Oaths. Help please!

So Im in RCIA and have become more accepting of doctrine. But I’m currently stumped and quite depressed by something…

Plenty of early church fathers said oaths were wrong, very wrong, and Jesus himself said not to and James even reiterates. I have studied and found many to say he meant false oaths, but I’m just not buying it. Ive even seen how Jesus gave an answer under the priest who put him under oath and apparently Paulade oaths when he said “God is witness”. But what bothers me is that the early church clearly condemned… The early writinga are why I made it this far. I also have a scrupulous conscience sometimes so that may be the problem too, but still really is the Church going against his commandments? The catechism even states Jesus didn’t forbid oaths, while the early church was much more adamant. Have I misunderstood? Am I looking too much into it? Answers are greatly appreciated
Also advice and prayers for my conversion, it’s a very hard process for me right now… Peace

As for the swearing of oaths, St. Paul writes to Timothy (1 Tim 1:10) about perjurers (literally a false swearer). If Christians are not permitted to take any oath at all, than there should be no perjurers at all.

When Jesus was before Pilate he refused to speak until he was placed under oath, he did not refuse this and remain silent, instead he spoke (Matt 26:63-64).

God also swore an oath upon himself (Gen 22:16, Heb 6:13).

Biblically speaking, oath taking itself is not wrong, but it should not be used for frivolous reasons and if your yes means yes and no means no everyday, than oath taking should be unnecessary except under special circumstances.

All Christians swear an oath when they are baptized, a simple paraphrase is to reject satan and all his works and to put on Christ and obey him.

I don’t know which early church writings you are looking at, but keep in mind that swearing an oath to the roman emperor also meant acknowledging their (false) gods as well, which would explain why they rejected secular oath swearing.

I’ve been plugging my way through the Church Fathers, and I can confirm that they firmly taught that any swearing of oaths was wrong. However, that does not mean that this teaching was correct. They considered a lot of other things to be wrong that are now accepted by the teaching of the Church, and they required a lot of things that the Church now says are matters of personal choice.

D

Hmm. Interesting. And what other things would those be?

Well, for starters, against women appearing in public with their hair uncovered, against eating sweets, spiced foods, and foods with sauces, against attending sporting events and theatrical productions . . .

D

Hi, good for you. But, just reading this question, I think you’re still not comfortable with the Catholic attitude. St. Augustine explained it this way:

Believe and you will understand.

In other words, we’re not called to understand first and then believe. We’re called to accept because of the great dignity and authority which the Catholic Church is imbued by Jesus Christ. St. Augustine learned this truism because he also was a convert. And he learned the hard way, that the Catholic Church is indeed, infallible.

Anyway…

But I’m currently stumped and quite depressed by something…

That’s ok. Keep studying.

Plenty of early church fathers said oaths were wrong, very wrong, and Jesus himself said not to and James even reiterates.

I don’t know which Early Church Fathers you’re reading nor what they said, but I think you’ve misunderstood their teaching based on the following.

  1. Jesus Christ is our model.
  2. Jesus Christ frequently resorted to oath formulas.
  3. The Catholic Faith is based upon oaths.
  4. Salvation is based upon God’s oath.
  5. The Government of the United States and all civilized Christian governments are based upon the taking of oaths (i.e. Courtroom proceedings and “swearing in” to take office).

I have studied and found many to say he meant false oaths, but I’m just not buying it. Ive even seen how Jesus gave an answer under the priest who put him under oath and apparently Paulade oaths when he said “God is witness”. But what bothers me is that the early church clearly condemned… The early writinga are why I made it this far.

Those early Church Fathers had to give oaths in order to become Christian and an attendance of the Mass requires one to take an oath. The Nicene Creed and all the Creeds are basically oaths. The Seven Sacraments are basically oaths.

So, I’m missing the part where you say they were against oaths. Is there a specific type of oath that you are talking about.

I also have a scrupulous conscience sometimes so that may be the problem too, but still really is the Church going against his commandments? The catechism even states Jesus didn’t forbid oaths, while the early church was much more adamant. Have I misunderstood?

I think so.

Am I looking too much into it?

Do you mean, “reading too much into it”? By that I mean that you’re reading your misunderstanding into whatever it is you are reading. I’d say, “yes”.

But, researching too much. I don’t think that’s possible. Keep looking.

