For most Christians today, indulgences represent darker days in the history of the Church. For Protestants, the Church’s practice of granting indulgences is seen as a real deathblow to Catholicism—indisputable evidence that the Catholic faith cannot be true. For Catholics—many of them devout and well-meaning—indulgences are a thing of the past and “thankfully” no longer a part of the Church’s teaching.
However, both of these sets of Christians are mistaken. Indulgences are still (and always will be) a part of the Catholic Church's infallible teaching. And they constitute a real gift—an astoundingly beautiful and wonderful blessing—in the life of the Church. But to understand why indulgences represent a blessing, rather than an embarrassment, for the Catholic Church, we must first understand what an indulgence actually is.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
“[a]n indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints” (1471).
To put this into layman's terms, we would say that an indulgence is simply what we receive when the Church, through Her power to bind and loose (Mt. 16:19, 18:17-18), lessens the temporal punishment we face as a result of our sins, even after they have been forgiven.
Let’s unpack this. Scripture shows us that the punishment we receive for our sins can be both eternal (i.e. hell) and temporal (i.e. here on this earth). For example, when Adam and Eve sinned, the temporal punishments that they each respectively received were the toiling over the land and the intensifying of childbearing pains (Gen. 3:16-19). But what is interesting, for the purposes of our discussion on indulgences, is that Scripture also tells us that, even after our sins have been forgiven, the temporal punishments we face as consequence of them often remain. For example, when the prophet Nathan confronts King David about the king's adultery, Nathan tells him, "The Lord on His part has forgiven your sin; you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die" (2 Sam. 12:13-14). Another example is in Numbers, where we read, "Then the Lord said, 'I have pardoned them, according to your word; but truly as I live...none of the men who...have not hearkened to my voice, shall see the land which I swore to their fathers" (Num. 14:20-23). Even death itself is a temporal punishment of the sin of Adam and Eve, which is a punishment that we still bear today, despite the forgiveness of sins we receive from Jesus.
So, the Bible teaches us that the temporal punishment we receive for our sins often remains even after we repent and are given the forgiveness of God. And an indulgence is a grant from the Church that reduces this punishment.
How does the Church do this, and does She even have the authority to do so?
Throughout Scripture, we see that God blesses some people as a reward to others. For example, consider how Jesus heals a daughter, as a result of her mother's faith (Mt. 15:21-28). And sometimes, when God blesses a person as a reward to another, this blessing takes the form of a reduction of the temporal punishment to which the first person is subject. As an example of this, we might look at 1 Kings 11:11-13, which reads,
"The Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant. I will not do this during your lifetime, however, for the sake of your father David; it is your son I will deprive. Nor will I take away the whole kingdom. I will leave your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David and of Jerusalem, which I have chosen."
So, God delays and reduces the temporal punishment due to Solomon, not because of Solomon’s own merits and piety, but as a result of the holy life of his father, David.
All of this provides the context necessary for understanding what an indulgence is and how they work. The Catholic Church recognizes that the pious and charitable acts of Jesus, Mary, and the saints—whether the saints in heaven or those on earth—can please God so as to shorten the temporal punishment of other Christians. Therefore, the Church, through Her authority to bind and loose (Mt. 16:19, 18:17-18), is able to “open…the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints” (CCC 1478), and “dispense and appl[y] with authority th[is] treasury of satisfactions” (CCC 1471) to a forgiven and repentant sinner, and does so by granting such sinner an indulgence. However, the Church, in an effort “not…simply to come to the aid of [individual] Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity” (CCC 1478), only grants indulgences under limited circumstances. For example, an indulgence might be granted when a forgiven sinner strives to please God through the pious act of going to Confession and praying for the intentions of the Pope, or through the charitable act of tithing or donating money for the construction of a hospital or church.
The fact that the Catholic Church grants indulgences in recognition for the charitable act of tithing, in large part, explains why so many, both in the past and present, mistakenly believe that the Church “sells” indulgences. But, to reiterate what has already been said, indulgences are granted in these instances not in exchange for money, but in recognition for the faith and piety displayed in charitably giving away one’s financial means.
It is true that, in the time of Martin Luther, there were priests who misunderstood the official teaching of the Church on indulgences as they apply to the souls in Purgatory. However, the official teaching of the Church--before Luther, during Luther, and after Luther--has never permitted the selling of indulgences. Any priest who might have gone rogue and preached otherwise was in direct contradiction with the Church. 
The practice of granting indulgences is a long-standing practice of the Catholic Church, and, as noted before, is one She exercises through Her God-given power to bind and loose. Through an indulgence, a repentant sinner is (1) encouraged to take further action to make amends for his forgiven sins; (2) is able to “supercharge”—in a manner of speaking—these acts by coupling or uniting them with other holy actions performed by Jesus and the saints throughout history; and (3) receives the assurance of the Church that he has pleased God in taking these actions. So, let us celebrate and take full advantage of this incredible gift made available to us in the Church, rather than attempting to sweep it under the rug, as if it were some sort of embarrassing vestige of our Church’s past.
 Much of the abuse of the doctrine of indulgences is today attributed to the now infamous Dominican, Johann Tetzel. Contrary to many of the exaggerated and even unfounded accusations made against Tetzel today, many historians now agree that he was a man of real moral integrity. But it is nonetheless true that the friar preached his personal, but mistaken belief about indulgences as they apply to souls in Purgatory. To be more specific, although it is absolutely true that we can gain indulgences that benefit or apply to souls in Purgatory (as, again, God blesses some as a reward to others), Tetzel mistakenly believed that this meant that the earthly soul did not actually have a contrite heart, but instead only needed to perform external acts of piety, in order to receive an indulgence in this particular situation. In other words, for Tetzel, because the earthly soul was not benefiting from the indulgence, but was instead offering the indulgence up to be applied to another, he thought that the subjective state of the earthly soul was irrelevant in these scenarios. But, even though a handful of priests like Tetzel might have proclaimed this false doctrine, it is also true that Catholic authority figures, like Cardinal Cajetan, publicly rejected and condemned this false position, as late as 1517-19.
E. Daniel Box
Too many people misunderstand what the Catholic Church teaches about salvation. Some falsely claim that Catholics believe that a person can “earn” salvation. Others mistakenly accuse Catholics of the heresy of Pelagianism, which teaches that man can save himself, without faith in Jesus, by performing good works. But the Catholic position rejects salvation by works alone, as well as salvation by faith alone. For the Catholic, both faith and good works (i.e. charity or works of love) are necessary. But both are also impossible without the initial free gift of God’s grace. So the Catholic formula for salvation is simple, and it follows Galatians 5:6--
We are saved by grace, through faith, being lived out in works of love.
In other words, salvation is not a one-time event, but is a lifelong process. Scripture confirms this when it tells us that we “have been saved” (Eph. 2:5, 8), that we “are being saved” (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15), and that we “will be saved” (Mt. 10:22, 24:13, Rom. 5:9-10). Salvation, then, is a past, present, and future event—a real process—such that St. Paul reminds Christians that we must always continue to “work out our salvation” (Phil. 2:12).
This passage in Philippians is key, because Paul not only explains that we should “work out our salvation,” but also that we should do so “in fear and trembling.” Unlike Protestants, Paul never presumed himself to be destined for heaven, nor claimed to have had an absolute assurance of salvation. Instead, Paul says expressly that he would never dare “to make any judgment [regarding his salvation] before the appointed time” and that just because he was “not aware of anything against [himself],…[he did] not thereby stand acquitted” before God (1 Cor. 4:4-5). For this reason, Paul talks about physically pummeling his body into submission, out of fear that, even after all his preaching, he might still be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27).
