June 22, 2016

[Catholic Apologetics from Dave Armstrong: Spanish, Portugese, and French Translations of my articles and books]

[Ver la página de información del libro (contenidos y extractos) y el enlace de compra ($ 2.99 USD) ]

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[asterisked papers (*) indicate links to other sites. As time goes on, I hope to transfer all of these papers onto my own blog]

[documentos marcados con asterisco (*) indican los enlaces a otros sitios. A medida que pasa el tiempo, espero poder transferir todos estos papeles en mi propio blog]

[papéis com asterisco (*) indica links para outros sites. Conforme o tempo passa, eu espero que a transferência de todos esses papéis para o meu próprio blog]

[Les documents astérisqués (*) indiquent des liens vers d’autres sites. Au fil du temps, j’espère transférer tous ces articles sur mon propre blog]

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[I utilize Google Translate for my little blurbs and any additional comments below]

[Yo utilizo Traductor de Google para mis pequeñas notas publicitarias y cualquier comentario adicional por debajo]

[Eu utilizo o Google Tradutor para meus pequenos sinopses e quaisquer comentários adicionais abaixo]

[J’utilise Google Translate pour mes petites bouffées et tous les commentaires supplémentaires ci-dessous]

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[see descriptions of my five books being translated into Spanish, in English and information about the four translators: Facebook, 7-25-16]

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Español / Spanish 

 

Muchos Temas

Las Diez Preguntas Más Formuladas A Los Católicos [2002] [Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked]

[mi folleto éxito de ventas para la mayor editorial católica: Our Sunday Visitor/ my bestselling pamphlet for the largest Catholic publisher: Our Sunday Visitor]

 

La conversión del protestantismo al catolicismo / Pruebas bíblicos del catolicismo

150 Razones por las que soy Católico: Presentando 300 evidencias bíblicas que favorecen al Catolicismo [1992] (Traducido por Luis Fernando Pérez y amigos en 2002) [150 Reasons Why I am a Catholic: Featuring 300 Biblical Evidences Favoring Catholicism (revised 2005 version) ] — disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

Mi odisea del evangelicalismo al catolicismo [1990; revisada en 1992 y 1993] (desde el sitio web Apologética Católica; probablemente traducido por Luis Fernando Pérez) [My Odyssey from Evangelicalism to Catholicism; my original draft of my chapter in the book, Surprised by Truth] — disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

Newman me convenció de la Apostolicidad de la Iglesia Católica [1996] (página web Mercabá) [How Cardinal Newman Convinced me of the Apostolicity of the Catholic Church] — disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

La conversión de Newman en sus propias palabras (Breve resumen)* [1991] (Página Web de Luis Fernando Pérez; probablemente su traducción) [Newman’s Conversion Story in His Own Words (Brief)]

 

Biblia y Tradición

Biblia y Tradición: Mantened la Tradición . . . [1996] (Traducido por Luis Fernando Pérez en 2000) [Bible and Tradition: Maintain the Tradition . . .— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

Sola Escritura y Juicio privado – Diálogo ficticio con un protestante [1995] (Traducido por José Miguel Arráiz en 2010) [Sola Scriptura: a Fictional Dialogue— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

Refutación de Sola Scriptura en diez pasos breves [2003] (Traducido por Alejandro Villarreal en 2008) [Quick Ten-Step Refutation of Sola Scriptura— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

Tradición no es una palabra indigna [2006] (Traducido por Alejandro Villarreal en 2008) [“Tradition” Is Not a Dirty Word— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

 

El “apócrifos” o Deuterocanon / Canon de la Biblia

Los “Apócrifos”: ¿Porqué forman parte de la Biblia? [1996] (Traducido por Luis Fernando Pérez en 2000) [“Apocrypha”: Historical Case for Canonicity— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

El Canon del Nuevo Testamento* [1996] (Traducido por Luis Fernando Pérez en 2000) [The New Testament Canon]

¿Por qué las Biblias Católicas tienen siete libros más (deuterocanónicos)?* [9-14-15] (Católico: defiende tu Iglesia: 9-13-17) [Why Do Catholic Bibles Have Seven More (Deuterocanonical) Books?]

 

Fe y Trabajo
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Salvación como un proceso [2013] (Traducido por Kevin Bingaman en 2016) [Salvation as a Process— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo
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La Virgen María
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¿Por qué los católicos le piden a María que ore por ellos en vez de orarle directamente a Dios? (Traducido por Lizette Sellar Moon en 2017) [“Why Do Catholics Ask Mary to Pray for Them, Rather Than Praying Directly to God?”]  — disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo
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Imitación de María [1997] (Traducido por Lizette Sellar Moon en 2017) [The Imitation of Mary— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo
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Evidencia bíblica de cómo Dios se sirve de sus criaturas para dispensar su gracia y salvación (Traducido por Lizette Sellar Moon en 2017) [“Biblical Evidence for God Using Creatures to Distribute His Grace and Salvation”] — disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo
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El papado
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50 referencias bíblicas acerca de la Primacía de San Pedro y el Papado [1994] (Traducido por Alejandro Villarreal en 2008) [50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy & the Papacy— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo
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La comunión de los santos y el Purgatorio

La comunión de los santos: una perspectiva bíblica [1995] (Traducido por Luis Fernando Pérez en 2000) [The Communion of Saints: Biblical Overview— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

Invocacion de los santos, esencialmente diferente de la magia y necromancia [2008] (Traducido por José Miguel Arráiz en 2012) [chapter 4 of my book, Biblical Evidence for the Communion of Saints. See an abridged, shorter version— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

Diálogo imaginario sobre el Purgatorio entre Dante el católico y Pablo el presbiteriano [1995] (Traducido por Alejandro Villarreal en 2008) [Fictional Dialogue on Purgatory— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

 

Fundadores del protestantismo

La Inquisición Protestante: “Reforma”, Intolerancia y Persecución* [1991; rev. 2003, 2007] (Traducido por Alejandro Villarreal en 2008) [The Protestant Inquisition: “Reformation” Intolerance and Persecution]

La Revuelta Protestante: Su trágico impacto inicial* [1991; rev. 2003, 2007] (Traducido por Alejandro Villarreal en 2008) [The Protestant Revolt: Its Tragic Initial Impact]

 

La ciencia y el catolicismo

Galileo, mitos y hechos* [2007] (Traducido por Alejandro Villarreal en 2008) [Galileo: The Myths and the Facts]

 

Historia de la Iglesia (y “escándalos”)
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Mormonismo

Diálogo con un Apologista Mormón sobre la Doctrina Cristiana de Dios y el Desarrollo Doctrinal (vs. Dr. Barry Bickmore)* [2001] (Traducido por Alejandro Villarreal en 2008) [Dialogue with A Mormon Apologist on the Christian Doctrine of God, & Doctrinal Development]

 

Evangelización

“La cosecha está lista”: 14 consejos para el evangelismo católico [2017] (Traductor anónimo en 2017) [“The Harvest is Ready”: 14 Tips for Catholic Evangelism— disponible en mi libro: Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo

Apasionada defensa da las verdades religiosas: el dato bíblico [6-4-07] (Traducido por Juan Carlos Calero: 10-2-17) [“Passionate Defense of Religious Truths: The Biblical Data”]

 

Libros de Dave Armstrong disponibles en español o en proceso de traducción al español

[Dave Armstrong’s books available in Spanish or currently being translated into Spanish]

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1) ¡Revelación! 1001 Respuestas de la Biblia a Temas Teológicos Revelation! 1001 Bible Answers to Theological Topics

Spanish Cover (165 x 248)

Completado en septiembre de 2016.

[Traducido por Kevin Bingaman]

Esto es esencialmente una catequesis / apologética trabajo. Escribí sobre ello en la Introducción:

La idea de que surgió en mi mente era simplemente proporcionar pasajes de la Biblia (por lo general un verso, a veces unos cuantos juntos) sería (en mi humilde opinión, de todos modos) los mejores “respuestas” a un gran número de preguntas de una sola frase.

El formato puede recordar a uno de los populares de televisión Jeopardy juego de la TV, donde los concursantes se les da una pieza de información y tienen que llegar a una pregunta que es la “respuesta” a. Mientras que la compilación, miré a pasajes de la Biblia y ideé preguntas que los pasajes “contestadas”.

. . . [M] i libro consta de 18 amplias categorías (números romanos), y 200 subcategorías numeradas, en las que se encuentran las 1.001 preguntas en particular, con cada respuesta ser un pasaje de la Biblia.

Este libro se puede prácticamente funcionar como un catecismo rápida para los hispanos que quieren respuestas rápidas a las preguntas acerca de su fe, ya los retos de los protestantes. Es fácil buscar cualquier cosa que necesita ser tratado. Una herramienta muy práctica. . .

Ver la página de información del libro (contenidos y extractos) y el enlace de compra:

Libro de bolsillo (lista: $ 18.95 / 25% de descuento permanente Lulu: $ 14.21)
Paperback (List: $18.95 / 25% Permanent Lulu Discount: $14.21) 

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2) “La Virgen de los católicos”: ¿Muy al contrario de la Biblia? / “The Catholic Mary”: Quite Contrary to the Bible?

Spanish Cover (165 x 246)

Completado en junio de 2017.

[Traducido por Lizette Sellar Moon]

La teología y las creencias relativas acerca de la Santísima Virgen María, Madre de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, han dado lugar a conflictos desde hace mucho tiempo entre católicos y protestantes. Estos últimos sostienen a menudo que “la María Católica” es una corrupción de la verdadera María bíblica: la sierva modesta y humilde. El apologista católico Dave Armstrong muestra cómo la María “católica” y la “bíblica” son de hecho una y la misma al abordar temas polémicos como la Inmaculada Concepción de María, la Asunción y la virginidad perpetua, súplicas de intercesión a María, el rosario, el florido lenguaje devocional aparentemente excesivo de los santos, y María como dispensadora de la gracia y salvación de Dios, tal como San Pablo, y de hecho todos nosotros estamos destinados a ser. Armstrong brinda apoyo bíblico y racional a todas las creencias y prácticas católicas marianas al hacerlas accesibles, comprensibles y aptas para ser aceptadas por todos los que reconocen la inspiración de la Biblia.
Ver la página de información del libro (contenidos y extractos) y el enlace de compra:
Libro de bolsillo (lista: $ 17.95 / 25% de descuento permanente Lulu: $ 13.46)
Paperback (List: $17.95 / 25% Permanent Lulu Discount: $13.46) 
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3) Evidencias bíblicas para el Catolicismo / Biblical Evidence for Catholicism
Completado en marzo de 2018.
[traductores múltiples]
Colección de 40 capítulos, con nueve categorías generales, que tratan prácticamente todos los temas principales de la apologética católica. También incluye dos versiones de mi propia historia de conversión: de protestante a católico.
Ver la página de información del libro (contenidos y extractos) y aquí hay enlaces para compra instantánea:
4) Teología Bíblica Católica Eucarística  / Biblical Catholic Eucharistic Theology
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Apologista católico y autor prolífico de Dave Armstrong ha recopilado sus escritos sobre la Eucaristía y el sacrificio de la misa, de 15 años de diálogos de Internet, en un pasaje lleno de 23 capítulos y 222 páginas.

Entre los temas que se tratan son: 1) la presencia especial de Dios en los objetos físicos antes de la encarnación, 2) la comparación de la morada y la Presencia Real, 3) dudar discípulos en el discurso eucarístico de Juan 6, 4) la exclusión de la no los católicos de la comunión católica, 5) puntos de vista de Juan Calvino de San Agustín y, 6) los padres de la Iglesia en el sacrificio de la misa, 7) “sacerdotales” referencias de San Pablo, 8) bíblica, los argumentos analógicos para el sacrificio de la misa, 9) el protestante acusación “idolatría”, y 10) evidencia bíblica para el culto incondicional formales, litúrgico.

Los hechos de la historia de la Iglesia también se examinan en profundidad, con mucha corroboración de fuentes académicas protestantes.

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português / Portugese

 

Conversão do protestantismo ao catolicismo Provas / bíblicos para o catolicismo

150 razões que comprovam que a única igreja verdadeira é a católica* [1992] (Tradução em 2009) [150 Reasons Why I am a Catholic: Featuring 300 Biblical Evidences Favoring Catholicism (revised 2005 version) ]

Como Newman convenceu-me a tornar-me católico* [1996]  (Tradução de Rafael Rodrigues em 2016) [How Cardinal Newman Convinced me of the Apostolicity of the Catholic Church]

 

Anticatolicismo

O verdadeiro Alberto Rivera* [1999] (Tradução em 2007) [Jack Chick’s Lies: The Real Alberto Rivera (with a letter from an Alberto supporter and counter-reply)]

 

Bíblia e Tradição

Sola Scriptura e a interpretação individual – um diálogo com um protestante* [1995] (Tradução de Rafael Rodrigues em 2011) [Sola Scriptura: a Fictional Dialogue]

Onde está na Bíblia? Dez respostas católicas* [2003] (Tradução de João Marcos: 11-15-17) [Quick Ten-Step Refutation of Sola Scriptura]

Uma rápida refutação do “Sola Scriptura” em dez passos* [2003] (Tradução de Fábio Salgado de Carvalho: 10-16-16) [Quick Ten-Step Refutation of Sola Scriptura]

10 respostas rápidas para quem diz que “só vale o que está na Bíblia”* [2003] (Aleteia Brasil: 9-11-16) [Quick Ten-Step Refutation of Sola Scriptura]

A interpretação católica da Bíblia: desfazendo os mitos * [4-28-16 ] (Tradução de Fábio Salgado de Carvalho: 9-25-16) [Catholic Bible interpretation: Debunking the myths]

Igreja Católica: superior à Bíblia? ou A Igreja Católica reivindica estar “acima” da Bíblia e ser a sua “criadora”?* [9-24-15] (Tradução de Fábio Salgado de Carvalho: 9-18-16) [Catholic Church: Superior to the Bible?: Does the Catholic Church Claim to be ‘Above’ the Bible and Its ‘Creator’?]

A liberdade do exegeta/intérprete bíblico católico (+ Passagens bíblicas que a Igreja interpretou definitivamente)* [9-14-03] (Tradução de Fábio Salgado de Carvalho: 5-1-18) [The Freedom of the Catholic Biblical Exegete / Interpreter + Bible Passages that the Church has Definitively Interpreted]

 

o  “Apocrypha” ou Deuterocanon / Canon da Bíblia

Citações de Calvino aos livros deuterocanônicos: Casos documentados* [2008] (Tradução de Rafael Rodrigues em 2013) [Calvin’s Citations of the “Apocrypha”]

O cânone do Novo Testamento e seus processos históricos* [1996] (Tradução de Fábio Salgado de Carvalho: 11-12-17) [The New Testament Canon & Historical Processes]

 

o papado

50 Provas do Primado Petrino e do papado tiradas do Novo Testamento* [1994] (Tradução de Ewerton Wagner Santos Caetano em 2010) [50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy & the Papacy]

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Autoridade Igreja
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A Igreja apostólica, hierárquica e visível* [1996] (Tradução de Fábio Salgado de Carvalho: 10-27-16) [Visible, Hierarchical, Apostolic Church]
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Fundadores do protestantismo
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A Comunhão dos Santos / Imagens e Idolatria (?)
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São Paulo rezou por um homem morto: Onesíforo* [3-31-15] (Tradução de Fábio Salgado de Carvalho: 12-6-16) [St. Paul prayed for the dead man, Onesiphorus]
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Protestante o ano inteiro, católico no Natal!* [12-17-17] (Tradução de  Equipe Christo Nihil Praeponere: 12-20-17) [How Protestant Nativity Scenes Proclaim Catholic Doctrine]
Batismo
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A regeneração batismal: mais evidência bíblica* [4-3-16] (Tradução de Fábio Salgado de Carvalho: 10-30-16) [Baptismal Regeneration: More Biblical Evidence]
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o Rosário
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Rezar o Rosário é “vã repetição”?* [6-10-16] (Tradução de Fábio Salgado de Carvalho: 9-25-16) [Is praying the rosary ‘vain repetition’?]
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Livros de Dave Armstrong disponíveis em português

[Dave Armstrong’s books available in Portugese]
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Brazilian Cover (165 x 249)
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Tradutor / Translator: Alexei Gonçalves de Oliveira
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Ficha Técnica:
Número de Páginas: 202
Editora: Klasiká Liber
Idioma: Português
ISBN: 978-85-69049-02-9
Dimensões do Livro: 15,5 x 23 cm
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Compra / Purchase:

Descrição do Produto / Publisher’s Description:

Martinho deu início à Reforma Protestante anti-Católica quando afixou suas 95 teses à porta de uma igreja na Alemanha. Agora, Dave Armstrong contra-ataca com noventa e cinco passagens pró-Católicas de uma autoridade muito maior do que Lutero: a própria Bíblia.

Descrição do Tradutor / Translator’s Description:

Acabo de saber que foi publicada minha tradução do excelente livro de Dave Armstrong, em que ele defende a doutrina da Igreja Católica recorrendo ao “método Protestante”, isto é, atendo-se estritamente ao texto bíblico!

Se você é Católico, precisa ler, para se defender melhor das críticas protestantes. Se você é Protestante, também precisa ler, porque certamente há muito o que aprender com o autor — um ex-Protestante convertido ao Catolicismo!

Descrição do editor americano (Sophia Institute Press) / American Publisher’s Description:

Martin Luther acendeu a Reforma Protestante, acrescentando noventa e cinco teses anti-católicas a uma porta da igreja na Alemanha. Agora, Dave Armstrong contesta com noventa e cinco passagens pró-católicas de uma autoridade muito maior que Lutero: a própria Bíblia.

Os protestantes (e até mesmo muitos católicos) ficarão surpresos ao ver o catolicismo tão fortemente apoiado por esses versos católicos.

No entanto, a Bíblia é um livro católico: escrito por católicos, preservado pelos católicos por mais de 1.400 anos antes de Lutero nascer, e ainda hoje confirma as reivindicações da Igreja Católica.

Com humildade e cuidado, Dave Armstrong explica noventa e cinco passagens-chave da Bíblia que confundem todos os que usam a Escritura para criticar a Igreja e suas doutrinas. Estes são os versos que atraíram tantos crentes sérios para fora de suas congregações protestantes e para a Igreja Católica.

Armstrong mostra que uma leitura justa de cada uma dessas passagens (e de toda a Bíblia) apóia a posição católica sobre as questões-chave que dividem os protestantes dos católicos.

Está na Bíblia – Os Versículos Católicos são leitura essencial para todas as pessoas que procuram compreender a Palavra de Deus na Bíblia e para descobrir a Igreja que continua a pregar Sua Palavra fielmente hoje.

Próximo livro:

Evidências bíblicas para o catolicismo: edição portuguesa

Este livro deve ser vendido apenas como e-book (ePub ou mobi / Kindle) por US $ 3,99, apenas do meu e-booksite.

Sem dinheiro para propaganda, e vendo que isso será auto-publicado, terei que pedir a ajuda de meus muitos amigos hispânicos e brasileiros para que entenda a palavra. As pessoas têm que saber sobre esses livros, para comprá-los.

 

Français / French

La papauté

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50 preuves de la primauté de Pierre dans le Nouveau Testament [1994] (translated in 2008 by Benoit Meyrieux) [50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy & the Papacy]

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Les livres de Dave Armstrong sont disponibles en français

[Dave Armstrong’s books available in French]
French Cover (165 x 249)
Terminé en mai 2017

[translated by Benoit Meyrieux]

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BRÈVE DESCRIPTION
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Mon objectif est de permettre une recherche rapide de réponses bibliques à des questions théologiques de perpétuelle importance. Je présuppose l’inspiration et l’infaillibilité de la Bible, et ce livre est destiné aux chrétiens qui acceptent ces notions. Ce volume fournit des passages de la Bible (généralement un verset, parfois plusieurs) qui sont (à mon avis) les meilleures “réponses” à un grand nombre de questions simples. Le format rappelle celui du fameux jeu télévisé “Jéopardy”, dans lequel les participants reçoivent un élément de réponse et information et doivent trouver la question correspondante. En rédigeant ce livre, j’ai considéré des passages bibliques et ai élaboré des questions auxquels les passages «répondaient». Le livre est constitué de 18 grandes catégories et de 200 sous-catégories numérotées. Les merveilleux trésors de la Bible nous attendent: la révélation inspirée par l’Esprit de Dieu.
Voir la page d’information du livre (contenu et extraits) et le lien d’achat:
Broché (Liste: $ 18.95 / 25% de remise permanente Lulu: $ 14.21)
Paperback (List: $18.95 / 25% Permanent Lulu Discount: $14.21) 
***** 
Last updated on 3 December 2020.

***

 

June 2, 2016

PeterTabitha
St. Peter Raising Tabitha, by Masolino da Panicale (c. 1383 – c. 1447); portion of a fresco in the Brancacci Chapel, in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, Italy  [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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The first portion is from my book, The Catholic Verses (Sophia Institute Press: April 2004):
*****

Acts 9:36-37, 40-41 (RSV): “Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas . . . 37 In those days she fell sick and died . . . 40 But Peter . . . knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, rise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive.”

This passage – in relation to prayers for the dead – was suggested to me by my wife, Judy, as I was writing the preceding section. It had never occurred to me before; I don’t recall ever hearing such an argument made, and I was quite excited at the “apologetic” possibilities contained in this passage.

I readily grant that the example is unusual, because of the uniqueness of praying to raise someone from the dead (as distinguished from a prayer which aids someone in purgatory rather than bringing them back to the earth); also, I agree that the apostles had extraordinary powers of healing, so that this is not exactly a “normative” state of affairs (though even great miracles like these have been claimed through the years: I have an entire book about it).

Nevertheless, it seems utterly indisputable that here St. Peter literally prayed for a dead person, as far as that goes. When the Bible tells us that he “prayed,” it was obviously for the purpose of bringing her back to life (and she was dead when he prayed it). It’s possible also that he might have prayed something like, “Lord, if it be your will to keep her, so be it; your will be done, but if she can be brought back to her grieving family . . . “ Either way, he is undeniably praying for a dead person, which Protestants say is not permitted, and supposedly not recorded in the Bible.

Furthermore, we have another familiar example of the same thing: Jesus praying for Lazarus, just before he was raised by the Lord: “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me” (John 11:41-42). There is no recorded prayer at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:35-43).

Protestants would no doubt argue in reply that this was the Lord Jesus and an even more unique case, but we are commanded to imitate Him (including in prayer; e.g., the Lord’s Prayer), and it remains an example of prayer for the dead. The Bible informs us that the disciples raised people from the dead (Mt 11:5, Lk 7:22) and that Jesus told them that they would be able to, and should, do so (Mt 10:8). So they went out and did it, with (presumably) the use of prayer for that end. Thus, they prayed for the dead. We have an example of Peter doing just that.

John Calvin challenged Catholics concerning prayers for the dead: “I ask them, in turn, by what word of God, by what revelation, by what example, is this done?” (in McNeill, Institutes, III, 5, 10). I have just offered two examples recorded in two Bible passages (in addition to Onesiphorus).

If dead saints are not too far “out of reach” to be prayed for and raised from the dead back to earthly life, then I submit that they aren’t too distant for us to pray for their souls while in purgatory (assuming – as Catholics do on several biblical grounds – that there is such a thing). As Jesus would ask the Pharisees, “which of these two things is more difficult to do?” Matthew Henry comments:

“By prayer. In his healing Eneas there was an implied prayer, but in this greater work he addressed himself to God by solemn prayer, as Christ when he raised Lazarus; but Christ’s prayer was with the authority of a Son, who quickens whom he will; Peter’s with the submission of a servant, who is under direction, and therefore he knelt down and prayed.”

There we have it. It is inescapable logic:

1. Peter prayed for Tabitha and Jesus for Lazarus, that they be raised from the dead.

2. In order for such a prayer and miracle to occur, the person prayed for must be dead, by definition.

3. Therefore, Jesus and Peter both prayed for the dead, and such a thing is recorded in the Word of God.

John Calvin in his Commentaries, writes at length about St. Peter’s prayer (later stating that he also “speaketh unto a corpse”), citing a precedent (Aeneas, from the preceding context of Acts 9:32-35):

When he healed Aeneas he brake out into these words, without making any stop, Aeneas, Jesus Christ make thee whole. But as the operation of the Spirit is not always alike and the same, it may be that though he knew the power of God, yet he went forward unto the miracle by degrees.

Calvin later graciously directed the reader (and jogged my own memory) to yet another biblical account of prayers for the dead: that of Elijah, as recorded in 1 Kings 17:17-24:

Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this child’s soul come into him again.’ And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. (17:21-22)

It is only fitting that Calvin’s query, “by what word of God, by what revelation, by what example, is this done?” should be answered by himself in another of his own works. We have only added the names of our Glorious Lord Jesus and St. Peter to the list of those who are shown praying for the dead in Holy Scripture, as confirmed by Protestant commentators, who (despite all) are convinced that no such thing exists in Scripture.

Until someone can explain to me how it is possible to pray to raise a person from the dead without simultaneously praying for the dead (i.e., that same dead person), then I will insist henceforth that the practice of praying for the dead is explicitly taught and shown by literal example in both Testaments.

Furthermore, these acts would probably not have occurred but for the prayers. God has power over life and death and is entirely sovereign, but He involves human beings and incorporates their prayers into His Providence. None of these people came back to life until they were prayed for.

Thus it is God’s will and an entirely scriptural practice to pray for the dead. If it were not God’s will for men to pray such things, He would not have honored the prayer.and the person wouldn’t have been raised (1 John 5:14-15). Therefore, to rule out this practice is impossible, if we are to be true to the Bible.

Protestants might still, however, have a certain comeback to this argument. This was pointed out to me by my friend and fellow apologist, Steve Kellmeyer. I cite his words (with permission) from private correspondence:

I can see only one counter-argument to your novel and powerful “praying for the dead” argument. A Protestant might well argue that the only kind of prayer for the dead which is permitted is a prayer intending to raise the dead back to physical life. The argument would assert that since all three indicated instances — Elijah, Jesus, Peter — prayed for restored physical life and were granted this physical life, that the power and intent of such a prayer would be implicitly restricted to just this, by Scripture.

The counter, of course, is clear: examples of physical healing which corresponded to examples of spiritual healing: “Which is more difficult, to say, “your sins are forgiven” or to say, “pick up your mat and walk”? [Luke 5:17-26] That is, Christ often used physical healing to point to His ability to accomplish an inner spiritual healing [Lk 5:24]. So, if we are allowed to pray for spiritual healing (which we are) or for physical healing (which we are) we would implicitly be permitted to pray for the healing of souls in purgatory, since this healing is really what God wants.

This in turn might be countered by the Protestants’ denial of our ability to do this. They might charge that these raisings from the dead are indeed pointing to a deeper spiritual reality — they point to the fact that God can save us when we are “dead in our sins”. They do not point to the possibility that we are to pray for the actual healing of a dead person from the effects of his own sin, since judgement is meted out at the moment of death, and a person’s final position is irrevocably fixed at that moment. Indeed, they would point out that none of the three raisings indicate that the people in question were healed of their sins. At this point, the argument threatens to get bogged down (both sides arguing past each other), because its suppositions reside in a doctrine neither side explicitly mentions.

The problem is the doctrine of total corruption. Anyone who believes in it can’t entertain the idea of “walking wounded”. Either you are alive in Christ or you are dead in your sins, but you are never alive and wounded in your sins. So, any argument which implicitly or explicitly describes “walking wounded” will be rejected by the consistent theologian of total corruption. That’s why both purgatory (the place for the wounded soul) and this argument (novel and excellent as it is), will still be viewed with great suspicion.

I agree with Steve’s speculation as to probable Protestant replies to this argument. Like most of Christian theology, the question at hand is highly interrelated to other biblical and doctrinal aspects, within an overall self-consistent framework (whether Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox). Thus, it must be accompanied by further distinct arguments for purgatory, penance, and the nature of justification in order to fully succeed and to be convincing to a Protestant, who comes to the discussion with an initial hostility to any notion of the intermediate state, or purgatory.

To follow up once again, however, I would point out that the “line” between heaven and earth, or the afterlife and earth (including purgatory) is not so rigid and absolute as many seem to assume. This was shown in my previous mention of dead saints who came back to earth (Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration, Samuel, the two “witnesses” of Revelation, and the many people who came out of their tombs and walked around Jerusalem after Jesus’s death). It’s true that those events were a result of God’s decree and not men’s prayers, but nevertheless, they prove that the “line” is not absolute. Whatever God can and does do, is proper for men to pray for.

A certain “middle ground” or “intermediate state” between salvation in heaven — never to be undone or reversed –, and earthly existence, is a fact, which is illustrated precisely by these instances of raising the dead; a miracle – accompanied by prayer — performed by Elijah, our Lord Jesus (twice), and St. Peter.

Under a strict Protestant eschatological interpretation, a person dies and is then immediately judged and granted eternal life in heaven or eternal damnation in hell. This conclusion is often bolstered by citing Hebrews 9:27: “. . . it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment”. But it is merely assumed (without any logical necessity flowing from the text itself) that judgment is instantaneous upon death.

For instance, one could write, “it is appointed for men to graduate from high school once, and after that comes college”. There is no requirement that the event “after” is instantaneous simply because it immediately follows something previous to it. But even the supposed “immediate” is not a grammatical or logical necessity, for the phrase “after that” doesn’t require it. One could write, for example, “it is appointed for all Lutherans to be baptized once, and after that comes confirmation”. Confirmation is after baptism, but by some 10-12 years in most cases.

So then, what of these four people who were dead and came back to life? Obviously, they were in some sort of intermediate state which was neither an earthly existence nor an irrevocable commencement of the sentence of hell or the unfathomable blessings of heaven. The Protestant has no choice but to grant that, even if these cases are deemed rare exceptions to the otherwise ironclad rule.

Therefore, there is such a notion as an intermediate state, at least in some cases (however rare). This is the fundamental presupposition behind purgatory, and so the very actuality of these miracles is itself an establishment of a key tenet of purgatory (which in turn, is rejected out of hand by Protestants, causing them to automatically denounce prayers for the dead). One senses a certain self-contradiction starting to creep up in the Protestant perspective, upon closer inspection.

This brings us back to an earlier point: if indeed it is possible for a person to be in this intermediate state and to be brought across the great line between life and death (which has to do with earthly bodies, but not souls, which are eternal in any case), by prayer, then it seems equally plausible and possible, to cause a person to advance in purgatory as a result of prayer, following the principle laid down by Jesus when He said that it is easier to say “your sins are forgiven” (a purely spiritual occurrence) than to physically heal a man.

In other words, if we can pray and raise a dead body back to life, and across the line from the afterlife to earthly life, we can also pray for the same person’s soul in the afterlife. One is no more implausible or plausible than the other. If Protestants demand biblical examples of praying for the dead, we have provided them. Even if they are “exceptional cases” this is not fatal to the argument. All miracles are “exceptions” by definition. Raising the dead was certainly an exception to routine, humdrum everyday life, yet Jesus told His disciples to go do it (Mt. 10:8).

If we can pray for a dead man to come back to life, it seems only likely that we can pray for their soul as well, since the first prayer presupposes an intermediate state wherein that soul (without a body) is neither in heaven nor hell, from which there is no end or exit (as far as it is revealed in Scripture).

If a person can be so aided in the earthly direction, why couldn’t they be aided in the heavenly direction, and who can deny whether there might be gradations or processes in the journey from earth to heaven, involving duration, according to Thomas Howard’s statement above, that “the Bible does not vouchsafe us much light on how, much less when, our stories reach completion in the realm beyond death”?

*****

Meta Description: When the dead are raised, it is an instance of prayer for the dead. They are dead, someone prays for them, & the prayer is answered.

Meta Keywords: afterlife, eschatology, hades, intermediate state, last things, netherworld, penance, penance for the dead, Prayer for the dead, purgatory, sheol, prayers for the dead, Tabitha, Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, Elijah, St. Peter

March 6, 2016

ForestMisty
Forest clearing in Alsace, Eastern France. Photo by Jovan Cormac, 6-6-08 [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]
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(written in 1995)

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Paul the Presbyterian: Hey Dante! What is this nonsense about purgatory [spoken with a grimace] that you Catholics teach? Haven’t you read that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8)?

Dante the Catholic: First of all, you’re misreading that verse. Paul is saying only that he would rather be present with God in spirit than here in his body. Secondly, your interpretation wouldn’t apply to those who are damned to hell, since they are not “with the Lord.” Thirdly, why would you assume that to be in purgatory is to not be with God?

Paul: Well, I’m impressed. But still, you can’t show me a single verse in the Bible which refers to a state in the afterlife other than heaven or hell.

Dante: Really? I hate to contradict you [smiles], but what about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19-31)? This is the Hebrew Sheol (Greek, Hades) since it includes both good and bad men. Heaven can’t have sinners in it (Rev 21:27) and hell wouldn’t have saved persons in it.

Paul: Ah, but this is just a parable. You can’t construct a doctrine out of a story! You’ll have to do better than that.

Dante: I disagree. Jesus wouldn’t tell a falsehood about spiritual matters, even within a parable. This would be misleading. Besides, we’re told that Christ preached to (apparently damned) “spirits in prison” after His death (1 Pet 3:19-20) and took the righteous dead with Him to heaven (Eph 4:8-10). This indicates a divided Sheol or Hades, with the righteous and the wicked: a third place or state.

Paul: Well . . . alright, you got me on that one. But no one could go to heaven until after Jesus’ Resurrection, and then there were only two destinations after death.

Dante: No: Elijah went straight to heaven (2 Ki 2:11), and most Christians believe the same about Enoch (Gen 5:24). So there were two possibilities for the righteous then: Sheol or heaven, just as there are two today: purgatory or heaven, as Jesus strongly hints (Mt 5:25-26; Lk 12:58-59).

Paul: Okay, but what other verse can you come up with?

Dante: Well, Paul accepts prayers for the dead, which presupposes a purgatory, where dead men can still be assisted.

Paul: Come on! Now you’re really off the deep end. Where?

Dante: In 1 Corinthians 15:29, Paul refers to people being “baptized for the dead.” And he appears to pray for a dead man, Onesiphorus, in 2 Timothy 1:16-18.

Paul: What do you think he means by “baptisms for the dead?”

Dante: We think he is referring to acts of penance and prayers for the dead. “Baptism” is often a metaphor for suffering (Mk 10:38-39; Lk 3:16, 12:50), and Paul seems to have 2 Maccabees 12:44 in mind – a very similar verse which explicitly teaches the propriety of prayers for the dead.

Paul: But that’s in the Apocrypha. We don’t accept that.

Dante: I know, but if Paul is indeed referring to it, that’s beside the point, and you still have to interpret Paul somehow. But there’s more: Jesus speaks of sins being forgiven in the “world to come” (Mt 12:32), and three levels of judgment (Mt 5:22). These must be references to purgatory. Scripture often mentions a “fire” and a purging, cleansing process by which we become holy (Ex 19:18; Is 4:4; 6:7; Mal 3:1-4; 2 Cor 7:1; 1 Thess 4:3, 7; 1 Jn 3:2-3; Heb 12:29).

Paul: But why would God want to torment us like that? What’s the point? Why wouldn’t He just forgive us and be done with it, since Jesus already bore all our penalties (Is 53:4-6)?

Dante: God is holy and perfect as well as loving, and this process is simply the way we must enter into His presence. Besides, it’s much more merciful to allow people to be purged of their remaining sins after death as a prelude to heaven, than to condemn them to hell. Whatever the reason, God has revealed purgatory to us in the Bible. Paul talks about the “judgment seat of Christ” (1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10), where our works will be “tested,” after which some will be saved “only as through fire.” In all essentials, this is precisely what Catholics mean by purgatory. Don’t you believe in the “judgment seat of Christ,” and that holiness is required to see God (Heb 12:14-15, 23; Eph 5:5)?

Paul: Well sure, but it takes place quickly at the Judgment.

Dante: Okay, suppose I grant you that. Now we’re only arguing about duration, a mere quantitative rather than qualitative dispute. Why quibble over details? We’re not far apart.

Paul: Yes, but we don’t think that this judgment goes on for thousands of years, with the sufferers losing all hope.

Dante: No one knows how long the process will take for any individual. Paul makes no indication. But all these suffering souls know they are saved and will go to heaven eventually. Purgatory is the vestibule to heaven, not hell. You believe we’ll be zapped, and I think it’ll take a bit longer. But there is agreement that some purging takes place.

Paul: Wow! I never thought of it in that way. But if the Bible teaches this, I can’t disagree with it. Thanks, Dante!

February 17, 2016

Copyist
Portrait of Jean Miélot (after 1456), by Jean Le Tavernier (d. 1462) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
* * *
(8 December 2004)
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TABLE OF CONTENTS 
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I. Standard Protestant Church History Sources: the Early Church and the “Apocrypha”
II. Did Any Jews Accept the Canonicity of the “Apocrypha”? Are Ancient Jewish Beliefs on the Canon Certain?
III. F.F. Bruce: New Testament Allusions to the “Apocrypha” and Pseudepigrapha
IV. Miscellany and Some Good-Natured Bantering Back and Forth
V. “Demonstrable, Disqualifying Errors” in the “Apocrypha”? / Errors in Protestant Logic
VI. “Universal Jewish Rejection” of the “Apocrypha”?
VII. Does the New Testament Ever Cite the “Apocrypha” as an “Authority”?
VIII. Clarification on the Catholic Meaning of the Term Deuterocanonical Books
IX. Epistemological Difficulties for Protestants / Luther’s Peculiar Views
X. Misunderstandings About the Catholic Church & Holy Scripture & More Hard Questions For Protestants About the Canon
XI. “Canon Shot”: Penetrating Insights & Challenges to Protestants From Cardinal Newman
The Ankerberg Theological Research Institute does some great work against the cults and other false teachings. But – as so often with such Protestant groups – it fails and commits intellectual suicide in its classification of Catholicism as a non-Christian belief system. A while back (while searching for something else on Google), I discovered that Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon had responded to a small portion of my 1995 letter to them regarding anti-Catholicism, in their paper, The Apocrypha and the Biblical Canon (Part 2). I have found four of six parts of this paper online. The other sections appear to be unavailable. Some time ago I critiqued a book of theirs, which afforded me an opportunity to make a general critique of several major facets of anti-Catholicism. Ankerberg’s and Weldon’s words will be in blue:
I. Standard Protestant Church History Sources: the Early Church and the “Apocrypha”
 
Unfortunately, someone who reads only casually on the subject may easily be misled and conclude that the early church accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture and that the modern church is confused on the issue.
 
Indeed they would think that, since it is true, as I have previously demonstrated, and will again presently.
Neither conclusion would be true.
 
It is this statement, I submit, that is untrue.
Consider the kinds of statements one may find in various sources. “Down to the 4th century the church generally accepted all the books of the Septuagint as canonical . . .”;1 [footnote 1: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 70.] or, “the church of the first centuries made no essential difference between the writings of the Hebrew canon and the so-called Apocrypha.” [footnote 2: The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 1, p. 214].
 
Well, yes, what would a Protestant (one who rejects the deuterocanonical books as biblical books) make of statements such as these? Are we to conclude that both of these Protestant sources are all wet and don’t have the slightest idea of what they are writing about? That would be a fascinating position to take . . . Here’s another citation from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church:

In post-NT times, the Christian Fathers down to the later 4th cent. almost all regarded the LXX as the standard form of the OT . . .

(p. 1260)
Even church historian J. N. D. Kelly, author of Early Christian Doctrines and Early Christian Creeds, comments, incorrectly, that, “For the great majority [of early fathers]…the deuterocanonical writings [the apocrypha] ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense.” [footnote 3: In Norman L. Geisler, Ralph MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995), p. 162]
 
Oh I see; so the well-known patristics scholar, whose main field of study is the theological beliefs of the early Christians and Fathers, got this wrong, but Ankerberg and Weldon know the real truth and we should trust them over against Kelly and other historians? I must confess that I find this absurd already, but I am willing to entertain their arguments for this extraordinary position that they have taken about factual historical matters which can be verified by history. Since Anglican historian Kelly was brought up (and he is an excellent, often-used scholarly source for such matters), let us quote him at greater length:

It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive . . . It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha, or deutero-canonical books . . .

In the first two centuries at any rate the Church seems to have accepted all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture. (Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper, revised edition of 1978, 53-54)
After noting some disagreement on the matter of Eastern Fathers in the third and fourth centuries, Kelly notes that:

The West, as a whole, was inclined to form a much more favourable estimate of the Apocrypha . . . For the great majority, however, the deutero-canonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense. Augustine, for example, whose influence in the West was decisive, made no distinction between them and the rest of the Old Testament . . . The same inclusive attitude to the Apocrypha was authoritatively displayed at the synods of Hippo and Carthage in 393 and 397 respectively, and also in the famous letter which Pope Innocent I despatched to Exuperius, bishop of Toulouse, in 405. (Ibid., 55-56)

Here’s another standard Protestant reference source, which mentioned:

The Jews in the early Christian centuries had really two Bibles: (1) There was the Hebrew Bible which does not include the Apocrypha and which circulated in Palestine and Babylon; (2) there was the Greek version (LXX [the Septuagint]) used by Greek-speaking Jews everywhere. Until in quite early times, instigated by the use made of it by Christians against themselves, the Jews condemned this version and made the Hebrew canon their Bible, thus rejecting the books of the Apocrypha from their list of canonical writings, and departing from

. . . the custom of Christian churches which continued with isolated remonstrances to make the Greek OT canon, with which the Vulgate agrees almost completely, their standard. (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, General editor: James Orr, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1939, five volumes, Vol. 1, “Apocrypha,” 182)
Citing statements such as this, former evangelical turned Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong wrote us at The John Ankerberg Show in defense of Catholic views generally. He began by quoting The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, which declared, as we just quoted,

Down to the 4th century, the Church generally accepted all the books of the Septuagint as canonical. Greek and Latin writers alike (e.g., Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian) cite both classes of Books without distinction . . . With few exceptions [St. Jerome and St. Hilary] . . . Western writers (esp. Augustine) continued to consider all as equally canonical . . . At the Reformation, Protestant leaders, ignoring the traditional acceptance of all the Books of the Septuagint in the early church… refused the status of inspired Scripture [to the Apocrypha] . . .”

But what The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church also stated about the Apocrypha is this:

The Biblical Books received by the early Church as part of the Greek version of the Old Testament, but not included in the Hebrew Bible, being excluded by the non-Hellenistic Jews from their Canon. Their position in Christian usage has been somewhat ambiguous…. In the E. Church opinion varied, and for some centuries the Books continued to be widely accepted; but at the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672 it was decided that Tobit, Judith, Ecclus., and Wisd. alone were to be regarded as canonical. Opinion in the W. was also not unanimous, some authorities considering certain books uncanonical; . . . [footnote 4: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, pp. 70-71]

This gives us a somewhat different picture of things. Note that the non-Hellenistic Jews, who determined their Old Testament canon, rejected the Apocrypha.
To which I reply:

1) They also (along with the Hellenistic Jews as a whole) rejected Jesus as their Messiah, so why is it so casually assumed that a Christian has to accept everything that “non-Hellenistic Jews” believe, as if this decides the question, or has some crucial, decisive impact upon it?

*

2) Note that Ankerberg and Weldon deny (over against Kelly’s opinion – see the words cited above, responding to Kelly as mentioned in Norman Geisler’s book) even that the Church of the first two centuries accepted these books as Scripture. The above entry deals with all of Church history, so we must distinguish between that claim about difference of opinions (which is true) and the separate question of what the Church in the first two centuries believed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states that this “general acceptance” applied up to the 4th century, or some 300 years (two citations above), and comments on how the early Protestants ignored this fact.

*

3) The fact that the East also accepted some of these books as canonical (and differed as to some with the West) does not resolve the Protestant dilemma of its own authoritative determination of canonicity. It is only Protestants (and not even all of them) who deny the canonicity of all seven deuterocanonical books. I want to know why, and why anyone should accept Protestant authority on this, rather than that of the earliest Christians and the councils of Hippo and Carthage.

*

4) The fact that western opinion was not absolutely unanimous, is not troubling at all to the Catholic, since we don’t expect every individual Father to get everything right. We don’t determine truth by majority vote (though consensus is highly important), but by the authority of councils and popes, in harmony with Holy Scripture. But in this instance, Scripture itself cannot determine its own parameters. Some human authority has to do that, since the Bible was written, collected, and canonized by very human processes. Christians aren’t like Muslims, who claim to have received the Koran whole and entire from Allah. We can’t simply accept everything the Jews passed down to us, since they disagreed amongst themselves, and rejected the central Christian message and the gospel. This is a Christian problem, and one intrinsically involving Tradition. It can’t be resolved by Scripture Alone, in the very nature of the case. And that creates an enormous difficulty indeed for Protestantism, in deciding the true canon. That difficulty, and the constant (desperate) use of circular argument (for lack of anything better) will become very apparent, as I continue to critique this article.

II. Did Any Jews Accept the Canonicity of the “Apocrypha”? Are Ancient Jewish Beliefs on the Canon Certain?

We must also observe that there is no evidence that the Hellenistic or Alexandrian Jews regarded the Apocrypha as Scripture, despite their preservation of it in the Septuagint [LXX]. It is crucial to note that the Jews themselves never accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture and yet they were the very ones trained to recognize divine authorship. They had carefully done so with 39 other books, rejecting as spurious scores of false texts. Why then did they reject the Apocrypha if it was so clearly scriptural?
 
This is an unfounded exaggeration (particularly the strong, unsubstantiated word, “never”). It is much more advisable to take an agnostic position, since we don’t have enough definitive evidence to resolve the question of the canon for all Jews at all times. The fact remains that the Jewish canon wasn’t closed until after the New Testament was written. Thus, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church informs us:

In date of writing, the Books of the Apocrypha derive mostly from the period 300 B.C. – A.D. 100 approx., and mostly from 200 B.C/ – A.D. 70 . . . In this period, though the Canon of the Jewish Scriptures was closed as far as the ‘Law’ and the ‘Prophets’ were concerned, it was still possible for works which came to be known technically as ‘Writings’ to claim the status of Scripture . . . (Ibid., 70)

In the long article (104 large pages), “Biblical Literature and Its Critical Interpretation,” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1985 edition, vol. 14, 754-858), the extent and acceptance of the Alexandrian canon is discussed (p. 758):

It should be noted that the contents and form of the inferred original Alexandrian Jewish canon cannot be ascertained with certainty because all extant Greek Bibles are of Christian origin. The Jews of Alexandria may themselves have extended the canon they received from Palestine, or they may have inherited their traditions from Palestinian circles in which the additional books had already been regarded as canonical.

The article then notes that the famous Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran contained:

. . . no lists of canonical works and no codices (manuscript volumes), only individual scrolls. For these reasons nothing can be known with certainty about the contents and sequence of the canon of the Qumran sectarians . . . fragments of all the books of the Hebrew Bible (except Esther) have been found . . . The situation is complicated by the presence in Qumran of extracanonical works – some already known from the Apocrypha [note the begged question, but this shows that the article is a “hostile witness” in favor of what I am arguing: viz., that we don’t know enough] . . . Some or all of these additional works may have been considered canonical by the members of the sect.

The great Protestant biblical scholar F.F. Bruce, no friend of the “Apocrypha,” is forced to agree, given the data we possess. Commenting on the Dead Sea Scrolls, he writes:

[T]he men of Qumran have left no statement indicating precisely which of the books represented in their library ranked as holy scripture in their estimation, and which did not . . . what of Tobit, Jubileese and Enoch, fragments of which were also found at Qumran? These were in due course to be reckoned canonical by certain religious groups; were they reckoned canonical by the Qumran community? There is no evidence which would justify the answer ‘Yes’; on the other hand, we do not know enough to return the answer ‘No’. (The Canon of Scripture, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988, 39-40)

Likewise, R.K. Harrison, professor of Old Testament at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, concurs as to uncertainty and possible wider Jewish canonicity in his article, “The Canon of the Old Testament,” reprinted at the end of my copy of Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979; article originally from 1964):

2. Apocrypha, Septuagint, and patristic sources

It seems highly improbable that there was ever any specific enumeration of the books of the canon in Jewish literature generally . . .

From the evidence presented by the Qumran texts it would seem probable that there were several different forms of the canon in existence by the first century of the Christian era, which is in harmony with the rather fluid picture of the pre-Masoretic text as indicated by the Qumran scrolls.
Perhaps then, some in the early church were wrong and the issue is not as clear as others would have us think.
 
Perhaps, then, Protestants are wrong and the issue is indeed as clear as Catholics would have us think. But this rests on the same fallacy; that is: this casually-assumed notion that the early Church was bound to Jewish opinion on the canon of Old Testament Scripture. The Jews disagreed amongst themselves (as just demonstrated), and they hadn’t closed their own canon yet. Therefore, even if Christians were bound absolutely to their opinion on this, these two factors would make any certainty on those grounds alone unattainable.
In his letter, Mr. Armstrong proceeded with the following argument in defense of the Apocrypha:

As for the Apostles and Jesus, everyone agrees that they used and cited the Septuagint, which contained the Apocrypha. The earliest Greek manuscripts contain the Apocryphal books interspersed with (not separate from) the others, proving they were part of the early Christian Bible. The Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) listed the Apocrypha as canonical, along with the other 39 that Protestants accept. Who are Protestants to decide 1100 years later that these Councils erred on some books but not others? The only reason you have the Bible you do is because you inconsistently accept the authority of these Councils as to the Canon (except for the Apocrypha). The late Protestant rejection of these books is largely based on inadequate and arbitrary grounds, as usual: the clear teaching in some of prayers for the dead and the intercession of saints and angels, which had been unbroken Christian (and Jewish) Tradition. This is the same rationale that caused Luther nearly to toss out James and other books, based on his personal aversion to their (Catholic) teachings. Thus, Protestants have “subtracted” from the Bible, rather than Catholics “adding” to it. Yours is the radical and novel innovation (i.e., corruption) not ours. The practice of separating the Apocryphal books from the others dates back no further than 1520, according to The New English Bible (Oxford, 1976, “Introduction to the Apocrypha,” p. iii). And, of course, the original KJV contained it, too. So, again, you are refuted entirely from Protestant sources and the indisputable facts of church history. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.[footnote 5: Letter of Dave Armstrong to John Weldon, August 20, 1995]

Mr. Armstrong has, unfortunately, as many Catholic apologists do, oversimplified the issues and failed to answer the real questions.
 
I don’t think so. I believe it is evident that Drs. Ankerberg and Weldon, not I, are overlooking a host of difficult but crucial questions. They disagree? Then let them come reply to this, and let’s all see why they disagree, and how well they can back up their contentions.
For example, the mere fact that Jesus and the apostles used the Septuagint says nothing about the canonical status of the Apocrypha.
 
Strictly speaking, I agree; however, this is not inconsistent with a belief that all the books in the Septuagint are biblical, and regarded as such by the early Church. We have a lot of direct evidence for this, and if the early Church took that position so widely, it is not implausible or unreasonable to assume that the apostles did also.
Certainly, they used Hebrew Manuscripts or compilations that did not contain the Apocrypha as well.
 
Yes, but that doesn’t resolve our dispute one way or the other.
Also, what proof exists that the Septuagint of the first century contained the Apocrypha?
 
Apparently there exists no absolute manuscript proof from before the advent of Christianity. But this is no disproof of Catholic claims, either, because we lack absolute proof for all of the Protestant 39 books, too, since the Jews were still disputing it at the time (or at least had not finally established a canon), and due to the lack of comprehensive evidence from the NT. F.F. Bruce states about the NT evidence of the canonized OT books (by the somewhat incomplete data of citation):

When we think of Jesus and his Palestinian apostles . . . We cannot say confidently that they accepted Esther, Ecclesiastes or the Song of Songs as scripture, because evidence is not available. We can argue only from probability, and arguments from probability are weighed differently by different judges.

We cannot say with absolute certainty, for example, if Paul treated Esther or the Song of Songs as scripture any more than we can say if those books belonged to the Bible which Jesus knew and used.
(Bruce, ibid., 41, 50)

III. F.F. Bruce: New Testament Allusions to the “Apocrypha” and Pseudepigrapha

Bruce goes on to detail NT allusions to (from the Protestant perspective, and sometimes that of all Christians) non-canonical works. He felt that the book of Hebrews “probably” was referring to the martyrologies of 2 Maccabees 6:18-7:41 when he wrote of hardships endured for the faith in Hebrews 11:35-38) and that Jude 14 ff. was “recognizably from the apocalyptic book of Enoch (1 Enoch 1:9),” and that “the account of Michael’s dispute with the devil over the body of Moses may refer to a work called the Assumption of Moses or Ascension of Moses” (p. 51). Even more fascinating (and troublesome for the Protestant position not only against the deuterocanon, but also authoritative extra-biblical Tradition) are his following words:

There are, however, several quotations in the New Testament which are introduced as though they were taken from holy scripture, but their source can no longer be identified. For instance, the words ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’, quoted in Matthew 2:23 as ‘what was spoken by the prophets’, stand in that form in no known prophetical book . . . Again in John 7:38 ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’ is introduced by the words ‘as the scripture has said’ – but which scripture is referred to? . . . there can be no certainty. (Ibid., 51-52)

He gives other examples of similar texts, as well: 1 Cor 2:9, Eph 5:14, 2 Tim 3:8, James 4:5. The argument of OT canon construction from NT citations alone, is, therefore, quite dubious and inconclusive. It may seem to “work” if circular reasoning is utilized, but not when all the hard facts are considered. Bruce is honest enough to admit this, even though he himself rejects the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books, or so-called “Apocrypha.” Evidence is evidence, after all, and wishing it away or into existence does not resolve the problem. Bruce’s conclusion, then, would seem to contradict that of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

Everything depends upon the manner in which the quotation is made. In no case is an Apocryphal book cited by NT authors as “Scripture,” or as the work of the Holy Spirit. (Orr, ibid., 558-559)

Bruce (and the evidence fairly considered, I think) also contradicts OT scholar R.K. Harrison (as cited by Ankerberg and Weldon):

[T]here is no instance in the New Testament where any of the writers cited an Apocryphal composition as though they recognized it as inspired Scripture or as in any way connected with matters of spiritual authority. (An Introduction to the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974, 1186)

Strictly speaking, if we restrict “Apocryphal” to the seven books in the Catholic Bible, this is true. However, Bruce demonstrated that such an introduction was given to works even beyond that, which all regard as non-biblical “pseudepigrapha.” That is even more damaging to the Protestant claim, since it shows a remarkable fluidity in the conception of “canon” in the NT apostolic era.
IV. Miscellany and Some Good-Natured Bantering Back and Forth
 
Does the fact that apocryphal books were included in some Greek manuscripts prove the early church considered them Scripture?
 
No, but that’s not the argument, which is based, rather, on the early Church’s own firsthand report of what it regarded as Scripture.
Are the decrees of all church councils infallible?
 
No, only those accepted by the pope, according to Catholic ecclesiology. Have my Protestant friends never heard of, for example, the famous “Robber Council” of 449?
Is it really the Protestants who removed Scripture or have Catholics decreed noncanonical writings into Scripture?
 
The former, as the early Church (first two or three centuries) clearly accepted them as canonical.
And is the Protestant view “refuted entirely from Protestant sources and the indisputable facts of church history” so that Protestants should be ashamed of what they have done?
 
Insofar as they attempt to falsify facts of Church history, yes. It would be much more honest to simply admit that they don’t care what the earliest Christians taught on this (or anything else), and openly argue that they will construct their own canon despite the early consensus. The dilemma is that Protestants are fond of a certain mythology, whereby they supposedly “reformed” the Church back to its original pristine purity of the first age after the apostles. This myth, unfortunately, dies the death of a thousand qualifications, as Church history is more and more known. Thus, we see Ankerberg and Weldon flat-out denying the contentions of Church historians like Kelly. They do that because they are trying to maintain the “myth of origins” and the lofty description of “Reformation.”
A “reformation” (as opposed to a “revolution”) goes back to what was before. So if they find that some things in the early Church were simply not like proto-Protestantism, and much more like Catholicism, then they have a huge problem. They must either become a-historical altogether and cease arguing their case based on the early Church, or pretend that the early Christians were not what they were. My opponents have chosen the latter course, with regard to the first two centuries, in the face of strong historical evidence (provided by non-Catholic historians and references) to the contrary. There are also other logical and epistemological problems and conundrums of proper authority, as related to this question of the canon, which will be explored in due course also.
Or is Mr. Armstrong just being a good Catholic apologist?
 
I hope so! I think I am being a “good enough” one to virtually guarantee that my opponents will not counter-reply. I challenge them to prove my expectation of a non-response to be incorrect. Otherwise, I believe I have shown and will continue to demonstrate that their case cannot stand scrutiny and is quite (even woefully) insufficient to establish the Protestant canon and overthrow the Catholic canon.
Let’s see just where “the facts of church history” take us.
 
Yes, let’s. That would be nice for a change, if the Protestants who make these historical arguments would ever stick around long enough to accomplish anything.
V. “Demonstrable, Disqualifying Errors” in the “Apocrypha”? / Errors in Protestant Logic
 
Before we proceed, let us supply a few pertinent questions and comments to introduce our subject. We will then return to these points and others in more detail. First, how can the Apocrypha possibly be considered God’s Word when everyone, Protestant and Catholic, agree it contains demonstrable errors? This thoroughly undermines the crucial doctrines of divine inspiration and inerrancy. To our way of thinking, this single fact alone forever disqualifies the Apocrypha from canonical status.
 
I’m sure some Catholics can be found who believe so, but they would tend to take a liberal view of the other Scriptures, too. Orthodox Catholic Bible scholars would not believe this. Secondly, a Protestant seeing doctrinal error in the Apocrypha is another discussion in and of itself. Oftentimes, this would merely be circular reasoning. For example, the prayers for the dead in Maccabees are said to be proof that this is not a biblical book. But a strong case can be made that St. Paul prays for Onesiphorus, a dead man (2 Tim 1:16-18); our Lord Jesus definitely prayed for the dead man Lazarus (Jn 11:41-42), as did St. Peter for the dead disciple Tabitha (Acts 9:36-41). So this argument from “error” collapses. Thirdly, there are a host of suggested or not totally-explained “errors” in the books that Protestants do accept, that have no easy solutions. Hence we have a huge book like Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Every complex field of study of belief system has such “problems” to work through. Why should the Deuterocanon be any different? Hermeneutics and exegesis is an ongoing task, and no one knows everything about it.
As for “historical and geographical errors,” Catholic apologist Mark Shea adds some illuminating insights:

[B]oth Judith and Tobit have a number of historical and geographical errors, not because they’re presenting bad history and erroneous geography, but because they’re first-rate pious stories that don’t pretend to be remotely interested with teaching history or geography, any more than the Resurrection narratives in the Gospels are interested in astronomy. Indeed, the author of Tobit goes out of his way to make clear that his hero is fictional. He makes Tobit the uncle of Ahiqar, a figure in ancient Semitic folklore like “Jack the Giant Killer” or “Aladdin.” Just as one wouldn’t wave a medieval history textbook around and complain about a tale that begins “once upon a time when King Arthur ruled the land,” so Catholics are not reading Tobit and Judith to get a history lesson. (Envoy Magazine article, “5 Myths about 7 Books”, March / April 1997)

Second, the argument from tradition, which Catholics rely so heavily upon, is irrelevant. The councils or statements of church tradition are not inerrant, nor are they to be placed in the same category as Scripture, despite Catholic claims. Indeed, it would hardly matter if every church father, council, etc., officially declared the Apocrypha was Scripture—because, again, what proves the claim to divine inspiration of the Apocrypha false is the presence of errors.
 
This again relies on circular reasoning. It’s not even an argument. It simply assumes a position and baldly declares it (perhaps it is fleshed out later in the long article; we’ll see). But even if we grant this typical, garden variety Protestant argument against Catholic authority, the problem is not at all resolved for Protestants with regard to the canon. And the reason for that is because Protestants simply create their own (ultimately arbitrary) tradition(s) to replace the Catholic ones. It’s unavoidable. It can’t be otherwise. So now we have a relatively recent Protestant tradition versus an older one. How does one choose? Weldon and Ankerberg assume errors in the Deuterocanon based on their preconceived theology. They presuppose errors in various councils on the same basis. But why accept their authority or even their judgment?
I don’t care how one approaches this question: at some point we ALL (including Protestants) have to accept some tradition and authority to resolve it, because the Bible does not – cannot – do so on its own. So which authority do we choose? Christians will disagree (just as the fathers had differences about Scripture, and none came up with even the exact books of the NT until St. Athanasius in 367). It’s very easy for us to sit here in the year 2004 and look down our noses at these early Christians who couldn’t seem to agree as to what constituted Scripture, and had all sorts of discrepancies and differences. We “know” today what Scripture is and what it isn’t, because we’re so superior and have the benefit of hindsight. We think we can “prove it” by simple declarative statements and so forth. This is not only empty-headed and out to sea, but a severe insult to the earliest generations of Christians who accepted books which are now regarded as “obviously” non-canonical, or even some books which no major Christian body today accepts as biblical. And it is also a fact that some books like Revelation and James were hotly disputed all the way till the mid-fourth century. We can say with reasonable assurance, then, that the question is not so simple and straightforward as Weldon and Ankerberg would like to have us believe. Nor is the Catholic view so immediately dismissible.
. . . By the time the full Canon was universally recognized, the Apocrypha was notconsidered part of Scripture.
 
This is simply untrue. The same councils which declared the canon in 393 and 397, included these books. If they authoritatively declared it, then Protestants have to explain why they accept the verdict for 39 books, but not the other seven.
To argue that the Apocrypha was accepted implicitly or explicitly by the church as Scripture up until the time of the Protestant Reformation and then thrown out by the Reformers, for whatever reason, is not true. It was very carefully reasoned arguments, based on full and complete trust in our 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, that forced the church to reject the Apocrypha.
 
First of all, one has to define “church.” This assumes what it is trying to prove, by assuming that the “church” was Protestantism to the exclusion of Catholicism and the Orthodox tradition. The early Church, between the time of the Councils of Nicaea (325) and the Council of Chalcedon (451) – widely revered and accepted by Protestants, made this determination. Why should this be overruled by the Protestants 100 years later? And by what criteria are we to regard Protestantism as the new “church”? I’ve been asking this for 14 years now and have never yet received an adequate answer, or even any attempted answer at all.
Unfortunately, it is the Catholics who refuse to look objectively at the facts of church history and the logical implications of the content of the Apocrypha. Again, if the Apocrypha contains errors and doctrines that deny biblical teaching, how can it possibly be inspired by God?
 
More circular reasoning . . . unless this is demonstrated, it proves nothing. I could just as easily demonstrate that various distinctive Protestant teaching contradicts those biblical books which both camps accept as inspired and divine revelation.
The illogic of the Catholic Church on this point is the fault of the Catholic Church, not the canon of Scripture. To argue that Protestant rejection of the Apocrypha is “based on inadequate and arbitrary grounds” is simply false.
 
Great; show me why, then . . .
Finally, the fact that Bibles such as the Septuagint and the King James Version included the Apocrypha as relevant historical materials says no more about their inspired status than the inclusion of historical introductions in modern study Bibles says about their inspired status.
 
That’s correct. But it does show that there was at least far more respect for these books than there are today among most Protestants, who would rather mock and deride the books, rather than have them included in their own Bibles (i.e., as a collection of books within one cover).
In essence, the fact that some in the early church accepted the Apocrypha, that some books were included in some canonical lists and manuscripts, that the Catholic church officially declared it Scripture in the mid 1500’s or that many Protestant versions contained the Apocrypha are still not proof that the Apocrypha was divinely inspired.
 
In terms of absolute proof, I agree. The Catholic believes in faith, that God protects His Church from error; therefore there can be such things as infallible decrees by councils and popes. But the question inevitably comes down to one of authority. We have a certain notion of that, and the Protestant, it seems to me, has to defend his own version relative to the canon question.
. . . We will show why it is impossible for any thinking person committed to the full authority and inerrancy of Scripture to regard the Apocrypha as the Word of God.
 
I see. This is a very interesting assertion. And from this, it follows that St. Augustine was not a “thinking person” nor committed to “the full authority and inerrancy of Scripture.” Is that not ridiculous enough to dismiss this particular assertion? I sure think so.
VI. “Universal Jewish Rejection” of the “Apocrypha”?
 
That concludes my response to Part 2 of this article that I found on the Internet. In moving on to Part 3, I wanted to clarify that I am not attempting to make a full-fledged defense of the Catholic position on inclusion of the Deuterocanonical books as Scriptural. That has been done elsewhere by scholars far more qualified than I am to undertake such a task. I am a lay apologist, and oftentimes (as presently) my task is to “remove roadblocks” that are thrown up as objections to some Catholic tenet or other. So what I think I am accomplishing in this paper is to show that:

1) Ankerberg and Weldon’s arguments are not sufficient to overthrow or disprove the Catholic position, due to their many and serious deficiencies and inadequacies as demonstrated above and below.

2) Their arguments do not establish the Protestant position or show that it is superior and more defensible than the Catholic belief.
3) Their arguments do not alleviate the logical, epistemological, and “authority” difficulties of the Protestant position. I have already alluded to a number of internal inconsistencies (such as, e.g., the appeal to NT citations as “proof” of the OT canon) along these lines.
That said, I proceed on to Part 3:
. . . there was universal Jewish rejection of the Apocrypha.
 
This has not been shown; in fact, quite the contrary. As we have seen, no definite conclusions that can be drawn. It seems fairly clear that there was such a thing as the Septuagint, which included these books, believed to be Scripture by some of the Hellenistic or Alexandrian Jews. That is enough to refute an assertion of “universal rejection.” Unless one wants to believe that the early Church simply came up with these books out of thin air and added them to the Bible (which I find an utterly fantastic, fanciful scenario), then there is some history behind the tradition of canonicity for these books, at least for some non-Palestinian Jews. Ankerberg and Weldon cite F.F. Bruce in support of this contention. But I have already cited him saying that we cannot know for sure even what the Qumran community (producers of the Dead Sea Scrolls) thought about the canon. The ignorance and uincertainty is so widespread, in fact, that the above-mentioned article from the Encyclopaedia Britannica stated:

The history of canonization.

Because no explicit or reliable traditions concerning the criteria of canonicity, the canonizing authorities, the periods in which they lived, or the procedure adopted have been preserved, no more than a plausible reconstruction of the successive stages involved can be provided.
(Vol. 14, p. 757; this citation, and the one above from the same article, were written by Nahum M. Sama, professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University; presumably Jewish)
Likewise, a standard source for information about Judaism for non-Jews, agrees, in a plain statement:

It was also at Jabneh [aka Jamnia] that the process of canonization, about which there is much uncertainty, but which by every indication began centuries before the Babylonian exile, was brought to completion by the acceptance of the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Esther (or their retention) within the Canon.

(Judaism, Isidore Epstein, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1959, 117)
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia takes a clear Protestant stand against the Deuterocanonical books, yet it repeatedly bears witness to the great uncertainty about the Jewish canon:

The Jews in the early Christian centuries had really two Bibles: (1) There was the Hebrew Bible which does not include the Apocrypha and which circulated in Palestine and Babylon; (2) there was the Greek version (LXX [the Septuagint]) used by Greek-speaking Jews everywhere. Until in quite early times, instigated by the use made of it by Christians against themselves, the Jews condemned this version and made the Hebrew canon their Bible, thus rejecting the books of the Apocrypha from their list of canonical writings, . . . (Orr, ibid., Vol. 1, “Apocrypha,” 182)

This motif is continued in its article, “Canon of the Old Testament”:

How the ancient Hebrews expressed the conception of canonicity is not known.

. . . the OT does not tell us anything about the process of its own canonization.
. . . when the translation of the OT into Greek was made in Alexandria, the process of canonization was still incomplete . . . Our necessary conclusion, therefore, is that the work of canonization was probably going on in Palestine while the work of translation was proceeding in Alexandria.  (Ibid., 554-555, 557)
ISBE, in a fascinating aside, discusses the sort of doubts that the Jews entertained and discussed, regarding certain books, even as late as the early second century A.D. (a date after the writing of the NT):

During the 2d century A.D., doubts arose in Jewish minds concerning four books, Proverbs, The Canticle of Canticles [i.e., Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon], Ecclesiastes, and Esther. In a certain Talmudic tractate it is related that an attempt was made to withdraw . . . the Book of Proverbs on account of contradictions which were found in it (cf. 26: 4-5) . . . the protestations were much stronger against Ecclesiastes. In one tractate it is stated: “The wise men desired to hide it because its language was often self-contradictory (cf. Ecc 7:3 and 2:2; 4:2 and 9:4) . . . Likewise Esther was vigorously disputed by both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Gemaras, because the name of God was not found in it . . . (Ibid., 560)

The Gemara was the commentary portion of the Talmud; the other portion being called the Mishnah, or core text. The fact that the canonicity of Esther was “vigorously disputed” in these rabbinic texts which are central to NT-era and post-Christian Judaism, shows very clearly that the canon was not yet closed. Three other books were also disputed, as we observe above.
Another complex factor which is connected with canonicity, was the Jewish reverence for Oral Law or Oral Tradition. ISBE mentions this:

When among the Jews there arose a literature of oral tradition it was natural to apply to this last the Greek notion of esoteric, especially as this class of literature was more highly esteemed in many Jewish circles than the OT Scriptures themselves. (Ibid., 180)

F.F. Bruce adds another related observation:

There is no evidence of any authoritative delimitation of the Greek canon among Alexandrian Jews. (New Testament History, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1969, reprinted in 1980, 150; footnote 68)

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin informs us that this statement does not even hold true for all Jews in our own time:

. . . today most Jews accept the canon of Javneh [or, Jamnia]. However, some Jews, such as those from Ethiopia, follow a different canon which is identical to the Catholic Old Testament and includes the seven deuterocanonical books (cf. Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 6, p. 1147).

Needless to say, the Church disregarded the results of Javneh. First, a Jewish council after the time of Christ is not binding on the followers of Christ. Second, Javneh rejected precisely those documents which are foundational for the Christian Church – the Gospels and the other documents of the New Testament. Third, by rejecting the deuterocanonicals, Javneh rejected books which had been used by Jesus and the apostles and which were in the edition of the Bible that the apostles used in everyday life – the Septuagint. (Internet article, “Defending the Deuterocanonicals”)
The canon of the Jews (limited to the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament) was clearly the canon Jesus and the apostles accepted. This means that Jesus and the apostles never accepted the Apocrypha as God’s word . . .
 
Such a conclusion is inadequately documented, as shown in several ways above, from Protestant scholars such as F.F. Bruce, and the ISBE. It is simply an overconfident assertion of what is already believed, without sufficient proof. As we have seen again and again, there was fluidity in Jewish conceptions of the canon in NT times. For example, the Sadducees. Mark Shea gives us a little history lesson about their peculiar canon:

Myth 1

The deuterocanonical books are not found in the Hebrew Bible. They were added by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent after Luther rejected it.

*

 

The background to this theory goes like this: Jesus and the Apostles, being Jews, used the same Bible Jews use today. However, after they passed from the scene, muddled hierarchs started adding books to the Bible either out of ignorance or because such books helped back up various wacky Catholic traditions that were added to the gospel. In the 16th century, when the Reformation came along, the first Protestants, finally able to read their Bibles without ecclesial propaganda from Rome, noticed that the Jewish and Catholic Old Testaments differed, recognized this medieval addition for what it was and scraped it off the Word of God like so many barnacles off a diamond. Rome, ever ornery, reacted by officially adding the deuterocanonical books at the Council of Trent (1564-1565) and started telling Catholics “they had always been there.”

*

This is a fine theory. The problem is that its basis in history is gossamer thin. As we’ll see in a moment, accepting this myth leads to some remarkable dilemmas a little further on.

*

The problems with this theory are first, it relies on the incorrect notion that the modern Jewish Bible is identical to the Bible used by Jesus and the Apostles. This is false. In fact, the Old Testament was still very much in flux in the time of Christ and there was no fixed canon of Scripture in the apostolic period. Some people will tell you that there must have been since, they say, Jesus held people accountable to obey the Scriptures. But this is also untrue. For in fact, Jesus held people accountable to obey their conscience and therefore, to obey Scripture insofar as they were able to grasp what constituted “Scripture.”

*

Consider the Sadducees. They only regarded the first five books of the Old Testament as inspired and canonical. The rest of the Old Testament was regarded by them in much the same way the deuterocanon is regarded by Protestant Christians today: nice, but not the inspired Word of God. This was precisely why the Sadducees argued with Jesus against the reality of the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-33: they couldn’t see it in the five books of Moses and they did not regard the later books of Scripture which spoke of it explicitly (such as Isaiah and 2 Maccabees) to be inspired and canonical. Does Jesus say to them “You do greatly err, not knowing Isaiah and 2 Maccabees”? Does He bind them to acknowledge these books as canonical? No. He doesn’t try to drag the Sadducees kicking and screaming into an expanded Old Testament. He simply holds the Sadducees accountable to take seriously the portion of Scripture they do acknowledge: that is, He argues for the resurrection based on the five books of the Law. But of course, this doesn’t mean Jesus commits Himself to the Sadducees’ whittled-down canon. (Shea, ibid.)

VII. Does the New Testament Ever Cite the “Apocrypha” as an “Authority”?

In confirmation, we may observe that the New Testament never cites the Apocrypha as an authority, if it even cites it at all. Neither Jesus nor the New Testament authors ever quoted from it by way of the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament). This is so in spite of their quoting from 35 of the 39 Old Testament books. Indeed, directly or indirectly the New Testament quotes the Old Testament over 600 times, but an apocryphal book is not cited by name even once. This speaks volumes as to the New Testament authors’ view of the Apocrypha. Because the Jews, Jesus and the Apostles clearly rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture, the burden of proof must be met by Catholics to show that the reasons for its rejection were spurious and that it deserved canonization. This is something the Catholic Church can never do.
 
Again, there is much indirect evidence. It is true that there is no direct citations, stated as such, but there is virtual citation, due to a high degree of similarity. F.F. Bruce noted several instances of this in a citation above (2 Maccabees 6:18-7:41 seemingly in mind in Hebrews 11:35-38, and Jude 14 ff. as “recognizably from the apocalyptic book of Enoch” [1 Enoch 1:9] – a work of Jewish apocalypticism which is not even one of the so-called apocryphal books). You be the judge of the following comparisons. I’ve listed Bruce’s, plus two more which show striking parallels:

Hebrews 11:35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.

2 Maccabees 7:29 Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers. [a mother speaking to her son: see 7:25-26]
—————————
Revelation 1:4 Grace to you . . . from the seven spirits who are before his throne. [see also 3:1, 4:5, 5:6]
Revelation 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. [see also Revelation 5:8]
Tobit 12:15 I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.
—————————
1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
2 Maccabees 12:44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.
As F.F. Bruce noted:

The Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek New Testament (1979) has an index of Old Testament texts cited or alluded to in the New Testament, followed by an index of allusions not only to the ‘Septuagintal plus’ but also to several other works not included in the Septuagint. (Bruce, The Canon of Scriptureibid., 51)

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin has compiled a list of hundreds of possible NT allusions to the Deuterocanon, compiled from the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (I have the second edition from 1966 in my own library). [see also my more in-depth presentation of such passages] He writes:

I get a lot of requests for a list of the references the New Testament makes to the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, giving a list is not such a simple affair since it is not always obvious whether something is a genuine reference. Hebrews 11:35 is an indisputable reference to 2 Maccabees 7, but many are not so clear as there may be only a single phrase that echoes one in a deuterocanonical book (and this may not be obvious in the translation, but only the original languages). This is the same with New Testament references to the protocanonical books of the Old Testament. How many New Testament references there are to the Old Testament depends in large measure on what you are going to count as a reference. As a result, many scholarly works simply give an enormous catalogue of all proposed references and leave it to the individual interpreter to decide whether a given reference is actual or not.

Mark Shea provides a few representative examples of such NT quotations:

Myth 2

Christ and the Apostles frequently quoted Old Testament Scripture as their authority, but they never quoted from the deuterocanonical books, nor did they even mention them. Clearly, if these books were part of Scripture, the Lord would have cited them.

*

. . . Wisdom 2:12-20, reads in part, “For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

*

This passage was clearly in the minds of the Synoptic Gospel writers in their accounts of the Crucifixion: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, I am the Son of God'” (cf. Matthew 27:42-43).

*

. . . And more than once, Christ Himself drew on the text of Sirach 27:6, which reads: “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does a man’s speech disclose the bent of his mind.” Notice too that the Lord and His Apostles observed the Jewish feast of Hanukkah (cf. John 10:22-36). But the divine establishment of this key feast day is recorded only in the deuterocanonical books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. It is nowhere discussed in any other book of the Old Testament. In light of this, consider the importance of Christ’s words on the occasion of this feast: “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came – and the Scripture cannot be broken – what about the One Whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world?” Jesus, standing near the Temple during the feast of Hanukkah, speaks of His being “set apart,” just as Judas Maccabeus “set apart” (ie. consecrated) the Temple in 1 Maccabees 4:36-59 and 2 Maccabees 10:1-8. In other words, our Lord made a connection that was unmistakable to His Jewish hearers by treating the Feast of Hanukkah and the account of it in the books of the Maccabees as an image or type of His own consecration by the Father. That is, He treats the Feast of Hanukkah from the so-called “apocryphal” books of 1 and 2 Maccabees exactly as He treats accounts of the manna (John 6:32-33; Exodus 16:4), the Bronze Serpent (John 3:14; Numbers 21:4-9), and Jacob’s Ladder (John 1:51; Genesis 28:12) – as inspired, prophetic, scriptural images of Himself. We see this pattern throughout the New Testament. There is no distinction made by Christ or the Apostles between the deuterocanonical books and the rest of the Old Testament. (Shea, ibid.)
Furthermore, Akin points out:

The Christian acceptance of the deuterocanonical books was logical because the deuterocanonicals were also included in the Septuagint, the Greek edition of the Old Testament which the apostles used to evangelize the world. Two thirds of the Old Testament quotations in the New are from the Septuagint. Yet the apostles nowhere told their converts to avoid seven books of it. Like the Jews all over the world who used the Septuagint, the early Christians accepted the books they found in it. They knew that the apostles would not mislead them and endanger their souls by putting false scriptures in their hands – especially without warning them against them. (Akin, ibid.)

And Mark Shea notes that there were several of the Protestant 39 OT books which are never directly cited in the NT:

[T]he Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations and Nahum. Not one of these Old Testament books is ever quoted or alluded to by Christ or the Apostles in the New Testament. (Shea, ibid.)

Protestant apologist Norman L. Geisler, in his book about canonicity, even states that the “authenticity” of Jude and its canonicity were questioned by some on the basis that it cited non-biblical books:

Most of the dispute centered around the references to the pseudepigraphal Book of Enoch (Jude 14-15) and a possible reference to the Assumption of Moses (Jude 9). Origen hints at this problem in his day (Commentary on Matthew 18:30) and Jerome specifically declares this to be the problem . . . (From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible, co-authored with William E. Nix, Chicago: Moody Press, 1974, 119)

VIII. Clarification on the Catholic Meaning of the Term Deuterocanonical Books

Even Catholics, by their use of the term “deuterocanonical,” as applied to the Apocrypha, agree at this point that the Jews rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture. In other words, the term implies the Apocrypha is a second canon added to the one the Jews accepted. Dr. Bruce also points out that Jerome’s distinction between the books that were authenticated by the Hebrews and the books that were to be read only for edification is maintained by Roman Catholic scholars:

As for the status of the books which Jerome called apocryphal [i.e., those to be excluded from the canon but which could be used for edification], there is generally agreement among Roman Catholic scholars today (as among their colleagues of other Christian traditions) to call them “deuterocanonical” . . . Jerome’s distinction is thus maintained in practice, even if it does not enjoy conciliar support. [Footnote 4: Bruce, ibid., 105; “generally” is a mis-citation of the original, which has “general”]

First of all, Ankerberg and Weldon conveniently omit in their ellipses (. . .) Bruce’s note, “(a term first used, it appears, in the sixteenth century).” Bruce in his footnote 17 on the same page points out that a scholar, F.J. Crehan located the first use of the term by a converted Jew, Sixtus of Siena (1520-1569). It is also true that the separation of these books into a distinct, self-contained entity (rather than interspersed with the other biblical books) also first occurred in the 16th century (1520, to be exact). This is confirmed by, for example, the Protestant New English Bible (Oxford University Press, 1976), in its “Introduction to the Apocrypha,” (p.iii).
Secondly, St. Jerome, the great Bible scholar had his own opinion, which has been milked to death by Protestants in their polemics against these seven books. But Catholics have always believed that individual Fathers were not infallible. St. Jerome, a good Catholic, recognized this himself, and submitted his opinion to that of the Catholic Church, just as any loyal son of the Church would do. The Catholic Church is not governed by a “priesthood of scholars,” as it seems so often that Protestantism is. We don’t derive our dogmatic beliefs by counting up heads of scholarly opinions. But Ankerberg and Weldon do not give the whole picture, either, and in some ways distort Jerome’s opinion. Mark Shea clarifies the “Jerome argument”:

In his later years St. Jerome did indeed accept the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible. In fact, he wound up strenuously defending their status as inspired Scripture, writing, “What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume (ie. canon), proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I wasn’t relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us” (Against Rufinus 11:33 [A.D. 402]). In earlier correspondence with Pope Damasus, Jerome did not call the deuterocanonical books unscriptural, he simply said that Jews he knew did not regard them as canonical. But for himself, he acknowledged the authority of the Church in defining the canon. When Pope Damasus and the Councils of Carthage and Hippo included the deuterocanon in Scripture, that was good enough for St. Jerome. He “followed the judgment of the churches.”

Thirdly, the rhetoric about Catholic use of the term “deuterocanonical” (besides the fact that it is a late-arriving term unknown to Jerome) and what we supposedly believe or grant by that usage, is sheer nonsense. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910), in its article, “Canon of the Holy Scriptures” makes this abundantly clear:

The terms protocanonical and deuterocanonical, of frequent usage among Catholic theologians and exegetes, require a word of caution. They are not felicitous, and it would be wrong to infer from them that the Church successively possessed two distinct Biblical Canons. Only in a partial and restricted way may we speak of a first and second Canon. Protocanonical (protos, “first”) is a conventional word denoting those sacred writings which have been always received by Christendom without dispute. The protocanonical books of the Old Testament correspond with those of the Bible of the Hebrews, and the Old Testament as received by Protestants. The deuterocanonical (deuteros, “second”) are those whose Scriptural character was contested in some quarters, but which long ago gained a secure footing in the Bible of the Catholic Church, though those of the Old Testament are classed by Protestants as the “Apocrypha”. These consist of seven books: Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First and Second Machabees; also certain additions to Esther and Daniel. Some portions of the New Testament whose canonicity was formerly contested are sometimes styled the deuterocanonicals of the N.T. These are the Epistle to the Hebrews, those of St. James and Jude, the Second of St. Peter, the Second and Third of John, that of St. Jude, and the Apocalypse; also a few portions of books . . . Protocanonical and deuterocanonical are modern terms, not having been used before the sixteenth century. (Volume III, 267)

Virtually the same distinction that Catholics make (using different terminology) is made by Norman L. Geisler, in describing NT books which were disputed for several hundred years. He calls them antilegomena – “books disputed by some” (as opposed to homologoumena – “books accepted by all”:

According to the historian Eusebius, there were seven books whose genuineness was disputed by some church fathers and which had not yet gained universal recognition by the early fourth century. The books questioned were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

. . . The fact that these books had not gained universal recognition by the beginning of the fourth century does not mean that they did not have an initial recognition by the apostolic and subapostolic communities. On the contrary, these books are cited as inspired by a number of the earliest sources . . . Nor does the fact that they were once disputed by some in the church indicate that their present place in the canon is any less firm than other books. (Geisler & Nix, ibid., 117; emphasis added)
The second paragraph would fit exactly as a description of the Catholic view of the Deuterocanonical books. So if Protestants can understand this distinction with regard to their own view of the NT books, then it follows that they can comprehend a Catholic view of the same nature with regard to OT books, rather than pretending (through terminological obfuscation) that orthodox Catholics (scholars or not) implicitly accept their own view (or approximate it in some way) when they do not.
Geisler’s antilegomena is precisely what the Catholic means by deuterocanonical, and his homologoumena is the equivalent of protocanonical. Neither term is intended by the user to denote an inherent inferiority or sub-canonicity; only that these books were (wrongly) disputed by some, whereas other books were not so disputed.
In fact, Ankerberg and Weldon themselves use this same terminology in Part 5 of their lengthy paper on the Deuterocanonical books:

1) The early church used four basic classifications to gauge the great variety of literature that comprised or surrounded the Bible: the homologoumena, antilegomena, pseudepigrapha and apocrypha. The first class is called the homologoumena. This term refers to those biblical books that, once accepted into the canon, were never questioned or disputed. In other words, from the start, these books have maintained their canonical status to the present day. This includes approximately 87 percent of the Protestant Old Testament.

*

2) The second category is called the antilegomena. It refers to books that were first accepted but later disputed by some. This includes 13 percent of the Old Testament books.

*

3) . . . almost 90 percent of the Protestant Old Testament canon was never disputed once accepted . . .

*

4) Thus, the antilegomena was originally accepted into the canon; it was only subsequently disputed by some rabbis. So the real issue for the antilegomena is whether or not the later arguments for exclusion had any validity. They did not.

*

(numbering added for reference purposes in the next section)
Again, we see that the same dynamic holds for the “Deuterocanon” or antilegomena of the New Testament. The NT homologoumena constitute an even lower percentage (1) / (2) – above – than the OT books in the same class (85%, or 23 out of 27). Catholics haven’t disputed them, but Martin Luther (the founder of Protestantism) decided to question four books, on grounds that they weren’t apostolic (see below). He even listed them separately in his Bible, at the end, without number, like the others (just as some Protestants do with the Deuterocanon).
Before formal canonization, there was far more dispute regarding New Testament books than seems to be the case with the Jews and their canon in the intertestamental period. In the earliest days of the Church (up till around 150 A.D.), only the four gospels and the Pauline corpus were virtually undisputed at all. That is a mere 17 out of 27 books later accepted, or 63% of the final total. In the next hundred years (up till about 250), only gradual acceptance occurred for books like Acts, 1 Peter, 1 John, Jude, and Revelation. Even some of Paul’s writings were not accepted by some prominent Fathers. St. Clement of Alexandria rejected 2 Timothy. Philemon wasn’t accepted by St. Irenaeus, Origin, Tertullian, and St. Clement of Alexandria. On the other hand, the Muratorian canon of c. 190 excluded Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter, while including The Apocalypse of Peter and Wisdom of Solomon. Even as late as the last quarter of the fourth century, the Codex Sinaiticus included the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, and 1 and 2 Clement as part of its canon. Obviously, strong authority was needed to settle all these honestly-held disagreements. If more or less spontaneous consensus is an indication of canonicity, then the books of the New Testament fare far less well than the OT books. Yet with the inestimable benefit hindsight, many Protestants think they can look back at all this today with a wink and a knowing nod of esoteric “knowledge,” and act as if they have a full certainty as to why certain books are in the Bible, and others not.
As for (3), if we apply this to the Catholic canon of 73 books, we find that it was accepted for over 1100 years: between 393 (official canonization) and the 16th century, when Protestants rejected these seven books. So we find about as much consensus, judged by common agreement, and lack of dissent (in terms of official stances of the Church), as was the case for the Hebrew canon of 39 books for half this time (roughly from 400 B.C. to 150 A.D.)
Regarding (4), I have shown that the OT Deuterocanon was indeed accepted by the earliest Church and was only substantially disputed in the mid-third to early fourth century. Thus, the analogy to the OT books which were later disputed (e.g., Song of Solomon, Esther, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes), leads one to believe that the Deuterocanon is likewise part of the Bible, and that “the later arguments for exclusion” lacked “any validity.” The same holds for the NT, with Luther disputing four books much later, and even at least one OT book (Esther). Luther made his arguments against these books, just as Protestants do against the Deuterocanon, and as dissenting Jews did against the four books listed above.
“Two can play at this game.” The tables can be turned at almost every important point, by analogical analysis. By these sort of “sociological” criteria alone, nothing whatsoever is proven for the Protestant case. In fact, it is weakened.
Further corroborating evidence on this point (with some very interesting additional observations) is found in a classic work on the NT canon, by Brooke Foss Westcott:

Seven books of the New Testament, as is well known, have been received into the Canon on evidence less complete than that by which the others are supported. In the controversy which has been raised about their claims to Apostolic authority much stress has been laid on their internal character. But such a method of reasoning is commonly inconclusive, and inferences are drawn on both sides with equal confidence. In every instance the result will be influenced by preconceived notions of the state of the early Church . . .

The idea of forming the disputed books into a Deutero-canon of the New Testament (advocated by many Roman Catholics in spite of the Council of Trent, and by many of the early reformers) . . . is evidently either a mere confession that the question is incapable of solution, or a re-statement of it in other words . . . It involves a manifest confusion of ideas to compensate for a deficiency of historical proof by a lower standard of Canonicity. The extent of the divine authority of a book cannot be made to vary with the completeness of the proof of its genuineness. The genuineness must be admitted before the authority can have any positive value, which from its nature cannot admit of degrees; and till the genuineness be established the authority remains in abeyance.
(A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, reprint, 1980 of the 6th edition of 1889, 351-353; emphasis added)
Also, we see another parallel in the word Deuteronomy (lit., “second law”), the name of the fifth book of the Old Testament and of the Jewish Torah. The description of “second canon” no more implies that it is in contradiction to the “first canon” (i.e., that accepted by all), than “second law” implies that Deuteronomy contradicts, or is lesser than the other books in the Torah.
IX. Epistemological Difficulties for Protestants / Luther’s Peculiar Views
 
When all is said and done, the question remains for Protestants: “how does one determine what the canon consists of, from a Protestant standpoint? If various criteria (such as Geisler’s “propheticity”) are applied, one may immediately ask: “on what authoritative grounds do you make this a criterion for canonicity in the first place?” Ultimately this approach is arbitrary and circular and thus inconclusive (as Westcott noted). Martin Luther simply made his own subjective judgment the standard, leading to many ridiculous and presumptuous assertions on his part about Holy Scripture. He was the one who came up with a “canon within a canon” in the New Testament. It was Martin Luther who wanted to reopen the question of the canonicity of James, in writing remarks about it in his 1545 Preface to James and Jude such as the following:

. . . I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, . . .

*

. . . this James does nothing more than drive to the law and its works.

*

. . . I cannot include him among the chief books . . .

*

(see my paper above for any further documentation of any of these citations of Luther)
Jude gets the same treatment: “this letter does not seem to have been written by the real apostle” (introduction to sermons on Jude). Hebrews is likewise sub-apostolic, according to Luther: “we cannot put it on the same level with the apostolic epistles”. The book of Esther shouldn’t be in the Bible at all: “Esther . . . which despite their [the Jews] inclusion of it in the canon deserves more than all the rest in my judgment to be regarded as noncanonical.” B. F. Westcott condemns this presumption as well as any Catholic could:

Such judgments rest on no definite external evidence. They cannot be justified by the ordinary rule and measure of criticism or dogma. No Church could rest on a theory which makes private feeling the supreme authority as to doctrine and the source of doctrine. (Westcott, ibid., 483-484)

Now, if this subjective criteria of canonicity is regarded as unworkable and unacceptable, then the Protestant necessarily falls back on some species of Church Tradition. That essentially boils down to the choice of Orthodoxy or Catholicism (both of which accept “apocryphal” books as canonical). The same councils and popes who authoritatively declared the canonicity of the 27 NT books also declared the canonicity of the seven disputed OT books. Protestants accept the authority of the former but not the latter. On what basis? They can come up with all sorts of theories and explanations why, but they will contradict each other, just as they do regarding almost all doctrines except those which they hold in common with Catholics in the first place. In the final analysis, however, they will accept these 27 NT books and 39 OT books (excluding the seven from the Deuterocanon) simply because that is their own tradition, and the books as they see them listed in their Bibles. This is circular reasoning, and can never be conclusive. Protestants can never offer a compelling reason to reject Catholic tradition regarding the canon which does not backfire against their own chosen tradition, because the latter can always be shown to be far more arbitrary and non-binding than the former.
X. Misunderstandings About the Catholic Church & Holy Scripture & More Hard Questions for Protestants About the Canon
 
In Part Six, which is basically a capsule summary of preceding sections, Ankerberg and Weldon pointedly opine:

A final argument for inclusion concerns the authority of Rome. For Rome, as far as interpreting Scripture is concerned, the issue is not what the text of Scripture itself declares . . .

And what, pray tell, does it declare about the content of its own books? Exactly nothing, so it is passing strange that this statement was made in this context. It only highlights the ultimate bankruptcy and logically circular nature of the Protestant argument.

. . . but what the Catholic Church, claiming divine guidance, claims it declares.

Actually, this is inaccurate and a widely misunderstood aspect of Catholic authority (but it sounds great, and most damaging, so it is often used in Protestant polemics). Binding interpretations of particular verses are very few indeed: less than ten. The Church is much more concerned with providing an overall framework of dogma, beyond which biblical interpretation cannot go. This being understood, it is seen that the essential principle of dogma and “orthodoxy” is no different than similar guidelines of any Protestant denomination. A Calvinist exegete will not (and may not, in his Reformed domain) interpret Scripture in a way that will contradict TULIP. A conservative Lutheran will interpret certain verses as teaching baptismal regeneration, and a Baptist will produce others which he thinks prove adult, believer’s baptism. If they start doing otherwise, their status as a teacher in their group will be severely questioned, and they may lose their denominational or educational position as a result. So it really isn’t fair to act as if only the Catholic Church has limitations on how far someone may go in their theology, to “stretch the limits of orthodoxy.” All Christian groups which have any creed or confession at all do this (even those who don’t, as they will always have an “unwritten tradition” anyway). It is only a matter of degree. Yes, Catholicism has more dogmas and more “authoritarianism,” but it is only a matter of degree, not principle.

This is also the thrust of the Roman Catholic apologetic for the Apocrypha. The Catholic canon of the Old Testament is correct because the Catholic Church, claiming divine guidance, declares it to be correct. This ends all discussion.

The Catholic Church is forced to argue in such a manner because it has no biblical or other evidence in support of its view of the divine authority of the Apocrypha. In the end, evidence is irrelevant because, in the final analysis, it does not really matter. Since Rome is the final interpreter of everything, she must be the final interpreter of evidence as well. And for those who aren’t convinced by this line of reasoning, it is their problem, not that of the Catholic Church. It is the spiritual problem of the critic, who refuses to submit to the authority of “Christ’s church.”
Ankerberg and Weldon unfortunately descend to a belittling, typical anti-Catholic presentation of Catholic authority. This is not the place to launch into a full-fledged defense of same. I’ve done that many times elsewhere. Instead, I will simply turn it around, and grant the objection for the sake of argument. And then I’ll ask any Protestant (yeah, you out there reading this!): “if you object to the authority of the Catholic Church in declaring what is in fact inherently Scripture [not merely because we declare it so; it already was what it is, as Vatican I and II both make very clear], and what is not, then by all means offer us an alternative. How does one decide the canon on an objective (not subjective, individual) basis?” Or, “how does a religious view which bases itself on Scripture alone as the final and only infallible authority, determine what that same Scripture consists of, seeing that it never lists its own books?”
How is this not circular reasoning, in a vicious circle, since it not only is based on nothing at all (no relevant information is included in the Bible), but on a huge self-contradiction: that is, “Scripture must determine what it cannot determine – by the nature of the case – because we have made Scripture our only infallible authority, and at the same time, we can’t even say for sure what Scripture is, because that is the very question at hand: the canon – so we can’t even begin the process under these assumptions; everything is so illogical and chaotic” (!!!). How does a Protestant resolve this? This is far worse than choosing the chicken or the egg, because that is not a contradiction: only a tricky choice. Here, there is massive contradiction and incoherence whichever choice one makes. I don’t see any way out, according to Protestant epistemological principles. Nothing but Scripture is infallible; therefore, in determining what Scripture is, one is forced to rely on mere “tradition” – that which sola Scriptura is designed to override and trounce and to keep at bay, to even arrive at a certain set of biblical books. One must adopt tradition. So the question becomes: “which one?” Some Protestant (R.C. Sproul, if I recall correctly) asked: “how can you have a fallible list of infallible books?”
If, on the other hand, the Protestant refuses to do this, because it violates his own principle, then he is forced back on himself to decide the question. But then he has an even bigger problem of subjectivity and profound arbitrariness. Do Protestants who accept this “hard choice” think that they will reach more consensus than the Church Fathers did before the canon was finalized in 397? I can’t imagine that they would, if they reflected upon it very long. Essentially then, the choice is between forsaking of fundamental Protestant principle or adopting sheer theological relativism and ultimately absurd, almost entirely arbitrary subjectivism and “self-as-pope.” The first is, quite obviously, what Protestants have opted to do, though they inconsistently reject seven selected books which were accepted by the same tradition that alone makes sense as a guideline for the whole determination of the canon.
I would love to learn how a Protestant can consistently overcome this dilemma, as I see it, and to be shown where I have gone astray in my analysis. I don’t have to frame the debate or question in terms of “spiritual problems” of those who refuse to “submit” to the catholic Church (as Ankerberg and Weldon cynically present it) – not at all – rather, I can argue it strictly in terms of the bankruptcy and incoherence of the alternative. It’s a logical and historical problem, and a difficulty of internal consistency of sola Scriptura as a means to determine all theological truth, not necessarily of obedience or spiritual deficiency (though it certainly maybe that; only God knows for sure; that’s His job, not mine, as a lay apologist and not a priest or pastor who gauges spiritual health or sickness).
Ankerberg and Weldon go from bad to worse in their gross misrepresentation of Catholic teaching, as they approach the triumphalistic conclusion of their paper:

Not unexpectedly, Rome teaches that the church has priority over the Scripture. As the argument goes, the Church came first and then the Scripture came from the Church, therefore, the Church is above the Scripture. This is the exact opposite of the position of Protestantism . . . it is a church based on the teachings of Roman Catholic tradition. This is exactly the problem; the ecclesiology of Rome irreparably damages its bibliology both in hermeneutics and in canon.

Clearly, there was never a time when the church was without Scripture. Because the Old Testament was the Bible of the New Testament church, the Scriptures pre-existed the church and the argument of Rome is false. Further, even for the New Testament, the church was founded during the time when New Testament revelation was being received. So it cannot be logically argued that the Church preceded the Scripture and therefore has authority over the Scripture.
They give no documentation for such an alleged view. I will do so, for our actual viewpoint:

For Holy Mother Church relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that they were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 3:15-16), they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.

(Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation [Dei Verbum] from Vatican II: 1962-1965; emphases added)
These the Church holds to be sacred and canonical; not because . . . they were afterward approved by her authority . . . but because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and have been delivered as such to the Church herself.
(Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, chapter II from Vatican I: 1870; emphasis added)

XI. “Canon Shot”: Penetrating Insights & Challenges to Protestants From Cardinal Newman

Aren’t accuracy and documentation wonderful things? I shall conclude by citing my favorite Catholic teacher, Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. As always, he is a difficult read, but whoever follows his reasoning carefully (I would advise anyone to read slowly and to go back if it is felt that something crucial in the thought-process was missed), will receive a rich reward and a feast for the mind (and/or a challenge to one’s own position, as the case may be):

I say, it is our blessedness, if we have no doubts about the Canon of Scripture, as it is our blessedness to have no doubts about the Catholic Creed. And this is at present actually our blessedness as regards the Canon; we have no doubts. Even those persons who unhappily have doubts about the Church system, have no doubts about the Canon,- by a happy inconsistency, say. They ought to have doubts on their principles; . . .

Now to follow them into particulars as far as the first head; viz., as to the evidence itself, which is offered in behalf of the divinity and inspiration of the separate books.
For instance; the first Father who expressly mentions Commemorations for the Dead in Christ (such as we still have in substance at the end of the prayer for the Church Militant, where it was happily restored in 1662, having been omitted a century earlier), is Tertullian, about a hundred years after St. John’s death. This, it is said, is not authority early enough to prove that that Ordinance is Apostolical, though succeeding Fathers, Origen, St. Cyprian, Eusebius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, etc., bear witness to it ever so strongly. “Errors might have crept in by that time; mistakes might have been made; Tertullian is but one man, and confessedly not sound in many of his opinions; we ought to have clearer and more decisive evidence.” Well, supposing it: suppose Tertullian, a hundred years after St. John, is the first that mentions it, yet Tertullian is also the first who refers to St. Paul’s Epistle to Philemon, and even he without quoting or naming it. He is followed by two writers; one of Rome, Caius, whose work is not extant, but is referred to by Eusebius, who, speaking of thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, and as excluding the Hebrews, by implication includes that to Philemon; and the other, Origen, who quotes the fourteenth verse of the Epistle, and elsewhere speaks of fourteen Epistles of St. Paul. Next, at the end of the third century, follows Eusebius. Further, St. Jerome observes, that in his time some persons doubted whether it was St. Paul’s (just as Aerius about that time questioned the Commemorations for the Dead), or at least whether it was canonical, and that from internal evidence; to which he opposes the general consent of external testimony as a sufficient answer. Now, I ask, why do we receive the Epistle to Philemon as St. Paul’s, and not the Commemorations for the faithful departed as Apostolical also? Ever after indeed the date of St. Jerome, the Epistle to Philemon was accounted St. Paul’s, and so too ever after the same date the Commemorations which I have spoken of are acknowledged on all hands to have been observed as a religious duty, down to three hundred years ago. If it be said that from historical records we have good reasons for thinking that the Epistle of St. Paul to Philemon, with his other Epistles, was read from time immemorial in Church, which is a witness independent of particular testimonies in the Fathers, I answer, no evidence can be more satisfactory and conclusive to a well-judging mind; but then it is a moral evidence, resting on very little formal and producible proof; and quite as much evidence can be given for the solemn Commemorations of the Dead in the Holy Eucharist which I speak of. They too were in use in the Church from time immemorial. Persons, then, who have the heart to give up and annul the Ordinance, will not, if they are consistent, scruple much at the Epistle. If in the sixteenth century the innovators on religion had struck the Epistle to Philemon out of Scripture, they would have had just as much right to do it as to abolish these Commemorations; and those who wished to defend such innovation as regards the Epistle to Philemon, would have had just as much to say in its behalf as those had who put an end to the Commemorations.
If it be said they found nothing on the subject of such Commemorations in Scripture, even granting this for argument’s sake, yet I wonder where they found in Scripture that the Epistle to Philemon was written by St. Paul, except indeed in the Epistle itself. Nowhere; yet they kept the one, they abolished the other – as far, that is, as human tyranny could abolish it. Let us be thankful that they did not also say, “The Epistle to Philemon is of a private nature, and has no marks of inspiration about it. It is not mentioned by name or quoted by any writer till Origen, who flourished at a time when mistakes had begun, in the third century, and who actually thinks St. Barnabas wrote the Epistle which goes under his name; and he too, after all, just mentions it once, but not as inspired or canonical, and also just happens to speak elsewhere of St. Paul’s fourteen Epistles. In the beginning of the fourth century, Eusebius, without anywhere naming this Epistle,” (as far as I can discover,) “also speaks of fourteen Epistles, and speaks of a writer one hundred years earlier, who in like manner enumerated thirteen besides the Hebrews. All this is very unsatisfactory. We will have nothing but the pure word of God; we will only admit what has the clearest proof. It is impossible that God should require us to believe a book to come from Him without authenticating it with the highest and most cogent evidence.”
Again: the early Church with one voice testifies in favour of Episcopacy, as an ordinance especially pleasing to God. Ignatius, the very disciple of the Apostles, speaks in the clearest and strongest terms; and those who follow fully corroborate his statements for three or four hundred years. And besides this, we know the fact, that a succession of Bishops from the Apostles did exist in all the Churches all that time. At the end of that time, one Father, St. Jerome, in writing controversially, had some strong expressions against the divine origin of the ordinance. And this is all that can be said in favour of any other regimen. Now, on the other hand, what is the case as regards the Epistle to the Hebrews? Though received in the East, it was not received in the Latin Churches, till that same St. Jerome’s time. St. Irenaeus either does not affirm or actually denies that it is St. Paul’s. Tertullian ascribes it to St. Barnabas. Caius excluded it from his list. St. Hippolytus does not receive it. St. Cyprian is silent about it. It is doubtful whether St. Optatus received it. Now, that this important Epistle is part of the inspired word of God, there is no doubt. But why? Because the testimony of the fourth and fifth centuries, when Christians were at leisure to examine the question thoroughly, is altogether in its favour. I know of no other reason, and I consider this to be quite sufficient: but with what consistency do persons receive this Epistle as inspired, yet deny that Episcopacy is a divinely ordained means of grace?
Again: the Epistles to the Thessalonians are quoted by six writers in the first two hundred years from St. John’s death; first, at the end of the first hundred, by three Fathers, Irenaeus, Clement, and Tertullian; and are by implication acknowledged in the lost work of Caius, at the same time, and are in Origen’s list some years after. On the other hand, the Lord’s table is always called an Altar, and is called a Table only in one single passage of a single Father, during the first three centuries. It is called Altar in four out of the seven Epistles of St. Ignatius. It is called Altar by St. Clement of Rome, by St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Origen, Eusebius, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Optatus, St. Jerome, St. Chrysostom, and St. Austin [Note 2]. It is once called Table by St. Dionysius of Alexandria. (Johnson’s U. S., vol. i., p. 306.) I do not know on what ground we admit the Epistles to the Thessalonians to be the writing of St. Paul, yet deny that the use of Altars is Apostolic.
Again: that the Eucharist is a Sacrifice is declared or implied by St. Clement of Rome, St. Paul’s companion, by St. Justin, by St. Irenaeus, by Tertullian, by St. Cyprian, and others. On the other hand, the Acts of the Apostles are perhaps alluded to by St. Polycarp, but are first distinctly noticed by St. Irenaeus, then by three writers who came soon after (St. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and the Letter from the Church of Lyons), and then not till the end of the two hundred years from St. John’s death. Which has the best evidence, the Book of Acts, or the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice?
[to summarize Newman’s argument in simple logical form:

1. Commemorations for the dead have more patristic evidence in its support than the book of Philemon. So on what grounds is the latter accepted – strictly on the basis of attestation in the Fathers – but not the former?

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2. Episcopacy has more patristic evidence in its support than the book of Hebrews. So (again, in the same manner) on what grounds is the latter accepted – strictly on the basis of attestation in the Fathers – but not the former?

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3. The same line of reasoning is applied to 1 and 2 Thessalonians compared to the evidence for altars, and the book of Acts in relation to the notion of the eucharistic sacrifice. Why accept the books on the grounds of testimony when the same patristic testimony is much greater with regard to doctrines which most Protestants reject?

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4. Newman thus strongly insinuates that this particular chain of reasoning by Protestants is thoroughly inconsistent. They ought to accept these doctrines that they don’t accept, on the same basis that they accept the biblical books cited. Or they should reject the books in question, in order to become consistent in their rationales for why they accept or reject things. Since they do neither, they are caught on the horns of a dilemma, based on documented history and logic. Newman (p. 213): “It seems, then, that the objections which can be made to the evidence for the Church doctrines are such as also lie against the Canon of Scripture; so that if they avail against the one, they avail against both.”]

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Again: much stress, as I have said, is laid by objectors on the fact that there is so little evidence concerning Catholic doctrine in the very first years of Christianity. Now, how does this objection stand, as regards the Canon of the New Testament? The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books in all, though of varying importance. Of these, fourteen are not mentioned at all till from eighty to one hundred years after St. John’s death, in which number are the Acts, the Second to the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Colossians, the Two to the Thessalonians, and St. James. Of the other thirteen, five, viz., St. John’s Gospel, the Philippians, the First of Timothy, the Hebrews, and the First of John, are quoted but by one writer during the same period. Lastly, St. Irenarus, at the close of the second century, quotes all the books of the New Testament but five, and deservedly stands very high as a witness. Now, why may not so learned and holy a man, and so close on the Apostles, stand also as a witness of some doctrines which he takes for granted, as the invisible but real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, the use of Catholic tradition in ascertaining revealed truth, and the powers committed to the Church?

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If men then will indulge that eclectic spirit which chooses part and rejects part of the primitive Church system, I do not see what is to keep them from choosing part and rejecting part of the Canon of Scripture.

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(Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects, “Lecture 6. External Difficulties of the Canon and the Catholic Creed, compared,” London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1872, 201, 203-209; bolded emphases added, italics are Newman’s own – as also below)
Newman then makes another very interesting analogical argument (his specialty, and a method which has had a great influence on my own apologetics, reasoning, and methodology), by comparing the revulsion many non-Catholics have to Catholic teaching, and showing how they ought (consistently) to have the same reaction to many elements in Scripture (heavily abridged for purposes of concision and compact argumentation). Since they don’t, they are quite inconsistent. Theological liberals are consistent but dead wrong in rejecting the veracity and inspiration of Scripture, and hence, traditional Christian doctrine. More “conservative” Protestants are inconsistent insofar as they reject Catholic distinctives, but somehow (again, partially inconsistently, and ultimately contrary to their own rule of faith, as shown above) accept the canonicity of 66 out of 73 books of the Bible, which rest on the same principle of authority: broad patristic consensus and the authoritative proclamations of the ancient Catholic Church. It is an analogical argument utilizing hypotheticals and plausibilities in imagining a situation that is logically and conceptually prior to our present one (where canonicity is accepted as a matter of course with far less critical engagement than we bring to other matters):

Perhaps the main objection taken to the Church system, is the dislike which men feel of its doctrines. They call them the work of priestcraft, and in that word is summed up all that they hate in them. Priestcraft is the art of gaining power over men by appeals to their consciences; its instrument is mystery; its subject-matter, superstitious feeling. “Now the Church doctrines,” it is urged, “invest a certain number of indifferent things with a new and extraordinary power, beyond sense, beyond reason, beyond nature, a power over the soul; and they put the exclusive possessions and use of the things thus distinguished into the hands of the Clergy. Such, for instance, is the Creed; some mysterious benefit is supposed to result from holding it, even though with but a partial comprehension, and the Clergy are practically its sole expounders. Such still more are the Sacraments, which the Clergy only administer, and which are supposed to effect some supernatural change in the soul, and to convey some supernatural gift.” This then is the antecedent exception taken against the Catholic doctrines, that they are mysterious, tending to superstition, and to dependence on a particular set of men. And this object is urged, not merely as a reason for demanding fair proof of what is advanced, but as a reason for refusing to listen to any proof whatever, as if it fairly created an insurmountable presumption against the said doctrines.

Now I say, in like manner, were it not for our happy reverence for the Canon of Scripture, we should take like exception to many things in Scripture; and, since we do not, neither ought we, consistently, to take this exception to the Catholic system; but if we do take such grounds against that system, there is nothing but the strength of habit, good feeling, and our Lord’s controlling grace, to keep us from using them against Scripture also. This I shall now attempt to show, and with that view, shall cite various passages in Scripture which, to most men of this generation, will appear at first sight strange, superstitious, incredible, and extreme. If then, in spite of these, Scripture is nevertheless from God, so again, in spite of similar apparent difficulties, the Catholic system may be from Him also; and what the argument comes to is this, that the minds of none of us are in such a true state, as to warrant us in judging peremptorily in every case what is from God and what is not. We shrink from the utterances of His providence with offence, as if they were not His, in consequence of our inward ears being attuned to false harmonies. Now for some instances of what I mean . . .
I conceive, were we not used to the Scripture narrative, that we should be startled at the accounts there given us of demoniacs . . . . the common way with objectors is at once and before examination to charge on the narrators of such accounts childish superstition and credulity . . .
If we were not used to the narrative, I conceive we should be very unwilling to receive the account of the serpent speaking to Eve, or its being inhabited by an evil spirit; or, again, of the devils being sent into the swine. We should scoff at such narratives, as fanciful and extravagant . . . should we have felt less distrust in the history of Balaam’s ass speaking? Should we have been reconciled to the account of the Holy Ghost appearing in a bodily shape, and that apparently the shape of an irrational animal, a dove? . . . If Balaam’s ass instructed Balaam, what is there fairly to startle us in the Church’s doctrine, that the water of Baptism cleanses from sin, that eating the consecrated Bread is eating His Body, or that oil may be blessed for spiritual purposes, as is still done in our Church in the case of a coronation? Of this I feel sure, that those who consider the doctrines of the Church incredible, will soon, if they turn their thoughts steadily that way, feel a difficulty in the serpent that tempted Eve, and the ass that admonished Balaam . . .
Or again: to refer to the Old Testament. I conceive that the history of the Deluge, the ark, and its inhabitants, will appear to men of modern tempers more and more incredible, the longer and more minutely it is dwelt upon. Or, again, the narrative of Jonah and the whale.
January 18, 2016

BaptismCatacombs

Baptism: fresco on the catacomb of Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Via Labicana, Rome, Italy [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Uploaded on 5 June 2002.

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This discussion took place on a public Internet bulletin board, with six Protestants. Their words will appear in various colors, with my primary opponent’s words in blue.

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How does a Protestant interpret this verse?:

1 Corinthians 15:29 (RSV) Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Footnote from my New Geneva Study Bible:

Apparently some in Corinth were being baptized on behalf of others who had already died. This practice is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible or in other ancient writings. Numerous explanations of the practice have been proposed, all of them speculative and none persuasive. Paul mentions the rite only to show the logical inconsistency of his opponent’s position.

I don’t see how that last sentence follows. I think the entire context falsifies it. Paul’s statement — whatever it means — is used as a rhetorical argument favoring the resurrection of the dead, not as an anomalous, incongruous example within the context of a positive affirmation of resurrection. The entire chapter 15 is about Jesus’ Resurrection and that of His followers.

Paul’s point is that the Christian life of toil and suffering is pointless if there is no resurrection, and if Jesus didn’t rise again (15:14, 17, 19), and that if this were the case, we might as well be hedonists (15:32). After he makes his statement in 15:29, he proclaims in the next verse: “Why am I in peril every hour?” In other words, “why do I go through what I go through, if not for the hope of the resurrection and eternal life?” (cf. 15:32).

So his example of baptism is one of several practices which only make sense if there is a resurrection. By analogy, then, it is not presented as an inconsistency at all, but as an acceptable practice in light of the resurrection, just like his “peril” and dying “every day” (15:31). On the contrary, if he wished to condemn such a practice, it seems to me that here was his opportunity to make it clear that it was not only “logically inconsistent” but wicked and forbidden in the Church Age / New Covenant period.

Paul certainly made no bones about other Corinthian faults in his two letters to them. So I say that Paul is supporting the practice, and that this has to be harmonized with Christian theology in some fashion.

I don’t think Protestants would likely see this passage much differently than Roman Catholics.

I don’t think they “see” it at all. :-) Or if they do they wrongly interpret it, in my opinion, just as the commentary above does, with recourse to special pleading and avoidance of the crystal-clear context. And there is other Scripture or ancient writing similar to this, which I will bring in in due course.

As you may know LDS [Mormons] use this passage to try to proof-text their practice of baptism for the dead.

Yes. I think they are wrongly interpreting as well.

Perhaps they were baptized for the sake of those who had died. Meaning, because of the testimony of believers that had been perhaps slain for the faith, these people were now becoming believers and being baptized. I always thought that “huper” could be like “because of.” I dunno. One thing is for sure, you can’t build a doctrine out of one verse.


There was a cult near Corinth in which the members were baptized on behalf of dead friends and relatives. Thus cult also happened to believe in a resurrection.

Paul was telling the believers how futile life is if there is no resurrection (“if the dead are not raised…let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”). Interestingly, that particular saying was popular among the Epicureans. Paul is drawing on the teachings and practices of pagan religions to give support to his argument! It is along these lines that Paul also appeals to the practice of the cult (I have forgotten their name) that practiced baptism on behalf of the dead; the reason that those people practiced this was because they believed in a coming resurrection. Paul is saying, “Why does that group that baptizes people on behalf of the dead do what they’re doing if there is no resurrection?” He is pointing out that even among pagans, a belief or disbelief in the resurrection guides their ways of life. In the case of the Epicureans, their disbelief resulted in a debauched lifestyle. In the case of the Corinthian cult, their belief resulted in a practice of baptizing members on behalf of the dead. Likewise, as Christians our belief in the resurrection should produce a certain response in us; namely, we should be willing to fight with wild beasts (v. 32), die as martyrs, and live holy lives (v. 34).

Could I ask where you found this historical information (because others have denied it)?

There is nothing to support that Corinthian believers were being baptized for their dead relatives or friends. The note derives its existence from pure speculation and is contrary to Paul’s larger message delivered through the testimony of his epistles.

Well, then this is a big difference of opinion. The above commentary said the practice may have occurred but that Paul opposed it. You say there is no evidence that it occurred, and that Paul is talking about something entirely different. I say Paul is upholding the practice also, but I would interpret it differently (and I am withholding my opinion till other opinions are on the table, because I want to see what they are).

Baptism is the identifying with someone or something. In this case Paul is speaking of identification as a dead person. It means the Corinthian believers were baptized or identified with Jesus Christ who had died for them. They were dead to the world but were alive to Christ. See the contrast of this idea in Gal. 2:20.

Considering Paul is about to launch in the program and pattern of the resurrection Paul was saying that if there is no resurrection then we have been baptized for a dead man (Jesus Christ). Paul here, I believe, equivocates the denial of the believers resurrection as a denial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Clever, but I don’t buy it, for two reasons. First, 15:29 does not say we were baptized in Christ or with Him, as other baptism passages suggest; rather, it says people are baptized “on behalf” of the dead: an entirely different concept. Obviously, our Lord Jesus needs nothing done on His behalf.

Secondly, “the dead” seems to me to be a corporate term, not referring to Jesus alone. If you are right, this is an exceedingly strange way to refer to Jesus, as “the dead.” And apart from the strange idiom and style, it is contradicted throughout chapter 15, because when Paul is referring to Jesus, He says so in no uncertain terms, repeatedly, by using the title, “Christ” (15:3-4,12-17,20), whereas “the dead” clearly refers to the resurrection of us poor, miserable created human beings, in contradistinction to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as in, e.g., 15:12-13,15-16,52. The distinction between the two couldn’t be more clear, with Paul often contrasting them in the very same verse.

Therefore, I believe your interpretation utterly collapses.

Actually it does work with the Greek. All you need to do is look at what Paul talks about in the proceding verse:

1 Cor. 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

In verse 29, Paul is contrasting the thought laid out in verses 24-28 which is the end of human history and after the judgement when even sin and death are defeated and God’s kingdom encompasses everything having defeated all enemies through the Son. Paul is basically saying in verse 29, “If these things (vv. 24-29) are not to be, then what is the point of being baptized for a dead man (Jesus Christ)?” It is a rhetorical question. Follow my line of thinking?

No, for reasons explained above.

St. Francis de Sales:

This passage properly understood evidently shows that it was the custom of the primitive Church to watch, pray, fast, for the souls of the departed. For, firstly, in the Scriptures to be baptized is often taken for afflictions and penances; as in Luke 12:50 . . . and in St. Mark 10:38-9 . . . — in which places Our Lord calls pains and afflictions baptism [cf. Matthew 3:11, 20:22-3, Luke 3:16].

This then is the sense of that Scripture: if the dead rise not again, what is the use of mortifying and afflicting oneself, of praying and fasting for the dead? And indeed this sentence of St. Paul resembles that of 2 Maccabees 12:44: “It is superfluous and vain to pray for the dead if the dead rise not again. . . .” Now it was not for those in Paradise [heaven], who had no need of it, nor for those in hell, who could get no benefit from it; it was, then, for those in Purgatory. Thus did St. Ephraim [d.373] expound it.

The “penance” interpretation is supported contextually by the next three verses, where the Apostle speaks of being in peril every hour, and dying every day. St. Paul certainly doesn’t condemn the practice, whatever it is (his question being merely rhetorical). Given these facts, and the striking resemblance to 2 Maccabees 12:44, the traditional Catholic interpretation seems the most plausible.

Furthermore, Paul prays for the dead man Onesiphorus in 2 Tim 1:16-18 (“. . . may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day . . .” — cf. 4:19). The New Bible Commentary admits that Onesiphorus is likely dead, and that Paul is praying (but somehow not for the dead). A.T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures of the NT, states: “Apparently Onesiphorus is now dead as implied by the wish in 1:18.”

Conclusion?:

1. The guy is dead.
2. Paul is praying for him.
3. Therefore, prayers for the dead are taught (and practiced) by Paul.
4. Since Paul’s writings are part of inspired revelation, prayer for the dead is NT and orthodox Christian teaching.

1 Corinthians 15:29 merely extends that spiritual principle by sanctioning penances for the dead (secondary usage of “baptism” — and the similarity to 2 Macc 12:44). Penance, just like prayer, has the effect of aiding another person.

I anticipated your conclusion. as I stated above, such teaching is based purely upon commentators’ speculation. In a nutshell your thesis is begging the question (for those reading along: begging the question is the name given to an informal fallacy of argumentation which occurs when one assumes inadequate premises provide adequate support for a conclusion. It normally comes from: (1) leaving out a key premise (2) when a premise states the conclusion in some way (3) circular reasoning).

Well, that’s easy to say and sounds quite impressive, but the problem is that you have simply made an assertion and not demonstrated (by carefully taking apart my exegesis) how my argument has done any such thing. On the other hand, I replied to your exegetical argument point-by-point, and I believe I demonstrated that it made no sense in the entire contextual passage (though I agree that this doesn’t prove my view — it merely shows yours to be implausible). You have not yet counter-replied (I hope you will).

I gave all sorts of different arguments for my interpretation, but no one has yet grappled with them, apart from simply stating disagreement, which is, of course, philosophically and exegetically unimpressive, and no reason for anyone to be persuaded otherwise. So you disagree with prayers for the dead . . . fine; I already knew that, but there is still a text to be dealt with here.

In review of your thesis your conclusion is reached by speculating upon earlier commentators’ speculation. Therefore you forwarded no argument because your thesis is begging the question. In my thesis I forwarded biblical theology and prefaced my conclusion that I believe that Paul was equivocating a denial of the resurrection to a denial of Christ’s resurrection. I stated my opinion based upon biblical theology. Opinions are what you asked for, and what I presented to you. The problem is when you shift from opinions to facts by attempting to become dogmatic upon your opinion you then are committing a formal fallacy of affirming the consequent. Examples of the fallacy of affirming the consequent:

If Paul was hammering against baptizing for the dead, then David is right.

David is right.
Therefore, Paul was hammering against baptizing for the dead.
If you were a gorilla, you’d have two legs.
You have two legs.
Therefore, you must be a gorilla

If P then Q
Q
Therefore, P

Once the formal fallacy is spotted one need not continue to examine the argument. Since you have shifted from opinion to fact and I have noted the fallacy, there is no need for this apologist to further demonstrate why the argument is incorrect.

I don’t buy it at all, but shoot yourself.

Are you at least willing to reply to my critique of your interpretation, if you won’t respond directly (i.e., exegetically) to mine? We keep getting further and further away from the text itself, which is the really interesting thing in this discussion, not your descriptions of various logical fallacies wrongly applied to my analysis . . .

Look at the big idea that chapter 15 lays out and ask yourself why Paul is going through the trouble of presenting his counsel concerning the resurrection?

Fact of Christ’s resurrection (1-11)
Importance of Christ’s resurrection (12-19)
Order of resurrection (20-28)
Moral implications of Christ’s resurrection (29-34)
Bodies of the resurrected dead (35-50)
Bodies of the translated living (51-58)

Considering Paul had been handed a shopping list of problems and questions, what problem or question do you suppose he was answering? What fits the text better? A denial of the believers resurrection or baptism for the dead?

My notion fits in perfectly well with the schema of the chapter because Paul was making a rhetorical argument having to do with the fact that there are folks who are resurrected and alive in the afterlife. Paraphrase of his rhetorical question: “why do something for their sakes if they aren’t there in the first place?” That makes perfect sense to me.

You, on the other hand, have suggested a strange, eccentric reading of the phrase “the dead” and tried to apply it to Jesus’ Resurrection, whereas Paul everywhere else in the chapter (since you agree, of course, that context is relevant and important) uses it as a term for the general dead, and contrasts it to Christ several times. I think this indicates exegetical desperation on your part, to latch onto such an exceedingly weak and implausible thesis.

My problem with the way you are proceeding in this discussion is your ignoring of both my particular exegetical arguments (which are various) and my critiques of yours. In my opinion, there is no dialogue unless you or someone else does that (we’re just talking past each other).

Failing that, I will simply assume that my interpretation is unchallenged (and, I believe, the most plausible of the choices presented), and that my critique of yours is successful, because you are unwilling to even attempt to overthrow it. Why would I think otherwise? Sometimes silence speaks volumes. And it is golden. :-)

Certainly you are capable of better than that.

Basically, I’m not challenging your opinion because it hasn’t registered as an argument.

That’s a clever way to avoid a discussion. I’ll have to remember that one. :-)

What I’m saying is that quoting people’s speculation, and then adding your own speculation in the end is still just opinion.

Well, I’m not going to argue this other than to deny that I did it, or to say — granting that I was merely “speculating” –, that you are doing nothing different. Else, why do you yourself write below: ” I would point out that Calvin’s commentary on 1 Cor. 15:29-34 tends to support my opinion.”

So you quote Calvin’s speculations, add your own, and offer “just an opinion” in the end, but that is okay, whereas my effort somehow is not? Strange. Or is it because Calvin is a big shot, so then the procedure transcends your alleged logical difficulties and then becomes proper and quite appropriate?

I submit that your real problem seems to be my presupposition that penances and prayers for the dead are not ruled out from the outset; so I incorporate them into my interpretation of the passage. Of course, everyone brings a theological framework and paradigm to commentary (so it is nothing extraordinary that I do the same from my Catholic belief).

Our choice, then, in doing comparative exegesis, is to either merely put down the other view as “just speculation” or “just opinion” because we don’t like it, or to actually interact with it point-by-point (i.e., make a counter-argument) and show (giving our own opinions and speculations) how it is incorrect or implausible.

That sticks to the text, and is actually exegesis, as opposed to polemics and grandiose statements about the supposed fallacies in the other guy’s opinion. And I often wonder why it is so difficult to get people to do that. It’s really fun, and one learns so much by delving deeply into any given biblical text. I know I always learn something.

Calvin is widely read by many people and not at all obscure.

So are Marx, Freud, Darwin, Nietzsche, etc. So what? But I do agree with his comments against another false interpretation, and will cite them below.

To opinions, I say, great, good for you!

And to you! Cheers (offering a toast to your mere opinions).

Within the context Paul is making certain that people know about the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Again, this chapter is parked within an epistle that is relating the apostle’s answers to a shopping list of questions and problems. Because of this the exegete would seek to understand that nature of the question or problem Paul is responding to. I have suggested that there were those within Corinth that were denying the resurrection of the dead. I would argue that the context of the chapter supports this approach, as does the larger context of the epistle.

We’ve been through that, and it is not at issue.

Further, the thesis I present, although still my opinion, blends well within Paul’s theology.

Opinion? But I thought that is what you were objecting to in my posts????

Nevertheless, to support your thesis, you need to present something concrete showing that the church of Corinth had fallen into the heterodox practice of baptizing for the dead. To the best of my knowledge no such evidence exists other than speculation.

This has nothing to do with my opinion. I have no idea why you would think that it does. I’m not even interpreting Paul’s reference to “baptism” as referring to water baptism.

To the charge that mine, is “a strange, eccentric reading,” I would point out that Calvin’s commentary on 1 Cor. 15:29-34 tends to support my opinion.

He doesn’t say that “the dead” refers to Christ. That is what I was specifically saying was “strange, eccentric” in your view. And you have consistently refused to defend it and respond to my contextual critique. That’s your right, but it doesn’t impress me, and I dare say that it won’t impress an impartial reader.

His commentary gives the “Corinthian Church baptized for the dead” position a thorough plummeting, if you are interested in reading it.

Yes, it was very interesting. Thanks for that link. I totally agree with him when he critiques that particular view (and made a shorter version of his argument myself, above). I disagree with his own positive interpretation, though. I would like to cite the portion of his commentary that I agree with:

Before expounding this passage, it is of importance to set aside the common exposition, which rests upon the authority of the ancients, and is received with almost universal consent. Chrysostom, therefore, and Ambrose, who are followed by others, are of opinion that the Corinthians were accustomed, when any one had been deprived of baptism by sudden death, to substitute some living person in the place of the deceased — to be baptized at his grave. They at the same time do not deny that this custom was corrupt, and full of superstition, but they say that Paul, for the purpose of confuting the Corinthians, was contented with this single fact, that while they denied that there was a resurrection, they in the mean time declared in this way that they believed in it. For my part, however, I cannot by any means be persuaded to believe this, . . .

Granting, however, that the argument was conclusive, can we suppose that, if such a corruption as this had prevailed among the Corinthians, the Apostle, after reproving almost all their faults, would have been silent as to this one? He has censured above some practices that are not of so great moment. He has not scrupled to give directions as to women’s having’ the head covered, and other things of that nature. Their corrupt administration of the Supper he has not merely reproved, but has inveighed against it with the greatest keenness. Would he in the meantime have uttered not a single word in reference to such a base profanation of baptism, which was a much more grievous fault? He has inveighed with great vehemence against those who, by frequenting the banquets of the Gentiles, silently counte-nanced their superstitions. Would he have suffered this horrible superstition of the Gentiles to be openly carried on in the Church itself under the name of sacred baptism? But granting that he might have been silent, what shall we say when he expressly makes mention of it? Is it, I pray you, a likely thing that the Apostle would bring forward in the shape of an argument a sacrilege by which baptism was polluted, and converted into a mere magical abuse, and yet not say even one word in condemnation of the fault? When he is treating of matters that are not of the highest importance, he introduces nevertheless this parenthesis, that he speaks as a man. (Romans 3:5; Romans 6:19; Galatians 3:15.) Would not this have been a more befitting and suitable place for such a parenthesis? Now from his making mention of such a thing without any word of reproof, who would not understand it to be a thing that was allowed? For my part, I assuredly understand him to speak here of the right, use of baptism, and not of an abuse of it of that nature.

I would disagree with your interpretation of the verse.

That’s fine, but why? No one has replied to my interpretation, or to my counter-replies to their interpretation. Mine takes into account context, style, the different meanings of “baptism” in Scripture, and the parallel with Maccabees. No one has touched any of these elements thus far. Maybe they will yet.

Paul brings this verse seemingly out of nowhere to illustrate a point about the resurrection of the dead. It’s obvious that the practice was known to the Corinthian believers in some way,
*
I agree, whatever the practice actually is. Everyone is assuming that Paul is referring to water baptism, when it is not necessary to do so simply by virtue of the word “baptism,” which has a few different meanings in Scripture. Biblically (and in Catholicism), it is nonsensical to be water-baptized for someone else, because (for Catholics, Orthodox, and several species of Protestants such as Lutherans, Anglicans, Church of Christ, etc.) it confers regeneration, and a dead person is either regenerate or not. No “proxy baptism” will change that fact after they are dead. Even if one denies baptismal regeneration, “proxy baptism” makes no sense because the baptism applies only to the one receiving it. 
*
because Paul would’ve probably shed more light on it if it was a new practice or an essential point in Christian doctrine.
*

What makes sense is the “penitential” interpretation, because that easily harmonizes with the parallel passage in Maccabees about prayer for the dead. The problem here is that Protestant theology has no place for such thought, and so it is ruled out from the outset; thus the text remains mysterious for Protestants because of the (in this instance) false preconception they bring to it.

My thought about it is that he was illustrating a practice from another religon to illustrate a truth about the resurrection.
*

I don’t find that plausible. Why talk momentarily about baptism in another religion, in the context of a thoroughly Christian discussion about the resurrection? But bringing in the notion of penance and prayers for the dead makes perfect sense in the context of the Christian theology of the general resurrection.

The reason: my NIV says “…what will those do who are baptized for the dead?” which sounds like it is directed toward people outside of the Corinthian church. Honestly, unless anyone can time-travel back to the 1st century the passage will always remain obscure.
*

Only for Protestants, because their theology disallows the (in my opinion) most plausible and sensible interpretation of the verse. It is somewhat obscure for Catholics too, but — with all due respect — I think we at least offer some sort of plausible explanation of it.

Here’s what the text note to my NIV Study Bible says if you’re curious.

*

Sure.

. . . because Paul does not give any more information about the practice, many attempts have been made to interpret the concept. Three of these are: 1. Living believers were being baptized for believers who died before they were baptized, so that they too, in a sense, would not miss out on baptism.

That makes no sense in any Christian system I am aware of, including Catholicism. The direct effect of a sacrament only applies to the one receiving it. We have the notion of “baptism of desire” for a person who was not baptized for some reason, but would do so if he could (such as the thief on the cross). That very concept and “loophole” — so to speak — presupposes that no one can be water-baptized for anyone else.

2. Christians were being baptized in anticipation of the resurrection of the dead.

This violates the text, because the baptism is on behalf of the dead.

3. New converts were being baptized to fill the ranks of Christians that had died.

Stretching it. This doesn’t deal with the text itself, but strikes me as desperate special pleading. Again, it ignores the element of “behalf”.

At any rate, Paul mentions the custom almost in passing,
*

Whether it is in passing or not, it has to be explained in some fashion. Better for Protestants to simply admit ignorance, than to special plead, in order to avoid at all costs a “Catholic” interpretation.

using its arguments substantiating the resurrection of the dead, but without necessarily approving the practice.”
*

There is no hint in the passage that I can see, that Paul disapproves of it. As I wrote earlier, if he did, it stands to reason that he would show his disagreement when he mentions it. That would be his responsibility as an Apostle and Christian teacher, responsible for his flock.

My problem with your exegesis is that:

1: How do we know that the guy [Onesiphorus] is even dead? It doesn’t seem totally certain.

Because Paul refers to the “household of Onesiphorus” twice. If I were writing to you, I don’t think I would say “I send greetings to the household of [name] . . . ” No, I would say, “Greetings to you and your house,” or “I hope you and yours are well,” as I often do. But you would be mentioned in it. That’s why some commentators think he was dead. E.g., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (vol. 4, 2195, “Onesiphorus”) states:

It is not clear whether Onesiphorus was living, or whether he had died, before Paul wrote the epistle. Different opinions have been held on the subject. The way in which Paul refers to ‘the household . . . of Onesiphorus,’ makes it possible that Onesiphorus himself had died . . . but certainty is impossible.

2: Is Paul praying or simply expressing a wish?

Well, I think this attempted distinction is stretching it a bit too far. The Protestant, in his necessity to escape the implication of prayers for the dead, comes up with this business of Paul “wishing” (as several commentators do). In any event, his words read exactly like a prayer: “may the Lord grant him to find mercy on that Day” (2 Tim 1:18; RSV). What is the difference between, e.g., “I pray that God will bless you” and “I wish that God will bless you”? The sentiment is pretty much the same one.

To jump from that to the claim that praying for the dead is Biblical seems more like a leap — it is not certain enough for that kind of commitment.

I wasn’t making a full-fledged argument for prayers for the dead. I do that elsewhere. I just mentioned it as a cross-reference to the discussion on “baptism for the dead,” because Paul appears to have a verse from Maccabees in mind, where prayer for the dead is explicitly taught (and that shows it was indeed Jewish practice, whatever one thinks of the canonicity of that particular book). It’s fun to throw these things out to see what Protestants try to do with them. :-)

Thanks for your feedback, and my wish, hope, desire (prayer?) is that God will be merciful to you on that Day! :-)

 

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January 3, 2016

. . . (also, approval of Luther and Lutherans)

Wesley7

Portrait of John Wesley (1788), by William Hamilton (1751-1801) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
(7-13-09)
John Wesley (1703-1791) was the founder of Methodism and a lifelong Anglican. From the book, John Wesley in Company With High Churchmen, Harrington William Holden, London: Church Press, 5th edition, 1872, pp. 84-87. Wesley’s own words will be in blue.
* * * * *

Wesley taught the propriety of Praying for the Dead, practiced it himself, and provided Forms, that others might. These forms, for daily use, he put forth, not tentatively or apologetically, but as considering such prayer a settled matter of Christian practice, with all who believe that the Faithful, living and dead, are one Body in Christ, in equal need and like expectation of those blessings which they will together enjoy, when both see Him in His Kingdom. Two or three examples, out of many, may be given: — “O grant that we, with those who are already dead in Thy faith and fear, may together partake of a joyful resurrection.” (x.40.) “. . . that we all together with those that now sleep in Thee, may awake to life everlasting.” (p. 48.) “Bring us, with all those who have pleased Thee from the beginning of the world, into the glories of Thy Son’s Kingdom.” (p. 73.) “By Thy infinite mercies, vouchsafe to bring us, with those that are dead in Thee, to rejoice together before Thee,” &c.; (p. 77.) The Prayers passed through many editions, and were in common use among thousands of Methodists of every degree, who, without scruple or doubtfulness, prayed for those who sleep in Jesus every day that they prayed to the common Father of all. Insomuch that there are Methodists of the old school (still abiding in the Ship by Wesley’s advice), who use them night and morning to this day, entirely undisturbed by the doubts which modern disputers have sought to cast upon the practice.

One such disputer (Bishop Lavington) did Wesley encounter, and notices him thus: — “Your fourth argument is, That in a collection of Prayers, I cite the words of an ancient Liturgy — ‘for the Faithful Departed.’ Sir, whenever I use those word in the Burial Service, I pray to the same effect: ‘That we, with all those who are departed in Thy faith and fear, may have our perfect consummation of bliss, both in body and soul.’ Yea, and whenever I say, ‘Thy Kingdom come;’ for I mean both the kingdom of grace and glory. In this kind of general prayer, therefore, for the Faithful Departed, I conceive myself to be clearly justified, both by the earliest Antiquity, by the Church of England, and by the Lord’s Prayer.” (1750.) xvi.345.

. . . “‘ ‘Tis certain, Praying for the Dead was common in the second century:’ you might have said, and in the first also (replied Wesley); seeing that petition, ‘Thy Kingdom come.’ manifestly concerns the saints in Paradise, as well as those upon earth.” “Praying thus far for the dead, ‘That God would shortly accomplish the number of His elect, and hasten His Kingdom,’ you will not easily prove to be any corruption at all.” xviii. 154, 155.

Having thus silenced these clerical disputants, Wesley re-published the above Prayers and continued the sale of them at all his preaching-houses as long as he lived. . . .

Exactly answerable to all this, are those awful words, in the prayer at the burial of the dead — ‘Beseeching Thee, that it may please Thee of Thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of Thine elect, and to hasten Thy Kingdom; that we. with all those who are departed in the true faith of Thy Holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in Thy everlasting glory.'” Ss. 1. 298. . . .

And in a Manuscript of Mr. Wesley’s recently published for the first time; without date, but expressing the sentiment of his whole life as the above citations from his several Works sufficiently show; he says, “I believe it to be a duty to observe to pray for the Faithful Departed.”

* * *

Likewise, in what Martin Luther regarded as his final confession of faith in his 1528 work against the Zwinglians, Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, he wrote as follows:

As for the dead, since Scripture gives us no information on the subject, I regard it as no sin to pray with free devotion in this or some similar fashion: ‘Dear God, if this soul is in a condition accessible to mercy, be thou gracious to it.’ And when this has been done once or twice, let it suffice.

(Luther’s Works, Vol. 37, p. 369)

Luther’s approval of prayers for the dead given out of free devotion was shared in Luther’s successor Philip Melanchthon’s apology to the Augsburg Confession (article XXIV, 94), where he wrote:

Now, as regards the adversaries’ citing the Fathers concerning the offering for the dead, we know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, which we do not prohibit; . . .

* * * * *

December 21, 2015

Lazarus2
The Raising of Lazarus, by Sebastiano del Piombo (c. 1485-1547) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
(11-5-12)

This exchange occurred on my Facebook page (which is public; therefore I can cite it here). I’ve added a few additional replies that were not in the original “discussion.” I think it is very helpful to illustrate how not to argue any theological point, since my opponent uses many of the classic evasive and obscurantist, obfuscatory techniques of folks who don’t appear to be interested in an open, mutually respectful  dialogue. His words will be in blue.

Here are the passages (RSV, as throughout):

2 Timothy 1:16-18  May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiph’orus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, [17] but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me — [18] may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day — and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

2 Timothy 4:19 Greet Prisca and Aq’uila, and the household of Onesiph’orus.

The “discussion” proceeds upon my opponent’s response to this.
* * * * *

Is that the only example you can find in the N.T. of prayers for the dead? Pretty slim pickings to base an entire doctrine on, especially when you look at what the verse says (2 Tim. 1:18): “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day; and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.” Can we say “that day” (there and v. 12) is the Judgment Day? If he’s in hell when Paul wrote that, all it might be, is a wish (not prayer to God) that the man be given mercy in the judgment. Paul can wish and think that without actually praying that to God. If he’s in heaven, what might the mercy of God be for? Perhaps a wish on Paul’s part that the man not lose any rewards for all the help he gave Paul. In no case is this verse a necessary support for purgatory, because “that day” — Judgment Day — would be after one was in purgatory (if it existed).

No; there is more:

1 Corinthians 15:29-31 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? [30] Why am I in peril every hour? [31] I protest, brethren, by my pride in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 


One Catholic interpretation of this fascinating passage holds that “baptized” is used not for the sacrament, but to denote redemptive suffering on behalf of the dead (analogous to prayer on their behalf) , along the lines of “baptism” used in this sense in other passages: 

Mark 10:38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”


Luke 12:50 I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!


The sense, in other words, is that if the dead don’t rise again, why should anyone suffer and mortify themselves for them, or pray for them? 15:30-31 backs up this interpretation, because Paul links his own suffering to the preceding verse. It’s also backed up by a very similar deuterocanonical passage:

2 Maccabees 12:40-45 Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. [41] So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; [42] and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. [43] He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. [44] For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. [45] But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

Jesus not only prays for Lazarus, but in a sense, to him as well, by commanding him (a dead person). The same occurred when He raised Jairus’ daughter and the son of the widow of Nain. In commanding them to rise, He was simultaneously praying for them. 

Likewise, when Peter raised Tabitha, the text specifically notes that he “prayed” and then commanded her. Lastly, the prophet Elijah clearly prayed (successfully) for a child to be raised.


[see 
John 11:41-44; Mark 5:39-42; Luke 7:14-15; Acts 9:40-41; 1 Kings 17:18-23]In fact, indirectly, Jesus even commanded His disciples to pray for the dead (“Heal the sick, raise the dead, . . .”: Mt 10:8). We’ve seen the models above [bracketed passages], of how one raises another from the dead. They include prayer, and also talking to the dead person. 

All of this is quite anathema and unthinkable to most Protestants, but there it is, right in front of us, in Holy Scripture. Are we to follow the forbidden mere traditions of men, that go contrary to Scripture, or God’s inspired, infallible Word (as the Catholic Church has done in this instance)? The choice is very easy.


Dave, your examples above all seem to involve raising people from the dead. Is that what you do when you pray for the dead?

Are they instances of prayer for the dead or not? Your task is to prove that they are not if you have this odd notion that all such prayer is forbidden. But they clearly are, so you have a problem. 1 Corinthians 15:29-31 is not raising the dead, though; it is aiding the dead by penance or prayers. Protestants have very little cogent explanation for it.

Well, in John 11, Jesus’ prayer to God is not a prayer specifically for Lazarus, who is not even mentioned in His prayer to the Father, so I can say it was not a “prayer for the dead.” 

That would be stretching it. In John 11:41 Jesus prays to the Father, “I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” Heard Him about what? The most plausible answer is that He prayed about raising Lazarus (especially since we know He did in other instances of His raising the dead). There is nothing else in the immediate context to suggest that the prayer where He had been “heard” was about anything other than Lazarus.

Mark 5 and Luke 7 do not even mention a prayer. 

I didn’t claim that they did. What I stated was that “In commanding them to rise, He was simultaneously praying for them.” Jesus was talking to dead people in a way that Protestants claim we can never do (because they equate any such communication with necromancy, seances, etc.).

Acts 9 mentions prayer but does not give its contents, so we don’t know what Peter prayed. 

Which is perfectly irrelevant to the present dispute (the exact content) . . . It remains proof that Peter prayed for a dead person.  He was obviously doing that; then he talked to a dead person, too, saying, “Tabitha, rise.”

Only 1 Kings 17 tells us what was prayed (” let this child’s soul come into him again”), but, again, it was to raise the child from the dead. 

And it was an instance of prayer for the dead. Case closed. Prayer for the dead is repeatedly illustrated in the biblical books that Protestants accept. Paul prays for the dead Onesiphorus too.

My point is that praying for the dead is nowhere encouraged by any N.T. writer 

Really? I just demonstrated how it was.

and is pointless unless you were raising them from the dead and God led you to do that. More “pointless” than “forbidden.”

Paul wasn’t trying to raise Onesiphorus from the dead. Nor were those who suffered for the dead through penances (1 Corinthians 15:29-31, backed up by the precedent and scriptural proof of 2 Maccabees 12:40-45) trying to bring them back. Yet somehow (if we accept your view — and I don’t) the Christian Church has done it all through these centuries . . . how odd again. If Jesus and Paul and Peter and Elijah all prayed for the dead, it’s good enough for me!

So, when do you do it? When you want to raise someone from the dead?

Why do you believe in sola Scriptura when it is not taught in the Bible?

Ah, the old change-the-subject ploy….

Not at all. This is the premise that lies underneath your questioning. But even sola Scriptura doesn’t require a biblical prooftext that is identical in all particulars, as you now foolishly demand. You deny prayer for the dead. I showed it in the NT. Now you quibble about particulars (whether it is used to raise the dead), but logically that doesn’t disprove the fact. You claim my examples are only of this sort. Two of them are not.

I asked you, when do you do it? Obviously it is not to raise anyone from the dead. So, what is the scriptural justification, if any, for your prayers for the dead? 1 Cor 15?

I gave many biblical prooftexts for prayer for the dead. You don’t agree with them. Fine. There are always people who will pick and choose what they like from the Bible and what they don’t like. Nothing new there. We follow what the Bible teaches. You think eight or nine texts are insufficient to establish the doctrine and practice.

Yet, like almost all Protestants, I assume that you accept sola Scriptura as your rule of faith. Sola Scriptura is not ever explicated in a single verse in Scripture. I wrote two entire books about it, and tons more on my blog. Yet Protestants base their entire belief on authority and the basis of theology on this non-biblical tradition of men. You’re not stopped by the complete absence of any proof in Scripture, from believing it, anyway.

So I wonder why you say our biblical support is inadequate when I present many prooftexts, while you have none for sola Scriptura? Why don’t you apply this same criterion of proof to yourself, and cease believing in that?

The same is true for the canon of Scripture. Nothing in Scripture indicates which books belong in the Bible. The book of Esther doesn’t even mention God. Yet Protestants accept as dogma the fact that there are 66 books. And they arbitrarily decided to eliminate seven books that the early Church accepted as Scripture. The same authority that established the canonicity of the 66 books accepted by all, also canonized the seven books we Catholics accept.
 

I’ll ask you again, when do you do it? Obviously it is not to raise anyone from the dead. (Have you raised anyone from the dead lately?) 

I haven’t, but Jesus casually assumed that His disciples would and could do so (“Heal the sick, raise the dead, . . .”: Matthew 10:8), and throughout history many people have:

. . . reports from St. Irenaeus, Pope St. Gregory the Great, and St. Augustine (City of God, Book XXII, ch. 8 ), and actual raisings said to be performed by St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Martin of Tours, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. Malachy, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Dominic, St. Philip Neri, St. Patrick, St. Francis Xavier, and many others.”

(from my book, A Biblical Critique of Calvinism) 

I’ve answered you several times. Now either you respond to what I’m saying, too, or this conversation is over. I don’t do “ships passing in the night.” Life is too short for futile conversations. A real dialogue is back-and-forth, not a lecturer and a listener.

So, when do you do it, what specifically do you pray and what is the scriptural justification, if any, for such a prayer for the dead? 1 Cor 15?

I’ve provided you with that. I even introduced some new material about fasting for the dead in my most recent blog / Facebook post [my paper, “Fasting for the Dead in the Old Testament: Not Essentially Different from Praying for Them”]. Yet here you are droning the same old questions as if I had said nothing. This type of fundamentalistic, robot-like lecturing is what is so ridiculous.

I have answered; you just didn’t get it, because I was dealing with the premise behind your question (in several ways). I can see now why you missed it, because you use a common sort of “argumentation” that we observe so often from certain types of Protestants. This same technique is also used constantly by Jehovah’s Witnesses. You hear only what you want to hear and ignore what the person on the other side is saying. I know the tactics, from over 30 years of evangelization and apologetics. I can spot them a mile away, and I was correct in my initial perception in this instance. Thanks for the classic garden-variety demonstration.

And, in fact, you have not answered my question. Read back through our posts. I showed that most all your examples of prayer for the dead related to raising them from the dead, so I asked you when you prayed for the dead, since (I assumed) it was not when you were raising someone from the dead. And what was the scriptural justification for it, 1 Cor. 15 (the only N.T. passage you cited that did not relate to raising someone from the dead). Your response was to change the subject to sola Scriptura or the canon, not answer my question about when you prayed for the dead. So, don’t say you have answered my question.You have not.

We disagree. You don’t get it. You don’t even have your basic facts right. But I thank you for providing a textbook case of how not to go about arguing a theological point. I’m sure it is instructive for many.

And again you don’t answer the question. If we were in a court of law, the Judge would instruct you to answer my question and you would not be able to dodge it.

Not all judges understand rhetoric and various techniques of argumentation, either. No biggie. But this is not a legal situation; it is a matter of what God’s inspired Word teaches on prayer for the dead. We Catholics accept the data from revelation. You do not.

Why don’t you copy and paste your answer to my question, when you pray for the dead, what you say in your prayer, and the scriptural justification for it. Go ahead. 

I just wrote 48 minutes ago: “I haven’t” [raised anyone from the dead or prayed for that].

Yes, I assumed that. So, I asked when do [you] pray for the dead (if not to raise them from the dead), what do you say in your prayer, and what is the scriptural justification for that. You can copy and paste your answer to that if you already answered it and I missed it. Otherwise, please answer. Thanks. 

We pray things like what Paul prayed for Onesiphorus, or what the Jews prayed, as seen in 2 Maccabees, with the same notions likely reflected in the thought of 1 Corinthians 15. 

If I missed it, how hard is it for you to copy and paste it?

If you can read, go read. Maybe you’ll get it the second time around.

You’ve been boorishly repetitive, completely unwilling to dialogue or consider Scripture that doesn’t fit with your preconceived notions, unwilling to answer my counter-arguments or interact with much of the substance of those, and now you are misrepresenting my replies (because you can’t comprehend them and didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I brought up sola Scriptura in an altogether relevant fashion).

By the way, ad hominem is not needed nor appreciated.

I have critiqued your unwillingness to dialogue or answer my counter-arguments. That is a flaw in how you go about contending for your viewpoints, not about you as a person. I haven’t attacked you personally; only your methods. It is you who have committed the ad hominem fallacy by implying that I am lying: don’t say you have answered my question. You have not.” I certainly did, in various ways. You simply didn’t comprehend my argument and my logic.

It’s not there to read. Thus my request for you to copy and paste it. Is that unreasonable?

It is there, and now you have this paper [I informed him of it in the Facebook thread], with additional answers. 
                                                                     

                                                                     * * * * *

November 24, 2015

SpaceCloud
NASA photo [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

(12-29-06)

[all passages RSV]

* * * * *

1. “Cloud of Witnesses” – Hebrews 12:1

. . . we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . .

Word Studies in the New Testament (Marvin R. Vincent, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980; originally 1887; Vol. 4, p. 536), a famous, standard Protestant reference work, comments on this verse as follows:

‘Witnesses’ does not mean spectators [Greek martus, from which is derived martyr], but those who have borne witness to the truth, as those enumerated in chapter 11. Yet the idea of spectators is implied, and is really the principal idea. The writer’s picture is that of an arena in which the Christians whom he addresses are contending in a race, while the vast host of the heroes of faith who, after having borne witness to the truth, have entered into their heavenly rest, watches the contest from the encircling tiers of the arena, compassing and overhanging it like a cloud, filled with lively interest and sympathy, and lending heavenly aid.

Saints in heaven are therefore aware of, and observe events on earth, “with lively interest,” as Vincent puts it.

2. Prayers in Heaven for Those on Earth

Revelation 6:9-10 . . . I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”

Here the martyrs in heaven are saying what are known as “imprecatory prayers”: pleas for God to rescue and vindicate the righteous. Examples can be found particularly in the Psalms (Psalms 35, 59, 69, 79, 109, 139) and in Jeremiah (11:18 ff., 15:15 ff., 18:19 ff., 20:11 ff.). An angel offers up a very similar prayer in Zechariah 1:12. Jesus mentions a type of this prayer in Matthew 26:53, in which He stated that He could “pray” to the Father and receive legions of angels to prevent His arrest had it been the Father’s will.

Therefore dead saints are praying for Christians on earth. If they can intercede for us, then why shouldn’t we ask for their prayers? Clearly, they’re aware of what is happening on earth. They are more alive, unfathomably more righteous, and obviously closer to God than we are. Omniscience isn’t required for them to hear our prayers, as is often charged. Rather, we have reason to believe that they are out of time, by God’s power, because to be in eternity is to be outside of the realm of time. That allows them to answer many requests for prayer because they have an infinite amount of “time” to do it.

Even Martin Luther and John Calvin admitted that the saints may be praying for us in heaven:

Although angels in heaven pray for us . . . and although saints on earth, and perhaps also in heaven, do likewise, it does not follow that we should invoke angels and saints.

(Smalcald Articles, 1537, Part II, Article II in Theodore G. Tappert, translator, The Book of Concord, St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1959, 297)

I grant they pray for us in this way.

(Institutes of the Christian Religion, III, 20, 24)

If so, then how can it be wrong to simply ask dead saints to pray for us, since they are aware of earthly happenings?

3. Saints and Angels Presenting Our Prayers to God

Revelation 5:8 . . . the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. (cf. Tobit 12:12,15)

It’s somewhat unclear whether the twenty-four elders in this scene are angels or men, and commentators differ. References to them clad in white garments, with golden crowns (4:4,10) suggests the view that these elders are glorified human beings (see, for example, 2:10, 3:5,11, 6:11, 7:9,13-14, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4). In any event, in both examples above, creatures – whether men or angels – are involved with our prayers as intercessory intermediaries, which isn’t supposed to happen according to most versions of Protestant theology, where all prayer goes straight to God with no creature involved other than the one who prays the prayer. What in the world are these creatures doing with “the prayers of the saints”?

Also the deuterocanonical book 2 Maccabees (15:13-14), describes Jeremiah the prophet loving his people after his death and praying for them. since Protestants don’t accept that book as inspired, we might offer them also Jeremiah 15:1: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people.'”

Here it appears that God receives the prayers of the dead saints as a matter of course. Moses and Samuel were both known as intercessors. One could argue that this is only a hypothetical, yet even parables can’t contain something that isn’t true. This mentions a state of affairs which is assumed to be possible (or else why would Jeremiah mention it at all, as coming from God?)

4. No Contact Between Heaven and Earth?

A) 1 Samuel 28:12,14-15 (Samuel): the prophet Samuel appeared to King Saul to prophesy his death. The current consensus among biblical commentators (e.g., The New Bible CommentaryThe Wycliffe Bible Commentary) is that it was indeed Samuel the prophet, not an impersonating demon (since it happened during a sort of seance with the so-called “witch or medium of Endor”). This was the view of, e.g., St. Justin Martyr, Origen, and St. Augustine, among others. Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 6:19-20 reinforces the latter interpretation: “Samuel . . . after he had fallen asleep he prophesied and revealed to the king his death, and lifted up his voice out of the earth in prophecy, to blot out the wickedness of the people.”

B) Matthew 17:1-3 (the Transfiguration: Moses and Elijah): . . . Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (see also Mark 9:4 and Luke 9:30-31)

C) Matthew 27:52-53(raised bodies after the crucifixion): . . . the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

D) Revelation 11:3,6 (the “Two Witnesses”): And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days . . . they have power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall . . . and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague . . .

These two witnesses are killed (11:7-9), then raised after “three and a half days” and “stood up on their feet” (11:11), and then “went up to heaven in a cloud” (11:12). Many Church Fathers thought these two were Enoch and Elijah, because both of them didn’t die; thus this would explain their dying after this appearance on earth. Some Protestant commentators think the two witnesses are Moses and Elijah, because of the parallel to the Transfiguration, and also similarities with the plagues of Egypt and the fact that Elijah also stopped the rain for three-and-a-half years (James 5:17).

We must conclude based on the above passages that contact between heaven and earth is God’s will; otherwise He wouldn’t have permitted it in these instances. The Catholic belief in more interconnection between heaven and earth cannot be ruled out as “unbiblical”. One has to try other arguments to refute our beliefs in this regard.

5. Prayers for the Dead in the New Testament

Prayers for the dead are very clearly presented in the deuterocanonical book of 2 Maccabees (12:39-45). Protestants don’t accept that book as part of the Bible, of course, so is there anything about prayers for the dead in the New Testament? It may shock and surprise Protestants to hear it, but yes, there is. I contend that there are three passages:

A) 1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Protestants consider this one of the most mysterious and odd passages in the entire Bible. But it really isn’t that difficult to interpret. It’s very similar to 2 Maccabees 12:44: “It is superfluous and vain to pray for the dead if the dead rise not again. . . .” That gives us our clue as to what Paul means here. In the Bible “baptism” can describe not just the water ritual but also afflictions and penances (Luke 12:50, Mark 10:38-39, Matthew 3:11, 20:22-23, Luke 3:16). So Paul is saying that we pray and fast and undergo penance for the dead in purgatory precisely because they are resurrected and will live eternally. The “penance” interpretation is supported contextually by the next three verses, where the Apostle speaks of being in peril every hour, and dying every day. So this is a proof of both purgatory and prayers for the dead.

B) 2 Timothy 1:16-18 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me – may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

This is another passage that gives Protestants fits. The problem is that it seems to plainly imply that Paul is praying for a dead man. Yet Protestants can’t accept that practice because of their theology; therefore, they must explain this away somehow. What they do is either deny that Onesiphorus is dead, or that Paul is praying. Most of the nine Protestant commentaries I consulted for this passage seen admit that he was praying, but deny that the person was dead. Some try to say that Paul was merely “wishing”, but I don’t see any difference between that and a prayer: it looks like a word game to avoid the implications. The same commentaries said he was possibly dead (two), take no position (two), think he was “probably not” dead (one), or deny it (three). A.T. Robertson, the great Baptist Greek scholar, felt that he was “apparently” dead and that Paul was “wishing” rather than praying. I think it’s much more plausible to simply take the Catholic position: the man died and Paul was praying for him.

C) Acts 9:36-37,40-41: Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas . . . In those days she fell sick and died . . . But Peter . . . knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive.

Now, what would Peter have been praying for?: obviously, that Tabitha would be raised from the dead. So it seems indisputable that St. Peter literally prayed for a dead person, the very thing that Protestants say is not permitted, and supposedly not recorded in the Bible. And Jesus prayed for Lazarus, just before he was raised from the dead, in John 11:41-42 (“Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me”). The Bible informs us that the disciples raised people from the dead (Mt 11:5, Lk 7:22) and that Jesus told them that they would be able to, and should, do so (Mt 10:8). So they went out and did it. It’s natural to assume that prayer would accompany these extraordinary miracles (because God performs miracles – thus we ask). So almost certainly they prayed for the dead, too. It’s as simple as that. The prophet Elijah did the same thing in the Old Testament:

D) 1 Kings 17:21-22: Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s soul come into him again.” And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

Martin Luther and his successor as head of Lutheranism, Philip Melanchthon, accepted prayers for the dead:

As for the dead, since Scripture gives us no information on the subject, I regard it as no sin to pray with free devotion in this or some similar fashion: “Dear God, if this soul is in a condition accessible to mercy, be thou gracious to it.”

(Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, 1528, in Luther’s Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, vol. 37, 369)


[W]e know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, which we do not prohibit . . .


(Apology to the Augsburg Confession: Article XXIV, 94)

November 6, 2015

PurgatoryMist

[public domain / Pixabay]

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From my bestselling 1996 book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, pp. 123-145. The introductory material of the chapter (definitions) is omitted; also a few quotations. Footnoting numbers are from my original manuscript and differ from the present Sophia edition. All Bible passages are from RSV.

* * * * *

Psalm 66:12 Thou didst let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet thou hast brought us forth to a spacious place.

This verse was considered a proof of purgatory by Origen [4] and St. Ambrose, [5] who posits the water of baptism and the fire of purgatory.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Isaiah 4:4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. (see also Isaiah 1:25-26)

St. Francis de Sales, the great Catholic apologist of the 16th century, commented on this verse as follows:

This purgation made in the spirit of judgment and of burning is understood of Purgatory by St. Augustine, in the 20th Book of the City of God, chapter 25. And in fact this interpretation is favoured by the words preceding, in which mention is made of the salvation of men, and also by the end of the chapter, where the repose of the blessed is spoken of; wherefore that which is said — “the Lord shall wash away the filth” — is to be understood of the purgation necessary for this salvation. And since it is said that this purgation is to be made in the spirit of heat and of burning, it cannot well be understood save of Purgatory and its fire. [6].

Isaiah 6:5-7 And I said:”Woe is me! for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.

 

This passage is a noteworthy example of what happens when men experience God’s presence directly. An immediate recognition of one’s own unholiness occurs, along with the corresponding feeling of inadequacy. Like Isaiah, we must all undergo a self-conscious and voluntary purging upon approaching God more closely than in this present life.

Few doctrines are clearer in Scripture than the necessity of absolute holiness in order to enter heaven. On this, Protestants and Catholics are in total agreement. Therefore, the fundamental disagreement on this subject is: how long does this purification upon death take? Certainly, it cannot be logically denied as a possibility that this purging might involve duration.

4 Homily 25 on Numbers.

In Ps. 36; Sermon 3 on Ps. 118.

6 St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy (CON), tr. Henry B. Mackey, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1989 (orig. 1596), 358 (Part 3, Article 2: “Purgatory”).

Micah 7:8-9 Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I shall behold his deliverance. (see also Leviticus 26:41,43, Job 40:4-5, Lamentations 3:39)

St. Jerome (d.420) considered this a clear proof of purgatory. [7]

Malachi 3:2-4 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Ibid., 358.

St. Francis de Sales recounts the patristic views on this passage:

This place is expounded of a purifying punishment by Origen (Hom. 6 on Exodus), St. Ambrose (On Ps 36), St. Augustine (City of God, Bk. 20, ch. 25), and St. Jerome (on this place). We are quite aware that they understand it of a purgation which will be at the end of the world by the general fire and conflagration, in which will be purged away the remains of the sins of those who will be found alive; but we still are able to draw from this a good argument for our Purgatory. For if persons at that time have need of purgation before receiving the effects of the benediction of the supreme Judge, why shall not those also have need of it who die before that time, since some of these may be found at death to have remains of their imperfections . . . St. Irenaeus in this connection, in chapter 29 of Book V, says that because the militant Church is then to mount up to the heavenly palace of the Spouse, and will no longer have time for purgation, her faults and stains will there and then be purged away by this fire which will precede the judgment. [9]

2 Maccabees 12:39-42, 44-45 . . . Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen . . . Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear . . . So they all . . . turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out . . . For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

 

The Jews offered atonement and prayer for their deceased brethren, who had clearly violated Mosaic Law. Such a practice presupposes purgatory, since those in heaven wouldn’t need any help, and those in hell are beyond it. The Jewish people, therefore, believed in prayer for the dead (whether or not this book is scriptural — Protestants deny that it is). Jesus Christ did not correct this belief, as He surely would have done if it were erroneous (see Matthew 5:22,25-26, 12:32, Luke 12:58-59, 16:9,19-31 below). When our Lord and Savior talks about the afterlife, He never denies the fact that there is a third state, and the overall evidence of His utterances in this regard strongly indicates that He accepted the existence of purgatory.

Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, “You fool!” shall be liable to the hell of fire.

St. Francis de Sales elucidates the implications of this statement of Christ:

 

It is only the third sort of offence which is punished with hell; therefore in the judgment of God after this life there are other pains which are not eternal or infernal, — these are the pains of Purgatory. One may say that the pains will be suffered in this world; but St. Augustine and the other Fathers understand them for the other world. And again may it not be that a man should die on the first or second offence which is spoken here? And when will such a one pay the penalty due to his offence? . . . Do then as the ancient Fathers did, and say that there is a place where they will be purified, and then they will go to heaven above. [10]

9 St. Francis de Sales, CON, 359-360.

10 Ibid., 373-374.

Matthew 5:25-26 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny. (see also Luke 12:58-59)

St. Francis de Sales:

Origen, St. Cyprian, St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine say that the way which is meant in the whilst thou art in the way [while you are going with him to court] is no other than the passage of the present life: the adversary [accuser] will be our own conscience, . . . as St. Ambrose expounds, and Bede, St. Augustine, St. Gregory [the Great], and St. Bernard. Lastly, the judge is without doubt Our Lord . . . The prison, again, is . . . the place of punishment in the other world, in which, as in a large jail, there are many buildings; one for those who are damned, which is as it were for criminals, the other for those in Purgatory, which is as it were for debt. The farthing, [penny] . . . are little sins and infirmities, as the farthing is the smallest money one can owe.

Now let us consider a little where this repayment . . . is to be made. And we find from most ancient Fathers that it is in Purgatory: Tertullian, [11] Cyprian, [12] Origen, [13] . . . St. Ambrose, [14] St. Jerome [15] . . . Who sees not that in St. Luke the comparison is drawn, not from a murderer or some criminal, who can have no hope of escape, but from a debtor who is thrown into prison till payment, and when this is made is at once let out? This then is the meaning of Our Lord, that whilst we are in this world we should try by penitence and its fruits to pay, according to the power which we have by the blood of the Redeemer, the penalty to which our sins have subjected us; since if we wait till death we shall not have such good terms in Purgatory, when we shall be treated with severity of justice. [16]

Matthew 12:32 And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

If sins can be pardoned in the “age to come” (the afterlife), again, in the nature of things, this must be in purgatory. We would laugh at a man who said that he would not marry in this world or the next (as if he could in the next — see Mark 12:25). If this sin cannot be forgiven after death, it follows that there are others which can be. Accordingly, this interpretation was held by St. Augustine, [17] St. Gregory the Great, [18] Bede, [19] and St. Bernard, [20] among others. 

11 The Soul, 100,10. 

12 Epistle 4,2.

13 Homily 35 on Luke 12.

14 Commentary on Luke 12.

15 Commentary on Matthew 5.

16 St. Francis de Sales,CON, 372-373.

17 City of God, 21:24.

18 Dialogues, 4,39.

19 Commentary on Mark 3.

20 Homily 66 in Cant.

Luke 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. (read Luke 16:1-13 for the context)

 

St. Francis de Sales:

To fail, — what is it but to die? — and the friends, — who are they but the Saints? The interpreters all understand it so; whence two things follow, — that the Saints can help men departed, and that the departed can be helped by the Saints . . . Thus is this passage expounded by St. Ambrose, and by St. Augustine. [21] But the parable Our Lord is using is too clear to allow us any doubt of this interpretation; for the similitude is taken from a steward who, being dismissed from his office and reduced to poverty [16:2], begged help from his friends, and Our Lord likens the dismissal unto death, and the help begged from friends unto the help one receives after death from those to whom one has given alms. This help cannot be received by those who are in Paradise or in hell; it is then by those who are in Purgatory. [22]

 

Luke 16:19-31 There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; . . . the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” And he said, “Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” And he said, “No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.”

Zechariah 9:11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your captives free from the waterless pit.

Ephesians 4:8-10. . . “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “he ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

1 Peter 3:19-20 . . . he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. (see also 4:6)

 

21 City of God, 12:27.

22 St. Francis de Sales, CON, 374-375.

Catholic commentator George Leo Haydock states:

Abraham’s bosom — The place of rest, where the souls of the saints resided, till Christ had opened heaven by his death . . . The bosom of Abraham (the common Father of all the faithful) was the place where the souls of the saints, and departed patriarchs, waited the arrival of their Deliverer. It was thither that Jesus went after his death; as it is said in the Creed, he descended into hellto deliver those who were detained there, and who might at Christ’s ascension enter into heaven (see 1 Peter 3:19, Matthew 8:11) . . .

[on 1 Peter 3:19-20]: These spirits in prison, to whom Christ went to preach after his death, were not in heaven, nor yet in the hell of the damned; because heaven is no prison, and Christ did not go to preach to the damned . . . In this prison souls would not be detained unless they were indebted to divine justice, nor would salvation be preached to them unless they were in a state that was capable of receiving salvation. [23]

 

At the very least, these passages prove that there can and does exist a third (and intermediate) state after death besides heaven and hell. Thus, purgatory is not a priori unthinkable from a biblical perspective (as many Protestants casually assume). True, the Hebrew Sheol (Greek Hades — netherworld) is not absolutely identical to purgatory (both righteous and unrighteous go there), but it is nevertheless strikingly similar. Sheol is referred to frequently throughout the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:22, 2 Samuel 22:6, Psalm 16:10, 18:5, 55:15, 86:13, 116:3, 139:8, Proverbs 9:18, 23:14, Isaiah 5:14, 14:9,15, Ezekiel 31:16-17, 32:21,27). In Jewish apocalyptic literature (in the few hundred years before Christ), the notion of divisions in Sheol is found (for instance, in Enoch 22:1-14).

The Christian hell is equivalent to the New Testament Gehenna or “Lake of Fire”. Gehenna was literally the burning ash-heap outside Jerusalem, and was used as the name for hell by Christ (Matthew 5:22,29-30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15,33, Mark 9:43,45,47, Luke 12:5 — cf. James 3:6). “Lake of fire” occurs only in Revelation as a chilling description of the horrors of hell into which the damned would be thrown (Revelation 19:20, 20:10,14-15, 21:8).

We know from Scripture that a few Old Testament saints went to heaven before Christ went to Sheol and led (presumably) the majority of the pre-Christian righteous there (Ephesians 4:8-10 and 1 Peter 3:19-20). Elijah went straight to heaven by a whirlwind, as we are informed in 2 Kings 2:11. It is also generally thought by all sides that Enoch went directly to heaven as well (Genesis 5:24). Moses came with Elijah to the Mount of Transfiguration to talk with Jesus (Matthew 17:1-3, Mark 9:4, Luke 9:30-31). By implication, then, it could be held that he, too, had been in heaven, and by further logical inference, other Old Testament saintly figures.

It follows that, even before Christ, there was a “two-tiered” afterlife for the righteous: some, such as Elijah, Enoch and likely Moses and others, went to heaven, whereas a second, larger group went temporarily to Sheol. Likewise, now the elect of God can go straight to heaven if sufficiently holy, or to purgatory as a necessary stopping-point in order to attain to the proper sanctity becoming of inhabitants of heavenly glory. Therefore, it is neither true that all righteous dead before Christ went solely to Sheol, nor that all after His Resurrection went, and go, to heaven. On the other hand, the reprobate dead in Sheol (or Hades) eventually are sentenced to hell (Revelation 20:13-15).

John Henry Cardinal Newman comments:

Our Saviour, as we suppose, did not go to the abyss assigned to the fallen Angels, but to those mysterious mansions where the souls of all men await the judgment. That He went to the abode of blessed spirits is evident, from His words addressed to the robber on the cross, when He also called it Paradise; that He went to some other place besides Paradise may be conjectured from St. Peter’s saying, He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient (1 Peter 3:19-20). The circumstances then that these two abodes of disembodied good and bad, are called by one name, Hades, . . . seems clearly to show that Paradise is not the same as Heaven, but a resting-place at the foot of it. Let it be further remarked, that Samuel, when brought from the dead, in the witch’s cavern, said Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up(1 Samuel 28:15), words which would seem quite inconsistent with his being then already in Heaven. [24]

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble – each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

This is a clear and obvious allusion to purgatory, or at least, even for the most skeptical person, something exceedingly similar to it. Thus thought the Fathers, such as St. Cyprian, [25] St. Ambrose,[26] St. Jerome, [27] St. Gregory the Great, [28] Origen, [29] and St. Augustine:

Lord, rebuke me not in Your indignation, nor correct me in Your anger [Psalm 38:1]. . . . In this life may You cleanse me and make me such that I have no need of the corrective fire, which is for those who are saved, but as if by fire . . . For it is said: He shall be saved, but as if by fire [1 Corinthians 3:15]. And because it is said that he shall be saved, little is thought of that fire. Yet plainly, though we be saved by fire, that fire will be more severe than anything a man can suffer in this life. [30]

St. Francis de Sales observes:

The Apostle uses two similitudes. The first is of an architect who with solid materials builds a valuable house on a rock: the second is of one who on the same foundation erects a house of boards, reeds, straw. Let us now imagine that a fire breaks out in both the houses. That which is of solid material will be out of danger, and the other will be burnt to ashes. And if the architect be in the first he will be whole and safe; if he be in the second, he must, if he would escape, rush through fire and flame, and shall be saved yet so that he will bear the marks of having been in fire . . . The fire by which the architect is saved can only be understood of the fire of Purgatory . . . . . .

When he . . . speaks of him who has built on the foundation, wood, straw, stubble, he shows that he is not speaking of the fire which will precede the day of judgment, since by this will pass not only those who have built with these light materials, but also those who shall have built in gold, silver, etc. All this interpretation, besides that it agrees very well with the text, is also most authentic, as having been followed with common consent by the ancient Fathers. [31]

 

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

 

St. Francis de Sales:

This passage properly understood evidently shows that it was the custom of the primitive Church to watch, pray, fast, for the souls of the departed. For, firstly, in the Scriptures to be baptized is often taken for afflictions and penances; as in Luke 12:50 . . . and in St. Mark 10:38-9 . . . — in which places Our Lord calls pains and afflictions baptism [cf. Matthew 3:11, 20:22-3, Luke 3:16].

This then is the sense of that Scripture: if the dead rise not again, what is the use of mortifying and afflicting oneself, of praying and fasting for the dead? And indeed this sentence of St. Paul resembles that of 2 Maccabees 12:44 [cited above]: It is superfluous and vain to pray for the dead if the dead rise not again. . . . Now it was not for those in Paradise [heaven], who had no need of it, nor for those in hell, who could get no benefit from it; it was, then, for those in Purgatory. Thus did St. Ephraim [d.373] expound it. [32]

 

The “penance” interpretation is supported contextually by the next three verses, where the Apostle speaks of being in peril every hour, and dying every day. St. Paul certainly doesn’t condemn the practice, whatever it is (his question being merely rhetorical). Given these facts, and the striking resemblance to 2 Maccabees 12:44, the traditional Catholic interpretation seems the most plausible.

In any event, Protestants are at almost a complete loss in coherently explaining this verse — one of the most difficult in the New Testament for them to interpret. It simply does not comport with their theology, which utterly disallows any penitential or prayerful efforts on behalf of the deceased.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

Our sins are judged here rather than forgiven, and this takes place in the next life. The standard Protestant theology of the judgment seat of Christ is not dissimilar to the notion of the chastising purifications of purgatory. There is a direct relation between judgment and the purging of sin. We are punished, in some fashion — or so St. Paul tells us in this verse — for evil deeds done. The pains of purgatory are roughly identical, or else highly akin, to this punishment, since they are the taking away of those sinful habits, tendencies, and affinities to which we have become attached. Conversely, we are rewarded for good deeds. As there are differential rewards for righteousness, so there are differential sufferings in purgatory for unrighteousness, so that a certain parallelism exists between the two concepts.

This passage is a sort of liaison between the theological categories justification and purgatory (and penance) — the former being the “positive” establishment of sanctity, and the latter being the “negative” removal of unholiness. This congruity between reward and punishment is even more clearly seen in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 above, where St. Paul freely intermingles rewards and punishments, in the context of purgatorial fire. Given the obvious affinity of that passage with this one, each can be legitimately interpreted in light of the other. In doing so, the Catholic interpretation, with its distinctive understanding of faith and works, penance and purgatory, is more satisfactory exegetically than the usual Protestant interpretations, which are uncomfortable, by and large, with differential rewards and punishments (seeing these as somewhat incompatible with faith alone).

2 Corinthians 7:1. . . let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.(see also 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 4:7)

 

Here is a description of that analogous process of sanctification in this life which will be greatly intensified and made completely efficacious in the next, in purgatory.

Philippians 2:10-11 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Revelation 5:3,13 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. . . .And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!”

 

If God refuses to receive prayer, praise and worship from the unrepentant sinner (Psalm 66:18, Proverbs 1:28-30, Isaiah 1:15, 59:2, Jeremiah 6:20, Amos 5:21-24, Micah 3:4, Malachi 1:10, John 9:31, Hebrews 10:38), why would He permit the damned to undertake this practice?

Furthermore, if God does not compel human beings to follow Him and to enjoy His presence for eternity contrary to their free will, then it seems that He would not — as far as we can tell from Scripture — compel them to praise Him, as this would be meaningless, if not repulsive.

Therefore, “under the earth” must refer to purgatory. Revelation 5:13 especially makes sense under this interpretation, as the praise spoken there does not in any way appear forced, but rather, heartfelt and seemingly spontaneous (which would not be at all expected of persons eternally consigned to hell — see Matthew 8:29, Luke 4:34, 8:28, James 2:19).

Some Protestant commentators readily admit that “under the earth” is a reference to those in Sheol or Hades. Granting this interpretation for the sake of argument, most Protestants would presumably regard Hades in this instance (after Christ’s death — see Revelation 5:12) as simply the “holding tank” for those ultimately destined for hell (the elect having been taken to heaven by Christ). But this leads straight back to the exegetical problem of God neither desiring nor accepting such praise from even the obstinate sinner, let alone the damned.

The acceptance of a third, intermediate state in the afterlife for the righteous as well as the reprobate, even after Christ’s Resurrection, is a seriously troublesome position if one holds to the tenets of mainstream Reformational eschatological theology. For — given the Protestant view on justification — why would (or should) there be any second state for the “saved” once the road to heaven was paved by Christ? This state of affairs leads inexorably to considerations of differential merit and reward, such that a whole class is relegated to continued separation from Christ in some partial sense, and by implication, punishment, since these children of God have not yet attained to full union with God in eternal happiness and bliss.

Once it is conceded that (dead) righteous men praise God from “under the earth,”the standard Protestant position of all the saved “going straight to heaven at death” crumbles, for the simple reason that this group is contrasted with those in heaven. Furthermore, a position that “under the earth” refers metaphorically to merely all dead righteous (who, according to Protestantism are in heaven), makes the phraseology of Philippians 2:10 and Revelation 5:3,13 absurdly redundant, since St. Paul and St. John would be saying, “Those in heaven, and on earth, and in heaven . . . .”

Again, the only reasonable alternate interpretation, given all the above data, is to posit the existence of purgatory, from which praise to God emanates — it being that portion of the Church stationed for a time in the portico of heaven, so to speak.

2 Timothy 1:16-18 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains,but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me — may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day — and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

Onesiphorus appears to be dead at the time St. Paul writes this letter to Timothy. If that is true, then Paul is praying for the dead. One well-known Protestant commentary [33] admits that Onesiphorus is likely dead, citing the cross-reference of 2 Timothy 4:19, yet takes the remarkably incoherent position that St. Paul is praying for his conduct in life and reward at the Judgment. Thus, the admitted prayer (1:18), since it supposedly refers to the earthly life of the intended recipient, somehow thereby ceases to be a prayer for the dead even though it is pleading for mercy on the Day of Judgment for one who has indeed departed!

Now, of course, St. Paul could also pray for a living person to be recompensed justly by God, but this is missing the point, and is an example of the classic logical fallacy of proposing a “distinction without a difference.” For what distinguishes prayers for a living or a dead man, where the final Judgment is concerned?

Protestants say that it is impermissible to pray for the dead on this score since their fate is already sealed and it will be to no avail. The error here lies in the fact that the person’s fate had always been known (God being omniscient and out of time, foreordaining in a mysterious way the beginning and end of all things). In both cases our knowledge is paltry and altogether insufficient as to the person’s destiny. We pray out of charity (or, “desire,” as it were), and because we are commanded to, having been assured by the inspired biblical revelation that it has an effect.

The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentaryanother respected evangelical reference, takes a different position: “His household would hardly retain his name after the master was dead . . . Nowhere has Paul prayers for the dead, which is fatal to the theory . . . that he was dead.” [34]

But Word Pictures in the New Testament, a six-volume linguistic commentary by the great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, states: “Apparently Onesiphorus is now dead as is implied by the wish in 1:18.” [35]

On the face of it, why couldn’t St. Paul be referring to the house of Onesiphorus in the same sense in which we speak of a deceased person’s “surviving wife and children?” His statement in 1:18 is similar to our spontaneous utterances at funerals, such as “May God rest his soul,” etc. (sometimes spoken or thought despite theologies to the contrary). And if Paul is “wishing” for benefits for the soul of a dead man, as Robertson holds, how is this essentially any different from praying for the dead?

To conclude, of the three prominent evangelical Protestant commentaries surveyed, two hold that St. Paul is “praying,” and one that he is “wishing.” Two conclude that Onesiphorus is probably dead, with a third denying this. It might be supposed with good reason that if reputable, scholarly Protestant commentators are more or less forced into (for them) uncomfortable positions due to the inescapable clarity of a text, perhaps the Catholic interpretation is the best one, as it requires no unnatural straining. All that is necessary is the willingness to accept the practice of prayers for the dead, for which there is ample scriptural warrant, Jewish precedent, and abundant support in the early Christian Church, as will be demonstrated subsequently.

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (see also 12:1,5-11,15,23, Ephesians 5:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 1 John 3:2-3)

John Henry Cardinal Newman writes:

The truth itself is declared in one form or another in every part of Scripture. It is told us again and again, that to make sinful creatures holy was the great end which our Lord had in view in taking upon Him our nature, and thus none but the holy will be accepted for His sake at the last day. The whole history of redemption, the covenant of mercy in all its parts and provisions, attests the necessity of holiness in order to salvation; as indeed even our natural conscience bears witness also . . .

Even supposing a man of unholy life were suffered to enter heaven, he would not be happy there; so that it would be no mercy to permit him to enter . . . We conclude that any man, whatever his habits, tastes, or manner of life, if once admitted into heaven, would be happy there . . . [But] here every man can do his own pleasure, but there he must do God’s pleasure . . . . . Let us alone! What have we to do with thee? is the sole thought and desire of unclean souls, even while they acknowledge His majesty. None but the holy can look upon the Holy One; without holiness no man can endure to see the Lord . . .

Heaven is not heaven, is not a place of happiness except to the holy . . . There is a moral malady which disorders the inward sight and taste; and no man labouring under it is in a condition to enjoy what Scripture calls the fulness of joy in God’s presence, and pleasures at His right hand forevermore. [36]

 

Newman explains (in effect) why purgatory (which he accepts elsewhere, even before his conversion to Catholicism in 1845) is a necessary and indeed, ultimately desirable process for all of us imperfect sinners to undergo, in order to properly approach God in His unfathomable majesty and holiness.

Hebrews 12:29 . . . our God is a consuming fire.

(see also Exodus 3:2-6, 19:18, 24:17, Numbers 31:23, Deuteronomy 4:24, 9:3, Psalm 66:10-12, Malachi 3:2, 4:1, Hebrews 10:27, 31)

Revelation 21:27 But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The relevance of this biblical data in terms of its analogy to the idea of purgatory is clear. The abundance of such scriptural evidence for purgatory led to a consensus among the Church Fathers as well. Protestant church historian Philip Schaff, who can definitely be considered a “hostile witness” as pertains this topic, summarized the belief of the early Christian Church:

These views of the middle state in connection with prayers for the dead show a strong tendency to the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory . . . there are traces of the purgatorial idea of suffering the temporal consequences of sin, and a painful struggle after holiness . . . The common people and most of the fathers understood it of a material fire; but this is not a matter of faith . . . A material fire would be very harmless without a material body. [37]

Despite all this, Protestantism rejected the beliefs in purgatory and prayers for the dead, with the exception of Anglicans, many of whom have retained some form of these. Popular Christian apologist C. S. Lewis was one of these traditional Anglicans. In one of his last books, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, [38] he stated that he prayed for the dead, among whom were many of his loved ones, and that he believed in purgatory, comparing it to an intense rinsing of the mouth at the dentist’s office. He thought no one would want to enter heaven unclean, as this would be downright embarrassing.

23 Haydock’s Catholic Family Bible and Commentary, New York: 1859; rep. Monrovia, CA: Catholic Treasures, 1991, 1376-1377, 1611.

24 Sermon: “The Intermediate State,” 1836.

25 Book 4, epistle 2.

26 Commentary on 1 Cor 3; Sermon 20; Commentary on Ps 116.

27 Commentary on Amos 4.

28 Dialogues 4,39.

29 6th Homily on Exodus.

30 Explanations of the Psalms, 37, 3. From Jurgens, William A., ed. and tr., The Faith of the Early Fathers (FEF), 3 volumes, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1979, vol. 3, 17.

31 St. Francis de Sales, CON, 360-362.

32 Ibid., 368-369.

33 Guthrie, D. and J.A. Motyer, eds., The New Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 3rd ed., 1970, 1178. The Lutheran Johannes Bengel (1687-1752), and the Anglican Henry Alford (1810-71), both highly-respected expositors, also held that Onesiphorus was dead.

34 Jamieson, Robert, Andrew R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1961 (orig. 1864), 1376.

35 Robertson, A.T., Word Pictures in the New Testament, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930, 6 volumes., vol. 4, 615.

36 Sermon: “Holiness Necessary for Future Blessedness,” 1834 (On Hebrews 12:14).

37 Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, “Ante-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 100-325,” 5th ed., New York: 1889; rep. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans,ch. 12, sec. 156, 604-606.

38 New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964, 107-109.

October 14, 2015

Catholic Verses (550x834)

[see the information page for this book, for full details and all purchase options]

(published by Sophia Institute Press in August 2004; 235 pages)

* * * * * 

This was my third “official” publication in as many years, back in 2004, and the first of several, working with editor Todd Aglialoro: whose initial idea it was. The purpose and structure of this book (one of the most unique of all my books) was not simply a presentation of Catholic prooftexts (my Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths is that). Rather, the idea is the following (from the Introduction):

. . . a critique of common Protestant attempts to ignore, explain away, rationalize, wish away, overpolemicize, minimize, de-emphasize, evade clear consequences of, or special plead with regard to “the Catholic Verses”: ninety-five biblical passages that provide the foundation for Catholicism’s most distinctive doctrines. . . .

I will assert . . . the ultimate incoherence, inadequacy, inconsistency, or exegetical and theological implausibility of the Protestant interpretations, and will submit the Catholic views as exegetically and logically superior alternatives.

The structure ensures that the volume is relatively more “polemical” than other works of mine, but polemics is not a bad thing, if done right, and often in apologetics it is absolutely necessary. One must sometimes throw some “counter-punches,” so to speak. I document and “argue with” inadequate Protestant responses to our prooftexts and show how even some of the best Protestant exegetes start to play games and special plead when they have no cogent alternative explanation.

The two verses that were the most fun to deal with were the ones about “baptism for the dead” (what I called “the most ‘un-Protestant’ verse in the Bible”) and Paul’s prayer for the dead man Onesiphorus. Protestant explanations for those passages might be described (with charity) as “high comedy.” In any event, it makes for some entertaining reading to watch what they try to do with them. Apologetics is often a lot of fun!

From the book’s Introduction:

I shall contend throughout this book that, far too often, Protestants do not take all of Scripture into account, and that they are guilty of eisegesis (reading into Scripture one’s own presuppositions), at least as often as Catholics are, if not more often. Protestants (especially on a popular level) often emphasize relatively few “proof texts” to the exclusion of a great deal of relevant biblical data.

Moreover, only rarely do they seriously engage the biblical texts utilized by Catholics to support their positions through the centuries. In probably most cases, they are not even aware of any passages that a Catholic might use to prove anything that would be contrary to Protestantism. Habitually, they do not even entertain the possibility. For many Protestants, such a state of affairs is literally impossible. It is not supposed to happen. When Catholics and Protestants grapple over the Bible and its interpretation, Protestants must always win (so they casually assume).

I hasten to add – and emphasize to the greatest degree — that these tendencies of bias and subjectivism and subconscious influence of denominational traditions do not necessarily entail a deliberate attempt to ignore or to twist Scripture. Every serious student of the Bible comes to the biblical text with a theological framework, in order to interpret it and make sense of it in its entirety. This is proper and right, and no one should have any objection to it.

Both Catholics and Protestants engage in systematic theology, a method which involves finding proof texts for a given doctrine. In so doing, men will have honest disagreements, in good faith. We highly respect the devotion to Bible study and to theological reflection exhibited by many of our Protestant brethren – often putting Catholics to shame.

. . . This is not a scholarly work, as I am no scholar in the first place, but merely a lay Catholic apologist; but it is not “anti-scholarly,” and I will incorporate scholarship wherever necessary to substantiate the argument.

. . . I will assert – with all due respect and, I hope, with a minimum of “triumphalism” — the ultimate incoherence, inadequacy, inconsistency, or exegetical and theological implausibility of the Protestant interpretations, and will submit the Catholic views as exegetically and logically superior alternatives.

. . . If this book can convince the reader that Catholicism is at least as “biblically respectable” as any brand of Protestantism, I will have succeeded in my goal. In any event, I trust that all students of the Bible will be interested in comparative exegesis and a side-by-side analysis of competing views. Of course my ultimate aim is persuasion, but increased understanding (even while disagreement remains) is also a worthy accomplishment.




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