Papacy in Scripture IV: Israel’s Royal Steward

Keys of the KingdomWe’ve already taken a look at the basic structure of the Davidic Kingdom, but now I want to highlight a passage in the OT that focuses on the royal steward to the Kingdom of David (which in 1 & 2 Chronicles is called the Kingdom of YHWH, or the Kingdom of the Lord).

Isaiah 22:20-24 reads: “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father. All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots–all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars” (NIV). 

The broader context of this passage pertains to the Davidic King Hezekiah’s royal steward Shebna being replaced by Eliakim. The royal steward was distinguished from other royal officers by the possession of the key/s to the kingdom, in this case the royal house of David. The keys represented the supreme authority the steward wielded as the king’s representative. The keys are not merely symbolic of royal authority, however, but also of dynastic succession. Notice that Eliakim is replacing Shebna as his successor. Notice too that although the keys belong to David, at this point David has been dead for over 200 years. The symbol of the keys passes down from royal steward to royal steward, even though they belong to the king. We will see this image again in the NT, where the keys of the kingdom belong to Jesus (Revelation 3:7 even calls this symbol the “key of David,” NIV). We shall see how Jesus imparts these keys to Peter (Matthew 16:19) in a later post.

Also, notice how, like Joseph to Pharaoh, Eliakim too is called an av, a “father”  (a pope) to the house of Judah (the Davidic Kingdom) and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

A final note. Eliakim in this passage parallels Peter in Matthew 16 in a number of ways which we shall highlight in future posts, but one way which is often ignored by scholars is in their “fall” accounts. In Isaiah 22:25, immediately following the account of Eliakim’s installation as royal steward, we read about his fall. Likewise, in Matthew 16, immediately following Peter’s installation as Jesus’ royal steward, Jesus rebukes Peter as a “satan,” a stumbling block, an obstacle. Indeed, in the Gospels we follow Peter and see his 3-fold denial of Jesus. But then Jesus restores Peter to his position in John 21:15-17, which we shall discuss in more detail later.



Ray, Stephen K. Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999.

Academic Works:

Martin-Achard, Robert. “L’oracle contre Shebnâ et le pouvoir des clefs, Es. 22, 15-25.” Revue de thâeologie et de philosophie 11 (1977): 241-254.

Willis, John T. “Historical Issues in Isaiah 22, 15-25.” Biblica 74, no. 1 (1993): 60-70.

Willis, John T. “Textual and Linguistic Issues in Isaiah 22, 15-25.” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 105, no. 3 (1993): 377-399.

8 thoughts on “Papacy in Scripture IV: Israel’s Royal Steward”

  1. Can I just ask one small question? How do we explain the fact that Isaiah 22 and Revelation 3 use the singular key, while in Matthew 16 Jesus uses the plural “keys”?

    I’ve heard some people use this as an argument against the Isaiah 22/Matthew 16 correlation. I don’t think it refutes your argument, but I’d like to know how you would respond.

  2. Dear Stephen,

    Thanks for your question!!! My short answer is that I don’t think the distinction between the singular and the plural is very important here. I think the symbolism of key itself (and the idea of locking or unlocking or in Isaiah of opening and shutting, and in Matthew of binding and loosing) are more significant. The key/s function as a status symbol much like Joseph’s ring, but here they link with opening/shutting and binding/loosing.

    There does seem to be a link between the opening and shutting of Isaiah with the rabbinic binding and loosing (which is probably the immediate background for Matthew 16), as implied in texts like Sifre Deuteronomy, where the rabbinic idea which in many texts is called binding and loosing is explicitly linked to Isaiah 22. This is of course contested, as are virtually all scholarly arguments. In light of that, it is pretty interesting how many Protestant scholars have actually seen Isaiah 22 as the OT background for Matthew 16.

    I should mention here that the Syriac version of Isaiah 22 actually has keys in the plural.

