Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Did the Early Church Fathers Think That They Were Inspired Like the Apostles?
Canon Fodder ^ | November 26, 2012 | Michael J. Kruger

Posted on 05/17/2014 4:31:22 PM PDT by Gamecock

A number of years ago, Albert Sundberg wrote a well-known article arguing that the early church fathers did not see inspiration as something that was uniquely true of canonical books.[1] Why? Because, according to Sundberg, the early Church Fathers saw their own writings as inspired. Ever since Sundberg, a number of scholars have repeated this claim, insisting that the early fathers saw nothing distinctive about the NT writings as compared to writings being produced in their own time period.

However, upon closer examination, this claim proves to be highly problematic. Let us consider several factors.

First, the early church fathers repeatedly express that the apostles had a distinctive authority that was higher and separate from their own. So, regardless of whether they viewed themselves as “inspired” in some sense, we have to acknowledge that they still viewed the inspiration/authority of the apostles as somehow different.

A few examples should help. The book of 1 Clement not only encourages its readers to “Take up the epistle of that blessed apostle, Paul,”[2] but also offers a clear reason why: “The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ was sent from God. The Christ therefore is from God and the Apostles from the Christ.”[3] In addition the letter refers to the apostles as “the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church.”[4]

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, also recognizes the unique role of the apostles as the mouthpiece of Christ, “The Lord did nothing apart from the Father…neither on his own nor through the apostles.”[5] Here Ignatius indicates that the apostles were a distinct historical group and the agents through which Christ worked. Thus, Ignatius goes out of his way to distinguish own authority as a bishop from the authority of the apostles, “I am not enjoining [commanding] you as Peter and Paul did. They were apostles, I am condemned.”[6]

Justin Martyr displays the same appreciation for the distinct authority of the apostles, “For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number…by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God.”[7] Moreover, he views the gospels as the written embodiment of apostolic tradition, “For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them.”[8]

Likewise, Irenaeus views all the New Testament Scriptures as the embodiment of apostolic teaching: “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.”[9] Although this is only a sampling of patristic writers (and more could be added), the point is clear. The authoritative role of the apostles was woven into the fabric of Christianity from its very earliest stages.

Second, there is no indication that the early church fathers, as a whole, believed that writings produced in their own time were of the same authority as the apostolic writings and thus could genuinely be contenders for a spot in the NT canon. On the contrary, books were regarded as authoritative precisely because they were deemed to have originated fom the apostolic time period.

A couple of examples should help. The canonical status of the Shepherd of Hermas was rejected by the Muratorian fragment (c.180) on the grounds that was produced “very recently, in our own times.”[10] This is a clear indication that early Christians did not see recently produced works as viable canonical books.

Dionysius of Corinth (c.170) goes to great lengths to distinguish his own letters from the “Scriptures of the Lord” lest anyone get the impression he is composing new canonical books (Hist. eccl. 4.23.12). But why would this concern him if Christians in his own day (presumably including himself) were equally inspired as the apostles and could produce new Scriptures?

The anonymous critic of Montanism (c.196), recorded by Eusebius, shares this same sentiment when he expresses his hesitancy to produce new written documents out of fear that “I might seem to some to be adding to the writings or injunctions of the word of the new covenant” (Hist. eccl. 5.16.3). It is hard to avoid the sense that he thinks newly published books are not equally authoritative as those written by apostles.

Third, and finally, Sundberg does not seem to recognize that inspiration-like language can be used to describe ecclesiastical authority—which is real and should be followed—even though that authority is subordinate to the apostles. For instance, the writer of 1 Clement refers to his own letters to the churches as being written “through the Holy Spirit.”[11] While such language certainly could be referring to inspiration like the apostles, such language could also be referring to ecclesiastical authority which Christians believe is also guided by the Holy Spirit (though in a different manner).

How do we know which is meant by Clement? When we look to the overall context of his writings (some of which we quoted above), it is unmistakenly clear that he puts the apostles in distinct (and higher) category than his own. We must use this larger context to interpret his words about his own authority. Either Clement is contradicting himself, or he sees his own office as somehow distinct from the apostles.

