Thursday, June 30, 2011

Augustine, Romans 1:4, and the Vulgate

A comment contributor on Called to Communion brought up an interesting section from Augustine (on Romans 1:4) in response my blog entry, The Vulgate Blues. In this entry I provided two comments (Calvin and Whitaker) on the problems with the Vulgate's translations of Romans 1:4.

The Vulgate translated a section of του ορισθεντος υιου θεου εν δυναμει κατα πνευμα αγιωσυνης εξ αναστασεως νεκρων ιησου χριστου του κυριου ημων as as "the predestinated Son of God" (qui praedestinatus est Filius Dei in virtute secundum Spiritum sanctificationis ex resurrectione mortuorum Iesu Christi Domini nostri).

Calvin says of ορισθεντος (horizō) "There is no difficulty in the Greek word, which means 'declared'." He insists, "only things which do not yet exist are predestinated; whereas Christ is the eternal Son of God." Whitaker mentions a number of people familiar with the Greek that confirm the word means similar to what Calvin suggests (Chrysostom,Theodoret, Theophylact, Erasmus, Faber, Cajetan). I would add the testimony of Origen,

Let no one think that we are reading more into this text than the meaning permits. For although in Latin translations one normally finds the word predestined here, the true reading is designated and not predestined. For designated applies to someone who already exists, wheras predestined is only applicable to someone who does not yet exist, like those whom the apostle said: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined. Those who do not yet exisit may be foreknown and predestined, but he who is and who always exists is not predestined but designated. These things are said by us concerning those who speak blasphemously about the only begotten Son of God and ignoring the differences between designated and predestined think that Christ is to be numbered among those who were predestined before they existed. But he was never predestined to be the Son, because he always was and is the Son, just as the Father has always been the Father... 
The CTC blog entry Calvin, Trent, and the Vulgate includes the following assertion: "The Vulgate, even with the scribal errors, said nothing which contradicted the faith." According to the Vulgate's rendering of Romans 1:4 though, If Calvin is correct, Christ being predestinated here leads to grave doctrinal error.

Now let's bring Augustine into it. The CTC commenter responded by saying of the Vulgate's rendering of Romans 1:4,

Saint Augustine... eagerly explained how it is not opposed to the Catholic faith for this verse of Scripture to be rendered this way... Augustine was actually happy to have this particular translation [the Latin Vulgate] for use in his controversy with the Pelagians. John Calvin was familiar with this work from Augustine, and evidently even alludes to it in his Antidote... And yet Calvin still claimed that "[t]hose not acquainted with Greek are at a loss to explain this term." Ironically, Augustine takes the position directly opposite the suggestion of James’ post: “Accordingly, whoever denies predestination of the Son of God, denies that He was also Himself the Son of man” (Tractate 105 on the Gospel of John, 8). According to these prophetic words from Augustine, it was Calvin himself who was contradicting the faith when he tried to criticize the Vulgate on this point. And in his complaint that Trent would cause the world to be unable to “see the light presented to them,” Calvin himself was left blind to what Augustine had referred to as “the most illustrious light of predestination.” What amazing mercy from God to ward off the criticisms of John Calvin so far in advance, to the very words!
I'm not sure how it follows that "Calvin himself who was contradicting the faith when he tried to criticize the Vulgate on this point" if the Vulgate word in question is in error. I will grant though, contrary to Calvin,  Augustine (and Aquinas) were not at a loss to explain praedestinatus in Romans 1:4.

That being referred to from Augustine can be found here. In essence, Augustine argues the "man" Christ Jesus was predestined ("the Lord of glory Himself was predestinated in so far as the man was made the Son of God"). Aquinas likewise follows Augustine (see also the Haydock Commentary). I grant this is a clever solution, but similarly clever heretical people could argue the verse as Origen suggests- verse 3 refers to Christ's humanity; verse 4 to his predestinated deity. We'll be a waiting a long time for Rome to dogmatically settle the infallible interpretation of a mistranslated word in the Vulgate, if they even have the power to rule infallibly on a mistranslated word.

ορισθεντος does appear to be a problematic word. Calvin's Commentary on Romans 1:4 contains the following footnote:

While The CTC commenter notes Augustine was "happy" to use the Vulgate here to refute the Pelagians, I would simply question if the means justify the end. Is refuting an opponent using a faulty translation a proper way to argue for Christ's Church? I don't intend to be anachronistic. I strongly doubt Augustine had any idea about ορισθεντος.

On the other hand, I checked a number of versions of the Vulgate. Of all the versions I checked, the text still uses praedestinatus in Romans 1:4 ( the Douay-Rheims Bible likewise uses "predestinated"). If the Vulgate has been corrected, I'd really like to find the corrected version that doesn't use praedestinatus. If the word was chosen to remain, I'd like to know why.
I'm not aware of any dogmatic statement as to the correct translation of this verse. There's no dogmatic statement as to why the Douay-Rheims says "predestinated" and the NAB uses "established." Those are two very different words, making the verse say different things. One has to be wrong.

The bottom line is that if a Romanist wants to maintain "The Vulgate, even with the scribal errors, said nothing which contradicted the faith," in Romans 1:4, they appear to be forced to rely on the private interpretation of Augustine on a mistranslated word. They need to explain also why another private interpretation concluding the opposite of Augustine's is in error.  

Addendum #1
In his Romans Commentary Joseph Fitzmyer uses “established (or appointed) as the Son of God (though not in a Messianic sense) with power,” so Jesus is by virtue of his resurrection now endowed with power to energize believers (pp. 234-236). In his Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond Brown uses "designated" (p. 565).

Addendum #2
The revised Vulgate on Romans 1:4 can be found here. The verse now reads, " qui constitutus est Filius Dei in virtute secundum Spiritum sanctificationis ex resurrectione mortuorum, Iesu Christo Domino nostro."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dutch Research on Luther & the Bible

An anonymous blogger posted a link in a comment to a recent Dutch article about Luther and the Bible.  I was directed to "chew on" it and I was exhorted not to "whine." I was then instructed to voice any concerns by going "directly to Dutch public broadcasting and the responsible researchers at the State University of Groningen."

The blogger appears to think he knows my alleged opinion on the extent that the general population of medieval Western society had access to the Bible (previous to Luther).  To my recollection, I've never spent much time on this, if any. I do recall mentioning from time to time that indeed German translations of the Bible were available previous to Luther, but that most of these were written in high-German. Luther's translation gained immediate popularity due to its readability and the technological breakthrough of the printing press.

That being said, I did take a look at the link. The article suggests that previous to Luther, the elite and commoners did have personal Bibles. They state, "Luther also said that Rome did not allow common people to read the Bible." I then followed the link to the article this statement was based on, which is another on-line news web page. That article roughly says,

The idea that ordinary people only since the Reformation, six hundred years ago, independently of the Protestant Bible is a persistent myth, created by none other than Luther himself. So says research leader Sabrina Corbellini, "Luther himself has said so in one of his famous table discussions. He would throughout his childhood Bible have not seen. The church, as Luther suggested, would keep the book under the cap."
Even though the above is a mechanical imprecise Google translation, I think the gist of it is clear: Luther himself invented the myth that few previous to his work had a Bible. What does research leader Sabrina Corbellini base her conclusions on? Luther's Table Talk. What Ms. Corbellini has uncovered as "myth" though has long been known in Luther research. I'm not sure exactly which Table Talk entry Ms. Corbellini is referring to. There are only three (that I'm aware of) that are usually behind such assertions.

The story has many different variants, but the basic outline is that a very young Martin Luther discovered a Bible while a student at Erfurt in the University Library, before his entering the Augustinian monastery (sometime between May, 1501 and July, 1505). The story has variants about the Bible being chained, or hidden out of sight. Sometimes this Bible is said to be so forgotten it was dust covered. Sometimes the story adds that Luther could not be kept away from the Bible, and that his superiors actively sought to keep him from it. Versions of this story date as far back as the 16th Century, actually found in the introductions of editions of Luther's Bible.

Some place the story in the Augustinian monastery. But there, Bible reading held an important place. When Luther entered the monastery, he was presented with his very own Latin Bible and instructed to read and study it.

