Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Oo, Those Awful Orcs!

I recently got drawn into hand-to-hand combat with a couple of orcs who invaded the shire of a Presbyterian hobbit:


Here is my side of the exchange:

steve hays said,
June 16, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Ken Hendrickson said,

“In the first place, Sola Scriptura is directly contradicted by 2 Thess 2:15, which commands that we hold fast to the TRADITIONS which were taught by the Apostles, even those which were only taught orally and never written down.”

It says nothing of the kind. You’ve taken a verse of Scripture, stripped it of its historical context, and then reapplied it willy-nilly to your denomination of choice.

i) And what does this verse actually say:

“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word of by our letter.”

This is a command…to whom? To Christians in general? Did Paul address 1 Thessalonians to Ken Hendrickson? No. Did he speak to Ken personally? No. Was Ken in the audience when he spoke? No.

Is Paul, in this verse, enjoining *Ken* to adhere to the written and oral traditions which *he* (Paul) taught Ken by his spoken word or earlier letter? No. False on both counts.

Is Paul enjoining Ken to follow a 5C bishop of Thessalonica—or 8C bishop of Constantinople, or 18C bishop of Moscow—who claims to be handing down an oral Pauline tradition? No. Since the text never says that, it can’t very well mean what it never said.

Rather, the verse is directed to mid-1C members of the church of Thessalonica. It is not referring to Christians in general. It isn’t referring to apostolic succession. It isn’t referring to subapostolic oral traditions allegedly of Pauline origin.

That’s what it says. That’s all it says. It can’t mean more than it says. No contortions. Couldn’t be more straightforward.

ii) Of course, there are commands in Scripture which do apply beyond their immediate audience. But there’s no automatic presumption that any or every divine command is binding on all Christians at all times and places. That, rather, depends on the nature of the command, the wording of the command, and/or the context in which it’s given.

I wonder if Ken tries to universalize Hos 1:2 in the same way he tries to universalize 2 Thes 2:15.

steve hays said,
June 17, 2008 at 7:37 am

Ken Hendrickson said,

“Next, Sola Scriptura is self-contradictory. Sola Scriptura is a doctrine. It posits that all doctrine be formed only from scripture. But Sola Scriptura cannot be found in the Bible. It is a *presupposition* of those who suspect Rome or Constantinople (or Moscow or Antioch, etc.) are teaching error. Sola Scriptura is therefore self-contradictory.”

Next, oral tradition is self-contradictory. Either you can document oral tradition or you can’t. If you can document oral tradition, then it ceases to be oral tradition. If you can’t document it, then you can’t identify oral tradition.

steve hays said,
June 17, 2008 at 7:39 am

Ken Hendrickson said,

“It was the Bible that drove me into Catholicism. John chapter 6, when interpreted with the grammatical-historical method, teaches what the Catholic Church has always taught.”

The primary concern of the grammatico-historical method is to avoid anachronistic interpretations. How could Jesus fault his Jewish audience for failing to recognize a Eucharistic allusion before the Lord’s Supper was even instituted?

steve hays said,
June 17, 2008 at 7:40 am

Ken Hendrickson said,

“Even more importantly, I find Matt 16:19 to be a very clear and emphatic transfer of authority from Jesus to Peter, the first pope. This passage of scripture hearkens back to Isaiah 22:22, and the authority of the Eliakim the steward of the King.”

The stewardship of Eliakim was not a perpetual office.

steve hays said,
June 17, 2008 at 7:56 am

Ken Hendrickson said,
“We sinners are not the final arbiter of Truth. It is the Church who is the pillar and foundation of the Truth. (1 Tim 3:15).”

1 Tim 3:15 is a reference to the local church, not the universal church. Even Catholic commentators admit this (e.g. Quinn, L. T. Johnson).

It would also behoove Ken to read L.T. Johnson on the actual meaning of the metaphor. He doesn’t even keep up with Catholic scholarship.

“Even more importantly, I find Matt 16:19 to be a very clear and emphatic transfer of authority from Jesus to Peter, the first pope. This passage of scripture hearkens back to Isaiah 22:22, and the authority of the Eliakim the steward of the King.”

Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept the claim that Mt 16:19 teaches apostolic succession, that would hardly make the bishop of Rome Peter’s sole successor. According to both Scripture and tradition, Peter ministered in areas outside Rome. So he would have ordained successors to other Apostolic Sees besides Rome. Hence, Ken’s argument either proves too much or too little.

