Friday, June 03, 2011

The “real substance” of Optatus of Mileve

It was noted in comments below that “Called to Communion” was writing “articles that have the real substance,” such as articles about “St. Optatus”. Actually, I’ve written about Optatus in the past. And in fact, I’ve written more extensively about the “pope” that he defends, Damasus. Damasus, of course, had hired a mob of gravediggers [armed with picks and shovels, etc.] to defend his “election” to the papacy. This mob, according to contemporary accounts, had “savagely” attacked and killed 137 followers of a rival [and previously elected and consecrated] “pope”. Regarding Damasus:
Since the mid third century there had been a growing assimilation of Christian and secular culture. It is already in evidence long before Constantine with the art of the Christian burial sites round the city, the catacombs. With the imperial adoption of Christianity, this process accelerated. In Damasus’ Rome, wealthy Christians gave each other gifts in which Christian symbols went alongside images of Venus, nereids and sea-monsters, and representations of pagan-style wedding-processions.

This Romanisation of the Church was not all a matter of worldiness, however. The bishops of the imperial capital had to confront the Roman character of their city and their see. They set about finding a religious dimension to that Romanitias which would have profound implications for the nature of the papacy. Pope Damasus in particular took this task to heart. He set himself to interpret Rome’s past in the light not of paganism, but of Christianity. He would Latinise the Church, and Christianise Latin. He appointed as his secretary the greatest Latin scholar of the day, the Dalmatian presbyter Jerome, and commissioned him to turn the crude dog-Latin of the Bible versions [currently] used in the church into something more urbane and polished. Jerome’s work was never completed, but the Vulgate Bible, as it came to be called, rendered the scriptures of ancient Israel and the early Church into an idiom which Romans could recognize as their own. The covenant legislation of the ancient tribes was now cast in the language of the Roman law-courts [emphasis added], and Jerome’s version of the promises to Peter used familiar Roman legal words for binding and loosing -- ligare and solver -- which underlined the legal character of the Pope’s unique claims. (Eamon Duffy, “Saints and Sinners, A History of the Popes, New Haven and London, Yale Nota Bene, Yale University Press ©1997 and 2001, pgs 38-39)
Shotwell and Loomis note, “During the pontificate of Damasus, Optatus, bishop of Mileve, a town in the Roman province of Numidia, wrote a treatise on the Donatist schism, which he dedicated to the Christian emperors.”
Here’s what Optatus (c. 370) said of “the Chair of Peter”:
We must note who first established a see and where. If you do not know, admit it. If you do know, feel your shame. I cannot charge you with ignorance, for you plainly know. It is a sin to err knowingly, although an ignorant person may be blind to his error. But you cannot deny that you know that the episcopal seat [“cathedra”] was established first in the city of Rome by Peter and that in it sat Peter, the head of all the apostles, wherefore he is called Cephas. So in this one seat unity is maintained by everyone, that the other apostles might not claim separate seats, each for himself.… (Cited in Shotwell and Loomis, “The See of Peter,” pgs 111-112, writing to the Donatists.)
According to the editors, “not only, he says, was Peter ‘head of the apostles’ and the first bishop of Rome, but his bishopric at Rome was the first to be established anywhere in the Church. It was the original episcopate. The claim, however, was excessive even for that credulous age. It violated such widely accepted ideas as those of the bishopric of James the apostle at Jerusalem, and of Peter’s foundation of the bishopric at Antioch.” (111)

Optatus was an incredibly bad historian. No doubt he was passing along what Eamon Duffy had termed “pious romance, not history” about Peter – in the form of “later legends” that sprung up around his personality in the second century.

Who wants their faith to be formed around a legend? I certainly don’t. But that is the legacy of hundreds of years-worth of papal “history”.

Separating what is true from what is the legend is the ongoing work of critical historians. As I’ve mentioned, during the 20th century, Rome has backed far away from some of the claims made by someone like Adrian Fortescue. They have been very shy about proclaiming the results of their own studies.


  1. Hey John Bugay!

    I recently shared some thoughts from Optatus on the Catholic Forums:

    I hope you have a blessed day!

    In Christ,
    Pete Holter

  2. Pete: Optatus had his worldview shaped by fiction. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Urbani, your comment seems to have hit the spam filter. Someone should release it shortly. But in the meantime, I have addressed some of your concerns.

    It would seem that the writer of the letter on Called to Communion foresaw your objection, Mr Bugay:

    ... at some point prior to the time of St. Optatus, men had wrongfully and universally imposed a visible hierarchy on the Church, treating what Christ had established to be something invisible, as though it were something visible and essentially unified in a visible hierarchical structure.

    The notion of "ecclesial deism" is itself a figment of the author's imagination. A sovereign God does not leave such things to chance. It's a meaningless concept that he continues to throw out there.

    As well, for him to say that "men" "wrongfully" "universally" "imposed" -- each of these words is a loaded term, each based on assumptions we should not uncritically accept.

    There is no question there was a network of bishops by the end of the second century. We know how it happened. We know the process, and to include "the papacy" as an element within this process is itself a fiction. We can say with some certainty why it happened; and we know that it brought with many difficulties as well.

    You would have us believe that not only St. Optatus was a bad historian but also most of his contemporaries.

    There is no question that fictions and forgeries were circulating in those days. Roman bishops after Constantine certainly had the power and the wealth to continue to spread those fictions which suited their purposes.

    The bad history apparently took hold with little objection and within a generation was the faith of the entire church.

    Not the entire church. But the leavening function certainly is corrupting. It was predicted that even within the Apostles' lifetimes, vicious wolves would enter the church, and in fact, would take places among the leadership of the church. This is not unprecedented in God's scheme of things. Consider that Israel had constructed for themselves a golden calf while Moses was still on the mountain.

    You have forced a view that must by necessity be very skeptical of the fathers and at the same time over relying on historians using a modern critical method - many of the historians you quote conclude things about the framework of the early church, the bible and other items that a Presbyterian rejects.

    I've written extensively on the topic of the Evangelical use of historical criticism. Historical criticism largely supports Evangelical teaching about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

    Have you read any of my other work?

  4. According to the editors, “not only, he says, was Peter ‘head of the apostles’ and the first bishop of Rome, but his bishopric at Rome was the first to be established anywhere in the Church. It was the original episcopate. The claim, however, was excessive even for that credulous age. It violated such widely accepted ideas as those of the bishopric of James the apostle at Jerusalem, and of Peter’s foundation of the bishopric at Antioch.” (111)

    Are you sure you want to buy that the early church era was a "credulous age." It isn't true. That would be one reason not to buy it. But another problem is you need the early church to testify to the resurrection of Jesus and to the authorship of the scriptures. If you think men like St Augustine had poor judgement because he accepted and built on the writing of St Optatus then you will dismissed some of the best witnesses for Christianity.

  5. Randy, check out these articles:

    Historical Criticism: Christ and the New Testament

    Historical Criticism: the Early Church

    The same process that is confirming Christ and the New Testament, is decimating the historical underpinnings of the papacy.

  6. John -

    You are being very selective in your approach to weighing the merits of historical criticism.

    If you walk into an early Christian history course at Princeton Theological Seminary, for example, you will be assigned about a dozen books written by big name historians who challenge fundamental notions about the early apostles and gospel authorship. These scholars often use the same words to describe the narrative of the Old Testament that you use to describe the papacy...fiction, legend etc.

    See here...

    Meet Bart Erhman - historical critical method historian par excelance. He is rehashing what he learned at Princeton from other historical critical method scholars. It is widely known.

    So - when you rely so much on select historical critical scholarship which often seeks to insert ideas into the areas of history where little is known from the extant than you are playing with a scortched earth mentality.

    Besides, there is also good scholarship that supports the early papacy.

  7. Kristen -- We do not need to be concerned about the "big name historians" you talk about. As I've noted, from a factual point of view, the information that both sides are presenting is converging. And it's converging in our favor.

    Ehrman is being more than adequately addressed by individuals like Darrell Bock and Larry Hurtado.

    On the other hand, I've not seen any "good scholarship" supporting an early papacy. Perhaps you could point me toward some sources.

  8. "Are you sure you want to buy that the early church era was a "credulous age." It isn't true."

    Eusebius credulously relates a story about a letter that Jesus Christ supposedly wrote to King Agbar, which letter, he claims, is still "available, taken from the Record Office at Edessa." Eusebius then reproduces said letter for us. It's on p.31 of the little Penguin Classics edition of his "Ecclesiastical History" if you'd like to read it yourself.

    There are innumerable such examples from the early church. It most certainly was a credulous age.

    "But another problem is you need the early church to testify to the resurrection of Jesus and to the authorship of the scriptures."

    Obviously one has to separate legend from fact. This is always the case. You are rather selective yourselves, quickly embracing any ECF that seems to support an early papacy; just as quickly dismissing any ECF that contradicts it.

    Ultimately though, our faith does not rest in the testimony of men, because "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except in the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:3).

  9. Hi Louis. You are right, Eusebius is a mixed bag, and we only help the cause of Christ by analyzing not only Eusebius's work, but that of all the other ECFs, with a critical and discerning eye, looking for what is genuine and what is not.

  10. John.

    Re: good scholarship -

    Johannes Quasten: Patrology

    Bernard Green: Christianity in Ancient Rome in the First Three Centuries

    George Agius: Tradition and the Church

    Guarducci: The Primacy of the Church of Rome: Documents, Reflections, Proofs

    Rivington: The Primitive Church and the See of Peter

    Chapman: Studies on the Early Papacy

    Giles: Documents Illustrating Papal Authority: AD 96 – 454

    Lindsay: The Evidence for the Papacy: as Derived from the Holy Scriptures and from Primitive Antiquity

  11. If that's the best list you can come up with, I feel comfortable moving at full speed with what I'm doing.

  12. John.

    Which of your scholars - the ones that you do not dismiss - confirm the following:

    1) The gospels were eye-witness accounts.

    2) Jesus is the son of God

    3) Jesus was born of a virgin

    4) Jesus was nailed to the cross and rose from the dead on the third day

    5) God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit

    6) The Old Testamnent narratives of the Exodus, creation and the general history of the Israelites are true and actual historical events.

    - I presume we agree on all of the above. I presume we agree that all of those are intergral components of the Christian religion.

    Now, which scholars - based no their historical insights - confirm all of the above?

  13. You're changing the subject.

    Why should I believe what Optatus says, if he's historically inaccurate, and passing along false information?

  14. Gary Habermas has been studying what "critical scholars" have been saying. Just a couple of things I'd like to note here.

    As an example of these recent trends, I will compare briefly the ideas of two seemingly different scholars, John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright. We will contrast some of their views on Jesus’ resurrection, following the specific list of topics that we just provided. This will indicate some of their major differences, but perhaps some unexpected similarities, as well. Such will serve as a sample demarcation from the recent theological scene, as well....

    Both Crossan and Wright agree without reservation that Paul is the best early witness to the resurrection appearances. They both hold that Paul was an eyewitness to what he believed was a resurrection appearance of Jesus. Further, they share the view that Paul recorded an account in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 that he had received decades before writing the letter in which it appears, and that the apostle probably learned it during his early visit to Jerusalem, just a short time after Jesus’ death.[67]

    Perhaps most surprisingly, both Wright and Crossan embrace the claim that the earliest Christian teachings taught that Jesus appeared in a bodily manner. This is the case for several reasons, such as this being the predominant Jewish view at the time. Most of all, this was the clear meaning of the terms. ...

  15. Lastly, both Crossan and Wright readily agree that the resurrection of Jesus in some sense indicates that the truth of Christian belief ought to lead to its theological outworkings, including the radical practice of ethics. As Crossan states, “Tom and I agree on one absolutely vital implication of resurrection faith . . . that God’s transfiguration of this world here below has already started . . .” To be sure, Crossan’s chief emphasis is to proceed to the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection in the world today, contending that we must live out the literal implications of this belief in “peace through justice.” Just as Jesus’ appearances inspired the disciples’ proclamation of God’s victory over sin and the powers of Caesar’s empire, we must “promote God’s Great Clean-Up of the earth” and “take back God’s world from the thugs.”[75]

    Wright argues that, for both the New Testament authors like Paul and John, as well as for us today, the facticity of Jesus’ resurrection indicates that Christian theology is true, including doctrines such as the sonship of Jesus and his path of eternal life to those who respond to his message.[76] The resurrection also requires a radical call to discipleship in a torn world, including responses to the political tyranny of both conservatives as well as liberals, addressing violence, hunger, and even death. As Wright says, “Easter is the beginning of God’s new world. . . . But Easter is the time for revolution. . . .”[77]

    So there is at least general agreement between Crossan and Wright regarding most of the individual topics which we have explored above. There is at least some important overlap in each of the six categories, except for the historicity of the empty tomb. The amount of agreement on some of the issues, like the value of Paul’s eyewitness testimony to a resurrection appearance, his report of an early creed that predates him by a couple of decades, as well as his knowledge of the message taught by the Jerusalem apostles, is rather incredible, especially given the different theological stances of these two scholars. The emerging agreement concerning the essential nature of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, especially for Paul and the New Testament authors, is a recent twist that would have been rather difficult to predict just a few years ago. And both scholars argue for the believer’s literal presence in righting the world’s wrongs, because of Jesus’ resurrection.

    So, here are two different scholars, from two different backgrounds, both of whom I would disagree with on a number of things. But there is a general confluence of agreement over some of the facts. Important facts.

    You don't see this kind of agreement among contemporary scholars saying "Peter was the first pope, Linus was the second, Clement was the third, and on and on through a divine succession of history". In fact, you see a confluence in quite an opposite direction.

  16. Kristen, I think your last short comment got caught in the spam filter. Nevertheless, I believe my latest comments (and a new blog post) will give you some idea about how I'm looking at these scholars.

  17. John,

    Your posts don't really solve your problem. All you show is that some people accept the evidence for scripture as historical and some people reject the evidence for the papacy. You don't show that it is at all rational or consistent.

    When you get into the details you have to use the same sources. If you want to show Matthew wrote the first gospel your best evidence is found in St Irenaeus's Against Heresies. You want to say that what he wrote there is trustworthy. That he would not say Matthew wrote something unless he had some basis for believing he did.

    But then you talk about the papacy and you want to say the same document is hogwash. That St Irenaeus makes very specific historical claims that have no basis in fact at all. I am not saying some protestant scholars won't go there. I am just saying it is inconsistent.

    You claim that the evidence is for scripture and for Christ but against the papacy. It is something you repeat over and over. But as far as I can see it is not the evidence that is that way but just your bias that is that way. It does not matter how many times you make the claim it is simply that. Your claim. The fact that you can google up a few quotes does not change that.

  18. Randy -- Your posts don't really solve your problem. All you show is that some people accept the evidence for scripture as historical and some people reject the evidence for the papacy. You don't show that it is at all rational or consistent.

    It is perfectly consistent. It is using the same method on two sets of data, and arriving at conclusions that are consistent.

    In real life, neither "conclusion" causes faith, as I mentioned to Kristen. But whereas the "conclusions" arrived at regarding Jesus and the New Testament support my faith in Jesus and the New Testament (and any "faith" that I have), the "conclusions" regarding an early papacy seriously undermine it. It requires "faith" to be exercised contrary to what it is that your eye sees.

    When you get into the details you have to use the same sources. If you want to show Matthew wrote the first gospel your best evidence is found in St Irenaeus's Against Heresies.

    I consider R.T. France to be one of the best commentators on Matthew. France does not mention Irenaeus once, in his discussion of "who wrote κατα μαθθαιον. He does have an extensive treatment of Papias, but most of that is exegetical -- it's not an appeal to authority.

    All of this is perfectly consistent. And stay tuned, because I've got more.

  19. Optatus of Mileve was engaged in a desperate dispute against Donatists. He certainly would have had polemical motive to be "less than perfectly honest" about the history of Petrine succession whose authority he exalts in order to triumph against rebellious sectarian opponents.

    Yes - we must also account for the possibility that besides simple ignorance, some Nicene-era writers were downright dishonest as well. They were not above telling vague legends and half-truths if they thought it would serve their purpose, the noble end sanctifying the disreputable means.

    Here is an interesting short preface that Roger Pearse wrote to his publication of Optatus' work:

    Optatus of Milevis, Against the Donatists (1917). Preface to the online edition

    "Much of what Optatus writes grates on some minds. The church organisation comes first; the question of right or wrong is barely discussed, and treated as unimportant. The clergy deserve special treatment. In short, we are firmly in the mindset of the medieval church, not the New Testament. To any who have witnessed the abuse of episcopal power to stifle objections of principle, Optatus will be exceedingly hard to read, as he attacks people who only sought to have an upright church, and defends the involvement of the police in oppressive action.

    What can be said in defence of this? Well, it is entirely possible to misread the situation. Optatus, after all, is defending a tiny minority against a book written to attack them. This minority is threatened by popular violence, and dependent on the aid of a not very helpful secular power to keep the knives of the circumcellion bandits, allegedly in 'defence' of Donatism, from their throats. Much may be forgiven a man who is on the defensive; is this, perhaps, the situation in which Optatus writes? It's hard to see that a Donatist would be impressed by this book; is it perhaps written to bolster the confidence of the anti-Donatist, rather than as a piece intended to persuade? We may see state power oppressing a principled minority in the service of timeservers, and such things are indeed worthy of condemnation. But we should consider the possibility that, without hindsight, the situation looked different on the ground. Optatus could not foresee the burning of Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley, a thousand years later, however straight the line may seem to some from the position he takes up to the evils of the inquisition and the persecution of the faithful by a nominally Christian episcopate."

  20. Yes - we must also account for the possibility that besides simple ignorance, some Nicene-era writers were downright dishonest as well.

    Viisaus, I wasn't gonna say it!

  21. Medieval Christians themselves often thought that something negative had happened to the spirit of the church after Constantine and his successors had began to bestow earthly graces upon it. Dante Alighieri himself wrote:


    "Ah, Constantine! to how much ill gave birth,
    Not thy conversion, but that plenteous dower,
    Which the first wealthy Father gain'd from thee!"

  22. It sounding very strange to assert that a father is lying or that many fathers are lying. It makes any kind of rational conversation difficult when it comes to the faith of the early church when if one is confronted with evidence they can merely claim, 'Oh, this father is not telling the truth."

  23. What about Eusebius's "Letter to Agbar" in Louis's comment above? What's up with Eusebius? Do you think that Jesus really wrote that letter?

  24. I find the letter of agbar very strange. I have never heard of this. It definite stands alone as aberration example. It cannot really be compared to a sustained witness to the succession of the apostles.

    Your claim is essentially that there was very early a massive corruption that took over the entire Christian world for many years and that fathers who corroborate the understanding of the papacy were either ignorant or lying.

    I will chose to take the word of the fathers over modern exegetes 2,000 years removed from what actually happened.

  25. "It sounding very strange to assert that a father is lying or that many fathers are lying."

    Below you can get an introduction to the distasteful subject of pious fraud - from "Vigilantius and his times" (1844) by W.S. Gilly.

    Remember, just like only Holy Spirit could safeguard the apostles from unintentional error in their writings, so likewise could only He protect them from the temptation of dishonesty ("intentional error") that all fallen men suffer from. The uninspired church fathers did not enjoy such supernatural protection.

    pp. 268-269

    "One scarcely knows in what terms of reprobation to speak of that license, which too many of the most eminent fathers of this (4th) century allowed themselves, when they expressed their opinions in mystic terms for expediency sake; or when they outstepped the limits of truth in the warmth of an argument; or when they indulged in exaggerated statements, rhetorical hyperbole, and bombastic flourishes, in conformity with the custom and taste of the times.

    This unworthy practice has been rightly called "Falsitas Dispensativa", fraudulent management, or, license to conceal the truth, or to use falsehood as circumstances may require; and it has been vindicated and followed by the admirers of patristical antiquity in a manner which shews too plainly, that there is a proneness in the human mind, under fanatical excitement, to "believe a lie."

    It was this "Falsitas Dispensativa," which enabled Jerome and his contemporaries to build up that structure called the church of the fourth century, so unlike "the holy temple of the Lord fitly framed together on the foundation of the apostles and prophets." False miracles,* dreams related in terms which led the hearers to suppose they were realities; scriptural verities withheld, under the pretext that they were too strong for weak brethren; church ordinances pronounced to be sacraments, when they were only of human authority; texts of scripture misapplied, wrested, and perverted, to suit the occasion; allegories treated as facts; opinions expressed in terms of such ambiguity as would admit of retractation or confirmation, of blowing hot or cold, in the progress of developement: these were the artifices and "the sleight of men," who had a system of their own to uphold, and who forgot that the fabric which has not truth for its basis, cannot be an habitation of God through the Spirit.

    * How can we rely on any of the patristical miracles, or any testimony of the Fathers as to the miracles of the fourth century, if they felt themselves at liberty to trifle with the truth for the promotion of the Gospel?

  26. Let us remember that the RCC has had some famous and ugly encounters with the concept of "lying for a good cause", from the brazen forgeries of Dark Ages to the refined Jesuitical doctrines of permissible falsehoods. (The early Reformers certainly did not hesitate to label Romanists, monks especially, as lying legend-mongers.)

    We have a reason to fear that the seeds of this policy of propagandistic dishonesty - like so many other forms of Romish corruption - were sown already in the post-Constantinian era.

  27. I've written about this elsewhere:

    Samuel Hugh Moffett, writing in "A History of Christianity in Asia," describes this council:

    "On Easter Sunday in 429, Cyril publicly denounced Nestorius for heresy. With fine disregard for anything Nestorius had actually said, he accused him of denying the deity of Christ. It was a direct and incendiary appeal to the emotions of the orthodox, rather than to precise theological definition or scriptual exegesis, and, as he expected, an ecclesiastical uproar followed. Cyril showered Nestorius with twelve bristling anathemas...As tempers mounted, a Third Ecumenical Council was summoned to meet in Ephesus in 431 ... [it was] the most violent and least equitable of all the great councils. It is an embarassment and blot on the history of the church. ... Nestorius ... arrived late and was asking the council to wait for him and his bishops. Cyril, who had brought fifty of his own bishops with him, arrogantly opened the council anyway, over the protests of the imperial commissioner and about seventy other bishops. ... "They acted ... as if it was a war they were conducting, and the followers of [Cyril] ... went about in the city girt and armed with clubs ... with the yells of barbarians, snorting fiercely ... raging with extravagant arrogance against those whom they knew to be opposed to their doings, carrying bells about the city and lighting fires. They blocked up the streets so that everyone was obliged to fee and hide, while they acted as masters of the situation, lying about, drunk and besotted and shouting obsceneties... (Moffet 174).

    The anathemas of this council were directed at Nestorius; they ratified 12 "anathemas" that, as Moffett relates, had nothing to do with Nestorius's actual teachings.

    This is a travesty of church authority, and yet as Moffett and others have written, this schism was far greater extent than either the 1054 split with the EO's or the Protestant Reformation. In this split, (effected by Cyril's armed thugs and a council that bore false witness against Nestorius), the entire eastern portion of the church (farther east than Jerusalem) was cast off and later left to die at the hands of Islam. Yet this church was far larger in numbers and scope than the churches surrounding the Mediterranean see. For more information, see:

    Philip Jenkins: The Lost History of Christianity

    Mar Bawai Soro: The Church of the East: Apostolic and Orthodox

  28. What I have learned from you is that one should distrust the early church fathers and councils and favor modern historical insights instead.

    This seems like to me you have admitted defeat when it comes to the fathers themselves and what they actually taught.

    Extant history is always more reliable than historical guesswork about missing data and motivations.

  29. What I have learned from you is that one should distrust the early church fathers and councils and favor modern historical insights instead.

    What I've said is that you should look at them with a critical eye.

  30. John.

    On the one hand you assert that history is against the side of the Catholic Church.

    "I do not have faith in the Catholic Church because of a head count of scholars (although I do think extant history is very supportive of Catholic claims). "

    You: This is simply not true.

    On the other hand you dismiss evidence that helps the claims of the Catholic Church as lies or ignorance.

    It is a stacked deck and does not strike me as an honest approach.

    I wonder how you are trustful of any father about anything or any council about anything. Are you?

  31. I trust God and I trust the Scriptures. I try to follow scholars who check the church fathers against both the Scriptures and history.

    On the other hand, Rome has an established policy called "mental reservation" -- it is a way to "lie" without (in their opinion) crossing any moral lines.

    I've written about that here:

    It's like Ronald Reagan used to say: "Trust, but verify".

  32. You do love to get the discussion down into the gutter. When you are not throwing mud you are throwing something worse. This post was allegedly about "real substance." Not anymore.

    I think think that whatever you throw at the church hits the scriptures and ultimately dishonor's Jesus. It is unavoidable. The church is the body of Christ. I would never argue that I am throwing mud at your body and not at you. The two are the same. It is that way with Christ and His church. I would hope you could see that at least during the era where there was only one church.

    As for the abuse scandals. There will always be bad acts by clergy. But that does not mean you can dismiss all Christians. Why do I have to explain this to a Christian? Churchman, both protestant and Catholic, seem to know this well.

  33. Randy the hierarchy is not "the church".

  34. And, see my latest post (Archbishop Minnerath) for info about the first millennium church.


    "When you get into the details you have to use the same sources. If you want to show Matthew wrote the first gospel your best evidence is found in St Irenaeus's Against Heresies."

    Actually, we could begin with the title of the Gospel. It's not like it circulated anonymously.

    We could also notice that the content of Matthew's Gospel's is consistent with the title.