Thursday, April 26, 2018

Is The Office Of The Pope A Fulfillment Of Moses' Seat (Matthew 23:1-2)?

           "After Jesus established His Church and gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, Peter’s chair became the new seat of authority under the New Covenant. This is why, when the Pope officially speaks on a matter of faith and morals with the intention of proclaiming a universal doctrine for the Church (which is rare), we say He is speaking “ex cathedra” (from the “chair”). Jesus’ use of the “chair of Moses” certainly shows a continuum of authority as the New Covenant replaced the Old." (

          Moses' seat was a symbolic expression of teaching the Pentateuch. Further, it pertained more to civil law than issuing religious dogma (Exodus 18:13-27). It was applied to the Jews as the standard of judgment. Moses was judge; the priesthood constituted a theocracy. These leaders did not continually make up new laws, but rather upheld the laws that God had originally given to His people through Moses. They could teach only to the extent of what the Law said. If the chair of Moses was a prophetic anticipation of papal authority being bestowed by Christ to Peter, then why were many men able to utilize it at the same time rather than a signle ruler who presides over everyone else?

            The New Testament never associates some chair of Peter with the seat of Moses, nor does it speak of him as having apostolic successors. Even if there was historical evidence for a tradition of successors from Moses' seat (which we have none so far), it would not follow that there exists a logical connection between that and a succession of Roman bishops. Neither is there any evidence suggesting that the Jewish people attributed a charism of teaching infalliblity to their leaders. In fact, we know from the gospels themselves that the scribes and Pharisees promulgated doctrinal error. They were called by Jesus Christ "blind guides" and accused of "teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:1-9; 23:16).

           Whatever teaching from the writings of Moses and the Prophets that the scribes and Pharisees had faithfully taught, Christ instructed His audience to obey. Their teachings in that regard were authoritative. However, He told them to not emulate the moral and doctrinal errors of the religious leaders (Matthew 23:3). These men made themselves appear extremely pious in their daily religious practices before others, but God knew that their hearts were far from Him. He knew that the scribes and Pharisees were only seeking flattery from the public. Their reward was received while still on earth. If anything at all, we should take this passage of Scripture to be a warning against pride.

           Negative parallels exist between the scribes and Pharisees back in the days of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry and the modern Church of Rome. Catholics appeal to a traceable lineage to lend credence to the veracity of their arguments, yet Jesus and John the Baptist rejected the scribes and Pharisees who made similar arguments (Matthew 3:7-9; John 8:36-45). The Church of Rome claims to possess divine oral tradition, yet Christ strongly rebuked the religious leaders of His day who made identical claims (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:7-13). Roman Catholic officials unashamedly wield religious titles of honor, yet Christ expressed emphatic disapproval of people who reserved such for themselves (Matthew 23:8-12). Just as the critics of Jesus asked by what authority He performed miracles (Luke 20:2), Roman Catholic apologists ask the same question in regard to us making interpretations of Scripture.

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