Recently I have corresponded with a polite gentleman about the correlation between “Moses taking his seat” to judge the people and the Chair of Moses mentioned by Our Lord (Matt 23:2).

As Catholics, we also see that authority exercised in the Chair of Peter. It was an interesting discussion which I hope you find helpful, historical, biblical and edifying. His words are indented in blue and mine in black.

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Friend

I rarely take the time to respond to folks because many times people just wanna debate and are antagonistic. But I am sensing you have a good heart and an honest mind so I am happy to respond a bit to your comments and irenic tone.

Ii doubt I will have time to respond further since there are a lot or things on my plate right now and travel is picking up again.

Hi Steve,

Thank you. I really appreciate the reply, the quote from your book, and the correction. I have been researching the Moses seat extensively the last couple of years, which I think is how I came across your video.

I love visiting all of the biblical sites. I’ve been to Israel over 180 times and that doesn’t count all our trips to Egypt and Jordan and Syria and Iraq and more. I too love to study scripture in the context of culture of the time.

Also, in response to our earlier conversation, I do not believe in the infallible interpretation because the two commentators (Keil and Delitzsch) said so. I believe in it because it is biblical and Catholic. I quoted those two Lutheran commentators in my YouTube because I find it curious that Protestants who oftentimes criticize Catholics for believing in an infallible interpretation would use that phrase regarding a fallible person, even though a biblical character. They said that Joseph in Genesis was giving the “infallible gift of interpretation of dreams.” I believe in the infallible teaching of the church because it is the way the church has organically grown and developed which I’ll explain later.

I understand your point, though I respectfully disagree with the “extrapolation” theory. I don’t think the interpretation of dreams equates to infallible teaching authority over God’s Word. There’s a lot to unpack and obviously debates on these things will always persist. I’ll share a few thoughts but I’m a little pressed for time and don’t want to take up too much of yours, either…(but apologies in advance, I can be long-winded 🙂

I don’t think it is an extrapolation. I think it’s the ability of God to give fallible man an infallible interpretation, dreams or anything he wills. He wants us to have clarity and certainty, nor confusion and a thousand interpretations and sects.

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But even more so, what is more significant than giving fallible men (the Church) the gift of infallible interpretation, is the ability and practice of God to give fallible men the ability to write inspired infallible words with their quill and ink and their very verbal words as well (e.g., 1 Thes 2:13).

Fallible men like Moses and Matthew and Paul use their own words but are actually speaking/writing the infallible word of God. And if a man can write the actual words of God, then it is a much lesser thing for a fallible man and a simple man, like the pope, to be able to infallibly interpret the word of God — or dreams.

And of course, if you are as studied as you suggest, you know that the Catholic Church does not teach that whatever the pope says or does is infallible. Especially this pope! But, there are certain conditions under which by the guidance of the Holy Spirit the pope and the church speak infallibly for God, interpreting the Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition. I know that makes the hair rise up on the back of many Protestants, as it did me when I was a Baptist Bible teacher.

One such infallible interpretation or decision was the closing of the canon of the Bible. Even the Jews throughout their centuries did not have a closed canon. Even during the time of Christ, this was so. The Sadducees had only the Pentateuch, the Pharisees excepted pretty much the Bible of the Protestants today, The Greek-speaking Jews with their Septuagint had a larger set of writings. the Essenes had a much broader understanding of “the writings.“ Some suggest that the Council of Jamnia in around 90 AD is the point the Jews closed their canon. However, this is inaccurate.

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Never do you find in Jewish history or the time of Christ that it was expected or predicted that additional inspired writings would be added or appended to the “Law and the Prophets”. It was the Church that closed the canon of scripture at the end of the 4th century. And Christians today of all stripes pretty much accept that authority of the Church when they carry their Bibles to church with them on Sunday. We don’t need prior explicit mentions of the NT in the Old or in Jewish tradition to accept the authority of the Church to authoritatively and infallibly to establish additional writings to the Bible.

Who would’ve ever thought at the time of Jesus that there would be 27 books added to the “written word of God”? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I am not aware of anything in Scripture or in ancient Jewish literature that indicates Jews had such a concept of infallibility. If you have any specific references to such a concept, I’d love to see them (not ones that are logically woven together into a conclusion…I’m well aware of those, but a specific, Jewish use/definition of such a term – or a similar one, maybe ‘inerrant’). It would be one thing if we read that in Genesis, or elsewhere, but we don’t. It’s simply a term that these commentators use. Indeed, interpreting a dream seems like a discrete, black or white issue. Either you know what it means, or you don’t. Clearly, Scripture is much broader and not on par with the dream of a Pharaoh…and it is the Word of God!

I’ve already addressed this above pretty much. If God can give infallible interpretations of dreams, he can certainly do more than that as I proved above by giving men the ability to write inspired, God-breathed, infallible text.

You may not see the word “infallible” used in the Pentateuch or in the prophets because the word was not in vogue back then, but no one would deny Moses spoke for God and nobody would question him as to his infallibility. When Miriam and the others challenged Moses and has authority, the ground opened up and swallowed them.

We only find the word “inspired“ once in the whole Bible and that’s in 2 Timothy 3:16. Even though we don’t see the word “inspired“ used of Moses in the Old Testament (nor does 2 Tim 3:16 explicitly refer to the NT), no one would dare say that he was not.

We use words today that may not have used back then but just because we don’t find the word “inspired” or “infallible” in the writings of “the Law and the Prophets” doesn’t mean they didn’t believe in it 100%. Just like we don’t find our word Trinity until the second or third century, yet you and I both will die for the doctrine of the Trinity even though it’s not a word used in the Bible but we certainly know the actuality there in the Bible.

With Joseph, we know he was a God-fearing man of faith and character (my terms, but I think clearly see in passages like Genesis 39:7–9 and Hebrews 11:22). Even if one “extrapolates” such a concept as general infallibility, what indication do we have that God bestows such a blessing on people that are unfaithful, simply because of their position? Joseph wasn’t given this gift because of his position in the palace…

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God can give that gift to anybody in any situation. He even used Balaam‘s ass to speak his word to Balaam. If the ass could interpret the intentions of God and speak them accurately to Balaam, I suggest God could use just about anyone. It seems Caiaphas had the same “gift” at one point (John 11:49-52). And if God gives a certain man a position of authority where it’s important that his word is spoken accurately, I do believe that that position can be accompanied by infallible interpretation. Of course, I would believe that, because I’m a Catholic and it’s what we believe. But we believe it with very good biblical and historical reasons.

The same is true of Moses. In your video, you also said: “Moses took his seat…cathedra.” In Exodus 18:13, it says he “sat” (verb). I acknowledge the concept and its legal connotations (which even carries into our cultures, today) but there 1) isn’t any concept of infallibility described anywhere that I’m aware of and; 2) isn’t any evidence of an actual object that represents singular, infallible, authority, anywhere through Jewish history, up through the second temple period that Jesus is born into. There were three primary roles of authority…king, high priest, and prophet. None of them are ever described as having infallible interpretations. Well, prophets would be an interesting study, clearly true prophecies are “infallible” but they are individuals that God raises up, not a genealogical line and they didn’t hold the “authority.” All three of these roles come together in Christ.

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Yes, it is a verb, but the verb assumes an object — something to sit on, which is the chair. It was a chair of Moses and thus representing his authority when he sat there.

You noticed a chink in your armor there with the prophets. Because God did call a cadre of men called prophets who did speak infallibly, and even though we know they spoke infallibly and interpreted past scripture and current events infallibly, they never use the word because that word was not in vogue back then but no one would have doubted the concept existed.

Also, we do not believe that infallibility in the Catholic Church is based on genealogy. But remember that the priesthood and the kingship in Israel were based on genealogy. Even prophets were known at times to pass on their authority to a successor, e.g., Elijah to Elisha.

I also agree that there was no specific office of “infallibility”, specifically stated, in the Old Testament though the Jews may have argued with us on that matter. (In fact, we never see in the NT the word infallible or inerrant regarding Paul, though no one would doubt in the NT he is infallibly interpreting the OT, especially the passages he quotes from the OT).

In the Mishnah, which as you know is a compilation of Jewish tradition around the time of Christ. It could of course be dismissed because it was after the time of Christ, bi it is certainly a good thermometer for Jewish thought, not just after Christ, but also during his time and earlier. It was an attempt to put down the traditions and teachings of the rabbis down through their past. The Mishnah states,

“ABOT 1:1 A: Moses received Torah at Sinai and handed it on to Joshua, Joshua to elders, and elders to prophets.  B And prophets handed it on to the men of the great assembly.”

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One cannot dismiss this out of hand because it was after the destruction of the Temple since the Targums and Mishnah was the effort of the post-Temple Jews to recall and document the earlier customs and traditions of the Jews.

There was always an office to go to inquire of God. It was always assumed this office as handed down in succession would speak the true word of God. However, since the Holy Spirit had not been sent yet we know that we could never consider that infallible. The coming of the Holy Spirit can and does change all that, especially in the leadership of his Body, the Church to which he made promises to.

For the rest of the article where we get much deeper into the Chair of Moses, the Chair of Peter, and infallible teachers and judges, click HERE.

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