“That is my point, and Robert Sungenis’ point, that Sola Scriptura is a false doctrine, because it is not found in scripture itself.”

Christianity is a revealed religion. God holds his people accountable to himself via his word. His Word is found in Scripture. That is why his Word was committed to writing in the first place. That is why the Mosaic Covenant is a written contract. Note the commands which God issues to OT prophets to write down his revelations. That is why the gospels were *written*. The age of public revelation ended with the Apostles.

steve hays said,
June 17, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Ken Hendrickson said,

“PS Most others here are also chasing rabbits. There are answers for all of those questions, but none of you are asking them because you are honestly seeking answers. You are asking them as an attack.”

To the contrary, we were merely answering you on your own grounds. You chose to level a number of objections to the Protestant faith. When we respond to your objections, you suddenly shift tactics in midstream.

Obviously you have no counterargument. You shot your wad the first time round with your rote, Catholic Answers talking points. As soon as those were shot down, you had no fallback position. So now you’re changing the subject.

But let the record show that we were responding to you in the way you yourself chose to initially frame the issues. It’s only after you lost when we responded to you on your own turf that you decided to try out this new tactic. Very transparent, Ken, and very disingenuous.

If we’re going down rabbit trails, that’s because we’re chasing down the rabbit trails you led us down in the first place.

“To deny Jesus’ words ‘This is My Body’, and ‘This is My Blood’, is to make Jesus out to be a liar.”

In that case, you, as a Catholic, make Jesus out to be a liar. In that case, you, as a Catholic, have a Gnostic Christology. For if you’re really going to take Jesus at his word, if you’re really going to take his words at face value, then he didn’t say that his is merely “present” in the communion elements. He didn’t say that is true body and bloody is present under the “species” of bread and wine. The communion elements *are* his body and blood. It’s the language of *identity*.

Moreover, Jesus never said that this only happens when the priest pronounces the words of consecration. So where are you getting that from Jn 6 or 1 Cor 11?
Furthermore, if you interpret Jn 6 sacramentally, that every communicant is heavenbound (Jn 6:51,54). Everyone Catholic who ever went to Mass and partook of communion is saved, once and for all.

But, according to Catholic theology, it’s possible for a Catholic to die in mortal sin and go to hell, right? So where does that leave your interpretation of Jn 6, Ken?

“Only the Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and a few high-church Anglo-Catholic Anglicans get the Eucharist right. All other Protestants get it wrong. And thus, all other Protestants have a religion which is fundamentally different than the Christian Religion.”

Of course, Ken, your reasoning is reversible. If high churchmen and low churchmen disagree, then that disagreement doesn’t, of itself, indicate the direction in which the truth lies. It could just as well be the case that all the high churchmen got it wrong.

And, to judge by your performance thus far, it surely looks like the high churchmen took a wrong turn.

steve hays said,
June 18, 2008 at 7:51 am

Ken Hendrickson said,

“Correct. That is what the shorthand phrase ‘Real Presence’ means.”

No, strict identity doesn’t allow for the true body and bloody under the species of the bread and wine. Identity doesn’t allow for any distinctions between appearance and reality. You’re equivocating.

And, of course, Jn 6 doesn’t speak of wine. If Jn 6 were Eucharistic, we would expect the following parallel:

Bread is to body
Wine is to blood

What we instead get is bread/flesh.

You’re also dodging other problems internal to your interpretation which I already pointed out.

“I believe John 6 literally.”

Do you also believe Jn 15 literally? Is Jesus a literal grape vine? What type of grape juice is Jesus composed of? Concord grapes? Is Jesus composed of fermented or unfermented grape juice?

In Jn 6, Jesus says he’s bread. Do you think Jesus is made of bread? What kind of bread to you think Jesus is made of? Sour dough? Gingerbread? Pumpernickel Rye? Remember, you take this literally, right?

steve hays said,
June 18, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Ken Hendrickson said,
“First, let’s deal with the context. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In Hebrew, this means ‘House of Bread’. This is not a coincidence, or an accident. It is significant.”

It’s not significant to the context of Jn 6 since the Fourth Gospel doesn’t have a nativity account.

“Next, what happened just prior to this teaching from Christ was the feeding of the 5000 (+ women and children) from 2 fishes and 5 loaves (:1-:14). This is not a coincidence or an accident either. It is significant.”

No one denies that Jesus’ action is significant. That’s a straw man argument.

“Jesus was showing us that He could feed the entire world with His flesh and blood, despite the large size of the world, and the relatively small size of His body.”

