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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

5 Reasons We Can't Go By The Bible Alone - & 3 Questions for Thought

Our Protestant brothers and sisters for the last 500 have said that all we need as an authority is the Bible. They reject Sacred Tradition and the teaching authority of the Magisterium. Instead they have been replaced by man's traditions (such as "saved by faith alone" 1517 A.D. and "the rapture" 1830's) and self appointed authority.

But here are (at least) 5 reasons why we can’t go by the Bible alone.

#1 The idea that we can go by the Bible alone – Isn’t Biblical.
#2 Scripture doesn’t teach which books belong in it.
#3 For all historical purposes it couldn’t have worked.
#4 No one in the first 1400 years of the church taught that we can go by the Bible alone.
#5 For all practical purposes it doesn’t work.

I chose these 5 because I thought they were the best of all the arguments and you can remember them on one hand. The first two are biblical the second two are historical and the last one you can remember on your thumb is practical.

#1 The idea that "we can go by the Bible alone" – isn’t Biblical.
If you are going to go by the Bible alone you had better find some Biblical ground for teaching that or you don’t have a leg to stand on. Now of course folks who go by the Bible alone feel as though they have found some verses that support their view point but upon further investigation, they are taken out of context or just made to say something they aren’t saying.

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.
Amen – this verse as well as all the verses in the Bible are true and inspired by the Holy Spirit. But is this verse teaching me – you only need to follow and obey the written word of God? no.

Didn’t Jesus teach us to go by the Bible alone in Matthew chapter 4 when he said three times to the devil – it is written, it is written, it is written. He appealed to scripture alone to refute the devil.
Again Amen – In THIS particular he did refer to scripture, but other times he referred to himself as an authority outside of scripture – He told the demons – I rebuke you. And we need to come back to the question – is he teaching us here - you only need to follow and obey the written word of God? no.

Here is the most popular verse referred to. St. Paul tells Timothy -
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Amen – I have no problem with this verse. But the context is problematic for this kind of interpretation. If we look at the context and back up one verse to verse 2 Timothy 3:15 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Wait a second – St. Timothy knew these sacred writings – these scriptures from childhood. This reference to scripture isn’t concerning the New Testament, this is concerning the Old Testament.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
St. Paul here is in context referring to the Old Testament which points us to Jesus.

#2 Scripture doesn’t teach which books belong in it.
The Bible doesn’t have an inspired table of contents anywhere. There is no inspired list of books – these are the books which make up the Bible. So to find out which books belong in the Bible we have to go outside of the Bible to the teaching authority of the Church and tradition to see which books are in fact inspired.

#3 For all historical purposes it couldn’t have worked.
Where the apostles to go by the Bible alone, because they were the ones who wrote the New Testament and they took their time doing it also. You would think that if they knew about this going by the Bible alone doctrine that they would have been more systematic in their writings. Instead they assume that their readers have already heard the Gospel and they are referring to specific problems in these early communities. Also the Bible as we know it today wasn’t formally canonized until 381 at the Council of Rome – No – Constantine was not there.

#4 No one in the first 1400 years of the church taught that we can go by the Bible alone.
Church history is unaware of this doctrine of going by the Bible alone for the first 1400 years of her existence. Sounds like a relatively new doctrine.

#5 For all practical purposes it doesn’t work.
In brief this doctrine teaches that any believer who is a true believer in Jesus Christ and is filled with the Holy Spirit, can understand easily what the Bible teaches. They themselves are the interpreter guided by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately many people are confused and don’t follow the Holy Spirit as closely as I myself do who alone holds the true interpretation.
- So we see that this doctrine leads to nothing but division and more division. Too many competing interpretations.

I have a 3 question solution that we as Catholics can use to focus our friends and neighbors attention.

#1 Do you believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit? – they should say – yes. This is good because we do too. Reaffirm this and add that it is 100% infallible.

#2 So the Holy Spirit inspired the books to be written – do we need the same Holy Spirit to recognize which books are inspired? Do we need the Holy Spirit to recognize which books belong in the Bible?
- They will say yes – ADD, good because it is a historical fact that in 381 A.D. the Catholic Church at the Council of Rome was the one to put the Bible together. So they at that time MUST have had the Holy Spirit to recognize which books were inspired.

#3 Now since it took the Holy Spirit to write the Bible. It took the Holy Spirit to lead the early Church to pick out those inspired books. Certainly we need the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible. Since you trust that the Holy Spirit was leading the Church to choose the right books, why not trust that the Holy Spirit was leading the Church to choose the correct interpretation?

IN BRIEF – The Holy Spirit inspired the writing.
The Holy Spirit guides the choosing.
The Holy Spirit guards the interpretation.



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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Biblical Images of the Church

Today we are going to talk about Biblical symbols that ‘are often used to convey the revelation of the kingdom [of God] and similarly the inner nature of the church.’

These “different images taken either from tending sheep or cultivating the land, from building or even from family life and betrothals, the images are prepared in the books of the Prophets.”

The first image of the church is a sheepfold by which we only enter into through Christ Jesus.
John 10:1-10 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. …. "When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice… "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.9 "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.

This image was prefigured in the Old Testament
Isaiah 40:10-11 Behold, the Lord God will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, And His recompense before Him. 11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Ezekiel 34:11-12 For thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. "As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.

So Jesus – who is God incarnate - fulfills these prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel and he even lays down his life for the church.
John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

The church is also compared to a field

1Corinthians 3:9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field…

This field is filled with imagery. Jesus compares it to a vineyard.
Matthew 21:33 "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey…
Now to paraphrase – they don’t give the owner any of its fruit and ultimately beat and kill anyone who tries to collect the produce – even the owners son. What will be done with these murderers?
Jesus continues…Matthew 21:41-43 They said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons." Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes '? "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.
So right here – Jesus links the vineyard image to the kingdom of God image, yet there is further background.
This image of the vineyard is right from Isaiah 5, where the kingdom is Isarel.

Isaiah 5:1 Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill…
The problem is here is that nothing grows in the vineyard so the Lord lets it get trampled by wild animals.
Isaiah 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel. So Israel will get trampled not by wild animals but by the gentiles.
Here though is the next link and Jesus puts them all together – the vineyard, the kingdom, and Israel are all the same thing and they find their fulfillment in the New Testament Church as Jesus said Matthew 21:43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.
The church is the New Israel.

The church is also compared to a building.
1 Timothy 3:15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Finally the church is compared to a spouse of Jesus.
The best place for this is that infamous chapter from St. Paul – Ephesians 5. Yet listen.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 31-32 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
Revelation 19:7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 21:9 And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."

All of these images point us to differing aspects of the Catholic Church prefigured in the OT and fulfilled by Jesus.

I found this BIble tidbit in a Vatican 2 document called Lumen Gentium paragraph 6. Who knew church documents would be filled with Bible tidbits?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Mass and the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes

In the Gospels we read that Jesus multiplied bread and fish on two occasions. Here is their possible significance.

While you do need to link all of the Gospels together to get the best picture of both feedings, the Gospel of Mark ties them together very well.

In Mark the feeding of the 5000 is in chapter 6 and the feeding of the 4000 is in chapter 8.
Jesus himself links these two multiplications of loaves together

Mark 8:15-21 And He was giving orders to them, saying, "Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." And they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? "Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" They said to Him, "Twelve." "And when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they said to Him, "Seven." And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?"

Jesus places special emphasis on the numbers of loaves, people, and baskets collected.
What is also significant is where these multiplications took place.
In Mark 6 we see Jesus feeding the 5000 people with 5 loaves and some fish in
Mark 6:32 And going up into a ship, they went into a desert place apart.

This takes place in a desert. This is sounding a lot like the exodus where Moses was with a crowd in a desert and they all received bread miraculously. Jesus is taking that same event and begins to bring it to completion in the New Testament times. The significance of the 5000 and the 5 loaves points us back to the 5 books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Here we see in this miraculous feeding the number of baskets left over – 12. There are twelve baskets left over - for whom? For the twelve tribes. It is also significant that the word basket here is the Jewish word – for the word basket.

There is a problem though. At the time of Jesus there were not twelve tribes of Israel, there were really just 2 tribes – Benjamin and Judah and these were called Jews – from Judah. The other 10 tribes had been scattered to the four winds by the Assyrians and had become – lost. These 10 called themselves Israel before they were lost. This happened 722 years before Jesus was born. Those 10 tribes called Israel had become to wicked that as a punishment God allowed the Assyrians to conquer them and disperse them.

Yet God promised that one day he would reunite the Judah and Israel again.
Isaiah 11:10-12 In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. In that day the LORD will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel (=10 tribes) and gather the dispersed of Judah (=2 tribes) from the four corners of the earth.

Now let’s look at the next multiplication.

This is the 4000 with 7 loaves and a few fish. Again the numbers are significant. I think the 4000 represent those that Isaiah said were sent to the four corners of the earth. Those 10 tribes of Israel that now have become gentile and lost. Jesus intends to feed them as well.

We see at this feeding of the 4000 that the location is significant. Mark 8:4 And his disciples answered him, "How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?"

So again we are in a desert, Jesus is being a New Moses to this crowd as well, but the word here for basket is a different word than the one we saw in chapter 6 – this is a gentile/Greek word for basket and this takes place in the Gentile territory of the Decapolis.

Now how many baskets get taken up? Seven – what is the significance of that number. Who are the seven baskets for?

Well we just read it in Isaiah 11:10-12 In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. In that day the LORD will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel (=10 tribes) and gather the dispersed of Judah (=2 tribes) from the four corners of the earth.

Jesus is now being a new Moses for the dispersed, not just for the Jew, but for the Gentile as well.

Now Jesus’ vocabulary in both multiplications is similar he takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it.

This links not only the two miracles together but also links this to a greater miracle – that of the last supper where
Mark 14:22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body."

It is through this Eucharist that the Jews and Gentiles. The 12 tribes are reunited and gathered together once again in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. Prefigured by the two miraculous multiplication of bread and flesh and fulfilled in the Mass.

This Bible tidbit is based on Dr. Brant Pitre's talk: The Last Supper and the Lost Tribes of Israel.
http://www.catholicproductions.com/store/audio/pitre/lost_tribes.html

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Objections to the Catholic interpretation of John 6 answered (in brief).

We have spoken before about why we should read John chapter 6 literally when Jesus says eat my flesh and drink my blood. Here are some objections that are brought up concerning this interpretation.

So what are some objections to the Catholic view of – eat my flesh and drink my blood as interpreted literally.

OBJECTION - Some objectors would say – if Jesus meant it literally that we should eat his flesh and drink his blood – that would be cannibalism.

This isn’t cannibalism because the flesh and blood that we are receiving are supernatural and not natural. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist it is the whole Jesus - body, blood, soul, and divinity. And while it is that he is consumed he is not destroyed or hurt by our reception of Him.

OBJECTION - Another objection – The Jews were prohibited from drinking blood.
Leviticus 17:14 "For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, 'You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.'
This continues into New Testament times:
Acts 15:29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood.
Therefore to take this literally would mean that both the OT and NT laws were being violated by Jesus.

The answer to this objection is in part in the Leviticus quote - Leviticus 17:14 'You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood.
Now why would the Israelites be told not to drink the blood of animals – is it tasty? No. Their pagan neighbors would drink the blood of an animal in the hope of becoming like that animal. Harnessing its power because its life is in the blood. It kind of makes sense, you drink the blood of a bull to get its strength. But bull blood doesn’t literally give you power, but on a religious level it lowers the man drinking the blood to an animal state. We are to have dominion over the animals not lower ourselves to their level.
But what about Jesus, what life is in his blood? Eternal life. Eternal life runs through the veins of Jesus. The life that his blood gives doesn’t lower us, but raises us up to supernatural life.

OBJECTION – Jesus spoke figuratively on other occasions like when he said:
I am the light of the world – John 8:12
I am the door – John 10:9
I am the true vine – John 15:1
They say – you don’t believe Jesus is literally a light, a door and a vine do you? When he was speaking here about eating his flesh and drinking his blood he was just speaking metaphorically.

The problem, which I brought up in the other tidbit is that the Jews already had a metaphorical interpretation to ‘eat the flesh and drink the blood’ – The metaphorical interpretation means to persecute someone.
Isaiah 9:19-20 By the fury of the LORD of hosts the land is burned up, And the people are like fuel for the fire; No man spares his brother. And they slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry, And they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied; Each of them eats the flesh of his own arm.
Psalm 27:2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
By saying that it is a metaphor it has Jesus commanding us to persecute him to have eternal life. Jesus would never command us to harm him, that would be sinful.

OBJECTION – Four of the five senses tell us that the bread and wine to not become the body and blood of Jesus. If it smells like bread, tastes like bread, looks and feels like bread – it must be bread.

I heard the best answer to this from Steve Ray who gave a talk on the Eucharist. (this is in essence what he responded) He said that a Christian friend had challenged him on this very point. So Steve Ray answers back – what then do we has about Jesus, who looks, feels, smells, and sounds only like a man. Even if we cut him open we won’t find a divine liver or supernatural lungs. Our eyes tell us one thing, but the spirit tells us another. Which leads us to our last objection.

OBJECTION – Jesus says at the end of John 6 this - John 6:63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
See the words ‘eat my flesh and drink my blood’ are spirit – they are symbolic, not literal.

I would respond with a few things – first, where anywhere else in scripture does the word ‘spirit’ ever mean ‘symbolic’? Are you saying that the Holy Symbolic fell on the apostles on the day of Pentecost? I don’t think so.
Secondly - When Jesus said that ‘the flesh profits nothing’ was he including the sacrifice of his flesh on the cross – does that profit nothing? Of course His flesh profits something or we wouldn’t be saved.
Thirdly - when he says ‘the flesh’ we see how Jesus uses this term later in John 8:15 where he says "You people judge according to the flesh”, meaning according to external, worldly appearances.

OBJECTION – This whole discourse has nothing to do with eating Jesus, but receiving him in faith. Jesus uses the word ‘faith’ 9 times in John 6.

Amen to that – Jesus does begin this discourse talking about faith - John 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. – I agree that this is an invitation to faith in Jesus - John 6:47 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”
The problem (with the faith alone interpretation) is that Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood so many times with such literal words that you need faith to believe what he is saying. That is why we begins with a brief discourse on faith.