Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Codex Sinaiticus Online


"The oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, a 4th century version that had its Gospels and epistles spread across the world, is being made whole again — online.

The British Library says the full text of the Codex Sinaiticus will be available to Web users by next July, digitally reconnecting parts that are held in Britain, Russia, Germany and a monastery in Egypt's Sinai Desert.

A preview of the Codex, which also has some parts of the Old Testament, will hit the Web on Thursday — the Book of Psalms and the Gospel of Mark.

...By next July, the entire Codex will be available for free — along with transcription, translation and search functions — on the Internet."

Codex Sinaiticus site: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org

-Associated Press

47 comments:

BillyHW said...

Codex Vaticanus is probably slightly older.

Interestingly the Codex Sinaiticus contains Tobit/Tobias, Judith, 1 Maccabees--I thought these books were inserted into the Catholic canon at the council of Trent!

BJ Buracker said...

That's great info, Carrie. Thanks!

BJ
Stupid Scholar

James Swan said...

Interestingly the Codex Sinaiticus contains Tobit/Tobias, Judith, 1 Maccabees--I thought these books were inserted into the Catholic canon at the council of Trent!

Roman Catholic argumentation will frequently argue for a broader canon because early manuscripts like Vaticanus and Sinaiticus include some of the apocryphal books.

Vaticanus does not include any of the "Maccabees" books. Sinaiticus includes 4 Maccabees and (if I recall correctly) and excludes 2 Maccabees. Codex Alexandrinus has all 4 books of Maccabees.

This just goes to show that inclusion or exclusion of a book in an old manuscript does not necessarily prove canonicity. 3 & & 4 Maccabees are not in the current Roman Catholic canon. One has to also question as to why 1 & 2 Maccabees were left out in some of the older manuscripts as well.

Carrie said...

Interestingly the Codex Sinaiticus contains Tobit/Tobias, Judith, 1 Maccabees--I thought these books were inserted into the Catholic canon at the council of Trent!

Unfortunately for you, that argument proves too little or too much as James has shown. I will just add that the CS also contains the Letter of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas yet the RCC does not consider those canonical.

BillyHW said...

Sorry guys, but you Protestants fail to see the bigger picture here. The Catholic Church's position is logically consistent because it argues that it has the charism to infallibly recognize which documents are inspired scripture and which are not.

Protestants don't have a leg to stand on because, as you can see, none of the ancient manuscripst contain only the Protestant canon. Many contain the deuterocanonical books and also other extra-biblical books (such as the Shepherd of Hermas).

That's why we (or rather, you) need the Catholic Church.

Saint and Sinner said...

"That's why we (or rather, you) need the Catholic Church."

Been over that tired argument here:

http://contra-gentes.blogspot.com/2008/04/infallible-knowledge-argument-common.html

James Swan said...

The Catholic Church's position is logically consistent because it argues that it has the charism to infallibly recognize which documents are inspired scripture and which are not.

Translation:

"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated."

Howard Fisher said...

"That's why we (or rather, you) need the Catholic Church."

Apparently, the 4th century christian needs the 16th century RCC in order to know what the canon would become. It is obvious from Carrie's and James' examples of different manuscripts, that no one really knew what was Scripture till an infallible council convenes over a thousand years later.

How do we know this? Because she says so. Kind of like the guy that thinks he's the smartest person in the room. If you doubt that he is, just go and ask him.

EA said...

The Catholic Church's position is logically consistent because it argues that it has the charism to infallibly recognize which documents are inspired scripture and which are not.

The Church's position MAY be "logically consistent" but you sure haven't demonstrated it.

With what is it supposed to be 'consistent'? Its own claims of 'infallibility'?

As Howard Fisher has indicated; how was a 4th century christian assured of knowing what the canon of Scripture was since the RCC didn't get around to "infallibly" defining it until Trent? Where was the 'benefit' of the 'infallible teaching office' in the 3rd, 4th ,5th 6th......centuries?

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mr. Swan: You said, "Translation: We are the Borg. You will be assimilated."

Are you expressing the Thomist, Molinist or Calvinist view of predestination with that comment?
That is an interesting view on how Jesus Christ takes us into the Body of Christ. Does the Church that Christ founded really act in the manner of a collective hive-mind ravenously and forcibly incorporating people into it? And do you really believe that God's salvific grace is comparable to a mutating infection of nanites? And don't you find such a comparison even in jest just a touch blasphemous?

Hi Mr. Fisher, I think you are missing the point of billyhw's argument. Since the canon of Scripture does not have an infallible table of contents nor index, it has to be interpreted in the larger context of the liturgical and devotional life of the Church. It also suggests that the role of the Scriptures in the early Church was somewhat different than the Protestant notion of sola scriptura. If sola scriptura was truly one of the foundations of the early Church, don't you think that the early Church from the very beginning would have sat down and definitively set its canon? Also, if the different manuscripts of Scripture set forth different canons, would not this undermine the Reformers' argument pertaining to perspicuity of Scripture?

Further, doesn't this affect the Protestant belief in private judgment as well? If Christians have the right and necessity to exercise private judgment in interpreting Scripture, how can they truly be exercising it properly if they don't sit down and read the Shepherd of Hermas or the Epistle of Barnabas, or Judith, Tobit and Maccabees 1-4 and decide for themselves whether they are a part of Scripture or not. If it is the right of every Christian to interpret and decide the meaning of Scripture for themselves, wouldn't that also mean that they should have the right to determine what is Scripture, too? Or if they are to take the word of someone else what Scripture is, why not take the word of the Catholic Church as opposed to Martin Luther, John Calvin or what some other guy off the street says it is?

I would be interested in your thoughts and the thoughts of the other Protestants here on how you deal with such things. I hadn't really thought about the implications of the different MS being as varied in their canons until it was brought up here. Thank you Carrie for giving me something to think about!

Howard Fisher said...

Paul,

You stated, "Since the canon of Scripture does not have an infallible table of contents nor index, it has to be interpreted in the larger context of the liturgical and devotional life of the Church."

I really don't follow this thought. I don't see the logical connection between the church having infallibility to determine the canon of Scripture with interpreting the text itself. At least as far as the original post is concerned.

You 2nd to last paragraph asks some great questions which have been discussed here many times. I will simply say this. Much of what you describe in your questions is not Sola Scriptura. Although you deny private judgment, one must exercise private judgment to know whether or not Rome is the true church over everyone else.

One more example should suffice. You said, "If it is the right of every Christian to interpret and decide the meaning of Scripture for themselves, wouldn't that also mean that they should have the right to determine what is Scripture, too?"

This is not the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura. On the one hand, all of us must make private judgments, yet on the other hand, we don't all have the right to determine the meaning of Scripture in the post-modern sense. We must allow God to tell us what He means.

God has given to us Pastors and teachers and other gifts to the Body. To deny these other gifts as well is to fall into the non-Sola Scriptura idea that it is just me and Jesus sitting under a tree with a Bible that fell out of the sky.

I don't know anyone who takes Sola Scriptura seriously that would define it or describe it in the way you do. God is the Ultimate Authority and has the sufficient ability to speak and bring His church to know what He has inspired.

God Bless

Howard

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mr. Fisher, Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions and your kind words.

A couple of things struck me though. You said, "I don't see the logical connection between the church having infallibility to determine the canon of Scripture with interpreting the text itself."

My question is this: Is not the purpose of private judgment in interpreting the text to allow a Christian to determine the validity of the doctrines or other dogmatic expressions that they choose to believe? How can they do that unless they first decide what Scripture is?

You said, "Although you deny private judgment, one must exercise private judgment to know whether or not Rome is the true church over everyone else."

I disagree with your premise. I do not acknowledge that private judgment, at least in the Protestant sense of the phrase, is necessary to accept the Catholic Church as the true Church. It is on thing to use my judgment to decide whether to accept Christ as my Lord, His apostles and their successors as my teachers, and His Church as the pillar and and foundation of truth, but it is another to use my judgment to challenge what I disagree with or do not understand based on my cognitive abilities or limited understanding of the glories that Scripture contains.

Faith is a willingness to subject one's reason to the Word of God rather than subjecting the Word of God to examination by one's reason. If God grants me understanding (which many of you probably doubt will ever happen), it is because God first gave me faith. My faith was not acquired from understanding the Scriptures. While I truly believe that the better one understands the Scriptures, the deeper one's faith may become, but again, that depends on whether God continues to grants me the grace to help me do so. Whatever understanding of the Scriptures I have is because I first believed them to be true. I believe that faith will give me the power to understand when God feels I am ready to receive such a gift.

In contrast, with private judgment, if one is truly going to be his own "judge," he can not accept the truth of Scripture without claiming that he truly understands it first. And can anyone ever truly say that? And what happens after that person studies the Scriptures and judges that they are not inspired and looks elsewhere for the truth? Also, no person is a tabula rasa. How can one be objective about exercising private judgment when our intellect is clouded or influenced by our education, cultural factors, bias, prejudices, weaknesses and strengths?

The Venerable John Henry Newman said this alot better than I can here:

http://www.ewtn.com/library/CHRIST/JUDGMENT.TXT

Also, in fairness to you and the other readers, here is what he said while he was still a Protestant:

http://www.newmanreader.org/works/essays/volume2/private.html

As for the rest of what you say, I have no real disagreement. I think where we really part ways on our views is not whether God is the Ultimate Authority and has the sufficient ability to speak and bring His church to know what He has inspired (to which I say Amen!) but how God exercises that authority here on earth. As a Catholic, I believe it is through His Church.

I would also like to note that my disagreement is not about whether private judgment (as I understand you hold to it) is a good thing. When guided by the Holy Spirit, it certainly can be. Obviously, it works to an extent because there is so much that we as Christians do agree upon.

What I am suggesting is that there is a better way here and one that I think is more in line with the exercise of faith. At some point, our reason will fail us, and our faith must be there to help us when that happens. That is why God gave us the Church.

Alexander Greco said...

"Also, no person is a tabula rasa. How can one be objective about exercising private judgment when our intellect is clouded or influenced by our education, cultural factors, bias, prejudices, weaknesses and strengths?"

Exactly.

The Protestant ultimately creates for himself his own magisterium...whether that be the Westminister Confession or some other confession; however, the ultimate authority resides in themselves, along with their bias, etc.

dtking said...

"The Venerable John Henry Newman said this alot better than I can here..."

Yes, and the vacillating Mr. Newman also said..."Now, if a man is in a state of trial, and his trial lies in the general exercise of the will, and the choice of religion is an exercise of will, and always implies an act of individual judgment, it follows that such acts are in the number of those by which he is tried, and for which he is to give account hereafter. So far, all parties must be agreed, that without private judgment there is no responsibility; and that in matter of fact, a man’s own mind, and nothing else, is the cause of his believing or not believing, and of his acting or not acting upon his belief." See John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), p. 157.

But you won't find that at http://www.ewtn.com/library/CHRIST/JUDGMENT.TXT

DTK

EA said...

The Protestant ultimately creates for himself his own magisterium...whether that be the Westminister Confession or some other confession; however, the ultimate authority resides in themselves, along with their bias, etc.

Even if this were true, so what? The Protestant owes his Lord and Savior the worship of his entire life.

God gives His illumination through the Holy Spirit. God knows what He has illuminated and to what extent. Each individual is accountable to what he has been given. Even Catholic theology recognizes this; there is no 'corporate salvation' in the broad sense, only the salvation of each individual.

So of course each person forms their own "magesterium", you have to have a will in order to give that will over to Christ.

Paul Hoffer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alexander Greco said...

ea: "So of course each person forms their own "magesterium", you have to have a will in order to give that will over to Christ."

So according to you, each person confirms for himself his own doctrinal beliefs by an appeal to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Then why the variety? Perhaps it is due to as Paul H. questioned, "our intellect is clouded or influenced by our education, cultural factors, bias, prejudices, weaknesses and strengths?" An empirical study of human nature proves that this is true. Ultimately, in this life nobody following the Protestant tradition can have any assurance that their individualistic beliefs are correct. You'd might appeal to a conformity of one's beliefs with Scripture, but you are still left with the very fact that, "our intellect is clouded or influenced by our education, cultural factors, bias, prejudices, weaknesses and strengths." To avoid this, you fall back upon you own magisterium...Westminister Confession, etc.

dtking said...

No, the vacillating Mr. Newman wasn't making a "pitch for Rome" in that book. His comment, I cited as such, was commensurate with his views on Rome at the time. He wavered with respect to understanding private judgment as confusing it with our own reasonings rather than a reception of God's revelation of Himself. In his confusion he recognized that Rome had replaced his confused understanding of private judgment with itself....

Newman: "Of course religion has its greater and its lesser truths; but it is one thing to receive them so far as Scripture declares them to be so, quite another to decide about them for ourselves by the help of our own reasonings. However, it is not wonderful that Romanism should claim authority over the work of its own hands; it has framed the system and it proceeds to judge of it." John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), p. 119.

The vacillating Mr. Newman also observed...

Newman: "Enough perhaps was said in the last Lecture to show that Romanism, however it may profess a reverence for Antiquity, does not really feel and pay it. There are in fact two elements in operation within the system. As far as it is Catholic and Scriptural, it appeals to the Fathers; as far as it is a corruption, it finds it necessary to supercede them. Viewed in its formal principles and authoritative statements, it professes to be the champion of past times; viewed as an active and political power, as a ruling, grasping, ambitious principle, in a word, as what is expressly called Popery, it exalts the will and pleasure of the existing Church above all authority, whether of Scripture or Antiquity, interpreting the one and disposing of the other by its absolute and arbitrary decree.
We must take and deal with things as they are, not as they pretend to be. If we are induced to believe the professions of Rome, and make advances towards her as if a sister or a mother Church, which in theory she is, we shall find too late that we are in the arms of a pitiless and unnatural relative, who will but triumph in the arts which have inveighed us within her reach. No; dismissing the dreams which the romance of early Church history and the high doctrines of Catholicism will raise in the experienced mind, let us be sure that she is our enemy, and will do us a mischief when she can. In speaking and acting on this conviction, we need not depart from Christian charity towards her. We must deal with her as we would towards a friend who is visited by derangement; in great affliction, with all affectionate tender thoughts, with tearful regret and a broken heart, but still with a steady eye and a firm hand. For in truth she is a Church beside herself, abounding in noble gifts and rightful titles, but unable to use them religiously; crafty, obstinate, wilful, malicious, cruel, unnatural, as madmen are. Or rather, she may be said to resemble a demoniac; possessed with principles, thoughts, and tendencies, not her own, in outward form and in natural powers what God made her, but ruled within by an inexorable spirit, who is sovereign in his management over her, and most subtle and most successful in the use of her gifts. Thus she is her real self only in name; and, till God vouchsafe to restore her, we must treat her as if she were that evil one who governs her." John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 102-103.

The vacillating Mr. Newman goes back and forth in these lectures decrying both Protestantism and Romanism. Of this book he wrote...

John Henry Newman: "My new book is going through the Press and has cost me an immense deal of trouble. It is on the Pastoral Office of the Church, as opposed to Romanism and Popular Protestantism. I treat of Romanism’s neglect of the Fathers; of infallibility; of Private Judgment; of the Indefectibility of the Church; of Fundamentals of Faith, and of Scripture as its foundation." Dated Jan. 13, 1837, taken from Gerard Tracey, ed., The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman: Vol. VI, The Via Media and Froude’s Remains January 1837 to December 1838 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 13.

But in it he made the same critiques of Rome which many of us maintain today. He observes, for example, the ploys of Roman apologists in his day are the same as we see in them today...

John Henry Newman: Here, however, we are concerned with the Romanists. For instance: if some passage from one of the Fathers contradicts their present doctrine, and it is then objected that what even one early writer directly contradicted in his day was not Catholic at the time he contradicted it, they unhesitatingly condemn the passage as unsound and mistaken. And then follows the question, is the writer in question to be credited as reporting the current views of his age, or had he the hardihood though he knew them well, to contradict, yet without saying he contradicted them? and this can only be decided by the circumstances of the case, which an ingenious disputant may easily turn this way or that. They proceed in the same way, though a number of authorities may be produced; one is misinterpreted, another is put out of sight, a third is admitted but undervalued. This is not said by way of accusation here, though of course it is a heavy charge against the Romanists; nor with the admission that their attempts are successful, for, after all, words have a distinct meaning in spite of sophistry, and there is a true and a false in every matter. I am but showing how Romanists reconcile their abstract reverence for Antiquity with their Romanism,—with their creed, and their notion of the Church’s infallibility in declaring it; how small their success is, and how great their unfairness, is another question. Whatever judgment we form either of their conduct or its issue, such is the fact, that they extol the Fathers as a whole, and disparage them individually; they call them one by one Doctors of the Church, yet they explain away one by one their arguments, judgments, and testimony. They refuse to combine their separate and coincident statements; they take each by himself, and settle with the first before they go to the next. And thus their boasted reliance on the Fathers comes, at length, to this,—to identify Catholicity with the decrees of Councils, and to admit those Councils only which the Pope has confirmed. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 69-71.

DTK

EA said...

So according to you, each person confirms for himself his own doctrinal beliefs by an appeal to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, each individual confirms for him or herself their own doctrinal beliefs. Those that are saved do it with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

Then why the variety? Perhaps it is due to as Paul H. questioned, "our intellect is clouded or influenced by our education, cultural factors, bias, prejudices, weaknesses and strengths?"

Why didn't God create us all the same the height or all with the same I.Q.? Why did He give us all different experiences at different times? It's as if Alexander has just dropped in from outer space and has been caught by surprise at the state of affairs on this planet!

Adherents of the RCC system seem to think that if you memorize the Catechism, then all will be well. As if St. Peter administers a Catechism exam before allowing you through the Pearly Gates. Apparently the only safe-guard to this eventuality is to outsource your thinking to someone else.

My question is: why did God bother to endow you with a brain to begin with if He only wanted you to parrot the partyline?

Howard Fisher said...

Paul Hoffer, thanks for your thoughtful response. For some of the objections, I must agree with DTK.

You did write much that I could easily have said myself. Therefore , I often think we talk past each other in these discussions. You wrote one statement,

"I think where we really part ways on our views is not whether God is the Ultimate Authority and has the sufficient ability to speak and bring His church to know what He has inspired (to which I say Amen!) but how God exercises that authority here on earth."

This I think is the crux of the discussion. Rome's view of authority ends up having two ultimate or infallible authorities. There can only be one. That would be God and God alone. His Word defines the church. The church does have authority to say what is and is not Scripture. But assuming infallible authority for the church is not necessary.

One example I have used in the past on this Blog is asking whether or not a man living in the day when Genesis and Exodus were written would have sufficient knowledge of their inspiration and canonical status. Would they have been binding upon the conscience of the people as Canonical Scripture? If so, then Rome's position is wrong. I think it is that simple. I am certain you will disagree. But that is the debate IMO in the quote above.

God Bless

Howard

Alexander Greco said...

ea stated: "Yes, each individual confirms for him or herself their own doctrinal beliefs. Those that are saved do it with the aid of the Holy Spirit."

Me: This is purely speculative with no verifiable proof. Accordingly, God is a God of doctrinal pluralism within the Protestant mentality.

ea: "Why didn't God create us all the same the height or all with the same I.Q.? Why did He give us all different experiences at different times? It's as if Alexander has just dropped in from outer space and has been caught by surprise at the state of affairs on this planet!"

Me: I'm not sure where ea is going with this, other than to display his childish immaturity.

ea: "Adherents of the RCC system seem to think that if you memorize the Catechism, then all will be well. As if St. Peter administers a Catechism exam before allowing you through the Pearly Gates. Apparently the only safe-guard to this eventuality is to outsource your thinking to someone else."

Me: Apart from the continuation of ea's immaturity, we can see that he fails to conceptualize the relevant distinctions at play. Within Catholicism, granting that its teachings are true, a person has the possibility to know that he or she is holding beliefs at variance with sound doctrine, and can avoid this. The Magisterium of the Church is guarded from promulgating error in its capacity as teacher of faith and morals. This is the magisterium which we Catholics can rely on...the pillar of truth.

On the other hand, Protestants ultimately rely upon their own novel doctrines espoused by their own magisterium(s)...Westminister Confession, etc.

ea: "My question is: why did God bother to endow you with a brain to begin with if He only wanted you to parrot the partyline?"

Me: Actually that question is better asked of you and your predestination cohorts.

Paul Hoffer said...

DTKing, Thank you for clarifying your position in part. I must take issue however with your term vacillating. Vacillation implies that a person waivers between two separate positions. While he was still a Protestant, the Ven. Newman could arguably be seen as vacillating between the Church of England and the Catholic Church, although having read his Apologia Pro Vita Sua and some of his other Protestant works, it would be fairer to say that he was slowly progressing to "Rome" his entire life. Perhaps you can justify the label you give Cardinal Newman by showing us when he changed back to his Protestant views after he became a Catholic in 1845.

To his credit, Mr. Swan here on this blog likes to show us how Father Luther's positions on various doctrines changed over his life as he developed his theology. What he held in 1521 wasn't necessarily what he held in 1545.

I would suggest that what would hold for Father Luther holds true for Cardinal Newman. One such example of Cardinal Newman's growth can be seen in book titled, "Mary: The Virgin Mary in the Life and Writings of John Henry Newman" The editor, Philip Boyce, has gathered all of Newman's views on Mary and demonstrated how his views over the years matured upto the time he converted to Catholicism.

ea, you are right that we believe that on the last day we will face the Lord solo cum solus.

That is a separate issue however, from who has the authority to "teach" in the Church. Based on what you wrote here, you do not appear to have an accurate understanding of what the notion of the Magisterium is.

While you belittle Mr. Greco for carrying one of my questions further, it is you that have it wrong. Contrary to what you claim, adherents of the RCC system DO NOT think that if you memorize the Catechism, then all will be well. Christ calls us to accept His Gospel, to imitate Him by taking up our own crosses and living the Gospel message in our lives, to feed the hungry, give to the thirsty, etc. We simply do not believe that our salvation is premised on how well we can exegete various Bible passages which seems to me to be a form of work-based salvation. At its core, faith is based on obedience and assent. It is not based on how well we understand. I do not need to understand in order to have faith in Jesus Christ, in His infallible Word and in His infallible Church.

Finally, to answer your question,
"[H]ow was a 4th century christian assured of knowing what the canon of Scripture was since the RCC didn't get around to "infallibly" defining it until Trent? Where was the 'benefit' of the 'infallible teaching office' in the 3rd, 4th ,5th 6th......centuries? The answer is that the infallible Church did not need to define the canon of Scripture in order to defeat Gnosticism, Donatism, Arianism, Monophyistism, Iconoclasm, etc. The decrees of councils are a part of the "infallible teaching office" of the Church.

Mr. Fisher, you asked, "[Would] a man living in the day when Genesis and Exodus were written, [...] have sufficient knowledge of their inspiration and canonical status? Would they have been binding upon the conscience of the people as Canonical Scripture?"

My answer, I believe that if you were living in those days and assented to the Covenant and the fact that Moses was indeed sent from God and was the "deliverer," you would have had to assent to two of the five books he wrote that comprised the written Torah. Their divine character was confirmed through the oral Torah which constituted the teaching authority and decrees of the judges that Moses appointed, not to mention the fact that the Hebrews had entered into a new covenant with God which bound them to accept His Law.

Between you and me, I would have also thought witnessing the 10 plagues, the pillar of fire, the destruction of Pharoah's army, the Great Theophany leading up to receiving the 10 Commandments, the giving of the Law, receiving manna and quail in the desert, the miraculous gifts of water, and the descent of God or his shadow on the meeting tent, etc. would have have been sufficient for me to confirm their inspired nature as well. But we see that that was not the case with the Hebrews.

However, private judgment was not involved here. God's covenant with them was not premised on how well they exegeted His words, but whether they OBEYED and heeded His decrees and observing them carefully. Dt. 7:12. Note too that the Word of God was not given to the people, but to Moses and the elders and the priests who were assigned to to teach and to judges to interpret. The people relied upon the understanding of the Covenant that was taught to them by the OT Church~Moses, the priests, the elders and the judges.

God bless!

Augustinian Successor said...

"Sorry guys, but you Protestants fail to see the bigger picture here. The Catholic Church's position is logically consistent because it argues that it has the charism to infallibly recognize which documents are inspired scripture and which are not."

This is simply hilarious. So, the Magisterium's right even when it's wrong! (Note: I said Magisterium, not Scripture).

Augustinian Successor said...

"However, private judgment was not involved here. God's covenant with them was not premised on how well they exegeted His words, but whether they OBEYED and heeded His decrees and observing them carefully."

Obviously this statement is downright silly. Obedience comes from understanding. Without a right understanding, there is no "right" obedience. Theory precedes practice.

So, basically, Paul is advocating blind obedience to a totalitarian system here. The blind leading the blind, as the Word of God says ...

Augustinian Successor said...

"The answer is that the infallible Church did not need to define the canon of Scripture in order to defeat Gnosticism, Donatism, Arianism, Monophyistism, Iconoclasm, etc. The decrees of councils are a part of the "infallible teaching office" of the Church."

Then where did the Church and Councils receive their sources from? Outside of Scripture??? The Gnostic Gospels??? For the sake of argument, where did they get their primary sources from???

Augustinian Successor said...

"I would suggest that what would hold for Father Luther holds true for Cardinal Newman. One such example of Cardinal Newman's growth can be seen in book titled, "Mary: The Virgin Mary in the Life and Writings of John Henry Newman" The editor, Philip Boyce, has gathered all of Newman's views on Mary and demonstrated how his views over the years matured upto the time he converted to Catholicism."

Mr. Hoffer, stop calling Luther, a "Father." Contrary to your protestation, you're not showing respect to Doctor Luther. He deserves better than that.

As for Newman, he made the biggest mistake in his entire life by perverting to Romanism. The fool that he was ...

Augustinian Successor said...

"To his credit, Mr. Swan here on this blog likes to show us how Luther's positions on various doctrines changed over his life as he developed his theology. What he held in 1521 wasn't necessarily what he held in 1545."

Did Doctor Luther changed his views on sola Scriptura and sola fide then?

Augustinian Successor said...

"Christ calls us to accept His Gospel, to imitate Him by taking up our own crosses and living the Gospel message in our lives, to feed the hungry, give to the thirsty, etc."

Then why do you and your Church reject justification by faith alone? When Christ says that we are to good works, He precisely meant that you are set free to do good works. Good works, in other words, is not done in pursuit of holiness. It is precisely because one has been made holy that one is then free to do good works for the sake of the neighbour ... not oneself in pursuit of holiness.

Can you or can you not appreciate difference here?

Augustinian Successor said...

Paul Hoffer, why for the life of you, an attorney and intellectual, would want to submit your conscience and by extension, your soul to the pope when he doesn't even claim to be a Saviour in the first place? He didn't die for your sins, did he, the pope that is? Don't infallibility in teaching and infallibility in salvation belong together???

Ever wondered why Jesus told us not to call anyone Teacher save Himself? The implication is clear isn't it. He who possesses absolute authority to teach also possesses absolute authority to forgive sins, unconditionally and for all time.

Howard Fisher said...

Paul stated, "Between you and me, I would have also thought witnessing the 10 plagues, the pillar of fire, the destruction of Pharoah's army, the Great Theophany leading up to receiving the 10 Commandments, the giving of the Law, receiving manna and quail in the desert, the miraculous gifts of water, and the descent of God or his shadow on the meeting tent, etc. would have have been sufficient for me to confirm their inspired nature as well. But we see that that was not the case with the Hebrews."

(Aside from the last line)Why is it that you may argue a great argument here and not be consistent with it? Yes, this is a historical argument that would force a person living with Moses to accept God's Word as binding. But then in an earlier paragraph you add teaching magesteriums of that era in order to redefine your argument to make it more like Rome's position today. This is just wrong.

The next generation of believers who did not see the Exodus were still bound to the Canon that Moses wrote. There was no infallible teaching Magesterium to tell the people what was and was not Scripture. In fact, in the days of Jeremiah, his book was destroyed by the rulers of Israel. Was it still not binding simply because it was rejected? When God speaks, God (This is the important point!) does not have an equal or higher authority to tell people that He is speaking. It just is what it is...God's Word!

Your historical argument is sufficient for one person (to which I say amen), but then becomes not sufficient for later generations (they needing some Megesterium). RCs also apply your historical argumentation to recognizing the Teaching Magesterium of the church of Rome in order for Prots to see Rome as the true church. I have always thought this reasoning inconsistent.

EA said...

Within Catholicism, granting that its teachings are true, a person has the possibility to know that he or she is holding beliefs at variance with sound doctrine, and can avoid this.

So a person must rely upon their otherwise unreliable private judgement to determine that the Magesterium of the RCC teaches the truth? Then as an ongoing exercise, this same person must rely on their private judgement to evaluate that they are still holding correctly to correct teaching?

I'm still looking for the epistemic advantage that the existence of a Magesterium allegedly confers.

The Magisterium of the Church is guarded from promulgating error in its capacity as teacher of faith and morals. This is the magisterium which we Catholics can rely on...the pillar of truth.

There a couple of problems with this:

1)The assertion that the Magesterium is guarded from teaching error is based on an assertion from the Magesterium itself which is itself based partly upon other Magesterial Pronouncements - this is not only circular but entirely self-serving.

2)1 Tim 3:15 doesn’t refer to “the Universal Church,” but to a local church. Even Catholic commentators recognize this (see L.T. Johnson & Msgr. J. Quinn).

EA said...

Finally, to answer your question, "[H]ow was a 4th century christian assured of knowing what the canon of Scripture was since the RCC didn't get around to "infallibly" defining it until Trent? Where was the 'benefit' of the 'infallible teaching office' in the 3rd, 4th ,5th 6th......centuries?

I'm sorry to have phrased this question in such a way as to confuse.

Allow me to restate:
"Since the RCC did not infallibly define the canon of Scripture until the Council of Trent, how was a Christian living before Trent supposed to know what constituted the canon of Scripture?"

The answer that you provided did not address the question relative to how a christian living at the stated time would have known what constituted Scripture, therefore I'm assuming that I did not phrase my question clearly.

Thanks

Jugulum said...

alexander greco said,
Within Catholicism, granting that its teachings are true, a person has the possibility to know that he or she is holding beliefs at variance with sound doctrine, and can avoid this.

Please help me out with that. I honestly do not understand how to make rational sense out of that sentence. I can't see how you have even the possibility of applying it. I imagine myself accepting the Catholic Magisterium as my interpreter, and then I hit a road-block when I try to figure out what happens next.

The million-dollar question: How do I go about ascertaining whether my beliefs agree with what the Magisterium promulgates? By talking to my (fallible) local priest? By reading the catechism or the proceedings of councils or the statements of popes? But how do I know that I understand them correctly? How do I know if I correctly understand "extra ecclesiam nulla salus," for instance?

And if I can read Catholic sources to find out what sound doctrine is--if I can understand them and gain assurance that my beliefs accord with them--why is it impossible to get the same assurance by reading only Scripture? (Is it that the full magisterial teachings are clear while Scripture isn't, by itself?)

If I convert today, what do I need to read to gain that assurance of sound doctrine?

Alexander Greco said...

gvow"Please help me out with that. I honestly do not understand how to make rational sense out of that sentence. I can't see how you have even the possibility of applying it. I imagine myself accepting the Catholic Magisterium as my interpreter, and then I hit a road-block when I try to figure out what happens next."

Me: The reason why I stated it that way, "granting that its teachings are true," is purely for the sake of argument for your purpose. As far as I'm concerned, there is no need for me, you, or anyone else to grant its truthfulnest. Its quite simple, you can't. The Magisterium is either true or it is not, regardless of any of our opinions about it. You stating that it isn't, or me stating that it is does not make one bit of difference...and I have yet to see any argument which would cause me to reject the Magisterium. The support for the Magisterium far outweighs all contrary arguments. I would have to purposefully suspend all historical, theological, philosophical knowledge in a Cartesian fashion in order to accept the novel Protestant doctrines. Even after I were to do this, however, as I would begin to peer through Protestant bias at history, theology, the ancient liturgical practices of the Church (which continue to this day), I would still have to submit to the Magisterium of the Church in order to maintain honesty...and not the straw man which is set up by those who are outside her.

Isolating teachings of the Church, and developing straw man arguments is not enough for me to discount the Catholic faith. There is one deposit of faith; one whole mystical body. In order to take down that body you must address the whole, and not simply its parts. Isolating a doctrine, and attacking a straw man version of it while ignoring the rest of the body (like the ancient liturgies...which are always convieniently ignored, even when challenged on them) will only persuade the ignorant.

Jugulum: "The million-dollar question: How do I go about ascertaining whether my beliefs agree with what the Magisterium promulgates? By talking to my (fallible) local priest? By reading the catechism or the proceedings of councils or the statements of popes?"

Me: Yes, you could do those things. There is enough information out there that you could align yourself with orthodox teachings. I don't have a problem with it. The Magisterium, as seen historically, can tell you if your beliefs are outside of orthodoxy.

Jugulum: "But how do I know that I understand them correctly? How do I know if I correctly understand "extra ecclesiam nulla salus," for instance?"

Me: You see, this is where I would challenge your seriousness, and honesty. Being a member of the Church, how does my understanding of "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" affect my salvation? I don't have time to get into it, but I can safely say that humans are extremely complex animals. The degree to which their environment affects their decision making, and their general ability to understand the world is far from known. Only God knows their level of culpability, and I do not pretend to be God. All things being equal, would they accept the Truth? Again, only God knows. Therefore, it is safe to say, and rational I might add, that you cannot take the normative and apply it across the board while simultaneously ignoring those extraordinary cases. Equally speaking, you cannot take the extraordinary, and make it the normative. On an objective level, it is only through Christ via His Church can man be saved. How that salvation is applied in the extraordinary sense is known to God. Whether a person must consciously enter the Church in order to be saved would entail that those who through no fault of their own, that is being invincibly ignorant due to geographic disability, historical disability, cultural-nurturing disability, and even mental disability would simply be out of luck...so to speak. As Catholics, we have hope in their salvation.

Jugulum: "And if I can read Catholic sources to find out what sound doctrine is--if I can understand them and gain assurance that my beliefs accord with them--why is it impossible to get the same assurance by reading only Scripture? (Is it that the full magisterial teachings are clear while Scripture isn't, by itself?)"

Me: Absolutely! Tell me, in practice why is there such a diversity in understanding some of the main tenants of the faith and their application? What arrogance one could have in believing that they can read and understand the Scriptures without someone to teach them (Acts 8:30). If you claim that the Holy Spirit is guiding you, yet the same Holy Spirit is guiding your fellow Protestants, but you contradict one another. Then the Holy Spirit is guiding you only some of the time, but not all of the time. How are you certain which times you are being guided? Where is the framework to guide you in your assurance of being guided? Scripture? Well, we end up going back to square one.

Jugulum: "If I convert today, what do I need to read to gain that assurance of sound doctrine?"

Me: Go to the Magisterial teachings of the Church.

Alexander Greco said...

ea "1)The assertion that the Magesterium is guarded from teaching error is based on an assertion from the Magesterium itself which is itself based partly upon other Magesterial Pronouncements - this is not only circular but entirely self-serving."

Me: Your error resides in the fact that you overlook the important qualification that Jesus instituted the Magisterium. We can see this as an example, once again, in 1 Tim 3:15 and in the Gospels, Acts, ect.

ea: "2)1 Tim 3:15 doesn’t refer to “the Universal Church,” but to a local church. Even Catholic commentators recognize this (see L.T. Johnson & Msgr. J. Quinn)."

Me: Have you actually read 1 Tim 3:15? I do not think you have. Absolutely nothing there indicates that Paul was refering to a local church and not the Church. By all means, please humor me with the argument.

Jugulum said...

Alexander,

It really seems like there was a fundamental disconnect between the two of us. Possibly I wasn't clear--that does happen.

First, in your first two paragraphs, you seem to think that I was challenging the truthfulness of Catholic teachings. I wasn't. I was granting their truthfulness, purely for the sake of argument. So, I said that I can imagine accepting that Catholic teaching is true--but that I cannot see how doing can give me assurance that my understanding of Catholic doctrine is correct. If I go to written sources of Catholic doctrine, I will have to try to figure out what they mean--to interpret them. How do I gain assurance that the fallibility of my private judgment & interpretation hasn't led me to misunderstand them?

Now, it is possible to rationally make that claim without being incoherent. Namely, if, as you seemed to affirm after my question, you believe that written Catholic teaching possesses a perspicuity which Scripture lacks. It is a coherent idea, granting for the sake of argument that this idea is actually supported by Scripture and/or the history of the church.

But if you do affirm that, you must walk very carefully in how you argue against sola scriptura. If you affirm that it is possible to understand written Catholic teaching, then you can't say that it is inherently impossible to understand written Scripture. If you allow that it is not arrogant to think that I can read and understand the Catechism & the canons of councils & the proclamations of Popes, you can't say that it is inherently arrogant to think that I can understand Scripture. You can still argue that those things are impossible or arrogant, but you need an explanation of why you think that God has given written Catholic teaching a self-sufficient clarity which he withheld from Scripture--and why it is arrogant in one case but not the other.

But in your responses and defenses, I can't tell if you're aware of this need to explain how the impossibility of individual understanding is different when we come to written Magisterial sources. You're willing to throw out comments about arrogance, or questions about "Where is the framework to guide you in your assurance of being guided? Scripture?" I assume you ask that question because you honestly believe it gets to the heart of why I ought to submit to the Pope--because you think it should persuade me. But you ask as though you have no idea that I'll give the obvious reply, "Where is my framework to guide me in my assurance of being guided in my understanding of the Catholic Magisterium? In the catechism/canons/promulgations? Well, we end up going back to square one"?

In a nutshell, it comes down to the saying you have probably heard before if you've been reading Protestant blogs. Where is my infallible interpreter to interpret the infallible interpreter?


In regard to "extra ecclesiam," I'm wondering--why did you ask how your understanding of it affects your salvation? I didn't imply that it did.

Now, I could accept in theory that all things from the Magisterium are not alike plain in themselves, but only those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation. But part of the reason I brought up that subject is that before Vatican II, if I had read the Council of Florence, I would have thought it abundantly clear what the Catholic Church teaches about "Jews or heretics or schismatics" and their destiny of hellfire "unless before the end of life they are joined to the church". But you will tell me that my assurance of sound doctrine would have been misplaced--that I misunderstood them. So, again, who do I get to tell me if I'm making that kind of error? Who interprets the interpreter?

EA said...

Your error resides in the fact that you overlook the important qualification that Jesus instituted the Magisterium. We can see this as an example, once again, in 1 Tim 3:15 and in the Gospels, Acts, ect.

This is mere assertion, where is the supporting argument? In which Gospels? Which passages?

One of the standard Catholic commentaries on 1 (and 2) Timothy are:

L. Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy (Doubleday 2001)

This NT scholar comes to the conclusion that the church mentioned in 1 Timothy is of a local assembly.

"There is a complete absence of legitimation of any organizational element in these letters. Leaders are not designated as priests, and none of their functions are cultic in character. Instead, they are given the sort of secular
designations used in clubs, and their functions are practical and quotidian…Nothing in the letters supports the idea that structure is in the process of creation."

(Johnson p.75)

"The assumption that exactly the same structure prevailed everywhere from the beginning is implausible. We should think rather of patterns of
organization that share elements with diverse local expressions."
(Johnson p.222)

Another recent commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy was by Msgr. J. Quinn The First and Second Letters to Timothy (Eerdmans 2000). He also reaches the conclusion that the church "in question" is a local church.

There is no Magesterium in view in 1 Timothy.

Paul Hoffer said...

Wow, there are all kinds of great questions and comments here!

I have written a response to the following remark of Augustinian Successor which I will be posting on my own website, "Spes mea Christus" which can be found by clicking on my name:

[I said earlier] "At its core, faith is based on obedience and assent. It is not based on how well we understand. I do not need to understand in order to have faith in Jesus Christ, in His infallible Word and in His infallible Church."

A.S then attacked my example in support of my contention saying, "Obviously this statement is downright silly. Obedience comes from understanding. Without a right understanding, there is no "right" obedience. Theory precedes practice.

So, basically, Paul is advocating blind obedience to a totalitarian system here. The blind leading the blind, as the Word of God says ..."

While I didn't feel it appropriate to hijack a commbox on someone else's site by downloading a three page single-spaced response to give the Catholic definition of faith to a bunch of folks who believe in sola fide especially when someone far smarter than me could have probably provided a better and shorter explanation than me of the Catholic view.

I do not agree with A.S. though that my view of faith is silly, but is one that I think at least two fellow Catholics would have approved of: St. Augustine and St. Anselm.

I would note my bemusement that someone who goes by the label, Augustinian Successor was not aware of this quotation by St. Augustine, “Understanding is the reward of faith. Seek not to understand in order to believe,
but believe in order to understand.” (Sermon 126)

St. Anselm also stated in his "Proslogium":

I do not endeavor, O Lord, to penetrate your sublimity, for in no wise do I compare my understanding with that; but I long to understand in some degree your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I
believe, —that unless I believed, I should not understand."

I wonder, A.S. would you consider Augustine and Anselm silly, too?

A.S. you also criticized my statement about the canon of Scripture: "Then where did the Church and Councils receive their sources from? Outside of Scripture??? The Gnostic Gospels??? For the sake of argument, where did they get their primary sources from???"

You did not read my comments. I said that the Church did not need to authoritatively and finally DEFINE its canon to combat the heresies listed in my comment. I never said that the Church did not recognize certain texts to be Holy and Inspired Scriptures and used them. It did have a canon consisting of the same books that the Church has now and the Church used the inspired books of Scripture along with resort to Apostolic Tradition and the writings of other Early Church Fathers to defeat those heresies.

You asked, "Did Doctor Luther changed his views on sola Scriptura and sola fide then?" Obviously he did. Otherwise, he would have been still considered a Roman Catholic as opposed to the founder of a heresy.

You asked (I presume not rhetorically), "Then why do you and your Church reject justification by faith alone?" Well considering that at least one branch of Lutherans and Catholics were able to agree that the Protestant notion of sola fide and the Catholic view of faith and sanctification do not differ, I would imagine that our rejection of your view is based on your faulty definition of justification and sola fide as opposed to opposition to the actual doctrine.

Can you appreciate the fact that the differences here are probably consist of semantics and stubborness on your part as opposed to any differences in substance?

You asked, [Excluding the obnoxious preface] "Don't infallibility in teaching and infallibility in salvation belong together???" Nope.

Mr. Fisher, There are numerous references to a teaching Magisterium in the OT. See for example, Exodus. 18:13-27; Numbers 11: 14-17; Deut. 1:13-18, 10:12-13, 17:8-11; 2 Chronicles 19:4-11. If you like (and have the patience to wait for me to finish it), I could try give you a detailed explanation on how those OT courts performed in a similar fashion to what we call the Magisterium today.

ea, you asked, "[H]ow was a Christian living before Trent supposed to know what constituted the canon of Scripture?" Not to be flippant, I doubt that a Christian (up to 1517 anyway)probably wouldn't have thought to ask that question, but in all likelihood would have relied upon what the Church taught it to be as expressed in the liturgical readings at the Mass and the liturgy of the Mass and the sacraments, the preaching of the priests and bishops and the number of books contained in the Vulgate which was the official Scriptures that was used by the Church which did have the same NT and the Deuterocanonical books of the OT as well as the books Protestants now-a-days recognize.

That is an interesting question though, because the Greek Church and the Ethiopian Copts had (and still have) even more books in their bibles than even the Catholic Church has. I will try to come up with a better answer than "Hoffer on the Canon of Scripture before Trent."

Let me ask you a question for you to think about in the meantime, aside from some Pharisaic schools, particularly Bet Hillel which redacted the Deuterocanonical books from the OT canon after the fall of Jerusalem, how did the average Jew before the fall know what the OT canon was? The Herodians, the Saducees, the Essenes and the various schools of Pharisees all recognized different books to be Scriptures. [Examples: Book of Jubilees, Book of Enoch, Apocolypse of Abraham, etc...]

For that matter, did the Jews before the fall of Jerusalem even recognize the notion of a canon, let alone what books it consisted of?

EA said...

I doubt that a Christian (up to 1517 anyway)probably wouldn't have thought to ask that question, but in all likelihood would have relied upon what the Church taught it to be as expressed in the liturgical readings at the Mass and the liturgy of the Mass and the sacraments, the preaching of the priests and bishops and the number of books contained in the Vulgate which was the official Scriptures that was used by the Church..."

An interesting phrase; "what the Church taught it to be..." If the Magesterium did not promulgate a definitive teaching or the Pope did not issue an ex cathedra statement, or the belief cannot be demonstrated to have been held unviversally by the faithful, how can something be classified as what the church taught?

For instance, books that were later deemed to be non-canonical were included in some of the early codices.

The Epistle of Barnabas, for example was read in public services: "Up to the fourth century only the Alexandrians were acquainted with it, and in their Church the epistle attained to the honour of being publicly read. The manner in which Clement of Alexandria and Origen refer to the letter gives confirmation to the belief that, about the year A.D. 200, even in Alexandria the Epistle of Barnabas was not regarded by everyone as an inspired writing." http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02299a.htm

Clearly the canon was not established until rather late in church history and in fact it appears that canonicity had more than one meaning; books that were deemed Holy Scripture (inspired) and other writings which were not inspired but were none the less profitable to be read. This is the most likely explanation given the evidence at hand.


"[H]ow did the average Jew before the fall know what the OT canon was?"

This is a good question. I have seen online apologists posit the existence of a OT "magesterium", however that move is fraught with problems.

I will have to do some research on this...

Alexander Greco said...

ea, very quickly, those quotes do not even address the issue at hand. If you go back and read the actual Scriptural quotation, you can see this.

Howard Fisher said...

Paul wrote,

"Mr. Fisher, There are numerous references to a teaching Magisterium in the OT. See for example, Exodus. 18:13-27; Numbers 11: 14-17; Deut. 1:13-18, 10:12-13, 17:8-11; 2 Chronicles 19:4-11."

Nobody disputes there are officers that are given authority to teach. This is a point I think we pass each other on. I have said as much in earlier comments. The problem is that even Jesus subjects these teachers to the ONLY INFALLIBLE AUTHORITY, the Word of God.

As a Confessional Reformed Baptist, I am fully a believer in the authority of the local church. I believe the 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith is binding upon all those who are members of churches that ascribe to that Confession. I believe Pastors have an authority in the church to oversee it due to their calling to a position that most member do not hold. None of this denies Sola Scriptura.

So again, I think the problem comes down to a mischaracterization of that most precious doctrine.

Again, you can not have competing ultimate infallible authorities. That IS what Rome argues for. IT is simply not possible. For it assumes man is able to speak clearly and God is not. Again that is wrong.

God Bless

Howard

Alexander Greco said...

rJugulum: "If I go to written sources of Catholic doctrine, I will have to try to figure out what they mean--to interpret them. How do I gain assurance that the fallibility of my private judgment & interpretation hasn't led me to misunderstand them?"

Me: Again, by asking that Magisterium. The Magisterium can say, "Hey, you are in error here." This is not a novel concept, for this is what the Church has been doing for years. Far more clarity over what pertains to orthodox doctrine is a result of an infallible Magisterium as opposed to not having one. Just look at the Protestant world, and you can see what happens when there isn't an infallible Magisterium. Everyone claims to have orthodox doctrine, yet they hardly agree. Within the Church we have an infallible Magisterium which can proclaim with infallible certainty that "X" doctrine is outside the bounds of orthodoxy. The Protestant can only appeal to his own fallible traditions...his own fallible magisterium, and we can see where that takes them.

Jugulum: "Now, it is possible to rationally make that claim without being incoherent. Namely, if, as you seemed to affirm after my question, you believe that written Catholic teaching possesses a perspicuity which Scripture lacks. It is a coherent idea, granting for the sake of argument that this idea is actually supported by Scripture and/or the history of the church."

Me: Actually this is the fallacy of selective emphasis. The Magisterium is a teaching office, which is more than just written doctrines. The Magisterium can tell you that you are in error with infallible certainty; whereas the Scriptures cannot (Acts 8).

Jugulum: "But if you do affirm that, you must walk very carefully in how you argue against sola scriptura. If you affirm that it is possible to understand written Catholic teaching, then you can't say that it is inherently impossible to understand written Scripture. If you allow that it is not arrogant to think that I can read and understand the Catechism & the canons of councils & the proclamations of Popes, you can't say that it is inherently arrogant to think that I can understand Scripture. You can still argue that those things are impossible or arrogant, but you need an explanation of why you think that God has given written Catholic teaching a self-sufficient clarity which he withheld from Scripture--and why it is arrogant in one case but not the other."

Me: Fallacy of selective emphasis.

Jugulum: "But in your responses and defenses, I can't tell if you're aware of this need to explain how the impossibility of individual understanding is different when we come to written Magisterial sources. You're willing to throw out comments about arrogance, or questions about "Where is the framework to guide you in your assurance of being guided? Scripture?" I assume you ask that question because you honestly believe it gets to the heart of why I ought to submit to the Pope--because you think it should persuade me. But you ask as though you have no idea that I'll give the obvious reply, "Where is my framework to guide me in my assurance of being guided in my understanding of the Catholic Magisterium? In the catechism/canons/promulgations? Well, we end up going back to square one"?

Me: Only if you selectively limit the full activity of the Magisterium. To equate the mode of teaching of the Magisterium with that of Scripture simply ignores all of the relevant facts involved.

Jugulum said...

Alexander,
rJugulum: "If I go to written sources of Catholic doctrine, I will have to try to figure out what they mean--to interpret them. How do I gain assurance that the fallibility of my private judgment & interpretation hasn't led me to misunderstand them?"

Me: Again, by asking that Magisterium. The Magisterium can say, "Hey, you are in error here."


A.) Is that what is necessary to gain the assurance you promised me? Going to the Magisterium and asking? If so, whom do I actually ask? A local priest? Do I go to Rome? Will I be getting an infallible answer? Have you, Alexander Greco, ever had the opportunity to approach the Magisterium an obtain an infallible declaration on whether your understanding of Catholic doctrine is correct? Do you know anyone who has? Will I ever have that opportunity? How would I go about it?

B.) Again, you miss the point. If they explain how I am in error, how will I know if I understood their explanation correctly?

I'll go through it step-by-step.

1. I desire to avoid holding beliefs at variance with sound doctrine.
2. I somehow go to the Magisterium and obtain an infallible declaration about the correctness of my understanding.
3. They say "yea" or "nay".
4a. If say "nay", I listen to their explanation of how I am in error. (Skip to Branch 1, step 5.)
4b. If they say "yea", I begin to doubt myself--what if I didn't explain my question well? What if I was just parroting the right words without understanding? (That is a very real danger for all of us.) Return to step 1, rephrasing my questions.

(assuming they said "nay")
5. I attempt to understand their explanation.
6. Return to step 1.

Where is the exit from the merry-go-round? When do I achieve the certain knowledge you are promising?

(Note: If the standard is not infallible certainty, I can see how to find strong, reliable confidence. But I can also see how to find that without an infallible interpreter, just as I can find strong, reliable confidence in many things in life.)

You also said,

Me: Actually this is the fallacy of selective emphasis. The Magisterium is a teaching office, which is more than just written doctrines. The Magisterium can tell you that you are in error with infallible certainty; whereas the Scriptures cannot (Acts 8).


Not quite. I wasn't ignoring the possibility of talking to someone, I asked about it. I'm attempting to go by your answers to my questions about how to go about doing this.

