Thursday, May 31, 2007

Patristic Roundup-May 25-31st, 2007

Well, this has been a moderately busy week for patristics (and crazy busy for me), so here are the offerings for this week.

The Patristic Garden

Mike Aquilina on The Fathers of the Church blog features comments by R. R. Reno on the Fathers, calls St. Athanasius back to his office to deal with the canonization of Arius in an avowedly Arian church(well, you know, everything old is new again; if we can have a Gnostic Church, why not an Arian?) and gives us his patristic take on Memorial Day

Will Weedon on Weedon's Blog features St. Maximos the Confessor , St. Mark the Ascetic, St. Irenaeus, and St. Augustine in his Patristic Quote of the Day series

God Fearin' Fiddler on the God Fearin' Forum talks about the beneficial effects of the Church Fathers vs. liberal Catholic theology.

Orycteropus Afer on the Aardvark Alley blog features a story about the Venerable Bede

Seth Zirkle on the In the Agora blog considers the Spirit and the Cappadocian Fathers.

James Swan on his Beggars All blog features St. Augustine in his Ancient Voices series.

Father Z on the What Does the Prayer Really Say? blog links us to a podcast on St. Gregory.

Kevin Edgecomb on the biblicalia blog asks us would we prefer to be like the apostles and Church Fathers or modern academics.

Rick Brannon on ricoblog features a preliminary review of Heresies and How to Avoid Them.

The Thoughts on Antiquity blog features an explanation of how the Chroncile of Eusebius was discovered.

The Apocryphal Corner
April DeConick on The Forbidden Gospels blog features an announcement of her conference on the Gospel of Judas, an article review of István Czachesz' "The Transmission of early Christian thought: Toward a cognitive psychological model", a reflection on the Apostolic tradition as living literature,

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Patristic Roundup-May 17th-May 24th

This is a bit late and a little patchy towards the beginning of the week, but here are the offerings.

The Patristic Garden

Mike Aquilina on The Way of the Fathers blog discusses a lineamenta from the Vatican on the Word, along with a patristic catena from the document, muses on the Hindu traditions about St. Thomas, provides an interview with Carl Sommer, author of We Look for a Kingdom: The Everyday Lives of the Early Christians and continues it here.

Will Weedon on Weedon's blog includes in his Patristic Quotes of the Week quotes by St. Augustine, St. Diadochus of Photiki, St. Maximos the Great, and St. Cyril of Alexandria.

Father Z on the What Does the Prayer Really Say? blog links us to a podcast reading of St. Augustine on Sts. John and Peter.

Rick Brannon on ricoblog (among others) alerts us to another book on the Apostolic Fathers.

Kevin Foflygen on the Tu me fecisti et refecisti blog features a discussion of the Christian Sabbath and the Church Fathers.

The Agnology blog features an article on the politics of Christendom beginning with Constantine. They're not fans.

Jon Sorenson on the Instructions for the Ignorent blog has started a Ask a Church Father, featuring St. Irenaeus on Rome and the successors of St. Peter.

Glen Thomson on the Anaxmios, Anaxmios, Anaxmios blog features a discussion of Nestorian Christianity in Ancient China.

Jeremy Priest on the Turning Towards the Lord blog alerts us to a new book by D.H. Williams, Evangelicals and Tradition.

davetherave on the
davetherave conscious blog features a history article on Constantine.

Constantine on the Mars Hill blog features a quote by Lactantius.
The Cappadocia Guide blog features a brief introduction to the Cappadocian Fathers.

Brother Randy Grieve on The Tent of This Kingdom blog features a quote from St. Vincent of Lerins

Deacon Scott Dodge on The People of St. Mary Magdalene blog feature a quote from St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

James Swan on the Beggars All blog features Theonas of Alexandria in his Ancient Voices series.

Apocryphal Corner
Tony Chartrand-Burke on the Apocryphicity blog links us to his superb Collating for Dummies resource. I remember the lecture when he introduced this resource at the University of Toronto and thought it briliant.

April DeConick on The Forbidden Gospels blog devoted her energies to correct the mis-interpretation of her work in Nick Perrin's, Thomas, The Other Gospel, especially on the topics of orality-literacy, the Historical Jesus, accretions and methodology.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Patristics Roundup Delayed

I've had a bit of setback with this week's roundup (I lost the almost completed roundup in Blogger ether), so it will take me a few days to get the roundup back together. I hope to get the roundup back out by the end of the weekend.


St. Cyprian, Novatian and the Divided Church

Over the last few weeks, I`ve been thinking about St. Cyprian and about the way forward in maintaining unity in an already broken and divided church. I am, of course, thinking of the current state of the Anglican Communion and the coming General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, at least in part; but not completely. The general state of Christianity remains that of deep and unresolved divisions: between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Western churches, between Roman Catholicism and Protestants, between the multiple Protestant groups. This has rightly been characterized as a scandal because how can we talk of Jesus' Good News to the world when we are unable to agree on what that news is? Non-Christian friends have asked me which church is the one true Church and I have no other answer than "none of them, potentially", because we have failed to maintain those bonds of love and unity which characterized the early Christian communities. And "all of them, potentially" because we are all, nevertheless, the Body of Christ. That is, of course, paradoxical, but it is as close as I can get to affirming the unity that Christ has called us to here and now.

This lost unity is, of course, why I turn back to St. Cyprian and to a time before the major church divisions we take so much for granted were even considered. Cyprian lived way back in the 250s AD and was just appointed Bishop of Carthage, one of the larger Western dioceses, a year before the outbreak of the Decian persecutions. These persecutions were rather different from those persecutions which had proceeded them. The earlier persecutions tended to be localized and short-lived. The Emperor Decius instituted the first empire-wide persecution by demanding that everyone in the Empire had to sacrifice to the Emperor cult or face the state's wrath. Not surprisingly, large numbers of Christians, facing not only financial/social ruin, but even martyrdom, chose to sacrifice or pretended to sacrifice. The result was total chaos in the Church as large numbers of Christians lapsed and large numbers were martyred or suffered for their faith. No one had expected the empire-wide demand to sacrifice and no one had had to deal with the aftermath of the widespread lapsing of even mature Christians. By the time the persecution died down in 251 AD, the church was in chaos and this chaos was only going to get worse when the surviving bishops and clergy began to grapple with the problem of the lapsed.

To say that there was disagreement is an understatement. Rigorists insisted that the lapsed were simply damned for deserting Christ and there was no way for them to make sufficient penance to allow them to return to the church. They were out. Less rigorous leaders felt that there must be a way for the lapsed to make penance and find forgiveness. There didn't seem to be much room for compromise.

In many ways, the rigorists were represented by the Roman presbyter, Novatian, who was, by all accounts, a brilliant and orthodox leader in the fragmented Roman church, who had even been a candidate for the Bishop of Rome in 251 AD. He lost, and almost immediately, he led his followers in schism from the rightfully elected (and orthodox) Pope Cornelius. In doing so, he began a schism which would last for several decades and which was particularly troublesome because accusations of heresy were hard to make stick since Novatian had impeccable orthodox credentials.

The other side can be represented by some of the confessors of Cyprian's own church, who took it upon themselves, in Cyprian's absence, to forgive the lapsed without any real inquiry into the circumstances of their lapse. They felt their authority greater than their bishop, who, after all, had fled the persecution, while they stayed and suffered through it. They were trading on their spiritual status as confessors and were willing to make exceptions among the lapsed almost immediately on the end of the persecutions and without much or any investigation of the circumstances of their lapse.

Cyprian, in many ways, was probably more sympathetic to Novatian than to his own confessors. He did think that the those who lapsed during the persecutions had committed a grave sin and could only be reconciled with the Church with great difficulty. Yet he shied away from Novatian because of his high view of the episcopacy (like most Church Fathers) which caused him to back the legal ordination of Cornelius and because of his view that it was impossible to go into schism without falling into heresy. He never really goes so far as to define the heresy, but I think he sees Novatian's decision to split the Roman church as betraying a heretical understanding of ecclesiology. This is intriguing, but I suspect tangential to what I'm trying to say here. Perhaps I'll pick that point up in a separate entry.