The older version of this story places the incident previous to Luther entering the monastery during his earlier university studies. This version comes from one of Luther's earliest biographers (and acquaintances), Johannes Mathesius. In this version, Luther visited the University library. While carefully searching through the books he discovered a copy of the Latin Bible, a book he had never seen previously. He discovers that the Bible had much more in it than the traditional lectionaries of the day. He then hopes that one day God would give him his own Bible. This version finds its genesis in a few Table Talk comments.

No. 116 (Between November 9 and 30, 1531) Once when he was a young man he [Martin Luther] happened upon a Bible. In it he read by chance the story about Samuel’s mother in the Books of the Kings. The book pleased him immensely, and he thought that he would be happy if he could ever possess such a book. Shortly thereafter he bought a postil; it also pleased him greatly, for it contained more Gospels than it was customary to preach on in the course of a year. [LW 54:13]

No. 3767 (1538) "Until I was twenty years old I had not yet seen a Bible. I supposed that there was nothing more in the Gospels and Epistles than the portions which form Sunday lections. Finally I found a Bible in the library and immediately took it to the cloister where I began to read, to reread, and to read once again, to the great amazement of Dr. Staupitz." [WA , TR 3, No. 3767].

No. 5346 (1540) "In my youth I saw a Bible in the University library and I read part of the story of Samuel, but then it was time to attend a lecture. I would have very gladly read the whole book, but at that time I had no opportunity to do so. But when I had forsaken everything to go into the cloister I once asked again for a Bible, since I had lost hope in myself." [WA, TR 5, No. 5346].
One can easily see the differences in these entries. Since different authors wrote these accounts, determining what Luther actually said isn't quite difficult. Perhaps they wrote down what he said incorrectly. Perhaps Luther's memory wasn't always dependable. Perhaps both. The second entry (3767) certainly is inaccurate: Twenty-year old Luther had nothing to do with von Staupitz. As to Luther's Bible discovery in the Erfurt University Library, scholars point out that the rules forbid students to snoop through the books.  Perhaps though one of Luther's teachers took him in. Others think Luther was actually in the Library reading room. Luther scholar Willem Jan Kooiman points out, "It is almost beyond understanding that Luther should not have seen a complete Bible before he entered the University. An estimated twenty to twenty-seven thousand copies of the Vulgate, the official Latin Bible, were printed in Germany before 1520" [Luther and the Bible (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961), p. 5].

Kooiman also points out that twelve year-old Martin Luther most certainly would have come across a Bible at the Cathedral School of Magdeburg with his interaction with the Brothers of the Common Life. Some scholars therefore think that perhaps this is the actual origin of the story. Table Talk entry 116 translates the word puer as "young man" when in fact earlier versions of the Table Talk use the word "boy." Kooiman thinks this was done to bring the stories into agreement (pp. 6-7).

It is true that story in question has been a myth for quite some time. However, all this information has been readily available for years, so why the Dutch researchers have only now found it is quite perplexing. The success of Luther's Bible stands as a testament to a number of factors: his popularity, his translation work, and the printing press, to name a few.

Can Luther himself be blamed for the myth? Perhaps indirectly, based on his alleged Table Talk statements. This though requires one to base historical fact on hear-say. One has to assume non-writings of Luther's were intended to be (perhaps) deceptively inaccurate. Rather, I think the culprit wasn't Luther, but rather his zealous followers.

If by some chance someone knows of another Table Talk entry that I've overlooked, please let me know. I briefly tried to figure out which Table Talk Sabrina Corbellini was using by searching  "zou het boek onder de pet houden" and similar phrases.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Douay-Rheims Bible

In an earlier post, James included a quote from Whitaker:

"Certain English popish divines, who have taken up their abode in the seminary of Rheims, some years since translated the new Testament into the English tongue, not from the Greek text, but from the old Latin Vulgate. In order to persuade us of the wisdom and prudence of this proceeding, they produce in their preface ten reasons to prove that this Latin Vulgate edition is to be followed in all things rather than the Greek (p.141)."

Here's a little background on the Douay-Rheims bible from Wiki:

The Douay–Rheims a translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English undertaken by members of the English College, Douai in the service of the Catholic Church. The New Testament was published in Reims (France) in 1582, in one volume with extensive commentary and notes. The Old Testament, which was published by the University of Douai, followed nearly thirty years later in two volumes; the first volume (Genesis to Job) in 1609, the second (Psalms to 2 Machabees plus the apocrypha of the Clementine Vulgate) in 1610. Marginal notes took up the bulk of the volumes and had a strong polemical and patristic character. They also offered insights on issues of translation, and on the Hebrew and Greek source texts of the Vulgate. The purpose of the version, both the text and notes, was to uphold Catholic tradition in the face of the Protestant Reformation which up till then had ovewhelmingly dominated Elizabethan religion and academic debate. As such it was an impressive effort by English Catholics to support the Counter-Reformation.

While doing some research for my last post I came across the 1989 Preface to the Douay Rheims which quotes from the 1582 version:

Sometimes the question is raised: Why translate from a translation (the Latin Vulgate) rather than from the original Greek and Hebrew? This question was also raised in the 16th century when the Douay-Rheims translators (Fr. Gregory Martin and his assistants) first published the Rheims New Testament. They gave ten reasons, ending up by stating that the Latin Vulgate "is not only better than all other Latin translations, but than the Greek text itself, in those places where they disagree." (Preface to the Rheims New Testament, 1582). They state that the Vulgate is "more pure than the Hebrew or Greek now extant" and that "the same Latin hath bene barre better conserved from corruption." (Preface to the Douay Old Testament, 1609).

(I believe that last phrase is suppose to read "the same Latin hath been far better conserved from corruption" based on the source below.)

I also came across an older version of the Douay-Rheims which includes what seems to be the original preface. If you go to page iv you will find the "ten reasons" that Whitaker referred to in the quote above. The preface is actually an interesting read. In addition to the love professed for the Vulgate, the Rheims authors seem to be conflicted at producing a vernacular version which every layperson could read (pg. iv):

(click to enlarge)

Part of the Old Testament preface can be found in Documents of the English Reformation starting on page 401. It's an interesting read also.

The Quotable Luther #10: Be Armed With Scripture

Therefore it is necessary for simple people to understand this passage and similar passages well and to contrast the pope’s rule with these statements when one wants to question and examine them. Then they can answer and say: “Thus Christ spoke and did. But the pope teaches and does the very opposite. Christ says yes. But the pope says no. Now because they are at loggerheads, one of them must surely be lying. Now Christ surely does not lie. Therefore I conclude that the pope is a liar and, in addition, is the real Antichrist.” Thus you must be so well armed with Scripture that you not only can call the pope an antichrist but know how to give clear proof of this, that you can confidently stake your life on this and prevail against the devil when you die.[LW 30:137]

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Thoughts on the Vulgate and Trent

James asked to me to post on the comment I left on his post Called to Communion, the Vulgate, and Calvin and since I haven't posted anything substantial in awhile I really wanted to try. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to provide extensive quotes to support my assertions so I have given this post the appropriate title of "My Thoughts..." as I am not an expert in this area but I have done some reading on the subject, specifically rereading some relevant material after James' excellent post.

Here is part of my original comment on James' post which I will try to elaborate on:

I am confused by the post at CTC.

I agree, it seems like the author has not taken the time to understand the time period when Calvin wrote his treatise and the confusion in Catholic circles at that time as to how to interpret the decree.

In briefly looking back through Jedin's two works on the Council (based on the Council diairies, tracts, letters, etc), Rome's response to the Vulgate decree published in 1546 had similar concerns to Calvin and interpreted the language of the decree as discouraging the use other texts. There was also confusion as to what Vulgate was being to referred to as there was more than one "Vulgate" in circulation. Also, within and outside the council there was debate as to whether the Vulgate(s) in use were authored by Jerome. So the decree was not as perspicuous as the CTC author seems to imply, and I think that was intentional on the part of the Council (b/c of all the disagreements around the issue).

In addition, the CTC author asserts "the council provides a way to achieve this reform in decreeing that a “thorough revision” of the Latin Bible is to be made" and yet there is no talk of a revision in the decree. A revision was discussed in the Council but it's inclusion into the final decree was purposely omitted.

...From the comments it appears that the CTC author has read one of Jedin's books so I am surprised by his conclusions. If anything, reading Jedin's work shows how much disagreement there was around the Vulgate and translation into vernacular languages as well as pushback from Rome - hardly authoritative nor consistent.

Here is the thing. I don't believe anything in the post at Called to Communion (CTC) is completely inaccurate, I just don't think it captures the "fullness of the truth". The author is telling a different version of a somewhat common tale of a Protestant convert to Roman Catholicism - "I thought that the Roman Catholic Church was this terrible organization that hated the bible but I found out She actually loves scripture and has preserved and declared them to us". In this particular story Calvin was partially blamed for perpetuating the idea that the Council of Trent had outlawed the use of scripture in the original languages by declaring the Vulgate authentic.

But here is where the CTC really missed the mark for me. When I read through material around some of the discussions during the Council of Trent's fourth session, I see a wide variety of strong opinions with no clear consensus. I see some politics and some reactionary behavior. I see some bishops who sound quite Protestant which by the way, doesn't help the "Luther was a novelty and a complete rebel" motto of some RCs today. What I do not see, which I think the CTC article portrays, is an authoritative meeting of the Roman Catholic hierarchy making clear and concise declarations of what the Church has always believed.

In both the Council of Trent and Papal Legate at The Council of Trent, Cardinal Seripando by Roman Catholic historian Hubert Jedin, some of the discussions during the Council around the Vulgate are covered as well as discussions around bibles in the vernacular. The Council of Trent had the opportunity to declare the bible in the original languages as authentic but chose not to (James covered this). They also chose not to acknowledge the known errors in the Vulgate although discussed (perhaps to avoid Protestant ridicule) and avoided the issue of vernacular bibles because the initial discussions were so heated and complicated since some countries had prohibitions against vernacular bibles already in place. These varying opinions and heated discussions ended in a decree that is a bit anemic because in the end it needed to pass a majority vote. Such a general decree leaves itself open to a wide variety of interpretations.

In fact, in reading through Jedin's chapters on this subject I was quite surprised to see that Rome (all decree drafts were sent to Rome for comment and approval) also had trouble interpreting the Council's decree regarding the Vulgate.

(click to enlarge)

- The Council of Trent by Hubert Jedin, pg. 94-95

The legates did respond to the criticism from Rome explaining their intentions however the decree was never revised. You have to wonder though - if Rome had trouble understanding the intent of the decree can you really blame Calvin or anyone else? In fact, an incidence many years later only further confuses the issue but that will have to be the subject of another post.

In the interest of post length let me get back to my overarching thought which is that history is not always the friend of RCism that some RCs seem to think. In reading the proceedings of the Council of Trent during the fourth session what I see is a bit of a mess. A bible edition with known errors is declared authentic with no mention of the errors, the exact nature of "the Vulgate" is unclear, and the authorship of the Vulgate is disputed. And that was just the stuff they could agree on.

Let me include a quote I used previously from Owen Chadwick's Catholicism and History concerning the publishing of the Council of Trent diaries after being locked in the Vatican Secret Archives for 300 years:

“Massarelli reported what was said. He recorded the differences of opinion, the follies as well as the wisdom of the speakers, the unedifying as well as the edifying. If Massarelli's diaries were published, the decisions of the Council of Trent, sacred in so many minds, would no longer appear the unchallenged expression of a common Catholic mind, but the end of hard-fought debates over nuances of expression. Only the result had authority, not the course of events or utterances which led to the result. The upholders of Pallavicino maintained that to publish Massarelli could do nothing but weaken the authority of the canons of Trent, as well as the official history by Pallavicino. This was particularly true of the early debates on scripture and tradition, the authority of scripture, and its canon. In the cold light of finality, the formulas look rigid against Protestants. Seen as the end of a long debate with differing opinions, the formulas have more nuance, more flexibility, than any Protestant hitherto supposed. The examining commission particularly objected to the minutes which Theiner proposed to publish, and had already in proof, of the debate on the canon of holy scripture. Thus the Dominican Father Tosa, lately an enthusiast, became the main speaker on the commission of enquiry, that to publish was dangerous, or harmful to the Church. He said emphatically that to print these minutes could hand weapons to Protestantism to attack the Catholic Church and the Council of Trent.”

If you are courting RCism then maybe you somehow overlook these issues. But this is not the unified authority that Catholic epologists have told me for years that I need to have certainty and avoid the Protestant chaos.

Pontiff Proposes Cure for Selfishness: The Eucharist

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2011 ( Benedict XVI says the Eucharist is the antidote to the individualism in which the West is immersed and which is spreading throughout the globe.

"The Eucharist is like the beating heart that gives life to the whole mystical body of the Church: a social organism entirely founded on the spiritual but concrete link with Christ," the Pope said today before reciting the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"Without the Eucharist the Church simply would not exist," he affirmed.

In Catholic theological anthropology, human nature is not selfish or sinful; human nature is good

Here's an entry that was provoked by a recent Called To Communion statement: "In Catholic theological anthropology, human nature is not selfish or sinful; human nature is good." Such a statement shouldn't be taken lightly. What exactly is meant? Are the CTC folks espousing Pelagianism?  Scott Hahn's Catholic Bible Dictionary does an adequate job of fleshing out this type of Romanist statement:

The phrase "Adam lost for himself and all succeeding generations the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace" should jump out immediately. Note the explanation given by A.A. Hodge:

17. What is the Romish doctrine with respect to thedona naturalia , and thedona supernaturalia ?

1st. They hold that God endowed man at his creation with the dona naturalia, that is, with all the natural constitutional powers and faculties of body and soul without sin, in perfect innocence. There was no vice or defect in either body or soul.

2nd. God duly attempered all these powers to one another, placing the lower in due subordination to the higher. This harmony of powers was called Justicia —natural righteousness.

3rd. There was, however, in the very nature of things, a natural tendency in the lower appetites and passions to rebel against the authority of the higher powers of reason and conscience. This tendency is not sin in itself; but becomes sin only when it is consented to by the will, and passes into voluntary action. This is concupiscence(a strong desire); not sin, but the fuel and occasion of sin.

4th. To prevent this natural tendency to disorder from the rebellion of the lower elements of the human constitution against the higher, God granted man the additional gift of the dona superanaturalia, or gifts extra constitutional. This is original righteousness, which was a foreign gift superadded to his constitution, by means of which his natural powers duly attempered are kept in due subjection and order. Some of their theologians held that these supernatural gifts were bestowed upon man immediately upon his creation, at the same time with his natural powers. The more prevalent and consistent view, however, is that it was given subsequently as a reward for the proper use of his natural powers see Moehler’s “Symbolism,” pp. 117, 118.

5th. Both the “justicia,” and the “dona supernaturalia ” were accidental or superadded properties of human nature, and were lost by the fall.

18. How does this doctrine modify their view as to original sin and the moral character of that concupiscence which remains in the regenerate?

They hold that man lost at the fall only the superadded gifts of “original righteousness” ( dona supernaturalia), while the proper nature of man itself, the dona naturalia, comprising all his constitutional faculties of reason, conscience, free will (in which they include “moral ability”), remain intact. Thus they make the effect of the fall upon man’s moral nature purely negative. The Reformers defined it “the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of the whole nature.”

Hence, also, they hold that concupiscence, or the tendency to rebellion of the lower against the higher powers remaining in the regenerate, being natural and incidental to the very constitution of human nature, is not of the nature of sin.

Luther wrote on the scholastic distinction between the naturalia (which remained after the Fall), and the donum superadditum of grace (which was withdrawn and had to be restored by God):

The scholastic statement that “the natural powers are unimpaired” is a horrible blasphemy, though it is even more horrible when they say the same about demons. If the natural powers are unimpaired, what need is there of Christ? If by nature man has good will; if he has true understanding to which, as they say, the will can naturally conform itself; what is it, then, that was lost in Paradise through sin and that had to be restored through the Son of God alone? Yet in our day, men who seem to be masters of theology defend the statement that the natural powers are unimpaired, that is, that the will is good. Even though through malice it occasionally wills and thinks something besides what is right and good, they attribute this to the malice of men, not to the will as it is in itself. The mind must be fortified against these dangerous opinions, lest the knowledge of grace be obscured; this cannot remain sound and right if we believe this way about the nature of man. Nor can this scholastic teaching be tolerated in the church: that man can keep the Law according to the substance of the act, but not according to the intention of Him who commanded it, since according to His intention not only the work is required, but also a disposition in the heart which is called grace. This would be just like saying that a man who is sound in hands and feet can properly do his job, except that he is hindered by not being dressed in black or white clothes. In exactly the same way they say that God requires something beyond the Decalog and is not satisfied when someone keeps the Decalog, but requires a right disposition as well. All these monstrosities have arisen from the fact that they do not rightly know the nature of sin. I have listed them to show the great difference between our sound doctrine and the monstrous and deceptive doctrine of the pope.[LW 12:308]

The scholastics argue that original righteousness was not a part of man’s nature but, like some adornment, was added to man as a gift, as when someone places a wreath on a pretty girl. The wreath is certainly not a part of the virgin’s nature; it is something apart from her nature. It came from outside and can be removed again without any injury to her nature. Therefore they maintain about man and about demons that although they have lost their original righteousness, their natural endowments have nevertheless remained pure, just as they were created in the beginning. But this idea must be shunned like poison, for it minimizes original sin.
Let us rather maintain that righteousness was not a gift which came from without, separate from man’s nature, but that it was truly part of his nature, so that it was Adam’s nature to love God, to believe God, to know God, etc. These things were just as natural for Adam as it is natural for the eyes to receive light. But because you may correctly say that nature has been damaged if you render an eye defective by inflicting a wound, so, after man has fallen from righteousness into sin, it is correct and truthful to say that our natural endowments are not perfect but are corrupted by sin. For just as it is the nature of the eye to see, so it was the nature of reason and will in Adam to know God, to trust God, and to fear God. Since it is a fact that this has now been lost, who is so foolish as to say that our natural endowments are still perfect? And yet nothing was more common and received more general acceptance in the schools than this thesis. But how much more foolish it is to make this assertion about the demons, about whom Christ says that they did not stand in the truth (John 8:44) and whom we know to be the bitterest enemies of Christ and of the church!

Therefore the perfect natural endowments in man were the knowledge of God, faith, fear, etc. These Satan has corrupted through sin; just as leprosy poisons the flesh, so the will and reason have become depraved through sin, and man not only does not love God any longer but flees from Him, hates Him, and desires to be and live without Him. [LW 1:164-165]

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Calvin's Only Letter to Luther

There is only one letter that John Calvin wrote to Martin Luther, and Luther never read it.

A helpful account of its circumstances can be found in Phillip Schaff's History of the Christian Church Vol. 8, pp. 610-614. Schaff refers to these circumstances as "Calvin and the Nicodemites."

A great practical difficulty presented itself to the Protestants in France, where they were in constant danger of persecution. They could not emigrate en masse, nor live in peace at home, without concealing or denying their convictions. A large number were Protestants at heart, but outwardly conformed to the Roman Church. They excused their conduct by the example of Nicodemus, the Jewish Rabbi, who came to Jesus by night.Calvin, therefore, called them "Nicodemites."


The Nicodemites charged Calvin with immoderate austerity. "Away with this Calvin! he is too impolite. He would reduce us to beggary, and lead us directly to the stake. Let him content himself with his own lot, and leave us in peace; or, let him come to us and show us how to behave.


The French Protestants were under the impression that Luther and Melanchthon had milder and more practicable views on this subject, and requested Calvin to proceed to Saxony for a personal conference.

Calvin didn't go to Wittenberg. Rather, he wrote to Melanchthon and Luther on January 20, 1545. Calvin's letter to Melanchthon can be found here.  Calvin seemed confident that Melanchthon would look the situation over fairly, despite their disagreements. Of the letter to Luther though, Calvin states:

With regard to Dr. Martin there will be somewhat more of difficulty. For so far as I could understand by report, and by letters from different persons, the scarcely pacified temper of the man might, on very slight occasion, break out into a sore. On that account, therefore the messenger will shew you the letter which I have written to him, that on examination of the contents, you may proceed as you think advisable, that nothing may be attempted therein either rashly or unadvisedly, which may hereafter produce unpleasant consequences. I am aware that you will do all that you can worthily accomplish to the utmost of your power, in every thing seemly and befitting.

Luther never saw the letter. Melanchthon  replied back:  " 'I have not shown your letter to Dr. Martin,' he replied to Calvin, April 17, 1545, 'for he takes many things suspiciously, and does not like his answers to questions of the kind you have proposed to him, to be carried round and handed from one to another.' " Schaff points out,

Melanchthon substantially agreed with Calvin; he asserts the duty of the Christian to worship God alone (Matt. 4:10), to flee from idols (1 John 5 : 21), and to profess Christ openly before men (Matt. 10: 83); but he took a somewhat milder view as regards compliance with mere ceremonies and non-essentials. Bucer and Peter Martyr agreed with this opinion. The latter refers to the conduct of the early disciples, who, while holding worship in private houses, still continued to visit the temple until they were driven out.


January 21, 1545.
To the very excellent pastor of the Christian Church, Dr. M. Luther, my much respected father,

When I saw that my French fellow-countrymen, as many of them as had been brought out from the darkness of the Papacy to soundness of the faith, had altered nothing as to their public profession, and that they continued to defile themselves with the sacrilegious worship of the Papists, as if they had never tasted the savor of true doctrine, I was altogether unable to restrain myself from reproving so great sloth and negligence, in the way that I thought it deserved. How, indeed, can this faith, which lies buried in the heart within, do otherwise than break forth in the confession of the faith? What kind of religion can that be, which lies submerged under seeming idolatry? I do not undertake, however, to handle the argument here, because I have done so at large already in two little tractates, wherein, if it shall not be troublesome to you to glance over them, you will more clearly perceive both what I think, and the reasons which have compelled me to form that opinion. By the reading of them, indeed, some of our people, while hitherto they were fast asleep in a false security, having been awakened, have begun to consider what they ought to do. But because it is difficult either casting aside all consideration of self, to expose their lives to danger, or having roused the displeasure of mankind, to encounter the hatred of the world, or having abandoned their prospects at home in their native land, to enter upon a life of voluntary exile, they are withheld or kept back by these difficulties from coming to a settled determination. They put forth other reasons, however, and those somewhat specious, whereby one may perceive that they only seek to find some sort of pretext or other. In these circumstances, because they hang somehow in suspense, they are desirous to hear your opinion, which as they do deservedly hold in reverence, so it shall serve greatly to confirm them. They have therefore requested me, that I would undertake to send a trusty messenger to you, who might report your answer to us upon this question. And because I thought it was of very great consequence for them to have the benefit of your authority, that they might not fluctuate thus continually, and I myself stood besides in need of it, I was unwilling to refuse what they required. Now, therefore, much respected father in the Lord, I beseech you by Christ, that you will not grudge to take the trouble for their sake and mine, first, that you would peruse the epistle written in their name, and my little books, cursorily and at leisure hours, or that you would request some one to take the trouble of reading, and report the substance of them to you. Lastly, that you would write back your opinion in a few words. Indeed, I am unwilling to give you this trouble in the midst of so many weighty and various employments; but such is your sense of justice, that you cannot suppose me to have done this unless compelled by the necessity of the case; I therefore trust that you will pardon me. Would that I could fly to you, that I might even for a few hours enjoy the happiness of your society; for I would prefer, and it would be far better, not only upon this question, but also about others, to converse personally with yourself; but seeing that it is not granted to us on earth, I hope that shortly it will come to pass in the kingdom of God.

