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The Early Church Was Eucharistic

Tim Staples

Audio only:

Did the early Church believe that the Eucharist was the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ? Had that been the belief of the Catholic Church since the Last Supper? Find out today with Catholic Answers’ Director of Apologetics, Tim Staples.


Cy Kellett:
Hello and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I’m Cy Kellett, your host, and we’re going to take a look at the early church in this episode and in some coming episodes with Time Staples, director of Apologetics and Evangelization here at Catholic Answers. Hi, Tim.

Tim Staples:
Hi, Cy Kellett. How are you buddy?

Cy Kellett:
I am very well. And, what were you doing in the years of the early church? I know you’re very old.

Tim Staples:
Yeah, I was a fired up Pentecostal preacher back then brother.

Cy Kellett:
Well, that’s a problem. We’ll talk a little bit about that, but-

Tim Staples:
That’s contradicting what we’re going to talk about, though.

Cy Kellett:
Exactly it is. But, what we want to talk about today is the Eucharist because not all Christians today share what the church teaches on the Eucharist. Most Christians do. Those would be Orthodox and Catholics of every kind would agree with what the church has always taught about the Eucharist. But there is a large post-reformation part of Christianity that does not accept what the church has always taught from its beginning starting with its founder about the Eucharist. And, I don’t say those things lightly or to be provocative but that’s what we believe, that from the foundations of the church, Christ taught the Eucharist and it has been taught in an unbreaking manner all the way down the years.

I want to start, Tim, with a couple of quotes from Ignatius of Antioch-

Tim Staples:
Yes.

Cy Kellett:
… who in the 19th century was a very controversial figure because many people, many scholars said, “Oh, those things that are ascribed to the Bishop of Antioch,” who was the third Bishop of Antioch after Peter and then … Excuse me … Evodius and then himself, Ignatius, there was this sense of, “Oh, it’s all bologna. It was all made up. These are forgeries.” Later forgeries, because they’re so Catholic. In the 20th century, a general consensus arose that these letters of Ignatius are the authentic letters of a man who knew St. John certainly, may have known St. Peter and was the third Bishop of Antioch and around the year 100, he writes that there are people in the early church who he says abstained from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior, Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father in His goodness raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes. And then you might argue, “Well, he’s doesn’t mean by that what we mean by the Eucharist.”

“He means that they’re denying the incarnation or something,” and to that, we might respond that Ignatius also wrote, “I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was the seed of David, and for drink, I desire His blood, which is love incorruptible.” Would you say that that was the general view of the early church?

Tim Staples:
Yeah, absolutely, and I love that earlier quote, and I believe that’s from his letter to the Smyrnaeans, section seven, as I recall. If you understand the context, that becomes all the more significant because Saint Ignatius is writing against the early Gnostics who were denying the incarnation of our Lord, and as a result of that, they were denying the Eucharist. And so, when he says they abstain from prayer, he’s talking about Catholic-Christians who were being snatched away by these Gnostics.

Some of them were still going to mass. However, they were being evangelized, some were leaving, some were still in the pews. You know that happens today, Cy. We have to as Catholics remember that the person you’re sitting next to at mass, imagine, this could be his or her last week at mass. Maybe this person next to you is being evangelized by some evangelical or whomever, and is thinking in his or her mind, “Man, this stuff is wrong. I think Bob and Mary, who are teaching me about evangelicalism are right,” and that person may never be back again.

This is similar to what’s happening in the 1st Century and early 2nd Century with the Gnostics, so when he says, “They abstained from prayer and from the Eucharist,” he gives the reason why. Because, they do not confess that it is the flesh of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the same flesh which suffered and died for our sins. That’s extremely important because that’s exactly what the Gnostics were teaching. They were teaching that the Eucharist is purely symbolic. Why? Because they denied the incarnation. They denied that the Christ actually possessed flesh. So, that’s a very, very powerful text from St. Ignatius and I believe one of the reasons why so many Protestant scholars denied it’s authenticity as you said, especially in the last century, or now two centuries ago.

That’s hard to believe, in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. But, as you said, the historical evidence is overwhelming. The fact is St. Ignatius was defending the real presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, and as a disciple who was acquainted with John the Apostle, he was taught by John the Apostle … You can see that John himself had that same emphasis on the Eucharist in John, chapter six, because John was defending the real presence of our Lord in the Eucharist and the Eucharistic sacrifice against one of the fathers of Gnosticism, a man named Cerinthus, who both St. Irenaeus and Eusebius of Caesaria talk about as a very charismatic leader who was once a disciple of John but left and took a lot of folks with him.