I had asked you, "The million-dollar question: How do I go about ascertaining whether my beliefs agree with what the Magisterium promulgates? By talking to my (fallible) local priest? By reading the catechism or the proceedings of councils or the statements of popes?"

You said, "Yes, you could do those things."

Now, I apologize; I forgot that you had said "yes" to asking a priest. But I can't imagine that asking a priest is actually what you have in mind when you tell me to ask the Magisterium--a local priest doesn't have the charism of infallibility! (If that is what you meant, can you elaborate? For instance, am I wrong in thinking that a local priest is fallible in his doctrine?)

So, I started by asking you where I could go. You seemed to affirm that talking to a priest and reading the written Catholic sources is enough. Perhaps I misunderstood. If you must fill out your answer, please do so. What specific sources must I consult to gain the assurance you are promising me? What written and/or living, spoken sources? If you say "the Magisterium", how do I go about consulting them? Which representative? Will that representative be infallible? (And have you yourself followed the steps you give me? Have many Catholics?)

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi ea, you wrote, “An interesting phrase; "what the Church taught it to be..." If the Magisterium did not promulgate a definitive teaching or the Pope did not issue an ex cathedra statement, or the belief cannot be demonstrated to have been held universally by the faithful, how can something be classified as what the church taught?”

Laying aside the issue of infallibility, I would start with the fact that the Church always has had its priests and its bishops. That is where teaching starts. As we see from St. Paul’s writings to Titus and Timothy, the authority to teach and the doctrine that was to be taught as passed down from the Apostles was to the bishops whose responsibility it was to guide their flocks who passed that authority to teach each succeeding generation. We see it in the Didache 15:1, “Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, (1 Tim. 3:4) and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers.”

We see it in the First Epistle of St. Clement Chapter 44, where that blessed saint wrote, “ Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.”

St. Ignatius wrote in his Epistle to the Ephesians, “It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you,that by a unanimous obedience you may beperfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing, (1Cor. 1:10) and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified.”

St. Iraeneus specifically appealed to Apostolic Tradition in Book III, Chapters 3-4 where the faithful were again instructed to heed their bishops because they were the stewards of the Sacred Tradition of the Apostles. We see it in the sacramentaries of SS. Hippolytus and Serapion, not to mention the letters of SS. Athanasius, Basil and Augustine giving instructions as to how the catechumens were to be taught. And we see very early on that the other churches in that time checked the legitimacy and orthodoxy of their teachings against those of the bishop of Rome. We see it in the creeds which are still used to this day. Compare for instance the Apostles’ Creed with the baptismal liturgy used by St. Hippolytus at the end of the second century. It is almost word for word what we as Catholics and Protestants both use and profess to this day. Look at the uniformity of the beliefs and practices exemplified in the liturgies used by the early Church which contain most of the fundamental concepts that the Church holds to this day. It is amazing how little variance there was during all of that time in the doctrines that the Church taught. It is easy to see how one could believe that the Holy Spirit is truly guiding the Church.

The issue of the canon is an interesting one. I suggest to you that meaning of the word “canon” as we use it now is a bit different from the way it was used in the early Church for with very few exceptions (mostly from heretics), there was little variance in the books of Scripture the Catholic Church uses to this day. The Festal Letter 39 of St. Athanasius is often cited as a rejection of the deuterocanonical books. However, if one reads Festal Letter 39 closely, what St. Athanasius was talking about was which books were suitable to be read in the liturgical readings of the Church and given the fact that he does not exclude Baruch, or the Septuagint versions of Daniel and Esther from the canon, it is fair to say that he doesn’t adopt the canon (in the modern sense) which Protestants ascribe to. Further, he still exhorted the clergy to use the other Deuterocanonical books in teaching the catechumens the doctrines of the Church. (How come Protestants do not even do that anymore?) Furthermore, I could provide you examples from both St, Athanasius and St. Jerome where they referred to passages from the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture. Thus, while the issue of inclusion in a canon may have been in dispute, their inspiration and authority as Scripture was not.

Howard wrote (I hope it is ok for me to call you by your first name since we have been discoursing these past several days), “Again, you can not have competing ultimate infallible authorities. That IS what Rome argues for. IT is simply not possible. For it assumes man is able to speak clearly and God is not. Again that is wrong.”

When I saw your comment above, I first thought of what is written at Deut. 17:12, “But he that will be proud, and refuse to obey the commandment of the priest, who ministereth at that time to the Lord thy God, and the decree of the judge, that man shall die, and thou shalt take away the evil from Israel.” It is clear from this passage of Scripture, that Scripture itself is telling us that the binding authority to interpret Scripture rests with the priests and the judges. Thus, your statement does not reflect what the Scriptures clearly teach.

That being said, I can only say that I agree with your statement that there can not be a “competing ultimate infallible authorities.” We Catholics believe that the method that God chose to insure the infallibility of His Word is through the teaching authority of His bride, the Church. “Rome” doesn’t compete with the Word of God; it only competes with individual Christians who do not assent to the authority Christ gave the Church to teach and interpret it.

You referenced The Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 in your comments. I have read that document and I can say that there is much there that I as a Catholic can fairly and honestly concur with. There are many things I do not agree with obviously.

But I must ask, where is it in the Bible that it says that congregations were to do "confessions" such as what was done in 1689? Is this an extra-biblical tradition? Why wasn't sufficient simply to exhort one to read their Bible if it contains everything necessary to save? What was wrong with The First London Baptist Confession of 1646 that they felt that it had to be redone?

Please understand~I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the practice because obviously we Catholics have done the same thing, but where did the Baptists derive their authority to promulgate such a thing as a "Confession?"

Thank you both for allowing me to order my thoughts and re-examine what I believe about my Church!

Augustinian Successor said...

"But I must ask, where is it in the Bible that it says that congregations were to do "confessions" such as what was done in 1689? Is this an extra-biblical tradition? Why wasn't sufficient simply to exhort one to read their Bible if it contains everything necessary to save? What was wrong with The First London Baptist Confession of 1646 that they felt that it had to be redone?"

2 Timothy 1:13 ...

"Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."

Paul Hoffer said...

I am sorry A.S., could you show me where in the NT that Jesus dictated either of the London Baptist Confessions to the Apostles or St. Paul dictated them to Timothy or Titus? My KJV, NASB, RSV, and REB seem to be broken.

Now mind you, I do not disagree with the quote you give. It clearly shows St. Paul entrusting a bishop he appointed the responsibility of interpreting and following the teaching that he gave him as well as the responsibility to "guard the truth" that has been entrusted him. We believe that too. That's is the point of appointing bishops in the first place.

Now if you could show me where those good men in 1646 and 1689 were appointed as bishops by one of St. Paul's successors with the task of promulgating those confessions, then you might have a peg to hang your hat on. But, if St. Paul was saying here that all men were being appointed with the tasks enunciated in 2 Tim. 1:13-14, why didn't St. Paul write this in his epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, or Corinthians that anybody with a hankering to do so could write up a confession as opposed to a pastoral letter directed to one of his bishops?

Augustinian Successor said...

"The Protestant ultimately creates for himself his own magisterium...whether that be the Westminister Confession or some other confession; however, the ultimate authority resides in themselves, along with their bias, etc."

Not if he or she has the Holy Spirit. The choice is btwn the massive subjectivism of the Roman Magisterium or the self-interpetive Word of God that is Scripture.

The Holy Spirit Who inspired Scripture is the same Holy Spirit Who is given to all Christians. Or do you deny this also?