The Medieval Review 12.01.11

Rombs, Ronnie J., Alexander Y Hwang. Tradition & The Rule of Faith in the Early Church: Essays in Honor of Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J. . Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2010. Pp. xvi, 351. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-8132-1793-2. . .

Reviewed by:

Shawn W.J. Keough
American College of Louvain
shawn.keough@theo.kuleuven.be

This is a collection of essays dedicated to Joseph T. Lienhard, whose impressive vita rounds out the volume, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. The collection's unifying theme, "Tradition and the Rule of Faith in the Early Church," was chosen because of the central place it has occupied in Lienhard's scholarship as well as in his own faith and vocation as a Jesuit priest. The theme is explicated by the editors with reference to Lienhard's own work, and is understood to refer not only to the handing on of "the faith"--defined as the faith proclaimed by Jesus and his apostles, and "established in and preserved by the Church as true" (x)--but also the ongoing function of that faith as norm and guide, a function originally expressed in the formation of the New Testament canon and still exercised in the Church by providing a rule for scripture's proper interpretation. This is an aptly chosen theme for a volume dedicated to someone who has "sought not only to present the truth and beauty of the writings of the Fathers, but also to remind the Church of the essential importance of tradition and the rule of faith both for the early Church and for the Church today" (ix).

The essays are divided into four parts. The first, "Tradition and the Rule of Faith in the Church Fathers," opens with a word study by Everett Ferguson, whose analysis of paradosis and traditio charts how the meanings of these terms shifted from referring to an act to a specific content, and, eventually, to its mode of delivery. Jonathan Armstrong, after first providing an overview of previous scholarship on "The Rule of Faith and the New Testament Canon," argues that while it is necessary to differentiate the second-century rule of faith and the fourth-century New Testament canon, it was the former that functioned as the Church's standard of orthodoxy in the centuries prior to the emergence of a definite biblical canon. D. Jeffrey Bingham claims that Irenaeus understood his own ministry to be an extension of the apostolic ministry described by Jesus in Matthew 10, a ministry in which what has been revealed is proclaimed and errors refuted by arguments built upon scripture and the rule of faith. The controversy over Augustine's doctrine of grace that took place in southern Gaul is examined by Alexander Hwang with an eye for the different understandings of tradition among three of the central protagonists: Prosper of Aquitaine, John Cassian, and Vincent of LĂ©rins. Hwang concludes that while Prosper understood tradition to be constituted by the bishop of Rome, Cassian and Vincent understood tradition to be constituted by the consensus of entire Church.

The volume's second section consists of essays examining "Tradition and the Rule of Faith in the Arian Controversy," and is opened by an essay emphasising the importance of Lienhard's work on Marcellus of Ancyra, in which Sara Parvis argues that the creed found in Marcellus' Letter to Julius represents the genuine theological convictions, i.e., the rule of faith, of Marcellus. Kelley McCarthy Spoerl, in her essay "Apollinarius and the First Nicene Generation", reconstructs the development of Apollinarius' Christology while providing a nuanced appreciation of the complexities surrounding the relationships between the first and second generations of Nicene theologians. Brian Daley brings the section to a close with his essay on Melitius of Antioch, an essay that downplays the factional divisions of fourth-century theological discussion by finding in Melitius an example of a theologian committed to Christian unity expressed in a life of prayer shared by all who could claim the faith of Nicaea as their own.

The third section brings the volume's theme into dialogue with Augustine and includes a contribution from the late Thomas F. Martin, O.S.A., who passed away in 2009 shortly after submitting his essay examining Augustine's use of the Apostle Paul in his debates with the Manichees, Donatists and Pelagians, which concludes that Augustine's reading of Paul "left the West with an Augustinian Paulus catholicus whose profile would continue to dominate for the millennium after his death--and beyond" (192). Roland J. Teske likewise looks to Augustine's disagreements with Manichees, Donatists and Pelagians, analysing how Augustine's appeal to tradition varied in these different contexts: Augustine would oppose Manichee exegesis with the Church's interpretation of scripture, would oppose the Donatist notion of Church with an ecclesiology premised upon its universality, and would invoke apostolic tradition against Pelagian innovations. In his essay "How Christ Saves: Augustine's Multiple Explanations," J. Patout Burns explains Augustine's understanding of Christ's redemptive work in terms of three dominant motifs: the subversion of the devil's authority and power over humanity, the assumption and destruction of human sinfulness in Christ's bodily death, and the provision of an act of divine love that both provokes repentance and inspires love for God. Kenneth Steinhauser discusses Augustine's understanding of happiness, arguing that philosophical wisdom for Augustine does not gain the happiness achieved only by faith, hope and love, that happiness which is the enjoyment of God. The section's final essay is by Ronnie Rombs, whose essay on the development of Augustine's ideas regarding time and history argues for that Augustine's early Neoplatonism was displaced by an understanding much more marked by the rule of faith, particularly in terms of God's creation of all things ex nihilo.

The final section of the book, "The Tradition Patrum," focuses on the later reception of the Church Fathers, and opens with an essay by Joseph Kelly that traces the influence of patristic exegesis in early medieval Irish biblical commentaries and describes the creativity that characterised Irish engagement with the Church fathers and their exegesis. Frederick Van Fleteren, under the categories of "Interpretation, Assimilation, and Appropriation," examines Augustine's own engagement with the philosophical tradition as well as several medieval and modern readings of Augustine, concluding that not all appropriations of Augustine have been legitimate and that, as a rule, "only those questions should be asked of an ancient author which are on a continuum with what he himself has written" (285). The life, controversies and posthumous condemnation of Origen are outlined by A. Edward Siecienski, whose discussion of the Alexandrian's modern rehabilitation in the work of Henri de Lubac (among others) sensitively addresses questions regarding the formation (and revision?) of the canon of "Fathers". The volume's final essay is by Thomas Scheck, whose description of the contents of Erasmus of Rotterdam's Edition of Origen (1536) will form the introduction to his forthcoming volume in the Collected Works of Erasmus.

This is a collection of excellent essays that will appeal to a wide range of readers, and which stands as a fitting testimony to the depth and breadth of the work of the one honoured by its production.

Table of Contents

Foreword, Roland J. Teske, S.J.

Introduction, Alexander Y. Hwang & Ronnie Rombs

"Paradosis and Traditio: A Word Study," Everett Ferguson

"The Rule of Faith and the New Testament Canon," Jonathan J. Armstrong

"The Bishop in the Mirror: Scripture and Irenaeus's Self-Understanding in Adversus haereses, Book One," D. Jeffrey Bingham

"Prosper, Cassian, and Vincent: The Rule of Faith in the Augustinian Controversy," Alexander Y. Hwang

"Joseph Lienhard, Marcellus of Ancyra, and Marcellus's Rule of Faith," Sara Parvis

"Apollinarius and the First Nicene Generation," Kelley McCarthy Spoerl

"The Enigma of Meletius of Antioch," Brian E. Daley

"Augustine's Appeal to Tradition," Roland J. Teske, S.J.

"Augustine, Paul, and the Ueritas catholica," Thomas F. Martin

"How Christ Saves: Augustine's Multiple Explanations," J. Patout Burns

"Augustine Laughed (De beata vita 2,10)," Kenneth B. Steinhauser

"Unum deum--mundi conditorem: Implications of the Rule of Faith in Augustine's Understanding of Time and History," Ronnie J. Rombs

"Traditio patrum in Early Christian Ireland," Joseph F. Kelly

"Interpretation, Assimilation, Appropriation: Recent Commentators on Augustine and his Tradition," Frederick Van Fleteren

"(Re)defining the Boundaries of Orthodoxy: The Rule of Faith and the Twentieth-Century Rehabilitation of Origen," A. Edward Siecienski

"Erasmus's Edition of Origen," Thomas Scheck

Joseph T. Lienhard, significant dates and bibliography.