In Christianity today (and in my own church), we have very many Novatians and very many confessors, who are perfectly willing to drive their agendas to the point of schism. Yet I offer Cyprian's solution to the problem for us all to consider. While sympathetic to rigorism, he didn't rely only his own opinion. He called a council of African bishops. He consulted with his fellow bishops, especially with the Bishop of Rome. He adopted a solution which recognized the importance of the lapses, but also recognized the power of true repentance.

We need Cyprians today in the churches; people who take seriously what the Bible and tradition have taught them, but are willing to reflect carefully over the new situations each generation presents and to try to maintain unity by finding common solutions to shared problems. Cyprian has his rough edges, of course, and he was fiercely aware of his own prerogatives as bishop, but his example in the matter of the lapsed presents us with an approach to disunity which we modern Christians would do well to imitate.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Patristics Roundup- May 10-17th, 2007


Mike Aquilina on The Way of the Fathers blog announces his new book, The Resilient Church, suggests online tools for patristic and biblical studies, links us to a chapter from Yves Conger's Meaning of Tradition and De Lubac's History and Spirit and quotes St. Leo the Great on Ascension Day.

Will Weedon on Weedon`s blog features Patristics Quotes of the day with St. Augustine.

Danny Garland on the Irish-Catholic and Dangerous blog asks St. Augustine about sacrifices.

Marshall Montgomery on the Communion in Conflict blog reflects on Aidon Nichol's book on Schism and the current situation in the Anglican Communion.

James Engwar on Triablogue discusses the prevalence of Monarchichal bishops in early Christianity.

Scott Lyons on the Swept Over blog discusses the early Fathers.

Christopher on the Orrologion blog discusses a Patristics Conference in St. Louis.

Fearsome Pirate on the Cruising Down the Coast of High Barbaree (now, there is a name for a blog!!!) talks about Ignatius and the Bishops.

James Swan on the Beggars All blog features St. Caesarius in his Ancient Voices series.

Father Z on the What Does the Prayer Say blog points us to a podcast of a St. Augustine sermon (well, not with him delivering it!)

The Apocryphal Corner

Tony Chartrand-Burke on the Apocryphicity blog discusses new developments in the study of the Syraic Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

April De Conick on The Forbidden Gospels blog alerts us to an article on the Gospel of Judas, continues her discussion about the kernal Thomas, sent out a call for recent theses, reported on a new book on the Gospel of Thomas, alerts to a series in the Expository Times on the other Gospels and another on the apostolic Fathers (okay, this last one is Patristic, but for simplicity sake, I left it here).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin 9

Here is the new installment of St. Martin's Life. In this passage, we see Martin's strange, but popular ordination as bishop of Tours, a post he held until his death.


At almost the same time, Martin was sought after for the episcopacy of the church at Tours. But he could not easily be drawn out of his own monastery. A certain Rusticus, a citizen, pretending the illness of his wife, fell down to his knees and prevailed upon Martin to come. (2) Since a crowd of citizens were placed along the route, he was led right up to the city under a sort of guard. In an astonishing way, a incredible multitude not only from the town, but also from the nearby cities gathered to conduct a vote. (3) There was one will among all, one vote and the same opinion that Martin was most worthy of the episcopate and the church with such a priest would be lucky. Nevertheless, a few, several among the bishops who were called to ordain the high priest, impiously were revolted, saying, doubtless, that his personal appearence was contemptable, the man was unworthy of the episcopal office and despicable because of this appearence, his clothing was dirty, and his hair unkempt. (4) Their madness was mocked by people of a more sane opinion, who praised that illustrious man while they desired to find fault. Nor truly was it permitted for them to do anything than what the people decided in accordance with God's will. Nevertheless, among the bishops who were present, was a certain Defensor, who especially was said to have resisted. Then, he was considered to have been seriously censured by the reading from the prophets. (5) When, by chance, that reader whose duty it was to read that day was absent, having been shut out by the people and the service disrupted while they waited for the one who was not there, one of the bystanders, taking up the psalter, seized upon the first verse he encountered. (6) The psalm was this one: "from the mouths of infants and babes, you have perfected praise against your enemies so they you will destroy the enemy and the avenger[defensorem].". With that reading, the clamour of the people was raised and the other side put into confusion. (7) It was though,t as a result, that the psalm was read by divine approval so that Defensor would hear the testimony against his own works, which was shown, with the praise of God being perfected in Martin, and, equally from the mouhts of infants and babes, so that, as his enemy, he was destroyed.

This is an odd, but not unheard of kind of ordination. This ordination is usually dated to c. 371 AD, so Christianity has been quite established for over twenty years, even if the Arian controversy is continuing. Over those fifty years, there has been a considerable evolution in the office of bishop and the kind of person ordained. By the 370s, the episcopacy was a position of considerable influence in a city and, indeed, in a province. They weren't running the show, but they could make life rather hard on a governor, if they decided to, especially if that governor was a Christian.

Thus, there shouldn't be a surprise that there was a tendency for the high property classes to dominate in this office. Certainly, we have enough stories of highly educated and rich candidates being recruited or, if need be, dragooned into becoming a bishop. Ambrose and Augustine are two examples which turned out well. I'm pretty certain that Defensor and the other bishops who opposed Martin's ordination were probably of that type, so their opposition was probably based on their ideas about the dignity of the episcopal office. Those ideas were almost certainly tinged by social class.

By those standards, Martin made an astonishingly bad candidate. He was dirty, badly clothed and had a bad hair-do. How could he possibily make a good bishop?

Here is where we see the clash between the growing monastic-ascetic movement in the West which was already very strong in the East. Martin is distinctly not interested in power or the perks of being bishop. In fact, he'd sooner run the other way, so he had to be tricked and implicitly compelled to come into the city in the first place. He does not look the part nor, as the bishops surely feared, would he act the part of a bishop.

So, what was Martin's appeal? He was a holy man. That is, he was believed to be closely connected in prayer to God and that connection came out in his deeds, especially his healings. He was notably not the worldy, powerful bishop that Defensor and others wanted, but was increasingly being regarded with suspicion by laymen. He was resolutely anti-Arian and, given his dislike of the honour, was unlikely to reverse himself for career reasons if imperial pressure should again be placed on him to become Arian.

Yet, it seems a contentious election. In fact, it was only solved by the (chance?) reading of Psalm 8 which seemed to implicitly condemn Defensor, the leader of the anti-Martin opposition. This episode is interesting because it shows an aspect both of the Father's attitude to Scripture and their conception of the miraculous intervention. Here, it is the chance reading of a scripture which is immediately seen to apply to the situation. This chance reading determines the winner in this contest because it is not taken as a chance reading. Rather, God made sure that this line would be read aloud at this particular time by makng sure the regular lector was missing and that the substitute turned to precisely this page and read this line. God's will is recognized in this simple act of reading a line out of a psalm.

Now, we can, as many would, say that this was either a massive coincidence, a clever on-the-spot contrivance or mob mentality which inflated this incident to its decisive status in electing Martin. We can also shake our heads at the clear proof-texting here. Yet, the point isn't this. The idea here is that the reading of this Scripture at this time was considered to indicate divine approval for Martin's ordination. This is a high view of Scripture in a way that a modern or a post-modern would have a problem seeing. I'm not sure whether to say that this is a good or a bad view, but it is important to see this use (which is rather widespread: think of Augustine in the garden before his conversion)as a very old one and to ask what we can draw from it.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Patristics Roundup-April 27th-May 9th, 2007

This is an unusual two-week review because those darn little patristics dogies got away from me last week. Well, okay, the real reason was that I was away with some of my students at a student conference. And I've been pretty sick. But, the conference is over and I'm getting better, so here are the offerings for the last two weeks. Enjoy!


Mike Aquilina on The Way of the Fathers blog features a report on the Armenia Sacra exhibition at the Louvre, calls attention to a discussion by Scott Hahn on the Iconclastic controversies, links on St. Athanasius including an oral reading of some of Athanasius' works, a continuation of Pope Benedict's series on Origen and more on Origen, calls attention to a audio-reading of St. John of Damascus' On Holy Images,

Will Weedon on Weedon's Blog continues his Patristic Quotes of the Day featuring St. Augustine, Augustine again, Augustine again, Augustine again,

Danny Garland on the Irish-Catholic and Dangerous blog quotes St. Gregory the Great on how we come to know the Lord and St. Irenaeus on Mary,

Daniel on the Hi-Speed Soul blog features a useful discussion on the Western and Eastern Fathers on the Trinity.

Ian on the Ruminations By the Lake blog calls our attention to an article by Prof. Michael Haykin on why we should study the fathers. Read the article here!

Matt on the Catching Meddler's blog celebrates the feast day of Athanasius with an amusing story of Athanasius as a child and Athanasius' Creed.

Mark Horne on the Mark Horne blog discusses puritans and the Church Fathers.

Michael Jensen on The Blogging Parson blog condemns the doctrine of the impassability of God; a patristic doctrine if there has ever been one.

spurgeon on The Shepherd's Scrapbook blog features a quote from Michael Haykin on patristic exegesis and follows up with a discussion of a recent Tiber-swimming evangelical and current president of the Evangelical Theological Society, James Beckworth.

bfhu from the Bread From Heaven Unlimited blog features a discussion about clerical confession and the Church Fathers.

Michael Rose on the Papa Ratzi Post calls attention to Pope Benedict's discussions of the Church Fathers since March including a link to an article reviewing these addresses.

Carl Truman on the Reformation21 blog has started a list of resources of where to start in reading the Church Fathers. He continues his discussion in his More on Patristics and Yet more on Patristics posts.

James Siemans on the East To West blog features a chapter out of Laterculus Malianus on the person of Christ.

Rick Brannon on ricoblog quotes St. Ignatius' Letter to the Ephesians and the Shepherd of Hermas.

Meanwhile, on Rick Brannon's other blog, Pastoral Epistles, he continues his series on St. Ignatius and the Pastoral Epistles in parts three, four and five.

Roger Pierce on the Thoughts on Antiquity blog announces a collaborative translation of Eusebius, discusses his attempt to read the Armenian version of Eusebius and again,

Ben Smith also on the Thoughts on Antiquity blog gives us the sixth installment on the canonical lists with his discussion of the Apostolic Constitutions.

Kyle on the Vindicated blog reflects on his reflections on St. Athanasius.

Apocryphal Corner
April DeConick on The Forbidden Gospels blog picks up on Tony Chartrand-Burke's discussion of anti-Apocrypha rhetoric and 'canonism, asks why Gnosticism is a dangerous error, discusses methodology and academic integrity, offers suggestions for further methodological study, discusses the contrast between empathy and sympathy in scholarship, discusses the Kernel Thomas , calls attention to a new article on the Gospel of Judas and continues to reflect on methodology.

Tony Chartrand-Burke on the Apocryphicity blog announces a conference on Christian Apocrypha at Tony's home university, York University, in 2007, let us know about a new section on his home page dealing with tabloid accounts of the Apocrypha and gives an interesting review of Ben Witherington's What Have they Done with Jesus?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Roundup Delayed

I think I'm going to have to delay and combine the roundups of last week and this week, largely because, while Classics Conference is over, I'm still very unwell and need time to recover. Conference was wonderful and the kids had great time. I found it a bit stressful for several reasons not the least of which was because I was quite unwell at the time. So, I need to slow down and regroup.

I expect to have the combined Roundup by Thursday or thereabouts.