Aug 232012
 
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series The Lamb's Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn

Most of the discussion in these posts has revolved around John 6 and transubstantiation, particularly how transubstantiation impacts scriptural integrity.  The culmination of Dr. Hahn’s talk, however, is the presentation of the Mass as a picture, or type, of the eternal, or heavenly Mass taking place in the New Jerusalem.  Much of the discussion about that centers on Revelation which is why the lecture opens with his initial frustration and disappointment with popular interpretations of the book but closes with his subsequent love and enjoyment of the book itself.  Dr. Hahn’s book, The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, will probably provide much more detail than the talk does regarding this topic.  While I don’t doubt that much of the liturgy used in the Mass is taken directly from some of the pages of the Apocalypse, the way Dr. Hahn seems to use these ideas to validate the Mass seems a little backwards; but to be fair, not having read his book and with the limited amount of information given in the talk, I would rather not discuss some of the conclusions he alludes to.

For the final post in this series I want to address the interpretation that Dr. Hahn uses for Revelation 1:10.  Revelation 1:10 itself is a bit of an anchor to interpreting the rest of the book of Revelation and Dr. Hahn uses it, somewhat, as a springboard into his own understanding of the Mass as a picture, or window, into Heaven.  I think this interpretation is in error, and Dr. Hahn is far from the only one who uses it.  I’ve cringed several times after hearing my own pastor use the same interpretation.  It’s when it affects doctrine that it can become a problem.

The Lord’s Day

Most translations render Revelation 1:10 similar to Rome’s sanctioned NAB version of the Bible:

I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet1

The ESV translation reads:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet2

Regarding this verse, Dr. Hahn states on track 13 at the 1:40 mark:

…and so in Revelation 1:10 we read that John was in the spirit on the Lord’s day.  What is the Lord’s day?  Sunday.  But he couldn’t gather the flock and preside and preach… he was alone on the island of Patmos when Jesus appeared to him and said [referencing Revelation 4:1] ‘Lift up your hearts! Come on up!’ And John is suddenly taken up in the spirit to see how they worship up in heaven where you have the angels and the saints and the martyrs and the mother of Christ, the woman in Revelation 12.

There’s a lot in this statement that could be addressed but for the purposes of this post I want to look at the idea that when John says he was in the spirit on the Lord’s day he was meaning what we refer to as Sunday, the 1st day of the week.  In Dr. Hahn’s defense the note on that text for the NAB reads: “[1:10] The Lord’s day: Sunday.”3 and the ESV Study Bible isn’t any better: “The Lord’s day is Sunday, the first day of the week, the day on which Christ rose.”4

There are two main problems with understanding the Lord’s day in Revelation 1:10 to be what we call Sunday.  The first is that no other passage in all of Scripture refers to Sunday as the Lord’s day.  As far as Scripture is concerned, all the day’s of the week were referred to as numbers, according to the day’s of creation.  So when John, the same author of Revelation, in his gospel says “…on the first day of the week…” in John 20:1 and later states “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week…” in John 20:19, he is referring to what we would call Sunday.5  As far as the first day of the week as referenced in Scripture, we can also see that Matthew uses this system in Matthew 28:1, Mark uses it in Mark 16:2, 9, Luke in Luke 24:1 and Acts 20:7 and Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 16:2.

One could argue that the practice obviously arose at some point in church history and perhaps John had started using this term to refer to Sunday by the time he wrote Revelation.  The problem with this is that the writings we have from the period after Revelation was written, have already started referring to the first day of the week as Sunday (obviously converts from paganism were already bringing in their weekday names) and not the Lord’s day.  Justin Martyr, writing roughly 50-75 years after most scholars date Revelation, states:

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. [Emphasis added.]6

The natural question that arises then is why would John be using a term to refer to a particular day of the week that his readers wouldn’t understand?  It would make much more sense that if John was intending to specify that this being caught up in the spirit happened on Sunday then he would have said he was in the spirit on the first day instead of using the term the Lord’s day.  Which brings up the second problem with interpreting the Lord’s day in Revelation 1:10 as Sunday, there is another idiom in Scripture which fits much more in line with what John was probably intending to convey and that is The Day of the LORD.

We have to remember that John was a 1st century Jew.  His writings have so many allusions to the Old Testament Scriptures that many readers become very perplexed as to what John is meaning.  The book of Revelation is quite possibly the most riddled with these in all the New Testament.  For a book of 404 verses there are over 800 allusions to the Old Testament and that translates to roughly two per verse.  Chuck Missler will often quip that you can’t understand the book of Revelation unless you know your Old Testament.  And so we have to wonder that if John had meant to refer to Sunday, why wouldn’t he have used the term that his readers would probably have more readily understood.

The Day of the LORD is an idiom found throughout the Old Testament and always refers to a future time of great calamity.  There are 16 expressions of יום יהוה (yom YHWH; the Day of the LORD) in the Old Testament7 and with all the other idioms found in Revelation it only makes sense that John had this idea in mind in light of the probability that his readers would have much more readily understood this.

Finally, Revelation unveils the descriptors used in the references to The Day of the LORD.  As E.W. Bullinger writes:

For what is the “DAY of the Lord” or “The LORD’s day”?  The first occurrence of the expression (which is the key to its meaning) is in Isaiah 2:11.  It is the day when “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted.”

That is the one great object of all the future events, seen by John in vision, and recorded for us in the Apocalypse.8

It’s for these reasons I believe that Revelation 1:10 would be more properly understood as “in the spirit on the Day of the Lord”.  If that is the case, it has implications to much of the conclusions Dr. Hahn alludes to in regards to the Mass as Heaven on Earth.  It makes perfect sense that in the book of Revelation we see the fulfillment of what Isaiah 2:11 states, the LORD alone shall be exalted.  It is only fitting that worship services, songs and liturgy would be filled with these windows into Heaven and so I doubt the Mass is any exception.

