Need help refuting a Protestant argument against confession. I’m kind of stumped


When I told a Protestant about how Jesus have the apostles the authority to forgive sins in John Chapter 20 they hit me with something I have never heard before. They said that the tenses in the original language meant that the apostles only had the authority to pronounce that their sins were already forgiven. He linked me this article:



I’ll take a crack at this…

So ultimately if the Apostles forgive in the present the act effects the forgiveness in the past to the present moment.

Discernment is necessary. Only God ultimately blots out the sin and the stain of sin. However by God’s doing the Apostles effect that forgiveness.

So God has given authority to the Apostles such that if they truly forgive then the effect is that God forgives the past into the present. If the Apostles do not forgive then no effect occurs and God does not move.

There’s a big difference between pronouncement of what has already occurred and effecting what has already occurred. With man this is impossible but with God nothing is impossible.

Hope this helps.



Do they speak and read Hebrew or Aramaic fluently?

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A plain text reading of John 20, 22 just doesn’t line up with that interpretation. It doesn’t say “whose sins you pronounce forgiven were already forgiven.” It just says “whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” Jesus even says right before that “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The Father sent him for the forgiveness of sins. Look to the healing of the paralytic, when he pronounces the forgiveness of sins–real forgiveness, not an announcement of forgiveness previously given. And he sends his disciples to do the same and empowers them to do so by the Holy Spirit.

The other interpretation just doesn’t make any sense.




They are using a dictionary and linguistic trickery to try to divine revealed truth! Peter wrote about such when he said the ignorant and unstable twist the scriptures. Their argument is absolutely specious - man made.

For 2,000 straight years, sins have been forgiven by a hierarchical priesthood - but the priest acts with the authority of, and in the person of Christ. Have them read 2 Corinthians 2:10. In a good translation (like the KJV) Paul forgave sins in the PERSON of Christ. He was an ambassador for Christ, with the authority of Christ (2 Corinthians 5) who pleaded with already converted Christians to be reconciled with God! This is immediately after he states that he forgave sins in the person of Christ. Most anti-Catholic and modern bibles have the language changed - why?

If their bible does not read that way, tell them they need a better bible. It is good to have a King James Version handy to show them that they do not follow the bible.

Further, there are exactly three occasions in scripture where Christ forgave sins. See Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20 and Luke 7:48. In each and every case, He told the sinner that their sins were forgiven - their ears heard the words of absolution, exactly like yours and mine do. They had no doubt. We have no doubt.

Those poor mislead Christians have NEVER heard those words of absolution.

Tell them that in the Catholic Church it is a sin to presume that God has forgiven a particular sin. What if they are not sorry for their sins, they lack repentance and make no attempt to change? Does God forgive that?

That makes God a fool! That renders Christ’s atonement null and void!

Poor, misled “bible believers” - they need prayer!

EDIT: And, what do they have to say about James 5:16? “Therefore confess your sins to one another…”

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Regardless of what one believes or does not believe, the scriptures are crystal clear on confession and that has been the constant, unwavering practice of Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, since 33 AD.

European denominations are increasingly confused over this, as they have no roots earlier than the 16th century, and operate only on men’s opinions of what ink on paper really means.

Orphans. But, Christ did not leave us orphans!

I’d really hate to have to dig out a Greek dictionary at my judgment.

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Whenever someone points out that the expectations of discipleship can be lessened by reading something in Greek, looking at the tense or other linguistic tricks, I tend to ignore them. It is strange that those people will never interpret the Bible more strictly.

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Let me let you in on a little evangelical/Protestant trick (spent 30 years of my life there) … The “The Greek says…” or “The Hebrew says…” is way to win a debate you were loosing as it leaves the opponent stumped. Now they aren’t lying per say when they bring up this argument, they usually heard it from somebody else (or read it somewhere). And I have to admit, 99% of the time it turns out that the source was wrong. I did a Koine greek course… and am far from good on it, but I know enough that when someone tells me “The greek actually says…” … I take out a greek new testament and say “OK, show me!”. So as a general rule, unless the other person is FLUENT in greek or hebrew (I don’t mean that he/she did an inro course, but one actually fluent in Koine Greek)… Then the argument is not acceptable. Same with the sources… If you aren’t fluent in Koine greek or biblical hebrew, You will probably understand the text way more by reading the text in many different versions of the Bible in the languages you do know.