In Romans, Paul confirms that our salvation is not absolutely secured the moment we first accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, when he explains that “salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (13:11). In fact, Scripture tells us many times that Christian discipleship is not defined by a single moment in one’s life (see Lk. 9:23), but can instead be compared to a marathon—a race—in which perseverance and endurance are necessary (Heb. 12:1-2). All of this is in keeping with the words of Jesus, who two times in the Gospel tells his disciples that only “the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mt. 10:22, 24:13).
Again in Romans, Paul testifies to the importance of perseverance—and not only perseverance in faith, but also in doing good works—in the Christian’s quest for salvation, when he says:
“God…will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness” (2:6-7).
Jesus Himself confirms that our life’s actions are pivotal in whether or not we will obtain eternal life. The only time in the Bible that Jesus is asked what a person must do to gain salvation, our Lord answers by saying, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt. 19:16-17). And later in the Gospel, Jesus explains that those who do not do good—those who do not feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, or visit the prisoner—will be thrown into eternal fire for eternal punishment (Mt. 25:41-46). Jesus also tells His disciples that when the Son of Man “come[s] with his angels in his Father’s glory…he will repay everyone according to his conduct” (Mt. 16:27, see also 2 Cor. 5:10). This style of divine judgment is exactly what we see being played out in the Book of Revelation, when, at the end of time, “[a]ll the dead [are] judged according to their deeds,” and those whose deeds cause them not to be named in the book of life are “thrown into a pool of fire” (20:12-15).
Given all of this, it should not surprise us to read in Romans that Christians will receive God’s kindness only if we “remain in his kindness, otherwise [we] too will be cut off” (11:22). How do we remain in His kindness and avoid being cut off? St. John provides the answer, echoing the words of Jesus, when he writes, “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them” (1 Jn. 3:24). This is why John, only two chapters later, discusses deadly versus non-deadly sin (1 Jn. 5:16-17). Protestant theology offers no satisfying explanation for what a deadly sin is. But the Catholic teaching of salvation ties in perfectly with this concept and with the rest of Scripture, because it affirms that certain sins kill—they kill our relationship with God. They terminate the supernatural life breathed into us by God, just as the sin of Adam did, which is why Jesus, when He breathes upon the Apostles, gives them the authority to forgive and not to forgive sins (Jn. 20:21-23). By confessing our sins to the Apostles and their successors, God’s supernatural life is breathed back into us, after we have lost this life as a result of our deadly sins.
Our need to keep God’s commandments, together with the consequences of deadly sin, explain two passages in Scripture, which devastate the Protestant idea that a person can never lose their salvation:
“If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment and flaming fire” (Heb. 10:26-27).
“[I]f they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of [our] Lord and savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after having known it, to turn back from the holy commandment handed down to them” (2 Pet. 2:20-21).
These Bible passages confirm that a person who gravely sins, after coming to Christ, forfeits the sacrifice of Jesus and the promise of salvation, because the price or “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Jesus too warns us that it is possible to lose the forgiveness of sins that we have received, in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt. 18:21-35). Paul reiterates this same message to those who have already accepted Jesus in Colossae, when he warns them to “[p]ut to death…immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming [upon the disobedient]” (Col. 3:5-10). And again, Paul warns the Christians in Galatia and in Corinth that “those who do such things [like engage in immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, etc.] will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21, 1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Even with all the biblical evidence that has already been discussed, we have still have not mentioned the single passage that is most damning to the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone (Lat. sola fide). In fact, this passage so clearly negates the doctrine of sola fide that Martin Luther seriously considered removing it from the Bible entirely, as he did seven Old Testament books. In James, chapter 2, we find the only place in the Bible where the phrase “faith alone” is used, and the passage reads:
“See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jas. 2:24).
In fact, James points out that even demons have faith and believe (2:19), and then goes so far as to call anyone who needs proof that faith without works is useless an “ignoramus” (2:20). The standard Protestant interpretation of James 2 is that the Apostle was only condemning a dead faith, not a living faith. But even if that were true, James 2 itself would indicate that the difference between a dead faith and a living faith is good works—that is, whether or not your faith is lived out in works of love. And Paul confirms this—he declares powerfully that even the most enthusiastic, “living” faith, without charity, is dead, when he writes, “[I]f I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).
None of this is surprising. Deep down, the intuition of every Christian, whether Catholic or Protestant, tells him that sola fide is wrong—that Martin Luther could not have been right when, taking the doctrine of sola fide to its extreme, he stated, “No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill and commit adultery thousands of times each day.” In our hearts, we know that faith in Jesus requires faithfulness to Jesus—that is, that faith is not simply a one-time event, but requires a lifetime of assent, in both our words and our actions.
Of course, the fact that we must remain faithful to Christ in our actions, in order to be saved, in no way means that we can earn our salvation. It only means that we, like Adam and Eve who did not earn their place in God’s garden, can act in such a way that we earn our way out of heaven. We can forfeit the free gift of salvation. We can disinherit our place in His kingdom.
To be absolutely clear, Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect and entirely sufficient to save even the worst of sinners. The fact that good works are necessary for salvation in no way threatens this truth any more than the fact that faith is necessary for salvation. In other words, the necessity of good works does not put down the value of our Lord’s death and resurrection, while putting too much emphasis on the efforts of man. Instead, this teaching only affirms what the author of Hebrews declared—namely, that “without [holiness] no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
Scripture tells us that God created us “for good works” (Eph. 2:10) and that only “if, by the spirit, [we] put to death the deeds of the body, will [we] live” (Rom. 8:13). At the same time, the Bible also confirms that obedience to the commandments, without faith in Jesus, is obsolete (Rom. 7:6-7). These passages align with the Catholic teaching on salvation, which affirms that neither faith alone nor works alone is sufficient to secure our salvation. Only the two together, both of which are only even possible after we have been given the free gift of God’s grace (Eph. 2:5), can lead us to eternal life in Him.
Jesus warns us that there will be those who “believe only for a time and [then] fall away in time of trial” (Lk. 8:13). And so, while it is true that Romans 10:9 tell us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” we must be mindful of this warning from our Lord. This warning provides the context in which we should read Matthew 7:21, in which Jesus proclaims, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (emphasis added).
In sum, although Christians today can “know that [we] have eternal life, [if we] believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn. 5:13), Scripture tells us, only one verse later, that this “knowledge” is better understood as a hopeful "confidence" (1 Jn. 5:14), rather than an absolute certainty.
“Whoever sins belongs to the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8), because we “are slaves of the one [we] obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness” (Rom. 6:16). So Paul reminds us that “a person will reap only what he sows,” which means that, if we want to “reap eternal life from the spirit,” we must never “grow tired of doing good” (Gal. 6:7-9). But because we have the “knowledge”—the hopeful confidence—that we will one day be with God in heaven, Christians can “rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as [we] attain the goal of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9) every single day.
 Rom. 3:28-30 says that we are “justified by faith apart from works of the Torah [like circumcision].” It does not say that we are justified by “faith alone.” Martin Luther inserted the word “alone” into his translation, and when he was called out for having done so by Catholics, he—referring to himself in the third person and declaring the greatness of his own will and intellect—remarked, “Luther will have it [that the word ‘alone’ be inserted, because] he is a doctor above all the doctors of the pope…I know very well that the word ‘alone’ is not in the Greek or Latin text; it was not necessary for the Papists to teach me that” (Ein sendbrief D.M. Luthers. Von Dolmetzchen und Furbit de heiligenn).
 Luther, Martin. Saemmtliche Schriften. Letter No. 99. 1 Aug. 1521.
