Teaching & Suggestions

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here.

You can print this out, fold it twice and hand it to someone who needs to know or keep one in your pocket.

Click here to open the full printable document

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The Eucharist: the Flesh Profits Nothing

by Steve Ray on May 12, 2019

Since we are in Capernaum today, I decided to share a few words related to the site. I was recently asked a related questions questionic Answers Live. Capernaum is where Jesus said “Eat My Flesh; Drink My Blood.” I thought it would be appropriate to answer an e-mail I received a while ago from a man named Tim. He asked:

Day 5 Capernaum_synagogue_interior“I’m not sure if you normally field apologetics questions from your readers, but as I’ve had no response at other sites I thought I’d give you a go. I have been engaged in a debate with a Protestant regarding the Real Presence and have reached a bit of an impasse. My Protestant friend cites Matthew 13:34-35.

(Picture to left: Remains of synagogue in Capernaum)

All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

He presents this as evidence that when Jesus spoke of us eating his flesh in John 6:54-58, he was speaking metaphorically. He considers that because Jesus was addressing a crowd he must have been using a parable, thus the dogma of the Real Presence is not biblical. Unfortunately my friend chooses not to engage with the host of other arguments (“phago” vs “trogo”; the fact that Jesus’ insistence that His disciples eat His flesh drove them away; etc) and keeps reiterating that the apparent inconsistencies do not matter – all that matters is that the Bible says that Jesus spoke in parables to crowds. How would you answer this argument?”


So I responded:

I will try to answer quickly as you are right, I usually don’t have time to field these questions since I get 100 emails on a good day. But I do strongly suggest you post your question on my Message Board which was set up for this very purpose and you will get plenty of good answers.

beatitudes_blochFirst, it is incorrect to make an absolute out of Jesus’ comments about speaking only in parables — as though he never spoke to the crowds NOT using parables is simply inaccurate and sorry to say — your friend has come up with a self-serving interpretation that is very incorrect.

Have your friend read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7. The other Gospels have shorter versions of this sermon and mention the great crowds that heard him speak. There are many instances when Jesus taught didactically without parables.

In the Protestant New American Commentary, it says “Verse 34b does not refer to Jesus’ teaching beyond this immediate occasion.“ What the commentary means is that it is only in this instance — it is to this specific crowd addressed in Matthew 13 that Jesus only spoke in parables. It does NOT mean that he never spoke to any other crowd without parables. Your friend is very mistaken and has a very poor understanding of Scripture — and seems to lack even a basic understanding of how to interpret it.

Second, what is a parable? According to the Protestant New Bible Dictionary, “a ‘parable’ is the somewhat protracted simile or short descriptive story, usually designed to inculcate a single truth or answer a single question.“

Of course Jesus often spoke metaphorically and of course he often spoke in parables. Parables are stories with a moral attached to them. We are all familiar with parables — stories — Jesus told about the Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep, the Sower, etc. I would love to ask your friend what “story” or parable is being told in in John 6? Jesus is NOT telling a parable there; he is teaching didactically. Just because he told parables elsewhere does not mean everything and every time he taught it was strictly metaphorical. Your friend is mixing things up — don’t let him get away with it.

100_1547Third, Christians have always seen John 6 as metaphorical and literal. There is no problem with it being both. Many things are symbols that ARE IN SUBSTANCE what they symbolize. For example, the cross is a symbol of our redemption yet it is also a real cross from which you could get a sliver in your finger. Just because something has a symbolic element doesn’t mean that it is ONLY symbolic. Your friend is making distinctions that are not necessary and he proves what an incapable and poor Bible student he really is.

(Picture: Steve teaching on the Eucharist and John 6 at Capernaum where Jesus said these things.)

Fourth, and here we will dig in a little bit. The Jews did not believe Jesus that he said they had to eat his flesh an drink his blood. They walked away. If he was speaking metaphorically he would have called them back and said, “Hey guys, you don’t understand — see the Protestants have it right — what I just said is metaphor so you don’t have to be offended and walk away!” But he didn’t — he let the crowd of disciples walk away.

Your friend will also try to use this verse as an argument against you

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63, NASB95)

He will probably say, “The flesh profits nothing, see!”

Concerning this, Jesus is not speaking about His Flesh (“My Flesh”), in verse 63 but “the flesh” which is very different and which is missed by sloppy-thinking Protestants like your friend. When Protestants claim “My flesh” profits nothing, they prove way too much! They are claiming that the Incarnation of Jesus in the flesh and the bodily resurrection has no profit.

What Jesus means by “”the flesh profits nothing” is very simple because he uses the phrase again in John 8:15 (we must let the Bible interpret the Bible :-) where he says:

“You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.” (John 8:15, NKJV)

duccioultimacenaOther Bibles translate this “according to the flesh”, or “by human standards”, or “by appearances” or “with your human mind“. When Jesus uses the phrase “the flesh” he is referring to human understanding apart from divine revelation. Your friend judges the Eucharist by human standards (“Looks like bread, feels like bread, tastes like bread — must be bread”).

This statement of Jesus affirms what he has said about eating his Flesh and drinking his Blood and tells us it is a great mystery — spirit and life. With these words Jesus castigates the unbelieving Protestant along with the unbelieving Jews for judging spiritual things with earthly minds — by the flesh — and failing to understand the deep mysteries of God in the Eucharist.

And by the way, this “symbol only“ mentality about Scripture and this passage in particular is only as old as the Protestant Reformation (er, I mean Rebellion). From the beginning of the Church Christians have understood that Jesus was speaking of his Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist — after all Jesus did not say, “This represents my body.“ he said “This is My Body!“

Too bad your friend wants to erase the words of Jesus or add his own puny interpretation to what the Word of God clearly states. Too bad the mystery goes right over his head.

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“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”
(Matt. 12:38-40)

Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb for three full 24-hour periods like he prophesied.

He was buried Friday afternoon and rose early Sunday morning.That seems to be only one full day and two nights.

Has the skeptic found an error in the Bible? How does one respond?

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”
(Matt. 12:38?40)

***************************************

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

It is clear that Jesus rejects the call to perform various signs before the Jewish leaders in order to justify his claims and actions. Jesus would not give them signs, however, for he did not come primarily to be a wonder-worker but a Savior. His miracles were performed to display his power and identity and out of mercy to help the poor and sick.

Jesus performed many miracles in private and with a warning not to tell others about them. Yet, one great miracle would be given as a definitive sign. This would be the “sign of Jonah,” his resurrection from the “heart of the earth.”

The main problem encountered in Matthew 12:38-40 involves the temporal designation “three days and three nights.” Interpreting this designation literally, some try to solve the “problem” by arguing that Jesus was really crucified on Thursday rather than Friday. A Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection do not provide sufficient time for three days and three nights.

Authentic Ancient Tomb in Israel

There are numerous ways of figuring out the day-night scheme for this period of time, but it is clear that three separate days and nights cannot be obtained by a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme. Yet, it is clear from the Gospels that Jesus was crucified on Friday, the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath” (Mark 15:42) and raised on Sunday, the “first day of the week” (Mark 16:2). If the temporal designation of Matthew 12:40 is taken literally, a conflict does exist between the time indicated in this verse and the time indicated in the accounts of the passion story.

But should the expression “three days and three nights” be interpreted literally? Three arguments indicate that it should not.

First, it appears that this expression is another way of stating “on the third day” or “in three days.” This can be illustrated from 1 Samuel 30:12-13. The same Greek expression is found in 1 Samuel 30:12 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) as in Matthew 12:40.

Verse 13 refers to this three-day and three-night period as “three days ago” or, as the LXX literally states, “the third day today.” If “three days and three nights” can mean “on the third day,” there is no major problem in our passage.

By Jewish reckoning Jesus could have been crucified on Friday and raised on Sunday, the third day. Friday afternoon = day one; Friday 6 PM to Saturday 6 PM = day two; Saturday 6 PM to Sunday 6 PM = day three.’

A second argument against a literal temporal interpretation is the fact that Matthew did not see any conflict between this expression and either a third-day resurrection (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19) or a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme (Matt. 27:62; 28:1). For him, as well as for the other Evangelists, expressions such as “three days and three nights,” “after three days,” and “on the third day” could be used interchangeably.

Holy Sepulchre, actual location of crucifixion and burial of Jesus

Finally, it should be pointed out that the main point of Jesus’ analogy in Matthew 12:40 does not involve the temporal designation but the sign of the resurrection. Only one miracle or sign will be given to this evil and adulterous generation. That sign will be Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The temporal designation is much less significant. Perhaps Jesus refers to three days and three nights because this expression is found in the Old Testament passage which he wants to quote (Jonah 1:17).

Understood in the context of biblical Judaism—and knowing the idioms and figures of speech in the designation “three days and three nights”—there is no problem with the Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme described in the passion narratives. Any Jew or Roman would have immediately understood; only those divorced from the historical context fail to understand.

It is only if a twentieth-century reckoning of time is imposed or if the idiomatic nature of this temporal designation is not understood in its context that a problem appears.

See also Dave Armstrong’s article “3 Days & Nights” in the Tomb: Contradiction?

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Welcoming New People at Mass this Easter – They May Be an Answer to Someone’s Prayers

April 16, 2019

We get busy on during the Easter Season. We don’t have a lot of respect for people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter. We may be irritated that seats are taken and the church is noisy. But, you are praying for your family and friends to come back to church and MAYBE these […]

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A Recent Discussion with Steve Wood about all things Catholic

March 12, 2019

I spent a delightful half hour talking with my friend Steve Wood (www.Dads.org) about all things Catholic and apologetics.

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Did God Die on the Cross? How Can God Die?

March 1, 2019

Almost every day I get questions. I always try to answer, even if briefly. Today I received a question from Raymund in the Philippines. He is part of a apologetics group and they got very hung up on whether God died on the cross. Here is his e-mail: Greetings Mr. Stephen:  I am a great follower […]

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Baptist at the door, “Are you born again?” Prepare yourself to answer them!

February 21, 2019

Grilled salmon sizzled on his plate as Andy and his family sat down for dinner. No sooner had they crossed themselves to bless the food than the doorbell rang. Andrew dragged himself to answer the door while his family began eating. Two smiling faces peered in the door. “Good evening, we hope we’re not interrupting […]

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Mass with 2 Protestants and 1 Crucifix

January 5, 2019

A while ago we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar. I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same — “CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS […]

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Jesus Was A Jew and Why You Can’t Understand the Bible without Knowing That

December 28, 2018

Since we are at the Western Wall today, where the Temple stood in Jesus’ day, it is appropriate to discuss this. Jesus loved the Jewish Temple and called it his Father’s house. ************************************************ Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus […]

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What Bible Verses has the Church Defined – Definitively?

December 21, 2018

It is sometimes mistakenly charged that Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible for themselves and that the Catholic Church has dogmatically defined about every verse — and forces its interpretation down everyone’s throat. This is very far from the truth. In fact, the Catholic Church has never come up with a list of verses […]

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Six Rules for Dealing with Non-Catholic Family & Friends

December 19, 2018

I have added a 7th rule – Be patient. Six Rules for Dealing with Non-Catholic Family and Friends (especially over the holidays)  Steve Ray “I can’t believe you are thinking about being Catholic. Have you lost your mind? Why in the world would you leave biblical Christianity to follow a religion based on men’s tradition? […]

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Why Did God Allow Man to Sin? “O Happy Fault of Adam”

December 18, 2018

This is a question that has puzzled people from the beginning. If God is good and all powerful why didn’t he stop Adam and Eve from sinning? Fair question. Of course we all know that he took the risk of giving us free will so that we could choose to love him. I don’t want […]

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Catholic Church: “Don’t Read the Bible!”

December 1, 2018

We often hear that the Catholic Church has forbidden the reading of the Bible! Have you heard this? Yeah, me too! But, this is another one of those big myths which has worked its way into the popular dialog but one that has not been proved from Church teaching and documents. There are two good […]

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Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful New Testament Wording

October 27, 2018

Since we are in Philippi Greece today, I thought I would post this colorful blog :-) We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. […]

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My Thoughts While Waiting In Line for Confession

September 2, 2018

My wife and I went to confession yesterday. The line was pretty long (which was good to see, though I hate lines :-)  As I sat and waited it struck me again that the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is not just “Jesus and me” as we […]

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Is God Like a GPS System?

August 4, 2018

There are a million reasons why God is NOT like a GPS system but I am in Australia and I made a wrong turn and my GPS started reprimanding me and saying “Recalculating!” For those who don’t know, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a nifty little device that links up with positional […]

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