That’s exactly who John is writing against in his Gospel in John, chapter six, verse 53, of course, where he says, “Unless that you eat the flesh and drink the blood of Lord and Savior, you have no life in you.” Well, that hearsay would continue into the writings of St. Ignatius and beyond. In fact, after the time of St. Ignatius, the Gnostics would split, split and split, like Protestantism today. But, Catholics, Catholic apologists and bishop and such would continue to refute their teachings and that would be the source of a lot of other very explicit teachings on the Eucharist.

Cy Kellett:
So, the first thing that you get there from what you just said is a sense that maybe our image of an idyllic early church in which everyone just followed the apostles calmly and it was all made up of martyrs and people who confessed Jesus, that’s not a very realistic image of what the early church was.

Tim Staples:
No, it’s not. The battles were raging, and St. Paul says it 1st Corinthians 11:19. He says, “Heresies must come so that those who are approved among you would be manifest.” Paul is there teaching the perennial truth that the scriptures themselves as well as the writings of the fathers, the councils and such are most often responses against false teaching, and we have never in 2000 years of the history of the church, we have never been short on heresies to refute because they exist in every generation.

But you know what, Cy? I want to back up even earlier then Saint Ignatius to give us a sense of things, the antiquity of our belief in the Eucharist. Of course, it goes back to the lips of our Lord and Savior, as I mentioned, John 6:53, “Unless you eat the flesh son of man, drink his blood, you have no life in you.” But, the Anglican church historian, a great historian by the way, J.N.D. Kelly, who just died not that long ago, I think it was ’97, but he was in his heyday in the ’50s through the ’70s into the early ’80s. J.N.D. Kelly wrote what is a go-to book on church history called Early Christian Doctrines.

And I just want to, if I could take a minute just to read from this because I think it is powerful coming from an Anglican. On pages 196 and 197, listen to this. Kelly writes, “The Eucharist was regarded as the distinctively Christian sacrifice. Malachi’s prediction,” and by the way, this is the famous text from Malachi, chapter one, verse 11 where in fact if you back up and read verses 7 through 11, Malachi is hammering Israel, and in particular the priests because of the corrupt time it was during the Prophet Malachi’s time. Priests were not performing their function, let’s say, with any kind of religious vigor. Instead of the choosest of the flock goes to God, they were giving God the diseased and such, and the priests were consuming only the best and that sort of thing.

Well, Malachi hammers and basically says in speaking for the Lord, “I will not accept this sacrifice from you. You give me the weak and the impaired.” And in fact, God gets a little sarcastic through the prophet and says, “Give this to your king and see if he will accept it.” So, give this trash to your king and see what happens. You’re going to offer this to me. He says, “I will not accept this sacrifice.” And right in the midst of hammering, hammering, he then says, “For from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same, my name is great among the Gentiles, and a perfect, pure, clean offering is made.” Now, this was regarded very importantly … J.N.D. Kelly, again, an Anglican scholar notes that that text was understood by all Christians, east and west, to be a prophetic reference to the Eucharist.

Obviously, it’s not referring to the sacrifices of the Gentiles at the time of Malachi, 400, 500 years before Christ. I mean, many of the Gentiles were offering human sacrifices, offering children as well as animals that could not appease the justice of God. So, Christians understood this is a prophetic text that refers to the fact that the Gospel would go to the Gentiles and this would be fulfilled and the offering of the holy sacrifice of the mass from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same. So at any rate, real quick, Kelly says, “The Eucharist was regarded as the distinctively Christian sacrifice, Malachi’s prediction that the Lord would reject Jewish sacrifices and instead would have a pure offering made to him by the Gentiles. And every place was seized upon by Christians as a prophecy of the Eucharist. The Didache indeed actually applies the term thusia, or sacrifice to the Eucharist.”

Now, Cy, as you know the Didache was written roughly ’70, ’80 AD most modern scholars would agree. At the very latest, 120 AD, but most scholars now acknowledge the Didache to be the oldest extra-biblical Christian writing we have, probably about ’80 AD. And yet, it’s already speaking … Imagine, now if you hold to the later dating of John and the Book forensic Revelation as I do, parts of the Bible, the New Testament were not even written yet, and we have the Didache, which is the teaching of the 12 Apostles, which by the way, I should mention a great father of the Church, like St. Clement of Alexandria, actually believed this was inspired scripture.

He called it scripture in his famous Stormata. Just to give you a sense here, but listen to this. The Didache indeed actually applies the term thusia, or sacrifice, to the Eucharist. It was natural for early Christians to think of the Eucharist as a sacrifice. The fulfillment of prophecy demanded a solemn Christian offering and the rite itself was wrapped in the sacrificial atmosphere with which our Lord invested the Last Supper. The words of institution, do this, [Greek 00:13:20] in Greek, must have been charged with sacrificial overtones for 2nd Century ears. Justin, in AD 150, who was another that I’d like to talk about, Cy, at any rate, understood them to mean offer this.

