The Catholic Mass in Scripture, the Early Church, and Today

Abraham Bloemaert, The Emmaus Disciples (1622)
Abraham Bloemaert, The Emmaus Disciples (1622)

In Luke 24:13-35, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus have a surprise encounter with the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. There are basically four “stages” of communion in this encounter, and it’s the same four stages, in the same order, that we find in the earliest Christian worship, and that we see in the Mass today.

For evidence of the earliest Christian worship, I’m going to focus particularly on St. Justin Martyr, one of the earliest witnesses to Christianity, and his First Apology, written to defend Christianity to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. This account is rather early (about 155-157 A.D., which by way of reference is a couple of decades before Christians began to use “Trinity” to describe the Three Persons of God). Already in his writings we see that the 2nd century Christians have internalized the Scriptural teachings about worship and that they’re living them out as a Church, and he helps to show the thread that lies between the worship of 21st century Catholicism and of the 1st century Bible.

So let’s look at each of the four stages, and then consider why it matters that they should all follow the same structure and pattern:

1. Gathering

The account of the road to Emmaus begins (Luke 24:13-15):

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma′us, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.

This is the first level of communion, that of Christian fellowship. Christ promises that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), and here we see that powerfully illustrated. Two disciples are discussing Christ and the events of Holy Week and Good Friday, and the rumors that they’re hearing about an Empty Tomb and a Risen Lord. And Christ shows up right there, in the midst of them, and He dialogues with them.

Justin Martyr describes the same thing, saying that “on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place,” and he explains that:

Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

The first part of the Mass, called the “introductory rites,” acknowledges this first level of communion and community:

The rites that precede the Liturgy of the Word, namely, the Entrance, the Greeting, the Penitential Act, the Kyrie, the Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) and Collect, have the character of a beginning, an introduction, and a preparation. Their purpose is to ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves properly to listen to the word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.

All of this emphasizes the aspect of the Church as the “sacrament of unity,” to quote St. Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 A.D.):

This sacrament of unity, this bond of a concord inseparably cohering, is set forth where in the Gospel the coat of the Lord Jesus Christ is not at all divided nor cut, but is received as an entire garment, and is possessed as an uninjured and undivided robe by those who cast lots concerning Christ’s garment, who should rather put on Christ.

Vatican II would point to this teaching of St. Cyprian’s in explaining why “Liturgical services are not private functions,” but are inherently public.  There’s sometimes an opposition created in speaking about the Liturgy: making it “all about God” instead of “all about the Church” or “all about the community,” etc. But true liturgical worship is the Church coming together to worship God.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that this is only the first of the four types of communion. The Emmaus-bound disciples still don’t even recognize Jesus (Lk. 24:16). It’s not presented as the pinnacle of Christian worship. It’s good, but it’s not where we’re striving.

2. The Liturgy of the Word

After encountering the disciples and speaking with them, Jesus shared with them from the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27):

And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

This is the second stage of the Liturgy. After everyone is gathered together, there’s a two-fold sharing from Scripture: the texts are read, and then they’re preached upon in the homily by the presider. St. Justin Martyr describes it this way:

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

And so it is with the Mass today:

The main part of the Liturgy of the Word is made up of the readings from Sacred Scripture together with the chants occurring between them. As for the Homily, the Profession of Faith, and the Universal Prayer, they develop and conclude it.

It’s a communion in the Word through the word of God. God reveals Himself to us through the Scriptures to invite us into deeper relationship with Him. He is present to us through His word. But note how this second type of communion, in the Liturgy of the Word, is organically built upon the first type of communion, the gathering of the Church. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near.” That is, the Bible intends itself to be read publicly in the Church, and this is exactly what we find Jesus doing in Luke 4:16-22, going into the Synagogue on the Sabbath, being handed the scroll of Isaiah, reading it, handing it back, and then opening up its meaning for the assembly.

3. Liturgy of the Eucharist

After the word of God is expounded upon, there’s a turning towards the table for the Eucharistic meal. In the Emmaus encounter, we hear about it in these terms (Luke 24:28-32):

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”

So everything seemed to be over when Jesus has finished preaching the Bible to them, but in fact, it’s just a shift. Luke says that He “took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.” Luke is not assuming that you are too stupid to understand how eating works, as if he needs four separate verbs for you to realize that they ate. This is Eucharistic language. It’s why Luke says in Acts 2:42 that the early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” He’s not commending the Christians for their devotion to excellent table manners. And yet the Emmaus disciples will describe this encounter in just such liturgical terms, describing how Jesus “was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Lk. 24:35).

And in fact, if this weren’t Eucharistic language, it would be pointless verbiage. It’s not as if Jesus miraculously provided (or multiplied) the bread. He apparently just takes the bread already there, and blesses, breaks, and distributes it. In other words, if the point here isn’t Eucharistic, why mention the bread at all (especially in such detail)? And what on earth would the disciples mean that Jesus was made known in the breaking of the bread? It’s not like Jesus had such a distinctive way of breaking bread that it could only have been Him.

So this is a Eucharistic moment. Jesus is visibly with the disciples on the road, but they can’t see Him for who He truly is, for “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Lk. 24:16). Now “their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight,” (Lk. 24: 31), apparently leaving them the Eucharist.

Here’s how St. Justin Martyr will describe this same moment:

Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to γένοιτο [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, [Luke 22:19] this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone.

Justin is clear that the second-century Church truly believes in the Eucharistic Real Presence, that it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. He’s also clear that the Eucharist is brought to the sick, which doesn’t sit well with Luther’s view that the Eucharist was only Jesus’ Body and Blood during the Liturgy. Finally, he specifies that this ability to celebrate the Mass is given to the Apostles, and “to them alone.” The implication there is clear: only those who continue in the line of Apostolic succession have the mandatum to celebrate these sacred rites.

And of course, we continue to celebrate the “breaking of the bread,” the Eucharistic Sacrifice, today:

The consecration is that part of the Eucharistic Prayer during which the priest prays the Lord’s words of institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Through this prayer the bread and wine become the risen Body and Blood of Jesus.

This third type of communion, Eucharistic Communion, is both grounded in Scripture and gives light to Scripture. It’s only after this Eucharistic encounter that the Emmaus disciples are able to say “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” And in Revelation, it is only the “Lamb standing as though slain” (that is, the Crucified, Risen, Glorified, and Eucharistic Jesus Christ) who is able to open the seven seals of the revelation of God (Rev. 5:1-7). The Eucharist is the key for unlocking Scripture.

4. Sending Forth

The road to Emmaus encounter doesn’t end with the disciples sitting in Emmaus, reflecting upon their encounter with Christ in the Eucharist. Rather, it says that they went forth to share this good news (Luke 24:33-35):

And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

So they went out and spread the Good News, and they did so right away! As the text makes clear, this last form of communion (in which the Church acts as the instruments of Christ in encountering the world) is rooted in the third form of communion, the Eucharist. It’s precise this Eucharistic encounter that the disciples are sharing. And it’s through this Sacrament that the Church becomes One, (1 Corinthians 10:16) and becomes Christ’s Body on Earth (1 Cor. 12).

Justin Martyr, although silent on the end of the Christian Liturgy, describes this reality by describing how both the Eucharist and alms flow out from the Church to those who need them:

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

The “Mass” actually takes its name from the last from the last words of the Liturgy, Ite, missa est, which means “Go, (the prayer) has been sent,” or “Go, it is the dismissal.” In other words, the very name for the Mass is tied to the fact that, at the end, we’re sent forth.

St. Peter points out in his preaching in Acts 10:39-43 that the Apostles who are sent forth as witnesses and preachers had the common experience of eating and drinking with Christ:

And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

In some way, their commission seems to be connected with their having supped with the Resurrected Christ. The apostolic mandate is rooted in the Eucharistic glory. Christ once described His mission as to set the world on fire: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49). And He accomplishes this by setting the hearts of the disciples on fire, and then sending them out into the world.

Why This Matters

 

Hopefully, it’s clear that it’s not a coincidence that the same basic liturgical pattern is seen in Scripture, in the second century, and in the Catholic Mass today. The Mass is a continuation of the same basic Christian Liturgy that has been taking place since the time of Jesus Christ. And that’s something that a great many popular “emergent Church” and nondenominational and other Protestant and post-Protestant church services can’t say at all.

This should spark a deeper discussion. I heard a story recently of a priest who, invited to come to speak to a Protestant church, began by saying “We both worship the same God, but in different ways. You worship Him your way, we worship Him His way.” I don’t know if that story is true, but there’s a real truth underneath that bombast.

 

The startling belief of Catholic Christianity is that it isn’t man-made.  We can talk about the founders of Mormonism and Islam, of Buddhism, and even of Christian denominations like Lutheranism and Calvinism, and they always have this in common: they were started by imperfect human persons. Not so with Christianity: we can trace our origins all the way back to our Founder, the Divine Person Jesus Christ.

That’s a big difference in how we think and speak about religion. From the Christian perspective generally, and the Catholic perspective particularly, religion isn’t about man reaching out to God, but God reaching out to man, reaching out even upon the wood of the Cross. Church isn’t something man builds for God, but something God built for man, in which man can order his life properly by giving true homage to his Creator and Savior. And so when we talk about “styles of worship,” there are these two incompatible views: are we going to worship God how we want to worship Him, or how He wants to be worshipped?  Sometimes, those might be the same thing, but what do we do when they’re not?

Of course, we all want to say we would do things God’s way rather than our own. Otherwise, who are we even worshipping? But if we’re going to do things God’s way, maybe we should change how we think and speak about the Liturgy. Instead of starting with our desires, whether we like that style of music, or whether a particular preacher “works” for us, start with what God has revealed, and work from there. The Psalms are a collection of 150 liturgical prayers for the worship of God, and Jesus personally bequeaths us the Our Father when we asked Him how to pray (Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-4). The Old Testament is filled with precise descriptions of how to offer right worship, and the Book of Revelation gives us a vision of the Heavenly Liturgy. These texts aren’t going to answer every question, but they should help to get us started. Worship, like theology, is not principally a matter of my preferences, but about the truth.

 

165 Comments

  1. I loved this article! It was very well written. I have but one question. I know the Mass is commonly thought to have developed from the dismissal or sending. Most commentators also agree with you here. I was reading a classic work on apologetics by James Cardinal Gibbons called “The Faith of Our Fathers”. I highly recommend it as it has several solid answers that many apologetics works do not. One of them was on the word for mass. He suggest that although most people take it from the dismissal that in his day many others believe it came from the term Missach or “free offering” or sacrifice. This made more sense to me as the Mass is the re-presentation of Christ free sacrifice or offering for us. However most people today do not see that. I wander why? Just wandered if you ever read this from Cardinal Gibbons or any other scholar before? I like how you explained your view which I know is the majority view.

  2. I just saw Acts 13:2 today:

    As they ministered (Λειτουργούντων/Leitourgountōn/”Liturguzed”) to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

    For Greek (http://biblehub.com/interlinear/acts/13-2.htm)

    The same word “ministered” (λειτουργῶν/leitourgōn) is found in Heb 10:11 in reference to the Jewish priests offering sacrifices. (http://biblehub.com/text/hebrews/10-11.htm)

    In Acts 13:2 they are offering a sacrifice to God, the Eucharist, in plain language–but this is hidden by the English translation.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Craig thank you for that info. You rock! That is good stuff! Very good stuff indeed!

      In Jesus through Mary,

      Chris Baer M.T.S.

  3. Two notes:

    1. I always found the reference in Justin Martyr to be unclear. Modern liturgies certainly add a lot to what he is talking about, and probably lack the sheer amount of Bible reading (Justin says they read until they cannot anymore.) However, he definitely affirms the Real Presence.

    2. Further, I think the Liturgy is hidden in plain sight in 1 Cor 14:26-29. When pressed by a friend that Orthodox worship looks nothing like the “organic,” if not sporadic portrayal of worship in 1 Cor 12-14, this is how I responded:

    1 Cor 14:26 When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; 28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.

    I think this whole issue hinges 1 Cor 14:26. You think that “each one” means every single person there leads worship in some way, because “you [the corinthians] assemble.” But, we have several reasons to doubt this. 1. You don’t do that and not even quakers do. so this sort of reading has been applied by no one. 2. It explicitly does not include women when it comes to teaching, so the broad meaning does not apply. 3. Paul uses the word “each” a lot of times in 1 corinthians, always in generalities. So, I think he is speaking of the general practice of the churches of God that one reads a psalm, another a teaching and others prophecies.

    So, let’s look at that list again within the lens of Orthodoxy. Psalms are read before every liturgy–not by a priest (it changes, but a woman in my church usually chants them. Women are allowed to be readers). The Elder/priest has a teaching. The Elder (or readers) have revelations, as they read from God’s revelation (in NT times, the NT did not exist so many of these revelations were not read I am sure.) There are translations from Russian to English, though rarely, so there are even tongues. On Easter, they spoke as many as 6 different languages and we read the Gospel in three.

    As you well know, “miraculous” tongues plays no large role in any legitimate church for a very long time. The reference to the prophets in verse 29, is the same as the reference to revelations–I think this is practiced in the public reading of Scriptures as no legitimate church has had prophets for a very long time, as well.

    I find this ironic, but I think you own church differs as much as the orthodox with 1 cor 14, and for good reason–tongues and prophecies are seemingly non-existant, or at least not normative. Yet, both you and the Orthodox faithfully try to replace these things with valid substitutes. Perhaps the Orthodox get the bonus point for incorporating the tongues.

    I think the liturgy is faithful to doing “everything in order” and closely following 1 cor 14 as much **as possible** given the decreased incidence in miraculous prophecies and translations.

    I cannot help but think the view that 1 Cor 14 is as a chaotic free-for-all, anything goes as long as you do not interrupt each other, is simply a presupposition. It appears to me, upon careful reflection, worship in 1 Cor 14 is liturgical. I heard one Orthodox priest say that the written liturgy developed when the Apostles and prophets (the foundation of the Church) passed away and the living had no choice but to commit what they had formerly done to a set practice (and later writing) lest it perish entirely and be forgotten. The fact that Orthodoxy preserves Jewish liturgical elements lends credibility to this.

    I hope any of this can bless readers here in some way.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Great comments on 1 Cor.14, Craig!

      I think it should also be remembered that Paul was writing at about the same time as the Didache was being written and a comparison of the Didache with 1 Cor. can shed some light on that very early stage of the Christian Liturgy. As you mention, there were obvious elements of the Jewish liturgy incorporated into the early Christian liturgy, and the Catholic/Orthodox Churches maintain some of these to this day. But at Paul’s time, this merger of the old (i.e.. Jesus teaching in the synagogue) and the new (Eucharistic/agape) liturgies was just being put into practice and standardized amongst the various flocks that the Twelve Apostles, and their disciples, were spreading throughout the world.

      And regarding the Didache, we know that it describes many ‘apostles’, not just the twelve (or St. Paul) who would travel from local Church to local Church, and would teach in those locations for a very short time before moving on to other Churches to tell their stories. And, something that is actually very interesting, is how the Didache describes a method to distinguish between the true and false prophets and ‘apostles’, indicating at that time there were many frauds, even amongst the many believers.

      So, at this very early stage of the Christian liturgy, even before all of the Gospels were written, the Didache indicates that there were many eyewitnesses to what Jesus taught while He preached the Gospel in Israel. There were also people whom He had physically healed, such as Lazarus. And, it seems, that while these eye witnesses were still living, the place that they publicly revealed their stories about Christ, as they experienced personally, was in the midst of the early liturgies, and as Joe mentions this is exactly what happened with the disciples on the way to Emmaus (they related their story to the Church gathered together in Jerusalem).

      So, it seems that there must be a distinction in the liturgy at this very early stage, as it made room for eyewitnesses to reveal their personal stories and experiences with Christ. And it is probably through these same minor teachers/apostles/prophets that some of the intimate details of the Gospel stories that we have today were derived, and then written down by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. For instance, it might have been the Samaritan woman at the well, herself, who revealed what Christ actually said to her at the well? And the blind man who was healed and then publicly defended the Lord against the Pharisees, probably revealed the particular details of this particular story to the Church in the same way, as even Jesus wasn’t present for much of the account. These, I believe, are the minor apostles the the Didache describes, and it most probably includes the Blessed Virgin herself, who had many stories of the birth and raising of Jesus to relate…all of which we find today in the written Gospels.

      However, after this ‘apostolic age’, when there were no further eyewitnesses to teach at the liturgies throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, the liturgy needed to be adapted to this new reality. And the very writing of the Gospels is one of the first innovations that occurred regarding this new epoch of Christian history. This second stage of liturgical worship was described both by Justin Martyr, as Joe notes, and also by the likes of St. Hippolytus of Rome(170 – 235 AD) who wrote down these early apostolic traditionsin his famous book/ liturgical manual: “The Apostolic tradition of Hippolytus”. So, he provides a historical account (as does Justin Martyr) of what was transmitted by the apostles during he very early time of Didache type liturgies, and passed on to the successors of the Apostles (The Apostolic Fathers) and the liturgies that developed during the ‘pre- and post’ Nicaean times,…much of which is still practiced today, both in the Catholic an Orthodox Churches.

      For those interested here is a link to the text and introduction of ‘The Apostolic tradition of Hippolytus’ … (copy and paste if the link does not appear):

      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

      And, also, a link for the Didache text:

      https://www.ccel.org/ccel/richardson/fathers.viii.i.iii.html

        1. Hi Craig,

          The link on Hippolytus, that I provided above, is an entire book and has some great information regarding the history of the Church before and during Hippolytus’ times. And actually, I came across this book doing research on some of your past posts about 2 years ago…having never heard of this important saint before. So… you’re actually responsible for me knowing this saint. Thanks! 🙂

          Off topic…but another saint that I think is very profitable to know is St. Bede (700AD), but particularly because of his work called “The History of the English Church and People”. Starting with the Britons initial conversion in 164AD, Bede relates many interactions between the British, English, Picts and Scots and the Church of Rome. This history is very much overlooked these days, even though we have all been affected by it as we all speak the English language. But also, this history sheds a lot of light on the many details relating too how pagan nations were converted by the Church in the earliest centuries of Church history.

          The book is available through Penguin books, or you can also read it on-line at CCEL. I also think I will publish a series on some of the stories in this book, and distribute them through my own publication…”The Spirituality of the Saints Series”. Right now, I’m about 1/2 way through my second reading of this book, the last being more than 25 years ago. But, it’s still more interesting than ever. So, I’m just recommending it to you as a singularly great part of Church history to know about.

          Here is a link to the on-line version if you’re interested and have the time to take a look:

          https://www.ccel.org/ccel/bede/history.v.i.i.html

          Best to you always,

          – Al

  4. Hi Joe,

    Interesting article. A couple of comments:

    I guess I’m first a little bit puzzled as to the theological point of the Emmaus analogy. It sounds almost as though you’re using Emmaus as a basis to say, “Because Christ met with them in this way, our worship services should follow the same pattern.” And if so, that seems something of a problem on multiple levels. First, it seems somewhat arbitrary which of the details of the meeting are kept or abandoned; one could as easily use this passage to insist that all church gatherings must be two or three people, or must be held in the home, or must conclude in the evening, or any number of silly details. To pick out the four features that the Roman mass preserves begs the question.

    Second, the events described here are particular to this one meeting with the risen Christ; other meetings do not preserve the same four features. As a few simple examples: the meeting with Mary Magdelene in John 20 lacks a gathering, Scripture, and communion; the appearance to Thomas in the same chapter lacks Scripture and communion; and the appearance to Peter in John 21 lacks Scripture. The John 20 passages also appear to lack the “sending forth,” given that the disciples’ reaction is to return to fishing – but at this point it becomes a bit difficult to be sure which meetings from the various gospels coincide.

    (Given how irony works, there’s probably a biblical quotation in some of those passages I’m overlooking, but I think the point generally stands.)

    But third, and most pressingly: the Emmaus road passage isn’t trying to establish a pattern for how church services should look, and it seems errant to read that into it. The same sort of hermeneutic would lead us all sorts of theologically questionable conclusions.

    Again, I want to be upfront that I may be misunderstanding your point entirely here, and my apologies if I’m railing against something that isn’t your argument in the first place. But it’s the last portion of your argument that I’m most uncertain about; you say:

    The Mass is a continuation of the same basic Christian Liturgy that has been taking place since the time of Jesus Christ. And that’s something that a great many popular “emergent Church” and nondenominational and other Protestant and post-Protestant church services can’t say at all.

    So there are several ways in which I can understand this, and I’m not sure which of them (if any!) you mean. I could read it first as saying that Protestant services don’t have the four elements you describe – a gathering, a message from Scripture, communion, and an exit to share the gospel individually – but as a lifelong Protestant, I can relate with confidence that this is not particularly true. Indeed, I’ve never attended any Protestant church where they weren’t present at regular intervals – and I think the overwhelming majority of Protestant denominations would join me in saying that a church that didn’t gather, or read the Bible, or interpret it in a sermon, or take communion, or encourage its members to witness in their own lives… that such a church was not carrying out all its duties.

    (It is certainly the case that not all of these elements appear in every meeting, but we’ve no reason to think that they were present in every meeting of the early church, either. Acts 2, for instance, describes many common elements here – prayer, study, communion, songs of praise – but seems to indicate that some of these actions are performed daily in the temple and that others are performed with unknown regularity in the home. The record of the believers praying in Acts 4 includes prayer and Scripture, but no clear teaching, sending, or communion. Similar examples abound; we could assume elements not mentioned are still present, but again, that seems to beg the question.)

    So I can’t really see that as a critique of Protestantism – I’m sure some degenerate forms exist, but that’s true of both our denominations, and we’d both criticize them. An alternate reading is that you intend that the specific structure of the mass – the very particular ordering, wording, and so on – is necessary. That would seem to fit better with your references to “liturgy,” and it’s certainly an accurate critique – but it seems much more difficult to defend from Scripture, which doesn’t provide any such specific ordering or wording as an expected template.

    Indeed, the pattern of the people of God through the ages seems to be innovation, rather than liturgy. You appeal to the Psalms – but the Psalms were new hymns, often composed based on the writer’s specific experience of God’s goodness. If the reference in 1 Kings 5 is to be taken literally, Solomon composed over a thousand new songs. Consider just the Psalms, as you suggest: the command of Psalm 33:3, Psalm 96:1, and 98:1 is to “sing to the Lord a new song,” and Psalms 40:3, 144:9, and 149:1 proudly declare that they are, themselves, new compositions of praise. We’re told in Revelation 5:9 that the elders “sang a new song” – new because the Lamb’s majesty was revealed in a new way. The early church seems, as best we can judge, to have composed their own new and unique hymns – we see part of one such preserved in Philippians 2, and probably another in 1 Timothy 3.

    Nor is this limited to song. Paul had full access to the Lord’s prayer, and yet when we see him pray, his prayers follow unique forms: that the way might be opened (Romans 1:10), that the Israelites might be saved (Romans 10:1), for the restoration of the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 9:14), and many others. Again, in prayer and song, actions change to fit to the circumstances of the time.

    (Does this leave no place for repeating the words of God in Scripture, or for retaining beautiful songs through the years? By no means! My point is only that it’s not an unbiblical pattern to praise Him with new words, or to pray to Him for new blessings – that a church isn’t deficient because it deviates from an exacting past pattern.)

    Again, I’m not sure exactly how far your point reaches here, but I guess my core objection is that there’s no such thing as worshiping God “His way” – way, singular. Salvation has a singular Way, the Son; worship, though possessed of common elements, is as gloriously varied as the saints.

    And I don’t think, historically, that the Catholic church can claim a singular liturgical way, either. The New-vs.-Tridentine Mass seems like an obvious argument to the contrary – and one where, in both cases, the defenders of a particular liturgy hold it up as obviously superior and closer to the true way of God. (Contrast, say, Benedict XVI’s description of the new mass as a “fabrication, an on-the-spot product” as opposed to the “living, organic process of growth and development” that preceded it – on the one hand – with Francis’s claim that preference for the Tridentine is a troubling sign that “always hides something, rigidity or even something else,” on the other.) Or consider the polyphony controversy of the 1500s and the near-miss of Canon 8’s restriction; the idea of one-true-way of worship was proposed and, thankfully, defeated. We see the same thing recur in our own denominations; I once heard a pastor claim that the only true worship was polyphonic (as was his church’s tradition), because only it could showcase the varying gifts given to the saints.

    So to close on a tongue-in-cheek note, we Protestants have no need to go to Catholicism to find the claim that this – this style right here, that my church has always practiced – this is the singular way God wants you to worship. We get plenty of that at home!

    1. Irked, I don’t think Joe is claiming that the passage was meant to hand down a liturgical rubric or canon law, I believe he’s showing continuity between how the liturgical practices of the early church developed and this event. Can I challenge you to read this story with the perspective of the earliest Christians? Did their hearts burn within them as they listened to reading of the scripture and the stories of first and second-hand eye witnesses? Possibly. But the historical record shows — as supported by the passages cited, along with many others — that when presented with “eucharisted” bread and told it was not a symbol, but the body of Christ, they said “Amen” and gave up everything, even their lives, to be united with him in this most intimate, unbelievable, too-good-to-be-true, socially unacceptable manner. Praise be to God.

      1. Hi Shane,

        Well, like I say, I’m not sure at all I’m following Joe’s point; if it’s primarily just “This is an interesting parallel!” then… I guess that’s true, but I’m not sure it has any significance? And I’m not sure where a critique of Protestantism comes in, at that point.

        I was hoping not to talk about the Eucharist, as that seems like the kind of side-track that could devour any other conversation, and it doesn’t seem to be Joe’s main point. (Unless that’s his primary point in the “Protestants don’t have liturgy” critique, and I’m just missing him? Like, again, I’d like to be a little bit clearer on exactly what the criticism is. What should we be doing that we are not, such that Emmaus is relevant?)

    2. Irked, you say…

      “I guess my core objection is that there’s no such thing as worshiping God “His way” – way, singular. Salvation has a singular Way, the Son; worship, though possessed of common elements, is as gloriously varied as the saints.”

      It is well known that Christ left many details of liturgical worship and ecclesiastical discipline for the Church to decide for themselves and according to their needs. For instance, the Lord never instructed the Apostles what to do about the death of one of the 12 Apostles (Judas), or about the need to create a ‘diaconate’, to help manage the affairs of the early Church. The apostles and disciples themselves, guided by the Holy Spirit, decided how to manage such \ ecclesiastical affairs during that early age… and the way they did it was through what is known as the “Ancient Church Orders”. You mention that “worship was as gloriously varied as the saints”. However, the whole history of “Church Orders” and later, “Canon Law”, historically contradicts your idea of early Christian worship.

      Below is a short selection (even though from Wikipedia) that gives a brief description and history of ‘Ancient Church Orders’. A history of “canon law” is also something important to research in Christina history. Understanding these items will shed light on the early Synods and Councils that took place as the Church grew and expanded throughout the Roman Empire. These are big subjects to study, but it’s a good place to start with the references provided by Wikipedia:

      “Ancient Church Orders is a genre of early Christian literature, ranging from 1st to 5th century, which has the purpose of offering authoritative “apostolic” prescriptions on matters of moral conduct, liturgy and Church organization. These texts are extremely important in the study of early liturgy and served as the basis for much ancient ecclesiastical legislation.

      A characteristic of this genre is their pseudepigraphic form. Many of them profess to have been handed down by the Twelve Apostles, in some case purported to have been gathered by Clement of Rome or by Hippolytus of Rome. In the earliest of them, the Didache, extends to the title: The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles by the Twelve Apostles. The later Testamentum Domini declares itself to be the legacy left by Jesus Christ himself to his Apostles before the Ascension, and to give his own words and commands as to the government of the Church.[2] Apart from the Apostolic Constitutions, which was printed before 1563, all other texts have been discovered and published in the 19th or early 20th century.

      Texts and their relationship

      Church Orders were mutually interrelated documents and often circulated in collections. It is easy to point out many direct literal relationships among sections of them. Different scholars since the early 20th century have suggested extremely different historical orders of interrelation. Nowadays the usually accepted family tree contains different roots, and can be so summarized according to Bradshaw:

      Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, (1st-2nd century, Syria), from which depend
      Didascalia Apostolorum (about 230 AD, Syria)
      Apostolic Church-Ordinance, or Apostolic Church-Order, (about 300 AD, Egypt)
      Apostolic Tradition[4] (3rd or 4th century, probably Syria), published in the 19th century under the title of Egyptian Church Order, from which depend
      Canons of Hippolytus (336-340 AD, Egypt)
      Testamentum Domini (?5th century, Syria)
      Epitome of the eighth Book of the Apostolic Constitutions,[5] or The Constitutions through Hippolytus
      Canons of the Apostles, which first appeared as the last chapter of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitution, shall be considered as a special form of the genre[5]

      There are other minor texts belonging to the genre of the Ancient Church Orders: the Coptic Canons of Basil (an Egyptian 4th-century text based mainly on the Canons of Hippolytus) and the Western Statuta Eccesiae Antiqua (about 490 AD, probably composed by Gennadius of Massilia and based on both Apostolic Tradition and Apostolic Constitutions).[1]

      1. Hi awlms,

        It is well known that Christ left many details of liturgical worship and ecclesiastical discipline for the Church to decide for themselves and according to their needs.

        I agree! And that’s entirely my point: God does not generally proscribe the form of worship, but leaves it to the church to decide what it should look like. My particular branch of the church has chosen rather a different form than yours; other branches choose yet different forms.

        Hence my questions above: if there’s a charge here that Protestants stray from what God has commanded regarding worship, in what way do they do so? What command regarding worship have we violated? What, exactly, is the charge?

        You mention that “worship was as gloriously varied as the saints”. However, the whole history of “Church Orders” and later, “Canon Law”, historically contradicts your idea of early Christian worship.

        So that’s a bit of a misquote; I said that worship is gloriously varied. That definitely doesn’t imply that the officially-sanctioned form of worship in a particular place at a particular time has always been varied. That, for instance, a people coming out of the Judaism would favor a ritualistic style is not at all surprising – and if they worshiped God more purely in that style, more power to ’em.

        I’m familiar with the Didache and its brothers, and they’re a valuable look into the early church. But it’s delightful to live in a day when people from many tribes and tongues and nations can praise their Creator in their own ways, in their own styles, in their own languages – and still in obedience to His Word. We have richer options than only those presented by documents that (as Wikipedia notes!) often falsely claim authority they don’t have, and to which none of our denominations hew entirely.

        1. Hi Irked,

          It is obvious that every Christian has his own form of worship, as the Lord taught us each to enter into our own private chambers and pray to our Father ‘in secret’, and especially with ‘The ‘Lord’s Prayer’ that the Christ taught to us. But official worship is different, and the Church from the earliest centuries tried to maintain unity of worship, even as the the Jews beforehand had also done, as a sign of the universality of the Church that Christ established. As noted in former comments of mine, Christ used the imagery of a ‘kingdom’ to describe His Church, and so unity of custom is an integral part of any kingdom or empire; and this, for the Church would include a universal form for the Christian liturgy.

          And, my references and links to St. Hippolytus, and also to the study of “Ancient Church Orders” demonstrates (if examined closely) how the Church in all actuality effected unity in liturgy, ordinations, kerygma, catechesis, sacraments and doctrine….even extending to to the furthest parts of the known world back then.

          A good example of this quest for ‘universality’ is found in the desire of the Church to celebrate the ‘paschal feast’ (Easter) at the same date throughout the world, even though various customs had originated with different dates, and founded on apostolic authority. Joe has posted on this topic before, in an article called “Pope Victor and the Second-Century Papacy”, which can be found here:

          http://shamelesspopery.com/pope-victor-and-the-second-century-papacy/

          So, this is just one example of the early Church being preoccupied with universality in public worship, liturgy and doctrine…and actually, in a way almost mimicking the model that the Roman Empire itself was founded on. So, in this desire for a mere universal date for the celebration of Easter, the Church showed how interested it was to be united, and this is stressed again in the various ‘ecumenical’ Councils that took place, starting with the 1st at Nicaea in 325AD. It is quite obvious what the Church desired as it was explicitly stated in the various creeds promulgated at that time. The Church was to be: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. It was like a multi-national franchise today, with similar customs, sacraments, prayers, liturgy, time schedules, corporate (…ecclesiastical) hierarchy, etc…

          This is all proven by 2000 years of Christian History.

          But nothing of the Protestant hermeneutic is found in Early Church history; unless you might want to identify it with some of the early heresies such as Montanism (about 150 AD) wherein a charismatic type movement had no use for items such as ‘apostolic tradition or succession’. But such groups withered away on their own while the Universal Church flourished to convert to Christ the entire Western World.

          1. Hi Al,

            But official worship is different, and the Church from the earliest centuries tried to maintain unity of worship, even as the the Jews beforehand had also done, as a sign of the universality of the Church that Christ established. As noted in former comments of mine, Christ used the imagery of a ‘kingdom’ to describe His Church, and so unity of custom is an integral part of any kingdom or empire; and this, for the Church would include a universal form for the Christian liturgy.

            That’s a fine argument, but what Scriptural support is there for it?

            Because it’s not hard to must argument to the contrary. I can, of course, argue from silence: that there’s nothing in the New Testament where one church tells another the style of their worship, beyond some minimalist restrictions like “Stop just shouting over each other in tongues all the time” and “Comport yourselves with humility and love.” There’s no instruction as to which songs to sing, or which words to say, or what elements must be present in every service.

            But I think the much larger point is that the “custom” to which the New Testament calls us is not to all sing the same songs or hold the same worship services, but to model Christ. His blood is our uniform, and his behavior is our custom. It’s to him that we’re called to conform; if we’re united in that, what possible difference does it make whether our services look anything like each other? Paul’s own (somewhat scandalous!) example in 1 Corinthians 9 is that he becomes like the culture in which he finds himself, instead of clinging to a Jewish-style cultural sensibility: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews… To those not having the law I became like one not having the law.” That hardly sounds like insisting on a “unity of custom!”

            If you want to argue that the church has not always faithfully followed Paul’s example – that they have at times insisted that new converts adopt their culture, instead of the other way around – I’ll agree. And I don’t think there’s any harm in the members of the church wanting to act the same on an issue – as in the case of Easter, it can be quite useful to do so! But I also don’t think there’s a theological necessity; if someone chose to celebrate Christmas in May, for whatever reason, more power to ’em.

            We’re made free! We’re told in Galatians 4 not to be like the old law, where we hold “special days and months and seasons and years” to be specially holy – not to listen when we’re told, “Well, you can only please God when you follow these rules I’ve decided on.” We are specifically commanded to sing new songs. We are specifically encouraged to adopt the culture of those we’re trying to reach. In light of that instruction, what possible grounds is there to say that a single liturgical pattern is required?

          2. Al,

            Reflecting on this, maybe you’re answering the question I’ve been trying to ask about Joe’s post. What I’m hearing so far – and as always, please stop me if this is inaccurate – is that the charge is not that Protestant worship deviates, in general, from some command of Scripture, or that it lacks some particular feature (communion, praise, prayer, etc.) that all worship by its very nature ought to have. Rather, the problem is that it’s not done in the style required by the Roman Catholic Church, which (from your perspective) by the nature of its source must necessarily be the style God wants and expects. Thus, by definition anything that deviates from the Catholic style must also deviate from God’s desired style.

            The problem with Protestant worship, in other words, is that it’s Protestant.

            Is that running in the right direction, or am I missing the theme?

          3. Hi Irked,

            I’m a Christian that respects Church history as to how it actually happened. For instance, we know that the apostles decided to replace Judas by drawing lots for his replacement. The same apostles decided to allow the newly converted Greeks not to be circumcised before being allowed to belong to the Church. And, these same apostles made other decisions like forming a new society which would last until the present day, the ‘deaconate’, of which St. Steven was an early member.

            So, the apostles of Christ and the early Church decided upon these and many other Ecclesiastical items that the future Church would also adopt, just as it did the institution of the diaconate. Likewise, dates for the celebration of the principal feasts of the Church were decided upon, even as was the gathering of Christians on Sunday, and not on the Sabbath, as the Jews formerly did. Jesus never told them anything of these things while he was teaching amongst them.

            So, the early church made decisions on items that would continue for centuries, and some to last even until the end of the world.

            When the Nicaean Council I promoted the Nicaean Creed, it included, “I believe in One, holy, Catholic and APOSTOLIC Church. The ‘apostolic’ part relates to those decisions made by the leadership of the Early Church/Apostles that was mean’t to continue for the future. And this is what the Church followed, all the while converting countless pagans over the next 1000 years in pagan territories all over the world.

            I understand that anyone can believe and practice Christianity as they feel. But this was not the teaching of the early Church. Back then you needed to believe what the Church taught you in both their teaching of the ‘kerygma’ as well as their catechetical and liturgical rules and instructions. If you did not agree to their rules and catechetical program, you would not allowed to be a Christian, and, of course would not be baptized. Then again, if you were rebellious enough you could just go ahead and forget the Church and baptize yourself into your own invented faith…sorry as that might be.

            So, the early Church was the originator of much of what came in the succeeding centuries, and thus men such as Irenaus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus and Eusebius of Ceasarea, not to mention countless others, both participated in and documented the rules and customs of the apostles and apostolic traditions that were passed on to them.
            Again, this apostolic tradition is what was demanded adherence to when includes into the Nicaean Creed. Unity, holiness and universality was also mandated as marks of the One true Church.

            Again, you and anyone else can throw the Nicaean Council out the window and follow your own creed. But the adherents of the Catholic Church were the ones to convert almost every pagan nation in the western world during the 1st 1000 years of Christianity. (The Orthodox being included, as they were also Catholics at this time).

            So, Catholics and Orthodox respect the Early Church. We respect the decisions that they made in every century and every synod and council. We also respect early Church institutions such as monasticism which has played such a beneficial role in the spread of the Christian faith all over the world through the centuries. And it was also a foundation for western culture after the fall of the Roman Empire.

            This is to say, if you don’t value the decisions and customs of of the early Catholic Church…that’s your decision. Catholics and Orthodox DO value this history. It’s even as Christ honored His own Jewish civilization.

            I, for one, thank God tremendously for allowing all of these ancient teachings of the Early Church to be saved for us until this present day. As we can witness in it the tremendous faith of these early Church Saints and Fathers.

            Protestants, it seems, just don’t value the synods and councils of the Early Church as Catholics and Orthodox do. They prefer to invent their own creeds, sacraments, customs and philosophies. I can only wish and hope for them the best.

            And to you also,

            – Al

          4. Hi Al,

            I’m not sure to what extent we’re still talking about the original question, but maybe we can close with this: no one’s suggesting that the early creeds and codes and advice should be thrown out – there’s a fair bit of baby in that bathwater! What we are saying is that they should be seen as what they are: the fallible judgments of fallible men, trying and striving and sometimes failing to communicate. So I value, for instance, Nicaea’s rejection of Arius, and I rejoice in some of their early affirmations of the faith – and then I read places where we’d both agree the fathers are in error, and where the traditions they claim are wrong, and am reminded that they’re Christian brothers muddling along like me.

            But as to the content of the teaching of those fathers, we disagree wildly. When I see Cyril of Jerusalem say that “not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech” – how, then, do I rectify that with a claim that a church can invent (with force of divine law!) an order of worship, and deny the validity of all worship that doesn’t follow it? When Gregory of Nyssa says that “we make the Holy Scriptures the canon and the rule of every dogma,” how am I to hold to your position instead of that of the fathers?

            The Protestant charge isn’t that the fathers are meaningless. It’s that they are flawed, and worse, that they’re misread: that they’re used to justify a system they did not have and could not have imagined.

            But that does bring me to my point: so, okay, then – the charge is, in fact, that the error of Protestant worship is the Protestantism. In which case, I think Joe’s original statement:

            Worship, like theology, is not principally a matter of my preferences, but about the truth.

            … is exactly correct – but not, perhaps, in the way that it’s meant. There’s no grounds here to say that Protestants have the wrong mindset when it comes to worship, where Catholics have the correct one. The only fundamental difference is the scriptura vs. ecclesia divide: which do we accept as the truth on which worship is built?

          5. “The only fundamental difference is the scriptura vs. ecclesia divide: which do we accept as the truth on which worship is built?”

            There was no ‘scripture’ before the ‘ecclesia’ started writing it and promoting it as part of their Eucharistic liturgies. Even as Joe mentioned, the Jewish scriptures were read publicly in the Jewish liturgies, and the same continued into the Christian liturgies which took the place of the Jewish ones.

            Moreover, the ‘Didache’ reveals that even in about 70AD there were plenty of frauds running around with bogus Christian stories to tell throughout the early church communities. And this early Church needed to distiinguish between these fraudulent accounts and the authentic ones. And the same discernment was needed with the many fraudulent writings/potential scripture that these same ‘false brethren’ were beginning to produce. So we see that it was ALWAYS the ecclesia that was making the decisions as to what was true and what was false teaching and scripture, and then they did their best to not to permit the false teachings creep into the liturgies/Eucharistic services that were held every Sunday.

            And this discernment and scrutiny of true, false and spurious scripture…used in a liturgical setting….continued until about 385-410 AD (The Council of Carthage) when scripture such as the Book of Revelation was canonically approved by the Church for inclusion in the ‘canon’ of authentic scripture. It was the ‘ecclesia’ that made this important decision after about 300 years of debate on the subject.

            So, it is also the ‘ecclesia’ that guided, fed and grew the faith of ‘the mystical body of Christ’ throughout the world during the early history of Christianity, and not scripture. The ‘ecclesia’ created the scripture.

            So, that should answer your question above, regarding: “The only fundamental difference is the scriptura vs. ecclesia divide: which do we accept as the truth on which worship is built?”

          6. There was no ‘scripture’ before the ‘ecclesia’ started writing it and promoting it as part of their Eucharistic liturgies.

            Writing it, sure. Scripture did not become Scripture when the church promoted it; it became Scripture when God breathed it.

            Moreover, the ‘Didache’ reveals that even in about 70AD there were plenty of frauds running around with bogus Christian stories to tell throughout the early church communities.

            True! And how does the Didache tell you that your local church should respond, when someone comes to you claiming to teach doctrine? How would the Didache tell you to receive an agent of the Magisterium, had there been any such thing in the first century? What did Gregory say? What did Cyril say?

            They tell us to judge their doctrines to see if they match what has already been revealed – and in the last two cases, explicitly, what has been revealed in Scripture. Your standard is out of step with what several of the early fathers themselves said; why should I trust your modern innovation over the fathers?

            And this discernment and scrutiny of true, false and spurious scripture…used in a liturgical setting….continued until about 385-410 AD (The Council of Carthage)

            You know as well as I that Carthage was a local council and, as with other local councils, did not convey an infallible judgment of the Catholic Church – that councils with the exact same authority, like Laodicea, got the canon wrong, and that the Catholic Church offered no infallible canonical claim binding on the conscience of all Catholics until Trent, twelve hundred years later.

            Was Scripture not Scripture until then?

            ***

            But set all that aside, because that’s not the point I was making. Say for the sake of argument that you’re right, and I’m wrong, and Protestants are mistaken in what we claim as the ground of truth.

            The actual point is that this is still not the charge levied above – that Protestants and Catholics think about worship in fundamentally different terms. We both see it as something to be done in accordance with God’s truth; the only difference is what we think that truth is. Joe’s charge is that Protestant denominations were started by men, where Catholics were started by God, but we think the same about you; you can argue we’re factually incorrect, but you can’t accuse us of thinking about the question the wrong way.

    3. Irked,

      My point is that the road to Emmaus encounter proceeds liturgically (as signalled by the Eucharistic-liturgical phrase “breaking of the bread”), and that we see this pattern of liturgy played out throughout the entire history of the Church. I’m also arguing that modern Evangelicalism breaks from (or is ignorant of) this liturgical framework. I’m pretty explicitly not arguing that every liturgical detail is laid out, and there’s no doubt been a lot of local and historical development (and rightly so!). Rather, I’m arguing that Christ and Scripture presents a basic framework which is taken seriously by the early Church, and not by modern Evangelicalism.

      I think it would be a mistake to view the Emmaus encounter legalistically, though. There’s a tendency (particularly but not exclusively) within Protestantism to want to reduce Scriptural data to rubrics or diktats, and to focus on the red-letter words of Christ. But here, Christ is teaching us through His actions, as He often does.

      1. Hi Joe,

        That’s helpful. As noted above, though, each of Christ’s encounters has different elements. Some contain attributes not among the four you list; others are missing attributes that are in the four. So, again, I think my question is, “Given that this is not a pattern in encounters with the risen Christ, on what grounds do we treat it as a pattern for worship today?”

        Or maybe it would help to clarify a bit: when you say that worship is to be “liturgical,” what, specifically, do you have in mind? What’s mandatory for worship to be liturgical? As I note above, Protestant services regularly include the four things you mention; are we liturgical, then, or do you have in mind something further – specific words, specific prayers, something else?

        ***

        Respectfully, I don’t think it’s a matter of legalism to say that applying a descriptive passage (“Here’s how Christ met with one group of people; he met with others in different ways”) as a normative standard (“Our worship needs to follow the pattern of this meeting specifically”) is a troublesome hermeneutic that could be used to justify all sorts of unfortunate things. Again, as a simple example: “The pattern Christ sets for us is that communion is to be taken at night.”

        Or, to approach from another perspective: what does Christ teach us when he meets with people and there isn’t a gathering, or communion, or a Scriptural lesson, or a sending forth? Can we read that and conclude that these things are among the many parts that could optionally be included in a particular service? What of the fact that Christ never sings with his disciples in any of these meetings – is that a sign that we should not sing in church?

        My thesis here is that Christians are free to worship largely as they please, rather than being restricted to a singular form. If that claim is legalism, I’ve no sense of what we’re taking that word to mean.

        1. Irked,

          Regarding legalism, I agree that you easily can’t derive normative rules from descriptive patterns. That’s the legalism I was warning against.

          We are called to model ourselves off of Christ, and He often teaches by example. But it’s not a matter of simple emulation. Take your example: Jesus teaches us something by having the Last Supper at night…. because it’s fulfilling the Passover meal, because it’s on same day as Good Friday [on the Jewish calendar, which begins at sunset] thus the cementing the connection between the altar of the Table and the altar of the Cross, etc. But what we’re supposed to take away from that isn’t “we’re supposed to do this only at night.”

          I also acknowledge outright that it’s not simple deduction. One of the arguments for the male-only clergy is that Christ signals this by His actions. And that’s a good argument, and a true one. But critics reasonably object that we don’t insist that all priests be ethnically Jewish, etc. So there is inescapably a process of discerning what He’s teaching us when He does it wordlessly.

          Regarding Emmaus, the structure is clearly liturgical, which we know from the use of the term “breaking of the bread,” which is always and only a liturgical phrase. The lengthy (four-verb) description of how He “breaks the bread” is also an obvious flag here.

          So my point is: hold up Emmaus, hold up the earliest liturgical accounts, hold up the Catholic Mass, and hold up (for example) an ordinary Emergent worship service, and the first three are going to look a lot alike, and the fourth one will stick out like a sore thumb. There are definitely exceptions to this – I had dinner last year with a guy working at an emergent church that was consciously trying to integrate historical liturgical elements.

          But even in that case (which is a positive development, no doubt), the risk is that it becomes your particular local “flavor.” That’s just not how liturgy works. Rather, it’s something handed down. Sure, it evolves, and it’s adapted to the local time and place, but it’s ultimately all operative within a tradition.

          1. Hi Joe,

            Thanks for the response; I appreciate your patience, and I’m sorry for misreading you. I guess I’m still struggling to follow you a little bit, which might play into the misunderstanding.

            I absolutely agree that Christ’s breaking of the bread is meant – in Christ’s action, and in the way Luke chooses to relate it – to evoke the Last Supper. I don’t think that’s controversial, but Protestants – even EC Protestants, from what I know of ’em – celebrate the Supper. So I’m assuming that’s not the flaw to which you’re pointing.

            Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I agree that this…

            So my point is: hold up Emmaus, hold up the earliest liturgical accounts, hold up the Catholic Mass, and hold up (for example) an ordinary Emergent worship service, and the first three are going to look a lot alike, and the fourth one will stick out like a sore thumb.

            … is true; I guess my question is, “What of it?” I’m no big fan of the emergent church movement, but if they want to worship in a style different from the way people raised in first century Judaism would have done… well, so what? Sing a new song. Become even more undignified than this.

            It seems like your critique is that it’s not “liturgical.” I’m still interested in exactly what you mean by that word – it feels like there’s a lot implicit in saying that Christ’s actions are “liturgical,” for instance – but sure, it’s not. Does that matter? Why?

        2. Irked said – … is true; I guess my question is, “What of it?” I’m no big fan of the emergent church movement, but if they want to worship in a style different from the way people raised in first century Judaism would have done… well, so what? Sing a new song. Become even more undignified than this.

          It seems like your critique is that it’s not “liturgical.” I’m still interested in exactly what you mean by that word – it feels like there’s a lot implicit in saying that Christ’s actions are “liturgical,” for instance – but sure, it’s not. Does that matter? Why?

          Me – because eventually worship can lose its reverence. You simply don’t have the reverence in many Protestant churches. Worship over coffee, over beer, worship alone with the Bible, health and wealth, bright lights and rock and roll where faith is measured by emotions, etc… the liturgy of the Eucharist has lost its meaning. It’s about the music, me and Jesus.

          Plus think about what you are saying. The Apostles/early Christians set up a rough draft on how we should worship but 2000 years later we know better. Worship must conform to me and my needs now.

          Kind of reminds me of a friend who thinks anointing of the sick is a weird. Point out James 5:14-15 and crickets. There is a reason why James instructs us to call an elder to anoint the sick with oil. He doesn’t understand why so why do it. He already has a personal relationship with Jesus. Contrary to what James says anointing with oil is not necessary and to be avoided.

          1. Hi CK,

            because eventually worship can lose its reverence. You simply don’t have the reverence in many Protestant churches.

            I think we should be careful not to conflate two different things here. If the charge is that irreverence towards God should be condemned, I’ll sign on to that entirely – so would the vast majority of Protestants I know. There are, without doubt, irreverent Protestants and Catholics aplenty – more’s the pity.

            But “irreverent” and “non-liturgical” are not the same thing. I referenced David dancing before the Lord for exactly that reason: that was not a liturgical rite. It was, in the eyes of the traditionalists of his day (including his wife!) a shameful one. But David doesn’t consider his abandon – even his “being humiliated in my own eyes” – a mark against his worship. Neither should we; whatever we say of worship, we cannot equate “undignified” and “irreverent.”

            So when there is…

            Worship over coffee, over beer, worship alone with the Bible, … bright lights and rock and roll

            … then amen! Let there be worship in all these times, and in all these ways. Liturgical worship is great. Non-liturgical worship is great. Solo worship is great. Communal worship is great. Hands-in-the-air heartfelt praise is great. Rolling hymns that stretch out the syllables is great. Polyphony is great. Gregorian chant is great. Reverent worship in all its forms is great!

            You list other things that we’d both call abuses – prosperity gospels, “feelings”-based Christianity, and so on – and sure, we have churches that fall into those errors, just like you have millions of members who have fallen into liberation theology, or who ignore the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion. We both acknowledge these as errors, and neither of us can fairly attack the other’s denomination for the way charlatans and heretics abuse it.

            Plus think about what you are saying. The Apostles/early Christians set up a rough draft on how we should worship but 2000 years later we know better.

            I never said we know better. I said it’s nice to have other options than those that derive from the cultural traditions of first century Judaism (and Rome, I suppose). The early church had a perfectly legitimate worship style, that derived from their culture; praise God, the church has more cultures now, and its worship reflects that. We have worship traditions that grew up out of Judaism, sure; we have others, say, that can trace their roots to black Christian slaves worshiping in the fields of the American south. And by no means do we declare that style any less valid, simply because its cultural roots are different.

            Worship must conform to me

            Of the folks in this thread, the Protestant is not the one insisting that worship must be done in a particular style.

    4. Hi Irked,

      The post-Vatican II New Mass was not an essential change from the Tridentine Mass. There was no change in its focus, reason, purpose, etc. The Vatican II Council was not called to formulate or revise doctrine or dogma in response to new heresies; it was rather a ‘pastoral’ council with a main theme: How can the Church open its message and meaning to the modern world? One change involved the orientation of the priest toward the people in the new Mass vs. away from the people, toward “God” in the Old. Vatican II sought to show God as open to man. The Holy of Holies was no longer hidden but accessible. Gone went the communion rail, and vernacular languages poured in.

      The New Mass was no different in essence. It was still the Mass, the Sacrifice of the Mass. We could say that cosmetic changes occurred. A light is a light, be it from an electric lamp or a candle. Some people need fire while some prefer lightning. Francis likes wool, Benedict has linen. The liturgical ‘way’ did not change.

      Benedict particularly sought to change one phrase “for many” vs. “for all”. If Francis prefers another, I submit they differ only because each seeks to accommodate our separated brethren while holding firm to truth of timeless teaching.

      1. Hi Margo,

        The New Mass was no different in essence.

        Well, that’s precisely my point: it’s our nature as people to get huffy when anything is changed, even if the substance of the action is the same. Even popes can get kind of bent out of shape on this – even when, as you note, there’s no essential difference!

        Baptists don’t worship in the same style as Catholics, but we’re still worshiping God according to (what we understand to be) His commands. If variety is possible without destroying the essence of the act of worship, as you seem to agree it is, then I don’t see that we should be judged for our different style, either.

        Unless what’s meant is that, by definition, any worship that isn’t stylistically The Way Catholics Do It must be wrong. In which case, like I said elsewhere, the charge really boils down to, “Protestant worship is bad, not because it does anything God forbade, but because it’s Protestant.”

        1. Mm. Rereading this, I don’t feel like I’ve been as fair to your position as I should be, Margo, and I apologize for that.

          But broadly… like, if we’re doing wrong, I do think it should be possible to say what, specifically, we’re doing wrong. And it does seem to me that the critiques so far are “Well, you accept something different as true” – or just style critiques! – and not places where our fundamental approach to how we should think about worship is different.

          1. Okay. Then the difference isn’t that Catholics care about what God says about worship, and Protestants don’t, as the original article suggests. The difference is that Catholics and Protestants disagree as to what God said, and are both trying to apply what they understand Him to say.

            Which, I mean, we can still be wrong about – but it’s not the charge the original article suggests.

  5. Dear Father-to-be. The different levels of the presence of Christ taught in S.C. (#7 & 8) was a novelty to ABS.

    From whence/whom did this idea arise?

    Thank you

    1. ABS,

      It’s probably better to refer to different modes of Christ’s presence, and understood in this way, it’s the traditional teaching of the Church and the clear teaching of Sacred Scripture. Jesus speaks of being present when two or three are gathered in His Name (Matthew 18:20), but He’s obviously not present in the same way that He is in the administration of the Sacraments or that He is in the person of the priest or that He is present in the poor and the “least of these,” or that He is in the Eucharist, or that He will be at the consummation of all things.

      If you’re looking for some sort of “hierarchy of presence,” in which someone authoritatively ranks the different ways that Christ makes Himself present, I don’t think such a thing does (or can) exist. But that there are different modes of presence is plain from Scripture and Tradition, and SC has helpful footnotes on this point.

      1. Dear Father to be (FTB). Thanks for the response. There does seem to be a ranking of the hierarchy of the presence as the confecting of Eucharist is distinctly different than His presence in the assembly, or the word and one can see that in Mediator Dei # 20 and also Pope Paul VI stresses the sui generis real presence in the Eucharist vis a vis His other modes of His presence.

        What ABS found helpful was this explanation

        https://adoremus.org/2005/04/15/Christs-Presence-in-the-Eucharist/

        O, and the reference to the table..After the word of God is expounded upon, there’s a turning towards the table for the Eucharistic meal. seems to ABS to minimise, if not make invisible the reality that the Mass is primarily a sacrifice of propitiation rather than a meal and which action takes place at an altar and not a table.

        One rarely meets another Catholic who can tell you what the parts of the Mass are – ABS was learnt the PARTs of Mass as an acronym

        P Petition
        A Adoration
        R Reparation
        T Thanksgiving.

        I remain in full communion with Bishop Barbarito (Palm Beach Diocese Florida) and Pope Francis but I also am gravely irked by what is, to me, an obvious and clear break with the past as it seems to me to be incontestable that Vatican Two (and afterwards) instituted a new church that is not just accidentally but substantially different from the Church ABS was born into in 1948.

        I do very much appreciate your posts and I think you have many excellent things to say and I do not want to highjack this specific thread and make it about a much broader subject and so I will just close by thanking you for being so patient with me.

        O, one last thing; I have been assisting lately at the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom at a local Melkite Church, St. Nicholas, and it is simply a magnificent liturgy.

        Pax tecum, FTB.

        1. ABS,

          You’re fighting heresies that aren’t actually in the post. “Table” is exactly the right term here, and it shows the continuity between the Emmaus encounter and the Mass. It’s one of the traditional ways of describing this reality. And what’s more, it’s the term that St. Paul uses for the Eucharistic altar in 1 Corinthians 10:21.

          I.X.,

          Joe

          1. Dear Father-to-be. The traditional place upon which sacrifice is offered is an altar and the altar represents Christ and this has always been the traditional understanding in the Church but the change from altar to table is reminiscent of what the protestant revolution did.

            Ecumenism is the Universal Solvent of Tradition and we Catholics have suffered significant loses by both subtraction and addition.

            We lost the Roman Rite and The Sacraments as understood in Tradition and men like Rahner where responsible for that loss and we lost the idea of sacrifice and the real presence with, among other things, the addition of the modes of Christ’s at Mass.

            All of these changes are of very recent time and yet we are continually told that the drastic changes represent continuity rather than rupture.

            Dear FTB, ABS knows we see these events starkly different but as one who was born into the church in 1948. the church has changed and is a new entity as noted by Professors Alberigo and Melloni of Bologna.

            There can be no continuity when everything has been changed.

            In any event, ABS thanks you for your patience and he will drop the matter as it is OT.

  6. Irked, i wonder if you have comments on Acts 13:2, because Al’s (citing the Didache and Justin Martyr) and Joe’s point is that there is an offering of a sacrifice in worship. What you mean by “liturgy” excludes a sacrifice. Joe would not view it this way.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Hi Craig,

      Can you reword/expand for me a little bit? I’m not sure I’m parsing you correctly.

      I do think sacrifice is a way we worship God – including sacrificial giving, sacrifice of our time, and so on – and fasting is probably a discipline we Protestants could stand to practice more often. (Though it’s not absent among us; my father fasted regularly for years, and I know of prominent pastors who encourage their congregations to fast.)

      Is that the kind of thing you mean, or no? I’m not sure what comment you’re asking me to make.

      1. Heb 10:11 is in reference to a literal sacrifice. i am positing that Acts 13:2, as well early sources like Ignatius, Didache, and 1 Clement speak of a literal sacrifice. On what consistent exegetical grounds do you reject there being a literal sacrifice in acts 13:2, when Heb 10:11 obviously uses the word “liturgy” in this context?

        1. Craig,

          I’m still not understanding what you’re asking me about “literal sacrifices” and Acts 13:2, that is:

          While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

          What literal sacrifice are you referencing here? Are you asking me to look at leitourgein, i.e., served/ministered/worshiped? This isn’t a passage I’ve argued in depth before, and I don’t know the argument you seem to be assuming I’ll have with it.

          On what consistent exegetical grounds do you reject there being a literal sacrifice

          Whoa, there! I haven’t rejected anything yet – I’m just a couple steps behind you in the conversation and trying to catch up. Can you back up a couple steps and take another run at me? Give me a word, an assertion, an interpretation – something! I don’t know what I’m being asked to disagree with.

          1. Okay, in a few words:

            leitourgein means to do a liturgy, an act of service.

            In Acts 13:2, the service is towards God. There is no mention of what the service is. In Heb 10:11, the word is used in reference to serving God through daily sacrifice.

            Therefore, I posit, the service towards God in Acts 13:2 would also include a sacrifice. This explains why within the next 50 years, we have Ignatius writing: “Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God” (Eph 5).

            The Christians still offer a sacrifice as an act of service to God. Do you affirm this or deny this?

            God bless,
            Craig

          2. Ah, thanks for unpacking! Like I say, I’m not a Greek scholar – I only just stumbled onto leitourgein at all.

            So with that disclaimer: leitourgein, I’m told, more generally means something like “to serve in public office” – it’s the same word you might use to describe the governor acting in his official capacity. The Septuagint, and following that a large part of the New Testament, use it particularly in the sense of “to serve in your office as a servant of God,” hence our association of “liturgy” with “a religious meeting,” or more typically, “a religious service.” Which is kind of cool etymology!

            But to the point: so there’s nothing inherent in the word that suggests “sacrifice.” It’s not really surprising, then, that basically all the biblical versions I’ve seen (Catholic ones included) render Acts 13:2 as something like “While they worshiped” or “As they ministered,”, rather than something more like “As they sacrificed.”

            So why does a sacrifice appear in Hebrews 10? Well, because offering sacrifices is the primary service of an Old Testament priest. Even here, though, these are presented as two separate verbs: ministering/serving and offering sacrifice – the author makes it explicit that he has a specific action (and not general “ministering”) in mind. And that makes perfect sense; one would not, for instance, say that a governor did not perform leitourgein just because he didn’t offer up a bull. The word covers a range of things; all it clearly conveys to us is, “Serving in your office, whatever that looks like.”

            So we’d expect, for instance, that the Acts 13 usage might imply the sort of things a New Testament elder typically did: lead in prayer, and teach, and so on. (We might reasonably omit “took communion,” in this particular case, since the only other thing we’re told definitely is that they were fasting.) If we knew that this office normally included offering sacrifices, we might even infer that Acts 13, lacking reasons to the contrary, included sacrifice – but surely we can’t use Acts 13 itself to establish that fact.

            So I think it’s a perfectly consistent exegesis to read the content of “served” as context-defined by the office described. I don’t really see how one can make a case otherwise.

            To your question, though:

            The Christians still offer a sacrifice as an act of service to God. Do you affirm this or deny this?

            It depends what you mean. I absolutely affirm that we Christians offer sacrifice to God: that we sacrifice our time, our talents, our resources, our energy to the furtherance of His kingdom. These men most particularly offered a literal sacrifice: given Christ’s murder not two months before, their continuance in his work was a quite literal offering, as Paul says, of “your lives as living sacrifices.” To bring in a new apostle was to declare their willingness to continue serving him even unto death.

            But if what you’re asking is, “Does this service include a sacrifice that served the same function as the Old Testament sacrifice – that is, where we make an offering that covers sin,” then the answer is clearly no. And that answer is grounded in the passage you cite, Hebrews 10: It is finished. Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, and then he sat down, for by that sacrifice he perfected forever those whom he had sanctified. In one of my favorite bits from a song we sang Sunday: “Dying, he saved me; rising, he justified – freely! Forever!” There’s no more Old Testament work to be done.

          3. Craig,

            Quick apology – I had read your (upthread, original) post on Acts 13:2 earlier, but it went clean out of my head when you asked the question down here. I can see now why you thought I’d know what you were talking about – I should have, and somehow it just didn’t click together until I was reading back over the thread this morning.

            Sorry for being a bit of a ditz, there!

          4. Irked,

            Thank you for following up with me. I take you to be a fair-minded, intelligent individual. I do not say this to flatter you (God forbid), but because 1. I like your posting and 2. you legitimately come across this way. If I am taking you rightly, hear me out.

            I think the key problem with your interpretation of Acts 13:2 in this case is presuppositional. Let me compare how you go about exegeting the text at issue versus myself.

            1. Presupposition: Christ’s sacrifice cannot be repeated, so the Eucharist is not a sacrifice.
            2. The term “Leitourgountōn” means “minister.”
            3. Therefore, “ministering to God” in Acts 13:2 is a ministry of prayer, service between the brethren, singing, etcetera–but not a sacrifice..

            Here is how I am interpreting the text, without presuppositions:

            1. The term “Leitourgountōn” means “minister.”
            2. The only other time “minister to God” is used in the Scriptures is in reference to sacrifices to God.
            3. Therefore, “minister to God” is implicitly sacrificial.

            My hermeneutic uses Scripture to interpret Scripture (the Protestant gold-standard of exegesis.) Your hermeneutic is obviously presuppositional. You ignore the Biblical data, because of your peculiar interpretation of Heb 9-10. This is standard eisegesis, instead of exegesis.

            Now, I am sure you will admit that the Didache and Ignatius represent Christian thought mere decades after the resurrection of Christ. And, I am sure you admit, they viewed the Eucharist as a proper sacrifice. So, just so we are on the same page, your position is that those early writers understood the Christian religion less than you do. Fair enough, it is theoretically possible, but being that we are speaking mere decades after the Bible was written (and the Didache may have preceded the Gospel of John), I am sure you would concede that to an unbiased observer this would be unlikely.

            So, here is what I think you misunderstand: you think the Eucharist is a sacrifice repeated again and again. Catholics and Orthodox do not believe that. For one, every Sunday during the Divine Liturgy the priest says, “We offer You Your Own.” We offer God to Himself. Second, I have heard it explained by two priests that there is no repetition in sacrifices. The sacrifice on the altar during Divine Liturgy is the same sacrifice 2,000 years ago. In a sense, we time travel during liturgy. Sounds silly, but it is also silly that a sin committed in the year 2017 can be imputed to Christ 2,000 years ago. So, there is some sort of time travel going on, whether you are comfortable with it or not.

            How does this all work? I do not know. It is a mystery/sacrament (means “mystery.”) I cannot tell you how any more than you can tell me how double imputation literally works.

            So, being that your presupposition really is not necessary, I think you would be on firmer ground interpreting “ministering to God” in Acts 13:2 in a sacrificial context, as this is the only context it is ever explicitly used in the Scriptures, than applying your presupposition to it and undoing it’s most likely meaning.

            I will pray for you, God knows your real name, to me you are “Irked.”

            God bless,
            Craig

          5. Hi Craig,

            Let me compare how you go about exegeting the text at issue versus myself.

            1. Presupposition: Christ’s sacrifice cannot be repeated, so the Eucharist is not a sacrifice.
            2. The term “Leitourgountōn” means “minister.”
            3. Therefore, “ministering to God” in Acts 13:2 is a ministry of prayer, service between the brethren, singing, etcetera–but not a sacrifice..

            I mean, I don’t think that’s at all the exegesis I laid out. My exegesis was that that the verb root here means to serve in official capacity; we don’t need to guess at its meaning in general. Given that definition, then, what exactly is entailed by a particular service depends on what the job is. So the question is, “Do the jobs ‘Christian elder’ and ‘Jewish priest’ have the same responsibilities?” Pretty clearly, we can’t use a passage that does not mention those responsibilities to establish what they are – can we?

            In other words, I nowhere said “So it can’t mean sacrifice”; my supposed first point (The bad one! The presupposition!) doesn’t actually appear in my argument. Rather I said that a meaning of “sacrifice” would have to be established by showing that sacrifice was one of the roles of this particular official capacity. If you can show that it is, by all means do so – but at that point Acts 13:2 is moot.

            2. The only other time “minister to God” is used in the Scriptures is in reference to sacrifices to God.

            But this isn’t true: Hebrews 10 says ministering and offering sacrifices – “offering sacrifices” is a totally separate phrase (“prospheron thysias,” apparently!). Your treatment here implies that Hebrews 10 establishes “sacrifice” as an inherent part of “leitourgein,” and that’s just not true.

            Further, it’s not true that this is the only use of “ministers of God” in the New Testament. In Hebrews 1:7, for instance, the leitourgous are the angels, and in 1:14 the leitourgika are the ministering spirits – should we conclude that an elder’s responsibilities are in all regards the same as that of the angels? Surely not!

            Or here, let’s do this another way: the point you’re trying to establish is that the elders have the same responsibilities as the priests. Your go-to passage is about how our status is unlike that of the priests. How on earth is that “using Scripture to interpret Scripture?”

            Now, I am sure you will admit that the Didache and Ignatius represent Christian thought mere decades after the resurrection of Christ… So, just so we are on the same page, your position is that those early writers understood the Christian religion less than you do.

            In some regards? Yes, absolutely – I believe you and I both think that. The Didache said to “abstain by all means from meat offered to idols, for it is the worship of dead gods” – surely we’d both follow Paul over it, there.

            Or, more on point: the Didache says those baptized are to be immersed in cold running water and should voluntarily fast for a few days – which suggests they’re, y’know, old enough to talk. Does your church only baptize according to that pattern, or do you think you know better than the fathers in this instance?

            Fair enough, it is theoretically possible, but being that we are speaking mere decades after the Bible was written (and the Didache may have preceded the Gospel of John), I am sure you would concede that to an unbiased observer this would be unlikely.

            No, I don’t concede that at all. Let’s say you’re right, and it precedes John; that’s a major argument that we know more about Christianity than its authors, because they may well have been missing John’s testimony.

            More, there are thousands of years of theological research between us and them. Many of our core doctrines – the rejection of Gnosticism, the full form of the Trinity, and so on – took decades or centuries to nail down; I think the claim that the early Christians understood Christianity better than us is basically historically untenable.

            So, here is what I think you misunderstand: you think the Eucharist is a sacrifice repeated again and again.

            So, before we go any further here: would you agree or disagree that John O’Brien’s discussion of the priesthood and the Eucharist accurately summarizes the Catholic position, i.e., that

            “When the priest pronounces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of monarchs and emperors: it is greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim. Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man—not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows His head in humble obedience to the priest’s command.”

            Because I know the Catholic self-testimony regarding the Eucharist. I’m not unclear on this point! I just think it’s self-contradictory; a sacrifice that was once is not a sacrifice that recurs, whether one calls it a repeat or a “re-presentation” or anything else – and a Christ who sat down once and for all is not an eternal victim, vacuumed out of heaven to re-appear on the altar.

          6. Rereading, let me anticipate an objection: I would not argue that we understand Christianity better than the apostles, or that Scripture doesn’t teach (say) the Trinity. My point is that the church in general took a while to catch on to what Scripture taught; the truth was already there. I think that’s a relatively uncontroversial claim, as far as it goes, given how many early churches seems to be like “GIVE ME ALL THE HERESIES, I CAN FIT THEM IN MY MOUTH.”

          7. Irked,

            You’re John O’Brien quote is actually not all that dissimilar to something John Chrysostom said in “On the Priesthood.” Here he is from book 3 paragraph 4:

            “For the priestly office is indeed discharged on earth, but it ranks among heavenly ordinances; and very naturally so: for neither man, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself, instituted this vocation, and persuaded men while still abiding in the flesh to represent the ministry of angels. Wherefore the consecrated priest ought to be as pure as if he were standing in the heavens themselves in the midst of those powers. Fearful, indeed, and of most awful import, were the things which were used before the dispensation of grace, as the bells, the pomegranates, the stones on the breastplate and on the ephod, the girdle, the mitre, the long robe, the plate of gold, the holy of holies, the deep silence within. But if any one should examine the things which belong to the dispensation of grace, he will find that, small as they are, yet are they fearful and full of awe, and that what was spoken concerning the law is true in this case also, that what has been made glorious has no glory in this respect by reason of the glory which excels. 2 Corinthians 3:10 For when you see the Lord sacrificed, and laid upon the altar, and the priest standing and praying over the victim, and all the worshippers empurpled with that precious blood, can you then think that you are still among men, and standing upon the earth? Are you not, on the contrary, straightway translated to Heaven, and casting out every carnal thought from the soul, do you not with disembodied spirit and pure reason contemplate the things which are in Heaven? Oh! What a marvel! What love of God to man! He who sits on high with the Father is at that hour held in the hands of all, and gives Himself to those who are willing to embrace and grasp Him. And this all do through the eyes of faith! Do these things seem to you fit to be despised, or such as to make it possible for any one to be uplifted against them?

            Would you also learn from another miracle the exceeding sanctity of this office? Picture Elijah and the vast multitude standing around him, and the sacrifice laid upon the altar of stones, and all the rest of the people hushed into a deep silence while the prophet alone offers up prayer: then the sudden rush of fire from Heaven upon the sacrifice:— these are marvellous things, charged with terror. Now then pass from this scene to the rites which are celebrated in the present day; they are not only marvellous to behold, but transcendent in terror. There stands the priest, not bringing down fire from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit: and he makes prolonged supplication, not that some flame sent down from on high may consume the offerings, but that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the souls of all, and render them more refulgent than silver purified by fire. Who can despise this most awful mystery, unless he is stark mad and senseless? Or do you not know that no human soul could have endured that fire in the sacrifice, but all would have been utterly consumed, had not the assistance of God’s grace been great.”

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          8. And then the following paragraph from Chrysostom which is just as good! lol.

            ” For if any one will consider how great a thing it is for one, being a man, and compassed with flesh and blood, to be enabled to draw near to that blessed and pure nature, he will then clearly see what great honor the grace of the Spirit has vouchsafed to priests; since by their agency these rites are celebrated, and others nowise inferior to these both in respect of our dignity and our salvation. For they who inhabit the earth and make their abode there are entrusted with the administration of things which are in Heaven, and have received an authority which God has not given to angels or archangels. For it has not been said to them, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven. Matthew 18:18 They who rule on earth have indeed authority to bind, but only the body: whereas this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens; and what priests do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence of his servants. For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, Whose sins ye remit they are remitted, and whose sins ye retain they are retained? John 20:23 What authority could be greater than this? The Father has committed all judgment to the Son? John 5:22 But I see it all put into the hands of these men by the Son. For they have been conducted to this dignity as if they were already translated to Heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the passions to which we are liable. Moreover, if a king should bestow this honor upon any of his subjects, authorizing him to cast into prison whom he pleased and to release them again, he becomes an object of envy and respect to all men; but he who has received from God an authority as much greater as heaven is more precious than earth, and souls more precious than bodies, seems to some to have received so small an honor that they are actually able to imagine that one of those who have been entrusted with these things will despise the gift. Away with such madness! For transparent madness it is to despise so great a dignity, without which it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation, or the good things which have been promised to us. For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?”

            Matthew

  7. Irked, of course there is no more Old Testament work to be done, no one is claiming there is. But what about the application of Christ’s new covenant saving work on the cross? Should the Colossians have corrected Paul for saying that he completed what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Is God finished with you? I know for sure that he isn’t finished with me, I hope and pray he’s just getting started. The Mass is indeed a sacrifice to God. And what do we bring? Common bread and wine, empty hands, nothing of any value to God, really. We just re-present the once-for-all sacrifice that is our only hope and then marvel at what he does.

    1. Hi Shane,

      Well, again, that goes back to the question of, “What do you mean, when you say it’s a sacrifice?” The function of the Old Testament sacrificial system was very specific: it covered over (though it could not take away) sins, until they could be finally paid for at the cross.

      But Hebrews 10 is very specific that this sort of sacrifice is done – that there is no more recurring “year after year” sacrifice, that Christ’s offering is once for all and not repeated. There’s not a lot of ambiguity here; there is no further work of covering over sins to be performed.

      You ask, “Is God finished with you?” – and no, certainly not. The process of our being conformed to Christ is an ongoing one. But the conforming of our character is not a matter of payment for sin.

      Again, there are senses in which “sacrifice” is an entirely appropriate term for Christians today, but unless you’re clear as to the function, I can’t say whether I agree with a particular usage or not. And in particular, this:

      The Mass is indeed a sacrifice to God.

      … would need to be demonstrated, and not simply claimed – all the more if it’s meant to convey that the Mass is a means of remitting sin.

      1. “There’s not a lot of ambiguity here”

        Then what does this saying of the Lord mean:

        “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. [25] Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. [26] Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing. ” (Matt. 5:23)

        I added verse 25 to give context to the time frame. These are universal teachings meant for all generations…as is all of the Sermon on the Mount teachings.

        The use of an ALTAR has only one purpose…a place for adoration and sacrifice. And Christ clearly indicates that it will always be an essential part of Christian worship.

        And then there are further references to altars in the Book of Revelation:

        “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the ALTAR the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” [Rev. 6:9]

        “And the angel took the censer, and filled it with the fire of the ALTAR, and cast it on the earth, and there were thunders and voices and lightnings, and a great earthquake.” [Rev. 8:5]

        “And the sixth angel sounded the trumpet: and I heard a voice from the four horns of the great ALTAR, which is before the eyes of God,” [Rev. 9:13]

        * * * * * * * * *

        Add all of these verses to the Didache teaching 14, which alludes to Matt:5:23-24, above, and you have a good example of Early Christian worship and sacrifice (Jesus’ one sacrifice commemorated at the Mass, and the partaking of the ‘Blood of the New Covenant’ at Holy Communion). It might be added that gifts(bread and wine) are also offered by the laity during the Liturgy.

        1. I forgot to provide the Didache 14 text:

          “Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

        2. Al,

          I’m not really clear what you’re arguing against, here. As I said to Craig, yes, Christians are to offer our very lives as sacrifices to God, as Paul commands. If your charge is that Christians are to offer gifts to God – well, yeah, I agree! We do that.

          As I said, it’s only the notion that this offering serves the same role as the Old Testament sacrifices – that it covers sin – that’s rejected, plainly, by the author of Hebrews. The high priest sat down; that part’s done now.

          If you’d like to offer an alternative exegesis of Hebrews 10, by all means – but barring that, I don’t see what we have to disagree about.

          1. How is the verse “sanctified . . . once for all” different than “once saved always saved”?

          2. Irked, I believe Al is just saying that the concept of a sacrifice isn’t done away with under the new covenant, as is supported by early church history. No more blood of bulls and goats, for sure, the High Priest is also now the lamb. Here’s how the Catechism explains it:

            1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:

            [Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.

            1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”

            This understanding of an ever-present application of the once-for-all sacrifice is actually more Christocentric, not less, than viewing it as a one-time act that happened in the past. Christ is more present to his body on this earth, not less. The bridgegroom is more attentive to the needs of the his bride, not less. God didn’t need those sacrifices in the Old Testament in the first place, he commanded them to do those things for their own good. So he turned it around. For our good. God allows a multitude of understandings, for sure, but please don’t think that those of us who believe we receive the body and blood of his sacrifice think what he did on the cross isn’t sufficient. He is everything we will ever need.

          3. Hi Margo and Shane,

            Margo:

            How is the verse “sanctified . . . once for all” different than “once saved always saved”?

            Well, I am Reformed; I do believe in the perseverance of the saints.

            We run into some nuance of usage, here. “Once saved always saved” is sometimes used to argue that you can be saved, never exhibit any fruit or sign of a changed heart in the next fifty years, die, and go to heaven. That’s inconsistent both with James and with Hebrews 10. A Reformed view would say with James that, if your so-called “faith” never produced any actual change in your life, it’s a dead faith: you were never brought to life in the first place. It still remains true that a real saving faith cannot be lost – but such a faith must, by its very nature, produce a changed heart.

            But I do think this verse is one evidence for the perseverance of the saints – not the strongest, but one of ’em. I think that’s a topic for another day, though.

            ***

            Shane:

            Irked, I believe Al is just saying that the concept of a sacrifice isn’t done away with under the new covenant

            Right – I think that’s what’s puzzling me, because I said the same thing, a couple of times. My only beef is with this part…

            by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.

            … particularly that last clause. There’s nothing left for its salutary power to be applied to; all our sin is already covered. And, not to put too fine a point on it: none of that last part is taught in Scripture. As Romans 4 says, God credits to us righteousness apart from works – including the work of communion! – and never counts our sins against us. I don’t believe this can be unified with a claim that new sins must be newly propitiated.

            This understanding of an ever-present application of the once-for-all sacrifice is actually more Christocentric, not less, than viewing it as a one-time act that happened in the past.

            But our standard is not “Does this seem more Christocentric to me?” – it’s “What does Scripture teach regarding our forgiveness?” And here’s what Hebrews 10 says: The law required sacrifice again and again, because those sacrifices couldn’t possibly pay for sin, and those sacrificing couldn’t be permanently cleansed by them. But through Christ, we have been made holy: once for all, in a way that can never and need never be repeated. We, in contrast to those under the law, are permanently cleansed. We are “made perfect forever” in the sight of God, and there’s no need for any further sacrifice for sin.

            The Mass, then, can’t be necessary for propitiation. It can’t be a sacrifice for sin, because there is no further sacrifice for sin. If it must be re-presented for fresh forgiveness, the argument of the author of Hebrews collapses, because “make sacrifice again” is exactly what the old system required.

            God allows a multitude of understandings, for sure, but please don’t think that those of us who believe we receive the body and blood of his sacrifice think what he did on the cross isn’t sufficient.

            I wouldn’t accuse you of any such thing – but I am getting a little bit puzzled by the repeated challenges for me to confirm that Christians still offer gifts to God. It feels – maybe unfairly – a bit like a “gotcha:” as though it’s being argued that I need to either reject Christian sacrifice, or accept the Mass as propitiatory, and that an ambiguity as to what’s entailed by “sacrifice” will force this decision.

          4. Thanks Shane,

            Your excellent quote will probably save many pages of inferior explanations on the subject.

          5. Irked,

            Respectfully, I think you’re badly misunderstanding Hebrews. Not only is the evidence of Church History abundantly clear that the Eucharist is the very same sacrifice of Jesus Christ, to God the Father, for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28), but Hebrews itself says that Jesus is our Priest FOREVER after the order of Melchizedek. Remember, Hebrews 7:24 says that Christ holds His priesthood PERMANENTLY because He continues forever. Hebrews 8:3 says:

            “For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.”

            Because Christ is still our High Priest, He must still have something to offer. Otherwise, He wouldn’t even be a priest anymore. And His offering isn’t going to be another one because as you are aware, Christ’s sacrifice is once for all. So the offering Christ continues to offer as a High Priest in the True Holy of Holies (ie Heaven) must be the exact same offering He offered as a High Priest on the Cross; namely His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity; His entire Self. Since there is no suffering in Heaven and Christ will never die again, only the manner in which Christ offers Himself is different. Unbloody as opposed to bloody.

            So in Heaven, Christ as our High Priest continuously offers Himself to the Father in an unbloody manner. That is the Mass! As for Hebrews 10, I still don’t think you fully understand what us Catholics are saying. Read the Catechism paragraphs Shane posted again. The Mass is not a “repetition” of Calvary, it IS Calvary. Albeit, mysteriously and unbloodily. Christ is not dying again or suffering again in the Mass, but His suffering and death are being offered to the Father because that’s what Jesus is doing in Heaven now. It would be silly to say that Jesus can offer Himself to the Father in Heaven but for some reason, He cannot do that on Earth through His priests (which they are only in virtue of their union with Him). Remember also, according to Hebrews, we DO in fact have an altar (Hebrews 10:13). And sacrifices happen on altars.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          6. Hi Matthewp,

            Hebrews itself says that Jesus is our Priest FOREVER after the order of Melchizedek.

            Sure. No one suggests Christ is anything other than our continuing high priest.

            Because Christ is still our High Priest, He must still have something to offer. Otherwise, He wouldn’t even be a priest anymore. And His offering isn’t going to be another one because as you are aware, Christ’s sacrifice is once for all. So the offering Christ continues to offer

            To say that Christ continues to offer sacrifice is to negate Hebrews 9 and 10. The entire theme of that portion is that his work is finished – that, as the perfect high priest, his work is done.

            His suffering and death are being offered to the Father because that’s what Jesus is doing in Heaven now.

            What he is doing in Heaven now is sitting, at the right hand of God the Father, as the glorified priest whose sacrificial work is complete. I know of no way the author could be clearer in this point; I know of no way he could have offered greater shock to his Jewish audience than in that simple phrase: “He sat down.”

            And I have no clearer argument then the one Hebrews itself makes.

            Day after day, we’re told, every priest stands to perform his duties – but Christ doesn’t stand. He doesn’t perform the duties of the priestly office. He doesn’t present the sacrifice. He doesn’t need to; the duties are done. He sits, Hebrews says. He waits.

            Exegete the text to me! What does it mean that Christ sat down, which no high priest could do? What’s the significance of that statement, in context? What does it say about his performing the duties of the priestly office?

          7. Irked,

            You said: “Sure. No one suggests Christ is anything other than our continuing high priest.”

            Actually, you say exactly this later on in your comment which I will get to.

            You say: “To say that Christ continues to offer sacrifice is to negate Hebrews 9 and 10. The entire theme of that portion is that his work is finished – that, as the perfect high priest, his work is done.”

            There is nothing in Hebrews 9 or 10 that says Christ ceased to offer His sacrifice. You’re reading this into the text because it’s difficult for you to see how if Christ offered a once for all sacrifice on Calvary, how that same offering can continue to be offered. But that’s not a contradiction. The offering is perpetual. Hebrews 9:15 says that Christ IS (present tense) our mediator. What is the nature of His mediation? It’s the same sacrifice because He’s still our same High Priest. If Christ is no longer functioning as a High Priest, then how does His priesthood continue forever? Are you forgetting the no less then six times the author of Hebrews mentions Psalm 110:4? You’re interpretation of Hebrews 10 makes Christ essentially retired as our High Priest, no longer functioning in His duty, shirking His responsibility. That contradicts Hebrews 6:20-Hebrews 8:6. In particular it contradicts Hebrews 7:24 and Hebrews 8:3.

            Then you say: “What he is doing in Heaven now is sitting, at the right hand of God the Father, as the glorified priest whose sacrificial work is complete. I know of no way the author could be clearer in this point; I know of no way he could have offered greater shock to his Jewish audience than in that simple phrase: “He sat down.”

            And I have no clearer argument then the one Hebrews itself makes.

            Day after day, we’re told, every priest stands to perform his duties – but Christ doesn’t stand. He doesn’t perform the duties of the priestly office. He doesn’t present the sacrifice. He doesn’t need to; the duties are done. He sits, Hebrews says. He waits.

            Exegete the text to me! What does it mean that Christ sat down, which no high priest could do? What’s the significance of that statement, in context? What does it say about his performing the duties of the priestly office?”

            Certainly, Jesus sitting down at the right hand of the Father…to INTERCEDE for us means that He is equal to the Father in authority. I’ll repeat what Aquinas said which was: “Then (v. 12) he shows what pertains to the priesthood of Christ. In regard to this he does two things: first, he states his intent; secondly, the reason (v. 14).

            497. – He says, therefore: but when this man, namely, Christ, offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins. But the Old Law offered many sacrifices without expiating for sins. This man, therefore, offered one sacrifice, because He offered Himself once for our sins, and sat down at the right hand of God, not as a minister always standing, as the priests of the Old Law, but as the Lord: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand’ (Ps. 110:1); ‘He sits on the right hand of God’ (Mk 16:19); at the right hand of God the Father with equal power in the divine nature, but with the more important goods in the human nature: ‘He sits on the right hand of the majesty on high’ (Heb. 1:3); and this forever, for He will not die again, because ‘Christ rising from the dead, dies now no more’ (Rom. 6:9); ‘His power is an everlasting power’ (Dan 7:14).”

            When you said: “He doesn’t perform the duties of a priestly office,” you show that you do not really believe that His Priesthood continues forever. When a priest is no longer doing their job, they cease to be a priest. Priests offer sacrifice. That’s their job. You don’t see Christ’s priesthood as continuing contrary to what you said earlier. You see Christ as essentially retired from His Priesthood. This is what Chrysostom said about the offering we offer at Mass in his commentary on Hebrews:

            “What then? Do not we offer every day? We offer indeed, but making a remembrance of His death, and this [remembrance] is one and not many. How is it one, and not many? Inasmuch as that [Sacrifice] was once for all offered, [and] carried into the Holy of Holies. This is a figure of that [sacrifice] and this remembrance of that. For we always offer the same, not one sheep now and tomorrow another, but always the same thing: so that the sacrifice is one. And yet by this reasoning, since the offering is made in many places, are there many Christs? But Christ is one everywhere, being complete here and complete there also, one Body. As then while offered in many places, He is one body and not many bodies; so also [He is] one sacrifice. He is our High Priest, who offered the sacrifice that cleanses us. That we offer now also, which was then offered, which cannot be exhausted. This is done in remembrance of what was then done. For (says He) do this in remembrance of Me. Luke 22:19 It is not another sacrifice, as the High Priest, but we offer always the same, or rather we perform a remembrance of a Sacrifice. But since I have mentioned this sacrifice, I wish to say a little in reference to you who have been initiated; little in quantity, but possessing great force and profit, for it is not our own, but the words of Divine Spirit . What then is it? Many partake of this sacrifice once in the whole year, others twice; others many times. Our word then is to all; not to those only who are here, but to those also who are settled in the desert. For they partake once in the year, and often indeed at intervals of two years.”

            Notice here, because the Mass is a “remembrance” doesn’t mean it isn’t a sacrifice, in fact the same sacrifice of Christ. Then he discusses those who partake of the sacrifice. Christ is still our High Priest whether He is sitting, standing, jumping up and down, or what have you. Christ is in the Holy of Holies with His blood. We still have an altar because there is an altar in Heaven where the Lamb actually is “standing as though it had been slain.”

            May God be with you.

          8. Aquinas again, commenting on Hebrews 10:

            “To prove that the Law did not cleanse perfectly, he uses two facts: first, that there was frequent repetition of the same sacrifices in it. This is his reasoning: If the worshippers had once been cleansed by the same sacrifice, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin, so they would cease offering, because, as has been said, they offered the same sacrifices every year. Therefore, since they did not cease offering, it is a sign that they were not cleansed: ‘They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill’ (Mt. 9:12). But on the other hand, it could be said that that reasoning is not conclusive. For one could say that that offering cleansed from past sins, but not those to come. Therefore, because they sinned often, the offerings had to be repeated frequently. I answer that the way the Apostle speaks excludes this: for since sin is something spiritual, which is opposed to what is heavenly, it was necessary that whatever cleansed from sin should be spiritual and heavenly and, consequently, that it have everlasting power; hence, above (9:12), when he spoke about the power of Christ’s sacrifice, he attributed an everlasting power to it, saying, ‘having obtained eternal redemption.’ But the fact that it has eternal power is enough for sins already committed and sins still to be committed; therefore, it was not necessary to repeat it any more. Hence ‘Christ by one oblation perfected forever them that are sanctified’ (Heb. 10:14). But the fact that we offer the sacrifice every day seems to contradict the statement that it is not repeated. I answer that we do not offer something different from what Christ offered for us, namely, His blood; hence, it is not a distinct oblation, but a commemoration of that sacrifice which Christ offered: ‘Do this in commemoration of me’ (Lk. 22:19).”

            Matthewp

          9. Hi Matthewp,

            There is nothing in Hebrews 9 or 10 that says Christ ceased to offer His sacrifice.

            On the contrary, the entire passage says this – most specifically 10:11-13: “Every priest stands ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet.”

            There’s a straightforward logical progression there. Priests stand; why do they stand? They stand to perform duties; what duties? The duties of ministering and offering sacrifices.

            But Christ sits; why does he sit? He sits because he has no more duties; what duties? The duties of ministering and offering sacrifices. This is the simplest, clearest, and most natural reading of Hebrews 10.

            You’re reading this into the text because it’s difficult for you to see

            Respectfully, you’re welcome to tell me I’m mistaken, or that there are holes in my argument. Please don’t explain to me how I think, though.

            Hebrews 9:15 says that Christ IS (present tense) our mediator.

            He is the mediator of a new covenant, yes. A new covenant that’s already established – as we both agree, right? 8:6 says as much – not that the covenant he mediated is being enacted, but rather that it has been enacted, as a finished work in the past.

            Does one say of a diplomat who brought two warring nations to peace only that, “He was the guy who mediated that deal,” or can one say that “He is the mediator of that deal?”

            If Christ is no longer functioning as a High Priest, then how does His priesthood continue forever?

            It’s a high priesthood with no more work of sacrifice and offering to be done. That’s a weird thing, for which there is no earthly parallel; that’s the point.

            You’re interpretation of Hebrews 10 makes Christ essentially retired as our High Priest, no longer functioning in His duty, shirking His responsibility.

            But he has no more responsibilities. The work is complete. Again, that’s the point of Hebrews 10: having finished his once-for-all task, he waits for his enemies to be made footstools.

            These critiques are exactly the scandalous idea with which the author of Hebrews shocks his audience. If you find the idea of a priest who stopped presenting offerings kind of crazy – well, the Jews probably found it even more so. But it’s a new covenant; the rules have changed.

            That contradicts Hebrews 6:20-Hebrews 8:6. In particular it contradicts Hebrews 7:24 and Hebrews 8:3.

            You’ve argued I’m reading into the text, so I’m going to charge that right back at you: you claim that a priest can only be a priest if he performs his duties forever. Maybe that’s a rule for earthly priests; the text says exactly the opposite for Christ.

            7:24 says Christ is a priest forever. He is! 8:3 says, to be a priest, you must have something to offer. He offered his very life, the perfect once-for-all sacrifice! He met the qualification, and so was a priest. And now that’s done, and he’s still a priest.

            Certainly, Jesus sitting down at the right hand of the Father…to INTERCEDE for us means that He is equal to the Father in authority.

            Is “authority” the only point the author of Hebrews is making? Why is this “sitting down” contrasted with the priest who stands to perform his duties – what’s the meaning of the contrast?

            When you said: “He doesn’t perform the duties of a priestly office,” you show that you do not really believe that His Priesthood continues forever. When a priest is no longer doing their job, they cease to be a priest. Priests offer sacrifice. That’s their job.

            All I can tell you is to take it up with the author of Hebrews. I don’t know how he could be any clearer on this point.

            Doesn’t your own denomination teach in Catechism 1582 that a priest is forever ordained as such – whether he continues to offer sacrifices or not? Why would you make Christ’s priesthood a less durable thing than your own?

            You quote Aquinas and Chrysostom, but I’d ask you to look closely at your own quotes. They both say Christ offered, once and done. You said Christ continuously offers. On this point, those men are on my side.

          10. Irked said – You quote Aquinas and Chrysostom, but I’d ask you to look closely at your own quotes. They both say Christ offered, once and done. You said Christ continuously offers. On this point, those men are on my side.

            Me – this is where it can get frustrating reading your comments. By now you know or should know that the Church and no Catholic commenting here believes that Christ’s was not offered once and for all. For you to insist that we do is not very charitable. The charitable approach (if you are here to learn and just not argue) would be to ask how do Catholics reconcile the once and for all sacrifice which we espouse to Christ’s sacrifice continually being offered at mass (by the way this has already been answered). You also know that Aquinas and Chrysostom believed in the real presence and that a sacrifice (as catholics undertand it) takes place at every mass. Somehow they reconciled the dilemma you presented. Do you care? It doesn’t sound like you do. Keep setting up that strawman.

          11. Irked,

            I’m glad we’re talking about this because it’s too important to get wrong. I will once again reiterate that the Mass as a sacrifice was unanimously understood in the Church uninterrupted and unchallenged for 1500 years. No one interpreted the book of Hebrews the way you do until Zwingly. You would try in vain to find one Church Father who denied that the Mass/Divine Liturgy was not the once for all Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

            You brought up Hebrews 10:12-13 again but failed to address what I or the people I quoted had to say about them. Hebrews 10:12-13 is yet again referencing Psalm 110:1 which he does five times in the letter. If you look at that Psalm again, you will see that after verse 1, verse 4 states that Jesus is a priest forever. So clearly, “sitting down” doesn’t stop Jesus from being a priest forever. And I already said that Christ’s intercession and mediation on our behalf is identical to the continuous offering of Himself to the Father. He does this even if He is “sitting down” lol. There is no contradiction between “He offered” and “He offers.” If you want to say that “sitting down” could mean that Jesus no longer offers Himself in a bloody manner, then I could acquiesce to that but you’re going much further.

            I should not have put words in your mouth. For that I apologize. But Christ’s mediation/intercession on our behalf is constant. That’s why sins can still be forgiven. I appreciate your admission that you truly believe that Jesus no longer functions as a High Priest. That’s the only consistent way reformed theology looks at this. But it is completely foreign to the Mind of the Church. It would also be an unimaginable break with the ancient Jewish mind that no one would have accepted. The clue that this isn’t the case can be found not only in the Early Church Fathers, but even Hebrews says “we have an altar.” Revelation talks about the altar in Heaven frequently. The Mass/Divine Liturgy is where Heaven and Earth meet and are joined. That’s what John Chrysostom explains so beautifully. John O’Brien does likewise (although I would have added that it is God’s will that His priests do this to avoid the impression that the priest is manipulating God).

            Fair point on how priests are still priests even if they are retired or disciplined but that’s just the thing. Christ is NOT retired! And He for certain is not disciplined for misbehavior. He mediates. He intercedes. He’s still active in our lives! When reading your comments, forgive me, but I get this image in my head of Christ reclining on a La-z-boy, taking a nap or something lol.

            As for Chrysostom and Aquinas, they do say that Christ offered Himself once for all, but they never say “done.” That’s what you are reading into the text. Hebrews also never says that Christ ceases to offer or function as a Priest. You think that’s implied by “He sat down at the right hand of God” but Psalm 110 shows that not to be the case. Furthermore, take another look at Hebrews 9:12. Not only did Christ need to offer Himself on a cross, but He had to ascend into Heaven to apply that offering in the True Holy of Holies. He entered the Holy of Holies with His blood and He’s still there! Still applying (ie offering) His finished finished work. He hasn’t stopped and He won’t stop until He comes again.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          12. Hi CK,

            By now you know or should know that the Church and no Catholic commenting here believes that Christ’s was not offered once and for all. For you to insist that we do is not very charitable.

            I think Matthewp has been pretty clear that he does believe Christ continues to offer his past sacrifice – that this is a continuing thing he does, and not a finished thing. So he says this…

            So the offering Christ continues to offer as a High Priest in the True Holy of Holies

            … and this…

            There is nothing in Hebrews 9 or 10 that says Christ ceased to offer His sacrifice.

            … and this…

            So in Heaven, Christ as our High Priest continuously offers Himself to the Father in an unbloody manner.

            … and this…

            His suffering and death are being offered to the Father because that’s what Jesus is doing in Heaven now.

            He seems pretty consistent on this point! If this is a mis-speaking and doesn’t reflect his intent, I’m cool with him clarifying what our point of disagreement is – but I don’t think it would be charitable to assume he means something other than a point he’s repeated four times.

            Or maybe this is a grand misunderstanding on my part – in which case, Matthew, what is it I’ve said that you’re arguing with? Your point seems pretty clear to me, but do you not think Christ continues to offer himself?

            I don’t know what I can do here but respond to what’s been said – and if you find my response irritating, I assure you I find it plenty vexing to be simultaneously told “Christ continues to offer” and “Obviously no Catholic thinks Christ continues to offer.”

          13. Irked said – Or maybe this is a grand misunderstanding on my part – in which case, Matthew, what is it I’ve said that you’re arguing with? Your point seems pretty clear to me, but do you not think Christ continues to offer himself?

            I don’t know what I can do here but respond to what’s been said – and if you find my response irritating, I assure you I find it plenty vexing to be simultaneously told “Christ continues to offer” and “Obviously no Catholic thinks Christ continues to offer.”

            Me – it is a misunderstanding because you don’t seem to want to understand. Can you defend our position (not agree with it) using our theology and traditions? You should be able to do so based on what you have been provided in this thread alone. If you can’t then you are not listening. If you, can then the Catholic position should make more sense though you might still think it’s wrong. This will at least cut down on the frustrating strawman arguments.

          14. Hi Irked,

            You wrote:

            “To say that Christ continues to offer sacrifice is to negate Hebrews 9 and 10. The entire theme of that portion is that his work is finished – that, as the perfect high priest, his work is done.”

            If his work is done why is it written:

            Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

            “Who is he that shall condemn? Christ Jesus that died, yes that is risen also again; who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34)

            These quotes not indicate that Christ’s office of priesthood is in any sort of ‘retired’ state.

          15. Irked,

            Your response to CK is telling. You refuse to accept that it is not a contradiction that Christ offered His sacrifice once for all, AND that He continues to intercede/mediate/apply/offer this once for all sacrifice. Why is this? Is it that you cannot fathom how a sacrifice can be offered without death or blood? The word “sacrifice” actually means “to make holy” (in Latin).

            Again, you say that “offered once for all” must mean that “no more offering takes place.” It doesn’t. That’s a non sequitur. Because something is offered in the past doesn’t mean it cannot be offered in the present. This is especially the case since Heaven is eternally present. The Greek word that Hebrews uses to describe Christ’s offering is “dienekes” which literally means “perpetual.” He offered a perpetual offering. Perpetual offerings don’t stop being offered because it’s…well…perpetual! lol.

            Matthew

          16. Al,

            If his work is done why is it written:

            Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

            Certainly Christ intercedes. My objection, repeatedly, has been to the idea that Christ continues to offer himself; perhaps we could debate that point, explaining what Hebrews 10:11-13 means.

            Matthewp,

            So clearly, “sitting down” doesn’t stop Jesus from being a priest forever.

            Right. As I’ve agreed.

            So, what does it mean that he sits, when a priest stands? I have asked for an explanation of this point several times.

            I appreciate your admission that you truly believe that Jesus no longer functions as a High Priest.

            That is the exact opposite of what I said.

            When reading your comments, forgive me, but I get this image in my head of Christ reclining on a La-z-boy

            That’s the image the author is going for there, yep! Complete with his enemies as the little poppy-out footrest thing.

            Is that shocking? Would it be hard for the Jews to accept? Good. The cross offends.

            but Psalm 110 shows that not to be the case.

            So let’s put this to bed. Psalm 110 says Christ is a priest forever. You appear to add the rule, “To be a priest forever, you must offer sacrifices forever,” and conclude, “Thus he continues to offer sacrifices.” But this rule isn’t true, as it isn’t true even of your own priests; Psalm 110 definitely doesn’t assert it. What contradiction remains?

            You refuse to accept that it is not a contradiction that Christ offered His sacrifice once for all, AND that He continues to intercede/mediate/apply/offer this once for all sacrifice.

            I reject the latter because Hebrews says he does not continue to offer it, yes. My comments regarding a contradiction were made on another point.

            Again, you say that “offered once for all” must mean that “no more offering takes place.”

            What I said is that Hebrews says he stopped making the offering. I’ve asked you to explain what it means that he sat down, when the priest stands to offer; will you?

          17. Irked,

            CK was right, this is getting frustrating. I gave you my explanation of Jesus “sitting down.” I’ll quote Aquinas again:

            “He says, therefore: but when this man, namely, Christ, offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins. But the Old Law offered many sacrifices without expiating for sins. This man, therefore, offered one sacrifice, because He offered Himself once for our sins, and sat down at the right hand of God, not as a minister always standing, as the priests of the Old Law, but as the Lord: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand’ (Ps. 109:1); ‘He sits on the right hand of God’ (Mk 16:19); at the right hand of God the Father with equal power in the divine nature, but with the more important goods in the human nature: ‘He sits on the right hand of the majesty on high’ (Heb. 1:3); and this forever, for He will not die again, because ‘Christ rising from the dead, dies now no more’ (Rom. 6:9); ‘His power is an everlasting power’ (Dan 7:14).”

            Now I would like to see you interact with this. Disagree if you like but show why it’s incorrect, don’t just assert it and repeat yourself. Christ “sitting down at the Right Hand of the Father” shows that He is equal to the Father in power and authority. It also shows that Christ’s offering is superior to all the Old Testament offerings and it is all that is needed. It DOES NOT mean that the offering stopped! No one in the Church read that into the text until the 16th century.

            Do you agree that it is a priest’s job to offer sacrifice? And if a priest no longer offers any kind of sacrifice, then they are not doing their job? A priest who does not do his job is not FUNCTIONING as a priest. You are asserting this is the case with Jesus. He retains the High Priesthood solely as a title, but not in function. This would mean that the priesthood of believers is offering more sacrifice than Jesus is. We are called to pour out our lives as living sacrifices to God but evidently, Jesus no longer does that. But that is absurd.

            Malachi 1:11 says that among all nations, a pure offering will be made to God. Irked, what is this offering? Notice it’s only ONE offering but it is made everywhere from the rising of the sun to it’s setting. Jesus is this pure offering. Nothing else will do.

            You said: “What I said is that Hebrews says he stopped making the offering.”

            No. It. Does. Not! You will never find those words in the book of Hebrews! It never says specifically “Christ is no longer offering himself” or “Christ stopped making the offering.” You beg the question by reading this into the text. You will search in vain to find those words in Hebrews. They simply are not there. What it does say is this:

            “So Christ, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, will appear a sond time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28)

            You conclude that from the fact that Christ was offered once in the past, that He cannot offer Himself continuously in Heaven. This is begging the question. You must demonstrate why that is the case and not just simply assume that it is impossible.

            I will stress again that the Mass/Divine Liturgy is NOT a repetition of Christ’s sacrifice, but the same, once for all sacrifice. The Mass is the Liturgy of Heaven, literally Heaven on Earth. Christ’s offering is as Hebrews 10:12 says “dienekes” or “perpetual.” The Mass/Divine Liturgy is a participation in that “dienekes” offering.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          18. Hi Matthew,

            I think the conversation has become a bit frustrating for all of us, yeah. Maybe that’s a sign we should bring it to a close – or maybe a pause will help us all feel better. (I do, having set it aside for a bit.

            I gave you my explanation of Jesus “sitting down.” I’ll quote Aquinas again:

            To be honest, I was trying to push for your explanation. We can both quote theologians on either side, here; I was hoping to engage more what you understand this quote to mean. It’s hard to argue with a dead guy!

            The other problem is that I’m not sure I disagree at all with what Aquinas says (well, in this very narrow slice); it doesn’t seem to contradict any arguments I’ve made. As I noted earlier, Aquinas does not say (here, at least) that the act of offering continues – and that, as far as I can tell, is the misunderstanding you originally felt I’d made. The only time he uses the verb, it’s in the same tense I have: offered.

            The only real problem I have with the piece is that it doesn’t seem to do enough with the author of Hebrews’s point. It sees sitting in authoritative terms – which I think is true, as far as it goes! – but devotes very little time to sitting as an act of cessation. Would you agree that finishing is the main point of v. 11-15?

            Do you agree that it is a priest’s job to offer sacrifice? And if a priest no longer offers any kind of sacrifice, then they are not doing their job?

            I would agree that a priest who has left sacrifices undone, sacrifices that should be done, is not doing his job. Normally, there’s no end to that process.

            But suppose a priest were to offer a sacrifice that was sufficient for all sins, such that no future work was required. At that point, I think the priest would have done his job; it isn’t shirking for him to do no more afterwards. He’s a priest whose work is complete – still a priest, but a priest who can… well, sit down and put his feet up.

            We are called to pour out our lives as living sacrifices to God but evidently, Jesus no longer does that.

            Right. He’s already done it fully, and it is neither needful nor appropriate for him to continue to do so. His perfect, sinless life was already poured out; that gives him a pretty commanding lead on the “Who is offering more?” question.

            Malachi 1:11 says that among all nations, a pure offering will be made to God. Irked, what is this offering?

            It’s the sincere and continuing worship of Gentile followers of God, which will be for all ages.

            No. It. Does. Not! You will never find those words in the book of Hebrews! It never says specifically “Christ is no longer offering himself” or “Christ stopped making the offering.”

            Is that our standard? Because I can deny the deity of Christ the same way: “Well, Jesus never said explicitly that he was God. You won’t find those words in Scripture; you’re just reading that into the text.”

            But the overwhelming thrust of the Gospel is that Christ is God, and the overwhelming thrust of Heb 10 is that a priest who sits does not continue to perform the sacrificial actions.

            I’ve answered a fair number of your questions, and I’d like an explicit answer back in your own words: what is it that a normal priest does, when he stands, that Christ does not, when he sits?

            You conclude that from the fact that Christ was offered once in the past, that He cannot offer Himself continuously in Heaven.

            That is not how I reach that conclusion, no.

          19. Well argued by Irked.

            It is worth pointing out that in RCism (as for Orthodoxy, I’d presume the same) that a priest has an indelible mark on his soul. Even though he stops acting as a priest and is defrocked, he is still a priest. So, if Christ sat on the metaphysical lazy boy, He still would not stop being a priest.

            Quoting from an Orthodox source:

            “This awesome sacrifice has been entrusted to the Church to be re-enacted and given to the faithful for the nourishment of their faith and the forgiveness of their sins in remembrance of the Lord.”

            So Christ is not sacrificed again, because “**this** [the wine] IS the new covenant IN MY BLOOD, which is SHED for many for the forgiveness of sins!” Did you catch that? The wine IS the SAME blood from 2,000 years ago, the SAME blood which was poured out and atoned for sins, this SAME blood was offered BEFORE the crucifixion during the Last Supper!

            Rev 13:8 makes mention of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” How is this chronologically possible? How about Melchizedek 1900 years before Christ offered the same Eucharist? How is this possible? Christ’s sacrifice occurred in time yet transcends time.

            The following icon demonstrates what is going on: https://reformedchristiantheology.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/blood.jpg?w=768

            As we can see, the blood is being collected in cups and being heavenly transported to those partaking in the sacrament.

            How does this all work? It’s a mystery! Hence, a sacrament of the Church. “This IS [present tense] My blood, which is [present tense] shed [past tense, future tense in light of the crucifixion the next day ;)] shed for many!”

            God bless,
            Craig

      2. Hi Irked,

        You seem fixated on the ‘sitting’ versus ‘standing’ postures of Jesus in Eternity. But it is clear that there are different and contradictory metaphors used in scripture that must be understood in their own context. Take for instance the Book of Revelation. If there are any scriptures that detail the metaphor of posture in Christ’s eternal kingdom, it should be in this Book of the Bible. So, here are a few verses to consider:

        1. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write: These things saith he, who holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who WALKETH in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Rev.1)

        2. “And I saw: and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb STANDING as it were slain, having seven horns and seven eyes: which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. [7] And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne.” (Rev. 5:6)

        3.”And I beheld, and lo a lamb STOOD upon mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads. ” (Rev 14:1)

        4. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called faithful and true, and with justice doth he judge and fight. [12] And his eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many diadems, and he had a name written, which no man knoweth but himself. [13] And he was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, THE WORD OF GOD. [14] And the armies that are in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. [15] And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp two edged sword; that with it he may strike the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Rev.19:11)

        And from other scriptures:

        5. “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
        [Acts Of Apostles 7:55]

        6. ” And the night following the Lord STANDING by him, said: Be constant; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” [Acts Of Apostles 23:11]

        **********

        So, it is clear that Christ still rules the world ACTIVELY, and is a Priest Forever in our midst. Otherwise, he would have never interacted with St. Paul, in this scripture:

        “it came to pass that he drew nigh to Damascus; and suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him. And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Who said: Who art thou, Lord? And he: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad. And he trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do. Now the men who went in company with him, stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man. ” (Acts 9:3)

        1. Hi Al,

          You seem fixated on the ‘sitting’ versus ‘standing’ postures of Jesus in Eternity. But it is clear that there are different and contradictory metaphors used in scripture that must be understood in their own context.

          Yes, I agree with both of those statements. Clearly other passages focus more on the active role of Christ – as an intercessor, in Romans (though he’s still seated in that passage), as the victorious rider on the white horse in Revelation, and so on. I don’t mean to suggest the perfect passivity of Christ.

          But I think this use of different metaphors makes it all the more important to consider the question of what the author of Hebrews intends by this one. There’s clearly some division he’s making, where sitting-vs.-standing is a big deal to him – something that the metaphor of sitting conveys in his context, in other words. To me, he seems pretty clear that the significance is that a standing priest continues to offer sacrifices, and a sitting one doesn’t: that, in other words, it’s specifically the type of action we’re talking about now that’s concluded.

          What point do you see him making by this metaphor?

          1. Irked,

            Now we might actually be getting somewhere. The contrast between the Old Covenant priests standing in their ministry and Christ sitting down in his can be seen in the contrast between the Old Covenant sacrifices and the New Covenant sacrifice. The contrast is not: Old = sacrifice and New = no sacrifice. Rather it is: Old = many ineffectual sacrifices and New = One, Perfect, Efficacious sacrifice. Christ offered Himself once for all to the Father in a bloody manner on Calvary and continues to offer Himself to the Father in Heaven in an unbloody manner. It’s the same exact, ONE offering. The Mass/Divine Liturgy is a participation in the Heavenly unbloody offering.

            We can see this contrast demonstrated in Hebrews 10. Verse 11 of Chapter 10 says that the Old Law priests stands daily offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which can never take away sins. The Old Covenant priesthood was a charnel house of animal blood. It was instituted because of the Golden Calf incident and it pointed toward Christ. The One, Pristine sacrifice of the New Covenant is infinite in power and completely supersedes and makes obsolete the Old sacrifices (Hebrews 8:13).

            There may perhaps be a sense in which something ceased when Christ “sat down at the right hand of God.” This would be bloody sacrifices. Christ offers Himself to the Father in Heaven, but not in a bloody manner. That’s why the Mass/Divine Liturgy is a bloodless sacrifice. Any immolation is purely symbolic.

            Tim Staples talked about that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caoem_4UayU

            So the cessation would be of blood, not of sacrifice. This way, Jesus still functions as our High Priest and isn’t, if you will, asleep on the job 😉 lol. Does this answer your question about that? It’s basically, the Old priesthood offered all sorts of ineffectual bloody sacrifices. Christ offered one bloody sacrifice, then He sat down, and no more bloody sacrifices. But an unbloody sacrifice still goes on and it’s the same sacrifice, namely, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, ie His entire self.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          2. I think you are reading way to much into Hebrews 1:3. It is a very general statement, and particularly intended to show Christ’s ‘deity’. The next verse shows this, as it is a comparison between Jesus and the Angels (and all other creation implied also), and states Christ’s eternal superiority. Read the verse:

            “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.”

            And the statement..”after the purification for sins” is not limited to the sacrifice of the cross, but rather to the sacrifice and also everything else He did and taught. That is, His entire life was part of His sacrifice, from His impoverished birth, His homeless preaching, His many infirmities, His fasting and prayers, His rejection by His own nation…all of this was part of His sacrifice. So, an understanding of purification for sins must include many things that Jesus did and taught while on Earth. So, for me, the word purification must be studied deeply.

            For instance, Jesus said when teaching His disciples that His words purify from sin, if a man keep them:

            “If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him: We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man: how sayest thou: you shall be free? Jesus answered them: Amen, amen I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the son abideth for ever.”

            and,

            “Amen, amen I say unto you, if any man keep my word, he shall not see death forever.”

            And also at the ‘Last Supper’, Jesus said,

            “If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also. Amen, amen I say to you: The servant is not greater than his lord; neither is the apostle greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, you shall be blessed if you do them.”

            Surely, the purification that Christ provided (besides that of the cross) was with teachings such as these, and especially the ‘washing of the feet’ analogy. What else is ‘washing’ if not ‘purification’. So, we need to learn these things from the Lord when He teaches them to us. This is part of our purification… coming to understand God through his examples and teachings….so that we may become free from the slavery of sin. It comes through 1. ‘continuing in His word’, then 2. ‘discipleship’, which leads to knowledge of the truth, and finally 3. “The truth shall make you free”.

            So, Hebrews 1:3 is more complicated than it looks at first, because the words and symbolism are very ‘packed with meaning’ given the context of Christ’s entire life and teachings.

          3. And concerning Malachi 1:11, you said: “It’s the sincere and continuing worship of Gentile followers of God, which will be for all ages.”

            A few things. One, this worship would have to be a sacrifice because that’s what Malachi says. Secondly, the sacrifice would have to be completely pure. Unless you are 100% pure, you would not qualify. If you want to say that the combined Church together is a pure offering, you’d be onto something. But then what is the Church? …The Body of Christ. So then from the rising of the sun to it’s setting, the Body of Christ is offered to God…aka MASS! 🙂 lol.

            Matthew

          4. Hi Matthew,

            So the cessation would be of blood, not of sacrifice. This way, Jesus still functions as our High Priest and isn’t, if you will, asleep on the job 😉 lol. Does this answer your question about that?

            Well, it does, on the one hand – but on the other, where from the passage do you get the sense that it’s the blood, specifically, that ends? Blood is mentioned in verses 4 and 19, but there’s no division of bloody/nonbloody sacrifices – the comparison that’s made is the blood of goats to the blood of Christ, both bloody sacrifices.

            This is why I was pushing so hard on v. 11-13; the only concepts I see referenced there are sacrifices in general, and duties in general, and so it seems to me that those are the things indicated to stop.

            (Surely if a priest sat down, he wouldn’t only be unable to offer the blood sacrifice – he’d be unable to offer the incense, or the grain offering, or the drink offerings, or any other kinds of offerings. Wouldn’t he?)

            Or let me put that to you another way: if we agree that the sitting is meant to indicate that something stops, do you see anything in this passage that restricts it to just the blood-offerings, as opposed to the offerings in general? I mean, sometimes one passage doesn’t make a truth clear where another does, so this isn’t an “Aha! And now, vile Catholic, you must convert!” gotcha – but for all our arguing above, can you see where someone could reasonably interpret this portion to be the cessation of all offerings? Can you see reason in this one place not to read it that way?

            (Admittedly, it would make these conversations lively if we occasionally announced, “Aha, vile [other denomination], and now you must convert! Probably still not a good idea.)

            A few things. One, this worship would have to be a sacrifice because that’s what Malachi says.

            Yep! I’ve been pretty explicit that I think Christians sacrifice to God – you can see that in a number of my earlier posts. Worship can certainly be one such offering – my caveat has just always been that, unlike the Old Testament sacrifices, ours don’t have anything to do with forgiveness of sin.

            Secondly, the sacrifice would have to be completely pure. Unless you are 100% pure, you would not qualify.

            So there’s a couple of ways to respond to that, but here’s the simplest: Malachi 1:11 appears to be about future events, in either of our readings. We aren’t told exactly how future. If those events are subsequent to Christ’s final kingdom and our final sanctification, then yes, whatever praise we offer will be wholly pure; the Mass isn’t a necessary conclusion.

            ***

            Hi Al,

            I think you are reading way to much into Hebrews 1:3. It is a very general statement, and particularly intended to show Christ’s ‘deity’.

            Er, I think you’re hitting the wrong source for my question. I’m asking about what’s entailed by the metaphor of 10:11-13 – that is, the comparison between the standing priest and the sitting one.

          5. Irked,

            To answer your follow up point, think about the nature of the Old Testament sacrifices and not just the fact that they offered sacrifices. As you pointed out, the concept of priesthood and sacrifice is far from verboten in the New Testament as their is most definitely a priesthood of believers who do in fact offer sacrifice to God. The Old covenant priesthood was bloody. As I said earlier, it was a non-stop charnel house of animal blood that served to point toward the cross. Hebrews 10:3 says that in those sacrifices, there is a reminder (anamnesis actually, the same word Christ used at the Last Supper) of sins each year. They kept alive the sense of sin but couldn’t get rid of it as verse 4 states. Christ’s once for all bloody offering ends that for good. We can see Christ “sitting down” after He offers Himself in a bloody manner as a cessation of bloody offerings. Well that’s perfectly fine for Catholics because the Mass is specifically unbloody. After Christ’s final bloody sacrifice, the charnel house can finally come to an end.

            Think about this though. Why in Heaven would Jesus Christ, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, cease to offer Himself completely to His Father, the 1st Person of the Holy Trinity? We are called to give our whole selves to God (Romans 12:1). Is Christ going to do any less? Do we trump Christ in that regard? That would be ridiculous! lol. Since Christ continues to offer Himself to the Father in the Romans 12:1 sense, God, out of the immensity of His Goodness, gives His Church the ability and command to offer Him that very same offering that Jesus offers Him. This is a bloodless, heavenly sacrifice. This was the universal understanding of Malachi 1:11 by the Early Church. It’s a pure, pristine, perfect, and singular offering to God the Father, through Jesus His Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

            As far as this offering pertains to the forgiveness of sins, I took a peak at the conversation going on between you and Shane. If you presuppose what you do about forgiveness of sins, it’s going to be very difficult to explain how the Mass does this. It would also entail a long discussion on Romas 4, imputation vs infusion, justification, and a whole bunch of other things lol. It shows that those matters are all linked to the way we worship as well.

            One final thing. You know that the Early Church fathers and even something as early as the Didache made no mistake on the Eucharist being an unbloody sacrifice. Have you ever read something like the Liturgy of St. James? It’s one of the earliest liturgies extant from around the beginning of the 4th century. You can find it here:
            http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0717.htm

            Why do you think that the Early Church so quickly and completely fell into this view which Calvin called the most satanic doctrine ever to infiltrate the Church? How did Hebrews go so badly misinterpreted for so long? And finally, why did only after 1500 years of satanic deception did someone finally come along to fix it?

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          6. Hi Matthew,

            Christ’s once for all bloody offering ends that for good. We can see Christ “sitting down” after He offers Himself in a bloody manner as a cessation of bloody offerings. Well that’s perfectly fine for Catholics because the Mass is specifically unbloody. After Christ’s final bloody sacrifice, the charnel house can finally come to an end.

            So, I hear you on this, but I don’t think this is an answer to my question: where, in this passage, do you see the author making a distinction between bloody and unbloody sacrifices? Where do you see him indicate that only the bloody sacrifices end? In v. 11, he seems to me to only reference “sacrifices,” which would include both sorts, and in v. 19 he still appeals to the bloody sacrifice of Christ. Where in the text of this chapter do you see the division you’re drawing?

            I would like to see my question from our last exchange answered, and that distinction specifically traced in the text, before moving on to any other questions.

          7. Irked, can you address this:

            Quoting from an Orthodox source:

            “This awesome sacrifice has been entrusted to the Church to be re-enacted and given to the faithful for the nourishment of their faith and the forgiveness of their sins in remembrance of the Lord.”

            So Christ is not sacrificed again, because “**this** [the wine] IS the new covenant IN MY BLOOD, which is SHED for many for the forgiveness of sins!” Did you catch that? The wine IS the SAME blood from 2,000 years ago, the SAME blood which was poured out and atoned for sins, this SAME blood was offered BEFORE the crucifixion during the Last Supper!

            Rev 13:8 makes mention of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” How is this chronologically possible? How about Melchizedek 1900 years before Christ offered the same Eucharist? How is this possible? Christ’s sacrifice occurred in time yet transcends time.

            The following icon demonstrates what is going on: https://reformedchristiantheology.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/blood.jpg?w=768

            As we can see, the blood is being collected in cups and being heavenly transported to those partaking in the sacrament.

            How does this all work? It’s a mystery! Hence, a sacrament of the Church. “This IS [present tense] My blood, which is [present tense] shed [past tense, future tense in light of the crucifixion the next day 😉 ] shed for many!”

            God bless,
            Craig

          8. Irked,

            Hebrews 10 may not specifically mention unbloody sacrifices but that’s not the issue. We can agree that it does say that bloody sacrifices have ceased. It doesn’t preclude an unbloody sacrifice from continuing. We both know this because when we offer ourselves to God ala Romans 12:1, we do so in an unbloody manner…usually lol (the exception being martyrdom). Nothing stated in Hebrews 10 would preclude Jesus from offering Himself to God in an unbloody manner. I submit to you that this is the proper way to understand Hebrews 7-8 and it is beyond dispute that the Early Church saw the Eucharist as an unbloody sacrifice, the pure offering prophesied by Malachi 1:11. Even though all the sacrifices talked about in Hebrews 10 may be bloody ones, that wouldn’t mean unbloody sacrifices don’t exist, or that Jesus isn’t perpetually offering Himself unbloodily to God in Heaven as our Eternal High Priest.

            More explicit references to the Eucharist as an unbloody sacrifice are found in the Gospels as well as 1 Corinthians 10-11. There is strong implicit evidence of this from Hebrews 7. Does this answer your questions?

          9. Craig,

            Give me a bit to think on it? Bedtime over here.

            ***

            Matthew,

            Hebrews 10 may not specifically mention unbloody sacrifices but that’s not the issue. We can agree that it does say that bloody sacrifices have ceased. It doesn’t preclude an unbloody sacrifice from continuing.

            No, on the contrary, that is precisely the issue, because we cannot agree that it says only that bloody sacrifices have ceased.

            Let’s recap. We’ve agreed that Hebrews 10 draws no distinction between bloody and unbloody sacrifices. We’ve agreed that something that the old priests were doing has, with Christ, come to an end. The author of Hebrews, in discussing the actions of the old priests, mentions only offering sacrifices for sins – sacrifices with, again, no qualifiers as to type.

            You’re asking me to accept that, despite this total failure to even mention a division, he has in mind only a particular type of sacrifice – that he is, without ever mentioning it, dividing sacrifices into two piles and indicating only that the first pile ends. You’re asking me to accept this despite what we agree is the absolute lack of textual evidence in the passage for that division.

            How is this not eisegetical in the extreme? How is replacing the category actually named with another category not even described not an absolute textbook case of reading into the text? On what textual grounds do you introduce this division?

            There is strong implicit evidence of this from Hebrews 7.

            Hebrews 7 says again only that Christ “has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily,” as he “did this once for all” – again, the tense used suggests a completed action rather than a continuing one. There is no bloody/unbloody division here. The word “blood” doesn’t appear in the whole passage – nor, in fact, does it appear at all between chapters 3 and 8.

            And isn’t that oversight devastating to the argument of Hebrews, if you are correct? “Look,” says the author, “Christ mediates a new and superior covenant – a covenant in which there is no more need for sacrifice for sin! Indeed, there are no more such sacrifices.”

            “Uh, you repeat the sacrifice for sin, like, every day,” reply the unbelieving Jews. “There’s just no blood.”

            And the author doesn’t anticipate this? As we agree, he never even suggests that he’s only talking about an end to the bloody sacrifices? He makes no attempt to counter what, if the Catholic position is correct, is the most devastatingly obvious rebuttal?

            Surely not!

          10. Hi Craig,

            So, a couple of answers. Obviously the question of how literally the apostles understood communion is a major issue here. My view says, basically, that the wine was not literally understood as blood, and still is not literally understood as blood, on the grounds that the wine is… well, pretty clearly wine and not blood. (It’s not clear to me that any of Christ’s disciples would have known Aristotle’s theory of accidental and essential features – a theory nowhere appealed to in Scripture, and which I don’t think is particularly true.) If you’d asked John, “Does he mean literally, like, it is blood?” John would have looked at you like you were a nut and said, “Nooooo, ‘cuz it’s still wine. Shush, he’s talking.”

            In other words, I take it as obviously symbolic on the grounds that, at the time, it would have been obviously symbolic – in the same sense that no one believed Peter had been transformed into something with the essential properties of rock, say. And I think the rest of the argument kind of falls apart absent real transubstantiation.

            All that said, I definitely agree that there are problems with verb tenses when talking about God; while the Trinity have a logical succession (“this happened because that happened,” which provides an ordering of sorts) we certainly don’t take them to experience temporal succession. That’s further complicated when the Son interacts temporally in the world. But whatever we take the correct way of speaking about God to be, and whatever inadequacies of language surface, we have to affirm that the writer of Hebrews is trying to convey something here regarding Christ and sacrifice, and any reading that doesn’t meaningfully suggest an end to the offering of sacrifice for sin seems to rather obviate the passage.

          11. Irked,

            Thank you for your replies. Two points that I ask you seriously ponder:

            1. I hope that my reply shown to you that the Orthodox view of the Sacrifice does not require Christ to be sacrificed again and again. I think I showed this from the Scriptures, and it appears you conceded that speaking of God in time is something wrought with difficulties. So, if He can defy time, it is eminently logical His Sacrifice can, right?

            2. I think your exegesis is wrought with presuppositions and it is, in fact, the minority Protestant position historical. Historical Reformed theology adheres to the Real Presence, albeit in the Christologically suspect “spiritual [i.e. divine nature of Christ] presence. The London Baptist Confession 1689 states:

            “Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses. ”

            So, this nonsense that Christ is not present in any definitional sense in the sacrament was rejected by all the Reformers and their heirs, other than Zwyngli.

            Irked, are you asking me to accept that Christ is not present in the sacrament when the Didache calls the Eucharist a Sacrifice, that Ignatius speaks of an altar and affirms His Real Presence, that Justin Martyr and Irenaeus explicitly say the bread and wine transform, that the whole Church, and ALL the Reformers but one reject your point of view? How are they all wrong in reading Christ’s words, “This IS My body?”

            Perhaps, your presupposition that it is figurative language, something that the Scripture states nowhere, is wrong.

            I give you the last word. May God bless you richly. And, hopefully one day, we can Googlehangout chat or something.

            God bless,
            Craig

          12. Irked,

            You say: “No, on the contrary, that is precisely the issue, because we cannot agree that it says only that bloody sacrifices have ceased.”

            That’s the only kind of sacrifice mentioned in Hebrews 10. You’re argument is based on the silence of this one Chapter in this one book. It’s already a forgone conclusion that not all sacrifices stop because there still is a priesthood of believers where we offer our entire selves to God. You’ve admitted this already so it shouldn’t be controversial.

            You say: ” We’ve agreed that Hebrews 10 draws no distinction between bloody and unbloody sacrifices. We’ve agreed that something that the old priests were doing has, with Christ, come to an end. The author of Hebrews, in discussing the actions of the old priests, mentions only offering sacrifices for sins – sacrifices with, again, no qualifiers as to type.”

            Just because Hebrews 10 only mentions bloody sacrifices doesn’t mean that there isn’t a distinction between bloody and unbloody. He does say what kind of sacrifices the Old law priests were doing in Hebrews 10:4 (specifically the Yom Kippur sacrifices. Hebrews 9 discusses that as well).

            You said: “You’re asking me to accept that, despite this total failure to even mention a division, he has in mind only a particular type of sacrifice – that he is, without ever mentioning it, dividing sacrifices into two piles and indicating only that the first pile ends. You’re asking me to accept this despite what we agree is the absolute lack of textual evidence in the passage for that division.”

            This is more arguing from silence. Hebrews 10 is not an exhaustive treatment. It is not logical to extrapolate that just because Hebrews chapter 10 doesn’t mention unbloody sacrifices means that they are impossible. I am asking you to accept 1500 years of interrupted interpretation that the Eucharist is the Sacrifice of Christ in an unbloody manner. And furthermore, this fact IS explicitly discussed in all the institution narratives in the Gospels where Jesus uses highly sacrificial language as well as in 1 Corinthians 10:16-21.

            You say: “How is this not eisegetical in the extreme? How is replacing the category actually named with another category not even described not an absolute textbook case of reading into the text? On what textual grounds do you introduce this division?”

            I don’t have to read anything into Hebrews 10 if the distinctions are made elsewhere. And if a sacrifice is affirmed elsewhere (in the passages I mentioned before) then the distinction between bloody and unbloody manners of sacrifice would logically follow to avoid a contradiction. Furthermore, I would like you to answer this question for me. Hebrews 13:10 states:

            “We have an altar from which those who serve the nent have no right to eat.”

            The greek word for “altar” there is “thysiastērion.” That is a place where sacrifice happens. I ask you, what sacrifice is taking place on the altar mentioned in Hebrews 13:10 and what exactly is being eaten that the Jews cannot eat?

            You say: “Hebrews 7 says again only that Christ “has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily,” as he “did this once for all” – again, the tense used suggests a completed action rather than a continuing one.”

            What you have to understand here is what exactly does it mean to “be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” In order to do that, you have to go back to Genesis 14:18 where you see that Melchizedek the priest makes his sacrificial offering of bread and wine. See the connection to the Last Supper there? The Early Church fathers certainly did. Melchizedek offered bread and wine. Jesus offers Himself in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine, Himself being the Bread of Life, which is His flesh for the life of the world. Check out that link I gave to you where Tim Staples talks all about that 😉 lol.

            And finally, you still don’t seem to understand that the sacrifice of the Mass/Divine Liturgy is NOT a “repetition” of Christ’s sacrifice! Therefore, the argument of Hebrews still stands. Hebrews is talking about the end of the Old Covenant Jewish sacrifices because the blood they spill is ineffective and the Blood that was spilled on Calvary is effective. That Divine blood has already been spilled and it will never be spilled again. However, that Divine Blood is continuously offered to the Father. THAT is exactly how Christ is intercedes for us and how He mediates the New Covenant. How do I know? Because Christ ascended into Heaven, the true Holy of Holies not made by human hands with His Blood! He’s still there! As long as He is there, He will continue to offer Himself to the Father. And as long as sins are still committed, Christ continues to apply His Blood, once for all spilled, for the forgiveness of sins. If you think you don’t need forgiveness for the sins you commit every day, I’m sorry but that’s a delusion. 1 John 1:9 says that IF we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We pray the Lord’s Prayer which says “forgive us our trespasses.” Every day we should ask God to forgive us! If all sins you commit are just automatically forgiven without even asking or any repentance, then there is no point in saying the Lord’s Prayer at all and 1 John 1:9 is incoherent. Bottom line, the reason the Mass/Divine Liturgy continues is because people still sin and still need forgiveness.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          13. Hi Craig,

            1. I hope that my reply shown to you that the Orthodox view of the Sacrifice does not require Christ to be sacrificed again and again.

            I don’t… think… I asserted otherwise in that last post?

            I think I showed this from the Scriptures, and it appears you conceded that speaking of God in time is something wrought with difficulties. So, if He can defy time, it is eminently logical His Sacrifice can, right?

            Certainly he can. But our debate has never been over what God is or is not capable of doing; the debate has been, “What does Hebrews 10 teach about what He is doing?” To this point, no one has presented a positive exegesis of Hebrews 10 that does not either:

            1) introduce new categories that they admit are not found in Hebrews, or

            2) state that Christ, in some meaningful sense, does not continue to offer his sacrifice.

            How can I do anything other than affirm what I see Hebrews affirm?

            I think your exegesis is wrought with presuppositions and it is, in fact, the minority Protestant position historical.

            Yep! We had a lot of crud to work through when we came out of Catholicism, and working through it is a progressive thing. There are a lot of (non-salvific) truths that are minority views.

            Then again, that shouldn’t surprise us; truth has been a minority view at many points in church history. Athanasius once stood nearly alone against the world, popes and bishops included – and thank heaven he did!

            Historical Reformed theology adheres to the Real Presence

            I really don’t think I’ve said much at all regarding the Real Presence. I denied transubstantiation, to be sure, and I think my reading of Hebrews might well lead one to a position on the Real Presence, but I haven’t at any point addressed that doctrine directly.

            But the Real Presence alone, as I understand the doctrine, will not allow one to say – as you did – that the wine is the blood. It will at most allow one to say that, in a spiritual sense, the blood is also present when one takes communion – and that’s a rather different claim.

            I give you the last word. May God bless you richly. And, hopefully one day, we can Googlehangout chat or something.

            Sure, that’d be fun. I enjoy our conversations, even given how much we disagree.

          14. Matthew,

            That’s the only kind of sacrifice mentioned in Hebrews 10.

            It is not, no. Hebrews addresses unvarnished, unmodified sin-redemptive sacrifices. It doesn’t know anything about a separate category of “unbloody sacrifices.”

            This is a pretty key component of your position. You should be able to demonstrate it. Give me some reason to believe that these categories exist in the mind of the author of Hebrews.

            You’re argument is based on the silence of this one Chapter in this one book.

            No, my argument about the meaning of Hebrews is based on all of Hebrews. I invite you – use anything in Hebrews to indicate that, when the author speaks of how Christ does not continue to offer his sacrifice for sin (as the author argues throughout chapters 7-10!), that he has in mind only the bloody sacrifice for sin. Make your case! Show me why I should believe this is what he intends.

            It’s already a forgone conclusion that not all sacrifices stop

            But we haven’t been talking about all sacrifices. We’ve been talking, as the author of Hebrews does, about sacrifices offered for sin.

            Just because Hebrews 10 only mentions bloody sacrifices

            This is not true. I mean – I don’t know what more to say. It’s flatly not true. No such qualifier is ever applied.

            This actually is a place where I think there’s no point in us continuing the conversation. If Hebrews says “sacrifices,” and you substitute “bloody sacrifices” on the strength of no textual evidence whatsoever – going so far as to say that interpreting “sacrifices” as “sacrifices” is an argument from silence – then there’s no point I can make that will do any better.

          15. Heh. Here was my process of responding to that, Craig:

            *goes to Facebook*

            “Wait, but how will I know if this is the right Craig Truglia or not? There might be several, and I hope I don’t get the wrong one…”

            *looking at your homepage*

            “Okay, not worried anymore.”

    2. Shane,

      Yes, we re-present His sacrifice as He commanded by: “I am the Lord they God.” and “Do this in remembrance of me.” He offered His body and blood, soul, and divinity. We offer our measly bread and wine to which He adds His divine blessed gift of self. Sacrifice, in atonement, has indeed has been part of worship since Cain and Abel, since Moses’ rod and serpent, since Jesus’ offering of self which we commemorate in every priestly act of worship.

  8. EWTN commentary adds that we benefit by the

    “nuanced understanding of time. One must distinguish chronological time from kairotic time, as found in sacred Scripture. In the Bible, refers to chronological time—past, present and future—specific deeds which have an end point. , or kairotic time, refers to God’s eternal time, time of the present moment which recapitulates the entire past as well as contains the entire future. Therefore, while our Lord’s saving event occurred chronologically around the year AD 30-33, in the kairotic sense of time it is an ever-present reality which touches our lives here and now. In the same sense, this is why through baptism we share now in the mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, a chronological event that happened almost 1,965 years ago, but is still efficacious for us today”

    As an ever-present reality, sin still exists, and we wisely still ought to worship God, asking that he forgive, remit, cover and atone for it as it exists within us each day or every time we worship. Doing as he asked us, “in remembrance of me” allows us to thank him for his sacrifice, reminds us that we ought never forget, and beg his forgiveness as each day righteous men (Proverbs 24:16) sin at least seven times.

    1. Very excellent point to raise, Margo. Even the Church neglects to explain adequately the concept of Khirotic time, or Khiros, to the multitudes of Catholic faithful. It’s good that you brought it up. I think the Orthodox are more diligent in teaching their flocks this concept of time.

    2. “…refers to God’s eternal time, time of the present moment which recapitulates the entire past as well as contains the entire future. ” I have pondered for sometime an analogy that i could get my head, as it were, around. Difficult that is. But all that i could come up with is the microwave background radiation that we are all emersed in till the end of time. It was the energy present at the BigBang that has ‘cooled’ kinda maybe (no scientist) and is detected to be just the correct temp. that was predicted by models. Anyway, i’m a bit embarrassed to suggest this because no analogy will suffice for our Lords eternally present sacrafice. And i am happy with that.

  9. Irked, I appreciate the spirit of this discussion, we’re just coming at the language from different paradigms. I’m not viewing the concept of sacrifice from a transactional lens where the Cross plus the Eucharist are the credits against the debits of my past, present, and future sins. The “single” sacrifice is all the credit I’ll ever need to be “settled up” with God and be graced with union with him for eternity. But for now, I still sin. So for my benefit, he re-presents himself and gives me the grace I need to continue to be changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another.

    1. Hi Shane,

      So let’s narrow the focus a bit, then. Let’s say I claim Christ as a good Catholic, but (in a season of doubt) I stop going to Mass. In that state, with some venial sin on my conscience, I die.

      Are my venial sins counted against me? Does God require penance of me for them in Purgatory? Because if penance is still required before I can enter the presence of God, I don’t consider that “settled up.”

      Or let’s put that another way: the part you quotes said the Mass “applies [the crucifixion’s] fruit” and that by it, the cross is “salutary power [is] applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.” What I’m asking is, what, from your point of view, does this accomplish, and what happens if it isn’t done?

      (For anyone else watching, I’m particularly interested in how Shane would answer, to avoid getting my lines tangled. I assume most of you would answer similarly, but I’d like to keep to one person here.)

      1. Irked,

        First of all, let me apologize for using the phrase “settled up,” which just reinforced the transactional, law-like mindset that I was trying to move past. Maybe “in right standing” or “justified” would have been a better choice of words. So the church teaches that venial sins “manifest a disordered desire for created goods” but do not “deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace” (CCC 1863). My status as a son is secure, I’m just not the son God ultimately intended for me to be yet. It’s logical that God would have us be healed of these afflictions and the Eucharist not only does this, it enables us to grow past fleshly inclinations and not repeat them. But if I choose to forgo this tool that God has given me, there is another process to complete this purgation of anything and everything that is not of Him that remains in me. Pope Benedict’s work on the process of purgation (he argues against the primary understanding of this as a place) is beautiful and should be mandatory reading for every Catholic as the whole concept can lead to really bad theology when not properly understood.

        Last thing I have to offer over the hang up we are having over the use of the word “sacrifice.” I believe we both agree not only in the sufficiency of His cross and resurrection, but also that He “offers” his body and blood to us in the Eucharist. In addition to it being a memorial, it’s meant to be an encounter with Him, where our eyes, along with the two on the road to Emmaus, are opened to Him. A gift “offered” to us. As Catholics, we believe it’s His glorified body. Literal flesh and blood being “offered” up is by definition a sacrifice. So it’s appropriate for us to call it a sacrifice. If it’s just a symbol for you, you rightly can not in good conscience call it a sacrifice and I respect that. May it be that we are so overwhelmed with the offering that what we call it is of secondary importance.

        1. Hi Shane,

          Thanks for the answer.

          My status as a son is secure, I’m just not the son God ultimately intended for me to be yet. It’s logical that God would have us be healed of these afflictions and the Eucharist not only does this, it enables us to grow past fleshly inclinations and not repeat them.

          So I think this is the part where we disagree. If I’m understanding the quotes you gave originally correctly, that action you’re describing – being healed of these afflictions, as you – is an act of new forgiveness. As the quote said, the Mass is how the cross is “applied to the forgiveness of the sins” we’ve newly committed. Is that accurate? In other words, am I reading you and it correctly to say that these are (venial) sins that, before they are forgiven, must be covered either through the Mass or through purgation?

          Because if so, that is a pretty clear point where we part ways on this. Like I said in my original post, we hold that we have been purified. In the words of Hebrews, in the sight of God we are made perfect forever; in the words of Romans, we are the blessed ones whose sins are never counted against them. The reason I’ve reacted so strongly against the idea of a continually offered sacrifice is precisely because it opposes what I see as a pretty core pillar of the faith: that all our sins are forgiven forever, covered already by the once-for-all sacrifice. At least on this point, I think questions of the Real Presence are a secondary issue – but on matters of forgiveness, this is not a point where I can understand Scripture any other way.

          I hope that makes sense of my hang-up on this word, because I do think it makes a pretty vital difference to how we understand our relationship to him: is the forgiveness bought by his sacrifice fully applied to us already, so that no sin remains uncovered, or must the covering over be a continual action, repeated year by year? Whichever way we answer that will have enormous consequences to our life, behavior, and expectations for the hereafter.

          I appreciate your genial response, and – while we might quibble on the wording – I think we can agree on some of the broad sense of your last paragraph. Our remembrance of Christ, and of his death for us, should overwhelm us with undeserved joy.

          1. No man’s ‘status as a son’ is secure while he lives in this world. This is just a heretical teaching proposed by Martin Luther. Jesus contradicts this pernicious Protestant philosophy in so many ways that it’s hard to count them all.

            A ‘son’ can also be a ‘prodigal son’. Why else did Jesus teach us this important parable? The lesson is, that because we have free will to follow virtue or vice, we have the choice to either follow the Father, or fall away from the Father, even as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. In straying from the Father, as the prodigal son did, Jesus indicates he was a ‘Slave to Sin’…and the results of this is a oss of an understanding of Truth. Christ teaches this very explicitly in His Gospel teachings, :

            “Jesus said to those Jews, who believed him:
            If you continue in my word,
            you shall be my disciples indeed.
            And you shall know the truth,
            and the truth shall make you free.
            They answered him:
            We are the seed of Abraham,
            and we have never been slaves to any man:
            how sayest thou: you shall be free?

            Jesus answered them:
            Amen, amen I say unto you:
            that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.
            Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever;
            but the son abideth for ever.
            If therefore the son shall make you free,
            you shall be free indeed. (John 8:31)

            So, we see here that ‘sonship’ is one thing and ‘sin’ is another. Sin is always ‘knocking at the door to our souls, so to say. And this is why Jesus admonishes us to “pray always, that you enter not into temptation.”

            Every baptized Christian ‘son’ can still sin gravely while he lives here on Earth. The best any such son can do is be a disciplined follower of Christ’s words, actions and teachings in this life on Earth. That is, a ‘son’ needs to ALSO be a ‘disciple’.

            And to be a ‘disciple’ also takes work and effort (Unless you think that the prayers, watching, fasting, homelessness and trekking of the Apostles (and other disciples) at that time wasn’t hard work?)

            So, if we don’t want to be ‘PRODIGAL SONS’ here on Earth, we must become DISCIPLES, as Chirst says. And the result of such discipleship is as Christ teaches:

            “And you shall know the truth,
            and the truth shall make you free.”

            So, we need to be His disciples…even as He tells us. And we need to CONTINUE to be His disciples…until our very last breath that we breathe.

            The ‘once saved always saved’ ideology is just a heretical and pernicious myth, and one of the worst of the many rotten fruits of Protestantism. It contradicts multitudes of Christ’s teachings, as even the quote above from the lips of Jesus clearly demonstrates.

          2. Irked,

            Oh how I love your last sentence. The undeserved joy puts our little quibbles in perspective for sure, but they keep me meditating on the word and deepen that joy, so they’re productive. I hope they do the same for you.

            So once again, our different paradigms result in what I see as a false dichotomy. In this case, I am differentiating between justification and sanctification, which I believe is taught in 1 John 5:13-17, while you seem to be putting the two together, but correct me if I’m wrong on that. When you say “we have been purified”, I hear “God declared me both justified and sanctified” because of what Jesus did for me. I agree with the first half of that statement, but think he is actually sanctifying (purifying) me through his grace over time, not just declaring that I am pure.

            In any case, you ask if these sins “before they are forgiven, must be covered either through the Mass or through purgation?” The Eucharist is a means by which God chose to lovingly communicate that forgiveness (grace) to me in a concrete way, but as the church teaches, he binds himself to the sacraments without being bound by them. The sacraments are for us, not God. So no, the Eucharist is not the only means of forgiveness.

            Purgatory, or the process of purgation, is different from forgiveness, it’s a purification, a freeing from, the temporal consequences of sin.

          3. Hi Al,

            Not interested in a conversation on perseverance of the saints today – there’s enough going on!

            ***

            Hi Shane,

            I am differentiating between justification and sanctification, which I believe is taught in 1 John 5:13-17, while you seem to be putting the two together, but correct me if I’m wrong on that.

            You are, yes, though I can see why you’d read what I’ve written in that way – I’ve been talking purely about justification in the preceding paragraphs. “Sanctification” as we understand the term – the process of being made holy, being made like the character of Christ – is separate from the forgiveness of sins. Justification is once-for-all; sanctification is a process. As in Hebrews 10, actually: “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever [justified, as we would read it] those who are being made holy [sanctified, as we would read it].”

            When you say “we have been purified”, I hear “God declared me both justified and sanctified” because of what Jesus did for me.

            No, definitely not. Purified in the sense that, in the ledger-book of God, under “Sins” is written “NONE – RIGHTEOUS AS CHRIST IS RIGHTEOUS.” The actual conformance of our behavior to live up to that is a process that won’t be concluded in this life. So I don’t think we disagree as far as that goes.

            So no, the Eucharist is not the only means of forgiveness.

            Hm. That’s not quite what I was trying to ask – let me try again. (I’m aware that Catholicism has other means of transmission of grace besides the Mass.)

            Okay, let’s try it this way: let’s suppose that, while you and I are exchanging pleasant conversation, I lie to somebody. (Venially, let’s say.) Now, in the Protestant understanding of the economy of grace, that sin is already forgiven, and God does not hold it against me – that’s part of the made perfect forever in v.14, or what Paul (in Romans 8) says about being “the man whose sin God does not hold against him.”

            (Curious: would you say that we, as Christians, are the man of Romans 8?)

            What I was trying to ask (badly) is, am I reading you correctly to say that, from your perspective, that sin is not forgiven – that it is held against me, or charged to my account, or written in the ledger, or whatever wording we want to use? Not, as you’ve said, salvifically – but that it is nonetheless unforgiven until some means (such as the Mass) applies further grace to it?

            Because that’s the point I was trying to raise, if so: not that the Catholic view of the Mass in particular is different in this way, but that the Catholic view of the need for further imputation of grace in general is actually a pretty big difference, and is why I push so hard against “continuing sacrifice.”

          4. Hi Irked,

            Regarding your assumption that you state as:

            “…while you and I are exchanging pleasant conversation, I lie to somebody. (Venially, let’s say.) Now, in the Protestant understanding of the economy of grace, that sin is already forgiven, and God does not hold it against me – that’s part of the made perfect forever in v.14,…”

            You are wrong in this. Christ teaches to the contrary of your speculation. And Jesus Christ is the ‘one Teacher’ that we must put before all others, as we are all mere ‘brothers’ (…including St. Paul).

            So, here is what Jesus Christ teaches about both grave sin and venial sin (If you actually consider the Gospel to be authoritative?):

            “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. DO NOT THINK that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I AM NOT COME to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, ONE JOT, or ONE TITTLE shall NOT PASS of the law, till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall BREAK ONE of these LEAST COMMANDMENTS, and shall so teach men, shall be called the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall DO AND TEACH, he shall be called GREAT in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, that unless YOUR JUSTICE ABOUND MORE than that of the scribes and Pharisees, YOU SHALL NOT ENTER into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

            Mind you, JESUS was talking to His disciples who already believed in Him (And not mere unbelievers). So, according to Protestantism their venial sins would be automatically forgiven with not consequence in eternity. That these were His disciples, is indicated in a few verses before those above…from Matt. 5:1-2..stating:

            “when he was set down, HIS DISCIPLES CAME TO HIM. [2] And opening his mouth, HE TAUGHT THEM, saying:…. [3] Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [4] Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land. [5] Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted…)..etc..

            So, in all doctrinal issues, Protestants should first use Jesus Christ and His Gospel teachings as the ultimate, and primary, source for Christian Doctrine. Secondary are the sayings of St. Paul and other books to the New Testament. n my experience, most Protestants value the words of St. Paul over those of Jesus Himself. The problem being that the scriptures warn of this, due to many of St. Pauls letters being written in a way that is often difficult to understand (for the unlearned reader) St. Peter teaches on this subject when He says in 2Peter 3:16:

            “…Paul, according to the wisdom given him, hath written to you: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things HARD TO BE UNDERSTOOD, which the UNLEARNED and UNSTABLE wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION.”

            I might add that St. Peter here is also talking about Christians who are part of the early Church, and according to Protestants would be immune from condemnation or destruction. They are already studying the Letters of St. Paul! Consequently, they must also already be baptized Christians to be allowed to hear such readings at the liturgy and in the accompany of the early saints.

            So, even in this simple Letter of 2Peter, we find a valid argument against common Protestant doctrines, such as the notion that venial sins are automatically forgiven, and with no consequences for those that commit them. Jesus and St. Peter teach differently. Christ teaches that even a least sin will cause a soul to be ‘least in the kingdom of heaven’. And Peter, that a Christian believer, and even baptized, can be duped into reading St. Paul in a way that the Church does not teach…and to his ‘own destruction’.

            Needless to say… It’s good to listen to Jesus and St. Peter.

            Best to you,

            – Al

          5. Hi Al,

            For I tell you, that unless YOUR JUSTICE ABOUND MORE than that of the scribes and Pharisees, YOU SHALL NOT ENTER into the kingdom of heaven.

            Yes. And praise God, in the divine accounting my righteousness is above that of the scribes and Pharisees: it’s the very righteousness of Christ, imputed to my undeserving account.

            Christ has a clear point in this passage: you ain’t gonna make it by law. You see those guys, with their insane, fanatical over-devotion to the law? They aren’t good enough. You aren’t good enough.

            So, according to Protestantism their venial sins would be automatically forgiven with not consequence in eternity.

            If all we had were Christ’s words in this passage, we’d have to conclude that no one enters heaven. There’s no discussion of forgiveness in this passage. That isn’t Christ’s point; his point is that the condemnation of the law remains in full force, and the absolute hopelessness of those under law. Venial, mortal – these aren’t distinctions Christ makes; any sinner is barred from heaven.

            So there are only two possibilities: either no one has the righteousness he describes, or that righteousness comes from a source apart from law.

            And, in fact, there is such a righteousness: “the righteousness that is by faith, from first to last,” the righteousness credited to Abraham for his faith, the righteousness given to him who does not work: the blessed man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.

            Who is that man, who does not work, whose sin is never counted against him, in Romans 4? Who is the one perfected forever, in Hebrews 10? And how does one perfected forever, one whose sin is never counted against him, need more forgiveness?

            So, in all doctrinal issues, Protestants should first use Jesus Christ and His Gospel teachings as the ultimate, and primary, source for Christian Doctrine. Secondary are the sayings of St. Paul and other books to the New Testament.

            I do not believe that either of our denominations teaches that there is such a thing as “secondary Scripture.” All the breath of God is the breath of God.

            And I think it’s a real problem for your position that your lead argument here is, in effect, “Look, just ignore Paul on this subject.”

          6. Hi Irked,

            I love St. Paul, and I understand his place in the early Church. But we need to understand exactly what Peter was writing in 2Pet 3:16. It is a warning from the chief Apostle appointed by Christ that St. Paul is very difficult to understand properly in many of his passages. And so, to make a passage of St. Paul (Romans 3:28) the ‘epicenter’ for one’s entire theology, such as Luther did with the doctrine of “Justification by Faith Alone”, is to focus a new doctrine on writings that are undoubtably going to opening up great debate and controversy, due to the difficulties of interpreting St. Paul, as St. Peter relates.

            And to add even further difficulty in understanding St. Paul, Luther didn’t even stick to the original wording of St. Paul in Romans 3:28. He needed to add to the scripture…which led to a glaring contradiction from another scripture, written by an apostle who is very clearly understood in his writings, the Apostle James, who wrote:

            “‘You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only’ (James 2:24).

            So, when you add the statement of James… together with the statement of Peter ….and then compare it to the fraudulent addition of Luther of ‘alone’ to the Romans 3:28 verse…it’s not hard to understand why anyone would trust Luther in his ‘flagship doctrine’, novel as it was.

            Here is more background info. on this fraudulent change of scripture that Luther was not ashamed to admit in writing. And also Luther’s opinion of other common and accepted scriptures:

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

            “You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word alone in not in the text of Paul…say right out to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,’…I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word ‘alone’ is not in the Latin or the Greek text (Stoddard J. Rebuilding a Lost Faith. 1922, pp. 101-102; see also Luther M. Amic. Discussion, 1, 127).

            This passage strongly suggests that Martin Luther viewed his opinions, and not the actual Bible as the primary authority–a concept which this author will name prima Luther. By “papists” he is condemning Roman Catholics.

            Regarding the New Testament Book of Hebrews Martin Luther stated,

            It need not surprise one to find here bits of wood, hay, and straw (O’HarePF. The Facts About Luther, 1916–1987 reprint ed., p. 203).

            He also wrote,

            St. James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw…for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it” (Luther, M. Preface to the New Testament, 1546).

            Perhaps none of Martin Luther’s writings on the Bible are as harsh as what he wrote about “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1). Specifically he wrote,

            About this book of the Revelation of John…I miss more than one thing in this book, and it makes me consider it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic…I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it. Moreover he seems to me to be going much too far when he commends his own book so highly-indeed, more than any of the other sacred books do, though they are much more important-and threatens that if anyone takes away anything from it, God will take away from him, etc. Again, they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one knows what that is, to say nothing of keeping it. This is just the same as if we did not have the book at all. And there are many far better books available for us to keep…My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book. For me this is reason enough not to think highly of it: Christ is neither taught nor known in it” (Luther, M. Preface to the Revelation of St. John, 1522).

            ***********************
            citation:

            http://www.cogwriter.com/news/church-history/martin-luther-changed-andor-discounted-18-books-of-the-bible/

          7. Hi Al,

            It is a warning from the chief Apostle appointed by Christ that St. Paul is very difficult to understand properly in many of his passages. And so, to make a passage of St. Paul (Romans 3:28) the ‘epicenter’ for one’s entire theology, such as Luther did with the doctrine of “Justification by Faith Alone”, is to focus a new doctrine on writings that are undoubtably going to opening up great debate and controversy

            Sure, they are definitely difficult passages. They are also the most explicit, lengthy, and logical discussions of justification we have. I’m sure we agree that, “great debate” or not, a doctrine of justification that doesn’t fit with them must be wrong.

            Now, I interpreted Christ, in the passage you brought up. I’d invite you to interpret Romans 4, if you’d like to keep following this vein of thought. The moral shortcomings of Martin Luther, however, are not the subject of this conversation, and I would appreciate it if you did not keep changing the subject to him.

          8. Most Protestants that I have ever talked with seem to like to ‘strain out the knat and swallow the camel’ regarding doctrine. That is to say, they love to philosophize to the ‘nth’ degree on not only a single word, such as ‘justification’, but also on a single passage, such as Roman 4…all the while neglecting almost every other parable and teaching of Christ along the way.

            Romans 4:2 merely states the obvious. A person needs to have faith to please God. This is nothing new, and Catholics have always taught it. Jesus himself says so over and over again in so many of His parables and teachings, regardless of St. Paul. How many times did He say to His very apostles “Oh you men of little faith!”

            Abraham, of course, also had this faith, as was proved by his obedience and sacrifice of his son Issac (that sacrificial victim being replaced by a Ram).

            But to say that FAITH…. ‘ALONE’ ….is what is only what is needed….overlooks and contradicts so many admonitions of Christ in the Gospel message. And this is my complaint against Protestants. They are so focused on straining out the meaning of this one ‘knat type’ teaching of St. Paul (a mere word or sentence), that they misunderstand or undervalue all of the other teachings of Christ Himself, and especially in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ verses. It’s as if minor parts of St. Paul’s letters are a filter (Protestant) for the understanding of everything else written in the New Testament.

            And, I noted Luther, because, like it or not…you are following HIS invented exegesis on this. He is the Founder of Protestantism! Without Luther you yourself would be interpreting the Christian faith in the ‘orthodox’ way, the way of the entire Western World which was converted by the Catholic Faith over 1500 years before Luther…which faith was approved by the many ecumenical councils an synods throughout all of Christina history.

            And if you don’t think the Holy Spirit was guiding these saints…such as St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Augustine Bishop to the Anglo Saxons, St. Columba who converted the Picts, St. Jean Brebuef who converted the Huron Indians but was martyred also,…etc…
            then you are ‘swallowing the camel’ of the witness of the conversion of the entire Western World to Christ…by the likes of these same holy saints and missionaries of Christ. Protestants prefer one word from the Letter of Paul to the Romans….over and above all of the virtuous acts and words of the great saints, many of whom were probably equal if not greater in virtue than St. Paul himself,…but only God knows the degree of their glory.

            So, yes, it is a no brainer that Christians need faith for salvation. Jesus teaches this over and over, and this is where St. Paul learned it. But St. Paul NEVER wrote that it was Faith ALONE. This was the ‘Father of Protestantism’s’ invention. He fraudulently included it into his German bible to support his obviously weak exegesis which could not stand on it’s own. He needed to provide the proof by a fraudulent addition to Sacred Scripture, and would have gotten away with it if not for the vigilant eye of the true Church that discovered the fraud.

            but Protestants still believe it…the fraudulent doctrine of ‘faith ALONE’!

            Why would anyone believe a doctrine from a person who is a proven liar, egoist, bigamist, profane cartoon creator….etc…? Jesus said…”By their fruits you will know them”. You would think that Protestants would figure this verse out and apply it’s implications to both the acts and doctrines of their founder?

            And I really don’t understand why you aren’t proud of your founder….as you follow his doctrines? I’m certainly proud of all the 1000’s of great saints that were responsible for the promulgation of the ‘Catholic’ (UNIVERSAL faith) over the last 2000 years!

            Is there any Christian in the last 1500 years that the Protestants ARE proud of? Do you publish their biographies? Are any from the years 800-1400 AD? Just curious.

            Best to you in Christ,

            – Al

          9. Hi Al,

            Most Protestants that I have ever talked with seem to like to ‘strain out the knat and swallow the camel’ regarding doctrine. That is to say, they love to philosophize to the ‘nth’ degree on not only a single word, such as ‘justification’, but also on a single passage, such as Roman 4…all the while neglecting almost every other parable and teaching of Christ along the way.

            But you aren’t talking to “most Protestants,” any more than I’m talking to “most Catholics.” You’re talking to me, as an individual, with my own individual successes and failures. Either point out an error I’ve made, specifically, or don’t, but I’d like us to put an end to this snide “Most Protestants are dumb” and “Take off your Protestant filters” stuff.

            I addressed Christ’s words – more, I incorporated them as part of why I reach the conclusion I do. You don’t need to agree with how I interpreted, but please don’t pretend I’m unwilling to do so.

            Romans 4:2 merely states the obvious. A person needs to have faith to please God.

            Romans 4:2 doesn’t say anything about pleasing God. It talks about justification, our topic for this sub-thread. So: by what means was Abraham made just, in the sight of God? How many means are described?

            What of the verses past v. 2? What is the thread of Paul’s argument in this passage?

            He is the Founder of Protestantism!

            Nah, that’s Christ, the founder of the whole church of God. Luther’s cool, but he’s no Jesus. Let’s stop talking about him and get back to talking about God’s word.

          10. Hi Irked,

            To put it simply, this is what I believe regarding Romans 1-5:

            “Abraham was not justified by works done, as of himself, but by grace and by faith. And that before he was circumcised. Gentiles, by faith, are his children.”

            Biblical Text

            “[1] What shall we say then that Abraham hath found, who is our father according to the flesh. [2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. [3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice. [4] Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God.”

            Commentery:

            [2] “By works”: Done by his own strength, without the grace of God, and faith in him.

            [2] “Not before God”: Whatever glory or applause such works might procure from men, they would be of no value in the sight of God.

            [3] “Reputed”: By God, who reputeth nothing otherwise than it is. However, we may gather from this word, that when we are justified, our justification proceedeth from God’s free grace and bounty; and not from any efficacy which any act of ours could have of its own nature, abstracting from God’s grace.

            [4] “To him that worketh”: Vis., as of his own fund, or by his own strength. Such a man, says the apostle, challenges his reward as a debt due to his own performances; whereas he who worketh not, that is, who presumeth not upon any works done by his own strength, but seeketh justice through faith and grace, is freely justified by God’s grace.

            Best to you,

            – Al

          11. Hi Al,

            It seems like you have three categories in that explanation: there is faith, there are works apart from God, and there are, implicitly, works not apart from God.

            But Paul only mentions two of these categories, faith and works; indeed, he describes the righteous as the one who “does not work” for his righteousness, with no qualifiers. From where in this passage do you derive the separation of “work” into two categories?

    2. In the Mass we “re-offer” the sacrifice which was offered once in historical time but which was offered for all time. Jesus offered once in history the unblemished lamb of Himself to His father. Today the Bride of Christ–the Body of Christ–offers to its groom, its head, His own sacrifice. It is to the glory of God and to the sanctification of us LEST WE FORGET, in memory of Him.

      As usual, I here revert to human analogy (since I’m made in His image). As spouses exchange gifts on birthdays or anniversaries (we sacrifice a bit of time and talent and treasure to do this), we do so to represent to one another that we remember and appreciate and wish to continue the love between us. We married once in history, and today we remain married. Is it necessary to reiterate and commemorate our love through sacrificial offering of time, talent, and treasure involved in gift-giving? In a true marriage, the time, talent, and treasure are already shared. YES, it is necessary to demonstrate and to participate anew in love which is ever new, ever old, and always.

      A re-working or re-wording of Aquinas on the Eucharist is fruitfully found in “A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist” by Abbot Vonier, Zaccheus Press, 1925.

      God bless.

  10. awlms,

    My comment about security was made in the context of comparing venial sin, which does not remove me from the state of sanctify grace, and mortal sin, which does. In this context, the statement is accurate. But overall, I wholeheartedly agree with your points.

    1. As my recent comment notes…Jesus teaches us about the consequences of both venial and grave sins. It’s really no mystery for one who loves the word of Jesus. Martin Luther had psychological problems that most people aren’t inflicted with, and he read into the writings of St. Paul in a way that I believe St. Peter in 2Pet.3:16 describes. Luther chooses Pauls’ obscure teachings (according to St. Peter) over the many explicit teachings of Jesus such as the one I cited above from the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

      And it is actually no wonder why even Protestants back in 1525 AD called Luther’s teachings…”Luther’s gospel”. He had changed the meanings so much as to merit his own unique interpretation which was never before taught in the Christian Church, such that they considered it a unique invention…’Luther’s gospel’.

      I’m just trying to shed some light on this for the sake of Protestants who might be visiting this sight, and who are still being duped by Protestant doctrines and theology. Irked just brings up a few of these heretical teachings, here and there, in his comments… however, nice as he is in doing so.

      Best to you,

      – Al

    2. Hi Shane,

      I notice you say the sacraments are for us, not for God. When we seek to be like Him through the sacraments, we do glorify him. In what sense do you intend that sacraments are not for Him? Is it in the idea that God is sufficient to himself, or something like this?

      But does not our sin hurt him? So if we are enabled to refrain from sin through sacramental participation, is that not a good for God?

      1. I probably could have picked a better phrase to make my point – seems I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I believe, as the Church teaches, that God is impassible and immutable. Based on that, I was trying to make the point that there is no necessity of the sacraments whereby A happens (sacraments), therefore God must do B (extend grace). Or without A, there can be no B.

        So based on the Church’s teaching of impassibility, I would say that no, our sin does not hurt God in the way we understand hurt. Aquinas does a good job of reconciling God’s impassibility and his nature (love) as they certainly can seem to be contradictory attributes.

        1. Hi Shane,

          Ok, I get what you intended about impassability Still, sin is an offense against, therefore offends, God. He may not experience a “hurt” (I too am imprecise in language) as we do but it cost Him the death of His only begotten son. No small matter, that. He cannot abide and does not dwell where it exists.

  11. Irked,

    I apologize for reading something into your response that was not intended. I’ll answer your questions first then ask a few of my own. And know that they are not asked argumentatively, but in a spirit of “spurring each other on” and will be considered thoughtfully.

    Okay, let’s try it this way: let’s suppose that, while you and I are exchanging pleasant conversation, I lie to somebody. (Venially, let’s say.) Now, in the Protestant understanding of the economy of grace, that sin is already forgiven, and God does not hold it against me – that’s part of the made perfect forever in v.14, or what Paul (in Romans 8) says about being “the man whose sin God does not hold against him.”

    (Curious: would you say that we, as Christians, are the man of Romans 8?)

    Hebrews 10:4 is a verse that is made difficult by the issue of differing translations, but in my mind, its meaning is cleared up by A) a literal reading of the text and B) other scripture.

    Hebrews 10:14
    For by one offering he hath perfected to the end those sanctified; -Young’s Literal Translation

    For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. -RSV

    For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. -NKJV

    For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. -NIV

    I think the RSV gets the verb tenses correct. Those already sanctified (in heaven) are perfect for all time. The verb tenses match up with our perceived reality, we are yet to be perfected while those in heaven –in the presence of God, so by definition — are perfect. The NIV renders the verb tense differently from the literal interpretation, but I do give them credit for not using “declared” in place of “made”, which is the only way I can think of to make the text square with the idea of an imputed righteousness.

    Speaking of imputation, I believe you are referring to Romans 4:8 (not chapter 8, but again, correct me if I’m wrong) which causes issues if you believe logizomai (“impute” in the NKJV) connotes transference, e.g. the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us. A man would be blessed to have his sin transferred elsewhere, right?

    Romans 4:8
    Happy the man to whom the Lord may not reckon sin. -Young’s Literal Translation

    Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin. -RSV

    Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin. -NKJV

    Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them. -NIV

    First of all, yes, I believe we are included in this group of “blessed” people of faith. Here, I think a natural reading of the verse, in context, allows one to tie Paul’s example of Abraham in the preceding verses to David’s more general declaration in verse 8. Paul says that God didn’t count Abraham’s sin against him because of his faith, well before he made his first sacrifice. The subsequent sacrifices didn’t override or diminish the original action, they were a continuation of it, a sign of the renewal of God’s covenant with Abraham. The same pattern holds in the new covenant.

    Verses/questions for you:

    John 20:23
    If of any ye may loose the sins, they are loosed to them; if of any ye may retain, they have been retained. –Young’s Literal Translation

    If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. –RSV

    If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained – NKJV

    If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. -NIV

    If no “further imputation of grace” (using your term) is needed because the past imputation/application cover all future sin, how can any sin be “retained” or “not forgiven?”

    1 John 5:16-17
    If any one may see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give to him life to those sinning not unto death; there is sin to death, not concerning it do I speak that he may beseech; all unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not unto death. –YLT

    If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal. –RSV

    If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. –NKJV

    If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. –NIV

    If no “further imputation of grace” (using your term) is needed because the past imputation/application cover all future sin, how can any sin “lead to death?”

    1. Good points, questions and citations Shane!

      I was getting ready to address Irked’s exegesis of the saying of Jesus…”unless your justice abound more than the Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But I think you already brought up some of the same ideas that I was going to point out. It seems that the sayings of Jesus, also, must pass through the Protestant filter of agreeing with ‘justification by Faith Alone’ to be true…even though Jesus wasn’t discussing this in the least in this passage.

      So, Irked, if you’re still following here, just read what Jesus says again (with my emphasis included)…without any Protestant filters included (as they wouldn’t be invented for another 1450 years, or so).

      “For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, ONE JOT, or ONE TITTLE shall NOT PASS of the law, till all be fulfilled. HE THEREFORE that shall BREAK ONE of these LEAST COMMANDMENTS, and shall so teach men, shall be called the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall DO AND TEACH, he shall be called GREAT in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, that unless YOUR JUSTICE ABOUND MORE than that of the scribes and Pharisees, YOU SHALL NOT ENTER into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

      Note the degrees of justice Jesus demands above, that a person not break the least of the”10 COMMANDMENTS” without spiritual consequences for his soul. (NOT the hundreds of minor Pharisaical LAWS that Paul was annoyed with and were causing the ‘Judaizer conflict’ resulting in the 1st Council of Jerusalem, in the Church at the time.) . That is, one who breaks even the least of the ’10 Commandments’ will merit a ‘lesser’ position in the Kingdom of Heaven ..or will be “Least in the Kingdom of Heaven”. But those who KEEP the 10 Commandments…and teach them to others also…shall be GREAT in the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Irked, this is easy stuff to understand. Just read it in all of it’s simplicity, like a little child …and not a Greek philosopher. The Lord doesn’t need a Protestant filter to make this passage understandable.

    2. Hi Shane,

      I’ll try to follow your pattern here: answering your questions first, and then responding with some of my own. I appreciate your calm, here, and no offense was taken at our misunderstanding – it was a very reasonable misread!

      If no “further imputation of grace” (using your term) is needed because the past imputation/application cover all future sin, how can any sin be “retained” or “not forgiven?”

      So this is a difficult verse to interpret – as is seen in the interpretations, which don’t even agree on the tense. (Does the forgiveness on earth follow from that in heaven, or is it the source of that in heaven?) The reading that seems most likely to me, though, is that this passage is describing the role of the apostles as agents of conversion.

      Unpacking that: in v. 22, Christ bestows (or at least promises) the Spirit to his followers; in v. 21, he declares that he is sending them. The purpose of that sending is pretty clear – they’re being sent as the Father sent the Son, to tell the gospel and, if necessary, to die for it. In that context, Christ gives them an authority he’s demonstrated in the past, but which has not previously been mentioned in John’s gospel: the authority to turn to a person of faith and say, with confidence, “Your sins are forgiven in heaven” – the moment that we’d now call conversion. Those to whom the disciples preach the Gospel, those whom they bring and declare forgiveness to – those people are forgiven. Those they do not reach in this way are not.

      I’m going to be upfront here and say I don’t think it’s unambiguous that what I’ve just said must be the meaning of this verse; there are other reasonable interpretations of this passage in isolation, and the Catholic doctrine of confession is one of them. But I do think my reading is consistent both with John 20 and with other passages that force a different understanding of forgiveness on me.

      Or putting that another way: I think we all take some passages as unambiguously teaching a doctrine, and others as permitting multiple readings, some consistent with that doctrine and others not – though of course we differ as to which verses are which! To me, this passage is one of the latter, and so I take a reading consistent with the doctrine I see as required elsewhere.

      That was a long answer! The short answer: the forgiveness/retention presented here is an all-or-nothing affair, performed once at the moment of conversion (or not, for those not brought the gospel), and not a recurring event in the life of already-converted Christians.

      ***

      If no “further imputation of grace” (using your term) is needed because the past imputation/application cover all future sin, how can any sin “lead to death?”

      So there are several possibilities that I think are plausible; this is a case (following my previous comments) where I don’t think the clear doctrines force a single interpretation on us.

      First, that all sin is forgiven by God doesn’t mean sin is without consequences in this life – it’s true both that cheating on your spouse can end your marriage (that is, that there can be natural temporal consequences) and that, as per Hebrews 12, God disciplines those he loves. If the death here is a physical death, it makes sense both that it’s not a matter of forgiveness and that there’s no point in praying (because the sinner is either already dead or inevitably committed to death).

      Second, one of John’s major topics in this book is those who have “gone out from us” – those who were never Christians, as proven by their subsequent denial of the faith. If those are the folks he has in mind when he speaks of the “sin unto death,” then there’s no matter of forgiveness, because they were never forgiven: those born of God cannot go on sinning, as Chapter 3 says, and had they belonged to us, they would have remained with us, as Chapter 2 says. I think this is probably the more likely of the two: that John has in mind a repudiation of Christianity so final, from one who falsely claimed to be a believer, that there may be no point in even praying for him. He is, perhaps, dead in sin by nature, but not content with that he has made himself dead.

      It’s a difficult question to answer definitively, mostly because John is so vague as to his actual subject, but does that broadly address your questions?

      ***

      I think the RSV gets the verb tenses correct. Those already sanctified (in heaven) are perfect for all time.

      I think it’s kind of funny that we both have “Well, the verb tenses make this difficult” replies.

      Okay, so here’s my follow-up question on this point. So you read v. 14 to say that those sanctified are those already dead, in heaven. How do you unify that with v. 10? Sticking with the RSV, those two verses together read, “And by that will [i.e., the Father’s will] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,” emphasis mine (if the emphasis shows up – not sure whether “u” tags work here).

      It seems to me that those sanctified have to be the same people in both verses – that is, using your suggested verb tense, that “those who are sanctified” in v. 14 have to be the same as the ones just declared to have been sanctified. But verse 10 is pretty clear that we – the writer and his audience, all living at the time – are those who have been sanctified. How do you unify this with your interpretation?

      Speaking of imputation, I believe you are referring to Romans 4:8 (not chapter 8, but again, correct me if I’m wrong)

      You’re quite right. (Herpity derp.) Good catch!

      which causes issues if you believe logizomai (“impute” in the NKJV) connotes transference, e.g. the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us. A man would be blessed to have his sin transferred elsewhere, right?

      Sorry, I’m missing some of the sense of your sentence here. Can you try me again, with a little more detail?

      First of all, yes, I believe we are included in this group of “blessed” people of faith.

      Okay, interesting. Does it not follow from that that, should we sin, God will not hold that sin against us – that it needs no further forgiveness from Him?

      Paul says that God didn’t count Abraham’s sin against him because of his faith, well before he made his first sacrifice. The subsequent sacrifices didn’t override or diminish the original action, they were a continuation of it, a sign of the renewal of God’s covenant with Abraham. The same pattern holds in the new covenant.

      So, on the one hand, I absolutely agree that Abraham’s sacrifices don’t override or diminish his faith. I guess my question would be, does Paul give any indication in this passage that any of Abraham’s righteousness is transmitted by these means? He says even of circumcision – which I think we’d agree is the most distinctive sign of the covenant – that it was only an outward indicator of righteousness, and not a means by which righteousness was gained or applied. If these actions – these works of Abraham – were means by which righteousness was applied to him, wouldn’t that contradict Paul’s point that righteousness is given to one not working?

      Enjoying the conversation!

      1. “Okay, interesting. Does it not follow from that that, should we sin, God will not hold that sin against us – that it needs no further forgiveness from Him?”

        Do you not consider Jesus to be a teacher in this matter? He teaches very clearly about the nature of sin, servants of sin, sons of God, spiritual freedom and eternal life in John 8:36. Should we just throw these blessed teachings out the window so that we can debate on the letters of St. Paul for more clarity on the matter? As if Jesus is not a good enough teacher? Read what Christ teaches:

        “Then Jesus said to those Jews, who BELIEVED him: If you CONTINUE in my word, you SHALL be my DISCIPLES indeed. And you shall KNOW the TRUTH, and the TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE. They answered him: We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man: how sayest thou: you shall be free? Jesus answered them: Amen, amen I say unto you: that WHOSOEVER COMMITS SIN, is the SERVANT of SIN. Now THE SERVANT ABIDETH NOT IN THE HOUSE FOREVER; but the SON abideth for ever. If therefore the son shall MAKE YOU FREE, YOU SHALL BE FREE indeed.”

        1. Hi Al,

          Sure, that verse is a great support for the point I’m making – thanks for bringing it up.

          So Christ addresses a group of Jews – his followers, who have believed him so far. But so far has been the easy part; they aren’t ready to believe in him as the Son of God, and when he claims that divine portion (“Before Abraham was, I AM!”), they try to murder him.

          Clearly, whatever it is they have here, it isn’t a saving faith; how can it be, when it denies the deity and words of Christ with murderous force? Indeed, Christ says in v. 43 that they can’t even bear to hear him, because they’re children of the devil.

          To these Jews, Christ says, “If you continue in my word – if you don’t reject what I’m going to teach, in the next few minutes and the days to come – then you’re really my disciples, and then you’ll be free.” Again, note: they aren’t free yet. They’re still slaves to sin, and the Son has not yet made them free. These are not warnings spoken to those who have claimed Christ as Lord.

          But! But if the Son has made you free, you are free indeed. A slave, as they are now, doesn’t remain forever. But one set free, freed by the Son – well, we know from other passages, such a one is also a son. A son forever: no longer a son of the devil, nor of Abraham, but of God Himself.

          A son forever: irrevocable, irreversible. And free indeed: truly, truly free.

          And yet everyone who sins is a slave to sin. But the ones freed by the Son are free: no longer slaves to sin. Does it not follow that sin has no more hold over them – that their sin is, in a real sense, no longer theirs, but Christ’s?

          1. But the point is, that this is a universal teaching of Christ, it describes the consequences for those in every generation, not just those standing before Him, and the process is the following :

            1. BELIEVE him:
            2. CONTINUE in my word,
            3. you SHALL be my DISCIPLES indeed
            4. And you shall KNOW the TRUTH,
            and,
            5. the TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE

            Note that this is a spiritual process. First is:
            1. The Kerygma…an initial proclamation as taught in the Pre-Nicaean Church.

            2. Catechesis…to learn to believe what the Church, His disciples teach, per the saying of Christ: ” Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matt. 28:19)

            3. Discipleship…those who believe what His Church teaches in EVERYTHING. They are the custodians of the teachings of Christ as #2, above, states…they are ‘teachers’, and Christ is always with them..even until our present day! …and for all the future as well.

            4. Discipleship will lead a soul finally to the TRUTH, as Christ teaches,

            5. And the TRUTH shall set the Disciple free. This is justification… and freedom from the slavery of sin.

            But it needs to be said…that the Disciple must endure in discipleship. He must, as St. Paul says, run the good race to the very end. And St.Paul also feared to lose his discipleship if he did not follow the will of God for Him. Witness his terror at such a thought:

            “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16)

            And Christ also teaches:

            “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock.” (Matt. 7:21)

            *****

            So, you see Irked, justification is a process. It needs to start with milk and honey ‘kerygma’ and catechesis, and then develop from weak faith into discipleship; and then a knowledge of the will of God will be attained, and grace will be given to do the same ‘will of the Father’. This leads to truth, and knowledge of the Truth is spiritual and eternal freedom. But, this truth must also be maintained by prayer and continued discipleship. That is, it must be maintained, even as Paul indicates. And, moreover, doing the will of the Father includes, lovingly following the 10 commandments throughout one’s life, even as Jesus said (and stated before):

            “ONE JOT, or ONE TITTLE shall NOT PASS of the law, till all be fulfilled. HE THEREFORE that shall BREAK ONE of these LEAST COMMANDMENTS, and shall so teach men, shall be called the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall DO AND TEACH, he shall be called GREAT in the kingdom of heaven.”

            So….this is a long way to justification, and we must keep the commandments until our very last breath.

            But Jesus also says,”whose sins you forgive are forgiven” and so, if a disciple falls from grace through mortal sin, he can be restored when the authorized teachers of the Church, i.e. Bishops and their authorized priests, forgives him in the name and power of Christ.

            Best to you,

            -Al

          2. Hi Al,

            I am still not interested in a full perseverance of the saints conversation with you today – thanks, though! Maybe some other time.

          3. Actually, no, you know what? Let’s do this.

            So there is absolutely a process leading to justification, even if I think some of your interpretation of the process is… rather beyond what the text actually says. Clearly, yes, you need to know the truth of Christ’s word and believe it prior to being justified. I wouldn’t describe justification itself as a process, on the grounds that you either is or you ain’t, but there’s a process that gets you to that point, sure.

            And, yes, the one set free must continue in Christ. The good news is that he will – that all those who truly put faith in Christ will continue in him. I love Paul, but some of the clearest and most explicit teaching on this truth comes from Christ himself in John 6, only a few pages over from our current discussion: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away… And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

            So there’s a clear progression, there: first, the Father gives. If the Father gives, two things necessarily follow: you will come, and you will not be lost. If you come, you will never be driven away; if you are not lost, you will be raised up at the last day.

            Verse 44 adds another fact: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” So this is, in mathematical terms, an if-and-only if: all who come are given; all who are given come. Those given are not lost, and those not lost are raised up.

            Then all those who come to Christ will be raised up on the last day; we adopted as sons, and a son is a son forever. Are there those who will cry “Lord, Lord” on that day? Yes, absolutely – those Christ never knew, those who were never truly given, and who never truly came to him. But there is no one – no one! – to whom Christ says, “Depart from me, for though I once knew you, I no longer do.”

            Must the believer, then continue in Christ? Yes, absolutely he must – and if his belief was ever true, he will continue in Christ. He cannot do otherwise; living men cannot long act like the dead.

            And, moreover, doing the will of the Father includes, lovingly following the 10 commandments throughout one’s life, even as Jesus said (and stated before):

            You know, you associate this passage with the Ten Commandments. Christ doesn’t do that. “The Law” – the commandments – reaches far beyond the Ten. In which case, if this is true…

            So….this is a long way to justification, and we must keep the commandments until our very last breath.

            … we all go to hell. None of us keep the law.

            But you were washed. You were justified. You were made clean in the sight of God – “perfected forever,” in the words of Hebrews. And the righteousness now credited to your account, as Romans 3 says, is righteousness apart from the law. It is faith – faith “from first to last!” – that is our righteousness; and that faith not of ourselves, for it is the gift of God.

      2. Irked,

        I apologize for the delay in replying, it’s been busy. Hoping you are enjoying the back and forth with Al and Margo. I caught up on the thread but staying in my lane. 🙂 Continuing the pattern…

        So this is a difficult verse to interpret – as is seen in the interpretations, which don’t even agree on the tense. (Does the forgiveness on earth follow from that in heaven, or is it the source of that in heaven?) The reading that seems most likely to me, though, is that this passage is describing the role of the apostles as agents of conversion.

        I don’t believe the tense is in question (past perfect) or makes any material difference to the topic we are discussing, namely, whether or not there is any future application of grace flowing from a past event. The past perfect tense is also used in Mt. 18:18 when Jesus gives Peter the authority to bind and loose. In both contexts, it was important that they, and now we, realize that the Church’s authority is to communicate forgiveness that only God can give (CCC 1441).

        As to your limiting this to initial conversion, well, it strikes me as odd that he would, in addition to forgiving sins, add the authority to retain the sins of those that weren’t seeking forgiveness in the first place. You are correct in saying that the passage could support the Catholic practice of confession, in fact, that’s the historically provable interpretation of the early church.

        If the death here is a physical death,…

        If he’s speaking in physical terms, then to be consistent, we’d have to say that our prayers for our “brother” (which I think disproves your argument that they were never forgiven to begin with) results in physical life for him. And it also doesn’t seem plausible for John to be asking believers to distinguish between sins that lead to physical death and those that don’t. Again, the historically provable interpretation of this passage is simple, not complex, and supports the practice of confession for mortal sins, which harms not only the relationship between the sinner and God, but also damages the sinner’s standing within the Church and their witness to the world.

        But verse 10 is pretty clear that we – the writer and his audience, all living at the time – are those who have been sanctified. How do you unify this with your interpretation?

        Given that we both agree that sanctification is a process that has not been completed in those still on Earth, he could be speaking of an imperfect santification.

        Sorry, I’m missing some of the sense of your sentence here. Can you try me again, with a little more detail?

        Look at the other passages in Romans where logizomai is used, which is translated “reckon”, “count”
        or “impute.” These verses are used by Protestants to support an understanding of the “imputation”
        of a foreign righteousness as oppossed to the Catholic doctrine of “infused” righteousness. It’s taught that their is a transfer of that righteousness to us. If the word connotes a transfer of something, Romans 4:8 doesn’t make any sense.

        Does it not follow from that that, should we sin, God will not hold that sin against us – that it needs no further forgiveness from Him?

        And here lies the crux of our impasse. I can affirm this passage (and every other one like it) and say that for those that have been justified by faith, He will not hold our sin against us, that His one-time sacrifice is sufficient for my sin, etc., and not deny the plain meaning of passages like the two mentioned above, 2,000 years of Church history, and the similarity to my own experience as a father. I meditate on those similarities quite often and it always is a profitable experience. He loves me more than I love them. My love for them is embarrassing compared to His love for me. Still can’t quite believe that, but glad it is so.

        1. Hi Shane,

          I don’t believe the tense is in question (past perfect) or makes any material difference to the topic we are discussing

          By contrast, I think it makes quite a bit of difference – as I say, at a minimum it changes which one is cause, and which effect. That’s a big deal for interpreting it!

          As to your limiting this to initial conversion, well, it strikes me as odd that he would, in addition to forgiving sins, add the authority to retain the sins of those that weren’t seeking forgiveness in the first place.

          I might paraphrase the idea crudely as, “If by you they do not receive forgiveness, they will not receive forgiveness” – with the sense being that salvific forgiveness, if it’s to come, is to come through the ministry of the church alone.

          Like I say, if that verse was all we had on the issue, I’d be a lot more uncertain!

          If he’s speaking in physical terms, then to be consistent, we’d have to say that our prayers for our “brother” (which I think disproves your argument that they were never forgiven to begin with) results in physical life for him.

          Well, but we aren’t told to pray for one who has sinned unto death, so that works: “If your brother sins – and so drinks in death on himself – pray for him so that he’ll be restored. (Some of you have sinned to the point that they actually died, and I’m not saying to pray for those folks.)”

          But again, I think it’s also plausible (given John’s topic in the book as a whole) that he’s talking about brothers who sin, on the one hand, and false brothers – men who were never truly “of us,” and have since denied the faith – on the other hand. Pray for your brother; for these men who betray what they once falsely claimed, who have “made Him out to be a liar,” John does not even say to pray. “Brother” is said only of those who have not sinned in this way, so that would seem to answer your other objection as well.

          I can see arguments for and against both of these positions, but I don’t think either of them is particularly implausible of a read.

          But…

          Again, the historically provable interpretation of this passage is simple, not complex, and supports the practice of confession for mortal sins, which harms not only the relationship between the sinner and God, but also damages the sinner’s standing within the Church and their witness to the world.

          … here I have problems.

          So, a few things:

          1) I said that one of the things that makes this passage difficult is that John isn’t explicit as to what exactly constitutes a sin unto death. If “sin unto death” is meant to be an indicator that there are such things as mortal and venial sins, then this total lack of clarity is the closest we get to instruction on that point. We get nothing about what is or is not a mortal sin, or that you should confess to a priest when you commit a mortal sin, or what the difference in salvific consequence between the two is – nothing but very, very oblique inferences. That’s a lot of theology to hang on some pretty thin nails, and inferring from these the entire interrelation of priests and confession and purgatory and non-salvific atonement is the exact opposite of what I’d call a simple read.

          Or let me look at that from another angle: given the entire Catholic theological edifice, I agree that it’s very straightforward to look at this and say, “See, he’s talking about mortal sin here.” But that only works in one direction: I can’t see how to reason from what John says here, and in other oft-cited texts, and see sufficient support for that edifice – and I can see passages that seem to argue against the its construction. If we’re trying to reason from John to a position, I don’t think the mortal/venial divide is at all the simplest or most natural conclusion to draw from his words.

          2) You say in several places that your view is the historical one in the early church. Let me make one reply here to all of them: I do not think we can confidently claim that there is such a thing as “the view,” singular, of the early church on many of these issues – the mortal/venial divide included. I think it’s pretty hard to make the case that the first two centuries of Christendom consistently accepted that there was a mortal/venial divide, that confession to a priest was uniquely necessary for mortal sin, and indeed that there was such a thing as the office of Christian priest.

          Certainly this developed as a Catholic doctrine; I’m not going to claim it appeared out of whole cloth in 1547. But that, of course, is precisely the Protestant complaint: that it developed, that it conglomerated, and that it isn’t clearly taught in Scripture.

          3) It seems to me that this passage actually works rather against the confessional view of “mortal sin.” John clearly looks at the sin unto death as a pretty final event – such that even the intercession of the church on the sinner’s behalf is… a waste of time? a gift that shouldn’t be given to him? Something, in any event, that puts him pretty firmly off the list, in a way even the pagans are not.

          But that seems like exactly the opposite of the RCC’s view, where a mortal sin is exactly when you need the intervention of the institutional church. Would a modern Catholic say with John, “I wouldn’t even tell you to pray for that guy; he’s committed a mortal sin”?

          Given that we both agree that sanctification is a process that has not been completed in those still on Earth, he could be speaking of an imperfect santification.

          So you’ve (appropriately!) pushed me a little bit on these other passages; let me push back a bit. I don’t think this is at all a sufficient explanation. We have two references, three verses apart, to “those who are sanctified.” It seems like we have to, barring some very strong reason to the contrary, read that as the same people in both cases.

          It sounds a bit like you’re suggesting that the difference is that v.10 describes us as only those who are partially sanctified (i.e., us), while v.14 speaks of those more perfectly sanctified (i.e., the dead). But surely you’d agree that distinction is nowhere in the actual text of the passage – if anything, v.10 uses the more final language.

          More, the dead are nowhere present in this chapter. Verse 10 is clearly us. Verse 19 – the “therefore” that follows from exactly the verse we’re debating – is again about us! And so there’s a clear argument: we have been sanctified (v. 10), we have been perfected (v. 14), there is no longer an offering of sin for us (v. 18), and therefore we enter with confidence. Where does the fact that the dead need no more sin offering enter into this calculus? Why, when the passage reads cleanly and sensibly if it has only one target, would we introduce a second category that’s nowhere mentioned here?

          On what textual grounds do we not read “us” as the target of v.14?

          If the word connotes a transfer of something, Romans 4:8 doesn’t make any sense.

          Okay, that clarifies – thanks!

          So I think first that you’re misreading “imputed,” there, which even in English doesn’t generally mean “transferred” as nearly as it does “counted as being done by.” More to the point, set the specific word “imputed” aside; it works perfectly well for my point to say that Christ’s righteousness is counted as ours, and our sins are not counted as ours. Right? Because in that case, we still make no further sacrifice for our sins; our sins aren’t counted as ours. And given that reading, Romans 4:8 makes perfect sense.

          So that gets me back to my earlier question: am I in need of further sin-forgiving grace, given that my sins are not counted as mine? Why?

          And here lies the crux of our impasse. I can affirm this passage (and every other one like it) and say that for those that have been justified by faith, He will not hold our sin against us, that His one-time sacrifice is sufficient for my sin, etc., and not deny the plain meaning of passages like the two mentioned above, 2,000 years of Church history, and the similarity to my own experience as a father.

          Okay. I can see no way to simultaneously say “our sins are not counted against us” and “when we sin, we need new forgiveness that we did not previously have.” Or, to put that another way: to affirm the readings you’re presenting for these other passages would leave me unable to affirm this passage.

          I’d still be curious to your answer re: Paul and Abraham, but I think the Hebrews 10 thing is the core of my argument, right now. That feels like a major addition to a verse that, otherwise, would be a pretty deadly blow to the Catholic understanding.

          1. Irked,

            On the outside chance that you still have any interest whatsoever in this exchange….:)

            Continuing the pattern…

            By contrast, I think it makes quite a bit of difference – as I say, at a minimum it changes which one is cause, and which effect. That’s a big deal for interpreting it!

            You and I both know there is only one cause for our right standing with God. To be consistent with your argument, that confession/penance binds me to believing it to be the cause of my forgiveness, you likewise can not pray for forgiveness without doing the same.

            I might paraphrase the idea crudely as, “If by you they do not receive forgiveness, they will not receive forgiveness” – with the sense being that salvific forgiveness, if it’s to come, is to come through the ministry of the church alone.

            Did this “ministry of the church alone” end with the death of the apostles? If not, when?

            3) It seems to me that this passage actually works rather against the confessional view of “mortal sin.” John clearly looks at the sin unto death as a pretty final event – such that even the intercession of the church on the sinner’s behalf is… a waste of time? a gift that shouldn’t be given to him? Something, in any event, that puts him pretty firmly off the list, in a way even the pagans are not.

            But that seems like exactly the opposite of the RCC’s view, where a mortal sin is exactly when you need the intervention of the institutional church. Would a modern Catholic say with John, “I wouldn’t even tell you to pray for that guy; he’s committed a mortal sin”?

            I’m glad you recognize that this is written to the member of the church. John isn’t speaking to a presbyter/bishop here like Paul did when he wrote to Titus or Timothy. I think he’s telling the church, those that gathered around to here this letter read to them, to pray for their brothers and sisters that they see sinning in a way that “does not lead to death,” (whatever example of a “minor” sin you can think of) and then lovingly walk along side them, trusting that God will “give him life.” No need to browbeat them over every defect you see in them,
            although their may be a time to discuss with them. But for your brother that just committed adultery, well, the temporal consequences are more extreme and warrant something different. Before the sacrament of penance was formalized, there were processes undertaken for a Christian to express contrition, prove their repentance, and be accepted back into the assembly.

          2. Hi Shane,

            I am pretty much always interested. Whether I notice is another matter, unfortunately…

            You and I both know there is only one cause for our right standing with God. To be consistent with your argument, that confession/penance binds me to believing it to be the cause of my forgiveness

            I don’t mean to tar you with that claim, though I’ve seen other Catholics argue (what I understand to be) exactly that; I’m just saying that the verse, in isolation, admits a lot of different readings, many of which we reject in the light of the whole of Scripture. I think we both agree that we make sense of the ambiguous verses by means of the clear ones; I think we have to take this as one of the former.

            Did this “ministry of the church alone” end with the death of the apostles? If not, when?

            Never; it remains applicable. If we as the church do not preach the truth of the Gospels – if we not present Christ’s forgiveness to the lost – they are not forgiven.

            I’m glad you recognize that this is written to the member of the church.

            Unquestionably to the church at large, yeah. All that paternal language: “Dear children, I write to you…”

            But for your brother that just committed adultery, well, the temporal consequences are more extreme and warrant something different.

            Do they warrant not praying for him, though? Is that the teaching of the RCC today?

            I mean, we continue to teach (as Paul does) that for certain levels of unrepentant sin, you put the sinner out of the church, for his own sake as well as yours. (That debate was a few weeks ago, heh.) But we’d probably follow that by saying, “And pray for his repentance” – and that’s definitely not what John has in mind here. Would it be different for you?

            It seems like we’re dropping Hebrews 10, here – would you be willing to follow up on the textual reasons for reading “imperfect” into v. 10, or for assuming verses 10 and 14 have different targets?

  12. Hi Irked,

    You like to use your frequent references to St. Paul to prove your points…but they seem to me to be like sort of a ‘shell game’ wherein the little pea keeps on moving to a different shell (or cup), and your arguments are therefore very hard to follow. But this is no problem, because ‘being saved’ is a broader topic than what is merely taught in St. Paul’s epistles, it is discussed throughout the Gospels by Christ Himself, as I have been saying to you for many days now (including former comments). The words of Jesus teach on this subject abundantly, and especially in the parables. Now, if you MUST use St. Paul almost exclusively, then realize that your references are contradicted by Jesus’s words over and over again.

    You say, above, responding to my statement:

    ME: “So….this is a long way to justification, and we must keep the commandments until our very last breath.

    YOU: :… we all go to hell. None of us keep the law.”

    But above, you base your assumption on a false concept of what it means to ‘keep the law’ . But how can we PROVE you have a false idea? Christ teaches us very clearly in this account:

    “And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? [17] Who said to him: Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But IF THOU WILT ENTER INTO LIFE, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS.”

    Do you really need more details…as to what are the commandments Jesus is talking about? If so, here they are:

    ” He said to him: Which?”

    ” And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matt. 19:16)

    So, do you understand why your statement above might cause wonder to a Catholic, when you state..”we all go to hell. None of us keep the law.”?
    Because, what you are actually implying is that Jesus does not know what He is talking about when He says: “IF THOU WILT ENTER INTO LIFE, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS.”

    And then again, as i mentioned before, Jesus reiterates this teaching, saying: “HE THEREFORE that shall BREAK ONE of these LEAST COMMANDMENTS, and shall so teach men, shall be called the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall DO AND TEACH, he shall be called GREAT in the kingdom of heaven.”

    But it seems that you just won’t listen to Him in these passages.

    And your misunderstanding of St. Paul when he talks about the ‘law’ is a very easy one to solve. Joe has addressed this many times in the past. Paul in Romans, when using the term ‘law’…is NOT talking bout the 10 Commandments that Jesus references in the quote above, but rather the Pharisaic laws…” a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws… By the time Christ came it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness.” (from Bible .org)

    And, also, there are so many other parables and teachings on the subject of his to again eternal life, and from the very mouth of Christ, for instance: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, The Prodigal Son, The Parable of the Talents, The Pearl of Great Value, almost he entire ‘Sermon on the Mount’, ‘parable of entering by the narrow gate”, The ‘Cleansing of the Feet’ of St. Peter…etc… All of these teachiings of Christ point to ‘how to be saved’/justified…and therefore enter the Kingdom of God.

    And one last thing. We all believe, Catholics and Protestants, that we must have ‘faith’ to be saved. This not controversial. But what is actually is FAITH?

    Faith is believing in the Gospel. IT IS BELIEVING IN ALL OF THESE STORIES, PARABLES, WORDS AND TEACHINGS OF JESUS… that i just cited above… and everything else in the Gospel message handed down to us.

    And if you, or anyone else out there,finds it hard to believe Christ when He teaches….then ask God the ‘gift of faith’. As Jesus Himself said: “Ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened to you”.

    And also:

    “And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
    Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11)

    Best to you,

    – Al

    1. Hi Al,

      You may find interest today in tomorrow’s readings, specifically these:

      Psalm 23: “You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes;”

      1Peter 2:20b: “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called.”

      1Peter 2:24: “who bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.” Scripture does not say, “we are made forever righteous.” Christ died so that we MAY LIVE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Baptismal gifts enable or imbue our living for righteousness. We MAY (there is free will/ choice.) LIVE (to live is active, not passive or potential) FOR (Scripture does not say “in.”), FOR implies an approach to rather than a remaining; again, the implication is active, not passive.

      Tomorrow’s Gospel is from John 10:1-10; John 10:12ff continues: “But the hireling, who is not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees. And the world snatches and scatters the sheep; but the hireling flees because he is a hireling, and has no concern for the sheep.”

      God bless. In God’s good time.

      1. Great exegesis, Margo, for the word “May”, “Live” and “For” from 1`Pet. 2:24!

        With an eye like your’s you should start collecting similar verses pertaining to the ‘justification’ and ‘law’ related scriptures. The comments I make are usually ‘no brainers’, like when Jesus clearly says that keeping the 10 commandments is needed for entering eternal life…even naming the major commandments at the same time…to make it sufficiently clear.In fact He even adds an additional requirement for one follower in the below quote!:

        “….a certain man running up and kneeling before him, asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may receive life everlasting? And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? None is good but one, that is God. Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, bear not false witness, do no fraud, honour thy father and mother. But he answering, said to him: Master, all these things I have observed from my youth. And Jesus looking on him, loved him, and said to him: One thing is wanting unto thee: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. Who being struck sad at that saying, went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:17)

        Another version is from Luke 18:18:

        “And a certain ruler asked him, saying: Good master, what shall I do to possess everlasting life? And Jesus said to him: Why dost thou call me good? None is good but God alone. Thou knowest the commandments: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not steal: Thou shalt not bear false witness: Honour thy father and mother.
        Who said: All these things have I kept from my youth. Which when Jesus had heard, he said to him: Yet one thing is wanting to thee: sell all whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. He having heard these things, became sorrowful; for he was very rich. And Jesus seeing him become sorrowful, said: How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God. For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

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

        How can anyone read these two passages and NOT conclude that one needs to follow the commandments??

        And for some people they need to do MORE than the commandments! Like the ‘rich man’ above they need give up their wealth if the Lord asks it of Him. Also, does this sound in any way like the ‘Faith Alone’ doctrine? Rather, it sounds like James 2:23 when he writes:

        ” …Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God. Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only? And in like manner also Rahab the harlot, was not she justified by works, receiving the messengers, and sending them out another way?”

        But Protestants keep ignoring these obvious scriptures which are contrary of their core beliefs.

        1. Irked,

          If you’re reading, it’s good for you to study these two passages above very carefully, then consider this teaching also of Paul for Romans 2:5 :

          “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for EVERY human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for EVERYONE who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.”

          The Catholic Church adheres to all of the scriptures above: Jesus’ teaching on the necessity of the Ten commandments, James teaching on necessary works and Paul’s teaching on good acts and evil acts.

    2. Al,

      You like to use your frequent references to St. Paul to prove your points… Now, if you MUST use St. Paul almost exclusively,

      I quoted Christ extensively in my last post to you. Stop this.

      But above, you base your assumption on a false concept of what it means to ‘keep the law’.

      Have you not read that it was written in the book of James, that whoever keeps the whole law but fails at one point has become guilty of all of it?

      And your misunderstanding of St. Paul when he talks about the ‘law’ is a very easy one to solve. Joe has addressed this many times in the past. Paul in Romans, when using the term ‘law’…is NOT talking bout the 10 Commandments that Jesus references in the quote above, but rather the Pharisaic laws

      Is it your contention that the requirements of the ungodly Pharisaic law was, as Paul says in Romans 2:14, written on the hearts of those who had never heard it? Is it your contention that on the day of judgment, God will judge men according to how well they kept the ungodly Pharisaic laws, as Paul says in Romans 2:12-16? Is it your contention that sin is not charged where there is no ungodly Pharisaic law, as Paul says in Romans 5:13? Is it your contention that disobedience to the Pharisaic law was sin, as Paul says in Romans 5:20?

      On what positive grounds do you make this claim?

      1. Hi Irked,

        Jesus told us to follow the 10 Commandments ‘explicitly’ in the quotes I provided, above. He even named them out, not waiting for someone to claim ignorance of what He is talking about. Your argument is with Him, not me. They are His exact words. If Jesus says to obey the 10 Commandments…it’s good to obey Him, as He is the Lord; it means you have faith in Him. Otherwise, it is clear that your faith is in another direction and not ‘Christo centric’, that is, Christ isn’t the ultimate teacher, but others. When we have the words of Christ in the Gospel, why not put Him first? And if He wanted to teach that the 10 commandments weren’t necessary to follow, as you imply over and over again, then why did He say that obeying them is how you indeed enter eternal life? It just doesn’t make sense how any Christian who loves Jesus could just ignore what He clearly says?

        In the Catholic Church our catechesis covers the Nicaean Creed, The Ten Commandments, The Sacraments and Prayer (particularly the ‘Lord’s Prayer’). All of these are elements of the Christian faith that are essential to believe, love and put into practice.

        Best to you,

        – Al

        1. Al,

          So, two things.

          First, I don’t accept that you’ve proved, by the fact that Jesus to an entirely different audience lays out a specific subset of commandments, that these are all he has in mind in Matthew 5. Christ says in v. 17 that he is speaking of “the Law and the Prophets.” Would you agree that, to a Jewish reader, that has a very specific meaning: namely, that the Law is the full writings of Moses in the Pentateuch? To say he has in mind only the ten commandments, when he specifically speaks of “the least of these commandments,” seems unjustified.

          Indeed, he makes a much stronger statement: unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. That sets a clear standard, because the Pharisees were most definitely not concerned only with the Ten Commandments. Their righteousness included a slavish devotion to all the law, as they saw it – indeed, a devotion that went beyond the law. Surely “their righteousness” was not merely a matter of obedience to that one set of commands, any more than any Jew would have evaluated his righteousness on those terms.

          I think in the context, Christ’s meaning is very clear: no one had righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees; “gratuitously excessive righteousness” was their shtick, as anyone in that community would have known. Therefore, no one could enter the kingdom on the basis of law.

          (Why, then, have any word about those “practicing and teaching” the commands being great in heaven, if no one qualifies? Well, because the day was coming when many would be judged to have a righteousness surpassing that of the Pharisees: the very righteousness of Christ, the righteousness that is by faith from first to last.)

          But second, I don’t see that you’ve addressed any of the Scripture or questions I brought up: not James 2:10, which says that anyone who violates the law at the least point violates the whole of it, and so that all fail the test Christ sets here; not the impossibility of “law” in Romans being in general only the Pharisaic law; not Christ’s statement that all who come are given by the Father, and all given by the Father will be raised at the last day, in John 6. I’d appreciate some engagement with the argument I’ve made.

          1. Hi Irked,

            You wrote,above:

            “Would you agree that, to a Jewish reader, that has a very specific meaning: namely, that the Law is the full writings of Moses in the Pentateuch? To say he has in mind only the ten commandments, when he specifically speaks of “the least of these commandments,” seems unjustified.”

            No. First of all, it is well known that there were other parties, besides the Pharisee’s in Israel at the time, and mixed in as Jesus’ listeners…such as the members of the Sadducee, Essene and Theraeputae parties which had widely different beliefs regarding the Jewish Law. And, Jesus named the beginning of the 10 Commandments(skipping the first 3 which were obvious to keep) to illustrate, and clarify, exactly what He mean’t. He named them, leaving nothing to speculation such as yours. Here He specifically speaks of the ‘Decalogue’. And if a Christian can’t understand this easy scripture, they certainly won’t be able to understand almost any thing else that Jesus says in the Gospels, especially the parables and Sermon on the Mount, which also teach over and over again about punishment for breaking the Decalogue).

            Now, if you care at all for early Church history, you can find out what the earliest catechism in Christian history, the Didache, teaches on the Decalogue. Read what it says in the first three chapters of it provided below. And note how it stresses to the earliest Christians of about 90AD the necessity of keeping the 10 commandments, and avoiding grave sin. So, both Christ Himself and the Early Church teach the same touch about the Ten Commandments, contrary to core Protestant doctrines:

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

            The Didache

            I.
            1. There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.
            2. The way of life is this:” First, you shalt love the God who made thee, secondly, thy neighbor as thyself; and whatsoever thou wouldst not have done to thyself, do not thou to another.”
            3. Now, the teaching of these words is this: “Bless those that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those that persecute you. For what credit is it to you if you love those that love you? Do not even the heathen do the same?” But, for your part, “love those that hate you,” and you will have no enemy.
            4. “Abstain from carnal” and bodily “lusts.” “If any man smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also,” and thou wilt be perfect. “If any man impress thee to go with him one mile, go with him two. If any man take thy coat, give him thy shirt also. If any man will take from thee what is thine, refuse it not,” not even if thou canst.
            5. Give to everyone that asks thee, and do not refuse, for the Father’s will is that we give to all from the gifts we have received. Blessed is he that gives according to the mandate; for he is innocent; but he who receives it without need shall be tried as to why he took and for what, and being in prison he shall be examined as to his deeds, and “he shall not come out thence until he pay the last farthing.”
            6. But concerning this it was also said, “Let thine alms sweat into thine hands until thou knowest to whom thou art giving.”

            II.
            1. But the second commandment of the teaching is this:
            2. “Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery”; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide; “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods”;
            3. Thou shalt not commit perjury, “thou shall not bear false witness”; thou shalt not speak evil; thou shalt not bear malice.
            4. Thou shalt not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is the snare of death.
            5. Thy speech shall not be false nor vain, but completed in action.
            6. Thou shalt not be covetous nor extortionate, nor a hypocrite, nor malignant, nor proud, thou shalt make no evil plan against thy neighbor.
            7. Thou shalt hate no man; but some thou shalt reprove, and for some shalt thou pray, and some thou shalt love more then thine own life.

            III.
            1. My child, flee from every evil man and from all like him.
            2. Be not proud, for pride leads to murder, nor jealous, nor contentious, nor passionate, for from all these murders are engendered.
            3. My child, be not lustful, for lust leads to fornication, nor a speaker of base words, nor a lifter up of the eyes, for from all these is adultery engendered.
            4. My child, regard not omens, for this leads to idolatry; neither be an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a magician, neither wish to see these things, for from them all is idolatry engendered.
            5. My child, be not a liar, for lying leads to theft, nor a lover of money, nor vain-glorious, for from all these things are thefts engendered.
            6. My child, be not a grumbler, for this leads to blasphemy, nor stubborn, nor a thinker of evil, for from all these are blasphemies engendered.
            7. But be thou “meek, for the meek shall inherit the earth;”
            8. Be thou long-suffering, and merciful and guileless, and quiet, and good, and ever fearing the words which thou hast heard.
            9. Thou shalt not exalt thyself, nor let thy soul be presumptuous. Thy soul shall not consort with the lofty, but thou shalt walk with righteous and humble men.
            10. Receive the accidents that befall to thee as good, knowing that nothing happens without God.

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

            The early Church was clearly Catholic in doctrine, even as St. Ignatius of Antioch also notes and teaches (110 AD.). And the Didache is a good example of this.

            Here are the other chapters, which are filled with the same type of early Catholic teachings, for your review:

            http://www.thedidache.com

          2. Al,

            I asked whether you would agree that, to a Jewish reader, “the Law and the Prophets” has a very specific meaning, and you answered, “No.”

            I don’t see how this is historically viable. Hasn’t Judaism has long defined “the Law of Moses,” the Torat Moshe, as the five books of the Pentateuch – isn’t it true, in fact, this is a naming going back as far as Joshua? Didn’t their contemporary name for those books, “Torah,” translate as “The Law” or “The Teachings?” Isn’t the word used in Matthew here, “ton nomon” or “the law,” the same as the Greek label for these books, the “nomos?” Indeed, when Christ says in Matthew 11:13 that “the Law” (ho nomon) prophesied regarding himself, isn’t it likely that he has in mind parts of the Pentateuch beyond just the Ten Commandments – things like the prophecy in the Garden, or the coming of Melchizedek, or the laying of Isaac on the altar, or the promises made to Judah, or the declaration of “I AM” in the burning bush, or the guarantee that through Abraham’s descendants all men would be blessed? Wouldn’t a contemporary audience have understood that all of these were part of “The Law,” in that threefold division of the Hebrew Scriptures that was preserved around this time as TaNaKh: Law, prophets, and writings?

            Here’s Wikipedia, on the standard contemporary use of “The Law,” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Moses), but there are half-a-dozen more scholarly quotations in its sources. What reputable scholars restrict the term in the way you do?

            And, Jesus named the beginning of the 10 Commandments(skipping the first 3 which were obvious to keep) to illustrate, and clarify, exactly what He mean’t.

            He referenced a few of the Ten specifically in a totally different passage, in reference to a user who wanted to know which of the commandments, specifically, Christ had in mind at that time! To infer that these were all he ever had in mind, or that his audience would have recognized that fact, is simply implausible. Has Rome dogmatically defined the meaning of this passage, or is this simply a matter of your personal interpretation?

            Have you no answer for any of the passages I’ve brought up, in James or John or Romans? I’ve asked after them several times now – I believe this will be the third.

          3. I answered “No”, because the different groups understood the Torah differently. Here are the differences of understanding between the Sadducees and Pharisees:

            The Sadducees rejected the Oral Law as proposed by the Pharisees.

            According to Josephus, the Sadducees believed that:

            There is no fate
            God does not commit evil
            Man has free will; “man has the free choice of good or evil”
            The soul is not immortal; there is no afterlife, and
            There are no rewards or penalties after death
            The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection of the dead, but believed in the traditional Jewish concept of Sheol for those who had died.

            Disputes with the Pharisees

            According to the Pharisees, spilt water becomes impure through its pouring. Sadducees deny that this is sufficient grounds for Tumah (impurity). Many Sadducee-Pharisee disputes revolve around issues of Tumah and purity. Some scholars who
            suggest that the emphasis on purity is characteristic of priestly groups, who often utilized their perceptions of “holiness” and “unholiness” to enforce their power.
            According to Jewish law, daughters inherit when there are no sons; otherwise, the sons inherit. The Pharisees posit that if a deceased son left only one daughter, then she shares the inheritance with the sons of her grandfather.

            The Sadducees suggest that it is impossible for the granddaughter to have a more favorable relationship to her grandfather than his own daughter does, and thus reject this ruling. This ruling is a testament to the Sadducaic emphasis on patriarchal descent.

            The Sadducees demand that the master pay for damages caused by his slave. The Pharisees impose no such obligation, as the slave may intentionally cause damage in order to see the liability for it brought on his master.

            The Pharisees posit that false witnesses are executed if the verdict is pronounced on the basis of their testimony—even if not yet actually carried out. The Sadducees argue that false witnesses are executed only if the death penalty has already been committed on the falsely accused.

            The Sadducees do not believe in resurrection, whereas the Pharisees did. In Acts, Paul chooses this point of division to gain the protection of the Pharisees.

            The Sadducees also rejected the notion of spirits or angels, whereas the Pharisees acknowledged them.

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

            But, Jesus also teaches His own Gospel teachings on the Torah, which are obviously the most important to study. Just a few examples:

            You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. [28] But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. [29] And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. [30] And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. [31] And it hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce. [32] But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery. (Matt. 5:26)

            Do you not think that adultery, one of the Ten Commandments, is considered a great sin here, spoken out of the mouth of Jesus? How could you miss such an explicit statement of the Lord on this very obvious ‘law’ of the Torah?

          4. Quotes on the Sadducees and Pharisees, above, are from Wikipedia under ‘Sadducees’.

          5. Al,

            Everything you’re citing there are cases where the Sadducees rejected the mishnah, the oral tradition of the Pharisees – not the written Law. As the Wikipedia article notes, both groups – basically all Judaism, for that matter – accepted the Torah, the five books of Moses, as the canonical Law.

            Setting aside our doctrinal differences, this is basically a historical matter: scholastically speaking, there’s not a lot of controversy as to what “the Law” meant to a first century Jewish audience, and it isn’t just the Ten Commandments.

            Do you not think that adultery, one of the Ten Commandments, is considered a great sin here, spoken out of the mouth of Jesus? How could you miss such an explicit statement of the Lord on this very obvious ‘law’ of the Torah?

            I do not understand your point here – but, to be honest, I’m disinclined to answer yet another accusation until you address the points from John, James, and Romans. This will be my fourth time drawing them to your attention.

          6. It’s OK Irked. As a Christian, my Teacher in Chief is Jesus Christ, all other scriptures are secondary to His simple words, teachings and stories. When Jesus warns his followers to mortify their eyes lest they look lustfully on a women…and thereby commit adultery with her in His heart, I listen. And He gives this warning because He knows that even as He was tempted by Satan to sin against the Father, so too Satan will tempt Hi followers as well, and some of them will fall. This is why HE says to ‘pluck out the right eye’…because He knows that it is a less punishment than hell fire, should his disciples succumb to Satans seductions (Even as Adam and Eve).

            And this is also why Jesus taught us to pray the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ frequently, and ask God to deliver us from temptation…because without prayer it is bound to come via the saying of Christ: ‘Pray always that you enter not into temptation’.

            So, your idea that once a man accepts Christ his salvation is assured, is contradicted by these most valuable teachings of Christ….for why would anyone pull out his own eye if he was guaranteed salvations, and so it wouldn’t make a differenced for him whether hid did or not. So, a person who follows your implied doctrines would make Jesus’ teaching a ridiculous proposition.

            Again, this is just another example of how Protestant ideology contradicts Jesus’ simple to understand teachings, without needing to do psychoanalysis on the Lord to insinuate how His audience was to understand Him. I’m not worried about this, I’m more worried about not listening to the words of Christ carefully, and then following them the the extent of my ability, for He himself says: “If any man keep my word, He shall not see death forever”.

            And, by the way, I’m sure St. Paul, and St. James and every other Saint in the history of Christianity is on my side in this. I have read so many biographies of them through the years that I know well how they think, love, pray, and worship. I also know very many living saints, some in monasteries, some priests in religious orders and some saintly lay folk also. So, I am accustom to how they think and pray, and am confident that to put the Gospel first and all other things second is the way to go. You seem to divert away from the Gospel, and words of Christ, at every opportunity, so we are different in this respect.

            Anyway, I’ll conclude my participation in this thread with that statement… with one last proclamation to both you and anyone else still lingering here: Love Jesus, Follow Jesus, Treasure the Words of Jesus, Hope in Jesus….and…

            May God Our Father bless and enlighten each one of us, deliver us from temptation and the wiles of Satan, and help us to do His will in everything, and at every moment of our lives, now and forever. Amen.

          7. And, by the way, I’m sure St. Paul, and St. James and every other Saint in the history of Christianity is on my side in this…. You seem to divert away from the Gospel, and words of Christ, at every opportunity, so we are different in this respect.

            I mean… well, so:

            I cited Paul; you didn’t like that. I cited Christ; you didn’t acknowledge that. I cited James. I cited the author of Hebrews.

            Your charges here are simply, factually untrue. Why, when I can so easily verify their falsity – when anyone can look back at what I’ve said and see, “Yep, there’s Irked citing the words of Christ as one of the core reasons for his belief” – why should I take your argument on anything harder to prove? If your only offered proof is, “I know Paul, and he agrees with me” – why should I accept that as any more true?

            By all means, let us treasure the words of Jesus – all of them! But the words of Jesus include John 5, and despite repeated requests, we have heard nothing – zip! zero! nada! – that would read these words in any way except that salvation is a permanent gift.

          8. Hi Irked, I think you mean Matthew 5?

            You stress: “we have heard nothing – zip! zero! nada! – that would read these words in any way except that salvation is a permanent gift.”

            This below is a major part of Matt:5…. and almost EVERYTHING taught here by Jesus says our salvation is in great danger if we commit mortal sins such as ‘adultery’, excessive anger, murder, etc… Moreover, He says Himself “do not think that I am come to destroy the law”…yet this is what you are implying above when you write “salvation is a permanent gift.” Jesus make the law stricter actually when He says: “You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. [28] But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

            Read the whole thing here:

            “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. [17] Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. [18] For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. [19] He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.[21] You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. [22] But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. [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. [25] Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. [26] Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing. [27] You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. [28] But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. [29] And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. [30] And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.”

            *****

            Without getting into any other scriptures, because they’re not needed, how can you possibly understand these teachings as implying ‘in doing these things that Jesus strenuously (“Amen, amen”) warns us not to do… is NOT sinful unto damnation’?

            Jesus says it very clearly in the very last verse above:

            “And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be CAST INTO HELL.”

            Can you just explain your position on this? In plain words? And in context of all the verses above? It’s really quite a short passage, and not so complex.

          9. Al,

            Just wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t leaving you hanging – I wrote a reply here, which still seems to be waiting for approval before it posts. (It had a couple links, which is probably the problem.)

          10. Okay, since that went through, let me try reposting without links:

            Hi Irked,

            Hi Al.

            I think you mean Matthew 5?

            Heh. So, no, I don’t, but I also don’t mean John 5 – apologies for the mistake. I mean John 6, the passage I originally cited to you as one of the reasons for my position here: [link omitted, #comment-35832].

            And which I again challenged you to interpret here: [link omitted, #comment-35859]

            And here: [link omitted, #comment-35881]

            And here: [link omitted, #comment-35893]

            Without getting into any other scriptures, because they’re not needed, how can you possibly understand these teachings as implying ‘in doing these things that Jesus strenuously (“Amen, amen”) warns us not to do… is NOT sinful unto damnation’?

            Of course it’s sinful unto damnation. All sin is sinful unto damnation; therefore all stand condemned and have no hope of righteousness within the confines of the law. That’s precisely my point.

            Who has not hated? Who has not lusted? Who of us murdering adulterers, then, can ever hope to enter heaven?

            But praise God, who has put all my damnable deeds onto Christ. Our sins and lawless acts He will remember no more – and where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

            Can you just explain your position on this? In plain words? And in context of all the verses above? It’s really quite a short passage, and not so complex.

            Sure. Christ’s warning is straightforward: the requirements of obedience are harsher by far than the Jews had realized. God is not concerned merely with outward obedience; the Lord looks at the heart, and the heart is utterly wicked. All those who relied on their righteousness, from the lowliest tax collector to the proudest Pharisee – none of them lived up to the standard.

            Did they think they were righteous because they had not actually killed or adulterated themselves? Because they offered a few sheep? No; better they should mutilate themselves than risk the failure of their flesh. The law was too steep a hill to climb. By no means was there some tiny subset of “mortal” sins in the Decalogue; no, to be sure, things they had always thought were acceptable were also mortal. Even the least commandment was mortal!

            What standard was there, then? “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” That was the righteousness required.

            How unreasonable. How impossible.

            This is a sincere teaching! It is a call to obedience that persists for us as Christians today; to claim Christ as Lord is to bow your head to this standard, to swear to claim it as your own, to honor it rather than your own desires. It’s an oath that, wretches that we are, we will fail to honor again and again.

            But the Sermon on the Mount isn’t the end of the story. For in claiming Christ – in coming to him – we are “no longer under law, but under grace.” Is perfection is the standard? Then “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever” we who are being made holy. Of all who come – all given by the Father – Christ shall lose none, but shall raise them (shall raise us) up at the last day.

            That’s Matthew 5: the standard that makes us cry, “Grace alone, by faith alone” – for against such a standard, what other hope could we have?

            Does that satisfy your request? Will you, at last, answer any of the passages I’ve asked of you?

          11. Hi Irked,

            Your commentary on Matthew 5 does not satisfy me, sorry.

            The 10 Commandments ARE capable of being kept, it was the 600 + Pharisaical laws that Jesus was against, and probably not even all of them as early Christian literature and history would confirm. And in the early Church such as in the Didache and Apostolic Constitutions, which I gave links to, it is clearly evident that the 10 Commandments were to be followed, as they are clearly referred to. Moreover, this is why there is a need for confessing sins if we indeed DO commit adultery, or DO steal from someone, or Do murder someone, etc…

            Your reading is highly influenced by Protestant doctrine, but for the 1500 years before Protestantism, keeping the Ten Commandments was just a norm Christian discipline. Nobody even thought of it in your way, it would have been absurd, and definitely NOT apostolic. (i.e.. ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic, etc..)

            Why do we pray the Lord’s Prayer, and ask that the Father forgive us our trespasses, under your concept? Moreover, smaller sins do NOT need to be confessed. They can be forgive by God when we ask Him for forgiveness, such as when we pray the ‘Our Father’ prayer. But you insinuate that we are ALREADY FORGIVEN…so why ask God to forgive us?? And Jeus even adds an element to this, saying ” If you do not forgive others, your Heavenly Father will NOT forgive you”. Do you not believe this? Is it too hard to understand? Your teaching just doesn’t make common sense regarding Jesus’ teachings! You would have people believe that if you do not forgive sins, God WILL forgive yours, due to the holy sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. But Jesus says differently, plain and simply, and often reinforces his words with “Amen, Amen, I say unto you”. These also have significance, that Jesus means to be understood exactly as He is teaching. Those who don’t understand, don’t ‘have ears to hear and eyes to see’.

            So, I really think you should consider all of this with fresh eyes, and consider all of the early Church Fathers also, on their references to the commandments. Because your reading is very rare, and needs philosophy and theological gymnastics to teach others…lacking the simplicity that Jesus intended when he said: “unless you become as little children you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

            If I took the Matthew 5 verses and gave it to mere 9 year old children, they would naturally be able to understand what Jesus is saying. I know this, because on a weekly basis I go to Mass with about 40+ of these young students and the priest questions them on many topics. So, Jesus can be read simply, and then people should take Him at His word when teaches and He warns. Then we only need to try to follow his words and love Him to the best of our ability, and hope He includes us on the side of the ‘sheep’, and not the ‘goats’, on the Last Day. It is THEN that judgement will be made, and not by ourselves, thinking that we are “onced saved always saved” wherein we presume to become the judge on our own justification. Rather, we should heed Jesus’ warnings and try to enter by the narrow gate, with faith, hope, love and humility before God and man.

            Best to you.

          12. Al,

            There is no refutation of my interpretation of Matthew 5 here, nor even an acknowledgement of my questions regarding John 6, nor my questions regarding the use of “the law” in Romans. Respectfully, I’ve answered pretty nearly every verse you have asked of me to this point, and you have not returned that courtesy. I am not willing to move on to other questions until you engage my arguments on these passages.

            Your reading is highly influenced by Protestant doctrine, but for the 1500 years before Protestantism, keeping the Ten Commandments was just a norm Christian discipline. Nobody even thought of it in your way, it would have been absurd

            I imagine the Jews being told that “hate” was equivalent to “murder,” and that “lust” was equivalent to “adultery,” would have said much the same thing. But these are Christ’s words, not mine, and they’re a fair bit older than 1517.

          13. Following up on that thought, let me go through Matthew 5 in a little more detail. If there’s a problem in my explanation, it should be possible to identify exactly what I say that’s inconsistent with what Christ says in this passage.

            So we have here one of the first major teaching passages of Christ in Matthew’s gospel. Verses 1-12 cover the beatitudes, which are not our primary focus here – but this is, effectively, the “good news” part of the sermon. Starting in verse 13, we move from blessings to commands.

            Verses 13-16 open by commanding obedience – the sort of obedience that is radically visible to everyone, that seasons the whole world like salt, or is visible like a city on a hill.

            I think it’s worth pausing to note here that obedience is commanded, and that’s not a thing that varies between our denominations. We disagree as to what the consequences for disobedience are for Christians – but no one is saying, as Paul was falsely accused of, that we should “sin more, that grace may increase.” To say that our salvation is not according to the law is not to claim antinomianism; the claiming of Christ as Lord is, in part, a pledge of obedience. A man who says, “Yeah, I disobey God, and I don’t care, and I’m never going to care,” is not a man who has claimed Christ as Lord.

            But continuing: so 13-16 commands a radical obedience. Verse 17 anticipates some charges: no, Christ isn’t doing away with the Law and the Prophets, as his enemies might claim. Any first-century Jew would have understood what that meant; in the historical record, these are standard ways that the Jews referred to large portions of what we now call the Old Testament. “The Law” was the five books of Moses; “The Prophets” were our major and minor prophets, which at the time were grouped into only a few books. That left a mix of books in the middle – Kings, Chronicles, Esther, etc. – which were collectively called “The Writings.” This threefold division of the Jewish canon – Law, Prophets, Writings – was formalized around this time as the acronym “TaNaKh.”

            This much is all pretty standard scholarship; you can find summaries of it in Wikipedia, or in the sources it links, or etc. So far, no one has offered any concrete evidence against this understanding; the closest we’ve come is Al’s note above that the Sadducees rejected the oral rules of the Pharisees. But nobody rejected the Law, the Torah; that was the bedrock of what it was to be religiously Jewish, the foundation of their special covenant with God.

            So verse 17 says that the Torah is sticking around: fulfilled, yes, which changes some of the specific applications, but by no means removed. Verse 20 gives us a very specific condition: only those more righteous than the Pharisees – whose whole deal was righteousness! – could enter heaven.

            Verse 21 goes on to give us a sense of what this “more righteous” thing looks like, and it does so by contextualizing the Torah in a way that Jewish legalism at the time did not. The Pharisees had a list of rules to follow, in order to be righteous; they built behavioral hedges around what the Law actually said. “Don’t work on the Sabbath” became “Don’t travel more than a fixed distance from your house on the Sabbath, and don’t do anything that resembles the labors of the temple on the Sabbath, and…” and so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-dooby.

            But all these rules they built were externals: do this thing, and you’ll be righteous. Follow this checklist of behaviors, and you’re good. Christ calls the people to a righteousness that exceeds a “do this stuff” list, because his checklist is internal. Don’t murder? Yes, that’s sticking around – but actually, rage is a murder in the heart, and it makes you just as guilty (v. 22). Don’t commit adultery? Okay, maybe you can obey that one in its literal behavioral sense – but in the eye of God, sins in the mind will condemn you just as surely (v. 27). It’s not enough to purify your outward behavior; you need pure hearts, as well. Verse 28 is pretty straightforward: “Better to be blind than to lust at what you see, because blindness is only a partial destruction – lust will send you to hell.”

            Verses 31-32 continue this tightening of the law: your divorces are unjustified, because your motives are impure. Your oaths (v. 33-37) are impure, because you aren’t talking in a way that makes your every word trustworthy. Your justice (v. 38-42) is impure, because you’re acting out of vengeance rather than sacrificial love.

            Can we pause here and note a couple of things, in the context of our current discussion? First: Christ, in his discussion of the law, doesn’t draw only from the Ten Commandments. Some of his citations come from there, sure, but the divorce quote and the “eye for an eye” are from elsewhere in the Torah; he clearly has the whole law in mind when he’s speaking.

            Second, can we say without controversy that, by the standard laid out here, no one keeps the law? That the point he’s making is that no one has this kind of righteousness? Because the list started with “Don’t hate your neighbor, or you’ve broken the law,” and it’s only getting worse from there. Now we’re into “Love your enemy,” and that absurd, impossible capstone: be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. That’s the continuation of the thought that started back in verse 13 or so – this running expansion of the absolutely pure heart needed to really keep the law.

            So that’s my detailed treatment of Matthew 5. If there’s a verse mishandled by this treatment, by all means, show me! But I don’t think there’s anything in this read in conflict with the points I’ve already made – and if there’s no conflict here, I’d direct us back to John 6, to Hebrews 10, and, yes, to Romans, to answer the questions I’ve asked there.

  13. Hi Irked,

    I think if you understand better the ‘Judaizer’ controversy (and the 1st Council of Jerusalem) better, you will understand how the early Church understood the place of the ‘Decalogue’ in the Christian Faith. I am including a great article on the subject which can inform you, and anyone else interested, of the many details necessary for an adequate understanding:

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

    The Judaizers

    (From Greek Ioudaizo, to adopt Jewish customs — Esther 8:17; Galatians 2:14).

    A party of Jewish Christians in the Early Church, who either held that circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law were necessary for salvation and in consequence wished to impose them on the Gentile converts, or who at least considered them as still obligatory on the Jewish Christians. Although the Apostles had received the command to announce the Gospel to all the nations, they and their associates addressed themselves at first only to Jews, converts to Judaism, and Samaritans, that is to those who were circumcised and observed the law of Moses. The converts, and the Apostles with them, continued to conform to Jewish customs: they observed the distinction between legally clean and unclean food, refused to eat with Gentiles or to enter their houses, etc. (Acts 10:14, 28; 11:3). At Jerusalem they frequented the Temple and took part in Jewish religious life as of old (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 21:20-26), so that, judged from external appearances, they seemed to be merely a new Jewish sect distinguished by the union and charity existing among its members. The Mosaic ceremonial law was not to be permanent indeed, but the time had not yet come for abolishing its observance. The intense attachment which the Jews had for it, amounting to fanaticism in the case of the Pharisees, would have forbidden such a step, had the Apostles contemplated it, as it would have been tantamount to shutting the door of the Church to the Jews.
    But sooner or later the Gospel was also to reach the Gentiles, and then the delicate question must immediately arise: What was their position with respect to the Law? Were they bound to observe it? And if not, what conduct should the Jews hold towards them? Should the Jews waive such points of the Law as were a barrier to free relations between Jew and Gentile? To the mind of most Palestinian Jews, and especially of the zealots, only two solutions would present themselves as possible. Either the Gentile converts must accept the Law, or its provisions must be enforced against them as against the other uncircumcised. But national sentiment, as well as love for the Law, would impel them to prefer the first. And yet neither solution was admissible, if the Church was to embrace all nations and not remain a national institution. The Gentiles would never have accepted circumcision with the heavy yoke of Mosaism, nor would they have consented to occupy an inferior position with regard to the Jews, as they necessarily must, if these regarded them as unclean and declined to eat with them or even to enter their houses. Under such conditions it was easy to foresee that the admission of the Gentiles must provoke a crisis, which would clear the situation. When the brethren at Jerusalem, among whom probably were already converts of the sect of the Pharisees, learned that Peter had admitted Cornelius and his household to baptism without subjecting them to circumcision, they loudly expostulated with him (Acts 11:1-3). The cause assigned for their complaints is that he “had gone in to men uncircumcised and had eaten with them”, but the underlying reason was that he had dispensed with circumcision. However, as the case was an exceptional one, where the will of God was manifested be miraculous circumstances, Peter found little difficulty in quieting the dissatisfaction (Acts 11:4-18). But new conversions soon gave rise to far more serious trouble, which for a time threatened to produce a schism in the Church.

    Council of Jerusalem (A.D. 50 or 51)

    The persecution that broke out at the time of St. Stephen’s martyrdom providentially hastened the hour when the Gospel was to be preached also to the Gentiles. Some natives of Cyprus and Cyrene, driven from Jerusalem by the persecution, went to Antioch, and there began to preach not only to the Jews, but also to the Greeks. Their action was probably prompted by the example set by Peter at Caesarea, which their more liberal views as Hellenists would naturally dispose them to follow. With the help of Barnabas, whom the Apostles sent on hearing that a great number of Gentiles were converted to the Lord at Antioch, and of the former persecutor Saul, a flourishing church, largely Gentile, was established there (Acts 11:20 sqq.). Soon after (between A.D. 45-49) Saul, now called Paul, and Barnabas founded the South Galatian churches of Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Perge, thus increasing the Gentile converts (Acts 13:13-14:24). Seeing the Gentile element growing so large and threatening the outnumber the Jewish, the zealots of the Law took alarm. Both their national pride and their religious sentiment were shocked. They welcomed the accession of the Gentiles, but the Jewish complexion of the Church must be maintained, the Law and the Gospel must go hand in hand, and the new converts must be Jews as well as Christians. Some went down to Antioch and preached to the Gentile Christians that unless they received circumcision, which as a matter of course would carry with it the observance of the other Mosaic prescriptions, they could not be saved (Acts 15:1). As these men appealed to the authority of the Apostles in support of their views, a delegation, including Paul, Barnabas, and Titus, was sent to Jerusalem to lay the matter before the Apostles, that their decision might set at rest the disquieted minds of the Christians at Antioch (Acts 15:2).
    In a private interview which Paul had with Peter, James (the brother of the Lord), and John, the Apostles then present at Jerusalem, they approved his teaching and recognized his special mission to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:1-9). But to still the clamours of the converts from Pharisaism who demanded that the Gentile converts “must be circumcised and be commanded to observe the Law of Moses”, the matter was discussed in a public meeting. Peter arose and after recalling how Cornelius and his household, though uncircumcised, had received the Holy Ghost as well as they themselves, declared that as salvation is by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the yoke of the Law, which even the Jews found exceedingly heavy, should not be imposed on the Gentile converts. James after him voiced the same sentiment, but asked that the Gentiles should observe these four points, namely “that they refrain themselves from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood”. His suggestion was adopted and, with slight change in the wording, incorporated in the decree which “the apostles and ancients, with the whole church” sent to the churches of Syria and Cilicia through two delegates, Judas and Silas, who were to accompany Paul and Barnabas on their return. “Forasmuch as we have heard,” so ran the decree, “that some going out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls: to whom we gave no commandment;. . .it hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay no further burden upon you than these necessary things: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication [by which marriages within certain degrees of kindred are probably meant]; from which things keeping yourselves you shall do well” (Acts 15:5-29). These four prohibitions were imposed for the sake of charity and union. As they forbade practices which were held in special abhorrence by all the Jews, their observance was necessary to avoid shocking the Jewish brethren and to make free intercourse between the two classes of Christians possible. This is the drift of the somewhat obscure reason which St. James adduced in favour of his proposition: “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him in the synagogues, where he is read every sabbath.” The four things forbidden are severely prohibited in Lev., xvii, xviii, not only to the Israelites, but also to the Gentiles living among them. Hence the Jewish Christians, who heard these injunctions read in the synagogues, would be scandalized if they were not observed by their Gentile brethren. By the decree of the Apostles the cause of Christian liberty was won against the narrow Judaizers, and the way smoothed for the conversion of the nations. The victory was emphasized by St. Paul’s refusal to allow Titus to be circumcised even as a pure concession to the extremists (Galatians 2:2-5).

    The incident at Antioch

    The decision of Jerusalem regarded the Gentiles alone, since the only question before the council was whether circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law were to be imposed on the Gentiles. Nothing was decided with regard to the observance of the Law by the Jews. Still even they were implicitly and in principle freed from its obligations. For, if the legal observances were not necessary for salvation, the Jew was no more bound by them than the Gentile. Nor was anything explicitly decided as to the relations which were to subsist between the Jews and the Gentiles. Such a decision was not demanded by the circumstances, since at Antioch the two classes lived together in harmony before the arrival of the mischief-makers. The Jews of the Dispersion were less particular than those of Palestine, and very likely some arrangement had been reached by which the Jewish Christians could without scruple eat with their Gentile brethren at the agape. However, the promulgation of the four prohibitions, which were intended to facilitate relations, implied that Jew and Gentile could freely meet. Hence when Peter came to Antioch shortly after the council, he, no less than Paul and Barnabas and the others, “did eat with the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:12). But the absence of any explicit declaration gave the Judaizers an opportunity to begin a new agitation, which, if successful, would have rendered the decree of Jerusalem nugatory. Foiled in their first attempt, they now insisted that the law of not eating with the Gentiles be strictly observed by all Jews. They very likely expected to reach by indirect methods, what they could not obtain directly. Some zealots came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Nothing warrants the assertion that they were sent by St. James to oppose St. Paul, or to enforce the separation of the Jewish from the Gentile Christians, much less to promulgate a modification of the decree of Jerusalem. If they were sent by St. James — pro tou elthein tinas apo Iakobou — probably means simply that they were of James’s entourage — they came on some other commission.
    On their arrival Peter, who up to this had eaten with the Gentiles, “withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision”, and by his example drew with him not only the other Jews, but even Barnabas, Paul’s fellow-labourer. Foreseeing the consequences of such conduct, Paul publicly rebuked him, because he “walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel”. “If thou being a Jew,” he said to him, “livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as the Jews do, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” This incident has been made much of by Baur and his school as showing the existence of two primitive forms of Christianity, Petrinism and Paulinism, at war with each other. But anyone, who will look at the facts without preconceived theory, must see that between Peter and Paul there was no difference in principles, but merely a difference as to the practical conduct to be followed under the circumstances. “Conversationis fuit vitium non praedicationis”, as Tertullian happily expresses it. That Peter’s principles were the same as those of Paul, is shown by his conduct at the time of Cornelius’s conversion, by the position he took at the council of Jerusalem, and by his manner of living prior to the arrival of the Judaizers. Paul, on the other hand, not only did not object to the observance of the Mosaic Law, as long as it did not interfere with the liberty of the Gentiles, but he conformed to its prescriptions when occasion required (1 Corinthians 9:20). Thus he shortly after circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:1-3), and he was in the very act of observing the Mosaic ritual when he was arrested at Jerusalem (Acts 21:26 sqq.). The difference between them was that Peter, recently come from Jerusalem, thought only of not wounding the susceptibility of the zealots there, and was thus betrayed into a course of action apparently at variance with his own teaching and calculated to promote the designs the Judaizers; whereas Paul, not preoccupied with such a consideration and with more experience among the Gentiles, took a broader and truer view of the matter. He saw that Peter’s example would promote the movement to avoid close relations with the Gentiles, which was only an indirect way of forcing Jewish customs upon them. He saw, too, that if such a policy were pursued, the hope of converting the Gentiles must be abandoned. Hence his bold and energetic action. St. Paul’s account of the incident leaves no doubt that St. Peter saw the justice of the rebuke. (In the above account Galatians 2:1-10, is with the large majority of commentators taken to refer to the Council of Jerusalem, and the incident at Antioch is consequently placed after the council. Some few interpreters, however, refer Galatians 2:1-10, to the time of St. Paul’s journey mentioned in Acts 11:28-30 [A.D. 44], and place the dispute at Antioch before the council.)

    The Judaizers in other churches

    After the foregoing events the Judaizers could do little mischief in Syria. But they could carry their agitation to the distant churches founded by St. Paul, where the facts were less well known; and this they attempted to do. The two Epistles to the Corinthians give good reason to believe that they were at work at Corinth. The party or rather faction of Cephas (1 Corinthians 1:12) very probably consisted of Judaizers. They do not seem, however, to have gone beyond belittling St. Paul’s authority and person, and sowing distrust towards him (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:5-12; 12:11-12; 1:17-20; 10:10-13). For while he has much to say in his own defence, he does not attack the views of the Judaizers, as he would certainly have done had they been openly preached. His two letters and his subsequent visit to Corinth put an end to the party’s machinations. In the meantime (supposing Galatians to have been written soon after 1 and 2 Corinthians as it very probably was) Judaizing emissaries had penetrated into the Galatian churches, whether North or South Galatian matters little here (see EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS), and by their skillful maneuvers had almost succeeded in persuading the Galatians, or at any rate many of them, into accepting circumcision. As at Corinth they attacked St. Paul’s authority and person. He was only a secondary Apostle, subordinate to the Twelve, from whom he had received his instruction in the Faith and from whom he held his mission. To his teaching they opposed the practice and teaching of the pillars of the Church, of those who had conversed with the Lord (Galatians 2:2 sqq.). He was a time-server, changing his teaching and conduct according to circumstances with the view of ingratiating himself with men (Galatians 1:10; 5:11). They argued that circumcision had been instituted as a sign of an eternal alliance between God and Israel: if the Galatians then wished to have a share in this alliance, with its blessings, if they wished to be in the full sense of the term Christians, they must accept circumcision (Galatians 3:3 sq.; 5:2). They did not however insist, it would seem, in the observance of the whole Law (v, 3).
    On hearing the news of the threatened defection of the churches which he had founded at such cost to himself, St. Paul hastily indited the vigorous Epistle to the Galatians, in which he meets the accusations and arguments of his opponents step by step, and uses all his powers of persuasion to induce his neophytes to stand fast and not to be held again under the yoke of bondage. The letter, as far as we know, produced the desired effect. In spite of its resemblance to the Epistle to the Galatians, the Epistle to the Romans is not, as has been asserted, a polemical writing directed against the Judaizing party at Rome. The whole tone of the Epistle shows this (cf. in particular i, 5-8, 11-12; xv, 14; xvi, 19). If he refers to the Jewish Christians of Rome, it is only to exhort the Gentiles to bear with these weak brethren and to avoid whatever might scandalize them (xiv, 1-23). He would not have shown such forbearance towards the Judaizers, nor spoken of them in such gentle tones. His purpose in treating of the uselessness of circumcision and legal observances was to forewarn and forearm the Romans against the Judaizing disturbers, should they reach the capital, as he had reason to fear (Romans 16:17-18). After their attempt in Galatia, St. Paul’s opponents seem to have relaxed their activity, for in his later letters he rarely alludes to them. In the Epistle to the Philippians he warns against them in very severe terms: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil-workers, beware of the concision” (Philippians 3:2). They do not seem, however, to have been active in that church at the time. Beyond this only two allusions are found — one in 1 Timothy 1:6-7: “From which things some going astray, are turned aside unto vain babbling: desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither the things they say, nor whereof they affirm”; the other in Titus 3:9: “Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law. For they are unprofitable things and vain.”

    Final history

    With the disappearance of the Jewish-Christian community of Jerusalem at the time of the rebellion (A.D. 67-70), the question about circumcision and the observance of the Law ceased to be of any importance in the Church, and soon became a dead issue. At the beginning of the second century St. Ignatius of Antioch, it is true, still warns against Judaizers (Magnes., x, 3; viii, 1; Philad., vi, 1), but the danger was probably more a memory than a reality. During the rebellion the mass of the Jewish Christians of Palestine retired beyond the Jordan, where they gradually lost touch with the Gentiles and in the course of time split up into several sects. St. Justin (about 140) distinguishes two kinds of Jewish Christians: those who observe the Law of Moses, but do not require its observance of others — with these he would hold communion, though in this all his contemporaries did not agree with him — and those who believe the Mosaic Law to be obligatory on all, whom he considers heretics (Dialogue with Trypho 47). If Justin is describing the Jewish Christians of his day, as he appears to do, they had changed little since Apostolic times. The accounts of later Fathers show them divided into three main sects: (a) the Nazarenes, who, while observing the Mosaic Law, seem to have been orthodox. They admitted the Divinity of Christ and the virginal birth; (b) the Ebionites, who denied the Divinity of Christ and virginal birth, and considered St. Paul as an apostate. It should be noted, however, that though the Fathers restrict the name Ebionite to the heretical Jewish Christians, the name was common to all; (c) an offshoot of the last infected with Gnosticism (cf. art. EBIONITES). After the middle of the fifth century the Jewish Christians disappear from history.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

  14. Hi Irked,

    If you still believe that the Early Christian Church believed that the Decalogue was not important to follow, then you aren’t as familiar with the ‘Judaizers’ as you think you are. Moreover, you either didn’t read, or didn’t believe, the history cited in the article above. Read again this quote regarding St. Justin Martyr:

    “St. Justin (about 140) distinguishes two kinds of Jewish Christians: those who observe the Law of Moses, but do not require its observance of others — with these he would hold communion, though in this all his contemporaries did not agree with him — and those who believe the Mosaic Law to be obligatory on all, whom he considers heretics (Dialogue with Trypho 47). If Justin is describing the Jewish Christians of his day, as he appears to do, they had changed little since Apostolic times.”

    That the early Church allowed such beliefs to remain in the Church, destroys your argument that Early Christianity taught a ‘once saved always saved’ theology wherein the UNREPENTANT breaking of the commandments would not cause a Christian to lose his salvation. This is just not how early Christianity taught and spread the faith in the early centuries.

    And apparently, you have no respect for the Didache either… as a historical reference for early Christianity. I quoted in full it’s citations referring to the 10 Commandments, above, which you seemed to have ignored. This is one of the first catechisms in Christian history and details the necessity of following the commandments to attain salvation. Here’s a reminder of what it taught regarding the commandments being kept:

    “II.
    1. But the second commandment of the teaching is this:
    2. “Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery”; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide; “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods”;
    3. Thou shalt not commit perjury, “thou shall not bear false witness”; thou shalt not speak evil; thou shalt not bear malice.
    4. Thou shalt not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is the snare of death.
    5. Thy speech shall not be false nor vain, but completed in action.
    6. Thou shalt not be covetous nor extortionate, nor a hypocrite, nor malignant, nor proud, thou shalt make no evil plan against thy neighbor.
    7. Thou shalt hate no man; but some thou shalt reprove, and for some shalt thou pray, and some thou shalt love more then thine own life.”

    Now, continuing our conversation about Matt: 5, above, Jesus reiterates what the Didache (and the Apostolic Constitutions, also) teaches regarding the Commandments.

    But you state in your comment, above:

    “Second, can we say without controversy that, by the standard laid out here, no one keeps the law? That the point he’s making is that no one has this kind of righteousness? Because the list started with “Don’t hate your neighbor, or you’ve broken the law,” and it’s only getting worse from there. Now we’re into “Love your enemy,” and that absurd, impossible capstone: be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. That’s the continuation of the thought that started back in verse 13 or so – this running expansion of the absolutely pure heart needed to really keep the law.”

    So you are really saying that NOBODY can keep the 10 Commandments, and therefore you make the authors of the Didache, and also the early Christian Church at Jerusalem, and other places that St. Justin cites, as heretics or ignoramuses for teaching these things. Christian history just isn’t on your side Irked, the 10 commandments were a pillar of Christian Catechesis for the entirety of the Church’s existence of 2017 years now. But you insinuate that nobody can keep them.

    What you need to understand is that, yes, a person CAN refrain from committing adultery. And he CAN refrain from murdering someone. And he CAN refrain from coveting his neighbors possessions, or wife. And He DOESN’T need to steal, And he CAN indeed honor his mother and father.

    So your assumptions regarding the commandments are terrible in that you that people cannot keep them…. when clearly they can. And if indeed a person is tempted and breaks them, they can then confess their sins and do penance for it, even as St. John the baptist taught….”Repent” and “Do Penance”.

    Moreover, Regarding Matt: 5, your exegesis is greatly lacking, above. You need to be mindful, that Matt. 5 has additional info. that corresponds to it in Matt:19 regarding keeping the commandments, for example:

    “But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith to him: All these I have kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me? Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me.”

    And the same story is repeated again in Mark 10:19: “Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, bear not false witness, do no fraud, honour thy father and mother. But he answering, said to him: Master, all these things I have observed from my youth.
    And Jesus looking on him, loved him, and said to him: One thing is wanting unto thee: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. Who being struck sad at that saying, went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”

    Irked, note above how after the man said that he had ‘observed all these things from his youth,Jesus looking on him “loved him”. Jesus even asked him to follow Him (but first leaving everything and selling everything, as Jesus also did). So, Jesus testifies that the commandments can indeed be kept by those who do penance and mortify themselves, such as this young man. But the man’s greed was the problem with him, not the commandments.

    Moreover, refuting your idea that the 10 commandments indeed CANNOT be kept…here are other scriptures regarding ‘keeping the commandments’ and proving that they are indeed ‘keepable’…contrary to your assertions:

    1. “And the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
    [Apocalypse (Revelation) 12:17]

    2. Here is the patience of the saints, who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” [Apocalypse (Revelation) 14:12]

    3. “In this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God, and keep his commandments.”[1 John 5:2]

    4.”For this is the charity of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not heavy.” [1 John 5:3]

    5. “And this is charity, that we walk according to his commandments. For this is the commandment, that, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in the same:”[2 John 1:6]

    So, Irked…add all of this up together….The scriptures, the Didache, the history of the Judaizers and the history provided by St. Justin….and it all testifies that BOTH scripture and Church History teach that the 10 commandments are indeed keepable, and should be kept.

    Best to you,

    -Al

    1. Al,

      If you still believe that the Early Christian Church believed that the Decalogue was not important to follow

      I explicitly denied this. Engage my actual position.

      So you are really saying that NOBODY can keep the 10 Commandments

      This is my position, and the position Christ presents in Matthew 5, yes. The summary of the law is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” No one consistently does that; no one keeps the law.

      But can keep and should keep are not the same thing, and your reply treats my statement of “You will fail at this” as though I had said “You don’t need to try to do this.”

      I am not engaging any other verses you bring up until you deal with any of the passages I’ve asked you about. I dealt with Matthew 5, as you asked, in verse-by-verse detail. Asserting “Well, Matthew 5 can’t mean that,” without actually dealing with its text does not make that exegesis go away; neither does ignoring questions raised about John 6, or Hebrews 10, or the whole book of Romans.

      1. Hi Irked,

        I guess we’ll have to leave it for another day, as examining the whole of Romans, John 6 and Hebrews also, is a bit much at the tail end of a long and detailed thread. But I’m sure such items will come up in the future, and have enjoyed discussing these things with you, even though the discussion, explanations and sources have not been perfect. I’d only suggest that you think about including the ‘Apostolic Constitutions’ as a historical resource document to consider in your research of Early Church studies. It gives an idea of what the Early Church was focused on in the first 4 centuries, as it is one of the earliest comprehensive catechisms in Church history.

        Here is an on-line link to the eight books from this ancient text, if you or any others are interested:

        http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0715.htm

        1. Hi Al,

          I guess we’ll have to leave it for another day, as examining the whole of Romans, John 6 and Hebrews also, is a bit much at the tail end of a long and detailed thread.

          I mean, we could have started on any one of those passages a week ago. I asked about John 6 on May 6th; I’ve been asking about Hebrews 10 longer than that.

          I also enjoy these conversations, but I’d ask that we try to have some give-and-take here. Look back over the preceding posts; there’s a lot of “You’re blinded by Protestantism” and “You avoid the gospels” and “Martin Luther is a real jerk” and “What do you do with this new passage, Irked” – and there are not a lot of places where you directly address a verse, interpretation, or factual challenge I initiate. And when I refuse to follow any further without some reciprocity… the conversation ends. It’s a bit frustrating!

          I hope that when we talk next, we can focus on one or two passages at a time, critiquing interpretation of those passages specifically, without bringing the personal shortcomings of each other or of dead Christian leaders into it.

          1. Hi Irked,

            I think the problem we have, is that I view the scriptures and Church with a magnifying glass….and you seem to view it mores with a microscope. I try to get you to take a broad perspective, so as to add some context wherein to get a better overall view of the theological subject. And, you try to get me to focus down on the microscope to a ‘particular’or micro view, which ‘you’ consider particularly important regarding the understanding of subject. So, we each have our own focus, one more general, the other more specific. And, I think that you often overlook, or don’t understand, the ‘whole’ picture, and you think that I can’t see the error of that whole picture that I’m looking at which you think might alter the picture.

            However, in all of this, I don’t think that ANY single issue can damage the beauty of the overall picture due to my faith and understanding of Christ and His Gospel message…as there are many angles and proofs besides merely the microscopic ones of isolate scripture verses, and Joe has detailed many of these other ‘angles’ or proofs, in his blog posts over the last 5 years. So, this is one reason why I don’t put the same value on the microscopic analysis of any one verse of scripture or the other, as if any one verse had such importance…as there are countless other scriptures and views to consider also, wherein we get to the same goal of understanding the truth taught by Christ.

            Best to you always,

            – Al

          2. Al,

            And, you try to get me to focus down on the microscope to a ‘particular’or micro view, which ‘you’ consider particularly important regarding the understanding of subject.

            To be frank, I don’t think this is a fair analysis. I’ve suggested plenty of “macro” sentiments (such as the general theme in Hebrews that Christ’s work as a priest is done, or the theme of the NT that we do not need any further forgiveness for our sins), and you’ve asked plenty of “micro” questions, which I have attempted to answer – most recently, you asked for an explanation of Matthew 5, which I gave.

            The difference, as I see it, is that you don’t answer these same sorts of questions when I ask them of you.

            I think that’s all I have to say this time around; I hope our next conversation can be more fruitful. God be with you as well.

  15. Irked,

    Continuing the pattern…

    Do they warrant not praying for him, though? Is that the teaching of the RCC today?

    I mean, we continue to teach (as Paul does) that for certain levels of unrepentant sin, you put the sinner out of the church, for his own sake as well as yours. (That debate was a few weeks ago, heh.) But we’d probably follow that by saying, “And pray for his repentance” – and that’s definitely not what John has in mind here. Would it be different for you?

    In the preceding verses, John is stressing the power of their prayer, that if they ask “anything according to his will” that they could have confidence that the request would be obtained. It is within this context that he commands them to pray for brothers that they see sinning not unto death. Just prayer. Pray for your brother. So he’s distinguishing between that command and what they should do when the sin leads to death. Here’s verse 16 from Young’s Literal Translation…

    16 If any one may see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give to him life to those sinning not unto death; there is sin to death, not concerning it do I speak that he may beseech.

    I understand him to say, “If you see your brother sin unknowingly in his daily walk, pray for him. Remember what I just said, your prayer will be heard and God will give your brother life. But there is sin that leads to death, and this is not the kind of sin I’m addressing in this context.” So he’s not prohibiting them from praying for the brother, it’s just not situation that he is addressing here.

    It seems like we’re dropping Hebrews 10, here – would you be willing to follow up on the textual reasons for reading “imperfect” into v. 10, or for assuming verses 10 and 14 have different targets?

    I’ve already stated that both verses target the same individuals, which includes those of us alive on planet Earth today. The reason why I think he is implying an imperfect sanctification is because of my understanding of the process of sanctification, which I think you would agree with, based on your comments…

    “Sanctification” as we understand the term – the process of being made holy, being made like the character of Christ – is separate from the forgiveness of sins. Justification is once-for-all; sanctification is a process. As in Hebrews 10, actually: “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever [justified, as we would read it] those who are being made holy [sanctified, as we would read it].”

    So are you saying that I am incorrect to read verse 10 as implying an imperfect sanctification? If so, are you not included in the target of the verse? If you are, are you saying you have already been perfectly sanctified?

    1. Hi Shane,

      But there is sin that leads to death, and this is not the kind of sin I’m addressing in this context.” So he’s not prohibiting them from praying for the brother, it’s just not situation that he is addressing here.

      I can see that, as far as it goes. John doesn’t come right out and say, “Don’t pray for this person” – he just says, “I’m not telling you to pray for him.”

      But I think at this point the original argument – that this is a passage whose clear and obvious reading is the mortal/venial divide – has to fall away a bit. The passage doesn’t give any indication that John is talking about those who sin “unknowingly,” and it’s not an entirely straightforward reading of “I’m not telling you to pray for him,” either – on top of the objections I raised before. I can see ways to read this as to fit with the Catholic framework, but again, I don’t really see that it can be used as an argument for that framework – the fit is just too awkward.

      I’ve already stated that both verses target the same individuals, which includes those of us alive on planet Earth today.

      Okay, I’ve missed you somewhere, then, and I think your questions may become moot in light of whatever crossed wire we have here. (But if not, just say so.) I understood (wrongly?) that you were saying that those in v. 10 are those of us living, who have an imperfect sanctification, and that this distinguishes them from those in v. 14, who are those in heaven.

      Let me see if I can recap how we got to this point and straighten things out. We’d begun by looking at verse 14, which said (in your preferred translation):

      You had said, some posts ago, regarding verse 14:

      For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

      I suggested that those of us here on earth are those who are “perfected for all time.” You replied:

      “I think the RSV gets the verb tenses correct. Those already sanctified (in heaven) are perfect for all time.”

      My argument then was that both verses 10 and 14 refer to “those who are sanctified,” and that verse 10 is clearly those of us still living; verse 14, I argued, must also be those of us still living, and not specifically those in heaven. It sounds, from what you’ve just said, like you agree with me. But then I’m left with my original point: we are those made perfect for all time, those for whom (in v.18) “sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” I don’t see any way to unify this with the claims by others upthread that Christ must continue to present the sacrifice for us, in the form of the Mass, in order for us to receive new forgiveness.

      Maybe you weren’t disagreeing with that, and I just completely misread you; I’m still not sure where “Those already sanctified (in heaven)” come into this discussion, in light of what you’ve just said. Can you help me unpack the position, here? Are you and I (supposing that we have both come to Christ) “those made perfect for all time?” Are we, now, those for whom sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary?

      (Just so I don’t dodge your questions at the end, though:

      So are you saying that I am incorrect to read verse 10 as implying an imperfect sanctification? If so, are you not included in the target of the verse? If you are, are you saying you have already been perfectly sanctified?

      I wouldn’t use the descriptor “imperfectly sanctified,” exactly, but I would definitely agree that our sanctification is an ongoing work. I actually like some of the other translations better in this regard, where v.10 says that we “have been sanctified,” and v.14 says we “are being sanctified.” Both are true, in different senses – but the current sanctification is so fully established, and so certain in its end, that one can fairly refer to us as those who have been sanctified. God claims us as those already made holy, even as that work progresses.

      So I’d avoid “imperfect,” particularly because I think it fits poorly with v.14’s “has made perfect” – but I’d agree that it’s an ongoing work, and a work that includes me.)

      1. Irked,

        We’re pretty much in agreement on Hebrews 10, my comments related to verse 14 were simply to make the point that our sanctification is still ongoing while those in heaven are perfectly sanctified. We both agree that it’s a process that, for us, remains incomplete. I’ll pray for your progress, please pray for mine.

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