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Quotes from Church Fathers on Scripture

Updated: Apr 3

Table of Contents:

On the nature of Scripture:

Introductory remarks by Alisa Childers in Another Gospel (80): “Clement was a first-century believer who became the leader of the church in Rome. Tertullian, one of our church fathers, wrote that Clement knew the apostles personally. Clement believed that Christians should obey the Scriptures because they are the words of God:

“Let us act according to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit saith, ‘Let not the wise many glory in his wisdom’)...Look carefully into the scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.” (Clement, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, XIII, XLV,” in The Church Fathers, loc. 175211 and 175514-15, Kindle.)

More from Clement of Rome (95-97)

  • “Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.” Clement of Rome (c. 96, W), 1.17

  • “Take up the epistle of the blessed apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached? Truly, he wrote to you under the inspiration of the Spirit.” Clement of Rome (c. 96, W), 1.18

  • 700 quotations from the gospel of Matthew

  • YET, total quotations from apocryphal material: 16

  • (Wesley Huff, Ph.D candidate, presentation at 26 min mark)

Justin Martyr (100-165)

  • “When you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired men themselves but by the divine word who moves them.” (Justin Martyr, “First Apology, XXXVI” in The Church Fathers, loc. 5762, Kindle)

Irenaeus (130-202)

  • “The Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the word of God [Christ] and His Spirit; but we, inasmuch as we are inferior to, and later in existence than, the Word of God and His Spirit, are on that very account destitute of the knowledge of His mysteries.” (Irenaeus, “Against Heresies, 3.3.4” in the Church Fathers, loc. 13525, Kindle)

Irenaeus on Gnostics that beyond the written text of Scripture:

"When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce: wherefore also Paul declared, "But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world." And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent, who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition. Such are the adversaries with whom we have to deal, my very dear friend, endeavouring like slippery serpents to escape at all points. Where-fore they must be opposed at all points, if per-chance, by cutting off their retreat, we may succeed in turning them back to the truth. For, though it is not an easy thing for a soul under the influence of error to repent, yet, on the other hand, it is not altogether impossible to escape from error when the truth is brought alongside it."

Against Heresies, Iranaeus, 3.3.1-4

Clement of Alexandria (150-215)

  • “We have the Lord as the source of teaching- both by the Prophets, the gospel and the blessed apostles...He, then, who of himself believes the Scripture and the voice of the Lord (which by the Lord acts to benefit of men) is rightly [regarded] as being faithful. Certainly we use it as a criterion in the discovery of things.” Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.551.

  • “True Holy are those letters that sanctify and deify. For that reason, the same apostle calls the writings or volumes that consist of those holy letters and syllables as being “inspired of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction.”.....No one will be as impressed by the exhortations of any of the saints as he is by the words of the Lord himself, the lover of man.” Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.196

  • “He, then, who believes the divine scriptures with sure judgment, receives in them the voice of God, who bestowed the Scriptures.” Clement of Alexandria (C. 195, E), 2.349

Tertullian (circa 160-220)

  • “ Although Paul did not have a specific commandment of the Lord [to cite], he was accustomed to give counsel and to dictate matters from his own authority, for he possessed the Spirit of God, who guides into all truth. For that reason, his advice has, by the authority of the Divine Word, become equivalent to nothing less than a divine command.” Tertullian (c. 211, W), 3.95

  • “[The Church] unites the Law and the Prophets in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks in her faith.” Tertullian (c. 197, W), 3.260.

  • “[The Church] unites the Law and the Prophets in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks in her faith.” Tertullian (c. 197, W), 3.260.

  • “The apostle has used the same word in writing. For he was guided, of course, by the same Spirit by whom the book of Genesis was drawn up- as were all the divine Scriptures.” Tertullian, (c. 198, W), 3.687

  • “....concerning the righteousness which the law enjoined, confirmatory utterances are found both with the prophets and in the gospels, because they all spoke by one Spirit of God.” (169-183 AD, To Autolycus 3.12)

  • He names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the gospel authors.

Origen (185-253)

  • “In addition, for the proof of our statements, we take testimonies from that which is called the Old Testament and that which is called the New- which we believe to be divine writings.” Origen (c. 225, E), 4.349

  • “We....believe that it is possible in no other way to explain and bring within the reach of human knowledge this higher and diviner Logos as the Son of God, than by means of those scriptures, which alone were inspired by the Holy Spirit: The gospels and Epistles, and the Law and the prophets, according to the declaration of Christ himself.” Origen (c. 225, E), 4.252

  • “Every divine Scripture is gospel.” Origen, (c. 228, E), 9.305

Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

  • “This Mediator, having spoken what he judged sufficient first by the prophets, then by His own lips, and afterwards by the apostles, has besides produced the Scripture which is called canonical, which has paramount authority, and to which we yield assent in all matters of which we ought not to be ignorant, and yet cannot know of ourselves...for it seems to me that most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books.” (Augustine, “Letters, 23.3.3” in the Church Fathers, Loc. 13525, Kindle)

  • “In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority.” (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 11:5)

Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)

  • “We make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet.”

Basil the Great (379)

  • “Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right” (Letter CCLXXXIII, ANCF, p. 312).

  • In the end, the doctrine of sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the final source of divine revelation and is, therefore, the ultimate guide for the conscience of the Christian.

On heretics messing with scriptures:

Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.552.

  • “There heretics go the length of impiety by disbelieving the Scriptures!”

On understanding difficult passages:

Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.400.

  • “If therefore, according to the rule that I have stated, we leave some questions in the hands of God, we will both preserve our faith uninjured, and will continue without danger. And all Scripture, which has been given to us by God, will be found by us perfectly consistent. And the parables will harmonize with those passages that are perfectly plain. And those statements that have a clear meaning will serve to explain the parables.”

Tertullian (c. 210, W), 3.560.

  • “It cannot but be right (as we have shown above) that uncertain statements should be determined by certain ones, and obscure ones by those that are clear and plain.”

Quotes on the nature of Jesus

  • "God himself was manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life." Ignatius (circa A.D. 105), 1.58

  • "The Christians trace the beginning of their religion to Jesus the Messiah. He is called the Son of the Most High God. It is said that God came down from heaven. He assumed flesh and clothed Himself with it from a Hebrew virgin. And the Son of God lived in a daughter of man" Aristedes (circa A.D. 125,) 9.265,

  • "Brethren, it is fitting that you should think of Jesus Christ as of God- as the judge of the living and the dead." Second Clement (circa A.D. 150), 7.517

  • "We reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the True God Himself, and holding him in the second place.' Justin Martyr (cir. A.D. 160) 1.166

  • "He deserves to be worshipped as God and as Christ." Justin Martyr (c. 160), 1.229

  • "David predicted that He would be born from the womb before the sun and moon, according to the Father's will. He made Him known, being Christ, as God, strong and to be worshipped." Justin Martyr (c. 160), 1.237

  • "Rejoice, O you heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him" [Deut 32:43] Justin Martyr (c. 160) 1.264.

  • "There is the one God and the Logos proceeding from Him, the Son. We understand that the Son is insuperable from Him." Athenagoras (circa A.D. 175), 2.137.

  • "But the Son has been eternally co-existing with the Father. From of old, yes, from the beginning, He always reveals the Father." Irenaeus (c 180), 1.406.

  • "how can they be saved unless it was God who worked out their salvation upon earth? Or how shall man pass into God, unless God has first passed into man? Irenaeus (C 180) 1.507

  • "He is not on this account to be regarded as an angel- as a Gabriel or a Michael....Since He is the Spirit of God and the Power of the Highest, can He be regarded as lower than the angels? He who is truly God and the Son of God? Tertullian (circa A.D. 210) 3.534.

  • Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 (533–534/Chapter XIV). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

  • Click this source for the fuller Tertullian quote.

Above listed in Bercot, David W. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, Peabody, MA, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998, 93-106

more quotes coming soon....


Want to read more articles?

  • For more on how the early church recognized the canon and how it was not established by the Roman Catholic church but recognized as authoritative, click here and here.

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