Israel didn't have an infallible authority

In dialogue with a very seasoned Evangelical, he has challenged me in a number of area’s, including one of historical precedent in regards to an infallible authority. Here is a snippet of what I’m dealing with.

I wrote: “If God gave us an infallible book with no infallible means of interpreting it, then, logically, He has ultimately failed. I do not believe this is the case.”

He responded by saying that God gave us an infallible book, the Holy Scriptures, to His people in the Old Testament times. But He did NOT give them an infallible authority to interpret them. Does that necessarily imply that God’s purposes with Israel failed?

He talked about how God gave israel teachers but that the Jewish Magesertium was NOT infallible." In fact they made some very serious mistakes (not least to add their traditions to the written Word) and worst of all the Jewish leaders denied God’s Messiah!"

He went on to say that “God achieved His purposes in the Old Testament using an infallible Scripture and fallible teachers. To claim that He COULD NOT apply the same principle in the New Testament church contradicts God’s historical dealings with Israel”

How can I respond to this?

Unfortunately, I can’t remember a verse (I’m sure someone else here will be able to give the verse for you) where Jesus explicitly tells the people to listen to the Pharisees in what they teach, for they sit on the “seat of Moses”, but do not do as they do.

In other words, listen to what they teach, for they teach from Moses chair, just don’t do as they do for they do not practice what they preach.

To teach from the “seat of Moses” implicitly confirms, at least, a type of infallibility.

The Pharisees were THE teachers of Jewish scripture. The Jews got their dose of scripture from the synagogue and it was always READ TO THEM and interpreted for them by the Pharisees. Jews were not in the habit of “reading the bible” as we are and they were certainly not authorized to interpret it on their own. That was the Pharisees’ job and noone else’s.

The people of Israel did not have the Holy Spirit given to them as we did but they believed the Pharisees’ interprtation of scripture was “infallible” because they taught from the “seat of Moses” and why else would they have been appointed by God to interpret if what they said was going to be wrong?
Doesn’t make sense.

Just my take anyway.

The OT prophets were not infallible? I’m afraid St. Peter would disagree with that notion:

2 Peter 1:21
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.

Also, ask your friend if the OT as read by the Jews in Jesus’ day was infallible, why doesn’t he accept the 7 deuterocanonical books as the Jews did until 100 AD?

BTW, the “seat of Moses” quote is from:

Matthew 23:1-3
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,

Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:

All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

See also

John 11 [RSV]
[47] So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.
[48] If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”
[49] But one of them, Ca’iaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all;
[50] you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”
[51] He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation,
[52] and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

If we grant that they did not have infallible authority, we must grant that they at least had authority. Church infallibility is a gift, not a necessity (in the theoretical sense), what IS necessary is authority, and the inherently incoherent ‘Scripture alone’ does not cut it.

Scott

Obviously, the Prophets were infallible when God was speaking through them.

Tom’s friend is correct, however, in saying that the Jewish magisterium, while posesing authority from God, was not infallible.

This should not strike us as odd; Israel couldn’t have had an infallible Magisterium when God hadn’t yet finished revealing his truth. Since Revelation has found its fulfillment and conssumation in Christ, we now have the possibility for an infallible Magisterium, since there’s no possibility for “New Revelation.”

[quote=DominvsVobiscvm]Obviously, the Prophets were infallible when God was speaking through them.

Tom’s friend is correct, however, in saying that the Jewish magisterium, while posesing authority from God, was not infallible.

This should not strike us as odd; Israel couldn’t have had an infallible Magisterium when God hadn’t yet finished revealing his truth. Since Revelation has found its fulfillment and conssumation in Christ, we now have the possibility for an infallible Magisterium, since there’s no possibility for “New Revelation.”
[/quote]

Your opening a can of worms me think.

I’d rather say that there’s infallibility in Israel but they just didn’t dogmatized it.

I’d rather say that there’s infallibility in Israel but they just didn’t dogmatized it.

Let’s just take one doctrine: the Trinity.

If any Jew, prior to the time of Christ, suggested that God was “One in Three Persons” ther’s no doubt in mind that he would have been stoned as a heretic.

I don’t know a single Catholic source that even suggests that Israel had infallible authority. How could it have, when the Faith hadn’t even been completely revealed it?

[quote=DominvsVobiscvm]Let’s just take one doctrine: the Trinity.

If any Jew, prior to the time of Christ, suggested that God was “One in Three Persons” ther’s no doubt in mind that he would have been stoned as a heretic.

I don’t know a single Catholic source that even suggests that Israel had infallible authority. How could it have, when the Faith hadn’t even been completely revealed it?
[/quote]

If there was any such thing as an infallible teaching authority in Israel or in Judah - why is it never mentioned in OT Introductions, surveys of OT culture, theologies of the OT, introductions to the individual books, and so forth ? There are hundreds of questions about the OT for such books to look at - this one is conspicuous by its absence.

Authority was expressed in many different ways, by charismatic champions, kings, priests, prophets, scribes, “men of God” of various sorts - a lot of importance is given to teaching, instruction, and so on, hearing the word of the Lord or failing to do so; but there is nothing equivalent to infallibility in the OT. Possibly because the religion of Israel was not expressed by creeds, but by acts of worship - it was centred on and manifested by cultic acts such as sacrifice, not on or by dogma. Elaborate statements of doctrine had to wait until the Fathers; I think Irenaeus was the first of them to try giving a systematic account of Christian belief. But that is not how Israelite theology (so to call it) works.

The way we as Catholics conceptualise the Faith today would have been very largely alien to the OT People of God - some things would have struck a chord, such as our insisting that God is One and Unique: but the Trinity, or infallibility ? Probably not: it took them centuries to get into their heads that God was indeed One and Unique. ##

[quote=DominvsVobiscvm]Let’s just take one doctrine: the Trinity.

If any Jew, prior to the time of Christ, suggested that God was “One in Three Persons” ther’s no doubt in mind that he would have been stoned as a heretic.

I don’t know a single Catholic source that even suggests that Israel had infallible authority. How could it have, when the Faith hadn’t even been completely revealed it?
[/quote]

Why does infallibility only needed when all the revelations are revealed?

Why does infallibility only needed when all the revelations are revealed?

How can a Magisterium infallibly teach that which has not been completely revealed?

Take, again, the doctrine of the Trinity, or the Sonship of Jesus. Suggest to any pre-Christian Jew that God was more than one Person, or had an eternal Son and you would have easily been stoned for heresy. Ditto for a number of other teachings, many of which to this day divide Catholics from Orthodox Jews.

Even in Jesus’ day, there were apparently many in the “Jewish Magisterium” who were teaching as doctrine things which were, in fact, merely disciplinary. Take into account that the Jews themselves never had a clear picture of what part of their “Oral Torah” was really authentically from Moses, and whose interpretation of it was really correct. Which is why you had so many Jewish sects to begin with, and why to this day Jews often revel in the disagreements that each of the different Rabbis had (and still have) over interpretation of Torah and Talmud.

If Israel ever did posess the charism of infallibility, there’s not a single documented instance of the Jewish magisterium employing it. Which puts the burden of proof on such a novel construct on those who propose it.

Infallibility was given to the Church. Catholics have never believed that the Jewish Magisterium had it. Authority, yes; infallibility, no.

Gottle of Geer knows exactly what he’s talking about (on this topic, anyway ;))

[quote=DominvsVobiscvm]Obviously, the Prophets were infallible when God was speaking through them.
[/quote]

Was the prophet Samuel speaking infallibly when he said: “This is what the LORD of hosts has to say: 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel when he barred his way as he was coming up from Egypt. Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses.”

?

Adam

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.