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Just to be clear here, not all Protestants reject the forgiveness of sins by their ordained leaders.



Just a small caveat, you have to be careful about an evidentiary standard, so to speak, that’s as high as the one you propose. Very few biblical scholars, Catholic or otherwise, are fluent in the ancient languages. It’s entirely possible to get an advanced degree in Sacred Scripture without being fluent. One merely need to demonstrate a high degree of working knowledge. I have a Master’s in Theology with a Scripture concentration, and while I had about three semesters each of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, I’m not able to simply converse in each one of them. I am well enough equipped in each to know how to work with them, to do research, to look things up, and to talk about nuances in meaning. Most priests, even if they’ve never had a class in Greek or Hebrew, know enough about the finer linguistic points of the texts to at least preach about how those things bear on what is being taught. We’re required to take a lot of scripture classes in seminary, and there, even for one who does little to no instruction on the languages, still picks up the facts of how certain things have to be interpreted.




I’m looking at the Greek, and it looks like the verbs have the pattern:

If you [aorist subjunctive verb] sins, then they are [perfect verb].

This structure leaves the reading ambiguous. A perfect verb in Greek could mean “have been forgiven”, but it could also mean “are in a state of being forgiven [at that moment]”. The more natural reading is probably the latter one.

On the other hand, conditional phrases in Greek are notoriously hard to analyze.

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In the Old Testament, whoever committed sin was to bring an unblemished goat to the altar of holocausts. “The priest shall make atonement for him and he will be forgiven.” Lev. 4:27-35

It was never permitted that a person could just pray to God in his own tent and all would be forgiven. No, it was mandated that he go to the priest with a sacrifice (sin offering). This was to prefigure what would take place when lawfully ordained priests would have the power from Christ to forgive sins. The difference is that the animal sacrifice was no longer needed, since Christ had opened the new way through His own sacrifice. But the priest is still necessary to effect this.



Look at the last two sentences in your link:

When Jesus forgives our sins, He forgives all of them for all time – the past ones, the present ones and the future ones – all of them. The sins believers will commit tomorrow are already forgiven.

I don’t know what church the writer belongs to. Is this Calvinism?

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Not just Calvinism. A lot of different types of Protestants believe that once you say a sinners prayer, you are saved forever

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Which ones?



When you get to the point where you have to torture the tenses of the original writing in order to support your claim, you’re on thin ice if not already fallen through it.

It truly amazes me to what lengths Protestants will go to justify wrong headed ideas sometimes rather than just give up and admit that their religions were built on someone’s ego rather than on the truth.



Pointing even more strongly to the need to examine consistent Church teaching and practice. Notice that every appliance or electronic device you purchase comes with a written manual. But, there is always an 800 tech line, as the text is never completely clear - one of the vagaries of the various languages which were introduced to confuse our ancestors at the tower of Babel.

I recall here that many bible believers are developing the beehive mentality as they watch bible Christianity self-pulverize around them. They have seen and read many conflicting interpretations and, somewhere in the back of their minds, they know that the lie was exposed in our Lord’s time when “their testimony did not agree.” If what they allege was true, they would be at peace and have no need of argument or the endless cycle of developing proofs for their positions.

We Catholics may be slow learners, but it is wearying to play defense on a daily basis. As much as possible, I try to turn the tables and place them on the defense - after all, the burden of proof is on the accuser.

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Agreed! Perhaps a better phrasing would be “if a person has a working knowledge for Greek/Hebrew” …



Thing is, it all comes down to authority.

If a person does not accept that Christ gave the Church this authority, heck if they do not accept that Christ founded A Church, they will not accept confession.

Once they do acknowledge that authority, well, they then swim the Tiber.



I disagree, actually. In some cases, the text of the Bible is completely clear. In others, it’s not.


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