Wednesday, August 20, 2008

further silencing of the silent treatment

Recently, I posted on the matter of how thinking about the Deuterocanonical (aka "Apocryphal") books does not just involve the acceptance or denial of particular data on religion, but that it also leads us to realize that God does not leave us for periods of time with no voice except for His written word. But what about periods of time where no authors of the Old Testament lived? There are less gaps in time when one accepts the Deuterocanonical books, but there are still gaps if one looks at when various authors lived. The idea that His fatherly care includes leaving a faithful witness to speak His word orally as well as in written form challenges the principle that since Christ's resurrection we are left to interpret and canonize Scripture on our own. It is the logical conclusion, of course, from thinking that no established religious order such as the Papacy or the priesthood (etc.) would be granted a gift of speaking or interpreting Revelation. But is it valid?

There are many sources of debate on this matter, and I am currently investigating these points of contention. In so doing, I was listening to some lectures on sola scriptura by Scott Hahn, and was pointed to a very interesting passage in the Gospel of John, in chapter 11.

47So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." 49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all. 50Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." 51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

Here we see that John takes a huge point for granted. He argues that as high priest, Caiaphas spoke prophecy by the nature of his office. Despite the fact that he plotted "eliminating" the problem of Jesus, he was still able to speak prophecy. In a sort of double entendre, Caiaphas' words meant that he was both approving the conspiracy to frame Jesus for a crime and speaking of Christ's sacrifice for our sins.

I do not have the time nor the space to argue whether this gift applies to the Papacy or other extrapolations from this basic point. The main thing that I would ask you to think about is this basic idea of how God has spoken to His people. Many have said that the Old Testament period was one plagued by the faithful fighting the establishment, and that where we stand today is no different. This passage shows that despite personal failings, the high priest of Israel was given a gift to speak prophecy.

It is similar to what Christ said to His disciples in Matthew 23:

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do.

The leaders of God's people historically provided a basis for sorting out disagreements by speaking reliable words to the point that even while they opposed Christ, Christ was able to commend their words (but NOT their actions) to His disciples.
And so we see that the idea that history is full of silent periods where we are left with sayings from the past is even further silenced.

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing Your truth to all ages. Open our eyes to see all of Your truth.

1 comment:

Mark Ryland said...

What's also fascinating about "the seat of Moses" comment is that (as Hahn points out) it demonstrates an authoritative oral tradition in the OT era. There is *scriptural* antecedent to Our Lord's reference to "the seat of Moses" as a metaphor/name for the teaching authority of the leaders of the people of Isreal. Yet Our Lord and all his listeners knew exactly to what he was referring. So there must have been an authoritative (since it was off-handedly confirmed by the Son of God), traditional, uninscripturated understanding of that phrase and its meaning. It must have been a "development of doctrine" within the community during the OT era. (As I vaguely recall Hahn gives other examples of this kind of thing in the NT, such as Our Lord quoting a Patriarch or Profit as saying something that is not found anywhere in the OT.)