Full Text for Martin Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers in Oratio de Lectione Patrum (Text)

Martin Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers in Oratio de Lectione Patnim Carl L. Beckwith Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586) is arguably the most significant Lutheran theologian after Martin Luther. He was a chief contributor to the Formula of Concord, provided the definitive Lutheran response to the Council of Trent, and stands out among his peers as one the most able and discerning readers of the Church Fathers. His first published work, Oratio de Lectione Patrurn (1554), introduces the reader to the historical context and theological significance of the normative Greek and Latin writers from the early Church. Although the Orafio dates from the beginning of Chemnitz's pastoral and theological career, i t displays a sophisticated historical method and offers a generous appraisal of the wider tradition of the Church catholic. The concern of the following essay is to determine the manner in which Chemnitz reads the Church Fathers in this early treatise and how he addresses the points of agreement and disagreement between their theological efforts and his theological comniitments. I. Historical Context When we consider Martin Chemnitz's early life and sporadic university training, his interest in and facility with the Church Fathers comes as something of a surprise. Chemnitz -,as born the son of a merchant and cloth-maker.' His lot in life was to continue in the '10th- maker trade. As a teenager, he displayed intellectual promise and was sent to the elementary school at Wittenberg by his widowed mother. Although he fondly remembers the great pleasure he had in hearing Martin Luther preach, he tells us in his autobiography that he remained at the school for only six months and profited little from the experience. Various events in the life of the young Chemnitz, from the death of his father to the financial improprieties of his elder brother, prevented him 1 For a fuller account of the life and thought of Martin Chemnitz, see Robert Kolb, "Martin Chcrnnitr," in 71rp Refilrmation Tlzeologinns, ed. Carter Lindberg (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002) 140-153: 1. A. 0. Preus, 71re Serot~d Mnrtin: Tlie Life and J'heology of Martin Cllmmnitz (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1994). Carl L. Beckwith is Assistant Professor of Church History and Hzstorical Theolog at Beeson Divinity School and Associate Pastor of Hope Luthernn, Birmingham, Alabama. 232 Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009) from studying at any particular school long enough to receive a degree.2 In 1538, at the age of sixteen, Chemnitz entered the cloth-maker trade, abandoning all hope, he tells us, of returning to school.3 When Chemnitz least expected to pursue his studies, opportunities arose. From 1539 to 1546, Chemnitz developed a pattern of studying at a school until he exhausted his savings, leaving the school and working as a tutor or clerk to raise more money, and then, with his limited resources, returning to school as long as the money would last. It was through this process that he studied for one year at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder and one year at the University of Wittenberg. At this time, however, his studies were not in theology but grammar and astrology.4 The violence of war and threat of plague worked together to provide Chemnitz with an opportunity to pursue advanced work in the Scriptures and theology. When the Smalcald War broke out in 1546, the University of Wittenberg was closed, and Chemnitz was forced to leave.5 He followed his relative, Georg Sabinus, to the newly formed University of Konigsberg in Prussia.6 While there, plague broke out, and Chernnitz retreated to the countryside. Away from the resources of the university, Chemnitz read what was available to him: Luther's postilla and Peter Lombard's Sentences.7 Luther taught him the Scriptures, and Lombard taught him the 2 Chemnitz tells us in his autobiography that he and his brother, Matthew, were not "well disposed" toward one another. Perhaps for this reason Chemnitz willingly records the misfortunes of his brother. Matthew initially fared well in the family business and was praised by all. His misfortunes came when he fell in love with the wrong woman. His mother would not permit him to marry the girl and forced him to marry another. The marriage did not go well and, as Chernnitz tells us, "he drifted into a wild and wayward life and squandered all he had." Matthew died "a miserable d e a t h in 1564. See, Martin Chemnitz, Autobiography, trans. August L. Graebner, Theological Quarterly, 3 (1899) 473 and 475. 3 Martin Chemnitz, Autobiography, 476. 4 During his one year at Wittenberg, Chemnitz heard Luther lecture, preach, and lead a theological disputation but profited little as his attention was on astrology. This training, however, allowed him to offer "astrological predictions" to several princes which in turn provided him with much needed income to continue his studies. See, Martin Chemnitz, Autobiograylly, 479. 5 Despite his departure from Wittenberg, Chemnitz remained in contact with Melanchthon. In 1549, Chemnitz wrote a letter to Melanchthon in Greek that asked what method he should use in studying theology. Melanchthon responded that "the chief light and best method in theological study was to observe the difference between the Law and the Gospel." Martin Chemnitz, Autobiogrplly, 480. 6 Georg Sabinus (1508-1560) studied under Philipp Melanchthon at Wittenberg and married his eldest daughter, Anna. It was through Sabinus that Chemnitz became acquainted with Melanchthon in 1545. Martin Chemnitz, Autobiography, 481. Beckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers 233 Church Fathemn When the plague subsided, Chemnitz returned to Konigsherg and was appointed the head of the ducal library from 1550- 1553. Finally, Chemnitz had before him an extensive collection of biblical, historical, and theological works, and the time and financial security to pursue his studies. These three years of private study constitute Chemnitz's advanced training in the Scriptures and theology. It was also at this time that he immersed himself in the writings of the Church Fathers. Theological disagreement with Andreas Osiander over the article of justification forced Chemnitz to resign his post at the ducal library. He departed Konigsberg and returned tu the University of Wittenberg. Chemnitz's theological talents were soon recognized, and he was asked by Philipp Melanchthon to lecture on the Loci C o w r l n u n c ~ . From June to October 1554. Chemnitz lectured on the doctrine of the Trinity. In August, he was asked by the superintendent of Braunschweig, Joachim Morlin, his old friend and theological ally from his days in Konigsberg, to serve as his coadjutor. He accepted the position and delivered his final lecture at the University of Wittenberg in late October. On Novemher 25, Chemnitz was ordained to the ministry and published his first treatise, O r a t i o de Lcct io r~e P a l r u t t ~ . ~ Five days later, he left Wittenberg. Chemnitz's first publication is impressive on many counts.fu His subject matter is the continuity of evangelical theology with the Church catholic; a subject that could easily betray his limited training in theology and the history of Christian thought.'J It is remarkable that someone with *Martin Chemnitz, Aotohi<~,yrc~pily, 481. 9 Although the publication of Chemnitz's Ornlio is dated Novcmtwr 25, 1554, he likely delivered i t prior to June 1554 when he began lecturing on Melanchthon's Loci Corrrlaunes. Peter Fraenkel suggests May 16 or 27 as possibilities but does not provide any argument for these dates. Similarly, lrcna Barkus has proposed March 24, 1554. See, P. Fraenkel, T<,stimorria Pufrut,r: Tiir Ftinction iof the Pntristic Arxli!nerrt it1 t11e TIleolox,y (f Pl~ i l ip Mriat lc i r t lo~i (Geneva, 1961) 268, n. 58; lrena Backus, Historical Met l~od and Confesrional id~*nl i ty in t11c Eru OJ the R~fon,lnIion (1378-1615) (Leiden: Brill. 2003) 241, n. 195. "I Strictly speaking, according to Chemnitz, his first published works were two German almanacs from 1549 and 1550. Martin Chemnitz, Autobioxrapity, 480. " Although we do not seem to have the same ursency today to demonstrate the continuity of Lutheran theology with the church catholic, our Lutheran fathers exerted a great deal of labor on this issue. Numerous works from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries address this question, some more constructively than others. See, tor example, Philipp Melanchthon, Dt. Ecclesia et de aetoritute Vcrbi Dei (1539); Gevrg Major, Vitne Patrum (1544); Matthias Flacius, Catoioxus testiunr ~er i ta f i$ (1556) and Magdrbu r~ Colluries (1559-74); Johann Gerhard, Confersio C a l i ~ ~ l i c a (1634-37) and Putrulo~io (1653); Melchior Nicolai, Luthernnisrnus ant? Lutlrenm~ (1658). In addition to these treatises, the 234 Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009) such limited training could write at the beginning of his pastoral and theological career a brief manual on how to read the Church Fathers. As remarkable and daring as Chemnitz's treatise is, however, we must not forget that it is his first attempt at addressing the role of the Fathers in the theological labors of the evangelicals and demonstrates only his initial engagement and understanding of the resources of the greater tradition of the Church. In the Oratio, we are not dealing with the seasoned and mature Chemnitz, who has weathered controversy and endured personal trial. Rather, the Oratio represents an early, courageous, and ambitious attempt, by a young and self-taught Chemnitz, to engage the great tradition of the Church and establish the points of continuity and discontinuity between the Fathers and the Lutherans. 