The Church Fathers and the Holy Scripture Geoffrey W. Bromiley

The Church Fathers and the Holy Scripture Geoffrey W. Bromiley



THE OLD TESTAMENT                     

The early church arose in a situation in which Holy Scripture already existed as a fact. Jesus and the apostles belonged to the people through whom and to whom God had given the Old Testament in what became the threefold form of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. Not only had they no reason to dispute the divine uniqueness of this literary legacy; they also perceived in Christ’s own life and ministry its culmination and fulfillment. From the very beginning, then, they gave Holy Scripture to the infant church and taught the first believers, both Jews and Gentiles, to accept, read, study, revere, quote, and commend it as the written Word of God. Innumerable examples could be culled from the writings of the apostolic fathers and the second-century apologists to show how well the Christians learned this basic lesson.

The only uncertainty concerned the compass of the Old Testament. This had come down in two forms. In the original Hebrew it consisted of twenty-two (or twenty-four) books usually grouped in the three traditional divisions. It had also been translated into Greek (the Septuagint) for the Jews of the Dispersion. In this form it included the additional works commonly known as the Apocrypha. When the church underwent its rapid expansion outside the borders of Palestine, the Greek Translation very naturally became the most widely known and used version of the Old Testament. Hence it is no surprise that writers like Barnabas quoted the book of Wisdom as Scripture1 and that Irenaeus,2 Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen all used the Apocrypha in the same way as they did the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings of the narrower Hebrew canon.

Nevertheless, even in the second century a sense of distinction may be observed. Melito of Sardis contended firmly that only the Hebrew original constitutes the true canon.3 Origen, with his Hebrew scholarship, moved in the same direction4 even though he did not scruple to quote the Apocrypha. The later Eastern Fathers, represented by Athanasius,5 Cyril of Jerusalem,6 and John of Damascus,7 rejected the full authority of the Apocrypha, although rather oddly the Antiochenes Theodoret and Chrysostom took a different path and all the Fathers continued to use and quote the Apocrypha for its edificatory value. In the Western church Hilary,8 Rufinus,9 and especially Jerome10 restricted the canon to the Hebrew works, from which alone they believed the church may derive its authoritative teaching. By and large, however, the West took the broader position, which found an able advocate in Augustine.11 A synod held at Carthage in 397 recognized the enlarged canon, and Innocent I added Roman endorsement to this view in a letter dated 405. From that point onward the canonical status of the Apocrypha went virtually unchallenged in the West until the Reformation, and even then, although the Reformers sided with the early Eastern church and Jerome, the Council of Trent, followed by modern Roman Catholicism, continued to sponsor the addition of the Greek works to the original Hebrew.

Four points may be noted in relation to this issue. Historically, it may reflect a difference between Palestinian and Dispersion Judaism in their approach to the whole concept of the canon (although scholars differ on this point).12 Intellectually, it brings to light a deficiency in the scholarship of the West from which even the great Augustine suffered and which it could ill afford, namely, a lack of linguistic expertise and a resultant dependence on translations. Doctrinally, not a great deal is at stake, although support has been found in the Apocrypha for prayers for the dead and a measure of justification by works. Pragmatically, division in the matter has tended to lead to an overuse of the Apocrypha on the one side and its undue disparagement on the other in place of the healthy balance whereby it is excluded from canonical rank but its merits as religious literature are properly appreciated and exploited.


If the church inherited the Old Testament from Judaism by way of Jesus and His first disciples, the same cannot be said about the New Testament. No ready-made canon of the New Testament existed when the earliest Christian communities came into being. Not for many years, in fact, would there be a set number of books that could be listed alongside the works of the Old Testament and accorded the same status and authority. Nevertheless, as the writings that we now know as the New Testament were being composed and circulated, the church was again confronted with a fact. Epistles and gospels either deriving directly from the apostles or having apostolic associations and bearing the apostolic message became part of the life and legacy of the first believers. They began to quote these writings in their own oral and written communications and they soon realized, subconsciously perhaps at first but then with rapidly increasing consciousness, that they had to reckon with the normative ranking of these writings no less than with that of the familiar Old Testament canon.

Already in Clement of Rome and Polycarp one may find extensive quotations from works that now belong to the New Testament. The first generation, it is true, did not introduce these quotations with the type of formula (“It is written …”) that they had inherited for Old Testament citations. But the apostolic works quickly received even this formal recognition, as one may see in the well-known “another scripture saith” of 2 Clement13 and similar statements in Justin Martyr.14 By the end of the second century Irenaeus plainly accorded to the New Testament (or at least the Gospels) the same authority as he did to the Old Testament,15 Clement of Alexandria began to speak of “the new Testament,”16 and Tertullian balanced the evangelical and apostolic books (the Gospels and Epistles) over against the Law and the Prophets.17

In the case of the New Testament, too, an issue of expansion arose. Some groups, as may be seen from the so-called Muratorian Canon, attributed the Shepherd of Hermas to the New Testament Hermas and were ready to recognize and quote it as an apostolic writing. Others were promoting and using pseudepigraphical works (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas), usually in the interests of the Gnostic versions of the gospel that invaded the churches during the second century. Even a writing of the status of 2 Clement could adduce supposedly dominical sayings that are generally thought to come from the noncanonical Gospel of the Egyptians.18 If the church confronted the fact of authoritative apostolic literature, it soon had to face the problem of differentiating the true New Testament canon from the false.

The problem was one of illegitimate restriction as well as expansion. Marcion, in Tertullian’s famous phrase,19 was using the knife and not the pen, and the result of his activity was the elimination of the whole of the Old Testament, of all the Gospels apart from certain portions of Luke, and of all the rest of the New Testament apart from ten expurgated epistles of Paul. This radical reduction of the canon did not rest, of course, on historical or literary considerations but on the theological principle of an antithesis of law and grace. Yet it combined with the unwarranted expansion of the canon to force the church of the later second century to wrestle with the question of authentic apostolicity and to seek an agreed consensus on what should be acknowledged and commended as the true New Testament canon.

The church responded forcefully to the challenge. Irenaeus not only defended the four Gospels but gave some (admittedly strange) reasons why there should be no more and no fewer than four.20 Tertullian, writing against Marcion, included in his list of authoritative works the four Gospels, the thirteen epistles of Paul, Acts, Hebrews, 1 John, and Revelation.21 The Muratorian Canon, usually thought to be a Roman list of the same date, recognized all the books of the present New Testament apart from Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and 3 John, although it also included Wisdom and the Apocalypse of Peter.22 In the period that followed, three groups of writings tended to emerge: first, those of whose canonicity the church entertained no doubts; second, writings like Hebrews and the smaller General Epistles, which some groups treated with suspicion but which were gradually receiving universal recognition; and third, fringe writings like the Didache, the Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, which enjoyed some initial support, which might still be quoted by many authors, but which the church could not finally include in the canonical list.23 Athanasius, who had a habit of making history, took a step whose significance, perhaps, was not at first realized when in his Easter Letter of 367 he became, so far as we know, the first to endorse officially the canonicity of twenty-seven New Testament books. His lead was followed in the next centuries by every church and father until a consensus was achieved that not even the doubts of Martin Luther or the revised datings of liberal scholarship could seriously disturb.

