Skip to comments.JWs & Apostolic Succession
Posted on 06/19/2014 5:13:49 PM PDT by matthewrobertolson
Jehovahs Witnesses accept the existence of authority in the early Church, but reject apostolic succession and fail to provide the link between their claim to authority today and the Apostles. But why do they reject apostolic succession? To find out, let us take a look at the Witnesses handbook for door-to-door proselytizing called Reasoning from the Scriptures, in which they both provide their definition of a particular topic and put on the handy line Not a Bible teaching, if they disagree with a particular idea.
Apostolic SuccessionAlthough we would perhaps word things differently, Id say we can go with this definition of apostolic succession. The booklet then goes on to list different questions to address when talking to a Catholic. Let us begin with the first one.
Definition: The doctrine that the 12 apostles have successors to whom authority has been passed by divine appointment. In the Roman Catholic Church, the bishops as a group are said to be successors of the apostles, and the pope is claimed to be the successor of Peter. It is maintained that the Roman pontiffs come immediately after, occupy the position and perform the functions of Peter, to whom Christ is said to have given primacy of authority over the whole Church. Not a Bible teaching.
Was Peter the rock on which the church was built?While it is true that verses 13 and 20 concern the identity of Jesus, it doesnt automatically follow that everything in between must pertain to Jesus too, especially if he specifically addresses Peter and talks to him. The immediate context of verse 18 is this:
Matt. 16:18, JB: I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. (Notice in the context [vss. 13, 20] that the discussion centers on the identity of Jesus.)
And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.
Note that both in verse 17 and verse 19 Peter is being addressed directly. The previous verse talks about how blessed Peter is that God revealed the identity of Jesus to him, and the latter bestows upon him the power of the keys. These verses are hardly about Jesus identity, so how likely is it that a very similarly-worded sentence in-between would be? But let us proceed to a sub-question to this first one.
Whom did the apostles Peter and Paul understand to be the rock, the cornerstone?The Watchtower commits its first logical fallacy here, namely that of equivocation. They simply assert that the words rock and cornerstone are synonymous, but that is simply not the case. A rock and a cornerstone are different things. And since we find Abraham called Rock in the Old Testament, would that mean he was the cornerstone? No. Similarly, God is called Rock, and since Jesus is the cornerstone, it would follow that Jesus is God, but The Watchtower emphatically denies that.
Acts 4:8-11, JB: Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, Rulers of the people, and elders! . . . it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone [cornerstone, NAB].
1 Pet. 2:4-8, JB: Set yourselves close to him [the Lord Jesus Christ] so that you too . . . may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says: See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen and the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed. That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down.
Eph. 2:20, JB: You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone.
The quote from Acts 4 thus proves nothing at all. 1 Peter doesnt either, even if the Witnesses will try to say that the rock to bring men down is the cornerstone and thus Jesus, which is of course true. But the problem is that we arent denying Jesus is also called rock. Again, Abraham is called Rock, yet no one would say that that denies God. Similarly, the Apostles are called foundations of the Church in the very next text the booklet cites in support of its position. That already shows that there is no contradiction by naming multiple foundations of the Church, whether it is Peter, the other Apostles and prophets, or even God in the end. Recall Christs approval of the Chair of Moses (Matthew 23:1-3), for example.
What was the belief of Augustine (who was viewed as a saint by the Catholic Church)?Here is a common misinterpretation. In short, St. Augustine had many different discussions during his life, and he emphasized different senses of Scripture, depending on whom he was debating. He was one of the staunchest defenders of the Petrine office, even in his Retractations (not Retractions), in which he affirms St. Ambroses argument for Peter being the Rock.
In this same period of my priesthood, I also wrote a book against a letter of Donatus . . . In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: On him as on a rock the Church was built. . . . But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. For, Thou art Peter and not Thou art the rock was said to him. But the rock was Christ, in confessing whom as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter.The Fathers of the ChurchSaint Augustine, the Retractations (Washington, D.C.; 1968), translated by Mary I. Bogan, Book I, p. 90.
