Dialogue on Whether the Fathers Taught "Perspicuity" of Scripture and Denied the Necessity of Tradition and an Authoritative Church

Dave Armstrong vs. Carmen Bryant (carmenhills@earthlink.net)

This is a continuation of my previous response: Dialogue on the Clearness and Formal Sufficiency of Holy Scripture. For the background and information about Carmen Bryant, please refer to that paper. Carmen's words shall be in blue and smaller print.

TABLE OF CONTENTS (Hyper-linked)

The Views of the Early Church in General

A study of the development of the doctrine Perspicuity of Scripture will show that it was not a
teaching invented during the Protestant Reformation but a resurrected one.

This I deny. I affirm precisely what Carmen denies, and will copiously document this below. Various aspects of the teaching can be found in the Fathers (just as in my own view and the present-day Catholic one), but not the doctrine in its entirety, which presupposes that Scripture is the formal rule of faith apart from the Church. I maintain that that notion must be anachronistically imposed on the Fathers in order for the "case" for perspicuity amongst the Fathers to succeed.

In looking at this doctrine inchurch history, it is of paramount importance to recognize that in spite of its name, Perspicuity does not mean that there is nothing obscure in Scripture. The reasons for labeling the doctrine Perspicuityof Scripture are more historical than lexicographical. In addition to whatever internal obscurity might
already exist, there were external conditions imposed on Scripture that resulted in its meaning being
almost totally hidden to the Christian population.

This is also a slander (knowingly or not) against the Catholic Church and its care and preservation of the Scriptures throughout the ages. No Protestant - knowing the facts of history - could have less than a tremendous gratitude towards the Catholic Church for its transmittance of Holy Scripture down to the 16th century and afterwards. The destructive theological libreralism and Higher Criticism of the Bible with which we deal today, on the other hand, originally came out of a totally Protestant milieu (largely the aftermath of Lutheran pietism in Germany; late 18th and early 19th centuries). So I submit that if we are to examine influences destructive of a high view of Scripture as divinely-inspired, we must look far beyond the Catholic Church. Yet Carmen nowhere mentions these historical influences; only the Catholic Church is singled out, as if it were the enemy of the Scriptures, and popular knowledge of its teachings. That is sheer nonsense - the exact opposite of the truth -, as I will demonstrate as we proceed.

          In the Church of New Testament times, Perspicuity of Scripture was assumed, not
          debated. The apostles used the Old Testament Scriptures to validate their message that
          Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. Such a methodology could succeed
          because God's message in Scripture was in fact clear to the listener.

This is no proof of perspicuity. It merely illustrates that the Apostles appealed to Scripture as the central element of their apologetic, just as the Fathers and Catholics have always done. There was still need of an authoritative interpreter. Furthermore, what is pointed to here is contained in the Bible itself; the Apostles were authoritative interpreters of the Old Testament Scriptures. They are in a far different category than Joe X. Protestant today with a Bible in his hand and a supposed direct line to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Secondly, they (especially St. Paul) continually appealed to the "tradition" passed down or handed down, which they had received from Our Lord Jesus Himself. In that way they were again of one mind with the Fathers and Catholic methodology, which stresses apostolic succession and continuity of developing Christian doctrine, derived from the original deposit of faith. Thirdly, they did not deny the absolute necessity of a visible, institutional Church with real authority. So on all these counts, the analogy of the NT writers citing the OT is far more in line with Catholicism than Protestantism.

Jesus was also there to correct misunderstandings; this is the whole point. He could rebuke them (as in John 6, when they - like most Protestants today - refused to accept a literal Eucharist) because He had the full authority - as God - to offer an authoritative commentary. Therefore one cannot conclude from this example that "perspicuity" as an abstract concept can ever exist apart from the authority of Jesus and the Apostles and - by extension - the Church, of which they and their successors the bishops and popes were the leaders. One can't (if they are to be intellectually and exegetically honest) cite the Bible (or the Fathers) so selectively. Appeals to the OT are thought to be proof positive of perspicuity, yet the accompanying variables of Church and Tradition (also thoroughly biblical) are ignored as of no import or consequence. Thus the view which purports to be so "biblical" ironically becomes radically unbiblical in its extreme selectivity and arbitrariness as to which biblical passages it will recognize and which it will blithely ignore.

          Similarly, the apostles and other leaders of the newly founded Church used the narratives,
          prophecies and wisdom literature of the Old Testament to convict both Jews and Gentiles
          of eternal truth. They expected their readers and listeners to understand not just the mere
          statements but also their spiritual significance. Spiritual understanding is a gift from God to
          all who are redeemed, a gift that is expected to grow to completeness, even to the point
          of fathoming the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are in Christ. Believers who
          remain at the elementary level are rebuked. The apostles were operating on the principles
          of Perspicuity: all those who truly belong to God are expected to grow in their
          understanding of what is revealed in Scripture because of the work of God's Spirit within.
          Unbelievers, on the other hand, are limited in their understanding because their hearts are
          not prepared to receive spiritual wisdom.

None of this proves perspicuity as defined in Carmen's paper. This is a collection of truths with which Catholics wholeheartedly agree, and half-truths which omit aspects of the Church and Tradition which cannot be so easily dismissed, if one wishes to maintain a truly biblical worldview, taking into account all of Holy Scripture, not just verses which appear on the surface to support perspicuity. Protestants - try as they may - simply cannot rationalize away the fact that both Tradition and a visible, institutional, apostolic, catholic (universal) Church are present and non-optional in the New Testament.

          When the first post-apostolic authors cited Scripture, they were still referring primarily to
          the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible. Copies of the gospels and epistles circulated
          among the churches and were considered authoritative as Scripture if genuinely apostolic,
          but no one had yet gathered these documents into a cohesive collection. The writings of
          this period were aimed principally at combating false doctrine, especially Gnosticism, that
          was threatening the purity of the faith as handed down by the apostles. Although a
          complete doctrine of the Perspicuity of Scripture was not formulated until centuries
          later, we can still determine what the early writers believed about Perspicuity by
          observing the way they used Scripture in their fight against the aberrant beliefs that arose
          under the name of Christianity.

I shall maintain below again and again that late-arriving, novel Protestant views are being superimposed back upon the Fathers. The Protestant bias and great desire to claim the Fathers for themselves - to find some modicum of historical support for late Protestant inventions - has made it difficult for objective historical analysis to take place. We see this quite frequently in anti-Catholic polemicists such as William Webster, Eric Svendsen, and James White. They have been corrected by Catholic apologists time and again, to no avail. I have myself debated both Webster and White via mail or on my website, and neither offers the slightest counter-reply.

I shall begin my historical analysis of the Fathers and their view of Scripture and Tradition (and also that of Catholicism) with some general observations by six Protestant scholars:

{Robert McAfee Brown, The Spirit of Protestantism, Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1961, pp. 172-173, 214} {Bernard Ramm, in Rogers, Jack B., ed., Biblical Authority, Waco, TX: Word Books, 1977, "Is 'Scripture Alone' the Essence of Christianity?', pp.116-17,119,121-122} {Clark Pinnock, Biblical Revelation, Chicago: Moody Press, 1971, pp. 118-119} {Heiko Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, rev. 1967, pp.366-367} {Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: Vol.1 of 5: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971, pp. 115-17,119; citations: 1. In Cushman, Robert E. & Egil Grislis, eds., The Heritage of Christian Thought: Essays in Honor of Robert Lowry Calhoun, NY: 1965, quote from Albert Outler, "The Sense of Tradition in the Ante-Nicene Church," p.29. 2. St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:4:1}

                         It should be unnecessary to accumulate further evidence.
                         Throughout the whole period Scripture and tradition ranked as
                         complementary authorities, media different in form but
                         coincident in content. To inquire which counted as superior or
                         more ultimate is to pose the question in misleading terms. If
                         Scripture was abundantly sufficient in principle, tradition was
                         recognized as the surest clue to its interpretation, for in
                         tradition the Church retained, as a legacy from the apostles
                         which was embedded in all the organs of her institutional life,
                         an unerring grasp of the real purport and meaning of the
                         revelation to which Scripture and tradition alike bore witness.

