Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Okay, so the Didache's not technically one of the Fathers. But I've decided to cover it in this series anyway for a few reasons:
- It's the earliest Orthodox Christian writing we have that is not contained in the New Testament. It was written around AD 60, which means it actually predates much, if not most, of the writings contained in the New Testament.
- Because it predates so much of the New Testament, what we have here is a writing produced by a community by whom Sola Scriptura was not only not believed in, but for whom Sola Scriptura would have been impossible! (no Scriptura = no Sola Scriptura)
- Also because of its very early date, the Didache is a powerful witness to the early Church -- the earliest Church in fact; the Church of the Apostolic Age -- and is a powerful piece of evidence that the Faith of the Orthodox Church today is the exact same as that of Christians of those times.
The Didache (Greek, meaning "teaching") is a church order manual. Some of the early Fathers considered it Scriptural, but it was eventually excluded from the New Testament largely because it was unnecessary to include a manual of church order in Sacred Writ.
So let's look at the Faith as it was believed and lived by the early Christians who lived even before Scripture, and compare it on a few points with the Faith of the Orthodox Church today.
"But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living [running] water. But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water; and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm. But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able; and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before." - Didache, 7:1-7The early Christian practices of Baptism via triple immersion and fasting before Baptism are still preserved in the Orthodox Church today.
"And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites [Jews], for they fast on the second [Monday] and the fifth [Thursday] day of the week; but do ye keep your fast on the fourth [Wednesday] and on the preparation [the sixth -- Friday] day." - Didache, 8:1-2The early Christian practice of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays is still preserved in the Orthodox Church today.
On the Eucharist:
"But let no one eat or drink of this eucharistic thanksgiving, but they that have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord hath said:Give not that which is holy to the dogs." - Didache, 9:10-12The early Christian practice of closed Communion (that is, Communion only for Baptized members of the Church) is still preserved in the Orthodox Church today.
As you can see, the Didache preserves for us a record of how the earliest Christians lived, Christians who lived even before the writings of the New Testament were put to pen and paper. Sola Scriptura would have been completely impossible for them -- and yet they were a thriving Christian community and one whose Faith is still preserved and observed in the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church today, even in small details like triple immersion Baptism and fasting on Fridays. The community which produced the Didache was Apostolic in the most literal sense of the word and this document is a demonstration of the Apostolic nature of the Orthodox Church's Holy Traditions -- Traditions which may not be explicitly laid out in Scripture, in some cases, but which in many instances pre-date Scripture!
If you'd like to read the Didache for yourself and make your own comparisons with the various Christian groups today, you can check it out here.
|Father||Not Sola Scriptura||Sola Scriptura|
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Taking a break from my videos on the Council of Nicaea, this is a video of my beautiful baby daughter's Baptism and Chrismation. Genevieve Sophia Withun was born on September 22, 2009, and Baptized and Chrismated on November 1, 2009, at St. John the Forerunner Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cedar Park.
I'm the well-dressed, strikingly handsome, bespectacled fellow in the front with the candle.
My wife, Macrina-Sophia Vanessa, is the short woman with the candle to my left.
And my son, Isaiah, is the naughty little boy at our feet in the front.
My parish's website: http://www.theforerunner.org/
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/davidpwithun
Friday, November 27, 2009
So, the question I'm going to examine in a new project is did they? My plan is to go chronologically, from earliest to latest (I haven't decided on a stopping point yet but it will probably be somewhere around the year 500). I will examine one Father at a time, presenting quotes relevent to that Father's position on Tradition, Scripture, and where authority lies in the Christian Church. I will also present the proof-texts from the writings of the Fathers most commonly used by Protestant apologists like James White and William Webster in their attempts to show that the Fathers believed in Sola Scriptura, looking at each in its historical and textual context.
What I'm going to attempt not to do is just do the inverse of what Protestants do; I'm not going to simply proof-text and quote mine for sentences which support Tradition, although we will look at those in the process. What I'm going to try to do here is to actually look at that individual, their life and writings as a whole, and really, finally answer the question: did he believe in the authority of Scripture alone?
The usual followup claim of a Protestant who presents these proof-texts and then is shown that this same Father elsewhere writes of the authority of the Church's Traditions and Councils is that this Father was inconsistent in what he taught. So, we'll also examine that question as we look at the context of the Protestant proof-texts: is this Father being inconsistent or is the Protestant simply misunderstanding (or intentionally twisting!) the Father's words to make him sound inconsistent.
This will be a lot of work for me, but I think it's worth it for finally putting this myth to rest, and it will be very interesting. My hypothesis: we won't find a single one of the Fathers who held to Sola Scriptura or anything even remotely resembling it.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Medieval Muslims were reluctant to travel to infidel lands. According to Islamic jurists Muslims should not stay for too long in the lands of non-Muslims if they cannot live a proper Muslim life there. Muslims had little knowledge of or interest in any Western languages. Only Italian had some currency for commercial purposes, but mainly involving Jews and Eastern Christians, especially Greeks and Armenians. Few Muslims knew any non-Muslim languages well, the knowledge of which was considered unnecessary or even suspect.H/T: Abu Daoud at Islam and Christianity.
Consequently, the translators of Greek and other non-Muslim scientific works to Arabic were never Muslims. They were Christians of the three dominant Eastern denominations plus a few Jews and Sabians. The language of culture for these Christians was Syriac (Syro-Aramaic or Eastern Aramaic) and their liturgical language was Greek. The translators already knew the languages they were to translate. We do have examples of translators who traveled to Greece to perfect their skills, but they were Christians for whom Greek was already at least a liturgical language. [emphasis mine]
Originally from: The Brussels Journal.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The Biblical account of the Prophet Elijah and the three-and-a-half year drought (1 Kings 17) nowhere mentions that Elijah actually prayed for the drought; the account begins with Elijah announcing the prophecy to King Ahab. There is no known written source for St. James' claim that the drought was in answer to Elijah's prayers, but Jewish oral tradition does uphold Elijah as the ideal "man of prayer" whose prayers were always answered because of their fervency and purity.
St. James uses this sole example to exhort his readers to prayer and extol the effectiveness of fervent prayer.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
"And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of [His] holy ones to execute judgement upon all, and to destroy [all] the ungodly: and to convict all flesh of all the works of [their ungodliness] which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners [have spoken] against Him." - 1 Enoch 1:9
St. Jude draws upon 1 Enoch again here; this time, though, is an even stronger reference, as he mentions (and attributes the quote to) the Prophet Enoch by name and then goes on to offer a word-for-word quote from 1 Enoch. This verse forces the Sola Scripurist into a catch-22 position. St. Jude clearly believes that this verse comes from none other than "Enoch, the seventh from Adam," himself, however, we know that 1 Enoch was written no earlier than about 300 BC, well after the lifetime of the historical Enoch, and so, obviously, could not have been written by Enoch. There's only two possible options that remain, either 1. St. Jude mistakenly believed that Enoch was the author of 1 Enoch and passed on this erroneous belief in this letter (which position conflicts with Sola Scriptura, as Sola Scriptura relies on a belief in absolute Biblical inerrancy), or 2. this verse (and others from the same book?) is part of a millennia-old oral tradition passed down from the Prophet Enoch but not written down until about 300 BC. Both options are incompatible with Sola Scriptura, but they're the only options we have. Either St. Jude was mistaken and the Bible lacks the absolutist version of inerrancy which Sola Scripturists must hold or St. Jude was drawing on a several thousand-year-old oral tradition, which means St. Jude was no Sola Scripturist and endorses the remarkable reliability of oral tradition.
And, if they were willing to admit that this prophecy was passed down accurately via oral tradition from Enoch, they must also answer the question of why 1 Enoch is not part of their Old Testament. They could assert the case that only this single verse was a real prophecy of Enoch, but the obvious problems with this are that the entire book claims to be from Enoch and that St. Jude clearly believes it is; as we've seen, this quotation isn't the only time he cites this book.
In the end, there's a lot of hard questions for Protestants to answer that are raised by this verse from St. Jude's letter. If St. Jude's quote here were the only extra-biblical quote we had in Scripture (and it's not, clearly), it would still be enough itself to refute Sola Scriptura completely.
I'd provide examples for comparison, but 1 Enoch is, in fact, the only "Old Testament" book that St. Jude quotes.
Monday, November 23, 2009
For comparison, here is the wider context of this verse, in which St. Jude includes some references to events that are recorded in Scripture:
"But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah." - Jude 5-11We can see that St. Jude references the traditional story of the Archangel Michael contending with Satan no differently than he references the Scriptural stories of Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain and Abel, the Prophet Balaam, and the rebellion of Korah; he clearly regards them as having equal truth, authority, and status.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Latinism gave birth to a legitimate, although very insubordinate, offspring in the form of Protestantism. Protestantism was created from the soil of humanism which was not a religious phenomenon; on the cotrary, all its leading ideas are purely earthly, human. It created respect for man in his natural condition. Protestantism, having carried over the basis of humanism into the religious field, was not a protest of genuine ancient Church Christian consciousness against those forms and norms which were created by medieval Papism, as Protestant theologians are often inclined to claim. Far from it; Protestantism was a protest on the very same plane. It did not re-establish ancient Christiainity, it only replaced one distortion of Christianity with another, and the new falsehood was much worse than the first. Protestantism became the last word in Papism, and brought it to its logical conclusion. Truth and salvation are bestowed upon love, i.e., the Church ― such is Church consciousness. Latinism, having fallen away from the Church, changed this consciousness and proclaimed: truth is given to the separate person of the Pope, and the Pope manages the salvation of all. Protestantism only objected: Why is the truth given to the Pope alone? ― and added: truth and salvation are open to each separate individual, independently of the Church. Every individual was thus promoted to the rank of infallible Pope. Protestantism placed a papal tiara on every German professor and, with its countelss number of popes, completely destroyed the concept of the Church, substituting faith with the reason of each separate personality. It substituted salvation in the Church with a dreamy confidence in salvation through Christ in egoistic isolation from the Church. In practice, of course, from the very beginning Protestants departed from the very beginning [sic] and by roundabout ways, by contraband, so to speak, introduced some of the elements of the dogma about the Church, having recognized some authorities, although only in the area of dogma. Being a religious anarchy, pure Protestantism, like all anarchies, turned out to be completely impossible, and by that, testified before us to the indisputable truth that the human soul is Church-prone by nature.
Still, the theoretical side of Protestantism appealed to human self-love and self-will of all varieties, for self-love and self-will received a sort of sanctification and blessing from Protestantism. This fact is revealed today in the endless dividing and factionalism of Protestantism itself. It is Protestantism that openly proclaimed the greatest lie of all: that one can be a Christian while denying the Church. Nevertheless, by tying its members by some obligatory authorities and church laws, Protestantism entangles itself in hopeless contradiction: having itself separated the individual from the Church, it nevertheless places limits on that freedom. From this stems the constant mutiny of Protestants against those few and pitiful remnants of the Church consciousness which are still preserved by the official representatives of their denominations.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
[word count: 65]
[comment thread is here]
Friday, November 20, 2009
"These are of the number of the stars [of heaven], which have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and are bound here till ten thousand years, the time entailed by their sins, are consummated." - 1 Enoch 21:6
The Book of Enoch (1 Enoch), written in the name of the Prophet Enoch (see Genesis 5:22-24) had very wide acceptance in the early Church; it is quoted or alluded to numerous times by the authors of the New Testament and explicitly accepted as Scriptural by Sts. Barnabas, Irenaeus of Lyons, and Clement of Alexandria. Tertullian specifically wrote that the Jews had rejected it because it contained such clear prophecies of Christ. In fact, it remains part of the Old Testament canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to this day!
The verse quoted above in particular gets a lot of attention from the New Testament authors. St. Peter alludes to this verse again in 2 Peter 2:4; St. Jude paraphrases it in Jude 6; and St. Paul makes a reference to the larger story behind this verse in 1 Corinthians 11:10. So what's the deal with this verse?
According to Genesis 6:1-4, some "sons of God" (angels) fell in love with and married beautiful "daughters of men" (human women), and even had children with them, who were "the heroes of old, men of renown." The Bible cites these relationships as a major contributing factor to the Noahide Flood. It doesn't mention a punishment upon the angels involved, but oral tradition does. This oral tradition was later written down in several Jewish writings; one of these writings is 1 Enoch. In 1 Enoch, the Prophet Enoch goes to these angels who were bound in their temporary punishment to proclaim to them the coming Final Judgment of God. The New Testament authors saw in this a parallel with Christ's harrowing of hell and, especially for St. Peter, viewed Enoch as a prototype of Christ in this respect.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
This is the third and final video in my series on the modern myths surrounding the Council of Nicaea, as propagated by such groups as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, books like the Da Vinci Code, and various pseudo-scholars and conspiracy theorists.
In this video, I cover only one myth:
Myth # 6 - After Nicaea, the Church was used as a tool for the political power of Rome, including justifying wars and atrocities
I conclude with a few ending notes; to summarize: don't be fooled by a bunch of modern charlatans like Acharya S and Peter Joseph who are only out to make a buck at the expense of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ -- research every claim, including mine!
Here's the promised list of all the primary documents from the Council of Nicaea; these are the documents written by people who were actually there or who knew people who attended -- these are the sources that historians and scholars have to work with when writing on the Council -- very important stuff here:
- Eusebius of Caesarea: Letter of Eusebius of Cæsarea to the people of his Diocese; The Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine
- St. Athanasius of Alexandria: Defence of the Nicene Definition; Ad Afros Epistola Synodica
- St. Eustathius of Antioch: Letter recorded in Theodoret H.E. 1.7
- Socrates: Of the Synod which was held at Nicæa in Bithynia, and the Creed there put forth
- Sozomen: Of the Council convened at Nicæa on Account of Arius
- St. Theodoret: General Council of Nicæa; The Epistle of the Emperor Constantine, concerning the matters transacted at the Council, addressed to those Bishops who were not present
- Philostorgius, Epitome of the Church History.
Myth #6: After Nicaea, the Church was used as a tool for the political power of Rome, including justifying wars and atrocities.
Truth: Nicaea neither established Christianity as Rome's official religion nor did it mark the end of Rome's persecution of Christians. In fact, two of St. Constantine's sons, who took control of the Empire after his death, were ardent supporters of Arianism, which the Nicene Council had declared a heresy, and attempted to force the Orthodox to reconcile with the Arians and even to adopt Arianism. They, in turn, were succeeded by their cousin Julian, who is known as "the Apostate" for having renounced Christianity and revived official state Paganism. Why would Julian do this if Christianity had indeed been invented as a means of power for the Roman state? Because, in fact, Roman Paganism, which Christianity was in the process of supplanting, was the means of power for the state and Julian recognized this. Constantine, if he had indeed needed a common religious cult to control the Empire, already had one, and it was the official religion of the Empire until the Edict of Milan in 313. The Imperial Cult of Rome not only gave religious sanction to the actions of the Empire, but included the divinity of the Emperor himself as an article of faith! In fact, the Christians' failure to reverence the Emperor as a semi-divine being was one of the reasons they were so often persecuted by Rome during their first 300 years. If Constantine was attempting to reinforce his authority with religious sanction, he chose the wrong religion with which to do so by far; he already had one better suited for the purpose handy. In fact, even after the establishment of Christianity as Rome's official religion by Theodosius I, the relationship between Church and State in Rome was hardly as cozy as the above myth implies. The Church was often an outspoken critic of the government, no small thing in an empire which had no ideas like "freedom of speech." St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, for instance, was exiled from the Empire by Emperor Arcadius in 403 for having criticized the extravagance of Arcadius' wife, Eudoxia, and of the royal court in general. St. Ambrose of Milan threatened to excommunicate Emperor Theodosius I, the very Emperor who made Christianity the official religion, after the Emperor ordered a massacre at Thessalonica in 390. Ambrose publicly exhorted the Emperor to imitate David in repentance even as he had imitated him in guilt. When Theodosius did repent, Ambrose imposed several months of penance on him and refused to admit him to the Eucharist during this time. In addition to all of this, there is a further issue with this myth. It is often accompanied by laundry lists of atrocities attributed to the Pope of Rome. Here an example of such a list from Zeitgeist, the Movie:
By 325 a.d. in Rome, emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicea. It was during this meeting that the politically motivated Christian Doctrines were established and thus began a long history of Christian bloodshed and spiritual fraud. And for the next 1600 years, the Vatican maintained a political stranglehold on all of Europe, leading to such joyous periods as the Dark Ages, along with enlightening events such as the Crusades, and the Inquisition.
There is a flaw in logic to be found here. The statement moves from the Roman State to the Vatican and seems to equate the two, but they are very different entities. The first question that comes to mind is: Why would Constantine, the Emperor of Rome, if seeking to advance his own power, empower the Pope of Rome, who had formerly been one of the leaders of a persecuted minority group? It doesn't make sense. What also doesn't make sense is why Constantine would, in 330, only five years after Nicaea, move the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome (meaning, away from the Vatican) to far away Constantinople. If Constantine were seeking (for some odd reason) to empower the Vatican, why would he move the seat of Roman Imperial authority away from the Vatican? Also worth noting in this regard is that the Western Roman Empire, where the Vatican is located, had been conquered by barbarians and ceased to exist by 476, which means the Pope of Rome was no longer part of the Roman Empire. All three of the events listed above (the Dark Ages, the Crusades, and the Inquisition) happened after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and outside of what remained of the Roman Empire. In fact, the Pope of Rome had officially broken with the Eastern Patriarchs in the Great Schism of 1054, meaning that by the time of the Crusades and the Inquisitions he no longer even shared a common religion with the people of the Roman Empire! The Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire, which stood until 1453, never experienced the "Dark Ages" (in fact, the period commonly referred to as the "Dark Ages," approximately the years 500-1000, were times of great prosperity in the East); was, in fact, a victim of the Crusades, not a belligerent; and had absolutely nothing to do with any of the Inquisitions. In fact, in the end, the fall of the Byzantine Empire, and the accompanying disappearance of the last vestiges of the Roman Empire, is, in part, a consequence of Christianity. First, the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders (who had been sent by the Pope of Rome) in 1204 significantly weakened the Byzantine Empire, a weakening from which they never recovered. In addition, the obstinacy of Eastern Christians and their leaders in preserving the Orthodox Christian Faith prevented the Byzantine Empire from acquiring European assistance. The last several Emperors appealed constantly for help from the much stronger Western European powers in repelling the Ottoman onslaught. The Pope of Rome refused to sanction this help by the Roman Catholic leaders of Western Europe unless the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs submitted to him and accepted reunion on his terms; they refused to compromise the Faith to facilitate the life of the Empire. As a result, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453 and the Roman Empire was no more.
Now, before I end this video, I just want to add a quick little note here. As you can see, putting these silly myths to rest wasn't a very difficult exercise. I don't know how it is that so many people are fooled by such badly-constructed falsehoods. I encourage everyone to do the research for yourself. On my blog, which I have a link to in the sidebar at the right, I've included a list of all of the primary sources for the Council -- that's the writings of those who witnessed these events for themselves -- both Orthodox and Arian. If you don't believe me -- or, for that matter, even if you do! -- check them out for yourself. Really, don't let yourself be fooled by people out to make a buck, like Acharya S., Dan Brown, and Lynn Picknet. That's the real conspiracy here -- and it's sick, to manipulate people's trust and turn them against our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ -- all to make money. Research every claim made; otherwise somebody is going to take advantage of you. If you know of any more of these conspiracy theories and myths, let me know and I'll be more than happy to address them in some videos here. Eventually, I plan to get into the Gnostics and all the garbage that gets kicked around about them by the History Channel (which, honestly, is less informative than MTV) and Elaine Pagels. Until then...
Thanks for watching! I've got a couple more videos coming your way soon about the Council of Nicaea. Please rate, please comment, please subscribe, and please share this video with anyone you think might be interested in this topic. I hope you've enjoyed these videos on the myths surrounding the Council of Nicaea, and most of all, I hope you learned something.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
This is part two (a) of my short series addressing some of the modern myths surrounding the First Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea in AD 325. The myths I address here are ones that are propagated by groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, individuals such as Dan Brown and Elaine Pagels, and media such as the book The DaVinci Code and Zeitgeist, The Movie.
The myths I address in this video are:
1. Constantine the Great was a pagan when he convoked and attended the Council of Nicaea.
2. The Arians were the true Christians, the "Orthodox" were the heretics.
3. The Council of Nicaea invented the Divinity of Christ.
For more of my videos, click here to visit my YouTube channel.
And the script for these videos:
In this video, I'll be addressing a couple more of the myths surrounding the Council of Nicaea. Let's jump right in.
Myth #4: Constantine was a pagan when he convoked and attended the Council of Nicaea.
This myth is a great example of an old saying: "A little education is a dangerous thing." Let's look at the truthy edge around this myth:
1. St. Constantine was not baptized until he was on his deathbed, well after the Council of Nicaea.
2. He was still, as Emperor, officially a pagan high priest, an honorary position held by all Roman Emperors.
3. He probably viewed Paganism and Christianity as compatable at this point in history.
4. He hadn't been catechized yet, and probably didn't know that much about the Christian Faith.
But that's pretty much where it stops. The most obvious problem with this myth is that it is anachronistic; it attributes a very modern mindset, in which crafty politicians manipulate religiosity and feign piety in order to win the support of the masses, to a very ancient time, when people had a very real fear of the gods. Religion, in the ancient world, wasn't something you toyed with. This was especially true if one wanted to be the Emperor of Rome -- you needed the favor of the gods of Rome. Why would Constantine, then, choose to abandon them in favor of a god --the Judeo-Christian one-- who was considered the enemy of the Roman gods? The only reasonable answer, as it bears out in logic and history, is true Faith. He may not have understood this Faith well --which is almost a certainty-- but he was no pagan.
Myth #5: The Arians were the true Christians; the Orthodox were the heretics.
Or, stated in another way: The Council of Nicaea invented the Divinity of Christ.
First off, those who buy into this myth are working with some false assumptions to begin with. They assume that the Arians didn't believe in the Divinity of Christ; this is incorrect. The Arians believed that Christ was a created being, but still asserted that he was Divine and pre-existed all other created things. Those who try to tap into Gnosticism for support for this myth, as both the DaVinci Code and Zeitgeist do, are misinformed, to say the least. The Fathers' problem with the Gnostics was not that they thought Christ too human, but that the Gnostics thought Christ too Divine. This played out in Gnostic theology in a variety of ways that generally included the outright denial of his humanity altogether. Those who claim that the Gnostic Gospels present a more human Christ are asserting an utter falsehood; the complete opposite is true.
Now, back to the myth itself. Today, this myth is propagated primarily by the Jehovah's Witnesses and so it is their views on the matter that I will address. The Jehovah's Witnesses adopt an Arian theology and regard Arius himself as having been a teacher of true Christianity. Before I begin I should note that this is not going to be exhaustive as the work has already been done for me by St. Athanasius of Alexandria nearly 1700 years ago (and what's really "exhaustive" in a YouTube video anyway?). Also, arguments from Scripture are difficult in this case because the Jehovah's Witnesses have duly "corrected" their copies of the Bible to fit their beliefs. A glaring example of their intentional fudging of the Scriptures, from their New World Translation, is their consistent mistranslation of the Greek word for "cross" (stauroV) to "torture stake." A quote from their New World Translation:
Pilate wrote a title also and put it on the torture stake. It was written: “Jesus the Naz·a·rene´ the King of the Jews.” (Gospel of John 19:19)
And, more on topic with this post, they don't forget to edit the offending (that is, refuting) verses when it comes to theology. Example:
In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. (Gospel of John 1:1)
Ironically, the scholar of Greek language whom they cite as an authority to justify their change here has subsequently written an article rebutting their mistranslation. In his own words:
"The translation suggested in our Grammar for the disputed passage is, "the Word was deity." Moffatt's rendering is "the Word was divine." William's translation is, "the Word was God Himself." Each translation reflects the dominant idea in the Greek. For, whenever an article does not precede a noun in Greek, that noun can either be considered as emphasizing the character, nature, essence or quality of a person or thing, as theos (God) does in John 1:1, or it can be translated in certain contexts as indefinite, as they have done. But of all the scholars in the world, as far as we know, none have translated this verse as Jehovah's Witnesses have.
"If the definite article occurred with both Word and God in John 1:1 the implication would be that they are one and the same person, absolutely identical. But John affirmed that "the Word was with (the) God" (the definite article preceding each noun), and in so writing he indicated his belief that they are distinct and separate personalities. Then John next stated that the Word was God, i.e., of the same family or essence that characterizes the Creator. Or, in other words, that both are of the same nature, and the nature is the highest in existence, namely divine."
Notice that he uses the word "essence" there. This is the English translation of one of the root words for the the Greek compound homoousios ("same essence/nature/substance"), the very word that the Fathers of the Ecumenical Council used. There we have the concept in Scripture. Why, some might ask, is the word itself not in Scripture? The reason is that there was no need for it. Words like "consubstantial," "transubstantiation," and "Trinity" were unnecessary. It was innovative heresies, like Arianism, that popped up later which forced Christians to name and explain their beliefs. Importantly, they did not seek to invent anything new, but only to more precisely define what they already believed. As a very simplified example, if all you ever knew were apples that were green, you would simply call them "apples." However, if someone brought you a red apple for the first time, you would now find the need to differentiate between the two, calling one a "green apple" and the other a "red apple." Your apples have always been green, but now you find it necessary to point out that they are such.
Now, if we're going to show that Arianism is not the true, original Christianity, the first thing we need to know is what exactly Arius taught. Here are Arius' words about his own philosophy, contained in a letter he wrote to Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, one of his supporters, in 319:
We are persecuted, because we say that the Son has a beginning, but that God is without beginning. This is the cause of our persecution, and likewise, because we say that He is of the non-existent. And this we say, because He is neither part of God, nor of any essential being.
In essence, Arians believed in a kind of "divine hierarchy" of Father-->Son-->Holy Spirit, with the Father creating the Son and then creating, through the Son, the Spirit. This is summarized in a letter written by the Arian bishop Auxentius his Arian creed:
I believe that there is only one God the Father, alone unbegotten and invisible, and in His only-begotten Son, our Lord and God, creator and maker of all things, not having any like unto Him. Therefore there is one God of all, who is also God of our God, And I believe in one Holy Spirit, an enlightening and sanctifying power. As Christ says after the resurrection to his Apostles: "Behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24.49) And again: "And ye shall receive power coming upon you by the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1.8) Neither God nor Lord, but the faithful minister of Christ; not equal, but subject and obedient in all things to the Son. And I believe the Son to be subject and obedient in all things to God the Father.
The problem with all of this, and the reason that the Fathers of the Council knew they had to quickly address the Arian heresy, is that it puts our possibility of salvation in jeopardy. This is most succinctly stated by St. Athanasius of Alexandria in his treaties On the Incarnation: "[God], indeed, became man that man might become God." If Christ is not God, then our salvation and our theosis, or deification, is impossible. This is why Arianism was (and still is) such a dangerous heresy.
So which is the belief that the earliest Christians held, Arianism or Trinitarianism? The most clear evidence that they were not Arian is that Arian ideas are nowhere to be found until Arius, who delineated his motives for inventing them, namely, that he did not believe that a doctrine (God as three in one, specifically) could be true which could not be entirely understood by the human mind. Essentially, he set up human reason as the standard by which to judge Faith and Scripture. A serious mistake. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." - Isaiah 55:8.
Here are some selections from the earliest Christian writings that address the topics of the Holy Trinity and each Divine Persons' relation to the other members of the Trinity. Please note that this list of quotes is by no means exhaustive; there are, in fact, dozens of passages throughout the writings of the Fathers which are similar to these. I have placed them in chronological order and inserted the most commonly accepted dates for Arius' birth and the beginning of his career, so that it is clear that the Fathers were not just responding to Arius, but actually communicating the Faith as they knew it in their own words. All emphasis below is mine.
95 - "there is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His eternal Word," - St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians
96 - "For this is how Christ addresses us through his Holy Spirit: ‘Come, my children, listen to Me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord.’" - St. Clement of Rome, First Letter to the Corinthians
130 - "...believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father that raised him from the dead." - St. Polycarp of Smyrna, Letter to the Philippians
150 - "The Jews, accordingly, being throughout of opinion that it was the Father of the universe who spake to Moses, though He who spake to him was indeed the Son of God, who is called both Angel and Apostle, are justly charged, both by the Spirit of prophecy and by Christ Himself, with knowing neither the Father nor the Son. For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe on Him, He endured both to be set at naught and to suffer, that by dying and rising again He might conquer death. And that which was said out of the bush to Moses, “I am that I am, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and the God of your fathers,” this signified that they, even though dead, are yet in existence, and are men belonging to Christ Himself. - St. Justin Martyr, The First Apology
170 - "For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise, He gave us sure indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by His miracles during the three years that elapsed after His baptism; of His humanity, during the thirty similar periods which preceded His baptism, in which, by reason of His low estate as regards the flesh, He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages." - St. Melito of Sardis, Fragments
177 - "The Son…is the first offspring of the Father. I do not mean that he was created, for since God is eternal mind, he had his Word within himself from the beginning, being eternally wise." - Athenagoras of Athens, A Plea for the Christians
180 - "The three days before the luminaries were created are types of the Trinity, God, his Word, and his Wisdom." - Theopholis of Antioch, Letter to Autolycus
216 - "Keep always in mind the rule of faith which I profess and by which I bear witness that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and then you will understand what is meant by it. Observe now that I say the Father is other, the Son is other, and the Spirit is other. This statement is wrongly understood by every uneducated or perversely disposed individual, as if it meant diversity and implied by that diversity a separation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." - Tertullian, Against Praxeas
225 - "For we do not hold that which the heretics imagine: that some part of the being of God was converted into the Son, or that the Son was procreated by the Father from non-existent substances, that is, from a being outside himself, so that there was a time when he did not exist." - Origen, Fundamental Doctrines
225 - "For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds every sense in which not only temporal but even eternal may be understood. It is all other things, indeed, which are outside the Trinity, which are to be measured by time and ages." - Origen, Fundamental Doctrines
225 - "The Word alone of this God is from God himself, wherefore also the Word is God, being the being of God. Now the world was made from nothing, wherefore it is not God." - St. Hippolytus of Rome, Refutation of All Heresies
235 - "For Scripture as much announces Christ as also God, as it announces God himself as man. It has as much described Jesus Christ to be man, as moreover it has also described Christ the Lord to be God. Because it does not set forth him to be the Son of God only, but also the son of man; nor does it only say, the son of man, but it has also been accustomed to speak of him as the Son of God. So that being of both, he is both, lest if he should be one only, he could not be the other. For as nature itself has prescribed that he must be believed to be a man who is of man, so the same nature prescribes also that he must be believed to be God who is of God…. Let them, therefore, who read that Jesus Christ the son of man is man, read also that this same Jesus is called also God and the Son of God." - Novatian, Treatise on the Trinity
250 - Arius is born
262 - "It is blasphemy, then, and not a common one but the worst, to say that the Son is in any way a handiwork ... But if the Son came into being, there was a time when these attributes did not exist; and, consequently, there was a time when God was without them, which is utterly absurd." - St. Dionysius of Rome, Letter to Dionysius of Alexandria
265 - "There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything super-induced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever." - St. Gregory the Wonderworker, Declaration of Faith
313 - Arius is ordained to the Priesthood and begins teaching for the first time.
It is very obvious from these and an abundance of other writings that the early Christians were most certainly not Arians. They believed that Christ is indeed God and, even before they had the word, they were Trinitarian.
I will conclude with one final, authoritative quote, this one recording the words of the Lord Himself on this matter:
"Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.'" - Gospel of John 8:58
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
From top left:
Michael Grant Cahill, 62, of Cameron, TX
MAJ Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, 52, of Woodbridge, VA
SSG Justin M. DeCrow, 32, of Evans, GA
CPT John Gaffaney, 56, of San Diego, CA
SPC Frederick Greene, 29, of Mountain City, TN
SPC Jason Dean Hunt, 22, of Frederick, OK
SGT Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, WI
PFC Aaron Thomas Nemelka, 19, of West Jordan, UT
PFC Michael Pearson, 22, of Bolingbrook, IL
CPT Russell Seager, 51, of Racine, WI
PV2 Francheska Velez, 21, of Chicago, IL
LTC Juanita Warman, 55, of Havre de Grace, MD
PFC Kham Xiong, 23, of St. Paul, MN
The unnamed, unborn child of Pv2 Velez
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Orthodoxy 101 course to be offered online November 16 (that's tomorrow!!! -- sign up now!!!) by the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA - Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (that's a mouthful).
H/T: Ancient Christian Defender
Saturday, November 14, 2009
The first thing that needs to be cleared up here is that not all (and, in fact, very little) "little 't' tradition" is "bad" as Rhology's question seems to assume. Using Mark 7 as our point of reference, Christ is not even condemning all "traditions of men." He's condemning specifically those "traditions of men" which "make the word of God of no effect." And certainly not all "traditions of men" "make the word of God of no effect." National holidays like Independence Day and Thanksgiving are "traditions of men" but I doubt that Rhology would submit that they somehow violate the commandments of God.
I think that what we're really looking for here is a way to set apart what is Apostolic Tradition, that is, Tradition which bears Apostolic authority and carries divine inspiration and/or origin, from non-Apostolic traditions, which are not necessarily "bad" but are certainly secondary and subordinated to Apostolic Tradition. And, lucky for me, the Fathers handled this very question many hundreds of years before Rhology or I ever thought to ask it.
St. Vincent of Lerins, in The Commonitory, written in AD 434, states that our rule of faith is to be "that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all." In saying this, he restates the criteria which had been used since the times of the Apostolic Fathers of the 2nd century to separate truth from falsehood. In order to be recognized as Apostolic, a given tradition had to be ancient (that is, dating from the time of the Apostles and not a recent innovation), catholic (meaning "universal;" the tradition had to be something practiced in the whole Church, not just some custom in a local area), and it had to be orthodox (that is, it couldn't contradict those beliefs and practices which the Church already held to be true).
To let St. Vincent speak in his words:
We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality, antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.Rhology is essentially cutting off his own legs in this debate with this question because these same criteria were used by the Fathers in deciding what belonged in the canon of Scripture! Scripture is a part of Tradition -- in fact, it is the very heart and center of Tradition. And it has a common history of codification and definition along with the rest of Tradition, and cannot be separated from the remainder of Tradition without doing serious harm to its message. Rhology seems to forget that Scripture didn't appear in a vacuum -- it was subject to the same test as the rest of Tradition: is it something that "has been believed everywhere, always, and by all?"
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[comments go here]
Friday, November 13, 2009
"Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith." - 2 Timothy 3:8
"And Mosheh and Aharon went in unto Pharoh, and did as the Lord had commanded. And Aharon threw down the rod before the sight of Pharoh, and before the sight of his servants, and it became a basilisk. But Pharoh called the hachems and magicians; and they also, Janis and Jamberes, magicians of Mizraim, did the same by their burnings of divination. They threw down each man his rod, and they became basilisks; but were forthwith changed to be what they were at first; and the rod of Aharon swallowed up their rods." - Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Exodus 7:10-12
Although the story of Pharaoh's magicians trying to show up Moses and Aaron is record in Scripture (Exodus 7:10-12), the names of the magicians are not. St. Paul here draws on Jewish oral tradition as the source for the two names, Jannes and Jambres, and he clearly expects his readers to be familiar with not only the Biblical story but the extra-biblical names as well. According to Origen (in his Commentary on Matthew 27:8), St. Paul was quoting from an extra-biblical work called the Book of Jannes and Jambres. Origen and other ancient authors were familiar with this work, but, unfortunately, no copy has survived to us today.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
"Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." - 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
"It was likewise with the well that was with the children of Israel in the wilderness, it [the well] was like a rock that was full of holes like a sieve from which water trickled and arose as from the opening of a flask. It [the rock-well] ascended with them to the top of the hills and descended with them into the valleys; wherever Israel tarried there it tarried over against the entrance to the tabernacle" - Tosephta, Sukkah 3:11
"The well that had been given as a present to them climbed up with them on the high mountains and from the high mountains came down with them into the valleys, surrounded the entire camp of Israel, and refreshed them, each at the door of his tent." - Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Numbers 20:19
St. Paul here cites a well-attested and ancient Jewish tradition that the rock which Moses struck in the desert that brought forth water (see Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:2-13) followed the Israelites around the desert during their years there. No mention is made in the Old Testament of the rock following the Israelites (although, as you can see from the two Old Testament passages here, Moses brings forth water from a rock on two different occasions), but there is abundant mention of it in Jewish extra-biblical writings. Interestingly, many of these writings also identify the well of Numbers 21:16-18 with this same rock.
Although the rock is only mentioned in verse 4 of this quote, I've included verses 1-4 in my quote above so that the reader can see that St. Paul mentions the rock following them in a longer list of events, all of the others of which are recorded in the Old Testament. He makes no distinction between the events recorded in Scripture and the event recorded in tradition.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
"For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you." - 2 Corinthians 2:4
Here St. Paul references the so-called "Severe Letter" which he wrote to the Corinthians. The descriptions of the contents of this letter here and in his reference to it in 2 Corinthians 7:8-9 below match with neither the contents of the canonical 1 Corinthians nor the extra-biblical 3 Corinthians. Some textual critics have posited that 2 Corinthians is a composite letter (that is, that it is not a single continuous letter itself, but a later compilation of multiple letters of St. Paul to the Corinthians), and that the "Severe Letter" is in fact found in 2 Corinthians itself, in chapters 10-13. Most, though, find this unlikely. The most likely theory is that St. Paul's "Severe Letter" is lost.
Monday, November 9, 2009
There's two things the media loves to do: 1. blame the victims and 2. apologize for Islam. And, after the recent terrorist attack (and that's exactly what it is) here at Fort Hood, they get the opportunity to do both simultaneously.
Every time I see a news report about the "man" responsible for this attack, I see the same thing. They talk about how he was "harassed" and his "religion" "mocked." As a Soldier, I can tell you that that type of thing is absolutely not condoned in the Army. The Army is a hugely diverse organization; I've worked with individuals of nearly any ethnicity or faith you can name. There's a lot of ribbing that's part of the culture of the Army, but "harassment" or "mockery" based on ethnicity or religion just doesn't happen. As I said in my last post on this terrorist attack, the Army is a family.
The media is apparently not making the obvious connection between this so-called "harassment" and the various comments attributed to this man by other Soldiers he has worked with. The simple fact that he's Muslim is not why other Soldiers may (or may not) have dislike or "mistreated" him; the fact that he's made statements openly hostile to the United States and in support of its enemies is.
The Soldiers, whether those who were killed or injured here or others, are not to blame for these attacks. This "man" and his "religion" is. He didn't have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) as many, including myself, initially thought; he'd never even been to war and I don't care how many times he's seen Saving Private Ryan his hearing of war from other Soldiers isn't nearly enough to force him to do what he did. He had a "religion" whose tenets he really followed and believed in -- and this religion taught him to "slay the infidels wherever [he found] them" (Koran, Sura 9:5).
I want to make very clear that I'm not speaking for the Army here; I'm not a spokesperson for the military or government. I'm communicating nobody's views but my own. I am speaking, though, as a Soldier and combat veteran who has studied Islam and served a total of two years in Muslim countries.
Islam is not a "religion of peace." It's simply not. I wish that I could nod my head with the crowd and say it is, but I can't. It's a religion of hate and violence. Is it really any surprise that the famously violence-endorsing phrase of the civil rights era "by any means necessary" was coined by a Muslim (Malcolm X)? "By any means necessary" has been the moral principle of Islam since it's inception -- murdering, lying (see "taqiyya"), conquering, raping, and destroying have been's Islams tools since its beginning. Islam is a politico-religious ideology that espoused Machiavellianism almost a millennium before Machiavelli.
I apologize if this sounds like a diatribe or a rant and to some extent it is, but I think it also needs to be said to clear up and counteract the propaganda of the Western media. This is not a case of a man cracking under pressure; this man is a traitor to his country and his "fellow" Soldiers. If a man with Nazi sympathies had shot up a bunch of Soldiers during World War II we'd call him a "Nazi" and a "traitor." If a man with a Communist-party affiliation had shot up a bunch of Soldiers during the Cold War we'd call him a "Communist" and a "traitor." If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a duck. This man was Muslim, Islam told him to "slay the infidels wherever you find them," and he did so. Islam is NOT a "religion of peace."
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
An article by an Army Wife here about the shootings from her perspective.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people." - 1 Corinthians 5:9
"They are men without God, a generation of vipers; from these turn away in the power of the Lord." - 3 Corinthians
This one is a really interesting example of the New Testament authors quoting extra-biblical sources; St. Paul is here referencing an extra-biblical writing by St. Paul! He's talking about one of his own letters that isn't contained in the New Testament. And that letter is probably lost to time, unfortunately.
In 1 Corinthians 7:1, St. Paul talks about a letter which the Corinthians had written to him and in 1 Corinthians 5:9 he mentions something he had written in a previous letter to them. A document called 3 Corinthians, which I quote above, purports to contain both of these otherwise lost letters.
This writing has a long and often mysterious history. The Syriac Orthodox Church included it in their New Testament canon until the 5th century, and it was accepted as Scripture by the two great Syriac Fathers of the Church St. Ephrem and St. Aphrahat. In fact, the former wrote an entire commentary on it. It was removed from their canon largely due to Greek influence, as the Greek Orthodox Church considered it spurious.
Even as late as 1666, prints of an Armenian Orthodox Bible contain it as part of the canon and it is included as an appendix in an 1805 edition of the Armenian Orthodox Bible. The Armenian Orthodox Church no longer officially endorses it as part of the New Testament, but it still enjoys wide popularity in some areas.
The oldest manuscripts which contain 3 Corinthians embed it within a writing called the Acts of St. Paul. According to Tertullian, the Acts of St. Paul was a forgery written by an Orthodox Priest in about 160-170. Many historians have assumed, based on Tertullian's testimony, that 3 Corinthians was forged by this Priest in order to combat Gnostic interpretations of certain passages in the other two Corinthian letters. There's a couple of problems with all of this, though.
The first problem is that the only testimony of any ancient authority we have that the Acts of St. Paul was indeed forged comes from Tertullian alone. And Tertullian, being a bit of a chauvinist, didn't like the Acts of St. Paul because he thought he gave too much power to women (he specifically says so!) in its portrayal of St. Thecla as preaching and baptizing. We're basically forced to trust the testimony of the one man who would certainly have wanted to undermine the validity of the Acts of St. Paul.
Also, most historians agree that whoever wrote the Acts of St. Paul was incorporating earlier oral traditions about St. Paul and St. Thecla into his composition; how much he added his own flavor (or even invented new stories) we don't know. And that leads to the next problem:
Most historians and textual critics now agree that, just as at least some of the stories contained in the Acts of St. Paul come from earlier sources, 3 Corinthians was an older composition that was later included in the Acts of St. Paul by its author. Whoever wrote the Acts of St. Paul didn't write it; he got it from somewhere else and inserted it into his own writing. So where did he get it from? We don't really know.
There's a lot of questions here we'll probably never know the answer to: Does 3 Corinthians contain the original letters of the Corinthians to St. Paul and St. Paul to the Corinthians? If not, who wrote it, when, where, and why? And if 3 Corinthians isn't them, what did happen to the original letters? Was the Acts of St. Paul forged, as Tertullian states? To what extent? We could go on and on.
But none of this is really important for our purposes here. What is important is that St. Paul is quoting from extra-biblical tradition, even if it is his own writing. This leads to a very interesting question that Sola Scripturists have to answer: why isn't this earlier letter of St. Paul included in the New Testament?
Monday, November 2, 2009
In this video, I explore and debunk a few of the common myths surrounding the Council of Nicaea, as propagated by books like The Da Vinci Code; movies like Zeitgeist, The Movie; and groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. The myths I address in this video:
1. Constantine headed the Council and/or dictated its decrees.
2. Nicaea determined the canon of the New Testament and had other books destroyed.
3. The Bishops at Nicaea betrayed the truth Christian Faith.
To watch more of my videos, visit my YouTube page.
My script for the video:
As I said in my last video, What are you wearing?, I’ll be exploring some of the common modern myths surrounding the Council of Nicaea in my next couple of videos. So, let’s get started.
Myth #1: Constantine was in charge of the counsel and presided over it and/or dictated its decrees.
While St. Constantine did both convoke and attend the Council, he neither presided as head nor was he involved in the actual decision-making. St. Alexander of Alexandria, as Pope of Alexandria and therefore ranking Patriarch, originally presided over the Council, but resigned his position because he believed it to be a conflict of interest, as he was also the chief accuser of Arius, whose heretical ideas were on trial at the Council. He was replaced by St. Ossius of Cordoba.
Often included alongside the myth that Constantine headed the Council is a picture of him striding into the Council in full imperial regalia and glory, taking his place triumphantly at the head. I have often seen Eusebius of Caeasarea's "Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine" quoted in this regard thus:
"And now, all rising at the signal which indicated the emperor’s entrance, at last he himself proceeded through the midst of the assembly, like some heavenly messenger of God, clothed in raiment which glittered as it were with rays of light, reflecting the glowing radiance of a purple robe, and adorned with the brilliant splendor of gold and precious stones."
But, if the passage is read in context, it gives a very different picture than if you read that selection alone:
"As soon, then, as the whole assembly had seated themselves with becoming orderliness, a general silence prevailed, in expectation of the emperor’s arrival. And first of all, three of his immediate family entered in succession, then others also preceded his approach, not of the soldiers or guards who usually accompanied him, but only friends in the faith. And now, all rising at the signal which indicated the emperor’s entrance, at last he himself proceeded through the midst of the assembly, like some heavenly messenger of God, clothed in raiment which glittered as it were with rays of light, reflecting the glowing radiance of a purple robe, and adorned with the brilliant splendor of gold and precious stones. Such was the external appearance of his person; and with regard to his mind, it was evident that he was distinguished by piety and godly fear. This was indicated by his downcast eyes, the blush on his countenance, and his gait. For the rest of his personal excellencies, he surpassed all present in height of stature and beauty of form, as well as in majestic dignity of mien, and invincible strength and vigor. All these graces, united to a suavity of manner, and a serenity becoming his imperial station, declared the excellence of his mental qualities to be above all praise. As soon as he had advanced to the upper end of the seats, at first he remained standing, and when a low chair of wrought gold had been set for him, he waited until the bishops had beckoned to him, and then sat down, and after him the whole assembly did the same."
Whereas the commonly quoted portion of this passage reflects Eusebius' own impressions of Constantine, namely, that he was "like some heavenly messenger of God," the passage quoted above records the actual actions and demeanor of the Emperor. And what were they? (1) He entered without his normal entourage of soldiers and guards, instead accompanied only by "friends in the faith." This is an indication that his entrance was the very opposite of a show of force; so much for him strong-arming the Bishops into submission. (2) He proceeded past the assembled Bishops with "downcast eyes," a "blush on his countenance," and a quickened pace. All of these behaviors are indications of nervousness and all of these are the body language of an individual who recognizes himself to be standing in the presence of superiors, not inferiors. (3) Once he reached his seat, he waited (perhaps hesitated?) to sit until he was coaxed to do so by the Bishops. So much for Constantine presiding in splendor at the Council. One further interesting note on Eusebius: As a semi-Arian, he never fully accepted the Canons of the Council of Nicaea, but he nonetheless wrote rather glowing accounts of the participants and proceedings.
Myth #2: The canon of the New Testament was decided at Nicaea, after which there were burnings of the books decided against.
This is complete and utter falsehood with absolutely no grounding in reality. Nicaea never discussed the canon of the New Testament, much less formally decided it; in fact, the canon of the New Testament as we know it today didn't come about for another 42 years after Nicaea, in AD 367, and, even then, there was plenty of debate afterwards. The agenda at Nicaea included addressing Arianism, deciding a univeral date for Pascha (or Easter), addressing the Meletian Schism, deciding whether Baptisms by heretics were valid, and determining the status of those Christians who had renounced the Faith in the recently-concluded persecutions. The canon of Scripture was nowhere on the docket.
Myth #3: The Bishops at Nicaea betrayed the true Christian Faith taught by the Apostles.
Although it is possible, it would be very time-consuming and cumbersome to go through each canon of the Council and each line of the Creed and put them side by side with similar statements from early Christian writers. Instead, I think the easy way to answer this accusation is to take a look at the Bishops who were at the Council, who are being called traitors by a statement like this, and see if these really were men who would be willing to compromise or betray the Faith. It's important to remember at this point that official persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire had ceased only 12 years prior, with the issuance of the Edict of Milan in 313. The Bishops taking part in this Council had been wanted men only 12 years before. In fact, as recent as two years before, in 323, the Bishop of Pontus had been tortured to death under the orders of Licinius, the main contender against St. Constantine for the title of Emperor. Most of the Bishops present at the Council had gone into hiding and been hunted during these persecutions. Many had been tortured. Nearly all had lost friends, family, and members of their flock to martyrdom. Here are a couple of quotes from famous 4th century historians:
St. Theodoret of Cyrus writes: "... many, like the holy apostle, bore in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. ... Paul, bishop of Neo-Cæsarea, a fortress situated on the banks of the Euphrates, had suffered from the frantic rage of Licinius. He had been deprived of the use of both hands by the application of a red-hot iron, by which the nerves which give motion to the muscles had been contracted and rendered dead. Some had had the right eye dug out, others had lost the right arm. Among these was Paphnutius of Egypt. In short, the Council looked like an assembled army of martyrs."
Socrates Scholasticus writes: "... in this assembly the number of bishops exceeded three hundred; while the number of the presbyters, deacons, and acolyths and others who attended them was almost incalculable. Some of these ministers of God were eminent for their wisdom, some for the strictness of their life, and patient endurance [of persecution], and others united in themselves all these distinguished characteristics."
I don't know about you, but I have a hard time thinking that men that were willing to suffer for the Faith during the Diocletian Persecution of 299-313 would then turn around and betray it only 12 years later. They didn't lapse during 14 years or more of sustained persecution but they lapse in a matter of days at Nicaea; this myth betrays logic.
The usual number of Bishops that are counted as being in attendance at Nicaea is 318. Each of them, in addition, was allowed to bring along with him two priests and three deacons. This is already about 1800 people present and that's just the clergy! Many lay members of the Church were also in attendance. Socrates Scholasticus even records that a layman, whom he describes as being a "confessor" (that is, one who has suffered for the Faith but not been martyred) , corrected the Bishops when the dispute between the Orthodox and Arian parties became especially heated. We don't know exactly how many people were in attendance at the Council of Nicaea, but, clearly, it was a large number. Is anyone really willing to seriously assert that all of these people simultaneously decided to betray the Christian Faith? I seriously doubt it.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
"But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." - Romans 2:29
"But after this they shall return to me in all uprightness and with all of their heart and soul. And I shall cut off the foreskin of their heart and the foreskin of the heart of their descendants. And I shall create for them a holy spirit, and I shall purify them so that they will not turn away from following me and to all my commandments." - Book of Jubilees 1:23
While this is the closest verse to a direct quote in Romans from Jubilees, St. Paul has a clear reliance on it throughout. Many of the doctrines that St. Paul establishes in Romans, such as that in Romans 4:13-15 are drawn from the points and arguments contained in Jubilees (in this case, Jubilees 33:15-16). Even the outline and form of the letter follows the outline and form of Jubilees, which is essentially a retelling of Genesis with commentary, in the tradition of the Jewish targums; see Romans 9 especially for an example of this.