Letter to a Baptist friend

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2011/06/14 at 10:28 PM

Over the years you have asked for my advice on what to read and have invited me to make suggestions.  Since you are a person truly committed to the Bible, I suggest you study the works of the men who compiled the original canon of the Holy Scriptures in the third and fourth centuries.

I am sure you are aware of who, when and where the New Testament was originally put together and combined with the Old Testament.  The men who gathered together to discuss what books would be included and, even though of value, were not to be included, did follow criteria.

Of great importance is that they did not include any writings that were scripted after the death  of John the Evangelist.  That meant that they did not include any of  their works although some were contemporaries or disciples of John.

Reading, studying and pondering the works of the Apostolic, Nicean and Post-Nicean Fathers, I have not found anything in their writings which is not found clearly expounded in either the Old Testament or the New Testament, particularly in the Psalms and Gospels.

To the women whose husbands are of a different faith, I have recommended a book on the Fathers: John Willis, SJ, THE TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH FATHERS published by Ignatius Press.  Many of those women have told me reading that books has led to many hours of valuable exchanges with their spouses.

This book is arranged by topics within 13 categories: Revealed Religion, The Church, Sacred Scripture & Tradition, One God, The Triune God, Creation, Sin, Actual Grace, Habitual Grace, The Incarnate Word, Mary, Sacraments, Last Things.

Here follows a list of men whose writings are cited.  I have placed the dates of their death to give you a sense of continuity.  Most had very, very long lives. Correspondence by letters was the means of communication in those days.

102 Clement of Rome mentioned by Paul, was commissioned by Peter, knew John and taught Justin Martyr.

107 Ignatius of Antioch (former slave) wrote to Polycarp whom he visited on his way to be martyred.

156 Polycarp of Smyrna, originally from Samaria, disciple of John, knew Peter and Ignatius; Ignatius taught Ireneaus,

165 Justin Martyr was taught by Clement

202 Ireneaus of Lyons (originally from Samaria)

215 Clement of Alexandria

220 Tertullian of Carthage

254 Origen of Carthage

258 Cyprian of Carthage

367 Hilary of Poitiers

367 Martin of Tours

373 Athanasius of Alexandria

379 Basil of Caesarea (brother of Gregory of Nyssa)

386 Cyril of Jerusalem

390 Gregory Nazianzen

394 Gregory of Nyssa

379 Ambrose of Milan taught Martin of Tours and Augustine

407 Chrysostom of Constantinople

420 Jerome of Bethlehem who translated Bible from Greek into Latin.

430 Augustine of Hippo

Some are called the Greek Church Fathers; others, the Latin Church Fathers, depending upon the language in which they wrote. Most the others could read and write in Greek and Latin, but chose to write in Greek preferring the precision of that cultured language. The exception was Augustine who never really learned Greek well and did not feel at ease with it.

When Jesus Christ called his disciples, He said: “Come and see.” Go and see for yourself what the early Christians believed rather than reading something by a current, popular, so-called Christian writer of miscellaneous religious persuasion.  In other words, use primary sources rather than secondary works.


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