    Moreover, although Revelation 3:7 has key in the singular (like the Hebrew of Isaiah 22…in the Greek of Isaiah, there’s no mention of any key/s at all), Revelation 1:18 (like Matthew 16) uses plural keys (in this case of death and Hades). Most scholars see Isa 22 in the background here even though the keys are plural. In earlier Jewish literature, Targums (as well as pseudepigrapha like 2 Enoch) keys or key appear somewhat interchangeable. So in one Targum of Deut. it is singular key of life and death (tombs), and in 2 Enoch it is plural keys of hell.

    The textual tradition on these passages from Revelation is actually rather interesting, since in some manuscripts Hades is put in both verses and there is no mention of David at all. I think Revelation 3:7 and 1:18 are linked. They emphasize that the key of the house of David (a royal house, a kingdom) is in control of death. Moreover, they are Jesus’ keys, as the true Davidic king.

    Although a number of evangelical scholars link Eliakim with Jesus here in Revelation, I think that analogy breaks down quickly. I think the analogy is with David and Jesus. The Messiah was to be the son of David. David, and his sons (and their sons, and their sons), e.g., Solomon (and David’s great…etc. grandson Hezekiah) are the ones who lead to Jesus. Eliakim is Hezekiah’s steward. Hezekiah does not represent God the father, but Jesus, the King of the Kingdom. Thus, the point of Revelation, here, is that these keys (or key) belong to Jesus. They’re His. Matthew 16, as we shall see, represents Jesus’ promise to give them over to Peter.

    Now, in the patristic tradition, St. Ephrem sees the plural keys in Matthew as pertaining to both heaven and earth. Aphrahat seems to be aware of a similar tradition, but I think Aphrahat’s interpretation is a little more problematic, since although Aphrahat concedes that Jesus gives the keys (and thus the authority of His kingdom) to Peter, Aphrahat typologically links David to Jesus and Solomon to Peter. There are ways in which this could work, but I think that analogy is less sturdy. Of course, both Aphrahat and Ephrem are reading the Bible in Syriac, so they would only be aware of a singular key in Revelation 3 (the Syriac there is singular) whereas in their version of Isaiah, Matthew, and Rev. 1, the keys would be plural, unless they were using a different Syriac manuscript tradition than any of which I’m aware.

    This was probably a longer answer than you wanted. In short, I’m not claiming the parallels are exact, word-for-word (they rarely are in the Bible), but rather the ideas and context strengthen the interpretation. Davidic kings had royal officers (Solomon had 12, compare with Jesus’ 12 apostles), in addition they had a single royal steward (Eliakim in Isa 22, Peter in Matt 16 who comes from among the 12) who alone can open and shut (rabbinic bind and loose). More on all of this in later posts.

    Thanks for your question.


  3. Jeff, this is fascinating stuff to be sure. You haven’t laid out a full-blown argument yet, but your trajectory is clear, so I’ll just make a few comments in passing. As I mentioned in one of my early posts, I think that at least some of what Rome does is adorn and prop up its claims by borrowing from the wealth of images and types that surround Christ. In other words, properties that, I would argue, strictly belong to Christ alone are somehow mapped onto the Roman Bishop and his successors. And to a certain extent, I don’t think you would disagree with this. What else would it mean for a single individual to be the vicar of Christ on earth? The million dollar question is, we all agree, is this warranted, and how can we know for sure?

    But let me get to some of the specifics of the case as it currently stands. The first thing that I would offer is more of a cautionary statement than a direct critique. One thing that I see you doing is this: You observe a variety of roles and offices in the Old Testament and look for the structures or at least the the multiplicity to be mirrored on the other side of the coming of the Christ. That sounds confusing even to me, so let me give you examples. What I mean is this: You see Moses and you see Aaron and conclude (if I understand one of your earlier posts) that Peter is to Jesus as Aaron is to Moses. You see Kings and royal stewards and do the same. However, what I would have you consider is that the New Testament prevents us from making these kind of hasty judgements.

    This is an old problem, of course. As you are, I’m sure, well aware, before the advent of Christ there were many Jews who were expecting “the Prophet”, as well as a “Kingly Messiah” and a separate “Priestly Messiah.” They didn’t realize that “the Coming One” would be the consummation of all that was foreshadowed in the prophets, priests and kings of Israel (and much else). He would be both the great “Prophet like Moses” promised in Deuteronomy, the Great eternal High Priest to supersede all priests in the order of Melchizedek, and the long awaited Davidic King with an everlasting throne. This was of course prefigured in places like Zechariah 3 (Where the Joshua the Hight Priest is crowned and said to be symbolic of “the Branch” who was to come).

    So I would caution you against falling into the ancient trap of taking the multivalent character of Christ’s fulfillment and splintering it into fragments that we can then plug into our theories to make them work. This is an old mistake that has been made and corrected by the New Testament.

    Nevertheless, I will not dismiss your reading of Isaiah 22 out of hand. In fact, I agree that it is entirely possible that this verse is in view in Matthew 16. I still think that given that Christ applies this passage directly to himself in Revelation 3:7, at the very least we have to say that Jesus and his incomprable office is the primary referent and principle fulfillment of this verse.

    Now, if you want to say Peter and the other Apostles had extraordiary ambassador like derivative authority confered upon them by Christ, I am the last person who will argue with you. (I am certain that we will get to this, but it should be clear that Jesus gave the power to loose and to bind to all of the apostles in Matthew 18:18. And I am sure you can imagine my view of what the keys to the kingdom are looks a lot more like the truth of the gospel entrusted to them and a lot less like some kind of cryptic transferable authority.) Of course, whether or not that kind of singular authority is to be transfered to “successors” is an altogether different matter. (A lot of the early fathers apply Matthew 16 to all of the bishops in Christendom, and I think that they have something there). But all in good time.

    Now you know that for me the buck stops with scripture and what you can demonstrate or deduce from good and necessary consequences of the text, but here is a question to mull over: Are there any early Christians (say the first half of the AD era) who applied this verse to the Bishop of Rome or used it to support the idea of succession as you define it? Or is this some kind of latter day gift of Romanist apologists to make the Papacy sound more essentially Biblical? I’m not trying to be difficult here, but this is a legitimate question we must ask ourselves, because there is a lot riding on your assertions (everything in fact, and for all of eternity – This is why I get so worked up. Can you blame me?)

    This next bit might be a tangent, but I have to let it out. On the topic of succession and transfer of authority I must note the following: One of the great ironies that just begs to be addressed vis a vis the Romanist position is that it does not seem to notice in the slightest that it’s very identity is constructed on a flat denial of some of the choices rays of glory that blaze forth from the pages of scripture. Whatever do I mean? To answer this we must ask ourselves what is so new and glorious about the New Covenant of Christ.

    Turn to the book of Hebrews and one of the things that you will quickly find is that one of the chief components (if we may speak in this way) of Christs glory is that the finality and perfection of what he has done will admit neither equals nor successors. His action as a great Hight Priest was so complete that there is no longer any need for a priesthood, much less another high priest. These are obsolete because we have a great and eternal mediator (For there is one mediator between, God and man, the man Jesus Christ. ~ Timothy 2:5 – This single verse should call into serious question a great deal of Roman dogma). His sacrifice is so perfect and full that no further sacrifice is needed (Hence the mass can in no wise be viewed as a propitiatory sacrifice. But I get ahead of myself.), his Kingship and governance so perfect that we should not look for an earthly ruler to wear the mantel of headship. We don’t need to look for a Steward of the House of God, a Chief Shepherd, a Bishop of bishops; We already have one. Seriously, put down the encyclicals and Hebrew Grammars and just read Hebrews some time. Again, this is an ancient error. Indeed, Israel asked for a “King like the Nations,” but when they did so God was displeased because they were effectively rejecting him as King. There is nothing new under the sun.

