Does the bible give a priest the power to act in Persona Christi?

This is another fundamentalist argument that’s been bothering me lately and I was wondering if any of you could help me make sense of it.itgoes something like " the RCC gives the priest the power to become Jesus and forgive sins." They say similar ridiculous things regarding communion. Can anyone explain this to me?

Here is a pretty good discussion on the topic which may shed some light:


*“In Persona Christi” in 2 Corinthians 2:10
Marcu Grodi often talks about the “Verses I never Saw” in Scripture when he was a protestant. I could make my own list, and if I did, I would have to include a passage that Fr John Fleming referred to in a homily on the weekend.

Fr John was preaching at a solem mass for the celebration of the silver anniversary of ordination of a good friend of mine, and his topic was naturally the priesthood (although, of course, being the the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, this also was included in the homily). He used a number of biblical passages to illustrate the doctrine of the priesthood. I can’t just for now remember all of them, but one of them was 2 Corinthians 2:10.

In the RSV, this passage reads:
“10 Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
Naturally, therefore, without consulting the Greek text, this verse would not necessarily leap out at one as being about the priesthood. But Fr John pointed out that that Greek text says that St Paul forgave sins “en prosopo Christou”.

“Prosopon” in Greek literally means “face”. In the Trinitarian debates of the 4th Century, the Greeks used it to translate Tertullian’s use of the latin term “persona” for what we now commonly refer to as “the Persons” of the Holy Trinity. Working the other way, when Jerome translated made his new Latin translation of the bible, he used “persona” to translate “prosopon” in 2 Corinthians 2:10, thus making the text read:
“10 cui autem aliquid donatis et ego nam et ego quod donavi si quid donavi propter vos in persona Christi 11 ut non circumveniamur a Satana non enim ignoramus cogitationes eius”
. In English translations, both the Douay-Rheims and the King James Bible follow suit in translating “en prosopo Christou” as “in the person of Christ.”*

In persona means in the person of. It does not mean that the priest becomes Jesus.

There are many examples of people in the Bible standing in the place of someone important. Joseph was made Lord over all Egypt and stood in the place of Pharaoh.

**So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are; you shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in his second chariot; and they cried before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” ** (Genesis 41:39-44)

A police officer stands in place of the state when he enforces the law. A judge acts in the place of the state when passes sentence on a criminal. The do not become the state but they act in the name of the state and with the legitimate authority of the state.


In the framework of the bible fundamentalist, the Scripture is the final authority. Therefore if someting is not explicity found there, or they don’t interpret it that way, it is not accurate.

Scripture shows that Paul acts in persona Christi (not “becoming” Christ, but acting in His authority). The scriptures clearly show that Jesus’ authority is given to the Apostles, and they pass this to their successors and those who are ordained to their apostolate.

But although these things are recorded in Scripture, the authority comes from Christ, not from the pages of the book.

Is the priest “another Christ” when he says Holy Mass, hears confessions, etc.?

Why Don’t Catholics Go Straight to Jesus?

the bible, although inspired writing, remains an inanimate object. inanimate objects cannot possess and give authority and power.

I think there are some very straightforward replies:

  • First, the teaching of the RCC is that only God can forgive sins, however, Christ gave authority to the Apostles to forgive sins in his name.

• “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:19-23)
o Jesus gave His disciples the power to forgive sins

• “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:17-20)
o The Apostles are the ministers of Christ’s work of reconciliation

• “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” (James 5: 13-16)
o The sins of the sick are forgiven in the sacrament of anointing
o He specifies that the presbyters (priests) must be called. They obviously had a power the ordinary Christian did not have: The power to forgive sins, otherwise, why not ask ordinary, fellow Christians to pray over the sick as is the case in numerous other passages?

• “As the Father has sent me, so I send you." (John 20:21)
o The Apostles are to continue the mission of Christ: The essence of that mission is the forgiveness of sins. Christ gave his Apostles the power to forgive sins, and this power was intended to be passed on since Christ knows people would sin until the end of time, just like He knows His Church will last until the end of time

Jesus appointed others to represent him, even in his own time, while he was still among men. So why should he withdraw this authority from his Church when he gave the Apostles all the powers they would need to do the same?

[1] After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come.
[16] “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
[17] The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”

Ask your Protestant friends who gave their pastors the right to interpret Scriptures and preach it as God’s own truth? How far back does their line of authority go, from one pastor to another? If our priests have no right to speak “in persona Christi,” their pastors have even less.

All of the above supporting locations are great. The more support in the Bible, the better.

But at the same time I must ask: does it need to be in the Bible? :shrug:

No, it doesn’t need to explicitly stated in the Bible. :slight_smile: Much of what we believe, even by non-Catholics, is not explicitly stated in the Bible. The Scriptures are not a theological textbook. It is the witness to the actions of God with regard to man and our salvation. It is not an authority unto itself, and cannot be so since, being a written document, it needs a reliable interpreter, which is Christ’s Church.

For example, see THIS.

This is a question I am working on. No doubt the apostles were given authority and abilities - but I don’t find where those are to be passed on.

I don’t see priests able to heal the sick, or things of that nature. So people would know He could forgive sin, showed them something they could see by healing and allowing someone to walk.

I just don’t see healing or forgiving sin passed on.

Matthew 18:15-19:

A Brother Who Sins.

15h “If your brother* sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.

16* i If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

17j If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.* If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

18* k Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19* l Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.

It’s in your bible too. :wink:

I read the above, but none of it says that the power to bind and loose is passed on.

“Tell it to the church” seems to be about settling dispute, not forgiving sins.

Yet, we have a second generation of bishops appointed by the Apostles of Christ, like Ignatius of Antioch and Clement and Linus. …maybe everything isn’t in the bible (sola scriptura)?

Even so, we do have the following from the bible:

Matthew 28:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 16:
18 And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Hebrews 5:
For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins:
2 Who can have compassion on them that are ignorant and that err: because he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
3 And therefore he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
4 Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was.
5 So Christ also did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high priest: but he that said unto him: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
6 As he saith also in another place: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.

Hebrews 7:
15 And it is yet far more evident: if according to the similitude of Melchisedech there ariseth another priest,
16 Who is made not according to the law of a carnal commandment, but according to the power of an indissoluble life:
17 For he testifieth: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.

This might be a topic for another thread, Markie, but there is a great deal of evidence you may not have noticed because most non-Catholics have a blind spot to those scriptures.

“And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2

How was Timothy to entrust all that Paul taught him without passing down any authority? What, exactly, was “entrusted” to the faithful men?

How is it that Paul gave the Bishops he ordained his own apostolic authority?
“These, then, are the things you should teach.Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. …”.Titus 2:15

Titus was set as overseer of Crete. How did he get “all authority”? How could he not permit anyone disregard him?

"Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,…Matt 28;18

Jesus was given “all authority”, which He then passed to His Apostles, who passed it to the Bishops, who entrusted it to faithful men, who were able to teach others also. We can see from the early Church fathers that this was the faith of the Church.

I wonder how you would know if you saw? I have seen priests do a number of healings, but the greatest healing is that of the soul being restored to Christ after separated by sin.

8When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck and gave glory to God who had given such authority to men. Matt. 9:8

Who are the “men” referred to in this passage? If it was Jesus only, why does it not say “man”?

Why would Jesus give the Apostles the authority to forgive or retain sins for their generation only? Is there some reason people stopped needed forgiveness from God after the Apsotles died?

Why did the whole Church throughout the world believe that this was the faith handed down from the Apostles up unti the Reformation only 500 years ago? How could so many faithful Christians be so misled for so long?

It is, and it is that way because the Church has the authority. Authority is passed through ordinaiton (laying on of hands) and commission.

Just for the sake of discussion, what would have to change in your life if you were to accept the idea that “all authority” is passed from bishop to bishop from the Apostles to the present day?

What would change? I’d be Catholic - which is what I am working on. It’s not fun being stuck in the middle. I see enough not correct with Protestantism, but some things in Catholicism are there too.

As you learn it can get very complex, but I don’t think Jesus wanted complex. When asked what the greatest commandment was He just listed two - making so simple. I love that!

You are right - another thread.

Good points on the priest.

Notice that Jesus does not say tell it to the Churches?

So do you not think Matthew 18:17 applies to today?

That thinking makes nonsense out of scripture. What good would such a promise be if it was not applied to the church forever?

In talking about forgiving sins, you seem to have forgotten the very clear instructions of St. James in chapter [FONT=“Palatino Linotype”]***5[14] Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
[15] and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
[16] Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.

No…more like your understanding is faulty, having been corrupted by false teachings and new winds of doctrines of modern men. Who REALLY Preaches “A Different Gospel”?

As you learn it can get very complex, but I don’t think Jesus wanted complex. When asked what the greatest commandment was He just listed two - making so simple. I love that!

You are right - another thread.

Good points on the priest.

Don’t be deceived by past teaching, there is no such thing as “the simplicity of the Gospel”. That’s an errant and deceptive myth that simply doesn’t bear up under an objective reading of the New Testament.[/FONT]

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