Father Echert gave a great lecture today. I like when he doesn't just stick to the points made by the bible study authors (since we can read the course notes ourselves and don't need to have it reiterated) and covers things a bit outside of the study.
Father began by talking about the difference between an apostles and a disciple. There were many disciples, but only twelve apostles. The apostles were disciples, but not all disciples were apostles. Apostle comes from the Greek, meaning appointed one or representative. They were a "singular group" and has not been repeated and they exercised their "charter" only during their lifetimes (it wasn't handed down). There is a succession of popes from St. Peter, but there is not a succession of apostles, but of bishops, who have more limited roles and abilities. An example Father mentioned was that a Bishop would give you Extreme Unction/Last Rites, but wouldn't command you to "stand and be cured" as the apostles were able to do...and even raise the dead.
Father also mentioned that "Christ" is not a family name but a title that comes from the Greek word for Messiah.
John the Baptist
As a Catholic, I'm not always aware of the issues Protestants have with the bible. Father touched on a couple during this lecture. The first was in Matthew 11:2 where John the Baptist says, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Father said that some folks suggest that John the Baptist had doubts about Christ, a crisis of faith if you will. Father was almost exasperated at the thought and said it was UNIMAGINABLE and just down-right unbiblical. Up to this point, all the prophets of the Old Testament have been pointing to a Messiah, to the Christ who was to come. John the Baptist was the greatest of these prophets and the prefigurement of Jesus Himself. John baptised Jesus, he made numerous public professions about Jesus, and is now sitting in jail because of his preaching, so to think he was questioning things at this stage is out in left field.
Father said there are two solutions:
1. This is good pedagogy. Rather than John the Baptist affirming that Jesus is the Messiah, he has Jesus do it Himself. John's humility would demand nothing less than to let Jesus speak for himself. I wish Father had more time to go into this, but basically there is a hand off between the OT and the New Testament. John is the greatest prophet of the Old and is preparing the way for Jesus. Now Jesus is here and can take the reigns Himself. Plus, John the Baptist was somewhat of a rock star in his day (Josephus records how popular John was) and had a large following of disciples, some fiercely loyal. John is trying to tell the people that even though Jesus may not be the Messiah they were expecting, that indeed, He is the Christ, go and see for yourselves.
2. John was questioning if Jesus was establishing His kingdom now since previously Jesus had told people not to mention the miracles He had performed. Jesus is now showing that He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 11:4-5. But, Father doesn't favor this interpretation because if Jesus wanted to fully establish his kingdom, so far it was a dismal attempt (ie: only a few followers healed). Father said Jesus is only showing a symbol of what is to come when His kingdom is really established.
Father talked about Herod the Great, who had been ruler over all of Israel and his weird paranoia of holding onto his power. Herod is the one who brought about the deaths of the Holy Innocents and also killed a wife and a few of his own sons. Not a nice man. Herod's three sons succeeded him...Caesar insisted on three rulers because he didn't want the power to be with just one man any longer least he become too powerful. Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas and Herod Philip II were the three sons and ruled the three regions of Israel from the south (Herod Archelaus) to the north (Herod Philip). I've included some Wiki links on these bad actors as the history is pretty fascinating. Father talked about them quite a bit, but will let you check out the links for a better telling of the history than I could provide.
THE Immaculate Conception
This is another part of the chapter I didn't know Protestants had a problem with. From Matthew 11:11, "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Father said some folks point to this as evidence that Mary is not as exulted as Catholics would believe, claiming that John was the greatest, so where is Mary in all this. Father said that John the Baptist represents the culmination of the Old Testament, his finger always pointing to the Christ. John, like I mentioned earlier, is the greatest prophet of the Old Testament. John was cleansed of original sin in Elizabeth's womb at the Annunciation. Father also cited a few other OT prophets that may have been given this privilege (Jeremiah?). Mary was preserved from original sin from the moment of her conception. She alone is given this privilege, she is THE (definite article as Father said) Immaculate Conception. THE, as in one and only. She is created higher than the angels.
Also, regarding this passage, Father said Jesus is making a contrast. He is speaking of the Old Covenant, which John the Baptist belongs to. Mary is of the New Covenant and doesn't even fit here. And, saying that the lowest of the New Covenant is higher than the Old is showing what a privileged place WE hold. The Old Covenant was explicitly in Christ, the New is implicitly in Christ. We have received much (graces) from this privilege and MUCH is expected.
Elijah and other prophets
From our class notes, it mentions that society's rejection of John the Baptist, who is now imprisoned, foreshadows the rejection Jesus will experience, and the execution of John foreshadows Jesus' crucifixion.
From our study, John the Baptist is "Elijah" (spiritually), the "archetypal prophet who, according to Malachi, will be the forerunner of the Messiah who's to come when the "great and terrible of the Lord" arrives. Elijah and John the Baptist both endure persecution from royal authorities, and both prepare the way for someone greater. Although many people regard Elijah as the greatest prophet before John the Baptist, the OT records that there's another prophet greater than Elijah. Elisha asked for and received from God through Elijah a double portion of Elijah's spirit (2Kings 2:9-14). Scripture also records that Elisha performed twice as many miracles as Elijah. This reflects a pattern found elsewhere in the Bible. Moses gives the Israelites' the law, but he's unable to lead the descendants of the twelve tribes into the Promised Land of their inheritance. It's Joshua who directs the Israelites' conquest of Canaan. What Moses begins, Joshua completes. What Elijah begins, Elisha completes. And what John the Baptist begins, Jesus completes."
Father mentioned that John the Baptist was spiritually Elijah, but that the real Elijah will return as the fulfillment of Malachi. In Revelation, there two witnesses/prophets referred to that may be Elijah and Enoch (Enoch walked with God and was seen no more). Father said that since these OT prophets didn't die, that they may be the ones referred to in Revelation. Before the Second Coming, they will be martyred and in three days, resurrected. Again, prefiguring Jesus.
Again from our study, "Jesus shows how spiritual and intellectual pride can overtake common sense when he points out the moral inconsistency of those who faulted John the Baptist for fasting and who simultaneously fault Jesus for not fasting." "The people of Capernaum are blinded by pride that prevents them from repenting in humility. Jesus is very frank about the seriousness of sins related to pride, which are far graver than the sins of the flesh of which Sodom was guilty. It's pride that's Satan's identifying characteristic and his custom-designed calling card."
I need some serious mid-week input from you...
4 hours ago