The Apostolic fathers viewed Scripture as containing a pattern that must to be followed.

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Introduction:

  1. The earliest Christians were patternists. "Patternism" is a term that is derived from Rom 617: "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed". The Greek word is "Morphe" which means a form or mold into which molten material is poured to create an object. Patternism is the act of following scripture so closely that you view it as a mold or form, that we are to duplicate morally and doctrinally in our lives.
  2. Roman Catholics and Othodox leaders are anti-patternist. They refuse to allow the Bible to govern their lives. They feel that man-made church tradition can change the Bible. They fell the Bible is not a pattern or form to be followed.
  3. Earliest Christians, however, are at variance with Roman Catholics and Othodox leaders, because the earliest Christians viewed scripture as a pattern to be followed exactly. They quoted the New Testament to prove their doctrine correct.

Discussion:

  1. "Is there a plan within scripture (the rule of truth) by which scripture is to be interpreted, or does one bring a plan from outside scripture and rearrange its contents to fit that plan? Irenaeus and the orthodox said there was a plan or plot within scripture itself. It is all the more significant that this plot derived from placing the Christian sources of authority alongside the Old Testament. Irenaeus, after identifying the triple authority of prophets, Lord, and apostles as "scriptures," used a graphic illustration from mosaic art to describe the situation: 'Such, then, is their [disciples of Ptolemaeus] system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but ... they gather their views from reading non-scriptural writings .... while they endeavor to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection [taxis kai heimon] of the scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth.... Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skillful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king that the skillful artist constructed pointing to the jewels that had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king's form was like and persuade them that the miserable likeness of the fox was in fact the beautiful image of the king.' (Haer. 1.8.1)" (Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Everett Ferguson, Factors Leading to the Selection and Closure of the New Testament Canon, p 313, 2002)
  2. "Tertullian in his Prescription against Heretics disagrees concerning who has the right to interpret the scriptures. 'They [heretics] treat of the scriptures and recommend their opinions out of the scriptures. To be sure, they do. From what other source could they derive arguments concerning the things of the faith, except from the records of the faith?' (ch. 14). He denies this right to the heretics because the scriptures belong to the catholic Christians (ch. 15; 19). He charged Valentinus with tampering with the scriptures "by his different expositions and acknowledged emendations" (Praescr. 30). The gnostic controversy made imperative a clarification of what writings accurately expressed apostolic teaching and apostolic authority. Against the secret tradition claimed by certain gnostic Christians, Irenaeus appealed to the public teaching of the churches. This included the teaching of the scriptures, as can be seen by Irenaeus's refutation in Books 3-5 of Adversus haereses. Irenaeus is recognized as the first orthodox Christian author whose works argue from scripture as a whole. After setting forth the views of the heretics (book l) and giving a rational refutation (book 2), he declares that he will devote a special book to the "scriptures of the Lord" (2.35.4), referring to the immediately mentioned preaching and teaching of the apostles, Lord, prophets, and law. As he begins to adduce "proofs from the scriptures" (3 praef.), he appeals to the gospel first proclaimed in canon, but William R. Farmer has called attention to how suitable the New Testament canon was for strengthening Christians facing martyrdom. (Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Everett Ferguson, Factors Leading to the Selection and Closure of the New Testament Canon, p 314, 2002)
  3. "Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?" (Irenaeus, book 3, Chapter IV.-The Truth is to Be Found Nowhere Else But in the Catholic Church, the Sole Depository of Apostolical Doctrine. Heresies are of Recent Formation, and Cannot Trace Their Origin Up to the Apostles)
  4. Augustine, in a large book where he teaches every Christian in the pews, not the leaders as Roman Catholics would expect, about how they should study the scriptures: "Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal." (Augustine, Book 2, Chapter 8, The Canonical Books)
  5. Of interest here is the fact that the community of faith, rather than church authorities, were responsible for this process; what they determined to be edifying and useful later found a place in the canon. Church authorities only authorized or sanctioned what had already been in use. (Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Kent D. Clarke, The Problem of Pseudonymity in Biblical Literature and Its Implications for Canon Formation, p 467, 2002)

 By Steve Rudd

 

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