That’s an assertion, not an argument. You need to exegete that claim from the text.

“The Manna is a clear “type” — a pre-figurement — a fore-shadowing — of the Eucharist.”

No, it’s a type of the Cross.

“Does Jesus explain that he is only figuratively the Bread of Life? Does Jesus explain that He is only speaking symbolically? No!!”

So if Jesus is literal bread, then what kind of bread is Jesus? Cornbread? Cinnamon bread? What kind of bread dough does the heavenly bakery use?

Remember, it’s a no-no to treat this imagery as figurative or symbolic. So this is literal bread—hot out of the celestial oven.

After all, God wouldn’t give his children stale bread or day-old bread. Only fresh-baked bread will do.

“Jesus, even more emphatically, claims again that He is the Bread of Life, and if anybody eats this bread, he will live forever.”

So, according to Ken, anyone who ever went to Mass has a nonrefundable ticket to heaven.

Does Catholic theology teach that a communicant can’t fall into mortal sin and go to hell? No.

“Get yourself into the True Church, where you may eat Jesus’ Flesh, and drink His Blood, because otherwise you will have no life in you.”

Really? So, according to Ken, only Catholics are heavenbound. Everyone else is damned.

Is that what Vatican II theology actually teaches? No.

Ken is misrepresenting the theology of his own church. A typical convert. More Catholic than the Pope.

steve hays said,
June 19, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Ken Hendrickson said,

“Consider the implications. Jesus said, ‘Unless you eat My Flesh, and drink My Blood, you have no life in you.’ Protestants, according to this, have no life in them, because they are not eating Jesus’ Flesh, nor are they drinking Jesus’ Blood, by their own admission and their own teaching.”

How does that conclusion follow—even on Ken’s assumptions? It would only follow if the subjective intentions of the communicant determine whether the words of Jesus are true or false. Is that Ken’s position?

If a communicant happens to believe in the Real Presence, then Jesus’ words are true—but if a communicant doesn’t believe in the Real presence, then Jesus’ words are falsified by his disbelief.

So, according to Ken’s “literal” interpretation of Jn 6, the “literal” meaning of Jn 6 is personal-variable. It has no objective meaning. If you believe in the Real Presence, then you receive the true body and blood of Christ—but if you don’t believe in the Real Presence, then you just receive bread and wine.

Transubstantiation is subject to the veto power of the communicant. The “Host” is present or absent depending on the subjective state of the communicant, and not upon the word of Christ.

Of course, as far as their “own admissions” or “teaching” is concerned, many Protestants regard Jn 6 as foreshadowing, not the Eucharist, but the Cross. And they do believe that they receive the benefits of what is signified in the Jn 6 (i.e. Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross on behalf of, and in place of, his people).

steve hays said,
June 19, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Ken Hendrickson said,

“Protestants do not believe in transubstantiation. They all readily admit this. Except for the Lutherans, Protestants do not believe in consubstantiation either. They all readily admit this. Protestants do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and they will tell you so…But Jesus said that if you don’t eat His Flesh, and drink His Blood, that you have no life in you. I conclude, using simple logic and Jesus’ words, that Protestants have no life in them. That is what the words of our Lord mean. (I am not judging; I am only turning the crank and applying the rules of logic.)”

Yet the question at issue is not—from your perspective—what Protestants think is true, but what you think is true. If I order beef, and I’m accidentally served horsemeat instead, am I not eating horsemeat even though I believe that I’m eating beef?

If you, Ken, believe the communion elements are the true body and blood of Christ, then that is what a communicant receives whether or not *he* believes it.

“Protestants never deal with 1 Cor 11:23-34.”

Is that a fact? Gordon Fee, for one, deals with it in some detail. He argues, on contextual grounds, that the “body” in v29 has reference to the church, not the Eucharist.

“What you need in order to have a valid Eucharist is a validly ordained priest, who was ordained by a bishop, who was consecrated by a bishop, …, who was consecrated a bishop by one of the Apostles. (You need Apostolic succession, and a valid priest.) Furthermore, you need to have valid matter: there must be wheat bread and fermented grape wine. Lastly, you must have the correct prayers of consecration.”

Look at what Ken has suddenly done to his prooftexts. He accused Protestants of making Jesus out to be a liar because we allegedly fail to take him at his word. But Ken treats the Bread of Life Discourse like a devious insurance contract. Ken has appended an escape clause after he got back to the office. Needless to say, you won’t find a single one of these conditions in Jn 6. Indeed, you won’t find any of these conditions in the entirety of the fourth Gospel.