In sum, we have very little patristic evidence that the early church fathers saw their own “inspiration” or authority as on par with that of the apostles. When they wanted definitive teaching about Jesus their approach was always retrospective—they looked back to that teaching which was delivered by the apostles.


TOPICS: General Discusssion; History
KEYWORDS: apostles; churchfathers
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 261-278 next last
[1] A.C. Sundberg, “The Biblical Canon and the Christian Doctrine of Inspiration,” Int 29 (1975): 352–371.

[2] 1 Clem. 47.1-3.

[3] 1 Clem. 42.1-2.

[4] 1 Clem 5.2.

[5] Magn. 7.

[6] Rom. 4.4.

[7] 1 Apol. 39.

[8] Apol. 66.3.

[9] Haer. 3.1.1.

[10] Muratorian Fragment, 74.

[11] 63.2.


1 posted on 05/17/2014 4:31:22 PM PDT by Gamecock
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy; metmom; daniel1212

Seems like the “Fathers” knew what was what before Rome “gave us the canon.”


2 posted on 05/17/2014 4:32:28 PM PDT by Gamecock (#BringTheAdultsBackToDC)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

I’d have a tough time taking their theology seriously if they weren’t.


3 posted on 05/17/2014 4:38:14 PM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

The writings of the “Fathers” do not seem to reflect the ability of the Apostles both in style and substance. They are interesting in that many of them actually knew some of the Twelve. I am thinking in particular of St Polycarp who knew St. John The Divine. The story of Polycarp’s martyrdom already seems corrupted with an addition of a story of the miraculous. He really was martyred apparently in an arena before a ravening mob.


4 posted on 05/17/2014 4:42:28 PM PDT by AEMILIUS PAULUS (It is a shame that when these people give a riot)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

The “early church fathers” ARE the Apostles. Any guys after that are just guys.


5 posted on 05/17/2014 4:45:08 PM PDT by MayflowerMadam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

quote “The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ”

Paul, who wrote most of the new testament never met Christ nor received any Gospel directly from him.


6 posted on 05/17/2014 5:17:07 PM PDT by TexasFreeper2009 (Obama lied .. the economy died.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

Mark and Luke were not original apostles...


7 posted on 05/17/2014 5:24:22 PM PDT by bike800
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: TexasFreeper2009; Gamecock

“Paul, who wrote most of the new testament never met Christ nor received any Gospel directly from him.”

He did, it was just post-resurrection.

“11-12 The Gospel I preach to you is no human invention. No man gave it to me, no man taught it to me; it came to me as a direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

13-19 For you have heard of my past career in the Jewish religion, how I persecuted the Church of God with fanatical zeal and, in fact, did my best to destroy it. I was ahead of most of my contemporaries in the Jewish religion, and had a greater enthusiasm for the old traditions. But when the time came for God (who had chosen me from the moment of my birth, and then called me by his grace) to reveal his Son within me so that I might proclaim him to the non-Jewish world, I did not, as might have been expected, talk over the matter with any human being. I did not even go to Jerusalem to meet those who were God’s messengers before me—no, I went away to Arabia and later came back to Damascus. It was not until three years later that I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and I only stayed with him just over a fortnight. I did not meet any of the other messengers, except James, the Lord’s brother.

20-24 All this that I am telling you is, I assure you before God, the plain truth. Later, I visited districts in Syria and Cilicia, but I was still personally unknown to the churches of Judea. All they knew of me, in fact, was the saying: “The man who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they thanked God for what had happened to me.”


8 posted on 05/17/2014 5:31:37 PM PDT by Mr Rogers (I sooooo miss America!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: TexasFreeper2009

Paul met Jesus and spoke to him when he was struck blind going to Damascus.


9 posted on 05/17/2014 5:33:40 PM PDT by Anitius Severinus Boethius (www.wilsonharpbooks.com - Eclipse, the sequel to Bright Horizons is out! Get it now!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: TexasFreeper2009; Gamecock
Paul, who wrote most of the new testament never met Christ nor received any Gospel directly from him.

