Supplements to CofE 1563 & Damantory clauses UR


I’m going to put some supplementary material here to the argument I am developing on The Universalism and the EU thread and to the argument I will develop in Damantory Clauses of the Athanasian Creed thread. I can post any corrections to my argument I think of as I go along here (they will not be major, just details), and any useful background stuff. Hope that’s OK

Here some note I made about Origen for starters -

**There are some notable facts about Origen that I’ve seen discussed with great clarity in ‘All Shall Be Well’ anthology and elsewhere. He put forward a clear doctrine of universal reconciliation in his writings. Sometime after his death he was condemned as a heretic, but it is wrong to suggest that his views on universal salvation were the main problems. He had views about the Trinity that did not chime with developed Orthodoxy (but he was the first Christian writer to seriously try to develop a doctrine of the Trinity; indeed he was the first Christian theologian of any note full stop, and it seems wrong to judge the forerunner in the lights of later developed doctrine which learnt from his mistakes). He may have held ideas about the last things -after the judgement - being a simple return to first things – Eden/paradise- seemingly without their being any real point for the journey taking place in the first place (and he may even have held views about this journey going on in cycles of eternal recurrence – but I’m unclear on this). Note I write that ‘he may have’ because we only know about most of these things through his posthumous accusers who destroyed most of his writings; some of the ‘heresies’ he was accused of may have been later developments made by his followers.

However there is one thing that we can say about Origen with a fair degree of certainty; he believed in the pre-existence of souls – an idea he found in Plato and in the Alexandrian Jewish mystics of his time. Origen interpreted the first chapter of Genesis as narrating the creation of the spiritual Universe, and the second chapter as narrating the creation of the physical universe; in the second chapter a fall takes place in which our good God creates the physical world as an act of mercy to limit the fall of pre-existent spiritual beings. This is all very curious is it not?

A big irony about Origen the ‘heretic’ is that his life and his mind were dedicated to combating the Gnostic heresy which posed a huge threat to the early church. Gnosticism was many things, and there were different types and degrees of Gnosticism – but it can usefully be seen as an extreme attempt to Platonise Christianity. Gnostics believed in a good god who is the source of the spiritual world, and in another god(ling), the demiurge, who created this world of suffering in an act of ignorance, thinking that he was the most high god in an act of blind arrogance. He had thereby trapped the spirits of human beings in this dark world of matter and law. Jesus for them has saved us by giving us liberating insight into our origin in the world of spirit and freed us from the world of matter and its laws. For the Gnostics – especially those who were followers of Marcion – the God of the Old Testament was the demiurge, the physical world an abomination, and the Jewish law the law of the demiurge. The Jesus they worshipped was not the human/divine Jesus of our faith, but a being of pure spirit (which means they had to ignore passages of scripture that refer to Jesus as having eaten, having enjoyed good company, having loved the Jewish law etc, and having suffered and died).

Origen’s doctrine of physical creation is not Gnostic in the absolute sense. He believed the creation was the act of our good and gracious God – but in his teaching that the creation took place to limit the fall he was obviously rather too influenced by the Gnosticism he sought to combat. There is another reason he fell under suspicion (which I haven’t yet seen mentioned in UR circles – so let’s break the taboo). Origen had himself castrated. Cynical historians used to talk about this as if he rushed at himself with a knife in a frenzy of self-loathing, but this is almost certainly not the case. The operation of castration was quite common in the Hellenistic world, surgery was relatively advanced, and the operation was relatively safe. Justin Martyr speaks of it as having been commonplace amongst some Christians in Rome in the second century. Origen did this, it seems, through taking the words of Jesus about those who have made themselves ‘eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom’ too literally; and wry commentators have noted that for an exegete who resorted to allegory in many other cases it is ironic that Origen should have insisted on the literal sense in this case. He was never anathematised for this act, but the later Church did not and could not condone his act. It appears that by doing this Origen wanted to return to his pre-fallen, angelic state of androgyny in which the soul is the image of God –‘male and female created he them’ (an interpretation of Genesis he probably made under the influence of the Platonic myth of the Androgyn in the Timaeus . Slightly weird stuff and we’d certainly not want to return to this way of looking at life!!! But he was a man of his times.

In praise of Origen I note that –

He was the first substantial theologian and biblical scholar of the Church

He fought against Gnosticism- - but without the bitter hatred of his near contemporary Tertullian whose writing promoted persecution of heretics – something that Augustine was the first to systematically promote and practice.