And not only won’t you find these conditions in his Johannine prooftext, but you also won’t find them in his Pauline prooftext (1 Cor 11).

So he’s nullified the force of Jn 6 by a set of extraneous riders. Look how far he’s moved away from the bold position he staked out at the beginning of this thread.

Incidentally, Ken, how do you verify apostolic succession? And how do you verify the valid administration of the sacraments?

steve hays said,
June 20, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Ken Hendrickson said,

“The writings of those whom the Church has declared to be saints and doctors, interpreting the scriptures, is surely a more reliable guide than I am. They are also surely a more reliable guide than you are.”

Ken, how do you verify the true church?

BTW, do you exercise private judgment when you verify the true church?

It is the Church who is the pillar and foundation of the Truth. (1 Tim 3:15)… On a risk-benefit analysis, I decline to interpret scripture myself.”

So you just forfeited the right to apply 1 Tim 3:15 to the Catholic church. Since you can’t exercise private judgment to interpret 1 Tim 3:15, you can’t tell us that 1 Tim 3:15 applies to the Catholic church.

steve hays said,
June 22, 2008 at 8:22 am

Ken Hendrickson said,

“You have expressed the Protestant religion well. For you, there are only symbols. There is no deeper reality. There is no *sacramental* *incarnational* reality. Bread is bread and nothing more. God worked through physical stuff in the Incarnation, by becoming human, but He is done with that physical stuff now. Now God works gnostically, if at all.”

You’re so caught up in your Catholic propaganda machine that you don’t even try to be accurate. God is present with his people through his grace and providence. In election, regeneration, justification, adoption, and sanctification. And his grace applies of work of the Incarnate, crucified, and Risen Lord.

God answers their prayers, preserves them in the faith, and providentially guides them by a multitude of circumstances which he himself arranged for the good of his people.

“In the True Christian religion, which is Incarnational to the core, the Eucharist ‘represents’ the sacrifice to us. The Eucharist ‘re-Presents’ that One Sacrifice, Once Offered. Christ crucified, then resurrected, is made Real and Present for us, where (in space) and when (in time) we are. God offers us Himself, just as He offered us Himself in the Incarnation. God still works with physical stuff. Incarnation continues through sacraments. We participate in the Last Supper, in the Crucifixion, and in the Resurrection, via the Eucharist. We partake of the divine nature.”

You keep repeating your thumbnail exposition of the Mass, as if we hadn’t heard that before, as if by saying the same thing enough times that will make it true.

“Protestantism and Catholicism/Orthodoxy are two different religions. They are not the same. They are not equivalent. They cannot both be True. They are not both Incarnational; one is, but the other isn’t.”

There are, indeed, Catholics who’ve taken your sacramentalism to heart. They always show up at Mass late, and leave early. They skip all the extraneous parts. The prayers. The hymns. The homily, &c.

They time it just for the Eucharist. Then they leave. They come for their weekly God-pill. Their weekly dose of encapsulated grace.

You’re pinning your hope of salvation on the ability of the priest to contain Jesus in a wafer. That is, indeed, a different religion.

Why not skip the Mass altogether and just install a vending machine in the narthex to dispense consecrated communion wafers? The Host at 50¢ a pop?

It’s also a different religion when Mary becomes a substitute Jesus.

steve hays said,
June 23, 2008 at 7:55 am

Ken Hendrickson said,

“The passages in Matt 16 (and also Matt 1 seem quite decisive to me. It was *only* Peter who was given the Keys. And this passage directly hearkens to the passage in Isaiah 22, concerning the steward of the King’s palace, Eliakim. The parallels between opening and shutting, and binding and loosing, are remarkable.”

A direct appeal to Mt 16:18 greatly obscures the number of steps that have to be interpolated in order to get us from Peter to the papacy. Let’s jot down just a few of these intervening steps:
a) The promise of Mt 16:18 has reference to “Peter.”
b) The promise of Mt 16:18 has “exclusive” reference to Peter.
c) The promise of Mt 16:18 has reference to a Petrine “office.”
d) This office is “perpetual”
e) Peter resided in “Rome”
f) Peter was the “bishop” of Rome
g) Peter was the “first” bishop of Rome
h) There was only “one” bishop at a time
i) Peter was not a bishop “anywhere else.”
j) Peter “ordained” a successor
k) This ceremony “transferred” his official prerogatives to a successor.
l) The succession has remained “unbroken” up to the present day.

