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The Early Church Fathers on the Church as the Expounder of the Scriptures.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. Pope St. Innocent I, (A.D. c.350-417)
    St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. Theodotus of Ancyra, (unknown-A.D. 446)
    St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444)
    St. Isidore of Pelusium, (unknown - A.D. 440)
    Pope St. Gelasius I, (unknown - A.D. 496)
    Andrew of Cæsarea, (A.D. 563 - 637)
    Councils of Toledo, (from the 5th to 7th century)
    Arnobius Junior, (flourished in the 5th century, A.D. c.460)
    Pope St. Felix III, (unknown-492)
Pope St. Innocent I, (A.D. c.350-417) was pope from (A.D. 401 to 417), he lost no opportunity in maintaining and extending the authority of the Roman See as the ultimate resort for the settlement of all disputes.

"Wherefore it is not lawful for any one to interpret the divine Scriptures, otherwise than as right reason permits . . . but those things are to be held, which the series of the divine Scriptures contains, and have been usefully determined by the priests."

Ad Synod, in Tolet. Civil, n. 6, col. 1278, 1. ii. Labb. Concil.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 346

St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

"When we read the divine books, amidst such a multitude of true meanings, which are extracted from a few words, and (which meanings) are defended by the soundness of Catholic faith, let us by preference choose that which it shall appear certain that he meant whom we read; but if this escape us, that at all events which the context of Scripture prevents not, and which harmonizes with sound faith; but if the context of the Scripture also admits not of being thoroughly handled and sifted, at least that only which sound faith prescribes. For it is one thing not to distinguish what the writer chiefly meant, and another to err from the rule of piety. If both be avoided, the reader obtains the perfect fruit; but if both cannot be avoided, even though the mind of the writer be doubtful (to us), it is not useless to have extracted a meaning agreeable with the sacred faith."

T. iii. l. i. De Genes, ad Lit. n. 41, col. 222.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 342-343

[Having cited one of the usual evidences of Christianity, he adds:]

"When therefore we see such aid from God, so great progress and fruit, shall we hesitate to fling ourselves into the bosom of that Church which, even by the confession of mankind, has from the apostolic see, through successions of bishops, obtained the loftiest pinnacle of authority, the heretics barking around in vain, and condemned partly by the judgment of the very people, partly by the weight of councils, partly also by the majesty of miracles. To which Church to refuse to grant pre-eminent authority, is assuredly either the height of impiety, or of headlong arrogance. For, if for the minds of men there is no certain road to wisdom and salvation, save when faith teaches them antecedently to reason, what else is it but to be ungrateful to the divine aid and help, to strive so laboriously to resist the aforenamed authority? And if every art, however low and easy, require a teacher or a master, that it may be acquired; what more replete with rash pride than both to refuse to learn the books of the divine mysteries (sacraments) from their proper (own) interpreters, and to seek to condemn them unknown? Wherefore, if either my reasoning or my prayer has in any way moved you, and if, as I believe, you have a true solicitude for yourself, I pray you hear me, and place yourself, with pious faith, lively hope, simple love, under the care of good teachers of Catholic Christianity."

T. viii. De Util. Cred. n. 35, 36 (al. xvii. xviii.), col. 129-30.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 343-344

"I would not believe the Gospel, unless the authority of the Catholic Church moved me,"

T. viii. Contr. Ep. Manichaei, Fundam. n. 5, 6, col. 268-270.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 344

"If he (Manichaeus) say that these (sacred books of ours) are corrupted, he will impugn the faith of his own witnesses; whereas if he bring forward other works, and assert them to be by our Apostles, by what means will he give them an authority, which he has not received through the churches of Christ, founded by those same Apostles, that thence, with an assured commendation, it might now onward to their successors (or to posterity)? . . . Against you is the authority of our books, an authority confirmed by the agreement of so many nations, through successions of Apostles, of bishops, and of councils; whilst that of your books is none, seeing that it is maintained by so few, and by men who worship a mendacious God, and a mendacious Christ."

T. viii. l. xiii. Contr. Faust, n. 4, 5, col. 413-14.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 344

"Thou wilt instantly say that this narrative (of Christ's birth) is not by Matthew, though it is declared to be Matthew's by the universal Church, which has been brought down, by an undoubted succession, from the sees of the Apostles even to the present bishops. Are you about to read to me something to the contrary? Some books per chance by Manichaeus, wherein Jesus is denied to have been born of the Virgin. As, then, I believe that book to be by Manichaeus, because, from the time that Manichaeus lived in the flesh, it has been preserved and brought down, by means of his disciples, by an undoubted succession of your rulers to your days; so, in like manner, do you believe this book to be Matthew's, a book which, from the time that Matthew was living in the flesh, the Church, through an uninterrupted series of ages, by an un doubted and connected succession, has brought down, even to these days. . . . But, perhaps, you will produce some other book, which bears the name of some Apostle, whom Christ undoubtedly chose, and will therein read to me, that Christ was not born of Mary. Now as one of these books must needs be mendacious, to which, do you think, we ought, in preference, to give faith? To that which that Church which was begun by Christ Himself, and propagated by the Apostles, by an undoubted series of successions even to these our days, which Church has been spread throughout the whole world, acknowledges and approves of as having been transmitted and preserved from the very beginning? or, to that which that same Church repudiates as unknown to her even though it be produced by men so truthful, as to make it matter of praise in Christ that he was a deceiver?"

T. l. xxviii. Contr. Faust, n. 2, col. 675-6.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 345

St. Theodotus of Ancyra, (unknown-A.D. 446), bishop and theologian of Ancyra, modern day Ankara, flourished about the year 429, attended the Council of Ephesus in 431, during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II. Although he had earlier supported the Nestorian theology of Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, Theodotus at the council supported Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria in condemning Nestorius.

"I have thus laid before you a sufficient refutation of the errors of these men, not from my own resources, and from myself, but, both out of the divine Scripture, and from the faith set down by the holy fathers who assembled at Nicaea."

Expos. Symb. in fine, n. 24, t. ix. Galland, p. 439.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 346

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

"He (Nestorius) holds even to this day the things which he has taught from the first; and he ceases not to utter his perversities. But let your holiness know this also, that the language of all the bishops here in the East is uniform, and especially that of the most religious bishops throughout Macedonia: and although he knows this, he thinks himself wiser than all; and that he alone understands the scope of the inspired Scripture, and the mystery of Christ. Yet how ought he not much rather be certified that whereas all the orthodox bishops and laymen throughout the world confess both that Christ was God, and that the Virgin that bore Him was the mother of God, he alone is in error who denies this? But he is swollen with pride,"

Ep. ad Caelestin. vol. 344, t. iii. Labb.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 346

St. Isidore of Pelusium, (unknown - A.D. 440), a disciple of St. John Chrysostom, he was born in Egypt to a prominent Alexandrian family. He became an ascetic, and moved to a mountain near the city of Pelusium, in the tradition of the Desert Fathers; known to us for his letters, written to Cyril of Alexandria, Theodosius II, and a host of others. His letters display great judgment, precision, and learning.

"It is not lawful to differ, even by one word, from the evangelic and apostolic doctrine, or to think otherwise concerning the divine Scriptures than as the blessed Apostles, and our fathers learned and taught."

Ep. lxxxii. ad Marcion. Aug. p. 1044.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 350

Pope St. Gelasius I, (unknown - A.D. 496) was pope from A.D. 492 until his death in A.D. 496; prolific writer whose style placed him on the cusp between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. His reign was characterized by a call for strict orthodoxy.

"But let us proceed onwards, and come to the confession of the holy fathers; we, throughout obeying the evangelic and apostolic dogmas, in accordance with the tradition of the holy fathers, believe in the God-Word,"

T. iv. Libell. Contr. Nestor, p. 1046.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 347

"These things (adverse to Nestorius), have we learned both from the holy Scripture, and from the holy fathers who have interpreted it, Alexander and Athanasius, those illustrious heralds of the truth who have adorned that your apostolic throne, and from Basil and Gregory and the other lights of the world."

T. iv. Epist. lxxxiii. Dioscoro, Alex. Archiep. p. 1150.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 347

"Let, therefore, your friendliness vouchsafe, if there be any at all (for I do not believe there are such) who yield not assent to the apostolic dogmas, to close their lips, and to bring them back to a sound way of thinking in an ecclesiastical manner, and to teach to follow in the footsteps of the holy fathers, and to preserve inviolate the faith which was laid down at Nicaea in Bithynia, by the holy and blessed fathers."

T. iv. Ep. lxxxiv. Episcopis Ciliciae, p. 1153.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 347

"These things have been transmitted to us, not only by the Apostles and prophets, but also by those who have interpreted their writings, by Ignatius, Eustathius, Athanasius, etc., and the other lights of the universe, and before these, by the holy fathers who assembled at Nicaea, whose confession of faith we keep as a paternal inheritance, and we call those who dare transgress against the above, adulterate, and enemies of the truth."