Adieu, most renowned sir, most distinguished minister of Christ, and my ever-honored father. The Lord himself rule and direct you by his own Spirit, that you may persevere even unto the end, for the common benefit and good of his ownChurch.
— Yours, John Calvin.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Luther's Last Years, Revisited

Did Luther Regret the Reformation? Here's a follow-up which demonstrates (once again) how interesting it is to actually read sources in context. I recently came across the following citation from Richard Marius, The Christian Between God and Death on another blog:

His last years in Wittenberg were bitter. He was disappointed in the undisciplined lives of his congregation, and he raged at his audiences from the pulpit. Near the end of his life he threatened to leave the city altogether. . . . The Christian was moved by gratitude to God and sought to do good works not to win salvation but out of spontaneous love. Luther saw no evidence that his people in Wittenberg were so moved. In September 1545, only a few months before he died, Luther preached a long, rambling, and heartfelt sermon lambasting the Wittenbergers for adultery, greed, and the desires of the flesh. (Richard Marius, Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death, Harvard University Press, 2000, 466).

Marius says his underlying presuppositions to his study on Luther is “essentially non-religious.” From this perspective, he begins with the notion that “Luther represents a catastrophe in the history of Western civilization.” And, “…[W]hatever good Luther did is not matched by the calamities that came because of him” (p. xii) (Marius also lays part of the blame on the Catholic Church as well). Because the Reformation led to wars between Catholics and Protestants, the loss of life was a grave calamity of the Reformation. 

Here is the entirety of the paragraph from Marius:

What most intrigued me about this snippet is "In September 1545, only a few months before he died, Luther preached a long, rambling, and heartfelt sermon lambasting the Wittenbergers for adultery, greed, and the desires of the flesh" and also the citations from the sermon Marius offered.

The sermon actually isn't long. Marius cites WA 51 (in footnote 67-68). The sermon is only seven pages long, starting on page 50 and ending on page 57, with actually two different versions of the sermon running simultaneously on each page. The sermon isn't rambling either. It's about good works and warring against the flesh. The Christian is not condemned by the law, but still has a lifelong war against the flesh (the Biblical text preached is Galatians 5:16-24). the points raised follow consistently as Luther practically applies the Biblical text to this basic point. The only thing really missing is a concise conclusion to the sermon.

Nor was Luther "lambasting" his congregation for "adultery, greed, and the desires of the flesh." Rather, he was expounding on Galatians 5, stating Paul teaches "flesh and (Spirit) are so opposed to each other that you (can)not do (what you want to do) [Gal. 5:17]. The flesh hangs around my neck together with the old Adam , who fell in paradise (and inborn in us), whom we log about in this life and cannot be rid of until we are buried" [WA 51:51; LW 58:284].

True Luther expounds on particular vices, but not in any sort of "lambasting" way. For instance, Marius quotes Luther saying "those who continue in this "liberty of the flesh' will be damned" (WA 51:53). In  context, Luther states:

"Those who belong to Christ have crucified [the flesh with its passions and desires], etc." [Gal. 5:24].23 "This is what I mean;' [Paul says,] "when I say,`Do not give opportunity to the flesh. If you say, 'I want to do what my flesh leads me to do, [I say that] you ought not follow the desire [of the flesh]." Such is the case with avarice and usury, which may well tempt Christians, especially when need (and poverty befall together), etc. These are the thoughts of the Spirit: "Do not make the loaf too small, (give the right measure, merchandise, and meat, so that you can give an account before God. (For you should not overcharge anyone.)" (That is how the Spirit speaks in Christians.) (But) the flesh [thinks]: "Oh, what harm is a penny or a groschen, if I water down the beer;' and afterward he raises the price. Is that restraining and crucifying the desires? Rather, it is giving them opportunity (and quenching the Spirit).

It is on this account that you belong in the pit of hell. This is vice and sin, even though they dress it up, [saying], "I have a wife and children; they must be provided for." Beware! You are not deceiving God, but yourself [cf. Gal. 6:7]. This vice is characteristic of the old. [And the] squires from the nobility, what do they do? If the crops have done rather poorly, [they say], "Yes, but I must have my money." But is it right? "I do not care about that, [they say]. Much less do I! The Spirit says thus: "I will trust God; He possesses more than I have given up." If the flesh grumbles and says, "Take [what you can get], since things are scarce:' [say to the flesh]: "Not so, I must crucify you." This they do not do. For this reason, I fear that the entire nobility, from top to tail,belongs to the devil, because they have given themselves over to the flesh. And yet they still want to be (regarded as) upright (and thanked for it!) I have said and I have preached to you: "Woe to the avaricious and usurers! They do not belong in heaven, but hell, because they give the flesh free rein." (For they use their freedom for wickedness, and if they were able to snatch up every penny for themselves, [it would not be enough], etc.) Avaricious old men become fatter in belly and in purse (and yet cannot be satisfied). [WA 51:53; LW 58:286-287].
In Context, Luther is exhorting his congregation against avarice and usury most certainly, but note those being condemned by Luther: "I fear that the entire nobility, from top to tail,belongs to the devil, because they have given themselves over to the flesh."

Marius then describes the content of WA 51:55, "Many are baptized and yet are manifestly avaricious. Were such to come to receive the Eucharist from him, he said, he would not give it to them if he knew their faults. Even if they were dying he would not administer the sacrament to them but would tell them to call on God. 'If you die, I will give you to the crows. Let your sack of gold help you.' " In context Luther is describing a truly avaricious man whose "soul is dead, he is an enemy of God, he is condemned to hell.." [WA 51:53; LW 58:288]. Luther later continues:

Avarice cares nothing about heaven but takes gold [as its god]—[gold] must hold the honor and name of our Lord God. The [true] honor given to the Lord is that my heart clings to Him. Whoever trusts [Him] honors God and calls upon [Him] aright, so that I say [to Him]: "Merciful God, You are my God in poverty, wealth, death, need; in poverty and misery I place my confidence in You." The honor that belongs to God—to rely entirely upon God to satisfy [us] in times of need—this the avaricious man gives to the impotent gulden, because he trusts that so long [as] he has a sack full of guldens, etc., [all will be well]. [And when] the sack is not entirely full, he supposes: "If [only] I had enough money"—then he would be happy.

Thus, in the presence of God, the Church of Christ, and of the angels, every greedy person is called an idolater, who robs honor from God and gives it to money. In so doing, he is insolent and gay, but that is absolutely nothing at all, because his god is nothing at all. But is this not a disgraceful title? They are baptized and want to be Christians, and yet are openly avaricious. If I knew of someone like this in particular, he should not come to me for the Sacrament, as they [are accustomed to] do. When death came, I would not give him the Sacrament, but say, "Let your own god help you, who is mighty and strong; call on [your] land full of grain! If you die, I will give you to the ravens; let your sack full of guldens come to your aid! I deny you the grace of God." And if we do not do so—if we are aware—but instead keep silent and do not excommunicate him, then I become a participant in a sin that I myself did not commit. I should not be avaricious myself but should contend in the Spirit, and I should not connive at your avarice and thus go to hell [myself] on your account. You should not come to the Sacrament, and the prayer [of the congregation] will be of no avail to you [The avaricious man] makes avarice into idolatry. Images...  is the honor and praise that belongs to God. These are two examples. We feel the desires of the flesh, but must not consent to it, lest we follow [the desire] with the work. [Say,] "Not so, flesh, guldens! I must not be an idolater for your sake. Get out from the ground, grain; gold, get out of my purse. I will be your master." That is how the Spirit should speak [WA 51:54-55; LW 58:290-291].
The context of Luther's remarks present quite a different picture than that portrayed by Richard Marius. What a shame that bloggers who sift through secondary sources to make a point don't take the time to actually look up the primary material being cited from that secondary source. Scholars and historians can (and do) make mistakes. Sometimes they even mis-read a context.

