I wanted to take a moment to alert our readers to what I consider to be the finest journal on the market dealing with Scripture and theology: Letter & Spirit . Letter & Spirit is a relatively new journal (first published in 2005) from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, an organization with which I am affiliated, and which Dr. Scott Hahn founded and serves as President and also as the journal’s editor. Letter & Spirit is the only academic journal I have ever encountered that I read straight through, cover-to-cover, as soon as I get my hands on an issue. So why is it such an exciting and important journal?
First of all, it is filled with both highly original and old classic articles that are written from the heart of the Church. Its pages are filled with writings from some of the world’s finest theologians and Catholic biblical scholars as well as some of the most important up-and-coming Catholic scholars. The entire journal is devoted to Catholic biblical theology that is rooted in the Church’s Tradition and Liturgy. The articles are academic and scholarly, and thus some of them assume a readership that has familiarity with Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic (including, in at least one instance, Syriac). Most articles are accessible to non-specialists as well, and any educated lay person would benefit from reading most of the journals’ articles.
I was not sure what to entitle this post, since it does not directly deal with texts from the canonical Scriptures, hence the subtitle: “Extra-Biblical Context.” At the same time, I wanted to highlight its continuity with the previous four posts on this topic, hence the misleading title: “Papacy in Scripture V.” I hope this post serves as a sort of transition into the NT material where we will dive into the Gospels.
Why examine extra-biblical 2nd Temple Jewish literature if we don’t consider it inspired by God? For many reasons, chief among them such literature often provides insightful commentary to earlier OT texts and shows ways in which Jews living before, during and after Jesus interpreted the OT. What I hope to do in subsequent posts is show how the NT material shares some of the interpretive judgments found in the 2nd Temple texts below, and how this relates to the office of the papacy.
How many times have you heard someone respond to a specific Catholic teaching, say on Mary or on the papacy, with the question, “Where’s that in the Bible?” So often the intent of this question is to imply that these Catholic teachings are in fact not found in Scripture, and are therefore not to be believed.
But where’s that in the Bible? Where does the Bible teach that what Christians should believe must be found in Scripture? The theological assumption here is often called by its technical Latin name, sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone, and amounts to something like, “the Bible is the only authority on matters of Christian doctrine.”
Certainly 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (NIV). That all Scripture is God-breathed, or inspired, is of course true and is not something only taught by Protestants; the Catholic Church equally affirms this teaching, and in fact cites this passage, e.g. in the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 dogmatic constitution on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (no. 11; see also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ftnt 70 to no. 105).
We’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).
In this third post on the roots of the papacy in Scripture, I want to highlight that Joseph’s high position in Egypt is actually significant for understanding the administrative structure of the Kingdom of David, and therefore of the Church which is the fulfilled Davidic Kingdom.
After the people of Israel have entered the Promised Land, they eventually ask Samuel for a king to rule over them: “appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5, NIV). And this is exactly what happened. First under King Saul, and then under King David, the people of Israel became a kingdom. The Kingdom of David became an everlasting kingdom, and in the New Testament, was transformed into the Church.
Moreover, the Davidic Kingdom was called the Kingdom of YHWH, e.g. in 1 Chronicles 28:5 and in 2 Chronicles 13:8. Thus, in a very real way, the Kingdom of David was the Kingdom of God, what is meant by the New Testament phrase, Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew’s Gospel) or Kingdom of God (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Moreover, in the Davidic Kingdom, the worshipping community of Israel was often called (in 1 and 2 Chronicles) the qahal (in Hebrew), which was translated in the Greek Septuagint as ekklesia (the word for Church in the New Testament).
In this second post on the roots of the papacy in Scripture, I simply want to examine Exodus 24:1-4. I should say at the outset that Dr. Brant Pitre first pointed out to me the connections I will discuss in this post. I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Dr. Pitre present this material (which was part of a much larger and more impressive work) at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in Boston this past November 2008, in his paper, “Jesus and the Messianic Priesthood,” and earlier at the 2nd annual Letter & Spirit Conference in the Fall of 2006, in his presentation, “Jesus and the New Priesthood.”
Turning to Exodus 24, the first thing I want to mention is the parallel between Moses and Jesus, which is especially emphasized in Matthew’s Gospel. If we turn to the OT narratives about the exodus and wilderness traditions, we find that Aaron plays an intermediary role between Moses and the people of Israel. Indeed, in many ways, Aaron is to Moses what Joseph was to Pharaoh. What’s more, Aaron becomes the first high priest of Israel. In the Gospels, we find that among all of Jesus’ disciples, Peter is singled out more than the rest throughout all four Gospels. I will highlight Peter’s high priestly role (and his role as Jesus’ royal steward) in later posts, but for now, I just want to emphasize that in some ways Peter is to Jesus what Aaron is to Moses.
One of the many charges leveled against Catholic teaching on the papacy has been that it runs contrary to Scripture. What I hope to do over the next several posts is show how the papacy’s roots lie deep within Scripture, and are in fact fundamental to the very concept of church in the Gospels. In this first post, I will discuss the roots of this ecclesiastical office in the Old Testament narratives about the patriarch Joseph.
The first thing to note is that when we encounter Joseph in Genesis 37, we find him shepherding his brothers’ flock. This is interesting since later in the Bible we discover that King David too was a shepherd, and in the NT, Jesus instructs Peter to shepherd His flock (John 21:15-17, where Peter is commanded to feed and tend Jesus’ flock). As we read further, we see that his father Jacob/Israel gives Joseph a special cloak which probably implied some sort of high family status, since Israel loved Joseph more than his brothers (37:3), which made his brothers jealous. Soon Joseph has dreams where he appears to be exalted above his brothers (37:6-11).