Sunday, April 09, 2006

Priests, Levites, & Josiah's Destruction of the High Places: Closer to Sola Scriptura or Catholicism? (vs. "CPA"), Part III

See Part I and Part II for necessary background material.

(Lutheran) "CPA's words will be in green. Citations from Protestant reference works will be in purple. John Henry Cardinal Newman's words will be in blue.

* * * * *

By magisterium I meant someone you can go to to get reliable answers that over the 1500 year history of Israel are on the mark. That’s what the Catholic church claims. But you can’t find it in the OT.

1) You have ignored the king: both the Josian and Hezekian reformations were undertaken on royal authority only. In 2 Kings 22-23, the high priest Hilkiah goes to the king to ask him what to do with the book found in the temple. Josiah orders the priest to go to the prophetess Huldah, she tells him to do what it says, and then Josiah calls all the kingdom, including the priests and high priest together, and orders them to begin the iconoclasm and desecrating the Yahwist high places. In Hezekiah's time it's less detailed but the king is in command. Conclusion: the king in 620 BC or so is the final authority. But they can't be the final authority because in between you have kings like Manasseh, Amon, and so on (let alone the kings of Israel).

2) David's building of the temple is another interesting case: he has the idea, tells it to his court prophet Nathan, Nathan approves, but then has a revelation/dream that night rebuking both of them for presumption and saying Solomon will do it (2 Sam. 7). Who can really affirm whether building the temple is right?

2) As for the priests, the prophets frequently denounce not just their moral turpitude but their lack of orthopraxy, e.g. Jer. 2:28: "The priests did not ask, 'Where is the LORD ?' Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols." Ezekiel 22:26, "[Jerusalem's] priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them." Zeph. 3:4: "[Jerusalem’s] prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law."

3) Levites: Ezekiel was very negative about them: 44:10: "The Levites who went far from me when Israel went astray and who wandered from me after their idols must bear the consequences of their sin." The eschatological need of purification in Malachi 3:3 implies their corruption: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness" But there isn't much about them, because they were so lower in prestige than the authority of the priests, that if the priests go bad, the Levites can hardly be expected not to.

3) The prophets: Jer. 14:14 "Then the LORD said to me, 'The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.'" 23:16: "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.'"; Ez. 13:19 "My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD." The story of Micaiah (the true prophet) and Zedekiah son of Kenaanah (a false one) in 1 Kings 22 is enough to show that prophets were not reliable simply by being prophets.

The Old Testament believer was in a situation like that in which Catholics picture non-Catholics being in today: many authorities, some with a good track record of being generally right in the last few decades or even centuries, but none capable of being an unequivocal witness to the truth. Ultimately, you were on your own with your Moses and his commentators, the prophets and the writings. Since true faith was possible for them in those circumstances, it is at least possible for those in similar circumstances today.

I wasn't arguing the analogy to magisterium in the sense of unbroken succession. Obviously that did not occur in the OT. But then again, that was earlier in salvation history, so we would expect it. Doctrine was much less developed. They didn't have the Holy Spirit as we do, or the full revelation of the New Testament and the gospel. Therefore, apostolic succession and the protections of infallibility are now possible and thinkable and believable.

*** CLICK ON "Tolle, lege!" immediately below to finish this article ***


You act as if the New Covenant didn't count for anything, in terms of a better guarantee of what truth is (yet you cited Jeremiah 31 - the famous New Covenant passage - when you thought it suited your purpose). It is a major increase of certainty and ability to ascertain spiritual truth in all things. So that is how I would account for the real differences you cite, while also continuing to maintain that the notions of authority were present in the Old Covenant, notwithstanding sinners and corruption (as always; nothing new there).

You can talk about sin and corruption all you like, but that doesn't wipe out the necessity of authoritative teachers, or the fact that this is the norm prescribed by this same Bible that you want to make the sole final authority in the usual distorted Protestant manner. You can't appeal, on the one hand, to the Josian and Hezekian reformations on the ground that they established Scripture front and center in Jewish life (because they could again read it and apply it), yet fail to apply what that same Scripture says to the issues at hand.

They had to see what Scripture said; so do we. Nothing has changed in that regard. I look in it and see that it teaches the necessity and normative nature of a strong teaching authority. The Scripture alone does not teach Scripture Alone. Lutherans have reversed biblical authority: now the congregations can tell the pastors what is right and wrong? The sheep become the shepherds? What if they disagree? This is always the Protestant dilemma. It sounds wonderful in theory but it ain't biblical and it doesn't work.

Again, you can talk all you want about corruption in the ranks of the priests, kings, prophets, whoever. It doesn't follow that there can never be a teaching class. The OT clearly teaches that there is. The system was there, but obviously it was not always functional or trustworthy. You haven't touched that with a ten-foot pole (ignoring virtually all of my passages produced), and have opted instead to talk about corruption (which is the most obvious thing in the world and never proves anything in relation to true and false theology or exegesis).

You have ignored the king: both the Josian and Hezekian reformations were undertaken on royal authority only.

This doesn’t prove anything, any more than Constantine's actions, giving Christians freedom and the Church institutional respectability proves that he therefore became an authoritative teacher. Holy Roman emperors acted in similar ways at times; doesn't make them teachers. Sometimes monarchs are in a position to do great good, because they have the power to implement laws and practices. This was one such case in the Bible. You know as well as I do that the monarchy wasn't even God's will for Israel, so certainly the king couldn’t be the primary teacher of the country. Granted, David and Solomon came close, but it wasn’t the normative situation. In the Mosaic Law the Levites had that responsibility. And David was a special case: being more than a mere king. God made a covenant with him that was unique and not applicable to other Hebrew kings.

In 2 Kings 22-23, the high priest Hilkiah goes to the king to ask him what to do with the book found in the temple. Josiah orders the priest to go to the prophetess Huldah, she tells him to do what it says, and then Josiah calls all the kingdom, including the priests and high priest together, and orders them to begin the iconoclasm and desecrating the Yahwist high places. In Hezekiah's time it's less detailed but the king is in command.

Yeah, but so what? The dispute at hand involves teaching authority, not civil authority. Your very words above help to prove the Catholic case. What does the king do as soon as the Torah is found? He gets the priest. The priest goes to the prophetess. Here are the two teaching authorities. It matters not a hill of beans whether the king commands the teachers to teach and interpret. That is their function! It doesn't cease because a king commands them to do it. And that is our question at hand. Who had authoritative teaching authority? The king abided by the advice of his advisors, just as Saul ignored Samuel, to his peril (but should have followed his sage advice), and David eventually heeded Nathan's advice (but tragically too late to avoid the civil war led by his son).

Nor does the fact that the Law as a whole needed interpretation rule out the possibility that certain parts of it were clear and apparent without the need for much interpretation (just as with the Bible as a whole). Catholicism does not require a totally obscure Bible at all. This is a myth. I would argue that the portions that Josiah chiefly acted upon were of such a nature. How hard is it to understand that idols were contrary to the Law? That's a no-brainer, so he could see that right away, because it was repeated so often. There is some monstrosity up on a hill that some folks are using in connection with worship. Knock it down; it is an idol. How hard was it to figure out that Passover should be observed? Etc., etc. Does it thereby follow that the entire Law and Bible could be understood without the need of authoritative teachers? No. And that is rather obvious to this day. Protestants continue to absurdly claim that the Bible is perspicuous, yet fail to agree amongst themselves. And their reasons for why this is (stupidity or sin on the other guy's part) is as absurd and silly as the original false premise.

As for false priests and prophets: Jesus issued just as devastating criticisms of the Pharisees, yet He commanded His followers to abide by their teaching. So He must have been teaching some notion that the truth could be passed down despite the corruption, not that it was impossible because of the corruption, as you seem to think. You want to dismiss the authority of priests and Levites because of widespread corruption, but St. Paul approaches the same dilemma rather differently. As I wrote in my book, The Catholic Verses (p. 50):

Paul shows the high priest, Ananias, respect, even when the latter had him struck on the mouth, and was not dealing with matters strictly of the Old Testament and the Law, but with the question of whether Paul was teaching wrongly and should be stopped (Acts 23:1-5). A few verses later Paul states, "I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees" (23:6) and it is noted that the Pharisees and Sadducees in the assembly were divided and that the Sadducees "say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all" (23:7-8). Some Pharisees defended Paul (23:9).
So we see that Paul accepts (at least to some tangible degree) the authority of the corrupt priests, just as Jesus accepted the authority (and taught others to do so) of the very Pharisees that He elsewhere excoriated. In fact, right after He says to "practice and observe whatever they tell you" (Matthew 23:3), He launches into His famous denunciations [for hypocrisy] for the rest of the chapter. Jesus and Paul see nothing improper at all in the concept of a corrupt teacher preserving true teaching. They don’t think that the corrupt teacher loses all authority. So once again we have the biblical teaching, and then the Lutheran teaching, which contradicts it, and the Catholic teaching which is harmonious with it.

Your recourse to Jeremiah 14:14 and 23:16 is downright precious. What is it you are trying to prove again? You quote the authoritative words of a true prophet about the foibles and wickedness of false prophets, and this proves that prophets have no teaching authority? Or that there were enough false prophets that one couldn't know when they found a true one? Ez. 13:19 is apparently a typo, but again you are trying to run down the authority of prophets by citing a prophet who tells the truth. NOT impressive.

You say, "prophets were not reliable simply by being prophets." Well, of course. Their word had to be proven by future events. If what they said did not come to pass, and they claimed they had a word from the Lord, then they were to be stoned as false prophets. But there was always a true prophet, despite all the false ones. Certainly you are familiar with the "remnant" motif in the OT. That would be what I emphasize, while you take the route of despair and skepticism, arguing that the presence of false prophets rules out any prophets at all functioning as a primitive "magisterium" for the Jews. You look at the wicked guys. But Israel had Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Isaiah and all the rest to tell them the truth. Many did not heed that truth or accept their authority. What else is new? That’s the same as always. Not all (not even a majority) listened to John the Baptist or Jesus Himself, either. And what does that prove? Exactly nothing, as to whether they possessed authority to teach or not, and bind others to their teaching.

Ultimately, you were on your own with your Moses and his commentators, the prophets and the writings. Since true faith was possible for them in those circumstances, it is at least possible for those in similar circumstances today.

And this gets to the crux of the matter, I think. Protestants, since they can't figure out theological truth once and for all, and must fight interminably, have to necessarily take a pessimistic view of things. So analogies from the OT must needs be pessimistic. Therefore, you look at the corruption and all the nonsense that went on in ancient Israel, conclude that authoritative teachers are not to be had, and say that therefore, the chaos in Protestantism is justified because that is how it has always been. And so the individual is thrown upon himself as his own authority (a spectacle every bit as horrifying - if not more so - as having to weed through 17 false prophets to get to a true one).

It's as if there is no Holy Spirit, no further guidance, no death of Jesus on the cross (in terms of making a difference as to men's ascertaining of truth). There is no apostolic deposit that we can know and identify, and no succession so that folks could identify the one Church with the one faith. We don’t say that the age of the Church is no more advanced than all the tragic Jewish history which was corrupt far more than it was righteous and the way God intended it to be. No; the Christian has faith that because Jesus died and made it possible to obtain the graces of baptism and the Eucharist, and to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that now we can know what Christian truth is. Paul certainly presupposes this in his writing, constantly referring nonchalantly (as if it were self-evident) to the one true tradition, received, and passed along. Yet you want to live in the uncertainty of the OT times? I find it amazing. But what else can a Protestant do, after all? You are bound by your own self-defeating, endlessly self-contradictory system(s).

I think we have to a large degree a logomachy here. When I said magisterium, I meant in the Newman sense: a single infallible organ whose decision is final, precisely because the Holy Spirit works through it to keep it from error. You can’t find that in the Old Testament, and yet scriptural revelation remained at work for 1,500 years.

Now, since I believe Newman was actually claiming that precisely that form is a precondition for any textual revelation to remain effective in the world, there is obviously a contradiction. Remember when someone says "impossible!" I need only ONE counter-example to disprove them.

Now, as for there being "no teaching authority in the OT", I never said anything of the sort. Of course there is teaching authority - and of course there is teaching authority in the Protestant churches too. But the teaching authority is multiple and diffuse without any final, infallible organ. Basically, you've acknowledged the point. So we both agree there is teaching authority, but it is diffuse and subject to conflicts, which did not historical prevent it effectively from working to enforce some kind of orthodoxy, even after the end of the prophetic period (c. 400 BC). Can we agree on that?

Thanks for the clarification, but I have already dealt with all of this in one way or another. [Nevertheless], . . . let me directly address what you say here.

I think we have to a large degree a logomachy here.

I agree (though to a lesser degree than you), because that is often what Protestant-Catholic discussions come down to. But there is more than that going on here: there is also a fundamental clash of premises, and a very different interpretation of Scripture (and above all, different emphases), partly as a result of those differing premises. This is not necessarily a bad thing (as it is inescapable) in and of itself, but we need to be consciously aware of it: all the more reason to carefully work through the issues, per my "friendly complaint" above, so both sides can avoid eisegesis.

When I said magisterium, I meant in the Newman sense: a single infallible organ whose decision is final, precisely because the Holy Spirit works through it to keep it from error.

You added the element of unbroken succession through history, which is not, technically, the realm of magisterium but of apostolic succession. I have granted that we don't have that in the OT, but have argued that it doesn't affect Newman's argument, or the analogy of Catholicism to the OT system, precisely because we would expect this, based on the Holy Spirit not yet being given to the Church, to guide her. So we agree on the fact of whether such a succession occurred in the OT (it obviously did not because of the constant upheavals, decadence, judgments, and subsequent revivals of ancient Israel); we disagree on the significance of that fact and whether it is an analogous indication of Catholicism or Protestantism.

Secondly, one can distinguish between what might be called "metaphysical or supernatural infallibility" and "practical infallibility." I contend that in the passages in Newman referred to, in which he is talking about infallibility as the usual companion of revelation, he has mainly in mind the latter: i.e., that there exists an authority with a final, binding say in the matter (whether or not it is supernaturally protected from error). He is talking about the general principle, not the more particular Catholic notion, as he often does in his Essay on Development. Indeed, he wasn't even a Catholic when he wrote it.

This kind of "practical infallibility" or simply authority beyond a simple sola Scriptura conception, is certainly present in the OT, and was God's intention for Israel. It just wasn't continuous, because of human sin. The Church Age and the coming of the gospel and the Holy Spirit made that possible, because of its supernatural protection, which alone would suffice to accomplish it. We see that in Levites and prophets alike. I have provided you the passages; you have ignored them all.

You can't find that in the Old Testament, and yet scriptural revelation remained at work for 1,500 years.

A book (assuming it is copied accurately) is not subject to the corruptions and vicissitudes of human nature. It is what it is. So the books sat there and Josiah found them and God's Law was again known because it could be read. This doesn't prove sola Scriptura. All it proves is that Israel wasn’t faithful to God and His Law, which we all knew, as this is the overwhelming theme of the entire OT.

Now, since I believe Newman was actually claiming that precisely that form is a precondition for any textual revelation to remain effective in the world, there is obviously a contradiction. Remember when someone says "impossible!" I need only ONE counter-example to disprove them.

But you have failed to properly understand what Newman meant. He couldn’t possibly have intended his statement as you think because that would be a massively ignorant belief about ancient Israel, and Newman was no ignoramus (and no mean Church historian).

Secondly, historical continuity is not a strict necessity in a notion of infallibility. You have added that on.

Thirdly, you contradict yourself now because, rather than arguing infallibility and revelation as necessary allies at all times, by the nature of the case, you now talk about "a precondition for any textual revelation to remain effective." This is a different, far lesser claim, and I agree with it. The Torah was ineffective when the priests and Levites were lax in their duty to properly teach and interpret it. No argument there. But this is self-evident, and not a contradiction of Newman's position at all.

Fourthly, here is some evidence (in context) that Newman was discussing more so "practical infallibility." Note also that he is talking about "probabilities," not logical necessities or inherent, intrinsic states of affairs. This is often poorly understood:

Reasons shall be given in this Section for concluding that, in proportion to the probability of true developments of doctrine and practice in the Divine Scheme, so is the probability also of the appointment in that scheme of an external authority to decide upon them, thereby separating them from the mass of mere human speculation, extravagance, corruption, and error, in and out of which they grow. This is the doctrine of the infallibility of the Church; for by infallibility I suppose is meant the power of deciding whether this, that, and a third, and any number of theological or ethical statements are true.

Let the state of the case be carefully considered. If the Christian doctrine, as originally taught, admits of true and important developments, as was argued in the foregoing Section, this is a strong antecedent argument in favour of a provision in the Dispensation for putting a seal of authority upon those developments. The probability of their being known to be true varies with that of their truth. The two ideas indeed are quite distinct, I grant, of revealing and of guaranteeing a truth, and they are often distinct in fact. There are various revelations all over the earth which do not carry with them the evidence of their divinity.

(Essay on Development, Pt. I, Chapter II, section II)

We see how Newman viewed the relationship between Judaism and Christianity in excerpts such as the following:

These two instances, of the Sabbath and of circumcision, are suggested by the very chapter of which I am speaking; but what is true of these, is true of many other parts of the Law, as in some particulars all will allow; and if in them, why not in others? No one will deny that the principle or spirit of the commandment concerning the Paschal feast is still fulfilled in our feast of Holy Communion. It is true, that the Paschal feast was a type of our Lord's atoning death, and therefore has come to an end, as being a type fulfilled; but it has not come to an end without leaving behind it a rite in its place, without reviving, as it were, in a new form; why? because the Jewish Church and the Christian Church are one; and the rules given to the Jewish are in some sort the ritual and the canons of the Christian, though not as Jewish rules; the form, the manner, the virtue being different, the substance the same.

I say, without looking for directions in the New Testament, we shall be able to see at once the reason of other institutions and usages, which have ever existed in the Christian Church, by merely referring to the Old. For instance, the three orders of the Jewish ministry, high-priest, priests, and Levites, are done away in Christ in their Jewish form; yet, let us suppose that the commandment on which they rested remains in force now, and needs not to be repeated in the New Testament, and we see it fulfilled in our three orders of bishops, priests, and deacons.

Again: we learn from the histories of Nadab and Abihu, of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and of Uzziah, that no one could intrude upon the priestly office, or rebel against the priest, without the most fearful responsibility. What was the rule of the Law is the rule of the Gospel, as St. Jude expressly teaches us; for he speaks of the opposers of Church authority in his day as "perishing in the gainsaying of Core;" nay, and St. Paul, who lays down the general principle, "No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron."

Again: under the Jewish law, the ministerial office was continued by a succession; it was not committed to men here and there, as it might be, but passed from father to son. The carnal form of this ordinance is now at an end, but the succession remains; spiritual sons succeed spiritual fathers. As under the Law, each preceding generation of priests begat the following, so each generation ordains the next, under the Gospel.

(Sermons on Subjects of the Day, Sermon 15. The Principle of Continuity between the Jewish and Christian Churches)

And another:

June 28 (Fifth Pentecost)
[The Jewish and the Christian Church]

1. "Unless your justice [exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," Matt. v. 20].

2. The Jews, then, God's people, and their Church God's Church. It was the Ark. The world lay in wickedness, and in the wrath of God, except that holy Church which God founded by Moses. The Pharisees its rulers.

3. It was salvation, for "salvation of the Jews." So now.

4. It taught God's law. "Moses’ seat." So now.

5. Indefectible, never to end. You will say it ended. No, it changed into the Christian Church.

6. But though Jewish Church could not fall away, its members could. And so now. Even its rulers could fall away, though they taught what was right - Moses’ seat; and so could the body of its people, and so it did. They relied on their privileges, and were cast off. St. John the Baptist said, "Flee from the wrath to come," to Pharisees coming to His baptism. And so Christians may [fall away]. This is a warning to us, and St. Paul so makes it, Rom. ii.

7. Therefore whatever is said to or about the Jews is a warning to us.

8. Thus what is said about the Samaritans. (Who were the Samaritans?) Many are singled out as better than the Jews. (1) The good Samaritan; (2) the grateful Samaritan [Note 58]. They are like Protestants. So Protestants may be better than we in spite of "salvation from the Jews."

(Sermon Notes)

Now, as for there being "no teaching authority in the OT", I never said anything of the sort. Of course there is teaching authority - and of course there is teaching authority in the Protestant churches too.

You acknowledge it, yet you ignore it when you make your argument of "Josiah found the Torah and fought human traditions and this won the day" as if that self-evidently establishes the analogy to Protestantism and sola Scriptura. It does not because you failed to incorporate the data of the teaching authority into it. You say "of course" it is there, yet utterly ignore it when talking about the rediscovery of the Torah. In so doing, you follow the usual procedure of anti-Catholics (far less sophisticated than you) like William Webster and David King (or Jason Engwer, with whom I debated this very issue at great length), in their supposed "proofs" that the Fathers believed in sola Scriptura. They simply ignore when the Fathers discuss Church and Tradition and apostolic succession, and cite only or overwhelmingly their words about the Bible.

Such selective presentation makes it appear to the uninformed that said Father believes in Bible Alone! After all, he said nice things about Scripture and accepted its authority, right?! (as every Catholic does . . . YAWN). So if you agree that there was a teaching class and function in the OT, then the truly interesting thing now in this debate (and far more than a logomachy) is how you consistently incorporate that into your overall interpretation and understanding, particularly regarding the hypothetical analogy to Protestant authority systems. Are you willing to do this or not? Does it even interest you? I love this discussion myself, because I love analogy and development and comparative theology and ecclesiology, which is why I have spent so much time on it. It's fascinating, and I learn so much every time I do it.

Simply saying that the teaching system is irrelevant because it didn't exist in an unbroken, uncorrupted manner for 3000 years or so of OT history does not suffice. Everyone already knows that, and all agree that the Holy Spirit has a lot to do with it. Most Protestants, after all, manage to believe that the medieval Church fell into great darkness, supposedly obscuring the Bible and the gospel, etc., yet somehow the noble Protestant underground managed to keep the flicker going through all those dreary years till prophet Martin Luther could bring us the Bible, gospel, and good ole truth again.

So why is it so difficult for you to apply the same reasoning to the checkered record of OT observance of the Law as God intended? Even within Lutheranism today, you have ths same situation: mutual anathematizing (as you wrote about recently on your blog, regarding LC-MS and WELS) and large factions of institutionalized pro-abortion, pro-feminist, theological liberalism (as in most Protestant denominations). Yet you believe that there is a truth preserved one way or another. One has to simply find it. That's all we are saying regarding the Old Covenant. But when we understand the actual system instituted by God, it is far more similar to Catholicism than Lutheranism; that's my argument.

But the teaching authority is multiple and diffuse without any final, infallible organ.

Priests, Levites, and prophets exercised something between binding teaching authority and infallibility. This is no different, analogously, than popes, councils, and bishops in the Catholic Church. Popes can be infallible, and so can councils in agreement with the pope. It's true that there is not one, absolute figure like the pope, but when one is in the presence of an Ezra or Jeremiah or Samuel, does it really make any practical difference? Prophets routinely speak what purports to be the word of God, which is a much higher claim than papal infallibility, which is primarily a preventive, or "negative" guarantee, not positive inspiration or "revelation on the spot." So one could easily argue that the infallibility (or the charism) was even greater, at least in the case of prophets.

It was even said of the Levites in Malachi 2:4-8: "True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts."

This is quite strong and has all the hallmarks of infallibility. The only thing missing is the promise of continuity and succession (so of course you hang on that as the salvation of your analogy). But all the essentials are there.

Basically, you've acknowledged the point. So we both agree there is teaching authority, but it is diffuse and subject to conflicts, which did not historical prevent it effectively from working to enforce some kind of orthodoxy, even after the end of the prophetic period (c. 400 BC). Can we agree on that?

Sure, but so what? The basic facts are not in dispute. It is the interpretation and the true analogy where we differ.

END OF PART THREE

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