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April 02, 2008

Comments

Cajun Nick

Stephen,

I can't wait to get the rest of the series. Your posts (and especially work in the comboxes) are filled with intelligence, wit, and accessibility - so much so that even I can understand them.

In anticipation of the rest of the series, I'll point the readers to Dr. Brant Pitre's and Michael Barber's show about Jesus and the Priesthood on Catholic Answers LIVE.

Those two guys are full of enthusiasm and knowledge; and I loved that particular episode.

Joe Sallas

Dr. Scott Hahn had some great connections in a CD I listened to between the Old and New Testaments and the idea of a priesthood.

The Eastern Rite Catholic (and Orthodox and Oriental Christian) approach to this evident in Liturgy is very interesting. The idea of priesthood, the idea of sacrifice in the Mass, the nature of priesthood.

I like the "old fashioned" custom of kissing the hands of the priest. You still see it among some Traditionalists and certainly the schismatic (or canonically irregular if not schismatic per se or exactly) SSPX or others. The Eastern Rite Catholic and Orthodox priests (at least moreso) still retain the kissing of the hands. This is not for the status of the priest, but is humbling to both parties, and represents that these hands through consecration (or epiclesis in Eastern thought) transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of God, in the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, Our Lord and Savior.

labrialumn

A third possibility is that the provenance of some of those texts you are relying on is in fact highly disputable. This is one of the things that robs _The Four Witnesses_ of a degree of credibility. That does need to be addressed.

So does Hebrews, which makes it clear that Christ is the one and final sacrifice, and that unlike the sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood, His sacrifice was offered *once for all*

That does not at all rule out the Real Presence, nor the Eucharist as a covenant renewal ceremony, with Christ's actual body and blood.

The other NT writers did record Jesus saying things showing Him as prophet, priest and king. That dissipates your claim that they scrupulously avoided identifying Christ as priest.

I don't believe that you have yet proven your case.

Maureen

Which _The Four Witnesses_ are you talking about, labrialumn? The book on the Gospels, or Rod Bennett's book on some of the Fathers?

And why do you think a basic introductory text (which is what both of those books are) would waste a lot of time on the specialized subject of manuscript provenance?

J.R. Stoodley

I've generally guessed that the idea of priests needing to be descendents of Aaron was so ingrained into Jewish, and therefore earliest Christian, thought (despite exceptions like Melchizedek and the sons of David) that it took a generation or two before they were comfortable calling presbyters priests, even though the theology to back the use of the word for them was there. I'll be interested if this is a part of your annalysis of the situation or if it's something else entirely.

J.R. Stoodley

Also, connectedly, for that first generation of Christians there were still Levitical priests in existance, either serving in the Temple or later who had served in the Temple before it's destruction, and Hebrews suggests that still among Christians the word priest was used for them alone. It may have been an unnatural thought and potentially confusing to people at first to start using the word for other people, even again if it made sense theologically.

SDG

L'Abri Alumn,

I'm not sure you read my post carefully enough.

Not only did I not make the claim you attribute to me, that the NT writers "scrupulously avoided identifying Christ as priest," I specifically stated the opposite, that "the priesthood of Christ is present, though implicitly, in the teaching of Christ Himself and of the rest of the NT, and made explicit only in Hebrews."

We agree that the NT attests Jesus as prophet, priest and king. My point -- again -- is that "this only refocuses the question in a new form: Why teach the theology but scrupulously avoid the term? Why were the NT writers (with one major exception) so reticent to call Jesus a priest?"

In other words, it is the word priest with which I am here first of all concerned. As for the underlying reality, we might find that the NT presents the apostles also as priests, without using the word.

You will need to be clearer what you mean about the "provenance" of texts being "highly disputable." That's too many long words in one sentence for me this early in the morning. (Incidentally, I'm reading N.T. Wright at the moment, and loving his straightforward, commonsensical style of argumentation.)

Jeffrey G

"This is the law of the guilt offering. It is most holy. In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the guilt offering, and its blood shall be thrown against the sides of the altar. And all its fat shall be offered, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering to the LORD; it is a guilt offering. Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy.
Leviticus 7:1-7

Priests eat of the guilt offering. Jesus death on the cross is the guilt offering. When we eat Jesus' body and drink Jesus' blood we are the priests partaking in Jesus' guilt offering, as it was the priests who ate of the old testament guilt offerings.

Jesus' death is the sacrifice which we partake in when we eat of Jesus' true body & blood.

P.S. I'm Lutheran.

SDG

Jesus' death is the sacrifice which we partake in when we eat of Jesus' true body & blood.

P.S. I'm Lutheran.

Jeffrey G, I think that's a perfectly valid application of the universal priesthood as regards the partaking of the eucharistic guilt offering. The priestly role of offering the eucharistic sacrifice is, however, at least potentially another question.

I think we might agree that it is ultimately the High Priest Himself who offers the guilt offering to the Father. However, from the earliest centuries in the apostolic and post-apostolic church it was understood that a special ministerial role was required to carry out this ministry in the Church. This role was primarily associated with the episcopacy (either the bishops themselves or their delegates), and those who offered it were called priests in a way that others were not.

E.g., Ignatius of Antioch: "Let that be held a valid eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it" (Smyrnaeans 8:5). Similar usages can be found in many of the early fathers, from Cyprian to Chrysostom to Augustine and on.

Deusdonat

JRSTOODLY I've generally guessed that the idea of priests needing to be descendents of Aaron was so ingrained into Jewish, and therefore earliest Christian, thought...

I think that may have been the case in Judaic Christian tradition prevalent in Jerusalem up to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, but I don't think this was true outside of Jerusalem (and environs). St Peter was not Kohan (priestly caste) yet it is clear from 1st century catacombs in Rome that the begiing of the rite were taking place. Logically this would have been officiated with a priest of sorts (since there are altars).

Barbara

Intercessory priesthood existed alongside the 'Priesthood of all' even in the days of Abraham. Abraham offered sacrifice as an individual, but he also accepted intercessory sacrifice from Melchizedek (Gen. 14). Nothing in Scripture, neither in the Old, nor in the New, removes the role of intercessary sacrifice.

Jay D

SDG,

I would hold that the leaders of the early church found it prudent to have special ministerial role to carry out the ministry of the Church. They were responsible for things being done right. They established a way they could control for things being were done right in the church.

Suppose the owner of a chain of breweries put me in charge of making sure all the breweries brewed beer to the owner's recepie. If I was lax, I would let all the local breweries brew their own beer. Some of them might actually brew the beer correctly. Some would not. It is my responsibility to make sure they brew it right so I lay down rules. Nobody can measure out yeast without me or my representative being there, etc.

I know, as brewmeister, that if all the local breweries I was responsible for followed my rules, they would all be producing beer correctly. I am responsible, so I set up a system where I can be confident it is done right. In the original example when I was lax, some breweries did do it right, and the fact that I had not laid down rules did not make the beer produced bad.

Ignatius was responsible so he set up rules so he could be confident everything was being done correctly. I do not think he thought of himself as setting up universal divine laws of how it must be done.

Ignatius of Antioch: "Let that be held a valid eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it"

I do, in fact, hold those eucharists performed under the bishop or his representative as valid. I can confidently say that because the bishop and his representatives knew what they were doing.

I do also hold the eucharists held in your church as valid. I am, however, not permitted to attend, so my church celebrates the eucharist ourselves and have established rules so we may be confident that we are celebrating properly.

Jeffrey G

"Jay D" was me.

Deusdonat

I do also hold the eucharists held in your church as valid.

Thanks. But it really doesn't matter what you "hold". God is the arbitor of eucharistic validity.

I am, however, not permitted to attend, so my church celebrates the eucharist ourselves and have established rules so we may be confident that we are celebrating properly.

See above.

Jeffrey G

Deusdonat: Thanks. But it really doesn't matter what you "hold". God is the arbitor of eucharistic validity.

I was using Ignatius' words. I do not apologize for doing so. "Let that be held a valid eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it"

I do so hold. It is not my opinion (or the opinion of any human being for that matter) that makes a eucharist valid, it is the promise of Jesus. Jesus promised that when we do this in rememberance of him, we will receive his body and blood.

Deusdonat

If I put a funny hat on a hobo in the street and proclaim him to be a bishop of my new church, then hand him some wonderbread and thunderbird and tell him to consecrate it by saying "ooga-booga, let's all remember the last supper now" this does not make it any more valid than any other church claiming to have a valid eucharist while not having apostolic succession or following the eucharistic formulae.

SDG

Ignatius was responsible so he set up rules so he could be confident everything was being done correctly. I do not think he thought of himself as setting up universal divine laws of how it must be done.

Your second sentence is very nearly a tautology; obviously St. Ignatius could not have thought of anything that he himself "set up" as a "universal divine law." Your discussion prejudices the issue by assuming that St. Ignatius here speaks of something that he himself "sets up," therefore it cannot be "universal divine law." Perhaps the shoe is on the other foot: Perhaps he is here concerned with "universal divine law," but not one that he himself "set up."

Jeffrey G

Deusdonat: If I put a funny hat on a hobo in the street and proclaim him to be a bishop of my new church, then hand him some wonderbread and thunderbird and tell him to consecrate it by saying "ooga-booga, let's all remember the last supper now" this does not make it any more valid than any other church claiming to have a valid eucharist while not having apostolic succession or following the eucharistic formulae.

So says Bishop Deusdonat?

Deusdonat

I'm not a bishop. Nor do I play one on TV.

Jeffrey G

SDG: Perhaps he is here concerned with "universal divine law," but not one that he himself "set up."

I don't believe the evidence backs you up. To belive Ignatius was describing universal divine law, you would have to retcon 1 Corinthians 11. There Paul simply promises that "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes." (verse 26).

Who is Paul giving instructions to in 1 Corinthians 11? The bishop of Corinth? No, he is instructing the church. Perhaps later Ingatius came along and set rules such that people don't "go ahead with their own meal" or "get drunk" that includes supervision by bishops. Here Paul is telling the church.

Deusdonat

LOL. Sorry, but this is like discussing nuclear fission with a 2-year-old Kung tribesman in the Kalahari. (note to SDG: that was the most charitable analogy I could draw from). St Paul is known as an apostle. While not one of the original 12, he is nevertheless considered to be one of the primogenials, meaning it is from HIS succession, as well as the other 12 that we derrive "apostolic succession". The fact that he was not designated an Episkopos/bishop is irrelevant. You are confusing the concept of titles with authority. St Paul was not speaking as some schmoe, but as an orthodox theologian accepted as such by the heirarchy of the early church. To that effect, St Ignatius is simply expanding on and codifying the original teachings from St Paul.

No disrespect, but your views on the eucharist and its validity underscore the risk of those who apply their own interpretations and opinions to theology and scripture without the benefit of tradition and historical context.

SDG

I don't believe the evidence backs you up. To belive Ignatius was describing universal divine law, you would have to retcon 1 Corinthians 11. There Paul simply promises that "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (verse 26).

Who is Paul giving instructions to in 1 Corinthians 11? The bishop of Corinth? No, he is instructing the church.

Not at all. The verse makes perfect sense from a Catholic perspective: "For as often as you [the church] eat this bread and drink the cup, you [the church] proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." That the church that eats the bread and drinks the cup is led by a bishop, and that the eating of the bread and drinking of the cup is not done apart from the bishop, is quite true, but beside St. Paul's point. You seem to be mounting an argument from silence regarding a question with which St. Paul is not at all concerned.

St. Paul is not writing a catechism, but following up on necessary pastoral points with a church he has already instructed in person. Unless there was reason to think that private communion services were being attempted apart from the bishop, there would be no reason for St. Paul to stipulate that the offering of bread and wine must be done by the bishop.

Anyway, no one says everything all at once. St. Paul also does not mention that only the baptized rightly proclaim the Lord's death by eating the bread and drinking the cup, but I don't suppose you would dispute that point.

Tim J

Deusdonat -

Do you find the two remarks;

"LOL. Sorry, but this is like discussing nuclear fission with a 2-year-old Kung tribesman in the Kalahari."

and,

"No disrespect..."

a little incongruous?

You're arguments are correct, but might go down better with a little honey.

Deusdonat

I've often found penecilin to be much more effective than honey.

SDG

I've often found penecilin to be much more effective than honey.

Then I'm sure you'll understand me if I say that (a) citizenship in a superpower doesn't make one a nuclear physicist -- or, for that matter, an anthropological expert (especially if our perspective on comparative anthropology amounts to "a heretic is a heretic is a heretic to me"); and therefore (b) when and where non-physicists and non-anthropologists undertake to discuss such matters with those whose cultural milieu is greatly foreign to our own, the less we LOL in their faces and make anthropological pronouncements about their level of development and maturity, the better I think we will do. How's that penicillin? :⁢)

Deusdonat

Why, I do declare. I believe my case of heretichitis has done cleared up now!

But regarding the LOL's, I still beleive sometimes laughter is the best medicine, specifically in the hyperbolic variety. And if you can fathom an intricate dialogue with a 2-year-old Kung of the Kalahari on the merrits of nuclear fission, you'd know that it's all in good fun. It was only when I got to the "no disrespect" portion of the post (and I meant that, because at that point I was being deadly serious) that there was a somber point to be made.

Jeffrey G

Duesdonat,

From one schmoe to another; have a good day.

Deusdonat

Back atcha : )

Jeffrey G

SDG: That the church that eats the bread and drinks the cup is led by a bishop, and that the eating of the bread and drinking of the cup is not done apart from the bishop, is quite true, but beside St. Paul's point. You seem to be mounting an argument from silence regarding a question with which St. Paul is not at all concerned.

Yes, it could work logically. Retcons often do.

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
1 Corinthians 11:26

In my church we eat this bread and drink the cup. I take comfort in the fact that Paul says that as often as we do this we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. There really isn't anything that you or the Pope can say that would make me doubt Paul's word.

SDG

I take comfort in the fact that Paul says that as often as we do this we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. There really isn't anything that you or the Pope can say that would make me doubt Paul's word.

Pfeh. If you were an Anabaptist, you would take comfort that the Bible says "Believe and be baptized," thus you would "know" you are right to reject pedobaptism. If you were a Jehovah's Witness you would take comfort that Jesus says "The Father is greater than I." If you were a Mormon you would take comfort in Paul's comments about the baptism of the dead. If you were Origen you would take comfort in Jesus' comments about becoming a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom. Comfort is cheap, and everybody has their comforting "truths."

My friend, it isn't you contra "me and the Pope." It's you contra the early Church, including Lutheran faves like Augustine. What Luther railed against in the 16th century, nobody railed against in Augustine's day -- they took it for granted. What Luther preached in the 16th century, no one had ever heard of in Augustine's day -- they took for granted the Catholic faith, and would indignantly have resisted the contrary, had it been proclaimed, which it wasn't.

francis 03

And anyway, none of the single sentences in the last two posts is enough to develop a systematic theology about their subject matter. "Believe and be baptized?" Believe in whom or what? And how is one "baptized," anyway? "The Father is greater than I?" Greater in what way-- is he two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than Jesus? Is he a more skilled carpenter? Something else?

Likewise, the single sentence from Corinthians poses at least two significant questions-- (1) what counts as "this bread" and "this cup," and (2) who is the "you" to whom Paul is speaking? I don't think either of these questions answer themselves.

francis 03

To elaborate on that point-- retcons only "work logically" when they either explain ambiguities in the original subject matter or explain *away* what appeared to be clearly stated therein. I, of course, think the Catholic Church has elaborated on St. Paul rather than changed what he appeared to say.

SDG

I just thought of an even more comforting verse for Jehovah's Witnesses: "Why do you call me good? None is good but God." If I were a Jehovah's Witness, that's the verse I'd turn to for comfort. And nothing the Pope or Martin Luther said would persuade me to doubt Jesus' word. (And if they tried, I'd say something about "retconning" and call it a day. :‑) )

Jeffrey G

And nothing the Pope or Martin Luther said would persuade me to doubt Jesus' word.

Jesus did say those things. Do you doubt his word?

You are slinging the phrases "The Father is greater than I?" and "Why do you call me good? None is good but God." as if simply repeating Jesus' exact words makes up some kind of misinterpretation of them. It is kind of strange.

Deusdonat

JEFFREY,

To repeat the sentiments of my previous post; tradition + historical context = truth.

SDG

Jesus did say those things. Do you doubt his word?

No, and neither to the Jehovah's Witness. Yet we disagree. Strange, isn't it?

You are slinging the phrases "The Father is greater than I?" and "Why do you call me good? None is good but God." as if simply repeating Jesus' exact words makes up some kind of misinterpretation of them. It is kind of strange.

No, I think I provided a little more context than that.

There are ipsissima verba that, abstracted from a larger context and quoted within the context of a given point of view, constitute misinterpretations.

Jeffrey G

DEUSDONAT,

Jesus = truth

Tim J

Jeffrey,

How do you know Jesus said that?

Deusdonat

Jeffrey, of course Jesus = truth. But that was not in dispute. The dispute comes from Jesus' WORDS which were transcribed by MEN, namely MEN OF THE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH. Since it is the CHURCH which compiled the gospels and sacred texts, it is the CHURCH which holds the true meanings of them, namely through the traditions which passed on through apostolic succession and historical scholarship.

For someone to pick up the bible without this context or "chain of custody" and claim any real scholarship is simply fantasy. A perfect example is Matthew 19:24 "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." If I were a prison inmate who was handed a bible and suddenly "got God", by reading this passage, I would have to say, "It's clear that no rich man can enter heaven since a camel cannot enter an eye of a needle. Case closed." But in historical context, and through the tradition passed down by the church the hyperbole of a camel passing through THE eye of the needle, referring to a check-point or "weigh station" in the Jerusalem wall which while difficult, IS possible.

In other words, Jesus said it (we all agree on this)...but what did He MEAN by it? Without the benefit of church tradition and historical context, you simply don't know the answer.

Jeffrey G

Deusdonat,

I actually agree with you that you can't just pick up the Bible and get anything out of it. If the Bible washed up on the shores of a civilization and their best scholars analyzed it forwards and backwards, it would be in vain.

But I probably believe this for a different reason than you. I believe the truth is there to be seen, but the natural man will simply not accept it.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

Faith does not come from analyizing the Bible. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Faith comes from hearing the word and receiving the sacraments. Jesus is the word. Jesus is in the sacraments. Faith comes through Jesus. The word and sacraments can be found in the Church, which is the body of Christ. Faith cannot come independantly of the Church.

If I were a prison inmate who was handed a bible and suddenly "got God", by reading this passage, I would have to say, "It's clear that no rich man can enter heaven since a camel cannot enter an eye of a needle. Case closed."

The case is closed. The disciples understood it the same as prison inmate. They responded, "Who then can be saved?"

Deusdonat

JEFF,

Once again, you are a case in point. Did you read the following passages? Particularly: "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." There are a number of "rich" people in the gospels who are role models. Joseph of Arimathea comes to mind. Jesus was talking particularly about the rich man in question addressing his materialism and his attachment to "things" and wealth (and the fact that this often afflicts man "rich" people).

But this can also afflict people you and I would not necessarily consider "rich". I know of many low-income people who are VERY attached to Wii stations, i-pods, name-brand clothes or even meth-amphetamine. As the Smiths say, "these are the riches of the poor". Is the bible saying it is impossible for anyone over the median income of $60,000 USD doesn't get into heaven? How about $50K? $45K? Wealth is relative. But the lesson is universal.

Come to Catholicism. You'll learn theology passed down from Jesus that you will never get elsewhere.

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