A reflection on the V.C. debate

When I brought up my challenge at OrthdoxBridge concerning V.C., almost everyone missed the point.  I admit I quoted Pelikan out of context, but my point remained vindicated.  I simply said that one has to excessively qualify the Canon in order for it to work.   I do not care what your particular justifications for Orthodox Tradition are.  That is not the issue at hand.  My point is that your very answering my challenge proves my point.  Perhaps you are right.  I grant that.  But you missed the main idea.  Anyway, it was even funnier that no one offered a response to John in any real substance.  Every new commenter simply amen-ed the posts against me and ignored John.  This is particularly embarrassing because while I actually agree with the V.C., John effectively destroys it.  I will post his responses since they are so very interesting. (As it stands, I don’t agree with John that Paul was anti-semitic for two reasons.  1) Anti-semitism has no objective meaning today; 2) Paul’s own words testify otherwise)

His first response:


Good post, yet there are a few serious squiggles that need to be addressed.

What would the answers been to “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” had this statement been made c100CE by St John the Evangelist?

I suggest very different to those received by Vincent in 434CE . . .
At first, I will limit myself to just two – the “ubique” and “semper”.
And to just one issue, hermeneutics.

More than 90% of the Church at that time (c100CE) would have been still within the Jerusalem-Central orbit; and not heading in the Pauline direction of Justin Martyr or the Epistle of Barnabas (and finally Marcion) in their anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism.

In the field of hermeneutics, they would have overwhelmingly been still using the Hebrew PaRDeS system. And NOT the two evil Hellenised systems: Allegory from Alexandria (the home of the Ptolemies) or Symbolism from Antioch (the home of the Selucids) – neither of which could credibly be used with Hebrew literature, especially Hebrew Sacred Literature, and produce an accurate result.

Thus the “quod ab omnibus creditum est” in the field of Biblical hermeneutics in many places would have been substantially different to that of Vincent’s day. And in 100CE they would have been interpreting St John’s Book of Revelations far differently with the Hebrew approach to apocalyptic included.

Hermeneutics changed substantially over those 335 years approx. From Hebrew to Greek methodologies (with all its misleading results), and in favour of a Constantinian Imperial environment.

Thus, Vincent’s aphorism can only be treated in an aorist manner for any particular era selected. Thus it would have been subtly different after every Ecumenical Council, and in the Latin west, subtly different again to the Greek east.

In any case, in a broader context with respect to the “creditum”, Vincent knew full well that the beliefs in the British Isles had not experienced the evolution that had happened within the Roman Empire up to his day.

Locally, in his own Lérins, there were two major strands present:
A) the majority strand which could trace its links back to its evangelisation by St Mary Magdalene, St Martha and St Lazarus,
B) the minority strand which was a more recent and post-Constantine Latin import.
For which strand was Vincent speaking? There were significant differences between the two.

Augustine of Aosta (later of Canterbury) found a significantly different Church to his own when he arrived in 597CE to commandeer the British Church for Rome. A Church in the British Isles which had changed little since Joseph of Arimatha’s first arrival in 36CE. The Church in the British Isles to 597CE within itself could more credibly claim the Vincentian canon throughout its 560-odd years until its Augustine than could either Rome or Alexandria in this same period.

Then what of the “Desposnyi” issue in 317CE with Sylvester? These Desposnyi challenged Sylvester’s legitimacy as well as his orthodoxy – something very different to their own. These Desposnyi were totally unchanged since Pentecost 30CE (and thus could credibly claim the “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est”) for their entire history, Rome at that time was substantially different since the days of Linus, and thus could not. And then what of Damasus?

As for Jerusalem, it experienced a major disjunction in 135CE when a Greek bishop was installed to exploit Hadrian’s ban on Jews entering the city. An installation illegal (and illegal continuously to this day) as far as St James the Just and Desposnyi policy was concerned!

I could go on, but I trust that this disposes of the non-aorist nature of the Vincentian Canon.

Pax Vobiscum

His second response



Thank you for this.

Re: Manning (et al)

Perhaps you have not read the Council of Trent with sufficient thoroughness. I would hate to think so. In Rome, this “council” (unrecognised in Orthodoxy except by the fringe Peter Moghila) effectively reduced history to being merely a sub-set of dogma. And, de-facto, created the principle that history may be re-written as many times as was necessary to conform to the ruling ideology of the Pope (or Magesterium) of the day.

And this Roman interplay between re-written history and dogma constitutes the “Tradition” of the Roman Church ever since Trent. Contrary to what you say about “disrespect” for Tradition, this comment constitutes the very essence of Roman Tradition. This is how Rome’s Tradition can always change yet retain the illusion of changelessness.

As I observed elsewhere, this is a perfect example of an aorist Vincentian Canon in operation.

As an aside, this explains the origin of the shameless re-writing of history by the “politically-correct” of our day to conform to their own prejudices and presuppositions – none of which need have any resemblance to or connection with the facts of the time they purport to present. They learned their trade in Rome!

Both Manning, and his compatriot Newman recognised this principle in operation in their day, and so this quote of Manning’s, sadly is Not cynical, but is a sad, but accurate commentary on his Church.

Yes! I agree with you re the overall cynicism of Roman prelates. Most of them since Sylvester were cynical, and are even more so in 2012 – courtesy of the Vatican’s handling of the sex-scandal, but this sort of cynicism did not enter the calculus of the comment by Manning reproduced above.

I trust that this assists.

John’s Third Response, which effectively ends the debate


To all who have responded in their own way to my comments, and even to Robert who as yet has not responded, I say thank you and may God be with you.

Whatever the Orthodox Tradition may say about or claim for Vincent and his Canon . . . from the effluxion of time and circumstance in history, we have to recognize as fact that at least in the gentile Pauline-Imperial Church’s Latin West, both his “semper” and “omnibus” (for different reasons) simply cannot credibly survive outside an “aorist” context – especially the “semper”. There has been simply too much change there for any other credible alternative.

Let us consider further problems with this Canon . . .

# And then, what of the critical time between 325CE and 381CE (the First two Ecumenical Councils) in the Roman Empire?

At many points in this continuum, the “answer” to his observation could, with only minor tweaking, have come up as Arian! With the Orthodox of belief during this period of Arian ascendancy rendered persona non grata, and hence ineligible to be inclusively counted in the Vincentian formula.

# And then, what of the period 754CE – 843CE in the Byzantine East?

There could simply be no “omnibus” due to so many being Iconoclasts. Here, there is a clear diminution of the “omnibus” factor in Eastern Orthodox History. And that the “semper” here can only apply retrospectively to the Orthodox minority.

# And then, (commencing at different times for different regions), what of Greek, Turkish and Arabic Orthodoxy under Muslim dhimmitude?

While the degree of compromise and accommodation varied from place to place, there were still sufficient differences to be noted when compared against “snapshots-in-time” both from previous eras and, after the conversion of Russia, in Russia itself.

Even to this day for example, as a consequence of this compromise, the Arabs simply will not exegete Rev 9:1-12 and its “locusts” as prophetically applying to Islam – as they are required to do.

# And then in Russia after Patriarch Nikon’s “reforms”?

The “Old Believers” had a slightly more credible and recent claim to the Canon than Nikon’s “New Believers”.

And so, to partially answer a question I posed in an earlier post, the only way we can credibly salvage Vincent’s Canon in any unrestricted sense is to start in Jerusalem at Pentecost 30CE and organically link it to the all Jewish Jerusalem-Central Church of St James the Just at that time, and refuse to allow it to be dissevered therefrom at any time thereafter. And to continuously test its applicability, work forward in time from that point and place.

And to extend it to all gentile Churches organically related and remaining related thereto. Thus, this includes the Church of Mar Toma in India planted by St Thomas, the British Church planted by St Joseph of Arimathea (until at least 597CE), and the Church in southern France planted by St Mary Magdalene, St Martha and St Lazarus until it was displaced by a post-Constantine Latinised and Romanised usurpation.

We would also perforce have to allow the congregations in the Pauline Orbit to gradually (and for some over a period of centuries) drift outside the applicability of this Canon (and for some, permanently), for the sole reason to ease their consciences over the changes they have experienced down through the ages.

Finally, we also have to link its applicability with the concept of “apostolic succession”, and to mandate that the credibility and legitimacy of any true “apostolic succession” remain forever linked to that Jerusalem Church of Pentecost 30CE ant ITS “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est”.

Pax Vobiscum

John’s Fourth Response



Thank you for your considered and courteous response.

Can I take some of your points, but not in the sequence you presented them. And here I sincerely hope that I am not misrepresenting you. If so, my mea culpa in advance.

You said:

% I think your bigger error is that you are arguing a straw man. . . .”%

I agree that I am arguing a “straw man”, although one not of my making, thankfully! This “straw man” which I am arguing was created since Constantine and before 381CE to try to ex post facto justify the entire revolutionary Constantinian Tradition – both Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) alike.

With the examples I have already provided, this segues into the second point in your quote:

%I think we can assume that he meant “almost everywhere, always, by almost everybody”.%

You are right to qualify the VC – especially with your Augustine vs Vincent allusion (thank you, why didn’t I pick that obvious one up?), however, we need to further broaden your quote into:

# I think we can assume that he meant for this Constantinian Tradition, “often everywhere, much of the time, by many”.

This in turn segues into your

“I think you may be on to something here.”

Which leads to . . .

And can I give you some context for what follows (please bear with me and you will see where I am going). What follows integrally deals with foundational ecclesiology, ie the Relationship between the “Synagogue” and the “Church”. And deals at a corporate level with the fifth Commandment of the decalogue as it applies to the Church in the light of Gen 12:2,3 and Matt 25:31-46 (Yeshua’s explanation of the Genesis text):

“Honour your Father and Mother (the Jews and Judaism) . . .”

After WW2 and after the manifest horror of first the Nazi and then the Romanov Shoah’s became fully known, certain questions were asked – triggered by the four questions below (similar to those asked in the Pesak Seder):
1. “How could the Church be so wilfully blind to, or worse – so collaborative with the Romanovs and Nazis?”
2. “What was it in the Church’s theological DNA that made this Romanov and Nazi nightmare and collaboration possible?”
3. “Who within the Church was ultimately responsible for this state of affairs?” and
4. “What do we in the Church need to do theologically to see to it that a new Romanov/Nazi Shoah can never happen again – especially with ostensible “Biblical” support?”

Inter alia, this forcibly removed Constantine as the de-facto “starting-point” for the Vincentian Canon and relocated it to 30CE, where I have placed it. And to cut a long sequence of regressions short; as a consequence of these two Shoah’s (for #3 & #4 above) we need to reappraise the Acts 15 issue, and its results from the perspective of the Jewish St James the Just and not Paul.

The “Letter” (15:23,30) was not just the contents of vv23-29, but the Epistle of St James (Yakov in the Hebrew) as well. And requires us to submit to the Jewish understanding of the decision of this “Council” (or Bet Din) as hereunder:

The Acts 15 Halakah

The Halakah on Church membership that came out of that Messianic Bet Din – the Halakah (and Midrash) that was to accompany, qualify and “interpret” all of R. Shaul’s efforts (and thus to be read together with all of his Literary output as an “authority” superior to any of it) – when read Jewishly, clearly spelt out the Messianic version of the Traditional Jewish case for membership of “the Nazarene Way”: Ostensibly limited to (Acts 15:29): abstention from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled and from fornication; this encompassed and represented the minimum standards of a “God-Fearer”.

The first three represent the entire Kashrut spectrum (although not glatt-kosher) and clearly mandate a continuation of Kashrut for ALL believers, both Jew AND Gentile alike, thus refuting the idea that Peter’s earlier vision of “rise, kill and eat” (Acts 10:13) abolished Kashrut. And it vindicated Peter and Barnabas against Paul in Gal 2:11-13

The book of Acts makes a point of stressing that Paul was required to submit to the authority of the Apostles and Elders of the Church in Jerusalem and preach both the decree of the Jerusalem Council and the “Gospel” of Jerusalem-Central – and NOT his own!

(i) against the more radical of R. Shaul’s Gentile followers – following the teachings of Paul to their logical conclusion – who asserted the right for both Jew and Gentile alike to ignore the boundaries of “God-Fearer” wherever and to whatever extent they pleased – including that of Torah-compliance, and create their own eclectic criteria for Church membership,

– the Messianic Bet Din reminded them (in that list) that the already-established boundaries and expectations of “God-Fearer” were non-negotiable. And remained intact and unchanged in Yeshua’s New Covenant Community. And remained the unavoidable minimum criteria for gentiles who wished to join this Community, and thus to enter into any relationship with Yahweh – the God of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov. Something that R. Shaul (at their prodding) was to later explicitly spell out in Rom 11 and the “ingrafting” with olive trees.

(ii) against the non-Messianic Pharisees – these Scribes and Pharisees – the “Judaisers” who insisted that Gentile “God-Fearers” – whether Messianic or not, could not remain “God-Fearers” indefinitely but sooner or later had to go all the way in conversion to Judaism and become circumcised and follow all the outward finicky nuts and bolts of Jewish observance (including liability to temple-tax)

– the Messianic Bet Din reaffirmed their right to remain “God-Fearers” – but no less (!) for as long as, and for as many generations as they wished, without further “Judaic” challenge to their membership in the Church (and hence without liability to temple-tax).

No one other than the Messianic Bet Din, headed by Yosef of Arimathea’s appointee: Yakov, brother-by-law to Yeshua, and clearly under the Authority of the Johannine / Arimathean extended family would possess the Authority to influence and direct (as per (i)) these gentile radicals on such an important matter, especially when it was a matter involving an interpretation of the version of the gospel from the lips of none other than R. Shaul himself – who had converted them in the first place.

None other than this Johannine / Arimathean Messianic Bet Din had the Authority to take on R. Shaul on a breach of Halakah. To question and to challenge him and to enforce change and submission upon him – and win! And to insist that certain non-Pauline Halakah and Midrash accompany all his travels and qualify all his sermons and evangelization – if he (and his erstwhile”radical” followers) wished to remain within the Church!

That Paul did not subsequently comply with this order and went his own way is well known and is a another matter for another day.

I will leave it here for now, and may return to your other points later.

Pax Vobiscum,