Monday, April 22, 2013

Debate on the Office of New Testament Priest: Part 2

Here is my point-by-point rebuttal to Russell's latest comment on the presence of a ministerial priesthood in Scripture and the Church. Also see Part 1. His words will be indented and italicized.

Thanks for your kind remarks and for the three links you provided on the priesthood. I did read them, but I have to say that I still disagree with those articles, mainly because they still do not sufficiently address the core issues which I had shared in my previous response… namely, 1) that the ministerial priesthood is a glaring omission in the New Testament, and 2) the fact that “elder” does not equal “priest”.
I will try my best to respond to the concerns of yours that those articles did not address.

You indicated that the very reason that “elder” and “priest” mean the same thing was because today’s priests serve the “same function” as the early presbyters did. But one could argue that many of today’s Protestant pastors / ministers ALSO serve the same function as the New Testament elders did, because they also preach the gospel and administer communion, baptism, etc. So this proves nothing.
You forgot one thing. It is not enough to preach the gospel and administer sacraments. Protestant pastors may serve some of the same functions as priests, but they are not for that reason rightly considered priests.

For one, at the heart of what it means to be a priest is the offering of a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, the high priest offers his sacrifice (cf. Heb 5:1; 8:3; 13:11), the ministers offer theirs (cf. Lev 1:4-9), and the people have theirs (cf. Psa 50:23; 51:17; 141:2; Hos 14:2). Similarly, in the New Testament, the high priest has his sacrifice (cf. Heb 2:17), the ministers have theirs (cf. Rom 15:15-16; 1 Cor 10:16-21; Heb 9:23; 13:10), and the people have theirs (cf. Rom 12:1; Phil 4:18; Heb 13:15-16; 1 Pet 2:5). I will elaborate more on the sacrifice of the NT ministerial priest in response to your concluding paragraph. My point is, Protestants don't understand their pastors as offering a sacrifice when they celebrate Communion. There are no altars in Protestant churches.

Secondly, they have not received apostolic authority through the laying on of hands, which is the sacrament that makes one a priest (cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6). So, to compare Protestant pastors with Catholic priests is really apples and oranges.

Another thing… if Catholic priests (especially those of the Latin rite) are the same as New Testament “elders,” then why are they not allowed (required?) to be the “husband of [but] one wife” (Titus 1:5)? I know that there are exceptions in the RCC, but Paul is speaking of the NORM for elders, here. And the norm is to be married. (I am not debating the virtues of celibacy here, but my point is simply that, according to Titus, a Roman Catholic priest cannot be a biblical “elder”).
First, I think you mean 1 Tim 3:2, not Titus 1:5. That said, this passage does not require priests to have a wife. Instead, it is saying that IF they have one, they should remain faithful to her alone, instead of having other wives as well. At any rate, a Catholic priest of the Eastern rites is allowed to have a wife. This is only a discipline in the Latin rite. Note, clerical celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma. While I wouldn't agree, the most you could say is that priests of the Latin rite don't follow the biblical model. That wouldn't disqualify the priests of the Eastern rites, nor would it disprove that a ministerial priesthood is present in Scripture.

You said that “hiereus” refers to the priests of the Old Covenant. It certainly does, but not just to the Old Testament priests. It ALSO refers to the New Testament universal priesthood of believers (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). I think that this is further evidence that the priesthood has changed from a “ministerial” form (OT) to a “universal” form (NT).
I never said it referred "just" to them. I was simply pointing out that the word used for the OT ministerial priesthood is hierus and the word for the NT ministerial priesthood is presbyteros. That hierus also refers to the priesthood of believers does not prove a change "from a 'ministerial' form (OT) to a 'universal' form (NT)." Both forms remain. If there is a parallel between the high priest of the OT (Aaron) and the high priest of the NT (Jesus), and there is a parallel between the priesthood of believers in the OT (Israel) and the priesthood of believers in the NT (the Church), then there is also a parallel between the ministerial priesthood of the OT (Aaron's sons) and the ministerial priesthood of the NT (the presbyteros). You have cut off the parallel between the Old and the New without allowing it's full implications to be realized.

You also considered the fact that the terms “presbuteros” and “hiereus” were never used interchangeably, as a “non-issue”, but if one is asserting the existence of a ministerial priesthood (IN SPITE OF any clear biblical evidence), it certainly must be an issue. Furthermore, assuming that presbuteros is the “new” term for priest is simply begging the question.
I'm not reading into the term something that isn't there. There is an equivalence between the presbyteros of the NT and the ministerial priests of the Catholic Church b/c they perform the same duties and receive their office in the same manner. That is why we use an English word derived from presbyteros to refer to these men. They are the same.

Look at the history of Christianity. The very existence of bishops and priests in the Church grew out of the practice of "appointing elders in every church" (Acts 14:23; cf. Titus 1:5) and entrusting the deposit of faith (cf. 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 2:2) by the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6). That is how we have priests in the first place. To say that there is no correspondence between the two is ultimately ahistorical.

But, let's assume for a moment that Catholic priests are different from the presbyteros that are present in the NT. This does not prove that the presbyteros were of the same rank as the laity, or that a ministerial priesthood does not exist in Scripture. It would just prove that the Catholic priesthood is not that priesthood.

We know in fact that the presbyteros were not of the same rank as the laity because they are seen in Scripture doing things that not just anyone can do. In fact, they are doing priestly things, such as:
  • receiving tithes: presbyteros (cf. Acts 11:29-30) and priests (cf. Heb 7:4-5)
  • laying on hands: presbyteros (cf. 1 Tim 4:14) and priests (cf. Gen 48:14; Num 27:18-20)
  • preaching and teaching with authority: presbyteros (cf. 1 Tim 5:17) and priests (cf. Mal 2:7)
  • shepherding the people: presbyteros (cf. 1 Pet 5:1-3) and priests (cf. Isa 63:11; Jer 3:15)
  • wearing special garments and crowns during worship: presbyteros (cf. Rev 4:4) and priests (cf. Lev 8:6-9)
  • offering incense: presbyteros (cf. Rev 5:8) and priests (cf. Num 16:40; 1 Sam 2:28)
Priests are a people set apart (or "consecrated") to perform a special service to the Lord. We see this both with the priests from the OT and with the presbyteros of the NT.

The main function of a ministerial priest is to offer sacrifices (repeatedly) to God in order to atone for sin. But Hebrews 10:18 tells us that the price has already been paid and there is “NO MORE offering [sacrifice] for sin”. Therefore, no more atoning sacrifices are needed. We now have a PERFECT atonement to embrace, once for all. No ministerial priests are needed now to offer sacrifice to God. Their “job” is cancelled out, and all believers have access to God, since the veil is rent (Matthew 27:51).
I've heard this argument before, and I don't think it takes into account all of the biblical data. I would like to look closer now at the passages I provided earlier of the sacrifices of the NT priesthood. The first is from Romans:
Rom 15:15-16 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
First of all, notice that Paul considers himself a minister fulfilling a priestly service. He is describing his office in priestly terms. His sacrificial offering is the Gentiles. He is the priest making the offering. They are the offering. The two parties are not on equal footing here. It is the minister, not the congregation, that is pictured here as the priest. Yes, there is a priesthood of all believers, but they are not priests as Paul is a priest.

The second passage is from 1st Corinthians:
1 Cor 10:16-21 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the practice of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
In this passage, Paul is comparing the "table of the Lord" with the "table of demons." He says, "what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God" (vs. 20). The implication is that our sacrifice IS to God, whereas theirs isn't. Of course, it would make no sense to say this unless the Church actually had a sacrifice of their own that they celebrated and that could be compared to the pagan or the Jewish sacrifice.

"Are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?" Paul asks (vs. 18). The pagan sacrifice makes one "partners with demons" (vs. 20), whereas the cup of blessing and the bread we break -- the Christian sacrifice -- makes us partners with the blood and the body of Christ (vs. 16). "The table of the Lord" is a phrase that is used to refer to the altar where the sacrifice to God takes place (cf. Ezek 41:22; 44:16; Mal 1:7, 12). All of this reveals that Paul is talking about the sacrifice of the New Testament ministerial priesthood.

But what exactly is this sacrifice? When Jesus told the Apostles at the Last Supper to "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24), He charged them to make His Body and Blood present to the people. Since in the Eucharistic meal you have Body broken and Blood poured out and Body separate from Blood, you have here a sacrifice. Consequently, the Apostles who make this sacrificial offering become priests.

The remaining passages are from the Letter to the Hebrews:
Heb 9:23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

Heb 13:10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.
What could the "heavenly sacrifices" (note the plural) be that are far better than the Jewish sacrifices? In a mysterious way, this sacrifice is one and multiple at the same time. The key here is to understand that while Jesus died once, this offering of His life is offered perpetually to the Father. Not many times, but always. This is why Jesus continues to appear in heaven as a lamb that is slain (cf. Rev 5:6, 12; 13:8). As Heb 9 goes on to say, Christ has entered into heaven itself "now to appear" in the presence of God on our behalf. Not one time a long time ago, but now. "Consequently he is able FOR ALL TIME to save those who draw near to God through him, since HE ALWAYS LIVES to make intercession for them" (Heb 7:25). This is how one makes sense of the NT priesthood and the sacrifice that these priests offer in the Mass.

As for Heb 13:10, note that we have an altar. But altars are for sacrifice, otherwise there is no point in even having one. Note that some people are not allowed to eat from it. This echoes Paul in 1 Cor 11:27-31 when he says that only those who discern the Body and Blood of Christ in the bread and wine are allowed to consume it.

You said, "The main function of a ministerial priest is to offer sacrifices." You think that the sacrifice of Christ has done away with these priests, but the passages I have provided here prove that a sacrifice remains for the NT priest to offer. And so, the priest remains.

I would like to conclude with a passage that I think is difficult to understand if Scripture has no notion of a ministerial priesthood in the Church:
Jude 1:11 Woe to them! For they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error, and perish in Korah’s rebellion.
"The way of Cain", "Balaam's error", "Korah's rebellion", all three of these refer to priestly service. Cain offered a sacrifice to God that was displeasing to Him (cf. Heb 11:4). Three times Balaam set up altars with which to offer a sacrifice of cursing upon Israel (cf. Num 23). What did Korah do? Well, he did the very thing you are doing, even said the very things you have said:
Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abi'ram the sons of Eli'ab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, 2 took men; and they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men; 3 and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, "You have gone too far! For all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" (Num 16:1-4)
Do you know what happened to them for doing this?
And as he finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split asunder; 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men that belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at their cry; for they said, "Lest the earth swallow us up!" 35 And fire came forth from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense. (Num 16:31-35)
What's interesting is that this is not an artifact from the annals of history. According to Jude, people in the NT Church are perishing in Korah's rebellion. Yet, how could people rebel against God's ministerial priesthood (or usurp it for themselves, as Korah also seemed to be doing) if there was no ministerial priesthood? In Jude's day it was important to observe the distinction between the priesthood of all believers and the ministerial priesthood, and "woe to them" who didn't! Yet none of this makes sense if there were no ministerial priesthood in the bible or in the early Church.

Peace of Christ to you,
phatcatholic

PS: From here you may proceed to Part 3a.

Debate on the Office of New Testament Priest: Part 1

Recently, I have been posting here my debate with Russell on calling priests "father." After I posted Part 4, he said that he did not want to continue the debate (you can read his comment on that post for the reasons why), so I suggested we pick up again an earlier debate of ours on the presence of ministerial priests in the bible.

This debate began in the comment section of my post, "Does the Bible Say Anything about Having Priests in the Church?". The last word was his, so he said I was welcome to respond, but he wasn't sure how much time he would be able to devote to it. I'll be posting here what has transpired so far, and if this goes anywhere, I'll share that too.

Russel began the debate with the following remarks. His words will be indented and italicized.

I just read your article “Does the Bible Say Anything about Having Priests in the Church?”, and I’d like to comment, if I may.

You said yes to the question, but while we are able to find Jewish and pagan priests in the New Testament, we don’t see any Christian “ministerial” priests to mediate between God and man (as we saw in the Old Testament). I agree with you concerning the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ and the “universal priesthood” of all believers, but a ministerial office of “priest” seems to be strangely absent. If that priesthood were valid for today, one would think that such a critical position should be evident in the New Testament. But it isn’t. The apostle Paul mentions the functions and offices of the New Testament church in chapters 3 and 5 of I Timothy, and Titus chapter 1. He also gives specific instructions for ministry, church order, gifts and service in I Corinthians chapters 11-14, and in Ephesians chapter 4, and yet, there is not a single mention of an office of “priest”. I think there’s a reason for that.

You mentioned New Testament “elders” (Greek, “presbuteros”) as though they were equivalent to modern-day priests, but the New Testament ALREADY has a word for priest, (Greek, “hiereus”), and the two words are never used interchangeably. While it is true that our modern word “priest” is a DERIVATIVE of the word “presbuteros”, it does not mean that they are the same. The modern word “Presbyterian” is ALSO a derivative of “presbuteros”, but I don’t think you would try to say that the New Testament “elders” were Presbyterians. So, this in no way proves that elders were priests.

Thanks for taking the time to hear me out. I am looking forward to your response.


Since this was taking place in the comments section, I didn't bother w/ a point-by-point rebuttal. Instead, I simply said:

Thank you for your comment. I appreciate any correspondence that is charitably and articulately presented, as yours was.

Regarding your presbuteros argument, note that the very reason why English speakers refer to the ordained ministry with a word that is derived from presbuteros is because these ministers serve the same function as the presbyters did. There is a clear hierarchy of bishops, priests, and deacons in the NT, and while, in the beginning, these three offices performed some of the same functions, they were clearly distinct from the rest of the Church. In fact, they held positions of authority in the Church, and we are instructed to respect and abide by that authority.

Also, the fact that hiereus and presbuteros are not used interchangeably is to me a non-issue. Hiereus refers to the priests of the Old Covenant. A separate word, presbuteros is used to refer to the priests of the New. While I believe that the New Covenant priesthood certainly parallels the Old Covenant one, there is still distinctiveness and uniqueness to the New Covenant priesthood that warrants the use of a different word.

For the Scriptural evidence in support of what I have said here, I highly suggest the following articles:


He responded with the following comment:

Hello again Nicholas,

Thanks for your kind remarks and for the three links you provided on the priesthood. I did read them, but I have to say that I still disagree with those articles, mainly because they still do not sufficiently address the core issues which I had shared in my previous response… namely, 1) that the ministerial priesthood is a glaring omission in the New Testament, and 2) the fact that “elder” does not equal “priest”.

You indicated that the very reason that “elder” and “priest” mean the same thing was because today’s priests serve the “same function” as the early presbyters did. But one could argue that many of today’s Protestant pastors / ministers ALSO serve the same function as the New Testament elders did, because they also preach the gospel and administer communion, baptism, etc. So this proves nothing. Another thing… if Catholic priests (especially those of the Latin rite) are the same as New Testament “elders,” then why are they not allowed (required?) to be the “husband of [but] one wife” (Titus 1:5)? I know that there are exceptions in the RCC, but Paul is speaking of the NORM for elders, here. And the norm is to be married. (I am not debating the virtues of celibacy here, but my point is simply that, according to Titus, a Roman Catholic priest cannot be a biblical “elder”).

You said that “hiereus” refers to the priests of the Old Covenant. It certainly does, but not just to the Old Testament priests. It ALSO refers to the New Testament universal priesthood of believers (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). I think that this is further evidence that the priesthood has changed from a “ministerial” form (OT) to a “universal” form (NT). You also considered the fact that the terms “presbuteros” and “hiereus” were never used interchangeably, as a “non-issue”, but if one is asserting the existence of a ministerial priesthood (IN SPITE OF any clear biblical evidence), it certainly must be an issue. Furthermore, assuming that presbuteros is the “new” term for priest is simply begging the question.

The main function of a ministerial priest is to offer sacrifices (repeatedly) to God in order to atone for sin. But Hebrews 10:18 tells us that the price has already been paid and there is “NO MORE offering [sacrifice] for sin”. Therefore, no more atoning sacrifices are needed. We now have a PERFECT atonement to embrace, once for all. No ministerial priests are needed now to offer sacrifice to God. Their “job” is cancelled out, and all believers have access to God, since the veil is rent (Matthew 27:51).

Thanks again, and looking forward to your response.


In my next post I will respond to this with a point-by-point rebuttal.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

On Calling Priests "Father": Part 4

Here is Part 4 in my debate with Russell on calling priests "father." Also see Parts One, Two, and Three. His words will be indented and italicized.

Hi Nicholas,

Ok, concerning your argument that “King” is a spiritual title, this is still extremely weak and not convincing at all.
Care to explain why? The title of "King" takes on it's spiritual nature once you realize the importance of the covenant relationship between God and man and consider that the Davidic King was the mediator of this covenant.

The King is God's annointed one (cf. 1 Sam 16:13; 1 Ki 1:39). The security and prosperity of the people depended upon the fidelity of the King to God. When the King was a good and faithful servant of God, then this compelled the people to be good and faithful. King Solomon was the one who built God's holy temple and provided for the worship of His people. King David and his descendants are types of the coming Messiah! The Davidic King was a man of great spiritual influence. I don't see how there's any way around that.

You said that I didn’t address the fact that Jesus told a parable where servants refer to their owner as “Master” (Matthew 25:14-30). Again, this is not a SPIRITUAL title, but a worldly, secular one. It is about a physical slave and his physical master.
I stand corrected.

As for as the rich man referring to Abraham as ‘Father Abraham’ (Luke 16:24, 30), neither is this a spiritual title, but it is an “ancestral” or genealogical title. Abraham was the “father,” the ancestor, of all Jews.
According to Paul, Abraham was more than a mere ancestor:
"What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? [...] He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but also follow the example of the faith which our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. [...] That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants--not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all" (Rom 4:1, 12-13, 16).
Abraham could not be "the father of us all" if by "Father" we mean only a geneological relationship. Abraham's is a spiritual fatherhood, just as Sarah's is a spiritual motherhood (cf. 1 Pet 3:5-6). This means that Lk 16:24, 30 very much applies to our debate and is very damaging to your position.

And as for as Paul addressing the crowd as “brethren and fathers” in Acts 7:2 (not 7:22), I don’t think you can prove that he’s using it as a personal spiritual title here, as it is used in Matthew 23.
Thank you for correcting my citation. I really don't see how Acts 7:2 would not apply. The members of the council are called "fathers" by Stephen. He didn't say, "You who hold a position of fatherhood among us," he said "fathers." "Brethren and fathers, hear me." He called them fathers, even though Jesus said, "Call no man father". There's no way around it, unless you would say that Paul is the biological son of a room full of people.

You just said:

“I never said that it was ok to have a formal title as long as the person is deserving. As you rightly conclude, that would not square with Catholic practice.”

Then it appears that you’re not squaring with Catholic practice, because you also said:

1) “Instead, He is speaking out against those who seek the position of father for the honor that it brings and who, once having the position, DON'T LIVE IT HUMBLY AND AUTHENTICALLY."

2) “He is using hyperbole in order to emphasize the Fatherhood of God above the fatherhood of any man and TO HIGHLIGHT THE UNWORTHINESS OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES TO RECEIVE THE TITLES their position affords them.”

3) “Jesus' issue was with people who seek certain positions because of the title that it affords them, or WHO DO NOT LIVE UP TO THE TITLE THAT THEY HAVE RECEIVED. That interpretation is really the only way to reconcile Mt 23 with the biblical data.”

4) “Do you really think Jesus is concerned with titles, or is He concerned with the fact that the scribes and pharisees "LOVE" such titles AND DON'T LIVE UP THE THEM?”

5) “Jesus' whole point is that the scribes and Pharisees exhibit a dastardly conduct that should not be imitated AND THEY DO NOT LIVE UP TO THE HONOR THAT THEY RECEIVE.”

6) “1. The Pharisees DO NOT DESERVE THE HONOR THAT THEY RECEIVE. -- Consequently, respect their authority but do not abide by their example.”

7) “Jesus does not want to do away with this honor,HE WANTS THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES TO LIVE UP TO IT."

8) “Or, could it be more likely that He did this so as to expose their failure to be the fathers, rabbis, and teachers THAT THEY SHOULD BE?”

9) “Instead of getting rid of the title, perhaps IT WOULD BE BETTER TO MAKE SURE THAT ONLY THE BEST MEN RECEIVE IT. This is what the Church strives to do.”

10) “Do you really think that Jesus went through such great lengths to catalogue their many sins so as to do away with titles? Or, could it be more likely that He did this so as to expose THEIR FAILURE TO BE THE FATHERS, RABBIS, AND TEACHERS THAT THEY SHOULD BE?” [All Emphasis mine]

These are all direct quotes from you. But in all of these things (these 10 examples) you are implying that IT IS INDEED ok to have these formal spiritual titles “as long as the person is deserving.” On the one hand, you denounced this idea, but on the other hand, you continue to use this concept in our dialogue, as though you actually accept it.
You are very thorough here. I appreciate that. I also think you have missed my point. Jesus' purpose with Mt 23:8-10, as with much of the chapter as a whole, is to denounce the Pharisees, not to denounce titles. That's all I'm trying to say with the words that you quoted.

The Pharisees didn't deserve the honor they received. That doesn't mean "do away with the honor." I specifically said, "But even when wretched men become priests, they still remain fathers through the exercise of their priestly ministry." I'm not contradicting myself. I know what my words mean. Let me be clear: I think the title is important and justified whether the person receiving it deserves the title or not. That's the whole reason why I bothered to explain the title's catechetical value. The implication you think is there is simply not there. I hope you will take my word for it and move on to some other line of argumentation.

As I said before, this “as-long-as-the-person-is-deserving” argument is faulty, since NO ONE is deserving of these titles, except Jesus / God. You have yet to show me that you agree with Jesus on this. In fact, I don’t think that you do.
Well, I did say, "God is the ultimate Father, Rabbi, and Master", and again, "In a sense, I agree with you. No one is a Father like God is a Father." I just don't think Jesus means what you think He means. If Abraham deserved to be called "Father" (Lk 16:24, 30), and John the Baptist deserved to be called "Rabbi" (Jn 3:36), then it follows from this that these titles are not exclusively the Lords, they are just preeminently His.

This is how it works with many of God's titles. God and Peter were both called "Rock" (Hab 1:12; Mt 16:18). In case you think Peter's new name means "Stone", God was called that too (cf. Gen 49:24, NASB). In 1 Cor. 3:11, Jesus is called the only foundation of the Church, and yet in Eph. 2:20, the apostles and prophets are called the foundation of the Church. In 1 Peter 2:25, Jesus is called the Shepherd of the flock, but in Acts 20:28 (NASB), the apostles are called the shepherds of the flock. In 1 Tim 6:15, Jesus is called the King of Kings, yet so was Ar-ta-xerx'es (cf. Ezra 7:12) and Nebuchadrez'zar (cf. Ezek 26:7). Even Jesus and the king of Babylon are both called the "morning star" (Isaiah 14:12; Rev 22:16, NASB).

My position has the advantage of being consistent with how titles for God are used throughout Scripture. Yours does not.

You summed up Matthew 23 in only two points: That the Pharisees don’t deserve the honor they were being given; and that God is the ultimate Father / Rabbi / Master. And you said that this was pretty much all that this chapter is teaching, and that we Protestants take it too far to suggest that Jesus wants us to avoid titles.

But I respectfully disagree. There are certainly OTHER points that Jesus was making, as well. I think that what Jesus said (concerning our topic) is very plain and simple (“…call no man ‘Father’”), and that the context supports this. But Jesus gave us several things that He wants us to do or not do in this chapter, for example ...

DO:
…observe the Law that they preached (v. 3)
…act toward each other as BROTHERS (v. 8)
…be a servant to others, no matter your role in the church (v. 11)
…be humble; let God exalt you (v. 12)

DON’T:
…do what the Pharisees (and scribes) did (v. 3)
…load heavy burdens on people (v. 4)
…do your works just to be seen of men (v. 5)
…love the special attention of men (v. 6)
…love the special greetings of men (v. 7)
…be called “Father” / “Teacher” / “Rabbi” / “Master” (v. 8, 9, 10)
…etc., etc.

So, your two points are valid, but they are not the only lessons to learn in this chapter.
Well, obviously. I wasn't trying to exhaust the meaning of the whole chapter. All I meant was, as far as Mt 23:8-10 is concerned, this is what the context tells us.

The “title command” should not be ignored. By the way, Jesus was not just denying personal spiritual titles to the undeserving Pharisees, but to all men (v. 8-10). All these “do’s and don’ts” are given to every believer. Nothing in here suggests hyperbole (exaggeration). These are all straightforward commands. So, we can’t just pick some of these commands to obey and ignore the others.
First of all, I'm not ignoring anything. You think Catholics have never read this chapter before? We have. We even heard it proclaimed during Mass on Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent. We don't hide from Scripture and we don't ignore it. We just don't think it means what you think it means.

Secondly, you said that vs. 8-10 are in no way hyperbolic. But, if, as you say, Jesus was only referring to spiritual fathers (not biological fathers or ancestors), then doesn't that mean He was speaking hyperbolically? The only way to derive your meaning for Jesus' words is to say that He was not speaking literally. After all, Jesus didn't say, "Don't call spiritual leaders 'father'". He said, "Call NO MAN father", as you have repeatedly emphasized. So, we either take Him literally, in which case he was referring to every instance in which someone is called "father", or we understand that he was using exaggerated language and really only intended to refer to spiritual leaders. See what I mean? You can't have it both ways. The only way to come to your conclusion is to affirm that He was speaking hyperbolically.

The difference between you and I is not in how we understand the nature of Jesus' words, it's in how we understand their meaning. We are both forced to declare that Jesus was using extreme language. You explain this language by saying, "But Jesus wasn't referring to all positions of fatherhood, just spiritual positions of fatherhood." I explain it by saying, "But Jesus wasn't getting rid of titles for persons in positions of fatherhood, spiritual or otherwise. He was simply speaking strongly against any position of fatherhood that would set itself in opposition to God's fatherhood.

When I said that it is not “disrespect” to avoid what the Ultimate Teacher said to avoid (i.e., calling someone “Father”), you responded:

“You're obviously begging the question here. This argument only holds if Jesus actually spoke against using spiritual titles. But, you haven't proven that yet.”

Nicholas, the burden of proof is not on me. I’m just taking what He said at face value and demonstrating that the context agrees with this simple interpretation. I would say that it is you who is begging the question, because you’re the one assuming that He really didn’t mean what He plainly said, so the burden is on you to prove that.
First of all, as I understand it, the burden of proof in a debate lies either with the instigator or with the person who challenges the status quo. In either scenario, the burden is on you. Since you came to my blog, where calling priests "father" is assumed to be true, and asserted a contrary belief, you are the instigator. Since the majority of Christians -- and from the earliest days of Christianity -- have been in the practice of calling bishops and priests "father", you are the one challenging the status quo.

Secondly, you don't seem to know what "begging the question" means. You said I was begging the question because I am the one "assuming that He really didn't mean what He plainly said." But, just because I disagree with you that doesn't mean I'm the one engaged in a logical fallacy. Begging the question is when an argument you use to defend your conclusion assumes that your conclusion is true. You are the one at fault here. Look at your line of reasoning:

1. Jesus told us to respect the role of teacher
2. Jesus spoke against using titles
3. Therefore, it is not disrespect to refrain from addressing them with titles

See what's wrong here? #3 rests on #2 being true, but you haven't proven #2 yet. That's the whole reason why we're engaged in this debate. For more on this, see "Fallacy: Begging the Question".

That said, I would like to add that, since it was the common practice of the Jews to refer to the scribes and Pharisees as "fathers," to suddenly refuse to do so would indeed be disrespectful.

You seem to be saying that His words here fall under some type of “exception” in this context. I invite you to demonstrate how that follows.
On the contrary, I admit no exception here. Instead, I see Jesus' words in Mt 23 as being perfectly consistent with His typical use of hyperbolic language and with the way in which Scripture shows man sharing in the titles and roles (or functions) of God. As Paul says, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Eph 3:14-15). It is because God is father that we have fathers on earth.

Finally, you appealed to a set of beliefs that was supposedly “ancient practice” which was always believed in the church throughout its history. But “being around for a long” time doesn’t prove that something is right. Many practices in the history of the church have certainly been questionable, including some long-time practices.
This is about more than a practice simply being around for a long time. This is about Jesus supposedly allowing all of Christendom to confuse and betray one of His explicit commands for over 1500 years. This is about every great defender of the faith against heresy somehow remaining silent about a supposedly rampant disregard for Jesus' teaching.

In the early Church, when someone came around with a novel doctrine, something different from what the Church had always said and done, they were labeled a heretic and dismissed from fellowship in the Church community. Yet you would have me accept your novelty, your aberration, and abandon 2000 years of Church history. I realize that, for you, the bible is the final authority, but you also acknowledge that "there are indeed other legitimate authorities, or rules of faith, in the church. For example, church leaders, theologians, the writings of the early church fathers, Bible commentaries, traditions, creeds, councils, catechisms, etc." (source). These are legitimate authorities, at least look at them.

There are only two possible reasons for why Christian tradition does not square with your interpretation of Mt 23:
  1. Jesus allowed error and false practice to creep into His Church, uncorrected and unabated, and infect all of Christendom for over 1500 years, or
  2. Your interpretation of Scripture is incorrect.
Seriously, which one do you think is more likely?

Nicholas, what would really make your case is if we could find in the New Testament some genuine cases of the faithful using the titles “Father Paul,” “Father John,” or “Holy Father Peter.” But we see none of these.
I look forward to your rebuttal of the examples I have provided in this post.

In fact, the honest reader will admit that we don’t even see a ministerial “priesthood” in the New Testament. (But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.) See here for more on that:
http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2010/03/priesthood.html
When I looked up my blog post from back in '09 on the ministerial priesthood in order to share the link with my readers, I was surprised to find some comments from you on that post too. It seems you've had your eye on me for a while now. We started a short exchange in the combox, but for whatever reason I never responded to your last comment. Maybe once we find some conclusion to our current debate, we can pick that one back up again.

Yes, I agree that it does all boil down to authority. Perhaps someday we can discuss that also.
I see you posted the first part in a series on Sola Scriptura on your blog. Will the next installment be arriving shortly? It is helpful for me in gaining insight on how you approach that debate. If you would like to see how I approach it, see my previous debates:
  • Is Scripture Self-Interpreting? Parts One -- Two -- Three
  • Debate with "eve" on Sola Scriptura: Parts One -- Two
  • Debate with "Ricky" on Sola Scriptura: Parts One -- Two -- Three -- Four
That should help both you and the reader a great deal.

Nicholas, I still stand by everything I said, and I will just say, let’s let the reader decide which side is more reasonable.

Thanks for the discussion.

Also, for anyone interested, here is an article that I did on calling a man “Father” about a year ago:

http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2012/06/dont-call-me-father.html

In His Name,
Russell
Like you, I am thus far unconvinced. This is how most debates on the internet turn out, I'm afraid. I pray that the silent reader, who is watching this debate unfold and still trying to make up his mind, will be convinced by the truth of the Catholic practice. If anyone has any questions or comments, you know where to leave them.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

PS: This is the last installment in our debate.
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