Fundamentalist, Schmundamentalist: Why James Patrick Holding Is A Victim of His Own Pseudo-Intellectualism (and Why His Catholic Chum Matt Paulson Has A Few Problems of His Own)

Last month, I responded to Mr. Holding’s blatantly silly and intellectually bankrupt criticism of my ‘Sola Scriptura Challenge” article, pointing out how Mr. Holding, for all his attempts at “scholarly sophistication” continues to be a victim of his self-contradictory mentality and the objectively discernable dead end that is sola Scriptura. In other words, Mr. Holding may simply not ignore the binding authority of the Sacred oral Traditions of the Catholic Church and continue to claim that Christianity is a historical faith in any meaningful sense. Now, while it is abundantly clear to me, as it is for many of our readers, that Mr. Holding is simply self-deluded and not willing to address the fundamental flaws in his mimicked “academic sophistication,” I will, however, (due to “popular demand” :-)) respond to his silliness in order to illustrate these reasonable flaws for those who can appreciate them. I will thereafter respond to his Catholic friend Mr. Paulson’s unfortunate attacks on my positions …and I say “unfortunate” because it is fairly clear to me that, aside from some minor errors on his part, Mr. Paulson and I really have no substantial disagreement. Rather, he merely misunderstands (and mischaracterizes) my arguments due to his introduction to them via Mr. Holding, of whom he is obviously very fond and trying to defend. Also, for anyone interested in a substantive exchange, I would highly recommend that you skip down past my replies to what I can only call Mr. Holding’s “ravings” and focus on my response to Mr. Paulson’s comments which, again, while unfortunately rooted in misunderstanding and presumption on the part of Mr. Paulson (and, to a lesser extent, my own), do address more interesting and “meaty” issues from which the reader may benefit.  Holding’s and Paulson’s later comments are in red.

For starters, Mr. Holding writes ….

And now, it seems that Bonocore was given notice of this item and has a rather petulantly indignant response to having his orange crates opened to the public and revealed as something other than apples. Bonocore begins with a Greek proverb, “Big book, big evil” — said to mean in practical sense, “too much intellectualism is a very misguided and dangerous thing.” All at once I had to check to be sure I was reading something by Bonocore as opposed to something authored by Peter Ruckman or Mormon apologist Edward Watson.

Well, it seems that Mr. Holding is very sensitive to any challenge to his “intellectualism.” Surprise, surprise. But, he goes on ….

Such hayseed fright-commentary I expect from one whose head is in the sand, and for whom scholarship is spelled F-E-A-R.

How appropriately liberal of you, Mr. Holding. 🙂 ….That is, to interpret an unqualified rejection of your nonsense as an expression of “fear.” The homosexuals do the same (sounding cries of “homophobia”) whenever someone points out that they are unfortunate deviants. But, hey … If assuming that I’m “afraid” makes you sleep better at night, then perhaps it’s good therapy for you. It does not fool the rest of rational society, however.

My Catholic consult apparently was more apt in judgment than I suspected when he labelled Bonocore a sort of fundamentalist.

Uh-huh. I’ll be addressing Mr. Paulson’s unfortunate in a moment (see below).

Bonocore wishes to stress that his article was “written for the benefit of Fundamentalist Protestant Christians” who, despite one such as myself, do take Sola Scriptura literally.

Correction, Mr. Holding. You also take sola Scriptura literally. You just don’t realize it, and you rationalize away the fact that you do. In this, you have the makings of a virtual “Anglican.” 😉

To put it rather succinctly, the people who care live here. Bonocore blatantly misrepresents my view as “pretend[ing] that ‘Sola Scriptura’ doesn’t really mean what its name clearly implies” (I thoroughly agree that it does mean what it implies, at least as abused today; whether it meant the same thing to the original authors of the doctrine is another matter, and from Bonocore’s own quote of Luther, it seems rather that Luther and I are on exactly the same page, while many modern Protestants are on another!)

Well, Dr. Luther said oh-so-many things that one’s bound to mimic him sooner or later. 🙂 However, the problem of course is that you, and Luther, and the Fundamentalist Protestant “Billy-Bobs” of the world all end up in the same place: A relativistic, totally-subjective, pick-and-choose style of Christianity —a self-selected body of doctrine that is distinct and alien from the historical progression of official Church teaching. Thus, spin it all you like, Mr. Holding, but you, Billy-Bob, and the erratic Dr. Luther are all victims of the same error, no matter how “nuanced” you wish to apply it.

or as “rationaliz[ing] away the unavoidable conclusions of any honest analysis of the ‘Sola Scriptura’ doctrine” (a rather asinine misrepresentation, since in the end, as a linked article above indicates, I don’t follow the doctrine as presently and too often formulated anyway). It seems clear that Bonocore was in a far too petulant mood to care whether he accurately represented my position; in this regard I find him far closer to certain Mormon apologists who immediately hoist “anti-Mormon” into the air and stuff it in the ears, lest they hear what you are actually saying.

Bla, bla, bla, bla, bla …. Go back and read what I actually wrote to you, Mr. Holding. I understand your true position very well. The problem is that you yourself do not understand it —that is, you do not follow it through to its logical, and unavoidable, conclusion –namely, a relativistic, totally-subjective “understanding” of the Christian faith. While you do not hold to the same “style” of sola Scriptura as the Fundies do (and this, I suppose, is to your credit), you arrive at EXACTLY the same result. But, the fact that you don’t see this does not speak very well of you or your intellectual commitment to historical Christianity.

If Bonocore had read my linked item with any care, he would know that I am in fact utterly indifferent to whether Sola Scriptura as a doctrine has any “objective basis”.

Ergo, your problem, Mr. Holding.

I don’t care if it does or not, because truth is truth whether found in a sewer or a flower shop; whether in Bonocore’s articles or Ben Witherington’s.

And how is a Christian to correctly (and infallibly) discern this truth, Mr. Holding??? This, again, is the problem at hand —the fundamental (no pun intended) flaw of Protestant Christianity, and the thing that the doctrine sola Scriptura (in however you apply it) has consistently failed to address and/or account for.

Nor, if he had read with any care, would he have missed that I have no truck for faith “based solely on one’s personal interpretation of the Scriptural text” (as if consultation of credentialed scholarship amounted to “personal interpretation”).

Ah, the old appeal to intellectualism! 🙂 “Academia will save us yet!” Think again, Mr. Holding. I can cite a whole bevy of “credentialed scholars” who will tell you that Jesus was/is not God and never claimed to be so. Ergo, so much for “credentialed scholarship.”

I am also, practically speaking, indifferent to how the Scriptures are “known to be authoritative and inspired” (if they are true, then “authoritative” is obvious as part of the package; and “inspired” is of only marginal relevance).

Oh, Mr. Holding, Mr. Holding … 🙂 If you are “indifferent” to how the Scriptures are known to be authoritative and inspired, then how do you know that they are “true”??? Clearly, the silliness of your position is obvious to everyone reading this …that is, perhaps with the exception of half-baked pseudo-intellectuals like yourself. Indeed, Muslims can and do say the same about their Koran. However, we Christians know that the Koran is full of nonsense. And why? Because it cannot stand up to what we know from reliable history and authoritative Apostolic tradition! You, however, apparently wish to ignore this dynamic (indeed, this grace of the Apostolic Faith), bury your head in the sand, and place Christian doctrine on the same level as Islamic theology. And, if that’s what floats your boat, fine. But, please don’t go around saying that you view Christianity as an objective and historical faith, because you clearly do not.

All of this, again, is clearly laid out in the linked article; Bonocore knows of none of this, and replies with such patent absurdities as these.

Oh, contraire, Mr. Holding. I responded to the fundamental flaws of your actual position. Go back and read what I wrote a little more closely.

In reply to my first paragraph, and the second as far as the word “process,” we have this skein of drivel: “Oh, on the contray, Mr. Holding. If you wish to subscribe to the dynamic of ‘Semitic totality’ (a very Catholic concept indeed), then you have no basis for rejecting the fact that the oral tradition of Faith was always, by Semites (like the Apostles), understood to be equally authoritative and binding with written material (i.e., inspired Scripture). This is why, needless to say, even modern Jews still accept the binding authority of both the Torah and the Mishna, which is the Mosaic oral Tradition that accompanies the Torah. Catholics live by both Scripture and Tradition just as our Jewish ancestors did –just as Jesus Himself and the Apostles did (e.g. 2 Thess 2:15, 1 Corinth 11:2, etc.). So, why have you Protestants departed from this natural condition of ‘Semitic totality’?” Not one word of this has anything to do with my point in the sections replied to. I said nothing at all about “rejecting” of oral tradition in the way described

Oh, please, Mr. Holding. 🙂 You again split hairs that cannot realistically be split. The point is that you do not hold oral Apostolic Tradition to be equal in authority with written Apostolic Tradition (a.k.a. the NT Scriptures). But, THAT is precisely what acceptance of “Semitic totality” requires. So, please don’t waste our time by trying to distinguish between “the way” you accept or reject oral Tradition. My point was that you do not hold to oral Tradition in the way ancient Semites would do. And that point stands quite firmly.

(indeed, if Mr. Bonocore were less interested in soothing his petulant soul, and more interested in understanding what I believe, he might have inquired, or else found my item on oral tradition which agrees and provides a robust defense of that notion that orality is perfectly capable of transmitting truth accurately, and was especially so among Semites).

🙂 Not good enough, Mr. Holding. For, oral Tradition is not merely “capable” and “accurate,” it is also fully authoritative in ancient Semitic practice. This is what you fail to appreciate.

What is true, whether in speech or in writing, is equally authoritative by virtue of being true.

I most certainly agree with that, Mr. Holding. But, HOW is one to discern what is true? How is one to know whether a given writing or oral tradition is authoritative? This is what you fail to address and appreciate. But, then again, as you’ve already told us, you are “indifferent” to such things. Ergo, one can only conclude that “truth” is a purely subjective phenomenon for you.

I have not in the least rejected oral tradition as a potential source for authoritative teachings — indeed, the linked item above, which Bonocore apparently missed for whatever reason, places no limits of any sort of the receipt of background information.

You speak of “potential,” Mr. Holding. But, “potential” is not true and objective authority. You, therefore, have clearly not thought this through very thoroughly and are contradicting yourself.

Perhaps Bonocore will one day address my actual points as opposed to erecting flaming strawmen in the Hallow’s Eve pumpkin patch;

And perhaps Mr. Holding will care to uncover his eyes and look his own ugly “jack-o-lantern” in the face. 🙂 In other words, Mr. Holding needs to come to terms with the fact that I am addressing flaws in his reasoning which he himself has failed to discern.

but for the nonce, we have more of the same. I briefly corrected Bonocore for neglecting to mention Papias, in fact, as the first witness to Matthew’s authorship (not Ireneaus); rather than acknowledge this error of his, Bonocore flies off the metaphorical handle with an irrelevant lesson on who Papias was, what exactly he said, and some idiotic idea that I “pit them against each other”!

If Mr. Holding did not intend to pit Papias against the witness of Ireneaus, then why cite him at all in the process of refuting my article’s points viz. Ireneaus? You make no sense, Mr. Holding. In your criticism of my article, you accused me of failing to cite Papias. Why? Clearly, as any reader of your article can plainly see, your intention was to undermine Ireneaus as a primary witness to Matthew’s Gospel. Yet, as I illustrated in my response to you, a) Papias does not mention a Gospel of Matthew as we have it today, but merely refers to the Apostle setting down “the oracles of the Lord.” What this refers to is obscure and requires the witness of Ireneaus in order to verify that it is the present Matthew’s Gospel that is being referred to; and b) Papias and Ireneaus were both speaking out of the common Asian Apostolic tradition; and so one is not ‘forgetting’ or ‘excluding’ Papias (as you accused me of doing) by citing Ireneaus as a primary witness to the origin of Matthew’s Gospel. My, my … For someone who claims to be “indifferent” about the origins of inspired Scripture, you are certainly easily upset.:-)

Once again, simple inquiry or a very small amount of investigation would have revealed to Bonocore my quite robust defense of the worth of Papias’ testimony (from even a strictly secularist perspective, sound and early support for the authorship of Mark and Matthew both, far better than we have for any comparable ancient document).

As I presented before, it is untrue that we have better documentation for the New Testament Scriptures than for other ancient documents (e.g. the Platonic Dialogues, the Gallic Wars, etc.). As for the witness of Papias itself, … It is more than merely “worthy.” Rather, it is part of the authoritative witness of the early Church. Papias is not speaking on his own, but, in the case of Matthew’s Gospel, is recounting what the Church itself universally and formally believed. Mr. Holding, however, who seems incapable of approaching Christianity as anything other than an academic exercise (very Protestant, that), fails to appreciate this.

