Archive for the ‘Church History’ Category

When did Roman Catholicism Begin?

March 20, 2013

Over at Greenbaggins, Scott asked:

TF, when, exactly, do you believe Roman Catholicism began?

I answer:

If Roman Catholicism is defined by her (supposedly) infallibly defined dogmas, her birthday is November 1, 1950, which is when her pope defined the fiction of the bodily assumption. If she is defined by the last (supposedly) ecumenical council she accepts, she’s even younger (December 8, 1965), the date of conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. If she is defined by her canon laws, the most recent major edition was January 28, 1983. If she’s defined by her current pope, then she’s newborn.

But if she’s simply vaguely defined as a movement, it’s hard to provide a fixed date. Benedict XVI treated Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) as the father of Roman Catholicism – despite the fact that Thomas Aquinas’ views would place him outside the RCC today.

Perhaps better dates would be the dates of the councils of Constance (1418), Florence (1445) and Trent (1563), where certain strands of scholastic theology gained ecclesiastical dominance over other strands. Then again, a lot of Tridentine RCism has been undermined in contemporary RCism.

And frankly, that’s probably the best way to date the movement – to the “late medieval” period – 15th or 16th century, although there were undoubtedly doctrinal roots that go back earlier, even while recognizing that RCism continues to change even today.

That doesn’t mean that no one before 1054 held to any views in common with Roman Catholics, and it doesn’t mean that things like the Edict of Milan or the forged “Donation of Constantine” were insignificant factors in producing what eventually came to be RCism. Still, calling anyone in the late patristic or early medieval period “Roman Catholic” is anachronistic.


Robert Godfrey – The Inventions of Rome

February 8, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I wish Jason Stellman had paid more attention to Dr. Robert Godfrey’s church history class. Here is some material that, presumably, he missed:

If you subscribe to Modern Reformation, you can get the related article here (link). It would be nice if the article were made freely available, because it needs to have a broader audience. Nevertheless, of course, it’s their right to receive payment for the article.


Early Muslim/Christian Debate – a Proto Two Kingdoms Apologetic

September 12, 2012

The Letter of Mor Yuhannon [John] (d. 649), the Patriarch, Concerning the discussion which he had with the Amir of the Mhaggraye, provides for us one of the earliest records of debates between Christians and Muslims. A complete translation can be found at the following link (link). It’s worth noting that in the discussion Mor Yuhannon distinguishes the “orthodox” from the “Chalcedonians.” My point is not to enter into the question of the orthodoxy of Mor Yuhannon, only to point out that he advocated the Christian side of the discussion, with the Emir representing the Mulsim side of the discussion.

Of particular interest are the following:

I) The blessed Patriarch, the Father of the community, was questioned by him: “Whether the Gospel is one, and whether it is the same, without differences, which all Christians in the world hold to?” The blessed one answered that it is one and the same among the Greeks, the Romans, the Syrians, the Copts, the Cushites, the Indians, the Armenians, the Persians, and the rest of all peoples and tongues.

It is interesting to note this late Patristic era response. The places identified go significantly beyond the scope of any of the so-called Ecumenical councils. They include India and Ethiopia (Cush), which were not – as far as I can tell – included in the discussions at any of the seven ECs.

And we may add that we agree with the Patriarch. The gospel is one and the same throughout the world.

II) Again he asked, “Since the Gospel is one, why is the faith different?” The Blessed one responded, “Just as the Torah is one and the same and it is accepted by us Christians and by you Mhaggraye, and by the Jews and by the Samaritans, and each is distinct in belief; likewise concerning faith in the Gospel, each heretical group understands and interprets it differently, and not like us [the Orthodox].

It is interesting to note the fact that the Patriarch believes that the Muslims accept the Torah. One assumes that this is because the Muslims tell him that they accept the Torah.

Likewise, the Patriarch’s answer regarding the reason for the different views is not because each has a different document, but because there are different understandings of the documents.

III) Again he asked, “whom do you say Christ is? Is he God or not?” And our Father answered, “He is God; and the Word, who was born from God the Father, who is eternal and without beginning. At the end of time, for the salvation of mankind, He became flesh and was inhominated from the Holy Spirit and from the holy Virgin Mary, the mother of God, and became man.”

This is an astute answer. I’m not fond of the term “mother of God,” because it can be easily misunderstood, but this answer seems to provide the necessary qualifications. It is also interesting because despite distinguishing himself from the Chalcedonians, this patriarch is quite willing to use the “mother of God” terminology.

IV) And the glorious Amir asked him this: “When Christ was in the womb of Mary, the one you say is God, who was carrying and ruling the Heaven and earth?” Our blessed father argued with him concerning the question: “When God came down to Mount Sinai and spoke with Moses for forty days and forty nights, who was carrying and ruling the Heaven and earth; as long as you claim that you accept Moses and his books.” The Amir said, “He is God and He rules the Heaven and earth.” Immediately, he heard this from our Father: “Likewise Christ [who is] God when he was in the womb of the virgin, he was carrying and ruling the Heaven and earth, and everything which is in them as Almighty God.”

Again, note that the Patriarch relies on the Old Testament, believing that the Emir accepts it. Moreover, the Emir’s answer seems to presuppose that the Emir does accept it.

V) Again the glorious Amir asked, “What kind of belief and faith did Abraham and Moses hold?” Our blessed Father answered, “It is the belief and faith of Christians that they held: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, the rest of the prophets, all the just and righteous ones.”

The Amir said, “Why did they not write clearly and make it known concerning Christ?” Our blessed father replied, “As sharers of the mysteries and intimate ones they knew it, but [because of] the infancy and innocence of the people at the time, who were inclined to worship many gods [polytheism] and cling to them, to such an extent that they regarded wood, stones and many other things as gods, they made idols, they worshipped them and sacrificed to them. [For this reason] the holy ones did not want to give the erroneous ones a pretext that they might depart from the Living God and follow error, but prudently proclaimed the truth: “Hear, Israel, the Lord God is One Lord” for they truly knew that there is only One God, and one Godhead, that of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Thus they spoke and wrote symbolically concerning God that He is One in divinity and three hypostases and persons; there neither is nor do we confess three gods or three deities; there are neither gods nor deities; for the Godhead of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is One, as we have said, and from the Father is the Son and the Holy Spirit. If you want, I am ready and prepared to confirm this from the holy Books.”

I’m not sure whether I would follow the reasoning of the Patriarch on this point. I wouldn’t think that it was only the most ancient peoples who were inclined to idolatry and polytheism. Nevertheless, the Patriarch’s emphasis on the common monotheism of the Old and New Testaments is important.

VI) Again, when the Amir heard all of these, he requested only “if Christ is God, and was born from Mary, and if there is a Son for God, let that be proved literally and from the Torah.” The blessed one said that not only Moses, but also all of the holy prophets previously prophesied and wrote this concerning the Christ: One [of the prophets] had written concerning His birth from a virgin, another that He would be born in Bethlehem, another concerning His baptism; all of them, so to say, [wrote] concerning His saving passion, His vivifying death, and His glorious resurrection from the dead after three days. He [the blessed one] brought evidences, and began to confirm this from all of the prophets, and from Moses, according to their writings.

Notice that the Patriarch initially interprets “Torah,” here as referring generally to the Old Testament. He then begins to demonstrate each point that the Emir had requested from the Old Testament as a whole, including Isaiah (regarding the virgin birth, for example).

VII) The glorious Amir did not accept these [proofs] from the prophets, instead, he demanded proof from Moses that Christ is God. The blessed one, therefore, cited Moses in many things (verses), e.g., that “the Lord let fire and sulfur come down from the Lord on Sodom and on Gomorrah.” The glorious Amir demanded that this be shown in the book. Immediately, our father showed it in the complete Greek and Syriac texts.

At the same place, there were some Mhaggraye with us, and they attentively saw the passages and the glorious Name of the Lords, and the Lord. The Amir called a Jew, who was there, and he was considered by them to be knowledgeable in the Scriptures, and asked him if it was literally so in the Torah; and he answered, “I do not know exactly.”

Notice that the Emir wants to see it in the books of Moses, rather than the Old Testament more broadly. This already seems to clarify that when the Emir said, “Torah,” he meant the Pentateuch, not all the inspired Hebrew books.

Also, notice the disbelief by the Emir when confronted with the contents of the book. He wants to see it actually in the books, and the Patriarch shows it to him both in Syriac and Greek.

But even that leaves the Emir wondering if it is just something inserted by a Christian translator. So, he asks a Jew to confirm that the translation is literal, and the Jew does not deny it, but simply tries to defer.

VIII) At this point the Amir moved to ask him concerning the laws of the Christians: “what and how are they, and whether they are written in the Gospel or not?” Again [he asked], “if a man die and leave behind boys or girls and a wife and a mother and a sister and a cousin, how would his possessions be divided among them?” Then our holy father said that the Gospel is divine, it instructs heavenly teaching and commands vivifying commandments; it despises all sin and wickedness, and it teaches virtue and righteousness. Many other related issues were brought up.

It is interesting to note that the Emir has the expectation that the Christian books should specify every aspect of Christian life.

The answer the Patriarch gives is a very “two kingdoms” sounding. He points out that the laws of the Gospel are divine and spiritual. They are not intended to provide for every detail of human governance, such as how exactly an estate is supposed to pass from father to son, and so on.

IX) And the glorious Amir said, “I ask you [Plural] to do one of three things: either show me your laws written in the Gospel and conduct yourselves accordingly, or follow [or submit to] the law of the Mhaggraye. Then our Father replied that we Christians have laws, which are just and right, and we follow [submit to] the teaching and the commandments of the Gospel and the rules of the Apostles and the laws of the Church.
In this manner the assembly of the first day was dismissed. And we have not yet been interviewed again by him.

Notice that the two-kingdoms answer doesn’t really seem acceptable to the Emir. He is basically willing to allow the Christians to live by a sort of Gospel Sharia if there is one, but if there is not one, he expects them to obey the Islamic Sharia. The question from the Emir is not whether the laws are reasonable and just, but whether they have divine authority.


Don’t Sweat that History Stuff …

April 11, 2012

Carl Trueman expresses his frustration with attempts to force Roman apologists to confront history:

Thus, as all sides need to face empirical facts and the challenges they raise, here are a few we might want to consider, along with what seem to me (as a Protestant outsider) to be the usual Roman Catholic responses:

Empirical fact: The Papacy as an authoritative institution was not there in the early centuries.
Never mind. Put together a doctrine of development whereby Christians – or at least some of them, those of whom we choose to approve in retrospect on the grounds we agree with what they say – eventually come to see the Pope as uniquely authoritative.

Empirical fact: The Papacy was corrupt in the later Middle Ages, building its power and status on political antics, forged documents and other similar scams.
Ignore it, excuse it as a momentary aberration and perhaps, if pressed, even offer a quick apology. Then move swiftly on to assure everyone it is all sorted out now and start talking about John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Whatever you do, there is no need to allow this fact to have any significance for how one understands the theory of papal power in the abstract or in the present.

Empirical fact: The Papacy was in such a mess at the beginning of the fifteenth century that it needed a council to decide who of the multiple claimants to Peter’s seat was the legitimate pope.
Again, this was merely a momentary aberration but it has no significance for the understanding of papal authority. After all, it was so long ago and so far away.

Empirical fact: The church failed (once again) to put its administrative, pastoral, moral and doctrinal house in order at the Fifth Lateran Council at the start of the sixteenth century.
Forget it. Emphasise instead the vibrant piety of the late medieval church and then blame the ungodly Protestants for their inexplicable protests and thus for the collapse of the medieval social, political and theological structure of Europe.

(complete post here)

Sadly, I’ve seen these or similar responses myself. Moreover, we can continue a lot of these empirical facts (mutatis mutandis) down to the present time.

One other point. Trueman says:

I am confident that my previous writings on Roman Catholicism and Roman Catholics indicate that I am no reincarnation of a nineteenth century ‘No popery!’ rabble-rouser. I have always tried to write with respect and forbearance on such matters, to the extent that I have even been berated at times by other, hotter sorts of Protestants for being too pacific.

“Berated” may be a strong term, but I have been among those who have criticized him for being too soft on Rome. Thus, I was particularly happy to see this post from him.


Who Cares about Historical Theology?

October 20, 2010

Jason Stellman has posted an article in which he says:

It seems to me that all this effort on the part of Catholics to prove that the fathers are on their team, and (especially) all the effort on the part of Protestants to demolish these claims, is beside the point and can be a distraction from the real issue, which is what the Bible actually teaches.

(link to article)

While I agree that what the Scriptures have to say about any subject is infinitely more important than what the fathers, or Calvin, or anyone else had to say about the subject, there’s still importance in historical theology. Likewise, I agree that focus on what the fathers taught can be a distraction from the real issue, namely what Scripture teaches.

On the other hand, the study of what the fathers and the Reformers and others taught can be important. It can be important for several reasons.

1. One way to help Roman Catholics see that they are following a church that is lying to them is to expose Roman Catholics to the historical record. When we examine the historical record, we see that doctrines like the immaculate conception, transubstantiation, the bodily assumption of Mary, papal infallibility, and Purgatory are innovations, not doctrines handed from the apostles. Thus, the study of the patristic literature can serve as a tool for the evangelism of Roman Catholics, by helping to liberate them from the false gospel that requires their unjustified trust in Rome.

2. A second, defensive, use is also important. Frequently, Roman Catholics make claims that the core doctrines of the Reformation are themselves historical novelties. While, in principle, this doesn’t matter to us (since Scripture, not history, is our rule of faith), these lies about the historical record can be discouraging to Christians. In particular, Roman apologists try to suggest to those unfamiliar with history that by following Reformed doctrine one is saying that “the whole church went off the rails almost from the earliest time,” or something like that.

3. Historical theology is not our ultimate rule of faith, but it is a helpful guide. We do not believe that a universal apostasy happened or will ever happen, even if there are great falling away periods in church history. Moreover, we value the teaching of our spiritual ancestors, even those who made many mistakes. I suspect that Pastor Stellman realizes the value of historical theology, because I’ve noticed that his recent book, Dual Citizens, makes use of human authors. He does not rely exclusively on the Bible, nor should he!

I do think it is foolish to simply say “who cares,” to the historical record. Sometimes we will simply have to disagree with the errors of our predecessors, but we should do so carefully, not recklessly.

Pastor Stellman writes:

Rather than get into a patristic prooftext war—especially if we may very well lose it—wouldn’t it be wiser to shift the locus of the battle to Scripture, the place where we claim to believe all controversies of religion are to be solved?

Well, of course, we’ve already won the battle on the grounds of Scripture. There may be a tiny handful of Roman Catholic apologists that think they can prove their doctrines from Scripture, but those folks are easily shown to be wrong.

The problem is that Rome has persuaded many people to accept an additional rule of faith – one that in effect supercedes Scripture. It is useful to help Roman Catholics see that this additional rule of faith is one that doesn’t work, that cannot stand up to historical scrutiny, indeed one that is both established and maintained on lies and forgeries.

And don’t worry, Pastor Stellman, we won’t “lose” the analysis of the patristic writings, because we have nothing to lose. We’re interested in the truth of what happened in the early church, not transforming the early church fathers into a PCA presbytery in Greece. We “win” simply by letting the fathers be the fathers, because history is our friend.

That means we admit that certain departures from the purity of the apostolic teachings happened very early, while other departures happened much later. Precisely because Scripture is our rule of faith, we cannot “lose” a battle over whether Bernard taught the immaculate conception (answer: he definitely did not) or whether Bernard taught the personal sinlessness of Mary (answer: it seems he did). In one case we can point out that Bernard’s testimony is one voice among many against the idea the the dogma of the immaculate conception was really handed down in some kind of oral tradition format, in the other case we can acknowledge Bernard’s mistake.

All that said, all the historical knowledge in the world won’t save someone. One may be able to persuade a rational person that Rome is not who she claims to be, but unless that person trusts in Christ alone for salvation, they will be no better off in eternity. Mere knowledge of the truth is not enough.


Roman Catholics and History

March 18, 2010

One of the problems facing Roman Catholic apologetics generally is history. History demonstrates that many of Rome’s dogmas are not apostolic, coming into being long after the apostolic era. There have been a variety of ways that Roman Catholic apologists have attempted to deal with this problem (from simple denials of the historical fact, to more nuanced responses such as Newman’s development hypothesis). However, many who have read presentations on history from a Roman Catholic perspective are unaware of what some of Rome’s servants have viewed as their role with respect to history. In the article I’ve linked below, John Bugay has provided some evidence of what we might conveniently refer to as “historical eisegeis.” (link)

Who is Barabbas?

September 1, 2009

All four of the gospels refer to Jesus’ fellow prisoner, Barabbas, by name. First, I’ll present the four accounts and then some commentary:

Matthew 17:15-26:

Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”
But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
The governor answered and said unto them, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?”
They said, “Barabbas.”
Pilate saith unto them, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”
They all say unto him, “Let him be crucified.”
And the governor said, “Why, what evil hath he done?”
But they cried out the more, saying, “Let him be crucified.”
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.”
Then answered all the people, and said, “His blood be on us, and on our children.”
Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Mark similarly provides an account.
Mark 15:6-15:

Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.
But Pilate answered them, saying, “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.
But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.
And Pilate answered and said again unto them, “What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?”
And they cried out again, “Crucify him.”
Then Pilate said unto them, “Why, what evil hath he done?”
And they cried out the more exceedingly, “Crucify him.”
And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

Luke also has an account.
Luke 23:13-25:

And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, “Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: no, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him.” (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)
And they cried out all at once, saying, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:” (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)
Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them.
But they cried, saying, “Crucify him, crucify him.”
And he said unto them the third time, “Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.”
And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.

Finally, John also has the account.
John 18:38-19:16
Pilate saith unto him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, “I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?”
Then cried they all again, saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber.
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and they smote him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, “Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.”
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, “Behold the man!”
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify him, crucify him.”
Pilate saith unto them, “Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.”
The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; and went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, “Whence art thou?”
But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then saith Pilate unto him, “Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?”
Jesus answered, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.”
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.”
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, “Behold your King!”
But they cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him.”
Pilate saith unto them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.There are no further references to Barabbas in the text of the New Testament.

So, who was Barabbas? He was a robber (John’s account), a notable prisoner (Matthew’s account), someone who had (with others who were also imprisoned) made an insurrection/sedition and committed murder in the insurrection (Mark’s and Luke’s accounts). So, this man was a true brigand and a captain of them. His name appears to be taken from “bar abba” meaning “son of the father” (although some have suggested “bar rabbi” meaning “son of the teacher.”

I scanned through the early church writers to see if there were any interesting legends about him. I mostly came up empty. Tertullian describes him as “the most abandoned criminal” (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 42)
Cyril of Alexandria describes him as “a notorious robber” and “a dangerous and brutal criminal, [who was] not free from blood-guiltiness” (Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, at John 18:40) Augustine calls him “the robber,” “the murderer,” and “the destroyer [of life]”(Augustine, Tractate 116 on John’s Gospel, at John 19:1) Even Faustus (whom Augustine opposed) called him “the notorious robber” (Faustus quoted in Augustine’s Reply to Faustus, Book 14, Section 1) Chrysostom provides a characteristically colorful description:

For which was right? to let go the acknowledged criminal, or Him about whose guilt there was a question? For, if in the case of acknowledged offenders it was fit there should be a liberation, much more in those of whom there was a doubt. For surely this man did not seem to them worse than acknowledged murderers. For on this account, it is not merely said they had a robber; but one noted, that is, who was infamous in wickedness, who had perpetrated countless murders.

– Chrysostom, Homily 86 on Matthew, Section 2, at Matthew 27:11-12

On the whole, though, the early church basically leaves Barabbas alone. A couple (Origen and Rabanius) describe him as figuring the Devil, while Pseudo-Jerome goes so far as to associate him with the scapegoat which was freed. I’m told the the “Gospel According to the Hebrews” is an apocryphal work that takes the “son of the teacher” interpretation as opposed to “son of the father,” but generally the apocryphal works also pretty much leave him alone or simply parrot the canonical accounts.

Gill provides similar comments, and adds:

The Ethiopic version adds, “the prince”, or “chief of robbers, and all knew him”; and the Arabic, instead of a “prisoner”, reads, a “thief”, as he was.

He also points out that this name was a common name among the Jews, providing various citations to folks by that name. There does not seem to be much more out there on him.

Thus, I was a little surprised to see a rather bizarre comment in my comment box attempting to promote a novel view:

“Anathema” continues even unto this very day… to wit, ‘Christian’s’ regard towards “Jesus Barabbas” (originally written in the Greek Gospel according or attributed to Matthew (27:17). But is such regard justified?

Is the depiction, contained only in the Holy Gospels, of “Jesus Barabbas” accurate or true?

Standing on the stage of ecclesiastical history’s most dramatic and celebrated hour, like a potted plant of poison ivy, Jesus Barabbas said nothing whatsoever to anybody (nobody said anything to Him), -yet He is incongruently released (because Pontius Pilate honored a Jewish ‘custom’ -of releasing one prisoner during the Passover, -never before or since exercised).
Nevertheless, He is described as being “notorious”… to whom?
Where did He come from? Where did He go? Supposedly, He participated in the ‘insurrection’, -what “insurrection”? The “insurrection” wherein fanatically ‘religious’ Jews sought to overthrow Herod’s Roman supported ‘secular’ governance -in an unsuccessful attempt to re-establish the ancient ‘theocratic’ form of governance as was instituted by David’ (after the Lord rebuked the ‘anointed’ king Saul and replaced him with David?

I’m sure young Saul of Tarsus had something to say (and do) when ‘the messiah’ came riding on an ass into Jerusalem that fateful day…

It certainly wasn’t “Jesus Barabbas”, -which, by the way, “Jesus” was His ‘name’, -“Barabbas” is what He was ‘called’. ‘Barabbas’ is not a surname (any more than is “Christ”), it is, rather, an Aramaic appellation, the meaning of which is: Bar = Son + Abba = Father (as in the Father of us all or ‘God’).


Roland, a reluctant iconoclast.

There are numerous errors in this comment. First, the name is just Barabbas (not “Jesus Barabbas”). Second, the fact that we don’t have any historical record to which to tie this particular notorious criminal is hardly surprising: we don’t have any significant records of the crimes of the day – so treating historical silence as significant is an error. Third, the whole comment is riddled with misplaced sarcasm and innuendo, compounding those errors through what seems to be some sort of iconoclastic pride. I have no idea who Roland is (or why he was using the handle “Barabbas126” to post the comment, but I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has encountered this same deviant view anywhere else.

UPDATE: I’ve tried to clarify the list of errors above. I found the information on textual data interesting. There are several variant spellings of the name: some manuscripts double the rho (leading to the “son of the master” interpretation) and some make the doubled betas single. Also, some manuscripts to add the name “Jesus,” which is doubtless the basis for Roland’s claim. However, neither the earliest nor the majority of manuscripts have this reading.


Non-English Reformation-Era Bibles – Index Page

August 5, 2009

The Reformation in the British isles was quite remarkable. In fact, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that other nations and tongues in Europe also experienced the Reformation. That said, I thought I’d try to track down some Reformation-era Bibles in other languages than English and provide those to the interested reader.

Olivetan (French) (Google Books – 1616 Printing)

Diodati (Italian) (Google Books – 1877 printing)(New Testament – 1665 Printing)

Reina (Spanish)

Luther’s Bible of 1545 (German) (Modern Letter Version)

Dutch Authorized Version – 1637

– TurretinFan

>The Importance of Irenaeus

March 17, 2009

>An anonymous reader asked: Why are the witings of St. Irenaeus now so suddenly important[?] I thought that his relics were sacked by the Calvinists becaused he was alleged to be a heretic, ie., he is a proponent of Free Will and that his other writings do not support TULIP.

The importance of Irenaeus is merely historical. In many ways, Irenaeus is notable more for what he did not say, than for what he did say. Of course, we have only a limited amount of what he wrote and said, but what we find in those writings is some amount of evidence as to what was believed and held in his day. The process of preserving his writings has not been unbiased, and has been subject to some serious “selection” concerns. Nevertheless, considered with the appropriate caveats, Irenaeus gives us a picture into the mind of some Christians of the late 2nd century.

It (Irenaeus’ writings) is not infallible, and it is not our rule of faith, but it is interesting – just as the writings of Calvin and Aquinas are interesting but not the rule of faith.

Irenaeus’ alleged remains disappeared when Calvinists destroyed a shrine where they were supposedly held. Whether they were actually there or not, we cannot know with certainty. Why the shrine was destroyed is better assigned to the fact that Calvinists oppose the veneration of the dead, more than any antipathy for the teachings of Ireneaus on any particular point. Unfotunately, as far as I know, the details are sparse as to any stated reason for the shrine’s destruction, and no information regarding what happened to the interred remains has come to light in subsequent years.

One would not be surprised if the Calvinists simply buried Irenaeus’ remains in an unmarked grave to prevent further idolatry, just as the bronze serpent was piously destroyed by Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4) because people had come to venerate it.


Can Papists Properly Call Reformed Churches, Churches?

January 3, 2009

Mr. Paul Hoffer referred to Reformed churches by the rather modernist/pluralist terminology of “faith communities. Mr. Mike Burgess has come to Mr. Hoffer’s aid by suggesting that Mr. Hoffer is just being proper, and that properly Reformed churches cannot be said to be churches because they are not part of the true Church. We deny.

In opposition to this error, I present several arguments:

1. Pius XI, even while distinguishing them from the “true” church, referred to the reformed churches as such.

24. In his Controversies, although the holy Doctor made large use of the polemical literature of the past, he exhibits nevertheless a controversial method quite peculiarly his own. In the first place, he proves that no authority can be said to exist in the Church of Christ unless it had been bestowed on her by an authoritative mandate, which mandate the ministers of heretical beliefs in no way can be said to possess. After having pointed out the errors of these latter concerning the nature of the Church, he outlines the notes of the true Church and proves that they are not to be found in the reformed churches, but in the Catholic Church alone. He also explains in a sound manner the Rule of Faith and demonstrates that it is broken by heretics, while on the other hand it is kept in its entirety by Catholics. In conclusion, he discusses several special topics, but only those leaflets which treat of the Sacraments and of Purgatory are not extant. In truth, the many explanations of doctrine and the arguments which he has marshaled in orderly array, are worthy of all praise. With these arguments, to which must be added a subtle and polished irony that characterizes his controversial manner, he easily met his adversaries and defeated all their lies and fallacies.


2. “Faith Communities” appears to be a term born out of attempted ecumenical dialog with Judaism. Example (link) (Cardinal Kasper states: “I am committed to work together with you for the reconciliation of our two faith communities, on the basis of a total mutual respect for our respective traditions and convictions.”) While it may be viewed as a valid super-category for Church and Synagogue, it is not a “more proper” term for “heretical” and/or “schismatic” churches. If I were a betting man, I’d bet that no one could find a pope using the expression “faith communities” before Vatican II.

3. Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 speak of the “synagogue of Satan.” If “false Jews” can be said to be of a synagogue (even Satan’s synagogue), then “false Christians” could be said to be of a church. Moreover, as Mr. Burgess admits, the claim today is not even that the Reformed churches are full of false Christians, just separated brethren.

On these three points, I’d respectfully disagree with Mr. Burgess’ attempted buttressing of Mr. Hoffer on this issue of nomenclature. I can appreciate that Mr. Hoffer’s choice of words may have been made with total innocence of any derogatory ring, aiming instead to use the language of ecumenicism (it should be noted that the Vatican now uses “faith communities” to refer not only to Jewish synagogues and the church of Rome, but also to “Protestant” churches, such as the Methodists).

To that, however, I’d add that the Reformed churches are part of the true church, while the Vatican is not. What are the marks of a true church?

See the Real Turretin’s comments on this subject.


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