T. iv. Epist. lxxxix. Florentio, p. 1160.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 347

"We adhere to the apostolic decrees and laws, and applying that faith which was laid down at Nicaea, by the holy and blessed fathers, as a kind of canon, and gnomon to our words, we so direct our teaching"

T. iv. Ep. xc. Lupicino. p. 1161.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 347

Andrew of Cæsarea, (A.D. 563 - 637), Greek; theological writer and bishop of Cæsarea, known for his commentary on the Book of Revelation which is the oldest Greek patristic commentary on that book of the Bible. He succeeded St. Basil.

"But some one may say, If both the devil and his disciples, whereof some are false apostles, and false prophets, and false teachers, and all utterly heretics, do use the divine sayings, sentences, and promises, what shall Catholic men, and sons of our mother the Church, do? In what way shall they, in the holy Scriptures, discern truth from falsehood? They will, to wit, take very great care to do that which, in the beginning of this Commonitory, we have said that holy and learned men had delivered to us that they interpret the divine Scripture (canon) according to the traditions of the universal Church, and according to the rules of Catholic doctrine. Within which very Catholic and Apostolic Church it is necessary for them to follow universality, antiquity, consent. And if at any time a part have rebelled against universality, novelty against antiquity, the dissent of one or of a few fallen into error against the consent of all, or at all events of by far the greater number of Catholics, let them prefer the integrity of universality to the corruption of a part; in which same universality, let them prefer the religion of antiquity before the profaneness of novelty; and likewise, in antiquity itself, let them prefer, before the rashness of one, or of a very few, first of all, the general decrees, if there be any, of a universal council; next, if such a thing be not, let them follow that which is nearest to it, that is, the sentiments of many and great masters agreeing together; which things, with God s help, faithfully, soberly, carefully observed, we shall, without any great difficulty, detect all the mischievous errors of heretics as they arise.

The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 348-349

"We have said, in what is gone before, that this always has been, and also at this day is, the custom of Catholics, to approve the true faith in these two ways: first, by the authority of the divine Scripture (canon); secondly, by the tradition of the Catholic Church: not because the canon alone is not sufficient of itself for all things, but because very many interpreting the divine words according to their own pleasure, conceive various opinions and errors; and for this cause it is necessary that the interpretation of the heavenly Scripture be directed according to the one rule of the ecclesiastical sense, in those questions, to wit, especially upon which the foundations of the whole Catholic doctrine do depend."

Adv. Hæres. n. xxix.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 350

Councils of Toledo (from the 5th to 7th century). about thirty synods or councils were held at Toledo in what would come to be part of Spain. The earliest, directed against Priscilianism, assembled in 400. The "third" synod of 589 marked the epoch-making conversion of King Reccared from Arianism to orthodox Catholicism. The "fourth," in 633, probably under the presidency of St. Isidore of Seville, regulated many matters of discipline, decreed uniformity of liturgy throughout the kingdom.

"Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers set. (Proverbs 23) By the |ancient landmarks he means the landmarks of truth and of faith which the Catholic doctors have set from the beginning. This, therefore, does he enjoin, that no one understand (receive) the truth of sacred faith and of evangelic doctrine otherwise than as it has been transmitted by the holy fathers; or, this does he enjoin, that no one interpret the words of the holy Scriptures otherwise than in accordance with the meaning of each (sacred) writer. What are those riches of which he says, Lift not up thine eyes to riches which thou canst not have, because they shall make to themselves wings, and shall fly towards Heaven. (Proverbs 23)? . . . Those riches are the hidden things of the Godhead, and the secrets of the heavenly mysteries which thou canst not penetrate, nor art able to understand, because these things are patent to the eagles alone, that is, to the heavenly citizens only are they manifested. The Heaven above, and the earth beneath, and the heart of kings is unsearchable. (Proverbs 25) As the height of Heaven and the depth of earth cannot be comprehended by men, so neither is the capacity of our feebleness able to comprehend, or to penetrate the depths of the knowledge and meaning of the prophets and Apostles."

Expl. Myst. in Salom. Prov. p. 406, t. viii. Bib. Max. SS. PP.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 118-119

Arnobius Junior, (flourished in the 5th century, A.D. c.460), also known as Arnobius the Younger, Christian priest or bishop in Gaul, author of a mystical and allegorical commentary on the Psalms, first published by Erasmus in 1522, and by him attributed to the elder Arnobius.