Mr. Holding then goes on to say (prepare yourself for a ridiculously long quote, folks:-)), …

Indeed Bonocore now wanders lost in the woods, having ingested the hallucinogen of pride which enables such absurd statements as these, to my point that the Gospels are “far and away in better shape in terms of external attestation than any other document from the ancient world”: “Really? Well, that should come as a surprise to many classicists out there who take great pleasure in works like Plutarch’s “Lives,” or Caesar’s “The Gallic Wars,” or the “Dialogues” of Plato, or a great many other ancient works, of unquestionable integrity, which date from before the Gospels were writen.” It is very nice that classicists “take great pleasure” in these works, but I wonder how this manages to show us that Plutarch or Caesar or Plato here have better internal and external attestation than the Gospels. Let me link here so that Mr. Bonocore can have some real idea what I am talking about. Better yet, let me reprint the most salient portion so that Mr. Bonocore does not strain himself overmuch with the difficult chore of ascertaining what I am actually saying: “The “anonymity” of the Gospels authors is something that many skeptics hang their hat upon. Yet I have noted that in making this argument, critics never explain to us how their arguments would work if applied equally to secular ancient documents whose authenticity and authorship is never (or is no longer) questioned, but are every bit as “anonymous” in the same sense that the Gospels are. If it is objected that the Gospel authors nowhere name themselves in their texts — and this is a very common point to be made, even among traditionalists — then this applies equally to numerous other ancient documents, such as Tacitus’ Annals. Authorial attributions are found not in the text proper, but in titles, just like the Gospels. Critics may claim that these were added later to the Gospels, but they need to provide textual evidence of this (i.e., an obvious copy of Matthew with no title attribution to Matthew, and dated earlier or early enough to suggest that it was not simply a late, accidental ommission), and at any rate, why is it not supposed that the titles were added later to the secular works as well? In order for readers to appreciate the magnitude of this situation, I would like to present here a listing of external evidences for the authorship of the works of Tacitus. I wish to thank Roger Pearse for helpfully sending me copies of relevant pages from the works of the Tacitean scholar Mendell, from Tacitus: The Man and His Work. Mendell surveys evidence for knowledge of Tacitus throughout history; we will only look at evidence up to the sixth century (for reasons noted in Mendell below). In doing this we would challenge potential respondents to compare this record to that of the Gospels. We will present Mendell’s comments and intersperse our own. THE Annals were probably “published” in 116, the last of the works of Tacitus to appear. Only Pliny of Tacitus’ contemporaries mentions him, and his writings and the evidence of subsequent use up to the time of Boccaccio is slight. It is not true, however, that Tacitus and his writings were practically unknown. They were neglected—-possibly, in part at least, because of his strong republican bias on the one hand and because, on the other, the church fathers felt him to be unfair to Christianity. Vopiscus in his life of the emperor Tacitus (chapter 10) indicates the state of affairs in the third century: “Cornelium Tacitum, scriptorem historiae Augustae, quod parentem suum eundem diceret, in omnibus bibliothecis conlocari iussit neve lectorum incuria deperiret, librum per an-nos singulos decies scribi publicitus evicos archiis iussit et in bibliothecis poni” (the text is obviously corrupt in the reading evicos archiis). Nevertheless, Tacitus is mentioned or quoted in each century down to and including the sixth. In fact, the seventh and eighth are the only centuries that have as yet furnished no evidence of knowing him. The following are the known references to Tacitus or use of Tacitean material after the day of Tacitus and Pliny until the time of Boccaccio. The material was well collected in 1888 and published at Wetzler by Emmerich Cornelius, but a considerable amount of new material has turned up from time to time since. About the middle of the second century Ptolemy published his Gewgrafikh& ‘Ufh&ghsij. In 2. 11. 12 (ed. C. Muller, Paris, 1883) he lists in succession along the northern shore of Germany the towns of Flhou&m, and Siatouta&nda. The latter name occurs nowhere else and has a dubious sound. The explanation is to be found in Tacitus, Ann. 4. 72, 73: “Rapti qui tributo aderant milites et patibulo adfixi; Olennius infensos fuga prae-venit, receptus castello, cui nomen Flevum; et haud spernenda illic civium sociorumque manus litora Oceani praesidebat.” The governor of lower Germany takes prompt action, the account of which winds up: “utrumque exercitum Rheno devectum Frisiis intulit, soluto iam castelli obsidio et ad sua tutanda degressis rebellibus.” The source of Ptolemy’s mistake is obvious.Note here that Ptolemy’s obvious use of Tacitus is taken as a signal of the Annals existing. This is in stark contrast to how quotes in patristic writers from the Gospels are excused asway as “floating, independent tradition” rather than evidence of the Gospels. Note as well that Ptolemy does not name Tacitus. We still do not have an attribution of authorship to work with some 40-50 years after the writing. It is hard to believe that Cassius Dio (who published shortly after A.D. 200) did not know at least the Agricola. In 38. 50 and 66. 20 he mentions Gnaeus Julius Agricola as having proved Britain to be an island and in the later instance tells the story of the fugitive Usipi. If we make allowance for the method of Tacitus, which leaves his account far from clear, and for the use of a different language by Dio, there can be little if any doubt that Tacitus is the source for Dio. We know also of no other possible source today. The last part of the section, dealing with Agricola’s return and death, confirms the conclusion that Dio drew from Tacitus, and it sounds as though Tacitus had left the impression he desired. Notice we still do not have an attribution, and we are now 80 and more years past the publication of these works by Tacitus. We are already at or past the number of years Papias was from the Gospels.In the third century Tertullian cites Tacitus with a hostile tone. He had spoken without respect of the Jews and had implied that the Christians were an undesirable sect of the Jews. It is not a surprise, therefore, to have Tertullian (early third century) refer to him as ille mendaciorum loquacissimus. The Apologist is defending the Christians against the charge that they worshiped an ass. The origin of this scandal he ascribes to Tacitus, Hist. 5. 3, 9. Apologeticus 16…This is the first direct attribution of something to Tacitus — apparently over 100 years later! Tertullian also cited Tacitus in two other places.Lactantius, in the time of Diocletian, is at least once (Div. inst. 1. 18. 8) somewhat reminiscent of Tacitean style but that is as far as it is safe to go in claiming him as a reader of Tacitus, in spite of something of a resemblance between Lactantius 1. 11, 12 and Germ. 40. At about the same date, Eumenius of Autun, in his Panegyricus ad Constantinum 9, quite clearly has Agric. 12 before him. He follows Tacitus in the error of thinking that the nights are always short, and he assigns as reasons the same that the Roman had…Not only the actual quotation from Tacitus is of interest but the careful substitution of synonyms. Vopiscus, still in the fourth century, cites Tacitus with Livy, Sallust, and Trogus as the greatest of Roman historians…Ammianus Marcellinus, about 400, published his history, which began where Tacitus left off, indicating a knowledge at least of what Tacitus had written. At about the same time Sulpicius Severus of Aquitaine wrote his Chronicorum libri and, in 2. 28. 2 and 2. 29. 2, used Tacitus, Ann. 15. 37 and 44 as his source. On the detailed matter of Nero’s marriage with Pythagoras and the punishment of the Christians the verbal resemblances make it impossible to think that he was drawing on any other source….Jerome in his commentary on acchariah 14. 1, 2 (3, p. 914) cites Tacitus: “Cornelius quoque [i.e. as well as Josephus] Tacitus, qui post Augustum usque ad mortem Domitiani vitas Caesarum triginta voluminibus exaravit.” He gives no proof of having read Tacitus—-he may not even have seen his works at all—-but he did know of a tradition in which the thirty books were numbered consecutively. Claudian cannot be safely claimed as a reader of Tacitus in spite of his suggestive references to Tiberius and Nero. 8, Fourth Consulship of Honorius…Servius, on the other hand, at the end of the fourth century, while his reference is to a lost part of Tacitus, evidently had read the text. Hegesippus made a free Latin version of Josephus’ Jewish War with independent additions, many of which seem to come from Tacitus’ Histories. An example is 4. 8: “denique neque pisces neque adsuetas aquis et laetas mergendi usu aves.” Compare Hist. 5.6: “neque vento impellitur neque pisces aut suetas aquis volucres patitur.” There is a certain studied attempt at variation of wording without concealment of the source. Of the fifth-century writers, two, Sidonius Apollinaris and Orosius, have left evidence of considerable familiarity with Tacitus as well as respect for him as a writer. In Ep. 4. 22. 2 Sidonius makes a pun on the name Tacitus. After comparing himself and Leo to Pliny and Tacitus he says that should the latter return to life and see how eloquent Leo was in the field of narrative, he would become wholly Tacitus. The name as he gives it is Gaius Cornelius Tacitus. Again in Ep. 4. 14. 1 he quotes Gaius Tacitus as an ancestor of his friend Polemius. He was, says Sidonius, a consular in the time of the Ulpians: “Sub verbis cuiuspiam Germanici ducis in historia sua rettulit dicens : cum Vespasiano mihi vetus amicitia” etc…The citations in Orosius are naturally quite different from these casual references and general estimates. Orosius is always after material for argument, and it is the content rather than the style that interests him. He refers to Tacitus explicitly and at length. He compares critically the statements of Cornelius Tacitus and Pompeius Trogus and again of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus. The quotations and citations from Tacitus are all in the Adversus paganos and all from the Histories. In 1. 5. 1 Orosius says: “Ante annos urbis conditae MCLX confinem Arabiae regionem quae tune Pentapolis vocabatur arsisse penitus igne caeleste inter alios etiam Cornelius Tacitus refert, qui sic ait: Haud procul inde campi . . . vim frugiferam perdidisse. Et cum hoc loco nihil de incensis propter peccata hominum civitatibus quasi ignarus expresserit, paulo post velut oblitus consilii subicit et dicit: Ego sicut inclitas . . . cor-rumpi reor.” The quotation is from Hist. 5.7 and, in spite of some interesting variants, it is reasonably exact. The same is true of his quotation of Hist. 5. 3 in Adv. pag. 1. 10. 1… Cassiodorus is a sixth-century writer who seems to have used Tacitus as source material. He does not, however, seem to know much about his source, for he speaks of “a certain Cornelius”; but he draws on Germania 45…Perhaps a hundred years or less after Cassiodorus, Jordanes wrote his De origine actibusque getarum which he took largely from Cassiodorus’ history of the Goths. That one or the other of these two must have known Agric. 10 is shown by the following passage in Jordanes (2. 12, 13): “Mari tardo circumfluam quod nec remis facile impellentibus cedat, nec ventorum flatibus intumescat, credo quia remotae longius terrae causas motibus negant. Quippe illic latius quam usquam aequor extenditur . . . Noctem quoque clariorem in extrema eius parte menima quam Cornelius etiam annalium scriptor enarrat. . . Labi vero per earn multa quam maxima relabique flumina gemmas margaritasque volventia.” The textual confusion memma quam is usually taken to come from minimamque but we should expect brevemque. The very last item is probably from Mela. The Scholiast to Juvenal 2. 99 and 14. 102 refers to the Histories, ascribing them in the one case to Cornelius, in the other to Cornelius Tacitus. The first note is as follows: “Hunc incomparabilis vitae bello civili Vitellius vicit apud Bebriacum campum. Horum bellum scripsit Cornelius, scripsit et Pompeius Planta, qui sit Bebriacum vicum a Cremona vicesimo lapide.” The second is a twofold description of Moses: (a) “sacerdos vel rex eius gentis”; (b) “aut ipsius quidem religionis inventor, cuius Cornelius etiam Tacitus meminit” (cf. Hist. 5. 3). Comparably speaking, this evidence is vanishingly small compared to the incredible number of attestations and attributions by patristic writers, some few earlier than (but many as late as) those listed for Tacitus above. How can someone dealing with the evidence fairly claim to be sure of Tacitus’ authorship of his various works (where such external evidence is concerned) and dismiss the Gospels, which have far better external evidence? I have recently checked a book titled Texts and Tranmission (Clarendon Press, 1993) which records similar data for other ancient works. Throughout the book classic works from around the time of the NT whose authorship and date no one questions (though some have textual issues, just like the NT) are recorded as having the earliest copy between 5th and 9th century, earliest attributions at the same period (for example, Celsus’ De medicina is attested no earlier than 990 AD, and then not again until 1300!), and having so little textual support that if they were treated as the NT is, all of antiquity would be reduced to a blank wall of paranoid unknowingness. If the Gospels are treated consistenly, there will be no question at all about their provenance, but that is clearly the last thing critics want to do.” If Mr. Bonocore has any beef with what I have said above, what we should like is some equitable set of data for Plutarch’s “Lives,” or Caesar’s “The Gallic Wars,” or the “Dialogues” of Plato, whose integrity I do not in the least question (the point rather is that the Gospels, by this standard, have equitable or greater integrity and do not deserve to be questioned by critics on the points of attestation), and whose own dates of composition are interesting but irrelevant.

Sigh! 🙂 Again, Mr. Holding, after quoting himself (and all of us) into an oblivion of boredom above, proves only that the Gospels are better attested to than Tacitus’ Annals. But, so what? That is only one (relatively minor) work of ancient Latin literature. There a countless others (Plato’s Dialogues among them) that are far more well-attested and, I’m sorry, better attested to than the Gospels. If Mr. Holding wishes to see evidence for this, I suggest that he take the time and explore the reality himself. For, the burden of proof is on him, not on me. It was not I who made the claim that the Gospels are “far and away in better shape in terms of external attestation than any other document from the ancient world.” As I said, this is objectively untrue.

That classicists take “great pleasure” in these works (Bonocore makes it sound like they rub them on their scalps, or use them for autoerotic fantasies, or some other such nonsense) is beside the point and a non-answer.

🙂 Evidently, sloppy prose is an unforgivable sin for Mr. Holding. By “take great pleasure,” I was simply referring to the fact that classicists are well-versed in the origins of these ancient works of literature. I apologize if my expression was less than clear. However, the point still stands and it is far from a “non-answer.”

If what I say above is “ridiculous and indefensible” or “abundantly incorrect” then one wonders where the actual “correction,” in the form of actual attestation data about Plutarch, et al. is from Bonocore’s pen.

My “pen”? I am using a “keyboard,” Mr. Holding. And I “take great pleasure” in it. 🙂 So, if we are to be precise, let’s be precise across the board.

As for your criticism above, … Again, the burden of proof is on you, not me. You’re the one claiming that the Gospels have superior external attestation “than any other document from the ancient world.” Clearly, this is not the case, since numerous other classical documents (many far older than the 1st Century) come down to us with continuous and solid credentials. But, if you disagree and are willing to stand by your initial statement, one would think that you yourself would be ready to present a comprehensive comparison (a nice chart, perhaps?) illustrating how the Gospels surpass “any other” ancient document, as opposed to the Annals of Tacitus alone.:-) If you cannot readily do this, then you already admit that your assertion is a rash and unsubstantiated one.

It seems to be conspicuously missing, perhaps lost in the psychadelic haze of Mr. Bonocore’s own indignity at having been corrected so needfully for neglect of such simple facts as that Papias, not Irey, is the first witness to Matthew’s Gospel.

As I showed you, Mr. Holding, your “correction” is an unsound one. Papias does not mention Matthew writing the Gospel that we have today. Rather, he merely mentions Matthew writing down the “oracles of the Lord” and then mentions how “others” “translated them as best they could.” There is also no reference to a narrative or to an account of the Passion and Resurrection, etc. Therefore, once again, my initial point stands. Ireneaus is the first person we have on record referring to Matthew writing the Gospel that we know today. While Papais may be referring to the same thing (and I believe that he is), it is not a foregone conclusion (unless, of course, one recognizes that he and Ireneaus are referring to the same Tradition). 🙂

Rather, Bonocore dons the hat of fundamentalist atheists this time, babbling after their kind, whose paranoia exceeds their better judgment,

So, now I am like an “atheist” too. 🙂 Really, Mr. Holding … You need to get another hobby. Your webbloging has imbalanced you.

that just because we have these attestations, doesn’t mean they were right or true — so much for the normal means of attesting authorship for ancient documents: perhaps as Acharya S supposes, they were all patent liars and they were written on Mars. It seems that Mr. Bonocore needs a touch of exposure to the likes of Mrs. S, for if he had any, that the view was much like a mirror reflection might shock him into some sense of sensibility, and the realization that arguments like these rooted in epistemic paranoia are a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s proverbial face.

I repeat: Bla, bla, bla, bla, bla … 🙂 Here, again, Mr. Holding reveals how he is a victim of a purely academic mentality and cannot regard Christian Tradition as anything greater than an academic pursuit. It is therefore no wonder that he fails to appreciate the dynamic of God-given, Spirit-guided Church authority.