Renewing a Covenant

On Track 15 at the 2:07 mark Dr. Hahn states:

[In reference to his wife listening in on his Bible study] …as I explained how the book of Revelation is divided in to the same two halves as the Mass.  The Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Lamb, the Eucharist.  And then we went through all of the songs and the prayers. The Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, the Amen, the Alleluia, the Holy, Holy Holy, the Gloria; all of these things that you can find in the book of Revelation and nowhere else, anywhere in the New Testament!  No other New Testament writer even calls Jesus the Lamb of God, but John, and he calls Him that 28 times in 22 chapters!  And it all culminates in The Marriage Supper of the Lamb where the church as the bride receives Christ as the bridegroom to renew this new covenant.

There are two items to make mention of.  The first is that both Peter and Luke refer to Christ as the Lamb of God in the sense that they are drawing on the idioms from Passover; though John is the only one who uses it as a title of Christ.9  The second is when Dr. Hahn uses the term renew at the end, stating that at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb the bride and bridegroom are renewing the new covenant.  This is eisegesis at its finest.

While in Catholic tradition the Mass is a renewing of the covenant, and as I pointed out in Part 4 it is indeed another sacrifice and is propitiatory, this concept is nowhere to be found in the New Testament.  The author of Hebrews goes through great lengths to compare the Sacrifice of Christ with the sacrificial system of the Old Testament.  I’m not going to rehash all of that here but Hebrews 7-10 couldn’t make it any clearer: Christ is our Great High Priest and His sacrifice was once for all.  There is no need of a priesthood.  There is no need of a pope.  Christ is now our intercessor and there is no renewal of any agreement necessary.  What Dr. Hahn is doing is taking the understanding and teaching of Catholic tradition regarding the Mass and inserting it into the passage we call The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  Scripture doesn’t allow for it and no Christian should either.

Conclusion

It may very well be the case that the Mass is loaded with imagery from the book of Revelation, but there is no reason to see the Mass as an earthly fulfillment of what is taking place in Heaven and the glimpses that we see of it in Revelation.  I believe Dr. Hahn’s interpretation of Revelation 1:10 is incorrect and when understood as a reference to The Day of the LORD, it will have implications on some of what he concludes.

While this series of posts has taken a hard stance against much of what Dr. Hahn presents I can sympathize with him greatly on several points.  In particular, typology has certainly been neglected in much of western Christianity and I firmly believe we’ve suffered for it.  It played such a big role in my own salvation I often wonder how many people are like I was, completely in the dark just waiting for that spark, to be told about how Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac back in Genesis 22 looks forward 2,000 years where another father would offer His son in the same place.  It never grows old.

  1. New American Bible, Revised Edition (Revelation 1:10)
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Re 1:10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
  3. USCCB, Revelation, chapter 1
  4. Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (2464). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
  5. See also John’s use of the numbered days in John 2:1.  When reading the Gospels we are likely to think that they are pointing to specific times from an event (as in the first day after something) but this isn’t always the case.
  6. Justin Martyr. (1885). The First Apology of Justin. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) (186). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.
  7. Isaiah 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5; Joel 1:15, 2:1, 11, 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14; Malachi 4:5; E.W. Bullinger; Commentary on Revelation (Kregel Publishers 1984) 13
  8. E.W. Bullinger; Commentary on Revelation (Kregel Publishers 1984) 13-14
  9. See 1 Peter 1:19-21 and Acts 8:32

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© 2011-2017 David Christopher. This post along with all content on this site (except citations) is the property of davidchristopher.net and is made available for individual and personal use. Please give appropriate citation along with a link to the URL and the date it was obtained.

Aug 162012
 
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series The Lamb's Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn

As hopefully demonstrated in Part 3 of this discussion, when the verses quoted by Dr. Hahn in John 6 are put back into context, the claim of transubstantiation as a result of ‘The Bread of Life Discourse’ is no longer valid.  One of the primary reasons for this is the seeming discrepancies that come from the same passage, in the same discourse, from Jesus’s own words.  Further issues arise throughout Scripture.  This is called biblical disharmony and the implications of such can be devastating.  But if our starting principle is that the Bible is indeed the Word of God then it naturally follows that any seeming discrepancies are actually the result of improper interpretations and handling of the text and not the text itself.

I mentioned in Part 2 that any belief we hold will have certain propositions that naturally follow.  If any of those propositions create biblical disharmony then our belief needs to be fine-tuned.  Christianity is a reasonable and logical system of thought and the Bible is a cohesive whole.  We are instructed to love God with all of our mind.  The failure to think through these issues is not the fault of Christianity, but the fault of the lazy Christians and theologians who refuse to engage them with any sort of sincerity.

Conflicting Claims

To start with, these verses are either in agreement with each other, or they’re not:

John 6:35
…whoever comes to me shall not hunger
…whoever believes in me shall not thirst
John 6:40
…everyone who looks on the Son should have eternal life, I will raise him up on the last day
(everyone who) believes in him
John 6:47
…whoever believes has eternal life
John 6:54
Whoever feeds on my flesh has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day
and drinks my blood
John 6:58
Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever

 

The problem we run into with these verses is that believing and eating result in the same things.  If transubstantiation is the intended meaning to these verses then the questions that must arise are: What if you eat but do not believe?  Or what if you believe but do not eat?  I haven’t found any suitable responses to this discrepancy if transubstantiation is true.  However, if my understanding of John 6 is true as outlined in the previous post then there is no problem.  In fact, the question doesn’t even get asked since the issue doesn’t exist from the start.

A Violation of Levitical Law

The next discrepancy that needs to be addressed is a matter of Levitical Law.  Leviticus  17:10-14 reads:

10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.
13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.1

In this case, we have a direct command to abstain from the eating (or drinking) of any blood.  Just in case there is any question about just what blood we are talking about, the term כל (kal; translated any and every in the ESV) is an all inclusive term that is often translated the whole, all and every.  But what constitutes a ‘creature’ as that referenced in verse 14?  Well the word בשׂר (basar; translated creature in the ESV) has its basic English equivalent of flesh and is used in Scripture for both the flesh of man in Psalm 102:6 and beast in Exodus 16:12. The next issue is a matter of who the command is directed at.  In this case the command is given to the people of Israel, as the verses state, either through ethnicity or sojourning.  Without a doubt, the blood of any flesh is not to be ingested by the people of Israel.

