Sunday, September 30, 2007

Laying On Of Hands

[Thank you for your patience as I've been trying to intentionally slow down blogging a little bit to allow me to focus on the remainder of the Fall semester.]

Here's a simple thought. I was struck today by Deuteronomy 34:9. This culmination of the Pentateuch has Moses passing on his positional authority to Joshua:

"Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses. (NIV)"

I see that Numbers 27 gives us a fuller account:

"Moses said to the LORD, "May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd."

"So the LORD said to Moses, "Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in."

"Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the LORD instructed through Moses. (vv. 15-23, NIV)"

The Spirit filled Joshua because Moses had laid his hands on him. This occurred to Joshua, so the Israelites listened to him. I find this most ancient account of laying on of hands, filling with the Spirit, and the passing of authority to be fascinating.

Our belief is that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (at least, all but its last chapter). Does the fact that the Israelites followed an ordained leader when they had the first iteration of the "Bible" in hand tell us anything about the Catholic-Reformation debate?

10 comments:

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

This ties in perfectly with what Jesus told the people - they had to obey the teachers of the Law because they sat on "the seat of Moses".

Authoritative succession was a thoroughly Judeo-Christian concept from the time of Moses until the Reformation. Matthew 23:1-3

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach."

Thos said...

GFF,

Thanks for tying in Matt. 23:1-3. I came across James White's criticism of Catholics' using the Moses' Seat text to advantage. He said, "...we are here only speaking of a position that existed at this time in the synagogue worship of the day. Are we truly to believe that this position was divine in origin, and hence binding upon all who would worship God? It certainly doesn't seem that the New Testament Church understood it that way."

That Christ ordered obedience to the seat seems to answer the question for me: obedience was binding on all who believed. The O.T. accounts of Moses establishing some type of seat (at least one that was valid to pass authority to Joshua) seem clear too, making it clearly "divine in origin." Unless I missed it, White does not address the accounts of Numbers and Deuteronomy when stating his claim about Matthew 23.

It's a small riddle though - if Christ commanded obedience to the Pharisees (or rather, to the holders of Moses' Seat), and (White is right) the N.T. church did not spend long seeking to obey them, what happened?

If God ordained the "seat" that Moses passed to Joshua, and it is one and the same as that recorded in Matthew 23, only God could alter the authority construct. Is the Catholic claim that Christ, in instituting a New Covenant, placed Peter (or the Apostles' in general) in the seat - at the displacement of the Pharisee tenants?

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Joseph said...

"If God ordained the "seat" that Moses passed to Joshua, and it is one and the same as that recorded in Matthew 23, only God could alter the authority construct. Is the Catholic claim that Christ, in instituting a New Covenant, placed Peter (or the Apostles' in general) in the seat - at the displacement of the Pharisee tenants?"

Who did Christ say would be those who would judge the twelve tribes of Israel? What did Christ mean by new wineskins? Was the Church a completely new invention or was it a perfection or continuation of the people of Israel?

I'm sure that a well-read Protestant scholar would be able to answer those questions in a way that would diminish Apostolic authority and authentic Apostolic Succession. I'm definitely not an apologist, so I don't stray very far from what seems to be basic and logical to me. Plus, I could be wrong, but I believe the Church isn't.

It also doesn't seem logical to me that the Church, envisioned by St. John in the Apocalypse, would have its foundations on the Twelve if there was not given some sort of divine authority to them by God (that's, of course, beside the abundance of all of the other New Testament Scriptures that reaffirm this).

If they had the authority to judge the nations of Israel, wouldn't their authority to ordain by laying on of hands be given to them by God as well? And wouldn't it be only by their authority (and the authority of their successors) as it had always been?

Thos said...

Joseph,

" If they had the authority to judge the nations of Israel, wouldn't their authority to ordain by laying on of hands be given to them by God as well? And wouldn't it be only by their authority (and the authority of their successors) as it had always been? "

I think your second question would be answered in the affirmative if your first is. I'm not sure about your first though - help me tie all this together.

I think my working theory (hypothesis?) in this post goes like this:

1) God made Moses a shepherd for the sojourning People of God, so that they wouldn't wander.

2) God, listening to Moses' appeal, made Joseph Moses' successor (through the laying on of hands, because of the filling of the Spirit).

3) Jesus ordered (or recognized the need for) obedience to the tenant/holder of Moses' Seat.

4) [This part is one of the jumps you have to make:] The Seat Jesus refers to (Matt. 23) is the same as God established through Moses/Joshue (Deut 34).

5) [A new jump I think we're adding:] The Apostles were commissioned by Christ to fill the seat, discplacing the Pharisee tenants/holders.

6) The apostles (or just Peter) continued to pass on succession to their (his) seat as Moses' Seat had been passed on by the teachers of the law.

My post stopped at #3 - I only saw an *example* of a person ordained to shephard even though the people had a Biblical text that they could have followed ("alone") to be their authority. I don't disagree with ## 4 and 5 (per se), but would like to see the logic carry through so no 'jumps' of logic have to be made. I think that the Apostles were put in position to judge the tribes of Israel is compelling, but it seems distinguishable from a role of Shephardly leadership while on earth (which they also had).

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Joseph said...

Like I said, I'm no apologist. I'm probably not the person who should be attempting to answer your questions.

I think that Jesus Christ, being God, could (and did) transfer the authority held by the Sanhedrin (which was made up of more than just Pharisees) and the high priest at the time to the Apostles. To my knowledge and recollection the Fathers teach that the official transfer, the birth of the Church, happened at the Cross. What is Judaism today is not what it was before the Cross.

Reading the Gospels, one can determine that the Pharisees knew that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. He told them repeatedly Who He was. He also raised a dead and decaying (four days-officially dead in Jewish belief) Lazarus from the dead, at which point they once again plotted to kill Him. Jews who study the New Testament will probably tell you that the only one who could make the claims of Jesus Christ would be God Himself, or else an extremely dilusional man. If they can see that now, certainly they could see that then. If they thought He was mad, they wouldn't have sought to kill Him. This can be also evidenced in the fact that so many Jews were being converted by Jesus before and after His crucifixion. Even the pagans knew Jewish prophecy of the Messiah. Herod would not have been so adamant about destroying the children of Bethlehem if he didn't fear the King that was to come.

Essentially, the Jews made their choice. They knowingly killed the Son of the Owner of the vineyard (please see the parable). Hence, the vineyard was taken from them and given to others. Christianity became the New Israel, the Church became the New Jerusalem. Christianity was Judaism fulfilled. Judaism now is what was left behind by those who made the choice to commit deicide.

My thoughts went to the transfer of power from Saul to David. Saul was annointed by God through Samuel to be king of Israel. Though, he failed in his righteous duty and in his inability to repent so God chose David to be king. The offices are different, but the annointings are not (though it is precisely the differences in office that can be used to refute this argument, for some reason).

By the way, I'm just typing these thoughts as they come to me. I hope they are cohesive enough.

Joseph said...

Clarification:

"This can be also evidenced in the fact that so many Jews were being converted by Jesus before and after [through His Church] His crucifixion."

Joseph said...

Thos,

I apologize. I didn't realize that it was your intention to stop at #3. I was thrown off with the end of your post by the question:

"Does the fact that the Israelites followed an ordained leader when they had the first iteration of the "Bible" in hand tell us anything about the Catholic-Reformation debate?"

I thought that was an invite to carry the logic through (I sort of still do).

On that question. If Moses did write the Pentateuch (which I believe the tradition that he did) excluding the narrative of his death, then I'm sure that the Israelites didn't wait to have the first iteration of the "Bible" in hand before they started following him. There is probably no historical evidence for my claim, but somehow I don't see him writing it as a daily journal and making sure Israel read each page every day as he went along. In fact, the narrative of his death marks the end of the Pentateuch, so, by the time it was officially compiled, Moses was already sitting comfortably in the Bosom of Abraham awaiting the coming of Our Lord.

