Good Quote

From Origen’s On First Principles:

This being so, we shall now outline the manner in which divine scripture should be understood on these several points… The aim was that not everyone who wished should have these mysteries laid before his feet to trample upon, but that they should be for the man who had devoted himself to the studies of this kind with the utmost purity and sobriety and through nights of watching, by which means perchance he might be able to trace out the deeply hidden meaning of the Spirit of God.

God grant us more scripture scholars of this kind.

12 Responses to Good Quote

  1. Giovanni says:

    Weren’t Origen’s followers eventually condemned for heresy?

    And many of his writings condemned in following synods?

  2. bill bannon says:

    Well, despite his unfortunate surgery based on an hyperbole by Christ and despite his seeing John the Baptist as pre-existing anciently with Christ and thus leaping in the womb at Mary’s appearance, I guess we could prefer him to Fr. Raymond Brown, a modern genius, but one who believed in hardly anything historic in the infancy narratives including the census, the slaughter of the innocents, the Magnificat (page 349 “Birth of the Messiah”) and yet with all that, Brown was on the PBC under Paul VI and John Paul II. I’d rather have Origen as a Christmas guest than Fr.Brown with his list of things that never happened. We’d have to hide the manger.

  3. Bill,

    I’ll take Brown and Origen together. Both exceptional scholars. Historicity in the Gospels is a tough one to tackle, and I’m thankful for Brown’s work.

  4. Giovanni,

    Yes, that is true.

    But he remains an exceptional scripture scholar. de Lubac’s work has done much to revive his insights.

  5. bill bannon says:

    I’m partly thankful for Brown. In “Community of the Beloved Disciple” his de-mythologizing actually strengthens faith since he has there in John an overarching excellent explanation of why in John, there are chronology mistakes and the peculiar phenomenon of “John Bragging” which occurs only in John. His explanation that John died and that whoever redacted it A. did not know the order of things and B. would be inclined to brag about John since the epistles noted that there had been a schism of people from them who were denigrating John’s authority which bragging about John by the redactor would rectify….all of that is simple and brilliant.

    But in “Birth of the Messiah”, Brown seems at times as in the Magnificat case …simply being too quick to disbelieve that something actually physically happened as though he was finally competing for all Catholicism with all those Protestant scholars of the last two hundred years plus who were much more free to disbelieve detail due to the nature of authority for them (Leo XIII seemed to forbid such). In the little book concerning John mentioned above, it had a over-arching reason to de-hisoricize at all….in the huge “Birth of the Messiah”, it simply seemed at times to be competition with Protestants. Read page 349 and thereabouts on the Magnificat and ask yourself what grade you would give it as a teacher if you did not know who wrote it. Does it presuppose that Mary was unfamiliar with or rejecting of the concept of vengeance against the proud in the psalms…and thus was Brown seeing his own mom and not Mary? Outside of the Magnificat, do we have enough text from her mouth that would allow us to know her thought patterns about such a theme?

  6. Giovanni says:

    Ok just wanted that to be clarified, after all if we want more people like Origen then we are not only getting the good but also the bad as well.

    Same thing with people like Tertullian an so on.

  7. bill bannon says:

    I think you might be surprised at how non pristine the non criticized can be like Aquinas and Augustine and Jerome once one reads virtually all they wrote.
    For Jerome, read “Against Jovinianus” online and at times you will think he is quoting an erroneous writer of his time on issues like widows remarrying (prostituting themselves) and on people desiring a lot of children as rediculous since only the Jews were to do that. But you’ll look again and say yes…Jerome is saying these things…he is not quoting someone else as an example of the erroneous.
    His “Against Helvidius” though is near perfect and people remember him for that only it seems.
    Augustine was negative on sexuality in a number of ways and Aquinas followed him in those areas seemingly out of defference to Augustine’s experience which was however sinful and not healthy in that area; and one of those sexual ideas led both men to see original sin as reaching Mary because her parents enjoyed the act of sex and then they held that she was cleansed of it before birth. The Church later rejected their view and sided with lesser theologians who said that original sin did not even reach her at all irrespective of whether her parents enjoyed the act.

  8. Giovanni says:

    I know of most of what you are mentioning though I was not familiar with St. Jerome’s work.

    I will also note that the three Saints you have mentioned also wrote many times that whatever it is that the they wrote and said or preached they would always submit to the Church as to judge weather their work was orthodox or not. This is specially true with Aquinas as one of the last things he wrote before he died was that the Church forgive him for any errors he might have included in his writing.

    Supreme intellect must be well formed with supreme obedience to the Church.

  9. bill bannon says:

    Oddly their problems lay uncorrected or even accompanied by warnings in parentheses. That is the oddity of oddities. With one billion Catholics, if Rome taxed or asked the 25% most affluent of them to give a one time offering of $4 each…you would have one billion dollars to build and fund a think tank in Rome for a century to come… to work on many intellectual issues and one could be: to go over things like “Against Jovinianus” and simply put warning notices in parentheses so that the young and zealous do not go off in a strange direction based on some oddity of the Fathers or Doctors. What is odd is that Catholic literature is fraught with these theological burps so to speak and yet they are left there in the texts with no accompanying warning especially for the young. Here’s Augustine saying that sex between parents is kept private because it is always tinged with sin:

    “Marriage and Concupiscence”
    Chapter 14 “For why is the especial work of parents withdrawn and hidden even from the eyes of their children, except that it is impossible for them to be occupied in laudable procreation without shameful lust?”

    William F. Buckley Jr. years ago had a better idea than Augustine: we also keep private that which is intimately valuable to us.

    If we put an expiration notice on milk, why can’t the one true Church put a warning on comments of the Fathers that would not be beneficial to the young and zealous who can then be off on a tangent for years to come based on a patristic oddity catching a young person at an age when guilt and insecurity are strongest and they are ready to believe the extreme. A think tank could put such warnings on those and on Brown and Origen etc. also.

  10. Well, the danger of such a warning tag is that what would have been tagged in Origen, say, last century, would no longer be tagged. As doctrine develops, so does our understanding of the Fathers. They remain ever young. So putting up such warning tags is detrimental. That is what things like the Syllabus of Errors did, and look how dangerous that was. Balthasar and de Lubac did great work recovering Origen, work that had remain overdue because of the stigma attached to him.

  11. bill bannon says:

    As doctrine develops, some things the Fathers said becomes forever rejected so why not warn about them unless one is trying to overstate their wisdom:

    “Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?” (Jerome in “Against Jovinianus” 1:19 [A.D. 393]).

    The papal position since the 19th century accepts sinless intercourse during the infertile times and thus Jerome is incorrect as is St. Thomas here:

    Summa Theologica in the Supplement Question 49 art.6: “ If however, he seek pleasure within the bounds of marriage, so that it would not be sought in another than his wife, it is a venial sin”.

    Why leave those unwarned about for young zealous readers if the modern Popes are correct in their developement which allows sex in the infertile times…indeed allows sex for the sterile couple and for the aged about whom, two Fathers and one Doctor saw venial sin in such acts.

    Hence in line with the above errors, Augustine saw men as better companions than women excepting women’s function of child bearing (he had only one use for women as a fornicator and after repentance he could also fall victim to seeing them as one dimensional…Aquinas then apes it in what follows:

    “ I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes the purpose of procreation. If woman is not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and woman cohabitate.” De Genesi ad litteram 9,5-9 Augustine.

    Aquinas, ST, Pt. I. Q.98, art.2 “Moreover, we are told that woman was made to be a help to man. But she was not fitted to be a help to man except in generation, because another man would have proved a more effective help in anything else.” (On the contrary..section).

    Thank the Lord that Jay Leno never became aware of those passages during his jokes on the clergy sex abuse period.

  12. Good question, Bill Bannon. Perhaps what we need is to establish a broad hermeneutic perspective and set of principles for processing tradition with critical discernment. This has, of course, being going on in theology for 500 years, but the results have not been communicated effectively to the general membership of the churches, partly because there is constant argument back and forth about how to evaluate things. The consensus that Augustine and especially Jerome were wrong in some of their attitudes to sex is a very recent matter. The evaluation of allegorical exegesis in the style of Origen is still a disputed question. The role of Greek metaphysics in the formation of Christian theology and doctrine is an issue on which there is a broad spectrum of views. The Church should be much franker in making clear that it has outgrown past attitudes — e.g. it should completely disavow the Inquisition; but it cannot bring itself to do so, since the Inquisition was at the core of its theology, spirituality, polity, law for 700 years.

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