Monday, February 24, 2014

“Divine Revelation” Part 3: Methodological Considerations When Discussing “the Church” and “the mind of the Church”

I believe here that we are really close to being able to identify the heart of the issues between Roman Catholics and Protestants....

In your initial comments, you reference a Ratzinger phrase, “the living organism of the faith of all ages”, and you also somewhere reference “the mind of the Church”, failing to take into account a critical portion of thinking.

It’s not true to say that the New Testament writers were “somewhat confused”. I will grant that some patristic writers of the first three centuries were very much confused. Writers especially of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions just simply ignore this confusion – the thinking holds something like “these early writers were closer to the time of the Apostles, therefore they must have had the best understanding” – however, this does not follow at all. In the link that I provided here in this paragraph, I’ve cited many instances of this “confusion”, and many others could be provided....

On the flip side of this coin, (“what was the mind of the church thinking about in the first century?”), we have the recent studies by writers in the “New Testament Use of the Old Testament” project. Briefly, this study looks not only at “direct quotations”, but far more deeply, to “allusions”, which the writer G.K. Beale defines as “a brief expression consciously intended by [a New Testament author] to be dependent on an Old Testament passage.”

While allowing that different writers operate under different definitions, these numbers give some sense of proportion, as to just how heavily the New Testament writers relied on the Old Testament (not just words, but concepts as well):

“One writer has counted 295 separate quotations of the OT in the NT (including quotations with and without formulas). These make up about 4.5% of the entire NT, about 354 verses. Thus 1 out of 22.5 verses in the NT incorporates a quotation.”

But aside from “direct quotation”, there are also innumerable “allusions” to the Old Testament in the New. … The key to discerning an allusion, he says, “is that of recognizing an incomparable or unique parallel in wording, syntax, concept, or cluster of motifs in the same order or structure.”

[By these standards], there may be more than 4,000 “allusions” or “echoes” of the Old Testament found within the New. Given that there are 7956 verses in the New Testament, more than half the New Testament can be seen as bearing at least some form of “echo of” or “allusion to” some Old Testament concept or idea.

When you talk about things such as “the living organism of the faith of all ages”, without discussing the actual “content” of the faith (i.e., “what they knew, and when they knew it”), and indeed, when looking at “the mind of ‘the Church’”, without considering, in detail, how this “mind” “changed” in the first three centuries, and then when you jump to the fourth century, and start picking up terms like “sacramental” or even such words as “one”, “holy”, “catholic”, and “apostolic”, with respect to church, well, then, you are really “begging the question” in a huge way.

When you consider your own phrase, again, “the Holy Spirit of revelation, ‘who has spoken through the prophets’,” and when you fail to consider that the early church, of the first three centuries basically lost the sense of “what those prophets actually have said”, you are being outright contradictory.

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