11. Oratio de Lectione Patrum Chemnitz begins his treatise by identifying a number of ways to discuss the proper use of the Fathers. First, a person could offer a lengthy reflection on the appropriate way to read the Fathers without risk or danger (tuto). Second, a person could demonstrate the fruitfulness of studying the Fathers in addition to the study of the Scriptures. Third, a person could provide a brief introduction to the major Latin and Greek writers of the early Church. Chemnitz follows this third, chronological approach. By proceeding chronologically, Chemnitz tells us that the reader will discover the occasions "when they [the Fathers] spoke somewhat improperly, when something should be eliminated as less than helpful, and how a later age might correct something which had arisen in time of controversy."'2 Such a method, argues Chemnitz, will expose not only where the dangers lie with the Fathers but also in what areas they spoke correctly and usefully. Chemnitz nowhere explains why he thinks these are the only approaches an individual might take in discussing the use of the Church many dogmatic works from this time demonstrate even more clearly the critical and constructive engagement of patristic thought by the Lutherans. 12 For whatever reason, Chemnitz's editors posthumously published the Oratio at the front of his systematic theology, the Loci T11cologici. The problem, of course, is that the final, published edition of the Loci represents the mature Chemnitz, who continued to study and learn from the Fathers for another thirty-two years until his death in 1586. In any event, the Omtio is to be found in the translations of the Loci and in manuscript editions of the Loci. The translation used throughout this essay is: Martin Chemnitz, Luci Tl~eolog~ri, trans., J . A. 0. Preus, two volumes (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989), 27a. Hereafter, cited as Preus followed by page number and column. All Latin references for the Oratlo are taken from Martin Chemnitz, Locz T/rcologici (Frankfurt & Wittenberg, 1653). Beckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers 235 Fathers. Indeed, i t is disappointing to see that two of the three ways identified by Chemnitz are negative, including the course he chooses. He labors the point that the study of the Fathers is useful, drspitc the many infelicitous and improper statements that must be eliminated or corrected. The language used by Chemnitz is not language of expectation and opportunity but rather suspicion and duty. As we continue to read, however, we discover that this is not Chemnitz's understanding of the Fathers but rather the attitude of those for whom he is composing his treatise. He tells us in the introduction that he is writing at the request of friends. It is their concern that reading the Fathers is fraught with danger and perhaps unnecessary given the Lutheran commitment to solo scriptura.'3 The young Chemnitz cautiously disagrees and proceeds with a restrained defense of the Fathers that identifies their many contributions that do not give offense. In his later works, the mature Chemnitz, the established professor and superintendent, will find no need to proceed cautiously in his reading of the Fathers or provide an apologetic rejoinder to those concerned with the use of the Fathers in articulating Lutheran theology. In the Oratio, however, Chemnitz's exuberance for the Fathers is muted and his goal modest. He offers for his friends a sympathetic reading of the Fathers, carefully identifying their strengths and weaknesses and thoughtfully showing how to read them with esteem and discernment. Apocrypl~ol Wbrks Chemnitz begins his review of the Fathers with two items claiming apostolic authority but lacking, in his estimation, historical credibility: the Apostolic Cunons or Constitutions and a figure who writes under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite. He immediately dismisses the authenticity of the Apostolic Cations or Constitutions based on historical testimony,'Qhe fact that the canons increased in number over time,'i and the literary style ' 3 Cf, the Preface to the Epitome of the Formula uf Concord (Tappert 465:2, R: BSI.K, pp. 767-69). (4 Chemnitz seems to regard the Aposkrlic Connns or C<,nstilutioni as one work with different titles. I n fact, !he Cnno~rs form the final chapter of the Apostolic Co~lsfitutions (ANF, VII, 50i1-505). With that said, the Cnnons were often circulated without the Constitutions. I t is generally accepted that much of this material was compiled during the latter half of the fourth century in Syria, drawing heavily on earlier material like the Didoscalia and Diduchr. Chemnitz comments that the canons grew from 50 to finally 85 at the "sixth Council, around 677" (Preus, L1; 27b; Loci, 1653,l). Chemnitz seems to be confusing the Trullan synod of 692 with the Sixth Ecumenical Council of ~onstantinople 111 in 680, which dealt with the Monothelike runtroversy. Chernnitz's confusion of these two councils is not uncommon and is quite understandable. The ~rulian synod met to pass canons that would complete the work of the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils and 236 Conrordiu Theological Qrrarterly 73 (2009) of the work. From his o w n research, only Epiphanius of Salamis defends the apostolicity o f these canons, while Fathers such as Cyprian of Carthagc demonstrate no knuwledge of them. The literary inconsistmcy of the work and lack of early witnesses to thrir existence leads Chemnitz to reject their claim of apostolic authority. Despite the text's aporryphal nature, a careful reader will discover beneficial material on lav communion and the Apostles' Creed. 'The reader must ~xerc i se discernment, however, as the lext ddvances ideas on virginity and baptism that nre contrary to the Scriptures. Chemnitz the historial] c.rilerges immediately and impressively in this opening discussion. llr proceeds with a careful analysis of the A[~osto/ic CnnsHtutinrts and its historical reception, introducing the reader in a practical way to the tools necessary for the historical study of ancient texts. He canvasses the Fathers for comnients on the G T I I O I I ~ or Co>~stitirtio~~s dnd determines llidt they are not apostolic but r a t h ~ r seem to lwvc a fourth- century provenance. Altliough Chemnitz expresses concerns a h u t some theological points in the text, his dismissal of its .rpostolicity and authority rests ultimately on his historical observati(~ns. The second item of concern for Chcmniln is Dioriysius the Arropagite. Chemnitz is aware of s e ~ e r a l works attributed to Dionysius: Tlrc Cclr~finl Hicrsrclrv, 1111. Erilcsi~mlicul I-!ien7rcli!l, ?la* Vir'i~re NOIIIIT and some letters. AS he d id with the Ayosh~lic Cr~~~sfrfufin~rs, Chemnitz begins hy canvassing the Fathers to determine their appraisal o i Dionysius and finds that none of t h e ~ n mcntion dnything about the Areupagite. including Jerorne's cdlalog of ecclesiastical writers. Moreowr, Chemnitz notes that i)ionysius' Greek is vastly different from classical and apostolic writers.'" H e concludes, a s - -- -- - - - often went by the name Fifth-Sixth Council (P~~irtlrckl~~c~r Qiir r~sesl). In fact, the synod of eastern bishops mrt in thc somc "clnn,cd xxm,'' hcncc the nelne 'l'rullan, where the bishops of the Sixth Cnuncil ntrt. Mo~c*nvt,r, the S v e n t h Ecunte~~ical Council ,$ Nicaea I1 in 7117 rrcogn~zrd thc canons passed a t thc I'rullan svnod i ~ s lhv cr,mpletian of the Sixth Gunrcnical Cnuncil, which ratificd no canms. Thi. actions of Niraca I1 most likely account for Chcmnits's cornmcnt. 'fi Chemnitz's comment ilcrr is well taken. Not only is ihc Grrrk of Pa.-Dinnysius' texts more refined and complex than Lhc Koinc Greek of the New Testament but also his reliance upon Nco-plotonism (Protlu>) and his three-fold mystical theology (purification, illuminatir>n, pt,rfccticm) clearly dtlfrrmhate him from the apostolic uritings. The first historical mmlion ot W.-Viot~ysius' works occurs in 553 at a colloquv at Conslantinople. It is for this reason that ill.t!ly ddk Oi~nysius to the early sixth century. In the West, thc Lateran Council of (A9 used his works apinst the Monathelitrs and tirmly established his authority. His infltlrncr w ~ s not losl un Thomas Aquinas, who in the S ~ ~ r ~ r w r n liieolo,qin~, cites Augurtine, Ps.-Dir,n).sius, and John Ddmasene more than any other Edrly Church Fathers. Beckwith: C h e m n i t z ' s R e a d i n g of the Fa thers 237 Lulher h a d done before h im, that t h e w o r k s a t t r ibu ted t o Dionys ius a r e n o t t o be associated w i t h t h e i n d i v i d u a l m e n t i o n e d in Acts 17." Af te r se t t l ing t h e q u e s t i o n of t h e possible apos to l ic o r ig ins of these texts assnciated w i t h Ps-Dionysius, C l i e m n i t ~ t u r n s t o their therdogical va lue . He distnisses The Cclestiel Hierarclry a n d T l ~ c Divirlc K~~ltrc.;. A l t h o u g h there a r e n u m e r o u s cercm<,nies f o u n d in Tllc Ecc les ins t i r t~ l ~ l i ~ r ~ i r d l y that are c o n t r a r y t o Scripture, C h e n i n i t z d u e s ident i fy t w o p o i n t s o f historical interest based o n this work. lH A1 w h a t e v e r t i m e Dionys ius w r o t e there was no practice of i n v o k i n g the sa in t s nor were t h e r e prayers for t h e dead to be de l ivcrcd from purgdlory." ' Finally, C h e m n i t z e n d s by pra i s ing i)ir>nysius for d iscuss ing bap t i smal s p o n s o r s a n d their duties.*" 1; Luther offcis many critical cc,mmcnts on 1's-Di<>nyciu+. For two p w d vnes, scr Martin Luthcr, 1.ulln.r'~ Works, American Edition, 55 vols., ed. Jamslsv Ian Pelikan, Hiltun C. Oswald, and Helmut '1'. Lchmenn (Ph~ladclphia: Fortress I'rt,ss; St. I.onis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955-1986). 1:235 end 3h:lflR [hcnccforth LCt']. Nut everyone in the sixteenth century considercd Ps.-Dinnysius's work- opocryphdl. Grorfi Witzel, an early convert to l.ull~rranism who l'itcr returned to komc and wrote against Luthcr, regarded R-Dionysius as I'aul's co-wurkcr and therefore the most ap,,slollc of all the Fathers. Wit7.01 exploited the apostolicity of P.;-Dionysius to argue against the elimination of ceremonies in thc liturgy hy the Luthc~rdns. Wit6cl's njncern is ecclesiology but his efforts arc largely devutcd to the witnr,ss of the Church Filthrrs. Here we SCL. a clear rxamplc of tlic relationship between crrlcsi<,logy ~ n d p'itrtrlngy during this period, as is also sccn with Philipp Melanchthnn's Dr. Cci./c,.siii el tit, i~~~tnritntr~ Verb; D c ~ (1539). See, Ceorg Wit~cl , i'yptis rrcl~siir ntlr~dinr. (1540) 4-6, citrd in R.~ckus, Hisrorirrl Mrllrud orlfl Cot~fcscio~ml Itfo~tily, 46. ( 8 Cli. Treatise on thc I'ower a n d I'rintrlcy of thc Ibpt,, 71 (I'appcrt 312; RSLK, 492). lY Chemnitz's comment on the invocation of the saints is innre 'in argumcnt from silence than anything else. Dionysius JIWP discus* the intcrcrx~ion ol 1hc saints and invocation several timrss (Efl V1I:ShlAB; Luibheid, 254.55). He does nut, however, divulge the content of the invocation, except, as notcd by Chctnnitx. in his discussion of the "hallelujah (Elf 1V:485AB; Luihhrid, 232). Similarly, Chemnilr's coni~ncnt on prayers for the dead is only p'irtly correct. Ilionysius doe, discuss such prayers el length. Chemniez's kruint, however, focuses spccificilly on dclivc~r.~nce from purgatory or prayers that remit thc sins of the recently dcpartcd. Dion)sius rcjects that such prayers rould in any way oflect the judgrncnt c..~rned in thls life by the rccmtly departed. Hc d w s u r g , howevcr, th.at (1 is our duty to pray thdt Cod will overlook [he sins of the faithful who dcpnrt (EH 11:56D; Luibheid, 251~52; Ell 111:5hOA-564B; Luibheid, 253-56). 21' Dionysius diacusscs baptismal sponsors in Eli at 11:393R, 11:397~, lll:4011C-4111A, and VII 56XBC (Luibheid, 201, 202, 206.07, 258-59, rrspcctivrly). On baptismal sponsors in the Early Church, sec also Tcrtullian, Or, Boptistri, ch, 18 in ANF, vol. 111, 678; Hippolytus, Apuslolic Trudilion, xxi.4 in llrc I'rc,olisp on Tln. Apc~alolir 'Trndifhvr c v . St. Hippolytus o j ROII I~ , trans. Grcgory Dix, revised by Henry Chadwick (London: Alban l'ress, 1992). 33; Egeria, A Dioy < f P i l ~ r ; a ~ o ~ ~ , ACW vol. 38 (Ncw York: Newman Press, 1970). 123. 238 Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009) In dealing with these two apocryphal texts, Chemnitz reveals his skills as both historian and theologian. He critically examitles the historical and literary circumstances of these texts to determine their claims to apostolicity. More significantly, and central to the question pursued here, Chemnitz does not free himwlf from the task of theuk~gian in evaluating the content of these texts despite their false claims to apc~stolic authority. Chemnitz's commitment to the resources of the Church in articulating Lutheran theology is displayed in no better place than in his dealings with these two apocryphal works. No one would have criticized him had he, under the banner of n~la s~.riptura, disniissed these works without comment because of their false apostolic claims. instead, he engages their thought and comments on their strengths and weaknesses for the reader. Ignalirrs c , f A ~ ~ t i o l - l ~ Chemnitz begins his comments on the Fathers by commending thc reading of lgnatius of Anticch but warning that many interpolations exist in the epistles available.2' Although Chemnitz's commcnt on lgnatius is brief and fails to identify for the reader the positive or edifying teachings to be found in his letters, he does provide a constructive example on how to deal with possible interpolations in patristic texts. He quotes a number of peculiar excerpts from the disputed lctters circulating under the name of lgnatius and demonstrates how later Fathers, like Augustine, cuntradict the theology expressed by these statements. The assumptian by Chemnitz scems to be that the orthodoxy of lgnatius will necessarily correspond to that of later witnesses like Augustine. l'herefore, in the case of Ignatius, if a statement disagrees with a latcr writer or teaching of the Church, it is likely an interpolation. By interpreting the writings of otie Father through the lens of dnother, Chemnitz's practice appears to b~ simplistic and susceptible to thc charge of establishing a patristic consensus on all theological topics. Indeed, at first glance, his handling of unacceptable statements in Ignatius' letters 2 Thc authenticity of lgnatius' letters has bern complicated by the presence of a long, middle, dnd short rrcension of the lcttcrs. The long recension is not only an vxpanded lorm of Lhe suthcntlc letters of Ignstius, roughly identified as the middle recension, hut also a collertinn nf spurious letters assoc~atrd with I~natius. Dur~ng the lieformatmn. the long and middle recension circulated in hoth Latin and Greek. I t was not until Lhe middle p r t ot the sev~ntecnth century that a rarwnsus began to rmerg on the authenticity of the middle recensirm. For further discussion of these issues and for an accessible English translation of Ibmatlus' letters, set The Aposloli~ F O ~ ~ I P N , 2nd ed., trans. I . 8. 1.ighttoot and J . R. Harmer, ed. Michael Holmes (Grand Rapids: Raker Book House, 19RY), 79~118, Beckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers 239 seems to undermine thc careful historical and theological concerns demonstrated by him in his discussion of the Apostolic Constitutiot~s and ps- Dionysius. We must be careful, however, in drawing too critical a conclusion about Chemnitz's interpretive move with Ignatius. He is not suggesting that the reader reduce the Fathers to a single voice or force a consensus of thought on them. His interpretive move to use one Father to clarify another in an effort to establish a historically reliable text is restricted to works that are known to contain interpolations. From this perspective, Chemnitz's recourse to later Fathers is a legitimate exercise in historical research. Although the modern reader will question Chemnitz's lack of sensitivity to the changing historical, theological, and political contexts of an lgnatius and Augustine, we must acknowledge that such concerns have less to do with Chemnitz's historical method and more to d o with differing theological assumptions held by the modern reader as c~pposed to someone like Chemnitz. The ease with which Chemnitz is able to move from a second-century to a fifth-century author stems from his commitment to the truthfulness of the Scriptures and his assumption that the Fathers are engaged in faithful exposition of the Scriptures. If the Fathers shared the same task and sought to understand the same truth, then their conclusions should coincide, irrespective of changing historical circumstance. When they do not and we know that we are dealing with a defective text, as in the case of lgnatius' letters, we may conclude that these inconsistencies or discontinuities are additions and therefore not the genuine sentiments of the particular Father under consideration. This theological assumption permits Chemnitz to proceed with charity in his dismissal of questionable statements by the Fathers in texts that are known to contain interpolations. The first theologian whose writings are extant and not interpolated is Irenaeus of Lyon. Chemnitz remarks that only his Against Hrresics survives in a rather bad Latin translation.2' H e acknowledges the existence of some Greek fragments in Ep~phanius and even mentions a rumor claiming that '2 Today we posses, lrenaeus' complete treatise only in a fourth-century Latin translation. Many Creek fragments do survive and are conveniently collected, along with the complete Latin text, in the Sorrrces Ci~rPlienncs volumes of lrenaeus' work. For an English translation see ?Yle Afrtr-Nicene Patlars, vol. 1. Today we possess an additional work by Irenaeus, Dnr~onstratio,t of t ls Apnslolic Pre,aclrin~, discovered in 1904 in a thirteenth century Armenian manuscript. This work is translated into English under the title ProoJoJtl~c Apostolic Preaching in the Anchrt Christian Writers series, number 16. Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009) an entire Greek text exists.