Friday, July 03, 2009

The bread of life

I'm reproducing some comments I posted over at Beggars All:

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“Thus, the argument between Messrs. Bellisario and Fan about whether the proof texts at John 6 or 1 Cor. 11 are to be understood as reality vs. metaphor is wrong-headed from the start. Catholic doctrine requires that the words in these passages about the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, are to be understood as both.”

In other words, Catholic dogma predetermines how the Scriptures are to be understood. Scripture doesn’t determine Catholic dogma.

“It should be noted that those scriptural passages comparing Jesus to a door or to a vine do not help the Protestant case here because in those scripture passages, Our Lord is not talking about the institution of a sacrament.”

Of course, the Lord’s Supper hadn’t been instituted at the time Jesus was addressing his Jewish audience in Jn 6. therefore, Hoffer’s observation undercuts his Eucharistic interpretation.

“First, Mr. Fan fails to take into account the disciplina arcani that the early Church practiced in connection with mysteries of the Eucharist.”

i) I’m sure that TF is aware of that.

ii) More to the point, appeal to a disciplina arcani was a standard tactic of heretical esoteric cults. That’s a foundation of the hermetic tradition.

6:44 PM, June 28, 2009

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“I respond: Nope. You put the horse before the cart.”

Nope. I simply responded to you in terms of how you chose to word your original statement. If anyone is putting the horse before the cart, that would be you.

“The teachings of the apostles passed down through their successors, the bishops and early Church fathers as to how the Scriptures were in fact understood predetermined Catholic dogma.”

i) That’s a nice illustration of assuming what you need to prove.

ii) Moreover, if word-of-mouth was the mode of transmission intended by God, then the NT is superfluous. Who needs Scripture if oral tradition will suffice?

“Regardless, the establishment of Catholic dogmas is not the arbitrary exercise as your statement seems to imply.”

What you’ve offered is an arbitrary assertion in lieu of an argument.

“Did someone come before you and predetermine what the doctrines or dogmatic expressions members were to hold or did someone hand you a bible and said ‘go figure everything out for yourself?’ I do not see why the notion of a Church having defined dogma presents a problem for anyone.”

That comparison suffers from a fatal fallacy of equivocation. In Reformed theological method, doctrine is supposed to be the result of exegesis, not tradition.

“As far as disciplina arcani goes, Origen, St. Basil, St Augustine and others documented this practice of the early Church.”

i) To my knowledge, appeal to a disciplina arcani to explain away the silence of the church fathers on later Catholic dogmas goes back to the 17C Catholic apologist Emmanuel Schelstrate.

ii) His argument was rendered obsolete by Newman’s theory of development. So your appeal is badly out of date.

iii) And you’re also ducking the issue of how such an appeal can equally be used by heretical esoteric cults (e.g. Gospel of Thomas 92).

“I was merely reporting on a historical fact in regards to the Eucharist, not commenting on whether the practice is laudatory in all instances.”

No, what you’re doing is to dodge the implications of an argument that you yourself introduced. You said:

“It should be noted that those scriptural passages comparing Jesus to a door or to a vine do not help the Protestant case here because in those scripture passages, Our Lord is not talking about the institution of a sacrament.”

To which I responded:

“Of course, the Lord’s Supper hadn’t been instituted at the time Jesus was addressing his Jewish audience in Jn 6. therefore, Hoffer’s observation undercuts his Eucharistic interpretation.”

I’m still waiting for your counterargument. Evidently, you have none to offer.

“But then again, Mt. 7:6 does state that we are not give what is holy to the dogs or throw pearls to swine. So it would seem that Our Lord did not necessarily have a problem with the practice.”

You need to demonstrate, through actual exegesis, that this has any reference to withholding information about the Mass from outsiders.

10:11 AM, June 29, 2009

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“I do not see how. As a TA, do you give instructions before you ask your students to do something or afterwards? What Jesus said was no different.”

That illustration ignores the actual context of Jn 6. Jesus his faulting his listeners for their refusal to credit his claims. This assumes that at the time he spoke, they were in a position to grasp what he said. If, however, this is a cryptic allusion to the future institution of the Mass, then they’d be in no position to know what he’s talking about since, on that interpretation, the Mass had yet to be instituted–and there’s no precursor to that institution.

