‗Our conviction of the truth of Scripture‘:
―Because they come from the Holy Spirit, the sacred writings cannot contain error.‖-Augustine
―The Bible alone is the Book of God‖ – Bishop John Charles Ryle
―We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God‖ - National Association of Evangelicals (U.S.A.)
“Protestantism, for which only Scripture is infallible‖ – Protopresbyter John Romanides
―If the Bible were not true, then on what did Protestantism, the religion of sola scriptura, rest?‖ - George M. Marsden
“Have we then, no security that the facts of Scripture history are literally and precisely true?‖ – James Anthony Froude
―It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."- Mark Twain






N.B.: American spelling used in quotations has not been anglicised.
This paper is dedicated with deep gratitude and appreciation to the Very Revd. Protopresbyter Ian Graham, who patiently instructed me into the Holy
Orthodox Church, receiving me by chrismation and is now my Parish Priest and Spiritual Director.
Eternal memory to 3 priests born in 1921 that it was my privilege to know: Canon John Fenton, Monsignor Graham Leonard and Dr. John Stott.
I have deliberately confined myself largely to conservative evangelical Protestantism and the mainstream of authentic voices within Anglicanism,
Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, thereby excluding more liberal and critical approaches to Biblical studies and hermeneutics, otherwise this paper
would have needed to be much longer.


―God was incarnate in a man, not a book‖ (O‘Donovan, p. 50)
John Charles Ryle, the great evangelical first Bishop of Liverpool, wrote in 1877: ―Men may easily make an idol of the
Church, of ministers, of sacraments, or of intellect. Men cannot make an idol of the Word‖ (p. 53). In ‗Fundamentalism
and the Church of God‘, Father Gabriel Hebert defined an idol as standing for ―anything which a man worships instead of
God, anything which a man makes or finds for himself to spend his life for‖. Idolatry means ―not worshipping the God
that actually exists, but some substitute for Him which is to hand‖. Hebert asserted that ―our Christianity is beclouded by
many sorts of idolatry‖. ―As there can be idolatry of the Eucharistic sacrament and of the Church, so there can be
Bibliolatry, Idolatry of the Bible‖ (pp. 133, 146, 138).
I remember, 40 years ago, as a theology student, hearing the charismatic Baptist minister David Pawson for the first time.
He remarked that whereas some Roman Catholics had a Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and the Blessed Virgin
Mary, some evangelicals had one of God the Father, God the Son and the Blessed Holy Scriptures. While his comment
related to what charismatics then perceived as an evangelical lack of emphasis on the Holy Spirit, this accusation of
bibliolatry clearly hit another raw nerve.
In a recent article, Dr. Michael Ovey, the Principal of Oak Hill Theological College defended the conservative
Evangelical position for ‗Reform‘. He maintained that evangelicals never said that the Bible was the same as God, but
―that the Bible has its origin in God: it is God‘s expression of his thoughts and will‖ and ―has a unique place‖. Thus
―there is a relation between the Bible‘s authority and who God is...” and that for evangelicals is why they stress the
Bible‘s final authority. To deny that authority is to deny ―that God is knowing, sovereign and good, or that Jesus was
right about the Bible originating with God.‖
From the outset, it should be noted that there are clear differences between American Protestant fundamentalism and
mainstream (especially British) evangelicalism. For the latter, my former principal at London Bible College and General
Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance, Gilbert Kirby, cautioned against writing off ―as not being Christians those who
cannot fully accept the inerrancy of the Bible‖ (p.8). The Evangelical Alliance in Britain had protested against ―the
fundamentalist who demands uniformity and denies the right of private judgment‖ and insisted that the E.A. sought to
―maintain evangelical faith, but not with a shut mind‖ (Randall & Hilborn, p.190). Nevertheless, in what follows, it needs
to be constantly remembered that that fundamentalism is ―an historical movement closely related to evangelicalism‖
(Harris: p. 1), which in turn is itself deeply rooted in the Protestant Reformation. For those who are familiar with the
distinction made by James Barr, this paper relates to the primarily ‗Anglo-Saxon‘ evangelical fundamentalism rather than
that which has been derived from the Continental Reformation, which is rooted ―in traditional denominational
orthodoxies of the seventeenth centuries‖ (2002: p. 66), as they were exported to America.
In a lecture delivered in South Africa in 1979, James Barr sought to ‗summarize a few aspects‘ of the topic he had
covered in ‗Fundamentalism‘, his seminal book of 1977. For him, fundamentalism was not thinking that the Bible should
be the final ‗absolute controlling authority‘ for Christians. It begins when that authority of the Bible ―is tied to its
infallibility and in particular its historical inerrancy‖ to affirm ―something like a general perfection of scripture‖ (2002: p.
65). ―Fundamentalist interpretation concentrates not on taking the Bible literally, but on taking it so that it will appear
inerrant, without error in fact‖ (2002: p. 77), thus ―it has evaded the natural and literal sense of the Bible in order to
imprison it within a particular tradition of human interpretation‖ (2002: p. 79). According to Fr. John Breck,

fundamentalism rejects ―all critical methodology in a well-meaning but misguided attempt to preserve the text in
conformity with some dogmatic presupposition foreign to it, such as verbal inerrancy‖ (2001: p. 21).
Characteristically Richard Dawkins was scathing against religious fundamentalism in ‗The God Delusion‘.
―Fundamentalists know that they are right because they have read the truth in a holy book‖. They cannot be budged from
that belief. ―The truth of the holy book is an axiom‖ rather than the result of reasoning. Seemingly contradictory evidence
―must be thrown out, not the book‖ (p. 319). However, Dawkins has also been labelled a fundamentalist. Alister McGrath
portrayed Dawkins as an atheistic fundamentalist, who has shown ―little interest in engaging with religious believers‖,
but prefers to flagrantly misrepresent them. In his personal crusading for Darwinism Dawkins has been robust in his
atheism. For him science and religion are ultimately incompatible. ―Little wonder that many Darwinians have expressed
alarm at this attempt to brand the outlook as atheist‖. According to McGrath, Dawkins has not extinguished religious
fundamentalism but merely replicated its vices through his own deeply flawed atheist fundamentalism. McGrath believed
that there were ―better ways to deal with religious fundamentalism. Dawkins is part of the problem here, not its solution‖
(2007: pp. xiii, 25). In a more popular vein, Quentin Letts remarked that Dawkins ―proselytises against the proselytisers‖
and is ―dialectically as immovable as any mullah ... the suave ayatollah of atheism‖ (p. 92).
―A fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry about something. That is simple and fairly accurate‖ (Marsden: p.1).
―The fundamental theological feature of modern fundamentalisms which are religious‖, asserted Professor Martin E.
Marty, ―is oppositionialism‖ and ―what they possess distinctively is a peculiar form of oppositionialism‖ (Küng and
Moltmann, p.1). It has become a ―religion of rage ... rooted in fear‖ and its adherents are ―battling against forces that
threaten their most sacred values‖ (Armstrong: pp.216, xviii). The record of American fundamentalism confirms that, as
well as ―its militant exclusivism‖ (Miroslav Volf in Küng and Moltmann, p.96), fundamentalism ―is essentially a revolt
against modernity‖ (Wallis, p. 66). Thus ―an American fundamentalist is an evangelical who is militant in opposition to
liberal theology in the churches or to changes in culture or mores‖ (Marsden: p.1). In more recent times that has been
graphically demonstrated by the New Christian Right (NCR). Jerry Falwell, when asked by Pat Robertson who was to
blame for 11 September 2001, listed those who had ―tried to secularize America‖ including ―the pagans and the
abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians‖. His words were greeted by Robertson with frequent
―amens‖ (Singh: p. 421).
―Fundamentalists were provoked into campaigning by the cultural and social forces that reminded them of their
marginality‖ (idem, p. 415). Jim Wallis in his book ‗God‘s Politics‘, published in 2005, sought to express a carefully
measured response to the politicised fundamentalism of the New Right. In a perceptive passage, Wallis addressed this in
the context of all three religions of ‗the book‘ and of the events of September 11
2001, which had needed a preceding
shift or turn in fundamentalism – ―to theocracy, to violence and to the reach for power‖. Wallis argued that the
conventional wisdom that ―the antidote to religious fundamentalism is more secularism‖ was a ―very big mistake‖. ―The
best response to bad religion is better religion, not secularism‖ and that meant better interpretations of the sacred texts.
Better interpretations were ―a much more effective response to fundamentalism than throwing the book away‖.
Furthermore the answer to fundamentalism is not to take religion less seriously but ―more seriously than fundamentalism
does. The best critique of fundamentalism comes from faith ... It is faith that leads us to assert the vital religious
commitments that fundamentalists often leave out‖ (pp. 66-7).
Wallis sees those ignored religious commitments in the socio-economic sphere and especially in the eradication of global
poverty and the narrowing of the disparities between the developed, developing and under-developed countries. Here he

touches the heart of the political matter, for the alliance of American fundamentalism with New Right Republicanism has
meant an almost total neglect of these central dimensions of the social teaching of the Christian faith, manifest clearly in
the writings of the prophets and confirmed by Dominical imperatives. However the fundamentalists‘ concentration on
moral crusades and the assumed ‗moral majority‘ has, however badly and simplistically presented, demonstrated an
aspect of Christian witness to a secularising society severely compromised by liberal Christianity and, I would argue,
particularly by E.C.U.S.A. Here two examples will suffice: its promotion of homosexuality as an acceptable way of life
even in the priesthood and episcopate; and its failure to provide a clear ethical stand against abortion in any way
comparable to that of the Roman Catholic Church. On the latter issue, bitter feuding has broken out ―between ‗pro-
choice‘ and ‗pro-life‘ advocates. Fundamentalist positions leave little or no room for compromise between those who feel
most strongly on the issue, making it one of the most divisive in American politics‖ (Grant: p. 158). Wolfhart Pannenberg
predicted in 1994 that the mainline Protestant churches were ―in acute danger of disappearing if they continue neither to
resist the spirit of progressively secular culture nor to try to transform it‖ (p. 23).
The traditional Catholic and Orthodox Christian can find some common ground with conservative evangelicals in
witnessing to the unchanging absolutes of Divine Revelation, as expressed unequivocally in these words of St. Theophan
the Recluse. ―Christianity must remain eternally unchanging, in no way being dependent on or guided by the spirit of
each age. Instead, Christianity is meant to govern and direct the spirit of the age for anyone who obeys its teachings‖.
Certainly we need to witness to our contemporary culture as those ―in the world‖ , but as we are ‗sojourners‘ and not ‗of‘
it, then we are called to be lights that blaze from the peak of the hilltop, ―so shining before men‖, and salt that is full of
distinctive flavour (St. Matthew 5: 13-16). Secularisation and relativism are closely interrelated. ―With the secularized
state goes the amoral state of which Machiavelli was the prophet‖ (Cooper: p. 20).

David Bebbington sought to answer a common assumption that evangelicals are to be equated with fundamentalists. Self-
professed fundamentalism ―never developed into a major force‖ in Britain. Throughout the nineteenth century and the
first half of the last century, Bebbington maintained, it was accepted that ―the Bible contains some mistakes about
inessentials‖. Evangelicals ―have never been uniformly marked by fundamentalist attitudes. The two terms are far from
synonymous‖ (Brady & Rowdon: pp. 41-2).
I first met John Stott in 1968 and spoke with him last in 1999, when his ‗Evangelical Truth‘ had just come out in its first
edition. In it he wished to inform his readers ―with clarity and conviction, that the great majority of evangelicals (at least
in Europe) repudiate the ‗fundamentalist‘ label, because they disagree with many self-styled fundamentalists at a number
of important points‖. Three of those ten points related directly to Scripture. Some fundamentalists ―are characterized by
an excessive literalism‖. They uphold ―a somewhat mechanical process‖ of Biblical inspiration, which ―as having been
dictated by God, resembles the Muslim view of the Qur‘an‖. Thirdly they ―ignore the cultural chasm which yawns
between the biblical world and the contemporary world‖ and ―apply the text directly to themselves as if it was primarily
written for themselves‖ (2003 a: pp.20-22). In his pamphlet ‗Fundamentalism and Evangelism‘ (1956), Stott had
addressed these points more fully. ―Pens and Dictaphones are lifeless instruments; the Biblical authors were living
agents. This is plain from any superficial reading of the Bible. The literary style of the writers is different, and their
theological emphasis is different and individual‖. In ‗Understanding the Bible‘, Stott clarified his position in stating that
―Scripture is equally the word of God and the word of human beings‖. This ‗dual authorship‘ meant that God revealed his
truth ―preserving the human authors preserved from error, yet without violating their personality‖. They were ―actively
engaged in historical research, theological reflection and literary composition. ... Divine inspiration did not dispense with

human cooperation, or iron out the peculiar contributions of the authors‖ (1992; P. 168). Men spoke – ―using their own
faculties freely, yet without distorting the divine message. Their words were their own words‖. God spoke - ―they were
(and still are) God‘s words‖ (2003 b.: p. 147). ―Scripture is equally the Word of God and the words of human beings.
Better still, it is the Word of God through the words of human beings‖ (1992: p. 169).
In these, though not in other, affirmations the Anglican Stott were more akin to the modern Roman Catholic
understanding of inspiration than to that of the strict fundamentalist. In its Dogmatic Constitution, ‗Dei Verbum‘, the
Second Vatican Council made this plain.
―Those things revealed by God which are contained and presented in the text of holy scripture were written under the influence of the Holy Spirit. ... In
the process of composition of the sacred books God chose and employed human agents, using their own powers and faculties, in such a way that wrote
authors in the true sense, and yet God acted in and through them, directing the content entirely and solely as he willed‖ (Tanner, 1990: pp. 975-6).
According to Chadwick, Augustine had great respect for the words of the Bible but denied that inspiration meant that the
words were not human but were ―expressed in language accommodated to human capacity. But within these human
words man hears the word of God‖ (2009: p. 48). The Anglican Newman commented: ―Though the Bible be inspired, it
has also the characteristics as might attach to a book uninspired, - the characteristics of dialect and style, the distinct
effects of times and places, youth and age, of moral and intellectual character; and I insist on this ... that in spite of its
human form, it has in it the spirit and the mind of God‖ (‗Tracts for the Times‘, No. 85; cited in Staley, p. 311).
Fr. Thomas Hopko explained the position of the Orthodox Church. Although all words are human, God inspired those
human words ―to be written in order to remain as the scriptural witness to Himself. As human words, the words of the
Bible contain all of the marks of the men who wrote them, and of the time and the culture in which they were written.
Nevertheless, in the full integrity of their human condition and form, the words of the Bible are truly the very Word of
God‖. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware was emphatic that every book in the Bible ―reflects the outlook of the age in which it
was written and the particular viewpoint of the author‖. God enhances our personhood and ―Divine grace co-operates
with human freedom‖ so that each Scriptural writer ―was not a passive instrument, a flute played by the Spirit, a dictation
machine recording a message‖ (O.S.B., p. 1758). Fr. John Breck rejected ―a crude biblical literalism which holds that the
words of Scripture were dictated by the Holy Spirit‖ for there was ―an authentic co-operation between the Spirit and the
biblical author‖ (p.111).
Of the patristic period, Archbishop Michael Ramsey maintained that ―the Fathers pleaded for leaving room for the
rationality, the human volition, the thought and literary methods of the individual writers of scripture. While, however,
the problems posed by Divine Inspiration and the writer‘s human freedom were realised, there was no effort to probe
them deeply‖ (p. 15). On this final point, J.N.D. Kelly concurred that the majority of the fathers ―were content to accept
the fact of the inspiration of the sacred writers, without examining further the manner or the degree of its impact upon
them‖ (p. 64). Frances Young wrote of Origen, the father of biblical scholarship and exegesis, that he ―begins with the
presumption of the divine inspiration of Scripture and the fulfilment of prophecy in Jesus Christ, yet notes there are
difficulties in interpretation‖ (Evans, p. 30). For Origen, the ‗certain and undoubted credibility‘ of the Scriptures made it
necessary to provide evidence of the inspiration of the divine scriptures by the Spirit of God, which for him extended
‗through the entire body of sacred Scripture‘ (Booth: pp. 38-42).

Jim Packer‘s seminal work ‗Fundamentalism and the Word of God‘ appeared two years after John Stott‘s pamphlet,
which he commended, and sought to clarify terminology and offer a fuller response to the critics of ―Fundamentalism‖.
Packer‘s ―doctrine of scripture was heavily influenced by Warfield‖ (Harris: p. 51). He also shared his Calvinism and
was in many ways much closer to his American co-religionists. Harris credits him with securing a renewed prominence
of the Old Princeton school, citing Mark Noll‘s description of this book as ―the most intelligent reassertion of biblical
inerrancy since Warfield and Hodge‖ (pp. 51-2).
Packer primarily had in his sights Fr. Gabriel Hebert‘s ‗Fundamentalism and the Church of God‘, published by S.C.M. in
1957, which Brian Stanley has described as ―eirenic in tone‖. Stanley accused Packer of being ―abrupt in his dismissal of
Hebert‘s arguments‖. Indeed there were some blurring of the distinctions between Fundamentalism and conservative
evangelicalism, but Father Hebert‘s general tone was conciliatory and his approach to the topic was careful. There was no
intention on his part to be offensive and he even found points several points of agreement and some grounds for praise
and appreciation for the Fundamentalists themselves. What Hebert objected to was the need that the unity of the church
around the gospel should be conditional on acceptance of biblical inerrancy and a particular understanding and
experience of ‗conversion‘. He endorsed Dr. Ramsey‘s condemnation of the fundamentalist message that required that
the mind be stifled or ignored and an appeal to ―less than the whole man‖.
Packer‘s approach was to emphasise the considerable degree of agreement between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists
and only to consider the differences within that context. He lashed out at the anti-fundamentalists for their
misrepresentations and misinterpretations and their ‗false analysis‘. Packer found himself in considerable agreement with
Gresham Machen and pointed out that was not really a ‗fundamentalist‘, a nomenclature that Machen rejected for
himself. Packer found common ground in the fundamentalist offensive against theological liberalism. ―A sound spiritual
instinct guided them, and we should thank God for the tenacity with which they held their ground‖ (p.37). Packer offered
three curious reasons why Evangelicals were rejecting the label ‗fundamentalist‘. None of them were essentially
doctrinal. Firstly, it was ―a word that combines the vaguest conceptual meaning with the strongest emotional flavour ... a
term of ecclesiastical abuse, a theological swear-word‖. History has demonstrated that ―the use of vague prejudicial
labels ... rules out the very possibility of charitable and constructive discussion‖ and that therefore they should be
―rigorously eschewed‖. Secondly, ―the name suggests Evangelicalism at something less than its best‖. American
fundamentalism ―lacked theological energy and concern for Christian learning. It grew intellectually barren. Culture
became suspect... The fundamentalist episode has not been a happy chapter in the history of Evangelicalism‖ (pp. 30 -
32). The third reason is somewhat bewildering to those of Catholic and Orthodox persuasions as it only makes sense if
your view of church history really begins with the Protestant Reformation, or follows some old Evangelical church
histories in an inexplicable long jump from Augustine to Luther. As Khomiakov rightly maintained, Protestants
―acknowledge an interruption of ecclesiastical tradition for several centuries‖ (Schmemann, 1977: p.41). Nevertheless
Packer rejected the fundamentalist label because of the term‘s modernity for it ―derives from a modern controversy ... just
one ‗ism‘ among many that our age has thrown up‖. In contrast Evangelicalism is held up because it is not merely ―the
oldest version of Christianity... it is just apostolic Christianity‖.
The adjective ‗evangelical‘ was first used in relation to Lutheranism in 1531 and as synonymous with ‗Protestant‘ a year
later, however it soon became restricted to Lutheranism in contrast to the ‗Reformed‘ and Calvinism. As applied to the
usage that Packer employs the adjective was first used only from 1791 and as a noun from 1804, possibly originally as a
nickname. While historians of the movement date it from the 1730s, the term ‗Evangelicalism‘ may have been used for

the first time as late as 1831. This in terms of two millennia is not very long and that usage is by its nature partisan and
sectarian. One is reminded of Newman‘s assertion. ―Whatever be historical Christianity, it is not Protestantism. If ever
there was a safe truth, it is this... This is shown in the determination already referred to, of dispensing with historical
Christianity altogether, and of forming Christianity from the Bible alone‖ (p. 72). Protestantism may claim some return to
primitive Christianity but it does so as a movement begun in the sixteenth century. Historically it started as a schismatic
movement within the Church of Western Europe and was largely confined as such to its Northern countries. According to
Herbert Butterfield, once it appeared two things happened. ―Protestantism was the subject of rapid historical change from
the very moment of its birth. It was quickly transformed into something which its original leaders would scarcely have
recognised‖ (p. 54). Secondly it ―broke up into more divisions and parties than its original leaders would have liked to
see‖ (p. 85). In simple terms Protestant denominations broke away and the movement fragmented.

„PROTESTANT BRANCHES‟ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Protestantbranches.svg
If it cannot be Protestantism, then ‗historical Christianity‘ cannot be one of its more recent derivatives. Evangelicalism is
an ‗ism‘ thrown up by the divisions within Protestantism itself, that movement of reaction against the late medieval
western Church. Fundamentalism is itself culturally reactive against modernity and its enforced symbiosis with it. Thus
Karen Armstrong has argued that fundamentalisms are not archaistic ‗throwbacks‘ but ―essentially modern movements
that could take root in no other time than our own‖ (p. viii). Nevertheless Gilbert Kirby went even further that Packer:
―The despised ‗fundamentalist‘ of our day is, in fact, maintaining neither more nor less than that which Christians have
believed from earliest times‖ (p.2).
McGrath pointed out ―that the reformers did not see the issue of inspiration as linked with the absolute historical
reliability or factual inerrancy of the biblical texts‖ (1984, p.180). Those ideas about ―biblical infallibility‖ or
―inerrancy‖ within Protestantism developed in America in the aftermath of their civil war. Marsden described this era
(1865-90) as the one ‗when Evangelicalism reigned‘ and it was then that the roots of fundamentalism developed. The
debate over inerrancy can be dated to the controversy between Princeton Principal, B.B. Warfield, and the Scotsman
James Orr.

