Category Archives: patristics

Augustine the Mentor

I’ve been finding Edward Smither’s book Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders to be quite useful. As I was searching about for a quote, I came across Smither’s doctoral thesis “Principles of Mentoring Spiritual Leaders in the Pastoral Ministry of Augustine of Hippo,” (Here) completed at the University of Wales Lampeter. I must say, I’m a bit bummed out that I bought the book first, knowing the the thesis is online for free! Anyways, I thought I’d share the wealth. Here’s the abstract:

Though Augustine is highly regarded for his contribution to philosophy and theology, his primary occupation for the last forty years of his life was serving as the bishop of Hippo Regius. A highly personal man with a natural inclination to friendship, Augustine was a bishop monk who served the church while living in a monastic community with other clergy. Hence, he made monks out of his clergy and regarded the monastery as a group that existed to serve the church. Through intimate contact with the clergy of Hippo as well as spiritual leaders of the fourth and fifth century African church, Augustine emerged as a mentor to these leaders influencing them in their spiritual lives while practically resourcing them in their ministries. After proposing an early Christian model of mentoring spiritual leaders and discussing the background of mentoring in the third and fourth century church prior to Augustine’s episcopate, this study treats the primary forms and principles which characterized Augustine’s mentoring toward supporting the claim that he was both deliberate and effective at mentoring spiritual leaders.


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Ignatius and Papal Succession

I wrote on the problem that Ignatius of Anthioch’s letter to Rome poses for the doctrine of papal succession. Check it out at the SSMI blog: “Ignatius and Papal Succession.” I actually brought this up to Michael Coren when I met him a few weeks ago; he transparently admitted that he hadn’t an answer–I didn’t expect him to off the top of his head–but that he knew someone who would. It’d be great, from a purely historical perspective, to see an answer.

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Versified Augustine

I don’t know when or where I got it, but in my library I own this wonderful gem of a book called Verses from St. Augustine or Specimens From A Rich Mine by John Searle (Oxford University Press, 1953). It is a collection of Latin quotes from various of Augustine’s works that are then put into English verse. Here is a sample of a couple of favourites:

Quid tibi dabit qui aliunde manus tuas videt occupatas? Ecce Dominus vult dare quae sua sunt, et non habet ubi ponat.–Si vis tenere quod non habes, dimitte quod habes.” Sermo suppos. LXXI. 4, 5.

How can you grasp God’s offering?
Your hands are full, they tightly cling
To coarser stuff—how can you gain
The new and still the old retain?
Let go the dross and grasp the gold,
Both at one time you cannot hold.

This one is particularly good for pastors:

Feliciores sunt qui audiunt, quam qui loquuntur. Qui enim discit, humilis est: qui autem docet, laborat ut non sit superbus, ne male placendi affectus irrepat, ne Deo displiceat qui vult placere homnibus. Magnus tremor est in docente fratres mei…” Enarr. in Ps. L. 13

Safer the lowly pew,
The preacher’s chair how perilous, how few
Fit for their Master’s cause,
Too pleased with man’s applause:
So while I teach I tremble, lest I win
Praise that shall quench the fire of Truth within.

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Heresy, What Is It?

My friend Alex emailed a bunch of us asking the question, How does one define heresy? I’d been meaning to respond with a quote from Michael Haykin’s book on early church apologetics called Defence of the Truth. Because the definition he gives in the book is a good clarification on a confused issue, I thought I’d post it here for more general consumption:

What exactly is heresy? In the ancient church, that is the church up until the sixth century, the term “heresy” became a technical term to describe aberrant teaching that undermined the fundamental truth of the Christian faith. It was deemed so serious that those who were described as heretics were considered to be beyond the bounds of salvation.

Our English word “heresy” comes from a Greek word hairesis, which, in classical Greek meant “choice.” This use of this term does not occur in the New Testament. Six out of nine occurrences of the word in the New Testament are best translated by the words “sect” or “party.” Thus, for instance, in Acts 26:5, the apostle Paul claimed that “according to the strictest party [hairesin] of our religion I lived as a Pharisee.” And in Acts 24:5, Paul is described by the Roman lawyer Tertullus as a “ringleader of the sect [haireses] of the Nazarenes.” Hairesis, though, can also have a decidedly negative meaning. Paul lists it as one of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:20, where he has in mind factionalism, not heretical teaching.

In only one New Testament verse, however, does the word carry the full meaning of our word “heresy.” That occurs in 2 Peter 2:1 where Peter says that false teachers will “secretly bring in destructive heresies [haireseis], even denying the Master who bought them.” But even a cursory reading of the New Testament letters will reveal that although the term “heresy” is not used, this is indeed what a number of the letters are seeking to protect God’s people against. Paul, for example, had to stand against those who denied the resurrection of the body in 1 Corinthians 15 and repudiate those in Galatia who would compromise the cardinal truth of justification by faith alone. And Jude, referred to earlier, is clearly dealing with aberrant theology that we could call “heresy.”

Michael A. G. Haykin, Defence of the Truth: Contending for the Faith Yesterday and Today (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2004), 10.

A couple of helpful resources on the issue of heresy are, of course, G. K. Chesterton’s Heretics, Harold O. J. Brown’s Heresies which are now both considered to be classic treatments of the subject. More recently, Alister McGrath has written Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2010).


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St. Patrick and Human Trafficking

On a day of drunken revelry, the National Post has an article on the life of St. Patrick that offers a sobering reminder. Just as Patrick was stolen from his homeland and brought into forced labour as a shepherd in Ireland, many in our day are sold into slavery in horrific conditions. May Clint Humfrey’s article give us all pause to think both on the life of the apostle to Ireland and the plight of those who, this very day, are living a life of abject terror. Here’s a quote:

Green beer sales mark the globalized celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and for many who are only Irish once a year little more is thought of.   But it may be time for St. Patrick’s Day to become an occasion of global awareness for something more than the taste of Guinness, namely the problem of human trafficking.

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Athenagoras and the Trinity

Athenagoras (d. ca. 185) was another early apologist whose work A Plea for the Christians is a beautifully written defense of the faith against accusations of atheism (among other things) leveled at Christians by their society. The text itself was likely written around AD 177 and shares similarities with those of Aristides and Justin Martyr; both in terms of its use of Greek philosophy and in addressing like charges. It was addressed to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus and appeals to their learning as philosophers.

What I’d like to highlight is a statement found in chapter 12, “Consequent Absurdity of the Charge of Atheism,” where Athenagoras gives us a very clear statement about the Trinity. This is a particularly useful quote against those who would argue that trinitarian doctrine is a later construct.

Are, then, those who consider life to be comprised in this, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” and who regard death as a deep sleep and forgetfulness (“sleep and death, twin brothers”), to be accounted pious; while men who reckon the present life of very small worth indeed, and who are conducted to the future life by this one thing alone, that they know God and His Logos, what is the oneness of the Son with the Father, what the communion of the Father with the Son, what is the Spirit, what is the unity of these three, the Spirit, the Son, the Father, and their distinction in unity; and who know that the life for which we look is far better than can be described in words, provided we arrive at it pure from all wrong-doing; who, moreover, carry our benevolence to such an extent, that we not only love our friends (“for if ye love them,” He says, “that love you, and lend to them that lend to you, what reward will ye have? “), shall we, I say, when such is our character, and when we live such a life as this, that we may escape condemnation at last, not be accounted pious?

Athenagoras, “A Plea for the Christians” in Ante-Nicene Christian Library, eds., Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1867), 2:388.

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Aristides on God

Aristides was an early Christian apologist, sometimes known as Aristides the Philosopher. He wrote The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher probably around AD 125, the English of which is translated from Syriac by D. M. Kay of the University of Edinburgh’s semitics department. The Apology had only been known to us in quotations by other fathers. For instance, Eusebius of Caesarea tells us that the text was presented to the emperor Hadrian at Athens. In the late nineteenth-century, however, an Armenian fragment was found and in 1889 the full-text was discovered in the library of St. Catherine’s in Sinai. The purpose of the document is to argue against Barbarian, Pagan and Jewish views of God–although Aristides writes using Greek categories of thought and is of course influenced by certain parts of the Old Testament.

Here is a sample from Aristides’ discussion of God that I thought was good:

I say, then, that God is not born, not made, an ever-abiding nature without beginning and without end, immortal, perfect, and incomprehensible. Now when I say that he is “perfect,” this means that there is not in him any defect, and he is not in need of anything but all things are in need of him. And when I say that he is “without beginning,” this means that everything which has beginning has also an end, and that which has an end may be brought to an end. He has no name, for everything which has a name is kindred to things created. Form he has non, nor yet any union of members; for whatsoever possesses these is kindred to things fashioned. He is neither male nor female. The heavens do not limit him, but the heavens and all things, visible and invisible, receive their bounds from him. Adversary he has none, for there exists not any stronger than he. Wrath and indignation he possesses not, for there is nothing which is able to stand against him. Ignorance and forgetfulness are not in his nature, for is altogether wisdom and understanding; and in his stands fast all that exists. He requires not sacrifice and libation, nor even one of things visible; he requires not aught from any, but all living creatures stand in need of him.

