Romans 10

This is a literal translation of an ancient Greek text. It has also been cross-posted on For more information on how to read this post and what everything means, see the relevant page on that site.

1Brothers, the good will of my heart and the petition of God over them [is]some manuscripts: over them is; others: over Israel is until salvation. 2For [I] witness to them that [they] have jealousy(zeal) of God,a but not according to(in accordance with) knowledge; 3for, not perceiving the justice of God and seeking to stand up their own {justice}, [they] were not obedient tolit. placed under the justice of God;b 4for the end of the law [is] Christ unto justice for everyone believing.c

5For Moses writes on justice, the [justice] fromhere and in verse 6, lit. out of the law, that the man having done them [the things of the law] will live in them.d 6But the justice from faith says thus, Do not sayThis is a prohibitive subjunctive; it’s typical for negative commands, rather than the imperative; literally, this is more like, “May you not say!” but still carries the weight of a command. in thy heart, ‘Who will go up into the sky?'” that is, to bring Christ down, 7or, “‘Who will go down into the abyss?'” that is, to bring Christ up out of [the] dead. 8But what does [it] say? “The sayinghere and throughout, (word) is near to thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart,”e that is, the saying of faith which [we] proclaim. 9Because if [thou] agreehere and in verse 10, lit. are of the same mind or thinking in thy mouth that Jesus [is] lord and [thou] believe that God raised him out of [the] dead, [thou] will be saved; 10for [it] is believed by heart unto justice and [it] is agreed by mouth unto salvation. 11For the writing says, everyone “believing upon him will not be dishonored.”f 12For there is not a separation both of Jew and of Greek,g for he himself [is] lord of all, being wealthy unto all the [ones] calling upon him; 13for “everyone who calls upon the name of the lord will be saved.”h

14How therefore would [they] call upon [him] in whom [they] did not believe? And how would [they] believe [in him] of whom [they] did not hear? And how would [they] hear apart from [one] proclaiming [it]? 15And how would [they] proclaim [it] if [they] were not sent?Of the possible words St. Paul could have used, this one is directly derivative of the root of our word apostle. Thus, only those given authority from God (through the Church) should go out and preach, not just anyone with a Bible. (Compare the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:27-39.) Just as [it] is written, “How timely [are] the feetsome manuscripts add of the [ones] bringing the good news of peace of the [ones] bringing good news.”lit. bringing good [things] as good news or bringing the good news of good [things]i 16But not all [men] listened to the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who believed our tidings?”j 17Then faith [comes] out of tidings,k and tidings through the saying of Christ.some manuscripts: of God; others omit 18But [I] say, [they] did not hear, did they? On the contrary,See the note on this same phrase in Romans 9:20. “Their voice went out into all the earth and their sayings into the ends of the inhabited world.”l 19But [I] say, Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, “I will provoke you to jealousy upon [one who is] not a nation, and upon a witless(unintelligible) nation [I] will provoke you to anger.”m 20And Isaiah makes a bold venture and says, “[They] were found {among} the [ones] not seeking me; [I] became manifest to the [ones] not consulting me.”n 21But to Israel [I] say, “For the whole day [I] spread out my hands to a people refusing and contradicting [me].”o

a [they] have jealousy of God: cf. Acts 22:3
b verse 3: cf. Romans 9:31-32
c verse 4: cf. Matthew 5:17; John 3:18; Hebrews 8:13
d the man having…live in them: Leviticus 18:5; cf. Galatians 3:12
e Do not say…in thy heart: Deuteronomy 9:4; 30:12-14
f believing upon him…not be dishonored: Isaiah 28:16; cf. Romans 9:33
g For there is…and of Greek: cf. Acts 10:34; 15:9
h everyone who calls…will be saved: Joel 2:32
i How timely [are]…bringing good news: Isaiah 52:7; cf. Nahum 1:15; Ephesians 6:15
j Lord, who believed our tidings: Isaiah 53:1; cf. John 12:38
k faith [comes] out of tidings: cf. John 17:20
l Their voice went…the inhabited world: Psalm 19:4
m I will provoke…you to anger: Deuteronomy 32:21
n [They] were found…not consulting me: Isaiah 65:1
o For the whole…and contradicting [me]: Isaiah 65:2 (Septuagint)

Swimming the Tiber 8: Justification by Faith

Ah, yes, the war of faith and works! That great debate between St. Paul and St. James! Where even the apostles disagree, surely we will find no common ground!

I hope this is not the case. It may be said that more ink has been spilled on this topic than almost any other since All Hallows’ Eve in the year of our Lord 1517. As you well know from this very series, we have now recently had the 499th anniversary of that day, and from the time of Luther up to now, in nearly half a millennium, Protestants have declared again and again the fallen nature of the Catholic Church on this doctrine: that Catholics believe they are saved by works, a sure-fire recipe for damnation.

A lot of Scripture deals with this question directly, and there is always a danger in this discussion that it will devolve into fruitless proof-texting back and forth until we run out of Bible pages and have come no closer to an understanding of each other. But my view of this false dichotomy came much earlier than my conversion to Catholicism: when I really began to study the Scriptures, the truth of the matter became clear to me.

