Friday, November 28, 2014

The sole sufficiency of grace: A ninth century Irish reflection

Sedulius Scottus (fl. 840-860) was an Irish theologian and teacher who emigrated to Liège (Belgium) during the reign of holy Roman emperor Lothair I (840-855). Among Sedulius' literary outputs were a political treatise on the rule of kings, some poetry, and a biblical commentary on Paul's epistles. He also coped out a Greek psalter which is still preserved today in Paris. His commentary on Paul's epistles was the subject of a study by Michael Sloan. Commenting on Galatians, Sedulius addressed the issue of the sufficiency of grace in Christian salvation. For Sedulius it is clear that faith alone (sola fide) and grace alone (sola gratia) were the basis, cause, and ground for Christian salvation. The supremacy of Christ is only truly maintained when one relies on Christ completely for salvation, "We esteem Christ dishonourably when we think that he is not sufficient for us to salvation" ([Christum] vilem habetis, dum putatis eum vobis non sufficere ad salutem).

Here Sedulius comments on Galatians 2:19-21.

"I died through the law of Christ to the law of the letter. Or rather, through the old law itself. So that I might live for God, who renewed his own law. I was crucified with Christ, because I died to all sins for which the law was given; therefore the law is completely unnecessary for me. And I live, that is, with a spiritual life. No longer I, that is the old self, or not by my ability. I live by faith in God, that is, in faith alone, because I owe nothing to the law (in sola fide, quia nihil debeo levi)."

"I shall not make the grace of God invalid, that is, I ought not to be ungrateful to him, who so greatly loved me, that he even died on my behalf. For grace is debased and invalid, if it alone does not suffice for me (abjecta enim et irrita gratia est, si mihi sola non sufficit)."

For more see:
Sloan, Michael C. The Harmonious Organ of Sedulius Scottus Introduction to His Collectaneum in Apostolum and Translation of Its Prologue and Commentaries on Galatians and Ephesians. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH Co. KG, 2012.

A Greek colophon in MS 8407 (f.55r) from the hand of Sedulius Scottus. "I Sedulius Scottus wrote this."

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