{J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978, pp. 47-48}

Catholic apologist Joe Gallegos expands upon these comments, and offers the Catholic outlook on the patristic perspective of these matters:

                    . . . even though the Catholic Church and the early Fathers admit a
                    material sufficiency of the Bible it maintains that Tradition, Church and
                    Scripture are inseparable...and that the one cannot understand the meaning
                    of the Sacred Scripture without Tradition and Church! That is why the early
                    Fathers can admit a sufficiency of the Bible and the existence of unwritten
                    traditions at the same time....In sum, the Fathers admitted a material
                    sufficiency of the Bible but no less affirmed its formal 'insufficiency'! All
                    things can be found within the pages of Holy Writ (implicitly or explicity) but
                    for a proper and authentic understanding of Scripture something else is
                    required--that is, Tradition and Church.

                    Vincent of Lerins make the same point. We read in his Commonitories:

                         Here perhaps, someone may ask: Since the canon of the
                         Scripture is complete and more than sufficient in itself, why is
                         it necessary to add to it the authority of ecclesiastical
                         interpretation? As a matter of fact, [we must answer] Holy
                         Scripture, because of its depth, is not universally accepted in
                         one and the same sense. The same text is interpreted
                         different by different people, so that one may almost gain the
                         impression that it can yield as many different meanings as
                         there are men. Novatian, for example, expounds a passage in
                         one way; Sabellius, in another; Donatus, in another. Arius, and
                         Eunomius, and Macedonius read it differently; so do Photinus,
                         Apollinaris, and Priscillian; in another way, Jovian, Pelagius,
                         and Caelestius; finally still another way, Nestorius. Thus,
                         becuase of the great distortions caused by various erros, it is,
                         indeed, necessary that the trend of the interpretation of the
                         prophetic and apostolic writings be directed in accordance
                         with the rule of the ecclesiastical and Catholic meaning.
                         Comm 2

. . . The point of controversy in these set of replies is this: did the Fathers affirm the Catholic rule of faith consisting of Scripture, Tradition and Church or did they affirm the Protestant rule of faith (Sola Scriptura) which interprets Scripture via private exegesis?
                    . . .  the Catholic Church affirms and admits the
                    'material' sufficiency (apart from the canonical issues of the Bible) of both
                    the Scriptures itself and Tradition itself....both have the same Divine origin
                    and but differ in modes only....

                    That is why the Catholic Church will NOT base a doctrine(apart from
                    canon of the Bible) only on tradition alone or on Scripture alone--the belief
                    must find a touchstone in both! For example, in Ott's "Fundamentals of
                    Catholic Dogma" you will find Ott religiously appealing to BOTH Scripture
                    and Tradition. All doctrines of the Catholic faith are found explicitly or
                    implicitly in the pages of Holy Writ...the same goes for Tradition.

                    Tradition has some advantages (there are others): 1)it permits fullness,
                    which the written text would have narrowed down to the limits of clear
                    exposition and 2)it is by it's nature a community phenomenon--whereas the
                    text could be read by an individual by him or herself, tradition by it's very
                    nature fufills the communal aspects of Church.

                    Scripture too has some advantages(there are others): 1)has the dignity
                    which always and everywhere has gained for itself, 2)contain the actual
                    words of Our Lord and Savior, and 3)It is fixed under one cover.

                    In sum, Tradition allows the Church to preserve God's saving Word in it's
                    fullness while Scripture ensures the preservation of it's purity!

{From the web page St. Athanasius, the Scriptures, Tradition, and the Church (Joe Gallegos vs. James White), an excellent debate highly-related to the present one. See also Joe Gallegos' page
Material Sufficiency and Sola Scriptura in the Fathers (Contra William Webster) }

For the sake of space, I cannot cite every quote from the Fathers which Carmen presents (nor those patristic opinions or quotes which present no particular difficulty for the Catholic position). Rather, I will let her summarize her conclusions about what particular Fathers taught, and then present countering citations and evidences. I again urge readers to consult Carmen's original paper in order to read her arguments in their full context.

Many Fathers are passed over which could easily be brought forth as fruitful witnesses for the Catholic viewpoint of the Fathers and Scripture/Tradition. The argument, remember, was that this view was that of the early Church, and that Protestants merely re-introduced it. I find the evidence presented as quite weak and unconvincing (there would be hundreds of patristic proof texts if Protestants are right about this), whereas the counter evidence which could easily be presented is overwhelming and irrefutable. Compendiums of the Fathers' views on this matter can be found on the following web pages:

          Clement, bishop of Rome in the last decade of the first century, frequently cites the Old
         Testament in his letter to the Corinthians about 96 AD. He does not explain the cited
          passage but assumes that his readers will understand the plain sense of the words and
          agree with his use of it . . . Scripture is plain enough to be understood
          and applied by all.

Yet St. Clement also espouses tradition (he doesn't seem to speak the "biblical" evangelical lingo):

Furthermore, Clement teaches apostolic succession in 42:1-4 and 44:1-4, and held that bishops were a permanent office and continuation of the apostolic ministry. He himself exercised a robust authority, which Catholics regard as papal (Clement being a bishop of Rome). He speaks to the church at Corinth as if it was in subjection to himself and the Church of Rome: Lastly, Clement cites as "Scripture" in 23:3-4 a source which is not in the Bible as later determined. It is also cited in 2 Clement 11:2-3 (not considered to have been written by Clement, however). Anglican scholar J.B. Lightfoot speculated that the citation was from the lost book of Eldad and Modat mentioned in the Shepherd of Hermas (Vis. 2.3.4).           . . . Irenaeus acknowledges that "simple-minded" people can be led astray by such twisting of
          Scripture, but only because these persons do not know enough of Scripture to keep them
          from being deceived. When the various passages are put back in their right order and
          context, the sense is clear to the one who has accepted the truth "received at baptism."           . . . Thus Irenaeus sets forth and practices another principle of the doctrine of Perspicuity of
          Scripture that was to be stated more formally in later times: What is obscure in one
          portion of Scripture is made clear in another portion. The explanations of the more
          obscure portions are within Scripture itself. The believer needs to study and meditate
          upon the entire Word in order to find the sense that God intended.

          Irenaeus interprets types, symbols and parables with Christ as the center of his
          hermeneutic. For him, the true interpretation of the Scriptures lies with the Church,
          because the Church has inherited its doctrines from the apostles of Christ. In the context
          of Against Heresies, the Church stands in contrast to those who have broken away from
          the mainstream, the Gnostic heretics that have either twisted Scripture or done away with
          the portions that are not suitable to their doctrine. There is no differentiation made among
          persons within the Church that would indicate some are qualified to read and interpret
          Scripture while others should be hindered. All are encouraged to learn, and the amount of
          understanding will vary with the study and meditation given to the Scripture—as well as
          the measure of love that a person has for God.

But St. Irenaeus, too, accepts authoritative Tradition and apostolic succession (as Carmen - contrary to her overall argument - admits: "For him, the true interpretation of the Scriptures lies with the Church, because the Church has inherited its doctrines from the apostles of Christ"), in contrast to later Protestant beliefs about Scripture Alone as the rule of faith (a host of other citations could easily be brought forth - see the web pages above):

                         When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they
                         turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were
                         not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are
                         ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them
                         by those who are ignorant of tradition...It comes to this,
                         therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture
                         or tradition.

                         Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important
                         question among us, should we not have recourse to the most
                         ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant
                         intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in
                         regard to the present question? For how should it be if the
                         apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be
                         necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition
                         which they handed down to those to whom they did commit
                         the Churches?

                         {Against Heresies 3,4:1}

Protestant scholar Ellen Flessman-van Leer, in her Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church (Van Gorcum, 1953, pp. 139 and 188), writes:

                        For Irenaeus, on the other hand, tradition and scripture are
                        both quite unproblematic. They stand independently side by
                        side, both absolutely authoritative, both unconditionally true,
                        trustworthy, and convincing.

                         Irenaeus and Tertullian point to the church tradition as the
                         authoritative locus of the unadulterated teaching of the
                         apostles, they cannot longer appeal to the immediate memory,
                         as could the earliest writers. Instead they lay stress on the
                         affirmation that this teaching has been transmitted faithfully
                         from generation to generation. One could say that in their
                         thinking, apostolic succession occupies the same place that is
                         held by the living memory in the Apostolic Fathers.

St. Irenaeus did not accept the New Testament we have today. He did not consider 2 Peter, Jude or Hebrews scriptural, but did include the Shepherd of Hermas in the canon.

The School of Alexandria and Allegorical Interpretation

Next, it is argued that the exegetical School of Alexandria, and Fathers such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen, following Philo and Platonic thought, introduced foreign Greek philosophies into biblical commentary and hermeneutics, thus poisoning the well for perspicuity and popular understanding of the "clear" Scripture for subsequent generations throughout the Middle Ages until Luther and Calvin restored the true belief once again:

In the online Catholic Encyclopedia article on BIBLICAL EXEGESIS (by A.J. Maas), a summary of the Fathers' approach to the literal and allegorical senses of Scripture, particularly that of Origen, who was an exception to the rule, is laid out (emphasis added): Note that Origen's views were not accepted as exegetical and hermeneutical norms for "official" Catholic interpretation. Carmen's opinion above, therefore, is incorrect, and overly-broad. The historical truth about medieval and present-day Catholic exegesis is much more nuanced and complex. Origen spoke for himself in this instance, and he was wrong.

The same article elaborates upon the history and biblical basis for the "mystical" or "spiritual" or "typical" (typological) sense of Scripture (emphasis added):

It is obvious, then, that the consensus amongst the Fathers (and the medievals following them) is the belief that Scripture can be properly interpreted in a typological, allegorical, figurative, and "mystical" sense, while not denying the fundamental nature of the literal, "historical" sense. As usual, the truth is not "either/or" (as is so often observed in the Protestant perspective). It is "both/and." In any event, according to Carmen's thesis, the early Church (in the main?) accepted some proto-Protestant version of perspicuity. She strongly implies (if she doesn't assert it outright) that allegorical interpretation mitigates against this (since it obscures Scripture and its "plain" meaning), and is therefore a corruption of the mainstream patristic hermeneutical and exegetical view.

The above summary (if it is accepted at all as accurate) demolishes this contention, in my opinion, for it reveals that the Fathers en masse accepted multiple forms of interpretation all along (and that the medieval exegetes followed their method: they didn't deviate from them). Thus, as is so often the case, Protestants must improperly read back their peculiar views into the Fathers. Luther and Calvin, then, are again shown to be revolutionaries in this regard, introducing novelties, not reformers who merely brought back ("resurrected") what was present and normative in the early Church (as Carmen contends). Protestants cannot prove with extensive documentation that the Fathers - taken as a whole - uphold their notions of sola Scriptura, perspicuity, an invisible church, literal interpretation to the exclusion of other methods, or a denial of apostolic succession.

With all due respect, such analysis cannot survive even the first in-depth Catholic counter-reply, because history in this instance (as well as Scripture, I believe) is again on the Catholic side. Therefore, Protestant polemicists are reduced to producing largely-unsubstantiated and highly selective summaries of alleged Church history which lack sufficient documentation, and ignore a host of complicating factors.  A confident, true historical thesis can easily incorporate or take into account (rather than obscure or ignore) all the known historical facts within itself, as the Catholic viewpoint does.

St. Augustine (354-430)

Augustine of Hippo was perhaps the greatest expounder of Christian doctrine in the early centuries of
Christianity. Both Catholics and Protestants have cited his works in confirmation of their own views . . .

True obscurities do exist, but God is the one who put them into Scripture. His purpose was to hold
pride in check and increase the respect Christians would give to Scripture.

     Some of the expressions are so obscure as to shroud the meaning in the thickest darkness. And
     I do not doubt that all this was divinely arranged for the purpose of subduing pride by toil, and
     of preventing a feeling of satiety in the intellect, which generally holds in small esteem what is
     discovered without difficulty.

Yet there is no obscurity in Scripture that by necessity remains unfathomable. The darkness of
obscurity can be penetrated by studying the rest of Scripture. Augustine sets forth a principle that is
resurrected during the Reformation: Scripture interprets Scripture.

     Accordingly the Holy Spirit has, with admirable wisdom and care for our welfare, so arranged
     the Holy Scriptures as by the plainer passages to satisfy our hunger, and by the more obscure to
     stimulate our appetite. For almost nothing is dug out of those obscure passages which may not
     be found set forth in the plainest language elsewhere.

The Scriptures plainly teach that which is necessary for faith and salvation, as well as teaching how the
Christian should live. These are the things that should be studied first and committed to memory. Only
after the believer is firmly grounded in these necessary doctrines should he go on to delve into the more
obscure teachings of Scripture.