= The presence of the Greek text would, Chemnitz argues, resolve the inadequacies of the Latin translation and perhaps resolve some of the difficulties found in lrenaeus' text. Chemnitz's comment on lrenaeus is lengthy and reveals his great esteem for Irenaeus. He begins by insisting that lrenaeus' historical contcxt must be known before an adequate appraisal of his theology can be given. By contextualizing the writings of the Fathers, we are better prepared, argues Chemnitz, to understand their approach to certain critical issues and resolve any inadequate statements made by them. f-lere we see Chemnitz allaying any concerns that may have arisen with his handling of Ignatius. Since Irenaeus' text is not suspected of containing interpolations, no recourse to the thought of later Fathers will explain away difficulties found in his text. With that said, Chemnitz is not content to dismiss statements or teachings by lrenaeus that cause offense. A good reader who takes seriously the task of the Fathers and assumes that they are attempting to expound faithfully the Scriptures must attend to historical context in order to understand why such problematic statements were made at all. It is only by establishing such a context that benefit can be found even in moments of strong disagreement with the Fathers. To reduce this to a platitude, we must learn from their mistakes. The only way to do that is to understand how and why they made their mistakes. When we read lrenaeus, we must be aware that he is confronting Gnostics who are rejecting certain parts of Scripture undcr the name of apostolic tradition. lrenaeus counters these arguments by appealing to the unity of the Old and New Testaments based upon two authorities: the rule of faith (regulajidei) common to all Christidn churches and the Scriptures. Because of their dependence on one another, whatev1.r does not agree with these two authorities is heretical. The mutuality that exlsts between these two sources means that a person cannot cling to a tradition that is in opposition to Scripture any more than a person can advance a novel reading of Scripture that opposes the rule of faith common to all churches. Chemnitz pauses to emphasize the importance of this point for his readers in their own theological efforts. Rather than comprr)rnising the evangelical commitment to sola scripturn, this emphasis on the rule of faith is a bold assertion that Lutheran theology is in continuity with the faith of the Early Church Fathers. For Chemnitz, the rule of faith or tradition endorsed by " The first edition of the Greek fragments of lrenaeus' work was not published until 1570 by Nicolas Des Gallara. On the use of lrenaeus during the sixteenth century and editions of his work, see trena Backus, Hisforicol Method a i d CunfessL~nal Identity, 134-152. Beckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers 241 lrrnaeus is comprehended in the Apostles' Creed. Although lrenaeus never cites the creed in exactly the same words that it would later assume, his various renderings of the rule of faith closely summarize its content.24 Since the Apostles' Creed is a faithful and accurate summary of the scriptural witness about God and his saving work, it rightly serves as an authority in theological reflection. After determining Irenaeus' historical context, Chemnitz turns to an appraisal of his theological contributions to the Church. He especially commends to the reader the valuable doctrinal points made by Irenaeus concerning the two natures in Christ, the Eucharist, and that the fathers in the Old Testament were saved by the same faith as the saints of the New T~stament.~S When lrenaeus is found lacking in points of doctrine, it is either the result of context or simply superficial statement. Because his Gnostic opponents wished to attribute the cause of sin to God, Irenaeus was forced to speak too ambitiously about free will and not say enough about the gravity of sin. Such statements, however, are easily accounted for because of his opponents. Chemnitz explains, "We can read these points in many places in Irenaeus and, when we see clearly both the cause and the occasion of what he says and why he speaks the way he does, then his words can be read without offense and with real profit."26 Despite his understanding of free will, Irenaeus does in places make "a proper and careful statement concerning faith in Christ and justification."27 Amidst these sound teachings, a few unfortunate things are found, such as Irenaeus' argument that Christ lived to be nearly fifty and his millenariani~m.~R 24 Chemnitz refers to Irenaeus' rule of faith as either tradition or the creed. I t is h.ue that irenaeus often echoes parts of the Apostles' Creed but i t should h noted that no verbal fixity exists for lrenaeus in recounting the rule of faith. For him content, not verbal tixity, is important. Chemnitz's reference is no doubt to Against Heresies. 1.10; ANF, 1,330-332. zr PICUS, L7; 29a (Luci, 1653, 2). The final point observed by Chemnitz is central to the whole of irenaeus' treatise. 2" Preus, LT, 29a (Loci, 1653.2). 17 Preus. LT. 29a (Loci. 1653. 2). On faith in Christ and iustification. see A~ainsl ~ . . \ . . , Hcrcsies, 111.18-23; ANF, 1, 445-458. Preus, L'T, 29a (Luci, 1653, 3). For the reference concerning Christ's age and why lrenaeus makes this argument, see Against Heresies, 11.22. lrenaeus did hold millenarian notions and these are found in the last five chapters of his long work. I t is worth noting that most manuscripts of Irenaeus' text do not include thew chapters becauee of the views contained in them. The Fathers began questioning and rejecting millenarianism not long after lrenaeus. The two principal opponents were Origen and Augustine. Chemnitz could not have known about these teachings first hand since they were not Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009) Cypriat~ Chemnitz highly praises the sanctity of Cyprian's life and the constancy of his confession.?' He knows of four books of letters from Cyprian that were written during a time of persecution and are thercfore filled with words of comfort and exhortation for those imprisoned. Although Cyprian in n u n y places argues that theological disputes must be established on the basis of the Scriptures, his historical context led him to embrace certain errors. During times of persecution, many would deny their faith in order to spare their lives and then seek an easy return to the Church when the threat had subsided. I f the threat returned, argues Chemnitz, they would not only be the first t o renounce their faith but also betray others. 'To counter the destructive efforts of these individuals on the community a t large, Cyprian required public satisfactions for the forgiveness of sins and suggested that sins could only be absolved by such satisfactions. Cy prian's Calse teaching and "harsh words" o n satisfactions, although wrong and burdenson~e to the conscience, can be understood "if a person considers their cause and the thinking of those times.""' Cyprian did involve himself in an error o n a fundamental doctrine that cannot be explained away by appeal to historical circumstance. Cyprian, along with thc Council of Carthage in 220, argued that "baptism is not valid unless it is administered by an orthodox and pious minister."" If published until 1575 by Francois Fru-ardent Src, l rena Uockua, "Fra~mis Feu-ardent editeur d'lrilnec: le triomphe de IJ Grande Eglic ct le rejet du mill(.narisme." in Tett!pr,r cihr rr,rurrr. 1.p bict,r~to>nin. (k It( Bihln~tlrh~ue rtotrotmlr~ ck 1,uxcrrrhlur~ (17YH-1YYH) cd Luc Dcitr (Luxemb~urg: Biblir~thcqur~ national?, 21101). 11-25. " Chemnitz's comment on the constancy of Cyprian's confession reflects a larger interest in the sixteenth ccntury for martyr stories and confessions. There were, for example, martyrologies written by the Lutheran ludwifi Rabus (ISSI), Llle Calvinist Iran Crispin (1554), and the English Puritan John Foxr (1554) For a discussion of Ludwig Rahus and the role of s.aint> and martyrs in thc Lutheran tradition, sw Robert Kolb, For 011 !Jw Sczirtts: Clto,t,qi,tx Pc~~~pt ic~ t~s ~f blnrt!,r. 11f Ct~rcrtn~i L I c ~ , : ) rl,nounc ny or rt,nlpton88su8): rlat i r ~ J I I ~ n <>tdvr 1,) ~ r i r d uer-t.cult<,n 1 hr Cc~unrtl nt Carthacc In Z i i r ru f f~r r~e i rhr u rigid stance taken hy Agrlppinus in 220 thar "herettcs" nlust he received into the Catholic Church through (re)baptism. Cyprian further argued that any pricrt or deacun Beckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers 243 anynnr received baplism from a priest who subsequently demonstrated cow.~rdicc in the face 01 p~rsecution and committed an act of apostasy, then the baptistn was no longer valid and another must be administered. Cyprian's error meant that the efficacy of the sacrament rested with the priest performing the baptism and the state of his moral character. This error, notes Chemnit7, would be enthusiastically embraced by the Donatisis in the fourth century and corrected by Augustine. Chemnitz deliberately dwells on the manner in which Augustine corrected Cvprian's error. He appealed, explains Chemnitz. to the Scripturcs and drmonstrated that the efficacy of the Sacrament depends on the Word of God, not on human actions or words. For Chemnitz, Augustine's handling of Cyprian s h o u l d serve as a paradigm for how a person rcads the Fathers. In this case, the great African bishop, Cyprian, is corrected by a later and equally significant African bishop, Augustine. Both are Lowering figures in the world of the early Church. Cyprian falsely underslands the efficacy of the sacraments and is gently corrected by Augustine with an appeal h1 an authority greater than both oi them, the inspired Word of God. Augustine corrects Cyprian in a manner that preserves his honor and respects his pious contributions to the Christian faith.'