    While I am at it (I know I promised not to do this, but I’m going on vacation soon, and then you’ll have your break from my harangues), I must say that one thing that I find deeply troubling about your position is this: The nature of your “evidences” for how fundamental the Papacy is to scripture and Christianity are in no way commensurate with the seriousness of the claim you are making upon the soul of every man woman and child on the planet. What I mean is this: One of the beautiful things about scripture is that the things that are essential for our salvation are clearly attested to and, as it were, main and plain (Jesus is Lord, salvation comes to all who sincerely trust in what he accomplished through his life, death and resurrection etc.)
    Or, to quote men wiser than I:

    “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” (Westminster Confession of Faith 1.7)

    Yet, with the Papacy and numberless other things that the Romanists assert that I must believe (or suffer eternal loss and perdition), we get a long series of arguments, each of which, taken in isolation is merely possible (I wouldn’t even go so far as to say probable). To be certain, as I read things, there is a whole fascinating range in Roman Catholic argumentation from the “Yes I see your point, but it doesn’t really prove as much as you think it does and requires wild extrapolation, jumps in logic, and downplaying or ignoring counter-evidence” to the most tortured possible “exigesis” (as in the case with Marian teachings etc.) In other words, we have a number of things for which we can say “Well maybe it means that,” or “I guess that is a possible reading of that ” or “I can kind see it if I squint and look really hard and forget about the macro-context.” In the end it just seems like so much sophistry. But if you are going to tell me that the destiny of my eternal soul hinges upon this or that, it had better be as crystal clear as “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

    Now to be sure, I believe all kinds of things that I judge to be scriptural and true and important which are nowhere near as plain as the core truths of the faith. But I certainly believe that the essential truths of the gospel are, by design, plain. Yet Rome gives me absolutely nothing like this. Instead I get very enigmatic and idiosynratic readings of the Old Testament, very onesided and often unnatural readings of a few scattered bits in the New Testament, and cherry-picking among the church fathers. No one ever seems to ask “Does the entirety of the New Testament really present Peter as the first Pope?” or “Are we really to believe that the wonderful bit-part played by Mary gives any evidence that she is the near omnipotent, all-grace dispensing Mediatrix of the modern Roman teaching.” To say that this is perplexing is understatement in the extreme.

    The Bible as you know is wonderfully rich and employs wide variety of devices to convey truth. As you can tell from one of my earlier posts, I think that typology (the way that the Bible reveals and prefigures using various images and themes) can be incredibly powerful and beautiful in a poetic kind of way. However, I am thankful that God in his wisdom has given us very direct statments concerning the nature of the truth we must embrace in order to see everlasting life. In other words, in the Bible metaphorical, poetic and typological presentations of truth are wed with less oblique and more direct forms of address so that the truth will be sufficently clear. Yet with Rome I feel like I am always dealing with figures and fragments that could possibly mean what they say, but which are far from clear.

    Not to set myself up as the final arbiter of truth, but the fact that someone like me who has been reading scripture for my entire life can find Romish dogma’s so alien and even antithetical to scripture should at least make you wonder. I know that this is a subjective argument, but it should at minimum give you pause. Something is fishy I say.

    Nevertheless, let us speak plainly and not pull any punches; the Roman Church, in its more consistent moments, anathematizes and condemns those who do not hold to the Papacy and other distinctly Roman dogmas. Yes, I know that some of the more politically correct members of the Magisterium in recent days have told me that I can be a good Muslim or Jew or even a benighted Protestant and still find salvation by following the golden rule and adhereing to the tenets of my faith, but this is hardly a step towards coherence. Friends, in all sincerity, as I peer over the Tiber I see some nice museums, but I have to look away or my head will explode from the cognitive dissonance.

    Well, it’s late and I have already exceeded all of the limits of civil discourse and broken my resolution to stick to the topics at hand. Maybe I will do better the next go round. (But probably not) Blessings brothers.

  4. Dear Josh,

    Thank you so much for such a clear post which is both cogent and charitable. I appreciate the time you took to craft this response so well. I hope that we will answer all of your points in future posts, so stay tuned!

    A few comments for now. Although by beginning my posts on the papacy in Scripture with the OT, I may give the impression that I’m beginning from the OT and trying to see how these offices, etc. are fulfilled in the NT, however, my actual approach in my research on this topic was the opposite. When I began looking into the question of the papacy as an undergraduate, I examined NT claims about Peter. I tried studying all of the material in the NT on Peter and attempted to read it in its broader NT context. It was only then that I began to look to the OT for an even broader context in which to situate this NT material. I expanded this research greatly when I researched and wrote my masters thesis on Matthew 16, and looked as well to ancient Near Eastern and extra-biblical Jewish literature. Perhaps I should have begun my posts with the NT. I hope my argument becomes more persuasive when I reach the NT, but we shall see. I think all of your criticisms in this response are fair criticisms. I think there are misunderstandings embedded in your critique, and I certainly think we have disagreements, but I think they are fair.

    We will address the issue of priesthood and of Mary in later posts, as well as the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. Just to be clear, though, the Eucharist is a sacrifice from a Catholic perspective, ONLY because Jesus’ crucifixion was a sacrifice, and we believe that each and every Eucharist participates in that once-for-all sacrifice which we believe is perpetually present before God in heaven (more on this in future posts). In fact, it’s difficult to argue that a first century Jew would have recognized Jesus’ crucifixion as a sacrifice. Notice the Synoptics don’t give us much material at the crucifixion accounts to connect the dots. It’s in John’s Gospel that we see how clearly Jesus’ crucifixion was sacrificial, but I think John is able to do this because he was at the Last Supper, where, as recounted in the Synoptics (especially Luke) Jesus’ uses sacrificial language to describe the Eucharist. It’s the Eucharist that helped St. John see Jesus’ crucifixion as a sacrifice, and not simply the OT (although of course the OT helped). More on this in later posts. It’s not sufficient to claim that the Eucharist is not a sacrifice because Jesus’ crucifixion is the once-for-all sacrifice of the New Covenant, because that’s precisely the Catholic claim about the Eucharist. In other words, Catholics agree with you, that’s why they see the Eucharist as sacrificial in disagreement with you. For the Eucharist to not be sacrificial, the argument would have to be that the Eucharist is not connected with Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, in the way that Catholics believe they are connected.

    I am aware of the passages among the Fathers who read Matthew 16 in light of all bishops, which is how Eastern Orthodox theologians tend to read the passage to this day. The question about early Fathers interpreting passages the way that later medieval theologians (and modern ones too) read them is an important one.