Did the other apostles view Peter as having primacy among them?Another classic text used by those opposing the Catholic teaching on Peter. But this ignores the context of what Jesus is talking about: True greatness is serving, not lording it over others. It is in light of this that Jesus says: Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you [Greek plural] that he might sift you [plural] like wheat, but I have prayed for you [Greek singular (only Peter)] that your faith [singular] may not fail; and when you [singular] have turned again, strengthen your brethren. Why in the world would Jesus address Peter alone, assuring him of His support and commanding him to strengthen [his] brethren, after just having talked about true greatness? For one reason only: because Peter is called to be the greatest among the Apostles, he is to serve and strengthen them.
Luke 22:24-26, JB: A dispute arose also between them [the apostles] about which should be reckoned the greatest, but he said to them, Among pagans it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the title Benefactor. This must not happen with you. (If Peter were the rock, would there have been any question as to which one of them should be reckoned the greatest?)
Since Jesus Christ, the head of the congregation, is alive, does he need successors?This question can be answered in one short word: No, for the reason that the Pope is not the successor of Jesus, but of Peter, who is His Vicar, which is very different from being a successor.
Heb. 7:23-25, JB: Then there used to be a great number of those other priests [in Israel], because death put an end to each one of them; but this one [Jesus Christ], because he remains for ever, can never lose his priesthood. It follows, then, that his power to save is utterly certain, since he is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him.
Rom. 6:9, JB: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again.
Eph. 5:23, JB: Christ is head of the Church.
What were the keys entrusted to Peter?A very important question. I suggest you check out Tim Staples posts [1, 2] on this at Catholic Answers, because it is too much to go into here.
Matt. 16:19, JB: I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.
Was Peter in Rome?It really depends on how you search for the word Rome. You can refer to a city in many terms, just as we refer to it today as the Eternal City. If I search for Rome, that reference will not turn up. Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13 is such a title, or a code-word, if you will. It was used that way by the early Christians, because Rome behaved toward them much like Babylon did towards the Jews. Examples of this can be found in 4 Esdras, the Apocalypse of Baruch and the Sibylline Oracles. The early Christians understood that Peter was in Rome as well, and numerous quotes from them could be given here.
Rome is referred to in nine verses of the Holy Scriptures; none of these say that Peter was there. First Peter 5:13 shows that he was in Babylon. Was this a cryptic reference to Rome? His being in Babylon was consistent with his assignment to preach to the Jews (as indicated at Galatians 2:9), since there was a large Jewish population in Babylon. The Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1971, Vol. 15, col. 755), when discussing production of the Babylonian Talmud, refers to Judaisms great academies of Babylon during the Common Era.
Plus, even agnostic Protestant historian John Julius Norwich wrote of the pope, It seems more likely than not that St. Peter did in fact come to Rome and was martyred there, probably somewhere on the Vatican Hill [and] there can be little doubt that he was the generally acknowledged leader of Christs disciples.
Has an unbroken line of successors been traced from Peter to modern-day popes?Being familiar with The Watchtowers extremely deceptive use of single-line quotes and ellipses, these quotes should not bother us at all. It is well known that many documents containing the lists of successors have been lost over time, but that does not mean there werent any, much less that it wasnt believed. In fact, we have hardly any records of the ordination history of bishops beyond Cardinal Scipione Rebiba, but that hardly means the doctrine was invented then. The early Christians were unanimous on apostolic succession and used it as a means of argument when disputes arose.
Jesuit John McKenzie, when professor of theology at Notre Dame, wrote: Historical evidence does not exist for the entire chain of succession of church authority.The Roman Catholic Church (New York, 1969), p. 4.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: . . . the scarcity of documents leaves much that is obscure about the early development of the episcopate . . . (1967), Vol. I, p. 696.
Claims of divine appointment mean nothing if those who make them are not obedient to God and ChristThat is not quite true. Whether someone is a true successor of the Apostles has nothing to do with his behaviour. Heck, even Peter would have failed that test, because he denied Jesus! Yet, Jesus chose him, knowing that would happen.
Matt. 7:21-23, JB: It is not those who say to me, Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name? Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!
See also Jeremiah 7:9-15.
Have the claimed successors to the apostles adhered to the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ and his apostles?Prepare for a litany of doctrines The Watchtower disagrees with (which they say the Bible doesnt teach), but in reality it is nothing more than their differing interpretation of the Bible, for which they have no authority, because they have no apostolic succession.
A Catholic Dictionary states: The Roman Church is Apostolic, because her doctrine is the faith once revealed to the Apostles, which faith she guards and explains, without adding to it or taking from it. (London, 1957, W. E. Addis and T. Arnold, p. 176) Do the facts agree?
Identity of GodNone of these quotes prove anything. After all, they are from reputable publications, mostly Catholic ones. How stupid would one be to deny ones own beliefs in a publication dedicated to them? Note how the explicit doctrine is spoken of, which means the definition there is one God in Three Divine, co-equal, co-eternal Persons, but they are not Three Gods, but One God. Of course we dont find that in the Bible, much as we dont find the term Bible or Watchtower or anointed class or governing body in the Bible.
The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion.The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912), Vol. XV, p. 47.
Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament . . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies.The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1976), Micropædia, Vol. X, p. 126.
There is the recognition on the part of exegetes and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the 4th century.New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Vol. XIV, p. 295.
Celibacy of the clergyHere we can find an example of how The Watchtower quotes certain statements to suit their purpose. They left out this statement of Pope Paul VI in the second ellipsis: [The New Testament does not openly demand] but proposes it rather as a free act of obedience to a special vocation or to a special spiritual gift. That is exactly the case. The Watchtower counts on the ignorance of the reader, for the Eastern Catholic Churches have married priests. Even in the Latin Church, some are married legitimately. We wont go into the many verses one could cite in support of celibacy (see 1 Corinthians 7, for example), but it suffices to say that it was widely received from the earliest days.
Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (Priestly Celibacy, 1967), endorsed celibacy as a requirement for the clergy, but he admitted that the New Testament which preserves the teaching of Christ and the Apostles . . . does not openly demand celibacy of sacred ministers . . . Jesus Himself did not make it a prerequisite in His choice of the Twelve, nor did the Apostles for those who presided over the first Christian communities.The Papal Encyclicals 1958-1981 (Falls Church, Va.; 1981), p. 204.
1 Cor. 9:5, NAB: Do we not have the right to marry a believing woman like the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? (Cephas is an Aramaic name given to Peter; see John 1:42. See also Mark 1:29-31, where reference is made to the mother-in-law of Simon, or Peter.)
1 Tim. 3:2, Dy: It behoveth, therefore, a bishop to be . . . the husband of one wife [married only once, NAB].
Before the Christian era, Buddhism required its priests and monks to be celibate. (History of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church, London, 1932, fourth ed., revised, Henry C. Lea, p. 6) Even earlier, the higher orders of the Babylonian priesthood were required to practice celibacy, according to The Two Babylons by A. Hislop.(New York, 1943), p. 219.
1 Tim. 4:1-3, JB: The Spirit has explicitly said that during the last times there will be some who will desert the faith and choose to listen to deceitful spirits and doctrines that come from the devils; . . . they will say marriage is forbidden.
Separateness from the worldAnother misunderstanding. It is not the Churchs teaching that earthly means are the last hope of the people. She recognises that Gods providence works in everything, which is why it is not opposed to God to use the UN as a means of peace. Nevertheless, a speech before the UN does not constitute infallible teaching. Also, note The Watchtowers broad use of the term the world, which has different meanings in Scripture. In John 15, Jesus is not saying dont be involved in politics. The preceding verses set the context for this statement of His. Our Lord talks about how He has chosen the Apostles to be His friends, how He has communicated to them what the Father told Him to, and how they are called by God, as opposed to Satan and worldly desires. He isnt talking about politics at all, no related word appears here. That is why The Watchtower has to latch onto the term the world, because that is the only possible way of forcing their interpretation into this verse.
Pope Paul VI, when addressing the United Nations in 1965, said: The peoples of the earth turn to the United Nations as the last hope of concord and peace; We presume to present here, together with Our own, their tribute of honor and of hope.The Popes Visit (New York, 1965), Time-Life Special Report, p. 26.
John 15:19, JB: [Jesus Christ said:] If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.
Jas. 4:4, JB: Dont you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy?
Reasoning also refers the reader to James 4:4, but it does so in a deceiving manner. St. James talks about sin, and in verse 4 specifically addresses adulterers, which The Watchtower omits from their quote. Let this serve as an indication of how weak their case is, and their leaders know so very well.
Resorting to weapons of warLet us address the quote from Watkin to begin with. He says that individual bishops (it does not say all bishops) have supported every war of their respective government. While I cant check that, I will note that Watkin must have done a particularly intensive study to conclude that. He further writes that he doesnt know of any war his bishops had condemned as unjust. Since I dont have access to a copy, I cant check what it says in the ellipsis, but bear in mind that it is theoretically possible none of those wars referred to were unjust, and the bishops didnt condemn them as such, since Catholics believe in the Just War doctrine.
Catholic historian E. I. Watkin writes: Painful as the admission must be, we cannot in the interest of a false edification or dishonest loyalty deny or ignore the historical fact that Bishops have consistently supported all wars waged by the government of their country. I do not know in fact of a single instance in which a national hierarchy has condemned as unjust any war . . . Whatever the official theory, in practice my country always right has been the maxim followed in wartime by Catholic Bishops.Morals and Missiles (London, 1959), edited by Charles S. Thompson, pp. 57, 58.
Matt. 26:52, JB: Jesus then said, Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
1 John 3:10-12, JB: In this way we distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil: anybody . . . not loving his brother is no child of Gods. . . . We are to love one another; not to be like Cain, who belonged to the Evil One and cut his brothers throat.
Even if there were unjust wars, how exactly does the misbehavior of individual bishops prove that Catholicism is false? That does not follow at all. All that proves is that certain bishops misjudged the war, and were misguided. But now, on to the Scriptures cited.
First, the quote from Matthew. If The Watchtower is really going to base its absolute pacifism on one verse ripped from its context, we might as well base our argument on Exodus 15:3, Luke 19:27, or 22:36. Obviously, one is on very shaky ground, if one argues the way the JWs do here. The quote from Matthew is situated in the context of Jesus arrest, which is of great importance to salvation history. After all, how else would He be delivered to Pilate and then to the Cross? The attack against the servant was in defense of Christ, to prevent His arrest. But He knew that it had to take place, which is why He told the attacker to cease and let Him be delivered. The attack was not just, remembering that the servant appears to be innocent. Of course, innocents may not be killed.
On to the passage from 1 John. Note again the ellipses here. In the first ellipsis, we read Whosoever is not just, is not of God. Other translations read who does not do what is right. Now, how can it be right, not to defend your King and country, or your family and anyone innocent, from unjust attack? The Watchtower also omits the last part of verse 12: And wherefore did he kill him? Because his own works were wicked: and his brother's just. You get the idea. Abel was just, Cain wasnt. No problem for Catholics here.
In the light of the foregoing, have those who claim to be successors to the apostles really taught and practiced what Christ and his apostles did?As we have seen, the arguments provided against apostolic succession are inconsistent at best, silly and deceptive at worst. The Watchtower is essentially saying, You dont share our private interpretation [which is what this is!] of Scripture, which we use to judge who is truly Christian, so you arent. It uses arbitrary criteria to define what the measure of a true Christian is, not mentioning things like the Eucharist, baptism, and others, which most would view as much closer connected to the question. Note that the question says those who claim to be successors to the apostles, but they dont actually address whether the bishops are. They merely state that the Church holds a different position from them on certain issues, but none of that proves that there is no line of succession.
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Are JW’s actually Christians? I was always told that they do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God, and therefore has a Divine nature. Am I wrong in this?
My impression of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they do not even belong to the category of ‘Protestants’, in that the prevailing definition of Protestant is being a believing Christian, outside the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Eastern traditions.
I think it is unfair to lump JW in with Protestant as they do not adhere to the accepted Protestant belief in the Trinity and other beliefs about Jesus.
That's my understanding. They deny the Divinty of Jesus and they deny the Blessed Trinity. I've got some sneaky little JW who leaves watchtower in the office break room. I consider it my sacred duty to toss them when I find them.
They aren’t sola scriptura, in that they have a hacked up custom translation of the Bible to go along with the edicts from the Watchtower gang. Not to mention being founded by a notoriously false false prophet named Charles Taze Russell, who, like all others who predict the return of Jesus on a specific date, was necessarily disobeying the clear teaching of Jesus that such knowledge belongs only to the Father. So no, not only off on Trinitarian and Christological issues, but also subservient to human authority and false revelation rather than the God-breathed words of Scripture, which to abandon for the vain imaginations of fallen mortals is to guarantee eventual descent into error.
An apostate former priest, Johannes Gerber, spirit-channeler (consort of demons), was adviser to the New World Bible Translation Committee. https://www.google.com/search?q=johannes+gerber+jehovah+witness
More Sola Scriptura - but with a rewritten scriptura!
JWs are a cult. They are NOT Christian. I don’t care what FR calls them.
JWs are nothing but modern Arians.
No, they’re not Christians.
They are a cult.
It's just an attempt at guilt by association, ie, since Protestants believe some of the same things as JWs, therefore, Protestants must be a cult.
It's a hit piece on Protestantism. That's all.
Catholic Answers lists them in the non-christian category.
I classify them as seekers of Truth- like -Nancy -Pelosi.
Read on a JW forum:
JW’s need to confess their serious sins to male elders. These are usually security guards, landscapers and other non-professional careerists and the such.
Someone who has confessed their serious sins to these people have a problem when later the same security guard or landscaper, etc is thrown out of their church for reason and then goes sin-snitching for retribution.
I have found the easiest way of ridding myself of them is with a garden hose
what was the primary question Jesus was asking?
who was He?
Peter gave the correct answer and Christ noted that Heaven had revealed this to him. And it was upon this rock, this confession of Peter that Christ was the Son of God that the Kingdom of Heaven is built.
No where does the Bible call Peter the primary apostle as does the RCC. You are attempting to read something into the text that isn't there.
Paul and Peter were considered equals. Paul never said Peter was primary or the other way around.
Peter did play a very, very important role in the early church as Christ promised. The keys to the kingdom was the Gospel: Christ being the Son of God and faith in Him alone for salvation. This is what he preached all the time in Acts.
When Cornelius attempted to bow before him Peter told him to get up for he was just a man....contrast that with the actions of the pope.
Peter stumbled by not eating with the Gentiles when pressured by the Jews and Paul had to correct him.
Did the apostles and prophets pass on the message of Christ? Sure they did. You always need new leaders as the old die out. But here is the difference in the Bible and the RCC. The Bible shows that all can understand the Gospel. All can share the Gospel.
Have you ever shared the Gospel with anyone and seen how the Lord works in their life? Or are you just relying on a priest to do the heavy lifting?
There are at least two other passages that show Peter's designted leadership if one puts aside the Gentile mind and considers what the LORD Jesus taught the Jewish apostles. I think one has to be willfully blind and obstinate to deny the truth that Jesus chose Peter to be the leader.
You’re going to agitate the Catholics that confuse their church’s teaching for Scripture.