Archive for the ‘Veneration’ Category

Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection – Part 3

May 10, 2009

This is the third part of a series of some reflections of mine on a recent debate with Mr. William Albrecht on the veneration of Mary (Part 1)(Part 2). Those posts dealt with whether “having been highly favored” is a title and whether the concept of veneration of Mary can be justified based on her being Jesus’ mother. In this post I’ll deal with an interesting theme I only brushed on briefly during the debate.

Early in the debate, Mr. Albrecht argues for the perspicuity of Scripture on this topic. He states: “Today I will make an attempt to come to the Scriptures as one who merely picks up the Bible and reads it and attempts to understand its plain meaning. … We will see that no matter what denomination you come from you can see the plain truth of Mary in Scripture.”

I was instantly reminded of what a Reformed apologist wrote hundreds of years ago in relation to those papists with whom he was dealing in the 16th century.
William Whitaker (1547-1595):

Indeed all the papists in their books, when they seek to prove any thing, boast everywhere that they can bring arguments against us from the most luminous, plain, clear and manifest testimonies of Scripture . . . For in every dispute their common phrases are,””This is clear,””This is plain,””This is manifest in the scriptures, and such like. Surely when they speak thus, they ignorantly and unawares confess the perspicuity of the scriptures even in the greatest questions and controversies.

(A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Cambridge: The University Press, reprinted 1849), p. 401.)

As I pointed out in the debate, it is interesting how – when they are not dealing with the topic of Sola Scriptura, even those who deny Sola Scriptura recognize that it is perspicuous on many subjects. But it also important to recognize that just because Scripture is clear doesn’t mean that there will never be any disagreements about what it says. As the same apologist pointed out:

For there is nothing in Scripture so plain that some men have not doubted it; as, that God is Almighty, that he created heaven and earth, that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, conceived of the Holy Ghost, and so forth: these are indeed plainly and openly set down in Scripture, and yet there are controversies about them. Things therefore are not presently obscure, concerning which there are many controversies; because these so manifold disputes arise rather from the perversity and curiosity of the human mind, than from any real obscurity. The apostle says that the minds of infidels are blinded by the devil, lest they should see that brilliant light and acquiesce in it: which is most true of our adversaries.

Id. at pp. 388-389.

However, as expected, Mr. Albrecht opened his closing argument, “I think that anyone who comes to the Scriptures without any preconceived notions or biases will find that …” suggesting again that the Scriptures can clearly provide teaching on the subject.

It is a strange approach to the issue, and I think I adequately demonstrated that one cannot get veneration of Mary from the Scripture. In fact, to the contrary, Jesus disclaimed any special place of honor for Mary, making her and his brethren of only equal importance to all believers.


Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection – Part 2

May 9, 2009

Not every point that Mr. Albrecht raised during the debate was as unusual as his “titular form” argument addressed in my previous comment (link). For example, Mr. Albrecht made at least some oblique reference to one typical argument that we hear from Roman Catholics: the argument that Jesus honored his mother consistent with Jewish law.

As a preliminary matter I’m always puzzled when people suggest that honoring one’s parents is somehow distinctly Jewish. The fifth commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee,” (repeated and amplified at Deuteronomy 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.) is part of God’s moral law: it is not just relevant to the Jews but to all humans. Indeed, Paul specifically repeats this law in Ephesians 6:2 (“Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;”).

But yes, Jesus did honour his mother. This kind of honour, however, has nothing to do with religious veneration. Even if it could be said to be a form of veneration more broadly defined, familial honor (the honor due to one’s parents) is distinct from religious veneration.

What is especially interesting is that Mr. Albrecht had claimed he was just going to repeat what the Bible has to say (“My goal is to simply see what the Bible says about the blessed virgin Mary, and to repeat it.”) Nevertheless, within 20 seconds Mr. Albrecht is appealing to something that is only implicit from the text of Scripture.

Now, to be sure, Jesus did perfectly obey the moral law. Nevertheless, we don’t actually have much Scriptural discussion of Jesus honoring his mother, aside from his making provision for her welfare (by requesting that John treat her as his mother) while Jesus was on the cross. Certainly, of course, it is not disputed that Jesus did honor her as a son should honor his mother, but this did not involve any “veneration” at least not in the sense relevant to a debate between Reformed Christians and Roman Catholics.

More to the point, the duty of honoring one’s father and one’s mother does not extend to religiously venerating them. Such is the error of the pagans. It is particularly famous among the Japanese who give religious veneration to their ancestors within the Shinto religion.

Instead, the duties of children to their parents are duties of love, respect, obedience, and (when appropriate) care. This is a moral duty, but it is not a religious duty. It is part of the general provision of the second table of the law, that we love our neighbours as ourselves. One’s parents are a special case of that law of love, with heightened duties and more serious consequences for disobedience.

Of course, the bottom line is that Jesus did obey his mother and cared for her needs via his beloved disciple, John. On the other hand, that was not religious veneration. The idea of God incarnate giving religious veneration to a mere human like Mary would be a truly remarkable, if not absolutely shocking, claim to make.

Related to this claim was a claim of transference: Jesus honored his mother, therefore we should honor Mary, because she is also our mother. Albrecht phrases it this way: “We come to the question whether it is the Christian’s duty to honor his mother, Mary.”

However, Scripture does not call Mary our mother and does not suggest she is our mother. As I noted in the debate, the only thing described as the mother of us all is the heavenly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26).

There are really two ways to attempt to justify this claim. One was used by Albrecht during the debate, and the other was not. The one used by Albrecht during the debate was an appeal to Jesus’ dying comment to John “Behold thy mother.”

However, as we brought out during the debate, this was a command that was made uniquely to John. John’s reaction to this command by which he was essentially adopted as a son of Mary (or Mary was adopted as his mother, depending on how you look at it), is seen in the Scriptures: “And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:27)

John took care of Mary as though Mary were his own mother – but the command was uniquely to John. Notice that it does not say that “And from that hour all the disciples took turns having Mary over” but “And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”

There is another argument out there, which is that we become united to Christ and therefore we have a mother-son (or at least something like a mother-in-law) relationship with Mary via our union with Christ. Of course, Scriptures nowhere suggest that Jesus’ biological connections are to be attributed to us via our union with Him. Furthermore, Jesus’ own appointment of John to be Mary’s son seems to be substitutionary: i.e. as though Jesus was appointing John as Mary’s son in place of Jesus.

Even if, however, through our union with Christ or even through the command to John, we were to treat Mary as though she were our own mother, we are not to give religious veneration to our parents, so it would not follow that we should give honor equivalent to veneration to Mary even if Mary were our mother.


Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection – Part 1

May 8, 2009

There were a few issues that arose during the Veneration of Mary Debate that I thought could use a little attention. Also, I see that Mr. Albrecht has posted some thoughts of his own regarding the debate (although I haven’t yet listened to his thoughts … I’ll save that for a later segment).

One issue that arose during the debate was whether the term for “highly favoured” is in the “titular form.” This issue came up only briefly in the debate. I would have liked to explore it a bit more, but it is clearly not central to the thesis. In other words, even if Albrecht’s seemingly creative position were correct, it wouldn’t really affect the fact that Scripture does not teach the veneration of Mary.

But why is Albrecht’s position absurd? There is nothing especially “titular” about the word. The word is just a plain old perfect, passive participle.

There is nothing grammatically special about the term that makes it a title. I asked Mr. Albrecht during the debate whether he had considered the use of the term in Ephesians 1:6 and then asked him why he did not consider it a title there. This was not a question that I asked for my own information, but to determine whether this argument was Mr. Albrecht’s own, or whether it had been fed to him from outside. His response seemed somewhat faltering, but perhaps it was just because the question caught him off guard.

The question could have lead him to several arguments in favor of it being a title in Luke 1:28. I’ll address those below, before I turn to the reasons to reject such a conclusion.

The very first reason that the use in Ephesians 1:6 cannot be a title is that it is not a participle. It is an indicative verb. This is quite basic Greek grammar. I’m not sure whether the question rattled Mr. Albrecht or whether he simply didn’t know why the term couldn’t be a title in the only other instance it is used. One would think that if Mr. Albrecht came up with the “titular usage” argument he would at least understand that strongest reason for making that argument – and the fact that the verb is a participle is the strongest reason.

Had we gotten more of a clear answer from Mr. Albrecht in that regard, we could then have explored what I hinted at during the debate, namely that just because a participle is used doesn’t mean that participle is being used as a title. I also hinted at some ways in which a title could not have been indicated, such using a capital letter (since Greek was all capitals at the time).

There is a secondary argument for it being a title, namely that it follows immediately after the word translated “Hail.” This is perhaps an even better positive argument that the term is a title. The reason it is a better argument is that the term translated “Hail” can be used in connection with a greeting that includes a title. Thus, for example, we see the following greetings involving the word translated “Hail” plus a title:

Matthew 26:49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

Matthew 27:29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

Mark 15:18 And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!

John 19:3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

In each case, the word following “Hail” is a title of sorts: Master, King, or Rabbi. But, unlike the situation with Mary, the title is a noun, not a participle.

Furthermore, although this term for “Hail” is not used simply as a command to rejoice in the NT, it is used that way in the LXX. In Proverbs 24:19 and Hosea 9:1 the command is negative. In Joel 2:21, Zephaniah 3:14, Zechariah 9:9, and Lamentations 4:21 the command is positive.

So, there is an interesting preliminary question about whether the translation should be “Hail” “Greetings” or the like (as the KJV and many other translations including the Vulgate have it) or as “Rejoice!” (which is found in very few translations). A compromise would be “Cheers!” which makes it a greeting while preserving the literal sense of the word (although it is a little odd for an English-speaker as a greeting).

The context does suggest that the word is being used as a greeting (as in the other cases that it is used as a greeting in the New Testament), although the context does not contradict a usage as “Rejoice!” In fact, perhaps both are intended: as a greeting and as a command to rejoice.

The greeting or command to rejoice (or both) is followed in the text by the following items about Mary, which show why she should rejoice (which she does in verse 47, using a different Greek word for rejoice):

1) having been highly favored (perfect passive participle)
2) the Lord is with you (singular)
3) having been blessed (perfect passive participle)
4) you (nominative)
5) among women.

It’s worth noting that items 3-5 are not found in the critical text. Nevertheless, items 3-5 highlight an additional item grammatically that supports the idea that the participle is serving as a title: in the second instance, “having been blessed” is accompanied by the nominative pronoun “you,” which provides a subject for the participle; in the first instance, however, “having been highly favored” has no explicit nominative pronoun.

But here are some problems:

1) If the participle was supposed to serve as a title, one would expect an article to accompany the participle. As, for example, the titles in the examples above have an article. In fact, however, there is no article.

2) It is possible for the pronoun to be implied (it is already clear from the context and the fact that the participle is singular and feminine). In general when (as here) the participle is being used as an adjective it is not necessary for it to be accompanied by the pronoun. Thus, the absence of a nominative pronoun is not particularly problematic.

3) If the participle was supposed to be a title, we would expect ancient translations to reflect translation as a title. Likewise, if the traditional view were that the participle was a title, one would expect to see this reflected in the traditional translations. However, neither the ancient nor the traditional translations render it as a title, but instead attempt to literally translate its sense.

4) If the traditional view were that the participle was a title, one would expect that the “Ave Maria” would not have the noun “Maria” which is inserted in the prayer between “Ave” (“Hail”) and “plena gratia” (“full of grace,” the attempted – though mistaken – literal translation of the word in the Vulgate).

5) If the traditional view were that the participle was a title, we’d expect to see some evidence of this in the writings of the early to later medieval period, once veneration of Mary had taken widespread root. However, there does not appear to be any such evidence (I leave this a bit open, since there may be evidence of which I’m simply unaware – the same qualification applies to item 7, below).

6) If grammatically the participle were a title, we’d expect it to be translated with a capital letter and to be represented with a capital letter in critical Greek texts. Although, as noted above, the ancient texts would have been all capitals, the modern critical Greek texts employ capitals selectively, including for showing things like titles.

7) If grammatically the participle were a title, we’d expect to find evidence of this in at least a few Greek grammars and/or analytical lexicons. Such evidence, however, is absent.

That’s the conclusion for now to my additional thoughts on the issue of the word for “having been highly favored” being in the “titular form,” which we can clearly see it is not. I plan to have a few other comments about the debate, in due course.


Veneration of Mary Debate with William Albrecht (aka GNRHead)

April 29, 2009

This is a debate that was conducted on 25 April 2009 between TurretinFan and William Albrecht (aka GNRHead) on the topic of the Veneration of Mary and its Biblical Support (or lack thereof).

At some later point I would like to provide some further comments on this debate. For now, however, here it is for your listening pleasure. It is in five parts on YouTube, but hopefully the “playlist” feature will permit you to play them sequentially.

UPDATE: Lane has posted the entire debate as a single YouTube video here (link).

Debates This Weekend

April 24, 2009

I’m scheduled to debate issues having to do with veneration of Mary and the Bible with Mr. William Albrecht (noon Pacific time on Saturday). It will not be available live, but we hope to post the debate as an mp3 or the like afterward. Also, by the end of Sunday I should post my conclusion to the Atonement debate I have been doing with “Catholic Nick,” which has recently received some attention from, of all people, Dave Armstrong.


Latria/Dulia Debate with GNRHead

January 17, 2009

Mr. Lane Chaplin, who moderated the Latria/Dulia Debate that I had with GNRHead has very kindly hosted it as a full-length video.

In case you would like to follow along by reading the debate, Matthew Lankford has kindly provided a transcript, to which I have made a few minor edits. If anyone sees ways that the transcript can be improved, please let me know.


Lane Chaplin: Welcome to the Latria-Dulia Debate. Our debate today will attempt to answer the following:

Can dulia and proskuneo be used in a Religious context without being worship?

Our debaters today are William Albrecht taking the affirmative position and TurretinFan taking the negative.

William Albrecht is currently a Catholic Apologist and the webmaster of the Catholic Legate apologetics organization. William was raised into a non-religious practicing household and eventually became a Protestant. After much studying and the undertaking of a religious career William converted to the Catholic faith close to seven years ago. His contact information is or

TurretinFan is a Reformed apologist who operates the blog Thoughts of Francis Turretin. His only relevant qualifications is that he is a believer with a Bible. He makes no claims of being anyone particularly important and he debates pseudonymously in hopes of drawing the attention away form himself. His contact information is and he occasionally posts on

My name is Lane Chaplin and I will be moderating this debate. The debate will last about an hour in length and will follow the following format:

There will be a first Affirmative Constructive by Albrecht, which will be seven minutes.
A Cross Ex[amination] of the Affirmative by the Negative position, which is three minutes.
One Negative Constructive by Turretin[Fan] which will be eight minutes.
A Cross Ex[amination] of the Negative by the Affermative, which will be three minutes.
One Affirmative Rebuttal, which will be four minutes.
Negative Rebuttal, which will be seven minutes.
And a Second Affirmative Rebuttal, which will be four [minutes].

We do ask each debater to please refrain from making any comments or audible gestures during the opponents allotted time. This will not only show respect for your opponent during this endeavor, it will also allow for there to be meaningful discussion on both ends of this debate. And, as always, if your favorite debater makes a point you agree with audience please hold your applause until the end of his allotted time (heh).

Now we begin with the first Affirmative Construction by Mister Albrecht. Mister Albrecht you have seven minutes; I’ll begin the clock when you begin.

[≈ 2.40]

William Albrecht: Alright from the get go, I’d like to say God bless both to Lane and to Turretin[Fan] for making this happen. And let’s get down to the issues now.

The contention that I’ve been hearing from my Protestant brethren is that there simply is no Biblical distinction between latria and dulia in the terms of religious context. Well, the fact of the matter is, what I’m asserting is that dulia and latria are two distinct words — used differently at times. Sure dulia is and should always be rendered to God, but it’s also shown as being rendered elsewhere in references that are not directed towards God. Latria is never shown as proper towards anyone other than God — and that is clear. But dulia is different. Of course, it should be rendered to God, of course, its service and we are to obey and serve our God — that is clear. To me, it seems like a silly qualifier to claim that dulia can be given to mankind, but it’s never shown as given to mankind in a religious context. This entails our Protestant brethren to begin to claim that since Catholics do give dulia to the Saints, that it is in a religious manner, this then leads them to say that we offer them worship, since this form of dulia is in the religious form. To me, it seems like a game of words that can be confusing to some that don’t know the real issues. The reason I believe that AOMin. has to set up this task to set up this false interpretation of Biblical words is because it then allows them to say that dulia is, indeed, [a word?] used toward mankind, but never in a religious context. What AOMin. means to say is that dulia is never used toward mankind in a worship context as it is of God in the Old Testament. We would not argue with that, we do not contend, that we give the religious dulia to Mary — that amounts to worship — or to any Saint for that matter. These word games could confuse some, but once examined they seem anything but serious. They are silly little word games that attempt to confuse the mind of the individual. It is also contended that proskuneo, when used in a religious context, is always worship. Therefore, according to AOMin. this all amounts to Catholics worshiping Mary and the other Saints. We’ll examine a bit more to see how these claims simply do not hold water. Upon the examination of the Friberg Lexicon, the the Barclay-Newman Greek Dictionary, [inaudible] Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon we see that dulia can be given to mankind and never do we have the qualifier that AOMin. has seemingly adopted from John Calvin. Moving forward, the one Lexicon that Mister White of AOMin. did bring up, the BDA&G, to support his position of not mentioning a distinction, surely does. In fact the BDA&G tells us that dulia is used in many aspects of the Christian life including aspects that are tied in with the religious. Moving forward, the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines latria as such:

“As contrasted with dulia, that fullness of Divine worship which may be paid to God alone.”

A Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott tells us “The veneration of the Saints is called absolute dulia. The Council of Trent declared in connection with the veneration of Saints, that through images we honor the Saints which they represent.”

[this section could be continued as part of the quote] As regards to invocation of the Saints, the council declared:

[this section could be continued as part of the quote too] “It is good and profitable to appeal to help from them.”

This can be found on page three hundred and nineteen of Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma from Ott.

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia defines dulia as such:

“[…]a theological term signifying the honour paid to the saints, while latria means worship given to God alone[…]” [link:

Then we move on and we’ve got The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia which tells us of latria [link: that it is worship called forth by God and given exclusively to Him as God, which is designated by the Greek term latreuo.

So, everywhere you turn you see the clear distinction to the two terms and never the qualifier that we see certain Protestant individuals injecting. And in order to pretty much lay the ground work I’ve mentioned a couple of lexicons, Greek dictionaries, and I’ve also defined the terms as put forth by the Catholic encyclopedias.

Okay, that will be it for my opening statement.

[≈ 6:55]

Lane Chaplin: Okay, Turretin[Fan] you have three minutes for cross-examining William.

TurretinFan: Mister Albrecht, do you see any Biblical passage in which latria and dulia are distinguished?

William Albrecht: In which latria and dulia are distinguished? Absolutely. Are you asking me passages in which they both appear?

TurretinFan: No, I guess what I’m asking is this: Is there some passage out there where Scripture says it’s okay to give latria to God, but it’s not okay to give latria to men?

William Albrecht: Are you referring to the fact that… I’m not quite understanding… Are you trying to ask me to approach this from a theological perspective? Or do you want me to pull out a Biblical passage, which uses both terms and distinguishes between them? I don’t quite understand the question.

TurretinFan: Well, the question, I guess, is getting to whether or not the theological position that your advocating is a theological position derived from Scripture. My contention is that it is not… But I’d like to know if you believe there is some Scripture passage, which, in effect, says it’s okay to give dulia to men.

William Albrecht: Oh, okay. I understand it a little bit clearer now. Absolutely. I believe that you are of the persuasion… You do believe it is alright to give dulia to man, right? You just don’t believe it is right to give dulia in the form of a religious context. Am I correct?

TurretinFan: Well, yes, of course, I’m not saying that it’s improper for servants to give service to their masters. What I’m… What I’m asking for is somewhere where the Bibles making the theological distinction that your making.

William Albrecht: You mean that dulia can be… can be used toward mankind in a religious context? Would you like me to show you an example?

TurretinFan: Sure, yeah, please provide an example.

William Albrecht: Well, it’s not my cross-examination and I can’t ask you a question. I’ll simply (pose/post) Galatians, chapter five, verses thirteen to fourteen [Galatians 5:13-14] and I will assert that the Greek term douleuo is used in a religious context in this verse and it is indeed used toward mankind.

TurretinFan: In Galatians five, thirteen to fourteen [Galatians 5:13-14], the verse states:

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Are you suggesting that this says we can serve one another in this lifetime using douleuo?

William Albrecht: Absolutely.

[≈ 10:00]

Lane Chaplin: Ok, that’s the end of the first cross examination. Now we’ll have a negative construct by Turretin[Fan], which consists of eight minutes.

[≈ 10:14]

TurretinFan: The debate today is about whether the distinction that modern Catholicism presents between latria and dulia is Biblical or medieval in origin. Where does it come from? I would respectfully submit to you that it is not Biblical. It is a philosophical innovation designed to defend a pagan practice that was introduced into churches [?] after the time of the Apostles.

What I’ll do in this speech is:
First, state the position of the Vatican.
Second, contrast that with the Biblical position.
And third, answer Mister Albrecht’s arguments.

Catholicism’s Position Stated

Although Mister Albrecht provided some definitions of Rome’s position [?], allow me to provide what I think is a little clearer explanation. Rome’s position is well summarized by philosopher, theologian, Thomas Aquinas, who wrote:

“Since “latria” is due to God alone, it is not due to a creature so far as we venerate a creature for its own sake. For though insensible creatures are not capable of being venerated for their own sake, yet the rational creature is capable of being venerated for its own sake. Consequently the worship of “latria” is not due to any mere rational creature for its own sake. Since, therefore, the Blessed Virgin is a mere rational creature, the worship of “latria” is not due to her, but only that of “dulia”: but in a higher degree than to other creatures, inasmuch as she is the Mother of God. For this reason we say that not any kind of “dulia” is due to her, but “hyperdulia.””

This quotation provides the framework: “Latria” which is for God alone. “Hyper-dulia” which is for Mary alone. And “dulia” which is for the Saints. Of course, dulia can also be offered to God, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’re focusing on the fact that it is offered to the Saints.

In English this distinction is sometimes expressed in the difference between worship or adoration and veneration. Adoration and worship corresponding to latria and veneration corresponding to dulia. Moving on to the second point.

The Biblical Testimony

This threefold framework is not taught in Scripture. Scripture generally teaches that all religious adoration and veneration is due to God alone. Thus, we, Reformed Christians, do not religiously venerate one another or anyone but God alone. Both the Old and New Testaments agree. Deuteronomy five (Deuteronomy 5) states:

“Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”

Someone might point out that the word “alone” is not in the text. Fair enough. Scripture also gets more specific and more clear. Matthew four (Matthew 4) states:

“Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

The same account may be found in Luke’s Gospel. But this was not new to the New Testament.
Christ is referencing the Bible to establish this doctrinal position — that only God should receive religious adoration or veneration. Notice that Jesus doesn’t rely on his own authority in rebuking Satan, but says “for it is written[…]” These same themes can be seen in the Old Testament.
First, first Samuel states, in chapter seven (1 Samuel 7):

“And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Scripture provides no exceptions for men to adore or venerate religiously someone or something other than God with a lesser form of religious adoration.

Having seen these two positions let us, in the third place, examine Mister Albrecht’s case.
Mister Albrecht argues that latria and dulia are two different words. Well, not of course the Latin words, but the corresponding Greek words. We agree. We agree that they are different words. Latria is generally used of worship. And dulia can refer not only to worship, but also to a very high degree of service, such as slavery. The question is not whether the Greek words have different definitions in the Greek lexicons, but whether Scripture provides a basis for Rome’s claims. It does not. Mister Albrecht also makes reference to [BDA&G] lexicon in support of his position, but again that lexicon and the other lexicons that were mentioned don’t state that the latria-dulia distinction — the philosophical distinction– the question we’re arguing about — is inherent in the Greek. And, in fact, it isn’t inherent in the Greek, as noted above, it’s a medieval innovation — this drawing a distinction between latria and dulia, as far as dulia being acceptable form of veneration for humans is something that didn’t exist in Biblical times — it’s not a classical Greek concept that imported it in. Instead, it’s a philosophical device to justify what’s been done.

Additionally, during cross examination, Mister Albrecht cited to Galatians five, thirteen to fourteen (Galatians 5:13-14) Galatians five, thirteen to fourteen (Galatians 5:13-14) states,

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Now, seeing in context what’s stated there we can see the fulfillment of Galatians five, thirteen to fourteen, has nothing at all to do with the idea of kneeling down before icons or statues, lighting incense and candles; it has to do with showing practical love to the brethren. It has… An example would be the Good Samaritan, he’s someone who loved his neighbor. This is the kind of thing [?] Galatians five, thirteen to fourteen talks about. It’s not talking about the religious context of dulia that’s used in the Vatican’s theology. Consequently Galatians five, thirteen to fourteen, can’t provide support for the distinction that’s been presented. Accordingly, we are left with the, just the, Scriptural position, already stated, which is ‘that we can serve God only’. Religious veneration, religious adoration, these things are for God only.

[≈ 18:00]

TurretinFan: And when we give them to anyone except for God we are in violation of the word of God and therefore in sin.

I’m not ready for cross examination.

Lane Chaplin: Okay, thank you for that Turretin[Fan] we will now have a cross examination with Mister Albrecht cross examining TurretinFan. You have three minutes you may begin when you are ready.

William Albrecht: Okay. My contention is that latria and dulia are two distinct words. I’m aware that you also agree with such, but you place a qualifier that dulia can never be used in a religious context towards mankind. Now, as such is the case,can you please explain to me why Galatians chapter five, verses thirteen or [?] fourteen, tells us to serve one another in love (using the the second person, plural form of douleuo). I believe love being the chief religious context of the whole New Testament; and this simply doesn’t get more religious than this, Tur, being used in a religious context.

TurretinFan: Well, yes, I think the answer is that the ‘loving our neighbor as our self’ is fulfillment of the second table of the Law. And the example I gave in my last speech about the Good Samaritan with the example how someone could serve another person without it being in a religious context. Of course, if you make all of life, which should all be about obedience, if we should make all of life a religious context, means that the word ‘religious’ has lost its sense.

William Albrecht: I would agree with you, but it’s clearly being used in a religious context in Galatians five verse thirteen, fourteen, at least that is what I would contend. I would… I would like to ask you another question. Your contention is also is that the word proskuneo cannot be used in a religious context towards mankind, because each time it is worship. Is that your contention?

TurretinFan: Well, with my contention with regard to proskuneo is that Jesus Himself said that we should only serve God, so that’s the basis for my contention.

William Albrecht: So you would…

TurretinFan: But

William Albrecht: Ok, excuse me, excuse me…

TurretinFan: But, yes, I do understand the word, that word has a broad semantic range. So, for example it can mean to stoop, or to duck down, and to bow before someone. So you see some people bowing before kings, for example. And in Acts seven, seven (Acts 7:7), with which you’re familiar, you see someone bowing before a centurion, to provide another example. It’s possible for people to do this without it being involved in a religious context.

William Albrecht: Okay, well, how would you interpret one Chronicles twenty-nine, twenty [1 Chronicles 29:20)]? Which reads:

“[…]they bowed low and fell prostrate before the LORD and the king.”

Is not the third person form of proskuneo used here?

And would you contend that that is not in a religious context?

TurretinFan: Well, there were a lot of “not”s in there, but the word proskuneo is used, the appropriate form of the word, as you described. But the, the question, the interesting thing, is that it is used equally of God and of the King. So, the first question I would want to know is whether God and the king there are two different people or if God is being described both as the LORD and as the King.

[≈ 21:30]

Lane Chaplin: Okay, this ends our second cross examination session. Mr. Albrecht you’ll now have a four minute affirmative rebuttal. You may begin when you are ready.

[≈ 21:45]

William Albrecht: Alright, I think what we find here is, we find TurretinFan’s, as well as anybody else who uses the arguments, in a bit of a bind here, because they’ve got to try to read away the plain meaning of Scripture. I’ve used Galatians chapter five verse thirteen to fourteen, [Galatians 5:13-14] which uses douleuo in a religious context. It shows us that we can serve one another in love; love being the chief religious context of the whole New Testament. It simply doesn’t get any more religious than this. I would imagine love to be the most important Biblical concept of the Bible. We read in Matthew chapter twenty-two, verses thirty-six to forty [Matthew 22:36-40], that love is what encompasses the greatest commandments. And in Romans thirteen, nine to ten, [Romans 13:9-10], love is the fulfillment of the whole Law. So, it is a theme that cannot be escaped. It doesn’t get any more religious than this. Even Galatians chapter five, verse six, [Galatians 5:6] tells us that the only thing that matters is faith working through love.

Moving on, I then posed one Chronicles chapter twenty-nine, twenty, [1 Chronicles 29:20] to TurretinFan, which, indeed, does use proskuneo here in a religious context. And what is most interesting about this passage is the clear evidence that the whole assembly falls to bow and worship God, but they also bow in (reverence/reference?) to the king. I’m not sure if TurretinFan actually read the passage, I’m sure he’s read it before, he probably, maybe, didn’t read it at this moment, because he erroneously, I don’t know if he asserted or was questioning, whether the bowing down and the proskuneo was given to the LORD and the LORD was the King as well. Well, the fact of the matter is, the direct reading is in reference to the LORD and to the king. Therefore the proskuneo that is used here is used in a religious context towards a man.

Moving fourth I would simply disagree with lexicons and dictionaries that Turretin[Fan] basically asserts that they do not use the distinction that I am speaking of and I would suggest that he read those lexicons and dictionaries again, because they do speak (on/of/about) all of the different usages. So, I would disagree with him there and I would suggest that he read those that I had mentioned.

Turretin[Fan] also argues ‘this distinction which I have shown is not Biblical, because of the fact that Catholics kneel before statues and light incense and candles’ — it is simply a caricature of the Catholic position to basically say that we have reduced all of these terms and the meanings to this kneeling down and lighting incense and candles — it’s simply much more than that. And those words that he said were nearly exactly the words that I’ve heard from other people use. It’s an argument that’s used over and over. The simple fact of the matter is douleuo is used in a religious context toward mankind and proskuneo is used in a religious context toward mankind as well. This is Biblical it can be shown in the Greek. And I, I believe if Turretin[Fan] cannot find a way to answer Galatians chapter five, verse thirteen to fourteen, [Galatians 5:13-14] away, or one Chronicles chapter twenty-nine, verse twenty, he is in a bit of a bind. There are, indeed, more passages that do use these terms and I believe that I can find more passages that use these terms in a religious context, but I’m particularly, I’m holding myself to use these terms at this moment. And I think if he can’t… I truly believe Galatians chapter five, verse thirteen to fourteen, [Galatians 5:13-14] is a clear religious context. Therefore, I believe the definitions the Catholic church gives these two terms are, indeed, Biblical and I believe they are sound with the Christian faith.

[≈ 25:15]

Lane Chaplin: Okay, thank you Mister Albrecht. TurretinFan you now have seven minutes for a rebuttal.

[≈ 25.22]

[≈ 25.26]

TurretinFan: Alright, I will now try to sum up this debate and explain why I continue to believe that religious adoration and religious veneration should be given to God only. Albrecht keeps seeming to try to push the burden on me to prove that Scriptural point, which I’ve already made, that as Jesus has said that we should serve and worship God only. He seems to be pushing it back on me to show that there isn’t a distinction. Of course, my position here is the negative; he is the affirmative and the initial burden of proof for the case, for this distinction, is on him. If he wants to use Scripture to prove his point — and he relied on a few Scriptural verses in his last speech — then its on him to show that those verses that he’s relying on actually demonstrate the point he’s trying to make.

Let’s address the contentions he made. First, the contention from Galatians. He states: ‘It doesn’t get any more’ … ‘that something doesn’t get any more religious than love’. And that’s interesting, but love should mark our whole life. I don’t think Mister Albrecht disagrees. And, in fact, because love if the fulfillment of the Law, and our whole live must be a life of obedience to God, this would mean that our whole life was a religious context, and in short, the qualification that its a religious context is simply a meaningless qualification. But if Mister Albrecht is saying that, then it becomes clear why he doesn’t see the Reformed position yet. The Reformed position is that the religious context has to do with, you know, things like church. It’s maybe a little hard to put our fingers on it, if someones trying to tell us our whole life is a religious context, but I think that Mister Albrecht sees the difference between what he does in church and what he does at his work — (or) at his office. In any event, we can move on from that, because his contention has just been very general. There’s nothing in Galatians, the verse that he cited, that set out dulia in a religious context; it just sets it out in the context of life.

Moving on to the first Chronicles (1 Chronicles) passage. Mister Albrecht had cited first Chronicles twenty-nine, twenty, [1 Chronicles 29:20], but this verse doesn’t help him much. Why not? Because, for one thing, there’s no distinction made between latria and dulia there. It’s not as though they give latria to God and dulia to the king. Even worse, for Mister Albrecht’s position, the verse just reports that the people did this — it doesn’t condemn it — it doesn’t condone it — it just reports it. So, even assuming that the verse said that the — that king David was the king here — that was being referenced — and that they did bow down to king David, they did exactly the same thing they did to king David as they did to the LORD, which wouldn’t support the idea of a distinction at all. It would simply point out that they were doing the same thing to both. The, of course, it is possible the people recognized the distinction and that the people were doing one thing to the king and another thing to God. It’s very interesting that the Greek here uses a construction such that both the LORD and the king can be the same person; there’s an article used before the LORD and there’s and article used before the king, but it doesn’t specify king David and it doesn’t force it to be a reference to king David, so there’s some ambiguity there — it’s not a black and white case. Look, this same construction using an article before both is, is found in John twenty, twenty-eight [John 20:28] where Thomas, where Thomas answers and says ‘My LORD and my God’ — in that case, there’s… it’s not expressed in English, but the article is there before both “LORD” and “God.” And so, although, of course, Thomas is talking about just one person. So, the fact that the word “and” is used there isn’t inclusive. What’s very interesting is the Vulgate — of course, the Vulgate takes the position that they are two different people — but the Vulgate adds in a word and (says/said) ‘they bowed to God and then to the king’ which suggests they were engaging in two different activities. But, nevertheless, as I already mentioned in my cross examination, bowing down before a king is one kind of respect that we can show that’s different from respect in a religious context. It’s unclear how Mister Albrecht believes that this religious context is applied to king David. As far as I know, there isn’t any teaching in Aquinas that we are to give religious dulia to living, or excuse me, to non-glorified human beings. In fact, it’s sort of unclear to me why either Galatians or first Chronicles [1 Chronicles] is being cited as an example of why would we, why we would give dulia to Mary or the Saints, because, of course, these are both examples of what were [?] being given to living people — people in this life — before they’re glorified. David, in fact, is a sinful man and God wouldn’t allow David to build the temple, but, apparently, if we understood the argument that’s made from first Chronicles verse twenty-nine, twenty [1 Chronicles 29:20] — it’s being suggested that religious dulia is appropriate for such a sinful man. This doesn’t seem to be fully consistent with the doctrines of Catholicism. It leaves me somewhat confused, but the bottom line is this: we haven’t seen from Scripture a distinction where Scripture approves, or condones, the religious veneration of departed believers. It doesn’t approve, or condone, the religious veneration of Mary. In fact, it doesn’t provide even one example, in the whole of Scripture, of anyone giving religious veneration to Mary. It doesn’t give even one example in all of Scripture of religious veneration being given to the Saints — once they’re departed from this life. Even if we would grant that Galatians permits religious veneration in this life, which is, which is not [inaudible] something [inaudible] say that all of our life, or to say that love is very important and it doesn’t get an more religious than love, then we’ve shown that love is a requirement for all of our life. But, in any event, based on these illustrations from the verses that have been cited, I would respectfully submit that no case for a distinction between latria and dulia, in a religious context, has been established.

[≈ 32:37]

Lane Chaplin: Okay, thank you TurretinFan. Mister Albrecht you’ll have the last rebuttal session and this will be four minutes you may begin when you’re ready.

[≈ 32:47]

[≈ 32:49]

William Albrecht: Alright. In conclusion, we find that the Catholic claims are once again vindicated by Scripture. I wish we would have been able to delve into the early church, where I believe the Catholic ever so powerful also. But it was important that we were able to stick mainly to the Scriptures. We see that latria and dulia are two distinct words. What we also see that the usage of dulia in a religious context does not equal that of worship. The cold hard facts are there. The Bible distinguishes between latria and between dulia. Dulia can and is and always should be used in a worship context when referring to God. Latria, no doubt, is to be directed to God and to God alone. But dulia is also shown to be proper [?] towards mankind. Even if one sets up the false parameters of a religious context — dulia is still offered to men. The same can be said of proskuneo as well. And to briefly touch upon something I, some comments that Turretin[Fan] made — he says that Jesus does say that we should serve and worship God only. And that is also the Catholic position, which I have already shown in the Bible. Douleuo in Galatians chapter five, verse thirteen to fourteen, [Galatians 5:13-14] is used toward mankind — it is in a religious context. And as far as me not understanding the Reformed position as Turretin[Fan] claims, I’d rather stick to the Biblical position, which is as I have already shown several times proskuneo and dulia are used toward mankind in a religious context. In one Chronicles twenty-nine, twenty, [1 Chronicles 29:20] TurretinFan briefly attempted to deal with it. He… He said this was intended — that this did not deal with latria and dulia. Well, I was specifically dealing with the Greek term proskuneo, which is used in the Septuagint rendering of one Chronicles twenty-nine, twenty, [1 Chronicles 29:20] and I, indeed, showed how this term is used in a religious context. I would contend that Turretin[Fan] is incorrect about the Greek being clear — clearly referencing somebody else; I think that the whole context is clear that this is in reference to the king. The passage in… [?] the passage is also mentioned in the Matthew Henry commentary — pointed out that this is in reference to the God and to the king — and the Matthew Henry commentary is far from a Catholic commentary. And I believe the passage that [?] TurretinFan brought up in John chapter twenty, verse twenty-eight, [John 20:28] where Thomas calls Christ his LORD and his God — in the Greek we literally read and we are able to tell that he is calling Him his LORD and his God — the LORD of him and the God of him. The Greek construct is completely different as I, I just looked at it right now — and the passage in John is clear that this is in reference to Christ being his LORD and his God. Therefore, Turretin[fan] has shown that in order to try and answer away a religious context, as I have shown, he must try and answer away a passage or try to claim the passage has some ambiguity. But I believe clearly that one Chronicles twenty-nine, twenty, [1 Chronicles 29:20] is in clear reference to a religious context given to, to mankind as well. Someone would not be able to contend that proskuneo is never offered to anyone in a religious context. We would agree that proskuneo is never given to mankind in a worship sense — ever — it is not acceptable. But to claim that all religious context in the Bible deal with worship is simply plain silly. This is a religious context and the people are not worshiping the king in any sense whatsoever. They bow down before God and offer respect to the king. To me, it doesn’t get any more of a religious context than this — context-wise of course. So, it’s important to understand the way a Catholic worships God and God alone and gives honor and respect to the Saints. No Saint usurps the role of God in the Catholic faith. And I believe this debate is very important, because it, if anything helps us understand our positions in a clearer fashion. And [?] any debate is profitable. And I would like to end by saying God bless and I really appreciate this debate and I think its been very helpful.

[≈ 36:38]

[≈ 36:40]

Lane Chaplin: Thank you for that Mister Albrecht. This now concludes the Latria-Dulia debate with Mister William Albrecht and TurretinFan of Thank you Mister Albrecht and TurretinFan for taking the time to debate the issues today. My name is Lane Chaplin, thank you for listening.

[end @ 37:08]


Thanks very much to Lane and Matthew for their assistance, and to Mr. Albrecht for debating this important issue.

Enjoy! And may God be glorified!


Many "Saints" Were Wicked Men

January 7, 2009

The title of this post, “Many ‘saints’ were wicked men,” was one of the Reformers charges against the saint-venerating papists of the day. Off hand I cannot recall the Reformers providing many specific examples. Allow me to provide one: San Simon of Guatemala (reasonably full background).

San Simon is an example of a wicked man who lived a very colorful life. You can read more about it at the link above, if you like. His veneration started with friends, and caught on over time. Today, his veneration is not only clearly contrary to Reformed Christianity but even to conservative Catholicism (note that the blog I link to above is a Romanist blog, not a Reformed blog).

Is San Simon a “canonized” saint? No – I don’t think so (I hope I’m not wrong about that). But he is venerated within a significant part of practical, real Catholicism. I don’t mean that this practice matches the official doctrines of Catholicism, but actual baptized, communicant papists are buying San Simon’s candles and making unChristian requests of this dead man.

What differentiates San Simon from other “saints” whose lives come down to us in legends? Perhaps the main differentiation is the preservation of his life history by virtue of the printing press. If there were less writing on the candle, or the prayer were a bit less ridiculously unorthodox, why would the memory of his wickedness be remembered? Is it hard to believe that legends sprang up about wicked men of the middle ages if it could happen in the modern age? Surely not.

I realize this doesn’t fully vindicate the Reformers, but I hope it demonstrates that what the Reformers noted is not implausible, and is not just cranks complaints.


Biblical Evidence for the Veneration of Relics Ignored?

August 14, 2008

Previously, I discussed (and rebutted) the claim that the Scriptural discussion of the transport of Joseph’s bones from Egypt to Canaan was evidence of the veneration of relics in the Old Testament (link). Now, I turn to a second favorite passage that relic-venerators tend to appeal to, as allegedly supporting their position. That passage is the discussion of the resuscitation of a man who touched Elisha’s bones.

The Scripture in question is as follows:

2 Kings 13:20-21
20And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. 21And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.

The point of this passage would seem to be an indication of the extreme poverty of the prophet, as well as a testimony to the reality of his divine appointment as a prophet.

1) Note that they buried Elisha. They did not place his bones in a synagogue or in the temple to be venerated.

2) Note that they buried Elisha in a place of the dead. This is confirmed by the fact that men who were burying a man (who is so unimportant as not even to be named in Scripture) found Elisha’s sepulcher at hand. Thus, it appears that Elisha’s sepulcher was not in a place of great importance, but in a place of the dead.

3) Note that Elisha’s sepulchre was open. If it had been a closed sepulchre, it would not have been convenient to dump a body into it. An open sepulchre was an unpleasant and foul thing, even though it had an important purpose. In fact, the Psalmist uses it to provide a negative picture of the sinful man’s mouth:

Psalm 5:9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.

Notice the comparison there. An open sepulchre, as you can see, has the advantage of not smelling so bad at the mouth of the sepulchre, but inside is death: a carcase. We can deduce that these open sepulchres were either deep (to accomplish this smell prevention issue), and consequently the prophet Jeremiah likens the quiver of mighty men to an open sepulchre:

Jeremiah 5:16 Their quiver is as an open sepulchre, they are all mighty men.

Or possibly the idea is that open sepulchres were in essence mass graves: which would also make sense both in the context of 2 Kings 13 and Jeremiah 5 (although I am inclined to the former view).

Some have suggested that an open sepulchre is basically a crevasse in the earth, a deep, naturally occurring pit into which a body could basically be dumped, thereby saving cost in terms of the time spent having to dig up the earth for burial. This would make sense as well – the idea being in Jeremiah 5 that the mighty men have a basically limitless supply of arrows.

4) The sepulchre was not a rock-face sepulchre, like that in which Jesus was buried. Recall that the man was not simply tossed or placed into the sepulchre, but lowered into the open sepulchre. This “lowered” suggests that the sepulchre opened upward rather than laterally. Again, this confirms that Elijah was not buried in some elaborate tomb designed to honor him, but rather in a low-cost alternative.

Analysis of Verse with Respect to Veneration Hypothesis

With the analysis above in mind, we should examine the verse in view of the hypothesis that it has something to do with venerating relics. Frankly, of course, there is no hint of veneration. Indeed, the idea of placing (even carefully) an apparently dead body on top of Elisha’s would seem to show the opposite of veneration for him (dead bodies were unclean).

One might argue that the knowledge that it was the place where Elisha was buried shows some amount of honor, but it is the sort of bare honor that demonstrates that Elisha was at least not buried in an unmarked grave (as contrasted, for example, with the Muslims’ practices).

Rather than being used specifically for the purposes of showing veneration, some might argue this as showing the supernatural effects associated with the corpses of holy men.

Leaving aside the issue of whether Elisha was particularly holy, it is interesting to note that the passage does not explicitly say that the man about to be buried was dead. It says he revived, which is ambiguous (both in the original Hebrew and in our English translation) as to whether the man came to life or simply recovered from a state of apparent death (presumably folks wouldn’t bury an apparently alive person).

Either way, it is reasonable to infer that one of the reasons for the mention of the revival was to highlight this as a sort of posthumous miracle of Elisha. It is a reasonable inference, but not a necessary one. Regardless of whether it is a correct inference, all that it demonstrates is that God chose to testify to Elisha’s gifts in this particular way at this particular time.

In other words, we would have no logical or proper ground to infer a general principle from this isolated and Scripturally unexplained occurrence. It certainly does not teach the veneration of relics, nor does it provide a rational basis for endorsing the superstitious legends that have sprung up around various relics, within churches that engage in relic veneration.

In short, we can reject the theory that 2 Kings 13:20-21 in any way supports relic veneration or the churches that practice such activity. You might think, based on the explanation above, that no one would attempt to use such a clearly unhelpful passage as 2 Kings 13:20-21, but – in fact – we see such happening in papist apologetics (Dave Armstrong, for example, falsely claims that “In the Old Law we read of the veneration of the Jews for the bones of Joseph (Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32), and of the prophet Eliseus [Elisha] ….” (quoting with approval from Bertrand Conway) link; See also Steve Ray relying on Joseph and Elisha, Ron aka “Saint under Construction” similarly relying on Joseph and Elisha, and this anonymous article that has received Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur which relies on Elisha while wisely omitting reference to Joseph)

May the God of the Living keep us from this,


Relic Worship in Old Testament?

July 19, 2008

I recently came across a comment by a person named Teresita who stated that she was “raised Catholic” and who seems to think that “veneration of some people’s bones has a biblical basis, so the Catholic practice can’t truly be called idolatry.” (source)

Teresita went on to quote Exodus 13:18-19, which I’ll reproduce below:

Exodus 13:18-19
18But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. 19And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.

I don’t really see how the fact that Moses took the bones of Joseph with him is supposed to be analogous at all to the superstitious and (in some cases) idolatrous practices associated with relics. After all, in essence the pilgrimage from Egypt to Israel included a hearse, in which the box of bones of Joseph were carried. It’s tough even to guess what the similarity is supposed to be. Is the idea that there was some sort of reverential treatment of Joseph’s corpse? If so, ok … but that’s not all that the objectionable papist practices entail.

Perhaps they imagine that Joseph’s bones were paraded about and put on display or that prayers were offered to Joseph (though there is not the least shred of Biblical evidence for such a thing). Let me provide the evidence for both why they did what they did and the full picture of what they did.

Why they did what they did.

Genesis 50:24-26
24And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 25And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. 26So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

You see, Joseph (who was a prophet) made the people of Israel swear (to the still-living Joseph) that they would bury him in the promise land. So, when he died, they embalmed him, placed his body in a coffin, and stored it.

Many years past. Eventually, as Joseph prophesied, the people went up out of Egypt. Although the Pharaoh had forgotten about Joseph, Moses and the people of Israel had not forgotten. They fulfilled their promise (as shown in Exodus above) and carried his bones out of Egypt and into the wilderness.

Finally, the arrived in the promised land:

Joshua 24:32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

What did they do? They did what they promised, they buried his body. They did not put it on display for various acts of necromancy. In fact, there’s no indication that they ever took it out of its coffin. Recall that to touch a dead body was ceremonially unclean under the law of Moses, and consequently there would have been good reason to simply leave the bones in their coffin and bury the bones coffin and all in Shechem at the end of their long, prophesied, and promised journey.

The papists also sometimes bury the bones of those they think are particularly holy. Then, later, they exhume those bodies and put them on display. That’s really not at all analogous to what happened here. In fact, the only particularly surprising here is that the bones were not more or less immediately buried. There was, however, a particular reason for that non-burial: a promise made to the living (not communication with the dead).

In short, on the basis of exegetical analysis of the text, we can reasonably reject the idea that it provides even the least shred of support for the practices of the Romanist church with respect to dead bodies and parts of dead bodies.


Armstrong vs. Aquinas – Classifying Reformed Christians

April 9, 2008

As recently noted by the “Shrine for the Holy Whapping,” a Catholic blog, Aquinas quoted with approval, the following (link to source):

“We believe that the bodies of the saints, above all the relics of the blessed martyrs, as being the members of Christ, should be venerated in all sincerity” and “If anyone holds a contrary opinion, he is not accounted a Christian, but a follower of Eunomius and Vigilantius.” (citing De Eccles. Dogm. xl)

Lay Catholic Dave Armstrong has asserted: “I would note that the official Catholic position is to acknowledge Protestants as Christian brothers, whereas many Protestant groups either are officially anti-Catholic or contain within themselves a strong legacy of anti-Catholicism which is then passed down almost unconsciously. ” (source)

Let me be clear: the body (in whole or in part) of no Christian whatsoever should receive religous veneration of any kind, whether alive or dead. Furthermore, religious veneration of corpses is open necromancy (in the broad definition of that word). Nevertheless, that does not mean that we cannot treat corpses with respect, or that we cannot hold funerals, etc. Thus, religious worship (such as Catholic veneration of relics) is to be distinguished from non-religious consideration. In view of these statements, it should be apparent that I hold a contrary position to that of Aquinas expressed above. According to Aquinas’ standard, I should not be accounted a Christian.

On the other hand, Armstrong broadly defines Christianity this way: “[A]nyone who is a trinitarian and who adheres to the Nicene Creed is (doctrinally) a Christian (that is basically the official Catholic position on other Christians)” (source – including all bracketed material).

So, now the question is this:

1. Is Aquinas out of touch with the Official Catholic Position?


2. Is Armstrong out of touch with the Official Catholic Position?


3. Has the Official Catholic Position changed? (If so, when and by whose authority?)


4. Are Aquinas and Armstrong somehow reconciliable? (If so, how?)


5. It doesn’t matter / no one can understand Catholic theology, except people who agree with me / some similar cop-out


6. Your views are not contrary to those of Aquinas.

That last option seems utterly implausible.

Option 5 is self defeating.

Option 4 doesn’t seem possible, but I’m open to attempted explanations.

Option 3 is my thought as to the best guess – with the Vatican II era being the place where the tide shifted in favor of people who think it is a species of necromancy to venerate the “relics of saints.”

Option 2 is presumably the answer that traditional Catholics, especially sedavacantists, would give.

Option 1 would take a great deal of gumption, but perhaps someone will try to make that claim.

NOTE: Although I enunciate very quickly the objection to veneration of alleged relics, this is not the post for that debate. This post is questioning whether modern Roman Catholicism (and/or Dave Armstrong) defines Christianity the way that Aquinas did.


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