So a correct interpretation of Jn 6 depends on background knowledge which was already available to the audience Jesus was addressing.

“Another way of looking at it~Jesus's words here indicate that was a promise of what was to come, hence Jesus uses words like ‘if,’ ‘he that’, and ‘shall’, all of which indicate something that will occur after satisfaction of a precondition.”

You’re now assuming, without benefit of argument, that the future referent is the Mass. In context, however, Jn 6 foreshadows Jn 19. And based on the Jesus’ evident fulfillment of OT motifs which they already had at their disposal (i.e. his miracles, OT scriptures) when he spoke, they were in a position to discern the prefigurement of his redemptive death.

The Fourth Gospel deliberately omits any account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper–in comparison to Luke. Rather, we have a steady build up to the climactic events of chap. 19.

“My reply: Of course your argument suffers because you commit the genetic fallacy of assuming that the ‘Reformed theological method,’ whatever that purports to be and assuming that you can get every Reformed Protestant to agree on the definition, is the correct method to be used in exegesis without offering any proof that it IS the correct method to be used in exegesis. The novelty of your methodology over the older Catholic use of Tradition to aid in understanding Scriptures is not proof that your methodology is somehow better. Perhaps you can point me to the bible passage that states that we are all bound to use the ‘reformed theological method’ to understand the Scriptures. I didn't find that phrase in My Strong's concordance.”

I see that you have problems following your own argument. You attempted to mount an argument from analogy–from the fact that both your church and Reformed churches have creeds. If, however, your parallel breaks down at a critical point of comparison, then the argument from analogy is invalidated by a fatal equivocation of terms.

It’s irrelevant whether or not you agree with Reformed theological method. That’s not the point. The point is whether your argument from analogy is valid as an argument from analogy. If it’s disanalogous where it needs to be analogous, then it fails as an argument from analogy.

3:41 PM, June 29, 2009

steve said...
“[Hoffer] If that is what the Holy Spirit is saying to you in this passage, so be it, but it seems to be a rather restrictive reading of this passage particularly in light of Jn. 6:51. But what do I know?”

i) I didn’t invoke the Holy Spirit to justify my interpretation.

ii) My interpretation is perfectly consistent with Jn 6:51–where the heavenly bread is a metaphor for Jesus’ Incarnation and immolation.

iii) BTW, do you think every communicant is heavenbound? Is every Catholic who ever took communion either in heaven or heavenbound? That’s what Jn 6:51 entails-if you construe it eucharistically.

“I am sure you know better too than those fellers Jesus met on the road to Emmaus after He rose from the dead. Obviously, they were mistaken that there was anything special about Jesus taking bread and blessing it, then breaking it and giving it to them. [Lk. 24:28-35].”

i) Are you using Lk 24 to interpret Jn 6? Why think that’s relevant?

ii) You’re also equivocating. What makes the incident in Lk 24 special? The bread? Or Jesus?

In Lk 24, there would be nothing special about the breaking of bread apart from the Jesus standing before them, breaking the break, and distributing the bread.

That’s quite different from transubstantiation, with Jesus invisibly concealed under the species of bread and wine. If the Mass were actually like Lk 24, it would be a very different event!

“Oh, when you write ‘the Mass had yet to be instituted–and there’s no precursor to that institution’ does this mean that I have to disregard all that bread and wine offering nonsense by Melchezidek, and all that sacrifice stuff at Lev. 23 and 24?”

You’re committing a basic level confusion:

i) OT types don’t prefigure NT sacraments like communion. Rather, they prefigure events in the life of Christ, like his redemptive death.

ii) Put another way, they symbolize the same thing the sacraments symbolize. They don’t symbolize sacraments; rather, they symbolize what sacraments like communion stand for: the underlying historic event. It’s not a symbol of another symbol. Rather, both are symbols of a common event.

