Saturday, January 13, 2024

Does religion get passed down from the mother or the father?

I came across the official teaching of Orthodox Judaism (the most strict/traditional form) that Judaism teaches that a person's "Jewishness" depends strictly on whether his mother was Jewish. This is called "matrilineal descent", which is opposed to "patrilineal descent" where the child's religion is determined by the father's religion. The only exception to this is if someone formally converts to Judaism, then it doesn't matter if his mother was Jewish. Most of us have grown up thinking that the Bible and ancient cultures passed down their lineage, religion, inheritance, etc, through the father. Thus, I was shocked and wanted to look into this more, especially to see if there was some theological error or problems with this claim.

The first thing that came to my mind was all the lineages listed in the Bible. In every case, it is one long list of fathers and sons. This strongly suggests that the son's tribal/ethnic and religion were passed down from the father. The next thing that came to my mind was the "Patriarch" language used throughout the Bible, especially Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. The language of "Abraham's seed" being the blessed seed/dna/semen would strongly suggest that the father is the ultimate (or at least preferred) determination of one's religion/ancestry/linage. This I just took as an accepted truth that everyone else was fine with, so I was shocked to see this so strongly opposed by the Orthodox Jews. This led me to delve into what "Biblical proof texts" they had going in their favor.

The wikipedia page on this issue (here) cites the main Biblical claims that I've seen on other sources, so I think it's easiest to just address the examples they cite. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Was Jesus "cursed" to Hell (Gal 3:13 - Part 2) - More problems with Penal Substitution

Years ago I had written about Galatians 3:13 and whether it supported the Protestant doctrine of Penal Substitution (see HERE), which I've written many posts on this blog about. The basic claim of Protestant advocates is that when St Paul says Jesus "became a curse," they say this 'clearly' teaches that Jesus suffered the eternal spiritual torments of hellfire that we deserved. One of the most popular conservative Protestant preachers of our time was RC Spoul, where he preached on this very issue at a major conference: "Jesus had some experience of the beauty of the Father until that moment that my sin was placed upon him, and the one who was pure was pure no more. And God cursed Him. It was as if there was a cry from heaven—excuse my language, but I can be no more accurate than to say—it was as if Jesus heard the words "God Damn You." Because that's what it meant to be cursed, to be damned, to be under the anathema of a Father." (Ligoner Ministries 2019). Protestants cite Gal 3:13 as if it explicitly meant God the Father cursed Jesus with eternal wrath, basically eternal damnation to hellfire. The reality is, that is reading way too much into the text and even causes many problems, some of which I have already highlighted in Part 1. In this Part 2, I will take a look at another historical view of this text that doesn't get much attention but which I feel makes far more sense.

The primary dispute on this verse is what does "cursed (by God)" mean. The Biblical term "curse" refers to speaking/wishing evil upon someone, whether deserved or not. It is not some generic term for "damn to hellfire". In fact, the term "curse" as it is used in the Bible refers almost always to physical evils that come upon someone or something. For example God curses the serpent, saying it will now slither across the ground (Gen 3:14), and God curses the ground after Adam sinned, saying the ground will now produce thorns (Gen 3:17). Noah curses Canaan saying Canaan will be a slave and mockery. In 2 Kings 2:24, Elisha calls a curse on some boys mocking him, and a bear came and tore them up. Jesus cursed the fig tree by saying it will never produce fruit again, and it withered and died (Mt 21:19). There are even times when God is said to make someone "a curse," such as in 2 Kings 22:19, Jeremiah 24:9, 25:18, all referring to the land becoming desolated as a result of the Israelites' sinful behavior. Most especially is Deuteronomy 28:15, which lists a bunch of curses God will do to the Israelites if they break the Mosaic Covenant, including sickness, drought, famine, defeated in battle, blindness, anxiety, scabs, tumors, etc. This Deut 28 curse section is the very context of Gal 3:10-13, which is what Paul is directly citing. This Biblical understanding of "curse" fits far better with the notion that Jesus was publicly humiliated with crucifixion than it does of the Protestant presumption that it must be speaking of some invisible damnation curse by the Father. And that leads us into the "new insight" of this post.

Recall that Paul is not 'randomly' saying Jesus became a curse in Gal 3:13, but that Paul is actually citing Deuteronomy 21:22-23, which says:

22 And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Notice the verse is largely focused on taking care not to defile the Promise Land, and thus the cursed language actually more of a parentheses. So what is it about a body on a tree that defiles the land? Many would say that what "defiles the holy land" is the presence of gravely sinful individuals, such as criminals running around unpunished, which is understandable (cf Num 35:34; Lev 18:24-25). But in this case, it is specifically focused on the burial process, which I'm not sure if other texts address. This verse is unique and somewhat mysterious. This is when I came upon some Biblical commentary that indicate some commentators interpret the "cursed" (by God) text not as God cursing the individual, but rather of the mutilated body being a blasphemy, reproach, curse, etc, against God. For example, the predominant Rabbinical reading is that since man is made in God's Image, then to mutilate or defile the body is basically an insult, blasphemy, etc, against God. This fits with why the Torah forbids certain tattoos, certain fashions, certain grooming, etc, because it is human mutilation. It not only messes with the people, but it is also a bad testimony to others when you're supposed to be a good example to them. (How tragic it is when we see our fellow citizens mutilating their bodies, often because they are deeply wounded inside.)

When the human body is treated like garbage then it is an insult to God's prized creation made in His image, and it is a very pagan thing to mutilate the body. We see how disgusted we get when we think about the Aztecs who used to mutilate their enemies while still alive, and how dark of a cloud comes upon our nation when we think about abortion happening everywhere. When we see in National Geographic type magazines the Islamic form of punishment, namely decapitation, cutting off heads, cutting off hands, cutting off feet, etc, we become repulsed. Similarly, when we see a corpse hanging from a tree or pole, we become grossed out. We are not grossed out or repulsed from mere capital punishment, but rather only those which are popularly called "cruel and unusual" punishment. So similarly, imagine what God sees when the human body is mutilated. In this situation, while it was necessary to have crucifixion for grave offenses, the Mosaic Law put limits on this.

Saint Jerome mentions that some translations had even captured this "curse in the sight of God" rendering, in his Commentary on Galatians (HERE):

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Why Catholics MUST believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

For those who don't know, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is a Catholic dogma that Protestants took from us and turned it into a heresy. The Protestant doctrine of PTR teaches that Christians (specifically White Evangelical Americans) will be taken away to safety in Heaven before the world gets too difficult to endure, because they think true Christians shouldn't have to suffer in this life. But the Catholic dogma derived from Scripture teaches the exact opposite. The truth is the PTR has already happened, and applies to those who have already endured some of the most painful suffering in this life. Since the dogma of "The Pre-Tribulation Rapture" is too long of a phrase, the Church decided to shorten it down to just calling it the "Assumption," where the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken up to heaven some time around 66AD, just before the Tribulation began on Jerusalem, ending with the destruction of the city and Temple in 70AD (just as our Lord predicted, see Matthew 24). In this post, I would like to look at some of the specifics of the Protestant heresy/perversion of this orthodox Catholic dogma.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

One mediator between God and men - Does 1st Timothy 2:5 teach Sola Mediatora?

The main goal of this blog is to help improve our understanding of what the Bible is teaching, and not merely to 'refute' opposing claims. For example, one major theme of this blog is to address the Protestant doctrine of "justification by faith alone" by delving into what Paul is actually saying in the exact same texts Protestants bring up, rather than running elsewhere to other verses (e.g. James 2:24). It doesn't do us much spiritual good if our only use of the Bible as Catholics is to dodge the Biblcal verses which Protestants (or other groups) bring up "against" us. In this post we will look at the common case of Protestants attempting to refute the Catholic doctrine of "intercession of the saints" by their citing of 1 Timothy 2:5 where Paul speaks of Jesus as the "one mediator" between God and mankind.

The standard Catholic "response" to this shallow "Sola Mediatora" argument basically reduces down to the Catholic saying: "Isn't asking someone to pray for you also a form of mediation? So logically not all mediation is excluded." While this 'logic argument' response is not wrong for amateurish level of discussion, it is technically wrong on the deeper level of us not attempting to study the text to understand what Paul is actually saying.

Our goal when looking at Scripture is "exegesis," that is to understand what the text is saying, and be less concerned with how we can rescue our theology. We shouldn't fear what the Bible has to actually say, and in most of my study of Scripture, when you really understand what Paul is saying (especially in Romans), then the Bible 'comes alive' within your own life and spiritual growth. How often is the Bible basically ignored by Catholics who are secretly afraid that Paul could be teaching Protestant doctrine? We need to correct this mentality, and the best way is to seek to study the Bible on a deeper level than merely surface level reading of half sentences the way Protestants typically approach the Bible. In this instance, we will see that the Protestant approach to 1 Tim 2:5 is actually completely ignoring not only the context, but the full sentence itself. Thankfully, in doing some research to this post, I have found other Catholics also refusing to be satisfied with the standard "we ask others to pray for us" response.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Does Rom 5:19 prove the Protestant doctrine of Imputation?

Saint Paul says: "By one man's disobedience many were made/appointed sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made/appointed righteous." (Rom 5:19). Some Protestants claim this is an important proof text for their doctrine of the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness, because here Paul speaks of believers being "appointed righteous," which they say is different fromactually being made righteous. I want to address that claim here, because it isn't as strong of an argument as they think.

Several years ago I was reading Reformed Baptist pastor John Piper's defense of Imputation of Christ's Righteousness, and I recall he had commented on this very issue in his Protestant apologetics book "Counted Righteous in Christ" (available for free on Piper's own site here). Piper explains his interpretation of Romans 5:19 on Pages 108-109, which I've trimmed down for length but kept the essential parts: