Melito’s Sacrifice

For all of his hand waving, Scott Hahn cannot get Melito of Sardis to move Jesus' sacrifice back to Thursday.
For all of his hand waving, Scott Hahn cannot get Melito of Sardis to move Jesus’ sacrifice back in time to Thursday evening.

One of the more curious implications of the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the Mass is that Jesus actually did not offer Himself as a sacrifice on the cross. Instead, they say, He offered Himself as a sacrifice at the Last Supper. For example, Roman Catholic apologist Art Sippo at the Catholic Legate, explains:

“The Last Supper was the real sacrificial offering of Christ for sin and it certainly was unbloody. Without the Last Supper I defy you to find any reference to the Body and Blood of Christ being offered as a sacrifice for sin in the entire of the Passion Narratives. Christ did not offer his body and blood to God during the passion.” (Catholic Legate, Q&A on the Sacraments)

As we showed in week 8 of our series, Their Praise was their Sacrifice, this concept of the Last Supper as a sacrifice came late in time, and actually originated in the latter part of the 4th century when Gregory of Nyssa was trying to calculate the three days between Jesus’ death and his resurrection. In his 382 A.D. oration, On the Space of Three Days between the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Gregory of Nyssa got creative in his analysis of Matthew 12:40, which says that “the Son of man” must “be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” By Gregory’s reckoning, he could only account for two.
Continue reading Melito’s Sacrifice

Searching for the Lost Ark

The Early Church apparently lost track of "the Ark," but found it again—at the end of the fourth century.
The Early Church apparently lost track of “the Ark,” but found it again at the end of the 4th century.

Protestants who interact with Roman Catholics in any capacity are often surprised to find that they believe Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. As Pope Pius XII explained in Munificentissiumus Deus in 1950—his “infallible” proclamation that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven—many Church Fathers have understood the Ark of the Covenant “as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary” (Munificentissiumus Deus, 26). Thus, David’s exclamation, “Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength” (Psalm 132:8), is taken to prefigure Mary’s bodily assumption into Heaven (Munificentissiumus Deus, 29). Catholic Answers explains in an article by Steve Ray that the Woman of Revelation 12:1 is Mary, and because John saw the ark of the testimony in the heavenly temple in the preceding verse (Revelation 11:19), it must mean that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant (Catholic Answers, Mary, Ark of the New Covenant). Steve Ray, former Protestant and now Roman Catholic apologist, tells us not to worry about the novelty of this Roman Catholic teaching on Mary. After all, he says, it is an apostolic teaching from the earliest days of Christianity:

“The understanding of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant is nothing new. It was taught and celebrated early in Christian history.” (Steve Ray, Ark of the New Covenant -Quotes from the Fathers).

The problem with Steve Ray’s claim is a familiar one: the teaching and celebration of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant originated in the latter part of the 4th century, and there is no evidence that it was proposed, believed or celebrated any earlier than that. “Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant” is something new indeed. Continue reading Searching for the Lost Ark

Diggin’ Up Bones

The Early Church rejected the Roman novelty of relic veneration.
The Early Church rejected as “unlawful” and “unholy” the Roman Catholic novelty of relic veneration.

Over the last month we reviewed the history of Roman Catholicism’s use of the Council of Sardica to claim Roman Primacy, focusing last week on Pope Zosimus’ and Pope Leo’s attempts to stamp that alleged primacy with Nicene authority. It was under their pontificates—and the intervening pontificates of Boniface, Celestine and Sixtus III—that the canons of Sardica (343 A.D.) were circulated as if they were the canons of Nicæa (325 A.D.), and thus were used to advance two errors simultaneously: 1) the claim that the Council of Sardica had affirmed Roman Primacy, and 2) the claim that Roman Primacy had manifested as early as the Nicene era. The error of Zosimus and the fraud of Leo are just one example of what we see consistently in Roman Catholicism: the attempt to stamp novel and idolatrous practices with Nicene and ante-Nicene authenticity. The more distant the origins of the idolatry from Nicæa , the more creative the historical revisionism necessary to “prove” the antiquity of the practice. Relic veneration is one more example of this propensity in Roman apologetics. Continue reading Diggin’ Up Bones

Anatomy of A Deception (part 4)

In Rome, there is no evidence that cannot be adjusted to conform to a predetermined verdict.
In Rome, there is no evidence that cannot be adjusted to conform to a predetermined verdict.

Last week we concluded our analysis of the Council of Sardica in 343 A.D., as well as the correspondence leading up to it. As we noted, the council recognized Roman metropolitanism, but not Roman primacy. It is true that bishop Hosius said that those who choose to appeal in Rome should submit their appeal through Julius, the metropolitan bishop there. But he also said that any metropolitan in any metropolis in any province could handle appeals as well. The venue for appeal was up to the accused (Sardica, Canon 5), “[b]ut those who come to Rome ought” to appeal through Julius in memory of Peter (Sardica, Canon 9).  Hosius’ particular reference to Rome was not because of Roman primacy but rather due to the fact that he had been commissioned to review the facts of the case, and the facts of the case included Athanasius’ appeal to Julius in Rome. When the facts of the case were related to an appeal to Alexandria (as in Canon 14), the deposed clergyman was “to take refuge with the bishop of the metropolis” in his province without demanding a resolution “in advance of the decision of his case.” Likewise, the deposing bishop was not to “take it ill that examination of the case be made, and his decision confirmed or revised.” Whether the matter related to Athanasius’ deposition, or Ischyras’ deposition, Constantine’s rules of appeal were to be followed. Instead of advancing the case of Roman primacy, bishop Hosius had rather codified the primacy of the Constantinian appeals process that widely expanded access to justice and minimized direct appeals to the Imperial Court, while keeping his court open as the final venue of appeal. Even the court in Rome was required by Sardica to compile its findings and “send them to the Court” of the Emperor for ratification (Sardica, Canon 9). Continue reading Anatomy of A Deception (part 4)