Bonocore speaks rather vaguely of “those who witnessed the publicaltion [sic] of something like Caesar’s ‘Gallic Wars,’ ” being superior to Papias’ witness 50 to 60 years later, though we are not given the names of these “witnesses” who saw the “publication” of the Wars, much less is any actual comparison made (as was above for Tacitus’ Annals, which is certainly NOT “superior” with respect to the witness of Papias).

As any undergraduate classics student can tell you, Caesar’s Gallic Wars was published within his own lifetime and was widely read and quoted from throughout the Latin-speaking world. There is no doubt that Gaius Julius Caesar (conqueror of Gaul) was the author of this book, nor is there any room for disputing it. That makes its attestation superior to that of the Gospel of Matthew –the Greek text known to Ireneaus and to us today. Rather, the one and only reason that we accept St. Matthew to be the author of this book is because a) that was the unquestioned, universal Tradition of the ancient Church and b) both Protestants and Catholic Christians accept the binding authority of this Tradition.

Perhaps one day we shall have some.

Perhaps Mr. Holding should look it up for himself. 🙂

In the meantime, Bonocore barbles the questions of Papias, “[H]ow do we know his information is reliable? Why should we trust his story at all?” He follows further with rather outdated questions about how we know he refers to “the Gospel of Matthew as we have it today” (my linked article above explains how we know what he is talking about — and how indeed it relates to Matthew as we have it today) but his answer to these and other burning questions is, “We know because the church says so in its tradition” — oblivious to the point that it is just as easy to ask, “How do we know the church is right or truthful on this?” — and thus revealing Bonocore as indeed the fundamentalist my Catholic consult pegged him to be.

Am I indeed? 🙂 Well, it is certainly not surprising that a misguided pseudo-intellectual Protestant like Mr. Holding would see an objective standard of truth (such as the infallible authority of the Catholic Church) as a mark of “fundamentalism.” …Because, for the pseudo-intellectual, there of course can never be a simple or definitive answer —a final authority which cannot be disputed. Indeed, for Mr. Holding, even Scripture and oral Tradition fall into this category …unless, of course, Mr. Holding himself (subjectively) concludes that something therein is “true.” 🙂 And so, we come back again to Mr. Holding’s preoccupation with academia and his very unwise presumption that Christian truth can only be arrived at through that means (with Christ-given teaching authority being a mere phantasm at best). Very sad.

With this sort of reasoning we may as well abandon hope and adhere to our Mormon internal witness which gives us the same epistemic problems, but at least is closer to home.

Only one difference, Mr. Holding. 🙂 Unlike with the Mormons, the “internal witness” of Catholic Christianity is over two-thousand years old, consistent, and comes directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh! It is also the source and origin of your own Christian heritage –the Church your Protestant ancestors came from (read: rebelled against). So, comparing our infallible authority to the likes of the Mormons is a non sequitur and a straw man in its own right. What’s more, if you care to consult your Bible, you will see that the 1st Century Church also conducted itself according to an “internal witness” –-indeed, the SAME “internal witness” that this SAME Church of Jesus Christ lives by today. For, as 1 Tim 3:15 says, WE are “the pillar and foundation of Truth.” Sorry if that causes some envy, my friend. But, no one asked your Protestant ancestors to discard their Catholic, Apostolic heritage –a heritage you are certainly free to return to and reclaim at any time.

Bonocore goes on to “defy” me to “produce one ancient witness to the reliability of Matthew’s Gospel who does not also subscribe to a belief in the binding authority of Apostolic oral Traditon and/or who does not hold to the present oral Traditions of the Catholic Church.” My answer is the same as before; this is apples to oranges; this as a matter of a historical issue versus a spiritual one, untestable and inscrutable.

Oh, PLEASE, Mr. Holding, that’s nonsense and an evasion, and you know it. All of the Church fathers, Papias included, subscribed to the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief that the Church, possessing the ever-present Holy Spirit, Who it received on the day of Pentecost, is able to speak infallibly from its body of Apostolic oral Tradition. It was only your novel Protestant (read: 16th Century, Northern European) theological rebellion that changed this view. And this, as I said before, results in the very-academic (extra-ecclesial / extra-authoritative) doctrine of sola Scriptura …as BOTH you and the Fundies employ it (particular nuances aside). For, Papias himself refers to Church authority when he says:

“If, then, any one who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings –what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord’s disciples: which things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice.”

He refers here to Apostolic / Ecclesial authority —that of the Apostles / presbyters and of those who succeeded to them (those who “attended” them).

A Mormon may as well “defy” us to explain why, if Joseph Smith correctly forecast the Civil War (though I don’t think he did), he is not to be believed when he says that God has a body.

🙂 Another non sequitur. Papias believed in binding Apostolic oral Tradition and the infallible authority of the Church. Neither Luther nor yourself believe in these things. Now, name a Church father or another ancient orthodox Christian who shares your (and Luther’s) position, and I will concede my point. If you cannot do this, however, you position is exposed as the nonsense that it is.

Bonocore’s clustering of data in this manner is an epistemic nightmare, one as bad as the work of any Protestant fundamentalist or KJV Onlyist who draws a circle around the Bible and refuses to admit Jewish Wisdom traditions.

🙂 Ha! Deal with your failure to follow AUTHENTIC “Semitic totality” and THEN you may speak of “Jewish wisdom traditions,” Mr. Holding. But, not before.

Bonocore’s circle is perhaps wider and around different subjects but it remains equally closed.

If so, then it is a “garden enclosed” (see: Songs of Solomon), Mr. Holding; for it is a realm of truth void of the open-ended errors that your irresponsibly preach.

And so it regresses, with Bonocore making the absurd statement that “nothing in the Gospel of Matthew itself tells us that it was authored by the Apostle Matthew” (apparently the superscription, and specific characteristics associated with a person like Matthew — which do just fine when attributing the Annals to Tacitus — aren’t to be trusted, and neither are the scholars who trust them) and the irrelevant statement that nothing in Matthew says it was “inspired by God.”

A reference to a character does not make this character the author, Mr. Holding. Even if we wish to ascribe some “author-relationship” to it (and that’s a real stretch), it could just as easily mean that the Gospel was written by some followers of Matthew (and so, it’s not a first-hand account), or by some people who never met Matthew but chose him as their “patron Apostle” (as the Ebionites and other Gnostics selected James or Thomas, etc.). Are you willing to apply Apostolic authorship to apocryphal Gospels which happen to focus on these apostles too? So, I repeat my not-so-absurd statement: There is nothing in the Gospel of Matthew itself that tells us it was authored by the Apostle Matthew. If a Christian believes that it was, he believes this based on the APOSTOLIC ORAL TRADITION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. End of argument there.

As for the Gospel not saying that it is inspired, why is that an “irrelevant” statement? The Book of Revelation (and several other works –both canonical and apocryphal) DO directly claim to be Divinely inspired within their own body of text. So, as with the authorship of Matthew, if a Christian believes that the Gospel of Matthew is inspired by God, he believes this based on the APOSTOLIC ORAL TRADITION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. This simply cannot be avoided.

I made clear why this is a matter of indifference; this, Mr. Bonocore, recovering apparently from a digestive disorder incurred by ingesting too many Chick tracts, calls “pseudo-intellecual poppycock” and claims that it reduces Christianity to “a purely subjective (and thus relativistic) exercise in personal discernment” (you heard it here: use of scholarship is “subjective” and involves “personal discernment”)

No, Mr. Holding. The ABUSE and OVER-EMPHASIS of scholarship is what leads to pure (and dysfunctional) subjectivity. What’s more, all scholarship relies on subjectivity until a matter is conclusively proven and agreed upon by all sensible persons. Yet, what do we have when it comes to Scriptural doctrine? We have over thirty-thousand SEPARATE Protestant sects —all with the SAME Bible, but all INTERPRETING it differently …and so, despite John 17:20-21 & 1 Corinth 1:10, etc., these sects are unable to be one Church as Jesus intended. This is all the result of a fundamental error promoted by the Protestant reformers, which was, namely, the replacement of Ecclesial / Liturgical Tradition with “academic analysis,” thereby making Divine revelation ONLY a matter of “study” (and therefore subjective perspective) as opposed to contemplative mystery carried down via the united organic Tradition (i.e., the living experience of the Apostolic Church as it is manifested universally throughout the world).

and then activates his Wonder Twin Powers to take the form of a Petulance Ice Sculpture, as he says, “those who hold the Koran to be the inspired Word of God can offer exactly the same argument.” No doubt they “can”. Whether they succeed is another matter; if Mr. Bonocore thinks there is “ahistorical nonsense presented in the Koran,” how does he know this?

Because 2,000 years of Catholic Tradition (and 3,000 years of pre-Christian Jewish Tradition) tell me it is so, Mr. Holding. This is what we call an objective standard (1 Tim 3:15). For us, it is the infallible teaching of the Spirit-guided Covenant People of God, a.k.a., the Catholic Church (the Israel of God). So, what is your objective standard for discerning truth? You continually fail to address this.

Did he put one on his head, with buckets labelled TRUE or FALSE on either side, and wait to see where it fell?

Mr. Holding, your essential problem is that, for you, “truth” is apparently some kind of ethereal (wholly intellectual) “goodie” that exists totally separate from “fact” or objective experience. This is unfortunate for one who professes to be a Christian. For, in Christianity, we hold that Truth is more than “right vs. wrong.” Rather, Truth is literally a Person —the Person of Jesus Christ, Who said: “I Am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.” This Truth abides in the Catholic Church through the Holy Sprit, the Spirit of TRUTH (John 14:16-17, 16:13), Who is promised to remain with the Church always, leading it to all Truth. Ergo, since the Koran does not come from this Spirit of Truth (but from another, deceptive spirit all-together), it does not contain the kind of Truth that we are discussing here. Rather, in denying the Deity of Christ and the reality of His New Covenant, it is opposed to Truth, and so rejects it. Therefore, I can say with utmost certainty that the Koran is filled with poppy-cock (except wherein it accidentally mimics Christian doctrines). I can also, from a purely secular and historical perspective, say that the Koran contradicts numerous historical facts which are well-established and attested to for thousands of years prior to its composition (e.g. the fact that it was Isaac, and not Ishmael, who was Abraham’s legal son and heir, and so the intended sacrifice atop Mt. Moriah. The Muslims, of course, ridiculously try to argue that the Jews and Christians, sometime in antiquity, ‘secretly changed’ the original text of Genesis to make Isaac the chosen one over Ishmael ;-). It is also quite amusing here how Mr. Holding mocks the “internal witness” of Mormonism (and rightly so) but implicitly criticizes me for denouncing the equally-silly and ahistorical internal witness of Islam.

We hope rather that he did like our friends at Answering Islam do — that he researched the facts, consulted credentialed scholars, and arrived at a conclusion. If he did not do it this way, how did he do it? Were the liver auguries suspicious some morning?

And is Mr. Holding saying that a believing Christian must “consult scholars” before he can justly reject Islam? 🙂 My, how “open minded” of him. ..But how very unChristian. Bonocore whines that “[Holding] never tells us” what my “tests” are, what my “objective standard for determining the reliability and inspiration of the Gospel of Matthew is.” Here Mr. Bonocore can be partially forgiven for not knowing (though he should have inquired prior to inserting his foot in his mouth) of our articles such as this one;

Obviously, the whole world should take the time to read absolutely everything that Mr. Holding writes on his little website before judging one jot of his “brilliance” or daring to question any of his blatantly silly assertions on their own merit. And, yes, I am being sarcastic here. 🙂

though it certainly would not have been as rhetorically effective for him to realize that the tests we offered were tanned, rested, and ready, as it were.

Ha! 🙂 In your dreams, pal. …And I do mean literally in your dreams; for that’s the only place where your rationalizations make any sense.

His “objective standard” offered in place, however, is “the binding, Spirit-guided oral Tradition of the Catholic Church which, per Christ’s promise, in verses like John 14:16-17, 16:13, and Matt 16:18-19, cannot err in such dogmatic matters.” He is right to suppose I do not agree that any such guarantee is found in these passages;

Well, that’s merely because you happen to be a misguided heretic, my dear. One obviously can’t fault you for that, however. “From those who are given much, …” 🙂

on the other hand, one may ask how he avoids the circular exercise and the important question, “How do we know Christ was right or telling the truth?”

Because Jesus promised that His Church always would. Now go look at history and see who gets to claim that they are Jesus’ Church. We’re the only ones who can realistically do it, hands down.

Yes, we both acknowledge the authority of Christ; yet how can we be sure Christ has authority, aside from exercises in circular reasoning which may as well put us in the First Steel Belted Radial Church of Holiness Almighty?

This is a silly thing to say, Mr. Holding. And why? Because “The First Steel Belted Radial Church of Holiness Almighty” is not 2,000 years old or subscribing to a continuous and unbroken body of formal Apostolic Tradition. In fact, no Church (including the Eastern Orthodox Church …which comes real close) can match the Catholic Church in this regard. We be it.

This is why we have apologetics for the resurrection, and the deity of Christ.

Not for Catholics / Christians you don’t. If a believer in Christ does not accept the Resurrection, he does not belong to the Church –plain and simple. Again, you confuse Church authority with academic exercise (and secular academic exercise at that). Big mistake.

This is why the apostles appealed to evidence (Acts 2) to get people to believe.

🙂 Oh, come on, Mr. Holding! First of all, the Apostles do not appeal to any “evidence” Acts 2. Rather, what they employ (and it is principally Peter who does it) is exegesis from the Old Testament to show how Jesus’ Resurrection was the fulfillment of these prophecies –a very Jewish thing to do. But, belief in the Resurrection itself is a matter of Apostolic testimony and a personal decision to accept or reject this OBJECTIVE STANDARD of truth. In other words, one either believed in what the Apostles saw (i.e., Jesus alive again) or one did not. No “evidence” or “apologetic” is offered for this. Rather, all rests on the Apostles and their Christ-given authority to be His witnesses. And the same objective standard resides with the Catholic Church today, which continues to be the principal, on-going witness to and for Jesus Christ. And, if you disagree with that, try tracing the roots of your own Christian faith (the source of your Bible; the pre-16th Century heritage of the Christians around you) and see for yourself. You have no link to Christ (historical or otherwise) apart from the Catholic Church.

If we do not have this, we have nothing.

We have the word of the Apostles and so the word of the Church. This is far more than “nothing,” Mr. Holding. Rather, it is what Christ prescribed and intended. One either accepts the word of the Apostles (the word of the Church) or one does not. This is the OBJECTIVE STANDARD of Truth as Christ established it for us. You Protestants, however, ignore this to your own peril.