> Cvprian the martyr is praised for the sanctity of his life and the constancy of his confession bul is corrected for straying from the clear teaching of Scripture on baptism. His many theological contributions are neither rvjc~ctcd nor in any way con~promised by the stain of this une false opinion. I t is, argues Chemnitt, the responsibility and obligation of later theologians and students of Scripture to honor the efforts of Cyprian as a mt.nibcr uf the body of Christ and correct his teaching in a brotherly way on baptism. This is what Augustine did and this is what Chemnitz would havt, his readers do in their own consideration of the Fathers. The fourth century is, for Martin Chemnitz and all students of the Church I:athers, one of the most remarkable periods in the history of the Church. The historical landscape of the Christian community undergoes significant changes from the beginning of the century to the end. Christians enter the fourth century as a persecuted minority and leave it as who cornprolniscd lhis faith during pcrsrruticr should he received only as a layperson and must not Lx. pt,rmittcd to serve again as an ordained minister in the Church. See, Cyprian, Epistle LXXl (ANF, V , 378-79 and 565-72). For a good and accessible introduction to the life and thought of Cyprian, see j. Patout Burns Jr., C,yprrian ttlc Bistlop (London: Routledge, 2002). 92 Preus, LT, 30a (Loci, 1653, 3). Concordia Theological Qtlarterly 73 (2009) the protected majority. Their worship space moves from privatc house churches to grand public basilicas. Memories of Christian martyrs are replaced with magnificent tales of desert monks. All of these changes were made possible by the Edict of Milan in 313. The Emperors Constantine and Licinius guaranteed with this Edict the toleration of all religious groups in the Roman Empire, the restoration of confiscated property to the Christians, and the public gathering of Christians for worship and theological discussion. The possibility of public theological debate providentially coincided, notes Chemnitz, with the flourishing of nearly all of the "greatest F'ithers" in the early Church.'? Chemnitz proceeds in his cliscussion to introduce the reaclcr to the great works and labors of the major fourth-century writers. As we will see, however, his engagement with these Fathers is hindered on a number of occasions by lack of access to or familiarity with their writings. Chemnitz begins his discussion of the fourth century with Athanasius the Great. According to Chemnitz, his biography is well known to all, but access to his writings is difficult.34 Chemnitz is aware of a Latin translation of A ~ n ~ r r s t tlre Nntiorrs (Corrtrit Gentes) and O n the Incarrratinn (Dc frrc.nrrlntiorrc~) but offers no comment on their sub~tance.~5 Despite the great " I'rcus, L 7; 31 a (/.oc,r, 1653, 4). ?" lengthy discussion of Athanasius and his defensc of Nicene orthodoxy would h ~ v e been avail,ible to Cliernnit~ in John C'ario's Clrrotrtca which Melanchthon revised, to same degree, and which Luther rcferrcd t o as Clrrotticon Cnriortis Pliilip[~icuiti. There is debate o n how much of thc Clrrorrirrr comes from Melanchthon's pen and how much of it retains Cario's contribution. The niatcrial on the Early Church seems indebted to Melanchthon's historical endeavors and revision. For a discussion of these issues see, P. Fraenkel, Tr.stitrrorriri Pntr~rrrr, 53; E. Menke-Gliickert, Dir- Gesclriclttscl~reibun~ der R(:for~r~iiticirr rr rtl G~~qc~trrc:forrtr,tti(~tt (I..cipzig, 1912), 25; and G. Munch, Dns Clrronicon Grriotris Plrili~~pictrirr: Eirr 13citrrr8 a i r Wiirlfi~~rrr~ M Iattilttltons als Historiker (Magdeburg, 1925). For a brief introduction to the Cltrorricorr Cirrionis, see Irma Backus, Historical Mctlrorl c~rrd Cor~/rssiorrirl Iiirvrtit,y, 327-338. For an impressive. survey of the events anci theological issues related to the Council of Nicaca, the major synodical gatherings from Nicaea (325) to Constantinople (381), the terminology deployed by the Arians, Photinians, and Pro-Nicenes, and the place of Athanasius in these debates, sce Clrrortici~rr Carionis, pars 11, book iii (CR 12974-991). " P, Fraenkel notes that a Latin translation of G~ntrn Gentes was printed in 1532 in Wittenberg. See P. Fraenkel, l'estiirtr~rria Patrum, 268. Contrn Gentes and De lrzcnrnatione are two parts of a single treatise written by Athanasius sometime after the Council of Nicaea in 325. Thc dating for this treatise is greatly disputed, but I am persuaded by Khaled Anatolios that i t should be dated somewhere in the late 320s or early 330s. See Khaled Anatolios, Atliar~nsius: Tlle Colrerence of His Thought (London: Routledge, 1998), 26-30. For an excellent introduction to these works and the theology of Athanasius, see Reckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers reverelice voiccci by C'lirninit~, lie does not display any engagenlent with Athanasius' writings at this early stage of his theological career.717 A recurring the~i ie throughout Chen1nit~'s treatise is his liniitcd knowlecige of the Greck Fathers. 'l'h'it is to say, if the Father writes in Latin, hc has somc direct knowledge of his writings. I f the Fcitlicr writes in Greek, Ohcmnitz's knowlcdge is derivative; it comes by way of 1,atin writers, which, most of the tinit., means Augustinc. We see this with Cheninitz's brief comment o n Atlianasius ,inti with such wl-itcrs a s Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Eyiphanius of Salamis; nonc of whom are discussrci in this essay. It is difficult to explain exactly why this is the casc. The answer may be a combination of things: it may be the result of the limited holciings at the ducal librliry in Kiinigsberg; it may be a reflection of C h c m n i t ~ ' ~ facility witli Creek a t this early stage of his theological c~ircer; o r it may simply be that his short tenure a s l~brarian did not afford him the opportunity to read as widely as this treatise on the Fathers suggests. Cheninitz's knowledge of tiilary of Poitiers far exceeds his familiarity witli Athanasius. He knows all of Hilary's major w r ~ t ~ n g s and displays an 'iwareness of their main features. tiilary wrote a treatise on the Trinity (Dr. Trir~rtnt~) anci on eastern councils (Dc S y t ~ a / i s ) . ~ ~ If not for I lilary, notes Chcninitz, our knowlecige of the theolog~cal dvbates ,it these eastern councils woulci be seriously impoverislieci. El ilary also produced commentaries on tlic C;ospel of Matthew and the 17salms. Most v . I honias W c ~ i n ~ ~ n d y , Atlrnrrrrsi~rs: A 'l'lrcv~lo,yicr~l 1rrtroriirc.ti~irr (Burlington, V'T: Ashgate, 2007). Athanasius was a dominating personality in thc trinitarian dcbatcs of the fourth century. tit, labored endlclssly in s ~ ~ p p o r t of the theological position advanced at thc Council of Nicaea in 325. Along with many of tho writcrs tliat follow, Athanasius i i r t i ~ u l a t ~ d Niccmc~ orthodoxy against the theological and polc~tiiical sytnpathies of tliosc embracing thc main lines of Arius' thought and thtl implications of his subordinationist theology. It is likely the broad outlinrs of this narrative that Chemnitz has in mind when hc refers to Athanasius' biography. For n cautionary note on the tendency to exaggerate tlic biography o f Athanasius into thc "legend o f Athanasius", see Francis Young, Frorrr Nic.n(vr hi Clrnl(~ctriorr (I'hiladelpliia: Fortress Press, 1983), 65-68, For a survey of the theological debates during the fourth ccntury, see H. P. (1. Hanson, Urc* Srnrcl~ j i r tire Clrristintr Doctrinc7 ($ Co~l: ' I ~ I L ~ Arinrr Corrtrtnicsrsy, .?18-387 (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2005) and Lewis Ayres, Niawn nrni Its L,(y~c-.y: Arr Apprc~n~-lr to Fourt11-Cer~t~tiy Trir~ifririn~l Tlrcr~lo~y (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). " For a n introduction to Hilary's Trinitarian theology, see Carl L. Beckwith, Hilary of Poitiers oil t/le Trinity: Frorn Ve Fide to De Trirlitnte (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). 246 Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009) importantly, Hilary is an early witness to justification and repeatedly asserts that we are "justified by faith al0ne."3~ With that said, thcrc are problems with Hilary. Chemnitz warns the reader that Hilary often "speaks in an unsatisfactory way" in his commentaries and advances a fundamental Christological error on the suffering of Christ. Chemnitz's warning about Hilary's unsatisfactory statements and his Christological error reveals his own historical indebtedness to the medieval reception of Hilary's writings. For example, Chemnitz argues that the unsatisfactory comments found in Hilary's commentaries, which he never identifies for us, are from the works of Origen. In a somewhat similar move, though with different motivation, Abelard, writing in the twelfth century, comments that anything of a questionable nature found in the writings of Hilary should be attributed to Origen." Abclard, however, is not seeking to protect Hilary from association with Origen. On the contrary, he is making an argument for the salutary use of Origen by showing how most of the major Church Fathers, like Hilary, used hini freely. Chemnitz follows a different strategy and sceks to insulate klilary from unsatisfactory statements. What seems not to have occurred to Chcmnitz, as it did for Abelard, is that such a defense of Hilary still leaves the reader wondering why he would have incorporated such careless statements from Origen into his own writings and passed them off as his own. Perhaps more problematic is the assumption that Hilary himself did not realize that they were unsatisfactory. It would seem that if Hilary "borrowed" from Origen, he must have been in sympathy with such statements. Chemnitz does not address any of this. The second example of Chemnitz's indebtedness to the medieval reception of Hilary's writings deals with his awareness of Hilary's Christological assertion that Christ suffered on the Cross without experiencing pain. If removed from the overall theological context of the 78 Preus, L?; 30b (Loci, 1653, 4). For an example of Hilary on justification by fa~th, see Dr Trinitotc, lX.16.7-19 (Soura,s' C/ir6tietrnes, no. 462, p. 46; NPNF, ii, IX, 160). The text that Chemnitz likely has in mind, however, is from Hilary's Coiirmcntnry or1 Mnttlicri~. This is the text he cites in his later Errcltiridion and the text circulating among the Wittenberg theologians. See, for example, Johannes Brenz, Corfissfo Wirtctlbcrgertsis, (Tiibingen, 1590; first edition 1552), 4. Chemnitz shows no familiarity with the material on Hilary in Georg Major's Du Ori~ine E t Autoritate Verb1 Vei (Wittenberg, 1550) f2. 