Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Asking the Wrong Marian Questions ...
06/16/2010 - Tur8infanIt seems as though whenever we bring up the subject of Roman Catholics worshiping Mary, someone who is a Roman Catholic will say: "Go to your local parish, and as people are leaving Mass, ask them if they worship Mary!" Their expectation, of course, is that the folks at the local parish will say that they do not worship Mary.
The problem with this question (beyond the fact that folks leaving Mass don't really want to be nagged with questions, they have places to be!) is that if we changed the question to: "Do you say the Hail Mary," we'd get exactly the opposite result - and praying the Hail Mary to Mary is one way by which people worship Mary. If we changed the question to: "Did you place any candles at Mary's side altar," we would still get a lot of affirmations. That too is an act of worship - an act of religious devotion.
The importance of asking the right Marian question is highlighted in this paragraph:
I asked the women I talked to as part of my research, "Do you think that she's more important than God?" and they say, "Oh, no." But if you say to them, "When you pray, whom do you pray to?" they say, "Guadalupe, Mary." I say, "Why would you go to her with things that you would not go to God with?" "Because she's a woman, she understands."(source)
It is great that the women recognize that Mary is less important than God - it is sad that they think that Mary is more understanding than God - it is sad that when they pray, they pray to Mary. This particular researcher does not seem to have asked the direct question, "Do you worship Mary," but the question is answered indirectly by identifying the object of the women's prayers.
I realize you may still have doubts. Consider the story told at the conclusion of the same article:
I'll tell you this story. I was with a Spanish priest, and he was showing me around the basilica and there was this old man on the side. The priest said, "Hombre, what are you doing here?" And the old man said, I want to pray to the Lady." The priest replied, "Well, I don't see you praying." And the old man admitted, "Oh, Father, I don't know how to pray." So Father said, "OK, here's a prayer book." The old man said, "I don't know how to read," and then the priest starts yelling at him, "Well, what are you doing here?" And the old man said, "You know, it's just enough for me to look in her face."Shouldn't those words, "it's just enough for me to look in her face," help people to see that what is going on here is not the Christian religion but idolatry?
The author of the article, a Roman Catholic, explains in the article how people ask him to pray for them to Mary - so many that he keeps a notebook with their requests. He even suggests that, though he did not pray for it, a serious illness he had may have been cured by making the pilgrimage to the shrine where this particular idol is displayed.
At that point he said:
I was able to surrender, to say to Guadalupe, "You more than anyone know what it is that I need or want. Just give me the strength to be open to that."Is not the blasphemy of that claim transparent?
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen
And following that up with a similar manifestation of the Christian religion, I shall conclude this article.
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)
Athanasius contra Michuta #3
06/12/2010 - Tur8infanAthanasius' canon of Scripture, presented in his 39th Festal letter is famous. It's not nearly as famous as his "Athanasius Contra Mundum" rejection of the Arian heresy, but it is probably the second most famous aspect of Athanasius' life today (his excellent letter to Marcellinus on the Psalms was famous in ancient times and perhaps we can revitalize interest in that excellent work as well). ...
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Francis Beckwith: ETS Shows Sympathies for the Catholic Canon
06/07/2010 - James SwanI've been fascinated by the selective use of history by those who convert to the Roman Catholic Church. Sometimes it can be attributed to ignorance. I don't expect each person making a worldview shift to have the academic abilities to weigh certain levels of complex information. On the other hand, when a PhD from Fordham University, a man who's authored numerous theological books, and taught philosophy and church-state studies appears ill-informed on basic issues of church history, I'm left with far more questions than answers about the legitimacy of that conversion story.
Francis Beckwith: ETS Shows Sympathies for the Catholic Canon
Consider the following from mega-revert Francis Beckwith's book, Return to Rome (Michigan: Brazos Press, 2009). While he served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2006 the membership passed a resolution stating: "For the purpose of advising members regarding the intent and meaning of the reference to biblical inerrancy in the ETS Doctrinal Basis, the Society refers members to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978)." Beckwith says, "But the Chicago Statement not only does not provide a list of canonical books, it states that 'it appears that the Old Testament canon had been fixed by the time of Jesus. The New Testament canon is likewise now closed, inasmuch as no new apostolic witness to the historical Christ can now be borne.' " The Chicago Statement is indeed accurate. The Old Testament canon was fixed during the ministry of Christ and the apostles.
This statement though from ETS provoked Beckwith to conclude, "This, ironically, means that the ETS is implicitly showing sympathies for the Catholic canon" (p.123). Rather, the irony is Beckwith's statement. Most Roman Catholics I've squabbled with over the Old Testament canon want to argue that it was still in flux during the apostolic era. The argument is presented that the Hebrew canon wasn't actually closed until very late, perhaps as late as A.D. 90-100. They argue this in order to legitimize the apocrypha. Previous to A.D. 90-100, the Greek Septuagint (the very Bible used by Christ and the Apostles) appears to have included the apocrypha.
For Beckwith, if ETS wants to affirm a closed Old Testament canon during apostolic times, they are admitting to the legitimacy of the apocrypha. Beckwith doesn't apear to be concerned with typical Roman Catholic polemic concerning an open Old Testament canon.
J.N.D Kelly: The Bulkier Old Testament Canon Included The Apocrypha
To seal the deal of this argument, Dr. Beckwith offers the following quote from Protestant scholar J.N.D. Kelly:
It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than... the Hebrew Bible of Palestinian Judaism... It always included, though varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocryphal or deutero-canonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hands of Christians was not the original Hebrew version, but the Greek translation known as the Septuagint... In the first centuries at any rate the Church seems to have accepted all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and treated them without question as Scripture.
If you Google search this quote, it proves itself to be a Roman Catholic favorite. I recall the first time I heard it being used was by Gerry Matatics against Dr. White (here's a short mp3 clip from Matatics from this debate). In response, Dr. White pointed out that current research into the Old Testament canon had reached much different conclusions than that put forth by J.N.D. Kelly.
If you actually read this section from Kelly from which Beckwith took the quote, he readily admits the Palestinian canon was "rigidly fixed". This of course, was left out by Dr. Beckwith. Kelly does indicate (though with seeming hesitation) that the Hebrew canon was finally universally closed for Judaism in A.D. 90-100 at Jamnia. During this time period he says the Jews were actually uniting against the apocryphal books. They were in the process of finally being repudiated. Kelly goes on to say this was the reason certain Christians like Melito of Sardis eventually went to Palestine to get to the bottom of the confusion of the Jewish canon. By the fourth century, the more scholarly within the Alexandrian church likewise were against the apocrypha, in varying degrees. The Western church though was much more favorable toward the apocrypha. By common use it gained acceptance.
This extra information and context from Kelly shows at least Beckwith didn't read him carefully. Kelly argues for a fixed Palestinian canon during apostolic times, with the apocryphal books in the larger Greek canon being eventually repudiated by the Jews later in the first century. Kelly's quote does though still serve Romanist argumentation. If in fact no specific Hebrew canon was fixed for Judaism as a whole, how does one know that Jesus and the Apostles did not use and revere the apocrypha? If the Bible they used included it, and Christ deemed his church the only organization capable of infallible dogmatic proclamation, the fallible Jews late in the first century finalized a fallible collection of infallible books. They left out the apocrypha. Protestants therefore follow the fallible tradition of the Jews rather than the infallible Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.
This Romanist methodology though is flawed in a number of ways.
What Books Were in the Septuagint?
Sometimes the error isn't what's said, it's what isn't said. Indeed, if one surveys the oldest extant copies and fragments of the Septuagint, one will find apocryphal books. That should settle it for the Roman Catholic side, shouldn't it? Hardly. William Webster explains:
One of the reasons Roman Catholics argue for a broader canon is that the oldest extant manuscripts of the Septuagint do contain a number of Apocryphal books. These manuscripts are: Vaticanus (early 4th century), Sinaiticus (early 4th century), and Alexandrinus (early 5th century). The Apocryphal books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith and Tobit are included in all three, but there are also differences. Vaticanus does not include any of the Maccabean books, while Sinaiticus includes 1 and 4 Maccabees and Alexandrinus includes 1, 2, 3, and 4 Maccabees and a work known as the Psalms of Solomon. If inclusion of a book in the manuscript proves its canonicity, as Roman Catholics assert, then 3 and 4 Maccabees were canonical. However, we know with certainty that this was not the case. It is also true that the Septuagint included a number of appendices to the canonical Old Testament books such as Esther, 1 Esdras, the additions to Daniel (Song of the Three Children, Bel and the Dragon and Susanna), and the additions to Jeremiah (Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy). But as Henry Swete points out, none of these books, or the rest of the Apocrypha, were part of the Hebrew canon:
The MSS. and many of the lists of the Greek Old Testament include certain books which find no place in the Hebrew Canon. The number of these books varies, but the fullest collections contain the following: I Esdras, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Judith, Tobit, Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah, i.-iv. Maccabees. We may add the Psalms of Solomon, a book which was sometimes included in MSS. of Salomonic books, or, in complete Bibles, at the end of the Canon.
The only Septuagint manuscript evidence we have now was created by the Christian church. Webster notes: "We do not know for certain that the Septuagint itself included the books of the Apocrypha as canonical Scripture. Secondly... there were books in these manuscripts that were never considered canonical by the Jews or the Church, in particular, 3 and 4 Maccabees. Therefore, just because a book was listed in the manuscripts did not mean it was canonical. It simply means that these books were read in the Church." Webster cites Lee McDonald who notes,
The biggest problem with the theory of the Alexandrian canon is that there are no lists or collections one can look to in order to see what books comprised it. Pfeiffer himself acknowledged that no one knows what the canon of the Alexandrian and other Diaspora Jews was before the LXX was condemned in Palestine, ca. 130 CE. Long ago E. Reuss concluded that we know nothing about the LXX before the time when the church made extensive use of it. That includes the condition of the text and its form as well as its extent. Another problem with the Alexandrian canon theory is that it has not been shown conclusively that the Alexandrian Jews or the other Jews of the Dispersion were any more likely to adopt other writings as sacred scriptures than were the Jews Palestine in the two centuries BCE and the first century CE. Further, there is no evidence as yet that shows the existence of a different canon of scriptures in Alexandria than in Palestine from the second century BCE to the second century CE. Since the communications between Jerusalem and Alexandria were considered quite good during the first century BCE and CE, it is not certain that either the notion or extent of divine scripture would be strikingly different between the two locations during the period before 70 CE. Although the Jews of the Dispersion were more affected by Hellenism than were the Jews of Palestine, there is little evidence to show that this influence also affected their notion of scripture or the boundaries of their scriptures.
When Dr. Beckwith assumes the Septuagint used during the Apostolic era included the apocrypha, that's indeed what it is, an assumption. There isn't historical evidence to verify the claim. ...
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