Recently, our bishop died (Bishop Joseph Cistone). May God rest his soul. While the Vatican is working to appoint a new bishop, it is important to recall that this isn’t the same as any mere restaffing of a company’s open position.
Continuity in the Early Church
We saw in the early Church how the first bishops (the apostles) saw that their positions of leadership would need to be continued after their own deaths in order to lead the Church throughout time. After the loss of Judas, they knew someone had to take his place:
For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘His office let another take.’ So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
The apostles recognized themselves as stewards of the authority and power given to them by Jesus. Only they had this authority and power from Jesus to lead the fledgling Church. Only they had been set up by Jesus to be “overseers” (Greek: “episkopos”; English: “bishop”), but they need to hand this position on to future generations.
Later, St. Paul recognized the need to pass on the leadership:
…and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2
Eventually, the Apostles spread out and each took charge over a particular area (today called a “diocese”). As the Church spread to new areas, new dioceses were created, so new men were appointed as bishops.
In order to continue the Church throughout time, the Apostles/bishops (as in the above quote) appointed others to take the place of their deceased members. We call this “Apostolic Succession.” The Apostles’ power and authority (from Jesus) was handed down throughout successive generations within the one Church to certain men in order that they might preserve His teachings and help lead His Church to deeper holiness. Each of these bishops was called to be the spiritual leader of his respective diocese.
Some men tried to fake their way into these positions in order to gain power and influence. When there was a dispute, the question would come: “Who ordained you?”
To prove that a man was a true bishop, he would have to show how he was ordained by someone who was ordained by someone (…) who was ordained by Jesus.
Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [their first] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers
Tertullian Demurrer Against the Heretics, 32 [200 AD]
Today, Apostolic Succession is present among the Catholic and Orthodox bishops throughout the world. They have the authority from Jesus, through the Apostles to sanctify, teach, and govern their respective dioceses. All the more, then, should they be holy men who do not scandalize the faithful, but rather lead them on in fidelity to Jesus’ teachings.
Eventually, Rome will appoint a successor to Bishop Cistone who will take the helm for the Diocese of Saginaw, MI. More than a mere CEO, that man will be ordained with the same power and authority that Jesus gave to the Apostles to help lead souls to Heaven.
Lord, please bless the Diocese of Saginaw with a holy bishop. Let him be a man after Your own heart who will be our spiritual father. Give him great courage and wisdom to lead all of us closer to You.
Over the years, I’ve met a few fellow Christians who claim that we are still called by God to eat the same diet (kosher) as the Hebrew people in the Old Testament. Last summer, I met a man who made such a claim and shared with me his reasons, which basically boil down to the following:
Why Some Christians Think We Must Eat Kosher:
They claim the reason God declared certain animals “unclean” was because they are the scavengers (eating other dead animals and such) and they are not meant to be eaten–neither morally nor nutritionally. They claim that this is a universal moral imperative because it comes from God Himself (Leviticus 11).
They claim that the comment in Mark 7:19 that Jesus made all foods clean was a parenthetical note, invented by a later author. It’s not in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.
In that pericope, Jesus had just mentioned that the Pharisees ignore the law of God for man-made traditions. Therefore, these Christians say, it would be silly of Jesus to change God’s law right then.
They claim, if Jesus had changed the law right then, the Pharisees would have stoned him, but they didn’t, so He must not have changed it.
They claim that if Jesus had changed God’s law, He would have sinned.
They claim that because Peter was surprised by the command to eat unclean food (in Acts 10:14), it must be assumed that Jesus never taught that all food was clean. They claim the vision was strictly teaching him not to distinguish between Jews and Gentiles.
They claim the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) declared nothing about allowing previously unclean meat.
They claim Jews only referred to clean food as “food” (broma). Unclean food wouldn’t have even been considered food. Thus any mention from early Christians (like Paul) of all “food” being edible (e.g. Romans 14:20) only implied that all “clean food” was edible.
They claim the Apostles knew that the diet would be a hard selling point for Gentile converts, so they didn’t impose the dietary practice on new converts but waited for them to come to it willingly. That’s why we don’t see it in the New Testament.
Responses to Those Claims:
Yes, at Sinai God regulated what His people could and could not eat, but that begs the question: why? Was this because it is intrinsically evil to eat certain animals? Is this merely a ritual purity law? Did God have some other reason?
Many scripture scholars point to Israel’s disobedience–particularly the Golden Calf incident–as the reason for much of the Law. Prior to the Golden Calf, the 10 Commandments are all the law that God had given Moses. The Hebrew people had proven they couldn’t be trusted to worship the true God, only the true God, and in a manner that is fitting to worship the true God. 400 years in Egypt were enough to get them addicted to pagan Egyptian idolatry (and their manners of worship). They needed a spiritual detox. A detox, however, implies a time of freedom from the malady/addiction–a time when the detox is no longer needed. That post-detox freedom has come in the New Covenant.
Some scholars suggest God’s method of detox was to establish a law that made them sacrifice (and eat) only the animals the Egyptians worshipped as a way of drilling into their heads the idea that these animals are not God (it’s hard to worship something you’re forced to eat and sacrifice to the one true God). Hebrew people who did not follow these diet prescriptions had disobeyed God’s orders and were not ritually pure (in a proper state for worshiping God), so they had to make a sin offering in order to return to the community. So, yes, it was a moral imperative to the extent that God required it of them at that time. By the time Jesus came, however, God’s people were sufficiently separated from Egyptian idol worship. Jesus’ New Covenant does not require the Old Covenant diet in order to be ritually pure. God’s people have been sufficiently detoxed from addiction to pagan worship.
Here is a study by a contemporary scholar who explains this in regard to which animals were to be sacrificed. The relevant section is III.D – IV.A. The whole study, however, is really interesting.
One challenge that comes along with living this diet (and the rest of the total distinction from Gentiles) is the reintegration of Jews with Gentile people and food after thousands of year of separating themselves. They’re so accustomed to the distinctions, that it has become signs of who they are–Gentiles knew Jews are the ones who lived apart, circumcised, ate differently, etc. Jews prided themselves on those differences. When Jesus broke down those walls of separation with His New Covenant, it was hard for Jews to accept. Even the Apostles struggled to adjust to this new way (see comments on Peter and Acts 10 below). Paul’s letter to the Romans is an extended treatise on how following the Jewish law isn’t what saves someone, but rather it is faith in Christ that initially saves us and living it out in love that preserves that salvation. In chapter 14, Paul specifically describes diet, saying that if someone wishes to continue to follow the Jewish diet as a way of honoring the Lord through abstaining, that’s fine, but if another person wishes to eat all foods in honor of God freeing us from His temporary restriction, that’s fine too–as long as they don’t condemn the other.
Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. (Romans 14:3)
He who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (v. 6)
…nothing is unclean in itself… (v. 14)
Do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God… (v. 16-18)
Everything is indeed clean… (v. 20)
Augustine, in his letter Contra Faustum, explains the distinction between OT moral
precepts (those that truly distinguish good/evil acts and are retained in the NT) and OT symbolic precepts (those that were meant to teach the Hebrew people, prepare them for Jesus’ coming, and/or make some other temporary point, but were not, in and of themselves, moral). He clearly taught that the dietary laws were symbolic precepts that are no longer necessary to follow physically, but that we must look at that to which the law pointed. See below:
6 (emphasis mine): …And you persist in making out an opposition in us to the Old Testament, because we consider no flesh unclean: according to the opinion of the apostle, “To the pure all things are pure;” (Titus 1:15) and according to the saying of our Lord Himself, “Not that which goes into your mouth defiles you, but that which comes out.” (Matthew 16:11) …
7 (emphasis mine): …The apostle speaks of the natures of the things, while the Old Testament calls some animals unclean, not in their nature, but symbolically, on account of the prefigurative character of that dispensation. For instance,a pig and a lamb are both clean in their nature, for every creature of God is good; but symbolically, a lamb is clean, and a pig unclean. So the words wise and fool are both clean in their nature, as words composed of letters but fool may be called symbolically unclean, because it means an unclean thing. Perhaps a pig is the same among symbols as a fool is among real things. The animal, and the four letters which compose the word, may mean the same thing. No doubt the animal is pronounced unclean by the law, because it does not chew the cud; which is not a fault but its nature. But the men of whom this animal is a symbol are unclean, not by nature, but from their own fault; because, though they gladly hear the words of wisdom, they never reflect on them afterwards. For to recall, in quiet repose, some useful instruction from the stomach of memory to the mouth of reflection, is a kind of spiritual rumination. The animals above mentioned are a symbol of those people who do not do this. And the prohibition of the flesh of these animals is a warning against this fault. Another passage of Scripture speaks of the precious treasure of wisdom, and describes ruminating as clean, and not ruminating as unclean: “A precious treasure rests in the mouth of a wise man; but a foolish man swallows it up.” (Proverbs 21:20) Symbols of this kind, either in words or in things, give useful and pleasant exercise to intelligent minds in the way of inquiry and comparison. But formerly people were required not only to hear, but to practise many such things. For at that time it was necessary that, by deeds as well as by words, those things should be foreshadowed which were in after times to be revealed. After the revelation by Christ and in Christ, the community of believers is not burdened with the practice of the observances, but is admonished to give heed to the prophecy. This is our reason for accounting no animals unclean, in accordance with the saying of the Lord and of the apostle, while we are not opposed to the Old Testament, where some animals are pronounced unclean.
Grammar symbols in our modern translations (even the KJV) are not always the best keys to knowing what was originally written. They are included as the translator’s best approximation of how the original text might have been intended. To judge a specific phrase as non-biblical strictly based on grammatical marks in modern translations (or even in the KJV) is to disregard the original document and treat the translator as the original author.
Both the Greek and Latin New Testaments contain (without parentheses) what is commonly a parenthetical comment in many modern translations (Thus He declared all foods clean–Mark 7:19).
Greek: καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα
Latin: purgans omnes escas
Yes, parentheses often indicate an explanation, but that explanation may have been penned by the original writer. Mark may very well have written those words himself. On the other hand, if something is a footnote, you can pretty much bet it is a modern addition (aside, of course, from the footnotes that say that some other early manuscripts have varying phrases).
Peter’s Vision in Acts 10
We have to be careful not to limit the meaning of scripture to a single interpretation. Many times, God wants to teach more than just one thing with a statement. The vision was actually teaching Peter BOTH 1) not to make a distinction between Jews and Gentiles, AND 2) that all foods were now clean. This is not an either/or situation.
Why was Peter surprised about the command to eat? Simple: Peter was human–a man who both grew in understanding and lived habitually. There were many times when the disciples didn’t immediately understand what Jesus taught. It had to be explained to them later. Just consider the number of times Jesus predicted His Death and Resurrection and how, when it came to pass, they still didn’t get it.
Even after Pentecost, the Apostles didn’t instantly comprehend everything Jesus taught. They had to be led into all truth (Jn 16:13).
Mark didn’t write his Gospel for at least a couple of decades after Jesus’ Ascension. Even though he wrote about food not defiling us (Mark 7:19), this teaching might not have been apparent to him until much after Jesus actually said it. Mark had lots of time between Jesus teaching and him writing to grasp this concept. (“Aha! Back when Jesus said that, He was letting us know that all foods are clean. I should write that down so other people understand Jesus’ implication.”) The same could be said for other Church leaders like Peter. The scene in Acts 10 is happening historically earlier than when Mark was writing. It’s quite understandable that Peter might not have yet grasped the full significance of Jesus’ original words by the time he was told to eat.
Peter had lived as a faithful Jew his whole life. He was habituated to the laws. Even if he intellectually grasped that there is no distinction between Jew/Gentile and clean/unclean food, it would likely still take a while for that head knowledge to make it to his heart. We can see this in how he reverted back to not eating with Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-21) even though he knew there was no continued distinction (Acts 10, 15).
The Council of Jerusalem
The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) is all about whether Gentiles need to become Jewish (by being circumcised and following the other Jewish laws) before becoming Christian. The Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, resolved only to hold the Gentiles to the following regulations:
Acts 15: 28-29: It is the Holy Spirit’s pleasure and ours that no burden should be laid upon you beyond these, which cannot be avoided; you are to abstain from what is sacrificed to idols, from blood-meat and meat which has been strangled, and from fornication.
There is no reference in Acts 15 (nor the rest of the New Testament) to refraining from non-Kosher foods.
It might be possible that Jews only meant “clean food” when they said “food,” but I have yet to see any proof. Even if this were the case, Jews would have probably still made distinctions when talking with non-Jews. Remember that Paul’s letters were written to Gentile audiences. Even if Paul might have strictly meant “edible food” whenever he said “food” to his Jewish brethren, he knew his audience in his letters and would have likely made appropriate clarifications to Gentiles, lest people get confused about what foods are actually clean. Yet, Paul didn’t make any distinction, which only leads us to assume there is no distinction and that, for food, “everything is indeed clean.”
One issue that fails to get addressed by non-Catholic Christians regarding almost every position on which we don’t agree is history. How has the Christian Church always understood this position? There is no historical backup for Christians being held by the Jewish dietary laws. On the other hand, many early Christian writers are documented rejecting the application of the Mosaic law (including diet) to Christians:
Against this historical evidence for the contemporary mainstream interpretation that Christians are not bound by the Jewish dietary law, I have yet to see any historical statement by a Christian arguing that Christians should follow the Jewish dietary laws.
It appears as if this whole notion that Christians must still abide the Jewish dietary law was created in a vacuum by people reading their own personal interpretations back into scripture instead of listening to what has been consistently handed down for 2,000 years.
For a Christian who claims that we are still held by the Jewish dietary law, I think it might be helpful to ask yourself: “By whose authority do I say Mark 7:19 is not scriptural? By whose authority do I interpret the Bible to bind me to eat kosher?” Is it by my own authority? Is it my pastor or a teacher? Am I relying on the KJV as my authority (and if so, how do I know my interpretation is accurate)? Is there anyone today who has the authority of Jesus and the Apostles to interpret scripture authoritatively for us? Here are a few articles to consider that point:
Why do some Protestants wait until they are adults to get baptized?
The difference in our practices stems from the difference in our understandings of Baptism. Since the beginning of the Church, we have understood that Baptism actually affects us. It is something that God does to us. Protestants (in one way or another) have rejected the idea that the Sacraments actually do stuff to us. Depending on the denomination, they may be closer or farther from the full truth of what Baptism does, namely:
Because we recognize how amazing Baptism is, we want that for our children as soon as possible.
My daughter being baptized
Many protestants think Baptism is something they do for God (an outward sign of their acceptance of Jesus). Since they don’t understand that Baptism does all the above-mentioned stuff for us, they have no reason to baptize until they’re older (when they can make an adult decision to accept Jesus).
They also don’t find any explicit mention of baptizing infants in Scripture. Scripture does, however, mention whole households being baptized at the same time (Acts 16:15, 33; 1 Cor. 1:16). Baptism is also clearly the New Testament fulfillment of circumcision (which happened to babies), and we have explicit 3rd-century texts on infant Baptism as an already long-standing tradition of the Church:
The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit (Origen: Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).
Most Protestants don’t know of these glaring examples. They instead hold to a strict sola scriptura* study to create their own interpretations as doctrine, failing to see how infant Baptism was practiced by the earliest Christians and has been a consistent practice ever since.
*- Sola scriptura is the Protestant notion that every teaching must be explicitly mentioned in the Bible, however, neither sola scriptura nor anything like it is mentioned in the Bible, so it doesn’t stand up to its own requirement. Catholics understand that Jesus taught and did much more than what was written down–even the Bible states so (John 21:25)–and that the Church has the authority to pass down both those things that were written down and those that were passed on orally (2 Thess. 2:15). Infant Baptism was a practice of the earliest Christians and has been passed on by the Church to today because parents care for their children and want them to have those graces as soon as possible.
What about “re-baptism”? Since, to many Christians today, Baptism is something they do for God, there’s nothing (in their minds) preventing them from doing it again whenever they have fallen away from God and want to re-commit themselves to Him.
If, after Baptism, I want to re-commit myself to God and show remorse for post-Baptismal sins, I would confess my sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and receive Jesus physically in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Since Protestants lack both of these, it is easy to see why “re-baptism” was invented. “Re-baptism” fails to understand the unremovable mark on our souls–something that can only be given once, and cannot be changed. That is why the Nicene Creed states “I believe in one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” I can only receive the mark on my soul once. Any future “baptism” is really just me getting wet. What about Confirmation? Confirmation is fundamentally different from the Protestant understanding of Baptism. It is NOT the public act of the person “confirming” (affirming) that he wants to be Catholic, nor as some say “confirming one’s life to Christ.” Confirmation confirms (strengthens) the graces we received in Baptism (something God does to us). In our diocese, we confirm as early as possible (age of reason: about 7) because we want our children to have the advantage of those strengthened graces in their souls from as early as possible.The Sacraments affect us. They are not merely outward actions that we do.