And thus my point: Bonocore’s oral tradition witness is no less subject to epistemic scrutiny than any other source, whether it makes him happy or not.

Oh, I’m very happy, Mr. Holding. And, please … “Scrutinize” our oral Traditions all you wish. But, you cannot challenge their soundness or the Catholic Church’s Christ-given place as the objective standard of Truth in this world.

I will not say, no, that “I could be wrong” about Matthew’s Gospel. I am saying that if you think I am wrong, you had best marshal your evidence and you had best do it right. If that is “subjective” or “relativist” then so apparently is all of scholarship in existence.

No, because some of scholarship leads to objectively discernable conclusions which all must accept, Mr. Holding. The earth DOES revolve around the sun; and we can show that it does. Likewise, Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence, and we can show that he did. But, what we cannot show to everyone’s satisfaction is that a former Jewish tax collector named Levi bar-Alphaeus (a.k.a. the Apostle Matthew) authored the Gospel that we have today. Rather, in order to arrive that this conclusion, one must subscribe to and trust the oral Tradition of the Catholic Church; and one must do this in the very same way that a Christian subscribes to and trusts the Apostolic witness that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In other words, one must accept this teaching of the Church as an objective standard of truth. If one does not accept this as an objective standard, then one best have another. So, again, what’s yours??? 🙂

And if that’s the path Mr. Bonocore wants us down, I say leave him to run alone with similar figures of epistemic greatness such as Alice and the White Rabbit.

Uh, …… You’re really need to get a grip, Mr. Holding. If anyone is lost in Wonderland here, I assure you, sir, it is not me. See any “smiling cats” or unusual “tea parties” lately?

I made the point that there is quite a difference in epistemic verification between, “Matthew authored Matthew” and “the real presence is in the Eucharist”.

Not according to Apostolic / Ecclesial authority there is not. The same Church authority which teaches that Matthew authored Matthew teaches that Christ is really and substantially Present in the Holy Eucharist. If one does not accept one, one should not accept the other, since both are part of the same, universal body of Apostolic Tradition.

Bewildered by the strictures of epistemic discernment and logic, Mr. Bonocore entitles this “twisted and incoherent” and “pseudo-intellectual babble”

Well, as much as Mr. Holding is a celebrated master of pseudo-intellectualism, and so should know pseudo-intellectualism when he sees it, I’m afraid I have to disagree with him here. I am far from “bewildered” insofar that all of Apostolic Tradition (the universal testimony of the fathers, etc.) agrees with me when it comes to both the authorship of Matthew and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. My belief in both rests on this sound witness of Tradition. It is Mr. Holding, however, who, like the lustful souls in Dante’s Inferno, is blown by the winds hither and thither, guided only by his own subjective (and so unreliable) intellectual discernment or lack thereof.

and then wonders of the use of “internal evidence from the Gospel of Matthew to support the reliability and authenticity of the Gospel of Matthew,” as though internal evidence were indeed not of some use to scholars in determining the reliability of a document.

Again, Mr. Holding confuses academic “propositioning” with reliable authority. How sad. How very Protestant. Needless to say, there is no internal evidence (and indeed, no scholarly exercise) which can conclusively determine that Matthew is the author of Matthew. In fact, few scholars would even consider it as an option if it were not for the Church’s Apostolic Tradition on the matter. What’s more, and perhaps I should have mentioned this above … When considering the “internal evidence” —the idea that Levi / Matthew appears as a character in one of the Gospel passages, … Need I point out that this same character (the same conversion story) appears in the other two Synoptic Gospels! 🙂 Ergo, should we therefore conclude that Levi/Matthew is the author of the Gospels of Mark (per Mark 2:13) and Luke (per Luke 5:27ff) as well???

I wonder where Mr. Bonocore has been all these years that scholars have missed his expert judgment.

My expert judgment, Mr. Holding? Please don’t drag me into your Protestant “academic” cesspool. I speak as no personal or subjective authority here. Rather, I speak for the authority that is the Catholic Church and her 2000-year-old Sacred Traditions. And, as I mentioned above, your scholars do consult this authority when it suits them; otherwise, one would not even begin to look at Matthew as a possible author, let alone conclude that he personally penned the Gospel. This is the authority upon which I and all other orthodox Christians rely, Mr. Holding. It is a shame that you are so willing to follow the mere opinions of modern scholars over and above the voice of Christ’s ancient and Spirit-guided Church.

In the meantime we have no answer to the point that there is simply no comparison when it comes to someone who can judge, epistemically, who wrote Matthew, and whether there is indeed a Real Presence in the Eucharist.

Again, Mr. Holding: AUTHORITY. The issue of authority is key here. The same ancient Church that universally taught (by its oral Tradition) that Matthew wrote the Gospel also universally taught the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is a historical fact that cannot be denied. Ergo, it makes no sense to accept one formal and universally-binding Tradition yet reject the other. Either the ancient universal Church knew what it was talking about or it did not.

I have asked who said oral tradition was inerrant; Mr. Bonocore claims Paul does, though 2 Thess. 2:15 (“Stand firm and hold fast to the Traditions you were taught, whether by an ORAL STATEMENT or by a letter from us.” ) and parallel phrases only say, at best, that what Paul and his cohorts said is inerrant, not that everyone’s oral statements everyplace are.

🙂 Now, now, Mr. Holding … That is a very silly (very Protestant) argument, even coming from you. Whatever happened to your celebration of “Semitic totality”??? Clearly, Paul is speaking to his Thessalonian flock in the same manner (under the same Semitic dynamic) that Peter or any of the other Apostles would to their own established congregations. Clearly, all of the Apostles’ instructions were not committed to writing, and their oral teachings to the city-churches were held to be equally binding to anything that eventually found its way into the Bible. Papias certainly says as much. Yet, now you are willing to abandon him in order to “hold up the Protestant end.” How “untidy” of you.

And even then of course, none of this logically excludes Paul from epistemic scrutiny, and it is a sound reply that Paul’s trust was earned on the back of solid fact (which is what faith entails).

Gee, … Silly me. And here I thought that Paul was an inspired Apostle who spoke with Divine authority (esp. in his Epistles). So much for 1 Thess 2:13, I guess. There, of course, Paul clearly says …

“…in receiving the Word of God from hearing us you received not a human word, but, as it truly is, the Word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.”

Oh, by the way … In the very next verse, Paul says … “For you, brothers, have become imitators of the churches of God that are in Judea in Christ Jesus.”

…That is, churches founded by Peter and the other Apostles. And, this is the same Thessalonian church to which 2 Thess 2:15 is addressed. Ergo, 2 Thess 2:15 does not merely apply to following the dictates of Paul and his immediate associates. Rather, a common body of Tradition was entrusted to ALL the city-churches. Unlike the modern Protestant dynamic, all consisted of one universal Church sharing one body of doctrine: Ephesians 4:3-6.

I am presented then with the absurd challenge to show where a claim is made that “Apostolic Tradition is not inerrant” (perhaps it is not, but that does not guarantee inerrancy in transmission after the apostles);

If you believe in the promises of Jesus Christ (John 14:16-17, 16:13, Matt 16:18-19), it most certainly DOES guarantee inerrancy in transmission after the Apostles; for the Truth of the Apostolic deposit depends not on men, but on the Presence of the Spirit within the Church. However, Mr. Holding of course has no appreciation for this because, like a good lil’ Protestant (and like the Pharisees before them), he sees revealed doctrine as merely a matter of intellectual study –academia in place of organic Tradition and Divine Mystery: one of the chief errors of the Protestant revolt. What’s more, if my challenge is “absurd,” then it’s most interesting that you admit that there is no claim that Tradition is not inerrant. Here, again, we return to “Semitic totality.” 🙂 For, it would never even enter the Semitic mind that the organic Tradition of a people (the Church as the New Israel) would or could fail to be inerrant …especially when that people is guided by the promised Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit.

my request to know who “clustered our obligations so” is replied to with, “the Catholic Church” (which does not answer my question at all, since I still don’t have any reason to think “the Catholic Church” had any authority to do this either).

Mr. Holding? 🙂 Carefully open your Bible and read Matt 16:18-19. Then look at how the ancient Church regarded the dogmatic authority of Peter’s See –the Church of Rome. That will answer your question for you and tell you where the authority came from. Now, as a renegade Protestant heretic, you of course do not accept that. But, it does not change the fact that, for ancient orthodox Christians, this has been the objective standard since earliest times.

In the end, Bonocore cannot see how he could be “burned” as our own Catholic consult says, and even claims that our consult (guest writer Matt Paulson, by the way, who wrote here in the past as Phantaz Sunlyk) is not a Catholic at all, but a “liberal-modernist dissdent who wishes to imitate your own Protestant errors.” Well indeed might a KJV Onlyist fundamentalist say such of a credible scholar. (Matt adds his own comments below.)

Yes, and at least what Matt has to say is more substantive (albeit, in several respects, ignorant and misguided) than Mr. Holding’s self-obsessed ramblings. But, I will get to Matt’s “concerns” in a moment and illustrate to every sensible person’s satisfaction that there is nothing in my position that can “burn” a Catholic in any way, shape, or form. You guys simply do not realize who or what you are dealing with here. 🙂

Continuing down tobacco road, my statement of concern for what is true is dismissed as “irrational silliness” and it is supposed that I have “no way of knowing whether or not the Word is ‘true’ unless he begins with a pre-existing premise of inspired inerrancy, which in turn must be based on some external objective standard.”

Yep. 🙂 That is of course patently false:

Oh, please. 🙂

Our way of historical knowing is rooted in very solid epistemology, thank you very much, and while the paranoid or fundamentalist among us might press the panic button for effect

Here, again, Mr. Holding shows that he worships at the altar of the goddess “Academia.” Yet, no mention of authority; no mention of an objective standard. Only “epistemology” …As if that brings about unity or orthodoxy. …As if that’s what Christ instructed His Church to do. Try reading your Bible, Mr. Holding. Where exactly are individual Christians told to base their faith on epistemology??

(Bonocore sounds like atheists who ask how we can know Paul did not originally write letters denying the deity of Christ!),

Utter nonsense, Mr. Holding, and you know it. I am not asking anyone to prove a negative here. I am asking you to account for the planet-sized holes in your own position. Look beyond all your sophistry, and the simple fact remains that your faith is based on totally subjective intellectual pursuits; and so rests, not on any Christ-established Rock, but on your own limited intellect. You make no room for authority and no provision for obedience to authority despite what you would personally choose to do and believe —i.e., your own subjective judgment (contra Heb 13:17). And asking how you know if your subjective intellect is leading you in the right direction IS a very valid and honest question.

mature persons among the brethren do not. What of Bonocore’s “pre-existing premise” of the authority of the Church, or perhaps the authority of Christ? After labelling me now an “arch-heretic” in the making (a label I wear proudly, if it is sown on by the ignorant )

Oh, you’re already a material heretic, Mr. Holding. 🙂 So, “arch” cannot be much of a stretch, given your Protestant pedigree.

Bonocore reaffirms his headlong rush into his circular exercises in reasoning and authority in Catholicized fundamentalism.

🙂 I’m sorry, Mr. Holding, but the only one arguing in circles here is you. My citation of an objective standard for discerning truth (i.e., the Spirit-guided, infallible authority of the Catholic Church) breaks any “circle” in my argument; for all depends on that. But, again, what is your final authority? Where does ultimate truth reside for you; and how do you arrive at it??? Again, let me tell you what I’m hearing you say: I’m hearing that, for you, truth is arrived at via intellectual study. …That is to say, your own subjective certitude based on what your limited intellect is able to understand …or believe it understands. Ah! But, what about those people who might not agree with you? How do you know that you are necessarily right and that they are wrong? Do you claim personal infallibility? If not, then you admit that you may be wrong, or even in serious heresy. And so, what you’re really saying is that you have no ultimate, infallible way of knowing whether or not you are following sound doctrine. And, I believe that is called relativism, Mr. Holding. 🙂 Now, if one is a serious Christian, one simply cannot be happy with that. However, if one is a pseudo-intellectual who “gets off” by simply “discussing” Christianity and does not view it as an objective, and very pressing, reality, upon which one’s immortal soul depends, then hey … Why get bent out of shape by “mere ideas,” right? Let’s just sit around the “agora” and sip nectar with Socrates, and not worry about it. 🙂 This is where you seem to be to me, Mr. Holding. …And it is very sad; but all-too-typical these days.

Perhaps it will do him good to ask, if he thinks that there is something to those who “were witnesses to the Resurrection,” how he knows that these were not mental delusions by the Apostles; or how he does not know Jesus did not have an evil twin, or was a space alien. Absurd some of these are; yet they are real arguments from real Skeptics of various levels, and you can be sure (we hope!) Bonocore would reply with something that involves at least a semblance of reasoning prowess, even if he just says these theories are “silly”.

Mr. Holding, …. Please allow me to give you a bit of advice. You have spent far too much time debating with secular skeptics, and so have created a mental “template” geared to dealing with such as these –i.e., the realm of tiresome intellectual gymnastics. However, permit me to drag you back into the context of our initial conflict, if I may. 🙂 I wrote an article for BELIEVING CHRISTIANS. In that article, I pointed out that most believing Christians accept that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew —something that comes to us, NOT from Scripture itself (or from any intellectual study), but from the Catholic Church’s authoritative deposit of Sacred oral Tradition. I then went on to cite other Traditions coming from this SAME deposit and so challenged these believing (Protestant) Christians to account for the contradiction in their belief systems, whereby they accept some of the Catholic Church’s Sacred oral Traditions but reject others. You, in turn, disputed the premise of me doing this. However, whether you are justified or not, there is nothing in the context of our dispute that would call any ancient beliefs into question. Rather, the issue here is one of consistency. For, both Protestants and Catholics believe that Matthew authored the Gospel. And, while you may spin it all you like, both happen to believe this because of an acceptance of ancient Apostolic Tradition. So, if the premise of Tradition is ALREADY accepted, then it is perfectly reasonably to ask why the other Traditions coming out of this SAME ancient deposit are not accepted by these modern Protestants. One need not go to the extreme of “evil twins” and “space aliens.” However, … To directly address your point, … My response to such secular skeptics would be that there is nothing in ancient Apostolic Tradition that talks about “evil twins” or “space aliens,” and my faith is in the teaching and witness of the Catholic Church. Also, if those who witnessed the Resurrection were insane or mentally deluded, then the doctrines of Christianity (which come to us from these same men) are the products of lunatics; and that places humanity in a sad state indeed, since almost everything that modern civilization thinks of as good or virtuous comes from the Christian Faith.

It is ridiculous to say that “one has no reason to accept the reliability or inerrancy of the NT Scriptures, or to accept Christianity at all” without the help of the Catholic Church saying one should.

Only someone who divorces himself from history (and objective reality) can say such a thing with a straight face. All that you know of Jesus Christ comes to you, either directly or indirectly, through the Catholic Church —from people who believed what I believe today.

How does one normally accept truth? One accepts truth by evidence.

No. One accepts truth in a number of ways, including through blind faith:

“Have you come to believe because you have seen me [Thomas]? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” –John 20:31.

And why would they believe? Because of the word of the Apostles, and then because of the word of those who succeeded to the Apostles (per 2 Tim 2:2).

Belief also entails obedience. If one is a trusted authority, one will believe him out of obedience, even if what he says may be hard to accept. But, there is of course no such obligation in academic-based Protestantism. There, if one does not like what one’s pastor preaches (if it disagrees with one’s personal interpretation of Scripture), then hey … No problem. Just leave and join another church. …or, even better, start one of your own!:-) However, this isn’t what we see presented in the Bible: e.g. Heb 13:17 —a verse which few Protestants are able to obey, let alone inclined to follow.

Adding a layer of authority adds nothing to the truth but a broker of whatever value.

Sigh! Mr. Holding, your mind is a really amazing (and very sad and misguided) place. No one is saying that authority “adds” to truth. Rather, when authority comes from Christ, Who IS the Truth, it GUARANTEES truth and safeguards it. This is precisely what you lack and what you fail to appreciate. Jesus Christ did not establish a Church and then cast it to the winds of intellectualism, whereby truth can only be attained by personal study from generation to generation. Rather, He created a ministry of authority; and that authority (as it was for the Jews before us —Matt 23:1-3) remains with the Church to this day. You leave no room for this, however. And this is why I accuse you of distorting both Scripture and the principal of Semitic totality.

That Bonocore thinks this is “no better or more rooted in reality than the choice to believe in Islam, or Mormonism, or the like” only indicates how grossly unfamiliar he is with responses to Islam, Mormonism, “and the like”. Perhaps he can write to some Christian scholars and apologists and tell them how deluded they are.

Again, Mr. Holding appeals to intellectualism. Yet, there are Islamic and Mormon scholars and apologists in this world who feel that they have the upper hand on us Christians. So, how do we know for sure who is right? …Especially when Christians themselves disagree? If Christianity has no infallible authority, then we can never really know. But, the issue here, of course, is not whether or not there is infallible authority in Christianity. Almost all Christians believe we have that. The issue is WHAT IS this infallible authority. Fundamentalists (and most Protestants) say it is the Bible. But, of course, that is not a sound answer, since the Bible a) requires an interpreter; and b) is a canon of books based on the Sacred Tradition and Magisterial decisions of the Catholic Church. Mr. Holding, on the other hand, buries his head in the sand and presumes that he can discern all truth through intellectualism. 🙂 (Grow up, Mr. Holding). Then, we have the Apostolic Christians –the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, who, following their ancient ancestors, both say that infallible authority resides with the Church itself. The only dispute here is how the Church manifests this infallible authority. The Eastern Orthodox say it’s only through an Ecumenical Council, whereas the Catholics have a far more organic and much older (pre-Constantinian) appreciation of how the Church operates infallibly –both through the extraordinary primacy of the See of Rome itself and through all the bishops of the Church (whether in Council or not) in union with the See of Rome …both of which pronounced dogmatic teachings long before Constantine ever embraced Christianity and launched the first ecumenical Council.

Bonocore still has not read my linked article, however, on Sola Scriptura; it would have told him clearly that indeed, I agree with him that Sola Scriptura as used today is abused; but he is in error to say that my “contextual elements” “(if they are authentic) reside in the history and oral traditons of ancient (Catholic) Christianity”. No doubt some or many do, but they do not all do; certainly the difference between the social worlds, with respect to honor and shame, and high and low context, has not been preserved.

And preserved where, Mr. Holding? Are you referring to medieval feudalism? If so, let me give you a little insight from history: No democracy ever lasts over 300 years. The old social world in which Catholicism once operated may return sooner than you think.

Mr. Bonocore follows then again the path of fundamentalist ostrich madness, asking “how do you know” scholars will lead you “to a reliable or comprehensive understanding of the Sacred text” (even as he hypocritically quotes a “Catholic scholar” who hypocritically disdains “academia”!).

We Catholics do not disdain academia, Mr. Holding. How can we when we invented it in its modern form (i.e., the universities of Paris, Bologna, etc.). What we disdain is the replacement of organic and liturgical Tradition (which is natural to Apostolic Christianity) with the principal of academia —as if study alone (apart from the comprehensive Apostolic Deposit) can arrive at Christian truth. From the days of Marcion and Arius, that’s how heresies are born.

No, this does not assume that “Christian Faith is a mere academic exercise” (though it does recommend “academic exercise” as a way for the Body of Christ to be healthy!);

Really? And which verse of Scripture tells us that the Body’s health depends on that? 🙂 What’s more, your approach DOES reduce Christianity to an academic exercise; and the fact that you cannot even see this speaks volumes about the sorry state of your apostolate, Mr. Holding.

nor does it deny “Liturgical mystery” or “Covenantal heritage” or any of these refuge buzzwords that Mr. Bonocore uses to cover his irrational and circular basis for trust.

If they are merely “buzz words” to you, then you obviously don’t appreciate them. …Nor, I would wager, do you even understand what I mean by them.

We agree that “one does not become an orthodox Christian without participating in the living Covenantal Tradition of the Church” but it stands nevertheless that one does not join that covenant without being given facts and evidence upon which to make a decision.

Really? And does your denomination Baptize retarded people, Mr. Holding? Can retarded people be saved? Can they join and become full members in the Covenant of Christ? Well, how is that possible if one cannot “join a Covenant without being given facts and evidence”?? Do retarded people require evidence? Do little children?

Apostolic preaching called upon FACTS of history and evidence

Dear God, you are a sad case, Mr. Holding. Your appreciation of Christianity is pathetically adolescent.

— Jesus’ resurrection; his fulfillment of OT prophecy; his miracles — and expected and demanded obedience in light of these facts. If I have “nerve” to speak of “Semitic Totality” it is nerve born of expertise that Mr. Bonocore has no reasonable hope of possessing or challenging in his current irrational state. If I have a “very unwise preoccupation with academia” then I will gladly have one; Bonocore may as well speak of a “very unwise preoccupation with evidence” by a trial lawyer.

Hey, I’m not the one with no objective standard for discerning truth, Mr. Holding. So, I fail to see how I can be called the “irrational” one here. Above you refer to all that is expected and demanded of the Christian. Okay. So, how you do you know that you have your “list” in proper order? How do you know you didn’t overlook anything, relying, as you do, on personal discernment alone? This is why an objective standard is required. This is why obedience to a Christ-established authority (Heb 13:17) is needed; but you do not recognize the existence of such a thing.

We are told, “Sacred Tradition is more than a mere ‘lexicon.’ Rather, it is, as Thomas Aquinas described it, a ‘sensus fidelium’ –a ‘sense of the faith.'” If this is true then perhaps it is Aquinas’ fault that we have been subjected to the irrational subjectivity that brings us postmodern church thought, charismatic inflictions such as the Holy Laughter movement, and made The Purpose-Driven Life our most prominent textbook.

Sorry, Mr. Holding, but the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has condemned and/or discouraged BOTH these things. …and for precisely the reason that Aquinas cited –because they contradict the authentic sensus fidelium of Apostolic Christianity. Here, again, we see the importance of a Christ-established authority. What’s more, if that’s the best shot you can give against the principal of sensus fidelium, you greatly disappoint me, Mr. Holding. 🙂

I suspect it is not his fault at all. But for Bonocore to claim that being Catholic means that one “possesses a comprehensive knowledge of the Apostolic Faith” as though automatically is to lead us down the same road to disaster that caused the stumbling of today’s worst apostates.

🙂 A faithless concern. What’s more, I never said that a Catholic’s sensus fidelium is an “automatic” thing. Rather, while it is a mystery with a spiritual dimension, it requires one’s presence and living participation IN the Church. And so, like any secular ethnic culture (e.g. the Jews), one intimately learns what it means to belong to a particular people and what the deeply held values and beliefs of that people are —something one can only acquire by living it (not from mere “book learn’n”:-) ). This is how Sacred Apostolic Tradition has been preserved in the Church (a living Covenant people) for two millennia. Yet, it is not surprising that a worshipper of academia would fail to appreciate or understand this.

(My consultant Matt Paulson adds: I noticed that in his response to you he translated the Latin “sensus fidelium” as “sense of the faith”. This is wrong–the genitive SINGULAR of “faith” is “fidei”; “fidelium” is the genitive PLURAL of the ADJECTIVE “faithful” (“fidelis”). So, “sensus fidelium” does NOT mean “sense of the faith”–it means “the sense of the faithFUL (ones)”; in other words, an understanding of the belief of Christians through the centuries. He is taking classical languages at university just now.)

🙂 Well, isn’t that nice that the Paulson family is sending their kid to school. And, though still in university, he is already employed as a “consultant” by Mr. Holding’s “sage” organization. I’m sure mom and dad are proud. Mr. Paulson is, of course, correct about the Latin declension, however. Sorry, I was not aware that a literal translation was required here. 🙂 As anyone without a bone to pick can readily see, I wrote “sense of the faith” to illustrate my intended point, not to be specific about the Latin. Clearly, if I wrote “sense of the faithful” it would not have expressed my meaning in the sentence, and then Mr. Holding would have been totally lost. 🙂

As for this: “At present, we have over 30,000 separate Protestant denominations —all with the same Bible, but all intepretating it differently. Clearly, someone is doing something wrong.” Somehow it is not surprising that Mr. Bonocore pulls this red herring from his Pond of Petulance, the same one that the Skeptic here fished out and threw back. Next we will be told that those 30,000 denominations have 30,000 entirely different points of view, and that there is no disagreement between individual Catholics on any single thing.

How many Christian faiths are there, Mr. Holding? Ephesians 4:3-6 says that there is only one. Also, when you get a chance, please check out Acts 4:23, 1 Corinth 1:10, Phil 1:27, Phil 2:2, and 1 Peter 3:8. In all of these verses (and several others), the Church is described as being of “one mind.” This is especially relevant in 1 Peter 3:8 where, as 1 Peter 1:1 shows, the Apostle is not addressing one city-church, but numerous city-churches in a total of five separate provinces of the Roman Empire. What being “of one mind” here refers to, Mr. Holding, is a unity of doctrine. However, there exists no such thing among the innumerable Protestant sects; which exist as separate sects PRECISELY BECAUSE they disagree on doctrine. And so, yes, the 30,000 separate denominations is a very real problem on your hands, and simply ignoring it will not make it go away.

Perhaps we will be treated to a True Scotsman Dessert Fallacy as well. (“Those guys? They’re not true Catholics. They’re not like me!”)

True Catholics are those who hold to all the dogmas of the Catholic Church. People who do not hold to these dogmas are not Catholics, plain and simple. So, your flippant remark has no basis in reality, Mr. Holding. …Nor does it supply an apologetic for your own “sloppy house” which possesses no such objective standard for unity or orthodoxy. Again, I must use the word: “relativism.”

But so it goes, around in the same circle, as we are told that Tradition is verified by “the Christ-established, Spirit-guided authority of the Catholic Church” (never mind epistemic justification of THOSE authorities;

Mr. Holding, …. Those authorities DO NOT NEED epistemic justification, just as Christ Himself does not, because He IS the Truth; and those whom He has established are empowered to speak for He Who is the Truth. This is what you are not seeing. And you are blind to this appreciation because you simply cannot relate to it. It is evidently beyond your ability, as a slave to academia, to understand. 🙂 Amazing! But, if you step back for a moment and consider that Catholicism REALLY DOES make this seemingly outlandish claim —the claim that the Catholic Church, because of Christ’s promises, can speak infallibly in the Name of God, then perhaps we can begin to communicate with each other. But, until you grant the fact that Catholics believe this, you simply are not going to make any progress here because I am speaking a language that is apparently alien to you. 🙂

all we are told is, in essence, if you don’t like it, too bad).

YES! Exactly! This is EXACTLY what Catholics believe. 🙂 Go read Matt 18:17-18. Go read Luke 10:10-12. No “evidence” is presented here; just the authority of the Catholic Church, which speaks in the Name of Jesus Christ. And, if you do not accept that Christ-given authority, then hey … That’s your choice. But, IF you are a Christian, what you cannot deny is that your Bible and a whole lot of your other strongly-held beliefs (e.g. the authorship of Matthew’s Gospel) comes to you via this SAME Catholic authority –the same Apostolic Tradition of the Catholic Church. …which was, of course, my initial point and the thing which started this silly exchange.

I think enough has been shown to prove that like Humpty Dumpty, Mr. Bonocore defines “subjective” and “objective” in ways that his tastes suit him.

🙂 Sorry, Mr. Holding. My “tastes” have nothing to do with it. Rather, what I believe (and what all true Catholics believe) is that the Catholic Church, in matters of faith and morals, DEFINES REALITY for all mankind; and it does this because it speaks for Christ (or, more properly, Christ speaks through it), and Christ Himself is the definition of reality –He is the Truth. That is called an objective standard of orthodoxy. If the Church officially teaches something, then that is objective truth. If my subjective judgment happens to disagree, then I am wrong and the Church is right, and I must submit to the Church in obedience (see Heb 13:17). You, however, and the rest of the Protestant world have nothing like this. …which is why you have trouble relating to it, and why it so rubs you the wrong way. Instead, your personal beliefs (no matter what they may be at the moment) reign supreme. And this would be fine as an objective standard IF you, like the Catholic Church, profess to be personally infallible. However (and I’m just assuming, since you never said one way or the other:-)), you do not profess to be personally infallible. Therefore, what you’re saying is that your personal discernment and/or judgment (which, again, is your only ultimate authority –the only thing which, in the end, you obey) is a purely subjective exercise and something that could be deluded or even in serious error. You therefore admit that you have no objective standard for determining Christian orthodoxy; and so, for you, Christianity can only be a relativistic faith. And, if you think that I am incorrect about this, Mr. Holding, why don’t you try actually showing me where I am incorrect instead of all this tap dancing around that you are currently doing. 🙂

In the end we may as well have been addressing Jack Chick or Ernest Angley as Mark Bonocore; the only question is, whose head is deeper in the sand?

Cute, Mr. Holding. However, you, I’m afraid are the one standing on shifting sand. I, by the grace of God, happen to be standing on a Rock.

And now with your nonsense out of the way, we turn to the more substantive (although ignorant and misguided) challenges of my fellow Catholic, Mr. Matt Paulson.

Mr. Paulson writes …

Matt Paulson also adds:I was rather taken aback by Bonocore’s response to Holding’s critique of his (Bonocore’s) argument pro traditio, and having read both, I offer the following brief comments. This will not be a thorough interaction with Bonocore’s response, as my plate is rather full at the moment, and at any rate, I’m not certain that the tone and level of argument offered by Bonocore has risen to a level worthy of sustained interaction. First, let me make the following clear. I am a Roman Catholic, and theologically conservative Roman Catholic at that. I submit all of my own judgments to the authority of the Church, and if I were made aware of any claim wrongly advanced on my part–as regards matters of dogma, or even custom–I would gladly withdraw such claims, and submit to the Church.

Very good, Mr. Paulson. 🙂 So far we are on the same page. See how Catholics regard the authority of the Church as our objective standard, Mr. Holding? You, however, possess nothing like that.

But, Mr. Paulson goes on ….

Thus, *with* Bonocore, I accept the importance of Tradition, and that Tradition is intrinsic to Christian faith. *With* Bonocore, I reject the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. I myself have a number of reasons for this two-fold stance, principal among which are the a priori argument for the necessity of Tradition and the form of the Faith in the early fathers of the Church. Though it is not my intention here to dwell on the Sola Scriptura/Scripture and Tradition debate, I feel it necessary here to make my own position clear because of a certain paragraph in Bonocore’s response, namely, “Well, I fail to see how any faithful Catholic could be so “burned” by adhering to the Catholic dogmatic belief in Sacred oral Tradition. Obviously, this so-called “Catholic reader” of yours is no such thing, but can only be a liberal-modernist dissdent who wishes to imitate your own Protestant errors. Very sad.” After reading Bonocore’s response to Holding, and especially in light of the fact that it is rather full of claims such as the above, I was initially tempted to put my Greek and Latin texts on the shelf for a day or two, and render to Bonocore a response as sarcastic as he deserves.

🙂 Well, I appreciate your ire, Mr. Paulson. And, if you truly are a conservative (that is, a “right-minded”) Catholic, then I will even go so far as to apologize for my remarks about you and to admit that they were prejudiced and out of line. However, what is someone like myself to conclude when you are cited as a “consultant” for a blatant Protestant relativist like Mr. Holding in an article attacking a very sound illustration of the reality of our Sacred Traditions? In this same article, you are also quoted calling me a “fundamentalist”? …And I would submit that that was prejudiced and premature on your part. Or would you disagree?

*I* am the Catholic in question; it was *I* who claimed that Bonocore’s argument was (and is) indicative of a mental fundamentalism.

Well, you are also grossly mistaken, then, “brother Catholic.” 🙂 Again, you speak in ignorance of my true position.

And Bonocore’s response with regard to my claim only proves the point, for there is *no way* that *anyone* reading what Holding quoted me as saying could *rightly* take me as saying, or *implying* that Tradition is in any sense at fault.

That was not what I objected to in your quoted statement, Mr. Paulson. My objection and criticism was directed to your assertion that holding to the Catholic Traditions of the fathers can “burn” us. I will illustrate why in detail below.

My point was that Bonocore’s argument *for* it was, and is, poor.

🙂 I see.

Thus when we see Bonocore attempt to pit the whole of orthodox Catholicism against me, to wit, “As for his suggestion that I am a “Catholic fundamentalist,” one wonders if this person would also classify the Popes and the fathers of our Ecumenical Councils as “fundamentalists” as well, since they too all uphold the dogma of Sacred oral Tradition (see the Council of Trent, Vatican I, Vatican II, etc.). Ergo, this person is clearly not a Catholic in any realistic sense of the word, but no doubt another “intellectual” relativist like Mr. Holding himself.” . . . we see clearly that Bonocore has sailed rather wide of the mark. I never once rejected, or implied, or began to imply, or began to begin to imply that I reject Tradition.

You said that invoking Catholic oral Tradition in the manner that I did may “burn” us. I respectfully, yet strongly, disagree.

This incident with Bonocore reminds me of something that happened last winter. I had been fortunate enough to help get Richard Swinburne, perhaps the most renowned Christian philosopher in the world, to attend our university for a debate over the existence of God. Having a decent background in philosophy and logic, I was rather pleased with the debate and the strength of Swinburne’s presentation. Much to my surprise, however, was the reaction of certain of my fellow Christians, who lamented the fact that Swinburne did not say that Christianity *necessarily excludes* evolution, and that Swinburne allowed the possibility of unbelievers to be saved (the fact that Swinburne was, on both points, in agreement with CS Lewis was for them little consolation, as they’d never read Lewis, and were quite sure that if this were so, then Lewis must be as wrong as Swinburne since “Scripture means Scripture”). It was obvious that the central form of Swinburne’s argument for the existence of God (i.e., the positing of the simplest theory possible [the existence of the Christian God] to explain the phenomena that we experience [the universe and all things within it]) had gone completely over their heads, and furthermore, that they were (literally) in no position whatever even to recognize a good argument, were it there. After a few minutes of conversing with them, they told me what Swinburne ought to have argued: that faith is necessary and that God exists because the Bible says so.

Well, I fail to see how any of this applies to me, Mr. Paulson. I, first of all, hold (with Swinburne and Lewis) that both evolution and salvation for those outside of the institutional limits of the Church are (or can be) quite compatible with Apostolic Christianity. So, again, your presumption that I am a sort of fundamentalist (and it was you, don’t forget, who threw the first presumptive stones) is unwarranted. Indeed, it seems to me that what is happening here is that you and I are being “introduced” to each other via the prism of Mr. Holding’s “progressive” apostolate and contextual point of view, where a sort of anti-fundamentalist crusade is taking place, and things which even have the faintest “scent” of fundamentalism are being immediately jumped on. I, on the other hand, was reacting to the presumption of the opposite error —the error of liberal-modernism and its similar worship of academia (where it is rampant these days). So, might I suggest that the two of us back off for a moment and try to better appreciate each other’s points of view, which I suspect are not that different.

Back to the point, the parallel I see with Bonocore and myself is this: Bonocore’s position seems to me to be defined entirely by his own narrow perspective, and the *worth* of his position seems to me to be entirely *exhausted by* his engagement with rabid anti-Catholic apologists, who indeed share with Bonocore the same narrowness, which in its turn explains why they make such fitting partners in dialogue with one another.

You could not be more wrong about me, Mr. Paulson. 🙂

They are tone deaf to everything but that which may be applied, in debate, to the subjects upon which they share a monomania from opposing perspectives. I am every bit as Catholic as Bonocore himself, and I just as strongly affirm the doctrine of Tradition. The difference between us is that the intellectual background of my affirmation is one which is grounded in the thought of persons such as Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, Bonaventure, Cardinal Newman, etc., whereas Bonocore’s seems to be something like that of those who hunt down proof-texts in order to counter the proof-texts offered by equally simple-minded Protestants.

🙂 Well, I admit that I have engaged with quite a few simple-minded Protestants in my day, and perhaps this has even colored a few of my articles. As I told Mr. Holding, the article your criticized was written for Fundamentalists Protestants. However, I too sit at the feet of Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, Bonaventure, and Cardinal Newman; and, with respect, I almost certainly have a deeper (and far more familiar) appreciation of them than you yourself do.

I am reminded of the feeling of nausea that overcomes me when I see apologists use the fathers as though they were proof-text-bearing-trees, showing no evidence whatever of a desire to actually engage the form of their theology, but rather, taking from them only that which they can use in the context of the debate that they are engaged in (in this respect I dislike both Protestant *and* Catholic amateur apologists who, for example, have a link on their websites to the effect that: “St. Augustine affirmed the Papacy, click here!”, or, “Basil of Caesarea affirms Sola Scriptura, click here!”, and this followed by a string of proof texts divorced from context, followed by the apologist’s commentary thereupon, which *always* indicates a complete insensitivity to the respective fathers who they summon on their behalf).

Well, while I share your aversion to sloppy proof texts, Mr. Paulson, needless to say, one is not about to discuss the intricacies of some mature theological proposition by de Luc or von Balthasar with the your average Fundamentalist Protestant from the Bible Belt. 🙂 Different audiences require different approaches. Was it not St. Paul who speaks of offering milk to those who are not ready for solid food? What’s more, there is a profound difference between providing quotes from Augustine that support the Papacy vs. quotes from Basil the Great which supposedly support sola Scriptura. Why? Because, even though they may be proof texts, the ones used to support Catholicism always (with very few exceptions) fit within the comprehensive framework of that father’s theological or ecclesial position. The Protestant proof texts do not, but, at best, use Protestant-sounding terminology out of historical or textual context.

Thus it is little surprise that Bonocore has missed entirely the point of Holding’s article (which did not *itself* explicitly attack the notion of Tradition, [though Holding himself no doubt does not affirm the high status of Tradition as accepted by Catholics] but, as with my own complaint, attacked simply Bonocore’s *defense* of it).

Well, it is unfortunate, then, Mr. Paulson (and perhaps this is because you are friends with Mr. Holding, who knows?) that you did not follow Mr. Holdings assertions through to their logical conclusion ….since Mr. Holdings “spin” on sola Scriptura still leads him back to the very thing I criticized in my initial article (again, directed to Fundamentalists) –namely, the fact that all adherents to sola Scriptura (even if they “nuance” the false doctrine and are willing to entertain some extra-Scriptural traditions) arrive at a purely-subjective, relativistic style of Christianity; and this is because such Protestants reject the idea that there is a universal and consistent BODY of Apostolic oral Tradition that is equally authoritative with Scripture.

Had Bonocore the eyes to see it, Holding’s article actually provides opportunity for engaging the possible virtue of Tradition.

Not when Bonocore is being called a “fundamentalist” there is not. This tends to “cloud” one’s eyes and enflame one’s righteous indignation. 🙂 Clearly, the error of Mr. Holding’s “indifference” (read: disdain) for the authority of Catholic Sacred Tradition far outweighs the benefit of his willingness to consider the historical legitimacy of some extra-Scriptural material (viz. his nuanced style of sola Scriptura). When the authority of Apostolic Tradition is being attacked, there is little room for establishing common ground via ecumenical dialogue. And, frankly, it is a disgrace that you allowed yourself to be an agent of this agenda, Mr. Paulson. Or perhaps you cannot even see that?

Yet Bonocore did not see this; rather, he took a refutation of his *argument* as a rejection of himself.

Again, Mr. Paulson. How else is one to react when one (without any private engagement whatsoever) is publicly branded as a “fundamentalist” on someone’s website???

And this implies, for those whose mindset is like that of Bonocore, a rejection of that which he argued *for* (i.e., “There is a one-one correspondence between Catholicism and my own perspective”, etc.)

I never claimed that I am a definition of Catholicism, Mr. Paulson. Yet, I do stand by my initial article as well as my last response to Mr. Holding. For, you are the one who is in error here, not me. I will illustrate why this is so below.

Bonocore argues that Tradition is intrinsic to the living Faith of Christianity–indeed, epistemically on par with Scripture itself. I myself fully agree. My problem is that Bonocore’s argument is utterly misguided.

“Fully agree” ….”utterly misguided.” These statements don’t seem to go together very well, Mr. Paulson. 🙂

Holding is no doubt correct to assert that the authorship of, e.g., Matthew, can be vindicated *without* relying solely on the testimony of Tradition; rather, points out Holding, let us simply assess the evidence objectively, and doing such, we will see that from the empirical evidence offered (both internal and external), the integrity of Matthean authorship is rather plausible, especially *if* one is willing to grant the integrity of merely secular sources (for which the external evidence especially is not at all comparable to that of the NT documents).

Well, what can I say, Mr. Paulson? Like Mr. Holding, you too confuse the issues of academia and authority here. Perhaps this is because you are at university at the moment. However, as you grow older, you will hopefully come to realize that not everyone is an intellectual. While I certainly agree that a theoretical CASE can be made for the authorship of Matthew from existing empirical evidence, this is far from conclusive. What’s more, the fact remains that most Protestant Christians (esp. the Fundamentalist) do not believe that Matthew wrote this Gospel because of any empirical evidence, but rather because this is what was passed down to them by their Protestant forefathers, who in turn received it without question from their Catholic forefathers. In other words, these Protestants subscribe to a clear TRADITION …a Tradition that they inherited directly from the Catholic Church. Ergo, my initial article, in which I asked the very valid question: Why do otherwise professed sola Scriptura believers accept this particular Catholic Tradition without question, while rejecting others from the very same Apostolic deposit? And, again, my initial point stands.

In passing I mention that Bonocore’s misguided attempt to rebut this latter point of Holding’s is especially unfortunate. For example, leaving aside for the moment the fact that our earliest extant manuscript of the Platonic corpus is from the Middle Ages, Bonocore is certainly wrong to suppose that the dialogues of Plato are of “unquestionable integrity”

Please permit me to interject here, Mr. Paulson. Yes, the oldest Platonic corpus that we presently have is medieval (8th Century); by no older than the oldest existing Masoretic text of the Hebrew Old Testament. Also, the Platonic codices come to us from Constantinople, where Plato (and a great many other ancient works in Greek) were continuously copied and preserved since antiquity, being widely known among the Byzantines, both in ecclesial and in secular circles. So, that makes their integrity pretty solid. In fact, the Platonic codices that we have are direct copies of the nine tetralogies compiled by Thrasyllus in the 1st Century A.D. For, they can be traced back with complete certainly to at least the time of the Gospels. …which, of course, overturns Mr. Holdings rash assertion that the Gospels possess unequaled attestation.

–let Bonocore compare Xenophon’s apology for Socrates with that of Plato, and tell us why the latter is to be preferred to the former. The Socratic dialogue was a literary form, and any specialist in Plato knows that the dialogues cannot be read simply as “reportage” (does Bonocore intend to imply that Socrates had a conversation with Parmenides in order to present to him Plato’s doctrine of Forms, and this several decades before Plato himself even existed?)

Go back and read my exchange with Mr. Holding, Mr. Paulson. You are again jumping to conclusions about me and my positions, quick (as you are) to brand me as some kind of “fundamentalist.” My contention was never that Plato is accurately reporting the sayings of Socrates (or even that Socrates is anything more than a mere character in the Dialogues). Rather, what I disputed was Mr. Holding’s assertion that the Gospels are better attested to than any other work of ancient literature; and I cited the Dialogues of Plato (be they attempts at “documentary” or merely pure fiction) as an example to frustrate Mr. Holding’s rash claim. Clearly, no one from the 5th Century B.C. until today disputed that these Dialogues were authored by Plato the disciple of Socrates. That was my point. In other words, we know (within reason) when the books were written and who it was who wrote them. We cannot, from a secular and academic point of view, apply the same certainty to Matthew’s Gospel.

Furthermore, what grounds has Bonocore for accepting that Plutarch’s account of Caesar or Demosthenes is accurate?

I never claimed that Plutarch was necessarily accurate, Mr. Paulson. I claimed that his authorship of the books is well attested and never disputed. It is authorship, don’t forget, that we were discussing.

Can the “integrity” of these accounts be had *without* recourse to . . . the Catholic Church?

Sure. But, two things … 1) The attestation of Plato and Plutarch is BETTER than that of the Gospels (since the authorship of the books was publicly assigned to them within the lifetime of their authors), thus refuting Mr. Holding’s assertion; and 2) No one goes around claiming that Plato or Plutarch are the Word of God. 🙂 Thus, the “stakes” attached to Plato and Plutarch are much lower than is that of a sola Scriptura believer’s acceptance of the Gospel of Matthew. Indeed, in accepting the Gospel of Matthew as the inspired Word of God, the sola Scriptura believer is all but screaming the fact that he trusts the origin of this sacred literature. And, so, despite Mr. Holding’s “disregard” for the necessity of origins, the sola Scriptura believer is forced to accept and trust the WITNESS of the Catholic Church; and in a way in which he must accept the Church’s testimony as infallible. For, if Matthew was not authored by Matthew —if it was not a first-hand witness as Tradition (both that of Catholicism and that of the Protestant sects) claims it to be, then it is not (so the Christian standard goes) inspired by God and a work of reliable Scripture.

If not, then Bonocore is a maniac and he has no right to believe anything that has not yet been issued in a papal bull–including his own mother’s account of his own birth.

So, now I’m moved on from “fundamentalist” to “maniac.” My, my, Mr. Paulson, how Mr. Holding has colored your view of me. 🙂

If he *will* allow that the integrity of these works can be assessed by recourse to historical criticism, then Bonocore has accepted that historical documents can be validated according to a canon that is independent of that of the Catholic Church, and since the authorship of Matthew is at least partially an historical question, it too can be analyzed according to those canons just as much as the writings of Plutarch.

Sure. No problem. But, as I said, this is not why the vast majority of Protestants accept Matthew as authored by Matthew. Rather, as with its Divine inspiration, the authorship of the Gospel is accepted as a matter of oral Tradition, courtesy of the Catholic Church. This is simply the practical reality of the matter, Mr. Paulson. What’s more, as I also said, the historical analysis of Matthew’s Gospel does not give conclusive proof that it was authored by Matthew. At the very best, all that a historian can do is validate the fact that there is a Christian tradition that the Apostle Matthew authored it, and then either argue for or against that proposition. As I’m sure you know, the vast majority of modern scholars would champion the latter. Also, as I touched on, there is the matter of Divine inspiration itself, which is also part of the Catholic tradition and something that all sola Scriptura believers “hold fast” to in regard to Matthew —that “God breathed, and Matthew wrote.” However, not only is there no written account of this notion (certainly not in the pages of Matthew itself …not even to the extent that Luke refers to his own initiative in Luke 1:1-4), but one simply cannot cite the discipline of history to account for it, since the Divine inspiration of this book is purely doctrinal in nature, and so proper to the realm of Catholic teaching itself …teaching which was unquestionably passed down to the Protestants from their Catholic forefathers and then preserved, despite itself, among sola Scriptura believers.

This does not imply that the “jurisdiction” of the Catholic Church could be overruled by that of modern historians; rather, it implies that one need not be Catholic in order to accept as true everything accepted as true by Catholicism.

But, as our Jewish friends would say, “I couldn’t hurt.” 🙂 Again, Mr. Paulson you refer here to the issue of authority (“jurisdiction”) and you juxtapose it with empirical evidence. However, like Mr. Holding, you fail to properly differentiate between the two. In other words, you fail to account for the fact that authority works very differently than scholarship –both in terms of conclusiveness and in terms of its religiously binding nature. In the case of Matthew’s Gospel, as I already discussed, most Protestants fervently believe that it was authored by Matthew and inspired by God based on Tradition, not because of any scholarly analysis or intellectual certitude. And, again, while a case can be made for Matthew’s historical authorship, a case is not conclusive proof; nor can such historical analysis account for a Protestant’s belief in the Gospel’s Divine inspiration. Rather, all of this is based on Tradition …and that Tradition comes from the Apostolic Deposit of the Catholic Church. So, as with the authorship of any ancient literary work, one can have extra-Ecclesial scholarly opinions and debates up to kazoo; and one can even acquire very strong personal certitude that one’s particular position is sound (e.g. “a blind Ionian bard named Homer really did compose the Iliad”). However, none of this addresses the practical reality of why the vast majority of Protestants (or most Catholics, for that matter) believe that the Apostle Matthew is the author of the first canonical Gospel. This belief, as I keep saying, is based solely on Tradition; and thus the thrust of my original article in which I challenged such Protestants to accept the other oral Traditions of the Catholic Church.

If Bonocore cannot see this, then I honestly pity his readership, and recommend that Bonocore himself spend some time with the writings of the apologists of the first four centuries of the Church, and this *without* the whole time seeking proof-texts to buttress his polemics.

Bonocore sees very well, thank you, Mr. Paulson. It is, unfortunately, Mr. Holding and yourself who fail to see the difference between intellectual theory and binding authority when it comes to the practical reality of why Protestants accept the authorship and inspiration of Matthew. In this, I can only conclude that you both spend too much time in academic circles, and so have difficulty seeing the forest for the trees —that is, a simple reality in the face of concern for deeper analysis. 🙂

Back to more pressing concerns, Bonocore has demonstrated an insensitivity to scholarship.

Oh? 🙂

Holding’s work is primarily that of an apologist, and the central context of his writing is that of one always with an eye on the defense of the faith against the unbeliever.

However, he apparently is totally unequipped for dealing with the sensibilities of believers. In other words, Holding fails to realize that not every argument is against a skeptic, and that inter-Christian debate requires a different set of tools. I pray that you do not follow him into this mire, Mr. Paulson.

In order for such a defense, the believer must meet the unbeliever on his own ground; if Bonocore has a problem with this modus operandi, let him also reject the writings of *St* Justin Martyr, *St* Clement of Alexandria, and the apologetic enterprise of the Cappadocians (being *Ss* Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa) not to mention *St* Augustine’s _The City of God_, *St* Thomas Aquinas’ entire theological enterprise (as much indebted to Aristotle), the Theo-Logic of Hans Urs von Balthasar, and the phenomenological anthropology of Pope John Paul II. In other words, if Bonocore wishes to present the claim that the affirmation of Catholic dogma necessarily implies a narrow-circled fideism sharing no common ground with the world at large, let him recognize the fact that the Catholic dogma that he affirms is more the result of his own narrow perspective than the thing itself which he claims to see.

Again, Mr. Paulson, you totally mischaracterize my theological positions, and this is, as I said, no doubt because you view me through Mr. Holding’s pseudo-intellectual rose-colored glasses. I am certainly not opposed to apologetics directed to the unbeliever; and I salute Mr. Holding’s efforts in that area. Where I oppose him is in his rather pathetic, pseudo-intellectual attempts at dealing with the realm of Christian believers; and he has shortcomings in this area because a) he is a material heretic (a Protestant intellectual) and b) he unwisely presumes that the same techniques used to argue with skeptics are suited to believing Christians viz. doctrinal issues as well. They are not. However, Mr. Holding fails to see this, assumes that all valid doctrine is a matter of intellectual pursuit (with no appreciation of binding authority), and so I, of course, am unjustly branded as a “fundamentalist” –NOT because that is my theological position, but because (without checking with me first), Mr. Holding (and yourself) happened to catch me addressing the fundamentals! Needless to say, Mr. Paulson, addressing the fundamentals does not a fundamentalist make. 🙂 Rather, a fundamentalist is one who holds to the fundamentals to the exclusion of everything else. Yet, you never bothered to approach me and discover whether or not I rejected “everything else.” Rather, because the two of you apparently have a serious maturity problems with intellectual pride (and, in Mr. Holdings case, it is pseudo-intellectual pride …at least when it comes to this particular topic, or perhaps to inter-Christian dynamics in general), you both rashly PRESUMED that I am merely a narrow-minded zealot. 🙂 Well, you picked on the wrong guy, Mr. Paulson. …And this is what you get when you violate the principal laid down by Jesus in Matt 18:15-17, and unquestionably side with a Protestant heretic against a brother Catholic …especially without privately checking with that Catholic first. That is a no-no, Mr. Paulson; and it’s a pity that such things are not stressed in Catholic universities anymore. Oh, to have the old-time Jesuits back! 🙂

Also … Above you cite the “ad genes” works of Catholic authorities ranging from Justin Martyr to Pope John Paul. However, as even Mr. Holding must admit, Mr. Paulson, something like St. Justin’s Apologia does not attempt to convince Roman pagans of the more ‘complicated’ internal aspects of Christian doctrine –areas which are proper to discussion among believers, and which involve issues of authority, and cannot be discerned by intellectual argument alone. This is why, for example, Ireneaus and others tell Christian heretics (who are already believers …at least imperfectly) to check the common Tradition of the various city-churches to see how there is no hint of Gnostic doctrine among them. This, of course, is an appeal to authority, Mr. Paulson; and it is this which you and Mr. Holding consistently downplay in application to this issue.

As for Bonocore’s argument itself, it can be refuted rather easily, and my claim with regard thereto (i.e., that were it consistently applied, it would be the ruin of the defense of Catholicism) can itself be justified just as easily.

Prepare to be embarrassed, Mr. Paulson. 🙂

Bonocore claims that a Protestant, in order to believe that the gospels are authored by those who we believe them to be authored by, must necessarily affirm Tradition. Now, Tradition itself, in this context, refers to a belief regarding the epistemic necessity of a mode of dogmatic transmission on par with the Gospels. However, in a more concrete sense, Tradition is a series of claims regarding various issues, be it the dual natures of the God-Man, the divinity of the Spirit, the efficacy of sacraments, or the authorship of this or that book. In the first sense, Tradition is a posited theological affirmation, and discussion with regard thereto must be primarily philosophical in nature; in the second case, Tradition is a series of statements which in their turn belong to what is commonly refered to as “history”, and discussion with regard to *these* must be primarily *historical* in nature.

Authority, Mr. Paulson. Authority.:-) Like Mr. Holding, you fail to address the dynamic of authority, upon which (esp. in a religious context) both history and doctrine depend. Despite what modern academics tend to presume, history is not a secular or secularly-objective phenomenon, but the product of a particular point of view –written by “the winners”; or, for our purposes, by a particular Covenant people: ancient Catholic Christians. If one wishes to accept the “historical evidence” that Matthew authored the first canonical Gospel, then what one is doing is accepting the authoritative voice of the Catholic Church; and, from that point of view (the point of view of authority), it is no different than accepting the voice of this same Catholic Church when it speaks of the Hypostatic Union of Christ, the efficacy of the Sacraments, or some other doctrinal issue.

And because of this intrinsically historical aspect of Tradition, the various claims that constitute it can be used in an historical enterprise to validate the question of the integrity of the gospels; in this case, the veracity of the truth of its claims will be measured by the canons of the historical sciences, regardless of theological positions. If the case offered by the apologist satisfies the requirements of *those* canons, then it is valid in *that* respect (i.e., e.g., if Holding can show that Matthew was most probably written by Matthew by the use of the historical method, then the result of this is that Matthew probably was written by Matthew, and *because* the proof was historical–not theological–it is such that it can be accepted by those who accept the methods of historical science, but not those of Christian theology.)

You again confuse intellectual theory with binding Divine authority. Most Protestants who believe that Matthew authored the Gospel do so from a perspective of Divine authority, Mr. Paulson. What they fail to consider is the source of this Divine authority, which is of course the Catholic Church. Ergo, my initial set of propositions.

Of course, were Bonocore correct in asserting that Holding could affirm the Matthean authorship of Matthew *only* by recourse to Tradition, Christianity would have died off long ago, for Bonocore’s argument is viciously circular.

No, it is not, Mr. Paulson. My argument is one of binding authority. You evidently fail to grasp this.

To cite one striking example, Cardinal Newman, who converted to Catholicism *because of* his intense analysis of early Christianity (*as* an Anglican and *without* presupposing outright the truth of Catholicism), would never have converted to Catholicism if purely historical inquiry were an illegitimate modus operandi for discovering truth.

Sigh! 🙂 I never said that purely historical inquiry cannot be a modus operandi for discovering truth. I merely argue that pure historical inquiry is subjective in nature and requires something more to be infallible. As in Newman’s own case, this is of course the Rock-like authority of Christ’s Catholic Church. For, what you fail to address above is that Newman was led to Catholicism because he ACCEPTED the authoritative testimony of ancient Catholic Christians, and thereafter that of the Catholic Church of his own day (i.e., the newly defined dogma of Papal Infallibility, which he submitted to despite personal reservations). So, the Church’s authority WAS involved. What’s more, I have never said that unquestionably presupposing the truth of Catholicism is required for the non-Catholic. Rather, what I said, in answer to Mr. Holding’s musings, is that the Catholic Church IS its own objective authority, whether one wishes to presuppose this or not. Mr. Holding, however, calls this “circular reasoning,” whereas you yourself say, “I submit all of my own judgments to the authority of the Church, and if I were made aware of any claim wrongly advanced on my part–as regards matters of dogma, or even custom–I would gladly withdraw such claims, and submit to the Church.” This is a glaring difference between yourself and the approach of Mr. Holding; which, again, is the very thing that I was referring to –i.e., the authority of the Catholic Church as our accepted and infallible objective standard of orthodoxy. Indeed, even in my so-called “fundamentalist” article, I merely challenged the sola Scriptura believer to consider the validity of Catholic Sacred Traditons (apart from the presumed authorship of Matthew) and to account for his (or her) failure to accept these Traditions when they come from the same deposit as the tradition about the origins of Matthew. This is not a demand to presuppose Catholic authority, Mr. Paulson; but rather an illustration of the validity (and consistency) of Catholic authority.

But more troubling for Bonocore’s narrow stance, how does he know *which* portions of Tradition to accept? Those that the Catholic Church *today* tells him to?

No, Mr. Paulson. Those which the CATHOLIC (read: universal) Church has always official endorsed. Your liberal academic friends have evidently taught you to confuse regional theolegoumena with Catholic Tradition, and to view both as the same thing. Big mistake. More on this below.

But in that case, what right would he have for believing that the Catholic Church of *today* is that of Tradition?

