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The Early Church Fathers on the Holy Scriptures.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Dionysius of Alexandria, (A.D. c. late second century-264)
    Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338)
    St. Athanasius of Alexandria, (A.D. 296-372)
    St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386)
    St. Gregory of Nyssa, (A.D. c.335 - c.394)
    Council of Carthage, (A.D. 345-419)
St. Dionysius of Alexandria (c. late second century-264 A.D.) Catechist of the church of Alexandria, in which see he succeeded Heraclas in the year A.D. 247. Of his numerous works but a few fragments remain. The best edition is that published at Rome in 1796. He flourished in A.D 258.

"Some indeed of those before us have utterly repudiated and refuted this book (the Apocalypse), examining it chapter by chapter, and showing it to be both unintelligible and inconsistent (or, unconnected), and that the title is false. For they say that it is not John's; nay, that it is not a revelation, wrapped up as it is in so exceeding and thick a covering of ignorance; and that the composer of the work is not only not any one of the Apostles, but not even any one of the saints at all, or any member of the Church; but that it was Cerinthus,— he who set up the heresy called from him the Cerinthian,— who wished to affix to his system a name that carried with it credit. . . . But I would not venture to repudiate this book; many of the brethren holding it in esteem. And conceiving this opinion concerning it, that it is above my comprehension, I suppose it to contain in each part a hidden and very admirable meaning. . . . That the writer is called John; and that this is the writing of John, I do not gainsay; and I also admit, that it is the work of some holy and divinely-inspired individual; but I would not readily acknowledge that this is the Apostle, the son of Zebedee, and the brother of James, he from whom are the gospel entitled according to John, and also the Catholic epistle."

Euseb. II. E. l. vii. c. xxv. pp. 352-3.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 327

Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338), appointed Bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 314, Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist, scholar of the Biblical canon who was deeply embroiled in the Arian controversy.

The heading of the twenty-fifth chapter of the third book of his Ecclesiastical History, is as follows:

"Concerning the divine writings that are acknowledged, and those that are not such."

"It is proper, now that we have reached this place, to name briefly the writings already alluded to of the New Testament, and we must set in the first place the four Holy Gospels; which are followed by the Acts of the Apostles; and after this are to be reckoned the epistles of Paul. After these, that called the first Epistle of John, and also the Epistle of Peter, are to be received. After these, is to be placed, if it be thought fit, the Apocalypse of John, the opinions concerning which will be stated at a proper season. And these are indeed amongst the acknowledged Scriptures. Of the controverted, but which are nevertheless well known (or, approved of) by many, are that called the Epistle of James, and that of Jude, and the second Epistle of Peter, and the second and third of John, whether they are the evangelist's, or of some other person of the same name. Amongst the spurious are to be placed the book of the acts of Paul, and that called the Pastor, and the apocalypse of Peter; add to these the epistle circulated as by Barnabas, and the so-called instructions of the Apostles; and likewise, as I have said, the apocalypse of John, if it seem meet, which some, as I have remarked, repudiate; but others reckon amongst the acknowledged Scriptures. Some have also now classed amongst the spurious the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which those who from amongst the Jews have received Christ especially delight in. All the above writings are controverted. And yet I have of necessity given a catalogue of them, distinguishing, according to the tradition of the Church, those writings which are true, genuine and acknowledged, from the other writings in addition to these, which are not put into the body of the New Testament, and are even controverted, but which still are acknowledged by the greater number of ecclesiastical writers; that thus we may be able to know both what writings are of this character, and also those which are circulated by heretics under the name of the Apostles, as containing the Gospels of Peter, and of Thomas, and of Matthias, and even of others besides these, and the acts of John and of the other Apostles."

Hist. Eccles. 1. iii. c. xxv. pp. 118-9.
See also I b. l. iii. c. iii. pp. 89, 90.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 328-329

St. Athanasius of Alexandria, (A.D. 296-372), Egyptian; bishop, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. He was present, as an assistant to St. Alexander of Alexandria, at the council of Nicea who he succeeded in A.D. 326. During more than forty years he was the champion of orthodoxy, and suffered much severe persecution from the Arian party.

Imitating the introduction to St. Luke's Gospel, he says:

"For as much as certain persons have taken in hand to set forth in order the books, called Apocrypha, and to mix them with the divinely inspired writings, concerning which we have full assurance, according as they, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, have delivered to the fathers, it has seemed good to me also, at the exhortation of certain brethren, and having attained to this knowledge from the beginning, to set forth in order the books that are canonized, and are handed down, and believed to be divine."

[Then follows the well-known canon.]

Epist. Festal t.1, par. ii. p. 767.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Pages 413

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386), Palestinian; ordained by Maximus, he was made bishop of Jerusalem in A.D. 345; scholar and Doctor of the Church. None of his writings have been preserved to us, except eighteen catechetical instructions addressed to catechumens, and five mystagogic discourses addressed to neophytes.

The thirty-third section of [his] fourth Catechetical Instruction is headed,

"Of the Holy Scriptures."

Having made a remark against a heresy of long standing, he says,

"Learn also diligently, and from the Church, which are the books of the Old Testament, and which of the New, and read not to me anything of the uncertain books. For why shouldest thou, that knowest not those which are acknowledged by all, take useless trouble about those which are questioned? Read the divine Scriptures, those twenty-two books of the Old Testament which were interpreted by the seventy-two interpreters."

