Ariel is rather peculiar religious person, in that he went from a child under Catholicism, to agnosticism, to Evangelical Christianity, to Messianic Judaism, then back to Catholicism. (Wow!) He is now a chief contributor to IsraelCatholics.com.
In the little debate, Ariel points to us to his testimony and lays out the span of events that led him to believe that "Messianic Judaism is not biblical enough and [that] Catholicism really is truly Jewish and truly the faith of the Bible."
He further states,
"Messianic Judaism usually uncritically accepts the two pillars of Protestantism: sola scriptura (the Bible as sole source of authority) and sola fide (salvation by faith alone). Yet both of these doctrines are neither Jewish, neither biblical, nor genuinely Christian!"
Ariel and I debate these points and many others in the comments to Kineti Le'Tzion - Catholic Relevance. The points made are so important, however, I feel this debate deserves more visibility than dueling comments in a buried blog post!
To keep things reasonable short and concise, since so many of you [ahem, Gary] refuse to read long posts, I'm going to address only a single issue today:
Should we have a Pope?
Ariel states the Catholic position this way:
The fact that Jesus appointed Peter to be "the rock on which I will build my Church" is quite clear from the NT. See the wealth of other scriptures and quotes from the early church (way before Constantine!) in this presentation.
Ariel is referring to the following Scripture, Matthew's record of the gospel, ch. 16,
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
It is from this Scripture that Catholics claim the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ. Indeed, Catholics claim Peter was the first Pope in a succession of popes leading up to the current Roman Catholic Church head:
While Catholics claim the Apostle Peter was the first Pope, the current Pope is Joseph Ratzinger, now called Pope Benedict XVI, a former Hitler Youth (though it's claimed he had no choice in the matter), is seen above wearing the Mitre (religious headgear), which some folks speculate is the pagan Dagon fish hat, although that is contested.
So, are the Catholics correct? Was Peter the first Pope? Did Jesus give authority to Peter to be the first Pope? Did Jesus authorize the creation of a church built on Peter in Rome?
Let's examine the evidence and come to a conclusion.
The first matter is the very Scripture itself. A few things strike me about this quotation:
- "You are Peter, and upon this rock..." - This is Greek word play. The Greek "Petras" means rock or stone, so it appears Jesus is playing a word game by saying "You are Petros, and upon this petras..."
- "I will build my church" - This translation and understanding is based on the faulty assumption that Jesus is starting a new religion. After all, we think of "church" as a big building with a steeple symbolizing organized religion, or perhaps a large religious organization itself like the Catholic Church. However, Jesus did not come to start a new religion, and this is evident in the fact that word "church" here is the very same Greek word "ekklesia", which means an assembly of people. Ekklesia is found elsewhere in the Bible -- even the Old Testament! -- but only in the New Testament is it translated in this way, perhaps intentionally as a way for the Church to validate its existence, sadly.
- "The gates of Hades will not overcome it" - I always get a kick out of this. Why would Jesus, a Torah-observant Jewish rabbi, talk about the pagan Greek god of the dead, Hades? Given that speaking the name of false gods is a sin according to Torah, if Jesus really did say this, he would not have been sinless - very consequential to Christian doctrine. Interesting! More on this in a moment.
The book of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, a document attested to by the early Church fathers Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, Papias, and Irenaeous. (Despite this evidence, some modern scholars debate Hebrew Matthew's existence.)
In any case, we no longer have the original Hebrew Matthew, it has since been lost. We do, however, have a Hebrew manuscript of what is believed to be the original Hebrew, in the form of a medieval document written by a Spanish Jewish physician, Shem Tov ben Isaac ben Shaprut. This Hebrew version of Matthew is dubbed Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew.
(It should be noted there is debate among scholars and Christians as to whether Shem Tov's Matthew is a manuscript from Hebrew or a translation from Latin or Greek. In the very least, there exists in Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew some rabbinic Judaic bias, such as writing Messiah's name blasphemously1.)
I wanted to get my hands on this and see what the Hebrew Matthew had to say about Jesus building a church on Peter. 2 weeks ago, I did just that, and began studying Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew. Unsurprisingly, using the Hebrew names1, it reads much differently than the Greek:
[Y'shua] said to him, "Blessed are you, Shimon ben Yochanan, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I say to you: you are a stone and I will build upon you my house of prayer. The gates of Gehenna will not prevail against you because I have given you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Now this is interesting. In the Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew, we see that no longer is Messiah saying he'll build a church, which implies Jesus is creating a new religion. He instead says he will build a house of prayer, which does not imply a new religion or anything foreign to the Jewish faith.
What did Messiah mean when he said he'd build a house of prayer, you ask? Is He talking about building the Catholic Church? No, it seems obvious what he meant: since Messiah later revealed to Peter that the gentiles are to be included in the faith of the God of Israel, Peter was the foundation of what became a massive gentile following of Jesus that we have today. That gentile following of Messiah is the house of prayer. It does not speak to one particular denomination, Catholic or otherwise. Thus, whether Peter visited Rome or founded a church there -- a debatable point Catholics and Protestants have argued over for centuries -- is irrelevant.