My goal, then, is to communicate what I believe: that St. Paul and St. James do not disagree and, in fact, share in a common understanding that permeates the Scriptures. Let me first put forward this notion logically, and then I will point out how Scripture supports (and does not oppose) it.

We know (and do not doubt) that our salvation is by God’s grace above all else. The main point of contention between Catholics and Protestants is how that salvation enters our lives. Soteriology (the study of salvation) is often broken into subgroups, especially justification and sanctification. Justification is the legal declaration by God that we are freed from sin and preserved for righteousness. Sanctification is the actual process of making us holy (“sanctification” is from Latin sanctus, meaning “holy”), that is, righteous (so that we are not only freed from sin, but free of sin, meaning we are not only absolved of wrongdoing, but also never do it again).

Sanctification is a discussion for another time. The crucial matter in the question of faith vs. works is justification.

Now, we all know that justification is by God’s grace. Without His grace (that is, without the atonement accomplished through Christ on the cross), justification is impossible, regardless of what else is true about ourselves or our circumstances. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1987-2005, and pretty much any Protestant declaration of faith.) But how do we cooperate with that justification? Why isn’t it just freely given to everyone?

Well, if you’re Calvinist, it’s because some people are elect and some people aren’t; just get used to it. For the rest of us, though, the question usually comes down to faith. (Faith is, of course, a gift of God from His grace, so it’s not quite that easy to untangle, but let’s try to stay focused on the issue at hand.) It is our faith which differentiates us as recipients of God’s grace; through faith, we accept the gift and we are justified. Simple as that. Right?

But what does it mean to accept the gift? What does it mean to have faith? Is it merely an intellectual assent? How can any reasonable Christian assert that Christ is Lord and then indulge in everything Christ has commanded us not to do? Is he really our Lord if we do not obey him? Have we really accepted his gift if we do not follow his commands? Can a person offer intellectual assent at the existence and authority of a commanding officer, but refuse to obey the orders given by that officer? Perhaps, you say, if the officer is corrupt or has given bad orders, but do we say this of Christ’s commands? That they are bad orders from a corrupt official, to be disobeyed? Of course not.

This is where Protestants and Catholics fail to communicate. Because most Protestants that I know say that when justification occurs, our hearts are changed, and we are made new–but as long as we are in this world, we struggle against it. So we sin and fall short while we wait to be sanctified, but we have to keep getting back up, striving to become what God wants us to be.

And the Catholic Church says that when justification occurs, when we accept that grace, our hearts are changed (we are “converted,” literally turned together toward the doctrines of Christ), and we are set on a new path–but as long as we are in this world, we struggle against it. So we sin and we fall short, but we keep getting back up, being converted anew to God’s way, striving to become what God wants us to be.

So… why do we disagree about this, again?

(Before I continue, you may want to review the Scripture supporting this position. See the footnotes about that.)

Let’s face it: the number of Protestants who actually advocate “sinning boldly” is all but negligible. Even Luther, from whom we get that phrase, sincerely believed that genuine faith produced good works; the phrase “sin boldly,” or “let your sins be strong,” actually meant that I should not pretend that I am not a sinner, but freely admit it, and let God’s grace save me from that sin (by producing in me faith, which produces good works).

So when people object to Catholicism’s “salvation by works,” to what are they actually objecting? I think that most people who complain about this have long since twisted the truth (or had it twisted for them), and they don’t know what they’re talking about–but I’m a firm believer that most misunderstandings started with an incomplete understanding somewhere along the line. In this case, I think the Protestant objection to Catholic “works” comes down to two things:

  1. The Catholic Church “forces” its members to do certain things, and that’s Bad. Whereas for Protestants, being good and going to church are important and advocated, for Catholics, missing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (!!) are sins. And you know what? I work hard, I try, and sometimes, I just can’t get to church–what’s the big deal?

    Well, think about it like this. If God is our Father and Christ is the King and the Church is his Bride, that makes the Church, mystically, our mother. And it is a mother’s duty to raise her children in the faith, in order to save their souls. So when the Church tells us to stop sinning and go to Mass, is it really any different from when I tell my son to stop hitting his brother and share the toys? It’s about moral development in an immoral world. It’s about raising Christian people, whether they’re 5 or 65. All Christians call bad behavior “sin.” Why should the Church, which has the God-given authority to bind and loose sins (see Matthew 16:19; 18:18), not do the same?

    So when we don’t do as the Church tells us we should, we have committed a sin. And that means we have to repair the relationship between us and the Church and God. Which brings us to point number 2.

  2. Catholics don’t believe in the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints.” The phrase you have probably heard more often is “once saved, always saved.” This is a very common Protestant doctrine, and the theological term for it is the perseverance of the saints, though that term is most often associated with Calvinism.

    Perseverance of the saints is intrinsically linked to two other doctrines, and usually, if you hold one of these, you hold perseverance of the saints (even if you don’t hold both).

    One is the idea of irresistible grace. “Irresistible grace” is the notion that God chooses the elect (cf. Matthew 24; Mark 13; Romans 11:7-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Peter 1:10) and we have no say in the matter. Who could resist the grace of the Almighty God, anyway? And if grace is irresistible, then there is no way to escape it, no matter our sins.

