A House of Prayer for All People

Rembrandt, The Baptism of the Eunuch (1626)

Why do Catholics call their Church the Catholic Church? Why not just call it the Christian Church? Is the Catholicity of the Church important? Is it Biblical? What does it even mean to say that the Church is “Catholic”? Today, I want to take a brief look at five things:

  1. The Scriptural Promise of a Catholic Church
  2. The Catholicity of the Church Today
  3. The Catholicity of the Church Speaks to Her Objectivity and Truth
  4. Catholicity of Time and Space
  5. The Surprising Eucharistic Dimension You May Have Missed

1. The Scriptural Promise of a Catholic Church

The word “Catholic” comes from the Greek καθόλου (katholou), meaning “according to the whole” or “universal.” It’s a reference that the Church founded by Jesus Christ is global in her mission, a Church for all people. It’s a view of the Church that we find in both the Old and New Testament. God repeatedly promised to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him and his descendants (see, e.g., Genesis 18:18, 22:18, and 26:4).

The Israelites and Jews had some sense of the universality of their mission, that they were the Chosen People not just for their own sake, but to bring the truth of God to the whole world. For example, Psalm 67 is a cry for all nations, not just Israel, to praise God. It opens (Ps. 67:1-3), “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!”

But while there’s some element of this in the Old Testament, even the Old Testament points forward to the New Testament Church as being even-more universal. One of the most shocking Old Testament promises about the New Testament Church is from Isaiah 56:6-7, in which the Lord reveals:

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Put yourself in the shoes the Jews, and you can see what a shock this promise would be. By this point, Isaiah’s listeners have already endured the Babylonian Exile. Throughout their history, the Jews (and the Israelites before them) have suffered terribly at the hands of surrounding nations. And now God is telling them that He’s going to build a “house of prayer” so that they can worship alongside faithful Gentiles?

This prophecy isn’t alone, either. In Malachi 1:11 (NIV), God says, “My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations.”

And of course, we see all of this fulfilled beginning with the New Testament, particularly after the Resurrection of Christ. We see this in a special way in Jesus’ Great Commission to His Apostles, at the end of the Gospel of Matthew (Mt. 28:18b-20):

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

At His Ascension, Jesus likewise tells His Apostles (Acts 1:8), “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samar′ia and to the end of the earth.” Think of it as concentric circles, starting from Jerusalem and getting further and further away (and further and further outside of the Apostles’ “comfort zone”). This global preaching of the Gospel begins in earnest on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, where there were “dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). These Jewish pilgrims become some of the first hearers of the Resurrection (Acts 2:14-36), and many of them convert and are baptized (Acts 2:41), returning home with the Good News. Soon thereafter, the Gospel is preached to the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Acts 10:44-45, 11:1).

All of this means that the true Church is, from the day of Pentecost onwards, a truly international Church, Catholic in her mission and in her membership. It was St. Ignatius of Antioch, a student of the Apostle John, who gives us the first recorded use of the phrase “Catholic Church” to describe this Church, in a letter that he wrote to the Smyrnaeans around 107 A.D.:

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. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

This is the earliest Christian understanding of the Church: a visible Catholic church, overseen by bishops, reaching as far as Jesus Christ reaches, and intimately connected with her Bridegroom and Head.

2. The Catholicity of the Church Today

Although many opponents of the Catholic Church will refer to her derisively as “Rome,” the truth is that the Church truly is Catholic. For example, the Pew Forum notes that the Church has become more international (and less specifically European) even over this past century:

 

And the 10 countries with the most Catholics are spread out over North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa:

Pew Forum, "The Global Catholic Population" (2013)

So why does all of this matter? Is it important for the Church to be “multicultural”? Why would God go to the lengths of promising a Church that’s truly Catholic?

3. The Catholicity of the Church Speaks to Her Objectivity and Truth

Last week, a guy I was speaking to (a convert to Catholicism) said, “I realized that if Catholicism were true, it’s true in America or South Africa or Brazil.” That nails it. In the era before Christ, one of the major problems was the idea of “local” gods, tying particular places to particular deities. Even David, while on the run from King Saul, laments (1 Samuel 26:18-19):

Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done? What guilt is on my hands? Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering; but if it is men, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, “Go, serve other gods.”

David seems concerned that Saul is going to drive him out of the Lord’s land, Israel, and force him into paganism. God constantly corrects the Israelites for this narrowness of vision: after all, He is the God who brought them out of Egypt. This is colorfully illustrated in the life of the prophet Jonah. After God calls Jonah to preach to the Gentiles in Nineveh, Jonah runs away (Jonah 1:1-3):

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amit′tai, saying, “Arise, go to Nin′eveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

But of course, Jonah can’t actually get “away from the presence of the Lord,” and on some level he realizes this. The God of Israel is, whether Jonah likes it or not, also the God of Nineveh. And so we find an ironic moment when God disrupts Jonah’s flight (Jonah 1:4-9):

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god; and they threw the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep.

So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we do not perish.” And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And whence do you come? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Jonah’s profession of faith reveals the absurdity of his voyage. He’s trying to run away from the God of Heaven, the God who made the sea, by… going out to sea. King David also comes to a deeper understanding of the universality of God, as he proclaims in Psalm 139:7-10:

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Today, the problem is less that people will have religions tied to particular places (although there may be remnants of this in certain eastern religions, like Shintoism). Instead, we deal with cultural relativism, which turns out not to be so different: the idea that Christianity is true for me or for my culture, but something else is true for you or your culture. But the Christian response remains the same as it ever was: the God of Abraham is the God of Heaven. He created the heavens and the earth, the whole of the universe. He existed before any culture existed on the earth, and He will exist after the last culture disappears. He reveals Himself throughout Creation itself (Psalm 19:1) as well as through the prophets, and the truth about Him is not dependent upon our language, race, or culture.

And here’s the thing: as Catholics, we can point to the fact that Catholicism is clearly not dependent upon a particular race, culture, or language as proof of the universality and objectivity of the Catholic claim. To put it another way: if your religion is true, we should expect to see it practiced by people around the world. Catholicism passes that test in a way that few other religions or churches can.

4. Catholicity of Time and Space

If the catholicity of the Church means that we should find the same thing being believed around the world, it also means that we should find the same thing being believed throughout the ages, from the time that Christianity was first revealed in its fullness onward. Geographical catholicity says, it’s true, it’s true here and there. Temporal catholicity says, if it’s true, it’s now as then.

Of course, it takes time for the Gospel to reach all the ends of the earth (and in some ways, that’s a process still ongoing), and it takes time to fully understand the Gospel (and in some ways, that’s a process still ongoing), but you shouldn’t have to be American or living in the 21st century to hold your views of Christianity, if those views are true. Of course this means that you can’t say that everyone in the centuries preceding the Reformation was a heretic, or that everyone prior to you failed to get what the Gospel was really about. But it also shows why we Christians should be extremely interested in Tradition and in listening to what our forebears in the faith had to say about the truth of the Gospel. This is another aspect to the Church’s catholicity, and another hallmark of the truth of her claims.

5. The Surprising Eucharistic Dimension You May Have Missed

You may not have noticed, but there’s been a subtle thread running through this discussion of Catholicity: it’s intimately connected with the the Sacrifice of the Mass. Look at the evidence again. Isaiah 56 talks about how the Gentiles’ “burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar,” and Malachi likewise refers to the Gentiles sacrificing “pure offerings” in God’s house of prayer. What does this sacrificial worship look like in the New Covenant? St. Ignatius is clear: “a proper Eucharist,” administered either “by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.” St. Paul is also clear, comparing the Eucharistic sacrifice to the Jewish temple sacrifice and even to pagan sacrifices (1 Corinthians 10:16-21).

So it’s in the Eucharist that we see this Catholic unity in a special way. Personally, I’ve been to Mass in at least two dozen different countries, sometimes in languages (like Maltese or Cantonese) or which I didn’t speak a word. But because we’re offering one and the same Eucharistic sacrifice, we could pray together across cultural and even linguistic borders without much trouble.

I think that this framework is crucial for understanding John 4, in which Jesus speaks of worshiping “in spirit and truth” while speaking to the Samaritan woman on Mount Gerizim (John 4:19-24):

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

This passage is frequently misunderstood by Protestants. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote a famous Letter to a Roman Catholic. It’s worth the read, marking both how things have changed for the better (Catholics and Protestants, generally speaking, have much more affection and trust for one another today than they did in 1749, when Wesley wrote) and for the worse (Wesley speaks of belief in the “blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin” as one of the things that he and Catholics have in common; how many Protestants today can say the same?).  In any event, even Wesley seems to fallen into a common misreading of John 4:23-24:

I say not a word to you about your opinions or outward manner of worship. But I say, all worship is an abomination to the Lord, unless you worship Him in spirit and in truth, with your heart as wall as your lips, with your spirit and with your understanding also. Be your form of worship what it will, but in everything give Him thanks, else it is all but lost labor. Use whatever outward observances you please; but put your whole trust in Him, but honor His holy name and His Word, and serve Him truly all the days of your life.

Perhaps you’ve heard some variation of this before: “denominations” don’t matter, since it’s all about “spirit and truth.” In this reading, there are usually three elements: (1) a belief that the Jews and Samaritans thought you could only pray to God in specific spots, like Jerusalem or Mt. Gerizim; (2) a belief that Catholics think you need to be in a Catholic church to pray; and (3) the idea that Jesus’ words liberate us from this, and from any sort of rubric, leaving us to “use whatever outward observances you please.” All three of these views are wrong.

First, it’s not true that the Jews and Samaritans thought you could only worship in those particular places. In Matthew 6:5, Jesus warns that “when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners.” But note, He’s not saying that they think you can only pray on a particular mountain or in a particular city. Even these hypocrites realize that you can pray in synagogues and even out on the street. And of course, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Mt. 9:5), which wouldn’t be possible if the only place that the Jews worshiped was in Jerusalem.

Second, it’s not true that Catholics are obsessed with the “location” of worship. I’ve been to Masses in cathedrals and churches, but also in non-denominational chapels, gymnasiums, living rooms, and even lawns and campsites. And in terms of worshiping in general, hopefully that’s happening literally everywhere we are.

Third, it’s not true that Jesus is encouraging us to “use whatever outward observances you please.” The whole notion of worshiping in truth as well as in spirit suggests that there are right and wrong ways to worship (and particularly if we understand the act of worship as offering sacrifice). God went to great lengths to teach the Jews how to, and how not to, worship Him. He didn’t intend for all of that education to be simply discarded.

So what is going on here? What Jesus and the Samaritan woman were talking about was a particular kind of worship – sacrifice. The Samaritans believed (and still believe) that the Passover Sacrifice should be offered on Mt. Gerizim. The Jews celebrated the sacrifice in Jerusalem. So Jesus is saying the same thing that Isaiah and Malachi (and Ignatius and countless others) said: that in the New Covenant, the Sacrifice can be offered anywhere. Properly understood, this is a reference to the Sacrifice of the Mass, and that the fact that the Church instituted by Christ was founded to be truly Catholic and to offer the Mass throughout the world.

67 Comments

  1. Joe said:

    “in the New Covenant, the Sacrifice can be offered anywhere. Properly understood, this is a reference to the Sacrifice of the Mass, and that the fact that the Church instituted by Christ was founded to be truly Catholic and to offer the Mass throughout the world.”

    A perfect proof of both the universality of the Catholic Church and this statement of Joe’s regarding the ‘sacrifice’ of the Mass, is demonstrated in stone…the stone of ancient Catholic basilica’s first built in the time of Constantine. Here is how wikipedia describes the history, architectural form and sacrificial purpose of the early Christian basilica’s:

    “In the 4th century, once the Imperial authorities had decriminalised Christianity with the 313 Edict of Milan, and with the activities of Constantine the Great and his mother Helena, Christians were prepared to build larger and more handsome edifices for worship than the furtive meeting-places (such as the Cenacle, cave-churches, house churches such as that of the Roman consuls John and Paul) they had been using. Architectural formulas for temples were unsuitable, for their pagan associations, and because pagan cult ceremonies and sacrifices occurred outdoors under the open sky in the sight of the gods, with the temple, housing the cult figures and the treasury, as a backdrop. The usable model at hand, when Constantine wanted to memorialise his imperial piety, was the familiar conventional architecture of the basilicas.

    There were several variations of the basic plan of the secular basilica, always some kind of rectangular hall, but the one usually followed for churches had a central nave with one aisle at each side and an apse at one end opposite to the main door at the other end. In, and often also in front of, the apse was a raised platform, where the ALTAR was placed, and from where the clergy officiated.”

    So, Joe is correct when stating the ‘SACRIFICE of the Mass’ was intended to be universally spread throughout the world. And, world history teaches that indeed the Church actually spread exactly as planned; and, with the proof of the sacrificial nature of the basilica etched in the stones of the ancient Christian altars set in their respective naves, even as they are still today.

    citation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica

  2. Joe,

    I agree the Church is Catholic, and one must be part of the Church.

    That being said, I think your mutli-cultural argument is a tad short sighted. For one, as your own numbers show, the Catholic Church is 50% Spain, Portugal, and former Spanish and Portuguese colonies. This is less of a “global phenomena” then it is that two traditional countries just so happened to colonies lands that are temperate which is conducive to feeding large populations.

    Now, of course this can be the hand of God, but what if we made this same argument in 1300 AD?

    The Orthodox Church at this time had Russians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Hungarians, Serbians, Copts, Arabs, etcetera. Orthodoxy was in three different continents in larger numbers than Roman Catholics, where the vast preponderance were in western Europe, specifically Germany, Italy, France, Spain, England, and Portugal. RCism had one liturgical language. Orthodoxy have at Russian, Greek, Arabic, etc.

    Now, I say none of the above to prove the Catholicity of the Orthodox vis a vis the Roman Catholics. I am just showing it is an imperfect criteria.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Craig,

      I think your argument misses this key point. In every one of those countries where you list the Orthodox as being at the start of the fourteenth century, what would those same Orthodox have called themselves just one hundred years earlier? To my knowledge the Orthodox still called themselves Catholic until the formal split of 1215.

      The fact that a split took place, and Eastern Catholics started calling themselves by a different name, does not mean that Catholicism had not spread to those areas. ☺

  3. There being only one liturgical language speaks more to the unity y=than to the catholicity, but q.v. the Eastern Catholic Churches (which the Orthodox call the Uniates)

  4. Oh thank heavens we’re done with the last thread.

    So, a couple of thoughts:

    1) Parsing the article is made a little bit more difficult by the switches back and forth between big-C and little-c Catholic (and, to a lesser extent, between church and Church). Part of your point is that the two are identical in your view, but looking at it as an argument from the outside, it makes the discussion somewhat confusing.

    So, for instance, I would affirm (as would other Protestants) that there’s a Scriptural promise of a catholic church: that is, a church that is for all people, from all cultures, for all time. We absolutely concur that Christ’s church is a fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of people from every tribe and nation coming to Zion. I don’t actually break with you until the very end of your first section, because you jump suddenly to a claim not established by the preceding verses: that the church is to be “visible,” by which I assume you mean that it is to be a temporally-unified organization.

    (It’s possible that this is the wrong assumption, in which case I’d have to ask: so what do you mean when you say “visible,” there? Because we Protestants have our overseers, our elders and deacons; if your intent is not to imply institutional union, then we celebrate being a part of that catholic church of Christ with you.)

    But if that is the correct interpretation, then I’d counter that your claim here is no longer rooted in Scripture: that it’s not established by the preceding verses you quote, and for that matter not even established by Ignatius. I think Ignatius has an excessive view of the role of the bishop – one countered by other early church sources – but set that aside; in the very passage you cite, he describes both a physically-present local body (headed by a single elder, in his preferred case, or by multiple, in others), and also describes an invisible church that is found wherever Christ is to be found. That’s pretty thin ground for asserting the one over and against the other.

    2) You say,

    You may not have noticed, but there’s been a subtle thread running through this discussion of Catholicity: it’s intimately connected with the the Sacrifice of the Mass. Look at the evidence again. Isaiah 56 talks about how the Gentiles’ “burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar,” and Malachi likewise refers to the Gentiles sacrificing “pure offerings” in God’s house of prayer. What does this sacrificial worship look like in the New Covenant?

    I would argue we don’t need to go to Ignatius here: Paul tells us in Romans 12 that we ourselves are the sacrifices we offer to God; indeed, Christ affirms the statement in Mark 12 that loving submission to God is our best offering. Philippians 4 suggests further that our support of the Gospel is a sacrifice, and Hebrews 13 identifies our good deeds and songs of praise as offerings. Those are explicit answers to the question, and they stand quite apart from the Eucharist.

    Does anything in Scripture explicitly describe communion as a sacrifice we offer – as a fulfillment of these OT verses?

    I don’t see that Ignatius says anything about sacrifice in your quote; on what are you grounding the argument that Ignatius is describing “sacrificial worship,” instead of just, y’know, worship? Likewise, I think your description of Paul misleads here: Paul suggests that consumption of the bread and wine is participation in Christ’s offering, as the priests of old could eat the offerings that others had given; he does not suggest that it is itself an offering, much less that it is an offering we make.

    I would argue that reading “the Mass as our sacrificial offering” into these passages is rather forced. I think it’s particularly forced in the description of the Samaritan woman, where Christ’s point seems most naturally to read exactly opposite to your conclusion. He says that the worship we offer today is worship in spirit: an offering of submission, of love, and of obedience stemming from those facts, and not of any external ritual. To read “truth” as “ritual” would seem to cut exactly against his point. (More, what positive reason is there for reading the word in this way?)

    Indeed, again, the discussion here is broader than sacrifice. It’s certainly true that the Jews offered sacrifices in Jerusalem, and the Samaritans at Mt. Gerizim – but that’s because each population’s temple was there, the chief site of worship in general (which included, but certainly was not limited to, sacrifice), and the place where God most truly dwelt on earth. We see this reflected even in the passage – as you note, both Christ and the woman are discussing worship broadly, and not merely a particular component. In this, Wesley nails it: true worship for the Christian is independent of the old rituals, and depends only on our spiritual union with the true God.

    None of the passages you have here make any specific reference to the Eucharist as a sacrifice we offer: not Ignatius, nor 1 Corinthians, nor John 4. By contrast, Scripture does specifically identify the sacrifices we bring – and communion is not among the things it identifies in that role. You say at the end, “Properly understood, this is a reference to the Sacrifice of the Mass” – but it seems to me that this “Properly understood” is carrying a tremendous amount of weight that the passages themselves do not suggest.

    1. Hi Irked,

      Joe said, “St. Paul is also clear, comparing the Eucharistic sacrifice to the Jewish temple sacrifice and even to pagan sacrifices (1 Corinthians 10:16-21).”

      Here is the entire text of there cited passage:

      “The chalice of benediction, which we (Christians) bless , is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? [17] For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread. [18] Behold Israel according to the flesh: are not they, that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar? [19] What then? Do I say, that what is offered in sacrifice to idols, is any thing? Or, that the idol is any thing? [20] But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils.[21] You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of devils.”

      You might not read ‘sacrifice’ into this teaching, above, but Catholics do. It is even as Joe said, a comparison of the Christian sacrifice via the Eucharist, to both the Jewish sacrifices which were God ordained, and the pagan sacrifices which were demon inspired. And, that the Catholic interpretation is not a new invention, but found throughout Church history, consider what the Didache (chapter 14) says about the Eucharist as a ‘sacrifice’. :

      1. On the Lord’s Day of the Lord come together, break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your OFFERING may be pure;

      2. But let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your SACRIFICE be not defiled.

      [which refers to Christ’s saying in Matt. 5:23: “If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; [24] Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.]

      3. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, “In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king,” saith the Lord, “and my name is wonderful among the heathen.”

      ***********************************

      Best to you.

      1. St. Cyprian concurs regarding the Eucharist as sacrifice:

        “The priest who imitates that which Christ did, truly takes the place of Christ, and offers there in the Church a true and perfect sacrifice to God the Father.”

        (Source: St. Cyprian to the Ephesians – 258 A.D)

      2. Hi Al,

        You might not read ‘sacrifice’ into this teaching, above, but Catholics do.

        I mean, sure, but the question is whether that reading is justified, right?

        It is even as Joe said, a comparison of the Christian sacrifice via the Eucharist, to both the Jewish sacrifices which were God ordained, and the pagan sacrifices which were demon inspired.

        Okay, so let’s unwind the stack a little bit here. Joe opened by referencing two OT verses that discuss people bringing their offerings to God, and asks how those verses are fulfilled. His argument is that communion is the fulfillment: that communion is our offering, which we bring to God. It’s that position, specifically, that we’re discussing at the moment.

        And this passage simply does not bear out that claim. Let’s hit the obvious: the passage does not describe communion as a sacrifice; flatly, factually, it does not say that. The absolute best one can argue is that it parallels communion to things that are described as sacrifices, and by implication suggests that it fills the same role they do.

        Let’s just, for the moment, accept that argument; so let’s talk about the parallels. The first such is to those who ate the sacrifices in the Old Testament. As I said upthread, that’s generally the priests, who have permission to eat the sacrifice that someone else has brought. But in that case, the parallel doesn’t present communion as a sacrifice we bring, and it still doesn’t make communion the fulfillment of these OT passages.

        Let’s look at the second parallel: meat sacrificed to idols. The context here is Paul discussing what is and isn’t permissible to do in regard to such meat, which was cheap and therefore tempting to buy. His answer is, broadly: buy meat, or eat what’s given to you, and don’t worry about it – but don’t actually go participate in the idol feasts, because that’s idolatry. (This continues to be described in more detail through v. 28, with a Christian being brought meat and then discovering he’s unwittingly participating in an idol feast.) Again, the Corinthians are not by and large here the ones bringing the offerings. That’s, indeed, the whole point: they’re benefiting from the cheap meat brought by others, and tempted to join in the idol feasts in order to get access to good food. And again, the parallel doesn’t satisfy Joe’s verses: why would we assume the Corinthians are bringing communion as a sacrifice, when the Corinthians weren’t bringing the meat as sacrifices?

        So even under the most favorable reading, there’s nothing here to support the claim that this is the fulfillment of those verses. By contrast, we are explicitly told what does fulfill the verses: “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual act of worship.” Again, does anything in Scripture actually describe communion as a sacrifice or offering we bring?

        I would note regarding the Didache that, of half-a-dozen English translations, the Lake (which you quote) is the only one to render this passage as “hold Eucharist” instead of its literal Greek meaning, “give thanks.” And giving thanks, by contrast, is explicitly described by Scripture as our sacrifice – for instance, Hebrews 13:15: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

        1. Heb 13:10 mentions an altar. I think 13:15 referes to the literal word that early Christians referred to the Bread and Wine in code (i.e. Eucharist.) Ignatius writes of an altar. Heb 9 speaks of Christian blood “sacrifices.” The Didache not so coincidentally uses the word in tandem with the terms “offering” and “sacrifice.” Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus, all amongst the earliest authorities we have in early CHurch history, unequivocally affirm the literal meaning of “this IS My flesh…MY blood” as literally His flesh and blood. At what point do we realize that trying to interpret the words allegorically is totally unjustified in the Scriptures themselves and none of our early Church witnesses, that read Koine Greek, would have agreed with such a reading?

          God bless,
          Craig

          1. Hi Craig,

            Heb 13:10 mentions an altar.

            Sure. It also comes immediately after Hebrews 13:9, which says, “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.” That’s a clear contrast between the literal, physical altar which his Jewish audience has left behind, and the sacrificial death of Christ of whom we eat by faith in him; 13:9 is very peculiar if 13:10 is meant to refer to literal consumption.

            I think your discussion of Hebrews 9 is interesting, and I’ll eventually reply to that on your post down below, but I’m going to be popping in and out for the next couple of days – give me a bit?

        2. Hi Irked,

          This is a very short passage from Paul discussing a huge topic that is full of symbolism. Every word is packed with meaning. I’ll try to beak it down as you did.

          “The chalice of benediction, which we bless , is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?”

          ‘Communion of blood’ connotes ‘sacrifice’. Where else in sacred scripture is such an expression NOT relative to ‘sacrifice’, temples, etc.. And Jesus also describes the same as the cup of the “New Covenant in my blood”. And moreover, Jesus being a ‘lamb of God’ also connotes sacrifice, going all the way back to the patriarch Isaac. All of this needs to be considered.

          “And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?”

          Again, Paul is asking if the Christians don’t already know what the Eucharist signifies, as if it is common sense to them that they understand. And that they celerbrated the Pasch every year and were taught these things scrupulously since childhood, they found not escape the relation of the ‘body and blood’ to the Jewish sacrifices that they were taught. The only difference here is that the sacrifice of Jesus can be made present without restrictions to places and times, as compared to the Jewish sacrifices. It is extended to the whole world by the words and promises of Christ who commands his Apostles to “do this in commoration of Me”.

          “For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread.”

          Please read Ireneaus’ quote because He can explain this better than I:

          ” ‘For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is NOT talking about some kind of ‘spiritual’ and ‘invisible’ man, ‘for a spirit does not have flesh an bones’ (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the bread which is His Body.”

          “Behold Israel according to the flesh: are not they, that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar?”

          Paul here clearly refers to ‘sacrifice’ and ‘altar’ in relation to ‘partaking of one bread’ which bread we know to be the BODY of Christ, even as Jesus said when holding the bread up at the Last Supper saying: “This is my body”.

          Paul continues:

          “What then? Do I say, that what is offered in sacrifice to idols, is any thing? Or, that the idol is any thing? But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils. You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of devils.”

          Paul here stresses that the problem with pagans is that they are sacrificing and consuming ‘devils’, where as Christians obey the word of Christ to “take and eat, this is my body” and ‘take and drink this is my blood, the blood of the New Covenant’. All of this relates to ‘SACRIFICE” as taught and demonstrated throughout the Old Testament. Yet Jesus transforms this sacrifice to be as Melchizedek’s sacrifice, one of bread and wine, and which would now be called a “sacrament” by the Church that Christ founded. A complete catechesis of this is too lengthy of a discussion to put down in a mere ‘blog comment’. Whole books are written on it, such as Scott Hanh’s “The Lamb’s Supper”.

          In any case, this entire passage relates to sacrifice.

          Best to you.

          1. Hi Al,

            ‘Communion of blood’ connotes ‘sacrifice’. Where else in sacred scripture is such an expression NOT relative to ‘sacrifice’, temples, etc.. And Jesus also describes the same as the cup of the “New Covenant in my blood”. And moreover, Jesus being a ‘lamb of God’ also connotes sacrifice, going all the way back to the patriarch Isaac. All of this needs to be considered.

            But we aren’t arguing about whether Christ died as a sacrifice, the perfect lamb of God for whom all the Old Testament was foreshadowing; we both agree that’s true. We aren’t debating whether, by that death, he established a new covenant in his blood; he did!

            The topic is specifically whether communion is a sacrifice we bring, as Joe argues it is in his original post – and none of this suggests that it is.

            Again, Paul is asking if the Christians don’t already know what the Eucharist signifies, as if it is common sense to them that they understand. And that they celerbrated the Pasch every year and were taught these things scrupulously since childhood, they found not escape the relation of the ‘body and blood’ to the Jewish sacrifices that they were taught. The only difference here is that the sacrifice of Jesus can be made present without restrictions to places and times, as compared to the Jewish sacrifices. It is extended to the whole world by the words and promises of Christ who commands his Apostles to “do this in commoration of Me”.

            That’s a fine assertion, Al, but it basically says, “Well, everyone already understood that communion works the way I claim it does, so Paul doesn’t have to say anything showing that it works the way I claim it does.” That’s not actually evidence; it’s just a circular claim.

            Paul here clearly refers to ‘sacrifice’ and ‘altar’ in relation to ‘partaking of one bread’ which bread we know to be the BODY of Christ, even as Jesus said when holding the bread up at the Last Supper saying: “This is my body”.

            So Paul’s topic here is not communion; it’s meat offered to idols. That’s established in verse 14, and continues through verse 28 at least. He is using both communion and Old Testament sacrifices to make a point regarding idol feasts. That doesn’t mean there’s no conceptual overlap between the two – but it’s a misuse of his point to say that v. 18-19 is about communion. Your “clearly” just isn’t accurate; it misrepresents what the object of comparison is.

            In any case, this entire passage relates to sacrifice.

            But again, that’s not the point we’re arguing.

    2. Irked,

      You write, “that the church is to be “visible,” by which I assume you mean that it is to be a temporally-unified organization,” then you dismiss this claim.

      Problem is, the only Church seen in the Scriptures is the visible Church, with Apostles appointing Bishops (Acts 13) and Bishops appointing Bishops (Titus 1:5). Immediately after the Scriptures, Clement (Phil 4:2-3) is aghast that people would go ahead and appoint their own teachers (1 CLem 42). He, who actually knew the Apostles, taught that Christ Himself intended that their be succession. The Church must visibly have succession to be the Church. This a physical, visible Church just like Christ had a physical, visible body. The “invisible Church” is thinly veiled docetist heresy.

      In my video (“Questions About Orthodoxy: How Are We Different Than Roman Catholicism?”) at exactly 22:58 I pretty much go through all the Scriptures on this: https://youtu.be/rULYLY23LXw?t=22m58s

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. It is the Eucharist itself that particularly transforms the Church into the visible/tangible/physical body of Christ through the His ‘real presence’– body, blood, soul and divinity, therein — as explains St. Irenaeus:

        “So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and build up the substance of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ’s Blood and Body and is His member? As the blessed apostle says in his letter to the Ephesians, ‘For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is NOT talking about some kind of ‘spiritual’ and ‘invisible’ man, ‘for a spirit does not have flesh an bones’ (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the bread which is His Body. The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and ‘the grain of wheat falls into the earth’ (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two then receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ.”

        From: “Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely Named Gnosis” (180 AD)

      2. Al, you are an evangelist, so you might get a kick out of this story.

        Yesterday my wife and I are going out to go jacket shopping. So, we get way too lucky and get a perfect spot to parallel park in downtown Saratoga Springs. We go out and there are Jehovah’s Witnesses. To me it was clearly the hand of God.

        My wife and I spent some time talking with them. My first question was, “So, how do we even know what is in the Bible.” They gave some answer about the dead sea scrolls. After a long conversation I follwed up, “But, the dead sea scrolls include other books of the Bible you and other Protestants do not recognize, including Wisdom of Solomon–which accurately fortells the coming of Christ.” THe woman, a former Roman Catholic, never knew this (nor read Wisdom of Solomon.)

        JWs will never accept literature so my wife said, “We have investigated your claims, why don’t you investigate ours?”

        She replied, “Well, we already have found the truth, we don’t need to look anywhere else.”

        I asked, “Are you guys allowed to read history books?”

        “Of course,” she said.

        “Then I recommend you read 1 Clement. He is mentioned in Philippians 4, but we actually have a letter he’s written. You get to read how the earliest Christians understood the Scriptures!”

        “Cle–ment?”

        “Yes, like ‘Clementine.'”

        “I’m going to do that.”

        Now, if I were Al, I would have had 1 Clement pre-printed and folded in my back pocket. Sadly, I did not have that. But, Saratoga Springs ahs been getting more and more JWs. If I start seeing them with more regularity, I might do this.

        I have also found that one of my Protestant acquaintances has started investigating Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. I told him, “Don’t believe me, I recommend that you read 1 Clement, the letters of Ignatius, and Polycarp. It won’t take long.” I explained that these were written by at least one guy which we absolutely know knew an Aposle. I also said that it is obvious that their view of the Church and the Eucharist does not correspond with modern Protestantism. I said, “Even if you don’t agree with them, you will at least know how early these ideas existed.”

        He has since read them and now he is seriously considering visiting and Orthodox Church. He is a former Roman Catholic, so he is aware of what a Mass is like. I pray for further conversations with him, I promise not to let him off easy and ask that he seriously investigate Roman Catholicism if he finally makes the decision to make the change.

        God bless,
        Craig

        1. Hi Craig,

          I am only too happy when the JW’s come to my house. If I have the time I always invite them in. And I always start the conversation, as you did, with a reference to the canon of scriptures, and asking them why they trust these particular scriptures, as they don’t believe in the Early Church after the death of the Apostles. If the Early Fathers are apostates, then it is absurd to trust them to select the right books for Holy Scriptures. It would be like us trusting in Simon Magis, or the Gnostics, to provide the canon. So, it is an honest question for them to answer.

          And the Mormons are the same, I almost always work my way to the ‘Book of Abraham’, so I don’t need to get involved in the similarly fraudulent Book of Mormon, so as to waste my time. And if one of the missionaries is aggressive , I bring up the subject quickly, but if they are nice, or truly humble, I ‘soften the blow’ and show in as charitable way as possible how Joseph Smith is a proven fraud, but that the Early Catholic Church is very trustworthy.

          Regarding St. Clement, almost everyone I know neglects the OTHER Clement… Clement of Alexandria (c. 215) who has a boatload of writings and which are very unique in ancient Christian history and theology. He was the teacher of Origen, and explains the faith like no other Father that I’ve read so far, even St. Augustine. And the reason for this is that He lived before the great Trinitarian controversies, i.e. ‘Arianism’, and so, did not need to descend into apologetics, but ‘stayed on the heights’ of theology and focused on the deep meaning of scripture and the words and teachings of Christ. He is totally refreshing and easy to read, and stresses that true wisdom is to be found in being a ‘child’ of God, even as Jesus was a ‘lamb’ of God, and, that simplicity in faith and trust in God is the height of virtue. Here is a sample of his writing as an ors’derves for your appetite:

          “And that He also calls us lambs, the Spirit by the mouth of Isaiah is an unimpeachable witness: He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs with His arm, Isaiah 40:11 — using the figurative appellation of lambs, which are still more tender than sheep, to express simplicity. And we also in truth, honouring the fairest and most perfect objects in life with an appellation derived from the word child, have named training παιδεία, and discipline παιδαγωγία . Discipline (παιδαγωγία) we declare to be right guiding from childhood to virtue. Accordingly, our Lord revealed more distinctly to us what is signified by the appellation of children. On the question arising among the apostles, which of them should be the greater, Jesus placed a little child in the midst, saying, Whosoever, shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be the greater in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4) ”

          Anyway, I just wanted to pass this great Father on to you, as you have introduced me to others in the past, which I highly benefited by ( one being St. Hippolytus). So, Clement of Alexandria, is another precious gem to add to our treasury of, or ‘deposit of’, Christian faith. And everything his writes has a similar style as the quote above, wherein he thoroughly discusses items such as proper speech, dress, drinking, eating, etc..and using the scriptures to back up what he teaches. Here is a link, if you want to check the 2nd Clement out. It will undoubtably put a smile on your face if you read for even 20 minutes, as some of his expressions and analogies are quite humorous in all their Christian simplicity, yet full of truth also.

          http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02091.htm

          Best to you always.

        2. Hi Craig,

          It’s great that you have so much enthusiasm for evangelization. I think it’s a great gift from God because there are so many Christians, for whatever reason, that are either too shy to talk, don’t know what to say, or aren’t very interested in spreading the faith. So, if you have this desire I think it’s a blessing from God.

          As you alluded to above, one of my joys is to give out the best spiritual literature I can find, and that’s why I keep on snooping around for good resources, like a fisherman looking for good juicy bait, or a good fishing spot to catch them. And this is why I also get enthusiastic when I stumble across a new ‘Father’ such as Clement of Alexandria that I skipped over for so many years. He was a total surprise, as I never paid attention and thought that there was only one St. Clement. Now, I’m trying to plan how I can get his writings out to others, and whether I should make a series from his these to distribute, like I do St. Francis and St. Patrick. I probably will. If I get anything finished in the next few weeks I’ll email them to you, to see what you think. Now I just need to select the best of what he wrote so as to interest the ‘common Joe’ on the street. We’ll see what happens.

          Best to you always in the Lord.

          – Al

          1. Al,

            Thanks for the kind words. I have been reading some lives of the saints lately and my wife and I have been reading a passage out of St Mark the Ascetic together every evening. So much to read, so little time. We shall see what opportunities God opens up, I would like to do a more serious reading of St Clement of Alexandria. I also want to finish my commentary on Irenaeus (Not that it is really any good, but I am a big believer in finishing what you started.) We shall see.

            God bless,
            Craig

      3. Hi Craig!

        Confessions up front: I haven’t been able to watch your video yet, although I’m very interested and will do so.

        Problem is, the only Church seen in the Scriptures is the visible Church, with Apostles appointing Bishops (Acts 13) and Bishops appointing Bishops (Titus 1:5)

        So, again, for anyone else reading here, we’re using “visible church” to mean “hierarchical, organizational church,” right? I obviously affirm that we as Christians should be actively part of a local body, which certainly is visible, and I don’t want to be misread as denying the importance of that.

        Let’s go to Acts 13. We see at the start of that chapter the whole church setting apart Barnabus and Paul – an appointment that’s from God, and not from a higher hierarchical structure. (Paul will later very firmly insist that he does not receive his authority from any earthly organization, in Galatians 1-2.) I confess I’m missing the appointment of bishops in this passage, though – am I just glossing over it?

        Titus is written to… well, Titus, of course; at the time of the writing, Titus is very likely the only Christian who has been in the faith for more than a year on the entire island of Crete. Of course Titus appoints the bishops for the new churches; I would expect missionaries forming churches in unreached people groups to do the same today. That’s not clearly a persistent ongoing hierarchy – it’s just the only reasonable reaction.

        As is often the case, I think Galatians is pretty good evidence that there’s not an ongoing hierarchy here, because the only authority Paul tells the Galatians to absolutely obey is the gospel itself (and the Christ who spoke it). Disregard apostles; disregard angels; disregard any spiritual authority that disagrees – but cling to the gospel. There’s no appeal here to follow their archbishops, or to follow the bishops of Rome or Jerusalem; indeed, Paul goes out of his way to show that these are not perfectly trustworthy sources, and that the appropriate response can be to refuse and refute them.

        And I think we see this principle applied in the churches in – well, since you bring it up, in Clement.

        Clement (Phil 4:2-3) is aghast that people would go ahead and appoint their own teachers (1 CLem 42).

        That seems to me like a pretty significant re-interpretation of the letter. The authors’ horror is specifically that the Corinthians have expelled their good elders, and have subsequently appointed a bunch of scoundrels in their place – not that they’ve had the temerity to appoint elders at all! Indeed, they’re explicit that the local church is expected to appoint their own leaders – so, in chapter 44:

        “When these [first elders] should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by [the apostles], or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry,” bracketed text mine.

        Note that “other eminent men” is not the language 1 Clement uses to describe elders anywhere else in the letter; it’s plausible, though of course we don’t know for certain, that these are simply spiritual pillars in the church without any official role. (Minimally, we can’t cite the letter as evidence for a top-down bishop-to-bishop transmission past the initial apostolic appointment.) But two things stand out very sharply here. First, 1 Clement presents the appointment as an action of “the whole church,” whose consent is required for any appointment; this is as much their action as it is anyone else’s, which is part of why he condemns them now for rejecting the men they earlier approved.

        Second, the authors of the letter exhort the Corinthian church – but there’s no indication they have any real ability to do more than that. The letter presents itself as one peer to another: “The church of God in Rome, to the church of God in Corinthians.” Here, exactly where we would expect to find some kind of organizational claim of authority – “How have you expelled the elders that we appointed to you?” – we instead find… well, nothing. And if Galatians is the model, and Titus is the exception, that’s exactly what we’d expect.

        The “invisible Church” is thinly veiled docetist heresy.

        I would say rather that the visible church is historical fiction. Who was the visible church for the Ethiopian eunuch? What was his hierarchy of bishops? When there were three Roman hierarchies, each excommunicating the others as heretics and pretenders – who, for a European peasant, was my visible church then?

        1. “I would say rather that the visible church is historical fiction. Who was the visible church for the Ethiopian eunuch? What was his hierarchy of bishops?”

          Irked, if you just read the first 3 chapters of the Book of Revelation you will certainly be presented with a perfect example of the very ‘visible’ Church as existed at that time, replete with both their virtues and vices, graces and sins.

          But, this very ‘visible’ Church was also a very ‘practical’ Church, and so it was flexible with odd circumstances that might occur during the evangelization of new territories and peoples. The early Church was often permissive in extraordinary circumstances such as you relate with the Ethiopian Eunuch, and similar occurrence happened throughout Church history (..ie, such as the conversion of the Britons, as described by St. Bede). But, sooner or later, these individuals were brought into closer communion with the larger and more established Churches. That is, they might first start off as mission territories, maybe even without a written language, but over time, they would be integrated more fully into the ‘Catholic’ Church and it’s customs and practices as they were defined and regulated by synods and councils. Such conversion of foreign nations was always a protracted process but full integration, as Church history relates, always resulted sooner of later.

          And, regarding ecclesiastical authority, there is this teaching of Paul:

          “How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher? And how shall they preach UNLESS THEY BE SENT, as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things!”

          Moreover, Paul himself was instructed by the power and teaching of the Church at the time of his conversion. And, also, it is written of Paul and Timothy regarding apostolic authority:

          “And as they passed through the cities, they delivered unto them the DECREES for to keep, that were DECREED BY THE APOSTLES and ancients who were at Jerusalem. [5] And the churches were CONFIRMED in faith, and increased in number daily.” (Acts. 16:4)

          Note the emphasis in the words above which relate to ecclesiastical authority which was abundantly inherent in the Early Church.

          Best to you.

          1. Hi Al,

            Irked, if you just read the first 3 chapters of the Book of Revelation you will certainly be presented with a perfect example of the very ‘visible’ Church as existed at that time, replete with both their virtues and vices, graces and sins.

            I see seven churches in Revelation, but the only authority presented as over them is the One who walks between the lampstands.

            One certainly could refer to each of these local bodies as a visible church, but it’s precisely this kind of linguistic equivocation I’ve been trying to avoid. In the sense in which I have repeatedly defined the phrase – a temporal, hierarchical, organizational uber-church – there is no visible church in this passage. Again, that the church is to be “visible” in the sense that we are to be part of local bodies – that’s not a point of contention between Protestants and Catholics.

            The early Church was often permissive in extraordinary circumstances such as you relate with the Ethiopian Eunuch, and similar occurrence happened throughout Church history (..ie, such as the conversion of the Britons, as described by St. Bede).

            I do not see that this answers my question.

            How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher? And how shall they preach UNLESS THEY BE SENT

            Who does Paul specify as the sender?

            He doesn’t, of course; “sent by my local church” and “sent by Christ” are both potential readings, and indeed, both readings that describe Paul’s own missionary journeys at various points. Where here is a descending hierarchy?

            And, also, it is written of Paul and Timothy regarding apostolic authority:

            And yet, “even if we or an angel from heaven should come preaching a different gospel, let him be accursed.” Galatians can only be obeyed if a church has the authority to reject men claiming authority but teaching contrary to the revealed gospel.

          2. “I see seven churches in Revelation, but the only authority presented as over them is the One who walks between the lamp stands.”

            You might be forgetting St. John who appears to be used as, or acting as (even in exile), an archbishop of these same Churches.

            And, regarding hierarchical authority, the 1st Council of Jerusalem is an example. Moreover, all Church use of synods or councils teach the existence of hierarchical authority. Were not the proclamations of the Apostles and bishops of the early Church enforced throughout their respective dioceses? Were there also NOT priests and deacons functioning in the Church, and who were subordinate to their particular bishops such as is found with Ignatius’ writings?…For example:

            “Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father.” (St. Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans; Ch 9)

            Or, is St. Ignatius of Antioch, who lived only about 15 years after the Book of Revelation was written, not to be considered a valid witness concerning the nature of early Church hierarchy and ecclesiastical structure?

          3. Hi Al,

            You might be forgetting St. John who appears to be used as, or acting as (even in exile), an archbishop of these same Churches.

            That would have to be demonstrated from the text. Where does Revelation 1-3 assert this?

            Regarding your other arguments: I feel a bit that you’re not addressing the questions and arguments I’ve raised already, and I’m going to politely decline to move on into any new points until we deal with them.

        2. Hi Irked,

          You said:

          Let’s go to Acts 13. We see at the start of that chapter the whole church setting apart Barnabus and Paul – an appointment that’s from God, and not from a higher hierarchical structure. (Paul will later very firmly insist that he does not receive his authority from any earthly organization, in Galatians 1-2.)

          You make a common fallacy here. His appointment was from God. That in no way entails that an earthly authority did not exist. But St. Paul contradicts your understanding of the Church in Gal. 2, where he says:

          I went up in accord with a revelation,* and I presented to them the gospel that I preach to the Gentiles—but privately to those of repute—so that I might not be running, or have run, in vain.

          1.) Why present the gospel that he had been preaching to the Gentiles to them, if they had no authority over him?
          2.) What if they had determined he had been preaching wrong, what then? He obviously has doubts, he thinks he may have been running in vain. If they had determined he had been preaching wrong, would they have just said, oh well? Or would they have attempted to correct, even though they had no authority over the Gentiles?

          You said:

          As is often the case, I think Galatians is pretty good evidence that there’s not an ongoing hierarchy here, because the only authority Paul tells the Galatians to absolutely obey is the gospel itself (and the Christ who spoke it). Disregard apostles; disregard angels; disregard any spiritual authority that disagrees – but cling to the gospel. There’s no appeal here to follow their archbishops, or to follow the bishops of Rome or Jerusalem; indeed, Paul goes out of his way to show that these are not perfectly trustworthy sources, and that the appropriate response can be to refuse and refute them.

          1.) Notice, he says disregard the authority if they disagree with the gospel. Strange, I thought there was no authority. But he only says disregard it, if they are preaching a false gospel. He does not say that an authority to make hierarchical decisions that accords with the gospel, does not exist.

          2.) Does St. Paul have authority over the Church at Galatia? Rome? Corinth? He’s constantly telling them what to do.

          You said:

          “When these [first elders] should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by [the apostles], or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry,”

          I have highlighted the key text. What if the whole Church did not consent? Seemingly that local church could appoint, but if consent was not given by the hierachy, it was no go.

          Furthermore, in your paradigm, who is St. Clement to butt in and make the determination that those ministers were unjustly dismissed? Why did Corinth write to him just for advice, as you say, rather than the Apostle John, who was a lot closer?

          And now the key passage which you ignore.

          If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger; but we shall be innocent of this sin,

          Disobedience can only be a sin if you are disobeying one who has rightful authority over you, yet Clement says if they disobey Rome, they are sinning. Very odd, if he feels he has no authority over Corinth.

          What further hurts your argument is the very Council of Jerusalem. Tell me, was the Church at Antioch free to ignore that council, and if yes, what would the Apostles have done?

          1. Duane,

            Last time we talked, you told me it was morally fine for governments to execute people for being Protestant. I’m not super eager to start another conversation.

          2. Irked,

            I challenge you to find one post of mine where I said it was morally fine for governments to execute people for being Protestant.

            I have said that it is okay for governments to execute people who have committed a capital crime, if said government’s laws call for such a penalty.

            Treason is considered a capital crime in just about every nation. Are you saying government’s do not have the right to execute for treason?

        3. Irked,

          Let me get right to it:

          “So, again, for anyone else reading here, we’re using “visible church” to mean “hierarchical, organizational church,” right?”

          Yes, with people appointed to the Bishopric in a literal way–by either Apostles or other bishops. There are not any self-appointed Bishops in the Scriptures–a damning indictment against the vast majority of Protestantism. One I cannot justify other than a theory there was a “great falling away” and the Protestants had no choice but to make another church. But even this is a rejection of the Scripture:

          “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:3-5).

          “We see at the start of that chapter the whole church setting apart Barnabus and Paul – an appointment that’s from God, and not from a higher hierarchical structure.”

          Did you read Acts 13. The laid hands on him. They gave Paul a Bishopric. St John Chrysostom harmonizes Gal 1-2 and the literal events of Acts 13 nicely:

          “See again by what persons he is ordained (γυμνοτέρα . Cat. σεμνοτέρα, more awful.) By Lucius the Cyrenean and Manaën, or rather, by the Spirit. The less the persons, the more palpable the grace. He is ordained henceforth to Apostleship, so as to preach with authority. How then does he himself say, Not from men, nor by man? Galatians 1:1 Because it was not man that called or brought him over: this is why he says, Not from men. Neither by man, that is, that he was not sent by this (man), but by the Spirit. Wherefore also (the writer) thus proceeds: So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.(Acts 13:4)

          “I confess I’m missing the appointment of bishops in this passage, though – am I just glossing over it?”

          My apologies, I was thinking of Acts 14:23. Bishops are appointed by Bishops–in Acts, in Titus, everywhere in the Scripture. There is not one self-appointed Bishop. Period. You are violating the teaching of the all-sufficient, infallible teaching of the Scriptures and adding to it a tradition of man.

          “but cling to the gospel.”

          But, he did not say to go set up parallel churches over the Gospel! That’s nowhere in my copy of Galatians! That sounds like an extra-biblical interpretation. DO you see the irony that you are saying my conscience to be captive to your extra-biblical interpretation?

          “And I think we see this principle applied in the churches in – well, since you bring it up, in Clement…That seems to me like a pretty significant re-interpretation of the letter. The authors’ horror is specifically that the Corinthians have expelled their good elders, and have subsequently appointed a bunch of scoundrels in their place…”

          Irked, you’re too nice a guy and too smart to seriously be making this argument IMHO. Clement gives a very specific argument that Jesus knew there would be contention over the EPiscopacy and so he set up succession. You go ahead and quote chap 44 to this effect. There is no room here for self appointed teachers.

          “Note that “other eminent men” is not the language 1 Clement uses to describe elders anywhere else in the letter; it’s plausible, though…”

          It is not plausible as the spirit of your speculation directly contradicts Clement’s whole point that Christ intentionally set up succession.

          “Second, the authors of the letter exhort the Corinthian church – but there’s no indication they have any real ability to do more than that.”

          I agree. Because Clement had no autority over Corinth in my view. Nevertheless, if Corinth went ahead and done this they would have been excommunicated, as was the schismatic church in 3 John.

          “And if Galatians is the model, and Titus is the exception, that’s exactly what we’d expect.”

          I don;t mean to be a jerk, but your reading here appears to me not your own, but a deception from the devil. 1. Galatians does not offer us a relevant ecclesiastical model, 2. Titus actually does, and 3. 1 Clement explicitly says that this model is succession. Again, you are making inferences, while I am citing explicitly what they said. Maybe you;re right, but the likelihood of it is much less than what the Scriptures and Clement explicitly state.

          “I would say rather that the visible church is historical fiction. Who was the visible church for the Ethiopian eunuch?”

          Haven’t you noticed that Protestantism is a view of religion based upon rhetorical questions? “Did the thief on the cross need this?” “Did the Eunuch need that?” Rhetorical questions do not make an explicit Biblical theology. In fact, if we ignore the explicit teaching of the Scriptures in favor of logical extrapolations based upon rhetorical questions, then we are no different than Eve who ignored the explicit command of God in favor of Satan’s rhetorical question, “Did God really mean…?”

          Yes, He really did mean. As for the thief, eunuch, and other exceptions–that is what they are. Exceptions. We do not base theology on exceptions, but the norm.

          God bless,

          Craig

          P.S. In your reply I saw a few references to Roman presuppositions. Please keep in mind, I am an Orthodox catechumen. 🙂

          You are in my prayers, the clock is ticking I wonder if you will convert quicker than I did.

          1. Hi Craig,

            Yes, with people appointed to the Bishopric in a literal way–by either Apostles or other bishops. There are not any self-appointed Bishops in the Scriptures–a damning indictment against the vast majority of Protestantism.

            The fact of the matter is that we don’t know how a lot of the elders in the New Testament got appointed. Some we do, to be sure, but there’s a lot of “and then we traveled through such-and-such area, and the elders there said to us…”

            I’m… not sure why this is such a condemnation of Protestantism, though? I’ve yet to see anyone in any church I’ve attended stand up and declare himself an elder of that church.

            One I cannot justify other than a theory there was a “great falling away” and the Protestants had no choice but to make another church. But even this is a rejection of the Scripture:

            Again, I think the conversation is confused here by the multiple meanings of “church.” If you mean “Protestants had no choice but to make another visible church,” in the sense we’ve defined, then obviously I don’t think that’s true, because I don’t think any temporal organization can lay claim to being “the church.”

            I would say rather that Protestants had no choice but to found other churches, which disagreed with many pre-existing churches on various points – and that, fools and monsters that we all are, sometimes those disagreements led us to do horrible things to one another. But the believers in all those churches were one body, filled with one Spirit, called to the hope of one Lord.

            It seems to me, in other words, that your critique only works if one begins with a Catholic/Orthodox ontology of “church.” I don’t – indeed, that I don’t is kind of the point of contention.

            Did you read Acts 13. The laid hands on him. They gave Paul a Bishopric.

            Yes; yes; and what? I see the first two of these; where is the last? The local church – the church in Antioch – sets apart Paul and Barnabus for the missionary work to which they’ve been called by God. This is, notably, not a hierarchical action; what authority does Antioch have over Cyprus or Lystra? And, more: where, here, is Paul made an elder of any of these churches?

            Paul’s authority to preach the gospel does not come from this commissioning; it cannot, as he’s already done so in Antioch for a full year prior to these events – as have the non-apostolic refugees who fled there even earlier.

            My apologies, I was thinking of Acts 14:23. Bishops are appointed by Bishops–in Acts, in Titus, everywhere in the Scripture.

            And again, Acts 14 is a situation where there are exactly two experienced Christians around – two Christians who are not actually explicitly elders in the churches to which they make appointments.

            There is not one self-appointed Bishop. Period.

            Who is arguing for people to be able to declare themselves elders of their church?

            But, he did not say to go set up parallel churches over the Gospel!

            If “church” is not read in the Catholic/Orthodox sense, then of course he doesn’t tell them that, because there are no “parallel churches” – there are just churches. But he pretty clearly tells their church to do what the gospel says, not what any other authority tells them to do.

            This is the part I still don’t understand: what do you think the Galatian church should have done, if someone claiming authority came to them and said, “Salvation requires the work of circumcision”? What was their proper response?

            DO you see the irony that you are saying my conscience to be captive to your extra-biblical interpretation?

            I do not see that I’m saying any such thing. I’m saying that both our consciences are to be captive to whatever the actual meaning of the passage is; we’re debating over what that actually is.

            Irked, you’re too nice a guy and too smart to seriously be making this argument IMHO. Clement gives a very specific argument that Jesus knew there would be contention over the EPiscopacy and so he set up succession. You go ahead and quote chap 44 to this effect. There is no room here for self appointed teachers.

            See, that’s a terminological switch: we’ve moved from what the passage actually discusses – elders, which no one is suggesting a man can declare himself to be – to teachers, which Clement does not comment on at all.

            I appreciate the, heh, compliment, but I’ll return it: you’re a sharp guy, and I can’t believe this just parses as nonsense to you. 1 Clement absolutely does describe the process of appointing elders, and the process it describes changes. The process in the post-apostolic era – and the authors of Clement clearly see that they are entering a post-apostolic era – makes no reference to appointment from above, nor even to appointment by existing local elders.

            It is not plausible as the spirit of your speculation directly contradicts Clement’s whole point that Christ intentionally set up succession.

            The question is not whether there is succession, but by what means there is succession. Clement’s point is simple: “You guys all approved these leaders. They were good men; some of them were appointed by the apostles themselves, and others by the pillars of your church, and you all had to approve the decision. Now you’ve given them the bum’s rush for… what? A bunch of ear-tickling buffoons and heretics? How dare you?”

            I agree. Because Clement had no autority over Corinth in my view. Nevertheless, if Corinth went ahead and done this they would have been excommunicated, as was the schismatic church in 3 John.

            I do not see excommunication of a church in 3 John, but maybe we could table that discussion for another day. But regardless, that seems… a little bit speculative?

            I don;t mean to be a jerk, but your reading here appears to me not your own, but a deception from the devil. 1. Galatians does not offer us a relevant ecclesiastical model, 2. Titus actually does, and 3. 1 Clement explicitly says that this model is succession. Again, you are making inferences, while I am citing explicitly what they said. Maybe you;re right, but the likelihood of it is much less than what the Scriptures and Clement explicitly state.

            1 Clement flatly does not say that only elders can appoint elders; indeed, nor does anything in Scripture. Where Scripture does not provide a rule, I don’t think that we do either.

            Let’s get practical, though. I think that every Christian is to be a missionary, to one degree or another; every Christian, ordained or not, is to present the gospel to those around him. For many Christians throughout history, that has meant that they became the nucleus of new churches: whether lone Ethiopian eunuchs or refugees from Jerusalem in the first century, or underground churches in China or the Middle East today, a church comes into existence as soon as there are Christians there. Those churches require leadership, and that leadership is not morally invalidated just because they have no one in an unbroken line of eldership. That teaching is nowhere in Scripture, and that Scripture does model the pattern of “experienced Christians help baby churches organize” does not change that fact.

            Haven’t you noticed that Protestantism is a view of religion based upon rhetorical questions?

            The Ethiopian church was not composed of rhetorical believers, and a theology that cannot address the needs of these real examples is deficient.

            As for the thief, eunuch, and other exceptions–that is what they are. Exceptions. We do not base theology on exceptions, but the norm.

            And the churches founded by the refugees of Jerusalem – were they also exceptions? The church in Athens? In Phoenicia? In Antioch? The forty years of the Western Schism – was everyone in Europe an exception? What about the literal millions of Chinese Christians today who have no access to properly-ordained chains of descent – are they only of rhetorical concern?

            How many millions does it take?

            P.S. In your reply I saw a few references to Roman presuppositions. Please keep in mind, I am an Orthodox catechumen.

            No, I know. It’s messy, y’know? I’ll make a post to you, and three Catholics will (entirely fairly) reply to it as well; I don’t want to attribute to you beliefs you don’t hold, but if I don’t hedge against those positions, I just have to come back for them. (Also, yeah, sometimes I just lose track of the Orthodox specifics.)

            You are in my prayers, the clock is ticking I wonder if you will convert quicker than I did.

            Let me be perfectly sincere: I’ve gotten a lot out of these conversations over the last… what’s it been, eight, ten months? I’ve had opportunity to kick the tires of a number of my beliefs, and tweaked some of them in response – and I’ve definitely enjoyed some of the connections I’ve made in that time. But I am more persuaded – and more accurately persuaded, I hope – of the absolute necessity of the Reformation now than when I started.

          2. Irked,

            I hope to get back to you on this. Maybe tomorrow 🙂

            I have to apologize. I think some of my comments were arrogant. They might be correct, but who am I to know these things? I suppose I am flabbergasted at some of your interpretations. Yet, some people have been flabbergasted at mine. Please forgive me. And, let;s both pray for wisdom on this.

            I guess the rhetorical questions and looking for exceptions sort of bothers me, because it really seems to me like Gen 3 in the garden. But I should not let my feelings get the best of me.

            I appreciate your dialogue on these matters and your kinder spirit than mine.

            God bless,
            Craig

          3. Craig,

            No offense taken, brother. You didn’t sound arrogant – just passionate. And it’s an area where a certain amount of passionate heat can be appropriate!

            I think we’re assuming good faith on each other’s parts – no harm, no foul.

          4. Irked,

            Here is my belated reply.

            “The fact of the matter is that we don’t know how a lot of the elders in the New Testament got appointed.”

            That’s absurd, see Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5. We explicitly see and Apostle appointing Elders in the former, and a Bishop appointing Bishops in the latter. We do not explicitly see self-appointed teachers anywhere.

            Aren’t we supposed to not go beyond the Scripture? So, why are we at fault for taking it literally?

            “I’m… not sure why this is such a condemnation of Protestantism, though? I’ve yet to see anyone in any church I’ve attended stand up and declare himself an elder of that church.”

            Irked, I am sure you are aware that every single Protestant denomination (other than Anglicans and Nordic Lutherans) had self-appointed leaders. So, doesn;t it concern you that your church’s pastor was appointed by a bunch of dudes, appointed by a bunch of other dudes, going back to some dude who did his best Eric Cartman impression, “Screw you guys, I’m going to start my own church.”

            “Again, I think the conversation is confused here by the multiple meanings of “church.””

            My definition of church is simple–it is what we literally see in the Scripture. The Church has a visible leadership appointed by other visible leaders. The Church in the Scriptures does not have self-appointed leaders. So, again, why do you fault us for taking the Scriptures seriously? Can’t you see that you have an extra-biblical tradition which you are eisegetically imposing upon the text?

            “I would say rather that Protestants had no choice but to found other churches…”

            Wait, earlier in your reply you claimed that Protestants did not have self-appointed teachers. Now they do?

            What do you mean by no choice? How has Catholicism forfeited the Gospel? Or Orthodoxy?

            “It seems to me, in other words, that your critique only works if one begins with a Catholic/Orthodox ontology of “church.””

            Not exactly. It works if we go with a definition of the Church that is the same of what we can explicitly read from the Scriptures. We can only infer the “invisible church” from the said Scriptures. Yet, we can literally see a visible Church.

            “Yes; yes; and what?”

            What were they doing when they were laying their hands? In Acts 6, Deacons became Deacons by laying on off hands. It’s an ordination.

            “Paul’s authority to preach the gospel does not come from this commissioning; it cannot, as he’s already done so in Antioch for a full year prior to these events”

            Preaching is something I am doing right now, I do not need an ordination to do that. But in the Scriptures, Deacons are ordained (Acts 6, 1 Tim 3). In the Scriptures, Bishops ordain/appoint Bishops (Titus 1:5). Paul had the capacity and commission from God Himself to preach. He was not made and Apostle by the commission of man any more than Junia, a woman, in Rom 16. Those who have seen the risen Christ, the Apostles, could preach the name of Christ. But not all Apostles could start churches (otherwise Junia would be a Bishop.) In fact, in Acts 1, they took Barsabas, who was an Apostle inasmuch he followed Jesus since the times of John the Baptist, and ONLY THEN gave him Judas’ “Bishopric” (see Acts 1:20–read the translator’s note.) So, Paul was an Apostle by the grace of God, but not a Bishop until Acts 13. Without being a Bishop, he can preach BUT NOT start churches. Being that we know laying on of hands from Acts 6 is an ordination, it is an inescapable conclusion that Paul had to be appointed a Bishop for the task he was about to perform.

            “And again, Acts 14 is a situation where there are exactly two experienced Christians around – two Christians who are not actually explicitly elders in the churches to which they make appointments.”

            Experienced Christians who not coincidentally were ordained in the previous chapter.

            “Who is arguing for people to be able to declare themselves elders of their church?”

            Uh…Luther?!? Whoever started the denomination you are part of right now?!?! Etc!?!? I am using the punctuation and the “uh” to emphasize that this is literally flabbergasting to me. I mean, do you really not see this? Go tell me all day that you had no choice but to start another denomination, then we can have that argument. But what you are saying here is indefensible intellectually.

            “This is the part I still don’t understand: what do you think the Galatian church should have done, if someone claiming authority came to them and said, “Salvation requires the work of circumcision”? What was their proper response?”

            To not submit to thew teaching and pray for those in authority.

            “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Heb 13:7)

            “I do not see that I’m saying any such thing. I’m saying that both our consciences are to be captive to whatever the actual meaning of the passage is”

            But the literal meaning is that there is literally a Church with literal leaders with literal ordinations. You are saying, based upon no Scripture whatsoever and completely divorced from tradition, that I should listen to your non-literal interpretation. Why I ask?

            “See, that’s a terminological switch: we’ve moved from what the passage actually discusses – elders, which no one is suggesting a man can declare himself to be – to teachers, which Clement does not comment on at all.”

            You are needlessly dicing hairs here, Elders ARE Teachers, we see this in 1 Tim 3. It has been common to the Christian experience that whomever is the most important guy in your church is also its teacher.

            ” you’re a sharp guy, and I can’t believe this just parses as nonsense to you.”

            I am being honest, it does. I have read 1 Clement 4 times (maybe more, I’ve lost count.) So, maybe you are a better reader, or have read it more, but your reading appears so alien to the text that I cannot help but feel that 1. I’m crazy, 2. You’re crazy, 3. You do not remember what he said 4. You are reading passages out of context.

            “The process in the post-apostolic era – and the authors of Clement clearly see that they are entering a post-apostolic era – makes no reference to appointment from above, nor even to appointment by existing local elders.”

            What? 1 Clem 42 simply says that whoever was the previous Elder appointed the next Elder. Perhaps you are criticizing the idea that a Bishop not from the said city can appoint the Bishop in a local church? But, didn’t Titus do that? So I don’t see the dilemma you are posing here.

            “It is not plausible as the spirit of your speculation directly contradicts Clement’s whole point that Christ intentionally set up succession.”

            This is why I am flabbergasted. I know you are not accusing me falsely on purpose. I suppose you really think that the interpretation of most Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic interpreters is wrong. Then we are all contradicting Clement’s whole point.

            Quite simply, even as a Protestant, I would tell you that Clement is saying you need succession. Period. That means, no Methodists, no non-denominational churchs, and no baptists (as the vast majority of baptists have the local deacons ordain their pastor, which most do not even call and “Elder” so divorced is their ecclesiology from the Biblical norm.) If you want to argue that Elders are the same as Bishops, fine, you will have Catholic historians that agree with you too. But, you cannot escape the obvious. You need succession. That’s the whole point of 1 Clement.

            “Clement’s point is simple: “You guys all approved these leaders. They were good men; some of them were appointed by the apostles themselves, and others by the pillars of your church, and you all had to approve the decision. Now you’ve given them the bum’s rush for… what? A bunch of ear-tickling buffoons and heretics? How dare you?””

            Where did he call them heretics. Your inference-laden way of reading 1 Clement is coming out here.

            “I do not see excommunication of a church in 3 John, but maybe we could table that discussion for another day.”

            I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

            “1 Clement flatly does not say that only elders can appoint elders”

            “[1 Clem 42]Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God…And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe…[1 Clem 44]They appointed those [Bishops in 1 Clem 42 appointed by the Apostles] already mentioned, and afterwards gave [those Bishops] instructions, that when these [Bishops] should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry [as Bishops]. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed [Bishops] by them [the Bishops appointed by the Apostles], or afterwards by other eminent men [the Bishops appointed by the Bishops who were appointed by the Apostles.]”

            I flatly disagree. How can appointments be made “in an orderly way,” the way the Apostles did, if those after the Apostles are not the one’s doing the appointing, and the one’s after those guys doing the same, and etcetera.

            Your reading of Clement renders his whole argument nonsensical and reject it.

            “indeed, nor does anything in Scripture.”‘

            Again, Titus 1:5.

            “The Ethiopian church was not composed of rhetorical believers, and a theology that cannot address the needs of these real examples is deficient.”

            But, we have a solution to that. Matthew was traditionally their first Bishop. But even if that is wrong, what indication do we have from the Scriptures that there was any more than one Ethiopian convert? We don’t. One convert does not make a church. So, can he go ahead and preach? Sure, but that does not mean he can now make himself a Bishop or something, nor does the Scripture say that he can.

            In fact, when Philip the Deacon baptizes the Samaritans in Acts 8, he cannot even give them the Holy Spirit let alone make any of them Bishops. He calls the Apostles to lay their hands and give these believers the Spirit. A Protestant reading of Acts 8 is mysterious and zany–while in Orthodoxy, it makes perfect sense. Only an ordained priest can give holy chrism–only an ordained priest can allow believers to fully function as a church. Yet, if the Protestant reading was right, the dilemma in Acts 8 should be impossible. This tells me there is something wrong with your reading.

            “And the churches founded by the refugees of Jerusalem – were they also exceptions?”

            Who says they began churches without being ordained first? Who says they even began churches? You cannot make a theological point out of silence.

            “How many millions does it take?”

            Being that your rhetorical questions do not make sense of the silence of the Scripture, I offer a non-serious answer: 13.2 million.

            “Let me be perfectly sincere…I am more persuaded – and more accurately persuaded, I hope – of the absolute necessity of the Reformation now than when I started.”

            I thought the same two, though over the years I had a sneaking suspicion here or there that something was not all right. But in my research, I would always find reason to doubt my suspicions. To be honest, I was afraid due to demonic lies that if I were convert to be a Catholic (Orthodoxy was not on my radar) I would forfeit my salvation. Essentially, fear kept me where I was.

            So, it will click one day. But judging from your reading of Clement, we need a few more dots to connect.

            In since Christian love and compassion,

            Craig

          5. Hey Craig,

            Happy Thanksgiving! Or, I mean, “Happy day the US calls Thanksgiving,” if you’re elsewhere.

            So let’s get to it.

            That’s absurd, see Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5. We explicitly see and Apostle appointing Elders in the former, and a Bishop appointing Bishops in the latter. We do not explicitly see self-appointed teachers anywhere.

            That’s literally what I said, though. We know how elders are appointed in those two specific cases. We don’t see the appointment of the elders of Jerusalem, or of Ephesus, or at many of the other churches extant at the time. The only examples where details are specified are cases where the appointment of leaders promptly follows conversion, and in those cases we would expect to see apostolic appointment regardless of whether it’s the general pattern.

            And, vitally, we’re not given a command on the subject. We’re running on extrapolation from two descriptive data points.

            I mean, look, this is exactly the same argument that the “you must speak in tongues” crowd makes: “Look, here’s people speaking in tongues in Jerusalem and Corinth when the Spirit comes on them. Therefore, if you have the Spirit, you will speak in tongues.” The only answer I have to those people is the same one I give to you: to say that, yes, these things happened – but they are not commanded, and they are not said to be normative.

            Irked, I am sure you are aware that every single Protestant denomination (other than Anglicans and Nordic Lutherans) had self-appointed leaders.

            Okay. So when you say self-appointed leaders, what you mean is “elders who were not specifically appointed by an existing chain of elders.” They don’t have to appoint themselves; if they are appointed by their own churches (but without this chain), you would call that “self-appointed.” That’s not how I’ve been reading it in your previous posts; am I reading you correctly now?

            Because John Calvin doesn’t declare himself leader of Geneva; he gets appointed to it. Ditto Zwingli, and others – these are men who are made elders, not men who make themselves elders.

            So, doesn;t it concern you that your church’s pastor was appointed by a bunch of dudes, appointed by a bunch of other dudes, going back to some dude who did his best Eric Cartman impression, “Screw you guys, I’m going to start my own church.”

            I can say in all honesty that every pastor I’ve ever had was appointed by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church: in other words, that he completely satisfies the pattern 1 Clement lays out for everyone past the initial apostles.

            Those “bunch of dudes” are priests of God, chosen in him before the foundation of the world, adopted as his sons, and indwelt by his Spirit. I value that above whether their background, yes.

            Wait, earlier in your reply you claimed that Protestants did not have self-appointed teachers. Now they do?

            See, again, “self-appointed” is not helpful terminology here, because we’ve been (prior to this post) reading it in different ways.

            What do you mean by no choice?

            (“No choice but to start their own churches,” for anyone following the thread.)

            What I mean is that, when you teach biblical truth, and get kicked out of some churches for it, you still have to have a church. That… pretty much means starting more churches.

            “It seems to me, in other words, that your critique only works if one begins with a Catholic/Orthodox ontology of “church.””

            Not exactly. It works if we go with a definition of the Church that is the same of what we can explicitly read from the Scriptures.

            It seems like you’re making my point. You’re making an argument that only works if I accept that the word “church” means what you take it to mean. But I don’t; I obviously don’t agree that this is the nature of a church as Scripture presents it. It looks like a compelling argument from your side, but for anyone working with different definitions, it goes nowhere.

            What were they doing when they were laying their hands? In Acts 6, Deacons became Deacons by laying on off hands. It’s an ordination.

            As a missionary! You acknowledge yourself that ordination is not only for elders; on what basis do you assert this makes him an elder?

            But not all Apostles could start churches (otherwise Junia would be a Bishop.)

            Where in Scripture is that rule declared? Where is it ever said that only bishops can start churches?

            Again, were the refugees of Jerusalem not to start churches? Because Acts 12 tells us they did exactly that, and “the hand of the Lord was with them” as they did so.

            In fact, in Acts 1, they took Barsabas, who was an Apostle inasmuch he followed Jesus since the times of John the Baptist, and ONLY THEN gave him Judas’ “Bishopric” (see Acts 1:20–read the translator’s note.)

            Scripture uses the term “bishop” and “elder” interchangeably. That “his bishopric” eventually came to mean something different than “his office among the elders” is precisely why a lot of modern translations render it differently: to do otherwise encourages anachronistic readings.

            “This is the part I still don’t understand: what do you think the Galatian church should have done, if someone claiming authority came to them and said, “Salvation requires the work of circumcision”? What was their proper response?”

            To not submit to thew teaching and pray for those in authority.

            Okay. And when those claiming authority say, “Well, we excommunicate you” – what then?

            But the literal meaning is that there is literally a Church with literal leaders with literal ordinations.

            I fundamentally repudiate any suggestion that I’m defining “church” non-literally. I am a member of a literal church with literal leaders; I’m also a member of a literal body of Christ, of which Christ is the head.

            You are needlessly dicing hairs here, Elders ARE Teachers, we see this in 1 Tim 3.

            Yes, but not all teachers are elders; the implication doesn’t work in the other direction. And that’s an important distinction, because teachers can start churches by simple virtue of teaching and winning converts. There is absolutely room for self-appointed teachers, in either meaning of “self-appointed.”

            It has been common to the Christian experience that whomever is the most important guy in your church is also its teacher.

            My church has eminent men who are not gifted to teach, and so cannot be elders. The man in my church with the greatest gift of discernment, or the greatest prayer life, or etc. is not necessarily its pastor.

            Clement could have said “And these elders appointed others.” He doesn’t! He specifically introduces a new term; it happens to be a term that perfectly describes the way many Protestants do this.

            What? 1 Clem 42 simply says that whoever was the previous Elder appointed the next Elder.

            No, it doesn’t? Chapter 42 doesn’t say anything about appointment of elders beyond the initial appointment by apostles. Like, here’s 1 Clement 42:

            “The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done sol from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture a certain place, ‘I will appoint their bishops s in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.'”

            There’s nothing there on the method of subsequent appointment. There just… isn’t! I don’t understand to what you’re appealing.

            Where did he call them heretics. Your inference-laden way of reading 1 Clement is coming out here.

            No, that’s fair. He calls them fools, hypocrites, lustful, envious, and ungodly; he does not specifically say that this makes them heretics.

            “I do not see excommunication of a church in 3 John, but maybe we could table that discussion for another day.”

            I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

            Eh? You said that this was an example of a disobedient church being excommunicated. That passage says Diotrephes is unjustly kicking people out of his own church. What’s the connection?

            I flatly disagree. How can appointments be made “in an orderly way,” the way the Apostles did, if those after the Apostles are not the one’s doing the appointing, and the one’s after those guys doing the same, and etcetera.

            Easily! Like, I’ve seen multiple orderly pastoral successions that followed exactly the model I’m describing: other eminent men, with the approval of the whole church.

            Who says they began churches without being ordained first? Who says they even began churches?

            Acts 11:18-26 tells us this! Look at verse 25-26: “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church.”

            Now, this is before the ordination of Acts 14, of which you’ve made much. By your own testimony, Paul and Barnabus have no authority to start churches as yet. And yet, here we are in Antioch, in a group of Christians whose only pedigree is “some men of Cyprus and Cyrene”…

            … and it’s already a church. Because of course it’s a church, because whenever you have a local assembly of Christians, you have a church.

            But in my research, I would always find reason to doubt my suspicions.

            Brother, I say this in genuineness: one of the things that has made these conversations valuable to me is that they give me a chance to slam into the best arguments the “other side” has to offer. I love doing that, and I’ve greatly enjoyed the conversations.

            But the arguments don’t hold up (to me, etc.). The reassuring thing has been that I can see what the reasons are – that I can have them argued to me in sincerity, by smart men and women – and they are not better than the ones I have. One of the delights of this inquiry has been to learn the extent to which even the testimony of the early church – ground that I had, when younger, simply conceded! – does not support the arguments.

            I obviously can’t prove my sincerity here, but I ask you to believe me: my experience is not what you’re describing.

            … But that doesn’t make me appreciate our conversation any less. I’m glad of the talks we get to have; God be with you and your family, and I’m looking forward to the next time we get to talk “face-to-face.”

            -Irked

          6. Hey Irked,

            I am leaving the country twice in one week so I can only rush a reply.

            1. Your point about Acts 11 and the church in Antioch is not good. It was already called the church. You interpret from silence that the men who started it were not ordained. I interpret from silence that being that the whole Jewish world was present at Pentecost, that surely those returning to Antioch were given the authority to start a church their by the APostles themselves. Being that we are arguing from silence, let us decide which is more credible.

            2. Your interpretation of “eminent men,” though possible in a linguistic seense, eviscerates Clement’s own logic where he specifically says that Christ knew there would be contention over the bishopric, and so sat up a succession between himself and the apostles, and the apostles and their successors. I find it strange that those AFTER the Apostles and the successors are somehow appointed by “eminent men,” which you define as men who were appointed by none one. Can’t you see that would eviscerate Clememnt’s whole point? For what it is worth, Bishops were elected in the ancient church. They are still elected today in Orthodoxy, such as the church of cyprus. Early Bishops of Rome were literally voted into office. However, the model we always see is Acts 6. The laity choose men and those already in authority then approve of the choice and then lay hands. It is only when you read Scriptures 1. divorced from other Scriptures themselves, 2. tradition, and 3. the obvious logic of the fathers, can we come to the ecclesiological conclusion you are posing.

            4. You assert that all Elders are Bishops in the Scriptures. Fair enough, the Scriptures do not refute this, even though Ignatius does not. Not every scholar, even Roman Catholic, believes Ignatius is representing the earliest ecclesiology of the Church. It is possible. I just have surrendered myself to the conclusion that Ignatius is probably more likely correct than the scholars or my own private reading.

            5. “That’s literally what I said, though. We know how elders are appointed in those two specific cases. We don’t see the appointment of the elders of Jerusalem, or of Ephesus, or at many of the other churches extant at the time.”

            Wouldn’t the regulative principle demand that we simply presume that everything follows the model of what we explicitly know, instead of taking silence and assuming that the silence can be absolutely anything?

            6. “I mean, look, this is exactly the same argument that the “you must speak in tongues” crowd makes: “Look, here’s people speaking in tongues in Jerusalem and Corinth when the Spirit comes on them. Therefore, if you have the Spirit, you will speak in tongues.” ”

            This is contradicted in the Scriptures themselves. We see tongues only in brand new churches, generally upon the conversion of new ethnic groups (Jews at Pentecost, Samaritans, and then Gentiles.) We do not see the gift at subsequent conversions. We have Paul in 1 Cor making clear that not everyone ahs the gift. So, I reject your speculation here.

            I do think you are very smart, but I am sure you realize all your arguments are extrapolations and speculations. If I took your approach of extreme speculation and applied it to the Canon, we would never be able to hammer down even a workable idea of what the Scriptures are. It appears you put zero stock into tradition whatsoever, atleast in your argumentation. Take that to its logical conclusion and there is nothing we can be certain about in the Christian faith. It is no wonder that all the historic Protestant denominations have devovled into liberal apostasy for almost 100 years now.

            God bless,
            Craig

          7. Hi Craig and Irked.

            Regarding ‘apostolic succession’, why do you scrupulize over a few quotes from Ireneaus, when a contemporary of his, Tertullian (155-240 AD), is far more explicit on the subject than he is? Doesn’t this clear witness of Tertullian, in 5 quotes below, completely refute Irked’s many theories on the subject? :

            1. “[The apostles] founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive Church, [founded] by the apostles, from which they all [spring]. In this way, all are primitive, and all are apostolic, while they are all proved to be one in unity” (Demurrer Against the Heretics 20 [A.D. 200]).

            2. “[W]hat it was which Christ revealed to them [the apostles] can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves . . . If then these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches—those molds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, [and] Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savors of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood” (AH 21)

            3. “But if there be any [heresies] which are bold enough to plant [their origin] in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [their first] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter”. (ibid. 32)

            4. “But should they even effect the contrivance [of composing a succession list for themselves], they will not advance a step. For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles [as contained in other churches], will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man; because, as the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory” . (ibid.)

            5. “Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic Church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith” . (ibid)

            See: https://www.catholic.com/tract/apostolic-succession

          8. Al, I do not think Irked would be convinced by a writing from the year 200 AD. It is too late a witness. Clement is literally an associate of the Apostles. This is why it is so important to tenaciously reject a Catholic/Orthodox reading of his letter.

            God bless,
            Craig

          9. You’re right Craig, I somehow thought that you guys were using Iraenaus in your arguments, not Clement.

            Nevertheless, a man seeking wisdom should look into all evidence and 200 AD should be early enough, especially for folks who also use Augustine and St. Cyril of Jerusalem as source witnesses in other arguments. So, to reject a citation from a Father writing after 200 AD as a witness one week, and then have no problem citing a Father ( i.e.. St. Cyril) in 385 AD in the following weeks argument is a bit absurd.

            One thing is certain, Tertullian clearly demonstrated ‘apostolic succession’ in the quotes above. They shouldn’t be ignored for those truly seeking the truth of the matter.

    3. Hey again Irked,

      You write, “Does anything in Scripture explicitly describe communion as a sacrifice we offer – as a fulfillment of these OT verses?”

      Read Heb 9:23-26

      23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

      From the context the “sacrifices” have blood and they are the same blood that Christ of “the sacrifice of Himself.” Only the Eucharist meets that criteria.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. Hey Craig,

        Promised I was going to get here, so let me finally do so. (Then I’m probably out for a day or two again.)

        So. Hebrews 9.

        (I’m going to open here with stuff you already know, but as always, general case-building.)

        So Hebrews is written by an unknown author to Jewish converts; his core thesis is, “I hear that you’re trying to go back to Judaism. You need to understand that there’s nothing left there for you; that Christ has superseded and fulfilled and replaced and done better than everything you could possibly want from it.” Thus: Jesus is better than the angels (ch. 1-2), better than Moses (ch. 3), better than the Sabbath (ch. 4), better than the high priest (ch. 5 and continuing).

        And then the author begins to describe Christ’s sacrifice – and, in so doing, he repeatedly identifies two features of that sacrifice:

        1) Unlike the offerings that the priests of old made, it was made once.
        2) Unlike the offerings that the priests of old made, it perfects its targets forever.

        So, for instance, Hebrews 7:27: “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”

        Or 9:12: “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”

        Or 9:25-28: “Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

        Or 10:8-10: “First he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

        Or again 10:12-14: “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

        Or again in 10:17-18: “Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”

        In the midst of this, we find chapter 9, and the contrast of the old sacrifices with the new. And here, yes, the author uses the plural sacrifices. I think there are several plausible explanations for that; I think it’s plausible, for instance, that he’s just paralleling structure, in something like the way we might say, “I’ve had bad bosses, but I need good bosses – and I have a really good boss.” But what is not plausible is that he means here to imply that Christ’s sacrifice is in any sense repeated – not when his thesis for something like four chapters is that it is once for all, that it has already perfected forever, that it has no need of repetition, that the priestly work of offering sacrifice for sins is complete, and indeed that it is this completion that shows the new covenant to be better than the old.

        To read otherwise – to open the door to “a re-presented sacrifice which must be offered again and again for new sin” in any way – is to overturn the basis of his argument for the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Whatever the plural means, its meaning has to be read in that context.

          1. Craig,

            I’d be interested in your expansion of the theology there from an Orthodox perspective. (Or perhaps this is in your video and I need to just stop being lazy?)

            From my perspective, the chapter and surrounding verses are all about the nature and effects of Christ’s sacrifice; I don’t see any way to read “the sacrifice that purifies the heavenly things” except as a reference to his death. That’s the shedding of blood foreshadowed in the preceding paragraph, and continued through to v. 25.

            But perhaps I’m misunderstanding your argument – as you pointed out, there’s at least three distinct positions in this thread (counting mine), so I’m not sure where you and Joe part ways here.

          2. Irked,

            I never did a video on the Eucharist. I did write an article that summarizes my position. In short, I believe Orthodoxy teaches that the Eucharist exists out of time, but enters into the space time continuum during the liturgy. One priest told me, “Orthodoxy believes in time travel.” So, Christ is not sacrificed again and again. Rather, the sacrifice from 2,000 years ago and the resurrected Body of the Lord, having no respect for chronology, were there during the Last Supper and every Liturgy since then.

            See “How Can Christ’s Sacrifice Be in Every Service When He Was Sacrificed Once and For All?”

            https://orthodoxchristiantheology.com/2017/05/08/how-can-christs-sacrifice-be-in-every-service-when-he-was-sacrificed-once-and-for-all/

            God bless,
            Craig

        1. Hi Irked, it’s been a while.

          I want to talk to you in person about this because it’s so critical. But you make a huge mistake when you lump together Christ’s sacrifice being once for all and all priestly work being over. I’ve told you this before but this turns Jesus Christ into a retired High Priest. A priest without anything to offer violates Hebrews 8:3. Christ continues a High Priest FOREVER after the order of Melchizedek. This interpretation of Hebrews is also a complete invention by Zwingly in the 16th century. Everyone prior to that (even folks like Hus and Wycliffe) saw Hebrews the Catholic/Orthodox way, including every Church Father who mentioned it. Something else I realized is that this interpretation of Christ’s sacrifice not only does away with the Catholic/Orthodox ministerial Priesthood, it’s also incompatible with the Universal Priesthood of all believers as well. All priestly action of the Church is a participation in Christ’s perpetual sacrifice to the Father. If that sacrifice has stopped, then all sacrifice to God has stopped. But that is blatantly counter biblical (Romans 12:1). No sacrifice, no priest and no Priesthood.

          Something else you haven’t noticed is that Christ’s sacrifice is perpetual. In fact, Hebrews 10 uses that Greek word three times. Yes, Christ offered His sacrifice to God once for all on the Cross (in a bloody manner). He CONTINUES to offer Himself to the Father everything He is (Divinity and Humanity). When you think about it, that should be obvious. The Son loves the Father, of course He will always be completely offering Himself to the Father. We are called to do likewise are we not? The only difference between the Cross and the Mass is the manner in which Christ offers Himself. One perpetual Divine perfect offering is taking place in Heaven as we speak. The Mass is a momentary participation in that stupendous Mystery.

          May God be with you.

          Matthew.

          1. Hi Matthewp,

            That it has! Good to hear from you again.

            I’ve told you this before but this turns Jesus Christ into a retired High Priest. A priest without anything to offer violates Hebrews 8:3.

            Not retired, but it absolutely does turn him into one no longer offering sacrifices for sin. He fulfills other priestly roles now – even as we do ourselves.

            As we discussed last time, Hebrews 8:3 says, “Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.” His point is plainly that Christ had to have something to offer, and that indeed he did: his life. But he’s also explicit that this offering is now complete: the offering made. As your own theology teaches, though, once one becomes a priest, one is a priest forever; a priest is a priest whether he continues to offer sacrifices or not. One even remains a priest if there are no sacrifices left to make.

            The Son loves the Father, of course He will always be completely offering Himself to the Father.

            Whether or not this is true, it’s a separate question from whether he continues to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins.

            ***

            As I said the last time we had this conversation, I think your explanation of the passage has two fundamental problems. First, I do not see that it adequately makes sense of the teaching that Christ sat down – when the author explicitly contrasts that with how an ordinary priest must continue to stand in order to make sin offerings.

            Second, it relies heavily on the distinction between the end to bloody sacrifices, but the continuance of unbloody sacrifices. This is a distinction of which the book of Hebrews knows nothing; I’d challenge you again to show me anywhere in the text of the book where the author divides these categories.

          2. Hebrews 7:1-3 and Genesis 14:18-20: Melchizedek brings forth bread and wine, he has no beginning and no end, and he is like the Son of God, a priest forever; Abraham gives Melchizedek a tenth of everything for his offering.

            We piddling humans have nothing good but faith and love and remembrance of Christ to offer: His merits and satisfactions are infinite. We recall and re-present those to Our Father via the unbloody bread and wine sacrifice of the altar (since we have nothing better). If Christ’s merits are infinite, why should we keep them hidden? We proclaim and we worship and we hold up and we offer and then we partake since He is our salvation, shed and shared with and for us.

            Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving, Everyone.

          3. Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father does not preclude OUR offering Him as our commemorative sacrifice and the fulfillment of His will that we take and eat and drink His body and blood and do so in commemoration of Him. His commandments are to Love Him our God and Keep His Holy Sabbath. We obey and express our obedience to his will, as Psalm 40 and Hebrews 10:5-10 portend: We offer ourselves, containing His body and blood, as He commands, as a living and pure sacrifice; as He lives within us we are made holy. Without his life within us, we lack what we most need: Him.

      2. Irked said: “…to open the door to “a re-presented sacrifice which must be offered again and again for new sin” in any way – is to overturn the basis of his argument for the superiority of Christianity over Judaism.”

        What Irked fails to realize is that Paul himself recognizes a ‘re-presentation’ or ‘perpetual’ type of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary due to Chirist’s institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. Catholics believe that when Jesus said “this is my body” he was speaking literally and not symbolically, that is, it signified His ‘real presence’ body, blood, soul and divinity. And St. Paul also believed likewise, when teaching on the nature of the Eucharist, saying:

        “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16).

