The Bible and the question of authortity


After attending Mass, the vigil on Saturday evening, I decided to attend a local Baptist meeting. Some of the people there are friends of mine and we each attend each others meetings. We have a very ecumenical community!

The Pastor, a very inspiring man, the Rev. Dr. Clifford Hockensmith, gave a sermon on John 20:19-24.

I will focus on the part of the sermon concerning vss. 21-23.

As Rev. Cliff read vs. 21, Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,” he expounded on the word “send.” He said that the word “send” is an understatement. A mom can “send” a child to a store for milk. A person can “send” a messenger. A president can “send” a diplomat. The Navy can “send” an officer to captain a ship. This one is large. The officer is in charge of a multimillion dollar vessel with possibly thousands of sailors aboard. In the case of Jesus, even the naval comparison falls short. Jesus said, “*As the father has sent me, so I send you.” *

The Father sent Jesus to be the savior of mankind. Jesus is likewise sending the Apostles, a very profound description. He is sending them to do the same as He, save the world. It is a commissioning, not just an errend.

Verse 22 came with new exposure. "And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ " Rev. Cliff pointed out that the only other place in the Bible where God breaths on anything is in Genesis 2:7 where God breathed life into Adam. The significance being that as the Father created man with His breath, Jesus was also creating, in this case the New Covenant. This creation and giving life was imposed onto the Apostles. In doing so Jesus gave them the responsibility and authority of bearing the New Covenant.

Verse 23 came with another interpretation. “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Rev. Cliff said that most of his fellow pastors skip over this one, but he began to interpret. He said, “Only one Being has the authority to forgive sin, and that is God. But here we see Jesus, who receives His authority to forgive sin from the Father, passing on that authority to the Apostles. Jesus is giving the Apostles HEAVENLY AUTHORITY!”

I almost fell out of my seat! Did he just say what I thought he said? Was he actually denying biblical authority and replacing it with Apostolic authority? Quite honestly, he didn’t go there. He left it ambiguous. But, he caught the congregation off guard with that statement. There were rumbling voices throughout the church.

Many of the congregation came to me at the coffee after the service to ask me about verse 23. They know that I am Catholic and wanted to know about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, though they didn’t know what it is called. I explained it to them charitably.

Please, I invite comment and discussion on this story. Feel free to chime in.

He is RISEN!


Wow. He’s a Baptist? You should have approached him afterwards and asked if he realized he was preaching Catholic doctrine? :smiley: The only thing to make it more complete would have been if he’d added “and the only way you can forgive or retain sins is to hear them.” (but then the crowd might have gotten up and stormed out! :stuck_out_tongue: ).

I wonder if he’s been reading the ECFs? If so, he may actually be Catholic before long (we can all pray!).

In Christ,



I think this is very important

In context to the Jewish community of that day they knew full well that it was God who forgives sin (Is 43:25) But they also knew God founded a priesthood and threw the priesthood they made atonement for the people. (Lev 5:5) Well Jesus is God and He too just as He did in the Old Testament founded a priesthood given them the authority to forgive sins. This would have been no surprise to the apostles who were Jews.

In Leviticus 5:5-6 we have a solid prefiguring/foreshadowing of confession and this is carried over into the New Covenant. In Lev. 5:5-6 it says, “When a man is guilty in any of these, he shall confess the sin he has committed, and he shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord for the sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.” Note how the penitent must confess and take his sin offering to the priest, and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin. This requires knowledge of the sin on the part of the priest.

Also Check out the bible study on the forums on Johns Gospel they are on Ch 19 right now so im sure they will touch on this passage from ch 20


Oh, I am sure he knows exactly what he said and it’s relationship to Catholic theology.

He is reading Eusebius’ History of the Church. This I know because I introduced it to him and he promptly bought a copy.



From what you have said I think he was trying to say that there is authority outside of the Bible I agree with that; However, I doubt that he was denying biblical authority and replacing it.


You are correct - he didn’t go there. But, I have had other conversations with him that have made me think similar thoughts. This is only one more instance of a string of things he has said.

For instance: he agrees that ministerial confession is probably better than protestant confession; he thinks that the Reformation and the splintering of the Church wasn’t necessarily a good thing; he reads Catholic theology (Aquinas, Augustine) and agrees with it; and a few others.

Definately NOT protestant thinking.



Will Dr. Hockensmith be attending RCIA soon?


I’ll respond with something I noticed about a biblical quote while doing a paper for a 400 level theology class. In most versions for Mathew 4:19 and Mark 1:17 Jesus tells the disciples how He will make them “fishers of men.” This particular version, however, used a different phrase: “I will make you fish for men.”

This was a significant double-entendre in my mind, since I’d been reflecting on subtle nuances of phrases in various translations of the Bible… and I remarked on the double entendre in a footnote. On one hand, fish for men means the same as the other translations, that the disciples will be called to fish men out from the ocean that is this world. On the other hand, however, it meant something entirely different to me. Taken in context with Jesus feeding the multitudes with bread and fish, i also thought of when Jesus called Himself The Bread of Life. And so here this double entendre takes on another meaning: in the feading of the multitudes, just bread could have been used, and CERTAINLY the Bread of Life is our necessity towards salvation… however, this phrase intimates another idea: hand in hand with the salvific work of Christ, the Bread of Life, is the work of the apostles, who are both fishers of men, and fish for men… the body of the church united with its head in the act of salvation (feeding the souls of man).

Just an interesting thought that this reminded me of. thanks for sharing.


Don’t we all wish that would happen.

I posted this story to exhibit that when someone reads the bible without inserting presuppositions, it starts becoming a very Catholic document. Of course, it is hard to overcome things that we have been taught from childhood.

JT has been journeying the path of Church authority vs. biblical authority and I think this may be a step for him.

There is a book by David Currie, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic**,** that at one point outlines Rev. Cliff’s sermon on vss. 22-23 almost word for word. I showed it to Rev. Cliff this morning (I am participating in a theology class at the Baptist church). He was enamored by the similarity.

David Currie brings the biblical verses even further. He actually goes to the point of recognizing that vs. 23 is the basis of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catholic Church.



the question is which Authority is higher? I say Biblical. I probably also have a different Idea of exaclty what the Church is.


Hi JT -

I recommend two books…

Evangelical is Not Enough, by Thomas Howard


*Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, *by David Currie

Both of these books outline the journeys of people who have completed the journey that I believe you are on. The first one is very profound.

As I read conversion stories I have noticed two distinct patterns. Catholics who become protestant nearly universally lack any real understanding of the religion and its practices. They leave because of abuses attributed to other people.

Protestants who become Catholic delve deeply into the history of Christianity and become aware that they are missing something. In thier research they find what is missing.

The first book is greatly more insightful than the second. The second more logical in its approach.

I am reading the first one now. There were some paragraphs where I felt the urge to cry, mourning the losses in deep and compelling worship that Protestantism relinquished. A very profound read.

I truly feel that a real and unbiased reading of these books will open new questions for you and provide answers to questions that you don’t even know exist.



I’m a Her, and i will look in to those books


I would say that there is not biblical authority without the Church authority.

The Church came first!

remember it is the Chruch that is the foundation of the truth

(1 Tim 3:15) “The church, the pillar and bulwark of the truth”

“And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the Church which is his body, the FULLNESS of the one who fills all things in every way” (Eph 1:22-23).

The Church has the fullness of the truth

see the Chruch lets us know what the bible says they dont contradict. But offten times people who go by there own interpritation get scripture wrong. even some of the most learned scholars debate on what scripture actually teaches. And Christ left us more than just mere hope of getting it right. He left us a Church who provided the bible.

hope this helps God bless


here is my (for lack of a better word) problem with this line of reasoning. Scripture has been around longer than the Church.
In fact we have a very good example of scripture being used to verify if the teachings of Paul and Silas were true. this, to me, establishes that the apostles were subject to scripture, not the other way around.

Acts 17:10-15
10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and **searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. **


Yes, I doubt that this pastor was promoting Catholic doctrine. I come from a long line of Baptists (I have 2 relatives who are Baptist ministers) and when I converted to Catholicism one of them told me that his only problem with the RC was the pope. The fact that Jesus gave authority to the Apostles does not translate into it being passed down to the next (and the next, etc) generation(s). Interestingly, I struggled with this for a long time - though I ignored it for years as well. I finally had to admit that I had never believed in the infallibility claim. So now I’m backstroking the Tiber, as it were. No, not back to the Baptists. Maybe the Quakers. :slight_smile:


The Old Testament pre-dates the Church, but the New Testament does not. The Scriptures the Bereans searched was only the Old Testament - that’s pretty much all they had at that point. They were confirming that the Messianic passages did, indeed, find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The apostles were not “subject” to the New Testament, they (inspired by God, of course) wrote it! :thumbsup:

It was the Catholic Church who, after 350 years (during which hundreds of epistles and gospels claiming apostolic authority were circulating) canonized the 27 books in the New Testament. The very first Christians never read John’s Gospel - it wasn’t penned until around AD 90!


are you backstroking East (Eastern Orthodox)


the Catholic Church did not create the New Testament. it existed in the early Church just not in book form, it existed in letter form and I have seen Marks Gospel dated as much earlier than AD 90. and yes they were checking against the Old Testament, but they set a precident there, and we are fortunate enough to have both the Old and New Testaments to refer to.


I didn’t say the Church created the NT, I said the Church canonized it. Settled once and for all which of the hundreds of epistles and gospels and “Acts of …” that were circulating were truly inspired Scripture.

it existed in letter form and I have seen Marks Gospel dated as much earlier than AD 90.

Mark’s Gospel yes, but I was talking about John’s specifically. There were also other letters and gospels that were being read in churches, fully believed to be authoritative, that did not make the canon of Scripture. The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians was considered inspired and authoritative by the Corinthians who received that letter. It darn near made the canon, too!

and yes they were checking against the Old Testament, but they set a precident there, and we are fortunate enough to have both the Old and New Testaments to refer to.

Yes, and we are fortunate that the Church was guided by the Holy Spirit to know what the New Testament should contain. :smiley: Nowhere does the Bible say it’s meant to be the sole rule of faith.

Where We Got the Bible

Why the Bereans Rejected Sola Scriptura


deciding what books are faults is not that hard, for example I’m sure we all agree that the gospel of Thomas is faults…why doesn’t agree with other scripture 2.because thomas didn’t write it.

as far as Sola Scriptura, that doesn’t actually mean scripture is the sole source of authority, (granted that is what a lot of people think)
It has to do with the order of importants you put on Scripture and Tradition.
ie if the Pope disagrees with Scripture then the Pope is wrong.
not saying that everything we believe has to be spelled out in scripture, but I am saying that everything we believe must not conflict with scripture.

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