Skip to comments."Have you not read?" The Authority behind Biblical Interpretation
Posted on 03/28/2008 3:55:36 PM PDT by annalex
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The author misses the interpretation given in the passage by the Lord Himself. One must go beyond John 3:5 and read all the way to John 3:6 to the interpretation of verse 5. Here they are together:
John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Born of water is physical birth: born of the flesh. Not washed by Scripture nor sprinkled with “holy water”.
Born of the Spirit is just that: born a new creature in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) by the power of the Holy Spirit, having been dead in sins (Ephesians 2).
No need to make it seem obscure nor allegorical.
This is spin; if Jesus wanted to say "physical birth" He would refer to "womb", just like Nicodemus does in his question. He would not respond with a riddle forcing Nicodemus to figure out that womb=water. The entire reference to borth of the water and spirit is a plain reference to baptism which combines these two elements precisely.
I see how you interpret the Bible - by imagining what words the Lord should have used. The context is quite clear. The fact the water baptism is not mentioned here and is not required for salvation make your position indefensible.
But I forget ye be RCC and that religion’s dogma requires you to ignore clear Biblical meaning.
Sorry about that.
Many thanks for the link.
But what your reverend thinks about John 3:5 is not even the issue on hand. This is what Sungenis writes:
But how can this radio Bible preacher be so sure that his exegesis and interpretation is the true one, that it should be trusted by his radio audience? What about the other interpretations given by both Protestant and Catholic scholars to this passage? The Catholic Church, along with many Protestant Churches, have taught constantly since the Early Church Fathers that the water of John 3:5 refers to water baptism, which is not a symbol but the very means to receive the grace of God to cleanse one from Original Sin.1 By what authority does one confidently determine which interpretation is true?
let us now go back to our radio preachers interpretation of John 3:5. If we could speak with him directly, we would ask him, as Jesus did to the Sadducees: "Have you not read where the prophet says, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:25-26). Now if the water of John 3:5 is merely symbolic, why does the prophet say that it is the water which is making the individual clean from impurities and providing a new spirit to rest in him?
The question may now arise, "Okay, I see your reasoning, but how do you know your interpretation is correct? How do you know for sure that the water of John 3:5 is not the word of God and that baptism is not merely symbolic? Youve only given me a possible interpretation from your defensible exegesis of the texts."
Ah! Now were getting to the essence of our issue, for we can begin to see what mere human interpretation does. It only gives plausible answers, but we can never know for sure if the plausible answer is the correct answer, unless we have help from another source. What is that source? That source is John the apostle. After discovering all the exegetical possibilities, we have to go back and ask John what he meant when he used "water" in John 3:5.10 But how does one ask John? Hes dead. Granted, but we know the people who knew John. They wrote down what John taught them. For example, Polycarp writes about knowing John the apostle personally, and Ignatius was a disciple of Polycarp. Justin Martyr also lived during that time. These Fathers said they received their teachings from the apostles and they passed them on to other Fathers.11 In fact, did you know that all the Fathers who dealt with John 3:5 understood the water as referring to water baptism and the means by which God infuses the grace of salvation? So, you see, we know our exegesis of John 3:5 is possible by using sound principles of exegesis, but we can only be sure that this interpretation is correct because we have the recorded testimony from those closest to John.
You interpret and I interpret. You interpret "water" meaning "womb" and I interpret "water" meaning "baptismal water". The issue is not even whose reading is more plausible, the issue is that I can back up my reading with patristics and you can't.
You cite a man I care not for (the radio preacher) and tout your foundation as the teaching of RCC men - which I also care not for. I rely on the text God gave John. Christ tells Nicodemus “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Why would He speak of flesh and Spirit right after speaking of water and Spirit - while describing the same issue; unless He was explaining in verse 6 what He said in verse 5?
He says this right after Nicodemus asks about being born again in the flesh. The clear, plain teaching of this passage is flesh = water, Spirit = Spirit.