“And have you ever attended a synagogue service, like the first Christians did? I have and they sure seem to be a lot of similarities with the Catholic Mass. Those Jewish folks even have a lot of the same prayers.”

i) Does that include the 18th Benediction?

ii) I also notice that you’re not attempting to exegete Jn 6. Instead, you’re resorting to anachronistic comparisons with modern synagogues.

“And read from the some of the same books of the Bible that we do.”

Of course, the canon of the Hebrew Bible is not the same as the Catholic OT canon. Thanks for reminding us of the discontinuities between Judaism and Catholicism–which nicely undercuts your argument.

“Did they copy all that stuff from us or do you think that Jewish forms of worship may have had an influence on the formulation of Christian liturgies?”

i) Given the amount of anti-Semitism in traditional Roman Catholicism, that’s a good question.

ii) Moreover, you can’t prove very much from religious rites since there can be a lot of similarity in practice even though the underlying theology is quite different. There’s a lot of similarity in the way Baptists and Lutherans celebrate communion. But they don’t have the same theological understanding of the rite.

12:46 PM, June 30, 2009

steve said...
“[Hoffer] Does the correct interpretation of Jn. 6 depend on background knowledge which was already available to the audience Jesus was addressing? This Chapter suggests that Jesus addressed more than one audience, but for argument’s sake I will bite…”

i) For the speech to be comprehensible to the listeners, it can’t very well assume knowledge which is inaccessible to the listener.

ii) There may be a shift from the scene of the miracle to the adjacent synagogue where the subsequent debate took place, but we’re still dealing with a Jewish audience before the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

“What background knowledge did the audience Jesus address have?”

I already said: knowledge of the OT, as well as Jesus’ fulfillment, up to that point, of OT types and prophecies.

“The way I read the passage is that Jesus’ audiences understood Jesus only too well what He was talking about and despite the signs He showed them only the previous day, most of the audiences, Jesus’ disciples and followers included, still could not accept His teaching. ”

And if, according to you, Jn 6 was actually referring to the future institution of the Mass, then they’d be in no position to know what he’s talking about. To the extent that they understood him well enough to resist what he was saying, that undercuts your argument.

“And what do you think goes on at the Mass? We play bingo? The Mass is one the primary methods used by Jesus’ followers to pass along what they discerned to subsequent generations in the Church.”

As usual, you have a knack for missing the point. There’s an obvious difference between general knowledge of a certain kind of event, and specific knowledge of a particular event.

On the basis of Jesus’ fulfillment of OT types and prophecies, they were in a position to know that he would die a sacrificial death. That involves general knowledge of a certain kind of event.

They would be in no position to know about the institution of the Lord’s Supper–which involves specific knowledge of a particular event.

“Considering that St. John the Evangelist wrote his Gospel decades after St. Paul wrote 1 Cor. that so clearly describes Christians celebrating the Lord’s Supper, do you think he had a need to do so as well? Or is it possible that John wrote his Gospel to illustrate some other points that God wanted him to write about?”

Once again, that undercuts your own argument. You have self-defeating habit–which simplifies my task.

If John wrote his Gospel to illustrate some “other” points–points other than the Lord’s Supper-then by your own logic you can’t very well assume that Jn 6 is illustrating the Lord’s Supper.

“Now you have claimed (without proving so) that your denomination uses a different methodology of formulating dogma and as a result my argument is somehow invalidated by that .”

Of course it uses a different methodology. You yourself, as a Catholic, think that Catholic theological method different from Protestant theological method. Hence the debates over sola Scriptura, &c.

“I am trying to understand the basis for your conclusory assertions that somehow the Reformed theological method, whatever that purports to be, is substantively different or better than the typological, allegorical and other methods used by the Early Church Fathers and the Catholic Church.”

i) No, your argument was an argument from analogy. That’s a different issue than which theological method is better.

ii) As to which exegetical methods are used by the Catholic church, your information here–as elsewhere–is badly out of date. Catholic Bible scholars have adopted Protestant hermeneutical methods. And they do so with the sanction of the modern Magisterium. Try reading Joseph Fitzmyer’s The Interpretation of Scripture: In Defense of the Historical-Critical Method.

You need to wake up and take a look under the hood of your own denomination.

12:47 PM, June 30, 2009

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“The first rule of reading the Scriptures is to do so prayerfully.”

No, the first rule of reading the Scriptures is to respect original intent.

Professing believers from different theological traditions can all read the Scriptures prayerfully, and arrive at mutually exclusive interpretations. So that’s hardly the first rule of reading the Scriptures.

“My interpretation of Jn 6:51 is consistent too if one understands that Christ is talking sacramentally here. My understanding necessarily incorporates your interpretation and adds to it.”

No, it doesn’t add to it, any more than you can add a square to a circle. You can’t add a literal interpretation to a figurative interpretation.

“My reply: Scripture has to be understood in the context of all of Scripture. In light of the admonition at 1 Cor. 11:27, the answer to both questions here is no.”

On the one hand you interpret Jn 6:51 Eucharistically. On the other hand, when a Eucharistic interpretation of the wording would entail the salvation of every single communicant, you disregard the actual wording of Jn 6:51 and arbitrarily restrict its scope by an extraneous appeal to 1 Cor 11:27.

That’s a classic example of bad exegesis. If your interpretation generates an unacceptable consequence, the solution is to question your original interpretation–not to salvage your original interpretation by introducing another text which wasn’t written with a view to the first text, or vice versa.

1 Cor 11:27 is not the context of Jn 6:51.

“It is relevant because these disciples did not recognize Jesus through His preaching; they recognized Him through the eucharistizing.”

That’s flawed on several grounds:

i) You’re using one question-begging appeal to prop up another question-begging appeal. You’re using your Eucharistic interpretation of Lk 24 to justify your Eucharistic interpretation of Lk 24. But before you can even begin to do that, you need to establish the Eucharist interpretation of Lk 24. For example, the same words (“took…blest…broke…gave”) are also used in Luke’s account of the feeding of the 5000 (9:6). Do you think the feeding of the 5000 was a celebration of the Mass?

ii) Even if, for the sake of argument, we grant the Eucharistic interpretation of Lk 24, that, of itself, does nothing to prove the Eucharistic interpretation of Jn 6.

iii) Finally, as I said before, Jesus is visibly present in Lk 24. But, according to transubstantiation, he’s invisibly present in the Host. That’s hardly the same thing.

What is more, Catholics don’t recognize the real presence in the Host. There’s no act of perception. Rather, they simply believe Jesus to be present in deference to Catholic dogma. That’s not at all comparable to the experience of the two disciples in Lk 24.

“The preaching of the Scriptures did not bring these men to Christ, it was the sacrament of the Eucharist that did.”

i) You’re assuming, without argument, the Eucharistic interpretation of Lk 24.

ii) You’re committing the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

iii) There’s nothing inherently Eucharistic about a recognition scene. Take the recognition scene in Lk 1:22. Is that Eucharistic too?

“I write: I disagree with your assessment. The Mass is exactly the type of event as recorded in Lk. 24.”

You’re merely asserting that they’re exactly the same while ignoring the reason I gave for the disanalogy. Is Jesus visibly present at the Mass? Is Jesus up there at the altar, breaking the bread?

“You assume that your categorization is the correct one but for me to agree with that, you have to first show me that the Church as established by the Apostles used your categories to explain the Scriptures and their teachings.”

There’s very funny considering the way in which Thomism uses Aristotelian categories to explain the Eucharist. Was Aristotle one of the apostles?

4:42 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“I respond: Since when? Using typology was perfectly acceptable to the ECF’s and in fact preached that the events that I referenced prefigured the Eucharist. I already gave you what St. Augustine wrote-argue with him.”

St. Augustine didn’t write the Fourth Gospel. St. John wrote the Fourth Gospel. To arrive at the correct interpretation of Jn 6, what matters is what the narrator (John) understood, and not what a church father understood.

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs. My Church recognizes them as authorities. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

I didn’t mount an argument from authority. People generally resort to authority when they run out of reasons.

So, when you find your back to the wall, you retreat into your turtle shell of vicious circularity. But an obvious problem with that move is that other folks can make the same move:

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? The Church of Rome recognizes the fathers as authorities. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as authorities. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? The General Church of the New Jerusalem recognizes Swedenborg as our authority. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? Lakewood Church recognizes Joel Osteen as our authority. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? The Church of Satan recognizes the Anton LaVey as our authority. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

Moving along:

“You are imposing your modern view on the word ‘symbol’ in a way the Early Church would not have recognized or agreed with.”

And you’re imposing your Catholic view on the word “symbol” in a way the Bible writers would not have recognized or agreed with.

“I respond: Obviously the benediction against the 'minim' was added to keep Christians out of the synagogues. Or have your researches indicate otherwise? I would be happy to consider your evidence.”

You have problems following your own argument. You indicated that the Catholic liturgy copied stuff from the Jewish liturgy. So I asked you if that included the 18th Benediction.

“As you have rightly and duly noted, this is an analogy just like ‘I am the door’ or ‘I am the vine.’ It could have been understood merely as metaphor (in the first sense of the word), but Jesus goes on to explain His analogy. He says: ‘This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world’.”

That explanation doesn’t shift it from being “merely” metaphorical to something else. To the contrary, the explanation reproduces the same figurative imagery.

“He goes on tell them next that it is the same flesh that will be given up on the Cross-a true physical presence.”

In which case it doesn’t denote the institution of the Eucharist.

4:44 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“He then says that this flesh must be eaten by those who would follow Him. Jesus leaves no room for doubt here. If the flesh that Jesus says we are to eat for eternal life is meant only as a 'metaphor’ as in a figurative way or merely in the rational enlightened understanding of word ‘symbol’ then the flesh that bore our iniquities, the flesh of the crucifixion is only a metaphor or symbolic. John 6:51 clearly and plainly shows that Jesus equates the two.”

i) You lack a basic grasp of what a symbol or metaphor means. The fact that a symbol or metaphor may take a literal referent does nothing to make the symbol or metaphor literal in itself. The symbol is one thing, and the thing it stands for is another.

Try to master the meaning of basic terms and concepts.

ii) If Jesus is really alluding to the crucifixion, then the figurative imagery of eating bread and drinking blood shares the same historic referent. It’s a metaphorical description of the same event, as well as the appropriate response (i.e. faith) to that event. The same event can either be described in literal or figurative terms.

The real question at issue is the identity of the referent.

“If Jesus is going to be physically on the Cross, then He is physically present in the Bread.”

That is both a logical and exegetical non sequitur.

“Moreover John 6:51 states, ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I WILL GIVE is my flesh for the life of the world’ suggesting that Jesus will give us this bread in the future.”

Coming down from heaven refers to the Incarnation, not the Eucharist. It’s in his preexistent identity as the “bread of life” that he comes down from heaven (i.e. becomes incarnate). This antedates the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

The “bread” he gives is his sacrificial death, not the Eucharist.

“The literalness of the passage is evident in the fact that many walked away from Jesus, including many of His own disciples.”

Literal in reference to what? The death of the Messiah–or the Lord’s Supper?

“However, when it came to the Apostles, their faith allowed them to understand and more importantly to accept Jesus was saying.”

You’re trying to ride two different horses here. If you say they were offended by Jesus because they took him literally, then you presumably think they understood what he meant–since you yourself champion the literal interpretation.

If, on the other hand, you reserve that understanding for the apostles, then you can’t use the reaction of the crowd to establish the meaning of the passage.

“I write: ??? ... Considering the fact that the different sects of Judaism that existed at the time of Jesus each had different canons, I do not see how this defeats my argument.”

I see that you’re changing your argument in mid-stream. You originally asked me if I’d ever attended a service at a synagogue, and you used that as a reference point. But that, of course, has reference to modern Judaism, not 1C Judaism. Now, however, you’re backtracking to 1C Judaism, which is hardly the same thing.

I answered you on your own grounds. It would save time if you made more of an effort to keep track of your own arguments. If you’re using modern Judaism as your reference point, then that includes the Hebrew canon.

“My response: As to (i ), appending my comments to Jerry, you can not seriously be asking me to equate what a local council did in response to a situation that arose in 589 AD with what the first Christians believed and did, are you?”

i) You classify the 12th ecumenical council (Lateran IV) as a local council?

ii) And, no, I don’t equate what an ecumenical council did with what the first Christians did and believed. That’s the problem. Lateran discriminates against the Jews in a way unthinkable by NT standards.

4:46 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“Or are you contending that the Mass did not exist until after 589 AD?”

Where do you come up with these things? You turned this into an issue of Jewish influence. I therefore countered by drawing attention to anti-Semitism in traditional Catholicism. That would obviously limit Jewish influence.

For some reason you have a persistent problem following your own argument. You say something, I respond to you on your own terms. It shouldn’t be that hard for you to keep track. Just remember what you said. Is that asking too much?

“As far as (ii), well we do know where the Apostles and the early Christians hung out according to Acts.”

One place they hung out was the Temple. Do you think the Mass was celebrated in the Temple?

“Moreover, given what is found in the Epistles of SS. Paul, James, Peter and John as well as Revelation together with the Didache, the writings of SS. Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr and Hippolytus, we can certainly can do more than merely speculate as to the Mass.”

i) You need to specify your prooftexts for the Mass in Peter, Paul, James, and John.

ii) What the church fathers thought about the Mass, even assuming they held a uniform view, is secondary to what NT writers thought about the Eucharist.

iii) Moreover, this is irrelevant to the viewpoint of the Jewish audience to whom Jesus was speaking in Jn 6. Jesus wasn’t speaking to Hippolytus.

“To be honest, in the 20-30 or so Baptist services I have been to in my life, I have only seen one service that had any sort of communion there.”

Since they don’t celebrate communion every Sunday, you’d need to attend a communion service to know how it’s celebrated.

“That does not remotely remind me of a Mass.”

Once again, you miss the point. Did I compare a Baptist communion service to the Mass? No. Try to pay attention. I compared Baptist and Lutheran communion services.

And I pointed out that you couldn’t infer the Baptist or Lutheran theology of communion from their external rites.

Likewise, comparing the surface phenomena of Catholic and Jewish liturgies is of limited value in determining what their rites signify to the respective worshipers.

“My response: You are speculating here. The real answer is that we don’t know because St. John didn’t think it was important for us to know.”

Like many Catholics, you suffer from self-reinforcing ignorance. You don’t know because you don’t’ think it’s important to know, and so you don’t’ inform yourself.

John is quite clear on what Jesus’ listeners were in a position to know. That crops up throughout the Fourth Gospel. They were obligated to believe his claims because his claims were attested by OT Scriptures as well as his miraculous works.

“The NT was written to supplement what the Apostles, bishops and priests had taught the members of the early Church.”

i) Even on Catholic grounds, I hardly think that Vatican II would demote the NT to a merely supplementary role in relation to Sacred Tradition.

ii) You’re also committing an elementary blunder by failing to distinguish between the audience for a book, and the audience for a speech recorded in a book.

A modern historian may write a biography about Lincoln. In his biography, he may quote the Gettysburg Address. But the audience for that 1863 speech is hardly interchangeable with the audience for a biography published in 2009.

And the historian himself, even though he’s writing for the benefit of a modern audience, would interpret the Gettysburg Address in light of background information available to Lincoln and his audience.

You fail to draw that distinction because you really don’t care about the Bible. You only care about your sectarian traditions. As such, you make no serious effort to understand the Bible on its own terms. For you, the Bible is just a cipher for Catholic theology. In principle, any cipher would do.

It’s evil to be so indifferent to the word of God.

4:46 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“What background knowledge the Jews had was irrelevant.”

When Jesus is addressing a Jewish audience at a particular place and time, the background knowledge of the target audience is quite relevant to the correct interpretation of what he said–unless you think Jesus went out of his way to be misunderstood, and then blamed his audience for their failure to understand something when he deliberately created that misconception in the first place.

“I write: I do not see how my argument is undercut. The Jews were in no position to know Christ’s future crucifixion and Ascension either but it did not stop Our Lord from referring to these things in this pericope.”

Which would undercut your argument on both counts.

I, by contrast, distinguished between general knowledge of a certain type of event (e.g. a violent death) and specific knowledge of a particular event (e.g. crucifixion).

Jesus’ audience had sufficient background information to grasp an allusion to the death of the Messiah.

“My response: Jesus imparted general instructions to His audience that they were to eat His flesh which He was going to give for the life of the world.”

You’re assuming, without benefit of argument, that these are instructions for what to do at Mass–rather than figurative allusions to the Messiah’s redemptive death.

“Later Jesus did provide His followers with more specific information in the form of His institution of the Last Supper (which they obviously understood by virtue of Lk. 24, various passages in Acts, and 1 Cor. 10 and 11) and His Crucifixion and Resurrection and Ascension.”

And since the audience for the Break of Life discourse was uninformed in that respect, a reference to the institution of the Mass would be unintelligible. Yet the narrator treats them as culpable for their refusal to believe Jesus. How can they be blameworthy for disbelieving Jesus’ words when, on your interpretation, they’d be in no position to know what he was talking about?

“Why not? As I stated, John was filling in the blanks of the other inspired writers. John 6explains why the Eucharist is ultimately the center of Christian life.”

You’re like the Red Queen: you keep running without actually moving. You need to demonstrate that John was filling in the blanks.

“To be honest with you, my view is that Protestant attempts to distinguish themselves from Catholics is all falderal and they interpret the Scriptures in light of their Tradition exactly the same way Catholics do.”

I’m a Calvinist. But I didn’t grow up in a Reformed denomination. Therefore, the Reformed tradition was not my hermeneutical grid. Try that argument on someone else for size.

“You claim you are different so you have an excuse not to submit to the authority of the Catholic Church.”

You haven’t given me any good reason why I should submit to the authority of the Catholic church. Indeed, to judge by your performance thus far, you’ve given me good reasons not to.

“But the bottom line is that you submit to the authority of someone besides yourself even though you claim that there are such things such as ‘private judgment’ ‘sola scriptura’ and other notions.”

Because you’re Catholic, you’re conditioned to think in authoritarian categories. You’re incapable of framing the issue any other way. Therefore, you project that framework onto everyone else.

It doesn’t occur to you that I might agree with a theologian or commentator, not because I treat him as an authority figure or take what he says on the authority of the speaker, but simply because he presents a logical argument for his position, based on relevant evidence.

4:47 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“Protestants are not tabulae rasa which is what would be necessary for you actually practice what you claim.”

No, we don’t have to be tabulae rasa. Rather, we should be aware of our operating assumptions, and also be prepared to adjust our operating assumptions in light of God’s word.

“For example, someone before you claimed that they found in the Bible the notion of ‘sola scriptura’ or explained it to you in a certain way. By choosing to believe in their explanation , whether it be Luther, Calvin, your minister, or your teachers, you are acknowledging their authority to define or elucidate that doctrine. You didn’t read the Bible and come up with the notion of sola scriptura all by yourself. Someone told you that it was there and you chose to believe them.”

With all due respect, this isn’t very bright. There’s an obvious difference between accepting what someone says because he can make a good argument for his position, and accepting what he says on his authority.

There are times when we accept the word of an expert witness because he seems to know more about the issue than we do.

But it’s quite inept, as well as self-incriminating, for you to suggest that the only reason we believe something is because we treat the speaker as an authority figure.

If you’re going to use that argument, such as it is, then you’ve preemptively destroyed any possibility of doing Catholic apologetics. In that event, I have no more reason to submit to the pope than I have to submit to the grand ayatollah. I have no reason beyond a random appeal to some putative authority figure.

You’ve turned all religious allegiance into a raffle. It’s just a matter of chance that you pulled the Catholic ticket out of the revolving wheel. Had you reached in at a different time, you’d just as well be a Shiite.

“I must have missed that memo at the last secret meeting of the local chapter of The Heinous Evil Catholic League of Apologists (THECLA). Seriously, I am aware that some liberal Catholic Bible scholars have adopted Protestant hermeneutical methods but unfortunately I haven’t seen Fr. Fitzmyer’s name on Dei Verbum, Divino Afflante Spiritu, Providentissimus Deus, or mentioned even in any of Pope Benedict XVI’s writings about exegesis and hermeneutics (I do admit that I haven't read them all). Can you please show me in any of those documents where it says that I have to adopt Fr. Fitzmyer's ideas as my own or itemize all of those Protestant hermeneutical techniques I am supposed to use.”