39 For example, Abelard wrote, "When we find some ideas [in Hilary's writing] that are out of harmony with truth or the writings of other saints, they are to be attributed to Origen rather than Hilary, even though Hilary himself does not make this distinction." Abelard, Sic et Non, prologue (PL 178:1342-43); quoted in Henri de Lubac, Medin~al Exegesis, trans., Mark Sebanc (Grand Rapids: Eerdrnans, 1998), 202. Reckwith: Chemnitz 's Reading of t he Fathers 247 fourth century anci tlie argument cievelopeci by 1 iilary in the final books of l lc ' l 'rirritrltr: his Christology strikes us a s sailing too close to the shores of Ilocctism. 'l'his particular iirgumcnt by Hilary has enciurcci more criticism throughout the history of tlie Church than any other aspect of his theology."' In the thirteenth c'ntury, Bonaventure was s o troubleci by Clilary's commc~nts on Christ's suffering that he suggestecl they might be sorr t r i~f i t i r~r11. '~1 Attempts were maclc by Bonaventure, Albert tlie Great, and 7 7 Iliotiias Acluitias, among others, to reconcile Hilary's statements with the Church's tc~acliing. Frustratcci with efforts t o recover a n orthodox uncicrstanrli~ig of k lilary's Christology, sotneont., prrliaps Bonaventure hinisvlf, relieveci the situation by circulating a pious rurnrJr. It was saici that William of Paris haci seen a statement of retraction in which Hilary correctvd liis unortliociox statements on Christ's suffering.42 This rumor freed the meciieval writers from clefencling liilary's secniingly untenable Cliristological position and preserveel his orthodoxy a n d theological integrity for tlie medieval Church. It is this pious rumor that Chemnitz cites in liis own comment on Hilary's Christology anel, like his theological predecessors, uses to insulate Hilary from any association with unorthodox statements on Christ.4' Clieninitz tells u s that Basil wrote many cioctrinal treatises and letters well worth rc.ading. Chemnitz offers high praise of Basil saying, ' 'tiow expvrtly anci reverently h e spoke on the article of justification in his writing ( > t i humility and (In ni'iny other subjects!"" Despite his strong For '1 rharitablc reading of liilary's Christology, s r r Carl I,. Beckwith, "Suffvring Without I'ain: thc Scandal of liilary of I'oiticrs' Christology," in 711r Sl~r~tlrtrc~ of tlcc Irrcrir~rriliorr: t,'ssr~!/s irr I iot r t~r if Hrirrrr t : . f7rilc!/, S/, vd. Pvtcr Martens (Notrc Ihlnc, IN: Univclrsity of Notre, Ilamc I'ress, 200H), 71-Oh. Kevin Madigan, "On the t ligh-Mvdicval Kcreption of tlilary of I'oiticrs's Anti- "Ari,ln" Opinion: A Case Study of 1)iscontinuity in Christian Thought," /orrrtlul of li(,li,yiorr 7H:2 ( lYeIH), 2 15, 221-222. 42 Honavcmturc suggcsts that William of Paris had seen this letter. See, Madigan, "On thv 1 ligh-McdicvCil licccption," 223, n. 40-41. 4' I'rcus, /,'I; 3 la (l.oc~i, 1653, 4). '1" I'rcus, I . ' / ; 31b (l.ori, 1653, 4). In Chcmnitz's later work, the Ericlliri~fiorr, hc tells us cxactly what hc found so delightful in Basil's homily with respcct to justification. Basil wrote>, "This is perfect and unspoiled glorying in God, when one is not exalted because of his own righteousness, but acknowledges that he lacks righteousness and that he is justified alone by faith in Christ." Martin Chetnnitz, Ministr .~, Word, and Sucrum~nts: A n t:trclriri(liorr, trans., Luther Poellot (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 7987), 78; Basil of Caesarea, Or1 Hur~r i l i ty , trans. Sister M. Monica Wagner, C. S. C., Fathers of the Church, vol. 9 (Washington D.C.: 1962), 479. Here is the full quote. (Note, 1 have slightly Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009) statement on justification by faith, Chemnitz warns the reader that Basil spoke "in an unfortunate and improper way regarding free will and original sin."'i5 I t is not engagement with Basil that leads Chernnitz to this conclusion, but rather Augustine's own c~dmonishment of Basil's statements. We see here, in a sense, Cheninitz's mediated knowledge of the Greek Fathers. When the writings of the Fathers are in Latin or a Latin translation, Chemnitz clemonstrates first hand familiarity but at this stage of his theological development he does not seem to have engaged the Greek writers to a significant extent. Chemnitz commends Ambrose for his v'irious commentaries on Luke, lsaiah, and the Epistles of Paul. I-le acknowledges that the commentary on Isaiah was highly praised in antiquity but has since been lost."" The commentary on Paul's Epistles which, notcs Chemnitz, is the "best" because it "speaks most accurately about justification," was not, however, written by Ambrost. but by a figure known in the history of Christianity as Ambrosiaster." That Chemnitz is thinking of Ambrosiaster here is confirmed by his later works where he actually cites material from this commentary undcr the name of Ambrose." Hhemnitz's confusion over the authorship of this commcntary is a product of his own historical environment. Although Erasmus had argued that Ambrose was not the author of this commentary on Paul's letters, Chemnitz, even if he were familiar with Erasmus' position, may have been reluctant to concede the felicitous confusion of Ambrose with Ambrosiaster because of the polen~ical value of the commentary and its ninny fine statements on justification by faith. altered the translation by rendering all instances of "6~1ia~ooir1~q" as "righteousness" instead of "justice" as Sister Wagner translates.) Basil the Grwt writes, "'l'hc Apostle tells us: 'lie that glorieth may glory in the Ixrd,' saying: 'Christ was niadc for us wisdom of Cod, rightcousncss and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written: I-le that glorieth may glory in the l,orJf ( I Cor. 1330-31). Now, this is the perfect and c~nsummate glory in Cod: not to exult in nnc's own rightcousncss, but, recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness, to be justified by faith in Christ alone. Paul gloried in despising his own rightcousnt~ss and in seeking after the righteousness by faith which is of Cod through Christ ..." Chemnitz is likely indebted to Melanchtlion for this quote. See, Philipp Melanchthon, Vr Ecclcsio ct dc ~~utorifntc Vttrbi Dci, CR 21:616. d5 Preus, LT, 31 b (Loci, 1653,4). 46 We have only a few fragments of the Isaiah commentary, which have becn collected in CCL 14,405-08. 47 Preus, LT, 32a (Loci, 1653, 5). 48 See, Martin Chemnitz, Enclriridiun, 78. Cf. Johannes Brenz, Confcssio Wirtenbergensis (1590), 4. Beckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers 249 Cl ie~nni tz continues by warning the reader that there are many statements in Ambrosc on free will anel original sin that are unsatisfactory and were eagerly used by the Pelagians. I l e rioes not give any examples but comments that Augustine has explained how these troubling passages should be properly uncierstood in his G~r r t ra /ulinrtrrrrt. Cheninitz's remark raises two issues. The first is s o ~ i i ~ t h i n g w e liavc already encountered arid dclals with the type of familiarity Chemnitz has with Ambrose, t l is brief comtncnt suggests that his knowlccige is derivative and baseci on citations. Dici Chc.n~nitz actually reaci the coriimentary on Paul's Epistles a t this stage in his theological and pastoral development o r is he sirnply familiar with citations from the commentary that servc his o w n theological agenda? Similarly, did Chcmnitz himself read A ~ n b r o s e and come away with dissatisfaction on his many statements dealing with free will and original sin, o r is lie only faniiliar with these because of his engagement with Augustine? The second issue deals with the development of Chemnitz's historical methodology in addressing the. unfortunate statements found in the writings of tlie Fathers. A guiciing principle for Chcmnitz is that the expressions of the Fathers written before a controversy must be dealt with in a spirit of generosity and forgiveness. That is not to say, liowcvcr, that these statetiients should ever be defended by means of verbal gymnastics or rhetorical pvrsuasions. I f a person says sonietliing contrary to the gospel, such words are to be rejected. At the same time, if the great witnesses and saints of old utter things falling short of tlie gospel, what better lesson for Chemnitz's readers to learn a n d what greater need for humility i l l their o w n theological endeavors? 