Lets go back and review each of these twelve separate steps:

(a) V18 may not even refer to Peter. “We can see that ‘Petros’ is not the “petra’ on which Jesus will build his church…In accord with 7:24, which Matthew quotes here, the ‘petra’ consists of Jesus’ teaching, i.e., the law of Christ. ‘This rock’ no longer poses the problem that ‘this’ is ill suits an address to Peter in which he is the rock. For that meaning the text would have read more naturally ‘on you.’ Instead, the demonstrative echoes 7:24; i.e., ‘this rock’ echoes ‘these my words.’ Only Matthew put the demonstrative with Jesus words, which the rock stood for in the following parable (7:24-27). His reusing it in 16:18 points away from Peter to those same words as the foundation of the church…Matthew’s Jesus will build only on the firm bedrock of his law (cf. 5:19-20; 28:19), not on the loose stone Peter. Also, we no longer need to explain away the association of the church’s foundation with Christ rather than Peter in Mt 21:42,” R. Gundry, Matthew (Eerdmans 1994), 334.
(b) Is falsified by the power-sharing arrangement in Mt 18:17-18 & Jn 20:23.
(c) The conception of a Petrine office is borrowed from Roman bureaucratic categories (officium) and read back into this verse. The original promise is indexed to the person of Peter. There is no textual assertion or implication whatsoever to the effect that the promise is separable from the person of Peter.
(d) In 16:18, perpetuity is attributed to the Church, and not to a church office.
(e) There is some evidence that Peter paid a visit to Rome (cf. 1 Pet 5:13). There is some evidence that Peter also paid a visit to Corinth (cf. 1 Cor 1:12; 9:5).
(f) This commits a category mistake. An Apostle is not a bishop. Apostleship is a vocation, not an office, analogous to the prophetic calling. Or, if you prefer, it’s an extraordinary rather than ordinary office.
(g) The original Church of Rome was probably organized by Messianic Jews like Priscilla and Aquilla (cf. Acts 18:2; Rom 16:3). It wasn’t founded by Peter. Rather, it consisted of a number of house-churches (e.g. Rom 16; Hebrews) of Jewish or Gentile membership—or mixed company.
(h) NT polity was plural rather than monarchal. The Catholic claim is predicated on a strategic shift from a plurality of bishops (pastors/elders) presiding over a single (local) church—which was the NT model—to a single bishop presiding over a plurality of churches. And even after you go from (i) oligarchic to (ii) monarchal prelacy, you must then continue from monarchal prelacy to (iii) Roman primacy, from Roman primacy to (iv) papal primacy, and from papal primacy to (v) papal infallibility. So step (h) really breaks down into separate steps—none of which enjoys the slightest exegetical support.
(j) Peter also presided over the Diocese of Pontus-Bithynia (1 Pet 1:1). And according to tradition, Antioch was also a Petrine See (Apostolic Constitutions 7:46.).
(j)-(k) This suffers from at least three objections:
i) These assumptions are devoid of exegetical support. There is no internal warrant for the proposition that Peter ordained any successors.
ii) Even if he had, there is no exegetical evidence that the imposition of hands is identical with Holy Orders.
iii) Even if we went along with that identification, Popes are elected to papal office, they are not ordained to papal office. There is no separate or special sacrament of papal orders as over against priestly orders. If Peter ordained a candidate, that would just make him a pastor (or priest, if you prefer), not a Pope.
(l) This cannot be verified. What is more, events like the Great Schism falsify it in practice, if not in principle.

These are not petty objections. In order to get from Peter to the modern papacy you have to establish every exegetical and historical link in the chain. To my knowledge, I haven’t said anything here that a contemporary Catholic scholar or theologian would necessarily deny. They would simply fallback on a Newmanesque principle of dogmatic development to justify their position. But other issues aside, this admits that there is no straight-line deduction from Mt 16:18 to the papacy. What we have is, at best, a chain of possible inferences. It only takes one broken link anywhere up or down the line to destroy the argument. Moreover, only the very first link has any apparent hook in Mt 16:18. Except for (v), all the rest depend on tradition and dogma. Their traditional support is thin and equivocal while the dogmatic appeal is self-serving.
The prerogatives ascribed to Peter in 16:19 (”binding and loosing” are likewise conferred on the Apostles generally in 18:18. The image of the “keys” (v19a) is used for Peter only, but this is a figure of speech—while the power signified by the keys was already unpacked by the “binding and loosing” language, so that no distinctively Petrine prerogative remains in the original promise. In other words, the “keys” do not refer to a separate prerogative that is distinctive to Peter. That confuses the metaphor with its literal referent.