Another interesting bit about this Scripture is how the difficult problem of "Hades" goes away in the Hebrew. While Hades was a Greek god of the underworld, Gehenna was a real place outside Jerusalem that became essentially a garbage dump where fires were burned continuously to consume the refuse of the city. Canaanite pagans had previously sacrificed their children to their false god,
Another interesting bit is how the Hebrew says, "the gates of Gehenna will not prevail against you", as opposed to the Greek reading, "the gates of Hades will not prevail against it [the Church]". The Hebrew is saying Gehenna will not prevail against Peter, the Greek is saying the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church.
Given this understanding, I see no Scriptural evidence supporting the idea of a Pope, who presumes himself to be Jesus Christ on earth, infallible. On the contrary, I see Scriptures that indicate such presumption to be haughty, if not blasphemous.
The final idea we need to address -- because this confronts both Catholic and Protestant Christianity head on -- is the idea that Jesus came to start a new religion.
Some Christians deny this, saying it is the Jews who created the new religion, or that true Christianity is not different than the original faith in the God of Israel.
But these same Christians betray themselves by saying the Torah is passed away, that Jesus' grace replaces God's Law, or that we safely ignore God's Law because Jesus "nailed it to the cross". Indeed, my father-in-law once said to me, paraphrasing here, "Judah, Israel doesn't matter anymore -- everything changed with Jesus."
Do you Christian folks who profess such things understand what you're saying?
- If Jesus did away with the Law, then he is a false prophet who would receive capital punishment for leading people away from God.
- If Jesus did away with the Law, he started a new religion in which the Law is relegated to the back seat, and the Jews would be correct in rejecting Him.
- If Jesus did away with the Law, or even diminished it in any way, he contradicted his own words and his own actions.
- If Jesus made less meaningful even the slightest commandment in Torah, he failed to fulfill the messianic prophecies in the Tenakh (Old Testament), thereby rendering his Messianic status a lie.
- If Jesus replaced Israel with the Church, then Jesus made God out to be a liar; for Jesus would be revoking something God promised to be irrevocable: the Torah will be an everlasting covenant between Himself and Israel.
- If Jesus "changed everything" such that Torah is diminished, then He did indeed create a new (false) religion, and a Protestant is merely a lesser, misled form of a Catholic, the highest form of follower in this new religion.
Let me spell it out in plain words for you: by claiming Jesus somehow diminished the Law, you are unwittingly stating that Jesus is both a false messiah and a false prophet.
Stop with your foolish claims that Jesus somehow diminished the Torah, you're leading people astray.
Greek Jesus vs Hebrew Yeshua
Let's be frank. If the Greek peacenik adonis Iesous Kristo started a new religion, where we're supposed to have big Churches with steeples, celebrate these new holidays called Easter, Christmas, Lent, and Ash Wednesday, Sunday mass, and all the paraphernalia associated with a new religion, then the Catholic Church is right, and we should all convert to Catholicism.
On the other hand, if the Torah-observant, Jewish rabbi Yeshua HaMoshiach didn't start a new religion, then we need to clean up the mess that was created not 100 years after his death, which culminated in the creation of an official state religion in 325 CE, when the Roman Emperor Constantine declared himself the 'Holy' Roman Emperor and Sol Invictus (invincible sun god) and formalized what is today the Roman Catholic Church, complete with its Sun-day based worship.
So, who do you believe in? The Greek Iesous Kristo? Or the Hebrew Yeshua HaMoshiach? They are not one and the same; one is a perversion of the other. Which is it?
Our English Jesus Christ descends from the Greek understanding of Him, not the Hebrew understanding. We have a Greek mindset in these things -- it's no wonder Jews find Jesus so foreign and repugnant! He's tainted with Greek, pagan undertones in all we say about Him, everything from the western 'Christian' holidays, to his supposed diminishing of Torah, to the very halo we paint around His head.
We need to return to the teachings of this Jewish Messiah -- Sabbath, the Feasts of the Lord, Torah -- and get away from the man-made, Hellenized bastardization of these things that we have now in the Roman Catholic Church and its Protestant offspring.
Do we need a Pope to govern The Church? When one realizes the church in its current form is a religious invention of men, the answer becomes clear. What we do need is a return to our being Israel -- a holy, set apart people for God, different from the world -- grafted in not by race, but by belief in the God of Israel who gave Messiah so that both Jews and gentiles can be clean.
1. Shem Tov, himself a devout Jew being persecuted by the church, unfortunately substituted Yeshua's name in the Hebrew Matthew text with the shorter acronym YSH'W, which is a Hebrew acronym that meant to slam Jesus. The acronym's full form is Yemach Shemo Vezichro (literally meaning 'May his name and memory be obliterated'). It is an ancient rabbinic word play on Jesus' Hebrew name Yeshua, and Shem Tov used this shameful name in his manuscript of Hebrew Matthew.
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