Did Jesus Oppose Animal Sacrifice?

Michelangelo, Sacrifice of Noah, Sistine Chapel ceiling (1512)
Michelangelo, Sacrifice of Noah, Sistine Chapel ceiling (1512)

Did Jesus oppose the Jewish system of sacrificing animals? That’s one of several claims that a reader named Bobby English made recently: he claims that Christ’s cleansing of the Temple was about His desire to eliminate this bloody sacrificial system, and that it wasn’t even what was called for in the Old Covenant. It turns out he’s getting these claims from something called the Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies. Here are the relevant claims:

Undergirding the theory that it was the cheating moneychangers whom Jesus targeted as the culprits in the system of animal sacrifice, is the claim that the whole process had become “too commercial.” This is akin to claiming that the institution of slavery had to be dismantled because it had became too commercial. Although both Temple sacrifices and human slavery had a firm economic foundation, it was the inherent immorality of those systems that brought together the historical forces which finally led to their collapse.

Several hundred years after prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Hosea had denounced the sacrificial slaughter of animals, Jesus carried out what is euphemistically called the Cleansing of the Temple. It was just before Passover and he disrupted the buying and selling of animals that were being purchased for slaughter. And because Christian scholars and religious leaders continue to ignore biblical denunciations of that bloody worship, they also try to obscure the reason for Christ’s assault on the system.

They have done this by focusing on the moneychangers, although they were only minor players in the drama that took place. It was the cult of sacrifice that Jesus tried to dismantle, not the system of monetary exchange. In all three gospel accounts of the event, those who provided the animals for sacrifice are mentioned first: they were the primary focus of Christ’s outrage.[….]

And in biblical times, most people were illiterate and dependant on what their religious leaders taught them concerning the scriptures. But it is not easy to understand why contemporary Christians uphold the validity of the cult of animal sacrifice. In an age of widespread literacy, there is a choice to be made. The bible clearly presents an ongoing conflict between those forces that demanded sacrificial victims in the name of God, and those forces that opposed it as a man-made perversion. And Jesus demonstrated The Way of the Nazoreans.

And because there is a choice to be made, it is deeply disturbing to see Christian leaders joining hands across the centuries with their ancient counterparts, in order to validate a system of worship in which the house of God became a giant slaughterhouse, awash in the blood of its victims.

This is a baffling misreading of Sacred Scripture. Consider three major points: the God-Man Jesus Christ established the blood sacrificial system; He participated in it; and He became it.

I. Christ Established the Sacrificial System.

The sacrificial system English condemns is of divine origin. The animals being sold in the Temple in John 2:16 were “oxen and sheep and pigeons,” so let’s look specifically at those.  Where did this system originate? With God Himself. He’s the one who specifically instructed the Israelites to offer oxen and sheep (Exodus 20:24): “An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.” He’s also the one who called for the sacrifice of pigeons (Leviticus 5:5-10):

When a man is guilty in any of these, he shall confess the sin he has committed, and he shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord for the sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring, as his guilt offering to the Lord for the sin which he has committed, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. He shall bring them to the priest, who shall offer first the one for the sin offering; he shall wring its head from its neck, but shall not sever it, and he shall sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering on the side of the altar, while the rest of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the altar; it is a sin offering. Then he shall offer the second for a burnt offering according to the ordinance; and the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed, and he shall be forgiven.

So the claim that God didn’t desire this system in the Old Covenant is just bizarrely wrong. And the claim that Christ hated this system that He, as part of the Triune Godhead, created, is only slightly less odd, and no less wrong.

So God created this system, but why? And did it work? Did this bloody sacrificial system do anything? The passage above speaks of the priest atoning for sins through these sacrifices, but Hebrews 10:11 says that “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” So what’s going on here?

The simplest answer is twofold. First, these sacrifices are a foreshadowing of the Cross (more on that later). Second, they did work, but as acts of faith, not because the sacrifices themselves possessed some power. In other words, it wasn’t that a dead ox has the power to take away sins. It’s that, in participating in the sacrificial system, the Jews were acting upon their faith in God, and it is this active faith that saved them (and is the forebear of the faith that saves us, today).

If that distinction doesn’t make immediate sense, consider the more extreme case of Abraham’s would-be sacrifice of Isaac. St. James poses the rhetorical question, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?” (James 2:21). Yet obviously, James isn’t suggesting that human sacrifice is capable of bringing about justification. And God prevented Abraham from going through with the sacrifice, lest we take away the wrong lesson. Abraham is praised by God (and praised in the New Testament) for his faith: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son,” (Heb. 11:17).

But since this is the case,the Jewish sacrificial system had its efficacy entirely through faith, not through any merit inherent in animal sacrifice. And that’s why, when the Israelites repeatedly fall into a legalism that places the emphasis on the sacrifice (rather than faith, obedience, or love) that God reorders their priorities. This is perhaps clearest in Psalm 51:16-19,

For thou hast no delight in sacrifice;
were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good to Zion in thy good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then wilt thou delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on thy altar.

So sacrifices are worthwhile only if done from the heart. Otherwise, they’re a waste of time. And so, when the Israelites stray, God tells them that they’re wasting their time offering rote sacrifices. Those passages, stripped of all of context (including the rest of Scripture) Bobby English and by Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies come away thinking that all sacrifices are a waste of time.

II. Christ Participated in the Sacrificial System

In Luke 2:22-32, Joseph and Mary bring the Christ Child up to Jerusalem for two reasons: to present Him to the Lord (according to the Law), and to participate in the bloody sacrificial system:

And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.”

You might recognize the passage that St. Luke is quoting, by the way: it’s Leviticus 5:5-10, quoted above. And it’s important to note here that nothing in this passage suggest that Jesus’ parents are sinning by participating in the sacrificial system. Quite the contrary: we seen that the Holy Spirit chose to act at this moment, when His parents were fulfilling the duties of the Law, to lead the prophet Simeon to encounter Christ.

Nor was this a one-time participation in the sacrificial system. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph went up every year at Passover to participate in the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. Luke 2:41-42 tells us that “his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover,” and that when Christ “was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.”

III. Christ Became a Bloody Sacrifice

Finally, I alluded earlier to the fact that the whole purpose of the sacrificial system was to point towards the Cross. We see references to this large and small: for example, St. Paul says to “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). That could hardly be more explicit, and it’s unthinkable that Paul would be suggesting Christ is the New Covenant version of something wicked.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains this succinctly, in a passage of the Summa Theologiae rich in Scriptural citations:

Now of all the gifts which God vouchsafed to mankind after they had fallen away by sin, the chief is that He gave His Son; wherefore it is written (John 3:16): “God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” Consequently the chief sacrifice is that whereby Christ Himself “delivered Himself . . . to God for an odor of sweetness” (Ephesians 5:2). And for this reason all the other sacrifices of the Old Law were offered up in order to foreshadow this one individual and paramount sacrifice–the imperfect forecasting the perfect. Hence the Apostle says (Hebrews 10:11) that the priest of the Old Law “often” offered “the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but” Christ offered “one sacrifice for sins, for ever.” And since the reason of the figure is taken from that which the figure represents, therefore the reasons of the figurative sacrifices of the Old Law should be taken from the true sacrifice of Christ.

With all of this out of the way, it should be eminently clear that Christ’s driving out the moneylenders was because they were treating the Temple as a marketplace. In other words, it wasn’t about what they were selling, but where they were selling. Sacred space matters, a concept lost on many modern megachurches. There’s a reason that Jesus doesn’t say, “stop hurting those animals!” He says, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade” (John 2:16). And it’s why He accuses them of turning the Temple into “a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17).

57 Comments

    1. Yo Craig,

      Chew on this:

      POISONED CHALICE

      Did this 65 year-old, healthy, ultra-liberal pope John Paul the First, { Albino Luciani } really die of “natural” causes just 33 days after his election ?

      The controversial death of Pope John Paul I

      At seven-thirty on the morning of September 29, 1978, the Vatican released this official statement:

      Pope John Paul died just before midnight, (which proved to be WRONG)
      of a blood clot to the heart. (which doesn’t square with other evidence)
      He was discovered by his secretary John Magee (which proved to be WRONG)
      about six-thirty this morning (which proved to be WRONG)
      when he went to look for the Pope (which proved to be WRONG)
      when he failed to show up for his morning chapel service. (which proved to be WRONG)
      He was found to be in a sitting up position and wearing his daytime clothes (Accurate)
      and the bed lamp was on. (which conflicts with Vatican police testimony)
      John Paul died while he was reading the Imitation of Christ (which proved to be WRONG)
      which book was still held upright in his hands (which was true of OTHER documents).
      Father Magee, on realizing the Pope was dead, summoned Cardinal Villot (Accurate)
      who performed the last rites of the Church. (which proved to be WRONG).

      By six-thirty, the body had already been embalmed, giving rise to a rumor that the Pope had been poisoned. It was commonly known that this was a practice of the Mafia when slow arsenic poisoning was the instrument of murder. Embalming the body shortly after death erases the obvious signs of poisoning. It was for this reason that it was illegal in Italy to embalm a body until twenty-four hours after death. But Italian law did not apply within Vatican walls.

      It should be pointed out that if arsenic were indeed the instrument of death, being an element, it would not have broken down over time and would be present in the Pope’s cadaver, specifically in his fingernails and hair, even today.

      Dr. Buzzanetti, the doctor who pronounced him dead, said the cause of death was a heart attack. This supposition seemed to be confirmed by the statement to reporters by John Magee that the Pope had complained of chest pains at lunch. However, when reporters questioned several others that had been present at the lunch, none of them could recall such an incident, the Pontiff was laughing and in good spirits. When all this conflicting testimony was questioned by the press, the Vatican finally issued a verbal corrective statement to the press that in the confusion following the Pope’s death some errors had been made in its original release. Because the Vatican had been caught in what appeared to be a combination of lies, rumors of foul play continued to spread throughout Europe.

      On the third day following the Pope’s death, all those who had shared the Papal apartment with the Pope were reassigned to unknown locations in Europe. This enraged reporters, as it made the primary witnesses to the circumstances surrounding the Pope’s death unavailable. Every newspaper in Italy questioned the Vatican’s action in this respect. If it had nothing to hide, then why exile the only known witnesses to the circumstances surrounding the Pope’s death? In an attempt to bring an end to the rumors, the Vatican finally responded with a corrected release to the press:

      “The Pope’s secretary and the nuns who cared for the papal apartment were particularly saddened by the Pope’s passing and were placed on sabbatical leave to help them get through this difficult period. We wish to correct our statement that the Pope held The Imitation of Christ in his hands at the time of his death. This was a communications error. The Pope at the time of his death was reviewing some old notes that he had written when he had been Bishop of Vittorio Veneto. That he was able to retain them upright in his hands in the midst of a massive heart attack is due to the grace of God.”

      We wish to correct our original release that it was the Pope’s secretary John Magee who had discovered the Pope’s body. It was the Pope’s secretary who first realized that he was dead. (a true correction!)
      The Pope was first discovered by the nun who delivered the Pope ‘s breakfast at the usual time. When the Pope did not respond she summoned John Magee as she sensed something was wrong. (a true correction!)
      It is Canon Law that an autopsy cannot he performed on a pope ‘s body. (an erroneous “correction”)
      It is immaterial whether a nun or his secretary found His Holiness. (an erroneous “correction”)
      It is also immaterial when he was found dead. (an erroneous “correction”)
      And it is also immaterial when he actually died. (an erroneous “correction”)
      All that is material is that he was found dead.” (an erroneous “correction”)

      (Although the word “correction” originally meant “to make correct”, all it means in many cases now is an attempt to restate a prior mistake or lie in order to make it at least appear less erroneous.)

      The Vatican letter simply raised more questions. It made no sense that Magee and three of the nuns would have been so saddened by the Pope’s death that they were placed on sabbatical, as they had known him only a month. And, if anything was “immaterial” or irrelevant in this situation, it was citing this provision of Canon Law, because that canon contains the exception that one would expect, “unless there is suspicion of murder”, which is why an autopsy was performed on Pius VIII in 1829, why it should have been performed on John Paul I, and should be performed by independent and trustworthy medical personnel as soon as the arrangements can be made.

      Why ?

      If the representatives of the Vatican were the genuinely pious, truthful and sincere “men of God” that they want us to believe, then

      Why has the Vatican promoted the idea that this Pope’s death was a natural outcome of his life-long poor health, when the very opposite is true?
      his last physical examination six months before his tragic death, which was released to the press at the request of his family, “had detected nothing other than a man of extraordinarily good health.”
      contrary to the Vatican’s claim that he had “low blood pressure”, the reading at his last complete physical (above) was 121 / 78, and six days earlier was 118 / 80, as close to perfect as one could hope!
      the Vatican claim that he suffered from severe respiratory illnesses all his life, even going so far as to claim that as a child he had been confined to a sanatorium for a year with tuberculosis, and spent most adult life in and out of sanatoria, including being confined for most of 1947 in the hospital in Belluno with severe viral pneumonia .
      the Vatican claimed that he had suffered six heart attacks earlier in life and that John Paul died of a heart attack. Yet the Luciani family and his own personal physician in Venice contradicted this claim as did every cardiologist and the hospitals interviewed by the press in the entire Venice metropolitan area where John Paul had been stationed for the 20 years prior to his election to the papacy.
      There is no evidence to support these claims. On the contrary, When he became a bishop in 1958 at the age of forty-six, he included on his official coat of arms the six Dolomite Mountain peaks for which he held the climbing speed record. In the years to follow, he would add a number of the tallest and most difficult peaks of the Italian Alps to his achievements. And you don’t need to be a mountain climber yourself to know that it’s not something that people with bad hearts and bad lungs are likely to engage in, let alone to excel at!

      ( For more on the above outline, read pp. 127 -142 of “Murder in the Vatican” )

      In addition to the above, there are other problems with the official death by natural causes theory :

      When popes take office, they are required to file their last will and testament with the Vatican. What can explain the disappearance of the Vatican copy and the theft of the copy from the pope’s attorney’s office?
      Why did Vatican officials collect all of the personal papers and records from the dioceses where he had been a bishop and priest and hide them somewhere in the Vatican, when it is known that his last will was that they stay in those places and be made public?
      Why does this pope’s tombstone at the Vatican have nothing but his name? (The least that every other pope’s stone has is name and dates of papacy.)
      Why is there no official biography of Pope John Paul the First?
      Why has the Vatican tried to portray Pope John Paul the First as a traditionalist, after hiding as much of his actual ideology, when the record the Vatican has not been able to hide shows that he was anything but a traditionalist?

      1. Yo Bobby, chew on this:

        “.The domestic carrot has been selectively bred for its greatly enlarged and more palatable, less woody-textured edible taproot. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that world production of carrots and turnips (these plants are combined by the FAO for reporting purposes) for calendar year 2011 was almost 35.658 million tonnes. Almost half were grown in China. Carrots are widely used in many cuisines, especially in the preparation of salads, and carrot salads are a tradition in many regional cuisines.”

        See, we can both raise insane non sequiturs!

        My question for you: is that how this is going to go? You raise a conspiracy theory, I carefully debunk it, and then you just raise some other random conspiracy theory? If so — if you can’t interact with the blog post by doing more than using the copy and paste feature (without even realizing whether you’re posting something pertinent or insane and/or anti-Semitic trash) — don’t waste our time. Either use your critical thinking capacity, or go spend your time in a more productive way.

        I.X.,

        Joe

    2. Craig,

      I completely agree with your view that some issues shouldn’t even be open for discussion. But isn’t that something of a critique of Protestantism?

      The trajectory in the early Church was to settle issues: open questions on the Trinity and the natures of Christ, on the efficacy of the Sacraments, proper titles of the Virgin Mary, the merits of using images in worship, etc., were successively settled. An increasingly-clear picture of orthodoxy came into view, along with ever-more sophisticated and precise language to express the truths of the faith.

      I see the radical rupture happening with the Reformation, for two reasons.

      1) Once you say that some of these settled questions were wrongly settled and need to be reopened, where do you stop? Why is it okay to reject II Nicaea and not I Nicaea? And if I Nicaea’s authority rests only on the strengths of its arguments (we obey it only because they happened to get the answer right), then I would seem to need to revisit every question, no matter how basic, just to make sure that Christianity got all of these questions right.

      2) Who has the authority to settle any question permanently? So the debates are necessarily interminable, even on the most basic of questions.

      That’s why, I would argue, the post-Reformational history is (broadly speaking) one of a continued trajectory of closing questions within Catholicism (lingering questions about the nature of the Sacraments, papal infallibility, and the nature of faith and reason were closed), and of re-opening questions within Protestantism (each generation of new denominations attacks ever-more fundamental aspects of the faith until you get to Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses who aren’t even recognizably Christian).

      So I think your recognition that “issues such as these should not even open for discussion let alone debate” is entirely true, but incongruous with your acceptance of the Reformation’s reopening of discussion and debate.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. The issue you are responding to in your post is so out of line with the Scripture and tradition that it amounts to simply an expression of beliefs in the writer’s own mind, cherry picking what he wants to believe here or there. Clearly, he does not accept the premise of Sola Scriptura for he doubts the Scripture and the morality of what is found therein.

        The crucial difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is that of authority. Being that in Catholicism authority is always derived in the Church, right now, all things (Scripture, previous things written by the Church, etc.) are made to inevitably reconcile with what the Church teaches now.

        The Protestant view of authority is that ultimately, only the Scripture itself is without question. That does not place zero importance on tradition, but it undercuts the idea that there exists a perfect set of interpretations or interpreters.

        Ultimately, we find expressions of the latter, and not the former, in the early Church even though they had a very high view of the institutional Church. The idea that Councils conclusively settled matters and can be placed upon an equal footing with the Scripture was unknown to these men.

        Hence, the Catholic view of authority is inherently flawed. And if flawed, then we have reasons to doubt that every “settled” question according to Catholicism is in fact settled.

        God bless,
        Craig

        1. I’m confused about the whole framework of this debate: you’re saying that “the Catholic view of authority is inherently flawed” if we can’t prove that Councils are equal to Scripture? The Catholic Church, like the Fathers, rejects the idea that Church Councils are equal to Scripture.

          Dei Verbum 10:

          Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort. (7)

          But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, (8) has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, (9) whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

          Ecumenical Councils are inferior to Scripture in two senses: (1) they cannot be a source of new public revelation; and (2) they’re protected from heresy, but not divinely inspired.

          P.S. Craig, I wouldn’t be so quick to claim Augustine on this point.

          1. Joe, you just made the point that councils are divinely protected from error. Augustine specifically taught against this.

            In your article on Augustine, you are conflating his belief in “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” with an acceptance of Magesterial teaching authority you posit. These are two different things.

            Have you read Augustine’s books against the Donatists? Clearly he thinks they are going to hell, but he (painfully) proves his case from the Scriptures. In the second book, he specifically says Ecumenical Councils can err and subsequent councils can correct what they get wrong. He says only Scripture does not err.

            I write about those books here:
            http://christianreformedtheology.com/2015/06/10/against-augustines-on-baptism-against-the-donatists-part-i/
            and here:
            http://christianreformedtheology.com/2015/06/19/augustine-on-the-superiority-of-scripture-over-councils/

            So, I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding Augustine’s position, which you must, simply because if you understood it, it would lay bare that modern Catholicism believes in the divine protection of councils when those who actually partook in them didn’t.

            GOd bless,
            Craig

          2. Craig from this logic the burden of proof now shifts to you in proving that the authors of scripture knew at the very time of their writing that they were being inspired by the Holy Spirit.

          3. Not really Trogos, we already both fundamentally agree on that point already. Why would I have to prove that the Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit when you already believe it? For fun?

          4. Well I disagree. the very thing you believe is a weak point in my argument in favor of the authority of councils is a weakness in the very thing you hold as soley authoritative. So quite frankly that would make you a hypocrite if you desire to use it as a weapon of argumentation. You have no foundation to agree to believe in the inspiration of the bible bc you just took it away from yourself. Furthermore how do you know the condemned early heresies of the early church, specifically regarding the trinity, are actually the truth. You cut the rug from under your own feet.

  1. From the “Nazarean Way” article quoted above:

    “And in biblical times, most people were illiterate and dependant on what their religious leaders taught them concerning the scriptures. But it is not easy to understand why contemporary Christians uphold the validity of the cult of animal sacrifice. In an age of widespread literacy, there is a choice to be made. The bible clearly presents an ongoing conflict between those forces that demanded sacrificial victims in the name of God, and those forces that opposed it as a man-made perversion. And Jesus demonstrated The Way of the Nazoreans.”

    —–

    “The Bible clearly presents…” is the giveaway phrase that should warn us we are listening to a teacher who has drunk the “sola scriptura”-flavored Kool Aid. Because if there is anything clear about the Bible, it is that it’s never clear. If it was, there would only be one, united Sola Scriptura Church.

    This is what Luther, Calvin, Wycliffe, and the first “sola scripturians” gave the world: That any nutcase who has convinced himself of how special his unique interpretation of the Bible may freely start a church.

    Craig, you are absolutely right, there should be no debate on this. Unfortunately, that is not yours to say; that is something we Catholics alone can only say…

    1. Jeremiah 7:21-27

      21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat.

      22 For I did NOT speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.

      23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’

      24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

      25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them.

      26 Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.

      27 “Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you.

      In EXODUS 32 we read of sacrifices to the GOLDEN CALF, but in fact it was MOLOCH. It had a calf’s head, but its body was a FURNACE. Human sacrifices were offered to MOLOCH and Moses had 3000 worshippers put to death!
      Its only when you read the whole Jewish Bible that you see the difference between Moses religion and Talmudic Judaism. The Pharisees/Rabbis ignore everything but TORAH/TALMUD. The scribes corrupted the Books of the Prophets, Jeremiah 8:8. The scribe Ezra brought back Zoroastrianism on their return from Babylon and he and the Pharisees added the Oral Tradition to their New Jewish Religion, whichJesus condemned (Matthew ch 15; Matthew ch 23; John ch 8)

      JEWISH HOLOCAUSTS

      MISHNAH. HE WHO GIVES OF HIS SEED TO MOLECH INCURS NO PUNISHMENT UNLESS HE DELIVERS IT TO MOLECH AND CAUSES IT TO PASS THROUGH THE FIRE. IF HE GAVE IT TO MOLECH BUT DID NOT CAUSE IT TO PASS THROUGH THE FIRE, OR THE REVERSE, HE INCURS NO PENALTY, UNLESS HE DOES BOTH.

      Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 64a

      Soncino 1961 Edition, page 437

      Following the Mishnah is a discussion among the sages. One of the Talmud Sages, Rabbi Ashi, comments as follows:

      GEMARA. R. Ashi propounded: What if one caused his blind or sleeping son to pass through, (3) or if he caused his grandson by his son or daughter to pass through? — One at least of these you may solve. For it has been taught: [Any men … that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall he put to death … And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people;] because he hath given of his seed unto Molech. Why is this stated? — Because it is said, there shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire. From this I know it only of his son or daughter. Whence do I know that it applies to his son’s son or daughter’s son too? From the verse, [And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man] when he giveth of his seed unto Molech [and kill him not: Then I will … cut him off.]

      — Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 64b

      Soncino 1961 Edition, page 439

      Rabbi Dr. Freedman, one of the translators of the Soncino Tractate Sanhedrin, clarifies the passage. In a footnote, Rabbi Dr. Freedman confirms that the Talmud Sages use “seed” to denote living children, in the same sense as the Biblical translators understand the term in the above Biblical quotes. In this footnote, Rabbi Dr. Freedman paraphrases the question from Rabbi Ashi:

      3. Is ‘thou shalt not cause to pass’ applicable only to a son who can naturally pass through himself, but not to a blind or sleeping son, who must be led or carried, or does it apply to all?

      Rabbi Dr. Freedman

      Other footnotes within the same context clarify the fine point of distinction being drawn in the Mishnah and subsequent debates among the sages:

      5. Lev. XVIII, 21. This proves that the offence consists of two parts; (I) formal delivery to the priests, and (2) causing the seed to pass through the fire.

      Rabbi Dr. Freedman (2)

      5. As two separate offences, proving that giving one’s seed to Molech is not idolatry. The differences [sic] is, that if one sacrificed to Molech, or caused his son to pass through the fire to some other deity, he is not punished.

      Rabbi Dr. Freedman (3)

      Following the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 64a and 64b contain a rousing debate between the Sages concerning:

      * the circumstances under which worshipping an idol is idolatry,

      * which idols may be worshipped without indulging in idolatry,

      * which parts of child sacrifice in what combination are punishable, and

      * how children may be sacrificed without violating Leviticus.

      THE TRICK IS, YOU GET THE GOYIM TO DO THE HOLOCAUST AND THEN BLAME THEM FOR CAUSING THE HOLOCAUST!

      JEWS SHOULD READ Exodus 32; 1 KINGS 11:1-11; AMOS 5:22-27!

      CHRISTIANS SHOULD ALSO READ Acts 7:42-43.

      1. Bobby,

        1. Do you deny that Jesus himself established the Old Testament system of animal sacrifice? If so, then why?

        2. Did the Blessed Virgin Mary commit sin by following the Jewish law of purification that required her to bring animals for sacrifice when she presented the Child Jesus in the temple?

        3. Did the family of Jesus commit sin by going yearly to Jerusalem for Passover, a Jewish feast that required animal sacrifice?

        Joe has already answered these questions with proof from scriptures. If what you claim about Jewish animal sacrifices is true, then we should not follow Jesus. Instead, we should just listen to the Jewish rabbis you are fond of quoting from.

      2. “Crushed by the sense of actual guilt, and ignorant of original sin, men substituted the innocent child for their own guilty selves. Thus the deepest ideas of religion possible to the ages of pagan ignorance gave birth to a rite, the more tremendous and apparently effacious character of which made even the Jews crave after it, in spite of the elements of better knowledge which their law contained” John E E Dalberg Human Sacrifice.
        https://archive.org/details/humansacrifice_1507_librivox

  2. A well-written article as always, Joe. Thank you for your time, effort, and clarity.

    However, I’m curious what prompted you to write this. True, bad ideas and lies can only be countered by good ideas and truth, but I’ve found that engaging the lunatic fringe can often exacerbate a problem instead of resolving it. Case in point: Mr, English’s anti-Jewish ravings posted here in the comments.

    Can you give an aspiring apologist some guidance on when to engage and when to ignore?

    1. Athanasius,

      I’m glad you asked. If I’m asked about X (or if someone raises an objection to X, of if X comes up in the news), the decision on whether or not to blog about it will depend largely on the following*

      (1) Is this a topic that I know something about? Am I able to present a clear insight on the topic in a reasonably-succinct manner?
      (2) Does the person asking seem genuinely interested in discovering the truth, or are they just trolling or being contentious? Proverbs 26:4-5 puts the paradox of how to respond to trolls this way: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Sometimes, you need to say something lest other readers think the troll’s arguments are sound. But to get into the weeds of the particulars is usually a waste of time in these cases.
      (3) Are readers interested in this question, or likely to have similar questions?

      I typically avoid the sort of drive-by copy-and-paste comments, because they show absolutely no serious thought or reflection. Copying and pasting without even pretending to engage with the specific post you’re “criticizing” isn’t even a minimal amount of intellectual effort: it’s just foolishness (and I’ve never heard of anyone being persuaded by this approach, so it seems to be a waste of everyone’s time, including the troll’s).

      In this particular case, I made an exception, because of the first and third reason mentioned above. Upon reading Bobby’s objection, I quickly realized what sort of response would answer it to the satisfaction of any remotely open-minded reader, and I considered that many other readers might have questions about what the whole sacrificial system was all about. A friend of mine converted to Catholicism in large part from an investigation into the efficacy of the sacrificial system, and recognizing its implications for the Bloodless Sacrifice of the Eucharist. So even though it’ll be a long shot to convince Bobby (only grace can do that), neutral readers might benefit from seeing the stark difference between these two positions.

      Finally, the fact that sites like the Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies exist point to the hazard of reading the Scriptures in radical isolation from (a) the rest of Scripture and (b) the interpretative tradition of the Church. If you feel comfortable saying 2000 years (or even 1500 years) of Christians were fundamentally wrong in how they read Scripture on such-and-such a fundamental issue, the doors are open for all sorts of nuttiness.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      *Underlying all of this, the question is “is this a prudent use of my time?” and so you should also take into consideration other factors like your schedule and spiritual life. Is there somewhere else you should be, like in the chapel, or in bed, or having dinner with your family? Tend to those things: the Internet will still be wrong when you get back.

  3. Craig said: “The crucial difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is that of authority. Being that in Catholicism authority is always derived in the Church, right now, all things (Scripture, previous things written by the Church, etc.) are made to inevitably reconcile with what the Church teaches now.”

    Me says: I disagree. The true difference between the Catholic Church and the Protestant sects is this: the Catholic Church produced the Bible itself, while the Protestants produced nothing but self-refuting and self-serving interpretations of the Bible.

    ——-
    Craig said: “The Protestant view of authority is that ultimately, only the Scripture itself is without question. That does not place zero importance on tradition, but it undercuts the idea that there exists a perfect set of interpretations or interpreters.”

    Me says: there is never a shortage of nutcases out there who will disagree with the Protestant view of authority. Protestantism makes it easy for them to start their own nutty church and attract like-minded followers. See Exhibit A: “The Nazaorean Way of Essenic Studies”. The crucial question is really this: should nutcases be allowed to start churches?

    ——-
    Craig said: “Hence, the Catholic view of authority is inherently flawed. And if flawed, then we have reasons to doubt that every “settled” question according to Catholicism is in fact settled.”

    Me says: the Catholic view looks flawed only if you have no regard for the unity of the faith and the Body of Christ. Protestants are so obssessed with their self-serving interpretations of the Bible, they don’t mind inflicting deep, gaping wounds of divisions on Christ’s body. If the deep divisions of Christianity are to be healed, it cannot be done by pouring more Protestant poison over the wounds.

    1. I am not sure if you are actually interested in a dialogue, but would you have a serious response to my point that, “The idea that Councils conclusively settled matters and can be placed upon an equal footing with the Scripture was unknown to these men [the ECFs].”

      After all, the rest of yours and my reply pretty much stands and falls on the truthfulness of that statement.

      1. Craig,

        Of course I am interested in dialogue. However, that does not mean I am interested in long-winded, and fruitless dialogues that do not go to the heart of the matter.

        You say: “The idea that Councils conclusively settled matters and can be placed upon an equal footing with the Scripture was unknown to these men [the ECFs].”

        I say: What the Early Church Fathers do not know is one big guessing game. Building an argument by proving a negative is a tough job. My earlier response does not stand or fall on that. So let me repeat it here:

        “The true difference between the Catholic Church and the Protestant sects is this: the Catholic Church produced the Bible itself, while the Protestants produced nothing but self-refuting and self-serving interpretations of the Bible.”

        ——–

        In the Acts of the Apostles, the controversy on circumcision was settled by the first council of the Church in Jerusalem. Was it conclusively settled according to everyone’s satisfaction? Most likely not. Like you, there must have been proto-protestants who rejected the conciliar authority to settle doctrinal controversies. How? By continuing to teach the necessity of the Mosaic rituals to unwary Christians.

        Now would the Early Church Fathers have known that? Well, in our day, we still have Seventh-day Adventists who go around Judaizing their converts. And the SDAs believe in sola scriptura. In their battles against the heretics, the ECFs knew their opponents can quote scripture.

        Why, even in the Mount of Temptation, the Devil can quote scriptures to Jesus. That is what the Fathers would have known very well…

        1. Rico, you are not addressing the issue. I do not think your speculation that the Bible would magically not exist without the Roman Catholic Church is a particularly convincing argument. The Church Fathers that made up the Church you claim is Roman Catholic did not view their teaching authority or councils in the same way you do.

          And if that is the case, there is a profound historical discontinuity between the ancient Church and yours.

          All other issues are a sideshow.

  4. Great response, Joe. I’m realizing more and more that Protestant sects often cling to one passage and idea of Scripture and formulate entire theologies from it. There is no end to the amount of religions people can formulate by taking Scripture out of context.

  5. John Emerich Edward Dalberg (Lord Acton) wrote an essay Human Sacrifice. It’s summarises Greek, Roman, Phoenician, Indian, and Aztec human sacrifice. It’s humbling to think of the millions who searched for God and never heard of Jesus Christ who alone could take away the sin of the world.

    The Aztecs believed their sacrifices were literally staving off the apocalypse. They sacrificed rich and poor, captive and King. It was considered a great honor to be sacrificed. Guadalupe really was an incredible event.

  6. Craig said – “The idea that Councils conclusively settled matters and can be placed upon an equal footing with the Scripture was unknown to these men [the ECFs].”

    Me – Craig if this is true then Scripture is not settled! You have no assurance that all the books you claim to be inspired are indeed inspired. Your dogmas could very well be coming from non inspired books.

    1. Craig

      Furthermore history proves you wrong. If you want to claim these men weren’t obedient and resolved to follow a settled council then you need to show an example. i see a litany of belief in the authority of councils. Because of lack of time I’ll just mention St Jerome’s obedience to the canon.

      1. Trogos, thus far in my research history has been on my side.

        Find a single church father that would say Councils, or the teaching authority of men are equal to the Scripture.

        I bring Augustine as a witness in my favor:

        But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them… (Against the Donatism, On Baptism, Book II, Chapter 3)

        For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error…As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason. I believe, my brother, that this is your own opinion as well as mine. I do not need to say that I do not suppose you to wish your books to be read like those of prophets or of apostles, concerning which it would be wrong to doubt that they are free from error (Letter 82, Chapter 1, Par. 3)

        Such sentiment is irreconcilable with an unquestionable, magesterial authority–one of which Augustine supposedly is a part of.

        1. Craig
          At some point you’re going to have to stop hitting that straw man. Where did I claim councils are equal to scripture? I said history is on my side in saying that the ECF were obedient to the authority of councils. And they did in large measure.

        2. “Find a single church father that would say Councils, or the teaching authority of men are equal to the Scripture.”

          Why look at the Church Fathers regarding authority in the Church when we can listen to Jesus and the Apostles? :

          “But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.

          [16] And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. [17] And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.” (Matt.18:15)

          Is there a time limit on this teaching of Christ? Does the teaching not extend until the end of the world? Does not this saying give the visible Church on Earth authority over membership in the ‘Kingdom of God’, the ‘Kingdom of Heaven”? Does scripture have a similar authority to decisively excommunicate a member of the Church?

          Church Councils, and the bishops that formed such ‘Councils’, excommunicated people out of the Holy Church, out of the ‘Kingdom of God’. In doing so, they were following the Gospel message of Christ in the above cited scripture.

    2. Perhaps, CK. In the end of the day, we accept Christ by faith, not empirical evidence. I never said that I can empirically prove what the Scripture is, the Resurrection, or anything.

      This is why I do not reject the Deuterocanon. I lack sufficient evidence. However, the universal acceptance of what is called the Canon for 2,000 years is to me sufficient to accept without empirical evidence.

      1. Craig – The eventual universal acceptance of the Canon came about through Catholic Councils. The Councils set the tone and Christians eventually fell in line.

        1. Even from the RCC perspective it took 16 centuries, as there were notable proponents of a limited Old Testament sans the Deuterocanon even until then.

          But as I said elsewhere here, COuncils are not authoritative like Scripture. Augustine said this. So do I. A Council can err.

      2. Christ particularly used the term ‘kingdom’ to describe the fundamental nature of His Holy Church in Heaven and on Earth. And, in this ‘Kingdom’ sacred scripture was both composed, and promulgated, as a source for the better rememberance of the teachings of the Gospel that Christ taught. However, ‘sacred scripture’ can never replace the reality, or the authority, inherent in the Kingdom that Christ founded, which is the the physical Catholic Church, both in Heaven and upon Earth. To put it simply, the Kingdom IS the Living ‘Mystical Body of Christ’, and the Scriptures are merely holy writings ABOUT the ‘kingdom’ and ‘Living, Mystical Body of Christ.’ Thus, adherents of ‘sola scripture’ need to recognize that there is a monumental difference between these two that needs to be recognized.

        1. That Kingdom in the early centuries of its existence did not say that its writings and interpretations were without error, however. You are assigning qualities to that Kingdom that they did not claim for themselves.

          1. “That Kingdom in the early centuries of its existence did not say that its writings and interpretations were without error”.

            Craig, in your very quote from Augustine above, if you read it well, you will see that Augustine himself refutes your notion that “That kingdom…did not say that its writings…were without error”. The ‘kingdom’, of course, is the Holy Church of Christ. Augustine, as quoted above uses the phrase: “SINCE THE CLOSING OF THE CANON”, which has particular significance. That is, there was a time, about 350 years, more or less, that the ‘canon’ was NOT CLOSED.

            That this doctor of the Church highlights the importance of the ‘closing of the canon’ signifies a decisive decision by the Church, for which the very name “canon” signifies. A “canon” is an authoritative and decisive decision made by the Church regarding almost any subject it deems useful or necessary. In Augustines reference, it concerns the exact scope of the New Testament list of inspired books. When the list was settled, at the Council of Carthage, it was finally considered “CLOSED”.

            So, the ‘Church’, which is the ‘kingdom’, by CLOSING the canon of scripture, is indeed saying to the world in this act of ‘closing’ that: “its writings and interpretations were without error”.

          2. Craig
            At the same time you’re assigning qualities to books of the bible that they don’t ascribe to themselves.

          3. Al, you’re misunderstanding Augustine and misusing semantics by saying “closing of the Canon” means the Council of Carthage and not the day the last book of the Canon was written.

            However, if you want to play semantics, do you affirm with Augustine that everything subsequent to the Council of Carthage is open to doubt?

            I think you’re trying to have your cake and have it too.

  7. Craig,

    Even Mormons can proof-text by cherrypicking quotes from the Early Church Fathers to show the truth of their doctrines. How does that make you any different from them? Which scripture in the Bible do we appeal to show that they are just cherrypicking stuff and you’re not?

    If your thesis can be proven from the Scriptures, then why do you appeal to extra-Biblical sources like St Augustine? The Bible alone should be sufficient, right?

    Now, we’ve already had nearly 500 years of Protestantism, does your thesis actually work in real life? Can it help bring Christians to a true unity of the faith, and preserve it? If it can, then 500 years should give enough historical data to back it up.

    According to your research, you have convinced yourself that the Deuterocanon is not canonical. Tell us something about your research then:

    1. What method or principles did you use to discern which books are canonical? How did you, for example, determine that Malachi in the OT is canonical, while the Maccabees, Tobit, or Wisdom are not?

    2. Can you show us that those methods or principles exist in the Scriptures themselves? The Bible alone should be sufficient, right?

    If you have really done some serious reaserch, these are kiddy questions. Even easier than an undergrad presenting his thesis before a board.

    I’m ready to listen…. This should be very interesting.

    1. Rico, you’re not paying attention and my previous response was 2 or 3 sentences. THis is why I said you are probably not interested in dialogue, but I’ll give it a shot.

      A laid my cards out. The ECFs that took part in the Ecunemical Councils did not view themselves, or what they were doing, in the sense that modern ROman Catholics do. Can you deny this with evidence or do you deny this simply with special pleading?

      1. “The ECFs that took part in the Ecunemical Councils did not view themselves, or what they were doing, in the sense that modern ROman Catholics do”

        You’re very wrong in this statement. If anything the early Church was much more rigorous and severe than the modern Church of today. And to prove this statement you just need to examine the number of ‘anathemas’, and ‘excommunications’, that the early Church promulgated against those who did not comply with their canonical declarations. The penalties paid by the transgressors of the early canons in the form of ‘penances’ were also extreme compared to modern times.

        If you want a good look at how canon law and penances for infractions of such laws were applied in the early Church, as far back as 215 AD, read this short work by St. Hippolytus of Rome. It’s very instructive, and profitable, for understanding better early Church history:

        http://www.rore-sanctifica.org/bibilotheque_rore_sanctifica/12-pretendue_tradition_apostolique_d_hippolyte/1934-burton_scott_easton-tradition_apostolique_d_hippolyte/Burton_Scott_Easton_-_The_Apostolic_Tradition_of_Hippolytus_(1934).pdf

          1. Al, excommunication is not related to the idea that Councils are inerrant and preserved from error. It would be like us debating baptism and you bringing up the ninth commandment.

          2. The Church always had the Divine authority to loose and bind on Earth. It was given to the Church by Christ via Peter.
            The Church utilized this Divine authority in the first centuries of Church history, and it is still used today. This was the truth that I was trying. It’s pretty simple: Jesus left Divine authority with His Church, even as Moses left authority with his appointed judges in the book of Exodus.

            ‘Sola Scriptura’ really makes no sense in the context of the entirety of Judeo-Christian History.

        1. Awlms you kind of make his point when you say there were more anathemas and excommunications in the early councils. Every council up to Trent defined confronted heresy. I’m still trying to learn about the Vatican councils. Here are my humble impressions.

          Vatican I tried to secure temporal authority for the Pope by defining Papal infallibly. The council ended when Napolean III, Pius IX ally, was defeated, and the Papal States were lost to the Italians. The church was later given the Vatican City, but for 30 or so years it was without its temporal possessions in Italy. The Ultramontanists who supported infallibility were proven wrong by history.

          Honorius I and second Ephesian council show how Pope and Council can be in error. Leo and Chalcedon show how the Holy Spirit guides the Church. Not my place to question the judgment of councils, but Christ did fall and rise three times on his way to Calvary.

          Vatican II defined no dogmas. It altered liturgical practices. I personally don’t see any tangible evidence of it having improved the Catholic worship, but I believe the words of Christ to Peter, that the gates of hell will never prevail over His Church.

          Vatican I was a reaction against the radical ideologies spawned by the French Revolution. Vatican II was a reaction against conservatism. I don’t believe the church needs to be ideological, but it has always been opposed to absolutism.

          I don’t want to give the wrong impression, part of the attraction of the Catholic Church to me is its stance on birth control and the indisolubility of marriage. We recently found out that we’re going to have another baby (our third). Most of the reactions we’ve gotten are “wow, did you plan that?” or “did your wife forget to take her birth control?”. Um no we actually believe that sex is a procreative act, and we are open to the possibility of life. I know it’s insane! People are yearning for a connection to an authentic form of worship. I also realize that I can do more myself to live an authentic Catholic life. Christ simplified the comandments to one, John 15:17, to love each other.

          1. Jeff, if you’re interested in early Church history, you might want to take a look at the link I posted above regarding St. Hippolytus. You will find many of the liturgical prayers in his writings that are still in use in the Mass today. The development and growth of the early Church is very interesting to study. It’s fascinating to read how those early Bishops were faced with many tricky theological and moral dilemmas in their times, and how they ended up resolving them. And with the internet, primary source documents are just a click away. Theology was never so easy.

            You might need to just highlight and copy the link, as for some reason the site doesn’t want to include the last three letters… “pdf” in the link.

            Best to you.

        2. Sorry Awlms. I jumped into the conversation without understanding Craig’s original point. From what I’ve read the pope was always considered the first among equals. At Chalcedon Leo defined the nature of Christ in opposition to the council. He also rejected a canon that would have granted equality to the see of Constantinople. For obvious reasons these councils were dominated by eastern bishops and yet the primacy of the Bishop of Rome held.

          1. Hi Jeff,

            Ever since the Council of Jerusalem councils and synods have been a ‘messy business’, so to say. Just consider the opposition that Paul made to Peter regarding Judaic legalisms being imposed on the Gentile converts. There is nothing new in the Church history afterwards. Its always been difficult. Consider Arianism, or Montanism, or Donatism. Just read a few chapters from Eusebius’ Church history and you’ll find yourself in the quagmire of early Christian theology.

            But does this mean that the authority promised to the Church was lost?
            For those who know and love Jesus, we say…of course not! Even through all of these theological battles the Church thrived even to the conversion of so many barbarian nations throughout all of Western Europe. And it took 1200 years of Catholic Church History, since the Council of Nicaea, for Protestantism to arise and propose a wildly novel and creative theology based mainly on the Five Solae. Joe has many posts here debunking these same ‘Solae’ doctrines.

            Anyway, the early Church theological battles are very interesting. Consider the Re-baptism controversies of the 3rd century, and especially between St. Cyprian and Pope St. Steven. And then also St. Hippolytus’ long running controversy with Pope St. Callixtus in about the year 210AD, over penances and the reception of the ‘viaticum’ for relapsed Christians and heretics. In this case St. Callixtus won the main theological controversy wherein developed our modern understanding of the Sacrament of Penance as we practice it today. You can read about this in the Catholic Encyclopedia on the ‘New Advent’ Catholic website.

            Anyway, controversy is the ‘norm’ in Christian history. I’m not bothered by it at all. It only reveals more of the ‘wisdom of God’ in His holy Church.

      2. Craig,

        I referred you to the Book of Acts primarily because you argue for the supremacy of the Scriptures over Church Councils. Set aside your extra-biblical reference from St Augustine for the time being, and deal with the Biblical text first.

        In Acts 15, we have an example of the very first Church Council held to address a doctrinal controversy. The controversy was brought about by the sola scripturains of the day: the Judaizers who preached that circumcision and the Law of Moses were to continue in the Christian Church.

        How did the Apostolic Council reach the conclusion that circumcision should no longer be enforced over the Gentiles? Was this by prooftexting from their Bible? Or did they appeal to an extra-biblical authority? The answer to this should be easy for someone who upholds the superority of the scriptures.

        But you chose to ignore this. So let me just repeat it this time…. I’m ready to hear your response.

        1. You are answering a question with a question. But answering your question has nothing to do with the inerrance of church councils. You are wishing to draw an inference from the fact that the church decided on something in the scripture and apply that to the idea that the church in its meetings subsequently will be inerrant. Sorry, but the bible does not say it nor did any of the church fathers. It is made up so as to make the teaching authority of the rcc equal to scripture. Problem is, it is made up and unknown to Catholics for at least 400 years…hardly something I would hang my hat on.

          1. Craig,

            Let’s review your assertions to see how this dialogue is going so far:

            First, you say that my 3 counter-arguments stand or fall on your main argument (“The idea that Councils conclusively settled matters and can be placed upon an equal footing with the Scripture was unknown to these men [the ECFs].” But that’s not true as I have shown above. The fact that the Bible was produced by the Catholic Church does not fall if your argument fails. It’s a matter of fact, not an argument.

            Next, you say I was arguing with special pleading. Again, that’s false. I pointed out the apostolic Council in Acts because that is something the ECFs would have known. And you were concluding something from the unknown.

            After that, you repeated your main assertion (begging the question), and wanted me to either affirm or deny it. All without even addressing my counter arguments. Yes-or-No questions are more suited for cross examinations. But this is supposed to be a dialogue, right?

            Now, you complain that I’m answering your questions with questions. But the reason why I ask you questiions about Acts 15 is because I don’t want to presume what you understand from the text. Isn’t that what dialogue is about? Not second-guessing the other guy?

            Let’s go back to the start: you said: “The Protestant view of authority is that ultimately, only the Scripture itself is without question.” If so, then here is Acts 15 where a Church Council must settle a controversy. How did the apostles apply the Protestant view of authority to settle the problem?

            Forget what Catholics believe about Councils. I will concede that perhaps we are terribly wrong about everything on church councils. Just tell me how the first apostles applied the Protestant view to the question on circumcision.

            I’m ready to listen…

  8. Craig it most certainly is not made up. Once Christ died and ascended all Christians did not know the fullness of the truth of the trinity or the canon of the bible. Remember the Church is like a mustard seed that matures into a great tree. So you might as well say that the trinity is made up, or the canon of scripture…your only authority is made up Because of the very thing you deny. And yes, as awlms said, the bible does say it. “He who hears you hears me. He who rejects you rejects me”. That applies to apostolic succession. Furthermore you say it’s hardly something you’d hang your hat on, but you hang your hat on most of The Catholic Church’s teachings that were centuries after Christ, i.e. The canon of scripture and the nature of the trinity. So why do you hang you hat on those? Those truths were revealed and divinely protected and inspired and you have no proof otherwise.

  9. From what i read and i know this blog is 2 years old but… It only makes since if Jesus was god and unfortuanately thats impossible.

    Luke 3:22 “and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in a bodily form ,as if a dove, and a voice came from heaven, ” Thou art my beloved son; today i have begotten thee”

    And i also if he was god why would he say father why i have you forsaken me as his finals words…

  10. THE BLESSED HANS OF THE PRIEST
    We need them in life’s early morning,
    We need them again at its close;
    We feel their warm clasp of true friendship,
    We seek them when tasting life’s woes.
    At the altar each day we behold them,
    And the hands of a king on his throne
    Are not equal to them in their greatness;
    Their dignity stands all alone;
    And when we are tempted and wander,
    To pathways of shame and of sin,
    It’s the hand of a priest that will absolve us–
    Not once, but again and again.
    And when we are taking life’s partner,
    Other hands may prepare us a feast,
    But the hand that will bless and unite us–
    Is the beautiful hand of a priest.
    God bless them and keep them all holy,
    For the Host which their fingers caress;
    When can a poor sinner do better,
    Than to ask Him to guide thee and bless?
    When the hour of death comes upon us,
    May our courage and strength be increased,
    By seeing raised over us in blessing–
    The beautiful hands of a priest.

    ALTER CHRISTUS

    The Roman Catholic Church teaches that her priests are “Alter Christus,” which means literally “another Christ.” Because Christ is God, this is a most serious claim. One would expect to hear such a claim from the false pagan religions, but from a supposedly Christian religion? Here’s some evidence for you to consider.

    “The priest is indeed another Christ, or in some way he is himself a continuation of Christ.”
    (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical on the Priesthood).

    “The priest on earth (is) another Christ.”
    (The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism.)

    “In this moment, the priest quite literally becomes Christ Himself.”
    (This is the Mass, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Page 100)

    “The priest is not just the cross, he is Christ Himself.”
    (The Lone Star Catholic, March 1, 1959)
    “To the carnal eye, the priest looks like other men, but to the eye of faith he is exalted above angels.”
    (Faith of our Fathers, Gibbons, Page 422)

    “Another grace of the synod [Synod of Bishops, October, 1990] was a new maturity in the way of looking at priestly service in the Church; and thus also of the personal life of each and every priest, that is to say, of each priest’s participation in the saving mystery of Christ: ‘Sacerdos Alter Christus.'”

    (Pope John Paul II, Letter to Catholic priests on the occasion of Holy Thursday, 1991).

    “The priest is given transcendent power to forgive sins, to administer the sacraments, but most of all to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in which he becomes an ‘Alter Christus'”
    (Pastoral Reflections on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass [http://www.cny.org/archives/cv092498.htm], Cardinal John J. O’Conner.)

    “In the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the priest is a substitute of Christ Himself. As a result of his ordination, he is a true alter Christus.”
    (The Latin Mass: Chronicle of a Catholic Reform, Summer 1995 Issue [http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/stickler.html]. )

    “Thus the priest, as is said with good reason, is indeed another Christ;”
    (Papal Encyclical ‘Ad Catholici Sacerdotii’ on the priesthood, Pope Pius XI, December 20, 1935)

    “What did the Paedophile Roman Catholic Priest say to the Altar boy, as he buggered him in the Sacristy”?

    “Body of Christ”!

    THE FISH ROTS FROM THE HEAD DOWN

    In his Book of Gomorrah, Saint Peter Damian first attacks the problem of clerical moral laxity and sexual perversions from the top down beginning with members of the Catholic hierarchy, that is, bishops and religious superiors who turn a blind eye to the moral depravity within the ranks of clerics and monks under their rule.
    When he speaks of “do-nothing” superiors, the reader can almost feel the earth shake under him:

    Listen, you do-nothing superiors of clerics and priests. Listen, and even though you feel sure of yourselves, tremble at the thought that you are partners in the guilt of others; those, I mean, who wink at the sins of their subjects that need correction and who by ill-considered silence allow them license to sin. Listen, I say, and be shrewd enough to understand that all of you alike are deserving of death, that is, not only those who do such things, but also they who approve those who practice them.

    Having launched that thunderbolt, Damian then attacks, with even more vehemence, those reprobate bishops and religious superiors who themselves are guilty of heinous sodomitic acts and who prostitute their own spiritual sons – seminarians, priests and monks under their care.

    “In fact, this vice cannot in any way be compared to any others, because its enormity supersedes them all. Indeed, this vice causes the death of bodies and the destruction of souls. It pollutes the flesh, extinguishes the light of reason, and expels the Holy Ghost from His temple in the heart of man, introducing in His stead the Devil who is the instigator of lust.

    “It steers the soul into error, banishes all truth from the deceived soul, sets traps for those who fall into it, and then caps the well to prevent those who fall in from getting out. It opens the gates of Hell and closes the doors of Heaven to them, turns a former citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem into an heir of the infernal Babylon, transforming him from a heavenly star into a straw for the eternal fire. It wrenches a member from the Church and plunges him into the voracious flames of the fiery Gehenna.

    “This vice strives to tear down the walls of the heavenly motherland and rebuild those of the ruined Sodom. Indeed, it violates temperance, kills purity, stifles chastity, and cuts the head of virginity – which is irrecoverable – with the sword of a most infamous union. It infects everything, stains everything, pollutes everything; leaving nothing pure, nothing but filth, nothing clean. ‘All things are clean to the clean,’ as the Apostle says, ‘but to them that are defiled, and to unbelievers, nothing is clean; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.

    “This vice expels one from the choir of the ecclesiastical host and forces one to join the ranks of the possessed and those who work in league with the Devil. It separates the soul from God and links it with the devils. This most pestiferous Sodomite queen makes those who obey her tyrannical laws repugnant to men and hateful to God, forcing them into a nefarious war against God and obliging them to enlist in the ranks of the perverse spirit.

    “It [this sin] separates him from the company of angels and deprives the soul of its nobility, imposing on the unfortunate soul the yoke of its own domination. It tears its henchmen from the arms of virtues and leaves them exposed as prey to the arrows of all the vices. It leaves one to be humiliated in the Church, condemned at court, defiled in secret, and dishonored in public. It gnaws at the person’s conscience like a worm and burns his flesh like fire …

    “The miserable flesh burns with the fire of lust, the cold intelligence trembles under the rancor of misgivings, and the unfortunate man’s heart is overwhelmed by hellish chaos, subjecting him to countless pains of conscience as he is tortured in punishment.

    “Yes, as soon as this most venomous serpent plunges its fangs into the unfortunate soul, it is immediately deprived of its senses and memory, the edge of the intelligence is dulled, he forgets God and even himself.”

    “Indeed, this scourge destroys the foundations of the faith, weakens the forces of hope, dissolves the bonds of charity, annihilates all justice, undermines fortitude, eliminates hope, and dulls the edge of prudence.

    “And what else shall I say? For it [the sin of sodomy] expels all the forces of virtue from the temple of the human heart, and, as if pulling the door from its hinges, allows the entrance of every barbarity of vice ….

    “In effect, the one whom …. this most atrocious beast has swallowed down its bloody throat is prevented, by the weight of its chains, from practicing any good work, and is precipitated into the abysses of his uttermost iniquity.

    “Thus, as soon as someone has fallen into this abyss of extreme perdition, he is exiled from the heavenly motherland, separated from the Body of Christ, censured by the authority of the whole Church, condemned by the judgment of all the Holy Fathers, despised by men on earth and rebuked by the society of heavenly citizens. He creates for himself an earth of iron and a sky of bronze.

    “On the one hand, laden with the weight of his crime, he is unable to rise; on the other hand, he is no longer able to conceal his evil in the refuge of ignorance. He cannot be happy while he lives nor have hope when he dies, because here and now he is obliged to suffer the ignominy of men’s derision and, later, the torment of eternal condemnation.”

    1. He is an alter Christus in the sense of becoming the vessel through which Christ acts to administer His grace to the people. Thus, when the priest says, “This is My Body,” or “I absolve you of your sins,” it is not the priest who says it, but rather Christ speaking through the priest.

  11. For God’s sake i think Jesus would agree that improvements have been made since biblical times. And I see no footnote beside “Thou shalt not kill.” Sacrificing animals is cruel and ignorant . Jesus Christ!

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