Sunday, July 21, 2019

Early Christian Quotes on Scripture

Early Christian Quotes on Scripture


Justin Martyr’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks 

(Mid-2nd Century)

Chapter 8:

 

The founders of our faith taught us nothing from their own private fancy, nor differed with one another, nor attempted to overturn one another's positions, but without wrangling and contention received from God the knowledge they taught to us.

 

For it is impossible for men to know things so great and divine by nature or through human imagination. This knowledge came through the gift that descended from above and came on holy men. They didn’t need to make fancy arguments or speeches, nor speak in a contentious or quarrelsome manner. They simply had to present themselves pure to the energy of the Divine Spirit so that the divine musician, descending from heaven and using righteous men as an instrument like a harp or lyre, could reveal to us the knowledge of things divine and heavenly.

 

 

Justin Martyr’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks

(Mid-2nd Century)

Chapter 11:

 

But if anyone says that the writings of Moses and of the rest of the prophets were also written in the Greek language, let him read the secular histories and see that Ptolemy, king of Egypt, when he had built the library in Alexandria and filled it by gathering books from all over the world, he learned that very ancient histories written in Hebrew were carefully preserved. Wanting to know what they said, he sent for seventy wise men from Jerusalem, who knew both the Greek and Hebrew languages, and appointed them to translate the books. He made sure they were from all disturbance so they could finish the translation faster. He ordered the construction of as many little cots as there were translators, not in the city itself but seven stadia off, and so that each could complete his own translation; he ordered his officers to give them whatever they needed but to keep them from communicating with one another to ensure the accuracy of the translation by their agreement.

 

And when he learned that the seventy men had not only provided the same meaning but had used the same words and had not failed to agree with one another in even one word, he was struck with amazement and believed the translation had been written by divine power. He understood the men were worthy of all honor, as beloved of God, and he sent them back to their own country with many gifts. And having marveled at the books (a reaction which was only natural) and concluding them to be divine, he consecrated them in that library…

 

It has been a work of Divine Providence for our good that the books relating to our religion are preserved among the Jews to this day.

 

 

Justin Martyr’s Dialog with Trypho

(Mid-2nd Century)

Chapter 65:

 

if there seems to be a reason for saying that one Scripture contradicts another (since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another), I will admit I do not understand the Scripture as it has been recorded.

 

 

Justin Martyr’s Dialog with Trypho

(Mid-2nd Century)

Chapter 119:

 

Would you suppose that we could ever have understood the Scriptures if, by God’s will, we had not received grace to interpret them?

 

 

Irenaeus’ Against Heresies: Book 2

(Late 2nd Century)

Chapter 27, Paragraph 1:

 

A sound mind, and one that does not expose its owner to danger but is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon the things God has placed within the power of mankind and subjected to our knowledge. And that person will advance in understanding, learning ever more easily through daily study.

 

 

Irenaeus’ Against Heresies: Book 2

(Late 2nd Century)

Chapter 28, Paragraph 2:

 

If we can’t discover an explanation for everything in Scripture we want to study, we still should not look for any other God than the one who really exists. That would be the very greatest impiety. We should leave our questions to the God who created us in the full assurance that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit. But we, being inferior to and later in existence than the Word of God and His Spirit, lack the knowledge of His mysteries.

 

 

Irenaeus’ Against Heresies: Book 3

(Late 2nd Century)

Chapter 11, Paragraph 8:

 

The number of the Gospels cannot be more or fewer than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world we live in, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the "pillar and ground" of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side and giving men new life.

 

From this, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He who sits between the cherubim and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects but bound together by one Spirit.…For the cherubim, too, were four-faced, and their faces were images of the working of the Son of God. For, as the Scripture says, "The first living creature was like a lion," symbolizing His effective work, His leadership, and His royal power. The second living creature was like a calf, signifying His sacrifice and office of priest. “The third had, as it were, the face as of a man," an evident description of His coming as a human being. “The fourth was like a flying eagle," pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering with His wings over the Church.

 

And so the Gospels are in line with these things, among which Christ Jesus is seated. John relates His original, effectual, and glorious generation from the Father, declaring, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Also, "all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made…"

 

But Luke, highlighting His priestly character, started with Zachariah the priest offering sacrifice to God…Matthew relates His generation as a man, saying, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" and also, "The birth of Jesus Christ happened like this." So this is the Gospel of His humanity, showing Him to be a humble and meek man all through the whole Gospel. Mark, on the other hand, begins with reference to the prophetical spirit coming down from on high to men, saying, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet," pointing to the winged aspect of the Gospel. It was for this reason that Mark made a briefer and cursory narrative, for such is the prophetical character.

 

 

Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 4

(Late 2nd Century)

Chapter 31, Paragraph 1:

 

When we read about things people did but on which the Scripture gives no negative judgment but simply relates them as happening, we shouldn’t accuse the people of wrongdoing, for we are not a better judge than God.  

 

 

Origen’s De Principiis

(Early to Mid-3rd Century)

Book 4, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1:

 

The Scriptures themselves are divine, meaning they were inspired by the Spirit of God.

 

 

Origen’s De Principiis

(Early to Mid-3rd Century)

Book 4, Chapter 1, Paragraph 16:

 

When some things in the Scriptures seem impossible and interrupt and break up the historical order of the narrative, the reader should look into the hidden meaning. To show our meaning by the facts themselves, let us examine the passages of Scripture.

 

Please tell me who, if they have an understanding mind, would believe that the first day, and the second, and the third, in which both evening and morning are mentioned, existed without the sun, and moon, and stars – the first day even without a sky? And who would be so ignorant as to believe that God, like a gardener, planted trees in paradise, in Eden toward the east, and that a tree of life, meaning a visible and touchable tree of wood that you could eat its fruit with your physical teeth, would give you life – and that if you ate from another tree, you would gain the knowledge of good and evil? I don’t think anyone would doubt that we should interpret God walking in the afternoon in paradise and man lying hidden under a tree figuratively, indicating some mystical meaning. Cain leaving the presence of the Lord will obviously cause a careful reader to ask what the presence of God is and how anyone could go out from it.

 

But not to extend the point too far, it is very easy for anyone who wants to separate out of holy Scripture what we should take as having really happened and what we can’t believe as literally happening according to the historical account. The same style of Scriptural narrative occurs abundantly in the Gospels, as when the devil is said to have placed Jesus on a high mountain to show Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. How could it literally happen that Jesus would be led up a high mountain by the devil, or that the devil would show Him all the kingdoms of the world as if they were in sight of His bodily eyes next to one mountain, i.e., the kingdoms of the Persians, and Scythians, and Indians? Or how could he show how the kings of these kingdoms are glorified by men? And anyone who pays attention can find many other examples like this in the Gospels. They will see spiritual meanings in those narratives that seem to be literal accounts of what happened but which can’t be actual history.

 

 

Origen’s Letter to Gregory

(Early to Mid-3rd Century)

Paragraph 3:

 

While you study these divine works with a believing attitude and the intent to please God, knock at any doors that are closed in them, and they will be opened to you…While you put time into this divine reading, seek carefully and with unwavering faith in God the hidden meaning that is contained in most passages of the divine Scriptures.

 

 

Origen’s Against Celsus

(Early to Mid-3rd Century)

Book 6, Chapter 60:

 

Even the ordinary reader of Scripture will see it contains many things that are too deep to grasp at first. Those who devote themselves to a careful study of the divine word will understand these deeper things. These matters become easier to understand in proportion to the pains and zeal readers spend in study.

 


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Find more of what the early Christians thought on my Christian History page!





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