Monday, April 27, 2009

Object Lesson - John 2.19 and the Nestorians

Recently I have appealed repeatedly to CCC §113 as a necessity when we interpret the Bible:
Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church."
Here's another good example. In volume 2 of The Christian Tradition, Pelikan writes that John 2:19
was in many ways the key passage in the Nestorian definition of the nature of the union between divine and human in Christ. ... [T]he leading Nestorian theologian of the seventh century declared: 'Thus we adore God in the temple of his humanity, because he dwells in it as in a temple, united with it eternally' (p. 40).
So how, solely on the basis of sola scriptura, is such an interpretation going to be upended? Why was that man wrong in making that verse a keystone of his theology - in thinking that this saying of Jesus was entirely clear and worthy to use in interpreting the rest of the Bible?

It can't be done. As I said, unless we accept the trinitarian formulations of Nicaea and the Christological formulations of later councils, all of which form a crucial part of the Tradition of the Church, and unless we read the Bible with this Tradition in mind, and interpret it according to this Tradition, we have no basis for saying that the Nestorians were wrong. It's just our opinion against theirs.

Baptists can do this - because they accept those trinitarian/christological formulas. So can Presbyterians and Lutherans and Methodists. But it's silly to say that the Bible alone refutes the Nestorians apart from a tradition of interpretation. We can only say that it emphatically does so because we have accepted the witness of the Church as to the true meaning of the Bible with respect to christology. Sola scriptura is not enough.


Mike Burgess said...

Very good stuff lately, Reginald. I have been under the weather, and your posts have been enjoyable. Sorry to just be an "amen-er" for now, but I wanted to sort of exhort you.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks! I appreciate it. Sorry to hear that you've been sick. I'll pray for you.

-- RdP

Mike Burgess said...

No, I might already be dead and that would violate injunctions against necromancy! ;)

Reginald de Piperno said...


If you're dead, you're pulling a Samuel. :-)

But ... that means I'm Saul...

Oh dear.

--RdP ;-)