Historical Christian Commentaries
What is this site?
Type in any verse(s) at the top and it will pull up all historical Christian commentary on that verse.
What were the ancients thinking, reading through the same Bible as us? What were those separated from the time of Christ by a mere 100 years, or mere generation, thinking about certain passages of scripture? Plug in the verse and find out.
Why should you care how the early Christian Church interpreted the scriptures? They aren't authoritative, after all!
"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.
All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny.
They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions.
We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, ‘But how could they have thought that?’—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.
None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill.
The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes.
They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.
To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them."
"Can any who spend several years in those seats of learning, be excused, if they do not add to that of the languages and sciences, the knowledge of the Fathers - the most authentic commentators on Scripture, as being both nearest the fountain, and eminently endued with that Spirit by whom all Scripture was given. It will be easily perceived, I speak chiefly of those who wrote before the Council of Nice. But who would not likewise desire to have some acquaintance with those that followed them with St. Chrysostom, Basil, Jerome, Austin; and, above all, the man of a broken heart, Ephraim Syrus..."
"I have gone into this matter at some length not only for the purpose of exposing Porphyry's misrepresentation (for either he was ignorant of all these matters or else he pretended not to know them) but also to show the difficulty in Holy Scripture. And yet men who altogether lack experience lay special claim to understanding it apart from the grace of God and the scholarship of preceding generations."
"The ignorance of persons who do not know the sacred scriptures well and have not consulted histories, always turns them to one thing after another, and distracts anyone who wants to track down something about the truth out of his own head."
"I therefore beseech you, who think that you are called upon to heal my slight wound, which is no more, so to speak, than a prick or scratch from a needle, to devote your skill in the healing art to this grievous wound, which has been opened by a spear driven home with the impetus of a javelin. For there is surely no proportion between the culpability of him who exhibits the various opinions held by the fathers in a commentary on Scripture, and the guilt of him who reintroduces within the Church a most pestilential heresy."
"I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian... There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a I brief sojourn in the Enemy's camp and are now with us... One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread but through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes I our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate."
"You sent me the volume anonymous and authorless... When I read it, I realized that the most famous question about High Priest Melchizedek had been discussed there with many arguments, in an attempt to teach that he who blessed the great Patriarch was of a more divine nature and should not be considered among men... When I read the letter and found myself adjured with remarkable entreaties in the last little page not to spurn the petitioner, I searched through the books of the Ancients to see what each one said, and I answered you, as it were, with the counsel of many. And immediately on the first page of Genesis I found an exegesis by Origen concerning Melchizedek, in which he discusses the matter in many words and comes to the conclusion that he was an angel. With almost the same arguments your author has employed on the Holy Spirit, he speaks on the heavenly powers. I went on to his follower Didymus, and came to a like result. I turned to Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Emisenus, Apollinaris also, and our Eustathius, who first sang the war trumpet against Arius as the Bishop of Antioch's Church: and I found that all of their opinions, with different arguments and byways, had arrived at one intersection, to say that Melchizedek was a Canaanite man, the king of the city of Jerusalem, which was first called Salem, then Jebus, and finally Jerusalem."
"I have thought it my duty to quote all these passages from the writings of both Latin and Greek authors who, being in the Catholic Church before our time, have written commentaries on the divine oracles, in order that our brother, if he hold any different opinion from theirs, may know that it becomes him, laying aside all bitterness of controversy, and preserving or reviving fully the gentleness of brotherly love, to investigate with diligent and calm consideration either what he must learn from others, or what others must learn from him. For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine."