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Saint Mary - The Blessed Virgin Mother of God

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КАКО ДА ОБРАДУЈЕМО МАЈКУ БОЖИЈУ?

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У име Оца и Сина и Светог Духа!

Данас смо се окупили да заједно прославимо Мајку Божију, да Јој изнесемо ту љубав, веру и наду, коју Она Својом љубављу и молитвом за нас, улива у наша срца. Број хришћана, који се данас окупио, буквално потрчао у храмове Божије, говори нам да је у нашим срцима жива необјашњива вера у оно што свет, који нас окружује, не види и не разуме.

У далеком X веку, у Влахернском храму, јуродиви Андреј је видео, како се Божија Мајка молила Свом Сину за хришћане, покривала их покровом: Својом љубављу и молитвом оног тренутка, када је царском граду претило уништење, оскврњивање, насиље од странаца и иновераца.

Људи који су се данас окупили у храму, дошли су да се сакрију под овај покров Мајке Божије од грехова, прљавштине, страсти, и свих несрећа које чини њихове животе. Често ни сами не схватајући зашто, данас су се, покренути благодаћу, окупили да моле заштиту од Мајке Божије. Али, нисмо само због тога данас напунили храмове. Ту смо да Је обрадујемо, прославимо.

Светитељ Николај Српски нам говори колико је важно да радујемо ову нашу заједничку Мајку, Мајку Божију, Заштитницу, Покровитељку, Предстојатељку и Заступницу нас, грешних, пред Богом. Како је можемо обрадовати?

Ако будемо, исто као Она, волели Сина Божијег, доносићемо Јој неизрециву радост. Ако не будемо слабили у молитви и нади на Божанску благодат, ако будемо подједнако кротки, дуготрпељиви, смирени, као што је Она кротка и смирена, без обзира на наше хирове, грехе и увреде, које наносимо Богу и Њој својим гресима, тиме ћемо обрадовати Мајку Божију. Ако будемо верни Христу чак до смрти и будемо са страхопоштовањем имали на уму Његову жртву, и што је најважније, ако будемо чували Његову крв проливену за нас, уместо да забадава трошимо добијену благодат, и тиме ћемо обрадовати Мајку Божију. Помоћи ћемо Јој, као што деца помажу својим родитељима.

Делатна љубав према Богу и Мајци Божијој данас нас све обједињује, а Она нас штити од страшних непријатеља, од којих, како нам се чини, нема спаса – од грехова и страсти које су нас заробиле. То, наравно, никако није повод да се безбрижно опуштамо и ништа да не радимо.

Људи живе у овом свету, и због своје славе, гордости, и осталог чему слепо теже, не виде Божанску благодат и не спознају да се Мајка Божија моли и заступа за њих грешне. Само људи чистог срца то виде. Виде смирени, који су ослободили духовне очи од ослепљујућих страсти, као што је учинио Андреј, јуродиви Христа ради. Пред светом је био безуман, незнатан човек. Трпео је исмејавања, хулу, али пред Богом је био достојан да угледа то чудо и да схвати суштину ствари, коју нису разумели чак ни императори и велможе. Он је видео како Мајка Божија простире пред хришћане Свој покров и моли се за њих.

То нас многоме учи. Пре свега, призива нас да се, још једном, загледамо у дубину свог срца, своје душе, и да се обратимо са молитвом Мајци Божијој, да Је замолимо да се Она помоли Своме Сину да би Он ниспослао благодат која би очистила наша срца од трулежи, страсти и духовног слепила.

Амин.

Са руског Ива Бендеља

 

https://pravoslavie.ru/srpska/107166.htm

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Mary, The Ark of the New Covenant

 

Why do Catholics call Mary the Ark of the New Covenant? Answering that question will take us on a thrilling journey through the Old and New Testaments.

For example, Luke wove some marvelous things into his Gospel that only a knowledgeable Jew would have understood—a Jew who knew Jewish Scripture and had eyes to see and ears to hear. One of the things he would have understood is typology.

We all know that the Old Testament is full of stories, people, and historical events. A type is a person, thing, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something in the New Testament. It is like a taste or a hint of something that will be fulfilled or realized. Types are like pictures that come alive in a new and exciting way when seen through the eyes of Christ’s revelation. Augustine said that “the Old Testament is the New concealed, but the New Testament is the Old revealed” (Catechizing of the Uninstructed 4:8).

The idea of typology is not new. Paul says that Adam was a type of the one who was to come—Christ (Rom 5:14). Early Christians understood that the Old Testament was full of types or pictures that were fulfilled or realized in the New Testament.

Here are a few more examples of biblical typology:

  • Peter uses Noah’s ark as a type of Christian baptism (1 Pt 3:18-22).
  • Paul explains that circumcision foreshadowed Christian baptism (Col 2:11-12).
  • Jesus uses the bronze serpent as a type of his Crucifixion (Jn 3:14; cf. Nm 21:8-9).
  • The Passover lamb prefigures the sacrifice of Christ (1 Cor 5:7).
  • Paul says that Abraham “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb 11:19).

The Ark of the Old Covenant

God loved his people and wanted to be close to them. He chose to do so in a very special way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The prayer of the people of God flourished in the shadow of the dwelling place of God’s presence on earth, the ark of the covenant and the temple, under the guidance of their shepherds, especially King David, and of the prophets” (CCC 2594). God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle surrounded by heavy curtains (cf. Ex 25-27). Within the tabernacle he was to place an ark made of acacia wood covered with gold inside and out. Within the Ark of the Covenant was placed a golden jar holding the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant (cf. Heb 9:4).

When the ark was completed, the glory cloud of the Lord (the Shekinah Glory) covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35; Nm 9:18, 22). The verb for “to cover” or “to overshadow” and the metaphor of a cloud are used in the Bible to represent the presence and glory of God. The Catechism explains:

In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory—with Moses on Mount Sinai, at the tent of meeting, and during the wandering in the desert, and with Solomon at the dedication of the temple. In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus. On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’” Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his Ascension and will reveal him as Son of Man in glory on the day of his final coming. The glory of the Lord “overshadowed” the ark and filled the tabernacle. (CCC 697)

It’s easy to miss the parallel between the Holy Spirit overshadowing the ark and the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, between the Ark of the Old Covenant as the dwelling place of God and Mary as the new dwelling place of God.

God was very specific about every exact detail of the ark (Ex 25-30). It was a place where God himself would dwell (Ex 25:8). God wanted his words—inscribed on stone—housed in a perfect container covered with pure gold within and without. How much more would he want his Word—Jesus—to have a perfect dwelling place! If the only begotten Son were to take up residence in the womb of a human girl, would he not make her flawless?

The Virgin Mary is the living shrine of the Word of God, the Ark of the New and Eternal Covenant. In fact, St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation of the angel to Mary nicely incorporates the images of the tent of meeting with God in Sinai and of the temple of Zion. Just as the cloud covered the people of God marching in the desert (cf. Nm 10:34; Dt 33:12; Ps 91:4) and just as the same cloud, as a sign of the divine mystery present in the midst of Israel, hovered over the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Ex 40:35), so now the shadow of the Most High envelops and penetrates the tabernacle of the New Covenant that is the womb of Mary (cf. Lk 1:35). (Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, The Shrine: Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God)

King David and Elizabeth

Luke weaves additional parallels into the story of Mary—types that could be overlooked if one is unfamiliar with the Old Testament. After Moses died, Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Joshua established the Ark of the Covenant in Shiloh, where it stayed for more than 200 years. One day the Israelites were losing a battle with the Philistines, so they snatched the ark and rushed it to the front lines. The Philistines captured the ark, but it caused them great problems, so they sent it back to Israel (1 Sm 5:1-6:12).

David went out to retrieve the ark (1 Sm 6:1-2). After a man named Uzzah was struck dead when he touched the ark, David was afraid and said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” He left the ark in the hill country of Judea for three months. We are also told that David danced and leapt in front of the ark and everyone shouted for joy. The house of Obed-edom, which had housed the ark, was blessed, and then David took the ark to Jerusalem (2 Sm 6:9-14).

Compare David and the ark to Luke’s account of the Visitation:

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Lk 1:39-45)

  • Mary arose and went to the hill country of Judea. I have been to both Ein Kerem (where Elizabeth lived) and Abu Ghosh (where the ark resided), and they are only a short walk apart. Mary and the ark were both on a journey to the same hill country of Judea.
  • When David saw the ark he rejoiced and said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth uses almost the same words: “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke is telling us something—drawing our minds back to the Old Testament, showing us a parallel.
  • When David approached the ark he shouted out and danced and leapt in front of the ark. He was wearing an ephod, the clothing of a priest. When Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, approached Elizabeth, John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb—and John was from the priestly line of Aaron. Both leapt and danced in the presence of the ark. The Ark of the Old Covenant remained in the house of Obed-edom for three months, and Mary remained in the house of Elizabeth for three months. The place that housed the ark for three months was blessed, and in the short paragraph in Luke, Elizabeth uses the word blessed three times. Her home was certainly blessed by the presence of the ark and the Lord within.
  • When the Old Testament ark arrived—as when Mary arrived—they were both greeted with shouts of joy. The word for the cry of Elizabeth’s greeting is a rare Greek word used in connection with Old Testament liturgical ceremonies that were centered around the ark and worship (cf. Word Biblical Commentary, 67). This word would flip on the light switch for any knowledgeable Jew.
  • The ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem, where God’s presence and glory is revealed in the temple (2 Sm 6:12; 1 Kgs 8:9-11). Mary returns home and eventually ends up in Jerusalem, where she presents God incarnate in the temple (Lk 1:56; 2:21-22).

It seems clear that Luke has used typology to reveal something about the place of Mary in salvation history. In the Ark of the Old Covenant, God came to his people with a spiritual presence, but in Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, God comes to dwell with his people not only spiritually but physically, in the womb of a specially prepared Jewish girl.

The Old Testament tells us that one item was placed inside the Ark of the Old Covenant while in the Sinai wilderness: God told Moses to put the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments inside the ark (Dt 10:3-5). Hebrews 9:4 informs us that two additional items were placed in the Ark: “a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded.” Notice the amazing parallels: In the ark was the law of God inscribed in stone; in Mary’s womb was the Word of God in flesh. In the ark was the urn of manna, the bread from heaven that kept God’s people alive in the wilderness; in Mary’s womb is the Bread of Life come down from heaven that brings eternal life. In the ark was the rod of Aaron, the proof of true priesthood; in Mary’s womb is the true priest. In the third century, St. Gregory the Wonder Worker said that Mary is truly an ark—”gold within and gold without, and she has received in her womb all the treasures of the sanctuary.”

While the apostle John was exiled on the island of Patmos, he wrote something that would have shocked any first-century Jew. The ark of the Old Covenant had been lost for centuries—no one had seen it for about 600 years. But in Revelation 11:19, John makes a surprising announcement: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple.”

At this point chapter 11 ends and chapter 12 begins. But the Bible was not written with chapter divisions—they were added in the 12th century. When John penned these words, there was no division between chapters 11 and 12; it was a continuing narrative.

What did John say immediately after seeing the Ark of the Covenant in heaven? “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child” (Rv 12:1-2). The woman is Mary, the Ark of the Covenant, revealed by God to John. She was seen bearing the child who would rule the world with a rod of iron (Rv 12:5). Mary was seen as the ark and as a queen.

But does this passage really refer to Mary? Some say the woman represents Israel or the Church, and certainly she does. John’s use of rich symbolism is well known, but it is obvious from the Bible itself that the woman is Mary. The Bible begins with a real man (Adam), a real woman (Eve), and a real serpent (the devil)—and it also ends with a real man (Jesus, the Last Adam [1 Cor 15:45]), a real woman (Mary, the New Eve [Rv 11:19-12:2]), and a real serpent (the devil of old). All of this was foretold in Genesis 3:15.

John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote about this passage in Revelation:

What I would maintain is this, that the Holy Apostle would not have spoken of the Church under this particular image unless there had existed a Blessed Virgin Mary, who was exalted on high and the object of veneration to all the faithful. No one doubts that the “man-child” spoken of is an allusion to our Lord; why then is not “the Woman” an allusion to his mother? (On the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Later in the same chapter we read that the devil went out to persecute the woman’s other offspring—Christians—which certainly seems to indicate that Mary is somehow the mother of the Church (Rv 12:17).

Even if someone rejects Catholic teaching regarding Mary, he cannot deny that Catholics have scriptural foundations for it. And it is a teaching that has been taught by Christians from ancient times. Here are a few representative quotations from the early Church—some written well before the New Testament books were officially compiled into the final New Testament canon:

Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296–373) was the main defender of the deity of Christ against the second-century heretics. He wrote: “O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O [Ark of the] Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides” (Homily of the Papyrus of Turin).

Gregory the Wonder Worker (c. 213–c. 270) wrote: “Let us chant the melody that has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, ‘Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy sanctuary.’ For the Holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary” (Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the words from the earliest centuries: “Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is ‘the dwelling of God . . . with men’” (CCC 2676).

The early Christians taught the same thing that the Catholic Church teaches today about Mary, including her being the Ark of the New Covenant.

SIDEBARS

Mary, the Ark As Revealed in Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth

Golden Box: Ark of the Old Covenant Mary: Ark of the New Covenant
The ark traveled to the house of Obed-edom in the hill country of Judea (2 Sam. 6:1-11). Mary traveled to the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah in the hill country of Judea (Luke 1:39).
Dressed as a priest, David danced and leapt in front of the ark (2 Sam. 6:14). John the Baptist – of priestly lineage – leapt in his mother’s womb at the approach of Mary (Luke 1:41).
David asks, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam. 6:9). Elizabeth asks, “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43).
David shouts in the presence of the ark (2 Sam. 6:15). Elizabeth “exclaimed with a loud cry” in the presence of the Mary (Luke 1:42).
The ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for three months (2 Sam. 6:11). Mary remained in the house of Elizabeth for three months (Luke 1:56).
The house of Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the ark (2 Sam. 6:11). The word blessed is used three times; surely the house was blessed by God (Luke 1:39-45).
The ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem, where God’s presence and glory is revealed in the temple (2 Sam. 6:12; 1 Kgs. 8:9-11). Mary returns home and eventually ends up in Jerusalem, where she presents God incarnate in the temple (Luke 1:56; 2:21-22).

 

Mary as the Ark Revealed by Items inside the Ark

Inside the Ark of the Old Covenant Inside Mary, Ark of the New Covenant
The stone tablets of the law – the word of God inscribed on stone The body of Jesus Christ – the word of God in the flesh
The urn filled with manna from the wilderness – the miraculous bread come down from heaven The womb containing Jesus, the bread of life come down from heaven (John 6:41)
The rod of Aaron that budded to prove and defend the true high priest The actual and eternal High Priest

 

 

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/mary-the-ark-of-the-new-covenant

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  • Сличан садржај

    • Од Bernard,
      According to ancient Greek legend, the great warrior, Achilles, was invulnerable against attack, except for one area of weakness—his heel. That weakness would be exploited near the end of the Trojan War by Paris. As the story goes, he shot Achilles in the heel with an arrow, killing his seemingly undefeatable foe. 
      Okay, so referring to Sola Scriptura as the Protestant Achilles's Heel is not a perfect analogy. There are many weak spots in Protestant theology. But the use of the image of "Achilles's Heel" in prose today is employed not only to accentuate a singular weakness in an otherwise impenetrable person or institution, but a particularly acute weakness. It is in that sense that I think the analogy fits.
      Sola Scriptura was the central doctrine and foundation for all I believed when I was Protestant. On a popular level, it simply meant, “If a teaching isn’t explicit in the Bible, then we don’t accept it as doctrine!” And it seemed so simple. Unassailable. And yet, I do not recall ever hearing a detailed teaching explicating it. It was always a given. Unchallenged. Diving deeper into its meaning, especially when I was challenged to defend my Protestant faith against Catholicism, I found there to be no book specifically on the topic and no uniform understanding of this teaching among Protestant pastors.
      Once I got past the superficial, I had to try to answer real questions like, what role does tradition play? How explicit does a doctrine have to be in Scripture before it can be called doctrine? How many times does it have to be mentioned in Scripture before it would be dogmatic? Where does Scripture tell us what is absolutely essential for us to believe as Christians? How do we know what the canon of Scripture is using the principle of sola scriptura? Who is authorized to write Scripture in the first place? When was the canon closed? Or, the best question of all: where is sola scriptura taught in the Bible? These questions and more were left virtually unanswered or left to the varying opinions of various Bible teachers.
      The Protestant Response
      In answer to this last question, “Where is sola scriptura taught in the Bible?” most Protestants will immediately respond as I did, by simply citing II Tm. 3:16:
      All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
      “How can it get any plainer than that? Doesn’t that say the Bible is all we need?” Question answered.
      The fact is: II Timothy 3—or any other text of Scripture—does not even hint at sola scriptura. It says Scripture is inspired and necessary to equip “the man of God,” but never does it say Scripture alone is all anyone needs. We’ll come back to this text in particular later. But in my experience as a Protestant, it was my attempt to defend this bedrock teaching of Protestantism that led me to conclude: sola scriptura is 1) unreasonable 2) unbiblical and 3) unworkable.
      Sola Scriptura is Unreasonable
      When defending sola scriptura, the Protestant will predictably appeal to his sole authority—Scripture. This is a textbook example of the logical fallacy of circular reasoning which betrays an essential problem with the doctrine itself. One cannot prove the inspiration of a text from the text itself. The Book of Mormon, the Hindu Vedas, writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Koran, and other books claim inspiration. This does not make them inspired. One must prove the point outside of the text itself to avoid the fallacy of circular reasoning.
      Thus, the question remains: how do we know the various books of the Bible are inspired and therefore canonical? And remember: the Protestant must use the principle of sola scriptura in the process.
      II Tim. 3:16 is not a valid response to the question. The problems are manifold. Beyond the fact of circular reasoning, for example, I would point out the fact that this verse says all Scripture is inspired tells us nothing of what the canon consists. Just recently, I was speaking with a Protestant inquirer about this issue and he saw my point. He then said words to the effect of, “I believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth as Jesus said in Jn. 16:13. The Holy Spirit guided the early Christians and helped them to gather the canon of Scripture and declare it to be the inspired word of God. God would not leave us without his word to guide us.”
      That answer is much more Catholic than Protestant! Yes, Jn. 16:13 does say the Spirit will lead the apostles—and by allusion, the Church—into all truth. But this verse has nothing to say about sola scriptura. Nor does it say a word about the nature or number of books in the canon. Catholics certainly agree that the Holy Spirit guided the early Christians to canonize the Scriptures because the Catholic Church teaches that there is an authoritative Church guided by the Holy Spirit. The obvious problem is my Protestant friend did not use sola scriptura as his guiding principle to arrive at his conclusion. How does, for example, Jn. 16:13 tell us that Hebrews was written by an apostolic writer and that it is inspired of God? We would ultimately have to rely on the infallibility of whoever “the Holy Spirit” is guiding to canonize the Bible so that they could not mishear what the Spirit was saying about which books of the Bible are truly inspired.
      In order to put this argument of my friend into perspective, can you imagine if a Catholic made a similar claim to demonstrate, say, Mary to be the Mother of God? “We believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth and guided the early Christians to declare this truth.” I can almost hear the response. “Show me in the Bible where Mary is the Mother of God! I don’t want to hear about God guiding the Church!” Wouldn’t the same question remain for the Protestant concerning the canon? “Show me in the Bible where the canon of Scripture is, what the criterion for the canon is, who can and cannot write Scripture, etc.”
      Will the Circle be Unbroken?
      The Protestant response at this point is often an attempt to use the same argument against the Catholic. “How do you know the Scriptures are inspired? Your reasoning is just as circular because you say the Church is infallible because the inspired Scriptures say so and then say the Scriptures are inspired and infallible because the Church says so!”
      The Catholic Church’s position on inspiration is not circular. We do not say “the Church is infallible because the inspired Scriptures say so, and the Scriptures are inspired because the infallible Church says so.” That would be a kind of circular reasoning. The Church was established historically and functioned as the infallible spokesperson for the Lord decades before the New Testament was written. The Church is infallible because Jesus said so.
      Having said that, it is true that we know the Scriptures to be inspired because the Church has told us so. That is also an historical fact. However, this is not circular reasoning. When the Catholic approaches Scripture, he or she begins with the Bible as an historical document, not as inspired. As any reputable historian will tell you, the New Testament is the most accurate and verifiable historical document in all of ancient history. To deny the substance of the historical documents recorded therein would be absurd. However, one cannot deduce from this that they are inspired. There are many accurate historical documents that are not inspired. However, the Scriptures do give us accurate historical information whether one holds to their inspiration or not. Further, this testimony of the Bible is backed up by hundreds of works by early Christians and non-Christian writers like Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, and more. It is on this basis that we can say it is an historical fact that Jesus lived, died, and was reported to be resurrected from the dead by over 500 eyewitnesses. Many of these eyewitnesses went to their deaths testifying to the veracity of the Christ-event (see Lk. 1:1-4, Jn. 21:18-19, 24-25, Acts 1:1-11, I Cr. 15:1-8).
      Now, what do we find when we examine the historical record? Jesus Christ—as a matter of history–established a Church, not a book, to be the foundation of the Christian Faith (see Mt. 16:15-18; 18:15-18. Cf. Eph. 2:20; 3:10,20-21; 4:11-15; I Tm. 3:15; Hb. 13:7,17, etc.). He said of his Church, “He who hears you hears me and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk. 10:16). The many books that comprise what we call the Bible never tell us crucial truths such as the fact that they are inspired, who can and cannot be the human authors of them, who authored them at all, or, as I said before, what the canon of Scripture is in the first place. And this is just to name a few examples. What is very clear historically is that Jesus established a kingdom with a hierarchy and authority to speak for him (see Lk. 20:29-32, Mt. 10:40, 28:18-20). It was members of this Kingdom—the Church—that would write the Scripture, preserve its many texts and eventually canonize it. The Scriptures cannot write or canonize themselves. To put it simply, reason clearly rejects sola scriptura as a self-refuting principle because one cannot determine what the “scriptura” is using the principle of sola scriptura.
      Sola Scriptura is Unbiblical
      Let us now consider the most common text used by Protestants to “prove” sola scriptura, II Tm. 3:16, which I quoted above:
      All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
      The problem with using this text as such is threefold: 1. Strictly speaking, it does not speak of the New Testament at all. 2. It does not claim Scripture to be the sole rule of faith for Christians. 3. The Bible teaches oral Tradition to be on a par with and just as necessary as the written Tradition, or Scripture.
      1. What’s Old is Not New
      Let us examine the context of the passage by reading the two preceding verses:
      But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood (italics added) you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
      In context, this passage does not refer to the New Testament at all. None of the New Testament books had been written when St. Timothy was a child! To claim this verse in order to authenticate a book, say, the book of Revelation, when it had most likely not even been written yet, is more than a stretch. That is going far beyond what the text actually claims.
      2. The Trouble With Sola
      As a Protestant, I was guilty of seeing more than one sola in Scripture that simply did not exist. The Bible clearly teaches justification by faith. And we Catholics believe it. However, we do not believe in justification by faith alone because, among many other reasons, the Bible says, we are “justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, emphasis added). Analogously, when the Bible says Scripture is inspired and profitable for “the man of God,” to be “equipped for every good work,” we Catholics believe it. However, the text of II Tim. 3:16 never says Scripture alone. There is no sola to be found here either! Even if we granted II Tm. 3:16 was talking about all of Scripture, it never claims Scripture to be the sole rule of faith. A rule of faith, to be sure! But not the sole rule of faith.
      James 1:4 illustrates clearly the problem with Protestant exegesis of II Tim. 3:16:
      And let steadfastness (patience) have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
      If we apply the same principle of exegesis to this text that the Protestant does to II Tm. 3:16 we would have to say that all we need is patience to be perfected. We don’t need faith, hope, charity, the Church, baptism, etc.
      Of course, any Christian would immediately say this is absurd. And of course it is. But James’s emphasis on the central importance of patience is even stronger than St. Paul’s emphasis on Scripture. The key is to see that there is not a sola to be found in either text. Sola patientia would be just as much an error as is sola scriptura.
      3. The Tradition of God is the Word of God
      Not only is the Bible silent when it comes to sola scriptura, but Scripture is remarkably plain in teaching oral Tradition to be just as much the word of God as is Scripture. In what most scholars believe was the first book written in the New Testament, St. Paul said:
      And we also thank God… that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God… (I Thess. 2:13)
      II Thess. 2:15 adds:
      So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions you have been taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
      According to St. Paul, the spoken word from the apostles was just as much the word of God as was the later written word.
      Sola Scriptura is Unworkable
      When it comes to the tradition of Protestantism—sola scriptura—the silence of the text of Scripture is deafening. When it comes to the true authority of Scripture and Tradition, the Scriptures are clear. And when it comes to the teaching and governing authority of the Church, the biblical text is equally as clear:
      If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone … But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you … If he refuses to listen … tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Mt. 18:15-17)
      According to Scripture, the Church—not the Bible alone—is the final court of appeal for the people of God in matters of faith and discipline. But isn’t it also telling that since the Reformation of just ca. 480 years ago—a reformation claiming sola scriptura as its formal principle—there are now over 33,000 denominations that have derived from it?
      For 1,500 years, Christianity saw just a few enduring schisms (the Monophysites, Nestorians, the Orthodox, and a very few others). Now in just 480 years we have this? I hardly think that when Jesus prophesied there would be “one shepherd and one fold” in Jn. 10:16, this is what he had in mind. It seems quite clear to me that not only is sola scriptura unreasonable and unbiblical, but it is unworkable. The proof is in the puddin’!
      If you liked this post and you would like to dive deeper into this topic and more, click here.
       
      https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/the-protestant-achilles-heel
    • Од Bernard,
      At Catholic Answers, we often get the question: “If St. Peter was made the visible head of the Church, why don’t we see it in the book of Acts? Is not St. James (or perhaps St. Paul) the real leader of the early Church?”
      How do we reply?
      Actually, St. Peter is quite obviously the visible head of the Church in Acts. When you consider the inspired author of Acts was St. Luke, a companion of St. Paul, it is quite telling that for the first 15 of 28 chapters, Peter is the center of attention rather than Paul. Why this focus on Peter?
       
      Let’s take a look.
      1. Acts 1:15-26: It is St. Peter who is clearly in charge in choosing and ordaining a new apostle to replace Judas when he gives an authoritative interpretation of Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. And I might add that these texts do not have an obvious interpretation. Psalm 69:25, for example, speaks of the messiah’s persecutors (plural) who “give him gall for (his) food and sour wine to drink” – in 69:21. Then in verse 25 it says “May their (plural) camp be a desolation, let no one dwell in their tents.”
      There is never a question from the rest of the apostles, “Hey, Peter, that’s a pretty shaky interpretation of those two texts. What hermeneutical principles are you using, anyway?”
      2. Acts 2:14-41: It is St. Peter who is in charge at Pentecost and preaches the first sermon whereby 3,000 are baptized. 
      3. Acts 3:1-4:4:  It is St. Peter who performs the first miracle in Acts, healing the man with withered feet and ankles. He then preaches again and, this time, 5,000 are converted in chapter 4:4.
      4. Acts 4:3-12: When St. Peter and St. John are arrested and called before the Sanhedrin, it is St. Peter, in verse 8, who speaks for both and preaches boldly of Christ and the name of Jesus.
      5. Acts 5:1-29: It is St. Peter who is in charge of the Church in collecting funds for world evangelism and pronounces God’s judgment on Ananias and Sapphira. It is then, in verse, 15, the people desire St. Peter’s shadow to pass over them that they may be healed. Then, in verse 29, after the apostles were arrested and miraculously set free by the angel of the Lord, they are before the Sanhedrin for the second time. St. Luke records:
      Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men.”
      St. Peter is set apart. It’s “Peter and the apostles.”
      6. Acts 8:14-24: We see St. Peter leading (listed first) when he and St. John confirm new converts in Samaria after the evangelistic efforts of St. Phillip. And it is St. Peter who pronounces judgment on Simon the sorcerer who wanted to buy the power to convey the Holy Spirit.
      7. Acts 9:32,40-43: Here we have an interesting little passage most pass over too quickly.
      As Peter was passing through every region, he went down to the holy ones living in Lydda (NAB).
      Here we have St. Peter making his pastoral rounds. To what part of the Church? All of it! He then proceeds to do another first. He raises Tabitha from the dead in Joppa.
      8. Acts 10-11:18: It is St. Peter to whom God gives a vision to lead the Church in allowing the gentiles to be baptized and enjoy full membership in the Church. This was a radical move! If you think we have a problem with racism in the 21st century, we have nothing on first century opinion of the gentiles! Notice, after the other apostles and other disciples heard Peter declare what God had done, they say, in 11:18:
      When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.”
      They heard St. Peter speak and the question was settled.
      9. Acts 12:1-17: St. Peter is arrested again. Notice that the entire Church then goes to “earnest prayer” (vs. 5) and into the night (vs. 6, 12) until he is released miraculously. This is not recorded to have been the case when St. James or any others were arrested.
      10. Acts 15-16:4: We read of an enormous problem in the early Church, the heresy of the Judaizers. They taught believers in Christ must not only believe and obey the New Testament law as given by Christ and the apostles, but they must keep the Old Testament law given by Moses as well, especially circumcision.
      Notice, St. Paul and Barnabas could not quell the upheaval. 
      Even more importantly, however, is the manner in which the problem is dealt with. Do they get out their Bibles and start arguing passages? No! They respond decisively, but not in the way a “Bible Christian” would today. They respond to the difficulty in obedience to the command of our Lord in Matthew 18:15-18. Jesus gives us authoritative instructions on what to do in the case of a disagreement over doctrine or discipline in the Church. First, go to your brother. Second, if he won’t hear you, take two or three witnesses with you. If he won’t hear them, the final arbiter of the situation will be the Church. 
      The Christians in Antioch, no doubt, tried to handle the problem on a local level first. That is what the text indicates. But they couldn’t take care of the dispute. Then they brought in the big guns—Paul and Barnabas—a pretty formidable “one or two” to employ!
      It did not work!
      This problem was so enormous, St. Paul could not even settle it. Where do they go then? Just as our Lord said, they “take it to the Church.” The church at Antioch obeys our Lord and takes it to the Church in Jerusalem. Whence cometh the first Church Council.
      Do you notice how sola scriptura is nowhere to be found here?
      Peter or James?
      But now we need to answer another question. Some Bible Christians will say, “Was not James the true leader of the early Church and not Peter?”
      If you examine the text of Acts 15 carefully, you will see this is not the case. In verses six and seven, we see all of the apostles and elders gathered together and doing what? Disputing!
      Notice, it is Peter who speaks first, in verses 7-11. After so much disputing in Antioch that St. Paul and Barnabas could not settle the difficulty:
      And afterthere had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them… “But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” And all the assembly kept silence…
      “After much debate” here at the Council, Peter declares the truth and then—“the whole assembly fell silent” in verse 12. The issue was settled.
      This speaks volumes.
      And notice as well: Peter uses the first person personal prounoun in the plural. “We believe…” Peter does not speak just for himself. He speaks for all.
      However, there was still a pastoral issue. How are we going to bring about unity, in a pastoral sense, between the Jews and Gentiles? The Jewish Christians were worshipping in a Jewish manner which involved many Old Testament practices. St. Paul himself acknowledged the validity of this manner of worship, and participated in it himself in Acts 21:15-26. Many of these Jews wanted to make their rules the universal norm for everyone and even believed it necessary for salvation. The question: How do we unify the Gentile and Jewish Rites without compromising the truth? The Church could not say Gentiles had to keep what were peculiarly Old Testament practices in order to be saved, but the Church also wanted to respect some of the ancient practices of the Jews.
      St. James stands up in Acts 15:13-23, and gives his pastoral opinion on the matter:
      My brothers, listen to me. Symeon has [declared] how God first concerned himself with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name… It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, but tell them by letter avoid [1] the pollution from idols, [2] unlawful marriage, [3] the meat of strangled animals, and [4] blood. Then the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas… This is the letter delivered by them: “The apostles and the presbyters, you brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings…”
      Two Key Points:
      1. When James stands up to speak, the first thing he says after getting the attention of the Council is, “Symeon has related…” In other words, Peter has spoken… He repeats what Peter has already said definitively. Then, rather than speaking for all, St. James says, “It is my judgment…” 
      A little over 400 years after this proclamation by St. James, the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon would similarly declare, “Peter has spoken through Leo, the question is settled” after hearing a written declaration of St. Peter’s successor, Pope St. Leo the Great, read at that great Ecumenical Council. In AD 451, the issue was concerning the monophysite heresy and the nature of the God-man Jesus Christ. But both times, the same Principle was in effect. God spoke definitively through the authority He established on this earth to Shepherd his people.
      2. When St. James gives his pastoral judgment, in verse 19, his judgment was that the Church ought to bind the Gentiles to four laws:
      … abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood.
      But notice what happens immediately thereafter, in verses 22-28:
      Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas… with the following letter: “The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greeting. Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling to your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us in assembly to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul… We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…”
      Three sub-points:
      1. When Peter speaks in Acts 15:7-11, just as we saw in Acts 10-11:18, the question was settled. St. Peter’s authority is unique. He has the keys of the kingdom and as such speaks for Christ with or without the consent of the others (Matthew 16:15-19).
      2. When James gives his pastoral judgment concerning how to deal with an extremely difficult situation, the apostles, elders and the whole church had to agree before an epistle could be written to be sent out to the troubled churches. Why? Because the other apostles’ authority is depicted in a collegial manner. Jesus gave Peter and all the apostles the authority to “bind and loose” in Matthew 18:15-18. Notice, it was all the apostles with Peter that acted in sending out the decree to the troubled churches. James and the apostles authority was exercised as a college. Only St. Peter was given the keys of the Kingdom. Only St. Peter acted alone in the context of all of the apostles at the Council. 
      3. Notice the nature of the letter sent out by the Church. When the Council of Jerusalem sends out the decree, the Church declares:
      It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell. (Acts 15:28, NAB)
      As St. Paul and Silas traveled about delivering the decree of the Church, the Scripture records:
      As they traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.
      Catholic trivia point:
      The Greek word for decisions there is “dogmata” in Greek.
      One Final Note:
      When St. Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch (this was where the trouble started according to Acts 14:26-15:2) immediately after the Council and delivered the teachings, the people “were delighted with the exhortation” (see Acts 15:30-31). The dispute was settled. However, not everyone was obedient. Judging from the letters of St. Paul to the Galatians and Romans, and the letter to the Hebrews, we can clearly see that there were rebels then just as there are now who will not listen to the Church.
      St Irenaeus gives us some interesting insight as to one problem person who would not obey the Church. He was the seventh deacon who is listed among the first deacons ordained in Acts 6:5. You’ll notice that among the seven, he is listed last. According to St. Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, Bk. 1, ch. 26, para. 3, he was one of the leaders of the rebellion against the Council. Scripture records Nicolas the deacon was a “convert from Antioch.” Antioch is where all the trouble started.
      The final point I want to make here is that Jesus himself has very strong words for these Nicolaitanes! These were basically anti-nomians who thought they did not have to obey the laws of the Church. When Jesus gives a personal message to St. John in the beginning of the Book of Revelation, he has a special message for those who would disobey the Church.
      Remember then from what you [the church in Ephesus] have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have, you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Rev. 2:5-6).
      I have a few things against you [the church in Pergamum]: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality. So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth (Rev. 2:14-16).
      I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be on the side of folks whose deeds are “hated” by the Lord. I will remain on the side of the Church!
      If you want to remain on the side of the Church, you must remain with the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter, and his successors the Popes.
      If you liked this and would like to learn more, click here.
       
      https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/who-was-at-the-helm-in-the-book-of-acts-peter-james
    • Од Bernard,
      The 15th chapter of Acts is significant for its description of the first council of the Christian Church, providing insights into the inner workings of the early Church and the relationships among key leaders. The chapter is also notable as a battleground for ongoing, current-day disputes over Church authority. On one side stands the Catholic Church, upholding Peter as the foremost apostle and leader of the universal Church. In opposition, in a diverse array of attitudes, stands a host of scholars and theologians who claim that James, the “brother of Jesus” (Mk 6:3; Gal 1:19), was the leader of the early Church, perhaps even the first pope. This position has roots going back to the Reformation, and many Protestants—whether they be conservative, liberal, or progressive in theological terms—consider James the greatest of the early Church leaders.
      James, Greater than Peter?
      Since the late 1990s, several books have been written about James, the “brother of Jesus,” most notably Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition (Columbia, SC: University of South Caroline Press, 1997), by John Painter; James, Brother of Jesus (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1996), by Pierre-Antoine Bernheim; and James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Viking Press, 1997), by Robert Eisenman. All three authors write about the “minimizing” of James by early Church writers and authorities, and either overtly or implicitly claim James was the victim of Church politics aimed at keeping Peter’s pre-eminence intact.
       
      Acts and the Letter to the Galatians attribute considerable authority to James, seemingly greater than that of Peter. Questions of power and authority in the primitive church are of more than academic interest, since the Roman Catholic Church bases the supremacy of the pope, the Bishop of Rome, on the primacy of Peter. According to Catholic doctrine, Peter, who was designated the foundation and the ultimate authority of the apostolic Church (Mt 16:13-20), maintained his primacy throughout his life and transmitted it to his successors as bishops of Rome. (James, Brother of Jesus, 191)
      Bernheim is correct to note the importance of Matthew 16 in the matter of Petrine authority. But does Acts 15 contradict the famous “keys of the kingdom” passage and even portray James as a greater authority than Peter? Pentecostal author Rosanna J. Evans makes such a case in her booklet, “Crossing The Threshold of Deception”:
      Among the more compelling arguments [for Peter not being pope], is that of the leadership at the Jerusalem Council. . . . What is of interest here, is not necessarily the proclamations made at this council, but the conspicuous position (or lack thereof) Peter held. While he was, without doubt, present at this momentous council, he certainly did not preside over it; this honor went to James, not Peter. Additionally, although Peter had some say in the procession itself, it was James, not Peter, who decided the outcome of the deliberations . . . Without a doubt, the man James was the one who presided over the Jerusalem Council. (18, 19)
      In his commentary on Acts, Evangelical scholar I. Howard Marshall presents Peter as a central but still lesser authority than James, a perspective held by numerous Evangelical commentators. While Peter appealed to experience, Marshall states, “The decisive voice in the meeting, however, lay neither with Peter nor with the delegates from Antioch, but with James. This may have been due partly to the position which he increasingly came to hold as the foremost leader in the church (12:17), and partly also to the fact that he was regarded as a champion of a conservative Jewish outlook” (Acts, 249, 251).
      Was Peter really inconspicuous at the Jerusalem Council? Did he take a secondary role to James? What does the text really say?
      Context and Choices
      In the 1973 book Peter in the New Testament, published as a “collaborative assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars” and sponsored by the United States Lutheran–Roman Catholic Dialogue as Background for Ecumenical Discussions of the Role of the Papacy in the Universal Church, three basic theories of early Church authority based upon Acts 15 are presented. The three theories of authority are:
      1) Peter and the other members of the twelve were concerned with a Christian mission far more extensive than just Jerusalem. They were never really local church leaders, once Jerusalem became big enough to require such caretakers. James was the first leader of the local church at Jerusalem (at least for the Hebrew Christians) and remained there after Peter and the other members of the twelve left the scene, whether through death or on travels. James had authority only in Jerusalem (and its “province”), but his name was known more widely because he was a blood relative of Jesus. Paul’s loyalty was to the “mother church” or community of saints in Jerusalem. His respect for James was a respect for the local leader of that church.
      2) Peter was a local leader at Jerusalem (even though he was known more widely because he had been a close follower of Jesus during the ministry). James took Peter’s place as the local Jerusalem leader (when Peter left Jerusalem or even earlier). Neither of them had a role as leader in the Universal Church, for, in fact, there was no single leader in the Universal Church.
      3) Peter was a universal leader, operating from Jerusalem as the center of Christianity, and was succeeded by James. In other words, the position of universal influence that Peter had at Jerusalem (except his apostleship) was transferred to James when Peter left Jerusalem or even earlier.
      The first theory aligns essentially with the Catholic belief; the second covers a wide range of mainline Protestant perspectives; and the third—the most extreme view—is embraced by more radical, liberal scholars.
      Acts 15 can be broken into four basic sections.
      1.     The first (vs. 1-5) sets the scene and explains the conflict between Gentile and Jewish Christians over the observance of various Mosaic customs and laws.
      2.     The second (vs. 6-18)—the section that concerns us here—contains the discussion, including debate (v. 7a), Peter’s speech (vs. 7b-11), the witness of Paul and Barnabas (v. 12), and James’ speech (vs. 13-21).
      3.     The third section (vs. 19-29) explains the decision reached at the council, including the letter to be sent to the churches.
      4.     The final section (vs. 30-35) presents some of the reaction to the letter.
      The council consisted of “the apostles and the elders” who had gathered together to “look into the matter” and come to some sort of solution. The Catholic understanding is that this gathering was a blueprint and prototype for future Church councils. As such, it included the gathering of leaders from the entire Church, not just a particular region; it made decrees binding on all Christians; it addressed matters of faith and morals; and it issued documents recording essential statements, decrees, canons, and so forth. Finally, but certainly not least, it was presided over by the pope (either in person or by representative).
      The Jerusalem Council began with a spirited debate (v. 7a). Then Peter spoke, appealing to the “early days” and his experience in bringing the gospel to the household of Cornelius, a Gentile (Acts 10). We are saved by grace, Peter stated, not by works of the Law (v. 11). A marked silence followed his speech (v. 12a). Then Barnabas and Paul testified to God’s work “among the Gentiles” (v. 12b). After they had finished, James gave his speech, pointing to both the words of Peter (“Simeon,” v. 14) and the Prophets (vs. 15-18). He then offered his “judgment”: the Gentiles would not have to observe the ceremonial Law. An authoritative letter was then written, stating “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us to lay upon you no greater burden” than abstaining from “things sacrificed to idols,” from blood and things strangled, and “from fornication” (vs. 28-29).
      Unlikely Allies
      As noted already, the Fundamentalist anti-Catholic position is that Peter’s role at the council was so minimal he was essentially persona non grata. Noted anti-Catholic and Presbyterian theologian Loraine Boettner wrote the following in his Roman Catholicism:
      At that council not Peter but James presided and announced the decision with the words, “Wherefore my judgement is . . .” (vs. 19). And his judgement was accepted by the apostles and presbyters. Peter was present, but only after there had been “much questioning” (vs. 7) did he even so much as express an opinion. He did not attempt to make any infallible pronouncements although the subject under discussion was a vital matter of faith. In any event it is clear that the unity of the early church was maintained not by the voice of Peter but by the decision of the ecumenical council which was presided over by James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. (116)
      Ironically, the Fundamentalist view of Peter and James is very similar to that of the liberal and radical scholars. The same anti-Catholic, anti-authoritarian sentiment runs through their writings. They even use some of the same arguments, particularly an appeal to Galatians 2 as the final say about Peter’s role in the early Church. Martin Hengel, in Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity, clearly thinks James was the leader of the early Church while Peter either faded or fled.
      After the withdrawal of the “twelve,” James, at the head of the elders, was able to take over complete control of the Jerusalem community. Given this situation in Jerusalem, the only possibility for Peter . . . was to move out into the Greek-speaking Diapora, where we can see his activity in Antioch and Rome, and at least his influence in Corinth. . . . Nevertheless, the succession of apostles and elders marks inner changes in the Jerusalem community which resulted in James and the elders taking over the leadership, gradually suppressing Peter and the older group of apostles . . . (96-96, 115)
      John Painter, the author of Just James, also appeals to Galatians 2 as the final court of appeal regarding Peter and James, saying that “it is likely that James was the first leader of the Jerusalem church” and,
      In Acts Luke tries to reconcile conflicts and to reconcile the later tradition of Petrine leadership in the church at large with the tradition of the original leadership of James in Jerusalem. This strategy is possible because of the authority of James over Peter, even exercised at a distance, is demonstrated in Gal[atians] 2:11-14, and there is no reason to think that the situation was different at the beginning of the Jerusalem church. (84)
      It is Bernheim, however, who appears most driven to discredit the Catholic Church’s claim to authority by showing Peter’s utter submission before James. James’s “dominant position” is fully realized at the council, he argues. “Regardless of the historicity of Acts 15, James, by speaking last, summing up the discussion and proposing the decision which figures in the Apostolic Decree, appears as the one who presided over the assembly” (193).
      Bernheim continually questions the authenticity of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16, but has no problem building the vast majority of his case from the incident in Galatians 2. He arbitrarily makes a convenient distinction between authority among the disciples before and after Christ’s death, claiming that Peter’s leadership dissolved following the death of Jesus and that the early Christians broke into small, competing groups in the aftermath of the Crucifixion. As usual, an assault on the continuity of early Church authority is meant to undermine the papacy and the magisterium today.
      Petrine Primacy in Acts
      The Catholic claim that Peter was the first pope is not based on sola scriptura, selective use of Scripture, or just a single passage of Scripture. (See “Beyond Matthew 16:18,” page 30.)
      As for Acts 15, a number of factors point to Peter actually being both the leader at the council and the leader of the early Church. First, there is the manner in which his speech begins and ends. By standing up to speak after the debate had subsided, Peter made an emphatic physical gesture affirming his authority and centrality. The silence afterwards indicated the finality of what Peter had just said; no one disputes either his speech or his right to make it. In fact, the witness of Paul and Barnabas, along with James’s speech, only reinforce and agree with what Peter says.
      Secondly, few non-Catholic commentators seem to notice the striking wording Peter used in his speech. If he was only a witness, wouldn’t he have appealed only to his experience? But while Peter did focus on his experience, the main object of his speech was God: “God made a choice among you, that by my mouth . . .”; “And God . . . bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit”; “He made no distinction”; and “why therefore do you put God to the test?” (vs. 7-10). It is readily apparent that Peter was quite comfortable in being a spokesman for God. Even James seems to take this for granted by stating, “Simeon has related how God first concerned himself . . .” (v. 14). There is an immediacy to Peter’s relating of God’s work which is noticeably absent from James’s speech.
      As mentioned, Paul, Barnabas, and James all reinforced and agreed with Peter’s declaration, albeit in different ways. The first two related “the signs and wonders God” had been working “among the Gentiles” (v. 12). James pointed first to the words of Peter and then to the Prophets (vs. 14-15). Those who claim James’s speech was the definitive one point to the language in verse 19 (“Therefore it is my judgement . . .”) as evidence for James’s primacy. Yet James is simply suggesting a way of implementing what Peter had already definitively expressed. “Peter speaks as the head and spokesman of the apostolic Church,” state Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, “He formulates a doctrinal judgment about the means of salvation, whereas James takes the floor after him to suggest a pastoral plan for inculturating the gospel in mixed communities where Jewish and Gentile believers live side by side (15:13-21)” (232).
      Problems with Authority
      One can only conclude that those commentators and scholars who take issue with Peter’s primacy have, for various reasons, taken an anti-Catholic, anti-papal stance. They labor under a skewed understanding of what the papacy is and how the papal office relates to the Church as a whole. As a result, they are prone to interpret Peter’s actions and the history of the early Church incorrectly.
      If James was the leader of the early Church, or even the first pope, why aren’t his successors the head of the universal Church? These and related questions are not adequately addressed by those who say James, not Peter, was the leader of the early Church.
      SIDEBARS
      Beyond Matthew 16:18
      Although Matthew 16 is a central and key passage attesting to Peter’s unique position, the rest of the New Testament provides ample evidence for it. For example:
      1. Peter’s name occurs first in all lists of apostles (Mt 10:2, Mk 3:16, Lk 6:14, Acts 1:13), except Galatians 2. Matthew even calls him the “first” (10:2).
      2. Peter alone receives a new name, Rock, solemnly conferred (Jn 1:42, Mt 16:18).
      3. Peter is regarded by Jesus as the Chief Shepherd after himself (Jn 21:15-17), singularly by name, and over the universal Church, even though others have a similar but subordinate role (Acts 20:28, 1 Pt 5:2).
      4. Peter alone among the apostles is mentioned by name as having been prayed for by Jesus Christ in order that his “faith may not fail” (Lk 22:32).
      5. Peter alone among the apostles is exhorted by Jesus to “strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32).
      6. Peter first confesses Christ’s divinity (Mt 16:16).
      7. Peter alone is told that he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation (Mt 16:17).
      8. Peter is regarded by the Jews (Acts 4:1-13) as the leader and spokesman of Christianity.
      9. Peter is regarded by the common people in the same way (Acts 2:37-41; 5:15).
      In Acts, Peter gave the sermon at Pentecost (Acts 1:14-36), led the replacing of Judas (1:22), worked the first miracle of the Church age (3:6-12), and condemned Ananias and Sapphira (5:2-11). His mere shadow worked miracles (5:15); he was the first person after Christ to raise the dead (9:40), and he took the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Peter’s name appears at least 54 times in Acts; James appears a total of four times.
      Further Reading
      The Acts of the Apostles (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible; Ignatius Press, 2002), with commentary by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch Jesus, Peter & The Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy (Queenship, 1996), by Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren, and David Hess Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church (Ignatius Press, 1999), by Stephen K. Ray The Early Papacy: To the Synod of Chalcedon (Ignatius Press, 2008; orig. 1920), by Adrian Fortescue Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith (Sapientia Press, 2007), by Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
       
      https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/was-james-the-real-leader-of-the-early-church

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