        Pay attention to the word “participation”. People do not participate in symbols or metaphors. They are actually eating and drinking a physical substance, and which also has physical effects upon the recipient. Again, Paul did NOT say, “we are participating in a ‘symbol’ of the blood of Christ”….but rather…”we are participating in the (actual) BLOOD OF CHRIST”, which has been the Catholic position throughout the ages.

        St. Paul himself proves the literal understanding of the Eucharist by detailing the penalties of those who lack faith in his teaching, and commit sin by doing so. He’s says clearly:

        “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me.

        For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, YOU SHALL SHEW THE DEATH OF THE LORD, until he come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, NOT DISCERNING THE BODY of the Lord. Therefore are there many INFIRM AND WEAK among you, AND MANY SLEEP.” (1Cor. 11:23)

        ***********************************************************

        Now, if the Eucharist were only a ‘symbol’ of the Body of Christ, why would the ‘body’ need to be discerned? And moreover, why would a person become ‘infirm and weak’.. or die?.. by NOT discerning??

        But, if the Eucharist IS truly the body and blood of Christ, the same as was crucified on Calvary, then something like a “perpetual’ sacrifice of Christ is indeed happening, because the same true body and the same true blood of Christ that was on Calvary is also being consumed, and communicated with, even years after the crucifixion on Calvary, even as Paul explains: “For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice you shall shew the death of the Lord until He comes”…that is…every time we receive the Eucharist that is provided to us by Christ’s holy and everlasting Church.

        Remember, it is not the Church who instituted and commanded all these marvelous things to us, but Christ Himself who mandated them for us, His believers, on the night before He died, and for His own divine reasons. And, exactly how the Eucharist is transformed into the ‘body and blood’ of the Lord during the sacred liturgy is mystical and mysterious by nature (which is taught to be by transubstantiation). But, Jesus Christ Himself is the cause of it, and St. Paul is a significant witness (especially through his quote above) in the correct understanding of it.

        And for a a further proof that this was the true understanding of the early Church you can read again St. Justin in 150 AD, who verifies that God is pleased with the sacrificial and perpetual re-presentation offered in every Church throughout the world, and throughout the ages, when he writes:

        “God has therefore announced in advance that all the sacrifices offered in His name, which Jesus Christ offered, that is, in the Eucharist of the Bread and of the Chalice, which are offered by us Christians in every part of the world, are pleasing to Him.”

        (-Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 117)

        1. Al,

          I don’t see that this addresses my exegesis of Hebrews in any way, and I’d like to deal with the verses Craig raised for this sub-thread before switching passages and arguments again.

        2. Good evening, Al,

          Wondering if you’ve ever run across Agape bible study. I just found it tonight (can’t sleep). It is astounding. Here’s Hebrews 8. The entire book, I believe, is expounded. Wow.

          Thanksgiving Blessings to you and yours.

          1. Thanks Margo, I’ll check it out.

            And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!!

            – Al

          2. Margo,

            This site is a treasure! Thanks for sharing. The abundance of quotes from the Church Fathers really adds to the commentary. I’ll make good use of it, and share it with many others also.

            Best to you always.

  5. More proof of the Eucharist as ‘sacrifice’ from the Early Church:

    St. Justin, in about 150 A.D., wrote:

    “God has therefore announced in advance that all the SACRIFICES offered in His name, which Jesus Christ offered, that is, in the Eucharist of the Bread and of the Chalice, which are offered by us Christians in every part of the world, are pleasing to Him.”

    (Dialogue with Trypho”, Ch. 117)

  6. I can finally sign up for email notifications and not worry about my inbox exploding with nonsensical comments.

    Craig- isn’t it nice not to have to scour the Bible and early writings for exceptions to buttress many of your your positions?

    The few Protestants I can get to read the fathers spend an enormous amount of time trying to find something that can muddy a plain teaching or expression. The words the fathers use express their faith is so foreign to them. I read them and for the most part it just flows and makes sense. This goes back to what you said about Protestantism I(I’m paraphrasing) being a religion of many exceptions. The thief on the cross is a perfect example.

  7. In the Didache, one of the earliest Christian texts, written mid to late 1st century, the prophecy in Malachi 1:11 quoted above was seen to be fulfilled in the Eucharist, which is explicitly referred to as a sacrifice:

    And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. And let no man, having his dispute with his fellow, join your assembly until they have been reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be defiled; for this sacrifice it is that was spoken of by the Lord; In every place and at every time offer Me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great king, saith the Lord and My name is wonderful among the nations. (Didache 14:1-5, Lightfoot’s translation)

    1. Fr. Terry,

      Thanks for the detail above, about the reference to Malachi 1:11. I never took the time to investigate that particular prophesy cited from Malachi due to the QUADRUPLE use of the word ‘sacrifice’ in the mere 2 sentences of the text, above. That alone seemed proof enough that it was indeed ‘sacrifice’ that was being indicated in those two sentences from the Didache. But the entire text from Malachi gives even more context to this passage. Not only does it abundantly discuss sacrifice, but it includes extraordinary statements such as:

      “For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts”

      So, this adds context to the words: “In EVERY PLACE and at EVERY TIME offer Me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great king, saith the Lord and My name is wonderful AMONG THE NATIONS.

      This clearly signifies the universal ‘sacrifices’ offered in the Catholic/Orthodox Eucharistic Liturgies around the world and throughout all the centuries. Again, this reference in Malachi regarding the “Gentiles” and “Nations” is extraordinary in the Bible, and that this is actually the LAST book of the Old Testament, makes it even more extraordinary and revealing, not to mention that Jesus referenced it also regarding St. John the Baptist/Elias and Christ’s Church being considered the ‘kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 11:11).

      Best to you, and thanks for the insightful comment on the Didache.

      1. Our protestant friends who comment here, might also understand Christ teachings on the subject of sacrifice in Matt. 5:23 in the same context as described in the Didache teachings above.

        Christ: “If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.

        The Didache: “break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your offering may be pure; But let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled.

        I wonder how Protestants interpret Christ’s (Matt. 5:23) teaching above? And if they recognize, or not, the connection to the Eucharist and ‘sacrifice’ described in this Didache passage?

        Just curious how they ‘get around’, or ignore, these things.

    2. Fr. Donahue,

      Thanks for the reminder! That was in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t remember which Patristic text referenced it (I believe that there are actually several that use the Malachi 1:11 verse as a line about the Eucharist, but the Didache is the earliest).

      Joe

      1. Thanks for your blog, Joe. Most of us would never be inclined to research these details, such as the theological implications of Malachi 1:11, without your many thought provoking posts, and also the healthy apologetic debates that they inspire in the commentary. Almost guaranteed, without this site, I would never been intellectually provoked to research deeply Church history such as is found in the Didache, Apostolic Traditions of Hippolytus, Apostolic Constitutions, Canons of Alvira, Council of Barcelona, The Shepherd of Hermas, canons of all the ecumenical councils, The Life and Writings of St. Cyprian, Writings of St. Clement of Alexandria, The Montanist heresy and history, Eusebius Church History, and so many other interesting theological topics.

        So, since we are in the season of saying thanks, I just wanted to reiterate this.

  8. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

    There you have Jesus being ethnocentric. How Jews knew Yahweh better than the Samaritans is beyond me. “Salvation is from the Jews”, by itself, means nothing to a Samaritan, for whom the very concept of “Jew” has another meaning.

    There is absolutely no evidence that the Jews had more knowledge about their god than than the Samaritans.

    1. I guess all the writings of the Old Testament doesn’t’ provide any evidence? Or, the very words of Christ Himself? Don’t the words of the ‘Son of God’, the ‘Savior of the world’, the ‘Third Person of the Blessed Trinity’, the ‘Eternal Logos’, have any significance??

      What’s the problem with the Jews being a ‘chosen people’ set apart…even as pretty much every chapter of the OT teaches??

      Moreover, Jesus, His holy mother, John the Baptist, and all of the apostles, were the ‘fruit’ of this most extraordinary and holy nation.

      1. “I guess all the writings of the Old Testament doesn’t’ provide any evidence?”

        You’re right, they don’t provide any evidence.

        “What’s the problem with the Jews being a ‘chosen people’ set apart…even as pretty much every chapter of the OT teaches??”

        What’s the problem of the Arabian peoples being set apart… or the Hindu people set apart, or the Aboriginal Australians set apart, as every history of their traditions teaches?

        “Moreover, Jesus, His holy mother, John the Baptist, and all of the apostles, were the ‘fruit’ of this most extraordinary and holy nation.”

        Moreover, Buddah, his holy mother, and all his disciples, were the ‘fruit’ of this most extraordinary and holy nation.

        Moreover, Virgil, Horatio, Cicero, Seneca, and all their disciples, were the ‘fruit’ of this most extraordinary and holy nation.

        1. Then, we should compare the wisdom of the Old Testament, and New Testament as well, to the writings of all these other poets and philosophers, to see which teaches the truth more clearly on the natural, spiritual and practical levels. And Clement of Alexandria, head master of the school of Alexandria in 180-200+ AD does a good job of this very thing. And he includes Buddha in his comparison and analysis of so many ancient philosophers and gods (…false and ridiculous, as he proves them to be).

          Here is a short sample of his analysis. And remember, that all of these heathen practices that he describes were present before his own eyes, and a part of his former life also, as Christianity was still a new religion in those early times:

          BY CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA

          “Exhortation to the Heathen”

          Chapter 2. The Absurdity and Impiety of the Heathen Mysteries and Fables About the Birth and Death of Their Gods.

          “Explore not then too curiously the shrines of impiety, or the mouths of caverns full of monstrosity, or the Thesprotian caldron, or the Cirrhæan tripod, or the Dodonian copper. The Gerandryon, once regarded sacred in the midst of desert sands, and the oracle there gone to decay with the oak itself, consigned to the region of antiquated fables. The fountain of Castalia is silent, and the other fountain of Colophon; and, in like manner, all the rest of the springs of divination are dead, and stripped of their vainglory, although at a late date, are shown with their fabulous legends to have run dry. Recount to us also the useless oracles of that other kind of divination, or rather madness, the Clarian, the Pythian, the Didymæan, that of Amphiaraus, of Apollo, of Amphilochus; and if you will, couple with them the expounders of prodigies, the augurs, and the interpreters of dreams. And bring and place beside the Pythian those that divine by flour, and those that divine by barley, and the ventriloquists still held in honour by many. Let the secret shrines of the Egyptians and the necromancies of the Etruscans be consigned to darkness. Insane devices truly are they all of unbelieving men. Goats, too, have been confederates in this art of soothsaying, trained to divination; and crows taught by men to give oracular responses to men.

          And what if I go over the mysteries? I will not divulge them in mockery, as they say Alcibiades did, but I will expose right well by the word of truth the sorcery hidden in them; and those so-called gods of yours, whose are the mystic rites, I shall display, as it were, on the stage of life, to the spectators of truth. The bacchanals hold their orgies in honour of the frenzied Dionysus, celebrating their sacred frenzy by the eating of raw flesh, and go through the distribution of the parts of butchered victims, crowned with snakes, shrieking out the name of that Eva by whom error came into the world. The symbol of the Bacchic orgies is a consecrated serpent. Moreover, according to the strict interpretation of the Hebrew term, the name Hevia, aspirated, signifies a female serpent.

          Demeter and Proserpine have become the heroines of a mystic drama; and their wanderings, and seizure, and grief, Eleusis celebrates by torchlight processions. I think that the derivation of orgies and mysteries ought to be traced, the former to the wrath (ὀργή) of Demeter against Zeus, the latter to the nefarious wickedness (μύσος) relating to Dionysus; but if from Myus of Attica, who Pollodorus says was killed in hunting— no matter, I don’t grudge your mysteries the glory of funeral honours. You may understand mysteria in another way, as mytheria (hunting fables), the letters of the two words being interchanged; for certainly fables of this sort hunt after the most barbarous of the Thracians, the most senseless of the Phrygians, and the superstitious among the Greeks.

          Perish, then, the man who was the author of this imposture among men, be he Dardanus, who taught the mysteries of the mother of the gods, or Eetion, who instituted the orgies and mysteries of the Samothracians, or that Phrygian Midas who, having learned the cunning imposture from Odrysus, communicated it to his subjects. For I will never be persuaded by that Cyprian Islander Cinyras, who dared to bring forth from night to the light of day the lewd orgies of Aphrodité; in his eagerness to deify a strumpet of his own country. Others say that Melampus the son of Amythaon imported the festivals of Ceres from Egypt into Greece, celebrating her grief in song.

          These I would instance as the prime authors of evil, the parents of impious fables and of deadly superstition, who sowed in human life that seed of evil and ruin— the mysteries.” …

          For more insight into the pagan mysteries, sacrifices etc… as explained by Clement, (It’s well worth the read) go to :

          http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/020802.htm

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