The full-text can be found in volume ten of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, 259-279.

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Patripassian Prayer

Well, following on what I said a couple of posts ago, here’s my latest at the SSMI blog: Patripassian Prayer. Do you pray Trinitarianly?

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The Athanasius of Our Century: Thesis Proposal

I just found out today that my thesis proposal for the master of theology program at Toronto Baptist Seminary was accepted. I will defend it (DV) in either late March or early December. My supervisor is Michael Haykin and hopefully Crawford Gribben and Dennis Ngien will be readers. This is all very exciting!

“The Athanasius of Our Century”: An Evaluation of James Ussher’s Immanuel In Light of Patristic Christology

Though he is relatively unknown today, James Ussher (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh was one of seventeenth-century Britain’s most influential figures. If in the twenty-first-century Ussher is known at all, it would largely be due to his famous chronology Annales veteris et novi testamenti (1650-1654), a work of immense learning for its day and still popular amongst young earth creationists for its dating of the world’s creation at 4004 BC. If Ussher is to be remembered only for this singular writing project and not for his other important contributions to the academy and the church, the annals of history have played him a bad card. Ussher was nothing short of a prodigious scholar and committed churchman and it is this reputation that should be retained.

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J. -P. Migne

Two extremely important resources for patristic studies are J. -P. Migne’s Patrologia Graeca and Patrologia Latinae. I must say that I am quite happy to find them online. {HT: PRDL}.

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Here is a useful resource for Christian origins and patristics. Paracalypsis has a lot of primary sources online in various languages. From various manuscripts of the biblical texts to works by Fathers like Ignatius, Irenaeus and Augustine.

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Lecture – Why Study Church History?

On Sunday afternoon I had the great delight in giving a lecture to the people of Grace Baptist Church of Essex on the need to study church history. I felt somewhat feeble doing this considering that this church was helped along in its early days by none other than Arnold Dallimore. I comment early on that I was conscious of Dr. Dallimore’s shadow looming over me as I spoke and that it was my desire to honour his own beliefs on the necessity of church history.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself (in spite of the sleep enhancing heat and the food in our stomach’s!), and hope that it was at least of some benefit to the people there. Grace has a fantastic library that is full of good church history, so I hope that it will be taken advantage of!
Reasons why people don’t like church history: boring; fear.
Five Reasons to Study It
Identity; Christianity an Historical Religion; Warns against past errors; Gives understanding of doctrinal development; Inspiration.
Example: Patristics
The story of Perpetua and Felicitas.


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The Authenticity of Ignatius’ Seven Letters

I wrote this over the summer for a reading seminar I did on Ignatius of Antioch. Dr. Haykin supervised my work. I had great fun researching this very important church father and the transmission of his writings.


The authenticity of the seven letters of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (c. 34-c.107),

[1] has been debated throughout the history of the church, particularly in the seventeenth century.[2] John Milton best captures the complexity of the debate in his satirical question, “In the midst therefore of so many forgeries where shall we fixe to dare say this is Ignatius? as for his stile, who knows it? So disfigur’d and interrupted as it is.”[3] While most contemporary scholars are in agreement that the so-called middle recension of letters is authentic, there have been some who have argued otherwise.[4] The purpose of this paper will be to survey the historical scholarship pertaining to the letters and how the conclusion was reached that the middle recension is the true collection. Particular attention to the role of James Ussher will also be paid in the discussion of the middle recension.

It has been recognised since the work of Lightfoot that there are three different classifications of letters, called recensions, that claim to be of Ignatian character.

[5] In chronological order the first is the middle recension, containing the seven authentic letters, referred to in Eusebius’ Church History.[6] The second is the long recension that appeared in the latter part of the fourth century. The third, known as the short recension was not discovered until the middle of the nineteenth century. In the following the short recension will be discussed first, followed by the long and concluding with greater attention to detail regarding the middle.