     For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that
     concern faith and the manner of life….After this, when we have made ourselves to a certain
     extent familiar with the language of Scripture, we may proceed to open up and investigate the
     obscure passages, and in doing so draw examples from the plainer expressions to throw light
     upon the more obscure, and use the evidence of passages about which there is no doubt to
     remove all hesitation in regard to the doubtful passages.

Ignorance accounts for much of what is labeled obscure. Thorough study of the Scriptures as well as
knowledge from other fields of learning should clear up most of these. When neither context nor
general knowledge will clear up an obscure passage, one may apply reason—but, Augustine says,

     …this is a dangerous practice. For it is far safer to walk by the light of Holy Scripture; so that
     when we wish to examine the passages that are obscured by metaphorical expressions, we may
     either obtain a meaning about which there is no controversy, or if a controversy arises, may
     settle it by the application of testimonies sought out in every portion of the same Scripture.

The solution to the unsolvable obscure passages may be to interpret the passage figuratively. Here
Augustine is not talking about figurative language but allegorical interpretation. He only uses the word
allegory twice in On Christian Doctrine, and both times it refers to a type of speech within Scripture
itself, not a type of interpretation, but he sometimes uses the word "figurative" in the same way that
other Church Fathers use the word "allegorical."

Augustine remained an allegorist but he did not take allegory as far as Clement of Alexandria. He
retained a deep respect for the literal interpretation and the perspicuity of Scripture, insisting on several
points which were later included in the doctrine of Perspicuity during the Reformation. He also set up
several controls over the use of allegory.

Here, the Protestant "either/or" mentality is fully apparent. Neither the centrality or popular "accessibility" of Scripture nor a respect for the literal hermeneutical sense rules out Tradition and Church, apostolic succession, or four-fold interpretation of Scripture. St. Augustine is not a Protestant! If one cites him - as above - only when he agrees or appears to agree with one or more Protestant distinctives, but neglects to take into account numerous other statements of his which are entirely "Catholic," then it is an improperly selective and ultimately intellectually dishonest presentation, and does disservice both to St. Augustine and the Protestant cause - supposedly so rooted in the early Church and the great Augustine himself.

In this vein, Protestant scholar Heiko Oberman observes:

{The Harvest of Medieval Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, rev. 1967, pp.370-71}

Many other citations of St. Augustine with regard to this subject could be brought forth. Here are a few:

                    For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the
                    knowledge of which a few spiritual men attain in this life, so as to know it,
                    in the scantiest measure, indeed, becuase they are but men, still without
                    any uncertainty...The consent of peoples and nations keep me in Church,
                    so does her authority, inaugerated by miracles, nourished by hope,
                    enlarged by love, established by age. The SUCCESSION of priests
                    keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the APOSTLE PETER, to
                    whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave it in charge to feed his sheep,
                    down to the present EPISCOPATE...The epistle begins
                    thus:--'Manicheus, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the providence of God
                    the Father. These are the wholesome words from the perennial and living
                    fountain.' Now, if you please, patiently give heed to my inquiry. I do not
                    beleive Manichues to be an apostle of Christ. Do not, I beg you, be
                    enraged and begin to curse. For you know that it is my rule to believe
                    none of your statements without consideration. Therefore I ask, who is
                    this Manicheus? You will reply, An Apostle of Christ. I do not beleive it.
                    Now you are at a loss what to say or do; for you promised to give
                    knowledge of truth, and here you are forcing me to believe what I have no
                    knowledge of. Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to
                    find there a testimony to Manicheus. But should you meet with a person
                    not yet believing in the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to
                    say, I do not believe? For MY PART, I should NOT BELIEVE the
                    gospel except moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. So when
                    those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me
                    not to believe in Manicheus, how can I BUT CONSENT?                     Wherever this tradition comes from, we must believe that the Church has
                    not believed in vain, even though the express authority of the canonical
                    scriptures is not brought forward for it.                     To be sure, although on this matter, we cannot quote a clear example
                    taken from the canonical Scriptures, at any rate, on this question, we are
                    following the true thought of Scriptures when we observe what has
                    appeared good to the universal Church which the authority of these same
                    Scriptures recommends to you.                     It is obvious; the faith allows it; the Catholic Church approves; it is true.                     The authority of our Scriptures, strenghtened by the consent of so may
                    nations, and confirmed by the succession of the Apostles, bishops and
                    councils, is against you.                     No sensible person will go contrary to reason, no Christian will
                    contradict the Scriptures, no lover of peace will go against the CHURCH. Jerome was a contemporary of Augustine who initially shared the views of the Alexandrian exegetes
but later came to be more in line with the Antiochene school. He affirmed a "deeper meaning" to
Scripture, but contended that this spiritual significance must be rooted in the literal.

As was the mainstream Catholic position all along, as shown above.

He considered Origen a heretic but also thought he had done a credible job of explaining some obscure passages of Scripture.

Jerome played an involuntary role in Scripture's becoming concealed from the Christian population in
ensuing centuries. He translated the Bible into Latin because Greek was no longer a lingua franca in
Europe. The Vulgate was the result, appropriately named because it was written in the vulgar or
common language of the time. Approximately 300-400 years later, though, Latin had gone through
enough changes that people of southern and western Europe began to realize that the Classical Latin
taught in the schools was "perceptibly a different language, rather than merely a more polished, cultured
version of their own."

In the meantime, the Vulgate became the recognized authoritative translation of the Scriptures for use in
the Church of Rome. The sacredness ascribed to the Word of God was extended as well to the
language into which it had been translated, i.e., the Latin that had become the official language of the
Church. The attitude toward Latin was also affected by tradition. Since "the time of Saints Hilary and
Augustine the notion prevailed that the three languages used in the inscription on the Cross [Aramaic,
Latin and Greek] were sacred." The common language continued to change over the centuries, but the
language of the Church and the Word of God did not. The God who communicated with mankind to
the point of incarnating himself in human flesh became a God who was steeped in mystery, his
revelations known only to a select few.

This was not the intention of Jerome.

I dealt with this fatuous charge that somehow the Catholic Church was against popular reading of Holy Scripture and vernacular translations in the first part of this debate: Dialogue on the Clearness and Formal Sufficiency of Holy Scripture. This is one of the most common slanderous charges against the Catholic Church, but also (thankfully) one of the easiest to thoroughly disprove.

For now, I present two citations from St. Jerome which clearly (perspicuously?) indicate that he did not believe in sola Scriptura:

                    Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in Acts of the Apostles.
                    And even if it did NOT REST on the authority of the Scripture the
                    CONSENSUS of the WHOLE WORLD in this respect would have the
                    force of COMMAND...

                    And let them not flatter you themselves if they think they have Scripture
                    authority since the devil himself has quoted Scripture texts...we could all,
                    while preserving in the letter of Scripture, read into it some novel doctrine.
The Antiochene School of Theology: Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

          The hermeneutical methods of the Alexandrian School, particular those of Origen,
          prevailed and eventually became the standard of the Church of Rome.

This is incorrect, as detailed above. Origen's position was extreme, and the literal sense of scriptural interpretation was always primary, though not excluding other senses. Nor did the Church and Catholic commentators reject the Antiochene approach entirely. More "either/or" inaccuracies and straw men . . .

          Not all theolgians in the early Church, however, agreed with this allegorical approach. Those of the
          Antiochene school dissented from the position that there was a spiritual meaning hidden
          within the text. In fact, they held that allegorical interpretation destroyed the real message
          of Scripture. They also distinguished between allegory as used in Scripture itself, and the
          allegorical interpretation as used by the Alexandrian school.

          They were unwilling to lose [the historical reality of the biblical revelation] in a world of
          symbols and shadows….Where the Alexandrines use the word theory as equivalent to
          allegorical interpretation, the Antiochene exegetes use it for a sense of scripture higher or
          deeper than the literal or historical meaning, but firmly based on the letter. This
          understanding does not deny the literal meaning of scripture but is grounded on it, as an
          image is based on the things represented and points toward it. Both image and thing are
          comprehensible at the same time. There is no hidden meaning which only a Gnostic can
          comprehend. John Chrysostom observes that everywhere in scripture there is this law,
          than when it allegorizes, it also gives the explanation of the allegory."

Again, this was the mainstream patristic position, not just that of the School of Antioch.

          . . . Even as the Alexandrians did not completely dispense with the literal meaning of
          Scripture, so also the Antiochenes did not dismiss allegory. However, they insisted that
          any allegorical interpretation must be based on the literal. The Antiochene school's
          hermeneutic lost out to that of the Alexandrians. Their methods were not forgotten,
          however, and were later revived in the 13th century by St. Thomas Aquinas, who greatly
          admired the work of John Chrysostom and was responsible for restoring the literal
          meaning to its rightful importance.

I cite once more the online Catholic Encyclopedia article on BIBLICAL EXEGESIS (by A.J. Maas; emphasis added):

Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, in his classic work An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (Part 2, Chapter 7, section 4: "Scripture and its Mystical Interpretation" - emphasis added), penetratingly wrote about the orthodoxy of the mystical sense as the norm within the Christian (Catholic) Church, and the excesses of the Antiochene School of hermeneutics and "hyper-literalism." I cite him at length, because his analysis is so relevant to the present debate: As for the prevalence of rank, serious Christological error in Antioch, I offer the following list of its heretical patriarchs (Protestants and Catholics pretty much agree on Chalcedonian Christology - all these heresies contradict that; thus are regarded as equally heretical in both camps): Needless to say, this is not a very impressive record for orthodoxy. It would be difficult to argue that the local, prevailing method of biblical hermeneutics had nothing to do with this. The Nestorian heresy, in particular, was strongly connected to Antioch, as we learn from a reputable Protestant scholarly source: Nor was the Antiochene emphasis in soteriology at all consistent with Protestant (and Catholic) emphases, as another Protestant reference work points out: Thus we see a time-honored tendency of Protestant polemics: anyone or any school or sect which disagrees with the Catholic Church in any given belief is co-opted as a "comrade-in-arms" in the struggle to counter the "errors" of the "Roman Church." Thus the Antiochene School of Theology becomes the great proponent of perspicuity and the grammatico-historical interpretation of Scripture, and champion of a sort of proto-evangelicalism, while its grave Christological and soteriological heresies (equally rejected and decried by orthodox Protestantism) are overlooked or de-emphasized. They don't matter, because the object is to find some agreement, any agreement, with much-later Protestant principles. Once those are located (in actuality or only in imagination), any other aspects of the holder's belief are ignored (whether consciously or unconsciously). Frankly, I find this method to be special pleading, and plain bad historiography.

Even the greatest and most orthodox figure to come out of this school, St. John Chysostom, takes an entirely Catholic view of Tradition, by no means harmonious with the Protestant sola Scriptura:

John F. McCarthy, in his series of online essays,The Neo-Patristic Approach to Sacred Scripture (emphasis added), presents the Catholic view of these matters, which differs (even with regard to historical questions) markedly from the Protestant one (while in some respects it is much more similar than one might suppose):           Thomas Aquinas, the "angelic doctor" of the Church, moved away from a reliance upon
          allegorical interpretation toward an appreciation of the literal meaning of Scripture. He still
          promoted allegory, dividing it into three possible meanings, but insisted that all allegorical
          interpretation must rise from the literal meaning, not apart from it. All these meanings are
          possible because God has the power to use human language and adapt it as needed for
          his own purposes.

          Since the literal sense is that which the author intends, and since the author of Holy Writ is
          God, Who by one act comprehends all things by His intellect, it is not unfitting, as
          Augustine says (Confess. xii), if, even according to the literal sense, one word in Holy
          Writ should have several senses.

All of this was identical to the patristic consensus, and no different from the usual, normative approach of Catholicism throughout its entire history, so again, it looks like we are dealing here with a vast oversimplification, and a co-opting of St. Thomas as another sort of "proto-Protestant," which is as ludicrous as when the same attempt is made to "claim" St. Augustine. The very fact that Protestants so admire Augustine and Aquinas and want so much to claim them for their camp (when in fact they are entirely Catholic, and the preeminent Catholic theologians) shows that something is strangely, ironically awry in the Protestant opinion of Catholicism, and that the Catholic Church throughout its history was far more "on the ball" than many Protestants are willing to admit.

John F. McCarthy, in his online essay, NEO-PATRISTIC EXEGESIS TO THE RESCUE, elaborates:

This is a continuation of my previous response: Dialogue on the Clearness and Formal Sufficiency of Holy Scripture. For the background and information about Carmen Bryant, please refer to that paper.

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Completed by Dave Armstrong: 11 June 2000