    You ask if anyone in the first AD millennium understood Matthew 16 referring to the bishop of Rome. This is a complicated question, since the issue of the authority of the bishop of Rome as successor to St. Peter is not contested very much in that millennium (especially when compared to the Reformation and post-Reformation period). A number of Christian writers in the first millennium recognize St. Peter as receiving Jesus’ authority in Matthew 16. St. John Cassian (in the 4th and 5th centuries), in his work Against the Nestorians on the Incarnation, mentioned that Peter was given the key of the heavenly house, which, by the language he used, seems to be a reading of Isaiah 22 together with Matthew 16. Earlier, in the first half of the 4th century, Aphrahat saw Jesus’ kingdom being handed over to Peter in Matthew 16 (implied since Aphrahat uses the imagery of Jesus handing Simon the keys). Not much later, still in the 4th century, St. Ephrem too mentions that St. Peter received Christ’s authority of the Church. There are other examples too of Christians in the first millennium reading the primacy of Peter from the NT examples I’ll be discussing in future posts. As to St. Peter (like the other apostles) having successors, that’s explicitly discussed already in the 2nd century with St. Irenaeus. The primacy of Rome is also implied and explicit throughout the earliest centuries. St. Clement’s letter from Rome to the Eastern city of Corinth at the end of the First Century, and may possibly have been written when St. John the Evangelist was still alive (I’m open on this question), and it implies some sort of authority of Rome over this Eastern Church (even if Clement is not yet pope). St. Ignatius himself, writing early in the 2nd century, mentions the Church in Rome as having a special preeminence. St. John Chrysostom (in the fourth century) also saw St. Peter’s authority handed over to the Roman See. In the third century we have St. Cyprian who writes similar things regarding both the authority of St. Peter, as well as the authority of Rome. St. Augustine himself saw Matthew 16 as relating to St. Peter and St. Peter’s successors, who he lists, in his Letter to Generosus, near the end of the 4th century and beginning of the fifth. On the “rock” as St. Peter (which we’ll discuss in later posts), Tertullian (who coined the phrase “Trinity”) already held this position, that St. Peter is the rock, and did so before he moved into the more heretical period of his life, still in the late 2nd century/early 3rd century. Interestingly, Tertullian still holds the position of primacy of Peter, and links it with Matt 16’s giving of the keys and name change, already when he’s later moving towards Montanism, in the early 3rd century. Even later, as a full-blown Montanist, Tertullian assumes the primacy of the bishop of Rome specifically, and uses it to argue (mistakenly I would maintain) for his own theological position—and this still in the early 3rd century. It’s actually quite amazing how many “heretics” agreed with the “orthodox” on the primacy of Rome, and we often find both sides appealing to Rome to settle on disputed matters. Hilary of Poitiers also read Matt 16 in light of St. Peter’s primacy (in 4th century). These instances could be multiplied. Interpretations of Matt 16 in other ways do exist, but even then, a primacy of Rome is still accepted (even in the East). While we’re at it, it is interesting to note that even the Council of Chalcedon (451) sees St. Peter “speaking” through Pope Leo. These views are not as odd in the early centuries as they become after the Byzantine period in the East and after the Reformation in the West. I have written a little on this in my article I already cited in a previous post: [Jeffrey L. Morrow, “Papal Primacy in the Early Church: St. Augustine and the Case of Antoninus of Fussala,” Fides Quaerens Intellectum 2, no. 2 (2003): 305-326]. It would be good to remember that even the Eastern Orthodox accept papal primacy, they simply reject any papal primacy of jurisdiction, but they do accept a primacy of honor, since primacy is so firm in the history and tradition. I would argue that such a primacy of honor was also a primacy of jurisdiction. The best article by far that I have ever read on early Eastern views of papal primacy, and how their primacy of honor implied a primacy of jurisdiction, is: Brian E. Daley, “Position and Patronage in the Early Church: The Original Meaning of ‘Primacy of Honour,’” Journal of Theological Studies 44, no. 2 (1993): 529-553. As for a good introduction to the history of the primacy of Rome and of the papacy, I would recommend a popular book which I think I cited in this post or an earlier one: Ray, Stephen K. Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999, available on Amazon.

    We should also be clear that the Catholic Church does not teach that everyone who disagrees with the Church teaching on the papacy is going to hell. In fact, the Catholic Church believes that Eastern Orthodox Churches are real Churches, with real apostolic succession, with a real Eucharist, not to mention a real baptism. Even anathemas and excommunications do not “guarantee” hell.

    I sympathize with much of what you write, and agree with more than you might expect. But I think I disagree with you on the clarity of Scripture on matters concerning the “essential truths of the gospel.” Just look at the issue of salvation. Look at how many different churches, ecclesial communities, denominations claiming to be Christian disagree on what is necessary for salvation. Is water baptism necessary? Are good works necessary? Does one have not only to be baptized, but be baptized a certain way? Does one have to speak in tongues? Or can one just accept Jesus into their life? And, if just accept Jesus, must one accept Him as the Lord of their life in addition to their Savior, or is Savior (but not Lord of life) sufficient? These are all real debates that self-identified Christians and followers of Jesus have. And when we look at the Scripture material, we find good reasons for such disunity if all we had to go on was Scripture as a final authority:

    “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, NASB).