For clarity's sake, let me state at the outset that the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday) is the seventh day of the week, while Sunday is the first day.
We see key hints in Scripture about the Christian day of worship, when we read, for example, in Acts 20:7 that Christians gather to break bread on the first day and also, in 1 Cor. 16:2, that Christians gather their collections on the first day. But ultimately, the issue of the Christian day of worship will probably hinge upon an analysis of Colossians 2 and on an analysis of Church authority.
To be clear, the Bible teaches (and the Catholic Church confirms) that the Sabbath is a perpetual or never-ending covenant. Even though the Catholic Church claims to have the authority to bind and loose (Mt.16:19, 18:18), She would never dare to abolish a permanent covenant established by God Himself. Therefore, what the Church believes She has done in recognizing Sunday as the new covenant Sabbath is that She has recognized the fulfillment of--not the abolition of--the ever-lasting Sabbath covenant established by God. To make sense of this idea, consider how the early Church handled the issue of circumcision. Like the the Sabbath, circumcision, according to God Himself, is a perpetual or never-ending covenant (Gen. 17:9-13). And yet as we see in Acts 15 (and later reiterated by Paul throughout Scripture (e.g. Gal.5:2-6)), the Church has the authority to declare that circumcision is no longer necessary. But in declaring that circumcision is no longer necessary, St. Paul says, "Are we then annulling the law by this faith? Of course not! On the contrary, we are supporting the law" (Rom.3:28-31). Therefore, if the Church has the authority to recognize that circumcision is no longer necessary, then it takes no leap of faith to conclude that She must also have the authority to recognize that honoring the Sabbath Day in particular--as opposed to some other day of the week--is no longer necessary.
Remember, the Bible says expressly that no one can pass judgment on Christians for not keeping the Sabbath or the Old Testament dietary laws, because these were merely "shadows of the things to come" (Col. 2:16-17). And verses 11 and 12, when read together with the rest of Colossians 2, demonstrate that the eternal covenant of circumcision was also a mere shadow of the things to come--and that that "thing to come" was baptism, which means that baptism's replacement of circumcision fulfilled and did not abolish the eternal covenant of circumcision. Because of what verses 16-17 say, we must ask ourselves what it was that the eternal covenant of the Sabbath Day foreshadowed.
I think Scripture reveals that Sunday is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. It is easy to see that Sunday is the holy day in Christianity--it is the day Jesus rose from the dead, the day the resurrected Jesus regularly appears to His apostles, the day of His ascension into heaven, the day of Pentecost, etc. Romans 14:5-6 indicates that all days belong to the Lord, so we should not feel bound to honor Him on the Sabbath Day in particular. And Paul fears that he has worked in vain to spread the Gospel, because there are still Christians who "observ[e] days, months, seasons, and years" (Gal.4:10-11). Therefore, if we consider the authority of the Church as observed in Acts 15, it follows that She has the authority to recognize that the Sabbath foreshadowed Sunday, as the new covenant fulfillment of God's ever-lasting covenant, and that She has the authority to oblige us to observe the third commandment on the first day, rather than the seventh day.
Unlike most Protestants, Catholics believe that Christians are still required to keep the 10 commandments, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, because Catholics believe that leading a moral life in Christ is necessary for salvation (see e.g. Mt.19:16-17, Mt.25:41-46, Rom.2:6-7, 2 Pet.2:20-21, Heb.10:26-29, Jas.2:24). So the Catholic Church teaches that the 10 Commandments are still binding, because the moral precepts contained in the Commandments are knowable by all men, as even non-Christians or non-Jews would have these laws written on their hearts (Rom.2:14-16). This includes the third Commandment, which is still binding, because it is knowable by all men that we are morally obligated to set aside time, even a full day, for the Lord. However, as Augustine says, the only element of any of the 10 Commandments that is unknowable by man without the direct revelation of God is that the particular day that belongs to God is the Sabbath. As a result of this, the moral precept contained in the third Commandment absolutely still binds all believers, but the particular day or the ceremonial precept contained in the third Commandment is no longer binding. Remember, "God causes the change of times and seasons" (Dan. 2:21), so He can certainly change the ceremonial day on which He commands us to live out objective moral precepts. This is precisely what God did through the Catholic Church.
It is true that there are no Scripture verses that say expressly, "Sunday is the new Sabbath" or "the Sabbath no longer binds." In my opinion, this can only mean one of two things: either (1) Sunday did not replace the Sabbath; or (2) Sunday's replacing the Sabbath was uncontroversial. To know whether or not it was uncontroversial, I think it is helpful to consider the writings of the first Christians. Here are some quotes from their writings.
From the Didache (70 AD): "But every Lord's day...gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure."
From the Letters of Barnabas (80 AD): "We keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead."
From Ignatius of Antioch's letter to the Magnesians (107 AD): "Those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's day."
From Justin Martyr's First Apology (152 AD): "Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead."
From Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho the Jew (155 AD): "[W]e too would observe the fleshy circumcision, and the sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined on you [Jews]--namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your heart (Gal. 3:19)...Remain as you were born. For if there was no need for circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses, no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the son of God was born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham."
From Tertullian's An Answer to the Jews (198 AD): "[He who] contends that the sabbath is still to be observed as a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day...[must also contend or] teach us that, for the time past, righteous men kept the sabbath or practiced circumcision, and were thus rendered 'friends of God.'...[But] God originated Adam uncircumcised and inobservant of the sabbath; consequently his offspring also, Abel, offering Him sacrifices, uncircumcised and inobservant of the sabbath, was by God commended (Gen. 4:1-7, Heb. 9:4)...Noah also, uncircumcised--yes, and inobservant of the sabbath...Enoch too, a most righteous man, uncircumcised and inobservant of the sabbath, he translated from this world, who did not first taste death in order that, being a candidate for eternal life, he might show us that we also may, without the burden of the law of Moses, please God...It follows, accordingly, that insofar as the abolition of carnal circumcision and of the old law is demonstrated as having been consummated at specific times, so also the observance of the sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary."
From Victorinus' On the Creation of the World (300 AD): "[L]et the parasceve [Friday] become a rigorous fast, lest we should appear to observe any sabbath...which sabbath [Christ] in his body abolished."
From Eusebius' History of the Church (300 AD): "They [the early saints of the Old Testament] did not care about circumcision of the body, neither do we [Christians]. They did not care about observing sabbaths, nor do we. They did not avoid certain kinds of foods...nor do Christians of the present day do such things."
From Eusebius' Proof of the Gospel (316 AD): "The day of [Christ's] light...was the day of his resurrection from the dead, which they say, as being the one and only truly holy day and the Lord's day, is...better than the days set apart by the Mosaic Law for feasts, new moons, and sabbaths, which the Apostle [Paul] teaches are the shadow of days and not days in reality."
From Athanasius' On Sabbath and Circumcision (345 AD): "The sabbath was the end of the first creation, the Lord's day was the beginning of the second, in which He renewed and restored the old in the same way as He prescribed that they should formerly observe the sabbath as a memorial of the end of the first things, so we honor the Lord's day as being the memorial of the new creation."
From Cyril of Jerusalem (350 AD): "Stand aloof from all observance of sabbaths and from calling any indifferent meats common or unclean."
From John Chrysostom's Homily on Galatians (395 AD): "You have put on Christ, you have become a member of the Lord and been enrolled in the heavenly city, and you still grovel in the Law [of Moses]? How is it possible for you to obtain the Kingdom? Listen to Paul's words that the observance of the Law overthrows the Gospel...Why do you keep the sabbath and fast with the Jews?...A fear to omit the sabbath plainly shows that you fear the Law is still in force; and if the Law is necessary, It is so as a whole, not in part...and if as a whole, the righteousness which is by faith is little by little shut out. If you keep the sabbath, why not also be circumcised? And if circumcised, why not also offer sacrifices?"
From John Chrysostom's Homily on Philippians (406 AD): "The rite of circumcision was venerable in the Jews' account, forasmuch as the Law Itself gave way thereto, and the sabbath was less esteemed than circumcision. For that circumcision might be performed, the sabbath was broken; but that the sabbath might be kept, circumcision was never broken...When [circumcision] is done away with, much more is the sabbath."
From Augustine's On the Spirit and the Letter (412 AD): "[E]xcept the observance of the sabbath...[w]hich of these Commandments would anyone say that the Christian ought not to keep?...[O]nly the portion [of the Decalogue] that relates to the sabbath was hidden under a prefiguring precept...and this precept alone among the others, was placed in the Law, which was written on the two tables of stone, as a prefiguring shadow."
E. Daniel Box
In an effort to avoid the Catholic interpretation of Mt. 16:17-19, wherein Peter is identified as the rock upon whom Jesus will build His Church, many Protestants highlight a subtle distinction present in the Greek version of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. The subtle Greek distinction in this passage is the use of two apparently different words for "rock" in the text--"petra" and "petros"--such that the text, in Greek-English, would read, "You are petros and upon this petra I will build my church." Relying upon this distinction, many Protestants argue that Jesus is saying that Peter is simply a little stone ("petros"), whereas either Jesus or Peter's confession of faith is the big rock ("petra") upon which the Church is truly built.
Catholics too believe in the importance of Peter's confession of faith and of course agree that Jesus is the ultimate foundation and invisible head of the Church. But the biblical and historical evidence confirms that Jesus gave Peter the authority to "hold down the fort," so to speak, until Jesus returns.
In other words, the "petros/petra" argument regarding Mt. 16 is not a good one. It fails for several different reasons, not least among which is the fact that, by the 1st Century AD, there was no real difference in the meanings of "petra" and "petros" in Greek. Instead, it is almost certain that the only reason that the Greek contains two different words here is because "petra" is a feminine noun, and because Peter was a man, the word had to be made into the masculine "petros" when used as his name. Regardless, there are many other reasons to know that the "petra/petros" distinction is insignificant, if not irrelevant, among which are the fact that:
(1) the Gospel according to Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, despite what modern scholarship would have us believe, which means that Mt. 16:18 would have read, "You are 'kephas' and upon this 'kephas' I will build my church";
(2) in Mt. 16, Jesus is referencing Isaiah 22:20-24, in which God confers the authority of the King of Israel on the king's servant Eliakim, thereby making Eliakim the Royal Steward of the Kingdom. This reveals to us that Christ the King, in Mt. 16, is conferring His authority on Peter, thereby making him the Royal Steward under the new covenant; and
(3) the context and pattern of Jesus' speech in Mt. 16:17-19 show us three blessings directed at Peter--(i) that Peter is blessed, because the Father has revealed truth to him; (ii) that he is now to be called "Rock", and on that rock Jesus will build His church; and (iii) that Peter is given the keys, and so whatever he binds and looses on earth will be bound and loosed in heaven. In order to believe the "petros/petra" distinction argument, you have to believe that Jesus is, in one breath, celebrating and blessing Peter, but also telling Peter how unimportant and little he is, which of course does not make sense.
Even non-Catholic scholars are starting to concede that the "petros/petra" argument fails. For example, Baptist scholar D.A. Carson has said:
"... on the basis of the distinction between 'petros' and 'petra,' many have attempted to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on which Jesus builds his church. Peter is a mere "stone," it is alleged, but Jesus himself is the "rock," as Peter himself attests (1 Peter 2:5-8). Others adopt some other distinction: e.g. "upon this rock of revealed truth- this truth you have just confessed- I will build my church." Yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretation, it is doubtful whether many would have taken 'rock' to mean anything but Peter... Had Matthew wanted to say no more than Peter was a stone in contrast with Jesus the Rock, the more common word would have been 'lithos' ('stone' of almost any size). Then there would have been no pun--and that is just the point!"
Jesus is establishing Peter in a position of authority in His Church, which is further affirmed by passages like Jn. 21:15-17 ("Feed my sheep") and Lk. 22:31-32 ("Simon...I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers"). And Scripture shows Peter exercising this authority when he orders that baptism be extended to the Gentiles (Acts 10:48), when he interprets Scripture to mean that another man should be selected to take Judas' empty office after Judas has killed himself (Acts 1:15-20), and when he decides the issue of circumcision at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:7-12). Notice that at the Council of Jerusalem, Peter stands up, decides, and all fall silent.
The historical writings of the first Christians confirm that Peter and his successors have always held a position of authority and primacy in the Church. There are many examples from these writings that I could use to show this, but for now, let me share the words of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, in 180 AD:
We shall "confound all those [believers in Jesus] who...assemble other than where is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul--that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition."
do catholics violate the commandments when they make images and statues and kneel before them in prayer?
E. Daniel Box
Catholics affirm that idolatry, which is the worship of images and false gods, is inherently sinful and expressly forbidden by God in Exodus 20. However, God's prohibition here applies only to the worship of images, and not to the making of images.
How do we know this? By examining all of Scripture (not Exodus 20 alone). To be specific, although it is true, as noted above, that God does forbid the "carv[ing of] idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth or in the waters beneath the earth" in Exodus 20:4-5, He interestingly also commands the Jews, only five chapters later in Ex. 25:18, to build two golden angels that are to be placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant--the very place where God made His presence known. In addition to this, God commands Moses in Num. 21: 8-9 to make a bronze serpent, and says that whoever looks at it will be saved. In fact, Jn. 3:14-15 expressly tells us that this bronze serpent prefigured Jesus!
What's going on here? Is God contradicting Himself? The answer is "no." The golden angels on the Ark and the bronze serpent made by Moses were not idols--they were simply statues. There is a key difference. Idols are false gods and are sinfully made the object of worship, whereas icons, paintings, and statues are like photographs. Even though photographs remind us of our loved ones who are no longer with us, and even though we might kiss photographs as a sign of our love for the people depicted in them, we do not worship photographs. Similarly, Catholics might kneel in prayer before a statue or painting, but that doesn't mean that Catholics are worshiping the statue or painting. Instead, the statue or painting provides an occasion for remembrance and reverence, that then inspires a Catholic to kneel in prayer. But Catholics are firm in their belief that there is only one God, and He alone is entitled to worship.
There is very serious at stake in the debate over icons and statues--namely, the very identity of Jesus Himself. In other words, if we reject icons and statues, then, in a manner of speaking, we reject who Jesus is. Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus Himself is an "icon" (Gk. "eikon") or the "image" of the invisible God. That is, Jesus is God expressed through matter--He is the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14)! The Christian faith is an incarnational faith, and not a Gnostic faith that looks to divide body and spirit. So Jesus' very person gives us the best defense of statues and icons--if God can take the form of flesh, then it's not sinful to attempt to express or depict God through other forms of matter, like paint, marble, etc.
Statues and paintings have no power (only God has power). Catholics don't care about the gold, marble, velvet, plaster, or canvas out of which the statue or painting is made. All of those things are simply means to an end--that is, these things are not God, but they are beautiful and help to inspire a strong prayer. Human beings are visual creatures, and God recognizes that, and approves of our visual aids to our prayer life, so long as we don't worship the visual aids themselves.