Warfield affirmed that the Bible was the book of God in that all its affirmations are ―to be esteemed as the utterance of
God, of infallible truth and authority‖ (p. 112). Yet Warfield still maintained that while the Scriptures were ―conceived
by the writers of the New Testament as through and through God‘s book, in every part expressive of his mind‖, they were
also ―given through men after a fashion which does no violence to their nature as men, and constitutes the book also as
men‘s book as well as God‘s, in every part expressive of the mind of its human authors‖ (p. 153) [‗The Biblical Idea of
Inspiration‘]. ―When the Christian asserts his faith in the divine origin of his Bible, he does not mean to deny that it was
composed and written by men or that it was given by men to the world. He believes that the marks of its human origin are
ineradicably stamped on every page of the whole volume. He means to state only that it is not merely human in its origin‖
(cited Lane, 1986, p. 77). Nevertheless the New Testament authors viewed ―the whole of Scripture in all its parts and in
all its elements, down to the least minutiae, in form of expression as well as in substance of teaching, is from God; but the
whole of it has been given by God through the instrumentality of men‖. They denied any human element or ingredient in
Scripture but did acknowledge ―a human side or aspect to Scripture; and they do not fail to give full recognition to this
human side or aspect‖ (p. 150). This co-authorship implies ―the Spirit‘s superintendence over the choice of the words by
the human authors‖ preserving them ―from everything inconsistent with divine authorship‖ and securing ―their entire
truthfulness‖ (p. 173). Thus Warfield combined human authorship with verbal inspiration and inerrancy.
There is no suggestion of a doctrine of inspiration where the human factor is nullified as in the Islamic writing of the
Qur‘an, nor even of the language of the Council of Trent: ―tamquam vel oretenus a Christo, vel a Spiritu sancto dictates‖
(Tanner, 1990: p. 663). Stott and Packer cited Alan Richardson‘s definition of fundamentalism as a ―theory of Biblical
inspiration which regards the written words of the Bible as divinely dictated‖. The American Reformed theologian, Louis
Berkhof, portrayed this ‗mechanical‘ view, which he himself rejected, ―as if God literally dictated what the human
authors of the Bible had to write, and as if they were purely passive like a pen in the hand of a writer‖ (p. 17). The
famous Princeton scholar, Charles Hodge, wrote: ―The whole Bible was written under such an influence as preserved its
human authors from all error‖. For him ―the Sacred Scriptures (were) filled with the highest truths, speaking with
authority in the name of God, and so miraculously free from the soiling touch of human fingers.‖
The ‗mechanical view‘ does sound perilously close to the Islamic one. ―This Qur‘an is not such as can be produced by
other than by Allah‖ (Ali: p. 163). Dr. Sahib Mustaqim Bleher described the Qur‘an as ―the eternal word of God (Allah),
dictated to the prophet Muhammad‖ (Pickthall: p. 3). The Qur‘an claimed that it was ‗sent down‘ and communicated to
the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel, ‗the faithful spirit‘. It was categorically not the words of Muhammad but
given verbatim by revelation. Muhammad merely received it (Haleem, p.4). Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari summarised the
Muslim view of inerrancy. ―Inerrancy applies to the receipt of revelation, the preservation of revelation, and the
promulgation of the message‖. For him ‗comprehensive inerrancy‘ means ―there is no question of any personal view
being intermingled with it‖. It is the consequence of ―God‘s complete vigilance ensuring the propagation of His message
removes the possibility of all error and mistake‖ (pp. 76-7). Ruthven wrote that the Qur‘an ―is presented by orthodox
Islam as the divinely inspired utterances of the Prophet Muhammad ... the very Words of God‖. It is ―regarded by the vast
majority of Muslims as the Word of God unmediated by human authorship‖ (pp. 78-9). Elsayed Elshahad affirmed that
the reason why Muslims defend their sacred scripture is because for them the Qur‘an ―is an unfalsified, pure, divine
revelation, which is exalted above all errors‖. It is ―the literal revelation of God fixed in writing in Arabic‖ and that this
Muslim insistence has protected the Qur‘an ―from being falsified and relativized‖ (Küng & Moltmann: pp. 55-63).
Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952) concluded his arguments with these affirmations on the Verbal Inspiration of the Bible:

1) ―To say that a writing is inspired by God necessarily implies, in the very expression, that the words
themselves are the words of God‖ (p. 95)
2) ―What is predicated by the Scriptures about themselves demonstrates that they are entirely and absolutely the
Word of God‖ (p.97)
3) ―the Holy Spirit has to superintend the writing of the very letter of Scripture in order to guarantee its
accuracy and inerrancy‖ (p. 98)
4) ―words are used in Scripture with the most exact precision and discrimination. This is particularly noticeable
in connection with the Divine titles‖ (p.99)
5) ―The most convincing of all the proofs and arguments for the verbal inspiration of the fact that the Lord
Jesus Christ regarded them as such. He himself submitted to their authority ... the Lord Jesus regarded the
Scriptures as the Word of God in the most absolute sense. In view of this fact let Christians beware of
detracting in the smallest degree from the perfect and full inspiration of the Holy Scriptures‖ (pp. 101-2f).
The Fundamentalists derived their name from their twelve pamphlets known as ‗The Fundamentals‘, which began
appearing in 1910. It was to be another ten years before a Baptist editor, Curtis Lee Laws, added the ‗-ist‘.
―Fundamentalists‖, he wrote, ―were those who were ready to do battle royal for The Fundamentals‖ (Ruthven: p. 12).
Among ‗The Fundamentals‘ was James Gray‘s pamphlet on the ‗Inspiration of the Bible‘, which began by defining
‗inspiration‘ primarily by what it was not. It was neither (1) ‗revelation‘ nor (2) ‗illumination‘ nor (3) ‗human genius‘.
Fourthly, the ‗object is not the inspiration of the men but the books – not the writers but the writings. It terminates upon
the record... and not upon the human instrument who made it‖. Fifthly, Gray stated most emphatically that ―the record for
whose inspiration we contend is the original record... There is no translation absolutely without error‖ (Hankins: pp.10 –
The Church Society, itself a merger of several Evangelical Anglican bodies, has provided on its website a useful and
short clarification of the confusion of the terms ‗inerrancy‘ and ‗infallibility‘ when applied to the Bible. The article draws
a further distinction between the strict definitions and their theological usage. ―In terms of their strict English: inerrant =
without error / infallible = not only without error but incapable of error ... in later theology evangelicals began to draw a
distinction between the two terms which actually turns the English on its head: infallible has come to mean without
error in theological assertions/ inerrant has come to mean without error in matters of fact” (bold type theirs). As
Professor Harold O. Brown explained: ‗―Infallibility‖ may be called the subjective consequence of divine inspiration;
that is, it defines the Scriptures as reliable and trustworthy to those who turn to it in search of God‘s truth... ―Inerrancy‖ is
closely related concept, but a later and less widely accepted term. It connotes that the Bible contains neither errors of fact
(material facts) nor internal contradictions (formal errors)... infallibility is the broader term. Those who believe in an
inerrant Bible also believe in an infallible Bible‘ (Comfort: pp. 38-9).
The International Congress on World Evangelization, held at Lausanne in July 1974, marked a watershed in modern
evangelicalism, especially in calling evangelicals to once again take up social action, so neglected by the fundamentalists.
After several drafts, the committee agreed on a covenant, including fifteen clauses. Clause 2 covered briefly their stand
on the Scriptures:
―We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of
God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. We also affirm the power of God's word to accomplish his
purpose of salvation‖ (cited in Lane: p. 26).

In America, the infallibility and inerrancy issue was the subject of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978)
Article 4 of the Short Statement affirmed: ―Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all
its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own
literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives‖. Article XII of the fuller ‗Articles
of Affirmation and Denial‘ expressed such affirmations more precisely, clearly upholding that infallibility and inerrancy
include Biblical ―assertions in the fields of history and science‖. According to Wayne Grudem, new historical and
scientific discoveries ―will never directly contradict Scripture‖ (2005: p. 15). Morris made a similar statement. ―The
Bible does not contradict itself and still stands as the fully authoritative and verbally inspired Word of God‖ (p. 227).
In Britain, evangelicals have traditionally shied away from the inerrancy issue and content themselves with professions of
the Bible‘s infallibility and verbal inspiration. Conservative evangelicals maintain that the Bible is ‗not just a record of
revelation, but the permanent form of written revelation. That is what we mean when we say that the Bible is ―inspired‖‘
(Beckwith: Comfort, p.52). Jim Packer agreed with Roger Beckwith. ―The inspiration of Scripture was an integral part in
the revelatory process‖ and ―guarantees the truth of all that the Bible asserts‖. For Packer the very nature of Biblical
inspiration was verbal, ―for it is of God-given words that the God-breathed Scriptures consist‖ (Packer: idem, pp. 31-2).
Gregory Beale‘s book sought to reveal ―the fragmentation of evangelicalism, since at its heart, the absolute authority of
Scripture, is under threat. There is an erosion of what it means for the Bible to be true‖. The dominical affirmation that
‗the Scripture cannot be broken‘ (John 10:35) he related to the inerrancy of Scripture, as defined in the Chicago
Statement. ―This slow process of weakening the traditional, biblical view of the Bible‘s truth is nothing less than the
erosion of the very identity of evangelicalism‖. For him therefore infallibility and inerrancy go hand in hand (pp. 220-1).
Charles Gore, later Bishop of Oxford, wrote in the preface to Lux Mundi: ―it must be urged that since the division of
Christendom no part of the Church appears really to have tightened the bond of dogmatic obligation. Our own
formularies are of course markedly free from definition on the subject, and the refusal of the Roman Church to define the
scope of inspiration, beyond the region of faith and morals, has been remarkable‖. In his ‗Doctrine of the Infallible
Book‘, Gore contended that there is ―to be found neither in the Bible nor in the records of the Church any authoritative
definition of inspiration. If we are now unwilling to say that the Bible is the Word of God in the sense that all its phrases,
on all sorts of subjects, were dictated by God and are infallible, yet we are no less sure than our ancestors that it contains
and conveys to us the Word of God‖.
In 1893, Pope Leo XIII addressed these issues for Roman Catholics in his encyclical letter, ‗Providentissimus Deus‘. He
forbade any admission that ―the sacred writer has erred‖ or any restriction of divine inspiration to ―the things of faith and
morals, and nothing beyond‖. The Scriptures were ―written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the
Holy Ghost; and ... it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true‖. However the
theologian and the scientist must confine themselves within their own limits and that principle apply to ―cognate
sciences, and especially to History‖. With regard to those men whom He employed as ―His instruments‖, the Holy Spirit
―by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write-He was so present to them-that the things which He
ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt
words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture‖. Pope
Benedict XV in his encyclical ‗Spiritus Paraclitus‘ (1920) endorsed Leo‘s and cited the passage on the narrowing of
inspiration, while adding the proviso that ―the principle law of history is that the accounts of facts must agree with the
facts as they actually occurred‖ (Neuner & Dupois: p. 82). ‗Providentissimus Deus‘ received the wholehearted

endorsement of Pius XII in ‗Divino Afflante Spiritu‟, his 1944 encyclical on the promotion of Biblical Studies‘, in which
the Pope also commended use of the original texts and textual criticism, the latter within clear caveats. He followed on
with treatment of interpretation with its object being to ―help the faithful to lead a life that is holy and worthy of a
Christian‖. The exposition of the spiritual sense and significance that was ―intended and ordained by God‖ must be ―with
that care which the dignity of the divine word demands‖ (Freemantle: pp. 275-286).
For McBrien, Roman Catholic teaching maintains that the ―words of the Bible are true in the sense that the human
authors conveyed them‖. ―The human authors were not necessarily without error and their opinions and convictions
might well have been wrong but inerrancy means that the message itself is not thereby affected‖. ―Insofar as the principle
of inerrancy applies, it applies to those essential religious affirmations which are made for the sake of salvation‖ (1994, p.
61). Karl Rahner concurred and rejected that ―sense of verbal inspiration‖ in which ―the sacred writers were only
regarded as God‘s secretaries and not as independent and also historical conditioned literary authors‖. He rightly went
further. ―Scriptural statements were expressed within historically and culturally conditioned horizons‖ (cited in McGrath:
2001, p. 130).
In a recent authoritative publication, the Roman Catholic bishops in Britain declared: ―Ultimately, the inspiration of
Scripture remains a mystery of God‘s loving outreach to us, a mystery which we cannot fully fathom‖ (The Gift of
Scripture‘, p.18). The Jesuit scholar, Joseph Lienhard drew a helpful analogy on this point. ―Perhaps the best analogy is
the person of Christ: Christ is true God and true man, yet one person. So the Scriptures are the word of God and the word
of man, yet one utterance‖ (p. 85).
―But how is Scripture to be interpreted? Who will be the guide to our understanding? For is it likely that Holy Scripture will be rightly understood in a
vacuum?‖ – Archbishop Michael Ramsey
―Tradition is the matrix in which the Scriptures are conceived and from which they are brought forth‖ – Fr. John Breck
In contrasting Fundamentalist and Roman Catholic approaches, Karl Keating maintained that fundamentalists begin
begin ―with the fact of inspiration – just as they take the other doctrines of fundamentalism as ‗givens‘, not as deductions
– and they find things in the Bible that seem to support inspiration, claiming, with circular reasoning, that the Bible
confirms its inspiration, which they knew all along‖. For the Roman Catholic the ―same Church that authenticates the
Bible, that establishes its inspiration, is the authority set up by Christ to interpret his word‖ (Keating: pp. 123-4, 133).
Among Pope Benedict XVI‘s pertinent observations on this issue is a passage in his foreword to ‗Jesus of Nazareth‘:
―The author does not speak as a private, self-contained subject. He speaks in a living community ... in a living historical
movement ... which is led by a greater led forward by a greater power that is at work‖. ―The Scriptures arose from within
the heart of a living subject – the pilgrim People of God – and lives within that subject‖. The Biblical authors ‗are not
autonomous writers in the modern sense; they form part of a collective subject, the ―People of God‖‘ (pp. xx-xxi). Origen
wrote: ―The Church existed in all the saints who had been from the beginning of time‖ (Bettenson, 1969: p. 245). The
Church, according to the author of 2 Clement, was ―created before the sun and moon‖ (14:6; Holmes: p, 155).
The Anglican scholar John Macquarrie put the point very succinctly: ―For scripture is not a frozen or petrified record, but
something which comes alive in the ongoing life of the community which first gave birth to scripture and has since
proclaimed and interpreted the teaching of scripture‖ (p. 11). Archbishop Michael Ramsey, who once heard my
confession, cited these words after he wrote a paragraph denying Biblical infallibility and demonstrating that denial

through both ―uncertainty as to the exact Hebrew and Greek text which the authors write; and there are plenty of
historical contradictions within it‖. Furthermore it ―contains many literal media besides literal history‖. ―Again the Bible
is not itself revelation‖. Revelation is God‘s ‗delivery‘ of his truth ―through the words of the Bible to men in their
particular contexts in history‖. Revelation is ―that total process, including the words of scripture, the Holy Spirit and the
Christian community‖. Revelation through scripture ―acts not in a vacuum‖ but ―it is within the common life, the worship
and the general mind of the Christian community that the Christian is attuned to the understanding of the biblical
message‖ (pp. 108-9, my italics). Irenaeus wrote: ―For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the
Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every kind of grace but the Spirit is truth‖(Adversus Haereses 3: XXIV.i; cf.
John 14: 26,16:13; 1 Tim. 3: 15; Eph 3:11 ). St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote that ―in the truth alone and in the ancient
Church is both the exactest knowledge, and the truly best set of principles‖ (Stromata 7: XV; Coke: p. 550).
Fr. George Carleton‘s The King‟s Highway, published in 1924, became one of the most popular classics of ‗Anglo-
Catholicism‘. Fr. Carleton acknowledged that the ―English Church since its separation has been tainted with the
Protestant spirit. Being isolated, it suffered from the schism more than did the larger and central part of the Church. Many
of its bishops and priests have taught heretical doctrines‖. The Church of England ―refers its teaching to the authority of
the universal church‖ and ―appeals to the authority of scripture‖ while never claiming ―the right to set aside the Catholic
tradition‖. ―We do not accept and believe Christian doctrine on the divine authority of Holy Scripture. Rather we accept
and believe it on the authority of Christ and of His Church, and the witness of Holy Scripture is the guardian to us that
what we are taught in the Church is the true Church teaching‖ This ‗twofold way‘ means that ―neither the Bible without
the Church, nor the Church without the Bible, is a guide upon which we can confidently rely‖ (pp. 135, 156, 162). As
Richard Hooker wrote: ―by experience we all know, that the first outward motive leading men so to esteem the Scripture
is the authority of the Church‖. Archbishop Henry McAdoo cited this in one of a series of lectures which I attended in
1992 to commemorate John Keble‘s bicentenary. However he went on to sum up Hooker‘s position as giving ―primacy of
value to Scripture and to reason in his hermeneutics and a secondary value to tradition which also has authority but only
in so far as it is consonant with Scripture and with reason‖ (Rowell: p. 116).
Ekklesia is used in the Septuagint for the Hebrew kahal. Professor F.F. Bruce reflected on the word ekklesia and asserted
that the reader of the Septuagint would have found it ―no new word‖ when he opened the New Testament, as it was ‗one
of the words used to denote Israel as the ―assembly‖ of the Lord‘s people... Jesus provides in himself the vital continuity
between the old Israel and the new, and his faithful followers were both the righteous remnant of the old and the nucleus
of the new. The Servant Lord and his servant people bind the two Testaments together‖ (Comfort: pp. 11-12). Whiteley
demonstrated the various meanings to which St. Paul used ekklesia and found at least eleven occasions where it
―unquestionably refers to the Catholic church‖, twice in Colossians and ―beyond doubt in the nine occurrences of
ekklesia in Ephesians‖ (pp. 186- 90).
Barr saw the origin of the Bible as ―a product of the believing community‖ so that, for modern biblical scholarship
(1979), ―scripture grew out of the tradition of the believing community but, as having so grown, became in its turn the
Word of God to the community ... Thus scripture was preceded by tradition and tradition came from the people of God,
from the believing community‖ (pp. 113-4). He concluded that ―the traditional ‗Catholic‘ argument, that the Bible
derived from church, is entirely valid‖ while the traditional Protestant one ―was basically an anachronism: it
universalized, and gave permanent theological validity to, the relations which in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
had seemed valid and important‖ (p. 116). The implication for our understanding of inspiration is that its process ―is

located in a history and is thus historical in character. The history in question is the history of the believing community
and their traditions‖ (p. 125).
For Fr. Lawrence Farley, the author of several Orthodox bible commentaries, ‗to use the term ―the inspiration of
Scripture‖ is already to step away somewhat from the Orthodox approach to Scripture. The term ―inspired Scripture‖
today seems to the Orthodox to presuppose a text which stands (or at least can stand) apart from the community of faith
in which it was produced and in which it is read. It seems to the Orthodox to answer a question about the authority of
Scripture, when the Orthodox approach is to deal primarily with the authority of the Church‘. Holy Scripture is ―the fount
of the Church‘s doctrine, the written testimony of the first apostolic community‖, asserted Christos Yannaras.
‗Nevertheless ...the fact of the Church is prior to any written, objective foundation of her truth... Holy Scripture then is
not an objectified ―source‖ of Christian truth and revelation... The truth and life of the Church is the person of Christ‘ (pp.
Grigori Benevich is the Professor of Russian Orthodox Church Theology at the St. Petersburg School of Religion and
Philosophy. He placed Orthodox exegesis as dependent ―on these three associated sources: the Church‘s liturgical life, its
Holy Scripture, and its doctrine, respectively. Holy Scripture, being the Word of God directed to the Church, is in itself a
subject for understanding‖. That understanding derives from both the framework provided by ―the dogmatic teaching of
the Church Fathers‖, while the Church‘s liturgical life ―is precisely where the Church comes to understand and obey the
teachings of the Lord and the Holy Fathers‖. Dr. Benevich continued: ―It is, therefore, the practice of liturgy that provides
the true testimony to the Church‘s life. That is why Orthodox Christianity shuns any attempt to separate Scripture from
the teaching of church authorities, which is a common argument between Catholicism and Protestantism. The liturgical
life of the Church, Church tradition, knows no contradiction between the two‖ (Pecherskaya: p.74).
While Orthodoxy encourages personal and family bible study it is within the liturgical setting that the reading and
exegesis of Holy Scripture is primarily to be found (cf. Breck: 2001, pp. 15-17). Whereas in evangelicalism, the Bible is
both ―central in worship and the fundamental source of spiritual nourishment in private devotion‖, in Orthodoxy the
private reading of Scripture is secondary to ―and flows out of, encounter with the Bible in the worship of the Church:
Orthodox believers are exposed in the Liturgy to a solid diet of the reading, chanting and singing of Scripture‖ (ACUTE,
p. 102).
Pope Benedict XVI has insisted on the clear and fundamental distinction between ‗tradition‘ and ‗traditions‘. ―There is
tradition in the Church, but no traditions. The concept of tradition belongs to the Church, that of traditions is Gnostic‖,
between the Church‘s oiooo_q (toµooooi,) otootoìoikq and the Gnostic toµooooi, o¸µo|o,, the latter notion not
existing in the form that the Gnostics understood it. The Church ―opposes the Gnostic notion of secret unwritten
traditions‖ (2005: pp. 26-30).
In ‗The Theology of Tradition‘, the Jesuit scholar, Fr. Anthony Meredith, attempted a short Roman Catholic definition:
―Tradition in its strict sense means handing down as an active process, but before long comes to refer to the content of
what is transmitted‖ (p. 19). God makes Himself and His will known through Revelation, to which the human response is
faith. Citing the first three verses of John‘s first epistle, Meredith comments that the ―supreme response is a person and
the response to that revelation is one of obedient faith and love‖ (pp. 15-6). The record of those responses is Tradition,
which is ―not simply the sum of individual reactions to the divine call‖ but ―rather the reply of the Church to its Lord, of
the body of Christ to its head ... of the Spirit-filled Church to the Lord who is Spirit‖ (pp. 11-12). Fr. Meredith identified

two unfortunate tendencies among modern Roman Catholics in response to the controversies that had preoccupied the
western church since the Reformation. The first is the Protestant Reformers‘ one of reducing ―the non-scriptural elements
in tradition to the minor role of simply supporting the teaching of scripture. The alternative has been to ―have talked as
though scripture and tradition formed two separate sources of revelation‖ (p. 18). He argued that the Council of Trent was
―forced to answer the challenge of the Reformers in their own language‖. Protestantism‘s ‗either-or‘ was answered by
―not so simple both-and‖: faith and works, scripture and tradition‖, thus rejecting categorically sola scriptura (pp. 50-1).
Revelation is the inner source ―from which Scripture and tradition both spring and without which neither can be grasped
in the importance they have for faith‖ (Benedict XVI, 2008, p. 50).
The Council of Trent saw the importance of settling this matter early, on 8
April 1546. It stressed the necessity ―that the
purity of the gospel, purged of all errors, may be preserved in the church‖, for it had been proclaimed ―with his own lips‖
by Our Lord Jesus Christ, who had ―bade it be preached to every creature‖. This ―truth and rule are contained in written
books and unwritten traditions‖, from Christ Himself or the apostles, and ―have come down to us, handed on ... at the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit‖ (Tanner, 1990, p. 663). Tanner explained that the decree distinguished these two sources in
the transmission of the gospel and ―has been criticized for making tradition, and the church as the interpreter of tradition,
too independent of Scripture‖. Nevertheless ―the decree emphasizes that the two sources are joined by their common
origin, the good proclaimed by Jesus Christ‖ (2001, pp. 79-80). The failure of the foreshortened Vatican I to add any real
clarification on this issue, beyond defining Papal Infallibility, was demonstrated by the almost verbatim repetition of
Trent in Fontes Revelationis.
By the time of Vatican II, however, Roman Catholic thinking had been influenced by Newman‘s doctrine of
development. Treatment of Scripture formed considerably the greater part of Dei Verbum. While conceding some validity
to biblical criticism and an implicit acknowledgement of the churches of the Reformation (Tanner, 2001: p. 107), the
abundant use of scripture in the document is one of its most refreshing aspects‖ (Meredith: p. 62). There was a marked
contrast between the first withdrawn schema and the final accepted one. The first was still imbued with the polemic of
Counter-Reformation and opposition to sola scriptura. The commission that drew up the second had ―an altogether
different focus‖ and view of revelation. It ―put an end to the negative attitudes to the scriptures‖ (Wansbrough, 2006: pp.
116-120). ‗The Transmission of Divine Revelation‘ is the subject of Chapter 2. The Apostles had ―handed on what they
received‖ and ―left as their successors the bishops‖ for ―the apostolic preaching had to be preserved by a continous
succession until the end of time‖. Tradition ―progresses with the assistance of the Holy Spirit in the Church‖. Growth in
understanding through the activity of the Holy Spirit continues as the Church ―tends perpetually towards the fullness of
divine truth‖. ―By means of this same Tradition the complete canon of holy Scripture is made known to the Church‖ and
Scripture is understood and becomes ―unceasingly operative‖. ―Sacred tradition, then, and holy Scripture are closely
joined and connected, each with the other. Both spring from the same divine fountain and so in some manner merge into
a unity, and tend towards the same end‖. Scripture is ―the utterance of God‖ set down in writing ―under the Holy Spirit‘s
inspiration‖. Tradition ―hands on in entirety the word of God‖ and transmits it to the successors of the apostles.
Consequently, the Church‘s certainty about revelation is ―does not derive from scripture alone‖. The same reverence and
devotion is given to both scripture and tradition. ―Sacred Tradition and holy scripture form a single sacred deposit of the
word of God, entrusted to the church‖ (Mgr. Barton: pp. 9-12). McBrien contrasted pre-Vatican II understanding with
that which has since been upheld. Before the Second Vatican Council the usual explanation was that ―Scripture is itself a
product of Tradition”. Now – ―Tradition comes before and during, and not just after, the writing of Sacred Scripture‖.
―Tradition (uppercase) is the living and lived faith of the Church‖ (italics his, 1994, pp. 62-3). Cardinal Grillmeier found

in Dei Verbum ―a reciprocal relationship‖ in which ―the living tradition of the Church helps us through its growing
understanding of Scripture‖ (cited by Cardinal Dulles in Hahn: p. 23). Peter Williamson concurred that the Roman
Catholic understanding of ―the relationship between Scripture and Tradition‖ is ―reciprocal: each acts upon the other‖.
On the hand ―the canon of Scripture itself is a fruit of Tradition‖ while, on the other, ―meditation on Scripture nourishes
and shapes the development of Tradition‖. Furthermore ―Tradition provides the context in which Scripture is explained‖.
―Catholics believe that Scripture, Tradition, and the Teaching Office of the church each play necessary and
complementary roles‖ (Vanhoozer: pp. 102-6). ―All the interlocking organs of the Church‘s tradition – apostolic
succession, the canon, the rule of faith, the teaching office, the divine liturgy and sacraments – serve the Church‘s
mission of protecting and proclaiming the Word‖ (Hahn: p. 7). Therefore, in the words of the present Pope, ―Tradition
has its organ in the authority of the Church, that is, in those who have authority in her‖ (2008, p. 64).
St. Basil of Caesarea wrote much on toµooooi,, which ‗was one of his most commonly espoused ideals‘, according to
Philip Rousseau. St. Basil defined toµooooi, as ―the tradition that held sway among so many holy men throughout the
passage of time‖. It was handed over and down from person to person and its hallmarks were antiquity and holiness, for it
‗transmitted patterns of behaviour as well as of belief‘ (p. 117-8). Tradition centred both on ‗the verbal usages of the
Church and the Scriptures themselves‘ and the ‗modes of worship were central components of the unwritten tradition of
the Church‘ (p. 266). There were thus customs which, according to St. Basil, had ―the force of a law, because our
ordinances have been handed down by holy men‖ (Rousseau, p. 118). For him, according to Rousseau, it meant far more
than just doctrine but also included ‗the enduring practices, formulae, and theological implications of the Christian cult‘
(p. xiv). Of his travels in Pontus, Basil recorded that ―whomever we found walking according to the traditional rule of
piety, these we both listed and found as fathers and regarded as guides to our souls‖ (p. 21). When it came to those
matters of belief, St. Basil wrote: ―As to creed... that which was taught by the holy Fathers do we make known to those
who question us‖ (p. 123). Tradition was indeed ―our common possession – our treasure, inherited from our fathers, of
the sound faith‖ (p. 312).
In his highly influential work ‗On the Holy Spirit‘, St. Basil the Great included a short ‗treatment of the non-scriptural
(o¸µouo, = unwritten) customs of the Church‘. ―Of the dogmas (oo¸µoto) and proclamations (kqµu¸µoto) that are
guarded by the Church, we hold some from the teachings of the Scriptures, and others we have received in mystery as the
teachings of the tradition of the apostles. Both hold the same power with respect to the true religion. No one would deny
these points, at least no one who has even a little experience of ecclesiastical institutions‖. He cites numerous examples
including the epiclesis at the Eucharist, the blessing of baptismal waters, baptismal renunciation of Satan, chrismation,
eastward position and standing for prayer, the sign of the cross and genuflection. In doing so he confirms the antiquity of
such Orthodox practices and their great power for ‗the mystery of true religion‘ (1 Tim. 3:16) [Hildebrand: pp. 102-8].
Sergius Bulgakov defined Tradition as ―the living memory of the Church, containing the true doctrine that manifests
itself in its history ... a living power inherent in a living organism‖. In it ―the past is contained in the present and is the
present. The unity and continuity of tradition follow from the fact that the Church is always identical with itself...
Ecclesiastical tradition is always being created: the process never stops; it is not only the past, but also the present‖.
―Scripture and tradition belong to the one life of the Church moved by the Spirit, which operates in the Church,
manifesting itself in tradition and inspiring sacred writers... Scripture and tradition must be comprehended, not as
opposed to each other, but as united, although their real difference remains... Ecclesiastical tradition gives testimony to
Scripture, and Scripture is itself part of that tradition‖. Whereas ―the Word of God is above all other sources of faith‖ and

has ―absolute value‖ as the ―eternal revelation of divinity‖, tradition ―adapts itself to different needs and different
epochs‖. They thus have an ―unequal value‖ and ―Tradition cannot be in disagreement with Scripture... Tradition always
supports itself by Scripture; it is an interpretation of Scripture. The germ found in Scripture is the seed; tradition is the
harvest which pushes through the soil of human history‖ (pp. 19-29).
It was my enormous privilege not only to have heard, on several occasions spanning three decades, but to have met and
spent an evening in the company of the late Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, who in his real humility preferred just to
be called ‗Father‘. Never before or since have I met anyone who so radiated Christ. For him, Tradition should be spoken
of something with a past, a present and a future. It was not ―something handed down to us from the very beginning, from
one generation to the other. But what was handed down to us is the substance and the meaning not the form‖. Tradition is
therefore consistent with change or one becomes ―its prisoner‖. The Church does not forget its past but it does not
fossilise it for ―Tradition is the living memory of almost two thousand years of Christianity‖. It is ―the living memory of
the Church‖, which is ―an eternal, unshakeable memory‖. Tradition ―does not force us backward with every step. It is an
experience rooted in God and inspired by the Holy Spirit‖. The Church therefore constantly seeks ‗the mind of Christ‘ in
the development of her Tradition. ―To listen to the teachings of the Holy Spirit is to be always young, always modern. It
does not tell us to live as we lived in the twelfth century‖. Metropolitan Anthony cited with concurrence Jaroslav
Pelikan‘s description of Traditionalism as ‗the dead memory which is kept by the living‘. Such traditionalism ―is heresy‖
because it ―denies the fact that the Church is alive‖. We are the Church and ―we should have the youth of the newly born
into eternity‖ (pp. 204-6). St. Paul warned us against those are ―holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its
power [ouvoµi,|‖ (2. Tim. 3: 4, N.R.S.V.).
The dynamic of tradition is its developmental quality. Basil Hume, whom I was again privileged to meet and hear on
several occasions when Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, once reminded the monks of Ampleforth: ―Do understand
that is not given to any generation ... to have the last word on any issue that is being currently debated. We shall never be
able to say the development of doctrine ... has reached a point at which nothing more can be said‖ (Hume: p. 54).
St. Athanasius referred to ―the actual original tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which the Lord
bestowed, the apostles proclaimed and the fathers safeguarded‖ (cited in Kelly: p. 31). The Fathers upheld both written
and oral Tradition. From the Orthodox perspective, Holy Tradition is the source and the context of the Scriptures, for
Tradition is ―the Church‘s living, experiential and faithful response to God ... Scripture exists, lives and reveals its
meaning within the tradition of the church‖, from which it cannot be separated or isolated and with which it cannot be
contrasted, without mutual impoverishment. It ―must be read, interpreted and understood‖ within the context of Tradition
(Cronk: p. 24). Tradition does not add to Scripture, according to Father Florovsky, but alone provides the true
understanding and disclosure of Scripture. It is ‗co-extensive‘ with Scripture, as its ‗authentic interpretation‘ (p. 74-5).
Only ―the Church can distinguish true Scripture from false, because the Holy Spirit always abides in it‖ (Schmemann, p.
45). Lossky affirmed the ‗pneumatological character‘ as ―the life of the Church in the Holy Spirit‖. ―Truth can have no
external criterion‖ but is ―made inwardly plain; it is given to a greater or lesser degree to all the members of the Church‖
(p. 188). The inclusive and historical nature of Tradition was well summarised by Professor Clapsis: ―The Orthodox faith
is thus rooted in the apostolic tradition as found in scripture, interpreted in the conciliar tradition, experienced in the
liturgy, and proclaimed in the faith of the entire people of God‖ (p. 36). In an interview for the Evangelical newspaper
Christianity Today Metropolitan Kallistos Ware explained more simply the dynamic character of Tradition. ―Tradition is
not a second source alongside Scripture; clearly normative for us Orthodox is Scripture as interpreted by the seven

ecumenical councils. But tradition lives on. The age of the fathers didn't stop in the fifth century or the seventh century.
We could have holy fathers now in the 21st century equal to the ancient fathers‖.
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky maintained that the truth and fullness of the ‗catholic faith‘ are contained in Sacred
Scripture and in Apostolic Sacred Tradition. ‗The truths of Scripture and Tradition, harmoniously fused together into a
single whole, define the ―catholic consciousness‖ of the Church, a consciousness that is guided by the Holy Spirit‘ (pp.
31-2). Professor Theodore Stylianopoulos identified four ‗foundational principles‘ in Orthodox Biblical Interpretation:
fidelity to Scripture, fidelity to Tradition, fidelity to Critical Study and fidelity to the Holy Spirit. The ―long process of
the canonization of the Scriptures unambiguously attests to the mutually supportive and interdependent relationship
between the Bible and the church‖. While the tradition and discernment of the church ―gave rise to the biblical canon, the
primacy of the biblical canon holds the church accountable to the scriptural witness as the standard of the church‘s faith
and life‖ (Vanhoozer: pp. 554-8). Scripture and Tradition both belong to the inspirational work of the Holy Spirit, for
without that they would both be ―purely human products, devoid of any claim to ultimate truth and authority‖. The
creation of the canon and the interpretation of Scripture are only possible through the work of that same Spirit, thus the
Church does ―preserve intact ... the true hermeneutic circle constituted in Scripture in Tradition ‖(Breck: 2001, p. 12).
St. Philaret‘s Catechism for the Russian Church, ‗The Longer Catechism of The Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern
Church‘(1839), included the following articles by way of a brief summary and explanation:

In his classic ‗The Church is One‘, the Slavophile Alexei Khomiakov made much the same point but much more forcibly.
―He who takes Scripture only, and bases the Church on it alone actually rejects the Church and hopes to create her afresh
by his own efforts; he who accepts only Tradition and works, and belittles the importance of Scripture, actually rejects
also the Church, and becomes a judge of the Spirit of God, who spoke by the Scripture‖ (Jakim & Bird: p. 35). For
Khomiakov, ―Protestantism means the expression of doubt in essential dogma. In other words, the denial of dogma as a
living tradition; in short a denial of the church‖ (Schmemann, 1977: p. 40). ―Protestantism tries to replace the entire deep
river of grace-filled Church life with but a single current, taken separately and in isolation. Having rebelled against the
On Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture
16. How is divine revelation spread among men and preserved in the true Church?
By two channels- holy tradition and holy Scripture.
17. What is meant by the name holy tradition?
By the name holy tradition is meant the doctrine of the faith, the law of God, the sacraments, and the ritual as handed down by the true believers and
worshipers of God by word and example from one to another, and from generation to generation.
18. Is there any sure repository of holy tradition?
All true believers united by the holy tradition of the faith, collectively and successively, by the will of God, compose the Church; and she is the sure
repository of holy tradition, or, as St. Paul expresses it, The Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1 Tim. iii. 15.21.
Which is the more ancient, holy tradition or holy Scripture?
The most ancient and original instrument for spreading divine revelation is holy tradition. From Adam to Moses there were no sacred books. Our Lord
Jesus Christ himself delivered his divine doctrine and ordinances to his Disciples by word and example, but not by writing. The same method was
followed by the Apostles also at first, when they spread abroad the faith and established the Church of Christ. The necessity of tradition is further
evident from this, that books can be available only to a small part of mankind, but tradition to all.


pope (a man), the Protestants have made the Bible into a ―paper pope,‖ and the latter adulation is more bitter than the
first‖ (Hilarion Troitsky).
Professor Panagiotes K. Chrestou had a reputation as a leading Greek Patrologist in the last century and his ‗Ελληνική
Πατρολογία (Greek Patrology) in 5 volumes comprised some 3,300 pages. He outlined the chronological stages of
tradition and scripture. The numbering system is mine.
1) Oral tradition ―preserved alive and powerful the memory and teaching of Jesus and the apostles, and in
the entirety of these events, whereas the literature of the NT covers only a part of it‖.
2) Origen stressed that the preaching of the gospel (kerygma) must be preserved, as it had been handed
down through the Apostles and its successors and clearly underlines the importance of the Christian
truth by way of living succession‖.
3) The books of the New Testament, ―constituting a tangible reality and becoming widely read, were not at
all characterized as Scripture (Iµo|q), as long as Tradition was the dominant factor‖
4) Their ―value increased in comparison to the Oral Tradition, they were called Scripture.
5) They needed to be gathered together into a unified collection and to constitute a rule (kovev) that from
then on bore the name New Testament.
6) Tradition not only helped with the selection but contributed to their actual composition.
7) The Church through the Fathers ―placed its seal on their collection‖.
8) Conclusion:
a) The New Testament makes no sense without the Church or the Church without the Fathers.
b) The books of the NT are not outside Tradition nor distinguished from it.
c) They are not ―something higher than the Tradition‖.
d) They are rather ―the written part of the Tradition of the Apostles‖ (pp. 89-91).
Jonathan Knight summarised the nature of early Christianity as ―not a homogeneous entity but a growing and developing
organism‖. ―What we read in the New Testament is essentially the story of a religion that is in the process of becoming‖
(p. 322). By the end of the second century there was a growing awareness of a ‗rule of faith‘, in which ―the tradition of
Church teaching must be proved orthodox by the biblical revelation ... and only tradition can ensure that the interpretation
is sound‖ (Chadwick: p. 45). That ‗regula fidei‘ was, according to Tertullian (160-225), ―altogether one, alone
immoveable and irreformable‖ (cited in Vanhoozer: p. 703). In the face of heresies, the early church grappled with the
interdependence of Scripture, rule and ministry. One uncertainty needed final resolution – the fixing of the canon of
Scripture. The lack of clarity over the canon of scripture added to the difficulties of developing apologetical responses to
the heretics. Contemporaneously Tertullian and Irenaeus sought to respond to those issues and provide frameworks.
While Irenaeus affirmed that the Scriptures were ―the foundation and pillar of our faith‖, he also recognised the futility of
answering heretics solely from them. Hypothetically he asked: ―Even if the apostles had not left their Scriptures to us,
ought we not to follow the rule of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they committed their
churches?‖ Surely orthodox believers to whom the ‗inventions of heretics‘ were preached ―would at once stop their ears
and run far, far away, not enduring even to listen to such blasphemous speech. Thus the old apostolic tradition ensures
that their minds do not even entertain the least particle of the impressive claptrap of the heretics‖ (Wiles & Santer, p.

Tertullian concluded that the heretics could twist the scriptures to make what they wanted of them because they lacked
the constraints of the rule of faith. St. Vincent of Lerins wrote about the great diversity of understanding that results from
private interpretation and concluded that it was therefore necessary ―in order to avoid these great windings and turnings
of errors so various, that the line of expounding the prophets and Apostles be directed and drawn according to the rule of
the sense of the Catholic Church‖ (cited in Aquilina, p. 32). For the Roman Catholic Church, the Bulls of Pius IV in 1564
included the ‗Profession of the Tridentine (Council of Trent) Faith‘. ―I also admit the Holy Scriptures according to that
sense which our holy mother Church has held and does hold, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and
interpretation of the Scriptures; neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous
consent of the fathers‖ (Anonymous, p. 176).
With respect to Evangelical-Orthodox dialogue, the Evangelical Alliance‘s Commission commented that both sides
should be more understanding with each other. The Orthodox need to sympathise with ―the evangelical insistence upon
the direct access (aided by the Spirit) to the meaning of Scripture, coupled with the utilization of historical-critical
methods of exegesis‖. However evangelicals need to comprehend the Orthodox insistence on reading Scripture in the
light of Tradition and the usage of allegory in emphasising ―the Christocentric nature of Scripture‖ (ACUTE, p. 146).
John Breck asserted that Jesus Christ Himself as the Logos is the source of the Holy Scriptures. Christ is the fulfilment of
the Hebrew Scriptures, who ―provides the true key to the Law and the Prophets‖. He is the ‗hermeneutic principle‘, who
reveals the true sense of all inspired Scripture‖ (2001: pp. 9-10).
In ‗De Principiis‘, Origen emphasised the allegorical and Christocentric interpretation by use of the analogy of the human
person as being a composite of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Citing inter alia Proverbs 22: 20-21, 1 Corinthians 2: 6-
7 and Hebrews 10:1, Origen concluded: ―For just as man consists of body, soul and spirit, so too does the Scripture which
God has provided for the salvation of men‖. For him ―the reason for all these false, impious and ignorant assertions about
God is simply that Scripture is not understood spiritually, but in accordance with the bare letter‖. Spiritual interpretation
demonstrates that ―what heavenly things the Jews after the flesh were serving as a copy and shadow [Heb. 8:5] and of
what good things to come the law has a shadow [Heb. 10:1]... The most important of this is of course teachings about
God and his only-begotten Son‖. ―The main aim of Scripture is to reveal the coherent structure that exists at the spiritual
level in terms of events and injunctions‖ (Wiles & Santer: pp. 138-145). Towards the end of the fourth century when
Origen‘s allegorical method had become controversial, St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote in its support: ―In the Gospels all
words and actions have a higher and more divine meaning, and there is nothing which does not possess this character,
and which does not reveal itself absolutely as a kind of mixture of the Divine with the human level‖ (Srawley, p. 94).
Origen proposed four possible modes of scriptural exegesis: literal, tropological /moral, allegorical / mystical) and
analogical/revelatory. These became the standard medieval approaches as summarised in this mnemonic attributed to
Augustinus of Docia:
Littera gesta docet, Quid credas allegoria,
Moralia quod agas, Quo tendas anagogia.
The literal sense teaches what happened, the allegorical what you believe.
The moral what you should do, the anagogical where you are going. (translation: http://danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu)

A clear early example is provided by St. John Cassian, who demonstrates that there were four ways in which Scripural
references to Jerusalem could be understood in these four ways:

―And so these four previously mentioned figures coalesce, if we desire, in one subject, so that one and the same Jerusalem can be taken in four senses:
historically as the city of the Jews; allegorically as Church of Christ, anagogically as the heavenly city of God "which is the mother of us all,"
tropologically, as the soul of man, which is frequently subject to praise or blame from the Lord under this title. Of these four kinds of interpretation the
blessed Apostle speaks as follows: "But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by
revelation or by knowledge or by prophecy or by doctrine?"* For "revelation" belongs to allegory whereby what is concealed under the historical
narrative is revealed in its spiritual sense and interpretation...‖ (Schaff & Wace: p. 438) * 1 Cor. 14: 6
Origen and St. Clement of Alexandria were members of the Alexandrian school of theology and shared some common
ground with the Gnosticism they opposed. It made ambiguous the relationship between Gnosticism and their alternative
of ‗Christian gnosis‘. As Jaroslav Pelikan wrote: ‗This is not only because, especially in Clement, the term ―Gnostic‖ was
used as a title for the Christian intellectual, but because these Alexandrian theologians shared many of the ideas they
were describing‘ (pp. 95-6; cf. Kelly: pp. 22-8). Balthasar maintained that they had ―attempted to annex to Christian
theology as much as they could of the speculative property of Gnosticism, and behind that of Middle Platonism‖ (p. 8)
Grant attributed three important meanings of ‗gnosis‘ for St. Clement: ―the understanding of scripture and philosophy;
the knowledge of time, creation, intelligible and spirits; and the knowledge of God and his Son‖ (p. 177). All this needs
to be born in mind when reading the relevant seventh book of the Stromateis and its ascetic portrayal of the Christian life
as a ladder of ascent. Oulton and Chadwick summarised the teaching of this chapter as the progression of the soul ―from
faith to knowledge; by the suppression of the unreasoning passions and by works of love it mounts to union with God and
the beatific vision‖ (p. 38). In this work Clement ―freely applied the title of ‗gnosis‘ to Christians who seemed to have a
philosophic grasp of their faith‖ (Kelly: p. 27).
In Chapter XVI, St. Clement writes: ―We find, then, that the (Christian) gnostic alone, having grown old in the study of
the actual Scriptures, guards the orthodox doctrine of the apostles and the Church and lives a life of perfect rectitude in
accordance with the gospel, being aided by the Lord to discover the proofs he is in search of both from the law and the
prophets. For the life of the gnostic, as it seems to me, is nothing else than deeds and words agreeable to the tradition of
the Lord‖. Heretics on the other hand select from the Scriptures what is pleasing to them and press after novelties. Their
heresies, Clement argued, dated no further back than the reign of Hadrian. By spurious arguments they explain away ―the
beliefs which attach to the inspired words, beliefs handed down by the blessed apostles and teachers, and thus oppose the
divine tradition with human doctrines in order to establish their heresy‖. Such heresies are ―spurious innovations on the
oldest and truest Church‖ but ―we must never adulterate the truth, nor steal the rule of the Church‖ (pp. 160-2).
The interpretation of the Scriptures has never been simple. According to Martin Goodman, the Jews ―varied their ways of
interpreting the Bible more in the first century CE than in any other time in Jewish history until ... the nineteenth century‖
(p. 174). Jews needed to understand their own destiny and that of Israel. The Roman occupation had increased
considerably Messianic expectations. The first revolt against Rome (66-74 A.D) resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem
and the temple by Titus in 70 and thus of the sacrificial priesthood and Jewish religious establishment. The failure of the
second Jewish Revolt (132-135) resulted in the banning of Jews from Jerusalem, the expulsion of the Jews from their
homeland and their Diaspora. God‘s Shekinah-presence had been traditionally associated with the Temple, which was
destroyed in 70 A.D. Rabbinic thought now began to focus more on Israel itself as where Shekinah might be found. Now
Judaism went through a major reformulation and a process of increased standardisation. Rabbinic Judaism developed

around new creative scholarship on the Torah and in the second century resulted in the Mishnah, which itself contributed
to a more expansive Talmud over the next three centuries. The Pseudepigrapha was also being assembled as the Hebrew
Canon was fixed. First century Judaism was far from homogeneous and heavily infused with the widespread
Hellenisation of the period that was to be imbibed by the Church. Rabbinic Judaism assembled homiletical material in
mishrashim (‗interpretations‘/ ‗commentaries‘) and the targums (‗translations‘), Aramaic paraphrases used for biblical
interpretation in the synagogues.
The ascetic and esoteric Essenes formed yet another strand to Jewish apocalyptic interpretation. ―Theologically, they
showed extreme reverence for the Law and were famous for their strictest observance of the Sabbath. Their esoteric
teachings were recorded in secret books. Experts in the healing of body and soul, they also excelled in prophecy‖. They
were fatalistic and advocated ―a purely spiritual after-life‖, while rejecting belief in a bodily resurrection (Vermes: p. 30).
They denied the corrupt Jewish cultic establishment, which had been focussed on the Temple, and claimed for the sect a
new divine covenant with God for themselves as the true Israel, ―the repository of the authentic traditions of the religious
body, from which they had seceded‖ (idem: p. 32). Their final demise came with the wider Jewish catastrophe following
the first revolt.
In Genesis 41: 38, the ruach-Eloihim inspired Joseph in the interpretation of Pharaoh‘s dream. Fr. John Breck, in tracing
the origins of Johannine Pneumatology, examined the double meaning of ruach and thus affirmed that ‗the etymology of
our word ―inspiration‖ clearly illustrates the close link between ―spirit‖ and ―breath‖ that was dramatized in the prophetic
utterance‘ (p. 13). For the Hebrew prophets, the Spirit‘s basic task was ‗to interpret divine (―mighty‖) acts within history
and to lead the people from ―stumbling‖ and ―error‖ to faithful obedience to their God (p. 21). In Ezekiel 13: 2, ―for the
first time, Spirit is perceived to be the source of all authentic inspiration: that which enables men to prophesy, but also
that which enables them to hear and to interpret the prophecy according to the divine will‖ (p. 25). In answering finally
the cry of Moses in Numbers 11:29, (Tertio-) Isaiah prophesies God‘s new covenant (Isaiah 59: 21) ―when Yahweh‘s
spirit will rest no longer upon chosen prophets only, but upon all the people, so that all may be empowered to proclaim
His Word and redemptive deeds‖. ―The Spirit ... serves as the inspiration behind the Word‖ (p. 31).
Wayne Grudem believes that there are two ways that we can be assured that ―we have the right books in the canon of
Scripture‖. In the first instance, ―the answer must be that our confidence is based on the faithfulness of God‖. Surely God
would not allow ―all his church for almost two thousand years to be deprived of something he himself values so highly
and is so necessary for our spiritual lives‖ (2007, pp. 65-66). Yet the Church was not deprived of the ‗Apocrypha‘ until
the Reformation removed it from the canonical texts of Protestantism and it has nevertheless remained available even for
Protestants ever since. Grudem‘s second response relied on the alleged operation of ‗two factors‘ in the process of
‗assembling‘ the canon. The first was ―the activity of the Holy Spirit convincing us as we read Scripture for ourselves‖
(in other words the two-sided coin of Calvin‘s doctrine of internal witness and Protestantism‘s novel claim to private
judgment). These criteria reduce canonicity to an individual subjective response rather than a firmly fixed and permanent
canon, authorised and ratified by the Church of God. Grudem goes on to apply the verb ―self-attesting‖ to the words of
Scripture, as they ‗cannot be ―proved‖ by appeal to any higher authority‘ because that would reduce the Bible to a
subordinate position depriving it from being ―our highest or absolute authority‖. This he admits is ―a kind of circular
argument‖, that is not thereby invalidated (p. 78). This is diametrically opposed to the Roman Catholic position, as
summarised by Cardinal Avery Dulles. ―In Catholic understanding, the Bible is not self-sufficient. It does not determine
its own contents, vouch for its own inspiration, or interpret itself‖ (Hahn: p. 17).

The arbitrariness of Protestantism can be seen in Luther‘s desire to reject the epistle of James probably because the
apostle challenged Luther‘s own central doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide). He described it ―an epistle of
straw... for it has nothing of the nature of a gospel about it‖ (Simpson: p. 129). Luther also spurned the Johannine
authorship of Revelation, holding it ―to be neither apostolic or prophetic ... and above all I cannot tell if it is inspired by
the Holy Spirit... I myself cannot abide this book‖ (Krey & Krey: pp. 47-8). Zwingli was emboldened to proclaim of the
Book of Revelation: ―It is not a book of the Bible‖ (Glassen: p. 34).
Some conservative evangelicals fall back on the notion of Scripture‘s ‗self-authentication‘, so that the fixing of the canon
was no more than the formal acknowledgement of a self-evident reality, the ratification of a virtual fait-accompli. Dr.
Henry M. Morris was President of the Christian Heritage College and the Institute of Creation Research. He was the co-
author of ‗The Genesis Flood‘ and is considered by many to be the ‗father of modern creation science‘, regarding
evolution as ―the root of all manner of anti-Christian systems of belief and practice‖ (Ruthven: p. 19). Morris was of the
opinion that canonisation processes for both testaments were historically uncertain and therefore the ―most realistic
conclusion, in both cases, is that each book was essentially self-authenticating from the very time it was written‖ (p. 38).
Amy Orr-Ewing, currently the Director of Programmes for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and Training
Director for RZIM Zacharias Trust, has argued ―that the authority of the Bible was not dependent upon councils of men
in choosing its books‖. Attacks on ―the integrity of the church‖ and its geographical growth rendered necessary the public
recognition of the already widely accepted canon ―by a central agency so that unity could be preserved‖ (p. 64).
Cornelius Van Til saw self-authentication as part of the Protestant case for the finality of Scripture in response to
‗Romanism‘. ―The idea of a self-authenticating Scripture implies the idea of an exhaustive interpretation by God, in
finished form, of the whole course of history‖ (Warfield, p. 57). Oliver O‘Donovan maintained that Scripture was to the
Anglican reformers ―an authoritative sphere where Christ is made known‖. He found in the Anglican articles a clear
implication that ―the books of Scripture were not authoritative because the church views them in a certain way; the
church views them in a certain way because they are authoritative‖ (pp. 51, 50). To these assertions the Orthodox
response is summarised by John Meyendorff. It is the Church that ―has received the Scripture and acknowledges in it the
Truth, fixed its limits for all time, and interprets this corpus of writings with the help of the Spirit. This interpretation and
this acknowledgement are what is known as Tradition‖ (1962, p. 7).
Sergius Bulgakov presented his Protestant readers with an uncomfortable truth. ‗The Church has given us the Bible
through tradition, and the Reformers themselves received the Bible from the Church and by the Church, that is to say, by
tradition... For Protestantism also accepts the canon of the sacred books, as a norm which should be our guide. The
reformers wished to have their Bible separated from the Church ... separated from the Church, it becomes simply a
collection of ―books‖, a human document, ―writings‖. The Church, then gives us the Bible as the Word of God, in the
canon of the sacred books, and ecclesiastical tradition bears witness to it... The canon ... testifies rather to the fact that the
Church has already accepted them [‗certain sacred books‘]‘ (pp. 23-4).
Rowan Williams maintained that by the time of the condemnation of Montanism in the late second century, authority ―lay
firmly with ... a set of texts interpreted by a limited group of people‖, the bishops ―standing in unbroken succession of
teaching and hearing from the apostles‖ (Hazlett, p. 87). The bishops were thus defining the canon and authorising its
texts. The Church struggled for centuries before the canon of the New Testament was finally and authoritatively fixed
and its final form was hotly debated. There was no self-evident ‗self-authentication‘. Archbishop Paul Olmari, the
Orthodox Primate of Finland maintained that the ‗prime importance of Tradition is clearly shown‘ in the Church‘s

conclusive decision on ―which books in circulation should be regarded as genuinely inspired by God‘s revelation. Thus
the Church itself determined the composition of the Bible‖ (p. 18).
Mc. Brien defined the Roman Catholic understanding of the ‗canon‘ as ―the list of books accepted by the Church as
inspired and, therefore, as part of the Bible‖, these books ―the Church officially regards as inspired and normative for
faith‖ (1994: pp. 44, 59). The issue of a biblical canon was of paramount importance by the second half of the second
century. Marcion needed to be answered and Irenaeus responded to that necessity. In his radical exclusivism, Marcion
wished to provide the Church with sacred writings that were independent of the Septuagint and he denied that the Old
Testament could not be accepted in the Christian holy writings. The only books needed by the Church were the Gospel of
Luke and ten of the Pauline letters, as demonstrative of a loving God. From the opposite direction, the Montanists were
claiming that their special charismatic experiences were providing them with new revelations, which supplemented the
apostolic writings. Docetism presented a similar threat.
Biblia in Latin is singular but in the original Greek it is the plural of biblion. The Scriptures are plural as well (hai
graphai, ta grammata). Traditionally the five books of Pentateuch were the ‗books of Moses‘ and therefore dated from
after the exodus from Egypt. This attribution has been shown to be problematic and is generally dismissed today, except
among some fundamentalists and other traditionalists. According to Fr. Wansbrough: ―The stories placed first in the
Bible ... are among the last to be to be composed... the Pentateuch grew and developed gradually, not reaching its final
form until after the return from exile in Babylon‖ (2006: p. 4). Professor Soggin claimed that oral tradition ―preceded the
redaction of the written redaction of ancient texts, sometimes by several centuries‖, as any student of Homer is aware.
These ―various traditions acquired a notable degree of fixity, so that with the written redaction the means of transmission
changed, but not necessarily the content ... Oral tradition, then, first produced written tradition, and then continued
parallel to it, so that each exercised a kind of constant control over the other‖ (pp. 64 - 7).
―With the exception of the Bible, the Iliad has been more continuously and voluminously commented on than any other
work of Western literature‖ (Willcock: pp. 277-8). The art of writing had been lost since the fall of Mycenaean
civilisation and the collapse of its palace bureaucracies may well have been the primary cause (Snodgrass: p. 381). The
now generally accepted thesis of Milman Parry and his successor, Alfred Lord, maintained that the Homeric epics were
the culmination of a long oral tradition passed down through sung poetry by illiterate bards for centuries before being
committed by ‗Homer‘ to the written forms of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Those poems ―depend upon on a long,
composite, and uniquely rich oral tradition whose origins may go back to the twelfth century B.C.‖ (K.W. Gransden in
Finley [1981]: p. 65). As oral poetry, the Homeric epics were ―composed as they were sung, and based in large part on
time-honored phrases and themes‖ (Strauss: p. 7). As Oliver Taplin explained, Homer‘s debt to tradition was that he
―learned to compose poetry aurally, by listening to more experienced bards, so that he was ―the beneficiary of a tradition
passed orally from generation to generation‖ (Boardman, Griffin and Murray, p. 66).
Drawing comparisons from his research into Serbo-Croat bardic traditions and the long recitation by an elderly Serbian
bard (see Finlay [1962]: p. 34), Parry found in Homer fixed formulaic devices and repetitious adjectival phrases. The
kernel of the oral bardic explanation formed part of the ‗Homeric Question‘, which was first voiced in 1769 by Robert
Wood, but it had been hinted at by Josephus: ―At first transmitted by memory the scattered songs were not united until
later‖ (cited in Michael Wood: p. 123). Vico drew the conclusion that, according to Josephus, ―Homer left none of his
poems in writing‖ (Bergin & Fisch, p. 318 [850]). In fact Josephus merely recorded that the Greeks were of that opinion.
―Parry‘s contribution was to show that the whole technique of the poems was oral and that it had passed from one bard to

another... the poems were part of an oral tradition‖ (Jenkyns: p. 2). ―Centuries before the first historian put pen to
papyrus, Greek poets sang the great deeds of their ancestors. These songs have vanished and what we have is the result of
a centuries-long tradition of oral poetry, two massive epics under the name of ‗Homer‘...‖ (Marincola: p.9). Gilbert
Murray, concurring here with the views of Wolf, Grote and Blackie, contended in 1907, that the Iliad and the Odyssey
shared not only with Bible, but with other old sagas such as The Song of Roland, the Arthurian legends and the
Niebelungenlied, the characteristic that all of them embodied ―not the independent invention of one man, but the ever-
moving tradition of many generations of men‖ (cited in Turner, p. 150). However the problem of all oral transmission is
that it ―consists of a chain of testimonies; in general the effective range for reasonably detailed knowledge of the past is
about two hundred years‖ (Murray: p. 25).
The issue of oral tradition in the ancient world is of crucial importance not only to Homeric but also to Biblical studies
and the nature of composition. Orality is ―no mere incidental detail‖ but; crucial to the understanding of both poetry and
works of literature (Kirk: p. 3). Furthermore Parry in his Homeric researches into oral transmission emphasised the
binding force of tradition and the necessity of conformity through the generations within that confining tradition
(Minchin: p. 5). Susan Niditch placed the work of Parry and Lord alongside recent Biblical scholarship to demonstrate
the interconnection between them in recent evaluations of oral tradition in both Homeric and Biblical studies. In both
cases the ‗most formulaic may be the latest in date, for an ongoing oral tradition of some kind is a constant in every
culture. Similarly, scholars are increasingly sophisticated about the nature of "oral" and "written" and about the meaning
and nature of literacy in traditional or ancient cultures‘. According to Henry Wansbrough oral tradition was ―paramount,
as the folk-stories of the wandering pastoral nomads‖. Thus these stories of the patriarchs were transmitted from one
generation to another ―by word of mouth for half a millennium with astonishing accuracy – but nevertheless as folk-
history‖ (2006, p. 3).
Therefore some parts of the Old Testament may well originate at least a thousand years before Christ. Many books
remain in reality anonymous. The writing was in many cases complicated by being the compilations of several authors,
sometimes stretching over centuries and drawing on oral traditions. John Barton demonstrated the long process by which
both the Tanakh of the Jewish Scriptures and the canon of the New Testament were established. For him the writing of
these books was merely the first stage of the process. ―A single scroll could only hold about as much writing as there is in
the book of Isaiah‖ (p. 36). These scrolls then needed to be collected. The invention of the codex (a volume with a spine)
did not occur until the first century A.D. Thus even the collection of these ‗books‘ created a library of scrolls not a single
volume. Then the attribution of scriptural status needed to be deliberated upon. Finally the canon needed to be fixed.
Viewed from this perspective, Barton argued: ―A moment of revelation cannot be identified. If we are to speak of God
giving the Scriptures to people, it can only be in and through the human process‖ (p. 52). He cites the Jewish scholar, S.
Z. Leiman, as providing a good definition of the Jewish Scriptures as books that are ―accepted by Jews as authoritative
for religious practice and/or doctrine, and whose authority is binding upon the Jewish people for all generations‖ (p. 56,
Leiman: p. 14). Thus there had to be an actual acceptance of their specifically authoritative status.
According to Sundberg, there were three final stages in the formation of the Tanakh. The Pentateuch (Torah) was the
first collection to be canonised about 400 B.C. The second collection was that of the Prophets (Nabim), canonized about
200 B.C., while the Writings (Kethûbim, Greek: Hagiographa) were canonised about 90 A.D. This last canonisation ―was
understood as ratifying a commonly used, complete collection since the second or first century B.C.E.‖. Josephus had
given it some credence. The Jews had not arrived at a final decision on their authoritative texts by the time that most of

the New Testament was written. Even then many Jews of the Diaspora still accepted several of the Greek deutero-
canonical books. The ‗Tanakh‘ was therefore only decided after the separation of Christianity from Judaism. By the time
of Justin Martyr, the LXX had been replaced by a new translation for the Jewish Greek-speaking Diaspora (Barnard: p.
147). There were in fact three newer and more accurate Greek translations in use, bearing the names of Theodotian,
Symmachus and Aquila (Hall: p. 27). Furthermore the very term ‗canon‘ derived from Christian not Jewish usage, as
Robert Newman explained: ‗In the rabbinical discussions of the canonicity of the Old Testament, the term "canon" and its
derivatives are only used in periphrastic English translations, as this is a later technical term developed in Christian
circles‘ (p. 337).
This Hebrew ‗canon‘ was later accepted by Jerome (vide Bettenson: p. 187). He came to that view through contact with
Jewish scholars in Bethlehem, where he had been taught Hebrew under the tutelage of firstly a Jewish convert and
latterly of Rabbi Bar Anina of Tiberias. His scholarly Jewish contacts criticised the LXX for its supposed ‗inaccuracies‘.
Henry Wansbrough points out that recent scholarship has shown that the Hebrew text on which Jerome relied was
‗inferior‘ to and later than that used by ‗the seventy‘, whose textual sources were almost half a millennium earlier. The
Hebrew text therefore could well have been corrupted by errors and changes over the intervening centuries (Wansbrough,
2010: pp. 55-6).
That same Hebrew ‗canon‘ was revived at the Protestant Reformation, and the labelling of the deutero-canonical books as
‗the Apocrypha‘ is a Protestant designation within biblical scholarship. Gladstone unintentionally pointed out the
anomalous position of Anglicanism, in concurring with St. Jerome: ―in so far as something of an afflatus is to be found in
the books which form the Apocrypha, which are esteemed by a large division of Christendom to be actually a part of the
Sacred Canon, and which in the Church of England have a place of special, though secondary, honour‖ (p. 93).
However, in retaining the Greek order of the books, Protestant Bibles ―are hybrids‖ as the Reformation ―produced a Bible
which no Christian had ever seen until that moment‖ (Barton: p. 81). ―In Protestant editions ... the books of the second
and third divisions are rearranged in sequence and several are divided, making a total of thirty-nine‖ (N.R.S.V., p. xxi) of
what in the Hebrew ‗canon‘ had been 22 books. There is a revealing first sentence in Henry Morris‘s treatment of the
Protestant canon: ―Our present Old Testament consists of 39 books‖ (p. 38, italics mine). In Russian Orthodoxy, the
Catechism of Philaret (1839) also followed the Hebrew canon, but that view is not common in Orthodoxy where the
deutero-canonical books are accepted as being in the Septuagint. The Councils of Jassy (1642) and Jerusalem (1672)
acknowledged these ten books as ‗genuine parts of scripture‘. As Kallistos Ware pointed out, however, while most
contemporary scholars now follow Athanasius and Jerome in assigning them ‗deutero-canonical‘ status still regard them
as part of the Bible, although they ―stand on a lower footing than the rest of the Old Testament‖ (p. 200).
Dr. Roger Beckwith defended the approach of the Reformers. ―Such doubt about the canon could only be resolved, and
can only be resolved today, in the way it was resolved at the Reformation – by returning to the teaching of the New
Testament and the Jewish background against which it was understood‖ (Comfort: p. 64). However the whole language
of canonicity was alien to the writers of the New Testament. It was imposed much later. For ―the New Testament church
the exact boundaries of the Old Testament were still undefined, and the question of their definition was not considered an
urgent one‖ (Barr, 1984: p. 49). One cannot simply resolve the matter by referring to their citations. There are no
references to such ‗proto-canonical‘ books as Ecclesiastes, Esther or the Song of Songs, whereas there are clear allusions
to ‗deutero-canonical‘ Wisdom (e.g. Romans 1: 19-23 - Wisdom 13 & 17; Hebrews 1:3 – Wisdom 7: 25-6). 2 Peter refers
twice to the First Book of Enoch (1 Enoch 2: 4 and 3: 6) while Jude does so three times (v. 4 – 1 Enoch 48:10; v. 6 – 1

Enoch 10: 6; v. 16 – 1 Enoch 1: 9) and probably to the Assumption of Moses. The prophetic witness of the Book of
Enoch is cited alongside the Pentateuch, the Jewish Torah. ―He quoted Enoch because it was an authoritative utterance
of a prophet of ancient times, accepted as such by the church‖ (Barr: pp. 43). It has been argued that ―no unbiased scholar
could have any hesitation in declaring that the inspiration of such a book as Wisdom or the Testaments of the XII
Patriarchs is incomparably higher than that of Esther‖ (Charles, Vol. I, p. X). Wisdom ―as written by the friends of
Solomon in his honour‖ was listed in the fragment of Muratori, with the books of the New Testament as being ―accepted
in the Catholic Church‖ (Stevenson: p. 124).
The Septuagint (LXX) was used in the writings of the New Testament and the Fathers, including those books which the
Protestants were to consign to the ‗Apocrypha‘ more than a millennium later. These were their sacred scriptures, ―in the
early church it was simply ‗the Bible‘ ‖ (Wansbrough, 2010: p. 55). Boadt maintained that all seven of the deutero-
canonical books were ―known and referred to by authors of the New Testament‖ (p. 18). John Rogerson maintained that
the Greek Bible was authoritative because it foretold ―the Incarnation, the sacrificial death and the exaltation of Christ‖,
enabling ―high Christology to be expressed, as in the letter to the Hebrews‖ (Evans: p. 19).
Whereas all the New Testament writers other than Luke were Jews, all the Apostolic Fathers and the Christian writers of
the second and third centuries were Gentiles (Pelikan, 2005, p. 64). Several of the early fathers had no knowledge of
Hebrew and thus inevitably Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Gregory of Nyssa and others used the
Septuagint and some quoted from books outside of the Hebrew canon. ―The Eastern Fathers generally continued to use
the longer canon‖ (Hall: 28). Stuart Hall stated that for Origen the ―whole Scripture of the Greek Bible, every word down
to the last dot, came from the Holy Spirit – even the variant readings. But it is not to be read literally‖ (p. 102). By the
fourth century several Greek fathers were having doubts and recognised a distinction between those books in the Hebrew
canon and the others. St. Athanasius drew a clear line between them in his Festal letter of 367. In common with the
contemporaneous Council of Laodicea, he listed ‗the Epistle of Baruch‘ among ―the divinely inspired books of the Old
Testament‖ (Boumis, p. 573). There followed the New Testament canon, which is the same as the Church was later to
confirm. These Divine Scriptures are ―the fountains [springs] of piety... In them alone (cv toutoi, µovoi,) is set forth
the doctrine of piety‖ (Boumis: p. 574). ―Let no one add to them or take anything away from them... But for the sake of
greater accuracy I add, being constrained to write, that there are also other books besides these, which have not indeed
been put in the canon, but have been appointed by the Fathers as reading-matter for those who have just come forward
and which to be instructed in the doctrine of piety: the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith,
Tobias, the so-called Teaching [Didache] of the Apostles, and the Shepherd‖ (http://www.ntcanon.org/Athanasius.shtml).
However neither the great Antiochenes, including Chrysostom and Theodoret, nor the Westerns who followed Augustine,
made such distinctions with regard to the Old Testament canon.
Modern Roman Catholic theology uses the terms ‗proto-canonical‘ and ‗deutero-canonical‘. Rather than refer to the latter
as apocryphal (hidden), the term deutero-canonical is used to mean those books whose inspiration was later recognised
and were thus added to the canon. This reflected back to the patristic period when ―it was never the case that the
affirmation of the wider canon simultaneously affirmed that all the books within that canon had equal weight and
significance‖ (McGuckin: p. 52). F.F. Bruce wrote in 1954: ―The books of the Apocrypha, while they were written in
Greek or translated into Greek by Jews, first received canonical recognition from Greek-speaking Christians. The early
Greek Fathers acknowledged in theory that these books were not on the same canonical level as the books in the Hebrew
Bible, but in practice they made little distinction between the two classes. The Latin Fathers in general (with the notable

exception of Jerome) made no distinction either in theory or in practice.‖ Nevertheless Professor James O‘Donnell
affirmed the emergence of ―a remarkable agreement to accept the Septuagint collection of Hebrew and Jewish–
originating Greek texts as authoritative‖ (p. 277). St. Cyril of Jerusalem affirmed that the Septuagint was ―no human
invention of words and contrivance of human wisdom. On the contrary, the translation was effected by the Holy Spirit,
by whom the Divine Scriptures were spoken‖ (Jurgens: p. 352). According to Eusebius, St. Clement of Alexandria in his
Miscellanies, ―made use of the Disputed Books: the ‗Wisdom of Solomon‘, the ‗Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach‘, the
Epistle to the Hebrews, and those of Barnabas, Clement and Jude‖ (VI: 13.6: p. 253).
The full Roman Catholic canon of 46 books was acknowledged by local church councils in North Africa in the fourth
century, specifically at Hippo in 393 and at Carthage in 397 and again in 417. St. Ambrose had accepted the full
Septuagint and St. Augustine acknowledged 44 books in the Old Testament. He listed them in De doctrina Christiana,
including Tobias (Tobit), Judith, the two books of Maccabees, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus. Henry Chadwick pointed out
that St. Augustine ―would no doubt have wished to study Hebrew had he not believed that the Greek version of the
Seventy (Septuagint) commissioned by King Ptolemy I is no less divinely given than the Hebrew original‖ (2009: pp. 82-
3). It was ―for Augustine an inspired text‖ (Burnaby: p. 14). There were, for example, several references from both
Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus in De Trinitate (Burnaby: p. 357). St. Augustine made his position clear in ‗The City of God‘.
The Church had ―accepted this Septuagint as if it was the only version‖ and ―the very same Spirit that was in the prophets
when they uttered their message was at work also in the seventy scholars when they translated them‖ (pp. 820-2). ―We
are justified in supposing that the seventy translators received the spirit of prophecy: and so, if they altered anything by
its authority and used expressions in their translation different from those of the original, we should not doubt that these
expressions also were inspired of God‖ (p. 640). The Greek canon was ratified by Canon 47 of the Council of Carthage
in 397, which also confirmed the canon of the New Testament in 27 books, while prohibiting the public reading of non-
canonical books.
For those to whom the authority of the Church is not the final arbiter, scholarship today seems to concur with the view of
the late David Edwards, ―that the problem of the contents of the Old Testament cannot nowadays be regarded as settled‖
(p. 16). However from an Orthodox perspective, as only an Ecumenical Council can speak with sufficient authority for
the whole Church, so ―in the matter of the Canon of Scripture also, a decision by an Ecumenical Council is necessary, a
decision that will represent the entire Church and voice Church authority‖ (Boumis, p. 552). Boumis went on to
demonstrate that while there were ambiguities and loose ends in the 85
Apostolic Canon and in Canon 60 of the Council
of Laodicea (c. 360), no such difficulty attaches to Canon 24/32 of the Council of Carthage of 419, which largely
repeated and ratified the canon of the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) in listing definitively the Canonical
Before describing the differences between ‗the three great codices‘, Martin Hengel drew attention to the fact that they all
included several books not in the Tanakh: Judith, Tobit, Sirach and Wisdom plus ―the expanded books of Daniel, Esther
and Psalm 151‖. Vaticanus is without all four books of Maccabees, while books 2 & 3 are missing from Sinaiticus.
Alexandrinus, from a century later, included all the Septuagint, plus fourteen odes, including the wonderful Prayer of
Manasseh (pp. 57-8). It should be remembered that Dr. Tischendorf‘s account of the discovery of what became the Codex
Sinaiticus described how much had already just been destroyed, whether that included more of the codex itself we shall
never know. ―In visiting the library of the monastery, in the month of May, 1844, I perceived in the middle of the great

hall a large and wide basket full of old parchments; and the librarian, who was a man of information, told me that two
heaps of papers like these, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames‖ (p. 23).
It was not until the reformers of the sixteenth century demanded a return to the Hebrew canon ―that Christians fought
over two distinct canons‖ (Boadt, p. 180). Protestantism ―followed the canon of the synagogue rather than the practice of
the earlier church‖ (Barr, 1984, p. 41). The reformers disagreed with Wycliffe by excluding the ‗apocryphal‘ books.
Wycliffe had only removed 2 Esdras. Zwingli initially had included the ‗Apocrypha‘ in the Zurich Bible.
In his ‗Table Talk‘, Luther is reported to have said: “I hate Esther and 2 Maccabees so much that I wish they did not
exist; they contain too much Judaism and no little heathen vice." (cited in Bruce: 1988: p. 101). The reasons for the
Protestant rejection of their canonical status is still debateable, though by demoting 2 Maccabees they removed a clear
reference to and justification of the practice of prayers for the departed and possibly some form of Purgatory (12: 39-45).
Atonement for the fallen was made through a sin offering because they had been found wearing what the law forbade.
Furthermore these words of the prayer in Baruch cause Protestants some difficulty: ―O Lord Almighty, the God of Israel,
hear the prayers of the dead of Israel‖, which ‗suggests the intercessions of the departed saints with the Lord‘ (see Lk. 16:
22-31)‘ (3:4 and footnote, O.S.B., p. 1168). However the rendering of methe as ‗dead‘ is problematic as it could also just
mean ‗men‘. Later verses refer to the living Israelites as being ―defiled with the dead‖ and ―counted among those in
Hades‖ (vs. 11-12, N.R.S.V.).
―All is carried to extremes in this new Reformation. They root up what ought to be pruned; they set fire to the house in order to cleanse it.‖ Erasmus
―The process of restoring religion to something of its pure original state, after it was defiled with impurities for more than thirteen hundred years, dates
from the beginning of the last century.‖ John Milton
While John Calvin had pleaded with Castellio ―that he should not rashly reject the age-long interpretation of the whole of
the Church‖ [cited in MacCulloch (2004), p. 242], he saw no need for the Church to stamp its own authority on the
―A most pernicious error has very generally prevailed; viz., that Scripture is of importance only in so far as conceded to it by the suffrage of the Church;
as if the eternal and inviolable truth of God could depend on the will of men‖.(1: 7.1)
―In vain was the authority of Scripture fortified by argument, or supported by the consent of the Church, or confirmed by any other helps, if
unaccompanied by an assurance higher and stronger than human judgement can give. … For the truth is vindicated in opposition to every doubt, when,
unsupported by foreign aid, it has its sole sufficiency in itself. ―… no human writings, however skilfully composed, are at all capable of affecting us in a
similar way ... but turn from them to the reading of the Sacred Volume, and whether you will or not, it will so affect you, so pierce your heart, so work
its way into your very marrow ... making it manifest that in the Sacred Volume there is a truth divine, a something which makes it immeasurably
superior to all the gifts and graces attainable by man.‖(1: 8.1)
For Calvin, the knowledge of God that was obtainable through nature and reason (Romans 1:19-20) was genuine but
nevertheless imperfect, inadequate and fragmentary. Only in the Scriptures was clear knowledge received by the
illumination of the Holy Spirit to the believer, in union with Christ.

―... the Scriptures are the only records in which God has been pleased to consign his truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought
to possess with the faithful is not recognised, unless they are believed to have come from heaven, as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance
to them. ... No one can get even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless he be a pupil of scripture.‖ (1: 7.1).
―Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their colour or sweet and bitter things of their taste‖ (I: 7.2).
The authority of Scripture rested on the ‗testimonium Spiritus Sancti internum‘: ―our conviction of the truth of Scripture
must be derived from a higher source than human conjectures, Judgments, or reasons; namely, the secret testimony of the
... the testimony of the Spirit is superior to reason. For as God alone can properly bear witness to his own words, so these words will not obtain full
credit in the hearts of men, until they are sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. The same Spirit, therefore, who spoke by the mouth of the
prophets, must penetrate our hearts, in order to convince us that they faithfully delivered the message with which they were divinely entrusted‖ (I: 7.4).
The evidence of Divine authorship was derived from the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. The authority of the
Scriptures did not depend on the Church, but visa versa. This view was echoed in the Westminster Confession of 1643:
―our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy
Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts ... we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God
to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word‖ (Chapter 1, V & VI). John
Milton wrote in 1660 ―that the whole Protestant church allows no supreme judge or rule in matters of religion but the
Scriptures, and these to be interpreted by the Scriptures themselves, which necessarily infers liberty of conscience‖
(Orgel & Goldberg p. 349).
The evangelical Congregationalist John Angell James wrote in 1834 ―on the principles of Nonconformity ... The whole
fabric of Dissent rests on the two following propositions: 1. The Holy Scriptures are the sole authority and sufficient rule
in matters of religion, whether relating to doctrine, duty or church government. THE BIBLE, AND THE BIBLE ALONE
IS THE RELIGION OF DISSENTERS. ... 2. ... that it is every man‟s indefeasible right, and incumbent duty, to form and
to follow his own opinion of the meaning of the word of God.” (Moore: pp. 132-3) James was later a founder of the
Evangelical Alliance.
Beale limited the conditioning of the bible reader‘s mind by ―forces outside the Bible‖. He accepted that ―all our
interpretations are colored by our socially constructed history and situation‖ but believed that ―God‘s sovereign
revelatory power‖ can break through those ―internal and external elements‖. Thus while the reader does not start with a
tabula rasa, he can receive ―God‘s subjective though true perspective on truth‖ to ―break through the distorting lenses we
wear and lead us into all truth‖ (pp. 257-9).
Dr. Milton C. Fisher is Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia. This
evangelical scholar regarded it as ―an unfortunate aspect of reformation thinking‖ that some reformers sought means of
reassurance on the canon of Scripture. God ―in his providence had determined for his people the fixed content of
Scripture, that became a fact of history and was not a repeatable process‖. Fisher asserted that Luther and Calvin had
been equally subjective. Luther had asserted that the test of true scripture is the inculcation (treiben) of Christ. All
‗genuine sacred books preach and inculcate Him and whether a book does so is the ―true test of by which to judge all
books‖‘ (cited in Lienhard: p. 90). Calvin had insisted ―that the Spirit bears witness to each individual Christian in any

age of church history as to what is his Word and what is not‖ (Comfort: pp. 75-6). Unfortunately this throws us once
more back on to subjective criteria. ‗For the evangelical (early Protestant) reader is persuaded of the truth of his or her
reading (and therefore of his or her salvation) by, and only by what Tyndale calls a ―feeling faith‖, an inner, passionate
conviction of being chosen and forgiven‘ (Simpson: p. 30). Of his salvation the believer ―fele[th] it to be true‖, for
membership of the (invisible) True Church is ―written on the heart‖ of God‘s elect. The scriptures belong to the elect.
―God shall write it in their hearts with His holy Spirit‖. Thus, as Simpson pointed out, for Tyndale: ‗Lection...
presupposed election‘ (idem: p.139). Though John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was an Arminian for whom
predestination was ―a doctrine full of blasphemy‖, he concurred with Tyndale‘s ―feeling faith‖, as his account of his
conversion experience clearly demonstrated. ―In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street,
where one was reading Luther‘s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was
describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did
trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine,
and saved me from the law of sin and death‖ (all italics mine). Graham Leonard recalled that at school he ―came under
the influence of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity‖, which ―made so much of the need of the inner assurance of
faith that what seemed to matter above all else was whether one was aware of being saved‖ (1996: p. 26).
According to John Foxe, when a visiting priest remarked to William Tyndale that it was ―better be without God's law
than the Popes‖, the bible translator famously replied: ―I defy the Pope and all his laws; if God spare my life, ere many
years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost‖. ―The Reformation‘s
emphasis on a personal relationship with Christ‖, asserted Charles Colson, ―also meant that every person should be able
to read God‘s Word‖ (Colson & Neuhaus, p. 26). Therefore ―everyone who is a Christian can understand the Bible for
themselves, since all have the Spirit. ... This is very liberating and exciting – all God‘s children have access to God‘s
truth‖ (Beynon & Sach: p. 25). John Milton wrote in his pneumatologically Arian work, De Doctrina Christiana: ―Every
believer is entitled to interpret the scriptures, and by that I mean interpret them for himself. He has the Spirit, who guides
truth, and he has the mind of Christ‖ (Orgel & Goldberg, p. 732).
Dr. Pusey, writing from within the Catholic Anglican tradition, stated: ―We acknowledge that Holy Scripture is the
source of all saving truth; but it does not therefore follow that everyone, unguided, is to draw for himself the truth out of
that living well‖ (‗The Rule of Faith‘; cited in Staley: p. 322). The second Anglican-Roman Catholic International
Commission produced the third ARCIC report on Authority in the Church in 1999, entitled ‗The Gift of Authority‘. It
included these lines. ―God‘s revelation has been entrusted to a community... The faith of the community precedes the
faith of the individual... Individualistic interpretation of the Scriptures is not attuned to the reading of the text within the
life of the Church and is incompatible with the nature of the authority of the revealed Word of God (cf. 2 Pet. 1: 20-21).
Word of God and Church of God cannot be put asunder‖ (pp. 20-21).
―The Protestant movement appealed to the right of private judgment, but its leaders shrank from the full consequences of
that appeal‖ (Dodd, p. 20). A famous Anglican ‗convert‘ to Roman Catholicism, Monsignor Ronald Knox wrote:
―When the Bible was thrown open to the survey of the ordinary lay Christian, the Protestant assumption was that everybody would be guided by the
Holy Spirit to interpret it for himself in the right sense: all God‘s people would be taught by the Holy Spirit‖. However, there was a problem for these
‗simple folk‘ for ―their rule of faith was not, in fact, to be any private inspiration of their own. They were to be guided by the Scripture as interpreted by
Luther, and Calvin, and Zwingli, and Beza, and Knox – by the pundits‖ (pp. 134-5).

The Roman Catholic apologist, M. L. Cozens, wrote graphically of the actual consequence of Luther‘s position:
―Luther had claimed for every man the right to judge what was the sense of Scripture, independently of the Church, but was surprised when he found
any man not judging the same of Luther. But men had not rejected an infallible Church to accept an infallible ex-friar. Soon the whole of Germany and
Switzerland was a welter of quarrelling sects‖ (p. 74).
Karl Barth maintained that in the seventeenth century Bible became divorced from its Christocentric and
Pneumatological context and thereby ‗was grounded upon itself‘. ‗It became a ―paper pope‖ and unlike the living pope in
Rome it was given into the hands of its interpreters. It was no longer a free and spiritual force, but an instrument of
human power‘ (p. 525). Paul Tillich went further in referring to the eventual petrification ―into a system of doctrine that
raises an unconditional claim to truth... It was claimed that man has an objective possession of a truth that is identical
with the content and letter of an inspired Scripture. The Scripture is in the hands of the church and its theological experts,
and it can be used like an untouchable, unfailing and completely sufficient document of what is true‖. A ‗quasi-
sacramental dignity‘ had replaced Protestantism‘s ‗critical power‘, to which its ―pure doctrine‖ was no longer subjected
(p. 254). Truth became an unambiguous possession ―encased in the letter of Scripture and properly dispensed in the
doctrine of the church‖ (p. 198).
Here again there is a problem for the Protestant. Dogma and doctrine are necessary to Christianity and credal statements
for the refutation of false teaching. Furthermore, the Western Christian mind likes to place theology into neat
compartments under the heading of ‗Systematic Theology‘. However ―it is abundantly clear that the Bible does not
provide us with a neatly arranged body of theological definitions; the futility of attempting to treat it in this way is shown
by the amazing variety of conflicting doctrines which have been alleged to be the clear and indisputable teaching of the
Bible‖ (Mascall, 1946, p. 231).
In 1989, Kenneth Hylson-Smith‘s history of ‗Evangelicals in the Church of England‘ concluded that ―in scanning the past
two-and-a-half centuries, no Christian tradition glories more than Evangelicalism in the supremacy of the Bible and the
truths it contains‖ (p. 351). The great Evangelical polemicist, John Charles Ryle, wrote in 1867: ―The first leading feature
in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture, as the only rule of faith and practice, the
only test of truth, the only judge of controversy... The supreme authority of the Bible is the one of the cornerstones of our
system. Our faith can find no resting-place except in the Bible, or in Bible arguments. Here is rock: all else is sand‖ (cited
in Jay: p. 13). In this Ryle was confusing the supremacy of Scripture, as defined in the Anglican sixth Article of Religion,
with the Continental Reformation‘s ‗sola scriptura‘. His repeated usage of the adjective ‗only‘ refers to the latter,
concurring with William Chillingworth that ―the BIBLE, I say, the BIBLE only, is the religion of Protestants‖ (More &
Cross: p. 104). Michael Ramsey put the matter succinctly for classical Anglicanism: ―Scripture tells us what is necessary
for salvation, but it is not a source of authority for countless other things as well‖ (Coleman; p. 1991).
On the subject of the sufficiency of Scripture, Richard Hooker wrote of two extreme and opposite opinions, ―both
repugnant to the truth‖. One was the Roman Catholic teaching of its insufficiency, while the other upholds that it suffices
not only for all that is necessary for salvation but ―all things simply‖ (idem: p. 89). Francis White, Bishop of Ely,
affirmed: ―We reject not all Traditions, but such as are ... not consonant to the prime rule of faith, to wit, the Holy
Scripture‖ (cited in McAdoo: p. 8). Dr. Eric Mascall maintained that Anglicans ―adhere to that appeal to primitive
wholeness which so notably distinguishes the great post-Reformation Anglican divines with their emphasis upon
Scripture and the Fathers‖ (1953, p. x).

The power of ‗sola‘ as the war-cry of the Protestant cause was in its assumed contrast to late medieval Roman
Catholicism: soli Deo Gloria, solo Christo, sola gratia, sola fide and sola scriptura. Rome was portrayed as attaching
‗nature‘ to grace, works to faith and tradition to scripture, and thereby diminishing the absolute necessity of Divine
revelation, sovereignty and grace by making their operations conditional on human factors. ―Scripture alone is a core
affirmation of the Lutheran Reformation, in addition to grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone. However sola scriptura
does not mean that Scripture is the only authority, but that it is the primary or chief authority to which all others are
subordinate‖ (Hanson: p. 66). Hence while the preface to the Formula of Concord (1577) proclaimed that the Bible was
―the only rule and guiding principle according to which all teachings are to be evaluated and judged‖, it confessed
adherence to the three catholic creeds and to several confessional documents of the Reformation itself. Nevertheless the
Augsburg Confession firmly stated that those creeds and confessions ―are not judges, they are only witnesses and
explanations of the faith‖ (citations from Hanson: pp. 66-67). The High Churchman Hugh James Rose poured scorn on
sola scriptura as the principle which ―bestows on the ministry the most perfect liberty of believing and teaching whatever
their fancy may suggest‖ (cited in Avis: p. 174).
Sola scriptura ―was to a large extent a reaction to medieval Roman Catholicism‖ (Breck: 2001, p. 11). John Eck argued
against Luther in 1519, ―Scripture is not authentic without the authority of the church‖. It required that, in Calvin‘s
phrase, the Church ―reverently subjects herself to the Word of God‖ and that the authority of the Church was co-
extensive with her fidelity to the Scriptures. Calvin circumvented Augustine‘s testimony: ―I should not have believed the
gospel, unless I was moved by the authority of the Catholic Church‖. Zwingli stated categorically in 1522: ―The
foundation of our religion is the written word, the Scriptures of God‖. Ironically only the radical Reformation, which
Zwingli‘s Zurich persecuted, could indubitably claim consistency with the principle of sola scriptura, as the magisterial
reformers fenced it with qualifications.
Benedict XVI attributed to Luther ―the impression that he had set the word of God free from its chains in the
ecclesiastical office‖ (2008, p. 43). ―Protestantism has generally elevated the Scripture as something far and above all
other things in the church. Assigned as a composition of the Spirit of God ... it has been made to stand alone, towering
over any other thing that could be ascribed to church traditions. The one is seen as the infallible Word of God, the other
as the words of fallible human beings‖ (McGuckin, 2010, p. 101; cf. Benedict XVI, 2008: p. 44 on Melanchthon). Fr.
Michael Harper came to realise the inadequacy of sola scriptura as the guidance of the Holy Spirit is always needed for
the Church when settling major issues, such as Trinitarian and Christological definitions (p. 185). Horton Davies in his
little book, Christian Deviations, added a conclusion with several cautionary observations. ―Biblicism becomes heretical
because it has no standard of reference by which to evaluate the different parts of Scripture... History has shown that the
Bible of itself, when regarded as infallible and equally inspired in all parts, leads to the formation of heretical sects‖ (pp.
―Scripture was never for Irenaeus sola scriptura, Scripture as an isolated phenomenon‖, insisted Maurice Wiles as Regius
Professor of Divinity at Oxford. ―Scripture does not for him stand as an independent authoritative record on it s own.
Scripture and tradition go together, not as two distinct things but as interlocking parts of a single reality‖. As the
‗emergence of the Scriptures and the development of doctrine‘ occurred concurrently then it would require one to ‗falsify
the facts‘ to maintain that the early church upheld sola scriptura. Scripture was a source not the source. (pp. 41-45). The
problem has been exacerbated by Protestant polemics and hermeneutics according to John Barton. Sola scriptura had
originally a negative meaning that denied the ―indefinite development of Christianity into an ever-changing religion‖

upholding that scripture was its own interpreter. It became a standard by which many later Protestants acknowledged
―simply Catholic tradition with all the bits that happen not to lie within the pages of the Bible artificially removed‖. Sola
scriptura should never be ―the central pillar of anyone‘s understanding of the Christian faith. Sola scriptura is a
metaphor... In turning sola scriptura from a symbol by which the God-given character of the gospel is defended into a
literal and positive statement about where its heart can be found, the Protestant Churches sold their birthright for a mess
of hermeneutics‖. Thus Protestants ―replaced one kind of human tradition with another‖ (1988, pp. 83-6).
The Anglican Newman spoke of ‗ultra-Protestants‘ in these terms:
―They take it for granted, as beyond all question, that, if we would ascertain the truths which Revelation has brought us, we have nothing else to do but
to consult Scripture on the point, with the aid of our own private judgment, and that no doctrine is of importance which the Christian cannot find for
himself in large letters there‖ (1890: p. 103).
In ‗West of Jesus‘, Anthony (that is all we told of the author‘s name) highlighted some of the consequential teachings of
sola scriptura. Firstly the Protestant insistence ―that the interpretation of the Bible is a personal matter‖, which departed
from the consistently universal belief of the Church, while contradicting the apostolic teaching of 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse
20. Secondly in its secession from the Roman Church, it removed itself from ecclesiastical authority and from ―all
reliance on apostolic teaching, the Church and the Church Fathers‖. By not reconciling itself with the Orthodox Church
after severance from Rome, ―Protestantism was left at sea in an every-man-for-himself dilemma‖. Thirdly it fell in error.
The ―once saved, always saved‖ proposition of ‗eternal security‘ stemming from ‗instant salvation‘ is an unbalanced
doctrine, which ironically ignores much Scriptural teaching, as does its understanding of Eucharistic and sacramental
theology. Furthermore ―Scripture unequivocally condemns a fractured spiritual state‖. Visible unity is central to
Scriptural ecclesiology and ―Protestantism seems to recognize the impropriety of its fragmented state‖. Finally private
reasoning and personal interpretation has replaced the continuity of teaching from the apostles and the Fathers. Neglect of
the two other components of Holy Tradition and the abandonment of some of the Scriptures themselves resulted in
dangerous and useless individual ideas. Patterns of worship can descend into a ―make-it-up-as-one-goes‖ predicament.
(Chapter 3)
As an Evangelical Anglican clergyman, Michael Harper, was a leading figure in the Charismatic Movement in Britain,
whom I heard when he headed up the Fountain Trust. Converted to Orthodoxy and ordained as an Orthodox priest, he
reflected on his ‗journey‘ in a book published in 1997. ―A major difference between the Orthodox and the Evangelical is
that Orthodoxy never experienced the Reformation, which gave principal shape to evangelical doctrines and emphases...
The whole atmosphere of the Reformation is missing in the Orthodox Church. There was no need for such a radical
change‖ (pp. 147-8). The flip side of that coin is that ―the first great deficiency of Reformation historiography is its
indifference to the history of the Eastern Churches except where they were influenced by or against Protestantism. The
schisms started by Luther did not shatter a single, all-encompassing Church. Populous parts of Christendom were already
outside the Roman communion ... Even before the Reformation, most of Christendom lay beyond the reach of Rome‖
(Fernandez Armesto & Wilson, pp. 4-5).
The sixth article of the Church of England, John Keble pointed out in 1841, ―might seem, at first sight, to dispense with
the Church‘s office, as a witness and keeper of Holy Writ, an enunciator of the Rule of Faith... Our inquirer‘s perplexity
would begin with the Sixth Article: he might have learned from some other quarter – from Field, perhaps, or Laud, or
Tertullian, or St. Augustine, that Scripture alone is not the Rule of Faith, and in what sense it is not so ‖ (pp.4, 9-10). He

wrote in guarded defence of his friend, John Henry Newman, who had just created an uproar by the publication of his
Tract XC. Of that sixth article, Newman had written that ―not a word is said, in favour of Scripture, having no rule or
method to fix interpretation by, or, as has been commonly expressed, being the sole rule of faith; nor on the other, of the
private judgment of the individual being the ultimate standard of interpretation‖ (Evans, 1933: p. 10).
The sixth article of the Church of England maintained that Holy Scripture contained ―all things necessary to salvation‖ so
that what was not contained in or proved by Scripture was not ―to be thought requisite or necessary to salvation‖. Thus
the article not only maintained that supremacy of Scripture, which James Packer identified as the first of four general
tenets of evangelicalism, but also confined its sufficiency to ―all things necessary to salvation‖. ‗Scripture is authoritative
precisely because of what it is and what it contains: within it ―everlasting life is offered to men by Christ‖‘ (O‘Donovan,
p. 51; citing Article VII). According to Dr. Timothy Ward: ―The sufficiency of Scripture claims that Scripture is
sufficient only for a particular divine purpose‖ (Vanhoozer: p. 731). Stott commented: ―some of the Bible is metaphorical
and symbolical. The Bible was given us as a handbook of salvation, not as a text-book of science. ... A sound
interpretation of each Biblical passage will take note of the literary form in which it is deliberately presented‖ (1956: p.4).
In ‗Understanding the Bible‘, Stott stated that ―the Bible is primarily a book neither of science, nor of literature, nor of
philosophy, but of salvation‖ (p. 4). He made the point more clearly in ‗The Contemporary Christian‘. The Bible‘s
purpose was ‗practical‘, ―more a guidebook than a textbook, more a book of salvation than a book of science... God‘s
purpose in Scripture is not to reveal facts that can be discovered by the scientific method of observation and experiment,
but rather to reveal truths which are beyond the scope of science, in particular God‘s way of salvation‖ (p. 167). James
Barr has described the Bible as ―more a battleground than a book of true facts. Holy Scripture has a function in the
winning of salvation ... Scripture thus has a soteriological function... Scripture is fundamental to the church of God ...
because it is built into the way in which salvation itself is achieved‖ (p. 53). For him ―the authority of the bible derives
from the saving content‖ of the events it records ―and the faith that responds to it and not the accuracy of its historical
reporting‖ (cited in Harris: p. 185). In his Catechetical Lectures, St. Cyril of Jerusalem affirmed: ―The salvation in which
we believe is proved not from clever reasoning, but from the Holy Scriptures‖ (Jurgens: p. 351).
The sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures related therefore to ―all things necessary to salvation‖. The classic Pauline text on
inspiration is 2 Timothy 3: 16: ―All scripture is inspired of God‖. In the preceding verse, St. Paul reminds Timothy ―How
from childhood you have known the sacred scriptures that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ
Jesus‖ (NRSV) – sufficient for salvation. The references to the Scriptures in both verses refer of course to the LXX as
there was no New Testament. It is commonplace to point out that the Greek word θεόπνεσστος literally means ‗God-
breathed‘ (as correctly translated in the N.I.V., - expired, in the literal not colloquial sense, by God). Thus the only direct
text for ‗inspiration‘ refers to a far more definite Divine action, reminiscent of God breathing his spirit into Adam so that
he became a living soul [or being] (Gen 2: 7) and of Our Lord breathing on the disciples and saying: ―Receive the Holy
Spirit‖ (John 20: 22). ―All scripture is...useful/profitable/serviceable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and training
in righteousness‖ - in Bullinger‘s phase, it ―teacheth abundantly all things that belong to true godliness‖ (Bromiley, p.
221). It is not there for subtle points or for encyclopaedic reference but ―so that everyone who belongs to God may be
proficient, equipped for every good work‖. Raymond E. Brown stressed that the verse was primarily concerned ―less on
the inspiration of all Scripture passages than on the utility of inspired Scripture ... to teach and correct and thus to
counteract evil impostors‖ (p. 678). St. Gregory of Nyssa through the analogy of the ‗beacon light‘ that brings sailors
―back on course by a clear sign‖, ―so Scripture may bring those adrift in the sea of life back into the harbour of the divine

will‖. To be instructed by the Scriptures, was according to Bernard of Clairvaux, gives knowledge of ―what to avoid and
what to pursue‖ (Adels: p. 174).
Vatican II‘s Decree on Divine Revelation demanded of Roman Catholics that ―we must acknowledge that the books of
scripture teach firmly, faithfully and without error such truth as God, for the sake of our salvation, wished the biblical text
to contain (quam Deus nostrae salutis causa litteris sacris consignari voluit)‖ (Chapter 3: 11; Flannery: p. 757). The
Catechism of the Catholic Church includes this sentence in the summary of its teaching on Scripture. ―Interpretation of
the inspired Scripture must be attentive above all to what God wants to reveal through the sacred authors for our
salvation‖ (p. 35 – no. 137). For McBrien: ―revelation is always for salvation (1994, p. 263). Newman claimed
inspiration throughout the Bible but denied that to affirm biblical inspiration on matters relating to faith and morals
required any extension to subjects such as astronomy and chronology (see Wansbrough, 2010: p. 156).
Bishop Ryle defended the historicity of the Bible: ―Nothing is found that overturns one jot or tittle of the Bible‘s
historical statements‖ (p. 16). However he answered on ‗Alleged Scientific Errors‘: ―The Bible was not written to teach a
system of geology, botany, or on a history of birds, insects, and animals‖ (p. 38). John Hapgood, who showed us round
Bishopsthorpe when he was Archbishop of York, pinpointed a related problem when he accurately defined the Bible as
‗pre-scientific‘. Therefore any reader who expects to find in it information ―on all sorts of subjects which lay outside the
ken of its authors‖ can expect to be disappointed. Its contents should be treated as documents of their time and under its
‗particular constraints‘. Then it ―can reveal God‘s presence in history and in the world of nature‖ and be found to speak
―albeit in a different mode‖. Hapgood asserted that while God may not directly cause thunderstorms, His glory can still
be revealed ―through such phenomena‖ and His awesomeness ―is reflected in their power‖ (Cohn- Sherbok: pp. 137-8).
The writers of the Old Testament had ―little interest in the questions which scientific historians ask‖ (Edwards: p. 275).
The Revised Catechism of the Church England asked the question: ―What is the Bible?‖ It gave the answer: ―The Bible,
in both the Old and the New Testaments, is the record of God‘s revelation of himself to mankind through his people
Israel, and above all in his Son, Jesus Christ‖ (p. 12). The purpose of the Holy Scriptures was not to provide any kind of
textbook. Inaccuracies in the historical, scientific, geographical or any other disciplinary detail do not invalidate that
central revelation, of which the anonymous author of Hebrews wrote: ―Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and
various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son‖ (1:1). Speaking from the Orthodox
perspective, Father Hopko commented: ―There may be incidental inaccuracies of a non-essential character in the Bible.
But the eternal spiritual and doctrinal message of God, presented in the Bible in many different ways, remains perfectly
consistent, authentic, and true.‖ The evangelist who first invited Billy Graham to England was Tom Rees. I knew his
widow and son. Rees was capable of going to what he perceived as the heart of the matter very directly and simply. ―The
power of this Book is to be found in the theme of the Book ... Jesus Christ Himself is the theme of this Book ... When you
read this Book you will come face to face with our Lord, Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh‖ (pp. 33-4). Harold O.
Brown, former Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, stated the obvious
truth, so often understated. ―Christians affirm that Jesus Christ, not the doctrine of Scripture or of biblical infallibility, is
the central reality of the Christian faith‖ (Comfort, p. 47). In a similar vein, James Barr stated emphatically that that
Christian faith is not in the Bible but in Christ and therefore the Bible is ―the instrument of faith and the expression of
faith, rather than the object of faith‖ (p. 55). Charles Gore stated emphatically that the Bible ―is the record of the
proclamation, not the revelation itself. The revelation is in the Person of Christ‖ (Preface, 1890).

Four priests born in 1921 were to have enormous and overlapping impacts on the Church of England: Robert Runcie,
John Fenton, John Stott and Graham Leonard. I am grateful to God for the acquaintance and guidance of the last three.
Canon Fenton was at one time my spiritual director. Graham Leonard had an enormous personal influence on my
Christian development over several decades, stretching through his time as an Anglican bishop (Willesden, Truro and
London) and beyond. As a Roman Catholic priest, he helped me explore again the Roman Catholic faith and remained in
contact with me into his eighties. In an excellent little paperback, written as Bishop of London, he summarised his faith
through the medium of Newman‘s famous lines in the Dream of Gerontius, which became the hymn: ‗Firmly I believe
and truly‘. One long paragraph encapsulated that central revelation. Here he wrote of ―the testimony of the Scriptures,
which the Church formally recognized as having unique authority for Christians‖.
―Our faith in God is rooted in events which actually took place. Of these we have a record in the New Testament documents, which have always been
the cornerstone of Christian belief. ... The Old Testament as a whole speaks of a time of preparations for the coming of our Lord in Bethlehem. He was
born of a particular woman, Mary, at a particular time, of a particular people with a history. He did not suddenly appear without any relation to human
history. The biblical history is necessary as the context in which we can understand what Christ did and who he is‖ (1985, p. 4).
In his Bampton Lectures of 1884, the future Archbishop of Canterbury (and father of another), Frederick Temple, tackled
the thorny issue of ‗The Relations between Religion and Science‘. He upheld that the doctrine of evolution strengthened
the argument for an intelligent Creator and its compatibility with the ‗substance of Revelation‘.
―It is distinctly the fault of religions, not of scientific men‖ that great contrasts existed between the Bible on one side and Astronomy and Geology on
the other; and that ―there is still a great contrast between the Bible and Evolution. In no one of these cases was the Revelation contained in the Bible in
danger, but only the interpretation commonly put on the Bible. ... There was no doctrine involved whatever; there was nothing at stake on which the
spiritual life depended‖ (Cosslett: p. 211).
Nevertheless fundamentalists remain intransigent. Henry M. Morris expressed that position dogmatically.
―The real truth of the matter is that the Bible indeed is verbally inspired and literally true throughout. Whenever it deals with scientific or historical
matters of fact, it means exactly what it says and is completely accurate. When figures of speech are used, their meaning is always evident in context,
just as in other books. There is no scientific fallacy in the Bible at all. Science is knowledge, and the Bible is a book of true and factual knowledge
throughout, on every subject with which it deals. The Bible is a book of science‖ (p. 229).
An interesting example of the concession to figurative language occurred during the notorious ‗Monkey Trial‘ of John
Scopes for introducing as a textbook Hunter‘s ‗Civic Biology‘ and teaching evolution from it to his students in Dayton,
Tennessee in 1925. At the request of the founder of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, the former
Presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan, acted as prosecuting counsel for the State of Tennessee. He had made
himself into ‗a sort of Fundamentalist Pope‘. Bryan had written: ―All the ills from which America suffers can be traced
back to the teaching of evolution. It would be better to destroy every other book ever written and save just the first three
verses of Genesis‖ (Ruthven: p. 19). Bryan agreed to be cross-examined as a witness, by the renowned attorney, Clarence
Darrow, for the defence.
DARROW-‗You claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?‘
BRYAN-‗I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there: some of the Bible is given illustratively. For instance: "Ye are the salt
of the earth." I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving God's people.‘

In an article entitled ‗The Bible Is a Textbook of Science‘ and published in the October-December 1964 issue of
Bibliothea Sacra, Henry Morris contended:
“It is not only legitimate then, but absolutely mandatory, for the Christian to depend implicitly on the scientific and philosophic framework
revealed in Holy Scripture if he is to attain a true understanding of any of the factual data with which science deals, and their implications. It is not
surprising at all, then, when we find that the Bible does speak rather explicitly about basic principles in every area of science."
Fr. John Meyendorff defined fundamentalism as a reaction to liberalism and ―the blind and often naive acceptance of a
literal inerrancy of the biblical texts, which implies refusal of history and of any form of cooperation between God and
man in the act of revelation. The Bible is transformed into something it has never pretended to be: a universal,
informational text-book about history and science‖ (p. 95). Protestant Fundamentalism is a religion of the Book.
Anything that assails the protective walls that fundamentalism constructed around the Book comes from hostile forces.
Roman Catholicism has a special place in its demonology as a religion that subverts the uniqueness of the Scriptures not
only by the supplementation of tradition but by the subservience of Scripture to the teaching authority of the Church.
Protestant fundamentalists still largely ignore Orthodoxy or parody it as some esoteric variant or deviant of Roman
Catholicism and thus only demonstrate their ignorance. They fail to grasp the historical pedigree of theological
liberalism, seeing it merely as the surrender to the Enlightenment, to secularism and to relativism. Its roots lie in the
Protestant Reformation, as does Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. Packer contended that when ‗Fundamentalism‘
means ‗consistent Evangelicalism‘, it is ―in principle nothing but Christianity itself ... the oldest orthodoxy, grounded
four-square upon the teaching of Christ and his apostles‖ (p. 22). ―The evangelical insistence on the factuality of what
Scripture presents as fact is neither new nor untheological. It goes back to the Reformation, when the allegorical method
of exposition was abandoned in favour of the sounder principle that Scripture must be taken in its literal sense‖ (p. 99).
Evangelicalism is the mother of Fundamentalism and shares a common DNA. However much Evangelicalism may seek
to disown her prodigal son and deplore his intellectual immaturity, she cannot deny maternity. The mother of
Evangelicalism was the Protestant Reformation. Sola Scriptura – the Bible only – was the answer that Protestantism gave
to Rome and held aloft her hybrid scriptures. ―The Bible must be first‖, demanded Charles Haddon Spurgeon, ―and
God‘s ministers must lie under it. We must not stand on the Bible to preach, but we must preach with the Bible above our
heads‖. On another occasion, the great Baptist preacher exclaimed: ―Defend the Bible? I would just as soon defend a
roaring lion.‖
In the first of his famous Bampton Lectures of 1940 in which he contrasted ‗Fathers and Heretics‘, Dr. Prestige affirmed:
―The voice of the Bible could be plainly heard only if its text were interpreted broadly and rationally, in accordance with
the apostolic creed and the evidence of the historical practice of Christendom. It was the heretics that relied most on
isolated texts, and the Catholics who paid more attention on the whole to scriptural principles‖ (p. 21). On the misuse of
the prophetic Scriptures by heretics, St. Clement of Alexandria pointed to the stages through which they go astray. They
fail firstly ‗to make use of all the scriptures‘; secondly they ‗will not quote them entire, nor as the body and texture of the
prophecy prescribe‘. Thirdly they select ambiguous expressions and twist them to fit their opinions, ―gathering a few
expressions here and there; not looking to the sense, but making use of the mere diction‖, Thus they alter the meanings of
these isolated texts and ignore the context that provides the ‗natural meaning‘ (Gwatkin: p. 109).
Malise Ruthven charged fundamentalists with being ―nothing if not selective about the texts they use and their mode of
interpretation. They are also much more innovative in the way they interpret the texts they select than is often supposed.

In this respect they may be contrasted with traditionalists‖ (p. 15). Here my own experience of fundamentalism
confirmed Ruthven‘s statement in its entirety.
The Catholic Bishops‘ Conferences of England, Wales and Scotland produced ‗The Gift of Scripture‘ in 2005. In one
sizeable paragraph they outlined the dangers of Fundamentalism. ―Fundamentalist reading will often focus on a particular
text or texts, and disregard others which express different perspectives, thus making absolute what is a partial and
incomplete understanding within Scripture... The fundamentalist approach disregards the diversity of views and the
development of understanding which is found in the Bible and does not allow for the presence of ‗imperfect and time-
conditioned elements‘ within Scripture (Dei Verbum 15) ... it favours a superficial interpretation of biblical texts, in
which there is insufficient consideration of the place of a given text within a developing tradition. Fundamentalism will
often take a simplistic view of literary genre, as when narrative texts which are of a more complex nature are treated as
historical (Interpretation of the Bible I.F). In essence, fundamentalist reading disregards the various human dimensions of
the Scriptures, and thereby undervalues the gift of Scripture and the ‗divine condescension‘ which gives us God‘s word in
human language‖ (pp. 20-21).
God Himself in His essence is unknowable and His self-revelation limited to the bounds of our human comprehension.
Hence He is described in anthropomorphisms that cannot be understood absolutely literally. Thomas Aquinas recognised
this. ―When Scripture speaks of God‘s arm, the literal sense is not that God has such a member, but only what is signified
by this member, namely spiritual power‖ (Galloway: p. 115). Literalism robs the interpretation and exegesis of the Bible
of its rich diversity. St. Maximos the Confessor contended: ―Not all persons and things designated in the Holy Scripture
by the same word are necessarily to be understood in exactly the same way‖ for if they are then none of them ―will yield
either the literal or spiritual sense intended‖. ―Thus he who wishes to study the divine knowledge without floundering
must respect the differences of the recorded events or sayings, and interpret each in a different way, assigning to it the
appropriate spiritual sense according to the context of place and time‖ (Palmer, Sherrard & Ware: p. 253). Father Lev
Gillet affirmed that throughout ‗the whole evolution of Orthodox thought‘ two approaches to Scripture have co-existed
since the third century: the Antiochian ‗literalist and historicist attitude‘ and the Alexandrian ‗allegorist and speculative
attitude‘. Beyond the theological schools, there has been an ―evangelical‖ spirituality, which ―lays stress on the spirit and
virtues of the Gospel, on the necessity of following Christ, on charity towards the poor and afflicted‖ (1945: pp. 4-5).
Fr. John Behr claimed that Orthodoxy, in reflecting the mind of the early church, starts from a very different perspective.
Inspiration does not ―solely reside within the text or in the mind of the inspired prophet as he uttered or wrote his words
... As it is only when Christ opens the scriptures, to show how they all speak of him and his Passion, that the inspired
meaning of the scriptures is brought to light, the inspiration of the scriptures cannot be separated from the opening of the
sealed book of the Lamb (Rev 5)‖ [p. 64]. Reflecting on the marriage feast of Cana in St. John‘s Gospel, Origen wrote:
―In truth, before Jesus, Scripture was like water, but since Jesus it has become for us the wine into which Jesus changed
the water‖. St. Gregory the Great found a typological significance with the two testaments in both the two angels at
Christ‘s tomb and the two cherubim at the mercy seat. The mercy seat represented the incarnate Lord and the two
cherubim are the two testaments facing each other, both with their gaze fixed on the mercy seat and ―looking at the Lord
between them and they ... are recounting in harmony the mystery of his loving purpose‖ (cited in Clément: pp. 97-8).

For St. Gregory, ―the Old Testament foretells what the New Testament declares accomplished in the Lord‖. In
‗Quaestiones in Heptateuchum‘ (2: 73), St. Augustine expressed a similar truth more succinctly: ―in Vetere Novum lateat,
et in Novo Vetus pateat‖ [―the New (Testament) lies hidden in the Old and the Old (Testament) is opened up in the
New"]. Progressive revelation is an important key towards a Christian understanding of the relationship between the two
testaments. Charles Gore wrote: ―It is of the essence of the New Testament, as the religion of the Incarnation. To be final
and catholic: on the other hand, it is the essence of the Old Testament to be imperfect because it represents a gradual
process of education by which man was lifted out of depths of sin and ignorance‖ (cited in Rowell,1983: p. 223). Milman
had written in the preface to his famous History of the Jews: ―they had a shadow, but only a shadow of good things to
come‖ (Forbes: p. 76). In response to fundamentalism, even John Stott acknowledged in his pamphlet of 1956. ‗Much of
the Old Testament is ―pre-Christian‖ not only in time but also in truth‘.
Lord Hailsham wrote about his approach to the Bible. ―I am not a purveyor of texts to support exact doctrines. I believe
that the Bible is an inspiration, a light to guide the feet ... It is when it is treated as a living source of inspiration and
enlightenment that it does its work. It can only be used in conjunction the life of meditation, self-criticism and prayer. But
so used there is nothing like it, and there is no substitute for it‖ (p. 71). One is reminded of George Herbert‘s country
parson, who was ‗full of knowledge‘ of practical matters, ―even to tillage and pastorage‖, and had read ―the Fathers also,
and the schoolmen, and the later writers, or a good proportion of all‖. ―But the chief and top of his knowledge consists in
the book of books, the storehouse and magazine of life, the Holy Scriptures. There he sucks, and lives. In the Scriptures
he finds four things: precepts for life, doctrines for knowledge, examples for illustration, and promises for comfort; these
he digested severally. But understanding of these, the means he uses are first, a holy life... The second means is prayer‖.
In preaching, ―the character of his sermons is holiness... by choosing texts of devotion, not controversy ... so that the
auditors may plainly perceive that every word is heart-deep‖ (Martz: pp. 193-198, passim). I read Betty Knott‘s loose
translation of Thomas à Kempis‘s great classic in my twenties. What follows is extracted from her rendering of his
section ‗On the Reading of Holy Scripture‘ (1.V). ―All Scripture must be read in the spirit in which it is written, and in
the Scriptures we should look for what will help us, not for subtle points... If you want to drink in spiritual benefit, read in
humility, simplicity and faith and at no point desire to be known for your learning‖. John Wesley wrote in ‗An Earnest
Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion‘ (1743): ‗O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it:
here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be "homo unius libri."... The Scripture therefore of the "Old and New
Testament," is a most solid and precious system of divine truth. Every part thereof is worthy of God; and all together are
one entire body, wherein is no defect, no excess. It is the fountain of heavenly wisdom, which they who are able to taste,
prefer to all writings of men, however wise, or learned, or holy.‘
After entering the Augustinian Black Monastery at Erfurt in July 1505, ‗Brother Martin‘ Luther was cautioned to ―let the
Bible alone; read the old teachers. ... Reading the Bible simply breeds unrest‖ (Reardon: p. 67). He later recalled that he
had lost Christ in the scholastics and found him again in Paul. Calvin wrote of the uniqueness of Scripture in the
Institutes: ―… no human writings, however skilfully composed, are at all capable of affecting us in a similar way. Read
Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato, Aristotle, or any other of that class: you will, I admit, feel wonderfully allured,
pleased, moved, enchanted; but turn from them to the reading of the Sacred Volume, and whether you will or not, it will
so affect you, so pierce your heart, so work its way into your very marrow, that, in comparison of the impression so
produced, that of orators and philosophers will almost disappear; making it manifest that in the Sacred Volume there is a
truth divine, a something which makes it immeasurably superior to all the gifts and graces attainable by man‖ (Bk. 1: Ch.
8, Section 13:1).

St. Gregory the Great in The Dialogues, simply referred to St. Benedict as ‗vir Dei‘ (man of God). In the prologue to his
rule, St. Benedict, exhorted his monks: ―the Lord waits for us daily to translate into action, as we should, his holy
teachings. Therefore our life span has been lengthened by way of a truce, that we may amend our misdeeds‖. He then
cited Romans 2:4 and Ezekiel 33:11 in the Vulgate (Fry: p. 18). St. Athanasius assured Marcellinus that ―the entire Holy
Scripture is a teacher of virtues and of the truths of faith‖ (Gregg: p. 112). In his Life of Anthony, he wrote of that great
desert saint that was his father in God. ―He prayed constantly, since he learned that it is necessary to pray unceasingly in
private. For he paid such close attention to what was read that nothing from Scripture did he fail to take in – rather he
grasped everything, and in him the memory took the place of books‖ (idem: p. 32). As St. Athanasius concluded in his
great treatise ‗On the Incarnation of the Word of God‘: ―But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures
there is need of a good life and a pure soul‖ (St. Athanasius: p. 96). St. John of Kronstadt put the point plainly: ―In the
Holy Scripture we see God face to face, and ourselves as we are. Man, know thyself through the scriptures, and walk
always as in the presence of God‖ (Grisbrooke, p. 79).
St. Clement, Bishop of Rome, wrote to the Corinthian church around 95 A.D.:
―Therefore let us abandon empty and futile thoughts, and let us conform to the glorious and holy rule of our tradition; indeed let us note what is good
and what is pleasing and what is acceptable in the sight of the one who made us. Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious
it is to his Father, because, being poured out for our salvation, it won the whole world for repentance‖ (Holmes: pp. 54-55).
The reader is here reminded of the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews to ―keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in
our faith and brings it to perfection‖ (12: 2; N.J.B.). Luther once recalled that he had lost Christ in the scholastics and
found him again in Paul. For David Livingstone, while the Old Testament began with man in the image of God, the New
introduced God in the image of man. St. Jerome regarded ignorance of the Scriptures as ignorance of Christ.
How truly awesome it must have been for those two dejected disciples on the road to Emmaus as they listened to Jesus,
when ―beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures‖.
As he vanished from their sight, they recalled how their hearts had been ―burning within us on the road, while he was
opening the scriptures to us‖ (St. Luke 24: 27, 32, N.R.S.V.). Let us not be like those Jewish leaders that were rebuked by
Our Lord Himself. ―You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are
the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life‖ (St. John 5: 39-40, N.I.V.).



HISTORICAL PREMILLENNIALISM (Post Tribulation): Resurrections & Thousand Year Reign

R1 = First resurrection of dead Christians at the rapture R2 = Second resurrection of martyrs and Old Testament saints
R3 = Third resurrection of believers who died during the thousand year reign R4 = There is implied a fourth resurrection of unbelievers

―He is coming, our loving Saviour.... On the Earth He shall reign.‖ (Sankey, No. 172)
―There is no justification for regarding either Revelation or any other book of the Bible as a blueprint for the future course of world events‖
(Drane: p. 444)
Martyn Percy perceived two problems for Evangelicals in approaching millenarianism. They intrinsically seek coherence
in the Bible yet eschatological references are ―numerous, scattered and not especially coherent‖. However ―the very acme
of Evangelicalism‖ is the integration of biblical texts into a ‗biblical doctrine‘. Secondly, ―these same texts have proved
to be a happy hunting ground for ‗cults‘ ... and ‗sects‘‖ (Hunt: p. 30). As John Stott cautioned the second coming is an
example ―of the importance of considering each part of Scripture‘s teaching ... in the light of the whole. It would be easy
(and dangerous) to be selective in the texts from which we build up our doctrine‖ (2003b, p. 190).
―The first sine qua non of dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the Church‖, according to George Eldon
Ladd (Clouse: p. 19). The Dispensationalist approach primarily sees the last times as the fulfilment of Israel‘s history.
This goes back to its origins in the ‗Irvingites‘. In their paper, The Morning Watch, John Tudor wrote in 1831that the
rapture and the reign of Christ would be accompanied by the unconverted Jews being ―brought, through severe trials and
sufferings, into their own land‖ (cited in Hunt: p.111). For them ―the unfulfilled promises given to Israel literally refer to
the Jews... After the Rapture, God will then complete His unfinished business with Israel ... during the seven-year
Tribulation period‖. The covenant promises to Israel are still intact and God ―will not only restore Israel to a place of
blessing ... but will also literally fulfil the land and kingdom promises to Israel‖ because the Church has not ―replaced
Israel as the heir to the Old Testament promises‖ (Hitchcock & Ice: pp. 186-7). In American fundamentalism (and thus
increasingly here in Britain as well), Dispensationalism has become linked with the creation of the state of Israel,
Zionism and an imperative agenda to support Israel as both a Christian and a patriotic duty. Thus its adherents are called
upon to stand resolutely hostile to all who seem to threaten the state of Israel.
Premillenialism is marshalled by Dispensationalists as a tool for evangelism and to instil fear and dread of Armageddon
into ‗unbelievers‘. ‗I wish we‘d all been ready‘ was the title of a song by Larry Norman, which sought to alarm the
audience into an urgency of decision before the imminent possibility of the ‗rapture‘. Those who are ‗left behind‘ will
then fall victim to the ‗Great Tribulation‘. It is small wonder therefore that several heretical cults have adopted
Premillenialism and used it to much the same ends. Gilbert Kirby reflected on how sad it was that the books of Daniel
and Revelation and other scriptural apocalyptic passages had ―become a happy hunting ground for those who are
concerned to put across a particular interpretation to the exclusion of others‖ (p. 131). Alongside the threefold division
over the millennium there is another threefold separation of views over the tribulation. ―Christians part way and new
denominations spring up around interpretations of events that have not yet even come to pass!‖ (O.S.B., p. 1647).
Whereas its roots lie in the eighteenth century, Dispensationalism can only be traced back systematically to John Nelson
Darby (1800-82), the virtual founder of the Plymouth Brethren, who was influenced by the founder of the Catholic
Apostolic Church, Edward Irving. Both men had seceded from historical denominations. Irving ―had been engaged, with
a little group of friends, in studying the prophecies, and... had fallen under the spell of chiliasm‖ (Knox: p. 552). Mark
Patterson and Andrew Walker examined Irving‘s ―very real, if not actually direct, influence‖ on the formative years of
the early Plymouth Brethren (Hunt: pp. 98-115).
Through early Brethren evangelists, like Henry Moorhouse, Dispensationalism spread to America but it was the work of
C. I. Scofield that popularised it among American evangelicals. Darby‘s ideas contributed to the emergence o American

fundamentalism. Bible schools followed that provided trained preachers to disseminate it among the grassroots. Among
the most successful of these has been the Moody Bible Institute. Their website includes these sentences elaborating their
Doctrinal Statement (I have altered the font and the size and boxed them):

Their position on the millennium is clarified further in the website‘s article on the Second Coming: ―At the end of the
Tribulation, Jesus Christ will return with the hosts of heaven as well as the Church to establish the Messianic Kingdom
on earth. His Kingdom will last for a thousand years‖.
―Literal interpretation is foundational to the dispensational approach to Scripture‖ (Hitchcock & Ice: p. 185). Herman
Hoyt regarded literalism as axiomatic to the lay accessability of the Bible. This ‗literal and normal sense‘ was applied to
the whole Bible. Though Hoyt admitted to some figurative language in the Scriptures, even then a literal interpretation
was to be found. ―The literal method of approach to the teaching of the premillenial, dispensational doctrine of the
kingdom is absolutely basic‖. On that foundation ―it proceeds to erect an entire system of theology that incorporates the
entire Bible‖ and ―provides a philosophy of history that is the best and brightese of all philosophies‖ (Clouse: pp. 65-9).
For many Dispensationalists the Scofield Bible of 1909 is their definitive Reference Bible. Elsewhere Cyrus Ingerson
Scofield (1843-1921) summarised his approach to biblical prophecy in the clearest possible way as where ―we reach the
ground of absolute literalness. Figures are often found in the prophecies, but the figure invariably has a literal fulfilment.
Not one instance exists of a ‗spiritual‘ or figurative fulfilment of prophecy. . . Jerusalem is always Jerusalem, Israel
always Israel, Zion always Zion . . . Prophecies may never be spiritualised, but are always literal‖ (http://www.the-
highway.com/premil4_Venema.html#3). Scofield defined a dispensation as ― a period of time during which man is tested
in respect to obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God‖ (Scofield: p. 5, note 5). According to Scofield,
there were seven dispensations, ―distinguished in Scripture‖:
1) Innocence – ―Man is created in innocency (sic), placed in a perfect environment...‖ (idem: p. 5, note 5)
2) Conscience [Fall > Noah] – ―By disobedience man came to a personal and experimental knowledge of good
and evil‖ (idem: p. 10, note 2)
3) Human Government [Noah > Abraham] – ―the institution, for the first time, of human government‖ (idem:
p. 16, note 1)
4) Promise [Abraham > Moses] – ―They became the heirs of promise ... ended when Israel rashly accepted the
law‖ (idem: p. 20, note 1)
5) Law [Moses to Christ] – ―from Sinai to Calvary – from the Exodus to the Cross‖ (idem: p. 94, note 1)
6) Grace [the present age] – ―begins with the death and resurrection of Christ‖ (idem: p. 1115, note 2) – ―will
end by the fulfilment of 1 Thes. 4. 14-17‖ (idem: p. 1330) – i.e. ‗the first resurrection‘ (idem: p. 1269)
7) Kingdom – ‗the Fulness of Time‘ – ―identical with the kingdom covenanted to David‖ (idem, p. 1250,
Institutional Positions Related to the Moody Bible Institute Doctrinal Statement (1928)
Notes elaborating the 1928 Doctrinal Statement
It is MBI's position that this refers to the premillennial return of Christ at which time He will set up His millennial reign,
during which time He will fulfill His promises to Israel. ...
The Church of Jesus Christ is a distinct entity from Israel in the ongoing program of God. Further, this universal Church
consists of all who possess saving faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from Pentecost to the Rapture of the
Church and which will represent every language, people and nation.
Christ will return in the air preceding the seven-year Tribulation at which time He will receive into heaven all believers
who constitute His church. During that tribulation period, God will bring salvation to Israel and the nations while
exercising judgment on unbelievers.

note 3) - ―The kingdom of heaven ... , thus established under David's divine Son, has for its object the
restoration of the divine authority in the earth‖ (idem: p. 1226, note 3).
This graph demonstrates the complexity of their eschatology of the sixth and seventh dispensations:
( http://www.nyu.edu/fas/projects/vcb/ChristianMedia/prophecy_premdisp.html)

In his best-selling popular exposition of that position, The Late Great Planet Earth, Hal Lindsey argued that the ―real
issue between the amillenial and the premillenial viewpoints is whether prophecy should be interpreted literally or
allegorically‖ (p. 165). He defined his fellow-premillenialists as those ―who believe that Christ will return and set up a
1000 year kingdom... the kingdom on earth‖. He will ―rule mortals from the throne of David out of Jerusalem after his
return‖ (p. 164). He laid out a clear ‗sequence‘.
1) Christ returns ―at the climax of the greatest war in history‖.
2) Christ ―separates the surviving believers from the the surviving unbelievers‖ –the latter being ―judged and cast
off the earth‖.
3) Christ ―establishes the millenial kingdom‖ of mortal believers who ―repopulate the earth‖.
4) After the millenium, Christ judges ―the unbelieving children‖.
5) Christ ―completely changes the old heaven and earth and creates a new one‖ – ―the ultimate destiny of all
persons who are redeemed in Christ‖. (pp. 166-7; cf. Scofield: p. 1250, note 3)

While the Jehovah‘s Witnesses deny the physicality of Christ‘s resurrection and thus of His ‗return‘ and maintain that the
―first resurrection‖ was a ―spiritual, heavenly resurrection‖ in 1918, there are marked similarities in their eschatology
with the ‗sequence‘ listed by Lindsey. The Jehovah‘s Witnesses have their own version of 1, 2 and 3 and some partial
similarities to 4 and 5 (Hoekema: pp. 293-236). Horton Davies upheld that ―their doctrine is largely based on the
obscurities‖ of the apocalyptical books so that Divine Revelation becomes ―a tangled skein only to be unravelled by the
subtle minds of this sect. But Christianity is not a mystery religion for initiates‖ (p. 108). Dr. John Thomas, founder of
the Christadelphians, upheld that Christ would defeat his enemies at the Battle of Armageddon, establish his kingdom at
Jerusalem, ruling through the Christadelphians. After the eradication of rebellious sinners, ―the final scene would be a
physical earth blissfully inhabited by immortal bodies‖ (Christie-Murray: pp.205-6).

Dispensationalist exegesis displays all the worst hallmarks of Fundamentalism. It combines extraordinary degrees of
literalism with regard to the apocalyptic writings with notorious examples of diverse private interpretations. The
isolationism of millennial teaching from the general didactic context of the whole of St. John‘s Apocalypse has turned
these chapters into ―a paradise of cranks and fanatics on the one hand and literalists on the other‖ (Caird: p. 249).
Anthony Hoekema, the Reformed theologian, in his defence of Amillennialism, concluded on Revelation 20: 1-6:
―There is no indication in these verses that John is describing an earthly millennial reign. The scene, as we saw, is set in heaven. Nothing is said in
verses 4-6 about the earth, about Palestine as the center of this reign or about the Jews. The thousand-year reign of Revelation 20:4 is a reign with
Christ in heaven of the souls of believers who have died. This reign is not something to be looked for in the future; it is going on now, and will be until
Christ returns. Hence the term realized millennialism is an apt description of the view here defended — if it be remembered that the millennium in
question is not an earthly but a heavenly one‖ (Clouse: p. 169).
Furthermore Revelation is ‗full of symbolic numbers‘. Obviously the number ―thousand‖ ... must not be interpreted in a
literal sense‘. As ten to the power of three it may refer merely to a complete indeterminately long period in contrast to
Satan‘s ―little season (idem: p. 161). The Amillennialist believes in a ‗realized millennialism‟ which ―is not exclusively
future but is now in process of realization‖ (idem: pp. 155-6).
The deeply Reformed theologian, Louis Berkhof, raised several objections to Premillennialism, inserting numerous
scriptural references.
1) ―It makes the Kingdom of God an earthly and national kingdom, while the New Testament represents it as
spiritual and universal‖ (1938: p. 176)
2) ―The New Testament knows nothing of such an earthly and temporal kingdom of Christ, but does speak of His
heavenly... and eternal... kingdom‖ (idem)
3) It is ―based on a literal interpretation of the prophetic delineations of the future of Israel and, of the Kingdom of
God, which is entirely untenable‖ (1958: p. 712)
4) ―The so-called postponement theory, which is a necessary link in the premillennial scheme, is devoid of all
Scriptural basis‖ (idem, p. 713).
5) Premillenialism is ―in flagrant opposition to the Scriptural representation of the great events of the future,
namely the resurrection, the final judgment, and the end of the world‖ (idem, p. 714).
6) ―There is no positive Scriptural foundation whatsoever for the Premillennial view of a double, or even a three-
or fourfold resurrection, as their theory requires, nor for spreading the last judgment over a period of a thousand
years by dividing it into three judgments‖ (idem: pp. 714-5)
7) It ―entangles itself in all kinds of insuperable difficulties with its doctrine of the millennium‖ (idem: p. 716)
8) ―The only Scriptural basis for this theory is Rev. 20: 1-6, after an Old Testament content has been poured into
it‖ (idem)
9) That passage ―represents a scene in heaven, and makes no mention of the Jews, of an earthly and national
kingdom, nor of the land of Palestine, as the place where Jesus will rule‖ (1938: p. 176). [1938 - therefore
Michael Gilbertson pointed out that, apart from the 19
and 20
chapters of Revelation (Apocalypse), there ―is no
unambiguous support for a premillennial position elsewhere in Scripture‖ and, that ―it can degenerate into an excessively
materialistic view of the future‖ (Gilbertson: pp. 11-12). Revelation chapter 20 is indeed the ―only passage that explicitly

mentions the millennium‖ (Boyd & Eddy: p. 238). The critics of such teaching question ―its highly literalistic
hermeneutic‖ (Gilbertson: p. 12). John Stott was right to emphasise that ―Revelation is full of symbolism ... the symbols
are to be understood, not visualized. If we were to attempt to visualize them, the result would often be grotesque‖ (2008:
p. 6).
Classical (Historical) Premillenialism was prevalent among the early fathers when ―the ancient fathers awaited with great
expectation, almost impatience, the Second Coming of the Lord‖ (Verhovskoy: p. 60). The widely perceived immanence
of the Lord‘s return inevitably affected the eschatology of the early church and resulted in the early popularity of
millennial or chiliastic doctrine. ―The tendency of such millennial expectation was to fan Christian optimism about the
future to a white heat. A protracted time of divine blessing could be looked for within history‖ (Bebbington, p. 53).
Wansbrough believed that millenarianism was the indubitable reason for the ―considerable doubt in the fourth century
whether the Book of Revelation was part of the sacred scripture‖ (2006, p. 41). However some passages support the view
that the early Church was not so much anticipating the millennium as longing for the Lord to return and save them from
the decaying world (Boyd & Eddy: p. 251). ―Christ ... will appear a second time ... to save those who are eagerly waiting
for him‖ (Hebrews 9: 28; R.S.V). ―Now be patient, brothers, until the Lord‘s coming... You also will be patient. Do not
lose heart, because the Lord‘s coming is at hand‖ (James 5:7-8; N.J.B.); ―set all your hope on the grace that Jesus will
bring you when he is revealed‖ (I Peter 1: 13b; N.R.S.V.); ―waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of the Lord‖
(2 Peter 3: 13; N.A.B., R.S.V., N.R.S.V.).
Papias was an early Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, referred to by Irenaeus as ―a man of the early period, who was a
hearer of John [the Apostle] and a companion of Polycarp [c.70-155 A.D.]‖ (Holmes: p. 753; cf. Roberts, Donaldson &
Coxe [2007], p. 563). Eusebius stated that Papias in his „Expositions on the Sayings of the Lord‟ said ―that after the
resurrection of the dead there will be a period of a thousand years, when Christ‘s kingdom will be set up on this earth in
material form‖. Eusebius questioned that Papias received that teaching from the Apostle John but rather ―he heard
Ariston and the presbyter John‖. He was dismissive of Papias‘s accredited teaching supposing that he had merely
misunderstood the apostolic accounts for he was apparently ―a man of very small intelligence‖ and had failed ―to grasp
what they had said in mystic and symbolic language‖ (Williamson: p. 152). Jerome upheld that Papias ―promulgated the
Jewish tradition of a millennium, and was followed by Irenaeus, Apollinarius, and others, who say that after the
resurrection the Lord will reign in the flesh with the saints‖ (Holmes: p. 747). As Frazier concludes, Papias‘ vision of the
Kingdom was very materialistic and a precursor of the sensual and indulgent Paradise of the Qur‘an (p. 45).
Justin Martyr was a chiliast but admitted that there were Christians ‗of pure and godly mind‘ who disagreed with him. In
his Dialogues [80 & 81] with Trypho ‗the collective nature of the Parousia is emphasized‘ – the general resurrection,
heavenly and earthly renewal and the inheritance of the eternal kingdom with its capital in a renewed Jerusalem. ‗There is
no doubt that Justin held that Jerusalem would be physically rebuilt‘ (Barnard: p. 209).Justin‘s language furthermore is
unclear whether he was pre- or post-millennial in the relevant passage below, but Frazier may well be right in deducing
that it is probably postmillennial. There are conflicting passages in the Dialogues where Justin sees the millennial
kingdom as both a prelude to final judgment and also as an eternal possession ―after the holy resurrection‖ (cf. Daley: pp.
20-2). Furthermore Justin admitted that there were ―many pure and pious Christians who do not share our opinion‖.
―But I, and all other entirely orthodox Christians, know that there will be a resurrection of the flesh, and also a thousand years in a Jerusalem built up
and adorned and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and all the others acknowledge. ... And further, a man among us named John, one of the

apostles of Christ, prophesied in a Revelation made to him that they who have believed our Christ will spend a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that
afterwards the universal, and, in one word, the eternal resurrection of all at once, will take place, and also the judgment.‖ (Barnard: p.210).
Irenaeus was also a chiliast but there may have been reasons for that which lie in his adherence to the ‗apostolic tradition‘
as he understood the teaching handed from the Apostle John to Papias; treating ―the hope of a resplendent earthly
Jerusalem as traditional orthodoxy‖ (Kelly: 469; cf. Pelikan, 1975, p. 124). Writing in the early fifth century, Philip of
Side stated that ―Papias was also in error regarding the millennium, as was Irenaeus, who follows him‖ (Holmes: p. 743).
Daley concurred that Papias became the authority behind Irenaeus‘s millennial expectations (p. 18). For Irenaeus the
heretical sects with their novelties stood in sharp contrast with ―the unchanging monolithic Church of orthodoxy, semper
eadem‖. Irenaeus ―attacked those who wanted to interpret the millennial‖ hope as symbolic of heaven rather than as an
earthly reality‖ (Chadwick: pp. 82-3). It is clear ―this literal expectation of the reign of Christ was by no means universal
even in the second century‖ (Pelikan, 1999, p. 47).
Quasten placed Irenaeus‘s chiliasm in the context of his theory of Recapitulation (p. 312) on the basis of Adversus
Haereses, 5:32, ―where he sees the purpose of the earthly paradise as part of the apokatastasis, God‘s bringing the
creation to a fulfilment of its initial design‖ (McGuckin, 2004, p. 58); an earth renewed and gradually becoming
accustomed to Theosis (Daley: p. 31).
Tertullian, the first great Latin Father, was a chiliast before and of course after his conversion to Montanism. Gerald Bray
described him as ‗a firm ―dispensationalist‖ who believed that history could be divided into three ages, according to the
Persons of the Trinity‘ (Woodbridge, p. 54). The Old Testament was the age of the Father, the Incarnation that of the
Son and Pentecost, of the Holy Spirit. When Tertullian outlined his millenarianism in Adversus Marcionem he already
espoused ―the Word of the New Prophecy which dwells in our faith‖. ―For we also hold that a kingdom has been
promised before to us on earth, but before [we attain] heaven‖. This will come after the first resurrection and last a
thousand years in the New Jerusalem, ―sent down from heaven‖. The Parousia will happen during this period when ―the
saints will rise sooner or later, according to the degree of merit... and we shall be transferred to the celestial kingdom‖
(Bettenson, 1969, p. 164). Tertullian, Hippolytus and Irenaeus were apologists for the traditional eschatology against
Gnosticism‘s reduction into the soul‘s upward ascent. However ―Tertullian‘s millennarian zeal increased during his
Montanist phase‖ (Knight: p. 230). Montanists ―clearly were the extreme chiliastic charismatics of their day...
Millennialists and amillennialists, charismatics and noncharismatics characterize churches then as they do now‖ (Maier:
pp. 203-4).
Hippolytus of Rome defended his millenarianism in both his Commentary on Daniel and De Christo et Antichristo. At
first sight he seems to support the Dispensationalists because he claimed the end of the world would occur 6,000 years
after creation, followed by a ‗sabbath‘ when the saints will reign with Christ. That will be the seventh millennium and
will begin five hundred years after the birth of Christ. However Grier states that the language Hippolytus used in De
Christo et Antichristo meant that he ―cannot be reckoned a pre-millenarian‖ (pp. 26-7). According to Frazier ―Irenaeus‘
millenarianism is conspicuously absent from the work‖ (p. 46). Kovacs and Rowland asserted that in the Commentary on
Daniel the ―millennium itself is not to be measured in literal calendar years; when John saw the glory of that day, he used
the number 1,000 to indicate perfection‖ (p. 204). Furthermore Hippolytus believed that at death each of us ―is already
judged: for the consummation has come upon him‖ (4: 18; cited in Daley: p. 39).

Lactantius, surviving the Great Persecution, was among the last of the Patristic advocates of chiliasm and as such ―the
most outstanding exception ... he moved beyond the tradition linking the thousand years to anticipation of a golden age
articulated by pagan thinkers‖ (Grenz: p. 42) . He did so within a syncretistic apocalyptic which drew upon not only
Jewish and Christian traditions but also Persian astrology and religious beliefs that stretched back to Zoroaster and maybe
earlier. Adam was the ‗original man‘, imperfect and mortal, with a life-span of a thousand years but ―perfect man in
being fashioned, to be given life by God and to be master of this same world a thousand years‖ (Bowen & Garnsey: p.
421). That millennium of peace and amazing prosperity was modelled partly upon pagan sources, such as Vergil‘s Fourth
Decalogue and Sybilline Oracles VIII (Daly, p. 68).
Alongside these there were many early fathers who said nothing about an earthly millennium. It is absent from the
eschatology of St. Clement of Rome, St. Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch and the Didache (Grier: pp. 19-22; cf. for
Didache – Milavec: pp. 36-7, 80-6). Millennialism was opposed by the Alexandrian School‘s Clement and Origen, ―who
thought that those who subscribed to it were literalists and fools‖ (Knight: p. 230). Indebted to neo-Platonism and
refusing to interpret it literally, Origen‘s exegesis was allegorical so that, for example, the ‗precious stones‘ in the
heavenly Jerusalem relate to faithful Christians. For him ‗the promised kingdom was a spiritual one‘ (Pelikan: p. 125).
Origen concluded that the millenarian interpretation of the literalists, who ―do not perceive is to be taken figuratively‖,”. ,
was ―unworthy of the divine promises‖. Literalists saw ―the fulfilment of the promises of the future are (sic) to be looked
for in bodily pleasure and luxury; and therefore they especially desire to have again‖. They were ―imagining to
themselves that the earthly city of Jerusalem is to be rebuilt‖, where ―they who serve the Lord shall eat and drink, but that
sinners shall hunger and thirst; that the righteous shall be joyful, but that sorrow shall possess the wicked‖. ―Such are the
views of those who, while believing in Christ, understand the divine Scriptures in a sort of Jewish sense, drawing from
them nothing worthy of the divine promises‖ (De Principiis - Book 2: XI: 2). For Origen the bondage of Satan began at
creation for in Genesis the abyss is the dwelling place of the devil and his fallen angels (Homily on Genesis 1:1-2). Satan
was then released in order to crucify Christ and then in banished back again to the abyss from whence he came. Rather
than two apocalyptic resurrections the first relates to our baptism (Kovaks & Rowland: pp. 205-6). Commenting on the
use of ‗this day‘ in Genesis 19: 37-8, Matthew 28: 15 and Joshua 22: 16-18 as well as ‗today‘ in the Venite (Psalm 95: 7
& 8), Origen takes the view that a ‗day‘ can equal an age (as indeed it can in Hebrew). ‗And if all this age means ―today‖
perhaps the past age is ―yesterday‖‘. Citing Psalm 90: 4 and Hebrews 13: 8; Origen concludes: ―And there is nothing
wonderful in the fact that with God the whole age is reckoned as the space of one of our days: and, in my view, even
less‖ (Oulton and Chadwick: pp. 302-3; cf. p.369).
Augustine concurred with Origen that in Scriptures normally use ―the word ‗day‘ for time‖; so that ―the day of divine
judgement‖ corresponds to ―the last period of time; for it is not certain for how many days this judgement will extend‖
(Bettenson, 1972, XX:1, p. 895). Alister McGrath maintained that ―Augustine shows no interest in this millenarianism.
The chronological gap between incarnation and parousia is, according to Augustine, of unknown and undefinable
duration known only to God‖ (Bauman & Klauber: p. 86). Augustine‘s clearest statement condemning millenarianism is
in The City of God XX: 7 - (Bettenson, 1972: pp. 906-7).
Now some people have assumed, in view of this passage, that the first resurrection will be a bodily resurrection. They have been particularly excited,
among other reasons, by the actual number of a thousand years, that there should be a kind of Sabbath for the saints, a holy rest, that is after the labours
of the six thousand years since man‘s creation, when in retribution for his great sin he was expelled from paradise into the troubles of this mortal
condition. Scripture says, ‗With the Lord one day is with the Lord is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day‘, and on this assumption,

there follows, after the completion of six thousand years - six of these ‗days‘ - a kind of seventh-day Sabbath-rest for the final thousand years; with the
saints rising again, obviously to celebrate this Sabbath.
For Augustine: ―All history is eschatological, but the Apocalypse is transhistorical‖ (Vanhoozer: p. 682). Augustine‘s
early sympathy with millennialism had given way to his final exegesis of the millennial kingdom as that of the present
age of the Church. This helped to explain the ‗now‘ and the ‗already‘ in New Testament eschatology. ―It follows that the
Church is even now is the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of heaven. And even so now the saints reign with him,
though not in the same way as they shall reign... Ultimately, those people reign with him who are in his kingdom in such
a way that they themselves are his kingdom‖ (idem: XX: 9, p. 915). Thomas Aquinas was to draw on Augustine‘s
amillennialism in the Summa Theologica:
―On account of these words [Rev. 20], as Augustine relates, certain heretics asserted that there will be a first resurrection of the dead that they may
reign with Christ on earth for a thousand years; whence they are called chiliasts or millenarians. Hence Augustine says that these words are to be
understood otherwise, namely of the spiritual resurrection whereby men shall rise again from their sins to the gift of grace: while the second
resurrection is of bodies. The reign of Christ denotes the Church wherein not only martyrs but also the other elect reign, the part denoting the whole; or
they reign with Christ in glory as regards all, special mention being made of the martyrs because they especially reign after death who fought for the
truth, even unto death‖
[Supplement, Question 77, Article 1; Reply to Objection 4]
The insertion into the Creed at Constantinople of the phrase ―Whose Kingdom shall have no end‖ has been generally
regarded as a refutation of the millennarian heresy of Apollinarius and the Church‘s condemnation of chiliasm at the
Second Ecumenical Council, thus ―it became no longer permissible at all for an Orthodox Christian to hold these
opinions‖ (Pomazansky, pp. 43-4). Although this common assumption has been questioned recently by Francis X.
Gumerlock, who sought to demonstrate that the entire refutation was Christological not eschatological, it is significant
that later orthodox writers tended to spiritualise or allegorise the millennium. The Fathers at Constantinople cited Psalm
145:13 in support of the insertion and many Church Fathers cited Luke 1:33. The Council of Ephesus in 431 condemned
the idea of an earthly millennium as superstition (Frazier: p. 51). The acceptability of Chiliasm by many Protestant
commentators reveals, from an Orthodox viewpoint, ―their estrangement from Apostolic Tradition‖ because ―the Fathers
of the Church branded this teaching as a heresy because it is dangerous! ... Orthodoxy teaches that chiliastic ideas are
heretical – based on Satan‘s age-old rebellion against God‖ (Engelman: p.116). Archbishop Averky stated that this ―false
teaching wreaks terrible harm, lulling to sleep the spiritual vigilance of the faithful suggesting to them that the end of the
world is far away‖ therefore there is no urgent need to ‗watch and pray‘ as they complacently believe in gradual global
improvement with ―spiritual progress keeping step with materialism‖ (p.228). Father Seraphim Rose described
Communism as ―an ideological-religious system ... a very powerful heresy whose central thesis ... is chiliasm or
millenarianism‖ (cited in Engelman: p. 79).
Citing Pope Pius XI in Divini Redemptoris (1937), the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear the Roman
Catholic Church‘s position in Paragraph No. 676: ‗The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world
every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history
through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to
come under the name of millenarism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism‘. In
response to the question: ―What is thought about a system of moderate millenarism in which it is taught that Christ the

Lord, before the last judgment and either before or after the resurrection of the many just, will return to reign visibly on
this earth?‖; Pope Pius XII had commented on 20
July 1944: ―The system of mitigated millenarianism cannot be safely
taught.‖. Thus ―the Catholic Church rejects all forms of millenarianism ... which contends that Christ will come again to
establish a visible kingdom on earth and to inaugurate a golden age of peace and prosperity within human history‖
(Ignatius: p. 518). Keating pointed out that, in contrast to fundamentalists, ―Catholics take little interest in millennialism
... and even less in dispensationalism‖ (p. 19).
Orthodox Christians ―believe the New Testament revelation of the second coming of Christ is meant to stimulate our
preparation for it, not our speculation about it. ... The emphasis of historic Orthodoxy is that Jesus will come again, not
when He will come again‖ (O.S.B., p. 1647). Lev Gillet stated that ―eschatology is only fruitful if we interiorise it and let
its implications affect our personal life. The glory of the Second Coming must be prefigured by the coming of Jesus into
the individual and be the day breaking through our own dark night‖ (1992: p. 46).
The Orthodox Church interprets the millennium as the age of the Church for ‗thousand years‘ in Scripture denotes ―a
long period of time‖ and ‗thousand‘ ―a great quantity, completion, perfection, thoroughness (Job 9:3; 2Pt 3:8)‖ [idem, p.
1743]. Dr. Cronk stated that the Orthodox understanding is that the ‗thousand years‘ is ―symbolic of Christ‘s reign in and
with his Church during the indefinitely long period between the first and second advents‖ (p. 266, italics mine). Fr. Flegg
cautioned against ‗a literal reading of the ―thousand years.‖ We are not here in time as we understand it, but in
eschatological time‘. The literalist interpretation ‗within time thus leads inevitably to misunderstanding, even to heresy,
as indeed it has done so many times in the Church‘s history‘ (pp. 101-2). We live already in the ‗eschaton‘, participating
in the Kingdom in the Eucharist. Death has been overthrown and eternal life is ours through the Resurrection of Christ
(Breck, 2001: p. 24).
Frazier pointed out that throughout the Book of Revelation, ‗the throne of Christ and his saints are always in heaven (see
Rev. 1:4, 3:21, 4:2)‘ and that in chapter 12:5, Christ was ―caught up to God and to His throne‖. St. John ―saw the souls
that were beheaded‖ and thus as Taushev observed ―it is clear that these saints who participate in the thousand year reign
of Christ are reigning with Christ and performing judgment not on earth but in heaven for it speaks here only concerning
their souls which are not yet united with their bodies‖ (p. 198). Engelman affirmed that, for St. Andrew of Caesarea, the
millennium represented ―the entire period from the Incarnation of Christ to the coming of the Antichrist‖ (p. 59). Taushev
stated that, throughout that same period, ―Satan was bound, paganism was cast down, and there came upon the earth the
thousand-year reign of Christ ... the establishment on earth of the Church of Christ‖ (p. 197). After that he will ―loosed‖
before being ‗reduced to a hellish impotence‘ (Cronk, idem).
Such a view is far from unique to Orthodox. Luther writing on the Book of Revelation stated that that the ―thousand years
began about the time this book was written and the same time that the devil was bound‖ (Krey & Krey: p. 55). John Stott
upheld ―a parallelist view of the book‖, maintaining that in chapter 20, ―John is recapitulating his story from the
beginning‖. In its first fifteen verses, ―he retells the outline of church history between the first and second comings of
Christ‖ (Stott: 2008, p. 50).
St. Jerome exclaimed: ―Let us have done with this fable of a thousand years‖ (Glasson: p. 129). No earthly millennium
awaits us but something far more amazing. The Beatific Vision lay at the heart of the Revelation of St. John, as he was
granted a glimpse into Heaven. In the words of Frank Sheed, that dedicated and highly entertaining Australian Roman
Catholic apologist whom I heard in 1979: ―The essence of the Kingdom will be this, that in union with Christ we shall

gaze upon the face of God, our whole being uttering itself in knowledge and love of him. ... And God will be all in all‖
(p. 260). There, in the splendid words of Charles Wesley, we shall truly be ―lost in wonder, love and praise‖.