One contention may be that it was only given to the people of Israel in a specific time and place.  But obviously, Jesus’s disciples were Jewish and they lived in the land of Israel that was still practicing Torah adherence so that doesn’t follow.  Another contention may be that we are no longer under the law and therefore this doesn’t matter any more.  You’d be hard pressed to find Jesus or any of the disciples encouraging the Jewish people or Gentiles to break the law because they are no longer under the law.  That whole way of thinking is flawed and doesn’t follow.  One more contention that may be brought up is that the New Testament does away with the Old Testament.  Much as with the previous this is not a teaching of the New Testament and runs contrary to Scripture.  Nowhere in Scripture is this thought provided and even if it were, the New Testament reiterates the command to abstain from blood in Acts 15:20, 29.  What’s more regarding the passage in Acts is that if we held to the Petrine Succession of the Papacy it should be noted that Peter was a part of the council that made this decision.

Why this command?  As Leviticus 17:11 states it’s because the life is in the blood and the blood is meant to give atonement for the transgressor, not to be eaten.  It would be disrespectful to use the blood of any flesh that is graciously given for atonement in order to provide some form of satiation.  The writer of Hebrews reiterates this in Hebrews 9:22 that everything must be cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

When looking for Catholic responses to this, the only one I saw was a response to Leviticus 17:14 specifically, that to be cut off means to die and we are instructed to die to ourselves in order to live for Christ and that by doing so, we are freed from The Law.2  Honestly, I couldn’t be more baffled by a response of this nature.  I had a hard time believing that it is meant to be taken seriously so I went to the Catholic Answers site to find out if there were any other discussions on these verses.  After searching for the terms “Leviticus 17:10” and subsequent verses there were only two articles that came up.  They were discussions around verse 14 and the Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal for blood transfusions.  If the response I read above is to be taken seriously, then they are encouraging the breaking of the Levitical Law in order to be able to receive it’s repercussion of death so that the law breaker can live for Christ.  How anyone can look at the consequence of Leviticus 17:14 as though it is supposed to be a blessing is beyond me.  One wonders if the author of that site has read the preceding verses since in verse 10 God says He will set His face against those who eat blood.  This reasoning simply doesn’t work and it looks like the author is grasping at straws.

The Old Testament commands the abstention from blood.  The New Testament reaffirms the command.  There is simply no good reason either of these are void when suggesting the drinking of Christ’s blood.

Blood or Fruit of the Vine?

Another passage that gets attention in defense of transubstantiation is Matthew 26:26-29.  In these verses we read:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”3

These verses, taken during the Last Supper (a Passover Seder) have Jesus handing a cup of wine to His disciples and giving it to them while stating that it is His blood.  The problem that stems from the idea that Jesus was stating the cup was His literal blood is in the next verse, verse 29, where He says that he “will not again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  Why, if Jesus intended for this cup to be His literal blood, did He call it the ‘fruit of the vine’?  Further, in the Passover Seder, the leader drinks the cup with the participants and Jesus indicates by His statement in verse 29 that He is drinking the cup as well with His disciples.  Does transubstantiation also hold that Jesus would be drinking His own blood in this passage?

Reenacting the Sacrifice of Christ

The Catholic Mass is a reenactment of the sacrifice of Christ.  As the Council of Trent states:

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”4

Where this becomes a problem is when it is said that “this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ … is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner…this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”  From this statement two major problems arise, first, Christ being offered again and second, the sacrifice being propitiatory.

The writer of Hebrews has a lot to say about that.  In Hebrews 9:24-28 it states:

24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.5

To the first contention, Hebrews 9:25 states quite clearly that Christ appears in the presence of God not to offer himself repeatedly.  The author of Hebrews is contrasting the sacrifice of Christ with the Day of Atonement.  The whole point he is making is that because the sacrifice was that of Christ, it doesn’t need to be repeated.  If it were any other way, the high priest would have to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  That’s an important distinction because it’s contrasting an eternal offering as that would have to be completed by anyone other than Christ because anyone other than Christ could not possibly temporally offer and ever attain justification for all.  However, because this offering was that of Christ, it was temporal (meaning, now Christ is not the ‘Eternal Victim’) and the sacrifice is complete.  As Romans 8:34 states: Christ is now our intercessor!

To the second contention, we need to understand that any sort of act or offering outside of the one-time completed work of Christ is now an addition to the work that Christ did on our behalf.  As Paul rhetorically asks in Galatians 3:3, “…having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  The point is that the work was already accomplished for us on our behalf.  It is our trust in that work that saves us.

Dr. Hahn will teach that the Mass is a earthly representation of the eternal ceremony in Heaven.  His book will likely go much deeper into this than the lecture I’m using for this series.  Not having read the book I can only speak to his comments in the lecture and that from what I’ve read elsewhere.  The argument is that the Catholic Mass is not recrucifying Christ in the manner evangelicals claim but rather, through the Mass, congregants are mystically entering into the New Jerusalem and thereby participate in the eternal offering before the Father.6  This idea stems a bit from Revelation 5 where Jesus stands before the throne and is about to open the 7 sealed scroll.

Whether one believes that through the Mass they are actually recreating the sacrifice of Christ or not is irrelevant.  The implications are there and the Council of Trent confirms that the Roman Catholic Church holds it as a genuine offering and is propitiatory.  As I’ve stated a few times in this series of posts, propositions will always stem from beliefs that we hold, whether we realize they are there or not.  If those propositions run contrary to Scripture, then our belief needs to be refined.  In this case transubstantiation and the Mass as a whole runs contrary to Hebrews 9:24-28 and the spirit of the New Testament.  If Christ was sacrificed once (past-tense, completed) and our trust in that completed work for the payment of sin is what grants us salvation, the moment we make the claim that Christ is offered again, or that the Mass is propitiatory, we are now stating that the completed work of Christ was not enough.  There is no way around this problem.  Either Christ paid it all, or He didn’t.

The Role of the Priest in the Mass

This last issue stems from the previous and may, perhaps, be the most disturbing.  We need to understand that the Bible is clearly against the idea of witchcraft and divination.7  The concept in mind as far as Scripture is concerned is roughly this:

WITCHCRAFT AND DIVINATION: Magic represents an expression of the belief that it is possible for man to exert an influence over his fellow human beings or to change the course of events.8

Again, certain beliefs have propositions even if only implied.  As stated in the Council of Trent:

“…it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”9

So what implications come from this belief?  Namely, the priest performs the consecration of the bread and wine and thereby controls the changing of the substance into the body and blood of Christ.  The Faith of Millions: The Credentials of the Catholic Religion written by John O’Brien gives an explanation of the priest’s role:

The supreme power of the priestly office is the power of consecrating.  “No act is greater,” says St. Thomas, “than the consecration of the body of Christ.”  In this essential phase of the sacred ministry, the power of the priest is not surpassed by that of the bishop, the archbishop, the cardinal or the pope.  Indeed it is equal to that of Jesus Christ.  For in this role the priest speaks with the voice and the authority of God Himself.
When the priest pronounces his tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from his throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man.  It is a power greater than that of monarchs and emperors: it is greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim.
Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary.  While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man – not once but a thousand times!  The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priests command.10

The first time I read this a few months ago, I had to read it several times.  The idea that Christ would bow His head in humble obedience to a Catholic priest is absurd and un-Scriptural.  To suggest that the priest is equal to that of Jesus Christ and that he speaks with the authority of God Himself is blasphemy.  The entire act is witchcraft.  As Cris Putnam and Tom Horn note in response to this in Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope is Here:

…we ask: “In the Mass, is the priest said to influence events, people, and things with ceremonies and the recitation of incantations to control super-natural forces?”  Indeed, the priest is said to be even more powerful than angels and to have the authority of God, Himself!  Not only does he control people or events, he allegedly controls Christ.  The priest ostensibly reaches up into the heavens, knocks Him off His throne, and offers Him up on “our alter as the eternal Victim.”11

Of course, I agree with Cris Putnam and Tom Horn when they say they deny any of this actually occurs.  The point is that the act of consecration and the belief of what it entails is witchcraft, a practice of which the Bible strongly warns against.  The Catholic Church sanctions this to the point of which if you disagree you are to be damned.  There is absolutely nowhere in Scripture where this practice is outlined.  There is absolutely nowhere in Scripture where this practice is discussed.  There is absolutely nowhere in Scripture where it is even hinted at that the disciples and apostles have this concept in mind.

Conclusion

As I have stated, transubstantiation leads to biblical disharmony.  I have brought up numerous points in this post: the verses in John 6 that disagree with each other if transubstantiation is true; the Levitical Law against blood and the New Testament reaffirmation; the disagreement between Mathew 26:28-29; the continual offering for propitiation; and the role of the priest in the Mass.  There are many others that could be brought up but for the sake of this series of posts this should be more than sufficient.  In the next and final post in regards to Dr. Hahn’s discussion I will address some of what Dr. Hahn suggests in interpreting Revelation.

  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Le 17:10-14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
  2. From Questions About The Eucharist; Protestant Argument 5
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mt 26:26–29). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
  4. Council of Trent (1562) Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, c. 2: DS 1743; Retrieved from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  5. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Heb 9:24–28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
  6. Ready With a Reason: Response to Tobe Witmer, Lighthouse Baptist Church June 20, 2010 Service – On the Catholic Mass, Romans 6
  7. Exodus 7:14, 22, 8:3, 14, Isaiah 47:9, Galatians 5:20, Revelation 18:23
  8. Negev, A. (1990). The Archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land (3rd ed.). New York: Prentice Hall Press.
  9. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1642; Retrieved from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  10. John A. O’Brien, The Faith of Millions: The Credentials of the Catholic Religion, New and rev. ed. (Huntington Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 1974), 255-256; Retrieved from Thomas Horn and Cris Putnam, Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here, (Defender Publishing, 2012), 299-300
  11. Thomas Horn and Cris Putnam, Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here, (Defender Publishing, 2012), 300; emphasis in original

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© 2011-2017 David Christopher. This post along with all content on this site (except citations) is the property of davidchristopher.net and is made available for individual and personal use. Please give appropriate citation along with a link to the URL and the date it was obtained.

Aug 132012
 
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series The Lamb's Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn

When dealing with the topic of transubstantiation, the main biblical defense given in support of it comes from John 6.  Dr. Hahn uses John 6 in light of his reading of the Nicene Fathers to come to the conclusions that he does – namely, that Jesus wasn’t speaking figuratively when He talked of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  In track 7 at the 3:25 mark, Dr. Hahn is discussing what he was going through while preaching through John (being a Presbyterian minister at the time) and wrestling with what he was reading:

So I’m reading along, preparing my sermon outline, thinking that in two weeks I’m going to have to preach this text but what am I gonna do because here [in John 6:51-53] He says “The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh”.  Well surely he’s speaking figuratively, He doesn’t really mean His flesh!  “And the Jews then disputed among themselves saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  They were shocked, they were outraged, they were offended.  So Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you I’m only speaking figuratively.”  No, He doesn’t say that … [laughter] … That’s what I expected Him to say!  Because that’s what I would’ve said!  And that’s what I would’ve had Him say but it wasn’t what He said!  I’m looking at it and I’m thinking, this must be a mistake so I got out the Greek New Testament and I’m reading along with the English and sure enough, He says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you.”  He offended them even more!  … He turned around and said it a second time!  [Quotes John 6:54-56] Not once, not twice, not three, but four times Jesus said this and shocked the followers.  Thousands of people who had just been fed miraculously are so outraged, [Quoting John 6:60] “… many of the disciples when they heard this said ‘This is a hard saying, who can endure it?’  But Jesus knowing in Himself that His disciples murmured …” said to them, what?  Well if He was only speaking figuratively, as a teacher, He would have been obliged to say ‘I’m only speaking figuratively’.  That’s what He could’ve done, that’s what He would’ve done, that’s what He should’ve done but He didn’t.  He went on to say it again and again and again.