I somehow don't think that Israel, after the Pentateuch was finally completed and compiled, realized in hindsight that they were following God's ordained leader.

Fast-forward to the time of the Apostles. Were the Apostles the ordained leaders of the Church (selected and ordained by God Himself as was Moses)? Were their successors to be ordained by their authority like that of Moses to Joshua? That is where you went, right? That is how I became confused. How could we not go there without continuing past #3? Perhaps there is something wrong with my reasoning.

Basically, if I was jumping too far ahead, I'm not sure where. Help me see my mistake.

Joseph said...

Doh, I meant to add: Similar to the situation with Moses, the New Testament had also not been completely written nor compiled at the time the Early Church recognized the authority of the Apostles.

I thought that was a link you were making as well with your last question (which I, once again, thought was an invite to venture into the authority of the Apostles).

Thos said...

Joseph,

No, no, I don't mean at all to cut off discussion past my #3. I just meant that I everything seems easy to me up to #3 because I wrote about it (uh, so it makes sense to me, as I said). I LIKE the continued discussion, beginning with GFF noting Matthew 23 and our continued discussion of the Apostles displacing the Israelite holders of Moses' Seat.

The jump in logic, I think, is in stating that "Moses' Seat" is the same (as Christ referred to it) as what Moses passed to Joshua. I think it's a very small jump, but I don't want to be accused of using the fatal non sequitur.

Then next logical jump is that the Apostles are now in Moses' Seat. Maybe they're not, but in their own perfectly legitimate seat. I just note that Christ gives a postiive command to us (i.e. 'do what the holder of Moses' Seat commands') - and I would expect to see this overruled or modified by a new positive command. I think we can see that in his commissioning of Peter and/or all the Apostles, but again, I don't want to be accused of a non sequitur.

About the Pentateuch not being completed, you're right that they'd have had no such idea of it being the type of authority that a Shepherd is. It was their written law, so I'm sure they were familiar with at least portions of it (the prominent Israelites, at least; the tribal leaders). Your view makes sense though. They would have had no more reason to think this book of law could be an "authority" over them than I would think that my State's criminal code is an authority over me. Sheep need a Shepherd, as Moses obviously realized.

Thanks!

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Joseph said...

Thos,

"Then next logical jump is that the Apostles are now in Moses' Seat. Maybe they're not, but in their own perfectly legitimate seat. I just note that Christ gives a postiive command to us (i.e. 'do what the holder of Moses' Seat commands') - and I would expect to see this overruled or modified by a new positive command. I think we can see that in his commissioning of Peter and/or all the Apostles, but again, I don't want to be accused of a non sequitur."

I understand, but I'm not sure that accusation can really hold up even purely Scripturally.

Take your selected Scriptures, combine them with GFFs. I think we have already established the divine office of the seat of Moses.

Then there are the parables of husbandman and the vineyard (Matt. 21:33-44) and the marriage feast (Matt. 22:1-14). The transfer of divine leadership is predicted in these parables, according to many Early Fathers.

Then Christ tells the St. Peter and the Apostles that they are given the power to "bind" and "loose" (Matt. 16:19; 18:18). That is, according to the Church's interpretation, not only the power to create binding doctrine for the Church to follow, but also to retain and forgive sins. Moses had the authority to bind Israel to laws, the priesthood of Aaron had the authority to forgive sins. The power given the Apostles perfectly combines those two.

Also, Our Lord, says in Matt. 18:15-17, "But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican".

Is it a stretch to say that this sounds similar to, "the teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you"? Right after those words he repeats the authority of the Apostles to "bind" and "loose" again as well.

Those are only a couple of examples, and I'm sure they can be refuted. That's why I usually refrain from quoting Scripture. It is obvious that Protestants do not interpret the Scriptures the same way as Catholics. So, really, it can be futile.