Face to face with the New Testament canon and the slow and tortuous story of its recognition by the Fathers, can we speak accurately about a fact that confronted the church? Do we not have instead a fact that the church itself created? From one standpoint, of course, this is a circular question and therefore a pointless one. The authors of the New Testament undoubtedly belonged to the church and to that extent the church undoubtedly created the fact of the canon. Yet inasmuch as these authors played a unique role in composing their writings, the church at large found itself confronted by a quasi-extraneous fact in its encounter with these writings. It gave evidence of this in its awareness that the definition of the canon was not just a matter of giving some of its own productions the preference over others, but rather of the recognition of an authoritative status that some works enjoyed by objective and inherent right. The church had no authority to make its own canon. It had to recognize, endorse, and proclaim a canon that was already there.

It could do this, of course, only if it had a criterion by which to do it. Apostolicity provided this criterion. Apostolicity had two related aspects: a historical and a doctrinal. The aspects were related because the early church wanted to know (1) in what works the apostles had transmitted their message and (2) what this apostolic message was in order that it might itself transmit it faithfully. Historically, apostolicity meant credible authorship either by an apostle (e.g., Peter, Paul, or John) or by someone closely associated with an apostle (e.g., Mark or Luke). Doctrinally, it meant conformity to the emergent consensus of apostolic teaching.

The historical aspect obviously involved the early church in a measure of scientific investigation. Its members did not enjoy, of course, the skills and resources of modern scholarship in pursuing this task. On the other hand, they were closer to the sources than we are and they could not afford to be too credulous in the face of the flood of pseudepigraphical works that might have been acceptable as a literary genre but that could only cause confusion in view of their divergent teachings. The reserve with which the early church treated even many of the pieces that were finally approved bears testimony, not to a readiness to attach an apostle’s name to any or every writing, but to a desire for certainty that ought to cause many modern scholars to take more seriously than they do the external testimony to New Testament authorship.

The doctrinal aspect supplemented historical inquiry by focusing on apostolicity of content. Works of whose apostolic derivation little or no doubt existed provided a body of teaching—coincident with what was also taught orally in the churches—that could serve as a check on writings that were circulated as apostolic or proposed for acceptance into the canon. In this regard, of course, the danger of moving in a circle arises. A work, it might be believed, is or is not apostolic merely because it does or does not teach what the other apostolic writings teach. Yet there are safeguards against this, for the doctrinal aspect does not rule out historical inquiry nor does a consensus in essentials preclude a certain variety in detail.24 Furthermore, the early church very obviously did not fall into the trap of first deciding what the apostolic message ought to be and then evaluating the early literature in accordance with this preconception. While it was undoubtedly influenced by what was traditionally preached and taught in the churches, it also made a sincere effort to discern the apostolic message by objective study, to take into account the historical credentials of supposedly apostolic works,25 and only then to apply the test whether a particular work spoke with an authentic apostolic voice.

In the last resort the early church had to deal with the fact of a New Testament as well as an Old Testament canon because it had no real power—and it realized that it had no real power—either to make or to unmake the canon. Irrespective of its judgment, the writings that came down in and to it were either apostolic or not, and, like the church in every age, it could only try to reach a judgment that would correspond to the objective reality. In this regard it functioned in much the same world as the artistic world that, when confronted by the alleged painting of a great master, can neither make a false work authentic nor an authentic work false but can only come to considered (and usually reliable) judgment according to the external and internal evidence available and its own experience in assessing it. As the early church perceived it, certain works had been written to give the apostolic message a more permanent form in writing. These works constituted the fact of the New Testament canon. The church’s task was to recognize these works, to differentiate them from others, and to give them the public endorsement that would mean their agreed use and authority in the churches.



Awareness of the facticity of the canon was linked in the early church to a very definite recognition of the divine origin of the canonical literature. The Old Testament, it is true, was inherited historically from Judaism, yet here, too, a special act of God had led to the creation of this particular body of literature. Israel could not be regarded as its true author any more than the church could be regarded as the true author of the New Testament. Scripture, as a fact, was also a gift. It was not a gift from one human being to another, or from one group of human beings to another. It was a gift from God made primarily to the people of God but to be passed on by this people to the world. If it confronted the early church as a fact, it did so ultimately because it had its origin, not just in the prophets and apostles, but in God.

That the Fathers accepted the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture, whether as the Old Testament or the New, may be demonstrated with the greatest of ease. Irenaeus was not surprised that the Bible could sometimes be obscure—he found the explanation in its “wholly spiritual” nature.26 Theodore of Mopsuestia, while differentiating various types of inspiration, attributed all Scripture to the operation of the one Spirit.27 Gregory of Nyssa, following the apostle Paul, descried the hand of the Holy Spirit in every statement of the Bible.28 Augustine found in both the Old and the New Testaments the gift of the Holy Spirit by way of the sacred writers.29

Even the problems that readers encountered in Holy Scripture did not deter the Fathers from a strong belief in its inspiration. Origen was convinced that a divine purpose lay behind passages that the intelligence might have initial difficulty in accepting.30 Chrysostom deduced from the inspiration of Scripture, and regarded as evidence of it, the fact that even the most trivial biblical statements have more than superficial value.31 Jerome argued that only the ignorant fail to see the wisdom in a simple letter like Philemon.32 Augustine did not allow textual or historical difficulties to affect in the least his belief in divine inspiration.33

Emphasis on the divine authorship of Holy Scripture could lead sometimes to a certain depreciation of the role of the human writers. Athenagoras is perhaps the best-known representative of this tendency with his reference to the ecstatic nature of prophesying and his comparison of the Holy Spirit to a flutist.34 The passivity of the Montanist prophets and prophetesses, who claimed that they spoke directly in the name of God, accorded with the same understanding.35 In spite of the rejection of Montanism, Irenaeus offered something of a parallel to it with his statement that Scripture is dictated by the Spirit.36 Chrysostom spoke of the Holy Spirit stroking the lyre of the work written by John, the humble fisherman, although in this instance the reference seems to be to the present ministry of the Holy Spirit in the hearers rather than to His initial ministry in the writer.37 Augustine in a famous passage stated that Christ has in fact given us written materials Himself, since He used His disciples for this purpose as if they were His own hands.38 Gregory the Great summed up this whole line of thought when he bluntly affirmed that the question of human authorship is of little relevance. If we know who is the true author of each work and we understand what He says to us, why should we be curious to learn what pen imprinted the divine words on the page?39


Nevertheless, the early church hesitated to commit itself to a theory of divine inspiration by ecstasy or dictation. If Hippolytus on occasion could use a musical comparison, he also claimed that an important part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit was to teach and illumine the human authors.40 Origen, too, believed that the Holy Spirit, far from transporting the mind into an ecstatic state, gave instead a fuller and clearer apprehension of truth.41 Epiphanius differentiated sharply between the experiences of the Old and New Testament writers and those of the inauthentic Montanist ecstatics.42 Chrysostom, while looking for more than human wisdom, keenly appreciated the way in which the individual writers made their own contributions.43 Jerome engaged in some historical and literary research into the settings of the various books.44 Augustine did not allow his description of the disciples as the hands of Christ to reduce their role to one of pure passivity, for he argued that under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, the writers of the Gospels used materials of which they themselves had personal knowledge.45 Even Gregory the Great, when he uttered his famous dictum, was referring in fact to the Book of Job, a work whose authorship is unknown and cannot, therefore, be of any relevance in objective interpretation. With the Fathers, as with other theologians, one has to be on guard against taking a saying out of context and elevating it to the level of a dogmatic axiom or all-controlling principle. The Fathers realized plainly enough that God had not caused Holy Scripture to come down directly from heaven nor used the human writers merely as automatic instruments for the recording of the divine words. The Holy Spirit had taken selected human beings and given the prophetic and apostolic testimony through their human gifts in the historical circumstances in which they were set. In some instances our knowledge of the human aspect might be scanty and in any case investigation of the human aspect could never yield the fullness of truth that Scripture was intended to convey. This did not entail, however, an elimination or even a serious disparagement of the human element either in principle or in general practice.

The Fathers did not, of course, probe deeply into the difficult question of the relationship between the divine author and the human authors. As previously noted, Theodore of Mopsuestia, who had a keen interest in the historical aspect of Scripture, attempted a distinction between the modes of inspiration discernible, as he thought, in the Prophets and the Writings.46 Augustine, too, found a clarification of the mind in some instances and an immediacy of vision in others.47 Origen had earlier engaged in some literary criticism in trying to establish the similarities and differences between Hebrews and the epistles of Paul.48 He had also noted the variety of genres in the biblical writings, especially the mixing together of literal and figurative elements.49 Behind this, however, he discerned a divine rather than a human purpose.

Whatever the mode of operation, for all the Fathers the use of human writers by the Holy Spirit did not entail any loss of infallibility in the finished products. On the contrary, the ministry of the Spirit guaranteed the freedom of the authors from ordinary human error.50 If the Fathers did not give any particular emphasis to the term inerrancy, they undoubtedly expressed the content denoted by the word. To be sure, they were not so interested in technical historical accuracy as modern readers tend to be. On the other hand, they were plainly aware of apparent discrepancies and difficulties. Even so, they were still convinced, as Augustine put it, that truth is present in Scripture “absolutely.”51 The Scripture cannot lie.52 It may be described as “sacred, and infallible, and absolutely trustworthy.”53 Although the exact nature of the relation between the Holy Spirit and the human author could not be understood or stated in detail, they confidently assumed that the Holy Spirit overruled human imperfection in such a way that what was written could be accepted as in every sense true and reliable.54

Not incorrectly, patristic discussion focused on the divine origin of Scripture. This, after all, is its unique feature. Other books are all of human derivation. They may contain valuable features. In some respects they may be compared to Scripture. One might even claim that all of them—or all that are of worth—owe their origin in the last resort to the general inspiration of the divine Spirit. Yet Scripture alone of all human books enjoys the special inspiration whereby it comes to us as the Word of God with all the force of divine truth and all the promise of grace and life from God. It was right, then, that the Fathers should give priority to this aspect. To have directed attention primarily to the human elements would have been to miss the distinctiveness of Scripture and to fail to grasp its final significance.

At the same time, it would be hard to deny that in general the Fathers tended to minimize unduly the human factors that the Holy Spirit used in producing the works that constitute the written Word. One can hardly complain, or course, that they did not solve the mystery of the divine and human operation. God Himself has not explained the process of inspiration to us and all attempts to elucidate it have thus far proved to be unsatisfactory in some respect. Nevertheless, the Fathers incontestably tilted the balance far too much in favor of the divine element, were attracted unduly by the mantic concepts of inspiration current in their day, and displayed neither the interest nor the skills necessary for a full appreciation of the human factors. The consequences, which are serious but not fatal, come to light most vividly in their attempts at exposition and interpretation.

Yet the patristic emphasis had its positive side. It produced a strong concept of the status of Scripture. It also initiated the church into an understanding of its central meaning.



As the Word of God given by the Spirit of God, Scripture had for the Fathers the status of a primary authority in the life, teaching, and mission of the church. Deriving from God and enshrining the truth of God, it had indeed the authority of God Himself. This applied to the Old Testament in virtue of its prophetic testimony to the Christ who was still to come. It applied to the New Testament in virtue of its apostolic witness to the Christ who had already come in fulfillment of the promises.

From an early date, but especially with the emergence of the New Testament canon, the Fathers clearly affirmed the authoritative status of Scripture. Irenaeus described it as the foundation and pillar of our faith.55 Tertullian argued that whatever it teaches is true and we must accept its teachings and abide by them.56 Clement of Alexandria called it the first principle of instruction, which is first apprehended by faith and then gives demonstration of itself, since in it we hear the voice of the Lord, which is more to be relied on than any demonstration.57 Origen, for all his speculative bent, regarded the Bible as the norm of doctrine and tried to find a biblical starting point for even his wildest flights of fancy.58 Cyril of Jerusalem refused to countenance any teaching that did not have biblical support; he based his instruction on the creed because he regarded the creed as a summary of biblical truth.59 Chrysostom constantly directed his congregations to Scripture and urged the people to get their own copies and read and ponder them frequently at home.60 Hilary of Poitiers exerted himself to refute Arianism on a biblical basis, the problem being not only to expound correctly the texts adduced by the Arians but also to show that the term homoousion, while not itself biblical, does in fact embody a biblical concept.61 Augustine described Scripture as founded on “the highest pinnacle of divine authority.”62 John Cassian argued for the normativity of the creed only because he regarded the creed as an epitome of the biblical message, which was itself more than adequate for every purpose.63