E. Daniel Box
Catholics believe that God alone (not Mary nor any of the other saints) is worthy of worship. The confusion between Catholics and non-Catholics comes from how we understand the word "prayer." For non-Catholics, "to pray" to Someone is "to worship" that Someone. But for Catholics, "to pray" to someone simply means "to ask" something of that someone. Think of how you've heard the word "pray" used in a Shakespearean play (e.g. "I pray you do this without delay"). So when Catholics "pray" to Mary or the saints, we're not "worshiping" these mere human beings. Instead, we're simply "asking" them to continue to pray for us in heaven, the same way that our loves ones pray for us while on earth.
1 Tim. 2:5 tells us that Jesus alone is our sole mediator. Amen! Catholics agree. But pay attention to what Paul says only four verses earlier in 1 Tim. 2:1--he says, "I ask for supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone." In other words, all Christians must pray for one another, and doing so in no way threatens Jesus' role as our "sole mediator." Instead, it is precisely, because Jesus is our mediator, that we are all able to pray or mediate on behalf of one another through Him. We know this is true from Scripture, because Paul tells us that, when we have died into Christ, "it is no longer I [who lives], but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20), and Paul also says that when he acts, he does so "in the person of Christ" (2 Cor. 2:10). Again, Paul also says that we are God's coworkers (1 Cor. 3:9), such that we water and plant, but God causes the growth (v. 6). So when Mary and the saints pray for us, they do so NOT because they are God nor because they have powers. They pray for us, because they are part of the one body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12 (there is not one body on earth and another body in heaven)). And because they are part of that one body of Christ, we cannot say to them, "I do not need you" (1 Cor. 12:21). Remember, the prayer of the righteous person is very powerful (Jas. 5:16), and those who are in heaven are certainly righteous, because nothing unclean can enter heaven (Rev. 21:27). In fact, Scripture shows us, in Rev. 5:8 and Rev. 8:4, that both human beings and angels present our prayers to God! In these passages, we see the elders in heaven (i.e. the 12 tribesmen of Judah and the 12 apostles) and the angels presenting to the Lamb bowls of incense, which Scripture says are "the prayers of the holy ones" on earth. And Jesus himself uses a parable in Lk. 16: 19-31 that shows us a dead rich man praying for his loved ones still alive on earth.
Rom. 8:38-39 tells us that death cannot separate us from the love of Jesus. So dead Christians are not separated from Christ--they remain part of His Body and His Bride, the Church. Therefore, praying to the dead saints--who, of course, are not dead, but are more alive than ever in heaven--is only possible because of Jesus and the oneness we share through Him, the vine (Jn. 15:5). This practice is not the same thing as necromancy, which is expressly forbidden in Deut. 18: 10-11 and Isa. 19:3, because it does not seek to conjure up spirits or to manipulate the spirit realm. Instead, Catholics recognize, together with Heb. 11 and 12:1, that all of the dead holy ones who have gone before us actively "surround [us as a] great cloud of witnesses," which means they testify on our behalf, as we continue to run the race here on earth.
The beauty of Catholicism is that it is not an "either/or" religion, but a "both/and" religion. Catholicism believes in the goodness of both spirit and body, faith and reason, the Written Word of God and the Oral Word of God. Similarly, Catholics believe in praying both to God and to our holy brothers and sisters who have gone to sleep before us. So we absolutely do pray to the Father, as Jesus Himself taught us, and we do so often. But because God gave us brothers and sisters too, we ask also that they might continue to pray for us, whether in heaven or on earth.
Remember, God is the Trinity--a communion of Three Persons. Therefore, being made in His image, we too must seek out not just communion with God, but communion with our neighbors as well.
The Perpetual Virginity of Mary
E. Daniel Box
Disclaimer: Much of the information that I discuss below is derived from Tim Staples’ book, “Behold Your Mother,” which I highly recommend. It goes into much greater detail than I do here, and provides several additional biblical arguments to support the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.
3 TEXTS IN THE BIBLE THE CAUSE CONFUSION
2. Matthew 1: 24-25
“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.”
3. Galatians 1: 18-19
“Then three years later, I went to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles, only James the brother of the Lord.”
THE TERM “BROTHER”
In Genesis 13:8 and 14:12, Abraham and Lot, who were uncle and nephew, use the word “brother” to describe their relationship.
In Galatians 1: 18-19 (cited above), St. Paul speaks of the same “James” from Matthew 13 (also cited above), as a person who was (1) one of the twelve apostles and (2) brother of the Lord. Of the twelve apostles, only two were named James. One, according to the Bible, had a father named “Zebedee” (e.g. Mk. 3: 17), and the other had a father named “Alpheus” (e.g. Mark 3: 18). Neither of the two apostles named James was a son of Joseph, the (step)father of Jesus.
In Matthew 27:55-61 and 28:1, we read about some of the women who were followers of Jesus, two of whom were Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary”, who was the mother of James and Joseph (mentioned as “[Jesus’] brothers” in Mt. 13 above). It is significant that St. Matthew uses the word “other” to describe the Mary mentioned here, whom similarly is not identified as being the same woman as the mother of Jesus. This strongly suggests that a Mary other than the mother of Jesus was the mother of James and Joseph (perhaps this other Mary is “the sister of [the Virgin Mary]” mentioned in Jn. 19: 25, which would thereby make James and Joseph the cousins of Jesus).
In Jude 1:1, we learn that the same Jude from Matthew 13 (i.e. Judas Thaddeus) was the brother of James from Matthew 13. So Jude/Judas Thaddeus shared the same relationship with Jesus as did James and Joseph (again, likely cousins to Christ).
Turning now to a non-biblical source, the second-century historian Hegesippus tells us that the father of Simon from Matthew 13 was Clopas (whose wife was present at the foot of the cross; Jn. 19: 25). Interestingly, Hegesippus adds that Clopas was the brother of St. Joseph (the father of Jesus), which would mean that Simon, like the other “brothers of Christ listed in Mt. 13, was Jesus’ cousin. And yet despite his knowledge of this fact, Hegesippus still refers to Simon as Jesus’ “brother.”
All of the biblical passages suggesting that Jesus had siblings, then, have been explained away. The biblical confusion likely stems from the fact that, in Aramaic, no word for “cousin” existed. Thus, the word “brother” or “sister” was used to describe such close family relatives. Further, although not inspired by God, the Protoevanglium of James (dated around 110 A.D.), which has as its primary thesis that Mary perpetually remained a virgin, explains that St. Joseph was an elderly widower who married Mary, who already at that point was a consecrated virgin, in order to be her guardian. Given that St. Joseph was a widower, therefore, it is also possible that the “brothers” and “sisters” of Jesus could have been the children of St. Joseph from his prior marriage.
THE TERM “UNTIL”
Let’s turn now to the implications behind the word “until” in Mt. 1: 24-25, which explains that St. Joseph had no relations with Mary “until” she bore a son.
To cut to the chase, the word “until” (Gk. “heos”) does not necessarily insinuate that anything different begins to occur after the event that the word “until” precedes. In the present context, that would mean that the word “until” does not imply that St. Joseph had relations with Mary after she bore a son. Here are some biblical examples of the use of the word “until”:
-Mt. 28: 20 Jesus says, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Let’s think about why St. Matthew likely used the word “until” here. What is absolutely miraculous and unique about the birth of Christ is that He was conceived not through sexual relations, but by the Holy Spirit. St. Matthew is trying to emphasize that Mary and Joseph had no relations before the birth of Christ. St. Matthew is stressing that it is in no way possible that Jesus was the fruit of sexual intercourse. It is much harder to believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit than it is to believe that Mary forever remained a virgin, so St. Matthew’s focus is to prove Jesus’ miraculous conception, not to prove Mary’s perpetual virginity.
