Thank you, John, for your interest and comments. I am replying here because I think the points you brought up are so important that I need to make sure they get a separate posting and not be hidden in a comment thread.
For those that didn’t see John’s comments, go to the post for yesterday, November 10, and scroll down.
Here is my answer to your counterpoints (good ones, and well made):
Your comments are the very reason I tell people to read the Bible for themselves- you point out that Yeshua did, indeed, give the authority (or so it seems) to the Disciples (except Thomas) to remit or forgive sins in John 20:19-24.I forgot about that part, and stand corrected. At least, in that there is a reference indicating authority over sins. I’m not quite ready to agree that this is absolutely for every “priest” to have. There is no reference that this authority was transferable. Your comment that it was thereby conferred to their successors is not specifically confirmed in the Bible. I learned a long time ago that when reading or interpreting the Bible one cannot make an argument from nothing. If Yeshua did give authority over forgiveness of sins to these men, He did not say it was transferable. If you would, please verify if there is anything else in the writings, either in the Gospels or the letters that follow, that specifically mentions these Elders transferring the authority over forgiveness of sins.
I read a few commentaries about this verse, and I have some questions. One is if Yeshua gave authority to forgive sins, and the same authority to not forgive sins, then is He saying that there are sins that can’t be forgiven? He did say that blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh is an unforgivable sin, but if say, Kefa (Peter) said someone was going to die in their sin, does that mean there are sins that the Grace of God cannot overcome? Isn’t that against what Shaul (Paul) says? Doesn’t he say (I believe this is in Romans) that as sin increases so too does Grace? Can a man state that a sin will not be forgiven, and then God has to abide by that? I agree that Yeshua did give more authority to the Disciples at that time than He did when He sent them out, but I don’t necessarily agree that they were allowed to forgive or to convict the sins of others. I believe (maybe only because I choose to) that what Yeshua was saying was that these men had the authority to identify sins, to hold people responsible for the sins they committed and accuse them of such, and to lead people to forgiveness when they ask for it, by praying to God for them. Hermeneutically,this makes sense since God often has asked others to pray on behalf of sinners. Abraham for Abimelech and Job for his friends, just to mention a couple of examples. I believe that is what Yeshua meant. No commentary, no “true” interpretation, just me, Steve, saying what I believe. No one has to agree.
Next: I am Messianic- thank you for noticing. I also believe that Yeshua was/is God in the flesh, but He was 100% human when He walked the Earth for those 30+ years. He was also 100% human when He died- if God dies, then raises Himself, big deal, right? I mean, after all- God can’t die. Something else God can’t do- He can’t sin or be associated with sin. But Yeshua took on the sin of the world, so how could He be God and take on sin? He had to be human.
Another question: did Yeshua come to Earth and do what He did to replace God? If you worship Yeshua as God, or even just pray to Yeshua for forgiveness, then you place Him between you and God. That’s the definition of idolatry, isn’t it? To have something that is between us and God?
Thirdly, Yeshua is the Messiah, yes? As such, His role (if you will) is to be the ultimate High Priest, in the manner of Melchizedek, forever. As High Priest, He intercedes between us and God. Not replacing God or coming between us by superseding God’s position, but interceding. The purpose for His “birth”, life, death and resurrection is to be the Messiah, and to rule the Earth. If we continue to worship Him as God, we are rejecting the whole reason He came to Earth, aren’t we? Unless you can show me the new Temple, the New Earth, and Messiah ruling the world from Jerusalem, His role is still the Messiah. When the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) have come and gone and we are all resurrected and the Enemy is in the Lake of Fire with all his pals, then, and only then, will we see what is what and who will be whom. For now, I still see Yeshua/Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour of the World, God’s son and God in the flesh but not the one, true, and only God. Dad is still Dad, and the Son is still the Son.