The non-Perspicuity of Trent on the Latin Vulgate

ht: Joey Henry

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Vol. II (pp. 107-108)

The fourth point of difference concerns the authority due to the Latin Vulgate. On this subject the Council of Trent (Sess. 4), says: “Synodus considerans non parum utilitatis accedere posse Ecclesiæ Dei, si ex omnibus Latinis editionibus quæ circumferentur, sacrorum librorum, quænam pro authentica habenda sit, innotescat: statuit et declarat, ut hæc ipsa vetus et vulgata editio, quæ longo tot seculorum usu in ipsa Ecclesia probata est, in publicis lectionibus, disputationibus, prædicationibus et expositionibus pro authentica habeatur et nemo illam rejicere quovis prætextu audeat vel præsumat.” The meaning of this decree is a matter of dispute among Romanists themselves. Some of the more modern and liberal of their theologians say that the Council simply intended to determine which among several Latin versions was to be used in the service of the Church. They contend that it was not meant to forbid appeal to the original Scriptures, or to place the Vulgate on a par with them in authority. The earlier and stricter Romanists take the ground that the Synod did intend to forbid an appeal to the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, and to make the Vulgate the ultimate authority. The language of the Council seems to favor this interpretation. The Vulgate was to be used not only for the ordinary purposes of public instruction, but in all theological discussions, and in all works of exegesis.

Friday, June 24, 2011

John Eck on the Superiority of the Vulgate?

Here's one I'd love to track down:

When Eck himself, in a futile attempt to displace Luther's translation of the Bible, issued a German translation of the Vulgate, he stated expressly in his introduction that his was "from ancient times the one sung, read, used, and accepted by the Holy Latin Church, so that one need not concern himself how the text reads in Hebrew, Greek, or Chaldean" [Willem Jan Kooiman, Luther and the Bible (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961), p.78].
Eck was one of the leading Roman Catholic theologians of the sixteenth century, yet the majority of his writings remain in obscurity (I do though own one book by Eck, put out by.... a Protestant!). Perhaps maybe someone knows where to find Eck's introduction to his German translation of the Bible?

Addendum (ht: Carrie)

The Vulgate Blues

Here's another Called to Communion tidbit on the textual errors in the Latin Vulgate:

A reader might wonder how the Church could determine whether the text lacked errors pertaining to faith and morals. The Church determined this in the same way that she partially confirmed that she was receiving the correct books from God in the canon: by comparing the contents of those books to that which had been received by the other mode of revelation’s transmission, namely, Sacred Tradition. In this way, Tradition and Scripture purify and clarify each other’s transmission of the deposit of faith. The Vulgate, even with the scribal errors, said nothing which contradicted the faith. It was an adequate translation of Scripture even if its reading of this or that verse needed updating. This is a great benefit of the Catholic teaching concerning the unity of Scripture and Tradition, such that even if one part of Scripture is unclear due to manuscript variants, we will not lose anything essential to the Faith because of the transmission of the same Faith through Tradition.


In the first chapter of the Romans the translator calls Christ “the predestinated Son of God.” Those not acquainted with Greek are at a loss to explain this term, because, properly speaking, only things which do not yet exist are predestinated; whereas Christ is the eternal Son of God. There is no difficulty in the Greek word, which means “declared.” I have given one example. It were needless labor to give others. In one word, were this edict of the Council sanctioned, the simple effect would be, that the Fathers of Trent would make the world look with their eyes open, and yet not see the light presented to them.


The Latin Vulgate Version Only Controversy

A few days ago I posted some excerpts from William Whitaker's Disputations on Holy Scripture. One of the major arguments during his time period was over what exactly constituted the authentic text of Scripture. Whitaker states, "Our adversaries determine that the authentic scripture consists not in the Hebrew and Greek originals, but in the Vulgate Latin version. We, on the contrary side, say that the authentic and divinely-inspired scripture is not this Latin, but the Hebrew edition of the old Testament, and the Greek of the new."

Whitaker then states actual Roman Catholic arguments as espoused by Bellarmine in favor of the Vulgate Latin being the actual authentic text of the Scriptures: "He proposes his First argument in this form: For nearly a thousand years, that is, from the time of Gregory the Great, the whole Latin church hath made use of this Latin edition alone" (p. 135). Bellarmine goes on to make a number of arguments in favor of the Latin text, all responded to by Whitaker.

One of the arguments from Bellarmine that Whitaker examined bears a striking resembelance to today's "King James Only" controversy. Consider the following:

"The Third argument is this: The Hebrews had the authentic scripture in their own language, and the Greeks in theirs; that is, the old Testament in the Septuagint version, and the new Testament in the original. Therefore it is fit that the Latin church also should have the authentic scripture in its own language."

Whitaker responds,

I answer, first, by requiring to know in what sense it is that he makes the Septuagint version authentic. Is it in the same sense in which they make their Latin text authentic? If so, I deny its authenticity. For Augustine, who allowed most to the authority of the Septuagint version, yet thought that it should be corrected by the originals. But the papists contend that their Latin text is authentic of itself, and ought not to be tried by the text of the originals. Now in this sense no translation ever was, or could be, authentic. For translations of scripture are always to be brought back to the originals of scripture, received if they agree with those originals, and corrected if they do not. That scripture only, which the prophets, apostles, and evangelists wrote by inspiration of God, is in every way credible on its own account and authentic. Besides, if the Septuagint was formerly authentic, how did it become not authentic? At least in the Psalms it must continue authentic still, since they derive their Latin version of that book from no other source than the Greek of the Septuagint. Even in the other books too it must still be authentic, since it is plain from the commentaries of the Greek writers that it is the same now as it was formerly.

Secondly, I would fain know how this argument is consequential,—God willed his word and authentic scripture to be written in Hebrew and Greek; therefore also in Latin. The authentic originals of the scripture of the old Testament are extant in Hebrew, of the new in Greek. It no more follows from this that the Latin church ought to esteem its Latin version authentic, than that the French, or Italian, or Armenian churches should esteem their vernacular versions authentic. If he grant that each church should necessarily have authentic versions of its own, what are we to do if these versions should (as they easily may) disagree? Can they be all authentic, and yet disagree amongst themselves? But if he will not assign authentic versions to all churches, upon what grounds will he determine that a necessity, which he grants to exist in the Latin church, hath no place in others? Cannot the churches of the Greeks at the present day claim their version likewise as authentic?

Thirdly, I know not with what truth they call theirs the Latin church. For it does not now speak Latin, nor does any one among them understand Latin without learning that language from a master. Formerly it was, and was called, the Latin church. Now it is not Latin, and therefore cannot truly be so called, except upon the plea that, though not Latin, it absurdly uses a Latin religious service.

Melanchthon Misinterpreted Trent?

Here's another Called to Communion tidbit. This little nugget was buried in footnote #6-

When I was seeking Protestant sources and arguments to keep me from converting to Catholicism, I found that this misinterpretation came down to me from the very pen of John Calvin (6)

(6)Apparently Philip Melanchthon also misinterpreted Trent in the same way, but I have not found the source for this assertion.

So why mention Melanchthon? Without documentation, this is called "hearsay", or perhaps "myth".  It reminds me of the Melanchthon letter to Calvin myth that a Romanist source used to bring up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Family Radio: New Website, Camping Stroke Update, Math Prophecy Update



"What really happened this past May 21st ? What really happened is that God accomplished exactly what He wanted to happen. That was to warn the whole world that on May 21 God’s salvation program would be finished on that day. For the next five months, except for the elect (the true believers), the whole world is under God’s final judgment. To accomplish this goal God withheld from the true believers the way in which two phrases were to be understood. Had He not done so, the world would never have been shaken in fear as it was."

And also:

Harold Camping, the president and general manager of Family Radio, suffered a mild stroke on the evening of June 9, 2011. Mr. Camping is receiving excellent care, and the doctors treating him are encouraged with the progress that he is making. Mr. Camping's family appreciates everyone's thoughts and prayers. Any additional information will be updated on this site.

From another source:

"Mr. Camping has been moved to a Skilled Nursing Facility, where he is undergoing rehabilitation to regain his strength. Mr. and Mrs. Camping greatly appreciate all the cards, letters and flowers they have received, as well as your continuing thoughts and prayers. God has been very merciful."

Check out this bit of prophecy math:

As many of you are aware the five months period between May 21st and October 21st is 153 days. We find this number in the 4th gospel (John 21:6-11).


The 153 fish is described as “the multitude of fishes.” We’ve known for some time that this passage relates to the period of Great Tribulation that just finished on May 21st of 2011. These fish represented the “great multitude” that came out of Great Tribulation (see Revelation 7:9-14).