POSITIVE EVIDENCE FOR THE CATHOLIC TEACHING
Up to this point, we’ve attempted to refute the non-Catholic arguments against the perpetual virginity of Mary. Now let’s explore if there is any positive evidence to support or to confirm the Catholic teaching.
1. Lk. 1: 34 “But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
--The Bible says, in Luke 1: 27, that when the angel visited Mary, she was already “betrothed” to St. Joseph. “Betrothed” is not the same thing as “engaged.” “Betrothed” means “married” (i.e. having said the vows), but without having consummated the union. In Israel in this period of history, after having exchanged vows, the husband would first return to his house alone for a period (usually two to eight weeks) and would prepare his home to be fit for a wife and future family. Only after this would the betrothed join together in sexual union. So when the angel visits Mary, she and Joseph have exchanged vows, but have never consummated their union sexually.
--Given this fact, the response of Mary (i.e. “How can this be?”) seems extremely odd: if a woman who has had already said her wedding vows to her husband was told that she was going to have a child (for example, at the wedding reception, but before the consummation the occurs on the wedding night), would it ever make sense for her to ask, “How is that going to happen?” Of course not! She would of course assume that she would have a child through sexual relations with her husband. Mary’s reaction only makes sense if she had never intended to consummate her marriage with St. Joseph. In effect, Mary is asking that angel, “Does this mean that I am no longer to remain a consecrated virgin?” This thought-process was made famous by St. Augustine in the fifth century, when he wrote, “If she had intended to know man, she would not have been surprised. Her shock is a sign of her vow [to remain a virgin].”
2. John 19: 26-27 “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’”
--If Joseph and Mary had had more children (i.e. other than Jesus), it would be unthinkable that Jesus would offer his mother into the care of his apostle John. Why would Mary not simply be cared after by one of the “brothers” or “sisters” of Christ after His crucifixion, if these were truly Mary’s children? (As a side note, we as Catholics believe that Christ here is inviting all Christians, not just John, to receive His mother into their homes (and hearts). She is the mother of all “those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus”; Rev. 12: 17).
3. Luke 1: 35 And the angel said to her in reply, “‘The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
--The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament was a prefiguration for the Blessed Virgin Mary. How do we know this, and what does it mean? In the Old Testament, God ordered the Jews to build an ark of acacia wood and pure gold. Within this ark, three things were held: the tablets on which the Ten Commandments had been written by God, manna (the miraculous bread given to the Jews to sustain them during their exodus), and the staff of the High Priest Aaron (Heb. 9: 4). When the Jews would halt their exodus at the end of any given days (sometimes only for one night, other times for several weeks), the Ark of the Covenant would be kept in the Tent of Meeting—a tent that only the priest could enter, as it was a place where the presence of God resided. Whenever God made Himself present in the Tent of Meeting, Exodus 40: 34-35 says that “the Cloud [of the Lord] overshadowed the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of God filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the Cloud had settled down upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” It’s hard to miss the parallel language in Ex. 40 and Lk. 1.
--Also, as we know, Christ is the “Word” (Jn. 1:1), the Bread of Life (Jn. 6: 35), and the High Priest (Heb. 3: 11). Thus, it becomes easy to see that the three items contained within the Ark of the Covenant are prefigurations of Jesus. Because Mary carried Jesus in her womb, just as the ark carried these prefigurations of Jesus, we have more evidence that the Ark of the Covenant was a prefiguration of Mary.
--But the evidence doesn’t stop there. Compare Lk. 1: 41-44, 56 and 2 Sam. 6:9-16. In this passage in 2 Samuel, the Ark of the Covenant enters the city of Jerusalem, and is brought to King David. In response, the King says, “How is it that the ark of my Lord comes to me?” In Luke, Mary enters the house of her cousin, Elizabeth, and approaches her. Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit cries out (Gk. “anephonesen,” which is a word the Bible only ever uses to describe the reaction of those in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant), “How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” Also, in 2 Sam. 6: 16, David leaps and dances for joy in the presence of the ark; in the same way, St. John the Baptist leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth in the presence of Mary. Finally, in 2 Sam. 6: 11, the Bible says that the ark stayed in the house of Obededom for three months; and Lk. 1: 56 tells us that Mary remained in the home of Elizabeth for three months.
--Lastly, in Rev. 12, we see the Virgin Mary already in heaven, clothed with the sun and with the moon at her feet (sounds like the Virgin of Guadalupe). But what do we see right before we see the virgin? The Ark of the Covenant (Rev. 11: 19). With all of this in mind, we can say that the parallel established in the Bible between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary is clear.
--Why is it significant that the Ark prefigured Mary? Because the Ark was so sacred and pure (n.b. made with pure gold and perfect acacia wood from the moment of its construction—like Mary who was without original sin from the moment of her conception) that the only people who could enter the Tent of Meeting were God and the High Priest. Not even Moses could enter the tabernacle! And if a person were to dare even to touch the ark—even with the holiest and most honorable of intentions—he would be struck dead by the Lord, as happened with Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6: 6-7! With the ark as a prefiguration of Mary in mind, how could a Bible-believer ever think it possible that St. Joseph could have touched or sexually entered into Mary, who is the Ark of the New Covenant? Only God Himself and the High Priest could ever enter such a place.
4. Ezekiel 44: 1-2 “The Lord said to me: This gate must remain closed; it must not be opened, and no one should come through it. Because the Lord, the God of Israel, came through it, it must remain closed.”
--Although this passage is in reference to the Temple gate, it’s general principle remains true: what the Lord God has entered, no other man should enter. Because the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, and Jesus was conceived and entered into her womb, no other person should enter into her sanctuary. She too was to remain closed.
3 TEXTOS DE LA BIBLIA QUE CAUSAN CONFUSIÓN
1. Matéo 13: 55-56
“No es éste el hijo del carpintero? ¿No se llama su madre María, y sus hermanos, Santiago, José, Simón y Judas? ¿No están todas sus hermanas con nosotros? ¿De dónde, pues, tiene éste todas estas cosas?”
2. Matéo 1: 24-25
“Y despertando José del sueño, hizo como el ángel del Señor le había mandado, y recibió a su mujer. Pero no la conoció hasta que dio a luz a su hijo primogénito; y le puso por nombre JESÚS.”
3. Gálatas 1: 18-19
“Tres años después, fui a Jerusalén para conocer a Cefas, con quien estuve quince días. Pero no vi a ningún otro de los apósteles, aunque si a Santiago el hermano del Señor.”
EL TÉRMINO, “HERMANO”
En Génesis 13:8 y 14:12, Abraham y Lot, quien eran tío y sobrino, usan la palabra, “hermano” para describir su relación.
En Gálatas 1: 18-19 (expuesto arriba), Pablo habla del mismo Santiago de Matéo 13 (también expuesto arriba), como persona quien fue (1) uno de los doce apósteles y (2) hermano del Señor. De los doce apósteles, solo habían dos que se llamaban Santiago. Uno, según la Biblia, tenía papá llamado “Zebedéo”, y el papá del otro se llamaba “Alféo”. Ni uno de los dos fue hijo de José, papá de Jesús.
En Matéo 27:55-61, escuchamos de las mujeres quien estaban siguiendo a Jesús, algunas de las cuales eran María Magdalena y “la otra María”, madre de Santiago y José. Es significante que Mateo usaba la palabra “otra” junto con “María” y también que no la mencionaba como la mamá de Jesús. Este hecho sugiere que fue una otra María (tal vez “la hermana de [la madre de Jesús]” mencionada en Juan 19: 25) quien fue mamá del mismo Santiago y José en Mateo 13 quienes ya hemos mencionado.
En Judas 1:1, aprendemos que el mismo Judas de Matéo 13 (eso es Judas Tadeo) fue el hermano del mismo Santiago arriba. Entoces, Judas también fue primo de Jesús, aunque la Biblia lo llama el “hermano” de Cristo.
Por medio de leer el historiador del segundo siglo que se llamaba Hegesipo—aunque sus obras no son parte de la Biblia—aprendemos que el papá de Simón de Matéo 13 fue Cleofás. Y a pesar de escribir que Cleofás fue el hermano de José (papá de Jesús)—que significaría que Simón fue primo hermano de Jesús—Hegesipo dice que Simón fue “hermano” de Jesús.
No existe una palabra para “primo” en arameo, el idioma en que habló Cristo. Por eso, muchos suponen que la palabra “hermano” también estaba usada como “primos hermanos” durante la época de Cristo. Además, como José fue viudo cuando se casó con María, hay la posibilidad que los “hermanos” de Cristo fueron sus hermanastros o hijos de José (y no de María) de su primero matrimonio.
EL TÉRMINO “HASTA”
La palabra “hasta” (“heos” en griego, que es el idioma en que fue escrito el evangelio según Matéo) insinua nada sobre lo que pasa después de la acción antes de esta palabra. Entonces, no está insinuada que José tuvo relaciones con María después del nacimiento de Jesús.
Matéo 28: 20 Dice Jesús, “Por mi parte, yo estaré con Uds. todos los días, hasta el fín del mundo.”
--Claramente, Jesús no quiere decir que, después del fín del mundo, Él no va a estar con nosotros.
1 Cor. 15: 25 “Porque Cristo tiene que reinar hasta que todos sus enemigos estén puestos debajo de sus pies.”
--Jesús va a reinar por siempre. Su reino no va a terminar después de estar puestos debajo de los pies de Cristo sus enemigos.
EL TÉRMINO, “PRIMOGÉNITOR”
La palabra en griego es “primogénitor” que no insinua que habían más hijos entre María y José después de Cristo. Solo quiere decir que María nunca ha sido embarazada antes de la concepción de Jesús.
--Podemos estar seguros sobre esto por medio de leer Éxodo 13: 1-2. Este pasaje dice, “El Señor se dirigió a Moisés, ‘Conságrame los hijos mayores, porque todo primer hijo de los israelitas me pertenece.’” Entonces, San Matéo muy probablamente incluyó la palabra, “primogénitor,” para describir Jesús, porque para los judios el concepto de ser el primer hijo fue espiritualmente y culturamente significante.
EVIDENCIA POSITIVA PARA LA CREENCIA CATÓLICA
(Es decir, la creencia que no es possible que tenía María otros hijos, ya que ella siguió siendo virgen por toda su vida, incluso después del nacimiento de Jesús, por la duración total de su matrimonio con José)
1. Luc. 1: 34 “María respondió al ángel, “Cómo será esto, puesto que no conozco varón?”
--Dice la Biblia, en Lucas 1: 27, que en este punto María ya fue “desposada” con José. “Desposada” no quiere decir “comprometida.” Quiere decir “casada” pero sin haber consumado el matrimonio. En Israel, en esta época, unos novios decirían los votos matrimoniales (en otras palabras, se casarían), pero no vivirían juntos inmediatamente después. En lugar de eso, el esposo primero regresaría a su casa solito por algunas semanas (o tal vez uno o dos meses) y prepararía su casa para su esposa—para su familia futura—y solo después de eso, la recibiría allí, y ellos consumarían su matrimonio. Este el lo que quiere decir “desposada”—María ya estaba casada con José, pero no había consumada su matrimonio con él.
--Hasta este punto, católicos y protestantes están de acuerdo (claro, porque cada cristiano acepta el hecho que María fue virgen cuando estaba conceibido en su vientre Jesús). Pero, considera eso: si una mujer ya estaba casada, pero sin haber consumada su matrimonio con su esposo (por ejemplo, cuando ella está festejando en la recepción después de su boda, pero antes de su primera noche con su esposo como su esposa), y una persona la hubiera dicho que ella “va a estar encinta: tendrá un hijo, y le pondrá por nombre Jesús” (como dice el ángel a María en Lucas 1: 31), sería sensato que esta mujer responder, “Pero, cómo, puesto que no conozco varón?” Claro que no! Ella asumiría que va a estar encinta por su nuevo esposo—A MENOS QUE ella nunca había tenido la intención de conocer sexualmente a su esposo. Y el famoso san Agustín (a quien les fascina ambos católicos y protestantes), escribiendo en el quinto siglo, confirma eso—confirma la posición católica, diciendo: “Si ella había tenido la intención de conocer al hombre, ella no se habría sorprendida. Su asombro es signo de su voto (de virginidad).”
--También, verifica la posición católica la Biblia implícitamente, ya que en Matéo 1: 20-24, leemos que José toma María por esposa; pero muchos meses después de haber hecho eso, Lucas 2: 5 nos informa que María todavía sola fue “desposada” en ruta a Belén donde ellos iban a empadronarse. Entonces, aunque José ya había tomado a María como esposa por muchos meses, dice la Biblia, que ella siguió estando mujer “desposada,” es decir una mujer que no ha conocido a su marido sexualmente.
2. Juan 19: 26-27 “Luego le dijo [Jesús] a su discípulo, ‘Ahí tienes a tu madre.’”
--Si María y José había tenido más hijos, sería impensable que Jesús ofrecería su mamá como madre al su discípulo, con la expectación que este discípulo la recibiría en su casa. ¿Porque no viviría María con los “hermanos” de Cristo después de su crucifixión si ellos verdaderamente fueran los hijos suyos? (También, nosotros católicos creemos que en la cruz Cristo nos invita—todos los cristianos además de su discípulo—a recibir María en nuestras casas. Por eso y otras razones, tenemos imagenes de María en la iglesia y en nuestras propias casas como un recordatorio que ella – haber sido ofrecida como la mamá de todos los cristianos por medio de las palabras de Cristo en la cruz – está siempre aceptada en nuestras casas y en nuestros corazones).
3. Lucas 1: 35 El ángel dice a María, “‘El Espíritu Santo vendrá sobre ti, y el poder del Altísimo te cubrirá con su sombra.’”
--La Arca de la Alianza en el Antiguo Testamento fue una prefiguración de María. Como sabemos eso y que quiere decir eso? En el Antiguo Testamento, Díos ordenó que los judios contruyan una arca de madera y oro puro (esta arca no es el arca de Noé; es otra arca—una caja granda, no un barco). Dentro de esta Arca de la Alianza estaban puestos tres cosas: las tabletas en que estaban escritos los 10 mandamientos, maná (el pan dado a los judios milagrosamente para sostenerles durante su éxodo a través del desierto), y el bastón del sumo sacerdote que se llamaba Aarón. Cuando los judios se les pararían su éxodo en el fin del día (tal vez solo para una noche o para varias semanas), la Arca de la Alianza se quedó dentro de la Tienda del Encuentro—una tienda que solo el sacerdote sumo podría entrar, ya que fue el lugar donde residió la presencia de Díos. Y cuando Díos estaba presente en la Tienda del Encuentro, dice Éxodo 40: 34-35 que “la Nube [del Señor] cubrió la tienda del encuentro y la gloria del Señor llenó el santuario. Moisés no podía entrar en la tienda del encuentro porque la Nube se había asentado sobre ella y la gloria del Señor llenaba el santuario.” Leyendo de nuevo las palabras de Lucas 1: 35 arriba, el paralelismo entre María y la Arca es claro.
--Además, como sabemos que Cristo es la “Palabra” (Juan 1:1), el pan milagroso que es la Eucaristia (Lucas 24: 35), y el Sumo Sacerdote (Hebreos 3: 11), es facil entender que las cosas puestas dentro de la Arca son prefiguraciones de Jesús. Como María cargó Jesús en su vientre, en la misma manera que la Arca cargó estas prefiguraciones de Jesús, tenemos más evidencia que la Arca fue prefiguración de María.
--Y además, tenemos más evidencia que la Arca fue prefiguración de María cuando comparemos Lucas 1: 41-44, 56 y 2 Samuel 9-16. En este pasaje de 2 Samuel, la Arca de la Alianza entra Jerusalén y acera el Rey David. En respuesta, dice el rey, “Como pasa que la Arca del Señor venga a mi?” En Lucas, María entra la casa de su prima Isabel—quien en este momento tiene en su vientre su hijo, San Juan Bautista—y acerca su prima. Isabel responde, “Quien soy yo, para que venga a visitarme la madre de mi Señor?” Además, en 2 Samuel 6: 16, David salta de gozo en la presencia de la Arca; en la misma manera, salta de gozo en el viente de su mamá San Juan Bautista en Lucas 1: 41, 44. Y también, en 2 Samuel 6: 11, dice la Biblia que la Arca estuvo en casa de Obededom tres meses; y Lucas 1: 56 nos dice que María permaneció en la casa de Isabel tres meses. Con todo eso en mente, podemos decir que el paralelo establecido en la Biblia entre la Arca y María es claro.
--Porque es significante el hecho que la Arca fue prefiguración de María? Porque la Arca de la Alianza fue tan sancta y pura que las únicas que podían entrar el sanctuario de la Arca fueron Dios y el sumo sacerdote. Ni siquiera Moisés podía entrar el santuario! Y si una persona tocase la Arca—aun con motivos valorosos y religiosos—se moriría a causa del atrevimiento de tocar la Arca de Dios, como pasó a Uzzá en 2 Samuel 6: 6-7! Con la Arca como prefiguración de María en mente, cómo podría creer un cristiano que fuese posible que José tocaba María y tenía hijos con ella, quien fue la Arca de la Nueva Alianza?
4. Ezekiel 44: 1-2 “El hombre me volvió a llevar a la entrada exterior del temple que daba al oriente, la cual estaba cerrada. Allí el Señor me dijo: ‘Esta entrada quedará cerrada; no deberá abrirse. Nadie podrá entrar por ella, porque por ella ha entrado el Señor, el Dios de Israel. Así pues, quedará cerrada.”
--Por lo que entre el Señor, nadie más puede entrar. Como por la entrada del temple, el Señor ha entrado por María, y por eso, leyendo la fuerza de las palabras en este pasaje, podemos entender como cualquier otra persona no hubiese podido entrar por María. Ella quedó cerrada.
The Historicity and Reliability of the Gospels
E. Daniel Box
Many people today—atheists and theists alike—have taken sadly come to accept as true the popular idea that the Gospel accounts were originally anonymous, and are therefore unreliable. However, when we examine the historical record, we see that there is zero basis for this common claim that is tragically taught as fact in so many schools today.
There are in fact no anonymous gospel accounts in existence—not even one. From our 2nd Century copies of the Gospels to the 5th Century copies of the Gospels, every single one, without fail, is attributed to either Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (e.g. Papyrus 4, 62, 66, 75, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Washingtonianus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Ephraemi, & Codex Bezae).
Also, while there is plenty of documented debate among the first Christians regarding the authorship of the book of Hebrews, there is zero documented debate regarding the authorship of the Gospels. Instead, the historical record is unanimous in declaring that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were the authors of the Gospels. As an example of this unanimous historical record, consider:
Papias, disciple of the apostle John (ca. 130 AD):
“Matthew composed the sayings in the Hebrew dialect, and each person interpreted them as best as he could."
"And the elder [John] used to say this: 'Mark, having become Peter's interpreter, wrote down accurately everything that he remembered, though not in order, of the things either said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, followed Peter, who adapted his teachings as needed but had no intention of giving an ordered account of the Lord's sayings. Consequently, Mark did nothing wrong in writing down some things as he remembered them, for he made it his concern not to omit anything that he heard or make any false statement in them."
St. Justin Martyr (ca. 140-165 AD):
--refers to the gospels as "the Memoirs of the apostles and their successors"
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, disciple of St. Polycarp, who was the disciple of the apostle John (ca. 180 AD):
"Now Matthew published among the Hebrews a written gospel also in their own tongue while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and founding the church."
"After [Peter and Paul's] departure, Mark also, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the things which were preached by Peter."
"Luke also, who was a follower of Paul, put down in a book the gospel which was preached by him."
"Then [after the publication of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke], John, the disciple of the Lord, who had even rested on his breast, himself also gave forth the gospel, while he was living at Ephesus in Asia."
The Muratorian Canon, fragments listing the books in Scripture (ca. 180 AD):
"The third book of the gospel is that according to Luke. Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul had taken him with him as one zealous, composed it in his own name, according to [the general] belief. Yet he himself had not seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John."
"The fourth of the gospels is that of John, [one] of the disciples. To his fellow disciples and bishops, who had been urging him to write, he said, 'Fast with me today for three days, and what will be revealed to each one let us tell it to one another.' In the same night, it was revealed to Andrew, [one] of the apostles, that John should write down all things in his own name, while all of them should review it."
St. Clement of Alexandria (ca. 200 AD):
"Of all those who had been with the Lord, only Matthew and John left us their recollection, and tradition says they took to writing perforce. Matthew had first preached to the Hebrews, and when he was on the point of going to others, he transmitted in writing in his native language the gospel according to himself, and thus supplied by writing the lack of his own presence to those from whom he was sent."
"But a great light of godliness shone upon the minds of Peter's listeners that they were not satisfied with a single hearing or with the oral teaching of the divine proclamation. So, with all kinds of exhortations, they begged Mark (whose gospel is extant), since he was Peter's follower, to leave behind a written record of the teaching given to them verbally, and they did not quit until they had persuaded the man, and thus they became the immediate cause of the scripture called "The Gospel according to Mark." And they say that the apostle [Peter], aware of what had occurred because the Spirit had revealed it to him, was pleased with their zeal and sanctioned the writing for study in the churches."
--continuing from the first quote..."John, it is said, used all the time a message which was not written down, and at last took to writing for the following cause. The three gospels which had been written down before were distributed to all, including himself; it is said he welcomed them and testified to their truth, but said that there was only lacking to the narrative the account of what was done by Christ at first and at the beginning of the preaching...They say accordingly that John was asked to relate in his gospel the period passed over in silence by the former evangelists."
Tertullian (ca. 200-220 AD):
"Luke, however, was not an apostle, but only an apostolic man...not a master, but a disciple, and so inferior to a master--at least as far subsequent to him as the apostle [Paul] whom he followed...was subsequent to others...Even Luke's form of the gospel men normally ascribe to Paul."
"We lay down as our first position that the evangelical Testament has apostles for its authors...Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instill faith into us; whilst of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards.
Origen (230-255 AD):
"And thirdly, that according to Luke, who wrote for those who from the Gentiles [came to believe] the Gospel that was praised by Paul."
Daniel Box lives in Chicago with his wife, but is a proud Texan (Fort Worth native) and Mexican-American. He is a practicing real estate and zoning attorney, after having clerked with the Thomas More Society and served as the Board Chairman of the Chicago chapter of Young Catholic Professionals in 2015 and 2016. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics from the University of Dallas in 2012.