Monday, October 02, 2006


Was there ever a time that God gave his people a book, told them to use it as an instruction manual, but gave them no teaching authority to ensure they interpreted the book correctly? Read Nehemiah 8:8, Acts 8:27-31, and 2 Peter 1:20

Nehemiah 8 speaks of how God revealed His Law in the Old Testament. In fact, there was a written Law AND an oral Law. BOTH were binding upon the Hebrews and this is not open to debate. Nehemiah 8 clearly establishes a model--the Law was provided to the Hebrews but, at no time, were they to interpret the Law on their own. The judges and priests (13 Levites in this particular story) were chosen by God to provide the correct interpretation, God's very own interpretation.
Acts 8 tells a story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. But moreover, it provides a model for God's revelation in the New Covenant. Present in this story are a) Holy Scripture (although it was likely the Old Testament since the NT wasn't completed yet) and b) a teaching authority. Philip asks the eunuch if he understands what he is reading and he answers truthfully, just as we all must, 'How can I unless someone guides me?' All elements of how we come to know God are here--for the WORD of God is not only written nor oral but both in conjunction with God's supernatural protection of those he chooses to teach such revelation.
In 2 Peter 1:20, the words are not minced. NO prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation. And so I find it curious that individuals assume their own authority to look at the prophecies of the Old Testament, Jesus, and the Apostles, and attempt to interpret them on their own. When Darby took it upon himself to interpret Daniel, Zechariah, Malachi, Jesus, and Paul in order to construct his famous (but oh, so false) teaching on the Rapture, he ignored St. Peter. When Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Smith, respectively, clung to Bible prophecy in order to 'carry on' God's revelation in the Book of Mormon and the Watchtower Society, they ignored St. Peter. When we study Scripture without a net, WE ignore St. Peter. Peter feared that those he was writing to would twist Scripture into an unrecognizable mess when given their own preferences, preconceptions, and distance from the Apostolic teachings. Sure enough, they did--we saw Arians, Nicolaitans, Gnostics, and Reformers. Christianity, like Judaism before it, was NEVER a religion of the book.

Why do you believe in the Bible at all? What makes it more credible than the Book of Mormon, The Koran, or the Hindu Vedas?
I've heard many answer this by using a circular argument that goes something like this:
*I believe the Bible because it claims to be inspired--Well, so do the Koran, Book of Mormon, and, truth be told, I could write a book and claim it's as inspired as any of the others. Does this mean it actually IS? Only 2 books of the Bible even claim to be inspired but why do you believe them?

*I believe in the Bible because it convicted my heart--Funny, I had a Mormon tell me the same thing about the Book of Mormon with tears in his eyes. Many people's hearts were convicted by Roots by Alex Haley or by The Purpose Driven Life. Does this mean these works are on par with the Bible?

*I believe in the Bible because it has no error in it--How do you know it has no error in it? Just because YOU can't find any doesn't mean no error exists. Furthermore, I could write a Math textbook in which every formula is correct, would this not be on par with Scripture since it's free of error?

Think about why you believe in the Bible. It's because somebody else told you that it was inspired but why do you trust them? Why do they trust the one who told them the same thing? I believe that the Bible is inspired for the following reason:

1. Catholics approach the Bible as any other uninspired work. No assumption of inspiration is made.

2. Given the sheer numbers of manuscripts we possess, and the fact we have fragments from the 1st and 2nd centuries that all are virtually 98% identical in wording, content, etc., we can be assured that we are working from a historically credible piece of writing.

3. We look at the Bible as a historical book, still not assuming a thing about inspiration. Looking at the Gospels themselves, the extra biblical writings from the early centuries, and infer ideas about human nature, we conclude that Jesus was either who he claimed to be or a very bad man. Based on the virtual impossibility that Jesus and the Apostles could've pulled off the biggest hoax in history and the blatant lack of ANY historical evidence that any of Christ's life, death and resurrection did not occur, we can grant the Bible credibility as a historical book. Further, we conclude that Jesus was who he said he was and that he did what he said he'd do. If he didn't, then the Apostles died utterly horrible deaths for a hoax in which they got no wealth, fame, or power.

4. Christ said he would found a church--built on the rock of Peter with the authority to bind and loose which was supernaturally protected from the gates of Hell and led into all truth by the Holy Spirit.

5. Both the Bible and other extra-biblical writings describe that Church as the one we see in the Catholic Church of today. Consistent in doctrine, worship, and infallibility. Jesus' resurrection allows us to take his words about his Church seriously and that very Church teaches that the compilation of writings, and ONLY those writings, are inspired and definitively Scripture. In short, we have taken purely historical information to conclude that Jesus founded the Catholic Church. This Church is the designated teaching authority that, based on the truth of Christ's resurrection and divinity, assures us of the Truth regarding matters of faith. That Church says the 73 books we call Scripture are inspired and that's that.

What books constitute the Bible? If the Bible is all you hold to for your authority, where does the Bible give you the list of books that should be in the Bible?
Clearly the list of inspired texts is not found in the Bible. This is the inherent circularity of 'Bible Alone'. The Catholic Church compiled the definitive New Testament that all Christians use today. It always seemed to me that the Church had to possess some innate charism or property that would enable it to get the right books together since we obviously couldn't rely on the Bible alone to do it for us. The fact that the Catholic Church defined 27 books to be inspired for the New Testament told me that Jesus' promise to give His Church something 'extra' to stay on the tracks was exactly true.

The Catholic Church confirmed and ratified the list of books that were to comprise the Bible on 4 different occasions at 4 different Church councils before the Reformation. Why does your Bible not resemble the one that the Christian church possessed for 1100 years?
The more I read of Luther's writings, the more I began to see that the reason his Bible looked incomplete was because eliminating books was the only way to make his new teachings on sola fide coherent. If Luther had his way, the Book of James would be 'consigned to the flames'. This is because St. James' epistle destroys Luther's understanding of salvation completely. So rather than debate the doctrines of praying for the dead, purgatory, justification by faith and works, etc. using the whole of Scripture that existed for 1100 years prior, he declared them non-inspired (by what authority he did this, no one knows for sure) and solved his dilemma most irresponsibly. 5 independent church councils defined the 73 books of Holy Scripure--Hippo, Carthage, Florence, Trent, and Vatican I all affirmed and reaffirmed these books.

If you accept the Gospel of Matthew, as verified and ratified by Catholic Church council, why do you deny Sirach, also verified and ratified as equally scriptural?
Reasonability demands that the same church that figured out which Gospel of Matthew was the correct one to include in Holy Scripture also got it right with regard to Sirach and Maccabees, and Esther, etc. The only ones who denied these books' inspiration were the Jews, who managed to deny these books AND the entire New Testament as God-breathed. Even then, it was not ALL Jews who denied them but only a segment. God installed a new covenant and with it, a new arbiter of this covenant--one that had power to bind and loose.

How is the canon of Scripture that you hold to not a tradition of men since Catholic men were the source of this ‘table of contents’?
Christ refers to traditions of men with contempt. These traditions (wholly different than the tradtions that Paul calls binding on all Christians in 2 Thes. 2:15 and elsewhere) were put in place to bring glory to the men who hypocritically demanded praise from the common man. This is what makes them contrary to God--they point inward and not to God. The New Testament, if it is only a fallible collection of infallible books, becomes a mere tradition of men--for it does not do justice to God's revelation but really becomes Man's revelation. On the other hand, if it was written and assembled infallibly via the Holy Spirit through fallible men, then it becomes a Tradition with a capital 'T'.

Who/what does the Bible call ‘the pillar and foundation of the truth’?

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these
instructions to you so that, [15] if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to
behave in the
household of God, which is the church of the living
, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15)

St. Paul doesn't call the Holy Scriptures the foundation of truth. He calls THE CHURCH the foundation of the truth. A foundation makes it possible for us to build upon it. Similarly, the Church makes it possible to build on Truth--namely Scripture and the traditions that Paul talks about in his epistles. Without the Church, neither is possible. Quite simply, the Bible alone as our rule of faith is not tenable since the Bible is only as true as the Church that produced it.

Who does Jesus say we must take our disagreements about faith to?
Hint: It ain't the Bible...

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his
fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your
brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you,
that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church;
and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on
earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed
in heaven. (Mt. 18)

Now I'm not a bible scholar but I do know this--the first rule of reading Scripture is to read the words and apply them literally. Literally, this passage tells me that someone or something exists for Christians to solve their disagreements. Luther, Calvin, and the others would say 'Holy Writ'. What would you say? Can you honestly read 'tell it to the church', proceed to close your Bible, look someone in the eye, and say 'it clearly says we are to take our disagreements to the Bible since Jesus clearly says to take them to the Church.' ? When it came time to make my choice,I know I couldn't.

The slam dunk was in Acts 15 when the Apostolic giants Paul and Barnabas could not resolve an issue regarding dietary restrictions and how they applied to the Gentiles. Imagine! The Gentile community came to them with a genuine question and they simply could not answer for God. Instead, they took it to the Church, the first Church Council, to resolve it. The Church proclaims the Word of God orally and in Scripture--this is why Jesus demanded that we acquiesce to it in matters of faith and morals.

How can one take any disagreement to a church that is only a loose conglomeration of believers for a definitive answer?
Did they take it to some loose group of believers in Acts 15? Could any Joe-Christian have a vote? Did Paul himself get a vote? Not according to Scripture. The governing body was very much visible and everyone knew who it consisted of. Paul and Barnabas told of their adventures but didn't get a vote or even sneak in a political commercial for their opinion. On the contrary, Peter stood up with the keys to the kingdom given him by Jesus Himself, and told them all how it was gonna be. And they all kept their peace. Sounds a lot like the Pope and Bishops that make up the Church today, no?

What do you think the Christ/Paul means when he uses the word ‘tradition’ in Mt 15 and in the Pauline epistles?
A tip of the hat to Peter Burnett, who fleshes this out well, in my opinion. Jesus condemned specific traditions of men in Matthew 15. These are traditions that 'make the Commandments of God null' and here is usually where the confusion starts in discussing 'tradition' with non-Catholics.
Burnett explains it like this. If I wish to destroy the tradition of the income tax, I must attack the income tax in general. If, however I attack the income tax exemption of the investment tax credit, I actually am attacking a particular, and thus affirming the general! If I argue thusly, I argue against my own stated purpose. This is a long standing rule of legal argument, pity the rest of us who have to chew on it for 3 days before we get it.

Burnett would then say, when Jesus attacks traditions of men that make the Commandments of God null, he is also affirming traditions of men in general.

Here's the kicker: If Jesus was condemning all traditions, the Pharisees, and the rest of the Jewish community, would've been all over him for his hypocrisy--and rightly so. Why? Because he erected his own traditions and bound His followers to them (Mt. 28:19-20).

Finally, Paul refers to traditions (paradosis in Greek) that Christians are bound to--traditions passed on by word of mouth and by epistle. If Paul were Protestant, he'd have limited his command to what is written only.

In Mt 23:2-3, what is this tradition of the ‘chair of Moses’ that Jesus speaks of? Why does he order his followers to follow those that teach from this chair but not do what they do? Is this ‘chair of Moses’ in the Old Testament writings or is it a tradition passed on by word of mouth?
This 'Chair' cannot be found in the Old Testament at all. Is it a literal chair? The fact that this Chair cannot be found in the Old Testament points to the place extra-biblical tradition played in God's revelation. Further, this Chair points to the authority that even Jesus bade his followers to obey but nothing in the text even implies that their authority extended ONLY to what was in Scripture. The Torah, remember, was not only 'law' but also was 'instruction'. That 'instruction' was oral and binding to all that heard it. They didn't have to actually be sitting in this chair, mind you, any more than a CEO would have to sit in his desk chair to make authoritative decisions.

Did the Old Testament writers use extra-biblical tradition? Did the New Testament writers use extra-biblical tradition in constructing their letters?
Virtually the entire Old Testament is based on extra-biblical tradition. When God revealed Himself to Moses, he declared, 'I am the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' How did Moses even know who these patriarchs were? There was no written source for Moses to consult, rather he knew of them from the oral tradition that passed from generation to generation. He knew about Melchizedek through the stories he heard, not from any written work. Does this make the Old Testament any less inspired? God forbid! Instead, it holds the Old Testament together and makes it coherent for those Hebrews that read from it in their synagogues and temple.
As for the New Testament, we see extra-biblical tradition in many of the inspired writings in which the author takes for granted that the reader is familiar with these traditions, which were passed on orally and were binding on all Jews. For example, Paul speaks of of 'Jannes and Jambres' without explaining who these people were. He considered them integral to the Exodus story and doesn't seem overly worried that they weren't mentioned in the written version of the story. This is because Paul assumes that the reader has been clued in to these men and other traditions that make his current writing understandable. Jude, in his epistle, mentions a battle between the Devil and Michael the archangel for possession of Moses' dead body. This story is not found in the Old Testament yet the writer pulls it out here, assumes that his readers know the story, and derives his theological lesson from it. If the New Testament writers adhered to 'Scripture Alone', they could not have mentioned these traditions that were passed on by word of mouth, not epistle. Paul refers to a 'rock' that followed the Hebrews during their exile in the desert--a rock called Christ. Search the Old Testament--there is no mention of this rock that was mysteriously present at all their encampments, yet Paul mentions it because under inspiration of God.
Acts 7:52-53, Galatians 3:19, and Heb. 2:2-3 all bear witness that the Mosaic covenant was given to Moses not directly by God, but from angels. Not a single Old Testament author refers to this.

Tell me why this syllogism is incorrect:

Proposition A—The entirety of God’s revelation is to be found in the Scriptures.

Proposition B—The list of inspired books, which comprise the Scriptures (the Canon) is a revelation of God.

Conclusion—Therefore, the Canon of Scripture must be found in Scripture.

Pick your poison! If you deny Proposition A, then 'Scripture Alone' becomes impossible since an extra-scriptural method of revelation would have to be possible. If you deny Proposition B, you admit that the books in your Bible may not be the right ones, let alone truly inspired by God. The Canon is a revelation from God through humans or it is not and our Scriptures are no better than the Book of Mormon or the Koran. Logically, if A and B are true, then the Conclusion must be true. The problem is that the Canon of Scripture is not found in Scripture, making one or both of the Propositions necessarily incorrect. Catholics believe that B is true--we have the proper books in our Bible (73 books, not 66) but that God revealed Himself in more ways than just Scripture.