Answers are greatly appreciated

I hope that helps.

Also advice and prayers for my conversion, it’s a very hard process for me right now…

Dear Father, pour out your loving grace upon this person who clearly is seeking to know you and to love you. Open his mind and heart to accept and understand your Word taught by your Church. In Christ’s name we pray, in unity with the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen!

Peace

And peace to you, as well.

No, their teaching was quite unequivocal. My point was that they were wrong about other things, and, based on the totality of Sacred Scripture, not just on a couple cherry-picked verses, they were wrong about oaths as well. In other words, I agree with you that oaths are sometimes required to invoke God as a witness that we are telling the truth.

D

Well, since they are Catholic. And they are the ones which crafted the oaths we take in Mass and other parts of our Faith, could you produce the teaching you’re talking about?

My point was that they were wrong about other things, and, based on the totality of Sacred Scripture, not just on a couple cherry-picked verses, they were wrong about oaths as well.

The Church is infallible. The Early Church Fathers are not. Sooo?

In other words, I agree with you that oaths are sometimes required to invoke God as a witness that we are telling the truth.

Ok, then I’m confused as to what you are asking.

Sorry I couldn’t be of help.

I never asked anything. I agreed with you, so why are you being contentious?

D

O, sorry. Didn’t mean to be. I responded to JesusReigns and I assumed that JesusReigns had responded to me.
I didn’t notice the change until you said, “I never asked anything”.

When you said they were quite “unequivocal”, I thought you were JR saying they unequivocally agreed against taking oaths. Which would disagree with me. But your last sentence agreed with me. Sooooo… I was confused.

Now that I know who you are, let me read your message again.

[quote=“DaveBj, post:7, topic:455251, full:true”]
No, their teaching was quite unequivocal. My point was that they were wrong about other things, and,

Ok, see, this sounds as though you’re responding to something I said to you. But, I don’t remember saying anything to you. Nor can I find anything in this thread.

based on the totality of Sacred Scripture, not just on a couple cherry-picked verses, they were wrong about oaths as well.

And I definitely don’t agree with this.

In other words, I agree with you that oaths are sometimes required to invoke God as a witness that we are telling the truth.

I agree that this is in agreement with what I said. But I’m still in in the dark about your first comment. Can you shed any light?

“There teaching was unequivocal” means that when they wrote about swearing oaths, the content of their writing was “unambiguous; clear; having only one possible meaning or interpretation” that they were against swearing oaths.

D

So which of the early Church Father? Which one? They are not nameless you know.

The problem with that is that the Early Church Fathers are the men who crafted the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and many other oaths that we live by.

So, you’ll have to provide quotes with references to prove your contention.

I’ve looked into another thread about this, and I have copied and pasted one of their replies concerning those saying it’s hyperbole below:

Origen: “And with respect to the precepts enjoined in the Gospels, no doubt can be entertained that very many of these are to be literally observed, as, e.g., when our Lord says, But I say unto you, Swear not at all.”

Gregory Thaumaturgus: “…by all manner of means to avoid an oath, especially one taken in the name of God.”

Gregory Nazianzen: “How much more ascetic is the Gospel than the Law! You shall not forswear yourself is the Law; but you are not to swear at all, either a greater or a lesser oath, for an oath is the parent of perjury.”

John Chrysostom: “Again he who swears, says He, even if he fulfil his oath, does the works of the wicked one.”

Are we to say they meant, it is ok to swear if you think it is necessary? Would they have said the same with regard to divorce at the sermon on the mount?
Does Gregory consider it an oath? He certainly condemns oaths: “you are not to swear at all, either a greater or a lesser oath, for an oath is the parent of perjury”. However; in a apologetic context, trying to remove the stain of the blatant oaths in Paul, comments that ““God is my witness,” and “God knows :” those words are not an Oath, but an assurance of things unbroken." So we certainly have context for him not considering his own words an oath. However, let’s say he did swear, and that he considered it swearing, for the sake of argument.

If it is an oath: again I ask, does Nazianzen’s action as a priest, putting an oath in his writing, make his later condemnation of oaths as a bishop in an episcopal oration and in a directed polemic against swearing null and void? Does it lessen the meaning because he once swore? Must then the same be said when Augustine comments on sexual immorality due to his own history with sexual immorality?

“But you, if you heed nothing else, reverence at least that book, which you reach forth in putting the oath; and open the Gospel, which you take in hand when you bid swear; and when thou hear what Christ there declares concerning oaths, shudder and desist! What then does He there say concerning oaths? But I say unto you, Swear not at all. And do you convert the Law which forbids swearing into an oath. Oh, what contempt! Oh, what outrage!” (chrysostom)

This concept, that the early Christians prohibited all oaths, is one that is not often commented on in modern history books. As F.D. Bruner points out: “… the history of the interpretation of this Command has been a history of evasions.” Few wish to admit that this command was taken literally in the first few centuries, as it would have theological implications on how it should be interpreted now. However; those who have commented say quite simply that “In the earliest Church, especially in the East, almost without exception, Jesus’ Command against oaths was taken literally.” (Bruner p. 234). Later: “‘The entire tradition of the Great Church since the early Middle Ages almost unanimously set Matt 5:33-37 aside and accepted oaths, even though often with a bad conscience.” (Luz, p. 319).

Even the Church seems to admit this. In Auctorem fidei, LXXV, Pius VI seems only to condemn the idea that the fact that the early Church forbade oaths should be a reason to change Church practices regarding oaths.

Again my main question being: How should this be considered? Doctrinal development or doctrinal change?

@Jestersage, @De_Maria, here is a link with some quotes from Ante-Nicene Fathers:

http://www.earlychristiandictionary.com/Oaths.html

I’ve spent the last two years in the writings of St. Augustin, and antipathy to oaths is all through his writings. However, I’m not going to go back and comb through 8000 pages looking for specific references. It’s enough that I say that I have read his teaching that swearing was wrong. If you do not choose to take my word for it, that is no skin off my nose.

Oh, and by the way, oaths and creeds are by a long shot not the same things.

Edit to add: St. John Chrysostom also taught in his homilies on the Book of Acts that oaths should be avoided at all costs.

D

Wrong. If you want me to believe you, you’ll have to provide the proof.

@Jestersage, @De_Maria, here is a link with some quotes from Ante-Nicene Fathers:

http://www.earlychristiandictionary.com/Oaths.html

I’m not one to debate webpages. If there’s something there you want to discuss, cut and paste the excerpt.

Oh, and by the way, oaths and creeds are by a long shot not the same things.

Anyone who recites one of the Creeds of the Catholic Church, is swearing that they believe that which is stated in the oath. In addition, these oaths end with the word, “amen”. That word is used to affirm oaths.

Edit to add: St. John Chrysostom also taught in his homilies on the Book of Acts that oaths should be avoided at all costs.

St. Chrysostom was speaking of using God’s name in vain by cursing or any other senseless and thoughtless remark.

Apparently I didn’t make myself clear, so let me restate: I don’t care whether you believe me or not. You’re not my college professor, and I wasn’t writing a learned dissertation. I know what I have read, and where I have read it, and my original intent was to write a comment in confirmation of what the OP had heard, not to start an argument with an extraneous person. If the OP has a question for me to follow up on, I will respond to him/her, but I’m not interested in any more argumentation with you.

D

Now it’s my turn to ask you, “why are you being contentious?”

I understood completely. I just wanted you to understand my stance. All I’m saying is that I won’t believe you until you provide evidence. That’s an eminently reasonable position. I’m sure you wouldn’t believe me either. And you haven’t. So?

This idea stems from the Gospel of Matthew 5:34,35

Here is some helpful commentary from the Haydock Bible:

Ver. 34. Swear not at all. We must not imagine that here are forbidden all oaths, where there is a just and necessary cause of calling God to witness. An oath on such an occasion is an act of justice and religion. Here are forbidden unnecessary oaths in common discourse, by which the sacred name of God, which never ought to be pronounced without reverence and respect, is so frequently and scandalously profaned. (Witham) — ‘Tis not forbidden to swear in truth, justice and judgment; to the honour of God, or our own or neighbours’ just defence; but only to swear rashly, or profanely, in common discourse, and without necessity. (Challoner)

Ver. 35. The Anabaptists and other sectarists, following the letter, and not the spirit of the Scripture, and walking in the footsteps of their predecessors, the Waldenses, and the Pelagians, will allow of no oath to be lawful, not even before a judge. (Bristow)

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