Short Recension
The short recension is so-labelled because of the brevity of its form and because the letters “lack phrases, sentences, and even long sections that appear in the text of the uninterpolated seven.”
[7] It is thought to be a précis of the middle recension, specifically the letters to Polycarp, Ephesians and Romans with a paragraph from Trallians. Schoedel surmises that the summary was constructed for monastic purposes.[8] Corwin compares the letter to the Ephesians in the short and middle recensions showing that the former is one-third the length of the latter.[9]
The short recension exists only in a Syriac text.
[10] William Cureton was the first to publish it in his Antient Syriac Version of the Epistles of Saint Ignatius to St. Polycarp, the Ephesians and Romans (1845) after the letters had been brought from the Nitrian desert to the British Museum. It was Cureton’s argument that these were the genuine letters and that Eusebius had not been absolutely certain of the letters (middle recension) he referenced.[11] Both Theodor Zahn[12] and J. B. Lightfoot argued against Cureton’s thesis in favour of the middle recension. Most scholars since their time have followed in their footsteps, dismissing Cureton’s arguments.
The most decisive blow levelled by Lightfoot against Cureton is the comparison he made between the short recension and fragments of a Syriac translation of the middle recension. “It is strange that Cureton should not have been struck by the close resemblance between the Syriac fragments (S1, S2, S3) and the Syriac version of the three epistles in the Short recension (S).”
[13] Lightfoot felt that the coincidences between them were so strong that the only possible conclusion was that one had to be derived from the other. If it can be shown that the short is dependent upon the middle, “all the evidence for the genuineness for the Short recension disappears.”[14] Lightfoot observes, “Cureton failed to see the resemblance, and therefore did not enter into this question, though it was one of paramount importance to him, inasmuch as his theory of the genuineness of the Short recension stands or falls as it is answered.”[15] For Lightfoot, it makes more sense to think that a Syrian had found a copy of the middle recension and summarised it for one reason or another, than to think that it was expanded upon in forgery: “This is the more obvious explanation.”[16] Quoting C. C. Richardson, Brown says, “In the works of Theodor Zahn and of J. B. Lightfoot it was ‘convincingly shown that Cureton’s text represents a rather crude abridgment of the original letters.’”[17]

Long Recension
The long recension owns its name because it is the largest collection of letters, thirteen in all, vying for a spot in the Ignatian corpus. Schoedel claims that it first appeared in the late fourth century and was first referenced by the monophysite Stephen Gorbarus in 570 AD.

[18] The long recension contains the seven letters found in the middle recension, namely those to the churches in Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Philadelphia, Smyrna and Rome and to the bishop Polycarp. Yet, these seven differ from the middle recension as they have been interpolated with texts that expand the length of the letters. Accompanying these are five additional letters addressed to the churches in Tarsus, Antioch and Philippi as well as to a man named Hero (said to be Ignatius’ replacement in Antioch[19]) and a woman named Mary of Cassabola. There is also included a letter from Mary to Ignatius. Manuscripts for the long recension exist only in Greek and Latin.[20]
Of its style, excluding the letter from Mary, Brown observes,
These twelve letters bear a remarkable resemblance to the pattern of Paul’s corpus…There is an inner consistency of form, notably in the salutations and farewell greetings, and there is considerable homogeneity of thought, doctrine, and exhortation. The amount of writing is extensive enough for an application of the customary linguistic or stylistic tests.

This description differs widely from the letters of the middle recension, which were apparently written in haste. Corwin describes the writings as “broken, marred occasionally with uncompleted sentences and above all lacking in connected argument. Nowhere is there development of ideas in measured, logical sequence.”

[22] By noting the style Corwin does not seek to “dispose of the letters as inconsequential,” rather, the hurriedness of their style speaks to the external conditions suffered by Ignatius as he travelled in chains from Antioch to Rome. The letters of the middle recension, over and against the long, “bear the clear marks of having been written under external as well as internal pressures.”[23] Therefore, the structure and form of the long recension described by Brown militate against their being the genuine letters.
The authenticity of the long recension has been the subject of “learned and acrimonious” debate.
[24] During the fourth century when the long recension first came into existence, the church was embroiled in a monophysite controversy regarding Christ’s two natures.[25] Much of the interpolated texts were anachronistic[26] having “reflected the religious and social realities of the time.”[27] Yet the long recension came to dominate in the medieval period, displacing the authentic letters.[28]
In the seventeenth century a debate over ecclesiastical polity erupted and Ignatius was again a key figure. Because his letters were the first in the early church to offer a tripartite distinction between the offices of bishop, elder and deacon,
[29] those in favour of mono-episcopalian church order sought to establish an early date for his letters to demonstrate the antiquity of their view. Many of non-conformist background argued against this, hoping to either discredit Ignatian authorship of the letters altogether, or at least demonstrate that they were of a later date. A casualty of this debate was the spurious collection of letters and interpolations that contributed to the long recension whose true nature was realised. More detail on how this razing occurred is provided in the discussion of the middle recension.

Middle Recension
The middle recension contains seven letters, in uninterpolated form, that constitute modern collections of the letters of Ignatius

[30] and are widely recognised as authentic. They exist in Greek (Codex Mediceo-Laurentianus), Latin and Armenian versions as well as fragments in Coptic and Syriac.[31] An early reference to them can be found in the Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea, who records Ignatius as the second bishop of Antioch after Euodius with Hero succeeding him.[32] The historian also draws attention to references to the letters by Irenaeus and Polycarp in their writings.
The authenticity of the long recension held sway throughout the medieval period. In 1623, when Nicholaus Vedelius published a text that contained the middle recension with an appendix of spurious letters attached, scholars began to question the long recension. Vedelius was of the opinion that even the Eusebian letters were interpolated and were dependent upon the Apostolic Constitutions that had been written long after Ignatius lived.
[33] As much as he tried, Vedelius could not establish the original text of letters.[34] It was not until the work of an Irish primate that serious headway could be made in determining which letters were the ones that came from Ignatius’ own hand.
James Ussher (1581-1656), bishop of Armagh in Ireland, is memorialised for his Annals of the World that set the date of the world’s creation at 4004 BC. Unfortunately, Ussher’s brilliance as a theologian and historian has been overshadowed by contemporary creation/evolution rhetoric. Alan Ford, in the introduction to his biography of Ussher begins with a lengthy list of quotations from various figures in history that showered accolades upon the Irish theologian.
[35] To cite but one, Robert Huntington, Provost of Trinity College Dublin, who said that Ussher was “one of the greatest scholars, which the reformed churches or the Irish nation ever bred.”[36]
One discipline that Ussher was regarded to be an expert in was patristic history.
[37] Often engaged in debates with various Roman Catholic theologians, Ussher defended the antiquity of protestant thought by tracing it throughout the early church.[38] As the debate over the authenticity and date of Ignatius’ letters continued in the seventeenth century, Ussher was one of the key scholars to offer an opinion.[39] Most importantly, it was Ussher who made a major contribution to the final laying aside of the long recension.
In the thirteenth century Robert Grossteste (c. 1250), bishop of Lincoln, published works containing various Latin quotations of Ignatius. In the fourteenth century more quotations were to be found in the writings of John Tyssington (c. 1381) and William Wodeford (c. 1396). Upon reading them, Ussher recognised that these quotations coincided with the ones found in Eusebius, and differed with the long recension.
[40] Because English writers quoted them, Ussher concluded that the Latin text of Ignatius’ letters must be housed in an English library. His search paid off as Ussher discovered two Latin manuscripts of the letters. As he studied them, Ussher discovered that the translation was likely by Grossteste himself. Notes in the margin betrayed an English author: “Incus est instrumentum fabri; dicitur Anglice anfeld (anvil).”[41] There were also comparisons made in the notes between the Latin translation and the original Greek. Knowing that Grossteste was one of the foremost Greek scholars in England at the time, he was the best candidate for translator.[42] Lightfoot himself determined that Grossteste was the author by accurately comparing a manuscript from Tours that testified to be authored by the bishop of Lincoln.[43]
The seven letters of the Latin translation were enough to convince Ussher that six of the seven were genuine; he rejected the letter to Polycarp thinking it false. Ussher came to this conclusion because of a statement from Jerome who argued that the Polycarp letter was inauthentic. In 1644 he published Polycarp et Ignatii Epistolae offering his conclusions to the greater scholarly community. Ussher’s work was so significant, moving criticism of the Ignatian corpus “beyond the speculative stage”
[44] that at the time of publishing, Oxford University made an engraving of Ussher to be placed at the beginning of his edition of Ignatius.[45] Of his importance, Lightfoot could say, “To the critical genius of Ussher belongs the honour of restoring the true Ignatius.”[46]
In 1646 Isaac Voss published a short form of the Greek text found in the Medicean Library in Florence. Although the letter to the Romans was absent, it was later included as authentic after it had been found in a Latin manuscript of the “Acts of Ignatius” published by T. Ruinart in 1689 in his Acta Martryum Sincera.
[47] The work of these seventeenth century scholars essentially closed the door on the question of which were the authentic letters. The final work of Zahn and especially Lightfoot placed final confirmation in the minds of scholars that they can rest assured that the seven letters of the middle recension are indeed those written by Ignatius of Antioch.
[1] To the Ephesians, To the Magnesians, To the Trallians, To the Romans, To the Philadelphians, To the Smyrnaeans, To Polycarp.
[2] For a survey of this debate see Virginia Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1960), 1-30; William R. Schoedel, “Introduction” in Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, William R. Schoedel, ed., Helmut Koester (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1985), 1-7; Christine Trevett, A Study of Ignatius of Antioch in Syria and Asia Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 29 (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), 9-15.
[3] John Milton, Of Prelatical Episcopacy, 1641 cited in Trevett, A Study of Ignatius in Syria and Asia, 10.
[4] For instance Josep Rius-Camps, The Four Authentic Letters of Ignatius, The Martyr Christianismos 2 (Rome: Pontificum Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1979). For a response to Rius-Camps and others see William R. Schoedel, “Are the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch Authentic?” in Religious Studies Review 6.3 (July 1980): 196-201; and Trevett, A Study of Ignatius of Antioch in Syria and Asia, 11-15.
[5] J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers: Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp (London: Macmillan, 1889; reprinted Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989).
[6] Paul L. Maier, Eusebius The Church History: A New Translation with Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1999), 123-125.
[7] Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, 5.
[8] Schoedel, “Introduction,” 3.
[9] Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, 5.
[10] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 72-73.
[11] Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, 5.
[12] Theodor Zahn, Ignatius von Antiochen (Gotha: Perthes, 1873).
[13] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 104.
[14] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 105.
[15] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 105.
[16] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 105.
[17] Milton Perry Brown, The Authentic Writings of Ignatius: A study of linguistic criteria (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1963), xiii.
[18] Schoedel, “Introduction,” 2.
[19] Maier, Eusebius The Church History, 125.
[20] Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, 4.
[21] Brown, Authentic Writings of Ignatius, xi.
[22] Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, 19.
[23] Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, 20.
[24] Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988, reprinted 2003), 44.
[25] For more on monophysitism see Iain R. Torrance, “Monophysitism” in The Dictionary of Historical Theology ed. Trevor A. Hart (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2000), 378-380.
[26] Brown, The Authentic Writings of Ignatius, xii.
[27] Schoedel, “Introduction,” 2.
[28] Brown, The Authentic Writings of Ignatius, xiii; Schoedel, “Introduction,” 2.
[29] Ephesians 3.1-6.1; Magnesians 3.1-4.1; 6.1-7.2; Trallians 2.1-3.2; Smyrnaeans 8.1-9.1; Polycarp 1.2-1.2.
[30] For instance, Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers: Volume 1 Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003).
[31] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 73; Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, 4. Schoedel, “Introduction,” 3, notes an Arabic text close in relation to the Syriac.
[32] Maier, Eusebius The Church History, 123-125.
[33] Brown, The Authentic Writings of Ignatius, xii; Trevett, A Study of Ignatius of Antioch in Syria and Asia, 9.
[34] Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, 5.
[35] Alan Ford, James Ussher: Theology, History, and Politics in Early-Modern Ireland and England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 1-4.
[36] Ford, James Ussher, 3.
[37] J. E. L. Oulton, “Ussher’s Work as a Patristic Scholar and Church Historian” in Hermathena LXXXVIII (November 1956): 3-11.
[38] For instance An answer to a challenge made by a Jesuite in Ireland (Dublin, 1624).
[39] Ford, James Ussher, 237.
[40] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 76; Brown, The Authentic Writings of Ignatius, xii; Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, 5.
[41] “The anvil destroys the workman’s tool; says the Englishman’s anvil.”
[42] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 76.
[43] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 76-77.
[44] Brown, The Authentic Writings of Ignatius, xii.
[45] Oulton, “Ussher’s Work as a Patristic Scholar and Church Historian,” 9.
[46] Cited in Oulton, “Ussher’s Work as a Patristic Scholar and Church Historian,” 9.
[47] Brown, The Authentic Writings of Ignatius, xii.


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History Ain’t Phony

Alright! Dr. Haykin has another article up at Reformation 21. This one is on why we should study the Church Fathers. This is timely considering I’m doing a patristics reading seminar with him this summer, which should be amazing. He is also going to supervise my thesis on Augustine and the later Pelagian controversy next year. I took an intro course in patristics last year with Dr. Haykin and it was absolutely outstanding.
So, all that is to say – READ THIS ARTICLE!!!!

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Ussher on Patristics

“His influence in the field of patristic studies has been more permanent. He was a voracious reader of the Fathers. He knew the works of all the major figures such as Origen, Augustine, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Gregory of Nazianzus, but he also knew and made reference to many less celebrated figures such as Ephraem Syrus, Euthymius, Georgius Syncellus, Melito of Sardis, Eusebius of Emesa, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Cyrene, Procopius, Gaeus, and Polychromius. The range of his patristic references shows an amazing industry at a time when editions with a critical apparatus and a scholarly introduction were rare.”

R. Buick Knox, James Ussher: Archbishop of Armagh (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1967), 101.

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Pondering Patristics

The following are just a few random thoughts bouncing around in my mind that I thought I would share relative to the patristic period. In particular are resources defending patristic writers from the attacks of contemporary skeptics.
1) I had attempted a response to Toronto new age guru and former Anglican theologian
Tom Harpur. The amount of schoolwork last semester had me put my response on the back-burner, and then I found out that an excellent response was in line to be published. Now said publication is available, and I have my own copy! Stanley E. Porter and Stephen J. Bedard are the authors of Unmasking the Pagan Christ: An Evangelical Response to the Cosmic Christ Idea. Many will be familiar with Porter who is president and dean of McMaster Divinity College and is a leading New Testament scholar. Bedard is a Hamilton, Ontario area pastor who did two graduate degrees at McMaster. It looks to be a formidable response to a very damaging book. You can read the thoughts I had published here, here, here, here and here. Harpur grossly misuses Eusebius of Caesarea in his work The Pagan Christ and I am anxious to see Porter and Bedard refute that and the many other errors found there.
2) Following on the theme of errors regarding Eusebius of Caesarea, Joel McDurmon at American Vision has a short little piece entitled
Was Eusebius A Liar? defending the great church historian from the claim that he promoted lying if it helped the cause of the church. His is a helpful apologetic and I’m sure that his forthcoming book will be a helpful look at the early church.
3) McDurmon references a good site putting misquotes from the early church into their original context. It is at The Divine Evidence site and is called Getting to the Source of Erroneous Quotes. At this site there are corrections of misquotes supposedly from Eusebius as well as Pope Leo X, Tertullian, Augustine and others.

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Early Christian Writings

Here is an excellent resource for students of patristic history. Early Christian Writings is just as the title says, a collection of writings from the early church. Anything one can think of is here in various translations, including those in their original languages. There are links to further resources as well as commentaries for each document.
Take the Epistle to Diognetus for example. There is included the translation by J.B. Lightfoot as well as the one by Roberts-Donaldson. There are further resources included for the epistle such as the Roberts-Donaldson introduction, the Wace introduction, Kirsopp Lake’s introduction, the Handbook of Patrology section on the epistle, Trowbridge’s introduction, the entry on the epistle in the Catholic Encyclopedia and an article on the theme of the “Christian life” in the epistle by J.S. Williams. All they need is Dr. Haykin’s chapter on The Epistle to Diognetus from his recent book Defence of the Truth and they’re all set!
I chose the Epistle to Diognetus as an example because the translation and resource lists were smaller than, say, for The Gospel of Thomas.
What a fabulous resource for those looking to study the early church!
(Note: for those seeking to check Tom Harpur’s misquotes from the early fathers, this will be helpful indeed!)

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“A Certain Giddy Imagination”: Tom Harpur and The Pagan Christ 2

Continuing on with my thoughts on Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ: Rediscovering the Lost Light (see previous posts here and here), I want to discuss a matter that Harpur brings up on his website. In a section called “The Response to The Pagan Christ,” he outlines four criteria, what he calls “a reasonable approach,” that must be met before anyone can review his book. They are:
1) The reviewer must not be a part of an established religious institution (“ecclesiastical apparatus” – i.e. a minister, a seminary professor, etc.). Harpur believes that anyone who fits into this category will harbour a bias against him, and an agenda against his work, thus tainting any of their critiques.
2) The reviewer has to have read all of Harpur’s key sources in The Pagan Christ. Namely the works of Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Godfrey Higgins and Gerald Massey.
3) The reviewer cannot complain about the lack of resources cited because The Pagan Christ is not a PhD thesis, but a popular work and therefore doesn’t need citations.
4) The reviewer can only be deemed credible if they are dealing with the main thesis of the book. Any other critique about the book is illegitimate.
Before evaluating The Pagan Christ itself, I believe it is necessary to evaluate Harpur’s “reasonable approach.” At times I will refer the reader to a helpful review of Harpur’s scholarship in the McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry written by Gordon Heath. He aptly entitled it “Neither Scholarly Nor A Solution: A Response to Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ.” In it, Heath also refers to Harpur’s “reasonable approach.” This post will deal primarily with Reasonable Approach 1no one from the “ecclesiastical apparatus” can review his books.
1) Harpur correctly recognises that anyone who reviews his book will approach it with a particular bias. If a Patristics scholar like Johannes Quasten or Jaroslav Pelikan were to review it, they might evaluate his use of the Church Fathers; if an historian like Paul Johnson or Christopher Hibbert were to review it, they might evaluate his historiography; if a member of the “ecclesiastical apparatus” such as Ben Witherington or Craig Blomberg were to review it, they might evaluate its theological accuracy, and so on. Each would come with their respective presuppositions, and each would focus on various aspects of his work. Yet, because it is in their best interest to maintain credibility within their field, they must deal with the facts that Harpur addresses in his work. Were they to reduce themselves to ad hominem remarks, they could easily be discredited for their bias. But if they engage Harpur’s points objectively, their work should stand as reputable. This is reasonable within academic scholarship, and Harpur, being a Rhodes scholar, should understand this.
As Heath questions, “is this a ‘reasonable approach’ to criticism?” (p. 127). In all other areas of academic discourse, scholars from various fields, beliefs and presuppositions interact with those whom they disagree. This is basic to scholarly interchange, even on a “popular level,” and is in the best interest of truth. So why should Harpur’s work be any different?
The best scholars recognise their biases and try to be as honest to their work as possible. Harpur must not forget that he too has biases (as is clearly seen from a casual reading of his book – he calls Christians “fundamentalists,” “ultra-conservatives,” “literalists,” etc), that must be met and challenged. If he is not willing to accept this, his credibility is deeply suspect.
As Heath rightly observes, “the argument can just as easily be turned around and used against Harpur. Certainly Harpur has a vested interest in his beliefs (who doesn’t have a vested interest in their own beliefs?), and it could equally be claimed that he is “deeply threatened” by any ideas that threaten his nontraditional beliefs” (p. 126).
This first “reasonable approach” is both highly unreasonable, and uncharacteristic of public discourse. It makes Harpur appear scared that his various arguments would be shown as faulty, which as we shall see in this series, they are. So maybe it is understandable that Harpur doesn’t want his book reviewed by anyone who doesn’t already agree with him, he’s fearful that his lack of scholarship will be brought to light and refuted.
Point two will be dealt with in a following post…

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“A Certain Giddy Imagination”: Tom Harpur and The Pagan Christ 1

The apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy urges his “son in the faith” to ensure that no one teaches false doctrine in the churches under Timothy’s care.
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Tim. 1:3-7).
Just as there were teachers of false doctrine in Paul’s day, so too in ours. In fact, the history of the church is plagued with those who have sought to subvert the Christian faith in one way or another. Yet God, in His mercy, saw fit to raise up men and women to defend the faith, just as Paul commends Timothy to do. It is therefore incumbent upon Christians to take up this same charge, to “guard the deposit entrusted” to us (1 Tim. 6:20).
Of the many stripes of false teachers today, surely the most dangerous are those who try to make themselves appear as though they are followers of Christ. It is one thing for a lay-person to reject a false teacher such as Sun Myung Moon, the differences between his teaching and Christ’s is so vast that many in the church have no problem ignoring those like him. It is very different when having to answer the challenges from those inside the institutional church. Men such John Shelby Spong appear much more subversive and prove harder for the average church goer to reject. One such person who has emerged within the Canadian church scene, and is just as much a false teacher as Spong or Moon, is author and columnist Tom Harpur. It is the intent of this series to interact, in one degree or another, with Tom Harpur’s recent book The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light.
My hope is to provide a critique of this poorly written and poorly researched book for the purpose of edifying Christians. The writings of Tom Harpur have proven devestating for many and have been a significant source of chagrin for many a pastor who have to deal with the loss of faith of those in their congregations. May God help me in this response!

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Harpur’s The Pagan Christ

I am currently reading through Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ: Recovering Lost Light. A friend of mine and her husband both read it. They lent me their copy of which I am now half way through.
Harpur was the “religion” columnist for The Toronto Star and taught Greek and New Testament at the University of Toronto. He has written a number of other similar books including Life After Death and For Christ’s Sake. He is a former Anglican priest.
Thus far into the book he has been arguing, based on comparative religion findings, that the Christian story of Christ is based upon ancient pagan myths, specifically those found in Egypt.
I’ve compiled a host of critiques of the book in my “favourites” section on IE, but I won’t look at them until I’ve finished the book (hopefully tonight). Of the reviews that I’ve found, the most substantial and damaging looks to come from another local, McMaster’s own Gordon Heath. His review “Neither Scholarly Nor A Solution: A Response to Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ” looks good and I’m anxious to get into it.
If any of you out there have other suggestions they would be greatly appreciated!

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