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Things to Know About the Old Testament Harvests

There are several things to realize about the Old Testament harvests and feasts.

The three harvests (Exodus 23:14-17) parallel the Crucifixion/Resurrection, Pentecost/The Church, and Christ’s Return (1 Corinthians 15:23-24).

The seven feasts of these harvests (Leviticus 23) correspond to the Church’s liturgical seasons: Advent, Christmas, Ordinary, Lent, Triduum, Easter, Ordinary.

The harvest seasons can be classified as such: the first (Spring/Summer) gave grain, the second (Summer) gave grapes, and the third (Summer/Fall) gave olives, figs, and more.

The first, of grains, was smaller in weight — because the other harvests were water-dense — but the biggest source of food, as it made up over 50% of the Jewish diet. Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, even though He was merely one Man, are key in the same way.

Notable is that the second big harvest had grapes, and this was just after the wheat was brought in. Perhaps this is a Eucharist reference, relatable to the Church. At every event, bread and wine were crucial. These are also necessary to every Mass, at which they are confected into our new manna, which, like the old, sustains us until we reach the Promised Land. Christ’s Blood redeems and strengthens us. We already have the todah, the ultimate Sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise (CCC #1359-1361), which our rabbinical brethren await!

The third, which has the feast of tabernacles/booths, is important to the Second Coming. This can also be referred to as “the Ingathering”.  The great festival involved imagery of water and light, which points toward baptism and Christ as the Light of the world (John 1:4-11). At His Return, Christ will reveal Himself to all as their rightful King (Zechariah 14:16), just as He revealed Himself to the Jews as the ultimate Teacher around this important feast (John 7:1-16). He will then perform His own, final Harvest and gather His flock to Himself (Matthew 13:24-30). At this, we will perpetually celebrate all of His wondrous deeds, just as the Israelites celebrated all of the year’s harvests (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

Typology of the olives and figs is important, too. Olive oil was used to burn the lamps continually (Leviticus 24:2), and so the rule of God, at Christ’s Return at the olive harvest, will last forever. Jesus calls us to join Him under the security and sweetness of the fig tree and learn from Him (Micah 4:1-5, Zechariah 3:8-10) and be grafted into the eternal olive tree (Psalm 52:8, Romans 11:13-32).

It has been said, and attested to by St. Augustine and others, that “the New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New”. How true that is!

field-harvest

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The Priesthood of All Believers?

1 Timothy 5:17, James 5:14-15, and other verses refer to the (ordained) ministerial priesthood. 1 Peter 2:9 refers to the “priesthood” of the laity. The ministers handle preaching and the Sacraments. The laity simply participate. Scripture makes a strong distinction.

ierateuma/hierateuma (lay priesthood, Greek, Strong’s #2406) [1 Peter 2:9, Lexicon]

sacerdotium (lay priesthood, Latin) [1 Peter 2:9]

presbuteroi/presbyteros (ministerial priesthood, Greek, Strong’s #4245) [1 Timothy 5:17, James 5:14-15, Lexicon]

presbyteri/presbyteros (ministerial priesthood, Latin) [1 Timothy 5:17, James 5:14-15]

(See also: Numbers 16.)

priesthood

“Does the Bible really teach that premarital sex is wrong?”

Does the Bible really teach that premarital sex is wrong? (Of course, it does! But with Sola Scriptura, that might be unclear!)

(Alternate link, via Vimeo.)

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

Does the Bible really teach that premarital sex is wrong? Well, as a Catholic, I know that it does. So, I suppose the real question should be: can a Protestant reasonably think that premarital sex is okay? I think that they can. And here’s why.

When the Bible condemns “fornication”, the Greek word porneia is used. It is an all-encompassing word for sexual immorality, and this can make things unclear to a Protestant. Take Hebrews 13:4, for example: it uses the Greek word moichos to condemn adultery. That’s very clear language. But, then, it uses porneia for fornication. So, the verse can, potentially, be seen as unclear on the latter.

Now, probably the most convincing passage against premarital sex is in 1 Corinthians 6. In this passage, “sexual perversion” is clearly banned. But again, that could be unclear, as “sexual perversion” can even occur within marriage. The thing here against becoming one with prostitutes offers what is probably the best argument. But even that, I think, could be seen as unclear. Paul could easily be seen as referring to literal prostitutes only. Obviously, should an otherwise-devout Christian have sexual relations with a current prostitute, that could cause grave scandal.

And, as far as I know, in every case of premarital sex in the Bible, there is no clear divine punishment for the sexual act. The only obvious penalty is in the realm of financial compensation. Even the Song of Solomon does not explicitly refer only to acts within marriage. In fact, in it, the lovers are separate. They don’t seem to live together, and there’s evidence that could be understood to mean that they weren’t even married (see 8:8, for example). And, judging from Scripture alone, as long as lovers intend to get married someday, their acts together aren’t always necessarily bad (see Exodus 22:16, for example).

To someone raised in the Catholic Tradition on this issue — including many Protestants who have borrowed the Church’s ancient teaching on this — these verses are clear. But to a Sola Scriptura Protestant, who demands formal sufficiency of Scripture, this wiggle-room can shake their world.

Catholics can say, “Well, the Bible is only materially sufficient” — meaning that, well, while the Bible implicitly or explicitly references every doctrine and dogma, you must still have the Church to interpret it, because the Church is the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). But Protestants don’t have that luxury. Formal sufficiency demands clarity, and when clarity is not there (as is frequently the case), questions like  this arise.

So, in conclusion, to a Catholic, this is clear. But to a Protestant, not so much.

Surpassing Sola Scriptura

“[The Church] does not, in the conventional phrase, believe what the Bible says, for the simple reason that the Bible does not say anything. You cannot put a book in the witness-box and ask it what it really means.” – G. K. Chesterton

Sola Scriptura is the Protestant doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Under it, only doctrines that are found directly within the Bible or are drawn indirectly from it by simple reasoning are allowed. (See material vs. formal sufficiency & perspicuity.)

2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the primary passage used to defend this view, which always boggles my mind. Perhaps I need spectacles, but I do not see an “Only” at the beginning of this verse. The Church teaches (as Scripture teaches) that all Scripture is valuable. She does not, however, turn it into an idol.

Some Protestants also claim to honor other authorities, like the Church – but do they really? In a short written debate with a Protestant professor, he said, “Sola Scriptura does not even claim that there is no other authority besides the Bible; it maintains that the Bible is alone (sola) as the only infallible authority.” Some apologists concede this position, but I see no reason to, and so I responded, “The practical effect [of Sola Scriptura] is that it denies the authoritativeness of any other authority – making that authority not an authority at all.” The professor quickly changed the topic.

Sacred Tradition (capital ‘T’) is, obviously, a stumbling block for many, but it is perfectly reasonable. Not everything of relevance could fit within the Bible (John 20:30-31, John 21:25). This is evidenced by the elaborations of the Church Fathers, as well as the decrees of the Councils. And much of this has been written and can therefore even qualify as (extra canon) Scripture! Anyway, all Scripture must be interpreted “according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church” (Origen).

Pope Francis noted, “Sacred Scripture is the written testimony of the divine Word, the canonical memory that attests to the event of Revelation. However, the Word of God precedes the Bible and surpasses it. That is why the center of our faith isn’t just a book, but a salvation history and above all a person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.” (cf. CCC #108). All teaching is valuable – God is not limited to a book compiled by His Bride. On this point, the Bible is like a wedding album shared by two spouses: the husband, typically, arranges and provides for everything, while his wife fills in the details – but still, at the end of the day, it does not sum up their whole marriage.

Another great blow to Sola Scriptura is that the Bible did not put itself together, and it does not list the books that belong within it. It took the Jews thousands of years to decide on the Tanakh (their canon) and, even then, “Hellenistic” Jews preferred the Septuagint! The only reason that we know which books comprise the Testaments is that the Church has informed us. If the Church, as Her own entity, is not infallible on such doctrine, then the Bible cannot be trusted.

Many Protestants also allude that absolute truth can only be found within the Bible. If I throw an apple up into the air, it will fall. Where is that in the Bible? Of course, one could quickly retort with the idea that the Bible only necessarily contains the absolute moral truth necessary for salvation. But many Protestants do not actually believe that – just look at the large crowds of literal creationists! To be clear, the Bible is not guaranteed to be totally historically or scientifically inerrant in a literal sense. “Inerrancy extends to what the biblical writers intend to teach, not necessarily to what they assume or presuppose or what isn’t integral to what they assert.” [Catholic Answers] And if a Protestant would like to say otherwise, he must prove his position from the Bible – which he cannot do, at least not to any definite degree. Even natural law, which exists outside of the Bible, does not encompass such. Leaders like Ken Ham could be defeated with these points.

I just cannot help but despise this great heresy of Sola Scriptura, the implication of which is that the Bride of Christ does not know Her Husband.

I love the Second Vatican Council’s statement on all of this: “[T]he task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.” (Dei Verbum)

Let us put it this way: only trusting the Bible without the Church would be like loving “Romeo and Juliet” and hating Shakespeare’s explanation of it.

church-and-fallacies

“A Worthy Burden” – My Apologetic Story

The Church is my greatest weight. Of course, the weight of over a billion souls would likely be rather large, especially post-McDonald’s, so I suppose that nothing else is really comparable.

What does this mean? In an age of moral relativism, instability, and self-gratification, much like the age of the Roman Empire prior to its Christian conversion, I found myself alone and empty after a scarring experience. So, I sought the counsel of philosophy and history – surely, men had answered my questions before! – and I was, after seemingly endless struggles with myself and others, eventually comforted. The Church became vindicated in my heart.

The more I study, the more I am forced to accept Catholicism as the true Faith. The depth and size of it, as well as its impacts on culture, force any serious student to step back and pay at least a bit of attention. It took me a while to overcome my initial ambivalence toward any religion in particular – though I was always appreciative of God and enamored with the subject in general – but once I had crossed the proverbial Tiber, there was no going back.

I was baptized Catholic, and I vaguely recall some crossing with holy water and lighting prayer candles, but I was hardly raised to practice the Faith. In high school, I dug into a box of things from my infancy. I spotted a rosary within it, along with a note saying that it belonged to my great-grandmother. I mentioned it to a Catholic friend, and he gave me some information about it. That set of events started the arduous process of reconciliation.

Later, at the urging of the aforementioned friend, I casually flipped through the writings of the Church Fathers (prominent ancient Christian leaders). I quickly became impressed. I only did this, originally, to assuage my ego. I had made a theological speculation, and he answered me with, “Well, did the early Christians believe that?” I did not know. Anyway, he was right, and I was wrong.

My advice for anyone that wishes to be a Protestant is to avoid the Church Fathers like one would avoid a plague. I once remarked to a professor that introducing the former to the latter is like shaking a baby: it might teach them a lesson, but it also might kill them.

In my search for the Truth (capital ‘T’ intended), I asked a long series of questions.

On the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church, I asked: Does God still reveal things to us, or does His message end with the Bible? What would He reveal things through?

The idea that God arbitrarily ended His message with the Bible and deliberately chose to allow confusion over doctrine became untenable to me, especially in light of verses like Deuteronomy 31:6 (He will never leave us) and John 17:11 (He requests Christian unity). The Protestant position on this (Sola Scriptura) then made little sense. How could that idea, unprecedented before the Renaissance and ungrounded in Tradition or common sense, be true? I have found no sensible argument in favor of it.

What would His mouthpiece be, though? His Bride (Mark 2:18-20), the Church, of course! As a wife understands the workings of her husband, so does the Church understand Christ. From there, how is She structured? This is where apostolic succession (the lineage of bishops from the time of the Apostles to the present) comes in. Bishops are given special power (Luke 21:15) – which even Simon Magus knew was handed down (Acts 8:18-19) – after the laying on of hands (1 Timothy 4:142 Timothy 1:6) in their consecration ceremonies. They can trace themselves back to the very beginning of Christianity. All of this “clicked” in my head when I first read these words from St. Ignatius of Antioch: “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.”

Now, who leads it? This is answered by Matthew 16:18, the famous verse, which helped me grasp that Christ built His Church on Peter (aka Cephas), the faithful “rock” (Greek, Aramaic). It’s a parallel to the story of Eliakim (Isaiah 22:20-22), who represented his king. St. Peter, called by Christ to “feed [His] sheep” (John 21:17), likewise represented his King. Some in the historical-critical movement have, naturally, raised objections to St. Peter’s primacy. But even agnostic Protestant historian John Julius Norwich wrote of the pope, “It seems more likely than not that St. Peter did in fact come to Rome and was martyred there, probably somewhere on the Vatican Hill…[and] there can be little doubt that he was the generally acknowledged leader of Christ’s disciples.” Whenever I doubt, I latch on to this information: the historical basis for the Papacy is rock-solid.

My goal is to increase the powers and jurisdiction of this great entity to the fullest capacity, because I recognize the impact that She has had and can have on the world. Documents like Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae urge respect for the sanctity of life, Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno offer economic principles rooted in good morals, and so on. If only humanity would follow the path that the Church has set forth! This temporal aspect, even by itself, is enough to drive me, despite how burdensome this desire can be.

In conclusion, I will leave the reader with a quote from G. K. Chesterton. “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”

Jesus Christ gave “the keys” to St. Peter, the first pope.

When was it?

For Protestantism to make much sense, the Church must have, at some point, abandoned the truth and become apostate. Otherwise, Protestantism has no license to exist. But when was this “Great Apostasy”? Protestants offer varying opinions, but none of them hold up to scrutiny.

st_peter_basilica_vatican_01

Was it right after the deaths of the Apostles?

A view most supported by Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses is that, after the Apostles, the Church quickly fell into apostasy. This would be a massive blow at both God’s promise to guard His Church (Joshua 1:5; Matthew 16:18) and all of the doctrine mentioned hereafter. But if this were true, would not one of the disciples of the Apostles have spoken out? We have writings from many of them, including Pope St. Clement I, St. Barnabas, St. Polycarp, and St. Ignatius of Antioch. None of them mention a “Great Apostasy”. But even if we indulge the other side and admit the possibility that even these men fell away, we still have early documents and creeds (like the Didache) that were probably formulated under the authority of the Apostles. Because Christians continued to be in accord with these extra-Biblical teachings, we know that they must have been in accord with the true Church.

Was it at the time of Constantine?

A semi-popular view is that Constantine corrupted Christianity by encouraging “pagan” elements and demanding a decision from the First Council of Nicaea. This is the view that I come into contact with most often, but it is also the most problematic. If the Church became apostate by 337 (the year of Constantine’s death), then the Biblical canon – which only really started to be compiled by St. Athanasius in 367 – may be wrong: we would have no assurance of its infallibility. Also, on top of that, all later theology would be necessarily nulled.

Was it during the Middle Ages?

The possibility of an apostasy in Medieval times seems far-fetched, too. This theory revolves, primarily, around hatred for some “bad” popes. Rather than focusing on doctrinal issues, proponents of this theory typically resort to character defamation. Many attack the Crusades, which tamed a fanatic Islam, and such. But in this period, literacy rates increased, art flourished, the university system developed, laws were better-codified, and the Bible became more accessible to lay people [1, 2]. The only seemingly objectionable doctrinal development was Pope Boniface VIII’s declaration, “Outside of the Church, there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins”, but even this originates with St. Cyprian! The teaching relates to: 1) the fact that baptism (whether by water, blood, or desire) brings one into the Church (even if done within a Protestant community), because the sacrament was entrusted to Her and She allows anyone with the right intent to perform it, and 2) the importance of conscience and the dangers of apostasy. Nothing worthy of damnation here!

Was it just before the “Reformation”?

The idea of a “restoration” being needed just before the “Reformation” also seems improbable. This common idea is based on the “selling” of indulgences [1, 2, 3] (Martin Luther attacks the practice multiple times in his Ninety-Five Theses), but is mostly due to a misunderstanding. Again, the Protestant understanding usually relies on the assault of characters: people like Johann Tetzel are demonized — perhaps rightfully — for abusing the system. But this abuse was not a doctrinal problem of the Church; rather, it was a disciplinary problem of men. Indulgences simply remove the temporal punishment due for past sin — they are not a “Get out of Hell free” card — and even when they were “sold,” they required some sort of penance. Indulgences only have a salvatory effectiveness (remittance of time in Purgatory) if the recipient is already destined for Heaven. So, it would seem that the fuss is all about nothing.

In conclusion, I see none of these options as likely.

VIDEO: 2 Peter

A Catholic summary of 2 Peter.

(Alternate link, via Vimeo.)

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

Let’s take a look at 2 Peter.

Verses 1-4 start off chapter 1 with a nice salutation, in which the grace of God is emphasized.

Verses 5-11 inform us about the necessity of works, and they warn us against being “unfruitful,” in reference to John 15:5-8, and other verses. The passage also reminds us that we were “purified” from our “former sins,” most probably in reference to the regenerative effect of baptism.

Verses 12-15 point out that the purpose of this Book is mostly just to remind us of important things — we “already know them” — not really to add anything new.

Verses 16-19 remind us of the fact that Peter witnessed all of this first-hand, and he is not just retelling old mythical tales, so he knows what he’s talking about.

The final verses (verses 20-21) read:
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

This passage does two things. First, it reminds us that the Bible does not contradict itself on and is infallible on matters of faith and morals, because its writers, “moved by the Holy Spirit”, “spoke from God.” Second, the passage undermines individual interpretation, the cornerstone of the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, implicitly reminding us of the necessity of being united under one set of doctrines.

Chapter 2 heavily warns against sin.

Verses 1-3, especially, remind me of the times we currently live in. Particularly, “[m]any will follow their sensuality” reminds me of society and debates around same-sex “marriage.”

There is a lot of valuable material in this chapter. It informs us that we will be punished for sin that we do not repent of. Verse 13 tells us that we will “[suffer] wrong as the wages of doing wrong.”

This is all completely contrary to the “Jesus died for all of our sins, so we’re good!” view that many Protestants hold. Yes, it is through Christ that we can be cleansed from sin, but the cleansing is not automatic — we must seek it.

Another interesting thing in the chapter is verse 20, which reads:
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”

This verse obliterates the Protestant idea — held only by a minority, fortunately — of “once saved, always saved.” The people being referenced already had “knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and “escaped the defilements of the world”, so they were supposedly “saved” at one point (at least, according to common Protestant doctrine), but then they lost their salvation after getting “entangled” in these “defilements of the world.”

And the next verse — verse 21 — reads:
“For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.”

This verse and the previous verse tie in with the Catholic idea of salvation through “invincible ignorance.” Basically, anyone genuinely ignorant of Christian teaching can reach salvation. Like this verse says, for some people, “it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness.”

The chapter closes with a proverb.

Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 3 again remind us of the fact that this Book is in continuity with the rest of the Bible, simply a reminder of important details.

Verses 3-9 touch on people doubting the eventual return of Christ. The passage tells us that the reason that it seems to be taking so long to occur is that Christ is trying to lead as many souls to salvation as possible before then.

And verses 10-18, the final verses, urge us to always “be in holy conduct and godliness” and “be diligent to be found by Him [God] in peace, spotless and blameless.” The passage tells us that “the patience of our Lord” allows more people to attain salvation. It also tells us that there are “some things hard to understand” in Paul’s writings (like supposed “faith alone” verses, perhaps?), “which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Feel free to check out my other videos and other past work. Like 2 Peter 3:18 tells us, we must “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” May God bless you.

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)