Archive for November 26th, 2012

The Canon of the New Testament in Church History: The Collection of the Canoncial NT Writings, Lesson 5

Lesson 6  I have titled this section, The Views of the Early Church Fathers Regarding the BibleThis section will focus on the early church fathers view of the Bible.  They will provide us with insights of the origin and nature of the Bible. [1]

A.  Clement of Rome (A.D. 30-100) [2]

1)  The Origin of Scripture: The Words of God.

a)  Let us act accordingly to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit saith, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom”) (Jer. 9:23) (First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 13).

b)  For He Himself by the Holy Ghost thus addresses us: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me” (Ps. 34:11) (ibid., 22).

c)  Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit (ibid., 45).

B.  The Nature of Scripture: Infallible [2]

1)  Words From God

a)  But when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired men themselves but by the divine Word who moves them (First Apology 36).

b)  We must not suppose that the language proceeds from the men who are inspired, but from the divine Word which moves them.  Their work is to announce that which the Holy Spirit, descending upon them, purposes, through them, to teach those who wish to learn the true religion (ibid).

c)  To him [Moses] did God communicate that divine and prophetic gift…and then after him the rest of the prophets…These we assert to have been our teachers, who use nothing from their own human conception, but from the gift vouchsafed to them by God alone (Justin’s Hortatory Oration to the Greeks 8).

2)  Conveyed Through Humans

a)  For neither by nature nor by human conception is it possible for men to know the things so great and divine, but the gift which then descended from above upon the holy men who had no need of rhetorical art, nor of uttering anything in a contentious or quarrelsome manner, but to present themselves pure to the energy of the Divine Spirit, in order that the Divine plectrum itself, descending from heaven and using righteous men as an instrument like a harp or a lyre, might reveal to us a knowledge of things divine and heavenly.  Wherefore, as if with one mouth and one tongue, they have in succession and in harmony with one another taught us both concerning God, and the creation of the world, and the formation of man, and concerning the immorality of the human soul, and judgment which is to be after this life, and concerning all things which it is needful for us to know, and thus in divine times and places have afforded us the divine instruction (ibid., 8).

C.  The Nature of Scripture [3]

1)  Inspired in Written Form

          2)  Inspired in Spoken Form

D.  The Origin of Scripture from Irenaeus (Second Century)[4]

1)  The Words of God

a)  The Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God [Christ] and His Spirit (Against Heresies 2.28.2).

2)  Words From God

a)  I shall plainly set forth from these divine Scriptures proofs to [satisfy] all lovers of truth (ibid., 2.35.4).

E.  The Nature of Scripture from Irenaeus (Second Century)[5]

1)  The Foundation of Faith

a)  The Scriptures [are the] ground and pillar of our faith (ibid., 3.1.1).

2)  Infallible

a)  Let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel…The writings of those apostles,…being the disciples of truth, are above all falsehood (ibid., 3.5.1).

b)  [Heretics] adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings which they themselves have forged, to bewilder minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures of truth (ibid., 1.20.1).

F.  The Nature of Scripture from Tertullian (ca. 160-225)[6]

1)  Authoritative

a)  In granting indulgence, he [Paul] alleges the advice of a prudent man; in enjoining continence, he affirms the advice of the Holy Spirit.  Follow the admonition which has divinity for its patron.  It is true that believers likewise no “have the Spirit of God;” but not all believers are apostles.  When, then, he who had called himself a “believer,” added thereafter that he “had the Spirit of God,” which no one would doubt even in the case of an (ordinary) believer; his reason for saying so was, that he might re-assert for himself apostolic dignity…Apostles have the Holy Spirit properly, who have Him fully, in the operations of prophecy…Thus he attached the Holy Spirit’s authority to that form [of advice] to which he willed us rather to attend; and forthwith it became not an advice of the Holy Spirit, but, in consideration of His majesty, at precept (On Exhortation to Chastity 4, italics his).

2)  Divine

a)  We are united….Divine Scripture has made us concorporate; the very letters are our glue (On Modesty 5).

3)  Harmoniouss

a)  From apostolic word descends the Church, All filled, to wash off filth, and vivify Dead fates.  The Gospel, four in number, one. (Reply to Marcion 2.70).

4)  Timeless

a)  No enunciation of the Holy Spirit ought to be [confined] to the subject immediately in hand merely, and not applied and carried out with a view to every occasion to which its application is useful (On the Apparel of Women 2.2, italics his).

Summary:  Many of the early church fathers and Christians who lived during a time where the Word of God was coming together, understood that the Words of God in Scripture were important and a resource of truth.  This truth brought meaning into one’s life because of the resurrecting power that the Word had.  It was supernatural because it contained the power of salvific knowledge, which leads to salvation.  As a result, may this material that you have learned, continue to motivate you in your walk with God.  May you be encouraged that you are able to have a Bible while many other people in the world do not.  This is a sign of God’s grace. May the knowledge that you have consumed, be preached to the lost and may the precious knowledge you have consumed, be given to those you are discipling.  Grace.

[1] Norman L. Geisler, How History Views the Bible: Decide for Yourself, (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corporation, 1982), pp.23-24.
[2] Ibid., 23-24.

[3] Ibid., 24-25.

[4] Ibid., 25.

[5] Ibid., 25.

[6] Ibid., 26.

[7] Ibid., 26-27.

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