Thursday, February 12, 2015

Actually, Jesus Did Ask Someone to Write a Book

About 43 minutes into episode #6838 of Catholic Answers Live, Patrick Coffin, the host of the show, stated: "Jesus never wrote a book, didn't ask anybody to write a book, or you know - put on kind of memo on the fridges of Nazareth, but he did found a church."

I've previously addressed this "Jesus Didn't Write a Book" Objection (link to previous treatment). While I stand by that response, let me provide some further response Mr. Coffin's assertions here, since Mr. Coffin is guilty of a redemptive history error, a trinitarian error, and a simple factual error (not even to get into his ecclesiastical error).

1. Redemption History Error

Mr. Coffin's characterization, by focusing on the form of the revelation of Jesus Christ misses the place of revelation in the history of redemption. It is by revelation that the church was founded. The revelation of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church that Jesus founded. That's why Jesus said to Peter:
Matthew 16:17-19
And Jesus answered and said unto him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Jesus focuses on the fact that Peter's confession was something revealed to him by the Father. It is on that confession of faith - revealed by God - that the church was to be founded.
That's why Irenaeus says: "For we learned the plan of our salvation from no others than from those through whom the gospel came to us. They first preached it abroad, and then later by the will of God handed it down to us in Writings, to be the foundation and pillar of our faith" and again a little later on "the pillar and foundation of the Church is the gospel" (Against Heresies, Book 3, Sections 1 and 8).
And Irenaeus is being Scriptural:
Hebrews 1:1-2, 2:1-4, 4:2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; ... Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? ...
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
You see the foundation of the church is the revelation of Jesus Christ - not the other way around. Even if the assembly of Jesus' followers (i.e. the church) can be said to have begun before the writing of the New Testament Scriptures - still they are a record of the revelation that preceded and founded the church. They are the cause of the church - not the effect of the church.

2. Trinitarian Error

Mr. Coffin's comments invite the listener to divide Jesus from the person of the Spirit, to the extent that one considers the plain and inescapable fact that the Spirit did command people to write a book. Even assuming it were true that Jesus didn't personally command the writing of Scripture, the Spirit did, and that's not any more or less authoritative than if Jesus himself did it. The Spirit is not a lesser deity.

Moreover, the Spirit was united in Jesus' revelatory mission:
John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
That leads us to a third category of error:

3. Factual Error

Mr. Coffin has forgotten about the fact that the Bible itself tells us that Jesus commanded John to write a book:
Revelation 1:1-3, 11, 19 and 21:5
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. ... Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. ... Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; ... And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
I understand that the book of Revelation is excluded from the readings of Scripture in the Roman liturgy, but even Trent had to admit that it is canonical and authoritative Scripture.

I suppose I could add to the above that Mr. Coffin's conception of Christ founding a church is way off. Mr. Coffin has in mind a hierarchical structure of authority, whereas when Christ talked about founding his church on the rock of Peter's confession, he was talking about followers united by faith. While God did appoint a structure of authority within the church, that was not the primary sense in which he founded a church. Perhaps we can get into that more in another post.



michael said...

TF, not sure the issue here, not in a negative sense, just that I haven't taken the time to listen to the program that is being referred to by you. I would like to add though, seeing I posted comments on the blog post back in May of last year when you raise this issue then.

At that time I cited Acts 20:32 and went on to a digression of thoughts about being conjoined to Christ as the basis for why we have the New Testament writings. I didn't make that point as clear as now.

I want to point to two times in the Old Testament for starters where we see God Himself wrote Scripture and then it was subsequently destroyed, the writing, then had another write it again verbatim and exactly as it was first written by Him. That was the time Moses was on the mountain top while Aaron was below being persuaded by the Israelites to make a golden calf. Moses destroyed the two tablets crushing them and mixing it with water and making them drink it he was so angry as was God.

The other time was in the days of Jeremiah where the Lord gave Jeremiah instruction to write out a prophecy against the current King of Judah who when he received that written prophecy sent to him by God through Jeremiah through Jeremiah's servant, burned it. Then God gave verbatim the exact prophecy to have Jeremiah write it out again and then had Jeremiah send it again to the king.

Also there is found in the book of Daniel where God tells Daniel not to write out what he was just shown him. Obviously we have the writings of Daniel where establishes God wanted the things Daniel experienced written out and considered in the future generations to come after him.

It makes historical sense to me at least that God who never changes and is the same yesterday, today and forever to have His Word written out and read and in the case of the book of the Revelation a blessing is directly associated with the one who reads the Revelation outloud as well as those who read it or listen to it read outloud!

Is the argument they are making a craft that sets a framework argument in place for them to justify their "oral" traditions being handed down from start to date? That seems to me anyway a plausible reason of foresight anticipating why they hold to oral tradition??

Kirk Skeptic said...

Funny how, with both the Pharisees and their modern RC counterparts, these ora traditions had to be writen down, since oral transmission is quite unreliable. The command was always to write.

Anonymous said...

As a Catholic, I have often wondered why Catholic lay apologists would say that Christ never told anyone to write a book. You are correct; He commanded Saint John to write the Apocalypse.

One correction though: The Book of the Apocalypse is indeed read in the liturgy, depending on which Catholic Rite one belongs to.

You will hear the Apocalypse read at Mass on the Feast of All Saints, which is November 1 each year.

See the link:

It is also read at funerals in the modern Roman Rite Mass. See the link here, pages 11 and 12:


PeaceByJesus said...

In short, the Cath polemic "Jesus never commanded the church to write anything down" is spurious as.

1. It relies upon a red letter hermeneutic.

2. It ignores that the Lord did indeed personally command things to be written.

3. It ignores that the Lord said He had many more things to say, and that the Spirit would say what He wanted, and thus commanded His words to be written thru men.

4. It ignores that the Truth claims of the Lord and the church were established upon Scriptural substantiation in word and in power, thus affirming that the word of God/the Lord was normally written, even if subsequently, and that as written it became being the supreme transcendent standard.

As is abundantly evidenced.

And which testifies (Lk. 24:27,44; Acts 17:2,11; 18:28; 28:23, etc.) to writings of God being recognized and established as being so (essentially due to their unique and enduring heavenly qualities and attestation), and thus they materially provide for a canon of Scripture (as well as for reason, the church, etc.)

It was not tradition that the Lord refuted the devil and opposing leadership by, and opened the mind of the disciples to, and that Paul reasoned out of, and the Apollos convinced the Jews by, and that the gospel of God was promised in. (Mt. 4:4; 22:23-46; Lk. 24:44,45; Acts 17:2,11; 18:28; Rm. 1:1,2)