    “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 yourselves’” (John 6:53, NASB).

    “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

    “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

    “‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘….You know the commandments: “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.”’ And he said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.’ Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you posses and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’” (Mark 10:17-21, NASB).

    “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained’” (John 20:21-23, NASB).

    “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12, NASB).

    “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, NASB).

    “they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:14-16, NASB).

    “baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21, NASB).

    “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this” (1 John 5:16, NASB).

    “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2, NASB).

    “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NASB).

    “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8, NASB).

    “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24).

    “we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:16-17).

    These are not simple and clear. In fact, their meanings are hotly debated among Christians, and their relationship to the process (or is it just a point in time?) of salvation are much more difficult for Christians to figure out I think than one might expect if one holds to Scripture as the final authority.

    Somewhere in your post, you mentioned: “the fact that someone like me who has been reading scripture for my entire life can find Romish dogma’s so alien and even antithetical to scripture should at least make you wonder. I know that this is a subjective argument, but it should at minimum give you pause.” It might surprise you, but I actually really appreciated this comment from you. I know you, and you are a brother in the Lord that I really respect. In all sincerity I consider you an older brother in Christ. Of course, as you mention, your point here is a subjective one, but it’s a subjective one I take very seriously. At the same time, I also know (and know of) many people who felt and thought similar things as you regarding Catholicism who no longer feel or think this way. In many instances, they were not simply poorly educated evangelicals, but had been serious evangelicals for many years (decades in some instances), sometimes they were pastors or preachers, other times professors at evangelical or Baptist schools, or theology or Bible doctoral students, who all expressed similar concerns to the ones you are now expressing. All of them became Roman Catholic. Please don’t misunderstand me; I am NOT trying to sound triumphalistic. I am simply trying to point out that there are others out there who have been immersed in Scripture all their lives, in a number of cases preaching Scripture for years or even decades, who were as put off to Roman Catholicism as you are (in a few instances, it’s possible they were even more put off), and yet they became convinced (through prayer, Scripture study, studying history, etc.) the Lord was drawing them into the Catholic Church. For a number of my friends, and even more individuals who I know of but don’t know personally, these decisions entailed losing their jobs. In at least one case of an actual friend with several children who was a minister, he had to leave what he had thought was his vocation, and trust the Lord to help provide for his family without any job to turn to now that he was Catholic. And my friends’ stories are far from unique. A few years ago, in one city, four ordained female Methodist ministers “gave up” their ordination and entered the Catholic Church. One of them is a dear friend of mine, and I was able to watch her over the years as she followed the Lord on her journey. Of course for anyone convinced that Rome is wrong, these stories can sound like tragedies. My only point in sharing these brief details is that their decisions were not simple ones, nor were they easy ones. They had many obstacles, and although many of them became convinced of Catholicism on biblical and historical grounds, they weren’t simply out there trying to find support for Catholicism. These were often very painful and difficult decisions. In some instances, they split families apart. You may never share their convictions, nor appreciations for Catholicism, but they found something beyond the museums across the Tiber. They found the Jesus they had known for most of their lives waiting on the other side with open arms, and Mary His mother right there with Him (as she was at the crucifixion), and many many more elder brothers and sisters in the faith who together form part of the family of God, the Body of Christ. The museums do indeed have some nice things to appreciate. But the Eucharist….if what the Western & Eastern Catholic and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches teach about the Eucharist is true….