Without reducing the status of Scripture, the Fathers referred to other authorities that might suitably be described as the context of biblical authority. Chief among these was the apostolic tradition. By tradition they did not mean, of course, the unwritten practices (e.g., using the sign of the cross) to which Tertullian made reference64 and which he himself did not equate directly with the tradition.65 When Irenaeus appealed to tradition in his controversy with the Gnostics,66 he obviously had in view the testimony of the apostles as it was being openly and unanimously handed down in the proclamation of the churches. In the middle of the second century, prior to the more precise definition and endorsement of the New Testament canon, the oral and written forms of the apostolic testimony stood in greater equipoise than they would later, when the written form would increasingly come to serve as a check on the more fluid and therefore the more easily corrupted oral form. In face of the Gnostic reinterpretation of Scripture, and its associated claim to a secret tradition deriving from the apostles,67 the proponents of apostolic orthodoxy found it helpful and effective to adduce the common teaching of the apostolic churches—the tradition—not to oppose or correct or supplement Holy Scripture, but to bring its true message into focus. The appeal to tradition was in fact an appeal to the very apostolicity that formed the main criterion of New Testament canonicity. Tradition and Scripture were two forms of one and the same thing, as indeed they should be in every age if the church faithfully discharges its commission to proclaim God’s Word. They were the Word preached on the one side and the Word written on the other. Irenaeus himself made this clear both formally when he described the New Testament as written tradition68 and materially when he did in fact make considerable use of the New Testament as well as the Old (cf. his exposition of John 1:1ff.)69 in his refutation of the Gnostics.

What may be said of tradition may be said also of the so-called canon of truth (Irenaeus)70 or rule of faith (Tertullian).71 If this can hardly be identified as an early creed, its contents undoubtedly resemble the developing creeds inasmuch as they epitomize the gospel and thus constitute a summary of the living tradition of the church. For Tertullian the rule of faith performed an important hermeneutical function.72 To engage in simple exegetical debate with Marcion and the Gnostics was useless. They simply misinterpreted Scripture to their own advantage.73 What was needed was an interpretative key, and Tertullian found this in the rule of faith, which contained all the important teachings found in each and all the apostolic churches. Superficially this might seem to exalt the authority of the rule above the authority of Scripture itself. Plainly, however, Tertullian did not intend to do this, for as he saw it the rule was a compendium of what the Bible also taught, so that the Bible was being interpreted in terms of its own essential message. The central point here is that, while the rule might have developed in the ongoing ministry of the church, it had not developed in independence of the New Testament or in competition with it. Behind the twofoldness of the form lay a unity of content, so that in its hermeneutical role the rule functioned only as the analogy of faith did for the Reformers of the sixteenth century. Everything depended, or course, on the identity of Scripture and the rule, on the correctness of their equation, but if the rule served as a key to the interpretation of Scripture, Scripture also acted as an important check on the content of the rule.

In the later patristic period less was said about the canon or rule of faith, except for a period in the Alexandrian school. Instead, the church itself increasingly emerged as a distinctive authority in the totality of its apostolic testimony. The Arian controversy of the fourth century helped to give contours to this amorphous phenomenon, for at this period the church began to take form in ecumenical synods and their rulings, and in defense of the essential deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit the Nicene Fathers appealed not merely to Holy Scripture but also to the creeds, to the prior teaching of the churches, and even to liturgical practices such as baptizing in the triune name.74 Later, of course, the Fathers appealed to the Nicene formulae themselves, and Cyril of Alexandria, in his condemnation of Nestorius, quoted from earlier Fathers as well as from Holy Scripture.75 Behind this procedure lay the conviction that, while the Bible itself constitutes the primary rule of teaching, the church and its formulated dogma offer an authoritative interpretation. This line of thinking received a particular twist in Rome, where forceful bishops like Damasus, Innocent I, and Leo the Great argued for the Petrine supremacy, for the resultant primacy of the Roman See, and for the hermeneutical authority not merely of the church at large but more specifically of the Roman pontiff as its temporal head. Augustine advanced a different though not unrelated concept when he stated bluntly that the church, too, possesses the crown of authority,76 that it guarantees Holy Scripture,77 and that we should even not believe Holy Scripture except as we are moved to do so by this authority.78 It is no surprise, then, that Augustine also contended for the established interpretation of Scripture, for the canonical rules laid down by the church’s exegetes, and for a rejection of all expositions that are not compatible with the catholic faith.79

In passing it may be noted that many of the Fathers also found a place for reason in their discussion of authority. The whole enterprise of the second-century apologists depended in part on an appeal to reason. So, too, did the work of the Alexandrians, as may be seen from Clement’s decision to attempt a commendation of the gospel in non-biblical terms and concepts.80 Nor did Tertullian abandon reason, as is often supposed, for his authorities included nature and discipline as well as Scripture,81 and reason, although probably in a more specialized legal sense,82 played an important part in his interrelating of the three. Augustine, of course, made a more direct apologetic plea for the use of such natural reason as would influence unbelievers and help believers in their evaluation of beliefs.83 In patristic theology as a whole, however, the secondary status of reason is everywhere apparent. Even the Alexandrians realized that there can be no attaining to the knowledge of God apart from the gracious revelation to which God has given a written form in holy Scripture. Clement might surmise that Greek philosophy had also served as a preparation for the gospel, but it could never have done so had not God Himself ordained and used it for this purpose,84 and it could not itself supply the truth that comes through the divine work of revelation and reconciliation.

If the authority of reason did little to affect the normative status of Scripture, the same cannot be said so easily for the developing appeal to the church. In this respect, however, one must be particularly on guard against facile or polemical judgments. Historically, no doubt, the decisions made by the Fathers and the patterns of thought that they established contributed in the long run to the crisis of authority that led to the Reformation and evoked the reaffirmation of the uniqueness of biblical authority that this entailed. The supremacy of the authority of Scripture did indeed tend to be weakened, not so much perhaps by the tumult of conflicting voices, but by the increasing development of the hermeneutical authority of the church, whether in terms of its established dogma or in terms of its ongoing mission and ministry. The point would be reached when some Fathers (e.g., Jerome) defended doctrines that had no biblical basis at all.85 Nevertheless, two compensating factors must also be considered.

First, the Fathers clearly did not intend to deprive Scripture of its authoritative status. No less than the most vociferous proponents of sola scriptura, they realized that the gospel comes from God by revelation and that God has caused the Old and New Testaments to be written as the normative prophetic and apostolic witness to it. They desired neither to shape Scripture to their own ends nor to depart from it, nor indeed to impose ecclesiastical authority on it in the form of normative dogmatic interpretation. As they perceived it, they were championing Scripture itself when they championed the correct understanding either proclaimed in the churches or agreed on in their synods. The possibility of a conflict between Scripture and church might have been a real one, but it was not a possibility that they themselves envisioned, except as a temporary phenomenon as in the semi-Arian years, when various segments of the church might try to enforce dubious statements that were rightly resisted and finally had to be abandoned. In these circumstances, they could view with equanimity the rise of a dogmatic tradition, look confidently to the church of past and present for authentic biblical interpretation, and still believe that they were magnifying rather than impugning the primary authority of Holy Scripture. Even the grounding of secondary doctrines on nonbiblical foundations did not seem to institute a direct challenge to biblical authority, though in fact it would finally come to be this.

It should be remembered, too, that the Fathers were dealing with real problems of authority—problems that arise in every communion and cannot be dismissed by the mere mouthing of slogans. In the age of Irenaeus and Tertullian the Gnostics quoted Scripture, just as the orthodox did, and they did not stop doing so merely because Tertullian rhetorically informed them that they were trespassers to whom Scripture did not rightly belong.86 During the same period the New Testament canon, while not nonexistent, had not yet come to full recognition, so that even in the formulation of the canon itself the apostolic tradition necessarily played a role of enhanced importance. Even when the canon received more explicit and ecumenical recognition, the proclamation of the gospel continued to be a task of the church alongside the publication of Scripture, so that the question of the relationship between oral and written testimony persisted either openly or tacitly, as it has in fact persisted in every age and every communion. At the same time Scripture did not regulate, or intend to regulate, everything that might be said and done in the church. Inevitably, therefore, the church developed customs and verbal patterns for which no written authority could be found, and though they might not be of absolute authority for all time, a certain normative status might well be claimed for them. At an even deeper level, successive waves of heresy beat upon the shores of the church as it wrestled with the problems of interpretation and attempted to put its teaching in the language and thought forms of the world around it. The hermeneutical and dogmatic task could hardly be left to individual believers to pursue in isolation. For all the differences that might arise in detail, the common body worked out a general line of understanding that it regarded (on good grounds) as the correct interpretation of Scripture and the orthodox mode of presentation. The church had to uphold this in order to safeguard Scripture itself, even it it unavoidably conferred on the church a measure of hermeneutical and dogmatic authority. No communion—not even one that deliberately avoids explicit secondary standards—can in fact evade the problem the Fathers faced thus in paradigmatic fashion. As questions and differences arise, every communion is forced into some measure of at least implicit interpretative and doctrinal consensus that will salutarily exclude a chaos of conflicting exegesis and opinion. Confronting the question of the meaning of Scripture and the proper way to express that meaning in a contemporary setting, the church must certainly make every effort to avoid imposing its own authority on the authority of Scripture. It must always be prepared for a fresh scrutiny of the most ancient and hallowed of its exegetical and dogmatic traditions. It must recognize that its own relative expression of biblical truth does not have the same normativity as biblical truth itself. It must resist the temptation to consider itself of equal authority with Scripture. Nevertheless, it cannot evade the responsibility of assuming and upholding a measure of hermeneutical and dogmatic authority, not for the purpose of rivaling or restricting the authority of Scripture, but for the purpose of upholding and enhancing it.



The hermeneutical problem, of course, was not solved by the early church without a good deal of discussion and dissension. A continuing series of heresies and schisms tested out the patristic interpretation, and within orthodoxy itself different groups tried different approaches. One should not, however, confuse the external and internal controversies. At issue in relation to heresies and schisms was the differentiation of an agreed interpretation of Scripture from conflicting and competing understandings. At issue in relation to the varied approaches were differences within the agreed interpretation.

In presentations of patristic hermeneutics attention is often focused so sharply on the inner differences that the strong element of agreed understanding, while not, of course, denied, does not receive its proper due. Yet a cursory acquaintance with the Fathers quickly reveals that for all the exegetical variations, they undoubtedly shared the same basic understanding. Relative to both the Old Testament and the New, this understanding might very well be summarized under the rubric of prophecy (or promise) and fulfillment. Taught by Christ and the apostles, the church found in the gospel of Christ’s life and death and resurrection and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit a striking fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, so that not only was a distinctive meaning found for these Scriptures, but the Old Testament and the New Testament were seen together in indissoluble unity as the one book of the one God inspired by the one Spirit and testifying to the one Son.

The Christian interpretation of the Old Testament and the concept of the unity of the Old Testament and the New found frequent expression during the patristic period. Justin Martyr told Trypho the Jew that Scripture belongs more to Christians than to Jews because the latter read it but do not understand it.87 Justin himself was particularly impressed in his reading by the way in which detailed prophecies had found fulfillment in Christ, but beyond that he also discerned a broader pattern as in the witness of Isaiah 53 to the vicarious suffering of Jesus as the Lord’s true Servant.88 Under pressure from Marcion and the Gnostics, who either rejected the Old Testament or divided it into different categories and if necessary resorted to allegory, Irenaeus recognized a certain progression in the divine revelation, but the hand of the same God was over it all.89 Many passages that caused superficial difficulty carried a deeper meaning that the fullness of revelation disclosed, and the prophets in particular gave a full account of the teaching and ministry of Christ in a symbolical form that the events themselves had finally elucidated.90 Tertullian used the metaphor of the seed and its fruit,91 and Origen that of a symphony,92 to illustrate the relation between the Testaments, and both insisted that, while the mode of presentation changed, the content remained substantially the same.93 Augustine summed up this whole line of patristic thinking in his famous dictum that the New Testament is latent in the Old and the Old Testament is patent in the New.94 This implied, on the one hand, that the prophetic word of the Old Testament came to clear fulfillment in the teaching and events recorded in the New Testament. It implied, on the other hand, that while the New Testament cannot be understood apart from the Old, the converse also holds good and one must not only read the New Testament but also begin with it95 if one is to attain to a proper understanding of the Old.

The themes of unity and fulfillment found their focus for the Fathers in the conviction that Christ Himself is the true and final subject of Scripture. Whether they looked at the individual prophecies of the Old Testament or at the themes and factors that figured prominently in its history and message, the Fathers saw all the lines converging on the incarnate Son who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, formed the core of Christian faith and proclamation. The Epistle of Barnabas, in its more restrained typology, discerned in Christ and His work both the true temple and the true Sabbath.96 Irenaeus found in Christ the higher righteousness intimated but not yet declared in the law.97 Origen pointed to the sacrifice of Christ as a fulfillment of the ceremonial sacrifices of the Mosaic system.98 Chrysostom saw a need to dig deeply into Scripture because the meaning is not expressed on the surface and it is only as we attain to the profounder sense that we can see and appreciate the christological testimony.99 Augustine pointed out that Christ Himself had shown His disciples how He had fulfilled all the prophecies.100 The fact that this christological interpretation is a commonplace of patristic hermeneutics should not blind us to its significance. As Judaism perceived, it formed the very heart of Christianity itself. It explained why the church so easily adopted the Old Testament canon. It also constituted in a sense the justification of the canonizing of the New Testament, which so patently involved this christological interpretation of the Old. Furthermore, it ruled out the dissolution of the unity of Scripture, which Marcion thought to be necessary in the interests of grace.101 Christ in fact provided the hermeneutical key that enabled patristic exegetes to see the whole of Scripture in its divinely given unity and to achieve a convincingly integrated understanding.

The Fathers realized plainly enough that not all readers of the Old Testament, nor indeed of the New, enjoyed the same understanding as they did. Jews on the one side and pagans on the other either failed to see the Bible as the book of Christ or obstinately refused to do so. Difficult though individual portions of Scripture might be, this could hardly be ascribed to an ultimate obscurity of the divinely inspired message. The Fathers, then, were led to another important hermeneutical principle, namely, that only as people read the Bible in the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, with faith and a spiritual understanding, can they come to a true appreciation of its meaning. Justin had something of this in mind—though he put it in more “Pelagian” form—when he told Trypho that Christians let themselves be persuaded as they read.102 Clement of Alexandria combined the ideas of the attraction of the Holy Spirit103 and a necessary openness of mind to the totality of the biblical message.104 Chrysostom pleaded for faith in the reading of Scripture so that one may hear the voice of the Spirit and thus be enabled to perceive heavenly things.105 Augustine saw a need for the spiritual understanding that only the Holy Spirit can give.106 The letter kills; the spirit gives life,107 but to find the spirit we must come with prayer and piety as well as reason and intelligence.108 When we do this, we not only find the way of salvation plain but we can also pierce through to the deeper mysteries that constantly remind us that we are only beginners in biblical study.109


Consensus reigned among the Fathers that Holy Scripture, inspired and illumined by the Spirit, is in its unity and totality the book of Christ. Not the christological principle, but the details of its out-working, gave rise to the main disagreement in patristic exegesis, namely, the disagreement between the Alexandrians and their successors, who favored a more allegorical line, and the Antiochenes and their supporters, who pleaded for a more strictly historical interpretation. The depth of the division between the two schools can hardly be concealed, but it should be emphasized again that fundamentally they shared a common christological understanding in the face of Jewish opposition and pagan blindness or ridicule. To differing degrees the theologians of Antioch as well as those of Alexandria found a place for typology as the New Testament itself obviously demanded. The difference, then, did not relate to the general christological understanding of the Bible but in part to the legitimate compass of typology and in part to its supplementation or replacement by a broader and more arbitrary allegorizing.

The wilder possibilities opened up by a Christian reading of the Old Testament found early realization in the Epistle of Barnabas when its author managed to discern a testimony to Christ and His work on the cross in the number of the servants of Abraham (318) who helped him in his fight with the five kings.110 Along similar lines the letter of the Gnostic Ptolemaus to Flora was prepared to salvage some parts of the Mosaic Law by giving to it a purely spiritual significance.111 Influenced by Plato, and following the example of Philo, Origen adopted allegorizing for various reasons. First, the New Testament interpretation of the Old Testament seemed to offer a model. Second, many passages in the Bible demanded a figurative sense.112 Third, Scripture had been given by God not merely to the simple but also to the more intellectual and spiritual, so that it carried three senses—the historical, typological, and devotional—corresponding, as it were, to the human body, mind, and spirit.113 Fourth, Scripture must be understood in a way that is in keeping with the Holy Spirit who inspired and interprets it.114 Displaying an enviable ingenuity in practice, Origen established a mode of approach that appealed to many who succeeded him. Even the scholarly Jerome did not reject the threefold method,115 while Augustine, who in his early Christian period achieved an inventiveness comparable to that of Origen, expanded the threefold sense into a fourfold: the historical, etiological, analogical, and figurative.116 Yet Augustine recognized the danger of unchecked speculation. He thus advanced some important safeguards. All allegorical interpretation needs the support of other plain passages of Scripture.117 It must also correspond to the rules of faith and love.118 Within these limits, however, allegorizing could still flourish as Augustine’s fourfold division developed into the familiar historical, allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses of the Middle Ages. In passing it may be noted that not even the Antiochenes avoided allegorization completely, at least in their homiletical practice, as may be seen from some of the less sober interpretations of Chrysostom.

Nevertheless, the exegetes of the Antioch school—Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret—offered an important theoretical and practical alternative to the Alexandrian excesses. They agreed that Scripture has a spiritual message and that the aim of exposition is to perceive this behind the historical expression.119 They accepted, then, the validity of typology, the type being for them a form of prophecy.120 They insisted, however, on strict adherence to the historical form in biblical exposition, even in the discernment and unfolding of the type.121 Nor would they accept an arbitrary imposition of types where none seemed to exist. Some passages must be taken solely in their historical sense. Allegory meant the introduction of a supposedly hidden meaning to the detriment of the natural sense and was thus to be differentiated from the authentic typology of, e.g., the brazen serpent or the story of Jonah.122 In their commentaries—e.g., on the Minor Prophets, the Psalms, and the Song of Songs—the Antiochenes made a serious effort to put the various pieces in their historical settings, to explain the primary meanings of the texts, and to bring out their prophetic significance only where it was plainly indicated either by direct reference in the New Testament or by the general tenor of the Christian message.

While the tension between allegorical and historical exegesis rightly stands in the foreground in a depiction of patristic hermeneutics, it should not be forgotten that all patristic theologians indulged in a good deal of “proof-texting” in the great doctrinal controversies that afflicted the church in this whole era. The Arians in particular made this use of Scripture almost unavoidable with their marshaling of favorite verses and their attempts to deduce the Arian propositions from them by logical inference. Allegorizing itself could be pressed in the service of “proof-texting.” Origen showed this when he discovered the eternal generation of the Son in Jeremiah.123 The common equation of Christ with Wisdom initiated a violent debate in the light of Proverbs 8:22. Hilary, who dealt patiently with all the Arian verses as well as adducing a set of his own in favor of the Nicene position,124 regarded the verse from Proverbs as “the most powerful wave of their storm.”125 Confronted by isolated texts, the Fathers did not think that they could simply appeal to tradition or ask for a broader hermeneutical approach. They might do these things too, but they also felt some constraint to meet the challenge of heresy head-on in a direct battle of conflicting verses. The redeeming feature in this procedure was that behind the tedious “proof-texting” lay a broader theological understanding drawn from the totality of Old and New Testament history and teaching.

In similar vein the early church, notwithstanding its taste for allegory, could sometimes be surprisingly literal in its reading of Scripture. The Didache, for example, recommended fasting on Wednesday and Friday on the ground that Christians should not fast in the same way (on the same days!) as the hypocrites.126 The Didache also supported the restriction of communion to believers by the saying that we are not to give what is holy to the dogs.127 The young Origen in his zeal not only went about barefoot but reportedly emasculated himself in order to make himself a eunuch for the kingdom’s sake—does this in part explain his later enthusiasm for allegory? The whole monastic movement, which became so powerful in the fourth century, rested on a literal acceptance of the counsels of chastity and poverty, and in its corporate form on the model set by the primitive community in Jerusalem. Under the Benedictine rule the practice of holding a midnight service and then observing the seven liturgical hours derived from the texts in the Psalms that refer to praising God at midnight and then seven times a day.128 Nor did a literal reading of Scripture influence only the monastic side of life in the early church, for many canons, e.g., those forbidding usury,129 had a basis in biblical injunctions. The Fathers realized, of course, that they could not adopt the legislation of Scripture in its totality, either for individuals or for churches. Yet they were not prepared for a complete elimination or evasion of the text by spiritualization. Where verses or passages seemed to be applicable, they brought them to bear with full force, and in the strictest possible sense, on Christian problems and practices.