Regarding Isa 22:22—as E.J. Young has noted,
“This office is not made hereditary. God promises the key to Eliakim but not to his descendants. The office continues, but soon loses its exalted character. It was Eliakim the son of Hilkiah who was exalted, and not the office itself. Eliakim had all the power of a “Rabshakeh,” [the chief of drinking], and in him the Assyrian might recognize a man who could act for the theocracy…Whether Eliakim actually was guilty of nepotism or not, we are expressly told that at the time (”in that day” when they hang all the glory of his father’s house upon him he will be removed. Apparently the usefulness of the office itself will have been exhausted…The usefulness of Eliakim’s exalted position was at an end: were it to continue as it was under Eliakim it would not be for the welfare of the kingdom; its end therefore must come,” the Book of Isaiah (Eerdmans 1982), 116-18.

More generally, every argument for Petrine primacy is an argument against papal primacy since the more that Catholicism plays up the unique authority of Peter, as over against the Apostolic college, the less his prerogatives are transferable to a line of successors. There’s a basic tension between the exclusivity of his office vis-à-vis the Apostolate and the inclusivity of his office vis-à-vis the Episcopate.

steve hays said,
June 19, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Canadian said,

“Jesus rarely explained much to his Jewish audience. In fact, the parables are said to be for the closing of the Jewish ear not the opening of it. Linear history and Christ’s revealing of himself rarely coincide. Mary pondered in her heart many things about her Son because she didn’t understand, but she believed. The disciples and Apostles remembered and understood much of what Christ said to them after Pentecost, but they believed. The true understanding of the Kingdom (David’s throne) was preached by Peter first in Acts, even though Christ went about “preaching the kingdom of God”. The cross was a mystery until long after it happened. The New Testament says all that the prophets wrote (and didn’t understand) were written for us upon whom the ends of the world had come.”

You’re equivocating. There’s a difference between not understanding something when you ought to know better and not understanding something because you were in no position to know any better.

“Christ is not expecting Eucharistic understanding, he is proclaiming himself to be the bread of Life but that does not necessarily negate Eucharistic meaning just because of a perceived linear time issue.”

Keep in mind that I’m responding to Ken. He argues for the Eucharistic interpretation of Jn 6. He thinks that’s obvious from the text itself. Do you disagree with him? Are you arguing for a Eucharistic interpretation on a different basis?

“Besides, John 6 was not written until 40-60 years AFTER the Eucharist was instituted and in use.”

You’re changing the subject. I’m responding to Ken. Answering Ken on his own grounds. He said he came to his Catholic understanding of Jn 6 via the grammatico-historical method. The fact that this speech wasn’t transcribed until after the institution of the Lord’s Supper is irrelevant to the historical horizon of the audience to which it was originally addressed, which was a Jewish audience living before the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, according to the grammatico-historical exegesis, what they were in a historical position to understand is directly germane to what Jesus meant them to understand when he spoke to them.

Canadian said,

“They were not in any position to understand the cross either.”

They were in a position to understand types and prophecies regarding a Messiah who would die to redeem his people.

“What people do or do not understand at the time is up to God. What and when he reveals by the Spirit to his people as explanation of what was not earlier understood is also his right.”

You’re obfuscating. The question is whether, in Jn 6, the Jewish audience was supposed to understand. Were they blameworthy for their failure to understand what he said?

“Grammatico-historical exegesis cannot always lock down scientifically what scripture must mean.”

i) To begin with, I was responding to Ken. He said, “John chapter 6, when interpreted with the grammatical-historical method, teaches what the Catholic Church has always taught.”

So you’re now admitting that his position is indefensible. Fine. That makes two of us.

ii) Of course, I disagree with you on grammatico-historical exegesis, but the combox of Green Baggins is not the place to debate that.

“God, being outside of time, may not be as concerned with it as we are, even though he relates to us within the boundaries he has placed us.”

That’s irrelevant to the fact that when God chooses to communicate with timebound human beings, he must accommodate our historical horizon. If he doesn’t speak to be understood, then communication is pointless.

“My point in #209 was that just because Jesus does not say that this discourse is (partially?) about the future eucharist does not necessarily mean that when John writes about it 40-60 years later, the church does not have genuine reason to understand the eucharistic connection without John explaning this in the text itself.”

Actually, the reason that Jn 6 reminds a Christian reader of the Eucharist is that Jn 6 foreshadows the Cross, while the Eucharist signifies the Cross, so they share a common referent, with some cross-referential imagery. Jn 6 triggers secondary associations with the Eucharist via the primary referent (i.e. the Cross).

“You yourself make similar assumptions when declaring it is only about the cross. Jesus isn’t concerned with exegeting his own words at the time which is often the case as in the examples I gave.”

Once again, I’m merely responding to Ken on his own grounds. Grammatico-historical exegesis doesn’t mean that we must treat Jn 6 as a self-contained literary unit. Intertextuality is a basic element of grammatico-historical exegesis. An earlier text foreshadows a later text, just as a later text alludes to an earlier text.

And the OT also lies in the background of Jn 6. Indeed, that’s not even in the subtext of Jn 6. That’s explicit.

But Ken is the one who treats the Eucharistic interpretation of Jn 6 as self-evident.

steve hays said,
June 21, 2008 at 8:44 am

Canadian said,

“Were they not in a position to understand types and prophecies regarding a Messiah who would be the (eucharistic) life and sustenance of his people (manna/bread of life)?”

That the OT contains types and prophecies regarding a Messiah who would die to redeem his people has been extensively documented by various scholars.

But if you think the OT prefigures or predicts the eucharist, then you need to make your own case. It’s not my job to make your argument for you—especially since I disagree with your interpretation.

“Why would a Calvinist like yourself require understanding as a prerequisite for their blame anyway?”

You continue to equivocate. If a listener fails to understand something he was supposed to understand, then he’s blameworthy.

“And just because Ken said your method would work in his favour does not prove his final position is indefensible.”

And how does it not? You and he are defending the eucharistic interpretation on opposing grounds. He’s appealing to the grammatico-historical method, which you reject. He regards the eucharistic interpretation as obvious. You, by contrast, have no problem with the idea that Christ’s words would have been quite opaque to the original audience.

“A strange statement for a Calvinistic view, especially considering Jesus’ own stated purpose for the parables to the Jews, and Paul’s statements about spritually discerned words and his preaching to be the savor of life for belivers and death for unbelievers. His self revelation is never pointless, but again, God’s self revelation in history is not negated by the ignorance or incompitence or sinfulness of initial hearers.”

You’re confounding very different issues:

i) Is something misunderstood because it’s inherently incomprehensible?

ii) Or is it misunderstood because the audience is resistant to the meaning of the statement?

It’s not that divine communication is inherently obscure or unintelligible. If that were the case, then even the regenerate couldn’t make sense of what is nonsensical. Rather, the reprobate are too hardened to give divine communication a fair hearing.

The breakdown in communication occurs, not at the level of objective meaning, but at the level of subjective receptivity.

“You have decided the cross is the primary referent, the context itself does not necessary lend itself to this.”

Yes it does, since it uses sacrificial language.

“He is revealing himself as having come down from heaven (Incarnation)”

Coming down for what purpose? Becoming Incarnate for what purpose?

“And that they are to believe in him.”

No, in the context of Jn 6, it’s insufficient to merely affirm the Incarnation. That’s not an end in itself. That’s not saving faith. That’s a necessary, but insufficient, condition.

“Christ himself is the prime referent.”

Not simply Christ qua Christ, but Christ in his redemptive role. Hence, the sacrificial language.

“His sacrifice and later eucharist are all directly connected to him.”

But they’re hardly connected in the same way. His sacrifice is the reality—of which the eucharist is the symbol.

“If you believe in him you will have life–this is what he was saying directly to his hearers that day.”

If you believe in him, not merely as the Incarnate Son, but the Redeemer.

“Of course the cross will be part of this economy.”

No, not just a “part.” That’s central to the sacrificial thrust of Jn 6.

“But I think the eucharist is just as much a part because Christ is pleased to offer himself by specific means.”

If you beg the question in favor of transubstantiatio—or the Orthodox equivalent.

“Hence the vivid ‘eating’ language both in Jn 6 and in 1 Cor.”

No, the vivid “eating” language goes back to OT sacrificial imagery, viz. consuming the Passover lamb.

You’re so busy superimposing your Orthodox grid on the text that you can’t see the actual, intertextual connections.


  1. Steve: "There are, indeed, Catholics who’ve taken your sacramentalism to heart. They always show up at Mass late, and leave early. They skip all the extraneous parts. The prayers. The hymns. The homily, &c.

    They time it just for the Eucharist. Then they leave. They come for their weekly God-pill. Their weekly dose of encapsulated grace.

    You’re pinning your hope of salvation on the ability of the priest to contain Jesus in a wafer. That is, indeed, a different religion.

    Why not skip the Mass altogether and just install a vending machine in the narthex to dispense consecrated communion wafers? The Host at 50¢ a pop?"

    Ou-wwwwwww..ch! That's gotta leave a mark. I have never ever, ever seen the RCC's conceptual doctrine of the Real Presence get the jackboot crotch-kick like you just delivered. I think RCC's are doubled over and recoiling in pain from reading that description.

    Now they're royally pi$$ed and they'll be out for blood. Yours! Not Jesus's!

    Run, Steve, Run!

  2. Thanks so much for this, Steve. I think I'll save this one; there's a lot of good material in here.

  3. A bit of the material in there was from an archived article called "Back To Babylon", which is worth checking out if you liked this post.

  4. Good post.

    Here are some of my thoughts from elsewhere (overlapping the post here and there).

    You made a point that reminded me of a statement that I read a while back: "Does John 6 speak of communion? No. Now where can I understand communion? Nowhere more clearly than John 6." (I think it is from Leon Morris' commentary; I don't have it on hand). Both things point to the same thing – the gift of the Son on the cross.

    John 6:53 is worth noting. Jesus states as plainly as can be in verse 53 and 54 that what is required of man is too eat the flesh of Jesus and drink His blood. There is no room for movement, no caveats. This is the fourth instance of the statement, “I will raise him up on the last day.” And it is as potent as the previous promises: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” “everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” [HCSB] Now, we can see that in all previous instances, coming to Jesus and believing in Jesus and receiving Jesus result in eternal life. Jesus Himself has just told these physically minded people that the work that God requires is to believe in the Son. This isn’t talking about communion; indeed, to suggest that it is has huge ramifications, in that not only does it contradict all the previous testimony of this Gospel, but it makes salvation a mechanical function of partaking of communion. In fact, to interpret communion from this is to make the same mistake in thinking that the Jews do – carnal mindedness.

    See, in John 6:35 the hearers were implicitly invited to come to Him and to believe in Him, and if they do, they will never, ever be hungry or thirsty ever. Just as Jesus told the Samaritan woman: "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Well, the bread that Jesus gives, which is Jesus Himself, is food that endures to eternal life, and just like the water that wells up to eternal life, it is soul-satisfying.

    Eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood is a metaphor, established by Jesus already (vs 35), for belief. It communicates the necessity of an intimate connection between a person and Jesus. We need true, intimate, connected faith in Jesus. This isn’t about emotions, it is about a transformative connection with the Son of God through faith. We must find satisfaction in Him, delight in Him. We must feed on Jesus – notice verse 57 – because whoever feeds will enjoy life eternal that is from the Father through the Son. Jesus says that whoever does this will remain, dwell, stay, and abide in Him. You abide in Jesus through lasting, true, living faith, faith that obeys Jesus’ commandments (John 15:10) and remains in His word (John 8:29) and holds fast to the Gospel of salvation. It is faith that lasts until the end. So to partake of Jesus, to consume His flesh and drink His blood, is to believe and obtain eternal life. There is a type of belief that does not truly partake of Jesus. It does not obtain life eternal. True faith comes from being taught by God and drawn by God and regenerated by God and given by God to the Son. And the security of true faith rests in the power of the Son, not in us.

  5. Your effort here is admirable, but ...

    -- was Matthew's Gospel written to *Ken*, or to the Jews?

    -- was Luke's Gospel and Acts written to *Ken*, or to Theophil?

    -- were *any* of Paul's Epistles written to *Ken*, ... or to the Romans, the Galatians, the Thesalonians, the Ephesians, the Colosians, the Philipians, the Corinthians, the Hebrews, Timothy, Tit, and Philemon?

    -- was James written to *Ken*, or to the Jewish Diaspora?

    -- was 1 Peter written to *Ken*, or to the cities of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia?

    -- was 3 John written to *Ken*, or to Gaius?

    -- was Revelations written to *Ken*, ... or to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergam, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea?


    "Your effort here is admirable, but ..."

    I see you disregarded my caveat. Try not to be so oblivious the next time around:

    "Of course, there are commands in Scripture which do apply beyond their immediate audience. But there’s no automatic presumption that any or every divine command is binding on all Christians at all times and places. That, rather, depends on the nature of the command, the wording of the command, and/or the context in which it’s given."