The Trinity exists and it is a Trinity- three in one, yes; three the same, yes; but three. I think the best example of this impossible to understand idea is ice in boiling water. You have a solid, a liquid and a gas- all three exactly the same at the atomic level, but in different forms physically. All three the exact same thing, but each one performing a different function. Ice to cool, water to slake thirst and cleanse, steam to heat up and provide power. All three the same exact thing, all three different in form and function. The function of Messiah, His “job”, if you will, was to bring the Good News of God’s salvation to the world and provide the means for everyone to be reconciled to God through the blood of His perfect sacrifice. After that His job is to intercede for us, to be our High Priest. Finally, His last position will be to rule the world. After the final battle, when all is done and we are all in the presence of God, well…I don’t know what Yeshua will do then. I don’t know what will happen to the Holy Spirit. Will they return to God? Once we are all perfect beings, will we need the Spirit or Yeshua? Will the ice and steam return to the Living Water and be one, again? Was it ever just One? Heck- I don’t know! The Bible doesn’t really help here, does it? John says there was the Word, and the Word became flesh. That implies a physiological change of existence. Something non-physical became physical, so can we assume or expect that when the plan of salvation is complete that things will go back to what they were? Again- I don’t know. Frankly, if I am there, I don’t care what happens. I’ll be there, and (for me) that’s all that matters.
One more final note, my new friend in the Lord: you say that Catholics don’t pray to statues. I have read some of the prayers that are directed to saints, and heard people pray TO Saint Peter, or pray TO Mother Mary. It makes no sense at all to “remember” a Saint when you are praying for something for yourself. And if the Saints don’t have special powers or authority, why is there an entire menu of things to pray for, each with it’s own Saint? Pray to Joseph for healing, pray to Mary to intercede with Yeshua, Pray to St. Jude for this, pray to St. Paul for that…c’mon, face it. Catholic people pray to the Saints.
The prayers of the saints, as mentioned in Revelations, is not the saints carrying the prayers of people to God- the context of that verse is that the saints (those who have died for Messiah and God- not the ones some Pope declared as a Saint) are sending God their own prayers. That’s why they ask, “How much longer?” Their prayers are for themselves. Yeshua said the only way to the Father is through the Son. “Only” doesn’t mean “only me, but you can also get to me through these others.” It means “only me.” Das ist alles! Nothing else, no interpretation, no malarkey about praying to others doesn’t affect the unique mediatorship of Christ (I saw that on a Catholic Answers web page.) Really? Praying to someone else doesn’t affect Yeshua’s unique position as the only path to God? How can something be unique if it is not singularly available? If I can pray to a saint, that does interfere with my prayer to Yeshua or to God. It is another level, an additional plea to another person. I understand this is a doctrine of your faith, but it seems to be in direct conflict with what Yeshua said. I guess Jews could never make good Catholics: why pray retail to second-level saints when we can pray wholesale, right to God? It just don’t make sense! No-how, no-way.
God wants to hear our prayers, and He wants us to turn to Him for help. Not ourselves, not someone else, but to Him. That is clear throughout the Tanakh and the New Covenant. God is in charge, and He is the one to go to. Yeshua said when we look at Him we see the Father because He was the reflection of God’s holiness. Just as the Talmud says when we look in the Torah it should be a mirror in which we see ourselves. It is not literal, it is metaphoric. When Jeremiah told us about God’s New Covenant in 31:31 he was telling us that the Torah will be in our minds and written on our hearts- in other words, we will be living Torah, just as Yeshua. That’s why John said the Word became flesh- it is in keeping with Jewish thought about the Torah being a mirror.
One more, last, final note: you mention Paul writing about how no one is without sin. Not to pick on you, directly, but that is representative of the anti-Semitic attitude the Catholic church has had since day one! Paul did NOT say those things- he was quoting from David, Elijah and other prophets of the Old Covenant. That is the Catholic “uber-holy” mindset- they give all credit for God’s word to the New Covenant and are so adamant about not having any relationship or reference to the Jewish roots of Christianity that they plagiarize the word of God and associate all that he said in the Tanakh to being solely from the New Covenant. I don’t hate Catholics, but I have very little respect for the way the Catholic church has treated the Jewish people, and the very root of their “religion”. Yeshua said he won’t come back until Jerusalem (the Jewish people) say He is welcomed (I am paraphrasing) and Shaul confirms that by stating He won’t return until the full compliment of the Gentiles are brought into the kingdom, making the Jewish people jealous for their Messiah (implying the influx of Believing, or Messianic, Jews). The Catholic church is way, way behind a lot of the rest of Christianity in that they don’t want to recognize their Jewish roots. It is still as it has been: the Catholic church doesn’t want anything to do with the Jewish people, and they just don’t want Jews around, apparently. Convert them all to Catholicism, the only “true” religion. Until they get that rid of that ridiculous attitude, they are going to be unpleasantly surprised when the stuff hits the fan.