Perhaps the main weakness of the Fathers in their doctrine and use of Scripture was their failure to give full weight to its human and historical aspect. One cannot attribute this to a simple lack of opportunity, for linguistically, intellectually, and temporally the Fathers were much closer to the Bible than we are. Their age had, of course, less of a historical and scientific interest and the techniques of literary and historical research had yet to be developed in a way that would make fuller investigation possible. Yet antiquity had its own interest in humanity and its affairs, so that responsibility for the weakness cannot be assigned simply to the more general background of patristic thinking. The truth is that the Fathers seem not to have appreciated the real significance of the human dimension nor to have grasped the possibilities of a better exegesis that lexical, literary, and historical inquiry would present. They made some beginnings along these lines, but these were modest indeed compared to the achievements they might have made. The tide of allegorizing, to which an emphasis on the suprahuman aspect of Scripture contributed, not only overpowered the less exciting historical activity, but virtually obliterated its influence and results for long periods in the church’s later history.

Second only to the depreciation of the human aspect of Scripture was the incontestable tendency of the Fathers to let the authority of Scripture be merged into that of tradition and the church. This tendency, as we have seen, should not be attributed to a deliberate intention to reduce the status of Scripture. It developed out of the original coexistence of oral and written forms of the tradition and the use of an epitome of apostolic teaching not only for instruction but also for the rebuttal of heresy. The Fathers realized clearly enough that prophetic and apostolic Scripture has a normative function in the church, and the experience of the semi-Arian period showed incontestably that councils could reach erroneous or ambiguous conclusions on important doctrinal issues. Yet the concept emerged and persisted that in and through every deviation the church will finally reach a right decision, so that the church’s teaching office may be relied on in its interpretation of Scripture and a body of doctrine is established that is so true to Scripture that it has itself what is tantamount to the same authority. To the extent that the early church did in fact achieve a true understanding, the development had some justification. Yet it carried with it four dangerous challenges to the supremacy of Holy Scripture: first, the confidence that the church would always be right; second, the assumption that doctrinal decisions, which put biblical truth in a particular historical setting, are virtually equivalent to biblical truth itself and never need to be resubmitted to biblical scrutiny; third, the acceptance in principle as well as practice of the ongoing expository normativeness of oral proclamation; and fourth, the readiness to accept dogmas that had only the backing of tradition and not of Scripture.

Compensating the weaknesses of the Fathers are their corresponding positive qualities. Over against the lack of appreciation of the human aspect of Scripture one may set a full commitment to its divine derivation and authority. The Fathers believed without hesitation that God had caused the Bible to be written. They accepted without cavil both its inspiration and its reliability. Where they encountered individual difficulties, they either suspended judgment or sought explanation in a way that would preserve biblical infallibility. Believing that Scripture came from God, they construed it as a coherent and consistent divine message, not abstractly, but in relation to the work of God that had begun in the Old Testament and in accordance with prophetic intimation had reached its climax in the New. They achieved a good sense of the unity of the Bible with Christ as the focus and center. They learned to interpret it, not as a source-book that might advance historical knowledge and promote academic careers, but as a message from God that, centered in Christ and applied by the Holy Spirit, could bring salvation and renewal to individuals and society. They understand that, while the statements of Scripture are for the most part plain, penetration to its deeper message comes only by the Holy Spirit to people of faith and prayer. If their concern for a spiritual meaning led sometimes to extremes of allegorizing, they avoided the sterile inquiry that produces only an unsatisfactory history of Israel and its religion or a bafflingly incomplete biography of Jesus or a fanciful reconstruction of the primitive community and its problems. In all essential matters of biblical understanding the Fathers went to the heart of the matter. It is no mean tribute to their insight that some of the more recent movements in biblical theology and exegesis have led back at important points to the themes of patristic presentation.

Nor should it be forgotten that the Fathers were far from wrong, either in fact or in principle, when they refused to isolate Holy Scripture from its churchly context. God had in fact given the Old Testament in and through Israel to be used, expounded, and applied in the life of the divine community. Similarly, He had caused the New Testament to be written from within the infant church, in concert with the apostolic preaching, for use in the church’s own life and for commendation to the pagan world. Accepting the primary status of Scripture, the Fathers rightly perceived its context too, neither isolating it from other factors nor bringing it into open competition with them, but facing the problems of authority as they arose with the fulfillment of their mission of proclamation and their settling of dogmatic and practical issues. Naturally the existence of the listening, teaching, and preaching church, also under the Holy Spirit, poses a potential threat to the authority of Scripture. But no less dangerous is the illusion that Scripture can reign in isolation—an illusion that avenges itself when this isolated Scripture is shackled either by unrecognized tradition on the one side or unbridled individualism on the other. The Fathers confronted the facts. Scripture had come forth out of the church and was committed into its hands. The church in particular has the task of expounding it and passing on its message. Discharging this ministry, the church necessarily builds up a structure of agreed interpretation. In no sense can it avoid either its divinely given commission or the responsible development of its own thinking and teaching in fulfillment of it. The Fathers show us that there can be no theology of Holy Scripture in a vacuum. Sola scriptura is true enough inasmuch as the Bible is the supreme court of appeal, but it does not remove or invalidate all other authorities. Every church in every age has to face up to the existence of these other authorities and both in its life and thought to relate them properly, not only to Holy Scripture but also in the last resort to God Himself, the ultimate authority from whom every other authority derives its authorization.

In this regard four final points may be made that the Fathers sensed but did not always formulate as explicitly as one could desire. First, the coexistence of the oral and written Word or tradition must not mean their equation, for the two must be differentiated as well as identified and the former subordinated to the latter. Second, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life and work of the church does not imply the church’s exemption from the control of Holy Scripture, for it is by the latter that the Holy Spirit rules the church and discharges His ministry. Third, although Christianity cannot abandon its constitutive understanding of Scripture without abandoning itself, no agreed interpretation, however ancient or assured, can be described as definitive, for under the Spirit the new investigation that is demanded may necessitate important modifications, especially in detail. Fourth, the dogmas of the church do not form, even at the hermeneutical level, a body of teaching comparable in status to Holy Scripture, for while they may stand up to rigorous biblical scrutiny and commend themselves to successive generations of believers, they are always historical interpretations and as such they can have only a relative normativeness and not the absolute normativeness that, under God, Holy Scripture itself enjoys.


Barth, K. Church Dogmatics, I,2 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1956). Sections 19–21.

Berkhof, H. Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979). P. 16.

