Thursday, March 27, 2008
A few days ago, I posted a quote from Jerome here. The following response was put forth:
"I don't think it was Saint Jerome who had the identity crisis, I think it is the multifaceted Protestant nightmare that has the identity crisis."
"When Protestants disagree, they just form a new denomination. There is no binding mechanism to resolve such disputes other than placement of oneself as his own pope."
What a Romanist cannot appreciate about this letter (letter 15) of Jerome is that he writes as a theological novice, as he later describes himself during this period of his life, in the prologue of his commentary on Obadiah (PL 25:1098). In Letter 15, as well as Letter 16 (which was his 2nd attempt to get Damasus to respond to him, with Letter 15 having gone unanswered), he makes mention in both letters the three rival bishops of Antioch, "I know nothing of Vitalis; I reject Meletius; I have nothing to do with Paulinus. He that gathers not with you scatters; he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist."
With a true sectarian spirit, Jerome writes off all three of these rival bishops as being of "Antichrist" (LOL). Now, I laugh because Jerome makes the same youthful mistake of judgment that any of us are liable to make. After all, unknown to Jerome at this time, Damasus recognized Paulinus as the true "catholic" bishop of Antioch. And Meletius (and this is where it becomes comical when dealing with fanatical Roman apologists) whom Jerome rejects in this letter, and regards as one of "those Arians" because Meletius and others (most notably Basil of Caesarea) were using the language of "three hypostases" to describe the relationship of the persons in the Trinity. It is because this language is new to the ears of Jerome, that he dismisses it as "Arian," all the while informing his pastor Damasus that if he chooses to accept it, so will he! As Kelly points out concerning this language of Jerome, "It was sheer prejudice, or deliberate perversity, to dismiss the adherents of the ‘three hypostases’ doctrine as Arians. They were just as much opposed to Arianism, with its subordination of the Son to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to the Son and its denial of divinity to both, as he was." See J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000), p. 54.
But what becomes even funnier against the Romanist paradigm of the alleged pristine unity of "catholics," in that day, is that while Pope Damasus recognized Paulinus as the true bishop of Antioch, Basil of Caesarea (no small ecclesiastic of the east) and John Chrysostom recognized Meletius as the true bishop of Antioch, from whose hands Chrysostom was baptized and ordained to the diaconate! The third claimant to the throne of Antioch, who is mentioned by Jerome, Vitalis, fell into the error of Apollinarius.
Jerome isn't appealing to "the teacher of all Christians" who had the ultimate authority to adjudicate between the rival bishops. He was appealing to the pastor of his own communion in the western see where he had been baptized! Moreover, no one in the east had any notion of the papal primacy of jurisdiction. Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom, in supporting Meletius as the rightful bishop of Antioch, certainly held no notions of papal primacy, such as Leo XIII's Satis cognitum attempts to read back into this letter of Jerome. After all, according to the standard of Leo XIII's Satis cognitum, Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom were "outside the edifice," "separated from the fold," and "exiled from the kingdom," for the simple reason that neither of them joined Damasus in recognizing Paulinus as the rightful occupant of the Antiochene see! They "knew nothing (As Edward Denny points out in his helpful work, Papalism, p. 347) of the Papal Monarchy as an integral part of the Divine Constitution of the Church necessary to its very existence."
This is why I regard Romanists by this title. After all, there is no greater "anti-Catholic" spirit than that of a Romanist who maintains that communion with Rome constitutes the necessary requirement to be in the true Church of Jesus Christ. What can be more sectarian (as it was in Basil and Chrysostom's day) than this kind of party spirit!
"If you read these texts in proper context you will find that Saint Jerome was anything but a Protestant."
No, I say to any who alleges that we are trying to turn the ECFs into Protestants! Even to express such a sentiment only underscores the ignorance for the reason we read and study the ECFs. We, as Protestants, are very content to let the ECFs be what they were. But it is the Romanist who, on the contrary, must read back into the ECFs the notions of modern day Rome and papal primacy that were never recognized by the eastern church. Again, for all this insistence on the ECFs being "catholic" I am in great agreement! But the true "anti-Catholic" title belongs to those who argue for the exclusive claims of Rome.
When the ECFs happen to support some of the positions that Protestants take today, I would be more sympathetic to the Romanist who can at least recognize where the ECFs took a different path from modern day Rome. But the radical, fanatical Romanist can entertain no such objectivity on this account, because for them it's a matter of all or nothing! That's what makes it so laughable when Roman opponents begin immediately to shout “Foul play, out of context” at the faintest citation of any patristic witness whose words appear to be at odds with the modern day views of the Roman communion, whether they have actually investigated the context of any such citation or not. One would verily be led to believe, by such statements, that such members of the Roman communion possess the attribute of omniscience when it comes to the context of every quote that stands in contrast to their present day claims. So, go ahead and pretend that Jerome's appeal to his pastor in Rome concerning matters of which he is utterly ignorant as an example of papal primacy. But all you demonstrate to me is another excursion in "humble" (perhaps), but nonetheless real ignorance.