Terms (Prophets, Temples, etc)

So I was talking with someone, and i’m not sure why he is stumbled on this, but he was really having an issue with why we call our churches Cathedrals instead of Temples, and why we don’t call people Prophets anymore, like in the Bible. Again, not sure why, but he is wondering why the terms did not remain, seeing as the Catholic Church is the true Church.

I was not sure how to answer this, so any help is appreciated.

When people try to convince you that their religion is true because of completely superficial issues, that’s a good indication that the other person’s faith does not have much of a firm foundation in the first place.

I really do mean that. When someone says “you can’t be the Church founded by Christ because when I look in the yellow pages, you’re listed under “c” for cathedral instead of “t” for temple” you can be sure that the person’s faith-community is not based on any genuine, deep, reasoned theology.

Having said that though, I’d suggest caution on bringing that into the conversation.

First of all, we can and sometimes do refer to Catholic church-buildings as temples. A temple is a place where the sacrifice occurs. It’s entirely acceptable to call a Catholic church by the word “temple” although in everyday language, we usually don’t do it. It’s very common, however, in Eastern Catholic/Orthodox use to use the word temple.

In canon law, there are different types of buildings. We have churches, oratories, chapels, cathedrals, shrines, basilicas etc. Because these different kinds of buildings have different uses, we have words for each of them. It’s no different than the fact that we sometimes use the word “tree” while other times it’s important to say “oak tree” or “pine tree” or “apple tree.”

The word cathedral has its own history. I won’t type it out, but you can read it here:

The topic of prophets is much more important.

We do not have prophets anymore because all of the prophets pointed toward Christ Himself, and now that the Incarnation has already happened, there is nothing more to announce AND because Christ Himself is the last and pre-eminent of all the prophets.

I think its also important to point out that the apostolic Church also had prophets of a sort. Both the Acts and St. Paul use the title for a class of people within the Church. Would it be that with the end of public revelation these sorts of prophets can no longer exist?
Of course all of us, and priests in a more profound sense, share in the prophetic office of Christ by proclaiming His Gospel.

Christian houses of worship are probably not called temples because, by virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, every Christian is a temple.

This is true, but as Father points out above the Church can and does refer to church buildings as temples in certain contexts. Our physical temples, church buildings, are icons of the mystical temple which the body of Christ comprised of all the baptized faithful.

Father- it’s not only in the East that the term temple is commonly used. In the Latin Church this seems to be somewhat of a linguistic thing. In Spanish iglesia (church) and templo (temple) can be used interchangeably.

A prophet is someone who speaks on God’s behalf or who brings God’s message to the people.

As Father pointed out, we do not have prophets in the sense of the Old Testament prophets but the “prophetic office” continues in the Church.

"He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." (Luke 10:16)

See catechism 904 and 905.



A prophet, in the Pauline sense, is someone who interprets for the community what God’s will is (or what God is saying), or perhaps in the broader sense, interprets the times, like Paul VI in Humanae Vitae with his famous 4 predictions about what widespread contraception would do to societies. (It also could include private revelation, but not public revelation.) But the capital P Prophets are no more, because they were specifically prophesying with reference to Christ (which was public revelation).

Yes, it’s important. Surely I agree.

We all (by baptism) participate in Christ as priest, prophet, and king.

When communities use the word “prophet” as a specific title it’s because they are trying to say that they have members who are “just like” the Old Testament prophets, meaning that they convey special revelations, sometimes new ones.

It’s not about the words as such. The choice of words for every language varies and changes over time.

That’s not the reason.

We do not, and we cannot deny that the church building is a special building.

The word temple might be used for any building that has an altar. In Catholic usage, we have different types of buildings, and we differentiate between them—as I wrote earlier, we have parish churches, cathedrals, basilicas, chapels, etc. and each type differs from the other in terms of exactly how it is used (for example, by a parish or by a monastic community). Since they differ in specific use, we have several words for them.

The word “temple” is just not one of those words. It is not a word we find in canon law. The only reason I bring up canon law is because it’s the law that defines the difference between (for example) a parish church and a chapel.

We use the word temple in a poetic sense, not a legal one. In the Judeo-Christian sense of the word, a temple is a place where the sacrifice is offered; to a Christian, that means the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Any building properly dedicated and set-apart for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass might be called a temple.

But we do not avoid using the word temple as a way of denying the importance of a dedicated building.

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.