Fundamentalism has that danger implicit in the Continental Reformation, of producing its own self-appointed ‗popes‘. It
therefore defies the apostolic exhortation in the first chapter of St Paul‘s first letter to the Corinthians, verses 10 to 17,
inter alia. Newman rightly perceived an inbuilt tendency to fragmentation in Protestantism which ran counter to that call
for unity which was a central theme of New Testament teaching. Our Lord prayed for such perfect unity that it would
mirror the one He shares eternally with the Father (St. John, chapter 17). St. Paul constantly exhorts local congregations
to a visible unity within the universal church.
Unity is thus an essential hallmark of the Catholic Church, demonstrated, according to St. Ignatius of Antioch, by unity
under the episcopate. For this early Apostolic Father and holy martyr, the bishop was ‗in the mind of Christ‘ (Ephesians
3:2 – Holmes: p. 185). He exhorted the faithful to be united with their bishop ―and with those who lead‖ (Magnesians 6:
2 – Holmes: p. 207), to respect ―the bishop, who is the model of the Father‖ (Trallians 3: 1) and to be subject to him ―that
there may be unity, both physical and spiritual‖ (Magnesians 12: 2 – Holmes: p. 211). The bishop‘s position ‗in the place
of God over the church rather than his function gave him his authority‘ (Martin & Davids, p. 109). ―The one who is in the
sanctuary is clean, but the one who is outside the sanctuary is not clean. That is, whoever does anything without the
bishop and the council of presbyters and deacons does not have a clean conscience‖ (Trallians 7: 2 – Holmes p: 219).
―Wherever the bishop appears, there let the congregation be: just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic
Church‖ (Smyrneans 8: 2 – Holmes: p. 255). Unity is to be visible, hierarchical and sacramental. ―Take care, therefore, to
participate in one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup that leads to unity through one
blood); there is one altar, just as there is one bishop, together with the council of presbyters and the deacons, my fellow
servants), in order that whatever you do, you do in accordance with God‖ (Philadelphians 4 – Holmes: p. 239). St. Cyril
of Alexandria affirmed that ―unity is a characteristic of the true, the really ancient Church, into which those that are
righteous according to the divine plan are enrolled...We say, then, that the ancient and Catholic Church stands alone in
essence and idea and principle and pre-eminence, gathering together, by the will of the one God through the one Lord,
into the unity of the one faith ... the pre-eminence of the church, as the principle of its constitution, in accordance with the
Monad, surpassing all other things and having nothing like or equal to itself‖ (Stromateis VII: XVIII – Oulton &
Chadwick, p. 163). By contrast St. Augustine believed ―that there is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism.
There is no just necessity for cutting up the unity‖ (Giles: p. 183). ―Christ is the one conferring unity on the many‖ and in
Him the ―principle of catholicity and unity reside‖ (Sherrard: pp. 14-15). Sergius Bulgakov began his book ‗The
Orthodox Church‘ with these wonderful opening sentences. ―Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ on earth. The Church of
Christ is not an institution; it is a new life in Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. Christ, the Son of God, came to earth, was
made man, uniting his divine life with that of humanity. This divine-human life He gave to his brethren, who believe in
His name‖ (p. 9).
Our Lord proclaimed that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Church (1), which the Holy Spirit will guide into
all truth (2) and that truth will set people free (3). He Himself is the Truth (4), so the answer to Pilate‘s question was ri ght
there in front of him: ‗Ecce Homo‘. Thus the Church, as the Body of Christ (5), is ―the pillar and ground of truth‖ (6).

Founded upon the apostles and prophets, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is her cornerstone, in whom ―the whole structure
is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord‖ (7). Thus the Church was there at the very beginning, called
by Christ to make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (8). As
the bride of Christ, she was ransomed with His precious blood, to be without stain or blemish (9). She was to be a ‗royal
priesthood‘ (10), sharing in his Sacrifice, and proclaiming His death in the Holy Eucharist (11), which united her
members in one Body because we ‗all share in the one bread‘ (12). In blessing the bread, He shares His broken Body and
in blessing the cup He shares His cleansing blood (13). The Church is a ‗holy nation‘, called to be holy as God is holy
and perfect as our Father is perfect (14). God‘s ‗special people‘, grafted into the chosen people of the Old Covenant (15),
the Church is ‗holy Zion‘, the gathered remnant, the people of God, to whom and through whom God has revealed
Himself in the Holy Scriptures and supremely in His Son (16). As the Body of Christ, the Holy Church is not merely
joined invisibly but organically and sacramentally one, so that if one rejoices or suffers then all rejoice or suffer together
(17). United to Jesus as the Vine (18), her branches have spread out throughout the world, dependent on the sap of the
Vine, dependent on Him totally and yet also totally interdependent as ‗members of one another‘ (19). The eye, the hand,
the head and the foot need each other as St. Paul makes emphatically plain (20).

This is the image of the Church found in the New Testament: no voluntary organisation of individuals, who choose the
level of their involvement. There is no isolationism in the Church of God. Our union with Christ is expressed in the unity
of His Body, the Church. The love we are commanded to share is not some mere sentimentality or verbal affirmation but
the love of Christ, the love with which He laid down His life for His friends (21). Love is practical and neighbourly. Love
is all that St. Paul says that it is in that golden passage to the Corinthians (22). That love unites us into one family who
share ―one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all‖(23), and who partake of one Eucharist. Such love
reaches out from the strong bonds of our koinonia to all the peoples of the world for whom Christ died. The love God has
poured into our hearts (24) is not to be hoarded by us but to be channelled out from us to a world in critical need of such
strong and real love, that perfect love which ―casts out fear‖ (25).

(1) Matthew 16:18
(2) John 16:13
(3) John 8: 32
(4) John 14:6
(5) Romans 12: 4-5; 1 Cor. 12: 12-26;
(6) 1 Timothy 3:15
(7) Eph. 2: 19-22
(8) Matthew 28: 18-20
(9) Eph. 5: 25-27
(10) Exodus 19: 6; 1 Peter 2:9
(11) 1 Cor. 11: 26
(12) 1 Cor. 10: 17
(13) 1 Cor. 10: 16
(14) Lev. 11: 44; 1 Peter 1:16; Matthew 5: 48
(15) Romans 11: 17-24
(16) Heb. 1: 1-2
(17) 1 Cor. 12: 26
(18) John 15: 1-5
(19) Romans 12: 5; Eph 4:25
(20) 1 Cor. 12: 14-26
(21) John 15: 13; 1 John 3:16
(22) 1 Cor. 13

(23) Eph. 4: 5
(24) Romans 5:5
(25) 1 John 4: 18

Baptism is the Christian rite of initiation. That it was ordained by Christ to be by water in the name of the Holy Trinity is
also acknowledged by most Christians, across denominational divisions. Differences arise as to who are the right subjects
for baptism, its mode, its relation to faith, its connection to other Christian rites, such as Chrismation and Confirmation,
and admission to Holy Communion in the Eucharist. Evangelicals, who are divided along denominational lines over
paedo-baptism and credo-baptism as well as over the mode of baptism, are generally united against baptismal
regeneration. Their credo-baptists demand a clear profession of personal faith, usually linked with a ‗testimony of
conversion‘. Their paedo-baptists hide behind some form of Covenant Theology, finding parallels with the Jewish rite of
circumcision, as rites expressive of the old and new covenants. Evangelical Anglicans have had to find ways around
references to baptismal regeneration in the Prayer Book, but are then faced with similar references in the New Testament.
In both cases they turned their backs on literalist interpretations and literal meanings.
Evangelicals and fundamentalists who set great score on biblical literalism elsewhere find that they must deny any such
exegesis to Biblical sacramental teaching. Linking the ‗new birth‘ to the experience of personal conversion, they see John
3:5 as primarily referring to that event. Thus the reference to being ‗born of water and Spirit‘ was once explained to me
by an evangelical lecturer in dogmatics as referring to what baptism symbolises and thus, ‗water‘ referred not the
sacrament itself but to the act of repentance. This I found unconvincing, even as an evangelical. St. Peter on the day of
Pentecost linked baptism not only with the call for repentance but with the forgiveness of sins (as in the Creed) and the
reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 38).
One pamphlet that helped to restore my belief in the scriptural warranty of infant baptism nearly forty years ago was
Canon John Stafford Wright‘s ‗The Child‘s Right to Baptism‘. He maintained that the Prayer Book was scriptural in
referring to the baptised as ‗regenerate‘ as it relates to ―the blessings of the Gospel associated with baptism‖. Scriptural
references, Stafford Wright insisted, must however be harmonised ―with the rest of the New Testament which speaks of
faith as the means of our initiation into the blessings of the Gospel‖. However he made little attempt to do so with the
passages he cited from the Authorised (King James) Version.
Acts 22:18 - ―...arise, and be baptised, for the washing away of thy sins‖
Romans 6:4 – ―We are buried in baptism into death‖
Gal. 3: 27 – ―For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ‖
1 Peter 3: 21 – ―The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us‖
Titus 3: 5 – ―He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost‖

The second reference should be looked at more fully. Those were ―baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his
death‖ (v. 3), as well as being ―buried with him by baptism unto death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by
the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life‖ (v.4) [NRSV]. Baptism initiates us into Christ, into His
Church and in the Holy Spirit: ―For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body,

though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or
Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit‖ (1 Cor. 12: 12-13; cf. Eph. 4: 4-5). Stafford Wright
intimated that Titus 3:5 might be either an allusion or a reference to baptism. The same is true of 1 Cor. 6: 12, where the
same author, St. Paul, refers to Christians as having been washed, sanctified and justified ―in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ and in the Spirit of our God‖.
Justin Martyr, writing about 150 A.D., cited John 3:3-5 and Isaiah 1: 16-20 in reference to baptism after this comment
about it (the ―then‖ relates back to those ―made new in Christ‖ having already been catechised with prayer and fasting).
―Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are born again in the same manner of rebirth by which we
ourselves were born again, for then they receive washing in water in the name of God the Father and Master of us all, of
our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit‖ (Barnard: p. 66). Two centuries later, St. Cyril of Jerusalem in ‗The
Procatechisis‘: ―16. Great is the Baptism which is offered you. It is a ransom to captives; a remission of offences; the
death of sin; the regeneration of the soul; the garment of light; the holy seal indissoluble; the chariot to heaven; the luxury
of Paradise; a procuring of the kingdom; the gift of adoption‖ (Cross: p. 50).
Faced with the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, the Continental Reformers had a remarkable
amount of common ground on the Eucharist, based on similar attitudes to the respective authority of scripture and
tradition. They all rejected the Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacrificial priesthood and communion in one kind, restoring the
cup to the laity. They all rejected Transubstantiation and the Aristotelian foundations upon which Aquinas had rested it,
claiming a theology based on 'sola scriptura'. Their central issue of contention remained that of the Eucharistic Presence:
its nature and its locus and for Zwingli its very existence. Zwingli denied any objective Presence in the Eucharist and his
doctrine has been described as the 'Real Absence'. The language of symbolism which the Fathers had been so closely
connected with reality now became divorced from it. There was simply bread and wine, which reminded believers of
Christ's crucified body and outpoured blood at the 'once for all' sacrifice of Calvary. The Lord's Supper as its memorial
no longer contained the sense of 'making present' implied in anamnesis. According to Zwingli, the bread was no more
Christ's real body than Christ Himself was literally a lamb or a vine, for Jesus was merely following familiar biblical
precedents in using such figures of speech.
In contrast there was no denial of the Real Presence in the Early Church and that the language of symbolon and typos in
relation to the Eucharistic elements was so closely connected with that of reality stems from the clear language of the
New Testament. The heresy of Zwinglianism, common among modern evangelicals and fundamentalists, would have
been totally foreign to the milieu of the New Testament and indeed of the Early Church. So too would have been the
definitive precision of medieval Scholasticism. Christ meant what he said and St. Paul interprets by affirming what Christ
said. "There is certainly no support in St. Paul for the thought that the sacrament is a mere memorial, or that it is only in
some metaphorical sense that Christ is present and his body given and received." (Meeks: pp. 159-160).

The record of Our Lord's institution of the Eucharist has come down to us in the three narratives of the Synoptic Gospels
and in the first Pauline epistle to the Corinthians. The key eschatological reference in Paul is 1 Corinthians 11: 26. "For
as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes". These words come
immediately after the second anamnesis at the end of the record of the Institution. The commemoration of the Lord's
death is to be kept by the Church throughout the intervening period between the two 'comings' of Christ. In the Lucan
account of the Last Supper itself, Jesus and the apostles had just taken their places at the table. 'He said to them, "I have

eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the
kingdom of God". Then he took the cup and after giving thanks he said "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I
tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes" ' ( St. Luke 22: 14 -
18). The Church celebrates the Eucharist until the Second Coming. Our Lord abstains from the elements until the
fulfilment of the Kingdom when his disciples ―may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones
judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (vs. 28 - 30). The Passover was commonly interpreted in such eschatological terms as
anticipatory of the Messianic banquet. Thus Jesus was identifying Himself again as that Messiah and the Eucharist as a
foretaste of that banquet. "The early Christians, celebrating the Eucharist, looked forward and backward: backward to the
cross, whose memorial they were making, and forward to the second coming, which they eagerly awaited" (Moloney:

Closely connected to the eschatological dimension in Luke and Paul is the complex notion of anamnesis: "Do this in
remembrance / commemoration of me". "In the Jewish world, remembrance was not understood as a purely mental
activity. For example, when the penitent thief asked Jesus to 'remember me when you come into your kingdom' (Luke
23.42), he did not expect Jesus merely to think about him, but to act, to do something about his situation" (Wybrew: p.
16). In the Eucharist the past meets the present and the present meets the future. Time is caught up in Eternity. "The
notion of memorial as understood in the passover celebration - i.e. the making effective in the present of an event in the
past- has opened the way to a clearer understanding of the relationship between Christ's sacrifice and the Eucharist."
(ARCIC I: p.14, cf. pp.18-20 in 'Elucidations').

The proper understanding of the Hebrew notion of memory requires a cultural and mental leap for Westerners, with a
merely linear approach to time, because "in the context of Jewish liturgy, it is really a technical term. As worshippers
recall the events of sacred history, they enter, not only into the thought of the past, but also, in some sense, into the
actuality of what has happened" (Moloney: p.44). The same is true of the Greek anamnesis which "means much more
than just remembering a past event: it calls into the present the reality of a past event" (J. D. Crichton: 'A Theology of
Worship' in SL: p.17).The existential reality of anamnesis for those first believers has been well summarised by Canon
Wybrew: "The early Eucharist was no memorial service for the dead founder of the community. When thanks were given
over the bread and the cup, and when the community ate and drank , the crucified and risen Christ was invisibly among
them, present no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit. ….. Christ was not absent from them, he was present with them;
and where he was, there was the Kingdom of God. The Eucharist was a foretaste of that Kingdom." (Wybrew: p.16).

Unity is a cardinal issue for St. Paul. He begins his first letter to the Church in Corinth with an appeal against party -
spirit which was dividing the Christian community. Christian unity for Paul was founded upon identity. That identity
involved being "united in the same mind and the same purpose" (1: 10) and was rooted in 'belonging' to Christ. (1: 12-13,
cf.3:5-9; 3:21-23). Being "in the same mind" means that "we have the mind of Christ"(2:16). The same purpose is found
only in the service of Christ. Unity in Christ is unity in the Spirit for "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy
Spirit"(12:1). It is that unity which binds the Church together in "one body". Belonging to Christ means belonging to His
Church. Belonging to the Church comes through the work of the Holy Spirit who in baptism brings us into the unity of
Christ's Church (12:12-13). It is within this context that Paul develops his thinking about 'the Lord's Supper'. Paul focuses
on this issue of koinonia and uses it both to expose what was lacking at Corinth and to explore the true meaning of the
Lord's Supper. Those who come to Communion with selfishness rather than sharing, do so unworthily and may well incur
some form of Divine judgment and discipline (11: 27-32). They come not heeding the only context in which one can

really "eat the Lord's supper"; the context of Christian koinonia which alone gives substance, identity and witness to the
Church of Christ. "So, then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another" (11:33).

The exclusivity which surrounds the table of the Lord has everything to do with identity, allegiance and 'belonging'. Here
is the central act of koinonia. "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a koinonia of the blood of Christ? The bread
which we break, is it not a koinonia of the body of Christ?" St. Paul's answer is an emphatic "Yes"! "Because there is one
bread, we who are many are one body, because we all partake of the one bread."(11:16-17); the bread over which Our
Lord affirmed "This is my Body" is the one bread in which we partake of Him and share in Him. As the Sacrament of
Baptism unites us into the Body of Christ, so the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper unites us in the Body Christ. In his
homilies on St. John‘s Gospel, St. John Chrysostom exhorts his readers: "Let us learn the wonder of this sacrament, the
purpose of its institution, the effects it produces. We become a single body, according to Scripture, members of his flesh
and bone of his bone. That is what is brought about by the food that he gives us. He blends himself with us so that we
may all become one single entity in the way the body is joined to the head"(cited in Clément: p. 115).

St. John does not include the Institution in his account of the Last Supper. The other four accounts predated his and, as
was so often the case, St. John wished to concentrate on what was not covered by the Synoptic writers. After the washing
of the disciples' feet, St. John concentrates on the 'Great Discourse'. Within that discourse, Our Lord refers to Himself as
the Vine. This may well have Eucharistic significance, especially when the reader recalls that He Who said "I am the true
vine" had also proclaimed "I am the Bread of life". Cullmann presented a good case for a Eucharistic exegesis for the
parable of the vine. The Didache referred to the wine as the "holy vine of David".

Raymond Brown focuses on the passage in its overall context. "First, in John 6: 35 - 51a, Jesus is the Bread of Life in the
sense that his revelation constitutes teaching by God (6:45), so that one must believe in the Son to have eternal life.
….Second, in John 6: 51b - 58 Jesus is nourishment in another sense, for one must feed on his flesh and blood to have
eternal life. The themes of 6:35-51a are duplicated but now in language evocative of the Eucharist. … Taken as a whole
the two parts of the discourse would reveal that Jesus feeds his followers both through his revelation and his Eucharistic
flesh and blood" (p.346). If one accepts the latter interpretation as being more consistent with traditional exegesis,
concurring with Cullmann that St. John "had the Eucharist in mind …without actually saying so" (p. 98), then one is
faced with the sheer realism of the language involved. This proves even more graphic in the Greek text.

"In John's gospel he (Jesus) said: 'Unless you scrunch the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in
you'. So the wording is extremely physical" (Buchanan: p.4). Colin Buchanan added this footnote. "The Greek verb
'trogo' used in John 6 might be rendered 'scrunch' or 'munch' and at least has some hints of ingestion and not merely the
result". Westcott found another flaw in a merely figurative approach. "Now it is easy to say that 'eating of the bread of
life' or 'eating the flesh of Christ' is a figurative way of describing faith in Christ. But such a method of dealing with the
words of Holy Scripture empties them of their divine force. This spiritual eating, this feeding on Christ, is the last result
of faith, but it is not faith itself". Westcott was also opposed to any exclusively Eucharistic interpretation. "It is equally
wrong to regard the words as a simple prophecy of that Sacrament, and to dissociate them from it. ….. We do not
presume to say that Christ gives Himself only in this, but we have 'believed and know' that in this He does give Himself"
(Westcott: pp.40-41). Nevertheless polemicists tend to polarise and consequently force their audience into unnecessary
choices. Luther denied any Eucharistic reference in Chapter 6 and many Protestant scholars have followed his lead.


The martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch occurred in about 107 A.D., so his letters may have been written little more
than a decade after the Johannine writings. His ecclesiology and sacramentology stemmed directly from an unambiguous
Christology, thus it is tempting to regard him as the first extant Christian writer to develop them as 'extensions of the
Incarnation‘. The reality of the Eucharist is predicated upon the reality of the Incarnation; for "the Eucharist is the flesh
of our savior Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins and which, in his goodness the Father raised up" (Smyrneans 6:2 –
Holmes, p. 254). Lightfoot commented: "The eucharist implies the reality of Christ's flesh. To those who deny this
reality, it has no meaning at all; to them Christ's words of institution are false; it is in no sense the flesh of Christ"
(Lightfoot: pp.306-307 [he includes this passage under 6:5]). Facing martyrdom, St. Ignatius referred to the Eucharist as
"the medicine of immortality, and the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Jesus Christ‖ (Ephesians
20: 2 – Holmes, p. 199). ―I take no pleasure in corruptible food or the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of life, which
is the flesh of Christ who is the seed of David: and for drink I want his blood, which is incorruptible love‖ [ἀγάπη
ἄφθαρτος - an ―immortal love feast‖ - Richardson: p. 105] (Romans 7 – Holmes, p. 233). Justin Martyr commented:
"We do not receive these gifts as ordinary food and drink … - the food by which our blood and flesh are nourished
through its transformation - is, we are taught, the flesh and blood of Jesus who was made flesh" (Apology 1: 66
[Bettenson (1969): p.62]). The phrase "we are taught" indicates that Justin had himself 'received' this teaching and
therefore that it was already part of acknowledged tradition. In his famous ‗Commentary on the Divine Liturgy‘, Nicholas
Cabasilas reflected: ―Now God makes these holy offerings so much his own that he transforms them into the Body and
Blood of his only-begotten Son ... for God accepts our bread and wine, and gives us in return his own Son‖ (p. 105).

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**Ramsey, Arthur Michael God, Christ and the World (S.C.M., 1969)
***Rowell, Geoffrey (editor) The English Religious Tradition and the
Genius of Anglicanism (Ikon Productions, 1992)
***Rowell, Geoffrey The Vision Glorious: Themes and Personalities
of the Catholic Revival in Anglicanism (O.U.P., 1983)
Staley, Vernon The Catholic Religion: A Manual of Instruction

for Members of the Anglican Church (Mowbray, 1895)
Adels, Jill Haak The Wisdom of the Saints (O.U.P. 1987)
Anonymous editor Dogmatic Canons and Degrees (Tan Books, 1977)
Aquinas, Thomas Summa Theologica (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/507701.htm)
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Constitution on Divine Revelation (C.T.S., 1966)

Benedict XVI, Pope God's Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office (Ignatius Press, 2008)
Benedict XVI, Pope Jesus of Nazareth (Bloomsbury, 2007)
Catholic Bishop‘ Conferences of
England & Wales, & of Scotland The Gift of Scripture (Catholic Truth Society, 2005)
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Context: The Teachings of the Popes from
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of Mystery – The Word of God and the
People of God (St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, 2006)
**Hume, Cardinal Basil, O.S.B. Searching for God (Hodder and Stoughton, 1977)
Knott, Betty I. (editor/translator) The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis (Collins, Fount, 1963)
Knox, Ronald A. Enthusiasm (Collins, 1987)

Leo XIII, Pope Providentissimus Deus (1893) (http://www.vatican.va)
***Leonard, Graham My Personal Path to Rome (Miles Jesu, 1996)
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of the Christian Bible in History and Theology (Michael Glazier Inc., 1995)
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**Meredith, Anthony, S.J. The Theology of Tradition (Mercier, 1971)
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*Tanner, Norman P. (editor) Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (Sheed & Ward and
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**(Bloom), Metropolitan Anthony

of Soourozh The Living Body of Christ (Darton. Longman & Todd, 2008)
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Canon of Holy Scripture (Theologia, Vox. 78, 2007)
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Pneumatology (St. Vladimir‘s Seminary Press, 1991)
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Worshipping Church (St. Vladimir‘s Seminary Press, 1986)
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Orthodox Ascetical and Mystical Tradition S.P.C.K. (1945)
(Gillet, Lev): A Monk of the
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to Orthodoxy (Hodder & Stoughton, 1997)
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(editors) Nicholas Cabasilas: A Commentary on the
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its History, Doctrine & Spiritual Culture (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)
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Its Role in the World Today (Darton, Longman & Todd, 1962)

(Olmari), Archbishop Paul of
Finland The Faith We Hold (St. Vladimir‘s Seminary Press, 1980)
Palmer, G.E.H.; Sherrard, Philip;
***Ware, Kallistos (editors) The Philokalia – the Complete Text (Faber & Faber, 1981)
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edition, 2005)
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An Anthology of Modern Russian Thought (St. Vladimir‘s Seminary Press, 1977)
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Theophan the Recluse, St. (http://www.impantokratoros.gr/saint_theophan_christianity.en.aspx)
Troitsky, New Hieromartyr
Hilarion Holy Scripture and the Church (Orthodox World, Vol. 45: 264-5, 2009)
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(non-Orthodox author) in a New Key (T. & T. Clark, 2000)
Verhovskoy, Serge S. The Light of the World (St. Vladimir‘s Seminary Press, 1982)
***Ware, Timothy (Kallistos) The Orthodox Church (Penguin Books, new edition, 1997)
***Wybrew, Hugh (Anglican) The Orthodox Liturgy (St.Vladimir's Press, 1990)
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The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence. (Anchor Books, 1976)

Sundberg, Albert C. Jr ―The Old Testament of the Early Church‖
Revisited (http://department.monm.edu/classics/Speel_Festschrift)
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Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (translator) The Holy Qur‘an (Wordsworth, 2000)
Haleem, Muhammad Abdel Understanding the Qur'an: Themes and Style (I.B. Taurus, 2010)
Lari, Sayyed Mujtaba Musavi
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Pickthall, Muhammad
Marmaduke The Meaning of the Glorious Qur‘an Islamic Dawah Centre International (2004)

It has been my privilege to have ‗sat under‘ and listened to (*), met (**) and in a few cases to have become acquainted with
(***) some of the authors cited in this paper. They have all, without exception, earned my respect, admiration and gratitude.
Most have helped me to ―grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ‖. In the third category, I especially wish to
pay tribute and express profound gratitude to Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, the late Monsignor (formerly Bishop) Graham
Leonard, the late Revd. Dr. John Stott, the Revd. Dr. Oliver O‘Donovan and the Revd. Dr. Roger Beckwith.

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