skip to Main Content

Early Heretical Interpretation of Scripture

 

Early Church Fathers Quotes on Heretical Interpretation of Scripture

Irenaeus

They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour 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 of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions.- Against Heresies, Book I

Clement of Alexandria

But, say they, it is written, “All who were before the Lord’s advent are thieves and robbers.” All, then, who are in the Word (for it is these that were previous to the incarnation of the Word) are understood generally. But the prophets, being sent and inspired by the Lord, were not thieves, but servants. The Scripture accordingly says, “Wisdom sent her servants, inviting with loud proclamation to a goblet of wine.” – The Stromata, or Miscellanies — Book I

Those who hold that for them there is no difference between right and wrong force a few passages of Scripture and think they favour their own immoral opinions. In particular they quote the saying: “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law but under grace,” and others of this sort, which there is no reason to add, for I am not proposing to fit out a pirate ship. Let us then briefly put a stop to their argument. The noble apostle himself refutes the charge against him implied in their false exegesis by the words with which he continues after the saying just quoted: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? God forbid.” In this inspired and prophetic way he at once destroys the device of these licentious sophists. – The Stromata, or Miscellanies — Book VIII

They fail to understand, it seems, that “we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ that each man may be re- warded for what he has done with his body, whether it is good or bad,” that is, in order that a man may receive his reward for what he has done by means of his body. So then, “if any man be in Christ he is a new creation,” no longer inclined to sin ; “old things are passed away,” we have washed off the old life; “behold new things have happened,” there is chastity instead of fornication, continence instead of incontinence; righteousness instead of unrighteousness. “What is there in common between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship between light and darkness? Or what harmony between Christ and Belial? What community is there between a believer and an unbeliever? What agreement between the temple of God and idols? Having then these promises let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” – The Stromata, or Miscellanies — Book VIII

Now all men, having the same judgment, some, following the Word speaking, frame for themselves proofs; while others, giving themselves up to pleasures, wrest Scripture, in accordance with their lusts. And the lover of truth, as I think, needs force of soul. For those who make the greatest attempts must fail in things of the highest importance; unless, receiving from the truth itself the rule of the truth, they cleave to the truth. But such people, in consequence of falling away from the right path, err in most individual points; as you might expect from not having the faculty for judging of what is true and false, strictly trained to select what is essential. For if they had, they would have obeyed the Scriptures. – The Stromata, or Miscellanies — Book VII

And if those also who follow heresies venture to avail themselves of the prophetic Scriptures; in the first place they will not make use of all the Scriptures, and then they will not quote them entire, nor as the body and texture of prophecy prescribe. But, selecting ambiguous expressions, they wrest them to their own opinions, gathering a few expressions here and there; not looking to the sense, but making use of the mere words. For in almost all the quotations they make, you will find that they attend to the names alone, while they alter the meanings; neither knowing, as they affirm, nor using the quotations they adduce, according to their true nature. – The Stromata, or Miscellanies — Book VII

But the truth is not found by changing the meanings (for so people subvert all true teaching), but in the consideration of what perfectly belongs to and becomes the Sovereign God, and in establishing each one of the points demonstrated in the Scriptures again from similar Scriptures. Neither, then, do they want to turn to the truth, being ashamed to abandon the claims of self-love; nor are they able to manage their opinions, by doing violence to the Scriptures. But having first promulgated false dogmas to men; plainly fighting against almost the whole Scriptures, and constantly confuted by us who contradict them; for the rest, even now partly they hold out against admitting the prophetic Scriptures, and partly disparage us as of a different nature, and incapable of understanding what is peculiar to them. And sometimes even they deny their own dogmas, when these are confuted, being ashamed openly to own what in private they glory in teaching. For this may be seen in all the heresies, when you examine the iniquities of their dogmas. For when they are overturned by our clearly showing that they are opposed to the Scriptures, one of two things may be seen to have been done by those who defend the dogma. For they either despise the consistency of their own dogmas, or despise the prophecy itself, or rather their own hope. And they invariably prefer what seems to them to be more evident to what has been spoken by the Lord through the prophets and by the Gospel, and, besides, attested and confirmed by the apostles. . – The Stromata, or Miscellanies — Book VII

Tertullian

Well, but they actually 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? – The Prescription Against Heretics

One man perverts the Scriptures with his hand, another their meaning by his exposition. For although Valentinus seems to use the entire volume, he has none the less laid violent hands on the truth only with a more cunning mind and skill than Marcion. Marcion expressly and openly used the knife, not the pen, since he made such an excision of the Scriptures as suited his own subject-matter. – The Prescription Against Heretics

In this manner heretics either wrest plain and simple words to any sense they choose by their conjectures, or else they violently resolve by a literal interpretation words which imply a conditional sense and are incapable of a simple solution. – Against Marcion — Book IV

They (the heretica) have found their opportunity, as is usual with heretics, in wresting the plain meaning of certain words… We, however, insist on the proper signification of every word, and say that principium means beginning,- being a term which is suitable to represent things which begin to exist. – Against Hermogenes

Take away, indeed, from the heretics the wisdom which they share with the heathen, and let them support their inquiries from the Scriptures alone: they will then be unable to keep their ground. For that which commends men’s common sense is its very simplicity, and its participation in the same feelings, and its community of opinions; and it is deemed to be all the more trustworthy, inasmuch as its definitive statements are naked and open, and known to all. Divine reason, on the contrary, lies in the very pith and marrow of things, not on the surface, and very often is at variance with appearances.- On the Resurrection of the Flesh

They would have the entire revelation of both Testaments yield to these three passages, whereas the only proper course is to understand the few statements in the light of the many. But in their contention they only act on the principle of all heretics. For, inasmuch as only a few testimonies are to be found (making for them) in the general mass, they set off the few against the many, and assume the later against the earlier. – Against Praxeas

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top