Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"The Jewish roots of Catholicism"

I've been watching some Brant Pitre videos to see if he does a better job of making an exegetical case for Catholicism than other Catholic apologists. Here's a sampler. 

The second thing to notice is that Jesus is emphasizing the realism of his presence under the form of food and drink... 

That the food and drink he's going to give, which they don't yet understand [because] he hasn't instituted the Last Supper…

It's going to be necessary for us to receive it in order to have eternal life. 

If you eat his flesh and drink his blood he will abide in you and you will abide in him. 

The OT manna was miraculous bread from heaven. Now if the NT manna was just a symbol, that would make the old manna greater than the new manna. 

i) Jn 6 says nothing about the presence of Christ under the form of food and drink. Notice how Catholic apologists first stress the literal interpretation of the imagery, then suddenly interject a distancing formula. They do that to save appearances. Obviously the bread and wine don't look like Jesus. So they abandon literality the moment their literality comes into conflict with manifest reality. 

ii) Notice the hasty admission that Christ's audience wasn't in a position to understand the eucharistic interpretation. Since, moreover, the Lord's Supper is modeled on the Passover Seder, why would Jews think there was anything special about the Lord's Supper? 

iii) Notice how Pitre's interpretation is at odds with the teaching of his own sect. According to modern Catholic theology, it isn't necessary to go to Mass to be saved. Muslims can be saved. Hindus can be saved. Buddhists can be saved.

iv) Does going to Mass cause the communicant to remain in Christ? What about the massive number of lapsed Catholics? Or is this a circular argument where you abide in Christ so long as you go to Mass? But in that case, the Eucharist doesn't keep you in Christ. It doesn't keep you going. So what difference does it make? 

v) The OT manna was miraculous in the sense that it had a supernatural source. But the manna itself was apparently composed of natural biological material, just like the water from the rock, or the quail blown off-course to feed the Israelites. 

vi) The point is not whether the NT rite is greater than the OT manna. The point of the manna isn't to prefigure the eucharist but to prefigure Jesus. It's Jesus, not the Eucharist, that's greater than the OT manna. This is a classic example of how the tinted glasses of Catholicism obscures the true significance of the comparison. 

He is assigning to Peter the office of being shepherd over his flock…In Jn 10 Jesus reveals that he himself is the Good Shepherd. And he even says there will be one flock and one shepherd…Jesus is the divine shepherd, the supreme shepherd, but Peter is established as the earthly shepherd over the flock of Jesus' disciples–and that includes, very importantly, the other twelve. 

i) Even if we grant his interpretation, Pitre needs to brush up on arithmetic. Since Peter was one of the twelve, and Judas was out of the picture by then, Peter would, at best, be the earthly shepherd over the other ten, not the other twelve. 

ii) More important is Pitre's fallacy. To say Peter is a shepherd doesn't imply that the other disciples aren't shepherds. It includes Peter as a shepherd without excluding others in that role. For instance, if Paul says that he's an apostle, that doesn't mean he's the only apostle. 

iii) Peter is singled out, not because a unique prerogative is conferred on him, but because he betrayed Jesus in a way that the other disciples did not. He is singled out for restoration.  

iv) If the singular shepherdship of Christ is consistent with the existence of undershepherds, then that's consistent with more than one undershepherd. 

v) There's nothing in Jn 21 about Jesus assigning an "office" to Peter. An office is a permanent position with successive office-holders. That concept is absent from Pitre's prooftext.

There are certain traditions that are binding. Whenever we look at a passage in the Bible we interpret it in context. In 2 Thes 2:15…so apostolic tradition has to be kept…An apostolic tradition which is guided by the Holy Spirit and given to the church as binding, whether in written or oral form. 

How I'm I supposed to know which traditions are apostolic and which ones are man-made, which ones are permanent and binding and which ones can be changed or be dispensed with? You know that by the living authority of the church. The reason Christ institutes a church with leaders–the living authorities, the apostles and their successors can discern through the Holy Spirit… 

But ironically he interprets 2 Thes 2:15 out of context. Paul doesn't appeal to the living authority of the church, to Roman Catholic bishops to discern binding, permanent traditions from man-made, reformable, or dispensable traditions. Rather, the Thessalonians know which "traditions" are apostolic because they got it direct from St. Paul. Pitre has substituted a completely different criterion from the criterion that Paul actually stipulates. The "traditions" are binding if you heard it from the mouth of an apostle. That ensures the apostolic pedigree of the source. From his mouth to your ear. No intermediaries. No chain of testimony. 

Jn 20:22-23…This is the foundational text for the power of the sacrament of reconciliation…Who can forgive sins but God alone? It's a divine prerogative to forgive sins. 

The implication is that they would somehow know what those sins are…Otherwise, how are they going to know what sins to bind or what sins to forgive. 

i) How should we interpret Jn 20:22-23? It's in a Gospel, not a church history. So it doesn't explicitly show us how that was understood and implemented in the church. For that our best source is the Book of Acts. It's not that the disciples personally absolve sin. Indeed, you don't find that in Acts. Rather, they provide the means for the remission of sin by evangelizing the lost. 

ii) How were the Eleven in a position to be father confessors to thousands of converts? That's quite unrealistic. So it doesn't envision auricular confession and absolution. God does the forgiving. The Eleven are simply intermediaries of forgiveness by preaching the Gospel. Their role is indirect rather than direct. That's further reinforced by the fact that there's no rite of confession to a priest and sacerdotal absolution in the NT epistles. Catholicism is a different religion. 

iii) Finally, in the context of John's Gospel, passages like Jn 3:16-18 offer a clue about how 20:22-23 was meant to be understood. The basis for forgiveness and damnation isn't confession to a Roman Catholic priest and absolution from his lips but by having faith in Jesus or refusing to have faith in Jesus. 


  1. John 20:22-23 is one of many passages where a 'paradigm shift' is necessary to properly understand the imperative.

    Combine/compare it with Matthew 6:15 - "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

    But we are already forgiven, are we not? Hence we MUST forgive others. It is mandatory.

  2. Hi

    This is not related to this post but I don't know where else to post. A while back (June sometime) I started debating on this blog (the post was called "covering for the enemy)

    It was not in the spirit of christian charity. I want to ask for forgiveness for it.


  3. > "The OT manna was miraculous bread from heaven. Now if the NT manna was just a symbol, that would make the old manna greater than the new manna."

    Greater in what sense? The OT manna's only significance to me is its part in the redemptive history that climaxes in Christ. I didn't wander in the wilderness and didn't get to eat it. Whereas, a perpetual reminder of the death of Christ for my sins, designed to help me focus upon Christ and all the implications of his saving work is of inestimable value. Whatever Pitre's criteria for measuring greatness is, it's plainly hugely defective.

  4. I have noted that the RCC and Islam both have strong parallels to Judaism.

    Each of the three has a divinely-originated holy text (OT, OT+NT, Quran).

    Yet in all three cases, a body of authority (Rabbinic & Talmudic commentary, Magisterium, Hadith & Tafsir) is needed to intepret the text - in some cases, directly contradicting and superceding the text.