Bray, G.L., Holiness and the Will of God (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1979). Chap. 4.

Bromiley, G. W. An Introduction to Historical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978). Part I.

Farrar, F. W. History of Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1961).

Grant, R. A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible. Rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1966).

Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Doctrines (New York: Harper and Row, 1959). Chaps. 2–3.

Polman, A. D. R. The Word of God According to St. Augustine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961).

Ramm, B. Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Boston: W. A. Wilde, 1950). Chap. 2.

Stevenson, J. A New Eusebius (London: SPCK, 1960).

Vawter, B. Biblical Inspiration (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972).

Wilkinson, J. Principles of Biblical Interpretation (London: Epworth, 1960).


1 Epistle 6, 7.

2 Cf. Heres. 4, 26, 3.

3 Cf. Eusebius Eccles. Hist. 4, 26, 13f.

4 Cf. Epist. to Afric. 4f.

5 Ep. heort. 39.

6 Catechet. Lect. 4, 33f.

7 Orthodox Faith 4, 17.

8 Psalms Prol. 15.

9 Comm. on Creed 38.

10 Epist. 53, 8; 107, 12

11 Christ. Instruction 2, 13.

12 On this question see G. L. Robinson and R. K. Harrison, Art. “Canon of the OT,” ISBE I (1979), pp. 591ff.; N. H. Ridderbos, Art. “Canon of the OT,” NBD (1962), pp. 186ff.

13 2 Cl. 2, 4.

14 E.g., Dial, Trypho 49, 5

15 Heres. 4, 9, 1.

16 Pedagogue 1, 59, 1.

17 Prescription 36.

18 2 Cl. 4, 5; 5, 2ff.; 12, 2ff.

19 Prescription 40.

20 Heres. 3, 11, 11.

21 c. Marcion 4–5.

22 See J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius (London, 1960), pp. 144ff.

23 In Origen’s threefold classification spurious works were put in the third category. Eusebius refined this system by dividing the disputed books into those that were accepted and those that were not.

24 See the passage on the agreement and differences of the Gospels in the Muratorian Canon.

25 See the Muratorian Canon on the date of The Shepherd: “It was written quite lately in our times by Hermas, while his brother Pius, the bishop, was sitting in the chair of the church of the city of Rome.”

26 Heres. 2, 28, 2.

27 Comm. on Nah. 1, 1.

28 c. Eunom. 7.

29 Cf. City of God 20, 230.

30 Cf. Princ. 4, 3, 1; Hom. on Jerem. 39, 1.

31 In illud, Vidi dom.hom. 2, 2.

32 In Philem. Prol.

33 Faith and Creed 2.

34 Leg. 7.

35 Epiphanius Heres. 48, 1ff.

36 Heres. 2, 28, 2.

37 Hom. on John 1.

38 Harmony 1, 35, 54.

39 Morals Pref. 2.

40 Christ and Antichrist 2.

41 c. Cels. 7, 3–4.

42 Heres. 48, 1ff.

43 Hom. on Gen. 7, 4; 12, 1.

44 Prol. to Is.; Jer.; Amos.

45 Serm. 246, 1.

46 Comm. on Job.

47 On Gen. 12:1ff.

48 Cf. Eusebius Eccl. Hist. 6, 25, 11–12.

49 Princ. 4, 3, 1.

50 Cf. Augustine Instruction 1.

51 Believing 6.

52 Sermon 257.

53 City of God, 2, 6; 15, 23.

54 Cf. Augustine Letters 82.

55 Heres. 3, 1, 1.

56 Flesh of Christ 6.

57 Strom. 7, 16, 95ff.

58 Princ. 1 Pref. Cf. his basing of universalism on the “this day” of the Lord’s Prayer in Prayer 26, 13ff.

59 Catechetical Lectures 4, 17; 5, 12.

60 Hom, on John 11.

61 Trinity 9f.

62 Letters 82.

63 Incarn. 6, 3; Common. 2.

64 Soldier’s Crown, 3, 4

65 I.e., “the one tradition of the selfsame rule of faith,” Prescription 20.

66 Heres. 3, 3, 1ff.

67 Ibid. 3, 3, 1; Tertullian Prescription 25.

68 Heres. 3, 1, 1.

69 Ibid. 3, 11, 1.

70 Ibid. 1, 2–3.

71 Prescription 13.

72 Ibid. 13ff.

73 Ibid. 40.

74 Basil of Caesarea argued for the deity of the Holy Spirit on this basis (Holy Spirit 26; 28), though it should be noted that the practice rests on the baptismal command of Matthew 28:19.

75 Adv. Nestor. 4, 2.

76 Believing 17.

77 Confessions 7, 7.

78 c. Manich. 5, 6.

79 City of God, 15, 26; cf. Athanasius c. Arian, 3, 58.

80 Strom. 7, 1, 1.

81 Veiling of Virgins 16, 1–2.

82 Cf. G. L. Bray, Holiness and the Will of God (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1979), pp. 113ff.

83 Sermon 212.

84 Strom. 1, 5, 28ff.

85 c. Lucif. 8

86 Prescription 37.

87 Dial. Trypho 29.

88 Cf. Apol. 153.

89 Heres. 3, 12, 14; 4, 13.

90 Ibid. 1, 10, 1.

91 c. Marcion 4, 11.

92 On John 5:8.

93 c. Marcion 4, 39; Comm. on Matt 14, 4.

94 Quest, on the Hept. 2 qu. 73; cf. City of God 20, 4.

95 City of God 20, 4.

96 Ep. Barn, 15–16.

97 Heres. 4, 12–13.

98 Hom. on Lev. 1, 4–6.

99 Hom. on John 11.

100 Jews 7.

101 Cf. Irenaeus Heres. 1, 25, 1ff.

102 Dial. Trypho 29.

103 Strom. 7, 29.

104 Ibid. 7, 16, 93ff.

105 Hom. on John 1.

106 Conf. 5, 14.

107 Ibid. 6, 4.

108 Instruction 2, 42.

109 Letters 137, 1, 3.

110 Ep. Barn. 9.

111 Cf. Epiphanius Heres. 33, 3ff.

112 Princ. 4, 3, 1.

113 Ibid. 4, 2, 4.

114 Ibid. 4, 2, 2.

115 Ep. 120.

116 Cf. Instruction 3, 27, 38, etc.

117 Loc. cit.

118 R. Grant, A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible (New York: Macmillan, 1966), p. 111.

119 Theoria was the key to the spiritual meaning.

120 Cf. Severion on Creation 4, 2.

121 Diodore Praef. in Pss.

122 Theodore on John Pref.

123 Hom. on Jeremiah 9, 4.

124 Trinity 9.

125 Ibid. 12.

126 Didache 8, 1.

127 Ibid. 9, 5.

128 Cf. Benedictine Rule 16.

129 Cf. Elvira 20; Nicea 17.