On the "Infallible Interpretation" Argument

If Catholics can validly argue that Protestants should not interpret the Bible without the authority of the Church, then why can’t Jews just as validly argue that Christians should not interpret the Old Testament without the authority of Rabbinic Judaism?

A Christian can argue that the Old Testament prophesied Jesus, and that the Jews rejected those prophecies, but this presupposes that the Apostles got the correct interpretation of the Old Testament. The Apostles, however, were not Scribes or Rabbis, so they had no credentials that would make them authoritative interpreters of the Old Testament. Thus, if a pagan in the 1st century were to determine “Divine Truth” by credentials alone, he would be more likely to accept the mainstream Jewish (i.e. Pharisee) interpretation of the Old Testament (that is, that the Old Testament does NOT prophesy Jesus.) than he would for a minority Messianic Jewish sect’s interpretations.

So, I question the validity of the Infallible Interpreter argument on the grounds that it seems to be more compelling of an argument for Judaism against Christianity than it is for Catholicism against Protestantism.

Thoughts?

Thanks.

Saint Peter denied Jesus because he was afraid of the Roman soldiers & dying a cruel death, the Apostles were frightened little men. Then The Holy Spirit came upon them in the Upper Room, they turned from frightened little children into people who would lay their lives down for the Lord. Jesus gave the Keys to Peter, " Whatever you bind" So by the Power of the Holy Spirit the Catholic Church is infallible, since Jesus said He would never leave it, " The Holy Spirit is Infallible."

It’s not just a matter of scriptural interpretation, the Church and Judaism are under very different covenants.

Judaism, having denied Jesus, is basically still living under the Mosaic covenant, which does not promise infallibility to the Rabbis.

The CC, on the other hand, is under the new covenant, instituted by Jesus, which culminated in the creation of His Church, which Jesus promised would prevail over the gates of Hades (Matthew 16:18,19); and that He gave authority to the apostles to make new disciples and that He would be with them till the end of time (Matthew 28:18-20); and that Christ and His Church are one (Ephesians 5:25-32), and therefore the Church of Christ cannot fail because Christ cannot fail. As St. Augustine said:

The Church will totter when her foundation totters. But how shall Christ totter? . . . . [A]s long as Christ does not totter, neither shall the Church totter in eternity.

Basically, since the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus, and Jesus considered the institution a pretty big deal, it’s reasonable to expect that it has a sort of holy oversight that protects it from falling into major errors. This is a sort of guarantee that was never made to the Rabbis under the Old Covenant. So they could be wrong in rejecting Jesus as the messiah. And in fact they were, which is why such promise was never made by God in the first place.

Of course, the real question is: do you believe Jesus is the Word made flesh, who died and was resurrected? If you don’t, there’s no reason for you to believe in what Jesus promised. If you do, and you believe His promises, it’s easy to recognize the CC as the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” church.

The truth of Christ being the son of God doesn’t rely on interpretations of scripture. The Church wasn’t founded or powered by written texts but by the witness of those in 1st century Roman occupied Judea who saw their rabbi executed and truly believed that He was who He said He was and the He rose again as He said He would. The thought of a Jewish scholar who rejects a Christian interpretation of Old Testament texts has no bearing on anything. Christ fulfilled scripture regardless as to whether or not some scholar disagrees. Truth cannot be contradicted.

The simple answer to your question is that Catholicism does not draw its authority from Judaism, but from Jesus Christ, who is God. There is no higher authority than Christ, and He specifically founded His Church, and promised that the guidance of the Holy Spirit (also God) would be with it for all eternity.

Protestants, therefore, are bound to follow the Catholic Church if they believe Christ is God, because the Catholic Church is the Church He founded.

The same logic does not imply that the Church somehow owes obedience to Judaism. Judaism is the religion of the Old Covenant, which is ended.

Not for Jews.

Your assumptions have a critical failure.

The protestants can argue with the Catholic Church about interpretation of Scripture and when doing so they have to take the whole Bible (Old and New Testament).
The Church has on her side the Tradition that she uses as a key to properly understand both Old and New Testaments.

When the Jews argue their interpretation over that of the Christian viewpoints they can only use the Old Testament.

The Catholic Church teaches that the New Testaments is a key to opening up the Old Testament, and not the other way around.

Therefore by rejecting the New Testament the Jews are unable to fully understand their very own OT.

Jesus Christ is the perfect rabbi and teacher of the Old Covenant. In this way, we can say that the Old Covenant is fulfilled in Christ. This knowledge was passed unto His apostles who have then communicated it to us today through Apostolic succession.

But for any man who knows that Christ is God, the Old Covenant has no bearing whatsoever. Your distinction is not a useful one in this context.

True. The question then becomes whether the Christian New Covenant is the correct interpretation of Jeremiah 31:27-34.

Judaism, having denied Jesus, is basically still living under the Mosaic covenant, which does not promise infallibility to the Rabbis.

Is the “Chair of Moses” infallible? (Matthew 23:2)

Basically, since the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus, and Jesus considered the institution a pretty big deal, it’s reasonable to expect that it has a sort of holy oversight that protects it from falling into major errors. This is a sort of guarantee that was never made to the Rabbis under the Old Covenant. So they could be wrong in rejecting Jesus as the messiah. And in fact they were, which is why such promise was never made by God in the first place.

Weren’t the Jews in the Old Covenant given infallible Oral Traditions? (They had to have in order to be able to write and canonize the Septuagint as late as 400-200 BC) If so, then doesn’t that leaves open the possibility that their interpretations of the Old Testament prophesies have been protected from error from that point on to now?

Except for the question of whether Acts 8:26-35 is inerrent.

The truth of Christ being the son of God doesn’t rely on interpretations of scripture. The Church wasn’t founded or powered by written texts but by the witness of those in 1st century Roman occupied Judea who saw their rabbi executed and truly believed that He was who He said He was and the He rose again as He said He would. The thought of a Jewish scholar who rejects a Christian interpretation of Old Testament texts has no bearing on anything.Christ fulfilled scripture regardless as to whether or not some scholar disagrees. Truth cannot be contradicted.

Good point. If the claims of the Gospels about Christ are manifestly true, then the whole debate about whether the Old Testament prophesied Christ becomes relatively minor, even if it is inconclusive which interpretation of the OT is right.

Thanks for the helpful replies. I take it that we can all agree that the Infallible Interpretation argument is not in itself a sufficient argument for which Church or Religion is true; we also have to argue that what the New Testament claims about Christ is true, or at least deserves the benefit of the doubt.

I can see where you want to go with your argument and I agree with you insofar that it would be for the Church (Rabbinic tradition) to have to sole interpretation of the Bible (Old Testament).

What you said now can be applied to the Christian Church. It was the Catholic Church that put the Bible together by choosing those Books that they considered as relevant to their theology. Just as the Rabbinic tradition interpreted their Scripture so too that was how the Church interpreted the Bible.

Now if Protestants have different Christian theology, similarly they could too, assemble various Books of the Scriptures and interpret them as they see fitting their theology and doctrines.

The Books of the Bible were compiled for a reason and only those who did it knew why chose those Books. Only them knew what they wanted from those Books. Those mentioned were the Catholic Church.

There was the possibility that Martin Luther wanted to exclude certain Books of the Bible as they might not what he wanted in explaining his belief. Of course, somehow he didn’t and he persisted with the same Books that the Catholic Church had chosen.

A very good and constructive reply!

Thank you, Reuben :slight_smile:

The replay to your question is NO! the Chair of Moses although had authority to bind the Jews, actually the 12 tribes of the Israelites that came out of Egypt, does not have near enough the power and authority as that conferred by Jesus to Peter.

Matthew 16:19
And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall release on earth shall be released, even in heaven.”

The priests of the Old Covenant did not have this authority.

The Messianic Prophecies are leading indicators if you will of the one who is to come. In Luke 22:20 Jesus says he is the New Covenant. It is God himself that specifies that. The leading indicators are no substitute for the real thing.

Is the “Chair of Moses” infallible? (Matthew 23:2)

Jesus says to listen and do what he says but not what he does. Mat 23:2-3. This does gives Moses Seat the authority to teach and can be inferred to teach without error. Otherwise Jesus would be wrong to tell others to listen and practice if Moses Seat is capable of teaching error. However, I am not sure whether this concept of Moses Seat still exist after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD70.

Weren’t the Jews in the Old Covenant given infallible Oral Traditions? (They had to have in order to be able to write and canonize the Septuagint as late as 400-200 BC) If so, then doesn’t that leaves open the possibility that their interpretations of the Old Testament prophesies have been protected from error from that point on to now?

That is an interesting angle. There was no canonization of the Hebrew Bible till much later. The Septuagint is a collection of those books translated to Koine Greek. It was not canonized by the Jews. There was no mechanism to do that. The Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes and other groups didn’t agree with each other what constitute Holy Scriptures. The Catholic Church did canonized the Septuagint as Holy Scriptures.

However, interpretation depends on the source. Christians used the Septuagint to show to the Jews that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. The Jews came back eventually with the Masoretic Text version (there are other versions which precedes MT)which did not point so clearly to Jesus as the Messiah and excluding those books which support Christian thought. The MT version underlying books(some of them) were a different variant from that of the Septuagint.

Does it say anywhere it is? If you recall, Moses himself was pretty fallible. Moses and Jesus are not in the same league.

And, as you recall, the Jewish people stopped using the Septuagint. So, by your logic, if they were protected from error because they were following canonized teachings, what could it mean that they stopped following it?

My thoughts would be that the Apostles spent three years walking and learning with Jesus and when Jesus ascended into heaven, God sent the Holy Spirit to help them.

Very good question…thought provoking!

God bless,

Rita

Good points :wink:

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