The first thing to note is that the passage often referred to as ‘The Bread of Life Discourse’ doesn’t begin at John 6:51, but rather, John 6:22.  The reason this is important is because those previous verses are keys to understanding the rest of the text.  While I agree with Dr. Hahn that Jesus isn’t speaking figuratively in the sense that these things are purely symbolic, I disagree with the idea that Jesus is speaking in a literal sense that makes transubstantiation true.  Rather, Jesus is speaking spiritually, of the greater reality; in fact, in John 6:63 Jesus states “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. ”  As I hope to help make clear, the entire passage is given to demonstrate that Jesus is bringing to light a major distinction between the works of the flesh and the trust of the spirit and, what’s more, there was a work of His that at this time was yet to take place – a final completed work, once for all that the failure of His listeners to trust in had eschatological consequences.

Setting Up the Dialogue

In the next few seconds of the talk Dr. Hahn suggests that the crowds left because they didn’t like the fact that Jesus was talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but there’s more to it than that.  To start with, we need to have a proper sense of the setting.  The first thing to note is that the dialogue in question is taking place the day after the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6:5-15.  After that miracle, the crowds were making a confession that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus withdraws in order to avoid being made king.  That evening (John 6:16-21) is the famous walk on the water and the next day (John 6:22) the people who were left after the previous days events were looking for Jesus.

There are some things to note about the crowds, specifically, who they were and why they were there.  John 6:2 states that they were following Jesus because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. The next day when they went to Capernaum and found Jesus on the other side of the sea, Jesus doesn’t mince words, he says in John 6:26 “…you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”  This is a direct linkage to the feeding of the 5,000.  These people were seeking after him at this point because they were physically hungry, physically wanting food, the previous day Jesus provided it, they want Him to do it again and now Jesus was calling them out on it.

As for who these people were there are several indications that this is a mix of people.  For starters, we know Jesus’ disciples were there from John 6:67.  There was also a greater following of people who recognized Jesus that are being referred to as disciples outside of the common 12 that we refer to from John 6:66.  Furthermore, the term ‘The Jews’ from John 6:41, 52 demonstrates that the group commonly thought of as Jesus’ opposition is in the midst and questioning Him.  Finally, we can presume because the Jewish people are being identified that there is probably a mixture of people of other ethnicities in the crowd as well.

One more item that should be brought up to round out the context is the fact that John 6:4 states that the time of Passover was at hand.  As Dr. Hahn points out in his talk, this helps to establish some linkage back to the Passover in Exodus as a type.  While Passover was to commemorate the rescue of the Israelites by God from slavery in Egypt, there was yet an ultimate fulfillment about to take place, as G. L. Borchert says:

The time of this text was Passover, the strategic historical time when God saved his people from slavery in Egypt. But Passover for John was also the time when God had provided the ultimate rescue through the Savior of the world (cf. the confession at John 4:42). The comparison with Moses was clearly intended as the evangelist brought together a number of themes in this chapter.1

The crowds were hungry, they wanted food.  The Jews in the crowd would have grown up with the Torah and the Prophets and they certainly understood the pattern that was going on as they point out in John 6:31 that their fathers ate the manna from the wilderness wanderings.  There is an interplay that Jesus is constantly making between physically eating the manna and physically eating the bread that he had just miraculously given to them the day before.  John 6:41-42 reminds us of Exodus 15:24 and Exodus 16:2-3 where God continues to miraculously provide for the Israelites but they continue to grumble against Moses.  This should start to resonate that Jesus is speaking of the greater spiritual reality; He’s pointing out to the crowds that physically ‘doing‘ anything is of no value to eternal life.

What Must We Do?

The people were just miraculously fed the day before.  Jesus tells them they need to ‘work’ for the food that endures but they would rather seek the food that perishes (John 6:27).  Understand their question, they ask Jesus what they need to do to do the works of God and Jesus responds by saying “you need to believe in Him whom He has sent.”  We have to note the contrast between the question and the response.

The Jews in the Gospels are phenomenal keepers of the law.  Acceptability with God was about physically doing.  But what good is the letter of the law if the spirit of the law is avoided?  Echoing back to the wilderness wanderings immediately after the Passover: the Israelites wanted food.  There was no trust that the God who had miraculously rescued them was going to provide for them.  Instead, they grumbled against the very one who continued to demonstrate to them that they needed to trust in God!  When Jesus tells the crowd that the work they should be doing is trusting in Him they demand another sign.  Why?  Because they are looking for something else to ‘do‘ in order to gain acceptance.  They think that physically eating the bread that was provided the previous day was their belief!  They point back to the fact that their fathers ate the manna that was provided, obviously they ate the bread that was provided yesterday, but now Jesus is saying that wasn’t good enough so they need another sign in order respond by ‘doing‘ the results of the sign!

Time and time again Jesus seemingly gets frustrated with the disciples and others He teaches.2  They cannot seem to grasp the concept of trusting in Him in place of actually demonstrating something for acceptance.  This is important because even though I’m primarily discussing Catholic doctrine for these posts, much of denominationalism is caught up in the same legalistic problems.  But as Jesus confirms, this thinking has eschatological concerns.  Apart from consistently aligning this belief to eternal life, in John 6:39, 40, 44 Jesus specifically references ‘The Last Day’ and in John 6:45 He reaches back to Isaiah 54:13, linking this to the Messianic age.  Clearly Jesus is speaking about something that goes beyond the temporal and beyond locality.