'That lesson, which w e have observed above, secms to be somewhat forgotten o r a t least obscured here by Chcmnitz. He does not say that A~nbrose 's statements o n free will a n d original sin should be dismisscd because he wrote before the IJelagian controversy. Indeed, the astute reader is left wondering why such a comment is not made. Instead the reader is pointeci to Augustine's Contra ~ulrnnuiti to underst'ind Amhrose's statements. A quick glance a t Augustine suggests, though, a different course of action.4'' For Augustine, 4'' 'Thc I'claginn controversy was on one level an extcndcd dtlbatc over tht. use of Ambrost.. Buth parties cldinicd thc hishop of Mil'in to support their respective theological positions. 'l'hc dispute often centertd on Ambrosc's commentary on Luke. Examples of Augustine's defense can be found in 011 Nuhire I I J I I ~ Grr~cr, 63.74-75 In 17re Wr~rks oJSuitlt Augu.stitrr (tlyde Park, hY: New City Press) 1/23, 264-65; hereafter simply W S A . See also, Atrsro~r to tlrr T~iio Lctt~r* (4 tlrr Pela~rnrrs, 11.29-31 (WSA, 1/24, 210-14); Corttra ~uliartutr~ (WSA, 1/24) and Cor~tra \ulianunr opus itnperfectunl (WSA, 1/25) et passim. Concordia Theological Qrrarterl!y 73 (2009) the stakes are higher. A ~ n b r o s e is tlic bishop w h o baptized Iiini and froni whom he heard the gospel. Certainly, it will not clo to suggest that Ambrose spoke too casually on the topic of our salvation. A clifferent explanation mus t be found, and Augustine devotes his efforts to establishing the point that Ambrose has been misunderstood ancl falsely cldimed by the I'elagidns. I'ut simply, lie is not susceptible to f'tdagianism; rather hc is a pillar of the catholic t ra~l i t ion.~" Chemnitz highly praises Jerome's facility with languages, his knowledge o f grammatical and historical matters, ancl his Latin trcilislation of tlic Bible from Hebrew and Greek. H e commends the reading of Jerome's commentaries but warns that his cloctrinal works are inferior to his pctrs. lndceci, notes Chemnitz, Jerome clung s o zealously to cxtremc discipline and the vdlue of good works for the remission of sins in his early writings that he spent much of his later career altering clnd rctracting these statements to avoid being clai~necl by the proponents of I'clagianisni. Chemnitz does express displcasurc with Jeroni~> 's Iicirsli ancl excessive rhetoric. Incleed, notes Chemnitz, Jcrome spoke s o outrageously ag'linst marriage in his work against the monk Jovinian that Augustine was forced to write in opposition to his views. What is noteworthy, though, is not that Augustine d~sagreed with Jerotnc, something he often did, but the manner in which Augustine refuted him. In his treatise 0 1 1 tI?(* Goo~ii of Murrin,qc' (Do' Rorrc? Cott jupl i ) , Augustine writes about the blcwings of marriage, and opposes the Iiarshness of Jerome's position. l i e does this, writes Clicmnitz, "in such a winsome way" that rcaclers harclly noticecl wliost~ "error" Augustine was correcting.+[ Augustine's l~~incll ing of Jerome seems to liavt> made a strong impression on the young C h e m n i t ~ a ~ i d becolnes the moclel that he will follow in gently but resolutely correcting the thc~ological positions of those as remote a s the carly Cliurch Fathers ancl a s near a s his fellow Lutheran brothers. C3n this point of reinterpreting Ambrose along Augustiliiiin lincs, Ncil Mcl,ynn has suggested that dcspitc. the prominent role of A~nbrosc in Augustinc,'~ spiritual autobiography, Augustinc has pclrhaps excxrtcd a grcatcv influe~irc over AmProse by shaping the historical reception of him as a sytnpatlictic Augustinian. Whrther it is true or not that we read Anibrose through the lens of Augustinc, it is clearly thc case that the early Chemnitz did. See, Arr~ i rs t i r rc T l r r o u ~ l r Mie Ages: Arr Ctrc~,yclo~~c~iir l , cd., Allall D. Fitsgerald, O.S.A. (Grand Rapids, Eerclmans, 199Y), 19. Cf. Neil McLynn, Arrrhrosr o j M i l a n : Clrurclr rrnd Cour t i l l n Clrr ist inr~ Cnpital, (Berkeley and Los Angclcs, University of California Press, 1994), 370. 9 Preus, LT, 32b (Loci, 1653, 5). See, Augustine, Orr tlrc Good cfMnrriagc, NPNF, i, 111, 399-413. Beckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers 251 Chemnitz begins his commcnt by mentioning that many in his day greatly cs tee~n John Chrysostom's com~nentaries on Genesis, Mattlicw, John, and thr I'auline Epistles. At the same time, Chrysostom's eloclu~ncc and rhetorical flourishes led him to make "certain unfortunate statements" on free will ancl original sin.?* These statements were seized on by the I'elagians and forced Augustine to recover Chrysostom's intention in his Ci~rltr i t / u l i a r r u ~ t ~ . ~ ~ Given thdt Che~nnitz never iclentifies these statements for the reader ancl given his citation of Augustine, it is likely that he has not ciirectly engaged Chrysostom's writings. In the above comment on Ambrose, we noted that Chemnitz's appeal to Augustinc's C o n t r i ~ / ~ t l ~ n t ~ l r r ~ ~ introduced a different ~i~etliociological course than the one he himself advocates at the beginning of his treatise on the Fathers. That is to say, when a Father speaks in an incautious or unfortunate way prior to a theological controversy, we d o not seek to reconcile his statements with the Scriptures but acknowledge that the presence of controversy forced subsequent Fathcrs to speak in a more concise manner. When we read Ambrose and Chrysostoni, we esteem their labors but dismiss their unfortunate statements on free will and original sin. The reason for Chemnitz's methodological move is quite obvious. Thc Fathers arc human authors whose statements are not binding or authoritative in and of themselves but rest entirely on the Scriptures-‘1 point that echoes 'Thomas Aquinas' hierarchy of authorities in his quc3stion on .sacra ~ ~ J C ~ ~ I I I ~ I . ~ . ' In the language of the theologian, Scripture is rlorrr~i~ trorrr~rrris, the norn~ing norm, the final and ultimate authority in all matters of cioctrine and life. To approach the Scriptures in this way is nothing more than to confess srdn scripfurn. It is this confession that allows Chemnitz to approach the Fatlicrs with esteem tltrd discernment. He nccd not trouble himself with verbal gymnastics in order to preserve the sanctity or honor of the Fatlicrs when they make unfortunate statements. It is also for this reason that Chemnitz's continued appcal to Augustine's Conl r r~ ]u l iar~u~rr creates confusion for the attentive reader. Augustine does not, indeed cannot, take the approach advocated by Chemnitz. Augustine finds himself in the middle of controversy and is not in a position to yield any ground to the Pclagians. If Ambrose or Chrysostom speak in a manner that seems Pelagian, exegesis is required to demonstrate their agreement with 52 Preus, LT, 32b (Loci, lh53,5). 5Uugustine, Coritra ]uliarium, 1.6.21-30 (WSA I/24,282-89). 54 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1.1.8 ad 2. Concordia TIleologica 1 Qira rterly 73 (2009) Augustine and secure their cattiolic authority. From a historical perspective, Augustine had no other choice. Augustine's approach to Ambrosc and Chrysostom proceeds with very different theologiccil assumptions than the method acivocdtecl by Chemnitz. It is here that we encounter confusion. Altliough Augustine is fully aware of the liberty he is taking with the disputed texts from his fellow contemporaries, he labors to convince his readers that the statements from writers like Ambrose and Chrysostom, when understooci properly, which means in a manner consistent with Augustine, do not support the advocates of Pelagianism but rather confess what the Church catholic has always confessed about the necessity of grace, the depravity of sin, and the relationship between faith and good works. Augustine's theological assumption advances the idea that the Fathers spoke with a single catholic voice that is by iniplication always orthodox. Their sanctity and reputation suggest that they would not speak incciutiously about an article of faith and therefore would at all timcs speak with a unified voice on the Scriptures and catholic Christianity. I t is a short step from this false assumption to the establishment of a co~rscrrsu:: yr{~trur~r as a second and equal authority to Scripture. Che~nnitz never acknowledges the tension caused by his approving use of Augustine's Corrtr~r /~rl i~irrurrr and the different historical and theological appro,ich to the Fathers introciuced by such an appeal. The comment on Augustine is the Iengthicst onc in the Clmtin ~ n d reveals quite plainly the high regard and admiration that Chemnitz held for him. Here we encounter tlie Church Father who, "in the judgment of all," is given first place. Augustine lived during a tirne of many controversies on the chief articles of tlie f.iit1i. t l e devoted liimself to answering these challenges and establisheci the position of thp Church on the foundation of thc Scripturcs. Augustinc explained, writes Chemn~tz, "the true position of the church more properly and clearly th,in the other Fathers, who spoke rather carelessly before the controversies had arisen, as Augustine himself admits."i5 There is a hint of self-reflection in Chemnitz's words; he sees himself living during a perioci of intense controversy when the article on which the Church stands or falls is under attack; an attack that Chemnitz sees from those outside of 1,utheranism and within. Augustine faced controversy on two fronts. He opposed those who would undermine Christianity and the City of God by blaming Christians 55 Preus, LT, 32b-33a (Loci, 1653,5-6). Beckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers 253 for the ciestruction of Rome- and those, like, the Arians, who woulci undermine the gospel by arguing that Jesus Christ, the true Son of C;oci, was not co-eternal and consubstC1ntial witli the Father. Augustinc ~ l s o oppose'd those closer to home. f iis disputes witli tlie I1clagions, '1s w e liave seen, forced him to explain and interpret p ~ s s ~ ~ g c s from Anibrose a n d Chrysostotn in order to demonstrate that thcy were ~ i l l a r s of cathrdic orthodoxy and not supporters of I1elagius. Siniilarly, A u g u s t ~ n e contended with the Donatists over what constituted, on one Ievc~l, authentic Africcin Christianity. Here the debate always founci its way to a proper understdnding of Cyprian a n d his more colorful statements on the Church a n d bi~ptisni .~h Such statements leci Cyyrian, a s w e havc noted, to argue th,~t n o heretic could aciminister a ccitholic b'iptism. It was a t such critical moments a s these that Augustine found the limit of his ability to explain away troubling statetnents by the Fathers, even Fathers a s revered a s tlie great Cyprian, about whom no African Christian in Augustine's day could speak casually or dismissivcly. O n the question of baptism, Cyprian, Augustinc tells us, was wrong because his teaching was contrary to the Scripturcs. It is this move by Augustinc, a move that must liave causcci a great deal of consternation for him, that Chemnitz praises s o highly. From Chetnnitz's perspcctivc, his whole theological career was o n e stagcci 011 two fronts: against those outside of I,utheranism and those within. When Chemnitz turns to Augustine, he discovers a mentor, a ~ c r s o n of faith who c'in guide h im in his understanding of how to read the Father\ ~ n d who can help him navigate thc troubled w'itcrs of sixtcrntli-century Christianity. The historical method dcvelopcci throughout Clicninitz's treatise is to begin with Scripture and then to read tlie Fathers '1s chdritably '3s possible o n any given theological question. It comes '1s n o surprise to learn that Chemnitz attributes this approach to Augustinv himself. C l i e m n i t ~ explains, Thus from Augustine we ran Ic'~rn with w h ~ t judgment cllld opclnncss wv ought to rcaci the writings of the Vathcrs. For hc first s o ~ ~ g h t O L I ~ the' tt.uc meaning frotn Scripturtl, and then i f tlic Fatlicrs held to the foundation, lit, would clarify thcir statements acc-ording to thc analogy of faith, c,vtln when thcy said sonicthing that was not quitc correct. Hut he did not allow such ideas to be put in opposition to the found,ltion. Rather, wIic*n thcrc " The Donatists gravitated to Cyprian's statements that "there is no salvation outside of the Church or "one cannot have God as Father who does not havc Church as Mother." See Cyprian, Ep. LXI.4 (ANF, V, 358) and De Utzitatn, 6 (ANF, V, 423). Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009) was an error in a fundamental doctrine, as in Cyprian on baptism, hc docs not attempt to interpret i t but simply follows the meaning of %ripture.'7 Augustine's method for reading the Fathers was 'ilways to have recourse to Scripture. He not only corrected the unfortunate stntrmcnts made by other Fathers by appealing to Scripture but also corrected his own statements by writing the Rctrilctrorts toward the cnci of his life. Chemnitz argues that Augustine's reliance on the Scriptures as the solc authority in matters of theology was the result of too niuch authority being attributt~ci to the Fathers prior to Augustine. Heretics would gravitate toward "less than felicitous statements from the Fathers" to the neglcct of Scripture for their own distorted view of the faith. These practices led Augustine, writes Chemnitz, to advance the following axiom: "Articles of faith must be proved only on the basis of the ~~inonica l books."5H I t shoi~lcl be emphasized that this is Chemnitz's reading of Augustine's approach to the Fathers. As has already been noted, Augustine's use of A~nbrose anel Chrysostom in his Corrtrn /ulianunr does not strictly conform to the method observed here by Chemnitz. Although Augustine frecly invites correction according to Scripture alone for his own theological statements, the Pelagian controversy presented him with a different set of ~ssues. Despite the many praises of Augustine, Chemnitz does note a few problems. Augustine's lack of facility with biblical languages diminishes the value of his many commentaries and causes confusion with his theological vocabulary. Augustine does not underbtancl "righteousness" or "to justify" in a biblical way. He assigns our righteousness to ncw obedience and "to justify" to the process of making us righteous in ourselves, rather than being declared righteous by a righteousness alien to us and proper to Christ alone. Augustine is also a product of his day in his hesitancy to reject prayers for the dead. This hesitancy, argues Cliemnitz, was later exploited by Gregory the Great in ordcr to establish purgatory as an article of faith. From this we learn, notes Chemtiit~, how perilous i t is to speak ambiguously or incautiously on matters outsidc of Scripturr. 57 Preus, LT, 33a (Loci, 1653, 6). Sn Preus, LT, 33a (Loci, 1653, 6). On his invitation for corrcclion, srr Augusline, 7 1 1 ~ Trinity, trans. Edmund Hill, WSA 1/5, 1.1.5-6 (68-69). Similarly, in thC prologue lo Book Three, Augustine writes: "The reader will not, I trusl, bc fonder of nic than of C,itholic faith, nor the critic uf himself than of Catholic truth. 7'0 the first I say: 'Do not show lily works the same deference as the canonical scriptures. Whatever you find in scripture that you used not to believe, why, believe it instantly. But whatever you find in my works that you did not hitherto regard as certain, then unless I have really convinced you that i t is certain, continue to have your doubts about it"' (Tllc Trirrity, 128). Beckwith: Chemnitz's Reading of the Fathers 255 111. Conclusions There are a number of conclusions to draw concerning Cheninitz's exposure to the Fatlicrs at this early stage of his p'jstoral and theologi~~il career. First, he demonstrdtcls greater familiarity with texts in Latin than in (;reek. Second, his commentary o n these various e ~ r l y Church writers suggests that his ~icccss to tht> Fathers was not always through direct reading of their works-though he certainly did this to an extent. Chcmnitz is ineicbtecl to th t~ works of otherb in uncierstanding the challenges raised by the Fathers. tlis comn~cnts on lgnatius and tlilary reveal this plainly. Thirci, we discern from this early treatise what topics are of great theological interest to the young Chemnitz. Ncarly every comment niakes some reference to justification by faith, good works, free-will, or original sin. Put another way, Chemnitz tneasurcs every Church Father against the Lutheran commitment to justification by gracc through faith alone.5" We shoulcl not be surprised by this. Chemnitz has already had a taste of the theological struggles over the article of justificatic>n during his confrontation with Andrcas Osiander at K6nipsbc.r~. His treatise on thr Fathers, pu blisht~i two years after this confrontation, demonstrates very clearly that although the young Clicninitz has only a limited knowledge of the Fathers, hc has a soLid grounding in and appreciation of the centrality of the drticle of justification in the task of the theologian and historian. D ~ s p i t e the fact that Chemnitz reads thcl Fathers along this sixtcenth- century polcniiccil trajectory at this early stagc of his career, he already displl~ys a sophisticated understancling of history and the historical reception of the Fathers that attends tn their own theological circumstance and context. t ie not only recogni~es the various problems and challenges presented to thi. astute reader in dealing with apocryphal works, i~iterpolatcd texts, or unacceptable theological opinions in norniativc writers but also cirnionstratrs skill and sensitivity in reading these varied works that moves him beyond the narrow confines of polemical and apologetic reading. By approaching tlic Fathers in tliis constructive way, the young Chemnitz is able to read the witnesses who have gone before him with generosity and humility. This final virtue is of particular importance. I f the Fathers, the giants of the pa5t, could, at times, speak too " Cf. Carl 1,. Reckwith, "Martin Chcmnitx's Ust. of the Church Fathers in his Locus on Justification," CTQ 68 (2004): 271-290. On thc relatioriship betwccn justification and sanctification in Chemtiitz's thought, see Carl L. Reckwith, "Looking into the Heart of Missouri: Justification, Sanctification, and the Third Use of the Law," CTQ 69 (2005): 297-302. 256 Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009) casually on theological issues, how much more likely are we, who stand on the shoulders of these giants, to do the same? Theology is a discipline not for the proud but the humble. Chemnitz learns this lesson very early on and displays it in his first published work.