneva, under the tutelage of Philippe Mestrezat and Francis Turretin, and ordained in circa 1680.  His sympathy for the theology of the Remonstrants made it impossible for him to continue in Geneva.  He settled as Professor of Philosophy at Amsterdam (1684-1731).  In his Sentimens, Le Clerc finds fault with much of Richard Simon’s work, but his critical approach to the Scripture is similar to that of Simon.

[4] Richard Simon (1638-1712) was a French priest, orientalist, and biblical critic, sometimes called “the father of higher criticism”.

[5] Titus Livius (c. 59 BC-17 AD) wrote a history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita, from its founding to the time of Augustus.

[6] Quintus Curtius Rufus (d. 53) was a Roman and a historian.  Historiæ Alexandri Magni is his only surviving work.

[7] Ab Urbe Condita 35.

[8] Gisbertus Cocquius (1630-1708) of Utrecht was a Reformed thinker and doctor of philosophy; he opposed Hobbes.

[9] Andrew Rivet (1573-1651) was a Huguenot minister and divine.  He ministered at Sedan and at Thouara; he went on to teach at the University of Leiden (1619-1632) and at the college at Breda.  His influence among Protestants extended well beyond France.

Chapter II:5: Scripture Called “the Word of God” because of its Infallible Inspiration

Hitherto concerning the Word; now it is necessary to see why the Scripture is called the Word of God.  The Scripture is so called principally by reason of its infallible Inspiration.  Indeed, our AUTHOR in his Compendio enumerates more reasons why the Scripture is able to be called the Word of God; namely, α.  the Divine Command, concerning which see the preceding §; β.  the Divine Example in the writing of the Law, Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10; γ.  the Divine Preservation of the Scriptures as God’s peculiar property in the midst of the power of the Babylonians, Syrians, and Romans.  But the principal reason that it is so called is its Infallible Inspiration, according to 2 Timothy 3:16, πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.  2 Peter 1:21:  οὐ γὰρ θελήματι ἀνθρώπου ἠνέχθη ποτὲ προφητεία, ἀλλ᾽ ὑπὸ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου φερόμενοι ἐλάλησαν ἅγιοι Θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι, for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man:  but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, on which passage see Commentarium meum.  And so Holy Men were internally urged and impelled by the divine Spirit in the writing of His dictates, no less powerfully than various bodies are wont to be impelled and propelled by the wind.  That θεοπνευστία/inspiration is not to be understood of the more common concurrence of Providence, by comparison with Job 32:8, but of the immediate and infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit, who impressed upon the minds of holy men the matters to be committed to writing, and illuminated their understanding with an extraordinary and preternatural light, so that they might perceive what they had to write, and be completely persuaded of the truth and divine ἀσφαλείᾳ/certainty of the things to be written;[1] and so that they might actually judge that these matters are to be set down on paper in these and no other words and in this order.  Which sort of unusual leading was required, so that the Word of the Prophets and Apostles might be able to be held as divine:  while in the rest, which we speak or write, we also enjoy either a common concurrence of divine providence, or the saving guidance of the Holy Spirit; nevertheless, what things we thus speak or write are said to be merely human words and writings, set forth θελήματι ἀνθρώπων, by the will of men, which concerning the Prophecy of Scripture, delivered to the Church θεοπνεύστως, by inspiration, is denied by Peter, who in this matter opposes the will of men to the impulse of the Holy Spirit:  consult LAMPE’S[2] Dissertationem philologico-theologicam, volume II, Disputation X, which de Θεοπνευστίᾳ Auctorum Sacrorum, pages 354 and following.  That this is to be held, which was just now taught concerning the reason for the denomination of the Word of God, against Hobbes,[3] among others, see above, Chapter I, § 1.  The Reverend PETRUS DINANT, in his tractate called de Achtbaarheid van Godts Woord, chapter III, pages 345-561, will by not means displease anyone to consult here; where, 1.  he defines the state of the controversy concerning the Infallible Inspiration of the Word of God, and sets forth the position of the reformed Church concerning this matter.  2.  He justifies his own assertions with respect to the Books of the Old Testament.  3.  He demonstrates that the same infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit is not to be denied to the Writers of the New Testament.  4.  He more distinctly explains that Inspiration; he shows what the Holy Spirit furnished to the Holy Men of God in θεοπνευστία/inspiration; and how that extraordinary influx and guidance of the Spirit did not at all exclude the diligence of the holy Men, and the use of appropriate means to acquire the knowledge of divine things.  5.  He answers certain difficulties that are wont to be moved against this Infallible Inspiration.  You will see here also that the text of 2 Timothy 3:16 is cleared by Grotius from παρερμηνείᾳ/ misinterpretation, § 17, 18, pages 390-398.

[1] Luke 1:4:  “That thou mightest know the certainty (τὴν ἀσφάλειαν) of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”

[2] Frederic Adolphus Lampe (1683-1729) studied under Campegius Vitringa, and held various ministerial posts.  At Utrecht he was appointed Professor of Theology (1720), then of Church History (1726).  He departed to teach at Bremen in 1727, and died there in 1729.  He was especially learned in ecclesiastical history and antiquities.

[3] Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an English philosopher, remembered for his work in political philosophy and social contract theory.  He was also interested in theology, but heterodox in his beliefs, denying incorporeal substance (reducing all things to matter and motion), and the divine inspiration of the Biblical prophets.