Belief and Eternal Life

Throughout ‘The Bread of Life Discourse’ Jesus gives a stipulation and a result.  Jesus continually gives comparisons to this structure which, to our ears, sounds as though He is repeating Himself but in reality He is repeating and amplifying in order to stress a point.  Looking at John 6:27-29 to start with:

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

As previously noted the work they were seeking was eating the bread that Jesus provided.  Jesus corrects them: the work they should be doing is believing in Him.  They don’t get it – even after He explains it they ask for the bread.  Jesus responds by saying that He is the bread of life.  John 6:34-36:

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

Notice their statement: give us this bread always.  They are still seeking something physical and continual, something they think that Jesus possesses.  But what Jesus responds with is more than physical and temporary, it is eternal.  He says that He is the bread of life, whoever comes to Him shall not hunger and whoever believes in Him shall not thirst.  So how do you partake in the bread of life?  By believing in Him!  Jesus reiterates in verse 36, this is not merely physical, this is not merely seeing, it is believing since they saw and yet do not believe.

We can say that to come and to believe are parallel in meaning.  It is like saying “He who comes and believes in me will never hunger or thirst.”  The same idea occurs in John 6:40 where Jesus says:

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Now we see that if you look on the Son and believe in Him that you will have eternal life.  Again, in John 6:41-42 we see the Jews grumble because they are interpreting all of this physically but Jesus continues to point them toward the spiritual reality and again we see in John 6:47 “…whoever believes has eternal life.”  Finally we come to John 6:51 and Jesus says that He is the living bread and if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever and the bread that Jesus will give for the life of the world is His flesh.  This is where Dr. Hahn picked up the passage and we read in John 6:53-58:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

This is not physically eating and drinking a wafer and wine.  This is not physically eating the body and blood of Christ.  The act of trusting and believing is what Jesus means when He says to eat and drink his flesh and blood.  Further, and more specifically, this flesh and blood, representative of the bread of life, has been given for the life of the world (John 6:51) which is the crucifixion of Christ.  It is belief, or trust, in the completed, one time work of Christ, that leads to eternal life.  To put all of these together:

John 6:35
…whoever comes to me shall not hunger
…whoever believes in me shall not thirst
John 6:40
…everyone who looks on the Son should have eternal life, I will raise him up on the last day
(everyone who) believes in him
John 6:47
…whoever believes has eternal life
John 6:54
Whoever feeds on my flesh has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day
and drinks my blood
John 6:58
Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever

 

As the above table demonstrates there is either a greater reality to what Jesus is saying or the passage is in disagreement with itself.  They cannot both be true.  To eat His flesh and drink His blood is to believe in Him.  To believe in Him is to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  To come to Him is to believe in Him, and to look on Him is to believe in Him.  In Dr. Hahn’s talk, he seemed to point to Augustine numerous times to validate what he was reading and understanding.  While I don’t believe we should ever rely on a teacher to validate our understanding of Scripture but instead should rely on Scripture to validate the teacher (Acts 17:11) I want to point out that Augustine seemed to come to the same conclusions as stated here:

For to believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food. 3
Who Can Comprehend It?

In John 6:60 the disciples retorted to what Jesus was saying with “This is a hard saying, who can comprehend it?”  Jesus responds by pointing to His ascension “what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”  Why would Jesus respond this way?  Why is he pointing to His ascension?  When Jesus asks “Does this offend you?” in John 6:61 the question is asked with a subject and that subject is identified in John 6:64 where he states “But there are some of you who do not believe.”  Some translations render it “Does this make you want to give up your faith?”  The disciples were grappling with what they had just heard and Jesus responds by pointing to His ascension.

Dr. Hahn thinks that they are wrestling with this passage because Jesus is talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood in a literal sense.  I believe this is mistaken.  Jesus has just told them that He’s giving up his life for the world (John 6:51).  The Jews of the time had little to no concept of a dying and resurrected messiah.  Clearly, those who refused to believe indeed turned away in John 6:66.  This is why when Jesus asks the 12 in John 6:67 if they want to go as well Peter confesses “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Those who turned away refused to believe that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.  Not because Jesus said they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood but because He was going to die.  This was the same group who confessed He was the messiah and wanted to make Him king in John 6:14-15!  But then He told them that their ‘doing’ was wrong and that their messiah was giving up His life.  That was the hard teaching.  That is why the crowd left.  That is why Jesus responds with the ascension and that is why Peter responds by confessing that they do believe and have come to know, He has the words of eternal life and is the Holy One of God.

To Eat and Believe

It is reasonable to wonder at this point and in summation why Jesus chose this language.  It seems bizarre to modern ears that Jesus would be talking about faith and trust in Him and equating it with eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  I believe this is because of idiomatic terms from Scripture that his listeners would have recognized.  In Jeremiah 15:16 we read:

Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O LORD, God of hosts.

Note some of the language and how it relates to what Jesus was saying in the passage.  The idea of eating words and the words becoming a joy.  Another passage to look at is Ezekiel 3:1-4:

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them.”

Again we have this idea of eating words and this time they were sweet as honey.  This as well relates to other passages.  Psalm 19:9-11 reads:

The fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

And again Psalm 119:103-104:

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.

These are connections to understanding, believing, trusting the word of God and in these passages we see the idea of consuming them that they become a part of our being.  To close back in the Gospel of John we read in John 1:1, 14:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us

These are idioms meant to drive the listener and reader to utter trust in God that His doctrine and teaching is consumed in a manner that our thinking will line up with His thinking, that His ways will become our ways.

In Conclusion

I believe the doctrine of transubstantiation held and taught by the Catholic church and, subsequently, Dr. Hahn’s position, is untenable.  It simply doesn’t conform with the reading of John 6 and the other idioms in Scripture.  What’s more, the implications and propositions that stem from transubstantiation lead to biblical disharmony which will be discussed in the next post.

  1. Borchert, G. L. (1996). Vol. 25A: John 1–11. The New American Commentary (251). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  2. See Mark 8:17-18, 3:1-6; Matthew 12:1-14, 12:38-42, 23:1-39
  3. Augustine of Hippo. (1888). Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John J. Gibb & J. Innes, Trans.). In P. Schaff (Ed.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume VII: St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies (P. Schaff, Ed.) (168). New York: Christian Literature Company.

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© 2011-2017 David Christopher. This post along with all content on this site (except citations) is the property of davidchristopher.net and is made available for individual and personal use. Please give appropriate citation along with a link to the URL and the date it was obtained.

Aug 072012
 
This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series The Lamb's Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn

One of the greatest and most often cited doctrinal issues that protestantism has with Catholicism is transubstantiation.  Transubstantiation is “the doctrine that the substance of the Eucharistic elements is converted into the body and blood of Christ at consecration, only the appearances of bread and wine still remaining.”1  To put it more simply, this is the belief that the wafer and wine taken at mass is literally turned into the body and blood of Christ by the priest who is performing the consecration.  In the Vatican’s own catechism it states:

1411 Only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord.

1412 The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper: “This is my body which will be given up for you…. This is the cup of my blood….”

1413 By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).2

Some may ask what the problem is if this is what Catholic tradition upholds since what one believes about communion is considered a non-essential issue.  On the surface, that is a reasonable question, but we need to understand that what we believe about certain items in our faith will always have propositions associated with them, even if only by implication.  In the case of transubstantiation, there are numerous implications that should raise some concerns for anyone who is wishing to think properly about their faith.  Jesus said in Luke 10:27 to “Love the LORD your God … with all your mind” and sometimes when it comes to our faith we have a tendency to turn our minds off.  As Christians, we have no excuse to close ourselves off from critical thinking.

Let Him Be Anathema

It should be noted that the Council of Trent proclaims that anyone who does not believe in transubstantiation is to be accursed:

CANON I.-If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.3

It is clear that Catholic doctrine holds the issue of how one feels about the Eucharist to be a damnable offense and 400 years hasn’t changed that.  Pope Benedict XVI has reaffirmed that the precepts of the Council of Trent continue to today4.  So the Catholic Church holds the doctrine of the Eucharist (in particular, transubstantiation) to an extremely high regard, as did the reformation; the Council of Trent was predominantly answering the issues that the reformation had been bringing to light.

Repeated Offerings

In Dr. Hahn’s lecture, he doesn’t spend much time in defense of the Catholic Mass but rather spends the bulk of the talk proclaiming it while discussing his conversion from Evangelicalism to Catholicism.  He discusses a bit of John 6 without getting into too much detail but doesn’t do much by way of answering the allegations that have been made in regards to transubstantiation.  In track 3 at the 1:29 mark, while talking about his conversion as a teenager (prior to becoming Catholic) he states:

…because for me, the mass was something that was contrary to Scripture.  As a teenager I experienced the grace of conversion and I began to get more involved in Bible study, but the information I received was such that I believed that the Catholics believed that they were re-crucifying Jesus in the Mass and so I had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it.

One of the main contentions Evangelical Christianity has with transubstantiation is the issue that Christ has already been crucified and that to offer His body and blood up for atonement again and again is to reject the one time sacrifice that was made at Calvary.  As the next few posts will address, there are some major doctrinal issues that stem from the belief in transubstantiation.

  1. Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  3. The Council of Trent; The Thirteenth Session; On the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. This is one of 11 anathema’s concerning the Eucharist.  The final pronouncement is excommunication from the Church.
  4. Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church

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© 2011-2017 David Christopher. This post along with all content on this site (except citations) is the property of davidchristopher.net and is made available for individual and personal use. Please give appropriate citation along with a link to the URL and the date it was obtained.

Aug 022012
 
This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series The Lamb's Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn

The Lamb's Supper by Dr. Scott HahnThe Lamb’s Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn (the lecture from Lighthouse Catholic Media, not the book) is the 1st of 4 lectures that were given to me by a family friend.  In it, Dr. Hahn introduces and discusses typology in Scripture, in particular, as it relates to the Passover, the Catholic Mass and the Book of Revelation.  This is certainly no small task and Dr. Hahn does a great job at introducing what are sometimes foreign concepts to western thinking and hermeneutics.  I was actually pleasantly surprised when Dr. Hahn began discussing numerous types in Passover as they relate to Christ’s Sacrifice and the Gospel accounts that we often take for granted.  I have a certain attachment for types and patterns in Scripture since they were used to play such a major part in my own salvation.  While that definitely affected my appreciation for the main theme of the lecture, it didn’t help alleviate some of the major doctrinal issues that were largely brushed aside in regards to the Eucharist which will be discussed in subsequent posts.  For now, I want to look at the lecture as a whole and give some initial thoughts to some of what was said.

This discussion is largely centered around Dr. Hahn’s personal conversion from Protestant or Evangelical Christianity to Catholicism.  Dr. Hahn was a Presbyterian minister for a short period of time and while in college began studying the early church fathers (though he primarily talks of Augustine) and thought that they sounded ‘more Catholic than Protestant.’  It is this framework that does much of the driving of the talk.  I think the breakdown of the talk can be put into three major parts:

Part 1: Intro to Types, particularly the Passover, Christ’s ministry and sacrifice
Part 2: John 6, Passover, the Catholic Mass and Augustine
Part 3: The Catholic Mass and its parallels to the Book of Revelation

Studying Revelation

When Dr. Hahn first got interested in Bible Study he had read Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth in the early 1970’s and had been convinced that the rapture was going to take place at any moment.  After a few studies of Revelation that lasted 3 or 4 months each, he and his friends became a bit disenchanted with the book and prophecy in general, primarily because none of the events that they understood to be right around the corner had taken place.  Eventually he went to college and after 4 years had felt he had a master of biblical (Koine) Greek.  He was then given a task to translate the book of Revelation from the original Greek into English.  At this point he makes several remarks that left me scratching my head.  Beginning on track 4 at the 1:201 mark he states:

By the time I was done translating 22 chapters of the Apocalypse into English, it dawned on me, the word ‘rapture’ doesn’t even occur a single time in the entire book.

Well, that’s not true, the word occurs in Revelation 12:5 while speaking of the man-child being caught up to God and His Throne2.  This is probably a direct reference to what took place in Acts 1:6-11 and possibly even to the body of Christ (the church) being taken up in the moment often referred to as the rapture.  Now if Dr. Hahn was simply meaning that the English word ‘rapture’ doesn’t exist in the book of Revelation, then that’s really just a matter of translation choice but to state that the word in the original Greek isn’t there is false.

But this brings up another, perhaps even more important, point, namely that when we give a doctrine or teaching a name in order to more easily refer to that particular doctrine, that doesn’t mean the name must occur in Scripture.  I highly doubt that Dr. Hahn would argue against the doctrine of the Trinity but you’d be hard pressed to find the word ‘trinity’ in Scripture.  And it’s not just the word ‘rapture’ that he does this with.  He continues:

The word ‘antichrist’ doesn’t occur a single time in the entire book!  And the Battle of Armageddon [unintelligible] only occurs once, near the end, and the millennium, the 1,000 year reign, that only is mentioned once, at the very back of the book!  And yet we had been building all of these elaborate and complex interpretations with all of these sensationalistic expectations, I was so glad … to be able to read God’s word in the original language and to really understand that a lot of people draw a lot of attention by sensationalizing the Bible.

Well, to the overall point, there is definitely some truth.  I think primarily in terms of people like Harold Camping in this regard but just because there is a lot of sensationalizing going on, it doesn’t mean the doctrines that are being used are wrong in and of themselves.  Now, granted, this talk isn’t the place for Dr. Hahn to give a full evaluation of these things, but it does come across to me as a bit misleading, whether intended or not.

Dr. Hahn gives 3 other items in this statement, The Antichrist, the Battle of Armageddon and the Millennium, to which he’s taking issue with the number of occurrences in Revelation.  I really don’t know what his point is since we don’t base doctrine on how often a term or idea occurs in any one place in Scripture.  The term ‘The Antichrist’ is simply a title that we’ve given to the seed of the serpent first referenced in Genesis 3:15.  There are various titles given to this character throughout Scripture.  In Revelation he is called ‘The Dragon’ and the ‘First Beast’.  As for the Battle of Armageddon, it only occurs once which, incidentally, is where Christ returns for the millennial reign, because it actually happens towards the end of Revelation.  There’s no reason this needs to be mentioned multiple times outside the context of when it actually occurs.

But what’s even more surprising about these terms and Dr. Hahn’s dismissive attitude about them is the fact that he is going to spend a great deal of time discussing typology.  It’s a bit ironic that he sarcastically brings these topics to light only to brush them aside in a discussion about typology when these particular topics are heavily rooted in types that go as far back as the beginnings of Genesis.

Dr. Hahn is going to make a big deal about Passover, the Catholic Mass, and Revelation all being paralleled together in a form of types.  It makes sense that he would start his talk in regard to his initial let down while studying Revelation, but the direction he takes it seems to be arguing against claims that aren’t being made.

Introducing the Early Church Fathers

It’s at this point that Dr. Hahn gets into his own discovery of the early church fathers and how they taught and discussed Scripture.  I can sympathize with him greatly when he talks about reading Augustine and Chrysostom because his feelings reflect a lot of my own when I first heard about parallels in Scripture that made the Bible come to life.  It was after studying and hearing about so much of these types, things that I had never heard before, even though I had grown up in a Christian home with a father who was a minister, that I eventually had to confess that there was simply no way the Bible was just a man-made book.

One thing in particular about this that Dr. Hahn continually brought up is the idea that the early church fathers ‘sounded too Catholic.’  I’m not quite sure what he means by that.  Of course Catholicism has roots in biblical Christianity and has managed to keep tradition alive for the Catholic Church.  But is it that the early church fathers sound Catholic or that the Catholic church has simply managed to retain some of the liturgy that has been passed down through the centuries?  I gather the latter since the rise of Rome was really taking place at the time the Nicene fathers were writing unless you believe in the Petrine succession of the Papacy, but that’s another discussion.  One could argue many of the early church fathers sounded Jewish, but that doesn’t mean they were practicing Judaism.  Quite the contrary.  In that example Christianity rose out of Judaism and so the teaching and writing styles will inevitably reflect that.

But there’s another issue that I have with what Dr. Hahn is alluding to.  He seems to suggest that it’s Catholic tradition to teach the whole of Scripture and study typology.  I really don’t know where he gets this from.  I can only imagine his instruction in Christianity was somewhat limited prior to his studying the early church fathers.  Granted, much of denominational Christianity has lost some of the most basic hermeneutics that bring Scripture to life but its far from being nonexistent.  There are many teachers today in Evangelical Christianity that teach the types, patterns and illustrations of Scripture along with the early church fathers.  In fact, the entire Hebrew Roots/Messianic movement, while not identifying itself with Evangelical Christianity, has had a major influence on it while reigniting a desire to learn more about the Jewish roots of the faith.  Indeed, it was much of this type of teaching that played a role in my own conversion and I never once thought I should be Catholic.  In the end, it’s not Catholicism that we’re indebted to in this regard, it’s the Jews!

John 6 and the Eucharist

The major thrust of the lecture is the mass and the Eucharist.  What I was most interested to hear in this talk was an apologetic for Catholicisms teaching on this Sacrament but there wasn’t much there by way of defense.  In the posts to follow, I’ll address Dr. Hahn’s discussion of John 6, the main contentions protestantism has regarding the Eucharist along with some of what Augustine said.

  1. The CD I was given is broken up into 5 minute segments; I’m referring to each segment as a track
  2. The English word ‘rapture’ comes from the Latin ‘rapio’.  That word ‘rapio’ was actually translated from the Greek ἁρπάζω (harpazo).  English translations often translate it as being ‘caught up’ or ‘snatched’.

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