    The second is the idea of total depravity. “Total depravity” is the notion that we are completely incapable of genuine righteousness without God’s grace. It frequently (though not necessarily always) maintains that, even after receiving God’s grace, we necessarily cannot stop sinning until after this life has passed (that is, complete and thorough sanctification is impossible on earth). If we cannot be wholly purified from sin–that is, if we are incapable of becoming sinless regardless of God’s grace–then any denial of salvation because of sin refutes the idea of salvation altogether. Since God says that He has, does, and will save us, we must not be able to “lose” our salvation.

    The Catholic Church doesn’t teach either of these doctrines. First, Catholicism is a champion of free will. See Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1730-1748; consider especially Sirach 15:14 (recall that the Book of Sirach is canonical); John 8:31-38; Romans 8:21; 2 Corinthians 3:17; and Galatians 5. (This is not, I will admit, a thorough refutation of the doctrines of predestination, but let it serve as a primer; I may return to it sometime later.)

    In the second place, the Catholic Church teaches that God’s omnipotence exceeds our fallenness. To be sanctified in this life is beyond difficult, but nothing is impossible with God (cf. Luke 1:37). We are, in fact, called to sanctification by Christ and the Church: cf. Matthew 5:48; Romans 6:15-23; 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 13:5-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; Hebrews 6:1-2; 7:11-28; 10:1-14; 11:39-40; James 1:22-27.

    Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.

    Lumen Gentium (The Light of Nations), paragraph 11.

    And how do we achieve this sanctification? Several of these verses indicate it, and the Catholic Church affirms it: Virtue is like a habit, or a muscle. Only by repetitive use does it improve. In common parlance, we call this repetition “work,” and whether our work is material or spiritual, it contributes to our holiness, provided we do all work in right communion with Christ (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2427).

    But of course, we admit that complete sanctification is, at best, very unlikely. Are the rest of us damned? Of course not. The Catholic Church teaches that, after death, we are purified by God’s grace and sanctified unto holiness, that we may enter into his Presence. (I can limit myself to just a few tangents each post, don’t worry; there’s a whole post dedicated to Purgatory coming up later.) Nevertheless, we know that some can lose their place by God’s side, though the Church has never insisted on the damnation of any particular soul (unlike her assertions of the salvation of particular individuals, whom we call the saints).

    How do we know that some can know Christ, have faith in Christ, and still fall away? Scripture is pretty adamant about it.

    Listen! Behold, the [one] sowing came out [in order] to sow. And it happened in the sowing [that], [the seed] which fell upon the road, also the winged [things] came and wolfed it down.1 And another fell upon the rocky [places] where [it] did not have much earth, and [it] sprang up [and] out straightaway on account of not having a depth of earth; and when the sun sprang up, [the seed] was scorched, and on account of not having a root, [it] dried up. And another fell into the thorns, and the thorns mounted up and pressed it closely, and [it] did not give fruit. And another fell into the earth, the beautiful [earth], and [it] was giving fruit, mounting up and increasing, and [it] was bearing [fruit] in thirty and in sixty and in a hundred. … And these are the [ones] sowed upon the rocky [places], who, whenever [they] hear the word, [they] seize it straightaway with joy, and [they] do not have a root in themselves, but [they] are temporary; then, with pressure or persecution having come about [on a particular occasion], [they] stumble on account of the word.

    – Mark 4:3-8, 16-17, my translation; cf. Matthew 13:3-8, 20-21; Luke 8:5-8, 13

    Not every [one] saying to me, “Lord, lord,” will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the [one] doing the will of my father, [who is] the [one] in the heavens. Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, lord, were [we] not prophets in your name, and did [we] not throw out demons in your name, and did [we] not do many powers in your name?” And then [I] will say the same [thing] to [each of] them, that, “And [I] never knew you; go away from me, [you ones] working at lawlessness.”

    – Matthew 7:21-23, my translation

    Wherefore, having sent forth the word of the beginning of Christ, let us bear [down] upon the perfection, not again throwing down a foundation of a repentance from dead works, and of faith upon God, of a teaching of baptisms, and of an application of hands, and of a resurrection of [the] dead, and of an eternal judgment. And [we] will do this [thing] especially if God yields [it to us]. For [it is] an impossible [thing] [to renew] the [ones] once having been illuminated, and having tasted of the gift, the heavenly [gift], and having become partakers of a holy spirit, having tasted both a beautiful saying of God and powers of a destined age, and having fallen aside, to renew [them] unto repentance, [with them] crucifying for themselves the son of God and making a spectacle [of him]. For earth, the [earth] having drunk the rain coming many times upon it, and having begotten a well-arranged plant for those on account of whom [it] is also cultivated, [the earth] partakes of a blessing from God; but the [earth] carrying out thorns and thistles [is] counterfeit and near [to] curses, of which the end is burning.

    – Hebrews 6:1-8, my translation

    Translation Footnotes:
    1 Idiomatic reflection of the actual verb. Whereas we say “eat up,” the Greeks said “eat down.” “Devoured it” is an acceptable translation also.

    Though these passages, too, can be debated endlessly, I think they are clear: seek perfection, as your heavenly Father is perfect, and do not hold back, but run the race as if to win (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-2). Do this out of love for God, but at the very least, do it out of fear of hell, where the wicked and the lawless are burned, no matter how many times they may say, “Lord, lord.”

Romans 9

This is a literal translation of an ancient Greek text. It has also been cross-posted on For more information on how to read this post and what everything means, see the relevant page on that site.

1[I] speak truth in Christ, [I] do not lie,(am not lying) with my consciousness witnessinggenitive absolute with me in [the] holy spirit, 2that there is for me a great painlit. a pain of the body, fig. a pain of the mind and an incessant griefsynonymous with “pain” earlier in the sentence, but tends to be used figuratively more often, hence it is rendered grief here for my heart. 3For [I] was praying to be a curse, I myself [was praying to be] away from Christ on behalf oflit. over my brothers, the [ones] akin according to flesh,a 4whoever are Israelites, of whom [there is] the adoption as sonsb and the glory and the covenantssome manuscripts: the covenant and the legislationor adoption of laws; possible play on words with υἱοθεσία (adoption as sons) above and the service and the announcements,here and in verses 8-9, (promises); compare this word, ἐπαγγελία, with ἄγγελος, hence we get “angel” 5of whom [there are] the fathers and out of whom [came] Christ according to the flesh,c the [one] being upon alld God blessed unto the ages,esome manuscripts: the [one] being over all. Blessed [be] God unto the ages; others: the [one] being God over all. Blessed [be he] unto the ages amen.

6But [it is] not, as it were, that the word has fallen from God.(the word of God has fallen)f For not all the [ones] [coming] out of Israel, these [are not] Israel;g 7nor that all children of Abraham are a seed [of Abraham], but, “In Isaac a seed will be called for you.”h 8That is, not the children of flesh, [not] these [are] children of God, but the children of the announcement are counted(reckoned) unto a seed.i 9For the word of announcement [is] this, “At this time [I] will come and a son will be with Sarah.”j 10But not only [this], but also Rebekah bearing out of one marriage-bed of our father Isaac,k 11for with [the child/ren]No mention has yet been made of there being twins; as someone familiar with the Old Testament, we know that Rebekah had twins, and Paul will get to that momentarily, but the point is that, at this stage of the story, Rebekah did not know–and so he does not mention it, even though we already know it. This is first-century irony. not yet being born nor doing anything good or petty, in order that the public notice(purpose) of God according to choice might remain, 12not out of works but out of the [one] calling, [it] was said to her that, “The greater will be enslaved to the smaller,”l 13just as [it] has been written, “Jacob [I] loved,from ἀγάπη but Esau [I] hated.”m

14What therefore shall [we] say? [There is] not injustice with God, [is there]? Would that it not come to be.n 15For [he] says to Moses, “[I] will show mercy to whomever [I] show mercy and [I] will have pity on whomever [I] have pity.”o 16Then, therefore, [it is] not of the [one] wishing nor of the [one] running,These participles (“wishing” and “running”) are frequently translated as modifying some noun “man” or “person,” but that word does not appear. The participles modify “God,” and so may apply to him (i.e.,[it is] not of [God] wishing or of [God] running, but of God showing mercy), but they may also be acting substantively (as I have rendered it). The text itself does not suggest one or the other is more correct. but of God showing mercy. 17For the writingi.e., Scripture says to Pharaoh, “Unto this [thing] itself [I] awakened thee(raised thee / stood thee up) [on a particular occasion] in order thatboth purpose clauses are formed from ὅπως + subjunctive [I] might exhibit in thee my power and in order that my name might be proclaimed [on a particular occasion] in all the earth.”p 18Then, therefore, on whom [he] wishes, [he] has mercy, but on the other hand, whom [he] wishes, [he] hardens.q

19[Thou] ask me therefore, “WhyThis is probably an adverbial question (as rendered), but it could also be what, the object of μέμφεται (blame). {therefore} does [he] still blame?(find fault) For who stands against his purpose?” 20O man, on the contrary,Lit. on the one hand, therefore, at least; idiomatically, it suggests something like, That wrong thing I just said? The reality is this: who are thou, the [one] responding again to God? [Thou], as the formed [thing], do not say to the forming [one], “Why did [thou] make me thus,” [do thou]?r 21Or does the potter not have authority of the clays to make out of his mixture a vessel which [is] unto honor, on the one hand, but on the other, [does he not have authority to make a vessel] which [is] unto dishonor?t 22But if God, wishing to exhibit [his] wrath and to make known his power, bore, in much long-suffering, vessels of wrath,u having been equippedi.e., the vessels unto destruction, 23[did he not do so] alsosome manuscripts omit in order that [he] may make known the wealth of his glory upon vessels of pity, which [vessels] [he] prepared beforehand unto glory?v 24Which [vessels] also [he] called, us, not only out of Jews but also out of nations,or (peoples), but a different word from that translated “people” in vv25-26 25just as [it] also says in Hosea, “[I] will call the not-my-people my people and the not-beloved beloved;w 26and [it] will be [that], in the place where [it] was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there [they] will be called sons of [the] living God.”x 27And Isaiah cries out over Israel, Ifa future more vivid conditional clause the number of the sons of Israel be just as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved; 28for [the] lord, completing and cutting short,some manuscripts: cutting short in (justice/righteousness); others: cutting short in justice because [the] word [was] cut altogether; one other: cutting short in justice because [the] word [was] shattered will make [his] word upon the earth.”y 29And just as Isaiah has said beforehand, “If [the] lord Sabaothfrom a Hebrew word, meaning “hosts” or “armies”; here, though undeclined, probably genitive, so of hosts had not left behind a seed for us, [we] would have become just as Sodom, and [we] would have been made just like Gomorrah.”z

30What therefore shall [we] say? That nations, the [ones] not pursuingThe verbs in this verse and verse 31 create images of pursuit and attainment; on the one hand, nations doing no pursuit at all capture justice through faith, but Israel, actively pursuing the law of justice, cannot reach it by that way. justice, caught justice, but the justice out of faith,aa 31but Israel, pursuing [the] law of justice, did not come first unto [the] law.ab 32On account of what? Because [Israel pursued it] not out of faith, but ashere, this carries the sense that pursuing from faith can succeed, but pursuing from works cannot: as if it could be caught out of works out of works;some manuscripts: works of [the] law [they] stumbled on the stone of stumbling,ac 33just as [it] has been written, “Behold, [I] place in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of scandal, and the [one] believingsome manuscripts: everyone believing upon it will not be dishonored.”ad

a verse 3: cf. Exodus 32:32
b Israelites, of whom…adoption as sons: cf. Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:1-2
c out of whom…to the flesh: cf. Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38
d the [one] being upon all: cf. John 1:1
e God blessed unto the ages: cf. Psalm 41:13; Romans 1:25
f But [it is]…fallen from God: cf. Numbers 23:19
g For not all…[are not] Israel: cf. Romans 2:28
h In Isaac a…called for you: Genesis 21:12
i verse 8: cf. Galatians 4:23
j At this time…be with Sarah: Genesis 18:10, 14
k verse 10: cf. Genesis 25:21
l The greater will…to the smaller: Genesis 25:23
m Jacob [I] loved…Esau [I] hated: Malachi 1:2-3
n [There is] not…come to be: cf. Deuteronomy 32:4
o [I] will show…[I] have pity: Exodus 33:19
p Unto this [thing]…all the earth: Exodus 9:16
q whom [he] wishes, [he] hardens: cf. Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 14:4, 17
r [Thou], as the…thus,” [do thou]: cf. Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; Wisdom 12:12
s does the potter…of the clay: cf. Jeremiah 18:6
t to make out…[is] unto dishonor: cf. Wisdom 15:7
u bore, in much…vessels of wrath: cf. Jeremiah 50:25
v verse 23: cf. Ephesians 1:3-12
w [I] will call…the not-beloved beloved: Hosea 2:23
x verse 26: Hosea 1:10
y If the number…upon the earth: Isaiah 10:22-23; cf. Hosea 1:10
z If [the] lord…just like Gomorrah: Isaiah 1:9
aa verse 30: cf. Romans 10:20
ab verse 31: cf. Wisdom 2:11; Romans 10:2-3
ac [they] stumbled on…stone of stumbling: cf. Isaiah 8:14
ad Behold, [I] place…not be dishonored: Isaiah 28:16; cf. Romans 10:11; I Peter 2:6, 8

Swimming the Tiber 6: Priests of the New Covenant

The Protestant doctrine of the priesthood of believers is based on several passages of the New Testament. I will attempt to deal directly with those, but my goal is not to convince you that Catholics disagree with this in principle–rather, Catholics embody the priesthood of believers better than any other Christian group.

The first proof of the priesthood of believers is the tearing of the veil at the death of Christ. This is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels:

And Jesus, again having screamed with a great sound, sent forth the breath. And behold! the veil of the temple was split from on high until below into two and the earth was shaken1 and the stones were split.

– Matthew 27:50-51 (my translation)

And Jesus, having sent forth a great sound, breathed out. And the veil of the temple was split into two from on high until below.

– Mark 15:37-38 (my translation)

And it was already about the sixth hour and darkness came about upon the whole earth until the ninth hour, with the sun having been eclipsed, and the veil of the temple was split in the middle. And having sounded with a great sound, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I set aside my breath.” And having said this, he breathed out.2

– Luke 23:44-46 (my translation)

The second proof, and the most obvious, is from the first epistle of St. Peter:

And you [are] a select race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people unto preservation, in order that you may proclaim the goodnesses of the [one] having called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;

– I Peter 2:9 (my translation)

The remainder of the doctrine comes from the Book of Hebrews, which I will not quote (most of the latter half of the book deals with this question, in part), but consider especially Hebrews 10:19-25; 13:15-19. There is also, wrapped up in this doctrine, the issue of conflating the priesthood of the Catholic Church with the Levitical priesthood, which is obsolete (see Hebrews 7:11-25; 8:1-7; 9:11-15; 12:18-24).

Let me start by saying this: There is absolutely no mediator in our salvation but Christ, and we are permitted direct access to the very presence of God, without the hindrance of the temple veil. Catholics have a tendency to use the term “mediator” regarding one or more of the saints; if this confuses you, look forward to my post on the intercession of the saints at a later date. For now, understand that it does not conflict with this point. Christ is our sole mediator, and it is by Christ alone that we are cleansed of our sins. No Catholic doctrine opposes these truths from the letter to the Hebrews.

How, then, has it become so confused? Why do Catholics have priests? Well, the short answer is that, whether or not we have unfettered access to him, God is still holy; it still behooves us to have as our pastors men who are held to a higher standard, who are devoted to serving him. The apostolic priesthood of the Catholic Church is less about mediation than it is about serving the purpose to which the apostles were called (see especially Matthew 16:19; 18:15-20; John 20:21-23; 21:15-17), in which they take on the mantle of Christ as his servants, to forgive sins, cast out demons, and bring the people to repentance.

That is to say, the priests of the Catholic Church are the vicars of Christ, meaning that they operate bodily in his stead, since he is with the Father in heaven. They only have authority because he grants it; they can only act as priests because he wills it.

But if they are the priests, how are we all priests? What of the verse from the first letter of Peter? Well, let me address two points there: First, that verse is primarily delineating the necessity of evangelization by all the faithful. We are all teachers and preachers of Christ, and it is our duty to share in the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18-20). Second, the priesthood of believers, and the access we have been granted since the tearing of the veil, is most wonderfully fulfilled through the Eucharist.

I will deal with all of the ins and outs of the Eucharist in a later post (and there are a great many things to discuss), but here’s the short-short version: Where Protestants have Communion (eating bread and drinking wine/grape juice in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice),3 Catholics have the Eucharist (partaking of the very Body and Blood of Christ). The Eucharist is not a new sacrifice (see Hebrews 9:24-10:18), but the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross made present. Catholics believe that it is not merely bread and wine, reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice, but Christ’s very own Body and Blood, the Real Presence.

So to partake of the Eucharist is to encounter God more personally, more closely, more fully than any Levitical priest ever could, even the high priest. It is truly the priesthood of the believer which allows this unfettered access to God’s own flesh. Christ offered himself as sacrifice (see Hebrews 7:27; 9:14; 10:10; 13:12), and as with such holy sacrifices, the priest consumes the flesh of the sacrifice (see Leviticus 6:26; Deuteronomy 18:1; cf. Genesis 14:18; John 6:47-58). So we, in partaking of the one sacrifice of Christ through the Eucharist, are priests ourselves, entering into the holy of holies.

In this way, Catholics absolutely believe in the priesthood of believers and, I think, fulfill it more perfectly than any Protestant denomination can.

If you are greatly troubled by all this talk of the Eucharist, and you find it difficult to accept, don’t worry; you’re in good company. As I said, I will work to address what are probably many concerns about these doctrines in upcoming posts; if you stick with me, we’ll get there.

But we have a few more topics we need to cover first. Up next is the necessity of the visible Church, that is, why can’t “the Church” just be the “mystical body of Christ through the Holy Spirit”? Why must it be this thing in the world, encumbered by so much bureaucracy and weighed down by the wickedness of the men that fill it? Let’s find out!

1 There is a great play on words here; ἐσείσθη, meaning “it was shaken,” sounds very similar to ἐσχίσθη, meaning “it was split.” Not only the veil, but the whole world, was torn asunder in this moment.
2 In all three of these verses, there is a play on words with πνεῦμα. The word literally means “breath” or “wind,” but over time, came to mean “spirit.” So in each place, as Christ dies, he sends out his breath, or breathes his last (physical death), but also sends out his spirit, or gives his spirit to the Father (both a poetical term for death and a literal passage of the spirit of Christ out of his Body–cf. I Peter 3:19-20 and Ephesians 4:9).
3 It should be noted that not all Protestants treat Communion this way. Lutherans have communion in “sacramental union,” meaning that Christ is bodily present in the elements, but the elements themselves do not change and the body is not present in a “local” (three-dimensional) sense. For Calvinists/Reformed Christians, “sacramental union” means that Christ is spiritually present in the elements, but again, the elements do not change. The Lutheran stance is mostly the same as consubstantiation, which some Anglicans (and others) hold, but consubstantiation is “differentiated” in that Christ’s body is manifested in three dimensions, but again, does not replace the original elements. If you’re confused by that, don’t worry; it’s kind of confusing. Zwingli’s symbolic “in remembrance” interpretation is most common among evangelical Christians, such as Baptists and non-denominational Christians.

Romans 8

This is a literal translation of an ancient Greek text. It has also been cross-posted on For more information on how to read this post and what everything means, see the relevant page on that site.

1Now, then, nothing [is] a condemnation to the [ones] in Christ Jesus.some manuscripts: to the [ones] in Christ Jesus not walking according to flesh.; others: to the [ones] in Christ Jesus not walking according to flesh, but according to spirit. (cf. verse 4 below) 2For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesusa freed theesome manuscripts: me; others: us [on a particular occasion] from the law of error and of death.or, potentially, from the law of error and from death.b 3For [that was] the inability of the law, in which [the law] was feeble through the flesh,c [but] God, having sent [on a particular occasion] his own son in [the] likeness of a flesh of error, and forlit. around, but, in a sense, to gain; this usage comes from combat in which a prize was placed in the middle of a ring and contestants fought around it error,d condemned the error in the flesh, 4in order thatἵνα + subjunctive purpose clause the judgment of the law may be filled in us, the [ones] not walking according to flesh, but according to spirit.e 5For the [ones] being according to flesh are mindful of the [things] of the flesh, but on the other hand, the [ones] [being] according to spirit [are mindful] of the [things] of the spirit. 6For the mind of the flesh [is] death,f but the mind of the spirit [is] life and peace; 7because the mind of the flesh [is] enmity unto God,g for [it] is not subjected to([it] does not place [itself] under) the law of God, for neither does [it] have the power;lit. nor is [it] able [to do something]h 8but the [ones] being in flesh are not able to make amends to God. 9But you, on the other hand, are not in flesh, but in spirit, if indeed a spirit of God dwells in you.i But, on the other hand, if someone does not have a spirit of Christ, this [man] is not of him.i.e., Christj 10But if Christ [is] in you, on the one hand the body [is] dead on account of error, but on the other, the spirit [is] alive on account of justice.k 11But if the spirit of the [one] having awakened Jesus out of [the] dead dwells in you, the [one] having awakened Christ out of [the] dead will make alive also your mortal bodies through the indwelling of his spiritsome manuscripts: on account of his indwelling spirit in you.

12Then therefore, brothers, [we] are debtors, not to the flesh in order to live according to flesh,genitive articular infinitive of purposel 13for if [you] live according to flesh, [you] are destined to die, but if [you] put to death for [the] spirit the acts of the body, [you] will live.m 14For as many as are brought to a spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For [you] did not seize a spirit of slavery again unto fear,n but [you] seized a spirit of adoption in which [we] cry out, “Abba!” [that is,] father.o 16The spirit itself testifies with our spirit that [we] are children of God.p 17But if [we are] children, [we are] also heirs; on the one hand heirs of God,q but on the other, co-heirs of Christ, if indeed [we] co-suffer in order thatἵνα + subjunctive purpose clause [we] may co-glorify.

18For [I] calculate(reckon) that the misfortunes of the now-time [are] not worthy(fit / meet) towardslit. face-to-face with [the fact] that the destined glory is revealed(uncovered) unto us.idiomatically, this is something like, in comparison with the revelation of destined glory.r 19For the longingIn this construction, this word (ἀποκαραδοκία) is fairly rare. It is derived from a verb that appears more often (ἀποκαραδοκέω). Commentators (such as Strong’s Concordance) break it down to ἀπό + κάρα + δοκέω, literally, “away from + head + to think.” This leads to a sense like, “to think away from the head,” or, “to be forward-thinking,” or even, “with head outstretched.”

This seems unlikely to me. καραδοκέω was a word dating back at least to Herodotus (c. 5th century BC) and meant “to wait for the head,” i.e., the conclusion of something. ἀποκαραδοκέω was used by Polybius (2nd century BC) and Josephus (1st century AD). The word ἀπό idiomatically means “fully” or “completely” in composite words; thus, the word emphasizes looking to the resolution of a thing, not really an immediate striving (as “with head outstretched” suggests).
of creation awaits anxiouslyhere and throughout, (expects eagerly) the revelation of the sons of God.s 20For creation was subjected to vanity, not [being] willing, but on account of the [one] having been subjected, upon hopet 21that also some manuscripts: subjected onto hope, because; others: subjected upon hope, and creation itself will be set free from the slavery of ruinu unto the freedom of the glory of the children of God.v 22For we know that all creation groans together and travails together even up to now; 23and not only [this], but also [we] ourselves, having the firstlingBecause of this word’s association with “first sacrifices,” it came to mean birth certificate; that may be the sense here. of the spirit, also we ourselves sigh in ourselves, awaiting anxiously adoption,some manuscripts omit this word the ransoming of our body.w 24For [we] were saved [on a particular occasion] (in / for / unto)Though all of the options listed are possible, this cannot mean that we were saved by hope. hope; but hope, being seen, is not hope;x for who hopes for what [he] sees?some manuscripts: what somebody sees, what does he hope for?; others: what somebody sees, does [he] also hope for?; others: what somebody sees, does [he] also await? 25But if [we] hope for what [we] do not see, through endurance [we] await [it] anxiously.

26And in just the same way, the spirit also helpslit. seizes against with, i.e., picks up with (though opposite), as perhaps with a large piece of furniture us with [our] weakness;as frequently, ἡμῶν is probably doing double-duty (being the object of “helps” and modifying “weakness”) for [we] do not know whatThis construction really emphasizes the ambiguity here; this is a very generic “what”; I imagine St. Paul’s eyes widening during this, accompanied by a hefty shrug. [we] should pray for,a deliberative independent subjunctive as far as [what] is needed, but the spirit itself intercedessome manuscripts: intercedes on behalf of us; others: meets on behalf of us (cf. v27 and v34 below) with unspeakable groans; 27but the [one] searching(seeking / searching for) the heartsy knows what the mind of the spirit [is], that(because) [the spirit] meets with GodLit. happens upon in accordance with God; idiomatically, may mean “pleads” or “meets” or even, in some cases, “intercedes” (the word here is the root of the one used in v26 above). But ἐντυγχάνω + κατά + accusative of something is a rare construction. Cf. Plutarch, Lycurgus 1.2: ἔνιοι δὲ καὶ κατ’ ὄψιν ἐντυχεῖν Ὁμήρῳ, “but some also [say] that [he] met with Homer in accordance with a face,” i.e., “face-to-face.” Contrast the lack of dative object in our passage, suggesting that κατὰ θεόν denotes the object of ἐντυγχάνει somehow. Thus, the sense is probably “meets” or “pleads” in the manner of God, but I like to think (however far-fetched) that the Trinity is textually implied (i.e., “God-to-God”). on behalf ofhere and throughout, lit. over holy [ones]. 28But [we] know that for the [ones] lovingfrom ἀγάπη God, all [things] work togethersome manuscripts: God works all [things] together; the singular verb here is not an indication of which manuscripts are correct, since, as usual, neuter plural subjects take singular verbs unto good,z for the [ones] being called(invited / chosen / welcome); compare ἐκκλησία (assembly / church) from the same root according to a purpose.lit. (public placement / public notice) 29Because [the ones] whom [he] knew beforehand, [he] also predetermined as conformed to the image of his son, in order that he may beεἰς + accusative + infinitive purpose clause [the] first-born among many brothers;aa 30and [the ones] whom [he] predetermined,for this and all the verbs in this verse, [on a particular occasion] these also [he] called; and [the ones] whom [he] called, these also [he] justified; and [the ones] whom [he] justified, these also [he] glorified.

31What therefore shall [we] say toward these [things]? If God [is] forlit. over us,ab who [is] againstlit. down upon us? 32For [the one] who at least did not spare his own son, but handed him over on behalf of us all, how will [he] not also, together with him,i.e., the son grace us with all [things]?technically, all [things] is the direct object and us is the indirect object, but this construction better represents the verb in Englishac 33Who will bring charges against [the] chosenlit. elect [ones] of God? The [one] judging [is] God;some manuscripts: [Is] the [one] judging [us] God? 34some manuscripts pose the second half of this verse as a question, i.e., [Is it] Christ Jesus…?who [is] the [one] condemning [us]? Christ {Jesus},some manuscripts: Christ; others: but at the same time, Christ {Jesus} the [one] having died, but more, having been roused, who also is in [the] right hand of God,ad who also meets [with God] on behalf of 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ?some manuscripts: of God; others: of God, the [love] in Christ Jesus (cf. v39 below) Pressure or a strait or pursuit or famine or nakedness or danger or a sword? 36Just as [it] has been written,af that: “On account of thee [we] are being put to death for the whole day,accusative of duration of time [we] were counted(reckoned) just as cattle for a slaughter.” 37But in all these [things] we over-conquer through the [one] having lovedfrom ἀγάπη us [on a particular occasion].ag 38For [I] have been persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor [things] having been instituted nor [things] being destined nor powerssome manuscripts: nor powers nor [things] having been instituted nor [things] being destined; others: nor powers nor [things] having been instituted nor heights; others: nor [things] having been instituted nor [things] being destined; others: nor authorities nor [things] having been instituted nor [things] being destined nor powers; others: nor authorities nor powers nor [things] having been instituted nor [things] being destined 39nor heights nor depth nor any other creation has power to separate us from the love of God, the [love] in Christ Jesus our lord.

a For the law…in Christ Jesus: cf. Romans 3:27
b verse 2: cf. Romans 7:23-24
c For [that was]…through the flesh: cf. Acts 13:38; 15:10
d God, having sent…and for error: cf. John 1:14; Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:17; 4:15
e us, the [ones]…according to spirit: cf. Galatians 5:16, 25
f For the mind…flesh [is] death: cf. Romans 6:21; 7:5; 8:13
g because the mind…enmity unto God: cf. James 4:4
h for [it] is…have the power: cf. Matthew 12:34; John 8:43; 12:39
i a spirit of…dwells in you: cf. I Corinthians 3:16
j But, on the…not of him: cf. I Corinthians 12:3
k verse 10: cf. Galatians 2:20; I Peter 4:6
l verse 12: cf. Romans 6:7, 18
m verse 13: cf. Galatians 6:8
n For [you] did…again unto fear: cf. II Timothy 1:7
o but [you] seized…[that is,] father: cf. Mark 14:36; Galatians 4:5-6
p verse 16: cf. II Corinthians 1:22
q But if [we…heirs of God: cf. Galatians 4:7; Revelation 21:7
r verse 18: cf. II Corinthians 4:17
s the revelation of…sons of God: cf. Colossians 3:4
t verse 20: cf. Genesis 3:17-19; 5:29; Ecclesiastes 1:2
u creation itself will…slavery of ruin: cf. II Peter 3:13
v the glory of…children of God: cf. I John 3:2
w verse 23: cf. II Corinthians 5:2-4; Galatians 5:5
x For [we] were…is not hope: cf. II Corinthians 5:7
y but the [one]…searching the hearts: cf. Psalm 139:1; I Corinthians 4:5
z for the [ones]…together unto good: cf. Ephesians 1:11; 3:11
aa first-born among many brothers: cf. Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:6
ab If God [is] for us: cf. Psalm 118:6
ac how will [he]…with all [things]: cf. John 3:16
ad who also is…hand of God: cf. Psalm 110:1
ae who also meets…behalf of us: cf. I John 2:1
af written: Psalm 44:22; cf. II Corinthians 4:11
ag verse 37: cf. John 16:33