Are We Commanded to “Search the Scriptures”?


Sonya: When Jesus was on earth he always told the Pharisees to “search the scriptures” and always put the emphasis on the word of God not the Talmud. The teachings of the high priest down through the years.

Bread From Heaven: I don’t know what verses you are referring to. I don’t have a memory of Jesus telling anyone to “search the scriptures”. He did say this:

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

Jesus seems to be rebuking them for not recognizing him even though they “searched the scriptures because (they) think that in them (they) have eternal life.”  And then Paul speaks of the Thessalonians as being noble b/c they investigated the truth of what Paul was teaching by searching the scriptures.

Acts 17:11
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.

But neither of these are close to commands for everyone to “search the scriptures”.  Of course, reading and studying the scriptures is highly commendable. St. Jerome said,

“To be ignorant of scripture is to be ignorant of Christ.”

That is why the Church has read scripture at every mass for 2000 years. But, nothing in scripture exhorts all the faithful to search the scriptures. Even in Thessalonica, those who searched the scriptures were no doubt the religious leaders not the laymen. Neither they nor the laymen possessed their own personal copy of the Old Testament Scrolls. Nor could most people even read at that time. So, Protestants have taught that the “searching of the scriptures” is something much more than Jesus ever commanded or commended.

Did you know that 20% of the world population is still unable to read? The Protestant model does not fit the reality of history where Bibles could only be found in churches because they were so expensive, before the invention of the printing press and most people could not read even once Bibles became cheaper to produce. So, how could Jesus have meant to have Bible Study the foundation of the Faith?

Sonya:   Baptism…we already discussed this and to be honest your answer is lacking. Seems you trust the church over the Word of God. Especially since you believe this is part of salvation I would think you would want to stick to the way Christ showed us.

Bread From Heaven: Perhaps you are Baptist but, as a Protestant I was first baptized at about 12 years old by sprinkling in the Dutch Reformed Church. I was later baptized in a Baptist Church by full immersion and later baptized again in a swimming pool ( full immersion) for the gift of the Holy Spirit. So, even some good sola scriptural Protestants baptize without full immersion. But you are free to reject it. By the way, i was eagerly looking forward to being baptized in the Catholic Church but they would not baptize me because my first baptism was deemed to be valid.

Your interpretation of baptizo is correct but if such an exacting  interpretation was mandatory for the valid practice of baptism, it seems that Jesus would have clearly delineated the method and the gospel writers would have included these instructions rather than all depending upon  the translation of a word, especially if the doctrine of sola scriptura was at all understood to be in force.

Sonya: As a side note I would understand the decision (to baptize with pouring) with infants etc if that position made any sense. Are you saying that any aborted baby or miscarraige goes to hell because they have not been baptized?

Bread From Heaven: No. We leave them to the mercy of God. All we KNOW is that Jesus said:

John 3:5 “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

 Therefore we teach that baptism is necessary and not optional. But there are the exceptions, such as, Baptism of Blood ( martyred for Faith before baptism) and Baptism of Desire. So, we entrust the unbaptized to the mercy of God.

Sonya: Furthermore the Bible always puts believing before baptism…was the condition for the Ethiopian Eunich in Acts…If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest.

Bread From Heaven: True. But, the stories in Acts are of conversions of adults. And for a person who has reached the age of reason faith must come first before one can receive baptism in the Catholic Church. But we do have the story of the Jailer whose whole household was baptized. It was very likely there were children under the age of reason who were baptized. Scripture certainly did not make a point to enlighten us that they were all baptized except the little children. The baptism of babies is on the basis of the Parents’ faith. There is hope that the child will make a future profession of faith. But if there is none the baptism will not save them.

But from a Catholic perspective we are not bound by ONLY what is in scripture. We have the fullness of the Christian Faith with both the Bible and the Oral Teaching of the Apostles (Tradition) handed down to “faithful men able to teach.”

Once I became convinced of the importance of baptism as a Catholic I wanted to bring all seven of my children 7-21 years old into church to be baptized. But I was not allowed to do this. My children had to make a profession of faith first and then be baptized, after a year of instruction, I might add.

Sonya: I am sure as a protestant you heard of the innocence of children?

Bread From Heaven: Yes.

Sonya: One of the main supports of this when Paul says in one of his letters I was alive without the law once then the law came and I died. I believe this is clearly showing that we are not responsible for sin or “alive” until we understand between good/evil.

Bread From Heaven:  Agreed. This is called the age of reason but, of course, there would be differences for children with handicaps.

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9 Responses

  1. Thanks for the response. The section on searching the scriptures I understand. Jesus did however choose and quote the scriptures over the talmud. He scolded the religious leaders of the day for making the Word of God without effect through their tradition. Again I am not necessarily against tradition or oral teaching as long as it can at the least fit into scripture.

    Regarding the baptism, that some protestants baptise in the same manner you do doesn’t make it right. The definition of baptism…immerse in and of itself tells us how to do it, as well as …buried with him in baptism and raised to walk with him in new life. How is this accomplished through pouring? By using this method, it seems to me you are taking your “oral teachings” or tradition before the Bible.

    John 3:5-21…Please read the whole message it makes more sense in context. Jesus talked of 2 births not 3. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit…Including our natural births this would be 3 births…The next verse makes it clear…That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Did your water break when you had children? There is a flesh birth and a Spirit birth. Two births not 3. The rest of the talk with Nicodemus mentions nothing of baptism but of believing on Christ.

    In Acts it could go either way with him having children, but since we never see the baptism of babies anywhere else in scripture (and as far as I know they were still practising full immersion), I would say it would be unlikely that he had children.

    I am suprised you believe in the age of reason. Is this a general catholic belief or just yours? If Paul said he was alive without the law once would this not include baptism too??

    • Dear Sonja,

      Good to hear you are not against the “teachings that are handed down” which is what the word tradition means. Clearly, these were handed down for many years before what we know today as the New Testament was actually written. Therefore, the New Testament was given birth OUT OF the Teachings of the Apostles. But there was more to it than what got written down. That is why St. John says the “world could not contain the books” if it all was written down. Because of this, all the teachings of the Apostles were used to decide what got canonized and what did not get canonized. Therefore, all that the Church teaches is NOT contradicted by scripture. I submit to you, that despite the definition of baptizo, by the time the NT was canonized the method and meaning of baptizo had expanded to include pouring because the Church had been baptizing validly using these methods for years already. It was never an issue until Protestants came along and were motivated to find fault with the doctrine of the Catholic Church (in addition to Catholic who sin) as an excuse to separate from the Church founded by Jesus.

      I would like to suggest to you that if the Catholic Church taught that baptism by full immersion was wrong, then this would clearly contradict scripture or nullify the word of God. But, what the Catholic Church teaches does fit into scripture much more cohesively than many Protestant teachings I was familiar with. There were always scriptures that just didn’t fit Protestant doctrine, and Protestant explanation or commentary on those things just did not ring true to me.

      That the “born of water” refers to natural birth is an interpretation. Since the scripture does not specifically say this refers to the waters of child birth. And this interpretation is not even universal among Protestants. It actually derives from those sects which deny the necessity of baptism or want to prove it is completely optional.

      What I am trying to communicate to Protestants is in regard to this very discussion we are having. You are convinced that baptism is by full immersion based ONLY on the definition of the word baptizo.OK I understand that. But, what did the Christian Church of the first century do? How did they baptize?
      Before those words, of the New Testament were ever even written, how were people baptized?
      The Didache

      Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before. Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) 90A.D.

      So, you see that the Oral Traditions preceded the New Testament. This is settled practice it is not a new instruction. But you can see, for various reasons, questions arose and needed to be settled b/c Christians lived in places where available water was different from the River Jordan. If Satan had actually been able to destroy proper baptism in this manner, then that would mean that Jesus was unable to keep His promise.
      ” and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (His Church). Mt 16:18
      The age of reason is a Catholic concept. It is generally around 7 years of age but can vary. Until this time, even though a child is born with a sin nature they are not judged to have committed their own sin until after the age of reason. They must first of all know that a certain behavior is a sin and then freely consent to do that sin. If what is done is very serious the sin is mortal. If it is less serious it is deemed to be venial sin.
      • Before the New testament was actually written?? No most (if not all…not up to date on the human authors) of the New Testament was written by the apostles, I believe they were all written prior to 90 AD. You must mean the canonization of them. I believe these “letters” and the gospels were copied and given to as many churches as possible. These early letters were to fight off a lot of apostacy that was already creaping into the churches because of lack of teaching. But the early churches would have to rely on the apostles oral teaching as well. We don’t dispute the authority Jesus gave to the apostles any more than the old testament prophets when they wrote.
        Every time baptism is recorded in detail in the Bible it is always in deep water and the person comes up out of the water. I see your point in “not contradicting” if you take it to the strictest terms. With these terms you could use apple juice instead of wine at communion and as long as you didn’t say the wine was wrong you are fine. The fact remains the catholic church does not baptise the way it is recorded in Scripture, even though water is readily available today. You can accept that the church has the authority to change the teachings of Jesus, but I don’t see it. I understand the apostles changed the circumsion etc. but these were of the old covenant.
        Your argument for destroying the church? What happened to baptism of desire? I would think at worst that the church would only use these in extreme cases where the other is not possible (I am not saying I necessarily condone this either.)
        I understand your “ring true to me” as there are many things I don’t understand either. I am still searching for anwers too. But I don’t understand how you can think the Bible is the Word of God and still give it second place.
        I agree that John 3 is an interpretation and so is yours. Water does not necessarily mean baptism and giving the language I personally think that explanation is better for that particular passage.
        I am not trying to be rude here…sorry if it sounds that way. What your saying about this particular issue just doesn’t make sense to me. I do look forward to your other answers as a lot of what you say “makes sense.”

  2. Sonja,
    The gospels and epistles, as you know, were not written the day after Jesus ascended into Heaven. Decades went by before the Apostles wrote their gospels and epistles. Thousands of people were baptized in the various ways all over the known world.These beliefs and practices are described in the Didache. I cannot prove it but I am convinced that, for decades before the Greek word for baptize was even written in what would later be recognized as Sacred Scripture, converts were being baptized using the methods cited in the Didache. These questions would have arisen immediately as the evangelists spread out to the far corners of the Earth. You are free to reject this idea though, of course.

    In my good old Protestant Bible, the date ranges for a sampling of New Testament books are:
    Matthew: 60-90 AD
    Mark:50-65AD
    Luke: 70-90 AD
    John: 70-90 AD
    Acts: 60-90 AD
    Romans: 56 AD
    I Cor 55 AD
    Galations55 AD
    Hebrews 70-90 AD
    James 45-62 AD
    I Peter 60-67 AD
    I John 90 AD
    Jude 90 AD
    Revelation 70-95 AD

    The Didache was written at the end of the time when most of the books of the NT were written so it is nearly as old. It was not canonized and is not infallible but it is an historical document. It is one of the earliest catechisms we have that gives us a window on what the Church believed and practiced in the first century.

    The Word of God is not second place in the Catholic Church, just because it has made baptism possible without full immersion. That is a leap. Especially since the Catholic Church is unable to teach something that would contradict Scripture. It is VERY foundational. Historically, first we had the Teaching of the Apostles. The Bible is a portion of this teaching that got written down very early and it is held in equal authority, not secondary at all. The scripture is deemed to be inerrant. But what has been taught and believed everywhere and always (based on the oral Teaching of Apostles) holds equal weight with Scripture because Scripture is simply the part that got written down.

    What Protestants don’t realize is that they are interpreting Scripture but they just think that their interpretation is clear and correct. So, when they look at the Catholic Church and what she teaches it appears to Protestants that she teaches things that are contrary to Scripture. But really, it is only contrary to Protestant interpretation unhinged from Church history.

    Regarding John 3. Yes, both are interpretations and both could be correct. How does one figure out which is more correct? I decided that the interpretation of the ONLY Christian Church anywhere in the world in the first couple of centuries after Jesus’ death would be more trustworthy than me sitting with my Bible reading and trying to figure out which of several interpretations is correct. I KNOW I am not infallible and I am sure you don’t think you are either.

    • Dear Pam,

      I realize the apostles didn’t sit down and write all the New Testament books right after the ascention. Ha Ha. I can only assume that’s a joke. The churches had to be planted before they could have the letters written to them and the acts of the apostles actually had to be done before Acts was written. As you see though they were pretty much all written before the the decree from Didache. Your assumption that people were baptized in all ways before they are written is well an assumption. I am guessing if you had proof you would have shown me.

      Furthermore, even Didache said in his teaching that immersion should be used if it’s possible (least this is my interpretation of it). Why does the church not choose to baptise that way today? He only told us to pour if we don’t have living water, cold water, or warm water to baptise in.

      God promises to preserve his Word… Not oral teachings so it makes sense that the written Word would trump oral tradition (although not necessarily make it wrong). Do you not think your churches tradition/ruling/teaching would be similar to what the Jewish people had in the Talmud. I am just asking… to me it seems similar. Note…Jesus never told us not to look at the Talmud, but always put the emphasis on Scripture.

      I do not hold that my interpretation is correct. But you have to wonder why so many people that read the Word of God on a regular basis come to the same conclusion? Most Catholics I know don’t know anything about the Bible, they are trusting one man’s interpretation of it (if they even believe that). Maybe I just haven’t met the “right” catholics, but you are the first one I’ve talked to that knows anything about the Bible.

      • Dear Sonja,
        Yes I knew that you knew the scriptures were written later because of something you said earlier. Here is what you are mistaken about. The Didache is not a decree. It is not something written to make a change in practice and give it legitimacy. It was to standardize practice and give clarity. It was not something new. This is a common mistake Protestants make because they don’t know how the Catholic Church operates.

        For instance, when papal infallibility was defined in 1870, it was NOT the decree of something new. It had always been believed. But clarity was needed. So, the Church clearly defined it just a little over a hundred years ago.

        A hypothetical example would be, the Church has always believed that marriage is between one man and one woman. But, our culture is so distorting and undermining what marriage is and who can marry, that it is very possible that in a few years/decades the Church may have to issue a new dogma, that marriage is between one man and one woman. Just because the date might be in the year 2050AD does not, in any way, mean that that is the date the Catholic Church first began to believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

        I don’t know why the Catholic Church does not move to full immersion more. We have a baptismal in our new church that could be used for full immersion. It is probably not widely done b/c pouring is valid so there is no pressing need to change.

        Where in scripture does it say that written teachings are held to be more authoritative that oral teaching. St. Paul recommend both.

        1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

        2 Thessalonians 3:6
        Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

        2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

        Our mass looks and feels similar to the Jewish celebration, I am told. I have not experienced this myself. But that would make sense since the first Christians were Jewish they would naturally celebrate worship in a similar manner.

        It is true that many people read scripture and come to different interpretations than the Catholic Church. But, they also come to different interpretations from each other. That is why there are thousands of different denominations. My question, as a Protestant, was, Why? If God is not a God of confusion and the Holy Spirit is leading the interpretation of Scripture, WHY don’t all come to a unified interpretation?

        This fact, disunity, calls into serious question the idea that I can sit down with my Bible and infallibly interpret it. I know no Protestant claims this infallibility of interpretation but that is what the notion of Sola Scriptura for each individual implies in reality. If Sola Scriptura, was an authentic Christian teaching all should interpret scripture the same. I decided, based on Scripture, that the passage about the Holy Spirit leading into all truth, was not a promise to each individual but to the Apostles.

        • Ok so it’s not a decree, but you still have no proof that this is the way the apostles baptised. I understand your examples, but the catholic church doesn’t even follow the didache it seems since you don’t choose immersion first. Like I said seems that pouring was only meant to be used when the others were not an option. Apparently this is not the churches interpretation, but why not? It seems pretty clear to me that the other three were to be chosen first. Also the verse…One faith, one baptism…I understand you can explain this away just thought is was interesting since this is your favorite verse to claim there is one true church.

          Yes the very first Christians were Jewish, but don’t forget how fast the gospel came to the Gentiles too because of Jewish rejection of the Faith. These are the same Jews we got the Old Testament Scripture from, does this make the Old Testament any less valid?

          There is disunity in many churches that believe slightly different things, but we believe that anyone who reads the Bible themselves apart from church teaching will come to the basic understanding that salvation (from hell) is through the blood of Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection, apart from works…again Rom. 4. Well, pretty much all of Romans really. There are many that have not had any church teaching and have picked up a Bible and seen this for themselves.

          The disunity then between these Christians is minimal dealing with standards or smaller issues of the faith. Example, we see in Rom. 14 a division about certain meats, and Paul (under the Holy Spirits guidance) says “Let every man be persuaded in his own mind.” How do the catholics interpret that verse? There was also disunity about “regarding one day over another”.

          Other disunity is in traditions that are not necessarily taught in the Bible but handed down usually via the Catholic church.

          Dealing with the authority of scripture…we get this notion from the fact that Jesus always quoted SCRIPTURE not the talmud when dealing with the old testament. If Jesus wanted to use God’s Word to prove his “case” why wouldn’t we? Certainly you understand that in early Christendom they did not have the New Testament, so would suredly have to rely on the apostles teaching as well (these were first hand when these epistles were written as in straight from the apostles mouth). We now have New Testament scripture and from Jesus’ example think we should put those first. Oral traditions are great as long as they line up with the Bible first. After all aren’t oral traditions just what someone says the apostles taught?

  3. Sonja,
    I think the option of pouring came to be the most commonplace because “living water” means moving water, such as a river or the ocean. So that was the first choice but pretty impractical to expect all the churches in every part of the world, no matter how arid, to adhere to baptism in living water. A lot of people would be hard pressed to ever get baptized.

    So, despite the preference, over time the practice developed in a direction of uniformity of Baptism by pouring. This is not mandatory but generally we do not administer the sacrament outside of sacred consecrated churches unless by necessity b/c of persecution.

    Sonja: These are the same Jews we got the Old Testament Scripture from, does this make the Old Testament any less valid?

    Interesting question. I wonder why you ask it. The OT is completely valid.

    All oral traditions are not “just what someone says the apostles taught.”
    These are based on the Christian Faith as handed down from generation to generation, ancient writings, prayers, hymns etc that convey what the earliest Christians believed.

    But if you prefer the doctrine of Sola Scriptura despite it not being scriptural, which goes against sola scriptura I will not say any more. For me, what the Christians believed in the first couple of centuries carried more weight and rang more true to me than Protestantism. Even though it had much truth but not all of it. We will just have to agree to disagree.

  4. Ok thanks for the response. I understand your reasoning at least…

    The question about the OT was off the wall sorry. I had thought back to your conversion story I believe it was, where you mentioned that to take the Bible from the Catholic church and define it differently was the same as taking the Koran from the Moslems. What I meant to say was that that seems to me what Jesus did with the OT and Jewish leaders as he openly condemned their teaching.

    I thought I said we should take the Scripture first as that is what Christ used and God promised to preserve. I am not necessarily against the other, but you can claim I am if you want. What reasons did they have for not putting these in with the Scripture if they carry the same weight?

    These are just some things I am wondering I realize a bit off topic. I would love to hear your perspective if you feel like giving it…maybe in another article??

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