Read your bible. Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, and received His Gospel by divine revelation.

10 posted on 05/17/2014 5:41:22 PM PDT by Greetings_Puny_Humans (I mostly come out at night... mostly.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock
This quote is also worth sharing:

Cyril of Jerusalem on Sola Scriptura:

Not even his own teachings, he teaches, if it cannot be shown out of the holy scriptures, should be accepted:

“Have thou ever in your mind this seal, which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning , but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. Lecture 4, Ch. 17)

Tradition is the summarized knowledge of godliness contained both in the Old and New Testament and is not an extrabiblical invention of man:

“But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to you by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures. For since all cannot read the Scriptures, some being hindered as to the knowledge of them by want of learning, and others by a want of leisure, in order that the soul may not perish from ignorance, we comprise the whole doctrine of the Faith in a few lines. This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it, and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, not writing it out on paper, but engraving it by the memory upon your heart , taking care while you rehearse it that no Catechumen chance to overhear the things which have been delivered to you. I wish you also to keep this as a provision through the whole course of your life, and beside this to receive no other, neither if we ourselves should change and contradict our present teaching, nor if an adverse angel, transformed into an angel of light 2 Corinthians 11:14 should wish to lead you astray. For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that you have received, let him be to you anathema. Galatians 1:8-9 So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which you now receive, and write them on the table of your heart.” (Ibid, Lecture 5, Ch. 12)

11 posted on 05/17/2014 5:45:18 PM PDT by Greetings_Puny_Humans (I mostly come out at night... mostly.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: bike800

Right.

And your point?

Many think Mark wrote down what Peter preached.
Luke wrote down the accounts of the eyewitnesses.


12 posted on 05/17/2014 5:45:52 PM PDT by Gamecock (#BringTheAdultsBackToDC)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock; bike800

The Apostle Paul regards Luke’s Gospel as scripture, and quotes it with equal weight with the writings of Moses.

1Ti_5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

Compare:

Luk 10:7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.

Deu_25:4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.


13 posted on 05/17/2014 5:50:07 PM PDT by Greetings_Puny_Humans (I mostly come out at night... mostly.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

Who is Michael J. Kruger? A Protestant

Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.


14 posted on 05/17/2014 7:43:40 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

Interesting view. Especially when considering Christ’s words describing God the Father. Christ uses language that clearly demonstrate that the Father is superior .... yet ancient dogma, much of it influenced by dubious Emperors, has developed a super-biblical creeds through which all biblical understanding must conform.


15 posted on 05/17/2014 8:03:55 PM PDT by teppe (... for my God ... for my Family ... for my Country ....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
Who is Michael J. Kruger? A Protestant Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.

So what RC writers hold that the writings of so-called church fathers were wholly inspired as Scripture was? And do they just the church more than the church judges them? And is God the author of infallible teachings of Rome as he is of Scripture?

Try to answer this time, rather than posting propaganda or pictures.

16 posted on 05/17/2014 8:43:54 PM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a contrite damned+destitute sinner, trust Him to save you, then live 4 Him)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: daniel1212

Many of them knew the Apostles so they got their information person to person, face to face.

I call that inspired Holy Tradition.


17 posted on 05/17/2014 8:46:20 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: MayflowerMadam
The “early church fathers” ARE the Apostles. Any guys after that are just guys.

Indeed.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:19-20)

All of which were rebels against the magisterium, which, like Rome, thought of themselves above that which was written.

18 posted on 05/17/2014 8:46:21 PM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a contrite damned+destitute sinner, trust Him to save you, then live 4 Him)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: daniel1212
"All of which were rebels against the magisterium, which, like Rome, thought of themselves above that which was written."

Who was it that whining about "propaganda?"

19 posted on 05/17/2014 9:02:57 PM PDT by Wyrd bi ful ard (Pope Calvin the 1st, defacto Leader of the FR Calvinist Protestant Brigades)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

Comment #20 Removed by Moderator


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 261-278 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson