Saturday, February 29, 2020
I have posted WM 160: Interview: Doug Barger, Crown and Cross Books, & "The London Standards." Listen here.
In this episode I interview my friend Pastor Doug Barger of Christ Reformed Baptist Church (nice name!) in New Castle, Indiana.
Besides covering part of Doug's testimony and history, he shared about his publishing ministry, Crown and Cross Books (visit the website here).
He shared, in particular, about a new project in pre-publication, titled "The London Standards." This volume will include the Second London Baptist Confession (1689), the Baptist Catechism (1693), and the Orthodox Catechism (1680). The Orthodox Catechism is a Particular Baptist revision of the Heidelberg Catechism, completed by Hercules Collins. RB historian James Renihan has referred to these three documents as providing "something of a 'Three Forms of Unity' for Baptist churches" (Forward to An Orthodox Catechism, 8). Soon all three confessional statements will be available in one volume for personal, family, and church use.
Enjoy this conversation!
Friday, February 28, 2020
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 2 Kings 9.
2 Kings 9:6b ….Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I have appointed thee king over the people of the LORD, even over Israel. 7 And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of the servants of the LORD, at the hands of Jezebel.
The apostle Paul taught: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:9).
2 Kings 9 illustrates that point, as it describes how Jehu was appointed as an instrument of God’s wrath to punish evil doers.
I want to suggest three applications:
First, this chapter ought to bring comfort to those who have suffered at the hands of the wicked.
Dale Ralph Davis observed, “Sometimes it seems that throughout their blood-red history [Jehovah’s] worshippers have been bludgeoned into oblivion, but the text says that there is an eye that sees and a Judge who takes note” (2 Kings, 153).
One day the Lord will set all things right!
Second, this chapter ought to bring fear and dread to those who have committed injustices.
Those who have brought pain and suffering to God’s servants should read with trembling. One day the piper will have to be paid.
Third, this chapter ought to bring joy to the heart of the believer.
The commentator Davis notes that after he shared the story of the death of Jezebel at the hands of Jehu in 2 Kings in devotions with his family that one of his sons prayed, “Dear God, thank you for letting Jezebel die” (2 Kings, 158)!
Every time we read a chapter like this one, we should remember that we are sinners who deserve God’s wrath and punishment. In Colossians 3:6 the apostle said that because of their sin, “the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.”
In Acts 17:31, Paul told the men of Athens that God had appointed “a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by than man whom he hath ordained.”
But the good news is that this man, the Lord Jesus Christ, said, “he that believeth on him is not condemned” (John 3:18).
Every time a believer reads an account of divine wrath and judgement rightly poured out on sinners like the wicked kings of Israel and Judah, and upon wicked women like Jezebel, he ought to think, “There but by the grace of God in Christ go I.”
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Thursday, February 27, 2020
Image: Beza's 1582 NT, title page (part)
I have posted WM 159: The Confessional Text Position: A Succinct Statement. Listen here.
In this shot episode (just over 8 minutes in length) I offer a brief and succinct statement on what I have come to call the Confessional Text position.
This statement is taken from some brief introductory comments I made as part of a discussion on Josh Gibbs’s “Talking Christianity” podcast where the subject was different approaches to text criticism. The podcast took place on January 29, 2020. In the discussion I was a guest (representing the Confessional Text position) along with two other guests: Dr. Peter Gurry of Phoenix Seminary (representing an evangelical modern text criticism position) and Pastor James Snapp, Jr. of Curtisville Christian Church of Elwood, Indiana (representing a variety of the so-called Majority Text position).
I did not feel too great about this discussion overall, since it sort of ran off the rails, but my friend Howie Jones suggested that it might be helpful to share just the opening statement as a succinct summary of the Confessional Text position, so that is what I have done. The sound quality is not that great but hopefully listeners will be able to hear it well enough.
Image: Coin with image of the Roman Emperor Trajan Decius (c. A.D. 201-251).
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 6, chapters 39-40. Look here.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters describe the Decian persecution and the sufferings endured by men like Origen and Dionysius during this time.
Chapter 39 describes the rise of the emperor Decius (c. 201-251; ruled 249-251) and his persecution of Christians. Eusebius says this came from Decius’s enmity toward Philip, who was either a Christian or sympathetic to them, and who had members of his household who were Christians.