His sympathy was both with intellectual Christians and with common believers. As he is reported to have said to the Neo-Platonist snob Celsus – ‘you prepare a fine banquet for the wealthy, while I cook for the masses’. And at least he did have a dialogue with Clesus – no matter how peppery the dialogue was he assumed he was addressing someone who was already illumined by Christ the Logos and simply needed the news of Christ the Victor/Saviour to complete the revelation of Christ the Logos.

He did promote a doctrine of the goodness of creation as the creation of the God of goodness – however flawed his doctrine was. And he preserved the connection between the New Testament and the Jewish Scriptures with his scholarship, at a time when this connection was under threat from the Marcionite Gnostics. He almost certainly collaborated with Jewish Rabbis to establish the best texts of the Hebrew Scriptures.

He promoted a model for Christian tolerance and pluralism in his doctrine of the Divine Names of Christ (and real universalism must be a tolerant faith).

He believed passionately in human freewill and that this collaborates with Divine Grace for our salvation/redemption. (During the reformation Erasmus used Origen to argue with the Augustinan Luther. The latter promoted the doctrine of the complete bondage/impotence of the human will).

His father was a martyr, and he only escaped martyrdom himself because his mother hid his clothes; later in life he was tortured for his faith and probably died later of his injuries. His Latin contemporary Tertullian who also suffered persecution and lost loved ones, was the first to indulge the fantasy of resentment of looking forward to raucous scoffing at the torments of the damned. Origen, by way of contrast, believed in universal reconciliation.**


I’ve just started reading Tom Gregg’s book “Barth, Origen, and Universal Salvation - Restoring Particularity”. Here’s an interesting extract from the Introduction:

Looks like an interesting and useful book, of which more later…


That is absolutely fascinating Drew - I look forward to hearing more about this book. It will soon be high time I stoppped writing and instead started attendning carefully to the words of my friends.

All the best

Dick :smiley:


The few times I’ve heard of an explanation for Origen’s castration beyond “ha ha he took that scripture literally”, the explanation was that as chief teacher of catechumens for the Alexandria school, he was worried that his attraction to the women there would lead to scandal for the school, so he made himself a eunuch like a court servant for women’s quarters.

That might be charitable speculation, though.

My family and I were watching a recent RCC documentary series (from Spain–so it looked like something made in the 80s :mrgreen: ) on the history of the early church, and the most recent episode featured the early apologists. I noticed that the producers went out of their way to say that Tatian and Tertullian, despite their good contributions, eventually fell into heresy; but they could hardly say enough good things about Origen! :smiley:

(Maybe that’ll come later in the 6th century when Pope Whasisname ratifies the anathemas of Justinian II, but I would be tentatively willing to bet not.)


Hi Jason –

That’s very interesting and may well be correct. I’d like to say a bit more about Origen and castration since you’ve very usefully opened up the discussion here (for the fearful :laughing: ).

I’ve heard it sometime suggested that the charge of self castration may have invented by Origen’s enemies. However, I also know that Peter Brown – who I’m told wrote the standard work on the Body and early Christianity - believes it may well be true and entirely in keeping with the worldview that Origen shared with his contemporaries (must read this book one day – apparently it’s a work of great understanding and compassion).

I understand that as a Roman citizen Origen may well have been in trouble with the authorities for self castration. The pagan cult of ‘family values’ brought in by Augustus took a very dim view of this because it deprived the Roman state of a potential breeder for the Roman army - and perhaps we also need to be aware of a context of protest here).

One thing I am fairly certain about is that Origen’s act was not driven by sexual disgust and loathing for women. I understand that it is no longer certain that Clement of Alexandria was Origen’s teacher – but Origen was certainly strongly influenced by Clement. Clement wrote effusively in praise of women, and of women as real equals in Christ with men.

Our ‘negative friend’ Tertullian was, by way of contrast, hot on misogyny. As you say, it is ironic that he – the staunch and angry defender of the severest orthodoxy -ended up a heretic. In the end he joined the Montanists because of their heretical rigour in not forgiving even minor sins committed after baptism and their consequent readiness to hand out excommunications left, right and centre. Their dependence on prophetic utterance as a source of authority also challenged the wider Church at a time when the authority of scripture was under attack and not settled. And the big irony is – regarding Tertullian – that their two leading prophets of Montanism were women.
Certainly Tertullian’s anti-feminism eventually won the day in the early Church.

I note that Augustine, when he was a Manichean had a sort of civil contract (of councubinage) with a woman who was the father of his child Adeodatus – Manichean’s did not marry because they believed the physical world was created by an evil god as a prison for spirit (so they had no sacrament of marriage).When he first became a Christian – before he’d got himself ‘sorted’ – he famously prayed ‘O Lord give me chastity, but not yet’. However, when he had sorted himself out, he did not marry his ‘mistress’ for the sake of his son and out of love for the mother of his son – instead he turned her away, literally telling her to ‘go to hell’.

Jerome – who features over at Tentmakers as a good bloke for having said some things which sound like they were influenced by Origen – claimed that the only woman he’d ever admired (a female ascetic whom he knew) was a woman who filled him with disgust by her physical repulsiveness. There was a contemporary of Jerome’s named Jovinian – also a strict ascetic – who had the temerity to suggest that the married state and the celibate state were equally pleasing to God as vocations for the faithful. Jerome hounded Jovinian with intemperate and vicious invective. I often think that for all the harsh things we can justly say about Luther – he was engaged in one very big battle with tradition and conscience to overcome his fear and marry a runaway nun.

As far as the New Testament goes I remember reading a scholarly work – and I’ve forgotten who it was by – in which the author suggested that one of the big impressions we get from reading the Gospels is that Jesus enjoyed the company of women and walked among them without scruple of anxious prudery. It is often commented how relaxed and humorous his conversation is with the Samaritan woman at the well – for example. And when he addresses the woman with a haemorrhage as ‘Daughter of Abraham’ – I understand that there are no parallels in Rabbinic literature of the time (and he is breaking purity law by his act of inclusion).

The fact that women are the first witnesses to the Resurrection is subversive too – in Hebrew law the testimony of women was not equal to that of men. And of course we have our old pal ‘Junia’ who Paul addresses as a fellow Apostle in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament (whereas in later manuscripts her name has been changed to its masculine form – ‘Junius’)

Regarding Jesus saying about Eunuchs and the Kingdom – which is obviously about self restraint – I’ve heard it commented that the Mediterranean was and is ‘a magnificent sea surrounded by layers of pathological male sexuality, and nothing accosts that profound insecurity like the mention of eunuchs and castration – so Jesus’ metaphor does not necessarily promote asceticism – and even less literal castration; rather it is directed deliberately at patriarchal chauvinism. Also I’ve heard it commented that eunuchs were not uncommon in the ancient world – whether through birth, through accident, or through castration as male slaves in a Roman household that had intimate contact with the women of the house. Leviticus suggests that eunuchs are unclean because no eunuch can become a Levite – and perhaps a another layer of purpose and meaning to Jesus’ metaphor here is to challenge the exclusions made by purity laws.

A final word about Origen – then high time to move on!!! The British writer Karen Armstrong pictures him memorably thus –

‘In an age where the philosopher was characterised by his long beard (a sign of wisdom) Origen’s smooth cheeks and high voice would have been startling’.

And it’s great to know that people are beginning to say good things about ‘our man’ Origen in the media! :smiley:

All the best



Incidentally, I read Jesus eunuch statement in the Synoptics as being a typically “Synoptic” bit of reversal criticism.

Jesus has just finished stating that God intends for married couples to withhold themselves from marrying again, in a fashion that indicates He expects the separated couple to reunite as husband and wife eventually. Thus divorcing a woman leading her to have to marry again (in order to sustain herself) is effectively the same as forcing her into adultery, and marrying a separated woman is the same as committing adultery with her–keeping in mind that this would apply even in the case of the husband divorcing her because she had already been committing adultery.

The gist of it is strongly aimed at the husband (ideally anyway) sacrificing himself for the sake of the woman regardless of what she does.

Some disciples in reply retort, “If that is the way things are supposed to be between a man and a woman, it would be better not to marry!” i.e., they aren’t talking about living celibate lives but about not going through with the legal and religious commitments so they can still have sex without that kind of devotion.

Jesus turns that around on them: "Not everyone can accept this statement (i.e. what He had just said about this devotion of relationship between man and woman), but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from the womb; and there are eunuchs made no longer men by men; and eunuchs who emasculate themselves for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens.

“The one who can accept this, let him accept it.” (Otherwise, by implication, if a man cannot hold to this level of relationship between man and woman, let the man make himself eunuch for the kingdom of God!)


That makes enormously good and clear sense to me :slight_smile:


This is why Roman Catholics (I think also the Eastern Orthodox?) forbid divorce per se, of course.

But it also has strong thematic ties to the persistence of God in salvation. Even if His bride nails Him to the cross, refusing to acknowledge that she is a widow (as one of the prophets put it), God does not give up on reconciling with her.


Hi Jason -

Thanks for the scriptural foundation for the Paraclete as Advocate - that’s wonderful! I’d not seen this passage interpreted in this way before- so very helpful; and I no longer have to fall back exclusively no Susanna and the Elders. Also - well I know that you do know, but I’ll say it anyway: I know that what I am writing about here is of interest to some people here (and of great interest to Drew and Paul); but I do want to thank you for your hospitality old chum. I would not have remotely dreamed of putting this stuff together - however informal the ‘putting together’ is at the moment - if Drew’s question hadn’t stimulated me (so I’m hugely grateful to Drew also). I don’t know what I’ll do with it after this - but at least if I don’t have the opportunity to do anything with it (because I love my job as a Community Education teacher and am very happy these days looking after my Mum - at least it’s up here on this site to stimulate other people).

In addition I do hope to have the rough narrative finished by the end of this week - I’ve got a lot of work coming up next week - and it’s amazing that I’m actually talking about all of the things I know about and want to communicate with you all at the moment, there’s not a lot of other stuff in my bonnet full of wild bees. So I won’t be quite so manic a poster soon. But once this stage is finished, and I’ve had a wee break, I will do the work of referencing and checking sources for this a bit at a time; and I will post this gradually.

All the best


That’s very interesting Jason - it chimes with the whole idea of the Church as the bride of Christ as you imply. And in the context of what you are saying I’ve started to think of this not only in terms of the allegorisation of the Song of Songs (and I think Origen may have been the first Christian exegete to do this) but also in terms of Hosea and his unfaithful wife).

I’ve read about the Catholic and Orthodox traditions of marriage and divorce in a biography of C.S. Lewis who had difficulties with marrying Joy Gresham even though her first marriage, by all accounts, was abusive - because the Church of England’s laws on divorce were stricter than those in any other Church at this time. The book was the one by A.N. Wilson which is a bit on the’ juicy titbits’ side and has been criticised for this and for its fundamentalist Freudian reading of Lewis - however I’ve also read ‘Jack’ a biography by one of Lewis’ friends (can’t remember which one) which confirms some parts of Wilson’s portrayal and corrects other parts. But Wilson does have many insightful and deeply compassionate things to say about ‘Jack’ and I don’t doubt him on what he says about divorce.

According to Wilson the Greek Orthodox tradition does allow divorce and remarriage up to three times if it can be established that a given marriage is ‘spiritually dead’. As you say the Catholic Church does not allow divorce. However, a person can obtain a ‘decree nisi’ from the Church (often granted only to the rich in the past) if they can prove or at least claim that the marriage has not been consummated in the first place. This has often been used in the Catholic tradition as a merciful form of casuistry to allow people an escape from abusive marriages - but has, of course, also been open to abuse.

Obviously if an over strict interpretation of Jesus’ sayings about divorce forces women to stay in relationships with violent and abusive husbands then the letter of the law is being upheld against the spirit of the law.

And here are couple of things I’ve read about the historical context of Jesus’ sayings on divorce -

In New Testament times there was a debate between the severe and merciful schools of the Pharisees on this matter

Shammani - I think that was the name of the head of the severe school - argued that divorce should not be permitted easily.

Hillel - the head of the merciful school - argued that it is permissible for a man to divorce his wife even on slight grounds (for example, if he found her ugly, or if she burnt his food too often). That’s a bit of a shock since Hillel also echoed Jesus’ golden rule by stating it in the negative form as - ‘That which you do not wish others to do to you, do not do to others’ (it obviously only applied to men in his reckoning).

Finally the context of divorce during Jesus’ time was pretty much as I’ve found it in some traditional, verging on fundamemtalist, Muslim communities in the UK today. If the wife is divorced by her husband she is cast out by her own family and by the rest of her community. In addition the context of adultery when Jesus lived was the same as in honour/shame societies today. A man did not commit adultery against a marriage of two people. He committed adultery purely against the other man’s honour by stealing the other man’s property. And the wounded party - if he did not get justice through the law - had to avenge himself or else his community would lose respect for him (this situation still obtained in early modern Europe where the male victim of adultery was often mocked and forced to wear ‘cuckold’s horns’ for not being able to control his wife (similar attitudes and rituals are found in many parts of the world today, an in Rap/Gang culture in our cities and our ‘music scene’).

What do you reckon on the saying of Jesus - ‘If your right eye offends you, pluck it out’. I’ve also seen this cited as a possible inspiration for Origen’s castration. I have some historical/contextual thoughts on this - but I wonder how you see it as an exegete?

All the best



Which is why Paul tells the wife to submit to her husband and respect him (often difficult), but he tells the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church (which is more difficult still).


When Jesus first says this (He repeats it directly to His own apostles and disciples later in a different context, during their final visit to Capernaum, Mark 9 and parallels), He has just told the audience that they’re personally responsible for their sins even if they don’t act externally on it. They can’t just sit around hating on their brother: it’s still murder. They can’t just sit around committing adultery with women in their heart: it’s still adultery. (And of course, notice how Calvs and even some Arms get around the hatred-of-brothers remark, effectively standing up like the lawyer attempting to justify himself and challenging “So who is my brother?”–a concept that, if at all valid, would have to apply equally well to committing adultery, too!)

The admonition about mutilating one’s self, which would be against Torah, answers the expected excuse ‘But I just can’t help it! It isn’t my fault, my body keeps leading me to do it!’ Either take responsibility for your thoughts, and do something about those (i.e. repent and seek God’s help, as difficult as that may be), or else if you’re going to make that excuse then follow through with the logic of your excuse and mutilate yourself!–which Jesus would know violates Torah, too.

It’s a typical Synoptic irony statement. (Jesus can also be seen doing this kind of thing in GosJohn, but it happens so much more often in the Synoptic reports that scholars tend to classify it by the Synoptics. Sometimes to the exclusion of being ignorant of it happening in GosJohn, too. :wink: )

When Jesus repeats it later at Capernaum, He’s doing so in the context of His apostles being raging egotists who are contending with each other over which of them is the greatest, and oppressing other disciples of Jesus for not following them. As one of the strongest statements they’ve previously heard from Jesus, it’s appropriate that Jesus should repeat it as a warning to them: they’re sinning by leading the little ones who trust in Christ to stumble by their behavior. (Moreover, Christ points out in directly related ways–reported differently in GosMatt and in GosMark–that God, even in His ultimate wrath, doesn’t have the same attitude about Himself that His apostles do about themselves.)


That’s brilliant Jason - absolutely great!!! It is amazing how often this/these texts have been used in the tradition of ‘sexual pessimism’ and misogyny to inculcate morbid self hatred. I remember being lectured on this one as an adolescent by a man in his middle years; never mind that it is specifically about adultery in the heart rather than desire per se; the effect was to make us youngsters all think that fancying the girls was displeasing to God. And the seemingly violent body soul imagery, understood without paradox, terrified me for some time.

A thing about the context here is, again, that I see Jesus speaking at first to religious legalists schooled in an honour shame mindset. Perhaps even the ‘eye that offends’ refers to the tradition of keeping women separate from men and veiling or at least partially covering their faces – which can be just as over sexualising as anything we see in the ‘decadent West’ today. All of this attention to externals breeds an easy legalism for men.

The most extreme examples of legalism I’ve met in my time is when working with Deobandi Muslims from Bangladesh and Pakistan – these are inspired by the Saudi tradition of Islam (although those I have met influenced by the Sufi traditions have been very different in their outlook, as have the moderate liberal Muslims I have met who have often be very fine people). Often it seems to me that with some of these Deobandi men, being a good Muslim is about obeying the letter rather than the spirit of the law; so you can be a really amoral person, but still a respected member of your community if you live up to the externals (and I have one dear female friend who suffered horribly at the hands of this legal externalism and was cast out by her community). I once read a really shocking example of this externalism happening among mullahs in a certain part of the world who visit prostitutes (which is forbidden) marry then before having sex with them, and then divorce them afterwards (thus fulfilling all of their religious legal obligations while still behaving amorally).

Let us who are without sin cast the first stone – and I’m sure we’ve all met amoral fundamentalists on a sin binge thinking that they are saved anyway and so can always return to Christ (never mind the people they hurt along the way): and of course, I’m sure we’ve all met liberal Christians who are just too easy going and morally lax –Jesus’ statement applies to them too - but I feel it was the legalistic mindset that Jesus was first addressing here with this striking and paradoxical statement.

I also wonder about the meaning o f ‘lust’ here – as anger is not hatred, sexual desire that arises spontaneously is not lust per se. And my experience people who think that to feel sexual desire is itself a sin are more likely to fixate upon the desire when it arises. I think there has to be a ‘nurturing with intent’ for desire to become lust and for anger to become hatred. I think Jesus knew/knows this too.

All the best



Thanks for a fascinating thread, guys. I don’t have a lot to add, but I’ve enjoyed reading thus far. I have a question, though.

Ann Nyland translates Matt 19:1-12 like this in her “The Source” NT:

Nyland claims that these were the two forms of divorce available to Jewish society in Jesus’ day, and that the Pharisees were asking Jesus’ take on the controversial “Any Matter” form of divorce introduced by Rabbi Hillel, in which the husband could divorce his wife for any complaint, even something so slight as burning a meal, and marry another. She says that Jewish religious leaders of the day were fond of foreign women and also of getting a “new model” ever so often as they tired of their old wives. This was, in Jesus’ time, the most popular form of divorce as there would be no court case and the husband had only to write a certificate of divorce and dismiss his wife. Unlike the “General Sexual Morality” divorce, this form of divorce was available only to the male.

So my question is, what do you think? Is she right?


Hi Cindy -

I’ve not read Nyland - but this certainly chimes with everything I have read about the context of these sayings.



P.S. What do you all make of Jesus’ saying about in the ressurection there is no marriage (perhaps Origen was also influenced mistakenly by this in his striving for an asexual state (it just struck me that this might be the case)



I hadn’t noticed the “Any Matter” phraseology before, but I don’t doubt that’s the correct cultural reading. Considering how often Jesus usually took stances similar to the school of Hillel, it must have been a shock to hear Him affirming the Shammai school on this one! :laughing:


I can see good arguments going either way there. I’m inclined to think, especially in comparison with OT texts, that Jesus meant that in current society it often happened that the best way to protect the women was to give them (and for them to be given) in marriage, but that this would not be necessary in the resurrection, even though marriage and procreation (and thus sexual activity) would still be occurring. But I respect the broader church tradition, exemplified by my teacher Lewis, that sexual gender will be kept but not used.

In any case Jesus was refuting the notion that ideally a woman belongs to a man like property (specifically in marriage, but also thus otherwise.)


Good one Jason - so there’s another sexual pessimism clobber text beautifully explained (there are some others). By the way, the excellent biography of Lewis - ‘Jack’ - was by George Sayer. (I’ve read the Four Loves - and Lewis was no sexcual pessimist)

All the best



I think I should exaplin that by ‘sexual pessimism’ I mean the body hating and misogynisitc traditions of Jerome and Augustine. I didn’t invent the pharse - but cannot for the life of me remember who did.

There may be other texts which can be twisted or misumderstood to support this tradition but the only ones I can think of at the moment are the several sayings where Jesus appears to be attacking the biological family unit (although I don’t think he was doing this at all); and St Paul’s use of the term ‘flesh’, along with his advice that ‘it is better to marry than to burn’ all of which need a bit of unpacking (and I thought RIchard Beck’s blog on the meaning of ‘body’ in St Paul was excellent).

Any thoughts on these Jason? (if you’ve got the time - I can wait until another time) -

All the best



Actually the line of investigation and discussion opening here - to my mind a necessary and frjuitful discussion - concerns the last thread topic I wanted to raise on this site - ‘The World, the Flesh and the Devil’.

I made a promise to myself to talk this over with Drew before starting it (when I see him in late April I hope). It’s nowhere near as involved a topic as the ‘Abrogation of the 42nd’ - at least in my view - but I would like to put it on hold until late spring (unless anyone else want to give it the full treatment before; and then I’ll add any thoughts I’ve had that have not been covered after Easter, and after I’ve read Peter Brown’s book - I hope).

All the best

Dick :slight_smile:


[note: mod edited to remove an accidental double-post. More recent version is kept below. :slight_smile: ]


Here’s an email giving some corrections and clarifications about stuff that I’ve said on the main thread. I think many of you will find this information useful – not only in the context of my specific research here that builds on Drew’s original research.

The 42 Articles

Before Christmas I accessed a notable and thundering Conservative Reformed/Calvinist website at … b_007.html

The article at this page of the site concerns the English Anabaptists during the Reformation – and is very hostile to the Anabaptist story, and scandalously biased in my view. However, at least the article is properly footnoted – even if it takes persecution texts at face value without asking any further questions etc.

Given the strong male presence in the pictures that head the homepage to this site - lots of tasty blokes in sharp suits looking strong and patriarchal - I reckon I stumbled into hard ‘headship of the male’ territory when I accessed it :wink: . However, one thing I am grateful to ‘the boys’ who contribute to this site for is some precise information on the 42 Articles (because, in the absence of access to a University Library I had not been able to find the original text for these). The boys tell me that -

Rev. Prof. Dr. Philip Schaff has pointed out that “in the Forty-two Articles of Edward VI, there are four additional Articles – on the Resurrection of the Dead, the State of the Souls of the Departed, Millenarians, and the Eternal Damnation of the Wicked.” These Articles, Schaff added, are: “against the Anabaptist notion of the psychopannychia (40)”; and “against the millenarians (41),” compare “the Augsburg Confession where the Anabaptists and others are condemned.” All of these additional Articles, as Maclear and Williams have explained, refer to the heresies of "the Anabaptist sect whose theories had previously been denounced.

The citation is from Schaff ‘Creeds III p. 514. – which I have checked and verified. So we can now see that Article 40 spoke against soul sleep (or ‘psychopannychia’ as Schaff exotically refers to it);, and Article 41 spoke against the millenarians with the associated doctrines of perfectionism and antinomianism (and Schaff draws the parallel with the Augsburg Confession that I have had reason to dispute on the main thread)

There is a rather charming irony in this Conservative Reformed site quoting approvingly from Schaff. Schaff was a German American Church Historian – a colossus in f his knowledge of the Creeds of the Church. He was a Calvinist by tradition, but as with Barth in the twentieth century he had a truly Ecumenical vision - and it appears that he was a Christian Universalist!

For more on Schaff’s Universalism see … lip_Schaff

If you ever wish to consult Schaff on the Creeds – and his work is still respected by scholars today – these are available online for free at -

Anne Boleyn

I have said that Anne Boleyn was executed explicitly for adultery and implicitly for as a witch. I stand by this. However the actual charge against her was treason (explicitly for having committed adultery against the King – an act of treachery against Majesty – and implicitly also for carrying on with others when she should have been providing the King with a baby boy and male heir). Adultery was not a capital crime in English common law. The other implication, that she was a witch came from insinuations that she had beguiled the King with her charms away from his virtuous first wife Katherine, from the information that she was seemingly born with six fingers on one of her hands, and that after giving birth to a healthy girl child in Elizabeth, her latter pregnancies resulted in miscarriage and stillbirths sometimes badly deformed (These were terrible times; Heiko Oberman comments in his unforgettable biography of Luther that when Luther’s wife gave birth for the first time his brother Reformers waited anxiously around her bed – if the child had been stillborn or deformed this would probably have spelled the end for the Protestant Reformation). Anne was highly manipulative as a court flirt– and she had been brought up to be this way by her ambitious father Sir Henry Bullen. It seems that she was very unkind to Katherine of Aragon. The facts surrounding the accusations of adultery brought against her are difficult to establish; had she made love to other men trying to become pregnant, thinking that the King might be impotent but that her failure to produce a boy child had already put her life in danger? Whatever else may be true of her – she died a hero. Standing before her headsman on Tower Hill she praised her kind and Christian Prince Henry and commended him to God’s good pleasure. It is thought that in so doing she was protecting the future of her young daughter Elizabeth.

Erasmus and the English Humanists

I’d like to clarify some issues about Erasmus and England. He visited here in 1499, 1505, and during an extended stay spent in Cambridge from 1509 -14. After this his huge and loving correspondence included many English scholars and would-be Humanists.

His 1499 visit to England was important *in turning his attention from the study of Latin classical literature towards theology and the study of Greek encouraged by John Colet *- the native Christian Humanist. So it was the Englishman Colet who gave the initial spur that lead to Erasmus eventual translation of the Greek New Testament. (Words given in italics here and below are lifted from ‘The History Today Companion to British History’ p.182 - entry on Colet -and pp. 289-90 – entry on Erasmus; the author of both entries is Eamon Duffy, the renowned authority on religion in Tudor England who I have and will quote on the Anglican Burial Service)

John Colet had studied at Oxford and on the continent. *After ordination in 1496, he lectured at Oxford on St Paul’s Epistles *(from the New Testament Greek rather than from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate), establishing himself as a leading English Humanist. He became Dean of St Paul’s in 1501 where his outspokenness on reform lead to frequent serious confrontations with the then (Catholic) Bishop of London. In 1518 he founded St Paul’s school which because of its statutes remained distinctively free from clerical control. It seems that as Colet had influenced Erasmus in terms of evangelical scholarly pursuits, Erasmus in turn had influenced Colet in ideas about church government. Erasmus vision of a tolerant Christianity went hand and hand with his view that the power of the clergy over the laity should be minimised and that power within the church should be exercised in a collegial fashion – as in Convocations - rather than according to the dictates of centralised Papal authority.

Erasmus’ Greek New Testament Textus Receptus

Erasmus’ edition of the Greek New Testament with his own translation/paraphrases into Humanist Latin (1516) and later revisions had a Europe wide impact, providing a new view of the biblical text for many of the future Protestant Reformers.

I am no scholar of the New Testament in Greek. However, I have read a useful, if longwinded, article at Tentmakers on Erasmus’ translation which can be accessed at – … ersion.htm

This article was written with a polemical purpose, - to debunk the authority some fundamentalist Christians give to the King James’ version of the Bible, which uses ‘hell’ far more often than any other translation - but it chimes with stuff I have read elsewhere. The writer sates that -

**…As I understand it, one of the big reasons why folks have this special fondness for the KJV is that it is based on the Textus Receptus, which they claim is based on the great majority (90%) of the more than 5,000 extant Greek manuscripts. This understanding is important to their claim that the Textus Receptus is based on the oldest Greek manuscripts – the ones closest to the autographs. The reasoning here being that the nearer a manuscript is to the originals time-wise, the less likely it is to have been corrupted by repeated copying, editing, etc. Seems to make sense.

…For those who like to know the details, Erasmus drew his basic text from three 12th century miniscules – Greek manuscripts penned using lower case letters, a practice that began in the 9th century. He consulted three other miniscules and a few late manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. None of them were very close to the autographs in terms of time.
The serious Bible scholar and textual critic might wish to know specifically which manuscripts Erasmus used. For his basic text he used, according to the standard manuscript identification system: 2e (12th/13th cent.), 2ap (12th cent.) and 1r (12th cent.). The miniscules he consulted were: 1eap (12th cent.), 4ap 15th cent.), and 7p (11/12th cent.).**

So OK, it does seem that Erasmus access to Greek texts was very limited – and that all of the texts he did have access to were late Byzantine manuscripts. This make s me think that his lexical scholarship was almost certainly too limited to appreciate the different meanings of ‘aionos’ in New Testament and Classical Greek (and any notions of Universalism he had came from Origen rather than his from his Biblical Scholarship).

Although the King James translators drew heavily on earlier English translations to paraphrase the New Testament Greek – for example the translations by William Tyndale, MiIes Coverdale, and by the scholars who produced the Geneva Bible – Erasmus Textus Receptus was their only reference point for the Greek text. Tentmakers note that the KJV version of the Bible contains 54 usages of hell; 31 in the Old Testament, twenty three in the New – and the site rightly notes that this greatly exceeds the number of times ‘hell’ occurs in any later translations made from earlier texts and with better lexical scholarship. It would be interesting to find out how many times Jerome uses Latin equivalents for ‘hell’ in his Vulgate translations and how this compares to the number of times ‘hell’ equivalents are used in Erasmus’ Latin paraphrases of his Textus Receptus (I can’t find the answer to his anywhere).

The KJV is obviously partially inspired by Magisterial Protestant ideology – and this goes half way to explaining its excessive use of ‘hell’ when the Greek indicates otherwise (while a lack of sound lexical scholarship explains the other half). The opening dedicatory epistle of the KJV to that ‘Most Dread Majesty’ James I -the vainglorious and strutting successor to Elizabeth - sets the tone. However, the KJV is also a fountainhead of the English language and of English literature throughout the English peaking world.

I have seen one telling comment on ideological intent in the KJV and I quote it here to sign off this post -
‘When the court translators working in the hire of King James chose to translate antistenai as “Resist not evil,” they were doing something more than rendering Greek into English. They were translating nonviolent resistance into docility. The Greek word means more than simply to “stand against” or “resist.” It means to resist violently, to revolt or rebel, to engage in an insurrection. Jesus did not tell his oppressed hearers not to resist evil. His entire ministry is at odds with such a preposterous idea. He is, rather, warning against responding to evil in kind by letting the oppressor set the terms of our opposition’

(‘The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear’, edited by Paul Loeb).

All the best

Dick :slight_smile: