§ 838 “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter. Those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.”
Tens of millions of Protestants are deeply committed to Rabbi Yeshua. These active and serious Protestants live especially in the American Bible Belt, but also in other parts of the United States and the world. Many are shining examples to Catholics in their zealous faith and their enthusiasm for Christian life in the public square.
On the vertical issues, between God and man, they proclaim the basic Gospel truths of Rabbi Yeshua’s life, death and resurrection. On the horizontal issues, between man and man, they are often wonderful friends and work with us to promote Christian morality.
But beyond that they are Protestant. They protest against Catholic teaching authority with the same vigor they bring to Gospel reading. As such, they commit heresy, the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith. We Catholics are called to defend our Faith with “gentleness and reverence” 1 Pet 3:15.
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “Behold, I am with you always …” Mt 28:20. During his public ministry Rabbi Yeshua taught us every day Lk 19:47. The list of popes, the list of Ecumenical Councils, and the Nicene Creed that the Church has reaffirmed every Sunday morning during the past sixteen centuries show that he has been teaching the Catholic Church constantly and consistently. The Protestant movement started in 1517. Rabbi Yeshua has been there all along, but the Protestant denominations weren’t, so they were not with him during all that time.
The Western Schism had clouded the papacy less than a century before Martin Luther was born. Pope Alexander VI, a deeply sinful man, reigned during Luther’s youth.1 These events led Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox to conclude that the Church never had the authority she claimed. They began to see Scriptural authority in opposition to Church authority, and held fast to Scripture as a great rock exposing Church authority as a façade. Protestant Christianity saw itself as the religion of the Bible because the Holy Spirit breathed life into Scripture 2 Tim 3:16. But Rabbi Yeshua had declared, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” Mt 16:18. Rabbi Yeshua had made Rabbi Kefa, not Scripture, the Rock. “… you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” 1 Tim 3:15.
Moreover, Rabbi Yeshua had offered his flesh for the life of the world through the apostolic succession for 1,500 years. “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” Jn 6:55. Scripture alone cannot provide this living bread. To believe that Church authority stands in opposition to Scriptural authority they had to interpret these passages in ways that denied their clear meaning.
Once embarked on this path they had to continue. Rabbi Paul explicitly supported Catholic Sacred Tradition, but Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and Knox denied it. Protestant historians called their movement the Reformation, but it was a revolt. They did not reform the Catholic Church. They attacked and abandoned it.
The Reformers imagined that the Catholic Church could not be the pillar and bulwark of the truth 1 Tim 3:15 if the men who ran it could be so sinful, but their own Protestant movement was born in sin much greater than any the Catholic churchmen had ever committed. Luther, an Augustinian friar, priest, and professor of theology, lived for 18 months with Katherine Bora in his old monastery, until his patron was dead, before marrying her.2 Calvin had those who opposed his theology killed, most notably Michael Servetus.3 Zwingli was a priest who dallied with parish women and with common prostitutes. Henry VIII was driven by adulterous lust for Anne Boleyn. Cranmer broke his vow of celibacy and was secretly married while serving as a priest.4 Knox murdered Cardinal Beaton, the Primate of Scotland, while he slept in his own bed.5 So the ancient question arises, qui bono, who benefits? Which spiritual forces would gain by separating millions of men from the successor of the man whom Rabbi Yeshua commanded, “Feed my lambs … Tend my sheep … Feed my sheep,” Jn 21:15–17 from the Holy Eucharist? Such sins have Satan’s fingerprints all over them. Prudence (§ 1806), first among the cardinal virtues, would shun the theological and spiritual guidance of such men, but millions of Catholics who had not been well schooled in their faith followed them out of the Church.
Some sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) believers associate the word “Protestant” with the Augsburg Confession, the Westminster Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism. They say that because they recognize no such confession they are not Protestant. The word means in protest against Catholic teaching authority. A western Christian can only be Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.
Sometimes these denominations, embarrassed by their recent origins, say they existed for fifteen centuries as an “invisible church.” The story is that their church was the one instituted by Rabbi Yeshua, but it was forced underground, first by the Romans and then by the Catholic Church, which continued to persecute it all through the Middle Ages. Of course, there is no historical record of Protestant notions being taught during that time but, in their imagination, that just proves how efficiently the Catholic Church suppressed them. Some Protestants claim antecedents in medieval heresies.
Inconveniently for these denominations, Rabbi Yeshua told his shlikhim, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid” Mt 5:14. No invisible church. Rabbi Yeshua told Rabbi Kefa, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” Mt 16:18. Rabbi Yeshua‘s Church would not be defeated by the powers of hell. No Roman soldiers, no other church.
Israel Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome during the Holocaust who became convinced that Rabbi Yeshua was the true Mashiakh, was baptized in Rome’s Basilica of Mary of the Angels in 1945. Asked why he did not join one of the Protestant denominations, Zolli replied:
Because protesting is not attesting. I do not intend to embarrass anyone by asking: “Why wait 1,500 years to protest?” The Catholic Church was recognized by the whole Christian world as the true Church of God for 15 consecutive centuries. No man can halt at the end of those 1,500 years and say that the Catholic Church is not the Church of Christ without embarrassing himself seriously. I can accept only that Church which was preached to all creatures by my own forefathers, the Twelve who, like me, issued from the Synagogue.
Rabbi Yeshua’s Authority
Our Father had originally given teaching authority to Moses and his successors. However, due to yeridat hadorot, the decline of the generations, the Sanhedrin oversaw conflicting rabbinic opinions that slowly drifted from the true meaning of the halakha. Although the evidence that Rabbi Yeshua was the Mashiakh, who spoke with authority Mk 1:22 and not as the scribes, was there for anyone to see, the Sanhedrin stood at the crossroads of salvation history and said, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Jn 19:15. Rabbi Yeshua was the new Temple, Jn 2:21 and so God took back the ancient Temple that had been the center of Jewish life from the time of Moses.
For his new and eternal covenant, Rabbi Yeshua gave a new Sanhedrin of the Redemption with more evidence for its authority than the old Sanhedrin ever had, infallible, and with aliyat hadorot, ascent of the generations, toward Jerusalem on High.
The Protestant Reformation brings to mind Korah’s revolt against Moses Num 16:1–2. As the Jewish nation rejected Rabbi Yeshua, so the Reformation rejected the Church that he instituted. Although the evidence for its divine authority was in Rabbi Yeshua‘s resurrection 1 Cor 15:14, in the origin of the New Testament Scriptures, in the Church Fathers, in Rabbi Kefa’s primacy, and in the Popes who prove the faith, the Reformers refused to recognize Church authority as divine authority saying, “Away with it! Away with it! Crucify it!” Jn 19:15.
Protestants who say that the Catholic Church lacks authority to canonize the books of Sacred Scripture generally acknowledge that they too lack such authority. Martin Luther admitted in his sermon on John 16 (Luther’s Works, 24:304): “Yes, we ourselves find it difficult to refute it, especially since we concede—as we must—that so much of what they say is true: that the papacy has God’s Word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scripture, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them?”
Without the authority of Sacred Tradition, nothing supports the Protestant claim that the books in the Bible are divinely inspired. After all, the Councils of Hippo and Carthage accepted two of Rabbi Kefa’s letters, but not the gospel that bears his name. The Councils rejected the so-called Gospel of Thomas. Why did the Councils choose the Gospels of Rabbis Matityahu, Marcus, Lucas, and Yokhanan? Rabbis Marcus and Lucas were not eyewitnesses, as Rabbis Kefa and Teom were. The Councils knew that the Holy Spirit protected the Sacred Tradition of Apostolic teaching, which from the time the Gospels were written identified only those written by Rabbis Matityahu, Marcus, Lucas, and Yokhanan as authentic. The Holy Spirit led the Councils to accept these particular seventy-two books as Sacred Scripture. Protestants who deny that the Holy Spirit guided the Councils have to explain how they know that the four canonical Gospels, and the other books in their Scripture, are the true Word of God.
The Protestant King James Authorized Version continued to publish with the deuterocanonicals, books Rabbi Yeshua read and quoted from as Sacred Scripture, until AD 1885. and then suddenly stopped.
Protestant theologians often speak of “a fallible collection of infallible books.” However, Protestant ministers rarely admit this to their own flocks. If they did they would have to preface each Scripture reading by saying, “We’re fairly sure this book was inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
When Protestants Challenge Catholics
Protestants often challenge Catholics, “Where does it say in the Bible …” naming some particular Catholic doctrine. As soon as we cite Sacred Tradition, they say since it’s non-Scriptural they can’t accept it.
Catholics may instead respond, “I’ll be happy to answer your question, but first you need to show me that your objections are based on a valid premise.” We then ask where in Scripture they find sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and sola fide (faith alone). If they can’t find their own core doctrines in Scripture the entire premise for their Protestant doctrines is invalid and they have no basis to ask us to validate ours by finding them in Scripture Mt 21:23.
Moreover, when we do identify a Catholic doctrine in Scripture, such as sacramental confession, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” Mt 16:19, they simply say the passage doesn’t mean that. Then we ask by what authority they give this interpretation.
In fact, the very existence of Protestant denominations is anti-Scriptural. “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” Jn 17:11. “The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.” Jn 17:22 “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” Acts 4:32. “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Cor 1:10. “…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” Phil 2:2.
Rabbinic interpretation has always been an opinion on what our Father wants. The rabbis have the Torah, including the Oral Law; from it they form as deep and broad an understanding as they possibly can of our Father‘s will for us.
Rabbi Yeshua’s divine perfection of Jewish teaching gave us a Written Law, the four Gospels, and an Oral Law, the teachings of his shlikhim. The Oral Law was passed from generation to generation, and was not to be written down unless Judaism became so depleted that there was a risk of its getting lost. Many Jews were killed during the First Jewish Revolt, and many more during the Second Jewish Revolt. After that, Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi decided that the criterion had been met. He wrote down the Oral Law, which illuminates the Written Law, as the Mishna. The Mishna contains the Oral Law as it was during during Rabbi Yeshua‘s mortal life. Subsequent rulings and interpretations, after the Mishna was completed were written down finally as the Talmud.
In the same way, the Church Fathers wrote down Rabbi Yeshua’s Oral Law, which explains the Gospels. In all of salvation history God has given his followers a concise summary of his teachings as written law, and a much more expansive summary as an oral law.
Yeshua was a rabbi who taught as rabbis teach their students. The parables are an example. He taught entirely using the oral tradition. His shlikhim also taught primarily in the oral tradition. They wrote down some of his teachings in concise books, but he taught much more than they wrote Jn 21:25.
God, who is absolute truth, is ekhad, one. There is one absolute truth. Rabbi Yeshua chose Rabbi Kefa as the rock on which his Church would be built. But the Protestants, having rejected him, are divided into denominations. Since each man has his own life experience and perspective, we would expect that the multitude of men would bring to the Scriptures a multitude of interpretations. Christians who believe in sola Scriptura have produced a theological bedlam, a blizzard of contradictory beliefs. Let us look at this Protestant wonderland.
Same Bible, Different Readers
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant here’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ‘But glory doesn’t mean a nice knock-down argument,’ Alice objected. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘who is to be master—that’s all.’”1
Some Protestants baptize using the Trinitarian formula, consider baptism regenerative, baptize infants, pour or sprinkle as well as immerse, and say baptism is absolutely necessary. Others baptize in Rabbi Yeshua‘s name alone, consider baptism symbolic, baptize adults, use full immersion only, and accept “spiritual baptism.”
Some Protestants say Rabbi Yeshua‘s Body and Blood are consubstantially present, that bread and wine must be used, that the bread and wine must be consecrated by an ordained minister, and that it must be received every Sunday. Others say it contains only his spiritual presence. Still others say Rabbi Yeshua’s Body and Blood are only symbolically present, that crackers and grape juice suffice, that anyone can consecrate, and that it can be received once a month or less.2
Some Protestant denominations have bishops as well as ministers, allow female ministers, consider themselves the Church or part of it, and say Catholics are Christian, Others have only ministers, reject female ministers, see an invisible Church across denominations, say Catholics are not Christians.
Some Protestants worship according to a set liturgical form, have a liturgical calendar, and worship on Sunday. Others do not have a set liturgical form and see no need for a calendar or believe it is condemned by Scripture. Some worship on Saturday and some on Sunday.
Some Protestants see man as a passive recipient of God’s justification through Christ. Because God chooses who will be saved at the beginning of time, personal sanctity and obedience do not help. Others say man has free will to choose God’s salvation, and consequently that a man can lose his salvation. However, since they believe in justification by faith alone, they conclude that sinful acts will cause a man to lose his “reward” but not his justification before God.
Some Protestants believe in justification by faith alone, that we can forfeit our salvation, that the original sin is real, that man is intrinsically evil, and that we do not have a truly free will. Others believe in justification by faith in Rabbi Yeshua‘s existence, once saved always saved, that original sin is fiction, that man is intrinsically good, and that we have free will.
Some Protestants accept religious images, abortion, euthanasia, alcoholic beverages, and dancing. Others condemn them. Every one of these views are based on reading of Scripture alone. What do you think? Can we know Rabbi Yeshua’s will for us based on Scripture alone?
A chorus of sola Scriptura Christians will object that this list is incomplete, that their denomination does not fit into these categories, and that its doctrines have not been presented with the appropriate nuances. Precisely. This list is an oversimplification. The real sola Scriptura theological bedlam is much worse.
Same Bible, Same Readers, Different Times
Perhaps most telling of all, many Protestant denominations change their views to be consistent with prevailing secular opinion.
The Blessed Virgin
Martin Luther (1483-1546), wrote, “Christ … was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides him … ‘brothers’ really means ‘cousins’ here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers.” “He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb … This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that.” “God says, … ‘Mary’s Son is My only Son.’ Thus Mary is the Mother of God.” “God did not derive his divinity from Mary; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary’s Son, and that Mary is God’s mother … She is the true mother of God and bearer of God … Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus, not two Christs … just as your son is not two sons … even though he has two natures, body and soul, the body from you, the soul from God alone.”4
Luther even proclaimed the doctrine of the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception: “It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin.”5
The French reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote, “Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ.” He added, “It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. … Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary as at the same time the eternal God.”
The Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) wrote: “I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin. He added, “I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary.”
The Reformers, based on Scripture alone, firmly held that Mary the mother of Rabbi Yeshua was ever-virgin and truly the Mother of God. Yet today, based on Scripture alone, most denominations deny these very same doctrines.
God told us, “I the Lord do not change” Mal 3:6. Scripture did not change. But Protestant doctrine did change. Rock solid evidence that sola Scriptura, the doctrine that God guides his faithful through Scripture alone, is a fraud. Protestant faith is not based on Scripture alone, but on me alone.
Essential vs. Peripheral Issues
Protestants reply that they agree on the essential issues and disagree on the peripheral issues. But calling baptism, Holy Eucharist, ecclesiology, liturgy, matrimony, sin, salvation, and eschatology “peripheral issues” does not change anything. They are major doctrines, tenaciously held by their respective denominations.
Let us look at the first two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Rabbi Yeshua said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” Jn 3:5. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” Jn 6:53. If Rabbi Yeshua says a particular sacrament is essential to our salvation, how can anyone consider it non-essential?
In fact, Protestant denominations have no other authoritative way to determine which beliefs are essential and which are not. We can discover what each denomination considers essential for unity by asking three questions: Who can pastor? Who can preach? Who can join?
Most pastors from one Protestant tradition are not allowed to pastor churches from other traditions. Calvinists will not accept a Lutheran pastor because he believes in baptismal regeneration. Methodists will not accept a Calvinist pastor because he believes in predestination. Baptists will not accept a Methodist pastor because he believes in infant baptism.
Protestants agree that the doctrine of sola Scriptura is essential rather than peripheral. After all, it is the master doctrine from which all other Protestant doctrines flow. But they disagree over what sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone,” means.
Still others will accept Protestant translations such as the New International Version or the Revised Standard Version but not Catholic translations such as the Douay-Rheims or the New American Bible.
Protestants disagree over what “alone” means.
Some Protestants say that the early Church Fathers, the early ecumenical councils, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed provide authoritative though not binding Scripture interpretation. Most Protestants say that only the words of Scripture itself should be considered.
Some Protestants have confessional traditions, accepting the Augsburg Confession, the Westminster Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, etc. Most Protestants do not consider confessions when interpreting Scripture.
Many Protestants consult academic disciplines such as cultural, archaeological, historical, literary and critical studies to interpret Scripture while others do not. Other Protestants use “revelation knowledge” through the charismatic gifts to interpret Scripture while others do not.
These Differences Are Irreconcilable
When we ask an individual sola Scriptura Christian why these differences arise, he will usually reply that the Holy Spirit is guiding his Scripture interpretation. If the Holy Spirit truly guides each Protestant, seminary-trained working pastors of different denominations should be able to persuade one another, especially on baptism and the Holy Eucharist which are essential for salvation Jn 3:5; 6:53, to become what Rabbi Yeshua ardently wanted, “… one flock, one shepherd” Jn 10:16.
But that might be difficult. Perhaps we should suggest something easier, persuading members of the same denomination to agree on Scripture. Perhaps someone would invite Lutheran pastors from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and see if he can get them to agree on Scripture teachings such as those on homosexual behavior.
Rabbi Yeshua wills, “… one flock, one shepherd” Jn 10:16. if uniting different denominations proves impossible, and especially if it proves impossible even to unite members of the same denomination, it will be clear beyond dispute that sola Scriptura is not Rabbi Yeshua’s will for us Jn 21:15–17.
A Brief Introduction
Rabbi Yeshua wrote absolutely nothing that he intended would endure. He instituted a Church. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” Mt 16:18. He entrusted the Church with the four inspired Gospels and the other books, and gave them authority to interpret it.
The Father did the same with the Tanakh. He taught Moses the Oral Law on Mt. Sinai for 40 days. It was written down 3,000 years later under the authority of Rabbi Judah HaNasi. The Written Law was a summary of the wider Oral Law. Moses was the chief interpreter, but God also gave interpretive authority to seventy elders of Israel: “So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and placed them round about the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy elders” Num 11:24–25.
Why does God do it this way? Why not just a written Bible? Consider “Do this in remembrance of me” Lk 22:19. Short, simple, easy to understand? Did he mean once a year but only in the Temple? Once a month, but only in the synagogues? Once a week, but only in the Church’s gathering-places? Once a day, but only at home? A great many questions arise from a diligent reading of Scripture, and to answer them we need an institution that derives its authority from an apostolic succession reaching all the way back to Rabbi Yeshua himself Mt 16:18.
Sola Scriptura believers often reply that they receive their interpretations directly from the Holy Spirit. We say, “The Holy Spirit is pure truth. If he is really teaching sola Scriptura believers, every sola Scriptura believer would receive the same whole truth. The doctrinal differences among sola Scriptura believers are a clear sign that none of them is receiving the whole truth about Rabbi Yeshua.”
Why then do we see so many differences, so many different denominations among sola Scriptura believers?” And they answer: “I understand the Holy Spirit correctly, but my sola Scriptura brothers don’t.”
And we reply, “In that case, under the Great Commission Acts 1:8, are you not obligated as a Christian to convene in your living room a half-dozen or so sola Scriptura believers from different denominations, a Baptist, a Lutheran, a Calvinist, a Presbyterian, a Methodist, and so on, and teach them to correctly understand the Holy Spirit’s teaching as you do?” But the answer is always no. Because they’re certain each one will say, “No. I interpret the Holy Spirit correctly. Let me teach you.” And when you ask them for an authority who can decide, they have no answer, because they believe in sola Scriptura.
God is Direct and Clear
To sustain that, they have to show why their interpretation is the most likely possibility, not an interpretation that can somehow be forced upon these passages.
God is direct and clear when he tells us something of the highest importance. The Ten Commandments are proclaimed in both Exodus and Deuteronomy, and they are very clear. Rabbi Yeshua gave us his two greatest commandments in very clear language: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37–40.
For example, God commanded, “You shall have no other gods before me” Ex 20:3, but he did not add “no authority except Scripture.” His Son, during the Sermon on the Mount, said several times, “You have heard that it was said … But I say to you…” Mt 5:21f. He did not say, “But I say to you, no authority except Scripture.” Rabbi Yeshua did not accept sola Scriptura. Matthew wrote, “He went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled. ‘He shall be called a Nazarene” Mt 2:23. The words spoken by the prophets, and the absence of any such Old Testament prophecy, tell us that Rabbi Yeshua respected sacred teaching in the oral tradition.
Rabbi Yeshua’s One Church
Rabbi Yeshua instituted one holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. He promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it Mt 16:18. He promised that he would be with the Church for all eternity Mt 28:20. The Catholic Church is the universal Church by her very name. St. Ignatius of Antioch, in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8. AD 107, wrote: “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” The Church that speaks the whole truth to the whole world.
Rabbi Yeshua emphasized that the Church was the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Rabbi Paul told St. Timothy, “If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” 1 Tim 3:15. He said the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. He told his shlikhim, who at time were the Church, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” Jn 16:12–13. The Church interprets the Scriptures. Rabbi Yeshua specifically refused private interpretation of Scripture: “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” 2 Pet 1:20.
Rabbi Yeshua specifically inspired Rabbi Yokhanan to record his prayer: “Keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” Jn 17:11. He wanted the family unity among the shlikhim and their successors to reflect the family unity of the three divine persons of the Holy Trinity Jn 10:30. It was obviously very much on his heart, as he continued, “The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” Jn 17:22–23. Perfectly one, so that the world may know. Rabbi Yeshua wanted a unity that is not only spiritual and interior, but organizational and visible, so that the whole world could see it clearly Eph 4:4–5. The Holy Trinity, with its indivisible unity, is the source and pattern for this ecclesial oneness.
Rabbi Yeshua built the Catholic Church on one man Mt 16:18, with twelve shlikhim in all Mt 10:2–4. During the first 1,000 years every Christian accepted papal authority. Despite extraordinary trials such as the Muslim seizure of Catholic lands, the Eastern Schism and the Western Schism, the Church continued to grow in authority and influence during the next 500 years.
Rabbi Yeshua taught us, “I am with you always” Mt 28:20, from the time of his risen life until the end of time. If the doctrine of sola Scriptura is Christian, when and where was it taught during the first 1,500 years of Christianity?
The Reformation Tore Rabbi Yeshua’s Church Apart
Second Exodus has known hundreds of Protestants and other sola Scriptura Christians who have radiated great reverence and love for Rabbi Yeshua. They have been swimming in the water of sola Scriptura all their lives. It’s all they know of Christianity. But Rabbi Yeshua told us what would happen if this oneness was broken. “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” Mt 12:25. While the Catholic Church remained “universal” it was at the height of its influence. Rabbi Yeshua told the seventy, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” Lk 10:16.
Heaven was visibly displeased. At about the same time in salvation history, on December 12, 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill near Mexico City and imprinted her image, revealed 1,500 years earlier to Rabbi Yokhanan, on St. Juan Diego’s tilma. “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” Rev 12:1. This image of Our Lady of Guadalupe presents the Blessed Virgin in a glowing halo as though clothed with the sun, with stars on her mantle and a crescent moon at her feet, perhaps to show the Aztecs that the sun, moon and stars are not idols for worship. Our Lady of Guadalupe brought millions into the Catholic Church to replace the millions who left.
After the Protestant Reformation tore the Church apart, the “Age of Enlightenment” tried to substitute human reason for Catholic authority. It fought against the Catholic Church, God’s channel of grace for us Mt 16:18–19, weakening Rabbi Yeshua’s influence on earth.
But the greatest destruction came after October 13, 1884. On that day Pope Leo XIII heard an extraordinary conversation. Satan told Rabbi Yeshua, “I can destroy your Church.” Rabbi Yeshua‘s calmly replied, “You can? Then do so.” Satan said, “I need more time and more power.” Rabbi Yeshua replied, “How much time? How much power?” Satan said, “Seventy-five to one hundred years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves to my service.” Rabbi Yeshua said, “You have the time, you have the power. Do with them what you will.” In 1930 the Anglican Communion, weakened by its separation from the root, The Catholic Church Alone, showed that it had become unmoored to Scriptures and instead chose its doctrines for their earthly appeal, and within a few decades most of sola Scriptura denominations followed in train.
By the 1960s, one by one, the Christian tenpins began to fall: Holy Matrimony, Premarital Sex, Contraception, Abortion, and Euthanasia were abandoned in the major countries where the Church had been strongest. There is only one way to recover. Rabbi Yeshua‘s way. “The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” Jn 17:22–23.
A Protestant Doctrine
Sola Scriptura is Latin for, “by Scripture alone.” This motto, sola Scriptura, is the foundation of Protestant faith. Protestant means in protest against the Catholic Church. “On this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” Mt 16:18. Since Rabbi Yeshua promised that the powers of death will not prevail against the Church, a revolt against the Church is a revolt against Rabbi Yeshua. Rabbi Yeshua the “good shepherd” Jn 10:11 had commanded Rabbi Kefa, “Feed my lambs” Jn 21:15, “Tend my sheep” Jn 21:16, “Feed my sheep” Jn 21:17.” Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the Rabbi Kefa-led early Christians Acts 9:1 when Rabbi Yeshua said to him, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” Acts 9:5. It is the same today. When a man withdraws from the Church Rabbi Yeshua instituted he is withdrawing from Rabbi Yeshua Mt 25:45.
Sola Scriptura asserts that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. It accepts only doctrines found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from Scripture. Sola Scriptura accepts other authorities governing Christian life and devotion, but requires that they be subordinate to, and corrected by, the written word of God.
Valid logical deduction? Valid deductive reasoning? Who decides? The authority sola Scriptura believers deny to each pope, the successor of Rabbi Kefa, they freely grant to their own denominations or to their own pastors. But they themselves do not believe that their denominations or pastors actually have this authority. We often hear Protestants say, “I was a Presbyterian, but now I go to the Baptist church.” When each sola Scriptura believer decides for himself who has authority it is not sola Scriptura, but affectus per solam, by feelings alone.
The evidence against sola Scriptura is that the Bible doesn’t change, but sola Scriptura changes substantially. The faith of the original sola Scriptura believers, Luther, Calvin and the rest, is very different from what their evangelical successors believe today. Father Mitch Pacwa interviews David Anderson on Protestant Theology 56:33
A Non-Scriptural Doctrine
Catholics observe that sola Scriptura is a non-Scriptural doctrine that says only Scriptural doctrines are authentic, and ask sola Scriptura believers on what authority they profess sola Scriptura. They usually cite “All scripture [pasa graphe] is inspired by God [theopneustos]. and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” 2 Tim 3:16–17. Rabbi Paul said at 2 Tim 3:16 all Scripture, not only Scripture. His original Greek for “all scripture” was pasa graphe. This phrase, pas graphe, unmistakably means all scripture. All does not exclude other authoritative sources. The problem with a non-Scriptural doctrine that only Scriptural doctrines are authentic is that, on its own terms, it cannot be authentic.
Moreover, Rabbi Paul’s original Greek said, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching …” 2 Tim 3:16. His original Greek word was ophelimos, profitable. He did not use hikanos, which means enough or sufficient.
There is no such thing as sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone.” It is always Scripture plus the Church, or Scripture plus the individual. No man comes to the Bible tabula rasa. Each man brings the sum of his childhood education and life experience. sola Scriptura Christians imagine that the Holy Spirit guides each individual to a right understanding of Scripture. A community of faith is authentic only when its teaching is received as a national revelation, with an authoritative interpreter, so that all the faithful, whether Jewish or Christian, would arrive at the same interpretation for every passage of Scripture. However, the number of sola Scriptura Christian interpretations, or denominations, today approaches thirty-thousand, a theological bedlam.
The Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture was defined in AD 405 and has never changed. The Catholic Church Alone fully immerses herself in Scripture, while the sola Scriptura believers have the appearance but not the reality.
Then, in 1930, the Anglican Conference at Lambeth Palace, across the Thames River from the House of Commons in England, allowed an exception. The Anglican Lambeth Conference in 1930, Resolution 15, affirmed, ostensibly based on Scripture alone, that contraception would be consistent with God’s law in some circumstances.
Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.
The evidence that this was done affectus per solam, by feelings alone, and not by sola Scriptura, is plainly visible. The Anglicans made a major change in their doctrine and didn’t include a single word of Scriptura to support it! It was a major change because it transformed their doctrine from absolute to relative. The Anglicans made it look like a minor change affectus per solam, by feelings alone but the whole basis for the change was a “clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood.” Affectus per solam. The Anglicans’ formal statement was full of feelings but not a word of Scripture.
Absolute statements endure because they are independent, not related to anything else. Christian teaching on chastity had endured for two thousand years because it was absolute. It was Rabbi Yeshua‘s command, and so it endured among his followers.
Relative teachings, by contrast, are heresy because they make truth and morality relative to earthly influences, not to Rabbi Yeshua‘s pure commands. Within twenty-five years many Protestant denominations, supposedly based on Scripture alone, allowed contraception. Soon after that there were similar changes, supposedly based on Scripture alone, among some Protestant denominations on abortion and homosexual activity.
See more on this in The Catholic Church Alone.
The Catholic Sacred Tradition of Oral Teaching
Rabbi Paul could never have written “only Scripture” 2 Tim 3:16. Raised as Shaul ha-Tarsi, he declared “[All the Jews] have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee” Acts 26:5. From the time of Moses the Jews had an Oral Law, a sacred tradition of oral teaching passed from father to son, written down around AD 200 as the Mishna, comparable to Catholic Sacred Tradition. Rabbi Yeshua himself taught in the Jewish tradition of sacred oral teaching; he never wrote a word for posterity, nor did he ever command his shlikhim to write anything for posterity. Rather, he sent his shlikhim to teach others, who would teach others, and so on in an oral tradition of sacred teaching. “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8. Two of the four Gospel evangelists, Rabbis Matityahu and Yokhanan, were shlikhim. Rabbis Marcus and Lucas were not. They heard the stories told by Rabbis Matityahu and Yokhanan and the other shlikhim, and they wrote what they heard. “He who hears you hears me” Lk 10:16.
Rabbi Yeshua protected the stream of Sacred Tradition, as the Father protected the stream of the Oral Law. “I and the Father are one” Jn 10:30. As the Father did not intend that his entire revelation be in the Written Law, Rabbi Yeshua did not intend that everything he did be written in the New Testament. Rabbi Yokhanan says, “There are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” Jn 21:25.
The Church and the Holy Scriptures
Sacred Scripture began when the Catholic Church under God’s inspiration wrote the Bible, discerned under God’s inspiration which books were inspired, and formally canonized the inspired books. Martin Luther admitted in his sermon on John 16 (Luther’s Works, 24:304): “Yes, we ourselves find it difficult to refute it, especially since we concede—as we must—that so much of what they say is true: that the papacy has God’s Word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scripture, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them?”
Sola Scriptura Christians therefore accept Catholic teaching authority for the source of all their beliefs, Scriptura, a Scriptura that came to them from the Catholic Church. However, Luther added sola, a doctrine that did not come from the source of their doctrines. 2 Tim 3:16–17 clearly says, again for emphasis, all Scripture, not only Scripture.
Sola Scriptura Christians usually respond that the Church passively recognized and received the books that were already widely considered canonical. The four canonical Gospels were widely accepted from the beginning because Catholic church authorities, bishops and priests worldwide, chose them to be read as Sacred Scripture in their churches. Who else would have widely accepted them? The documented origin of the remaining New Testament canon continued to be contentious until the Church made the final decisions at the Council of Hippo in AD 393, the Council of Carthage in AD 397, and finally Pope St. Innocent I‘s letter Consulenti Tibi, AD 405.
Sola Scriptura believers usually say that the Bible presents all Christian doctrines and commands clearly so that any reader of ordinary intelligence without special training can understand them. Let’s consider Rabbi Yeshua‘s command to his shlikhim, “Do this in remembrance of me” Lk 22:19. Did he mean once a year and only in the Temple? Every day but only at home? Every week but only in synagogue? Rabbi Yeshua gave no hint recorded in Scripture. The Reformers had the Catholic example of Mass every Sunday, so they held their own services every Sunday, but without the Church how would they have known?
Martin Luther once, during a debate at Leipzig, declared, “A simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it.” But when was any pope without Scripture? The popes had the Scriptures, a Sacred Tradition of Apostolic teaching by which they could be authoritatively understood, and a charism to teach God’s truth Mt 16:18, a thousand years before the phrase sola Scriptura was first spoken on earth.
During Rabbi Yeshua‘s mortal life the only Sacred Scripture were the Tanakh and the Septuagint. If he had told his shlikhim, sola Scriptura, no Scriptures except the Tanakh, the entire New Testament would still have been written but never canonized. When Rabbi Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” 2 Tim 3:16 he meant the Septuagint. In his time there was no canonized New Testament.
Some Bible-believing Christians don’t read Rabbi Paul‘s first letter to Timothy. Rabbi Paul writes, “If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” 1 Tim 3:15. Sola Scriptura believers invariably say that the Bible is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. But the Bible itself says the Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth.
Call No Man Father
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” Mt 23:9. Obviously, he had used figurative language to say that God is the source of all truth and authority. God had commanded, “Honor your father and your mother” Deut 5:16. Rabbi Paul wrote, “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” 1 Cor 4:15, and, “…like a father with his children…” 1 Thes 2:11, also began his defense against the crowd, “Brethren and fathers…” Acts 22:1.
American Protestants regularly called their clergy ‘Father’ 200 and 300 years ago, and some continued to do so a century ago. Herman Melville based his character Father Mapple, the whaleman-chaplain in Moby Dick, on Father Edward Thompson Taylor, the Methodist pastor of Boston’s Seamen’s Bethel. Today Protestant men place their own names as father on their children’s birth certificates. Yet many Protestant insist that Catholic priests should not be called “Father.”
Rabbi Yeshua said this to tell us that no pastor may decide his own interpretation of the Scriptures. Satan caused the Fall of Adam by telling him, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” Gen 3:5. Rabbi Kefa told us, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” 2 Pet 1:20. The shlikhim and their descendants in the apostolic succession were faithful teachers, rabbis, of all that Rabbi Yeshua taught, even as today’s Orthodox rabbis are faithful teachers of the halakha.
Rather, Rabbi Yeshua‘s Church, built on Rabbi Kefa, is to faithfully hand on Rabbi Yeshua‘s teachings “once for all delivered to the saints” Jude 3, as Rabbi Yeshua commanded Mt 28:20. Rabbi Paul gives us examples: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you” 1 Cor 11:23. He condemns the following of particular pastors. “What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Cor 1:12–13.
Rabbi Yeshua‘s, “Call no man your father on earth” Mt 23:9 was hyperbole, exaggeration, to make a point, to show the scribes and Pharisees that setting themselves up as the final authorities, fathers, and teachers, was sinful, particularly proud. They were not looking humbly to God as the source of all authority.
We can call our earthy father “father” because we honor him Deut 5:16 as God commanded. We can call our Catholic priest “Father” because he is in the line of apostolic succession, and in union with his diocesan bishop, who is in union with the Vicar of Christ who teaches infallibly in union with the living Rabbi Yeshua. He is also the spiritual father of his flock.
The Council of Jamnia
The Bible nowhere contains a list of its own books. Catholics can observe that Rabbi Yeshua used and quoted from the Septuagint. As the Son of God he was authoritative that the Septuagint, the Jewish Bible that established the Alexandrian Canon, was the one God intended for Christians, since it incorporated the Oral Law as it had developed up to 200 BC.
The sola Scriptura Christians say they use the 66-book Palestinian Canon rather than the 73-book Alexandrian Canon because the Jews of Jerusalem chose it. The Pharisees and scribes there had used the Hebrew Scriptures, the Tanakh, for centuries, so it became the Bible of God’s people Israel who had rejected Rabbi Yeshua. We recall that after Rabbi Yeshua walked the earth, Jews who “did not know the time of your visitation” Lk 19:44, Jews who did not follow him had to make a sharp turn. After the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD the rabbis had to convert Mosaic Judaism into a Judaism wounded by the Ninth of Av, stripped of its Temple worship and sacrifice, Rabbinic Judaism.
The Hellenists, Greek-speaking Jews, many of them in the diaspora, had long been using the Septuagint, the Bible of God’s people Israel who had followed Rabbi Yeshua. The Jewish Christians continued to accept the Septuagint because Rabbi Yeshua accepted it. If it was good enough for the Son of God, it was good enough for any man.
Rabbi Yokhanan ben Zakai did go to Yavneh (Jamnia) to set up a Bet Hillel rabbinic school. After AD 70, with no Temple to hold all this together, the rabbis became concerned that Judaism, then very broad and deep, could fly apart, in the same way the Protestant movement without papal authority later separated into many denominations. The rabbis sought to prune Judaism back to its basics for survival in exile, until the Temple would be rebuilt.
The sola Scriptura Christians say that the deuterocanonicals contain nothing prophetic. Where does it say in Scripture that only prophetic Scriptures were God–inspired? In any case, the argument fails. Wis 2:12–24 is surely a prophecy of Mt 27:40–43.
But the main Hebrew vs Greek issue is that the sola Scriptura Christians chose the Palestinian Canon, the Bible of those who rejected Rabbi Yeshua, not the Alexandrian Canon used by those who followed him.
It seems intuitive that Christians would use the Bible that Rabbi Yeshua used. But more, in choosing the Bible of the Pharisees and scribes, they rejected not only the wisdom of the Oral Law in the Scriptures they did accept, but also the entire Sacred Tradition of Apostolic Teaching, thereby missing a great body of authoritative teaching.
Many Protestants, overwhelmed by the theological bedlam, have given up trying to defend it. Instead they reply with a tu quoque (“you too”) argument, arguing that Catholics also disagree among themselves over essential Church teachings.
If a particular Protestant does give up trying to defend the theological bedlam we remind him that his own surrender means that sola Scriptura, the Protestant master doctrine, is false. Rabbi Yeshua, who willed that, “They may be one even as we are one,” Jn 17:11 could not have willed a manner of revelation that would produce theological bedlam.
But our Protestant might still say tu quoque. Jesuits and Dominicans hold somewhat different views of predestination. He might then call predestination essential. We explain that faithful Catholics can disagree on theology only within the boundaries of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which contains all of the truths necessary for salvation.
Each defined article of faith is necessary for our salvation, and therefore essential. A teaching that is not authoritatively defined by the Magisterium is not essential, and open to Catholic theological discussion.
For example, the Church teaches as a defined article of Catholic faith that Mary remained a virgin all her life § 499. Within that context, some Catholic theologians speculate that in Bethlehem the child Yeshua passed through the sign of her virginity “like light through glass.” Others speculate that he passed instantly from her womb to her arms without moving through her birth canal at all. Both views are consistent with divine revelation received by the Church, and so we are free to speculate on them.
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.
Finally, some Protestants say Catholics who refuse to accept the Magisterium show a difference of opinion among Catholics. No. They show a difference between faithful Catholics and “whitewashed tombs,” Mt 23:27 Catholic outside, Protestant inside. “The Lord looks on the heart” 1 Sam 16:7.
In Rabbi Yeshua’s day some people refused to accept his teaching. They did not diminish his authority at all, they simply were not part of the Church. He was clear. “…if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” Mt 18:17. It is the same today. What makes us Catholic is our belief that the pope is the Vicar of Christ. One is a Catholic if one accepts what the Catholic Church teaches as necessary for salvation § 837. If not, whatever his outer appearance, the person is, in his heart, in protest against Catholic teaching, a Protestant.
Many Other Things
Rabbi Yokhanan wrote, “… there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” Jn 21:25.
We Catholics ask our Protestant friends, if He did many other things that were not written in the Gospels, where are they? They generally reply that all these other things are in the rest of the New Testament, the Acts, Epistles and Revelation.
But the Acts, Epistles and Revelation together are a lot shorter than a single Torah scroll. Even allowing for hyperbole, it is inconceivable that Rabbi Yokhanan would have said, “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” Jn 21:25 if the total volume were less than a single Torah scroll.
Rabbi Lucas adds that the Risen Christ presented himself to the Apostles, “… appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God” Acts 1:3. The New Testament does not record anything close to forty days worth of Rabbi Yeshua‘s teaching given after the resurrection. Rabbi Yeshua also taught the Samaritans for two days, Jn 4:40 but Scripture does not record what he said to them.
Others say that the Sacred Tradition not written in Scripture was lost to us. Rabbi Yeshua said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” Mt 4:4. Every word. Rabbi Yeshua’s words have not been lost. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” Mt 24:35.
Still others quote, “Now Jesus did many other signs …,” Jn 20:30 and, “But there are also many other things which Jesus did …” Jn 21:25 to argue that Rabbi Yeshua did many other things but did not intend to teach anything through them. All the Gospel accounts suggest that everything Rabbi Yeshua said and did had a teaching purpose.
Some Protestants react to Rabbi Yokhanan’s last words by acknowledging a Sacred Tradition in the writings of the Church Fathers while insisting that it has to be validated by reference to Scripture. We may as well verify a yardstick by using a two-by-four as the reference standard. Sacred Scripture came from Sacred Tradition. But the Protestants don’t accept Catholic Sacred Tradition even when it is consistent with Sacred Scripture. They reject the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Rabbi Yeshua told Rabbi Kefa, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” Mt 16:19, and the shlikhim, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” Mt 18:18 There is Scriptural precedent for intercession even in the Old Testament. “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin” Ex 32:30. And there is a tradition of confession in the New Testament Lk 23:41. Even when we validate the Sacred Tradition in Sacred Scripture they still do not accept it.
Other Protestants, realizing this, resort to subterfuge. The Protestant NIV Bible deliberately mistranslates Rabbi Paul’s use of the Greek word paradosis, “tradition,” in support of Sacred Tradition as “teaching.” However, where Rabbi Paul uses paradosis to speak of pagan traditions, such as, “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition … and not according to Christ” Col 2:8 the NIV correctly translates paradosis as “tradition.”
Protestants do not believe literally in sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. It is always Scripture plus something. Catholics rely on Scripture plus the Church, Protestants on Scripture plus the individual.
Where the reformers said that the Bible is the pillar and bulwark of truth, the Bible itself says, “You may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” 1 Tim 3:15. The Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth.
The reformers, trying to condemn Sacred Tradition, quoted Rabbi Yeshua, “Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Mt 15:3. Rabbi Yeshua, however, had condemned only corrupt tradition. The Pharisees had been dodging the commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” Deut 5:16, by pretending to dedicate their goods to the Temple Mt 15:5 so they could avoid using them to support their aged parents. Rabbi Yeshua told them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandments of God, in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother”; but you say, “If a man tells his father or his mother, ‘What you would have gained from me is korban (that is, given to God),’” then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.” Mk 7:9–13.
Protestants often say that Scripture is self-identifying, that any believer can look at a passage and tell whether it is inspired. “…test everything; hold fast what is good” 1 Thes 5:21. Catholics told this can ask their Protestant friends to identify a selected number of obscure quotations from the King James Old Testament and Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ as Scripture or not Scripture.
In this twenty-first century of our Lord the sola fide, faith alone, argument seems particularly threadbare. We live in a time of spiritual and moral fog deeper and darker than humanity has seen for a very long time, and are visibly called by Rabbi Yeshua to become very much like him, to be, “… the light of the world” Mt 5:14. During the first four hundred years after Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Catholic parish church in Wittenberg there was room for argument. Today we all must be Rabbi Yeshua‘s image and likeness and do as he did, all the way to the Cross.
Many Evangelical Protestants understand this better than most Catholics do. They outdo us in organizing, evangelizing and raising money to promote the Christian Gospel in the United States and around the world. So we will visit sola fide briefly to help Catholics understand the theological argument, and move on.
Luther’s main principle was sola gratia, grace alone. He insisted that, without God’s grace, we can do nothing to aid our salvation. Even our inclination to accept God’s grace depends on a prior grace that God gives us.
We are obliged, in the mercy of God, to preach and believe that, through sin of the first man, the free will is so weakened and warped, that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought, or believe in God, or do good for the grace of the divine mercy … Our salvation requires that we assert and believe that, in every good work we do, it is not we who have the initiative, aided, subsequently, by the mercy of God, but that he begins by inspiring faith and love towards him, without any prior merit of ours.
However, the Protestant Reformers denied even grace-enabled human cooperation, asserting that we are saved by faith alone, unrelated to action. Rabbi Yeshua answered them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” Mt 16:24.
Protestants who read, “You must be born anew,” Jn 3:7, “… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” Jn 6:53, and, “… as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” Mt 25:40, still defend the appearance of “faith alone,” but have generally conceded its substance.
Our Father told Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch” Gen 6:13–14. Let us imagine that Noah had replied, “No Lord, I won’t build the ark. It makes no sense to build a boat in the middle of dry land. I have faith in you, that is enough.”
The Son of God told us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” Jn 6:53–54. He added for emphasis, “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” Jn 6:55–56. On the last day of his mortal life he told us how it would how it should be done” Lk 22:19. And suppose his shlikhim replied, “No Lord, it makes no sense for us to consume your body and blood. We have faith in you, that is enough.”
Protestants cite Rabbi Yeshua’s declaration from the Cross, “It is finished” Jn 19:30, to argue that our justification is complete and that we need do nothing more. Rabbi Paul directly contradicted this argument, saying that Rabbi Yeshua, “… was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification” Rom 4:25. We were not justified until Rabbi Yeshua was raised from the dead.
And for those who intentionally disobey Rabbi Yeshua, will there be justification at all? ” He answers, “Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” Mt 26:24.
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock” Mt 7:24. And, “Every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand” Mt 7:26.
“Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me … as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” Mt 25:34–40.
We find the Catholic understanding of faith and works in Eliza’s answer to Freddy in My Fair Lady.
Freddy sang On the Street Where You Live 6:28
I have often walked down this street before;
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before. All at once am I Several stories high.
Knowing I’m on the street where you live.
Are there lilac trees in the heart of town?
Can you hear a lark in any other part of town?
Does enchantment pour out of every door?
No, it’s just on the street where you live!
And oh! The towering feeling
Just to know somehow you are near.
The overpowering feeling
That any second you may suddenly appear!
People stop and stare. They don’t bother me.
For there’s no where else on earth that I would rather be.
Let the time go by, I won’t care if I
Can be here on the street where you live.
Eliza answered Freddy, in Show Me 2:10
Words! Words! Words!
I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars
If you’re in love,
Tell me no dreams
filled with desire.
If you’re on fire,
Here we are together
in the middle of the night!
Don’t talk of spring!
Just hold me tight!
Anyone who’s ever been
in love’ll tell you that
this is no time for a chat!
Haven’t your lips
Longed for my touch?
Don’t say how much,
Don’t talk of love
lasting through time.
Make me no undying vow.
Show me now!
Sing me no song!
Read me no rhyme!
Don’t waste my time,
Don’t talk of June,
Don’t talk of fall!
Don’t talk at all!
Never do I ever want to hear another word.
There isn’t one I haven’t heard.
Here we are together in
what ought to be a dream;
Say one more word and I’ll scream!
Haven’t your arms
Hungered for mine?
Please don’t “expl’ine,”
Don’t wait until wrinkles and lines
Pop out all over my brow, show me now!
Would God really give us an authoritative book without an authoritative interpreter? He told the ancient Israelites, “If any case arises requiring decision between … one kind of legal right and another … which is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go … to the Levitical priests … and they shall declare to you their decision” Deut 17:8. Rabbi Yeshua commanded Rabbi Kefa, “Feed my lambs … Tend my sheep … Feed my sheep” Jn 21:15–17.
Rabbi Yeshua said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” Jn 6:53. Is that to be interpreted literally? Did He expect one person to bite off a toe and another an elbow? Some Christians say that it has some reality but is also somewhat symbolic. Others say it is entirely symbolic. Catholics understand it sacramentally. Clearly, Rabbi Yeshua was making a point essential to our eternal life. How are we to find the Holy Spirit’s teaching on what this passage means?
When Rabbi Kefa asked how often we must forgive our brother, Rabbi Yeshua answered, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” Mt 18:22. Now, did Rabbi Yeshua mean that we have to forgive our brother 490 times and on the 491st time we can whack him, or did he mean we forgive without limit? How are we to know?
Even what at first looks clear needs interpretation. “Do this in memory of me” Lk 22:19. Did Rabbi Yeshua mean once a year during the Passover Seder? Once a week in synagogue? Every day? Only in the Temple? Only in the Upper Room? At home?
We may ask a Protestant whether he is infallibly certain that his interpretations are correct. If he says yes, he must condemn every other denomination for its errors. Moreover, he then claims for himself an infallibility that he denies to the popes. If he says no, he is not infallibly certain, we then ask him what good is an infallible Bible without infallible interpretation?
If the Protestant cannot cite divine authority for his particular interpretations of Scripture he has no authority to say what Scripture really means. If he is relying only on human reason for his interpretations his case against Catholic interpretations comes down to “one’s own interpretation.” Rabbi Kefa told us, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” 2 Pet 1:20.
Rabbi Yeshua also told the seventy, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” Lk 10:16. “He who hears you hears me” exactly describes the Vicar of Christ. “He who rejects you” exactly describes Protestant rejection of Church authority.
The early Protestants made extravagant claims of authority that embarrass their followers today. Luther wrote, “My judgment is at the same time God’s and not mine,”1 and, “I am certain that I have my teaching from heaven.”2
“For inasmuch as I know for certain that I am right, I will be judge above you and above all the angels, as St. Paul says, that whoever does not accept my doctrine cannot be saved. For it is the doctrine of God, and not my doctrine.”3
“Whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it, he condemns God, and must be a child of Hell.”4
Luther wrote, “That epistle of James gives us much trouble, for the papists embrace it alone and leave out all the rest … Accordingly, if they will not admit my interpretations, then I shall make rubble also of it.”5
These claims of godlike authority take us all the way back to Satan’s first temptation of man: “You will be like God” Gen 3:5. And the man who made them was willing to alter inspired Scripture to accommodate his own beliefs. When Luther arbitrarily inserted the word alone while translating Romans 3:28 from the Latin Vulgate into German he defended it with this reasoned argument: “If your Papist makes much unnecessary fuss about the word [sola, alone], say straight out to him, Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and says, Papists and donkeys are one and the same thing. Thus I will have it, thus I order it, my will is reason enough … Dr. Luther will have it so, and … he is a Doctor above all Doctors in the whole of Popery.”6
By contrast, Catholic teaching authority stands firmly on two great pillars: apostolic succession, and evidence from the Church Fathers that its doctrines were taught from the earliest days of Christianity by Rabbi Yeshua to his shlikhim, by them to their own talmidim, and so on.
Protestants since 1611 have used the King James Version, claiming it as “authorized.” It was authorized by James I, an English secular king whose claimed authority derived from Henry VIII, whose claim was born in adulterous Mt 5:27–28 lust for Anne Boleyn while he was married to Catherine of Aragon.
Priesthood of All Believers
The Protestants movement, having walked away from the papacy, had no other authoritative interpreter, so Luther pointed to Rabbi Kefa‘s royal priesthood. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood” 1 Pet 2:9, from, “… You shall be to me a kingdom of priests …” Ex 19:6, which recognized all Christians, Jewish and Gentile, as part of the eternal election. However, the “royal priesthood” case for a “priesthood of all believers” was a non sequitur. The original eternal election had no interpreter. God commanded, Abram obeyed Gen 12:1–4.
King Solomon wisely 1 Kings 4:29 taught, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight” Prov 3:5. Rabbi Kefa made it even more clear: “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” 2 Pet 1:20. Rabbi Kefa explained, “There are some things in [Paul’s letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures” 2 Pet 3:16. The need for Church authority was so widely accepted that even the Ethiopian eunuch answered Philip, “How can I [understand Isaiah] unless someone guides me?” Acts 8:31.
Many Protestants, nonetheless, formed a doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers” which says that every believer’s direct relationship with God gives him an interpretation of Scripture. Each Protestant denomination believes that it finds in Scripture the Holy Spirit’s revealed truth, but each denomination’s beliefs are different. If one believes what another denies, one of them is wrong.
Private interpretation often leads Protestants far astray. For example, Protestants often deny the Blessed Virgin’s virginity because they see Rabbi Paul refer to, “James the Lord’s brother” Gal 1:19. They don’t realize that in Hebrew akh, “brother,” is also used for other kinds of relationships such as cousins. We know that Lot was Abram’s nephew. “Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot” Gen 11:27. Yet Abram told Lot, “We are kinsmen [anashim–akhim]” Gen 13:8. Similarly, “And Jacob said to his kinsmen [ekhav], ‘Gather stones,’…” Gen 31:46. The original Hebrew word ekhav means “his brothers.” Jacob only had one brother, Esau. God’s plural ekhav rather the singular akhiv, “his brother,” shows that akh, “brother,” was also used for other relationships such as cousins or, in this case, brothers-in-law. Rabbi Paul’s use of akh was consistent with the Church Fathers’ constant teaching that Rabbi Yeshua’s mother was “Blessed Mary ever virgin” Lk 1:48 § 469.
It’s interesting that Rabbi Yeshua also told the seventy, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road” Lk 10:4. The Scriptural case for no sandals, unworthiness, would seem similar to the Scriptural case for call no man father, yet we never hear Protestant pastors tell their missionaries to wear no sandals, even though we are not worthy to carry his sandals. Mt 3:11.
Scripture Interprets Scripture
The Basic Idea
Some Protestants say, “Scripture interprets Scripture,” quoting St. Augustine. “In the doubtful passage of Scripture … consult the rule of faith which comes from the clearest passages of the same Scripture and from the authority of the Church.” However, St. Augustine remembered 2 Pet 1:20 in, “And from the authority of the Church.” Protestants usually delete it.
Original Catholic Meaning
Rabbi Yeshua’s principle of Scripture interpretation through the unity and totality of God’s revelation to man has always been the ruling principle of rabbinic interpretation. On the road to Emmaus, “… beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” Lk 24:27. All the Scriptures. St. Augustine’s “Scripture interprets Scripture” meant that every affirmation of Scripture has to be interpreted in light of the content and unity of the whole Scripture.
Pope Leo XIII wrote, “… seeing that the same God is the author both of the Sacred Books and of the doctrine committed to the Church, it is clearly impossible that any teaching can by legitimate means be extracted from the former, which shall in any respect be at variance with the latter.”
Pope Pius XII continued, “In more recent times, however, since the divine origin and the correct interpretation of the Sacred Writings have been very specially called in question, the Church has with even greater zeal and care undertaken their defense and protection.” He added, “The commentators of the Sacred Letters, mindful of the fact that here there is question of a divinely inspired text, the care and interpretation of which have been confided to the Church by God himself, should no less diligently take into account the explanations and declarations of the teaching authority of the Church …”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church directs that, when interpreting Scripture, we follow three great principles. § 112 “Be especially attentive to the content and unity of the whole Scripture. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover” § 113. “Read the Scripture within the living Tradition of the whole Church. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture” Jer 31:33. And § 114 “Be attentive to the analogy of faith. By ‘analogy of faith’ we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.”
Holy Mother Church’s emphasis on the content and unity of whole Scripture reminds us that every book of the Old and New Testaments were originally written as an organic whole without chapter or verse numbers. Archbishop Stephen Langton of Canterbury divided the Bible into chapters in 1227. A French printer, Robert Stephanus, added the verse references in his Greek New Testament published in 1551.
Authentic Scripture scholarship is also always done by analysis of original sources, such as the Codex Sinaiticus or the Codex Vaticanus, fourth century manuscripts of the Greek Bible written on vellum. Recent Scripture scholarship includes computer analysis of the codexes, comparison with other ancient texts, etc., often by teams that include both Catholic and Protestant scholars. Even then, authentic conclusions depend on the team’s commitment to Christian faith and willingness to refute criticism from secular scholars.
The Protestant version applies St. Augustine’s words in a way he never intended. Each individual decides which passages he finds clear and which he finds less clear. A Protestant’s “clear passages” always support the doctrines of his denomination. His “less clear passages” always support Catholic doctrines. He then interprets Catholic “less clear passages” according to Protestant “clear” passages and always wins.
Consider a Protestant, reacting to, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my bread and drinks my blood has eternal life” Jn 6:53–54. Catholics consider this very clear; at minimum, we have to do something to have eternal life. The Protestant, defending Luther’s doctrine of sola fide says, “Scripture interprets Scripture,” and finds a nearby passage to support his position. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” Jn 6:47. See, he says, faith alone is needed for eternal life.
The fallacy of a Protestant “Scripture interprets Scripture” becomes visible by how easily it can produce an opposite conclusion. If a Protestant quotes “He who believes has eternal life” Jn 6:47. We can say it does not seem clear to us because it does not say what we have to believe. Then we say, “Scripture interprets Scripture,” and find a nearby passage that supports the Catholic position. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” Jn 6:53. We find that much clearer.
Who Adds and Subtracts
Martin Luther, translating the Latin Vulgate Bible into German, deliberately added a word to, “A man is justified by faith apart from works of law” Rom 3:28, that completely changed its meaning. St. Jerome’s original Latin was, Arbitramur enim iustificari hominem per fidem sine operibus legis. Luther translated it into German, So halten wir es nun, dass der Mensch gerecht were ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben. Look at that word allein (alone); it’s not in St. Jerome’s original Latin. Rabbi Paul’s original Greek, Logizometha oun pistei dikaiousthai anthropon choris ergon nomou, did not have the word “alone” either. Luther just made it up. Oddly, we might have expected Luther to also tamper with, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” Jas 2:24. He considered James “an epistle of straw,” yet there his translation into German is accurate.
When the Reformers translated the King James Version, they used a Greek manuscript that they believed was from the early days of the Church. But it was actually a later edition. The evidence is particularly visible in the Lord’s Prayer, which ends, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” Mt 6:13. The King James Version adds, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” This ending is not in Rabbi Matityahu‘s original Greek, nor in St. Jerome’s authoritative Latin Vulgate, so as part of the Lord’s Prayer it is not Scriptural.
The ending attached by the Reformers to the Lord’s Prayer actually came from King David’s blessing, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory” 1 Chr 29:11. Rabbi Yeshua‘s own shaliakh, in The Divine Liturgy of James, his instruction for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, added to the Lord’s Prayer, “For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever.” It also appears in the Liturgy of the Blessed Apostles. An Eastern monk added it to his copy of Rabbi Matityahu’s Gospel, probably subconsciously after hearing it every day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Reformers used that Greek manuscript, or a copy of it, to translate the King James Version.
And Protestants Subtract
There is abundant evidence that the deuterocanonical books were in the original Christian Bible, but most Protestants say that the New Testament never quoted from the deuterocanonical books, so they cannot be canonical.
Rabbi Yeshua quoted from the Book of Sirach. But beyond that, if quotation is evidence of canonicity these Protestants should add to their Bibles the non-canonical Assumption of Moses. “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you’” Jude 1:9. They might also add the Book of Enoch. “It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him’” Jude 1:14. If non-quotation is evidence of non-canonicity, Protestants should snip from their Bibles the Books of Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Obadiah, Nahum, and Zephaniah, none of which are quoted in the New Testament.
Protestants have no Canon of Sacred Scripture. The original King James Version, called by Protestants the Authorized Version, included the deuterocanonical books, while more recent editions do not. Any Protestant denomination could change its Bible to include Sirach, Moses and Enoch while deleting the unquoted Old Testament books, as Luther disavowed the deuterocanonicals and threatened to make rubble of the New Testament book of James. By tradition Protestants follow the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture for the New Testament. Even if they wanted a canon, what authoritative Protestant body could formally declare it?
If Anyone Adds
Rabbi Yokhanan wrote, “I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city” Rev 22:18–19.
Rabbi Yokhanan used the phrase “words of this book.” At the time he wrote it, the Church had not yet gathered the books of the New Testament into a Bible, and would not for three more centuries. Rabbi Yokhanan could only have been referring to his own book, The Revelation to John.
Rabbi Yokhanan speaks of “the words of the prophecy of this book.” Anyone who argues that he meant something more than the entire Bible has to show from the Revelation text where Rabbi Yokhanan specifically said so. The words this book are specific; a more specific statement elsewhere would be necessary to override the obvious meaning of the words this book. Simply citing something like the “whore of Babylon” would not provide a clear connection to this passage.
If Rabbi Yokhanan meant the entire Bible, Rev 22:18–19 would condemn Martin Luther, who removed seven full books and parts of two other books from his Bible. It would also condemn anyone who knowingly used that Bible.
Protestants who claim they can consecrate bread and wine validly without being in the apostolic succession remind us of Owen Glendower’s boast, “I can call spirits from the vasty deep,” and Hotspur’s deft reply, “Why, so can I, or so can any man; but will they come when you do call for them?” (Shakespeare, 1 King Henry IV, Act III, Scene 1) They can say the words, but will the Consecration occur?
Apostolic Succession Apart From Rome
The Catholic Church is happy to acknowledge bishops who go into schism § 817 and ordain others into the line of apostolic succession. The Church deplores the divisions of Christianity and longs to fulfill Rabbi Yeshua‘s prayer, “… that they may be one” Jn 17:11. An authentic Eucharist removes a large obstacle to reunion.
At the end of his incarnate life with us, Rabbi Yeshua commissioned his shlikhim Acts 1:8 and ascended to the Father Acts 1:9. The shlikhim began the “Acts of the Apostles,” their missionary journeys. Rabbi Yeshua commissioned Rabbi Kefa Mt 16:18 as his vicar Jn 21:15–17 to serve in Rome fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy of a Roman Church.
All the shlikhim had followed Rabbi Yeshua together, and all taught as he had taught them Lk 10:16. As new questions arose, each of the shlikhim and their successor bishops who had established churches in Europe journeyed hundreds of miles back to Rome every few years to consult with Rabbi Kefa and his successor popes. However, the shlikhim and their successor bishops who had established churches in Asia would have had to travel thousands of miles at the speed of a walking animal. That was not tenable, so they built centers of Christian life in Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople. Each region developed unique rites, called Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Byzantine, and Chaldean, within the overall Eastern Catholic ambit.
As the centuries passed, these centers of Catholic life developed some differences with Rome. Their dogmas and doctrines were essentially the same as Rome’s. However, their history had been resolving their own issues, so they did not have the direct experience of papal infallibility. Eventually the Eastern (Greek, Asian) and Western (Latin, European) Churches went into schism in AD 1054.
Both the Eastern and Western wings always had and retained identical traditions of apostolic succession. In both churches, each bishop was always ordained by a bishop who had been ordained by a bishop … who had personally been ordained by Rabbi Yeshua. Therefore, Vatican II teaches in Unitatis Redintegratio § 15 that the Eastern Orthodox churches have both valid priests and a valid Eucharist. “These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments, above all by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy. Therefore some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not only possible but to be encouraged.”
Protestant Bishops Cannot Ordain
Some Lutheran ministers also claim to be in the line of apostolic succession because some validly ordained bishops are said to have followed Luther into the Reformation and ordained others. However, they too never provide names, dates, places, ordination records from that time, verifiable evidence. Moreover, they call themselves ministers. Priests sacrifice. Ministers do not.
Even if a bishop had followed Luther into the Reformation and ordained others, a Reformation bishop could not ordain validly because Luther and his followers did not ordain in Holy Orders as the apostolic succession requires. Luther wrote, “When a bishop consecrates, he simply acts on behalf of the entire congregation, all of whom have the same authority … To put it more plainly, suppose a small group of earnest Christian laymen were taken prisoner and settled in the middle of a desert without any episcopally ordained priest among them; and they then agreed to choose one of themselves, whether married or not, and endow him with the office of baptizing, administering the sacrament, pronouncing absolution, and preaching; that man would be as truly a priest as if he had been ordained by all the bishops and the popes.” (Martin Luther, An Appeal to the Ruling Class of German Nationality as to the Amelioration of the State of Christendom, part 1, “The Three Walls,” 1520).
The Catholic Church responds in Unitatis Redintegratio § 22, “Though the ecclesial Communities which are separated from us lack the fullness of unity with us flowing from Baptism, and though we believe they have not retained the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Orders, nevertheless when they commemorate his death and resurrection in the Lord’s Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and look forward to His coming in glory. Therefore the teaching concerning the Lord’s Supper, the other sacraments, worship, the ministry of the Church, must be the subject of the dialogue.”
Pope Leo XIII, in Apostolicae Curiae § 30, 1896, points out a grave defect of form in the Anglican Ordinal. “In the whole Ordinal not only is there no clear mention of the sacrifice, of consecration, of the priesthood (sacerdotium), and of the power of consecrating and offering sacrifice but, as we have just stated, every trace of these things which had been in such prayers of the Catholic rite as they had not entirely rejected, was deliberately removed and struck out.” He therefore continued in in Apostolicae Curiae § 36, “We pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void.” His teaching applies to all Protestant denominations in similar circumstances.
In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI published Anglicanorum Coetibus, which allows “personal ordinariates” for Anglicans who wish to enter the Catholic Church and are willing to abide by the entire Catholic Magisterium. However, Apostolicae Curiae § 36 is still in full force for all other Protestant denominations.
Rabbi Kefa did not understand Rabbi Yeshua‘s teaching on the Holy Eucharist, but he embraced it because he loved Rabbi Yeshua. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” Jn 6:68 I don’t understand it, Lord, but if you say it I believe it.
Judas did not believe it. Rabbi Yeshua told his shlikhim, “‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him” Jn 6:70–71. From the time of Judas’ denial of the Holy Eucharist, he was a devil. “… he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it” Jn 12:6.
At the Last Supper, before Rabbi Yeshua served the first Holy Eucharist, “… Satan entered into [Judas]” Jn 13:27. Rabbi Yeshua then sent Judas away before the Holy Eucharist would be served. “What you are going to do, do quickly” Jn 13:27. The Holy Eucharist is not for those who betray Rabbi Yeshua.
Luther’s rebellion against the Catholic Church showed up with particular clarity in his doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. The Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Eucharist is transubstantiated, transformed in substance from bread to become the Body of Christ. And so Rabbi Yeshua could say, “This is my body which is given for you” Luther, who had been a Catholic priest before his rebellion, understood Rabbi Yeshua, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” Jn 6:53 So his rebellion against this teaching came out as consubstantiation, Rabbi Yeshua‘s body and blood present together with bread and wine, pretending that Rabbi Yeshua had said, “This is my body, and also bread which is still here.” Other Protestant denominations, not founded by priests, entirely rejected the Holy Eucharist.
The Passover Seder
There is a deeper reason Protestants cannot sacrifice, that goes to the ancient origins of the sacrament. The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholic life § 1324, the fulfillment of the Passover. “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever” Ex 12:14.
During the Seder the Jewish father presides at the head of the table. Suppose a non-Jew were to enter a Jewish house and try to preside over the Seder. Suppose even that this non-Jew was a scholar who knows more about Judaism than the Jewish father does. Would this give him authority to preside over the Seder?
Tevye knew. “Who, day and night, must scramble for a living, feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers. And who has the right, as master of the house, to have the final word at home? The Papa, the Papa! Tradition! 7:35
Even the Mosaic priesthood was hereditary. One reason the Jews kept such careful genealogical records was to be sure they knew who their spiritual fathers were. An ordinary Israelite could not simply walk up to an Aaronic priest and ask to serve as a priest. He had to be a kohen, in the line of Aaron Ex 30:30, or he would be told to go home and have a nice day.
Nor could just anyone be a Jewish father. A man had to be married by his local rabbi, which means the rabbi knew him or questioned him. If a goy showed up at the rabbi’s house with a Jewish girl his behind would soon bear an imprint of the rabbi’s foot. Only the rabbi, the spiritual father of his community, was authorized to allow a man to father a Jewish family.
The Catholic sense comes straight from the Jewish sense; father and family are inseparable. In the Catholic Church, a man becomes a father of his flock when a father authorized to ordain brings him into the apostolic succession of fathers. Rabbi Yeshua, as head of the apostolic succession, puts an indelible character on the priest’s soul. That indelible character transforms him ontologically, makes him a new man ready to serve as a father presiding over the Seder transformed by the Mashiakh.
The Eastern Orthodox left the Catholic Church in AD 1054 but retained true fatherhood first because they remained in the apostolic succession, but also because all the churches in a city or region, bishops and priests with their congregations, fathers with their families went into schism § 817 together. Their fatherhood structure remained intact and continued. Schismatic Eastern bishops have a disordered and imperfect, but legitimate, share in the apostolic succession.
The Protestants, however, went into schism § 817 splitting city and regional churches, with non-bishops declaring themselves heads of various sects. No true father, bishop, brought them into fatherhood. Appointing themselves separated their sects from the Hebrew root that nourished the Catholic tree Jn 4:22; Rom 11:18, 24.
Why Can’t You Give Us Holy Communion
Sometimes, when Protestants visit a Catholic parish church, they are put off because the priest does not offer them Holy Communion. Catholics who visit their churches can receive Holy Communion, but the Protestants are again put off when the Catholics refuse to receive in their churches, as if there were something wrong with it. Can’t we just be charitable?
I’ll say it here and now. Any Protestant who wants to receive the real presence of the living Rabbi Yeshua in a Catholic parish church can do so! All he has to do is come into full communion with him through the Church that Rabbi Yeshua instituted. The Protestant can study the Catholic faith in an RCIA course and, after he has been taught that basic catechesis, make a profession declaring before Almighty God that he believes all that the Catholic Church teaches. After that he needs only to go to Confession and thereafter receive true Holy Communion in the New and Eternal Covenant.
But that’s not what the Protestant wants. He wants Holy Communion from the Church without being in full communion with the Church! He doesn’t see the inherent contradiction because, in most cases, he understands the Holy Eucharist to be more or less symbolic. But Catholics understand that the Holy Eucharist is the real presence of the living Rabbi Yeshua, whole and entire.
To claim full communion with him without being in full communion with the Church through which his presence is consecrated, is lying to Rabbi Yeshua, by falsely claiming participation in the New and Eternal Covenant. By denying intercommunion, we Catholics are protecting our Protestant friends.
Rabbi Paul taught, “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” 1 Cor 11:29. It’s inconceivable that we would send ourselves to hell for profaning a mere symbolic food. But if we don’t recognize God‘s living Mashiakh in the New and Eternal Covenant we may suffer the fate of those who did not know the time of their visitation Lk 19:42–44.
Most Protestants understand the principle. They would never say, “Thank you so much for sharing with me the comforts of your home during my visit with you. But you have not quite shared all of them. Would you mind very much if your wife slept with me tonight?” The Protestant understands that holy communion with one’s wife is a sacrament reserved to those for whom God has ordained it. A man can in some circumstances attain communion with another man’s wife, but it can never be holy communion.
Most Protestants also understand the need to be in full communion with the state to receive its benefits. When a Protestant seeks a driver’s license, he goes to the state motor vehicle office and willingly complies with all of the rituals it requires, the written test which resembles the RCIA class, and the road test which resembles the profession of faith, after which he becomes a Motorist. He never says to a police officer, “You are selfish in reserving the driving privilege to Motorists. I do not have a driver’s license and have no intention of obtaining one, but would still appreciate the privilege.”
The Empty Cross
Protestants put up in their churches an empty cross. What more graphic admission could there be that Protestants have separated themselves from Rabbi Yeshua‘s presence? With all their heartfelt prayers and songs and impassioned oratory, Rabbi Yeshua is not substantially present § 1376.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thes 4:16–17.
Rabbi Yeshua will descend to earth the same way he ascended to heaven Acts 1:11 with a cry of command Jn 5:28–29 that will summon the dead to the Last Judgment. He is attended by St. Michael the Archangel, guardian of God’s people Israel Dan 12:1 and leader of the angelic host Jude 9; Rev 12:7. God announced his arrival on Mt. Sinai with a stentorian trumpet blast Ex 19:16–17. The Son of God will sound the stentorian trumpet 1 Cor 15:52 to announce his Second Coming.
The “dead in Christ,” the faithful departed, live as pure spirit with Rabbi Yeshua in heaven as they together await the resurrection 2 Cor 5:8. Rabbi Yeshua‘s faithful who are still living in earthly life at the Second Coming will be caught up, or “raptured,” to join the saints of the ages as they rise into glory. That final generation will not die and then be raised; their bodies will be instantly glorified and made immortal 1 Cor 15:51–53.
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while” Rev 20:1–3.
“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city; but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” Rev 20:7–10.
Catholics are amillennial. We understand Rev 20:1–15 figuratively, as a symbol of Christ’s earthly rule in heaven and on earth through his Church (the dragon’s destruction Rev 20:3 is the same time as the beast’s destruction Rev 19:20). We are amillennial in the sense that we see the golden age of the millennium as the heavenly reign of Rabbi Yeshua with the saints, in which the Church on earth participates to some degree, though not in the glorious way it will at the Second Coming. We do not see it as an earthly golden age in which the world will be totally Christianized.
While the world will never be fully Christianized until the Second Coming, Satan is bound so he cannot deceive the nations by hindering the preaching of the Gospel Rev. 20:3. Jesus said it is necessary to “bind the strong man,” Satan, to plunder his house by enticing people from his grip Mt 12:29. When the disciples returned from preaching the Gospel Jesus declared, “I saw Satan fall like lightning” Lk 10:18. For the Gospel to move forward at all in the world, Satan has to be bound in a sense, even while he still attacks individuals 1 Pet 5:8.
We see the millennium as a golden age not when compared with the glory to come, but compared with prior ages of human history when the world was sunk in pagan darkness. Today a third of mankind are Christian.
That much is consistent with Catholic teaching.
Many Evangelicals today say the thousand year reign will be an earthly golden age that will occur after the Second Coming. Catholics don’t see how. Rabbi Yeshua foretold the Second Coming, “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats … And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Mt 25:31–32, 46. Who’s going to be left in earthly life?
All Catholics, all premillennialists, and most other Christians believe that before the Second Coming can come there will be a time of great trial called the tribulation. The traditional teaching on it comes from the three New Testament passages that mention the tribulation and the rapture together, Mt 24:26–31; Mk 13:24–27; 2 Thes 2:1–12.
Christians have traditionally understood this to mean that the rapture would occur immediately before the Second Coming. This is called “post-tribulational” because it says that after the tribulation would come the rapture, followed immediately by the judgment of the nations Mt 25:31–46. It is consistent with Catholic end-times prophecy. After the trial comes the judgment.
Few Protestants today are postmillennial. Scripture does not depict the world as experiencing a period of Christianization before the Second Coming. The age between the First Coming Lk 2:11–14 and the Second Coming Mt 25:31–46 is a time of great sorrow and strife for Christians. Rabbi Yeshua‘s parable of the wheat and the weeds Mt 13:24–30, 36–43) declares that the righteous and the wicked will both be planted and grow alongside each other in God’s field until the Second Coming. Rabbi Matityahu makes sure we understand, “The field is the world” Mt 13:38. At the end of the world they will be separated, judged, and either be thrown into the fire of hell or inherit God’s kingdom Mt 13:41–43. Good and evil will continue until the Second Coming Mt 25:31–46.
But in the 1800s some Protestants began saying the rapture would occur before the persecution. This “pre-tribulation” view means Rabbi Yeshua has three comings, the first one two thousand years ago Lk 2:11–14, a second coming when the rapture occurs 1 Thes 4:16–17, and a third coming at the judgment of the nations Mt 25:31–46.
More recently, a third, “mid-tributional,” view claimed that the rapture would occur in the middle of the tribulation! And then a fourth view emerged that there would not be a single rapture where all believers are gathered to Rabbi Yeshua, but a series of mini-raptures which would mean many smaller comings. The theological bedlam extends all the way to eschatology.
Christianity for twenty centuries has spoken of two comings for Christ, and two only! The first occurred two thousand years ago Lk 2:11–14. The second is yet to come Mt 25:31–46. The Scriptural defense usually offered for these “pre-tribulation” views are Jn 14:3; 1 Cor 15:52; and 1 Thes 4:17, three passages that do not mention a tribulation at all!