Fabian became a martyr at Rome and was succeeded as bishop by Cornelius.
Alexander of Jerusalem made confession before the Roman court at Caesarea for a second time and died in prison as an elderly man, being succeeded by Mazabanes.
In Antioch, Babylas, likewise, died in prison. He was succeeded by Fabius.
Origen also fell under “special attack.” He was imprisoned, chained, and tortured, including having his feet stretched In the stocks. A reliable first hand account, says Eusebius, is available in his letters.
Chapter 40 turns to describe the persecution of Dionysius of Alexandria, a drawing from his letter against a certain Germanus.
He describes how a frumentarius (officer) was sent to search for him for four days, but, in the providence of God, he had simply remained at in his home and had not been discovered.
After these four days, Dionysius, his “boys” (sons or pupils or servants), and some of the brethren took flight. They were then arrested and taken to the town of Toposiris.
A brother named Timothy told a group at a marriage feast of the bishop’s arrest and they rushed the guards to deliver a somewhat reluctant Dionysius from his captors.
These chapter describe the beginnings of the Decian persecution and the martyrdoms and sufferings of some the prominent leaders, including Origen, who had written about and urged martyrdom and faithfulness under persecution upon others and now experienced the same, as well as Dionysius. Rather than frustrate the movement, these persecutions seemed to embolden and encourage the early Christians, who could now look back at those who suffered as heroes of the faith.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
I have posted WM 158: "If the Text-Critics Went to Lunch and Didn't Come Back." Listen here.
In this episode I do something a little bit different in that I offer a spoken word version of an article by Taylor DeSoto (TD), an elder at the Agros RBC in Gilbert, AZ. This article was posted to Taylor’s blog “Young, Textless, and Reformed” on January 23, 2020.
In this article Taylor puts forward a humorous hypothetical to make some serious points: What would happen if all the evangelical text critics went to lunch and never came back?
What do I like about this article?
First, I like the way TD uses humor here to make some serious points.
Second, I like the way TD turns on its ear the modern evangelical text critic’s argument that all his changes to the text of Scripture do not, in the end, affect any major doctrines by asking, why, then, if this is so, he wants to continue tinkering with our Bible.
Third, he makes the great point that if evangelical text critics ceased their tinkering we’d still have a stable text (the TR) upon which to base study and scholarship, and the people in the pews would have translations that are not having to be replaced by the newest updated edition every few years.
Fourth, he makes the point that if modern evangelical text critics walked away from their work, they would then be able to give their time to exegesis of the text and perhaps even to pastoral ministry within the church.
This raises a not so subtle point about evangelical academics who see themselves as “elite” teachers, but who rarely serve as elders in local churches.
As one such scholar recently told me, he sees himself and his colleagues as doing the same exact work that Origen and Jerome did in the early church. He asked why we should accept the providential editorial work of the men of the Reformation period when we could be doing exactly the same thing in our day to create a “new and improved” text.
As Grantley McDonald, however, pointed out in recent work on the reception history of the CJ, those men were operating under what McDonald (borrowing from Foucault) calls a “pre-modern episteme” while modern evangelicals are working under an Enlightenment influenced “modern episteme.” Here’s how EH Hills put it: “During the Reformation period the approach to the New Testament was theological and governed by the common faith in Holy Scripture, and for this reason even in those early days the textual criticism of the New Testament was different from the textual criticism of other ancient books.”
One of the unspoken ironies of Taylor’s hypothetical rests on his use of the adjective “evangelical” before “text critics.” The truth is that if all the “evangelical” text critics went to lunch and never came back not only the church but the academy also would hardly be affected. The modern-historical-critical, secular academic study of the Bible would not skip a beat. The Liste would continue to be updated, the Editio Critica Maior would still be published, the Institute for New Testament Textual Research and the United Bible Societies would still produce the next editions of their handbooks, based on their application of the CBGM, and the Society of Biblical Literature would continue to host academic conferences where papers would be produced and presented on the minutia of scholarly research. What is more, “evangelicals” would be spared the embarrassment of, on one hand, “debating”, writing apologetic books or giving apologetic talks critical of Bart Ehrman, while, at the same, on the other hand, continuing to approve and make use of his scholarly research and adopt his identical method.
The central point the article makes is simply this: The supposedly “vital” work of evangelical modern text criticism, is not, in the end, all that vital to the church if it believes that it already has the Bible, and is not waiting on scholars possibly to give it a near approximation [reconstruction] of the Bible (perhaps someday).
Monday, February 24, 2020
Image: Bust of Philip the Arab (c. 204-249). The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 6, chapters 33-38. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters continue the account of the life of Origen, with some special emphasis on his refutations of heresies, his interaction with the imperial family, and his writing.
Chapter 33 describes how Beryllus, bishop of Bostra in Arabia, denied the pre-existence and divinity of Christ and was corrected in his views by Origen in a synod.
Chapter 34 describes how the emperor Philip succeeded Gordian as Roman emperor. Marcus Julius Philippus (c. 204-249), also known as Philip the Arab, was the emperor from 244-249. Eusebius claims that he was a Christian. If true, he would have been the first Christian emperor (pre-dating Constantine). Later historians have suggested he was not a Christian but only that he was sympathetic with and lenient toward the Christians. Eusebius says the emperor wished to join the Christians on the last day of the paschal vigil, but he was not permitted to do so by the presiding officer (the bishop), till he confessed his sins and was placed with the penitent. It is said that he readily obeyed this order.
Chapter 35 notes the death of Heraclas of Alexandria and his replacement by Dionysius as bishop.
Chapter 36 notes that Origen, now over 60 years in age, allowed “short-hand writers” to take down his public discourses.
In this time, he composed his response to the anti-Christian work True Discourse of Celsus the Epicurean, as well as his commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew, and on the Twelve Prophets (the Book of the Twelve).
Eusebius also notes a collection of more than a hundred of Origen’s letters, including ones written to the emperor Philip, to Philip’s wife Severa, to Fabian of Rome, and to other church leaders.
He adds that more information on Origen is supplied in his Apology on the life of Origen.
Chapter 37 notes another heresy that arose in Arabia, which taught that the soul perishes at death and is only revived at the resurrection. Origen also refuted this view in a synod.
Chapter 38 describes another heretical movement, the Helkesaites, refuted by Origen in an address on Psalm 82. The errors of this group included its rejection of “the Apostle” (presumably, the writings of Paul), its suggestion that one could deny the faith with his mouth but not in his heart, and its claim to have a book “fallen from heaven” which taught a means of forgiveness other than through Christ.
These chapters present Origen as the premiere “orthodox” theologian of his time, an effective teacher and writer, called upon to refute and correct various errors. It also describes the rise of Philip and claims that he was a Christian and corresponded with Origen. These claims about Origen are striking given that some of his own teaching came under suspicious in later generations and were denounced as heterodox.
Saturday, February 22, 2020
Many who have been following the development of the Confessional Text movement are already aware of the Text and Canon Conference, held on October 25-26, 2019 at Christ Reformed Church in Atlanta.
For those who have not yet listened to the lectures I gave at that conference, I have now posted them to CRBC's sermonaudio.com page, along with the Q & A session. Here are links:
Friday, February 21, 2020
Image: Winter sunset, February 2020, North Garden, Virginia
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 2 Kings 8.
Yet the LORD would not destroy Judah for David his servant’s sake, as he promised him to give him always a light, and to his children (2 Kings 8:19).
2 Kings 8 is not an easy chapter to preach. As far as dynamic, easy to perceive spiritual truths, this chapter offers slim pickings. I am very doubtful that many Christians would list 2 Kings 8 as their favorite chapter in the Bible or claim that any verse within it is their favorite verse, or their “life verse.”
It is an overall depressing and discouraging chapter, because it describes the degeneracy, the depravity, and the wickedness of the circumstances into which both Israel and Judah fell during the time of the kings.
The thesis statement might well be found in v. 1: “for the LORD hath called for a famine.” 2 Kings 8 describes the spiritual wasteland that results when men walk away from the Lord and his ways.
The brightest point of light comes in v. 19, which begins, “Yet the LORD would not destroy Judah for David his servant’s sake….”
The remainder of the verse makes clear the reason for this mercy. It was because of the covenant promise that the LORD had made to David: “as he promised him to give him always a light, and to his children” (v. 19b).
The Lord had promised, through Nathan the prophet, “But my mercy shall not depart away from him” and that David’s house and his kingdom would be established forever (2 Sam 7:15-16). David became known as the “light of Israel” (see 2 Sam 21:17).
Despite Judah’s faithlessness, the point is that God remained faithful. The promise that was made to David would not be broken. But how was that promise ultimately fulfilled? Not in national Israel, but in spiritual Israel. Not in the kings of Judah, which would fall, but in a descendant of David, from the tribe of Judah, who would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David.
The apostle Paul in Galatians 6:16 would write to the churches of Galatia, “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” The promise would be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ to the new “Israel of God.”
2 Kings 8:19 points then toward the mercy of God given to sinners for the sake of Christ. In 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul wrote: “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” NKJV: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”
This is God’s Word to his people today. We do not have faith in our faith. We have faith in a God who will not destroy us when we are faithless, for the sake of his faithful Son. Thanks be to him.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Image: Modern view of the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 6, chapters 26-32. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters continue to describe the life of Origen, focusing especially on his transition from Alexandria to Caesarea, noting various significant persons, places, and events of the times.
Chapter 26 describes Origen’s transition from Alexandria to Caesarea c. AD 232. He was succeeded as head of the Catechetical School by Heraclas, and when Demetrius died, Heraclas also became bishop of Alexandria.
Chapter 27 describes the esteem in which Origen was held by the bishops, including Firmilian of Cappadocian Caesarea, Alexander of Jerusalem, and Theoctistus of Palestinian Caesarea.
Chapter 28 turns to the Roman imperial succession. Alexander was succeeded by Maximin [Maximinus] Caesar. Maximin lead a persecution against Christians, many of whom were in the household of Alexander, and he ordered leaders of the church to be put to death. Among those who suffered in this persecution were Ambrose of Alexandria and Prototectus of Caesarea. At this time Origen wrote On Martydom and described the persecution in his exposition on the Gospel of John.
Chapter 29 begins by noting that Gordian succeeded Maximin as emperor.
In the church at Rome, meanwhile, Pontianus was succeeded by Anteros. When Anteros died a month later, he was succeeded by Fabian, whose appointment to the office came after a dove mysteriously flew down upon his head, a sign of the descent of the Holy Spirit, as when Christ was baptized.
In Antioch, Zebennus was succeeded by Babylas.
In Alexandria, again, Demetrius was succeeded by Heraclas as bishop. In the Catechetical School, Heraclas was succeeded by Dionysius, who also had been a student of Origen.
Chapter 30 describes the students, local and foreign, who flocked to Origen at Caesarea. They included two brothers: Theodore (later known as Gregory Thaumaturgus, or the “Wonder Worker”) and Athenodore. Origen taught them for five years and lead them from a love of secular philosophy to a love of divine truth, and both became bishops as young men.
Chapter 31 describes Africanus, author of the Cesti [literally “embroidered girdles,” like Stromateis, meaning a collection of varied works].
He is said to have written to Origen and been answered by him regarding the authenticity of the story of Susanna, an apocyryphal addition to Daniel.
He also wrote the Chronographies.
He is said to have traveled to Alexandria on hearing of the fame of Heraclas.
Eusebius notes that another of his letters to Aristides is extant in which he offered a harmony of the genealogies in Matthew and Luke, and to which Eusebius had referred earlier in the EH.
Chapter 32 describes Origen’s commentaries on Isaiah, Ezekiel (a work completed while Origen visited Athens), and the Song of Songs (begin in Athens and finished in Caesarea).
Eusebius notes that in his life of his mentor Pamphilius he had described Pamphilius’s great library and his list of the works of Origen and other church writers. He says he has no need to list Origen’s complete works here, since it appeared in the other work.
These chapters continue the life of Origen, noting how in his transition from Alexandria to Caesarea his influence was not lessened, as he continued to teach, write, and exert his influence upon many.
Monday, February 17, 2020
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 6, chapters 23-25. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters describe Origen’s various commentaries on Scripture and on the canon of Scripture.
Chapter 23 notes that Origen’s commentaries on Scripture were instigated by his friend and patron Ambrose of Alexandria. Ambrose provided him with seven scribes and seven copyists, as well as girls “skilled in penmanship,” to write down his commentaries, in turn, as he dictated them.
Mention is made of Pontianus succeeding Urban in Rome, and Zebennus following Philetus in Antioch.
It is noted again how Origen came to Palestine and was ordained an elder in Caesarea, and how this led to controversy.
Chapter 24 traces various of Origen’s writings, noting how some were began while he was in Alexandria and completed after the left. These include his Expositions on the Gospel according to John and On Genesis. Other works are noted as having been completed in Alexandria, including his commentaries on the first 25 Psalms and on Lamentations, as well as the works On the Resurrection, De Principiis, and Stromateis.
Chapter 25 offers insights on Origen’s understanding of the canon.
It is noted that in his exposition on Psalm 1 he states that the OT consisted of 22 books, matching the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. A list is then given of these books, with a transcription of their Hebrew titles. Beyond these, there is mentioned the Maccabees.
Next it is noted that in his commentary on Matthew, he describes the four canonical Gospels, written in the order of Matthew-Mark-Luke-John and affirms the traditional view of their authorship.
And in his expositions on John, he discusses the NT epistles of Paul, and the epistles of Peter. It is noted that 1 Peter was acknowledged as genuinely Petrine, but some doubted the authenticity of 2 Peter. John is credited with the Apocalypse (Revelation) and 1 John, but questions are raised about the authenticity of 2-3 John. No mention is made of James or Jude.
Origen is cited as saying that Hebrews did not have Paul’s typical “rudeness of speech.” Origen said the thoughts of Hebrews were Pauline but not the style. He offers his famous assessment: “But who wrote the epistle, in truth God knows.” He also conveys traditions that suggest Clement or Luke as the author of Hebrews.
These chapters are helpful in sketching Origen as a Scripture commentator under the support of Ambrose of Alexandria. Especially valuable are his insights on canon in approving the standard Jewish OT canon (without the apocrypha) and the traditional NT canon, with questions raised about 2 Peter, and 2-3 John, while James and Jude are not mentioned. Of interest as well are his comments on the authorship of Hebrews.
Saturday, February 15, 2020
I have posted WM 152: Hixson, Mark's Ending, Medieval Scribes, and Modern Bibles. Listen here.
In this episode I offer a review of an article by Elijah Hixson titled "Was Mark 16:9-20 originally part of Mark's Gospel?" which appeared on the Gospel Coalition blog on 2.13.20. Read the article here.
Here are a few resources I mentioned in my review:
On the ending of Mark:
On the Syriac and Mark's ending:
On the "romance" of uncertainty:
Friday, February 14, 2020
Image: Winter sunset, February 2020, North Garden, Virginia
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 2 Kings 7.
Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God and said, Behold, if the LORD make windows in heaven might this thing be? (2 Kings 7:2a).
Israel was besieged and starving. What meager food remained was astronomical in price. A donkey’s head sold for 80 pieces of silver and a handful of dove dung for five pieces of silver (2 Kings 6:25).
Elisha, however, prophesied that by the next day, fine flour and barley would sell for a mere shekel in the gates of Samaria (2 Kings 7:1).
The king’s counselor was incredulous. How could this be, even if the Lord opened “windows in heaven” (v. 2a)?
Think about this reference to windows in heaven. What does it mean? Clearly it is figurative language. It is a way of expressing the providential blessings of God, that which falls from above. In Malachi 3:10 the Lord challenges Israel to bring the whole tithe into storehouse to see if he would not open “the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
This counselor’s protest was not only a challenge to Elisha as God’s prophet, but also to the character and goodness of God, as well as the sovereignty of God. He’s not good enough to want to do this. He’s not powerful enough to do it.
We might consider our own state at times to be like that of Samaria in those days. Perhaps we feel we are beset, besieged, beleaguered. And God’s Word promises a tomorrow that seems out of reach.
He promises that he will supply all our needs. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
He promises to satisfy our deepest longings. “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
He promises to work all things for your good (Rom 8:28).
He promises that present distresses are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us (Rom 8:18).
He promises that those who trust in him will one day experience the resurrection to life (1 Cor 15:51-53) and that there is land fairer than day where there will be no more tears (Rev 21:4).
The challenge: Will we believe the promises of God? Will we believe that he is all-good and all-powerful, and he can open the windows in heaven to pour out such blessings on us that there is not room enough to receive it?
Elisha’s word was fulfilled, and the unbelieving counselor was trampled in the gate and died (2 Kings 7:20). Let us be warned, fear, and believe.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Image: Defaced bust of Julia Avita Mamaea (c. 180-235), mother of the Emperor Alexander Severus. British Museum, London.
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 6, chapters 20-22. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters describe various “learned churchmen” who lived and ministered around the time of Origen. It is also keen to discuss the transitions in Roman imperial power.
Chapter 20 notes that the letters of these various churchmen were readily available in the library (bibliothēke) in Aelia (the name given Jerusalem after the failed second Jewish War), where Alexander was bishop.
Among these were:
Beryllus, bishop of the Arabians at Bostra.
Hippolytus “who also presided over another church somewhere” (!).
Gaius, who wrote the Dialogue of Gaius against Proclus of the Phrygians (Montanists), during the time of Zephyrinus of Rome. Eusebius says Gaius curbed the heretics in their audacity to write “new Scriptures [kainas graphas].” He adds that Gaius and the Romans held to only 13 Pauline epistles, excluding Hebrews (as being Pauline).
Chapter 21 describes transitions in Roman Emperors from Antoninus to Macrinus (c. 217) to another Antoninus (Elegabalus).
This is paralleled by transitions in the Roman church from the leadership of Zephyrinus to Calistus to Urban.
Back to the emperors, it is noted that Alexander (Severus) rose to rule.
While in the church at Antioch, Philetus succeeded Asclepiades as bishop.
The chapter closes with an anecdote to illustrate Origen’s “universal” fame, suggesting that (Julia Avita) Mamaea, mother of Alexander Severus, brought him to Antioch, under military escort, so she could hear his teaching.
Chapter 22 turns to describe the writings of the aforementioned Hippolytus, which included these eight writings:
On the Pascha.
On the Hexamaëron.
On what followed the Hexamaëron.
On the Song.
On Parts of Ezekiel.
On the Psacha.
Against All the Heresies.
Eusebius adds that he wrote many other things as well.
In these chapters Eusebius is keen to note that Origen was not alone as a Christian writer and thinker in his age, but he was joined by others. As we have become accustomed, Eusebius again lists the succession of the Emperors in parallel with the succession of the bishops in key cities. So, there are secular and ecclesiastical transitions. Of note is the meeting of Origen with the regent Mamaea, mother of Alexander Severus. She is described as “a religious woman if ever there was one.” This illustrates that the Romans at the highest levels were becoming aware of and trying to understand the nascent Christian movement.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Monday, February 10, 2020
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 6, chapters 18-19. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters focus on Origen and his connections with Greek philosophy.
Chapter18 begins by describing Origen’s influence on a man named Ambrose in moving him away from the heresy of the Valentinians. Many other “cultured persons” were also drawn to Origen given his competence in secular Greek philosophy.
Chapter 19 describes how Origen was criticized by the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry of Sicily in his writings against Christians. A citation is given from Porphyry who accused Origen of making “riddles” of Moses by finding in him “hidden mysteries.” Porphyry says that while Origen was a Christian in manner of life, in philosophy he “played the Greek, and introduced Greek ideas into foreign fables.” Eusebius notes that Porphyry’s descriptions of Origen are sometimes accurate but at other times show confusion. For example, he says Origen came to Christianity from the Greeks when he was, in fact, raised in a Christian family, and he falsely says that one of Origen’s teacher Ammonius eventually lapsed back into paganism.
At the close of the chapter Eusebius notes how Origen was sent by Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, on a diplomatic mission to Arabia, and how Origen secretly left Alexandria during a time of warfare for Caesarea in Palestine. While there, though not ordained, he publicly expounded Scripture on the invitation of local bishops. This led to controversy when Demetrius objected that laymen should not preach. Eusebius defends Origen’s actions. Eventually Origen returned to Alexandria to continue his labors there.
Eusebius continues his glowing report on the life of Origen. These chapters focus on Origen’s abilities to interact with Greek philosophy and to incorporate into his understanding of Christianity. For this he was criticized by pagan philosophers like Porphyry. It also gives insight into the conflict with Demetrius over Origen’s ministry in Palestine.