False teaching of men puts the weight of redemption from sins on water baptism. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can save anyone from sin. Trusting in the works of anyone else is false hope.
Paul makes this clear in Romans 4:1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
In this case above, convoluted reasoning and out of context quoting succeeds in proving exactly nothing.
Being buried in water by baptism is the essence of the symbolism. The old man dies to sin and is buried in baptism and rises to walk in the spiritual life.
I understand that it is somehow difficult or impossible for many to grasp, but still, for some of my experience, the concept is simplicity itself.
Acts chapter 2 verse 38 pretty much demonstrates just what the symbolism of Peter being given the “keys” is all about. Most will not see this simple fact.
So go on and defend the practice of spiritually burying innocent babies, calling mortal men “Father”, redundant ritualistic prayers, and so on.
Meanwhile, the seven letters to the Church(es) in Asia will likely remain a mystery for all of your days.
Call me a cynic.
I forgot to mention, I’ll be back on FR.com on Tuesday.
Because the theme is two births, one of the womb and not under a question, the other is the second birth that Nicodemus is questioning. The response in v.5 wholly refers to the question, the rebirth.
But again, whether water=baptismal water, or water=womb, or water=fish on Friday is more plausible is not the issue; the issue is that I can both explain why I think that water=baptismal water and also point out that disciples of Christ thought so, just as Sungenis argues.
You also bring us the discourse of whether circumcision of Abraham was salvific, which is neither here or there, and you interpret it wrong, too.
Yes, that is the symbolism. What makes you think I disagree?
If you want to discuss some other scripture, make it relevant to the topic on hand, and I will discuss it.
Indeed, if there had been a single father of the Church not otherwise known as complete heretic, who believed that the water in John 3:5 is really womb, or if there were other scripture that said that water means womb, Sungenis's argument would disappear and the interpretation of John 3:5 as a reference to the necessity of baptism would have been speculative and not dogmatic. However, the water-means-womb interpretation is not supported by anyone till 15c at the earliest.
Incidentally, 1 Peter 3:21 "whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also" doesn't help the radio reverend's case either, although I am sure he got some spin to explain that away as well.
**The entire reference to borth of the water and spirit is a plain reference to baptism which combines these two elements precisely.**
Our priest has been saying all week that John does not put anything into his Gospel without a definite meaning. I think you have the meaning here.
Blessings for the 50 days of Easter!
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My (Imminent) Reception into the Roman Catholic Church [Robert Koons]
Thousands in U.S. to Join (Catholic) Church - Many Feel They Have Found a Home
TURN ABOUT (Carl Olson, former Evangelical and Monday's guest on EWTN's Journey Home)
Former Southern Baptist Pastor Now a Traveling Crusader for the Catholic Church [Michael Cumbie]
All Roads Lead To Rome (A Southern Baptist's Journey into the Catholic Church)[John David Young]
Allen Hunt, Methodist Minister ...Journeys Home (Catholic, Re: Real Presence)
The Challenges and Graces of Conversion [Chris Findley]
An Open Letter...from Bishop John Lipscomb [Another TEC Bishop Goes Papist]
Unlocking the Convert's Heart [Marcus Grodi]
His Open Arms Welcomed Me [ Paul Thigpen}
Why I'm Catholic (Sola Scriptura leads atheist to Catholic Church)
From Calvinist to Catholic (another powerful conversion story) Rodney Beason
Good-bye To All That (Another Episcopalian gets ready to swim the Tiber)
Bp. Steenson's Letter to his clergy on his conversion to the Catholic Church
Bishop Steensons Statement to the House [of Bishops: Episcopal (TEC) to Catholic]
Bp. Steenson's Letter to his clergy on his conversion to the Catholic Church
Bishop Steenson Will Become a Roman Catholic
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Searching For Authority (A Methodist minister finds himself surprised by Truth!)
Why I Returned to the Catholic Church. Part VI: The Biblical Reality (Al Kresta)
Why I Returned to the Catholic Church. Part V: The Catholics and the Pope(Al Kresta)
The Hail Mary of a Protestant (A true story)
Why I Returned to the Catholic Church. Part IV: Crucifix and Altar(Al Kresta)
Why I Returned to the Catholic Church. Part III: Tradition and Church (Al Kresta)
Why I Returned to the Catholic Church. Part II: Doubts (Al Kresta)
Conversion Story - Rusty Tisdale (former Pentecostal)
Why I Returned to the Catholic Church. Part I: Darkness(Al Kresta)
Conversion Story - Matt Enloe (former Baptist) [prepare to be amazed!]
THE ORTHODOX REVIVAL IN RUSSIA
Conversion Story - David Finkelstein (former Jew)
Conversion Story - John Weidner (former Evangelical)
12 Reasons I Joined the Catholic Church
Conversion Story - Tom Hunt
The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism: The Converts
John Calvin Made Me Catholic
Journey Home - May 21 - Neil Babcox (former Presbyterian) - A minister encounters Mary
Going Catholic - Six journeys to Rome
My (Imminent) Reception into the Roman Catholic Church
A Convert's Pilgrimage [Christopher Cuddy]
From Pastor to Parishioner: My Love for Christ Led Me Home (to the Catholic Church) [Drake McCalister]
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Patty Bonds (former Baptist and sister of Dr. James White) to appear on The Journey Home - May 7
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Catholic Converts - Stephen K. Ray (former Evangelical)
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Catholic Converts - Robert H. Bork , American Jurist (Catholic Caucus)
Catholic Converts - Marcus Grodi
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I am hardly comfortable denying the necessity of the Baptism, as Christ Himself said to “Go be baptized, and wait for the Holy Spirit”. But by the same token, there is something to be said for the radio pastor’s words.
While it is certainly best to be baptized, and to follow the prescription as laid out in Scripture, certainly there are times wherein baptism is not done, or is simply not possible.
By way of example, the OP lays a valid claim for the salvation of the Hebrew forefathers- That God is the God of the living, ergo, the Hebrew fathers are even now alive, and presumably saved- Even though it is unlikely that they ever experienced a baptism.
The criminal on the cross who was promised, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” was probably not baptized, though admittedly that is a presumption on my part.
And one might further speculate that a soldier, mortally wounded on the field of battle, who truly finds his Savior in the final moments of his life would not be turned aside for wont of a bit of water and a priest to perform the duty.
In all of these cases, the symbolism of baptism is prevented by circumstance. But it is truly the Blood that saves. I cannot believe that in such a condition, the circumcision of the heart (which is undoubtedly the purpose behind the symbolism of baptism) would not suffice.
Water spirit feeling springing ‘round my head
Makes me feel glad that I’m not dead
Witchi-tie-tie, gimee rah
Whoa rah neeko, whoa rah neeko
Hey ney, hey ney, no way
I have always believed this was the best interpretation. All the other interpretations read into the text what they want to find, this explanation is purely inductive which is how all scripture should be interpreted.
There is no apostle who would contradict the interpretation of John 3 as necessity of baptism either. In fact, there is plenty of corroboration of that belief right in the Acts, and 1 Peter.
The reason Sungenis mentioned Polycarp is to explain why the evidence of patristic thinking matters a good deal: they left books which, while not canonical, reflect the teaching they received from the apostolic generation and passed on.
You realize, of course, that St. John the Evangelist outlived all other apostles, and that St. Polycarp was one generation younger than him, and Irenaeus another generation younger.
Yes. You are describing, more or less, the Catholic doctrine of baptism of desire and baptism of blood. The same can be said about the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. They are all necessary when they are available, but if a person is prevented by some obstacle form receiving them, but wishes to receive them, we trust in the infinite mercy of Christ that the disposition of his heart will alone suffice. The sacraments of the Church are called ordinary means of salvation, that is, they are necessary in ordinary circumstances.