Applying Pslam 103 to Christ, he says:

"It was then He made His angels spirits. Angels are called in the Latin tongue "nuncii", messengers, and the Gospel is interpreted a good message. He, therefore, then made His angels, that is, the Apostles, spirits, when He said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit, and preach the Gospel to every creature." And He then made them a burning fire, when the Holy Spirit sat, as fire, on each of them. He then founded the earth on its own firmness, recalling, that is, the earthly minds of the Gentiles, which, in the building of the tower, had been divided, unto their own firmness. He strengthens them by that one word, Jesus Christ, and He so founds amongst them His Church upon this rock, as that it shall not be moved for ever and ever. Let philosophers keep to themselves their fruitless inquiries, and with mighty toil declare that they can discover that the earth has a deep beneath it, wherewith it is clothed as with a garment, but let us turn the point of our discourse to this earth which is founded on the firmness of the Church. For the deep encompasses it. For the depth of the riches of wisdom which encompasses it is fathomless, and above its waters shall the mountains stand. Who so have their hearts raised on high are mountains, and above them the waters stand. Above them stands the hallowing of Baptism; they stand in the right faith, they are not driven about by every wind of doctrine. . . . This great sea which stretches wide its arms, etc.,— He would have us know that a great and wide sea, is the whole law of the Old and New Testament. There are creeping things without number; in the law the Jews; in the law the Samaritans; and in the law the Heretics; and in the law the Catholics; in the law, kings, etc.; in the law, little and great, there the ships go, the alone churches of all the provinces, (churches) which bear their passengers to the kingdom of Heaven,— from the cities of earth to the city of Jerusalem, our mother. But he that shall be found without a ship in this great sea, shall meet with the dragon which has been formed to make sport of them . . . with those, that is, who repudiate the ships, and deliver themselves up, like animals, to the waves and depths of the law, without a master who is a Catholic, and who derives the tradition of the law from the Apostles. Wherefore, because that they are without the Church, wandering about amongst creatures little and great, they meet with a dragon, that so makes sport of them, as that they fancy that they are wiser than the Catholics; and, according to their own fancies, they meet with the destruction of eternal death, when they have sunk into the depths. Let us, therefore, sing unto the Lord our God. . . . Sweet may our praise be unto Him, sweetened with Catholic doctrines, bringing with it nothing from the disease of the Jews, nothing from the disease of the heretics."

Com. in Ps. ciii. t. viii. Bib. Max. PP. pp. 294, 295.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 115-117

Pope St. Felix III, (unknown-492), elected 48th pope of the Church, reigned from 483-492, born into a Roman senatorial family and was a great-great-grandfather of Pope Gregory I. His repudiation of the Henoticon, an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the differences between the supporters of the Council of Chalcedon and the miaphysites, is considered the beginning of the Acacian schism.

"This (heretic) has dared to say that we ought not to call Christ the Son of God, though this be agreeable to the divine appointment of the Saviour, and the tradition of the divine Scriptures, and the expositions of the fathers."

Epist. Zenoni,p. 1071, t. ii. Labi.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 351



If the Church can assuredly tell us what particular books make up the Written Word of God, as it did at the Council of Rome in A.D. 382, so She can, with the like assurance, tell us the true sense and meaning of it, in controverted points of faith. The same Spirit, which directed the writing of the Scriptures, directs the Church to understand them, and teaches all the mysteries and duties that are necessary to salvation.


Though the Church did not have a known Canon of Scriptures for about 350 years after Our Lord's Ascension, we can be sure that the Spirit Jesus promised Peter and his successors will not fail him.



The Church's Scriptures on the Church as the Expounder of the Scriptures:


Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 When Jesus came into the region of Cæsarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"


16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build MY church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven."


Matthew 16:13-19

Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial but prays for his (singular) faith.

31 "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you (second person plural pronoun, meaning "all of you") that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee (singular, Peter) that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren."

Luke 22:31-32

Christ, after His resurrection, commissioned St. Peter to feed His lambs, and to feed His sheep, i.e., to be Shepherd over the whole flock:

15 "When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? He saith to Him: Yes, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again: Simon son of John, do you love me? He saith to Him: Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love you. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 17 He saith to him the third time: Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved, because He had said to him the third time, Do you love me? And he said to Him: Lord, Thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love Thee. He said to him : Feed my sheep."

John 21:15-17

The Catholic Church is the pillar and ground of truth

14 "These things I write to thee, hoping that I shall come to thee shortly. 15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth."

1 Timothy 3:14-15


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