Justification by Faith: A Patristic Doctrine.

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DTK

Puritan Board Junior
There is an interesting article that appeared in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 57, No. 4, October 2006 published by Cambridge University Press. It is "Justification by Faith: A Patristic Doctrine," by D. H. Williams. One does not have to agree with everything in his article in order to appreciate it. But in this article he deals somewhat at length with Hilary of Poitiers' (AD. 315-67) Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. On page 658 of this issue of the journal, Williams includes the following translation of Hilary of Poitiers' Commentary on Matthew in a footnote. I'm giving a fuller reference to the source than Williams does to be more helpful to a reader...
Hilary of Poitiers commenting on Matthew 9:3: "It disturbed the scribes that sin was forgiven by a man (for they considered that Jesus Christ was only a man) and that sin was forgiven by Him whereas the Law was not able to absolve it, since faith alone justifies."
Latin text: Movet scribas remissum ab homine peccatum: hominem enim tantum in Iesu Christo contuebantur et remissum est ab eo quod lex laxare non poterat; fides enim sola iustificat. Sancti Hilarii In Evangelium Matthaei Commentarius, Caput VIII, §6, PL 9:961A.
Williams is careful to point out that Hilary's treatment of the doctrine of justification by faith is not a full blown defense of sola fide with respect to the doctrine of salvation as a whole. But he does point out on pp. 651-652 of his article that in "[t]he otherwise impressive historical survey of justification by faith by Alister McGrath dismisses anything that pre-Augustinian writers had to say on the subject, on the grounds that patristic Christianity suffered from an acute case of dependency on Greek philosophy rather than on the Bible. Such a criticism is part of the longstanding legacy of unease about the patristic era on the part of Protestant scholars. Basing his opinion on the outmoded view that post-apostolic Christianity was corrupted by the vagaries of Hellenism, McGrath concludes that in terms of a theological understanding of justification, ‘early theologians of the western church… approached their text [the Latin Bible] and their subject with a set of presuppositions which owed more to the Latin language and culture than to Christianity itself ’. See Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei : A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (Cambridge 1986), i. 15.

DTK
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Thank you, Pastor King, for your post on Hilary. I've recently become interested in the man. He is from the city of my ancestors and I kept seeing him quoted by Calvin.

I disagree with McGrath's conclusion in regards to Hilary. It's unfortunate that Hilary gets passed over so much, probably owing to the focus on Tertillian and the fact that Hilary was on the outs for awhile when Arianism was in.

But there is a freshness to Hilary's writings and thoughts. He was not simply repeating the standing doctrines, he put great thought into working out the truths of scripture. He was guided not by the philosophers but by a true sense of the analogy of faith. He used the OT and NT equally in making his defenses. His writings on the Trinity and on Christology stand alone as powerful defenses containing unique nuances. He demonstrated that without the Trinity there is no Christianity - that there is no justification.

He didn't know Hebrew and was only familiar with the Septuagent and Vulgate yet he was amazingly knowledgeable of the Scriptures and it doesn't surprise me at all to see him embracing sola fide as Paul, Augustine and the reformers expressed it.

I look forward to any experts on the church fathers who may be able to shed some more light on this.
 

turmeric

Megerator
I'm woefully ignorant of the Patristic Fathers. Can someone tell me who was influenced by Hilary? He sounds fascinating.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Unfortunately most of Hilary's writings were lost but what we have is terrific, especially his work on the Trinity. Calvin really did use him a lot in his Institutes.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Unfortunately most of Hilary's writings were lost but what we have is terrific, especially his work on the Trinity. Calvin really did use him a lot in his Institutes.
The same could be said of many of the ECFs, i.e., most of their writings have been lost. But there are a number of significant works of Hilary that have yet to be translated fully into English, such as his commentary on Matthew and his commentary on the Psalms. Here are a few samples you will not find in the Eerdmans set...

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67): How I admire you, lord Constantius, as a man of blessed and religious will who yearns for a creed only according to the scriptures! Very rightly do you haste towards those utterances of the Only-begotten God so that the breast holding an emperor’s cares may be full with the awareness of divine words. He who rejects this is anti-Christ, he who feigns it is anathema. . . . Hear it not from new pamphlets, but God’s books. Lionel R. Wickham, Hilary of Poitiers: Conflicts of Conscience and Law in the Fourth-century Church, Liber II Ad Constantium, §8 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997), p. 108.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67): Hear, I beg you, what the Bible says of Christ, lest what it does not say be preached instead. Bend your ears to what I shall say from the scriptures. Lionel R. Wickham, Hilary of Poitiers: Conflicts of Conscience and Law in the Fourth-century Church, Liber II, Ad Constantium, §10 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997), p. 108.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67): Those things which are not contained in the book of the law, we ought not even to be acquainted with. See the trans. by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 120.
Latin text: Quae enim libro legis non continentur, ea nec nosse debemus. Psalmus CXXXII. Canticum graduum, §6, PL 9:749.

DTK
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Irenaeus

I found this quote from Irenaeus interesting.
Thus He also fulfilled the promise to Abraham, [by] which God promised him to make his seed as the stars of heaven, for Christ accomplished this, being born of a virgin, who was of the seed of Abraham and establishing believers in Him "as lights in the world," making the Gentiles righteous by means of the same faith as Abraham, "for Abraham believed in God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." In the same way, we believing in God, are made righteous, for "through faith shall the righteous live"; so "the promise made to Abraham [came] not through the Law but through faith." Since Abraham was made righteous by faith, and "the Law is not laid for the righteous," likewise, we are not made righteous by the Law, but by faith, which receives testimony from the Law and Prophets, and which the Word of God offers to us.
On the Apostolic Preaching, SVS Press, pg. 63.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I found this quote from Irenaeus interesting.

Patrick, this is a good example of a citation from a work by Irenaeus not found in the Eerdmans set, but nonetheless a work by Irenaeus which has been translated into English.

Now, when a Roman Catholic sees a passage like this from Irenaeus, he will say, "Sure, no one is justified by the works of the law, but the works of the law is not to be equated with the good works by which we are justified." Or they will claim that Irenaeus speaks of "initial" justification and not the on-going process of justification which includes the good works by which we are justified per the Council of Trent.

But I agree with Patrick; this is an excellent quote from Irenaeus.

DTK
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Patrick, this is a good example of a citation from a work by Irenaeus not found in the Eerdmans set, but nonetheless a work by Irenaeus which has been translated into English.

Now, when a Roman Catholic sees a passage like this from Irenaeus, he will say, "Sure, no one is justified by the works of the law, but the works of the law is not to be equated with the good works by which we are justified." Or they will claim that Irenaeus speaks of "initial" justification and not the on-going process of justification which includes the good works by which we are justified per the Council of Trent.

But I agree with Patrick; this is an excellent quote from Irenaeus.

DTK

Ireneaus could reply to Rome:
For those who were formerly most vicious, to the point of passing by no work of ungodliness, learning of Christ and believing on Him, were changed at the same time as they believed, to the point of not passing by [the] overabundance of righteousness; so great is this change which faith in Christ, the Son of God, works in believers in Him.
On the Apostolic Preaching, pg. 80.

No baptismal regeneration here. :book2:
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
There are also some interesting statements on Justification by Chrysostom in his commentary on Galatians and Romans. They certainly leave room for a Protestant-like understanding in his day. Sorry, I don't have time to type them out right now...
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
There are also some interesting statements on Justification by Chrysostom in his commentary on Galatians and Romans. They certainly leave room for a Protestant-like understanding in his day. Sorry, I don't have time to type them out right now...
I'll assist you Patrick; I have them in a file, as well as a few others...

Chrysostom (349-407): Everywhere he puts the Gentiles upon a thorough equality. ‘And put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith.’ (v. 9.) From faith alone, he says, they obtained the same gifts. This is also meant as a lesson to those (objectors); this is able to teach even them that faith only is needed, not works nor circumcision. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Homly 32, Acts 15:1.

Chrysostom (349-407): For if even before this, the circumcision was made uncircumcision, much rather was it now, since it is cast out from both periods. But after saying that “it was excluded,” he shows also, how. How then does he say it was excluded? “By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” See he calls the faith also a law delighting to keep to the names, and so allay the seeming novelty. But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 7, vs. 27.

Chrysostom (349-407): Now since the Jews kept turning over and over the fact, that the Patriarch, and friend of God, was the first to receive circumcision, he wishes to show, that it was by faith that he too was justified. And this was quite a vantage ground to insist upon. For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light. NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 8, Romans 4:1-2, first paragraph.

Chrysostom (349-407): And this he removes, with great skill and prudence, turning their argument against themselves, and showing that those who relinquish the Law are not only not cursed, but blessed; and they who keep it, not only not blessed but cursed. They said that he who kept not the Law was cursed, but he proves that he who kept it was cursed, and he who kept it not, blessed. Again, they said that he who adhered to Faith alone was cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to Faith alone, is blessed. And how does he prove all this? for it is no common thing which we have promised; wherefore it is necessary to give close attention to what follows. He had already shown this, by referring to the words spoken to the Patriarch, ‘In thee shall all nations be blessed,’ (Genesis 12:4.) at a time, that is, when Faith existed, not the Law. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Commentary on Galatians, 3:8.

Chrysostom (349-407) same passage above, different translation: For they said that the one who does not keep the law is cursed, while he shows that the one who strives to keep it is cursed and the one who does not strive to keep it is blessed. They said that he who kept not the Law was cursed, but he proves that he who kept it was cursed, and he who kept it not, blessed. Again, they said that he who adhered to Faith alone was cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to Faith alone, is blessed. Homily on Galatians 3.9-10. Mark J. Edwards, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 40. 3:8. See also John Chrysostom. F. Field, ed., Interpretatio omnium Epistolarum Paulinarum per Homilias Facta (Oxford J. H. Parker, 1845-1862), 4:7-8.

Chrysostom (349-407): Attend to this, ye who come to baptism at the close of life, for we indeed pray that after baptism ye may have also this deportment, but thou art seeking and doing thy utmost to depart without it. For, what though thou be justified: yet is it of faith only. But we pray that thou shouldest have as well the confidence that cometh of good works. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, On the Second Epistle of St. Paul The Apostle to the Corinthians, Homily 2, §8.

Chrysostom (349-407): For he makes a wide distinction between ‘commandments’ and ‘ordinances.’ He either then means ‘faith,’ calling that an ‘ordinance,’ (for by faith alone He saved us,) or he means ‘precept,’ such as Christ gave, when He said, ‘But I say unto you, that ye are not to be angry at all.’ (Matthew 5:22.) That is to say, ‘If thou shalt believe that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’ (Romans 10:6-9.) And again, ‘The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thine heart. Say not, Who shall ascend into heaven, or who shall descend into the abyss?’ or, who hath ‘brought. Him again from the dead?’ Instead of a certain manner of life, He brought in faith. For that He might not save us to no purpose, He both Himself underwent the penalty, and also required of men the faith that is by doctrines. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on Ephesians, Homly 5, Ephesians 2:11,12.

Chrysostom (349-407): God’s mission was not to save people in order that they may remain barren or inert. For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent. Homily on Ephesians 4.2.9. Mark J. Edwards, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 134. See also John Chrysostom. F. Field, ed., Interpretatio omnium Epistolarum Paulinarum per Homilias Facta (Oxford J. H. Parker, 1845-1862), 2:160.

Chrysostom (349-407): "For it is most of all apparent among the Gentiles, as he also says elsewhere, ‘And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.’ (Romans 15:9.) For the great glory of this mystery is apparent among others also, but much more among these. For, on a sudden, to have brought men more senseless than stones to the dignity of Angels, simply through bare words, and faith alone, without any laboriousness, is indeed glory and riches of mystery: just as if one were to take a dog, quite consumed with hunger and the mange, foul, and loathsome to see, and not so much as able to move, but lying cast out, and make him all at once into a man, and to display him upon the royal throne" NPNF1: Vol. XIII, On the Second Epistle of St. Paul The Apostle to the Colossians, Homily 5, 2nd paragraph.

Chrysostom (349-407): What then was it that was thought incredible? That those who were enemies, and sinners, neither justified by the law, nor by works, should immediately through faith alone be advanced to the highest favor. Upon this head accordingly Paul has discoursed at length in his Epistle to the Romans, and here again at length. “This is a faithful saying,” he says, “and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
As the Jews were chiefly attracted by this, he persuades them not to give heed to the law, since they could not attain salvation by it without faith. Against this he contends; for it seemed to them incredible, that a man who had misspent all his former life in vain and wicked actions, should afterwards be saved by his faith alone. On this account he says, “It is a saying to be believed.” But some not only disbelieved but even objected, as the Greeks do now. “Let us then do evil, that good may come.” This was the consequence they drew in derision of our faith, from his words, “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.” (Romans 3:8, and 5:20.) NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on First Timothy, Homily 4, 1 Timothy 1:15, 16.

Chrysostom (349-407): The patriarch Abraham himself before receiving circumcision had been declared righteous on the score of faith alone: before circumcision, the text says, “Abraham believed God, and credit for it brought him to righteousness.” Fathers of the Church, Vol. 82, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, 27.7 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), p. 167.

DTK
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I disagree with McGrath's conclusion in regards to Hilary.

Is that in regard to his study on the early fathers? I think McGrath was right to note that the doctrine of justification does not receive independent treatment, but is always brought into theological discussion in relation to other points. Given the foundational element of justification sola fide, the early fathers were clearly deficient on this point. I think it stems back to their distortion of the concept of grace, as Thomas Torrance has ably demonstrated.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I disagree with McGrath's conclusion in regards to Hilary. It's unfortunate that Hilary gets passed over so much, probably owing to the focus on Tertillian and the fact that Hilary was on the outs for awhile when Arianism was in.
Well, I don't think that McGrath (as Williams pointed out) really seriously considered any of the Early Fathers prior to Augustine. But it has to be said that many of them were deficient in this area. The doctrine of justification simply wasn't given the kind of treatment that the doctrine of the Trinity and the person of Christ were given.
He (Hilary) didn't know Hebrew and was only familiar with the Septuagent and Vulgate yet he was amazingly knowledgeable of the Scriptures and it doesn't surprise me at all to see him embracing sola fide as Paul, Augustine and the reformers expressed it.
Jerome was the only church father (with whom we are acquainted) who was a Hebrew scholar. Augustine didn't know Hebrew, and only began to learn Greek late in his ministry.

But Hilary of Poitiers is known today as the "Athanasius" of the western church. He stood firm against the Arian heresy, even castigating Pope Liberius for subscribing to an Arian creed that Romanists claimed he was forced into signing under duress, like Machiavelli's The Prince, for the purpose of regaining his office in Rome. But some have argued that Hilary's doctrine of the incarnation was little more than God in a "space suit." In other words, it has been argued that due to his doctrine of God's impassibility he had a very difficult time describing Christ as also truly man and subject to suffering. When one tries to pin him down on his doctrine of the incarnation, he is difficult to understand.

The ECFs are fascinating to read, but one often comes away with the impression that they were more "babies" in understanding than they were "fathers." As someone else has noted, they had, for the most part, a very deficient understanding of grace, and even of sin.

DTK
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
The "Early Church Babies". I like that. I think we should start using it.

Pastor Winzer, the part of McGrath's statement that I disagreed with was that Hilary was so heavily influenced by Platonism that his defense of sola fide should be taken lightly.

Having said that, I realize McGrath's knowledge of the ECF's (or ECB's) dwarfs my meager understanding. I'm only know enjoying an interest in this inquiry. All I really know of Hilary enough to pique my interest. When I saw his name come up my soul cried out, "Hey Bob, there's your homeboy!"
 

turmeric

Megerator
Nathan, I think I inadvertently edited your post! Didn't realize I was in Moderator mode - these new powers are disconcerting at times. Anyway, feel free to fix it - it was an accident. I was trying to quote you and say that I bookmarked the McGrath site. My profuse apologies!!
 
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