Monday, November 17, 2014

A clear prophecy of the Catholic Church in the Old Testament?

Over at the Creed Code Cult blog is an Article on how the Old Testament Prophet Daniel gave an unmistakable prophecy of the Catholic Church as a universal, visible, and everlasting entity on earth. This prophecy doesn't fit with the Protestant understanding of Christ's Church (ecclesiology), which is that of an invisible body and which fell into full apostasy prior to Luther (else there would have been no reason for Luther to break away if there was a faithful remnant already).

I firmly believe this is an awesome and effective apologetics argument to use against Evangelicals.

Update 11-19-14: I have found online an article called “Interpretations of the Kingdom of God in Daneil 2:44” by Gerhard Pfandl (1996). He gives a good summary of the patristic data. The following Patristic sources he cites I was able to find online and verify the quotes:

Irenaeus– Against Heresies, Book 5, Ch 26 – Identifies the Fourth Kingdom as “the empire which now rules,” which means Rome, and he speaks of Rome about to be partitioned while linking this to the Iron-Clay Feet. Irenaeus also says in this same section, “Christ is the stone which is cut out without hands, who shall destroy temporal kingdoms, and introduce an eternal one, which is the resurrection of the just.” Irenaeus apparently thought Christ’s Return was immanent.

Hippolytus – Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, Section 28 – Explicitly identifies the Four Kingdoms to Babylon, Medes, Greeks, and Romans. Unclear on the Feet, but says it comes next and ushers in the Antichrist. He says the stone is Christ.

Cyril of Jerusalem – Catechetical Lecture 15.13 – Explicitly identifies the Four Kingdoms to Babylon, Medes, Greeks, and Romans, saying this understanding “has been the tradition of the Church’s interpreters.”

Jerome – Commentary on Daniel – Explicitly identifies the Four Kingdoms as Babylon, Medes, Greeks, and Romans. Commenting on verse 2:40, Jerome says: “Now the fourth empire, which clearly refers to the Romans, is the iron empire which breaks in pieces and overcomes all others. But its feet and toes are partly of iron and partly of earthenware, a fact most clearly demonstrated at the present time. For just as there was at the first nothing stronger or hardier than the Roman realm, so also in these last days there is nothing more feeble, since we require the assistance of barbarian tribes both in our civil wars and against foreign nations. However, at the final period of all these empires of gold and silver and bronze and iron, a rock (namely, the Lord and Savior) was cut off without hands, that is, without copulation or human seed and by birth from a virgin’s womb; and after all the empires had been crushed, He became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” Here, Jerome explicitly identifies the Feet as “the present time,” meaning his current lifetime during the dissolution of the Western half of the Empire, being overrun by barbarians and civil strife.

Though not available online, the article cites sources from Origen, Eusebius, and Chrysostom, stating they identified the Fourth Empire as Rome. The article even quotes Luther’s commentary on Daniel, where Luther says ‘everyone agrees’ on the ‘traditional’ identification of the Four Kingdoms and that ‘history proves it conclusively’. (I didn’t verify this Luther quote, but I don’t doubt it.) Unfortunately, there isn’t much said about the Feet, but that’s probably because these Fathers saw themselves in the Iron Kingdom, and thus only those like Jerome had the advantage of seeing Rome partitioned.

There is strong consensus in the Fathers that the “stone not cut by human hands” refers to the Incarnation in the womb of Mary, without having a human father. The article claims that this doesn’t necessarily mean the Kingdom refers to the Church, only to Christ, and that it wasn’t really until Augustine that identifying the Kingdom with the Catholic Church became common. Here are two good quotes from Augustine I found:
Augustine – Homilies on John, Tractate 4 – For He was as yet a small stone, already indeed cut out of the mountain without hands; as saith Daniel the prophet, that he saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. But what follows? “And that stone,” saith he “grew and became a great mountain and filled the whole face of the earth.” Mark then, my beloved brethren, what I say: Christ, before the Jews, was already cut out from the mountain. The prophet wishes that by the mountain should be understood the Jewish kingdom. But the kingdom of the Jews had not filled the whole face of the earth. The stone was cut out from thence, because from thence was the Lord born on His advent among men. And wherefore without hands? Because without the cooperation of man did the Virgin bear Christ. Now then was that stone cut out without hands before the eyes of the Jews; but it was humble. Not without reason; because not yet had that stone increased and filled the whole earth: that He showed in His kingdom, which is the Church, with which He has filled the whole face of the earth.
Augustine – Reply to Petilian, Ch38 – Here you have the origin of the name ‘Catholic’. But you are so bent upon running with your eyes shut against the mountain which grew out of a small stone, according to the prophecy of Daniel, and filled the whole earth, that you actually tell us that we have gone aside into a part, and are not in the whole among those whose communion is spread throughout the whole earth.
Here it is clear that Augustine is not denying Christ is the stone, but that the Kingdom is Christ’s Body, the Church, spreading all over the world. It is somewhat understandable that the Fathers prior to this didn’t speak much about the Church dominating the world, because the Roman Empire would still be in full power for the next few centuries. Without living through all that, it seems most saw the end of the Roman Empire as the end of the world, ushering in the Second Coming.

Francis De Sales (Catholic Controversy, Book 1, Chapter 2) is another quote I found, and even though he’s not a Church Father, he’s still a Doctor of the Church:
And they [Protestant ecclesiology] are entirely contrary to it if we believe Daniel’s interpretation (Dan. ii); for Nabuchodonosor saw a stone cut out of a mountain without hands which went rolling till it overthrew the great statue, and so increased that having become a mountain it filled the whole earth: this Daniel understood of the Kingdom of Our Lord, which shall last for ever. If it be as a mountain, and a mountain so large as to fill the whole earth, how shall it be invisible or secret? And if it last for ever, how shall it have failed a thousand years? And it is certainly of the Kingdom of the Church militant that this passage is to be understood; for that of the triumphant will fill heaven, not earth only, and will not arise during the time of the other Kingdoms, as Daniel’s interpretation says, but after the consummation of the world. Add to this that to be cut from the mountain without hands, belongs to the temporal generation of Our Lord, according to which he has been conceived in the womb of the Virgin, and engendered of her own substance without work of man, by the sole benediction of the Holy Ghost. Either then Daniel has badly prophesied, or the adversaries of the Catholic Church have done so when they have said the Church was invisible, hidden and destroyed.
IN CONCLUSION: The identification with Rome as the Iron Legs seems most certain. The identification of the Iron-Clay Feet is not talked about much other than Fathers saying it comes after Rome and thus Partitioned Rome is to be understood (as Jerome, living at the time of Partition, makes clear). The identification of the Stone not cut by hands as referring to Jesus being conceived without a human father is also widely attested to, but little detail beyond that, e.g. how this Stone ‘grows to cover the whole world’. If the Fathers were expecting the end of the world after the Feet, then it makes sense they didn’t see the Church Militant as having enough time to cover the world, though Augustine did come to the right conclusions (which became the accepted Catholic view as time went on).


Luke Stager said...

I read the article posted in the link, and the problem I have with the timeline there is that it seems that during the time of Jesus we are still in the age of the Iron Empire, but the interpretation laid out goes much later than that. If the Catholic Church is the rock/mountain that comes down, wouldn't it have to come down at the Church's founding? For isn't that when the actual everlasting kingdom would be established?

Nick said...

Hello Luke,

I agree with what you're saying. The way I understand that, the Rock starts off with Christ and the founding of the Church, and as the Rock "rolls down the hill" it gains momentum - meaning the Church starts to grow over the centuries - culminating with smashing the Feet. It was not my intention to say the Church doesn't exist until the 4th century.

Nick said...

I have also UPDATED my post to include some Church Fathers speaking on the matter.

Anonymous said...

This post is a tragic example of why repairing the fissures among purported followers of Christ is currently impossible. I can respect people who disagree with a position; it's much harder to respect those who misrepresent a position. I thought every informed human knew that Luther did not "break away" from anything; he was kicked out of the Roman communion against his will. Also, the official Lutheran documents never speak of the church as "invisible," nor do they claim that Rome or Byzantium had fallen into "full apostasy." Finally, it is absurd to imply that, if a corrupt group still has a faithful remnant, it is unneeding of any reform. Or have you forgotten who Elijah was?

Anonymous said...

Hi- I would like to request prayers for the victims of rape and abuse by members of the Catholic Church. Many of them were children when they were attacked or abused. This is also an ongoing crisis, with new victims each year, worldwide. I will remember them and their stories forever, but for the healing to truly take place, it will take the voices and efforts of many.

To paraphrase a poem by an Indian schoolgirl, "Too many Catholics, in too many countries, speak the same language-- of silence." Thank you.

MaryC said...

Anonymous: Do you genuinely care about abused children, or is this just a sideways strike at the Church by an anti-Catholic? How about if we pray for all children who are the victims of abuse by whomsoever.

Anonymous said...

"Credo House Cult"? Sounds pretty snarky, Nick, especially given the previous post I read of yours on Daniel Wallace's view of Romans 5:12, and your polemic on how Catholics get "sanctification" much more clearly than "those Evangelicals". So when do you start? (Luke 18:11 (Pharisee), 1 Cor 13:1 (gong) and all). I'd peacefully suggest you might note Wallace's recent blog on "being" like Christ (loving others), rather than "trying to be" like Christ? (self-focused, hyper-comparisons to self).

Anonymous said...

Could the rock that is cut out represent Peter and the office of the Pope?

Nick said...

Hello everyone,

Sorry I've not been on the blog for a while. I've just been very busy and not had any free time.

JMMcKee said...

Thank you Nick for compiling the teachings of the Fathers on this subject. I would also like to recommend an excellent article by Dr. Larry Feingold that speaks about Daniel's 5th Kingdom. It can be found here:

There is also a podcast of this lecture on the Assoc. of Hebrew Catholics website.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Papacy is clearly predicted in Revelation, where the bloodly, lying, drunken, murderous whore who pretends to be Christ's Bride, but is actually a harlot who betrayed him, who commits fornication with the kings of the earth via church-state union, murders "heretics", peddles idolatry and Babylonian paganism clothed in biblical terms--yes POPERY is prophesied in Scripture. Pagan Rome morphed into Papal Rome, and the Caesars became popes, the Roman Senate the College of Cardinals, the worship of the goddesses, "mary" and the rest is well known.

The early fathers taught futurism, not this Papal fantasy

bob said...

Actually Anonymous , the consensus of Scripture and the fathers is that the harlot is disobedient and rebellious Israel. Throughout the OT, God refers to Israel and Judah as whores for going after false gods and abandoning the Lord. Also, the harlot has garments that are of the same type as the jewish high priest in judea. Don't forget that at the time that Revelation was being written, there were jewish religious leader who were actively colluding with pagan Rome to persecute Christians.

I am personally not Catholic, but to be quite frank, the primacy of the church in Rome seems more like an everlasting testament as to the defeat of pagan Rome at the hands of the church. It also the clearest fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel with the stone not cut with human hands smashing to pieces the great statue of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and clay. Also, even if you explain away the whole "on this rock I will build my church", you have to explain away the handing of the keys to Peter and why this has a parallel in Isaiah 22:22.

As to the whole bit about paganism, one could just as easily accuse Christians who use crosses of any sort or festive trees during Christmas as pagans. The former is associated with pagan Rome, and the latter associated with pagan Germanic tribes. Of course anyone with any sense and knowledge of history would quickly retort that the symbol of the cross is used to champion the victory of Christ over death (as well as his redemptive sacrificial love) and that the symbol of the Christmas tree as the defeat of German paganism (and their tree god) at the hands of Christ's Church.

As to the thing about worshiping Mary as a goddess, that is the heresy of Collyridianism, and expressly forbidden by the Catholic Church.

As to the murder of heretics, Luther, Calvin and their followers gleefully created state control of the church, surpressed dissenters without fair hearings, and even burned people at the stake. I would certainly prefer living in Catholic France to Calvin's "Reformed" Geneva.

Now this is just a guess about intent, but I speculate that Catholics love Mary so much because they want to love and honor Mary as much as Jesus loves her. They want to fulfill the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself and honor your father and mother with respect to her.

The fathers taught of covenant and sacramental theology, not 19th century dispensationalist fantasy.