    I could say more, and I’ve written too much already. I did actually want to say something related to your comment here, and that is that Chesterton’s “democracy of the dead” should also give us some pause. You have faithfully read Scripture for many more years than I have, and you’ve been following Jesus for many more years than I have (this past December 5, marks my 12th year following Christ, praise God!!!), but so have so many other evangelicals (Reformed and otherwise) whom I know and who have become Roman Catholic. Their subjective experiences DO NOT outweigh yours, but neither does yours (nor those of all of my many other evangelical friends) outweigh theirs. But what does give me pause, is the fact that, when I read history, Christians before the Reformation seemed to have no problem with these things you find that you think are outside of Scripture. The veneration of relics, prayers offered to those Christians who have died, the belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as well as its sacrificial nature, the primacy of the bishop of Rome, the idea of a hierarchical clergy (especially the centrality of bishops), Mary’s sinlessness, Mary’s assumption (body and soul) into heaven, Mary’s perpetual virginity (to which even Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli adhered after their breaks with Rome) and so many other Christian teachings which long predate the Reformation, seem to be the stuff of pre-Reformation Christianity. In fact, many of these ideas survived the Reformation and were near and dear to the Reformers themselves. And they predate the medieval period, and are found East and West. The fact that most Christians today, as well as throughout all of recorded Christian history, have looked more like Western and Eastern Catholic and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians than they do any form of evangelical or Baptist or Reformed Christian traditions of which I’m aware, gives me great pause, and caused me much prayerful pause as I was exploring the Catholic Church before my own conversion. The subjective weight of so many Catholic and Orthodox Christians from every century, spread across the globe, I do find gives me great pause. Some of them may not have been as steeped in Scripture as you, or as many of my other evangelical friends (although, some like Sts. Jerome and St. Augustine might give some a run for their money). But many of them gave up everything to follow Jesus, sometimes their very lives. And, although their traditions of interpretation and formation in the Christian way of life within particular communities may partly account for their Catholic readings of Scripture in this way, I think we should also concede that the traditions of interpretation and formation in the Christian way of life among evangelicals may also have contributed to evangelicals reading Scripture in evangelical ways.

    I’ve written too much. I’ll stop now. Have safe travels.

    Yours in Christ,


  5. Thanks Jeff. I appreciate your thoughful and very fair reply. I look forward to reading it more carefully later and considering what you have said. I agree, incidentally, with many things that you have said. You said something to the effect that I might be surprised to know that you would agree with some of my critiques. And I would say that you might be surprised to know how much I agree with a number of your replies. I actually have a very high view of “the Church” broadly conceived, have a belief in a “real presence” of Christ in the Supper (though to be sure, quite different from the Roman view), etc. In fact, I would be the first to argue that the church should look very different from what we often see in protestant denominations. Don’t get me started on that. Also, I think that you are right to point out that things are not as cut and dried in matters of salvation as I might have indicated. I do think that there is beautiful simplicity to the essential gospel, but I will not dispute that the Bible is a very, very complex document. Believe me, I have more and more questions every day about the inner-logic of scripture. However, I also think that it is going to be interesting to compare our reads of both the New Testament data and the fathers. I am aware of most of the citations that are usually marshalled in support of Roman Catholic claims, and I think that there are credible responses to virtually all of them. In fact, I think that it is telling that serious Roman Catholic historians almost never make the kind of incautious claims that I have seen made by many of the popular Catholic apologists with respect to the patristic evidence. They are aware that things are not quite as plain as things are often presented to be. I mean, clearly a catholic church developed, but I would dispute many of the claims made about the earliest centuries of the church. I would argue that they were far from Catholic in the modern sense. I have lots more to say on that, but I need to take off at the moment. I have a couple of other thoughts that I want to share later, but that will have to wait. Thanks again for your thoughtful response. (By the way, I don’t leave for vacation for another week, but then I will be gone for three. We are going to visit Bona’s family in Albania and then some friends in Germany. Should be a great time.)

  6. Ahoy,

    “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king or a Prince, and without sacrifice.
    Afterword shall the children of Israel return, and seek YHAH ELOHIM, and Elyaqiym their king; and they shall come trembling, and shall fear YHAH and his goodness in the end times”.
    On this day, this scripture is fulfilled in your ears.

    Son of man

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