The number 153 breaks down into 9 x 17 or 3 x 3 x 17. The number three indicates it is God’s purpose (a biblical number is assigned meaning depending on how God uses it in the Bible). In this case, the number three is doubled indicating an even stronger emphasis upon the purpose of God concerning this great catch of fish (in other places the Lord makes sure we’re aware that fish typify men–for instance, Jesus told the disciples, “Behold, I will make you fishers of men”).

Seven Sacraments, Depending on Which Century

Here's another Called to Communion tidbit:

First, there are not two sacraments “ordained by Christ” but seven sacraments and this can be proved by the Sacred Scriptures alone.

Actually, it depends on which century:

There was no intention during early centuries to limit the number of sacraments to seven. Any ritual that celebrated a divine saving action was considered a mystery or sacrament: feasts days such as Easter and Pentecost, actions such as ritual washing of feet and imposition of blessed ashes, along with the more major ones we would come to know as "the seven." Some lists of sacraments were very short, others had as many as thirty. In the mid-13th century the number was finally set at seven. Other holy rituals came to be called sacramentals. [Greg Dues, Catholic Customs & Traditions (revised edition, 2007) (New London: Twenty-Third Publications, 2007)] pp.145-146].

"Only in the seventeenth century, when Latin influence was at its height, did this list [of seven sacraments] become fixed and definite. Before that date Orthodox writers vary considerably as to the number of sacraments: John of Damascus speaks of two; Dionysius the Areopagite of six; Joasaph, Metropolitan of Ephesus (fifteenth century), of ten; and those Byzantine theologians who in fact speak of seven sacraments differ as to the items which they include in their list. Even today the number seven has no particular dogmatic significance for Orthodox theology, but is used primarily as a convenience in teaching."Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), p. 275].

Called to Communion, the Vulgate, and Calvin

One of the latest blog entries from Called to Communion (CTC) is entitled Calvin, Trent, and the Vulgate: Misinterpreting the Fourth Session. The writer explains the "Reformed" popularly portray Trent as "enshrining the Vulgate" at the expense of Biblical linguistic research. Note the following excerpts:
Excerpt 1: When I first began to take interest in theology, and in Reformed theology in particular, during college, I learned the story of how the Catholic Church closed herself off to serious study of the Holy Bible at the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The act in question is the Council's enshrining the Vulgate, Jerome's Latin translation of Bible, in its first decree, which was adopted during the fourth session on April 8th, 1546... That the Catholic Church did such a thing only confirmed my predilection for the Reformed tradition.
Excerpt 2: Trent made it the official version in an astounding act of arrogance, locking her faithful up in the prison of ignorance about the Scriptures and thus about Christ. I believed this story as did several of my friends.
Excerpt 3: Everyone knew that the Vulgate had acquired errors that provided purportedly divine authorization for the Catholic view of justification, Purgatory, the penitential system, the veneration of Mary and the saints, and spurious sacraments such as confirmation and marriage. Trent made it the official version in an astounding act of arrogance, locking her faithful up in the prison of ignorance about the Scriptures and thus about Christ. I believed this story as did several of my friends.
The basic thrust of complaint is that Reformed Protestants say Trent's Vulgate decision was done in order to promote ignorance. Who exactly taught this? Which college taught this? Was it a Reformed college? The CTC blogger doesn't say, but does go on to locate the ultimate Reformed culprit, John Calvin:
The problem is that this story is a myth. It is a myth like the myth that the Catholic Church officially opposed the translation of Sacred Scripture into other vernacular languages in itself. When I was seeking Protestant sources and arguments to keep me from converting to Catholicism, I found that this misinterpretation came down to me from the very pen of John Calvin.
So it was none other than John Calvin that probably popularized the "myth" that Romanism officially authorized an inferior Latin translation of the Bible to be her "official" translation to keep her people ignorant.  CTC later states, "According to Calvin, Trent swept away the need for studying Greek and Hebrew in marking the Vulgate as the authentic text of the Church." According to CTC, the truth is that the decree of Trent "was above all aimed at standardizing the Latin text of the Bible for the Church, especially the Latin Rite." Trent's decree had nothing to do with keeping the Roman church ignorant. Rather, Trent simply wanted to standardize the Latin text.

It is quite true that there were problems with the Latin manuscripts during this period of history. William Whitaker's Disputations on Holy Scripture outlines this problem succinctly (see the discussion beginning on page 128). However, the notion that John Calvin perpetuated a Reformed (or Reformation) "myth" is not the case. Nor do I think CTC understands Calvin's actual arguments or the actual issues surrounding the Vulgate during this time period. 

CTC quotes Calvin's Antidote to the Council of Trent (1547). Henry Beveridge notes, "It is believed to be the earliest publication in which the proceedings of that body were fully and systematically reviewed." Calvin's introduction is dated November 21,1547. Take notice that it was only a short time previous (April 8, 1546) that Trent's Insuper decree stated:
Moreover, the same holy council considering that not a little advantage will accrue to the Church of God if it be made known which of all the Latin editions of the sacred books now in circulation is to be regarded as authentic, ordains and declares that the old Latin Vulgate Edition, which, in use for so many hundred years, has been approved by the Church, be in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions held as authentic, and that no one dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it.
John Steinmueller explains that this decree is commonly held to be a disciplinary Decree based upon the dogmatic fact that the Vulgate conforms substantially with the originals, and therefore contains no errors in faith and morals (John Steinmueller, S.T.D., S.Scr.L., A Companion to Scripture Studies (New York: Wagner, 1941), Volume I, General Introduction to the Bible, p. 186, n.13). When Trent picked the Old Latin Vulgate, she meant business. It appears in Trent's collective mind, the old Vulgate was at least faithful enough to serve the church as her official Bible. John Calvin died in 1564.  The actual revised Vulgate appeared in 1590. Therefore, throughout John Calvin's entire life, an inferior Bible translation was indeed the standard for Roman Catholicism. The Insuper decree is dated 1547. So it was actually 43 years later in which a new edition of the Vulgate came out, and even that translation was a mess (including an interesting subterfuge / cover up perpetuated by Bellarmine and Gregory XIV). The first Calvin quote utilized by CTC states:
But as the Hebrew or Greek original often serves to expose their ignorance in quoting Scripture, to check their presumption, and so keep down their thrasonic boasting, they ingeniously meet this difficulty also by determining that the Vulgate translation only is to be held authentic. Farewell, then, to those who have spent much time and labor in the study of languages, that they might search for the genuine sense of Scripture at the fountainhead!
According to CTC, here Calvin went beyond what Trent said: "Trent nowhere forbids the use of the original languages." There are though a few things that should jump out from this Calvin quote. The first is "Hebrew or Greek original" and secondly, "the Vulgate translation only is to be held authentic" and thirdly, the relationship of these two statements. Calvin's concern here is to protect the actual text of the Bible: the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. That is, if one wants to declare what the authentic text is, look no further than the Bible written its original tongue. But shouldn't it go without saying that the Hebrew and Greek texts are the authentic text of Scripture? Shouldn't it be assumed Trent held that the Hebrew and Greek were included among the authentic text? Actually, no. In David King's book Holy Scripture The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Volume 1 (Battle Ground: Christian Resources inc., 2001),  there is a fairly detailed discussion on Rome and the Latin Vulgate (pp. 162-169). Speaking on the proceedings at Trent, King states,
Cardinal Pacheco demanded that all other versions excepting the Vulgate be condemned, but this was largely rejected by the Tridentine Council. Cardinal Pole requested that the 'Hebrew and Greek originals' be included among the authentic text. This request was likewise rejected (p.162).
In laying out the points of Trent, Calvin states in the Antidote, "Thirdly, repudiating all other versions whatsoever, they retain the Vulgate only, and order it to be authentic." He later goes on to state, "What! are they not ashamed to make the Vulgate version of the New Testament authoritative, while the writings of Valla, Faber, and Erasmus, which are in everybody's hands, demonstrate with the finger, even to children, that it is vitiated in innumerable places?" Calvin's concern is that Trent picked a severely handicapped and inferior translation as the official Bible of the church. The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin points out, "Calvin was furthermore disappointed that instead of going to the original Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible, it chose the Latin Vulgate as the authoritative version."

William Whitaker also provides an interesting look at this period in history verifying Calvin's concern. One of the major arguments during this time period was over what exactly constituted the authentic text of Scripture. Whitaker states, "Our adversaries determine that the authentic scripture consists not in the Hebrew and Greek originals, but in the Vulgate Latin version. We, on the contrary side, say that the authentic and divinely-inspired scripture is not this Latin, but the Hebrew edition of the old Testament, and the Greek of the new." Whitaker then states actual Roman Catholic arguments as espoused by Bellarmine in favor of the Vulgate Latin being the actual authentic text of the Scriptures: "He proposes his First argument in this form: For nearly a thousand years, that is, from the time of Gregory the Great, the whole Latin church hath made use of this Latin edition alone" (p. 135). Bellarmine goes on to make a number of arguments in favor of the Latin text, all responded to by Whitaker.  Whitaker also documents that it simply wasn't Bellarmine arguing for the Latin Vulgate:
Certain English popish divines, who have taken up their abode in the seminary of Rheims, some years since translated the new Testament into the English tongue, not from the Greek text, but from the old Latin Vulgate. In order to persuade us of the wisdom and prudence of this proceeding, they produce in their preface ten reasons to prove that this Latin Vulgate edition is to be followed in all things rather than the Greek (p.141).
These "popish divines" went on to argue that "The sacred council of Trent, for these and many other very weighty reasons, hath defined this alone of all Latin translations to be authentic" (p.143). Whitaker raises some interesting objections, noting that even at the time Trent spoke, what she said was open to interpretation:
I answer: In the first place, that Tridentine Synod hath no authority with us. Secondly, What right had it to define this? Thirdly, It hath proposed no grounds of this decree, except this only, -that that edition had been for a long time received in the church; which reason, at least, every one must perceive to be unworthy of such great divines. Fourthly, I desire to know whether the council of Trent only commanded this Latin edition to be considered the authentic one amongst Latin editions, or determined it to be absolutely authentic? For if it only preferred this one to other Latin translations, that could be no reason to justify the Rhemists in not making their version of the new Testament from the Greek; since the council of Trent prefers this, not to the Greek edition, but to other Latin translations. Do they, then, make both this Latin and that Greek edition authentic, or this Latin only? Indeed, they express themselves in such a manner as not to deny the authenticity of the Greek, while nevertheless they really hold no edition of either old or new Testament authentic, save this Latin Vulgate only. This is the judgment of these Rhemists who have translated the new Testament from the Latin; and this the Jesuits defend most strenuously, maintaining that, where the Latin differs from the Greek or Hebrew, we should hold by the Latin rather than the Greek or Hebrew copies. And it is certain that this is now the received opinion of the papists (p.143).
So one of the main arguments during this time period was: what exactly constituted the authentic text of the Bible? Whitaker's entire discussion is a worthy read. I wonder if the CTC author even had this basic text during the years he claims to have been "Reformed." When dealing with history Roman Catholic converts are often prone to look down from their current perspective and chastise someone (like John Calvin) without at least trying to understand what informed his perspective in the first place. There is indeed "myth" going on here, but it isn't from Calvin's hand. Rather, I think CTC has missed Calvin's main concern and also engaged in a bit of anachronism.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Gospel According to Mark: "The Amazing Jesus"

John MacArthur recently preached from Mark 16:8-20, , making it the last sermon in his 43 year ministry in which he has preached all the way through the New Testament, verse by verse, book by book; a great model for expository preaching. (exposing the meaning of the text, in its context, preaching through each book from beginning to end, verse by verse, chapter by chapter.) I highly recommend his other sermons, all available there at

He gives a good summary of the confidence we have from all the many extant Greek manuscripts that we do have about the Bible, specifically focusing on the New Testament; and by comparing all of them, we can tell where a scribe made an error or added something in (as in Mark 16:9-20; I John 5:7-8 (KJV) - "the Comma Johannine"). No textual variant affects any doctrine in the word of God, the Scriptures.

A good introductory book on the reliability on the NT is F. F. Bruce's The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? He answers yes.

"I like Mark's ending!" John MacArthur (speaking on verse 8, where the women are amazed, trembling, astonished, and afraid at the empty tomb and the resurrection and what the angel said to them.)

Verses 5-8 are key, and include the amazement, the crucifixion, the empty tomb, and the angel's statement: "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him."

Whatever criticism Muslims and skeptics and atheists have about Mark 16:9-20, the crucifixion and the resurrection are still affirmed as true, even without verse 9-20. Chapter 15 - Crucifixion, 16:1-8 - Empty Tomb, resurrection, women who are eyewitnesses of the empty tomb. "He has been crucified." This is historical fact. The Qur'an has that embarrassing verse of 4:157 of denying historical fact.

MacArthur has a great approach to handling the long version of Mark, 16:9-20, and that this section is not in the oldest extant Greek manuscripts. He shows how verses 9-20 were cobbled together from the other 3 gospels and Acts, and added onto Mark.

v. 9 - summary from Luke 8:1-3
v. 10 - from John 20:18
v. 12 - summary from Luke 24:13-32
v. 13 - from Luke 24:36-38
v. 15 - summary from Matthew 28:19
v. 16 - different way of saying John 20:23
v. 17-18 - from Luke 10, Matthew 10, tongues in the book of Acts, and Acts 28:3-6 (God protected Paul from the harm of the snake bite; but there is no text of anyone drinking poison as in Mark 16; and there is no command to pick up snakes in a worship service context as they do in some churches in the Appalachian Mountains of USA. )

I would add this about the summary of verse 19. McArthur points out that Irenaeus quoted Mark 16:19 around 180-200 AD.

v. 19 - John 20:17; Luke 24:51; Acts chapter 1; Luke 22:69; Acts 7:55 ff; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; I Peter 3:22; Psalm 110:1)

MacArthur focused on verse 8, the Amazement, astonishment, fear, and being astounded all through the book of Mark: (which points to the probability that that was Mark's real ending.)
Mark 1:22
Mark 1:27
Mark 2:12
Mark 4:41
Mark 5:15
Mark 5:33
Mark 5:42
Mark 6:51
Mark 9:6
Mark 9:15
Mark 9:32
Mark 10:24
Mark 10:32
Mark 11:18
Mark 12:17
Mark 15:5
Mark 16:5
Mark 16:8

MacArthur ends with joyful exuberance quoting from the hymn: (text and music by Charles H. Gabriel)

"I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean! O How wonderful, O How marvelous, and my song shall ever be, O How wonderful, O How marvelous, is my Savior's love for me!"

Indeed, Jesus is Amazing!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Calvin on How Far to Speculate on Predestination

James, good morning. I need a reference for a quote from Calvin. He said something like, "Where God has stopped speaking, we should also stop speaking." In other words, don't try to pry into areas where God has not revealed any information. Where can I find this quote from Calvin? Thanks.

See Calvin's comment on Romans 9:14

14. What then shall we say? etc. The flesh cannot hear of this wisdom of God without being instantly disturbed by numberless questions, and without attempting in a manner to call God to an account. We hence find that the Apostle, whenever he treats of some high mystery, obviates the many absurdities by which he knew the minds of men would be otherwise possessed; for when men hear anything of what Scripture teaches respecting predestination, they are especially entangled with very many impediments.

The predestination of God is indeed in reality a labyrinth, from which the mind of man can by no means extricate itself: but so unreasonable is the curiosity of man, that the more perilous the examination of a subject is, the more boldly he proceeds; so that when predestination is discussed, as he cannot restrain himself within due limits, he immediately, through his rashness, plunges himself, as it were, into the depth of the sea. What remedy then is there for the godly? Must they avoid every thought of predestination? By no means: for as the Holy Spirit has taught us nothing but what it behoves us to know, the knowledge of this would no doubt be useful, provided it be confined to the word of God. Let this then be our sacred rule, to seek to know nothing concerning it, except what Scripture teaches us: when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther. But as we are men, to whom foolish questions naturally occur, let us hear from Paul how they are to be met.