This is another example of your self-reinforcing ignorance–even in reference to your own religious tradition. Fitzmyer walks you through the history of how the Magisterium came to embrace such methods.

4:48 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“In regards, to Fr. Fitzmyer, I do not disagree that the Catholic Church does recognize the value of historical criticism in exegesis, I merely do not agree with Fr. Fitzmyer’s views on it. The man does not recognize many of the events of the OT as historically accurate and contends that there are errors in the Bible. Perhaps such notions is in accord with your exegetical outlook, but I do not accept Fr. Fitzmyer’s views particularly since they devalue the role of Tradition, the concept that the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures to be written, and that the Scriptures are inerrant.”

Fitzmyer is not a Catholic dissent, like Küng. He represents mainstream Catholic views of Scripture which have never been censured by the Vatican. The Vatican is in a position to crack down if it wanted to. His views would have been out of bounds in the days of Pius IX or Leo XIII, but not today.

12:17 PM, July 03, 2009


  1. To add to Steve's many good points, the church fathers held a wide variety of eucharistic beliefs, including views that contradict the Roman Catholic position. A good online source on this subject is Philip Schaff's church history. See section 69 here and section 95 here.

    When John 6 is discussed in relation to the eucharist, the discussion often begins with the comments on the bread of Heaven in verse 31, verse 35, or somewhere else later in the passage. But we should keep the earlier context in mind. Given the contrast that Jesus sets up in John 6:26-29, in which resting in faith in Him is contrasted with the works of the unregenerate that were meant to attain physical benefits, how likely is it that Jesus is about to begin a discussion about attaining eternal life through physical participation in a ceremony that involves eating another type of physical food? Jesus' discourse begins with the contrast between faith and works and the importance of that which is spiritual, and those themes are emphasized again in verses 63-64, shortly after the alleged eucharistic verses. Faith, apart from physical eating and other works, is central to the passage. To read part of the passage as teaching that we attain eternal life through the work of going to a eucharistic ceremony and physically eating Christ's flesh and blood not only is incorrect, but also works directly against what Jesus had said and the context in which He said it. The Roman Catholic interpretation turns the passage on its head.

  2. "...they denied that Christians ever eat any human flesh or drink any human blood. They didn't make an exception for Christ's flesh and blood or attempt to explain that what they do with regard to Christ doesn't have any implications for how they treat human flesh and blood in general."

    This is indicative of a serious flaw in the understanding of the Eucharist, as well as artificially creating anachronistically presumptive demands on how you think that the early Christians should have responded almost two thousand years after the fact. Needless to say, your argument is not convincing.

  3. Alex wrote:

    "This is indicative of a serious flaw in the understanding of the Eucharist, as well as artificially creating anachronistically presumptive demands on how you think that the early Christians should have responded almost two thousand years after the fact. Needless to say, your argument is not convincing."

    You're making some assertions that need to be argued rather than just asserted. What is "the understanding of the Eucharist"? Different individuals and groups have held different views over the centuries.

    And why is it "anachronistically presumptive" to conclude that those who believed in a physical presence in the eucharist would think that they were consuming physical flesh and blood? What's presumptive is an assumption that Jesus could be physically present without any consumption of physical flesh and blood occurring. You may have a view of the eucharist that involves such a scenario, but it's not as if that scenario is the most natural one that follows from belief in a physical presence in the eucharist. It seems that you're being anachronistically presumptive and accusing me of doing the same because I don't go along with your anachronistic presumptions.

    And what's the significance of "almost two thousand years" having passed? Surely you aren't denying that there's some continuity between that era of history and our own. Why, then, do you think my reasoning is wrong in this particular case?

    Whether my argument is convincing is going to vary from one person to another. Others have made the same point I'm making in this context, so it's not as though I'm the only person who's found such reasoning persuasive.

    You need to get more specific. Your vague assertions above tell us what you believe, but don't give us any reason to agree with what you believe.