Because of Jesus’ promises to His Church, Mr. Paulson; and because, as a Catholic, I see the Church of Christ as a “Semitic totality” that transcends time —a consistent Covenantal body preserved in truth by the Holy Spirit throughout the ages. A Protestant (limited to academic discernment alone) cannot appreciate this. However, a Catholic like yourself should easily be able to.

Let him tell us why the Orthodox believer is not justified in assuming outright the correctness of Orthodoxy, and citing as proof the correctness of refusing the Filioque the writings of *St* Photius, and citing as proof of the validity of the opinions of *St* Photius the fact that the Orthodox Tradition affirms that he is right, and citing as proof that the Orthodox Tradition is right the fact that . . . ad infinitum.

First of all, the Catholic Church never approved of the canonization / glorification of “Saint” Photius. While the Byzantine Catholics still have him on their books, that is an unfortunate and sloppy error of the less-than-perfect union that exists between Rome and these former schismatics (our agreement on orthodox doctrine, albeit in different theological modes, is a miracle in its own right; and so we should not look a gift horse in the mouth:-) ). Secondly, the popular Byzantine rejection of Filioque is a matter of regional thelegoumenon, not an aspect of Apostolic Catholic (universal) Tradition. Clearly, the Eastern Orthodox are hard-pressed to explain why nearly every Latin father (and a number of Greek ones …e.g. St. Maximos the Confessor) is on record as promoting or defending the theology of Filioque, and this during periods in which East and West were solidly in communion with each other. Thirdly, as I mentioned, the Greek theological tradition (albeit merely a regional expression of the Catholic –universal –faith), is not defined by Photius alone, but also by the Alexandrian school, which supports the Filioque. ….as do the Cappadocians to a lesser degree. Indeed, viewed against the vast scope of the Greek theological schema, the Pneumology of Photius is both novel and quite isolated; and it was only the prevailing theocratic “nationalism” of the medieval Byzantine state (complete with its anti-Roman agenda) which propelled Photius’ convictions to a central place in modern Eastern Orthodox theology. As any honest theologian will tell you, Christian Pneumology was simply never addressed in comprehensive detail by any of the Councils or by the Greeks themselves prior to Photius’ rash and very bigoted presumptions (which, again, were driven by personal and political ambitions).

Bonocore believes that Matthew was written by Matthew because Bonocore affirms Tradition; because Bonocore affirms Tradition, he is able to affirm that Matthew was written by Matthew. But what Tradition testifies to Matthean authorship? Bonocore cites Papias and Irenaeus. What, then, does he make of Irenaeus’ affirmation that Jesus lived into his mid- to late- forties?

Again, Mr. Paulson, you confuse regional theolegoumena with the universally-approved Apostolic Traditions of the Church …not so much here, but in ways I’ll address in a moment. In regard to Ireneaus supposedly claiming that Jesus was in His forties, … That is a very common misreading of Ireneaus, which I will not address in detail here. Let us simply say that Jesus’ precise age is not Irenaus’ point; and if you wish to understand what Ireneaus is really saying, please check out my article at However, more to the point, you pose this challenge to me because you think it threatens my article’s reliance on CATHOLC (universal) Tradition. However, it most certainly does not. For, Catholics (and, indeed, most Christians), following the authority of a universally-held Tradition —namely, that the narrative of John’s Gospel is intended to be taken literally, and so presents a literal, three-year scenario, believe that Jesus suffered and rose from the dead when He was 33 years of age. Now, you yourself, and I presume Mr. Holding as well, apparently believe the same thing —that John presents a literal chronology and that Jesus was only 33 years old. However, … If we are to go with scholarly analysis alone, and if the BINDING AUTHORITY of this Tradition is a non-issue, then the age of Jesus is suddenly up for grabs. For, what if John is not presenting a literal, 3-year chronology (so as to correct and adjust the “poetic” one-year chronology of the Synoptics)? What if the three Passovers in John’s narrative are just incidental and not intended to be consecutive to each other? Well, if that were the case, and if someone like Ireneaus were to say that Jesus lived into His forties (although Ireneaus, in reality, says no such thing), then who would you or I be to dispute such a statement? Rather, it is only the TRADITIONAL, universally-held Catholic belief that John’s chronology is a literal, three-year one (intended to correct the common misconception, based on the Synoptic narratives, that Jesus only preached for one year …and Ireneaus himself, for those who know how to read him, addresses this very issue), … It is only this CATHOLIC (universal) Tradition (with its BINDING AUTHORITY) which leads you to dispute Ireneaus’ apparent (though misunderstood) statement. Otherwise, you would have no reason to conclude that a forty-year-old Jesus is a problem at all. Indeed, left to your own intellectual devices, divorced from the Traditional understanding that John’s chronology is literal (and so gives us Jesus’ true age), it would be ridiculous to conclude anything but that Ireneaus and his fellow early Christians believed that Jesus was in His forties and that John’s Gospel (the Gospel of Ireneaus’ own native Asian chuch) does not present a literal chronology. So, it is the Church itself which gives you the true (universal) Tradition; and Ireneaus also (if you know how to read him properly) actually backs this up.

As for the use of Ireneaus and his appeal to oral Traditions (i.e., Mary as the New Eve, the primacy of Rome, and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist) in my initial article, … If you REALLY wanted to challenge my position, you would cite the fact that Ireneaus (unlike a modern Catholics) was a Millenarian who believed that Jesus would return and rule an earthly Kingdom for one-thousand years. This, far more than the commonly misunderstood statement about Jesus’ age, represents a very real and substantial problem for any “Catholic fundamentalist” who wishes to present Ireneaus as a champion of oral Tradition. 🙂 But, as I keep illustrating for you, I am not a fundamentalist. And, since I am not a fundamentalist, I (along with all other rational Catholic intellectuals) am able to distinguish between UNIVERSAL Traditions held by the early Church and mere regional theolegoumena, such as the early belief in Millenarianism, which was a) limited to the ancient Asian churches alone, b) directly denied by the other contemporary regions of the ancient universal Church, and c) rooted in a pastoral legend (akin to the belief that the Apostle John would live until Jesus’ return, per John 21:23), which was never properly dispelled among the early Asian Christians and those who were directly influenced by them (e.g. Justin Martyr, who lived for a time in Ephesus). However, debunking Millenarianism aside, Ireneaus is very much a reliable witness for those oral Traditions which WERE held universally by the rest of the ancient Church; and 1) Mary as the New Eve, 2) the primacy of the church of Rome, and 3) the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist —the three oral Traditions that I cited in my initial article –WERE Traditions held UNIVERSALLY by all orthodox Christians in Ireneaus’ day, and from earliest times. Ergo, my initial argument stands, and stands quite beautifully. Once understood in context, there is no way in which a Catholic can get “burned” by it, as you and Mr. Holding allege.

And, similarly, with the case of Papias, you write …

Or what does he make of Papias’ attribution of the saying that, “The days will come in which vines shall grow, having each ten thousand branches [. . .]”, and so on, to the “elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord”? In other words, to adapt the question that Plato puts to Euthyphro through the mouth of Socrates, “Is it true because it is part of Tradition, or is it part of Tradition because it is true?” If the former, then Bonocore must be willing to accept not only the above (and then he would need to explain *why those particular claims* were not enthusiastically endorsed by the rest of Tradition), but also things such as Tertullian’s affirmation that Mary was not perpetually a virgin (alongside Jerome’s and Origen’s affirmation of the opposite), and these alongside the *fact* that he has no canon whereby to validate or disaffirm *any* claim when it contrasts with another, which would in its turn result in the fact that two mutually exclusive portions of Tradition are both true.

Okay. Several things. First of all, Papias’ recorded saying of Jesus (which he got from “the elders”) may very well be an authentic “agrapha” from the Lord. Need I point out that Papias is also the apparent oral source for John Chapter 8 –the story of the woman caught in adultery, which does not appear in any of the early codices of John, and was apparently added (through Asian oral testimony) sometime in the 300’s. For example, Eusebius writes of Papias and this issue, saying ….

“The same man (Papias) uses proofs from the First Epistle of John, and from the Epistle of Peter in like manner. And he also gives another story of a woman who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is to be fount in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.”

…But not as yet, in Eusebius’ day (c. 312 A.D.), in the Gospel of John itself. 🙂 Now, why the saying about the vines, etc. was never included in any liturgical medium (e.g. Sacred Scripture), who knows? Perhaps it is because it became associated with the Millenarian error. However, none of this negates the possibility (or likelihood) that it is an aspect of authentic oral Tradition, albeit poorly recorded or applied; and only in a regional (Asian) mode.

Secondly, I hate to correct Mr. Paulson again, but contrary to popular (liberal-modernist / Fundie Protestant) opinion (and even Jurgens falls victim to this too), Tertullian never denied the perpetual virginity of Mary. As with Ireneaus and Jesus’ age, Mr. Paulson apparently misunderstands Tertullian who merely made a comment that Jesus had blood ‘brethren’ (that is, people who were biologically related to Him) to counter the claims of Docetist heretics. This is not a denial of Mary’s perpetual virginity, although that was the “spin” that Helvidius later put on Tertullian’s comment when Helvidius was debating the issue with St. Jerome. And, it is from Helvidius that most modern scholars derive their presumed interpretation of what Tertullian actually said. Yet, his actual statement reads as follows:

“Thus is the temptation about His birth unsuitable, for it might have been contrived without any mention of either His mother or His brethren. It is clearly more credible that, being certain that He had both a mother and brothers, they tested His divinity rather than His nativity, whether, when within, He knew what was without; being tried by the untrue announcement of the presence of persons who were not present.” (On the Flesh of Christ, Chapter 7)

As you can see, Tertullian does not deny Mary’s perpetual virginity, nor does he even address it. He merely makes the comment that, since Jesus had a mother and ‘brethren’ (blood relatives), He could not be a mere ‘phantom.’ What’s more, the overall thrust of Tertullian’s assertion (rooted in what would later be called the “Epiphanian” view of Jesus’ brethren, as reflected in the Protoevagelium of James and elsewhere) maintains that these “brethren” were witnesses to Jesus’ birth (the ‘persons who were present’) thereby making it impossible for them to be the subsequent children of Joseph and Mary, born after Jesus. Rather, these ‘brethren’ are recognized to be family relatives (in this case, of Mary herself), and so of ‘the same flesh’ as Jesus.

As for Mr. Paulson’s assertion that I possess no “canon” by which to affirm or deny any oral claim made against another, that is completely untrue. My “canon” is the universality of a particular Tradition; or, in the case of a regional theolegoumenon that was eventually adopted as official Church doctrine (such as the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption –both of which come to us from the Syrian-speaking branch of the ancient Church, being originally unknown, yet never denied, elsewhere), my canon is the organic sensus fidelium of the Apostolic Deposit, by which the Church’s Magisterium has always, as St. Paul instructs us, ‘tested everything, and retained what is good’ –that is, what agrees organically and theologically with the Apostolic Deposit.

If the latter (i.e., that it is part of Tradition because it is true), then he must explain why Tradition does not itself contain *all* true assertions, and *how anything* can be true that is not itself part of Tradition. Either way, the result is the same: nonsense.

The only “nonsense” here is Mr. Paulson’s faulty approach to the phenomenon of Sacred Tradition itself, which he approaches academically (like a Protestant) vs. organically, as a Catholic would. Tradition does not consist of a static “laundry list” of beliefs left to us by the Apostles …any more that “Jewishness” is limited to any static record which can be re-produced by simply following its instructions. Rather, the primary medium and custodian of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is HIS CHURCH ITSELF –a living Covenant People with a comprehensive, organic understanding of the Apostolic Faith –the “sensus fidelium” that I referred to before. Thus, the Church remembers and recounts its Apostolic Traditions in the same way that any family or ethnic people would; the only difference being that the Church is a super-cultural community that happens to be aided and supported by an infallible Holy Spirit. But, like a regular family or ethnic people, it occasionally encounters contradictions or disagreements as to the nature or expression of its authentic character; and this is worked out by appealing to universal commonality and to pastoral authority …both of which are totally alien to Mr. Holding’s Protestant experience (and thus his over-reliance on academic study).

Thus is my claim justified that Bonocore’s modus operandi, were it rigorously applied, would eventuate in the downfall of Catholicism.

Try again, Mr. Paulson. 🙂 Your faith in the Rock of the Church leaves much to be desired; and this is because you are a victim of the same kind of intellectualism (or pseudo-intellectualism?) that Mr. Holding suffers from.

Were he to realize this, and come to a more sensible judgment, he’d realize not only that historical research *as historical* can offer evidence of its own, and this without presupposing the correctness of Christianity but still able to offer proof with respect to the vindication of certain of its claims, but also, he’d realize that the defense of Tradition itself must be had by recourse to a considerably more complex argument than Bonocore himself is willing to countenance.

You’ve been in college too long, Mr. Paulson. The world is much more simple and practical than “sage” academics like yourself make it out to be. While academia is of course important and has its place, I have very little tolerance for people who make history needlessly complicated and refuse to take a firm stand or adopt an unapologetic perspective of reality because ‘that would be gauche’ and ‘might interfere with intellectual sophistication.’ 🙂 However, when one happens to stand upon a Christ-established Rock, one need not worry about being “embarrassed” by “the truth” offered by the kind of secular dissidents found in the halls of academia these days. Does such a statement sound boastful and arrogant to you, Mr. Paulson? Good. Because I intend it to be. …Because I boast of the “pillar and foundation of Truth” (1 Tim 3:15) that is the Catholic Church. And, I’m sorry to break this to you, but far more clever intellectuals than yourself have tried to depict people holding to my very position as “childish” and “naïve,” and have failed miserably to do so …just as you have failed to do here. So, what else ya got? 🙂

In short, you misunderstand my approach because you fail to appreciate that it is an appeal to AUTHORITY. And, like Mr. Holding, you fail to appreciate this because (despite your claims to the contrary) your approach to Christianity is overly academic in nature and does not extend beyond the intellectual sphere which you are accustom to operating in. So, before you presume to lecture me about broadening my perspective, Mr. Paulson, might I respectfully suggest that you learn to broaden your own and deal with the fact that you’re mischaracterizing both my arguments and my intellectual capacity based on a faulty premise. The question of the authorship of Matthew is NOT a historical question or a matter of empirical evidence alone. Rather, it is a matter of authority and whom it is who may speak with that authority. Anyone who fails to see this is simply either deluded or naïve. Since you claim that your allegiance to Tradition extends beyond the historical sciences, I would hope that you are better than that, and so will “disengage your perilous youth from the nets” of Mr. Holding.

Mark Bonocore
The Catholic Legate
November 24, 2004

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