Then follows a well-known account of that translation, which seems to assert a species of divine inspiration in its favor.

"Read the twenty-two books of these men (or of these Scriptures), but have nothing to do with the uncertain books (Apocryphal). (*) Those only meditate on earnestly, which we read confidently even in the Church. Far wiser than thou, and more devout, were the Apostles and the ancient bishops, the rulers (presidents) of the Church, who have handed these down. Thou, therefore, who art a child of the Church, do not falsify what has been settled."

Catech. iv. n. 33,35, pages 67,68 ed. Bened. Venet. 1763
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Pages 51-52

(*) Apocryphal, a term which then seems only to have signified a work not canonical. The canon of the church of Jerusalem, as specified by St. Cyril, is neither as regards the Old nor the New Testament, that of any church now in existence. But this is not the place to enter on a question of such magnitude and difficulty as that of the canon of Scripture. The passage is merely adduced to show whence, according to St. Cyril, the canon is to be derived.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, (A.D. c.335 - c.394), bishop of Nyssa in A.D. 371, an erudite theologian who made significant contributions to the doctrine of the Trinity and the Nicene creed. Gregory's philosophical writings were influenced by Origen. He was the brother of the great St. Basil.

"Where has our Saviour said in the Gospels, that we are to believe on one only true God? They cannot show us this, unless they have a new Gospel amongst them. For such as are, from the ancients by succession even unto this present time, read in the churches, furnish not any such declaration as this which says that we are to believe, and to baptize, into the one and only true God, as these men pretend, but into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

[From the section on Sacred Tradition:]

"Let Eunomius tell us whence he derives this assurance? From what inspired declaration? Which of the evangelists, which of the Apostles has uttered any such declaration? What prophet, or lawgiver, or patriarch, or which amongst the others whom the Holy Ghost has inspired, whose declarations are unwritten, 1 introduced any such term. Whether have we learned in the tradition of the faith from the truth that we ought to believe Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, or that He is a creature? How happened it that the Truth, whilst transmitting to us the mystery, gave as a law faith on the Son, and not on the creature?" *

* The question treated of in this book against Eunomius, and in the immediate context, is that Christ is the only-begotten Son of God,

T. ii. l.ii. Adv. Eunom. p. 435.
T. ii. l.ii. Adv. Eunom. p. 461.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 413-414

Council of Carthage, (A.D. 345-419), one of sixteen Catholic councils or synods held at Cathage called in the earliest times of the Church in Africa. These synods past many canon that regulated matters of church doctrine and discipline.

Information about the source of this quote: The third council of Carthage, or, according to another computation, the sixth, was held in the year 397, and was presided over by Aurelius, bishop of Carthage. St. Augustine, with other bishops, amounting in number to forty-four, were present.

"Moreover, it hath seemed good that, besides the canonical Scriptures, nothing be read in the Church under the name of canonical Scriptures. But the canonical Scriptures are, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of the kingdoms, two books of Paralipomenon, Job, the Psaltery of David, five books of Solomon, twelve books of the Prophets, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobias, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Machabees.(*) But of the New Testament, four books of the Gospels, etc. (as in our Catalogue)."

(*) In some of the Greek translations the Machabees are omitted, but they are in all the Latin copies, and in the code of Cresconius, himself an African bishop.

Condi. Carthag. in. Can. xlvii. col. 1177; t. ii. Labi. Concil.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 329-330



From the testimony and authority of the Catholic Church all Christians receive the Sacred Scriptures, and believe them to contain the revealed Word of God.

From the Jews, who had preserved them with religions care, the Christian Church received the books of the Old Testament, but it would not be until latter that the canon would be fixed.
Only after mature deliberation, and a collation of the scattered evidences, was the Canon of Sacred Scriptures canonized and universally acknowledged at the Council of Rome in A.D. 382.


Old Testament New Testament
Genesis Proverbs Matthew
Exodus Ecclesiastes Mark
Leviticus Song of Songs Luke
Numbers Wisdom John
Deuteronomy Sirach Acts
Joshua Isaiah Romans
Judges Jeremiah 1 Corinthians
Ruth Lamentations 2 Corinthians
1 Samuel Baruch Galatians
2 Samuel Ezekiel Ephesians
1 Kings Daniel Philippians
2 Kings Hosea Colossians
1 Chronicles Joel 1 Thessalonians
2 Chronicles Amos 2 Thessalonians
Ezra Obadiah 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy
Nehemiah Jonah Titus
Tobit Micah Philemon
Judith Nahum Hebrews
Esther Habakkuk James
1 Maccabees Zephaniah 1 Peter, 2 Peter
2 Maccabees Haggai 1 John, 2 John, 3 John
Job Zechariah Jude
Psalms Malachi Revelation



The books of the New Testament, after the ascension of our Savior, were written under various, often accidental, circumstances, and on various occasions: the Gospels, principally:

      • to satisfy the laudable wishes of many, who were naturally desirous to be informed of the facts of our Savior's life;
      • to impress His admirable lessons on their minds;
      • to perpetuate His words; and
      • to oppose the wild conceptions of some dissatisfied men.

The Acts of the Apostles were written to record the first preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles, and the interesting events of the labors of St. Paul; and


The Epistles, for the further instruction, generally, of those who had been converted to Christianity, and to strengthen them in the arduous duties of their new calling.

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