People who listen to the Protestant propaganda beamed at them from every microphone and pulpit will believe that, and a tooth fairy, too. Why is it necessary to interpret "water" as anything but "water" in the first place?
Sorry, I don't do popery.
Hmmm... this sounds suspiciously like modern revelation. In spite of sola scriptura, I had an FR poster tell me that evanglicals also rely on divine help for interpreting scriptures. The author of this article states that the Catholic Church claims to receive divine help as well in interpreting scriptures. Of course, the church receives such divine guidance by individuals within the church receiving divine guidance.
So both members of the Catholic Church and evangelicals claim to receive revelation when interpreting the scriptures. It sounds like a good thing to me.
This is an important step for the Evangelicals to recognize that they, too interpret the scripture using outside authority that they claim to be divine.
Once that step is taken, we could begin to compare the interpretations for historicity and apostolicity, or, conversely, poit out attempts at modern revelation, which, of course, should disqualify any given doctrine.
The "outside authority" they claim is the same as that which the CC claims, the Holy Ghost. Not much to argue about there. :-)
Claiming is easy. Proving is hard.
The Catholic Church, by the way, has rules about private revelations. In brief, a private revelation does not have to be believed, no matter what status is enjoys. It may be believed if it is approved by the Church, and it gets approved if it is conformant with the entire body of Catholic doctrine and leads the believer to Christ rather than away from Him. Such are, for example, visions experienced by saints, some apparitions of Our Lady, etc.
That seems pretty reasonable.
Then we are largely in agreement, with the exception being more a matter of degree, if at all.
Therein one might also cede some credence to the radio pastor as well. All of Protestantism recognizes the importance of baptism by water, but would consider the symbolism less important than the change within.
In regard to the larger point, while there is value in the Catholic process of determining interpretation, the Protestants are not that far behind. I think that you are lumping Protestants together way too much.
Each denomination has it's own differences in interpretation, just as they may have differences in doctrine (one begets the other, no doubt). But each has it's own apologetics, whereupon a general consensus emerges. While the process is admittedly less structured than the Catholic method, it is infinitely more versatile. This may in fact allow heresy in, but it is much quicker at turning heresy out as well.
As an example, there is a large movement against replacementism in Protestant churches today. As little as sixty years ago, the lion's share accepted replacementism as sound doctrine, as a physical Israel seemed an impossibility, so this entire line of thought, that the Church was the true Israel came into being.
But the Prophecy intruded upon the well thought out plans of men, and the nation of Israel rose up from the ashes of WWII. In less than two generations the Protestants had the facility to remove erroneous doctrine and correct themselves (though I admit that argument is not over yet).
I would consider Catholic thought to be much more stratified, and more or less incapable of changing long held belief, even though there is much evidence to the contrary. The infallibility of the RCC, and of the Pope spring immediately to mind as an example thereof.
But in saying so, let me also state that I am not assured that one is necessarily better than the other, but only different. The Protestants owe much to that Catholic stratification, and the Catholics, I dare say, are sometimes prodded forward by their headstrong younger brothers. One can serve to correct the other, just as our Jewish brothers have standing to correct us both in matters regarding the Old Testament.
This is why there are no private revelations, such as approved apparitions (like Fatima, where a revelation was given to an individual or a group of people), that are ever going to be compulsory for any Catholic to believe. When approved, apparitions are given to us as an aid to our faith, something approved to "help" us, but never compulsory for our faith as a Catholic. This is actually where offshoots like the SDA church go wrong; they claim new prophets came to give the church (the Body of Christ) a "new revelation" binding on the whole Body, that is, compulsory for every Christian to believe; a claim that is contrary to historical Christian belief regarding prophets (no more public prophecy after the apostolic era).
They would be uncriptural if there was a scripture sayng "do not baptize children" or "do not baptize by sprinkling".
Adult baptism indeed is preceded by a catechumenate, that is period of instruction. In infant baptism the parents undergo instruction as appropriate.
What you are talking about now are speculative theologies on topics not covered dogmatically; on these, Catohlics enjoy quite a wide berth themselves. The salvific nature of baptism is matter of dogma, and so is the patristic character of all scriptural interpretation.
Thank you, a much needed clarification.
but you missed my point- In a wide swath of Protestantism, Replacementism was accepted fact, not a speculative theology. It was the ready ability of the Protestants to change direction that I was pointing to.
That something is permitted simply because it is not forbidden is not a standard you would apply in other
cases, is it?
You replaced one speculation with another. Happens at times in Catholicism as well. For example, the Pope recently reminded us all that the Limbo Infantorum doctrine is speculative rather than dogmatic.
It is not as simple as that, but what you said is that these baptisms are unbiblical. This is a word that is thrown around whenever a direct prooftext is missing, and often even when a direct prooftext is to the contrary, basically because, supposedly, the Protestants read the Bible and the Catholics don’t. For the word to have any meaning it has to mean “controverted by the Bible”, hence my remark.
Catholics view baptism as a sacrament, that is something where God plays the decisive part and men play a cooperative part. An adult believer becomes a Christian through baptism not because he now knows Christ but because Christ knows him. So, he doesn’t have to be an adult at all. Thi sis not inconsistent witht he scripture where more than once entire families are said to have been baptized, which natuirally included children. Further, since baptism replaced circumcision, and circucision is done on infants, it is reasonable to extrapolate that baptism should be done on infants also. Finally, the early Church baptized infants, so who are we to presume to know better than them?
Sprinkling, one would speculate, would be the practice in arid Palestine, and immersion is hard to implement in a house when it serves as a church. In one instance — when St. Peter baptizes the first Gentile, I believe — the phrasing is “who would deny this man water to be baptized?” That is a curious turn of the word if the water were a nearby river, but comes naturally if water is to be brought in a bucket.
The Church teaches that when the equipment is available, full immersion is preferable, but either method is valid.
Off the subject, a curious fact about baptismal pools. Often they are of eight sides. Why? It is a reference to the “eighth day of the week”, that is Sunday also known as the first day of the next week. Why call it the eighth day? Because it stands outside of time, — it is timeless. Why is it timeless? Because Christ gave us eternal life on Sunday.
But did you notice the difference???
I had an FR poster tell me that evanglicals also rely on divine help for interpreting scriptures.
The Catholic Church claims authority to teach in these area of faith and morals, relying on divine guidance outside of Scripture in order to give correct answers to its people
There is no revelation outside of Scripture...But there are plenty of things in Scripture that have NOT been revealed yet...To anyone...And of course, there are parts of Scripture that are understood by some while others are blinded to the truth in those Scriptures...
And like you say, when Isreal became a Nation in 1948, it blew the socks off a lot of people...God is telling the world, heh, I'm not done with Israel yet...
Romans 11 took on a literal meaning then...It became understandable and believable...
That's one of the failings of the Catholic church and the Almost Catholic Protestant churches....They have their interpretations down pat and BAM!, some prophecy gets fulfilled...
Of course they can't accept what's happening...They didn't get the initial prophecy so they claimed Jewishness for themselves...They're not going to give it up now, regardless of what revelations become unveiled in the Scripture...
God is not done with the Jews and there are tons of scripture in the Old Testament and the New Testament that will be revealed to the Jews when God is done with the Gentiles...
Some people need to re-evaluate what the Scriptures say in light of the Israeli Nation revelation...Of course, many already have...
You guys constantly interpret 'baptize', or 'baptism' as water...What's the difference???
That's what I thought most traditional christians believed. However, they've been telling me differently. Both evangelicals and Catholics having been stating they rely on divine inspiration to properly understand the scriptures. I think that is a good thing.
Please see my post # 32 for a discussion of the distinction between private and public revelation. I think it may be helpful for you.
BEDE; What shall we say here about infants, who by reason of their age cannot yet believe; for as to older persons there is no question. In the Church then of our Savior children believe by others, as also they drew from others the sins which are remitted to them in baptism. Catena Aurea Mark 16.
Granted, Venerable Bede (673-735) is not an early father.
Here is, for good measure, St. Chrysostom and Augustine on John 3:5, -- to neither one does it occur that water does not mean baptismal water:
AUG. As if He said, You understand me to speak of a carnal birth; but a man must be born of water and of the Spirit, if he is to enter into the kingdom of God. If to obtain the temporal inheritance of his human father, a man must be born of the womb of his mother; to obtain the eternal inheritance of his heavenly Father, he must be born of the womb of the Church. And since man consists of two parts, body and soul, the mode even of this latter birth is twofold; water the visible part cleansing the body; the Spirit by His invisible cooperation, changing the invisible soul.
CHRYS. If any one asks how a man is born of water, I ask in return, how Adam was born from the ground. For as in the beginning though the element of earth was the subject-matter, the man was the work of the fashioner; so now too, though the element of water is the subject-matter, the whole work is done by the Spirit of grace. He then gave Paradise for a place to dwell in; now He has opened heaven to us. But what need is there of water, to those who receive the Holy Ghost? It carries out the divine symbols of burial, mortification, resurrection, and life. For by the immersion of our heads in the water, the old man disappears and is buried as it were in a sepulcher, whence he ascends a new man. Thus should you learn, that the virtue of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, fills all things. For which reason also Christ lay three days in the grave before His resurrection. That then which the womb is to the offspring, water is to the believer; he is fashioned and formed in the water. But that which is fashioned in the womb needs time; whereas the water all is done in an instant. For the nature of the body is such as to require time for its completion; but spiritual creations are perfect from the beginning. From the time that our Lord ascended out of the Jordan, water produces no longer reptiles, i.e. living souls; but souls rational and endued with the Spirit.
AUG. Because He does not say, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not have salvation, or eternal life; but, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God; from this, some infer that children are to be baptized in order to be with Christ in the kingdom of God, where they would not be, were they not baptized; but that they will obtain salvation and eternal life even if they die without baptism, not being bound with any chain of sin. But why is a man born again, except to be changed from his old into a new state? Or why does the image of God not enter into the kingdom of God, if it be not by reason of sin?
The Church teaches that the entire deposit of faith was given at Pentecost, and our understanding thereof is what grows over time.
It is rather clear that the canon is closed for the CC and evangelicals, however, there are statements from both groups indicating that they receive "divine guidance" for interpreting the canon. After all, where else can you receive "divine guidance" except from the divine, and where else can you receive understanding of the things of God, but from God.
Quite correct, it is God the Holy Spirit that gives us Catholics guidance in these areas. The guidance given isn't "new revelation" however. It's guidance that protects us from erroneous interpretations/understandings (via the councils and Popes' vis a vis ex cathedra), and thus, He increases our understanding of the original deposit given at Pentecost.
You may be wondering, "Why not just call this 'guidance', 'revelation'?" This is to be certain to never confuse anyone by misleading them into believing we Catholics believe there are "prophets for today". There are no prophets for today who's words would be considered the Word of God. Knowing this however, if one wishes, one could describe the events of the Councils and the Papal decrees as "revelations", but only insomuch as to not confuse them with the Word of God. The ex cathedral and conciliar decrees are not the Word of God; they are clarifications of the original deposit of faith meant to teach us more about the original deposit, not to "reveal new doctrine".
Thanks for the clarification! It was very helpful in better understanding the CC beliefs in this area.
You’re welcome, thanks for the thoughtful questions!
Whether the analogy between circumcision and baptism was drawn in the scripture or not, it is still a reasonable analogy as both are, besides everything else that separates them, rituals of entry into a religious community.
Whether a centurion had a pool nearby or not is not an issue, it is simply that to “deny water” seems to have a comnnotation that the water is brought in. I agree, it is not definitive.