The bread and wine moreover are offered for a memorial. [Greek 00:13:40] of the passion, in Greek, a phrase which in view of his identification of them with the Lord’s body and blood implies much more than an act of purely spiritual recollection. So again, very significant coming from an Anglican, but the point is absolutely right on, that the earliest fathers we have, the Didache, and as you’ve already mentioned, St. Ignatius of Antioch, who has words that are, I’m sorry, unmistakable when it comes to real presence, but then you have Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus as well. Now, Justin Martyr, in his first Apology, he’s writing a letter to the Emperor, Antoninus, defending … Antoninus Pius … defending the Christian faith and basically evangelizing the emperor.

And, he too writes in the same way with the same passion about the sacrifice of the Christians being the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Lord, and defending the Christian practice as such, defending it against charges of cannibalism and that sort of thing. And then, we have St. Irenaeus in 180 AD. He, too, refers to this same prophecy of Malachi, from Malachi 1, 7 through 11, and defends with vigor both the real presence of our Lord, and that the Eucharist is the sacrifice of the church prophesized in Malachi and carried out throughout the world.

Now, Cy, we’re talking about here. The Didache written in roughly ’80 AD. St. Ignatius of Antioch, about 107 AD. St. Justin Martyr, 150 AD. St. Irenaeus, 180 AD. All teaching with a depth and a level of development that is astonishing. This is one of the reasons why I’m Catholic, by the way, Cy, because I read each and every word from each of these men back when I was attempting to refute Catholicism. It’s one of the reasons that I’m Catholic, but for our listeners, understand that this level of development all occurred before we ever hear the word Trinity mentioned by any of these writers. In fact, the first father of the church that would use the word trinitas would be St. Theophilus of Antioch in 181 AD.

And, all Christians acknowledge the truth of the Trinity. It’s not that St. Theophilus invented it. No, but it is the first time that it is written down and yet, we have all of this information from the greatest of the early fathers concerning the Eucharist that is remarkably in depth. And, I argue, if you accept the Trinity as a Christian, you ought to accept the Eucharist because we actually have more and earlier evidence for it than we do for the Trinity.

Cy Kellett:
There is the thing, however, where the Eucharist … what you might have seen at the celebration of the Eucharist in say … Let’s just go to the year ’35 or ’40 AD within five or 10 years of the death and resurrection of the Lord. You might say whatever they were doing, that’s nothing like what the Catholics do in their mass now. Just look at them. They just look so different. How do you address that perceptive or this perception objection, that this doesn’t look at all like what those earliest ones were doing?

Tim Staples:
Yes, yes. Well, actually that is not true. I recommend a book by the great scholar, Louie Bouyer. It’s called The Eucharist. I know Cardinal Ratzinger refers to Louis Bouyer, I think it’s in volume one of his three-part series of Jesus of Nazareth. Louie Bouyer got taken to task for a few details but generally speaking, it’s a fascinating book. Basically, the theme of Bouyer’s research was to show how the Eucharistic prayer did not come from ancient Babylon or it wasn’t a creation of a later Hellenized Christianity or the various different theories, but it actually grew right out of the synagogue, and in fact, you can look at … Take for example the second Eucharistic prayer, which goes all the way back to St. Hippolytus.

In fact, one of the beautiful things about the reforms of Vatican Council II was giving new life to these ancient prayers that had disappeared over the centuries, the second Eucharistic prayer being one of those going back to St. Hippolytus, and this is a Eucharistic prayer that was 2nd Century. It was written in the 2nd Century, and we pray it all the time today as Catholics. Now, there’s a reason for this and that is as Bouyer points out, that from the time that Jesus uttered the first mass on Holy Thursday, what Jesus did is … He did not, by the way, I love the way Ratzinger … I say Ratzinger, but Pope Benedict XVI in that first volume also of Jesus of Nazareth points out, Jesus did not celebrate the Old Testament passover.

When he said, “I desire to celebrate the passover with you,” and when the apostles asked, “Where shall we go to celebrate the passover?” Many mistakenly believed that Jesus celebrated the Old Testament passover. No, he didn’t. He celebrated the true passover, the new passover. Obviously, he didn’t pray over a lamb. He said, “This is my body.” So, He made a very stark departure from the 1st Century … By the way, Father James Meagher, the priest who wrote a book in the 1890’s, How Christ Said the First Mass. It’s published by TAN Books. Also has some great insight with regard to this, how the prayers of the synagogue Jesus, of course, used, but he changed them substantially because again, He’s not saying the prayers over the lamb but He says, “This is my body, this is my blood.”

Now, the New Testament doesn’t give us verbatim the entire liturgy. It only gives us excerpts. But it would be that liturgy that Jesus said that would be communicated to the apostles, in fact supernaturally, because he said, “Do this in memory of me.” Do what? The same thing He was doing to transubstantiate that bread and wine into body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord for the salvation of the world. And of course after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would illuminate the apostles to be able to recreate what our Lord did. And so, what I argue, Cy, and I’m not making this up … Father James Meagher, Louie Bouyer and others a lot smarter than I am have made the point, the Eucharistic prayer comes right out of this. And so, by the time you get to Justin Martyr in 150 AD where we actually have him recount, and remarkable by the way if you read that first Apology of Justin Martyr. He recounts with great detail parts of, anyway, the Eucharistic prayer because he’s explaining to the emperor how it goes at a Catholic mass.

I mean, you think you’re sitting at mass today when he’s recounting this and the same with St. Irenaeus in 180. Well, they weren’t pulling a rabbit out of the hat either. They were simply reciting what they had received. And in fact, St. Justin Martyr will also write about how this liturgy that he’s talking about to the emperor was celebrated all over the world, Cy. It was already in multiple languages all around the world, and if there’s one thing that can be said about the early Christians, they were not enthusiasts when it comes to innovation. The Christians were meticulous about preserving what it was that Jesus and the apostles did and said, so if somebody comes along inventing stuff, they were going to get hammered not only by the great fathers, but also by the Catholics in the pew because the mass was everything for them.

Many of them couldn’t read, but they memorized the liturgy. And so the whole idea, Cy, of this Justin Martyr or maybe Irenaeus, “Well, they invented it in 150 or 180 AD.” Well, that’s quite a stretch on many levels, but again, I would say if you’re going to say that, what are you going to say about the Trinity? What are you going to say about the hypostatic union, which would be defined even later than the Blessed Trinity? I will tell you what, Cy. This was one of the things that converted me when I myself did extensive research trying to disprove Catholicism. What I found was an airtight succession belief in the Eucharist, the real presence and in the holy sacrifice of the mass goes right back to the lips of Jesus.

Cy Kellett:
Well, I wonder, I’m thinking of St. Paul in his letters when he relates what happens at the Last Supper, is he just relating to us something that is in general use at the time? Do you know what I mean?

Tim Staples:
He is. Yes.

Cy Kellett:
Okay, so these words are familiar to the community he’s writing to because they’re using them every week already?

Tim Staples:
That is an excellent point, Cy, because the point that I made about the Christians of the last 1st, early 2nd Century and into the 3rd Century can be made at the time of St. Paul because St. Paul says, almost exactly as you said it, in 1st Corinthians 11:23. He basically says, “I am traditioning onto you …” [Greek 00:24:13] in Greek. “I am handing onto you that which I received.” You see that in 1st Corinthians 11:1 and 2. 1st Corinthians 11:23, 1st Corinthians 15:1 and 2. He says it over and over but specifically there in 1st Corinthians 11:23 he says of the Eucharist, “I’m traditioning onto you what I have received.” I’m not creating this. And, he was an apostle right? I’m not creating this, but this is the mass. This is the tradition as it is being communicated, has already been communicated and now my friends, and those of you listening, we can say today we are traditioning on as well that which we’ve received in that same line of succession and tradition that, again, goes right back to the lips of our Savior.

Cy Kellett:
So, when I’m reading the 11th chapter of the 1st letter of the Corinthians, I’m really getting a little window into what was happening every week.

Tim Staples:
Absolutely, absolutely.

Cy Kellett:
In Catholic churches, whether they were in church buildings or homes, whatever. But, where the celebration of the Eucharist was, this is what it looked like.

Tim Staples:
Absolutely. And when you consider that the early Christians believed what Jesus said in John 6:53, “Unless you eat the flesh son of man, drink His blood, you have no life in you.” As J.N.D. Kelly points out, the mass was established by Jesus Christ in the context of that Passover liturgy that St. Paul would later refer to in 1st Corinthians 5:7 when he says, “Christ, our passover has been sacrificed. Let us therefore keep the feast.” Well, what feast? The Passover feast. Not the old sacrifice of lambs, but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Again, Paul is drawing on … We can go back before the Gospel narrative there to John the Baptist, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This is the fulfillment of the Passover, which was only a type … Of course, lambs and heifers and such could never take away the sins of the world. So when John the Baptist declares, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” Oh my goodness.

This has all kind of Passover implication, right? But the reason why I bring this up, in fact, John’s Gospel … In fact, I’d encourage folks to get ahold of … I did a four talk CD set here at Catholic Answers called Living Bread, where I go into a lot of detail on this. When you look at John’s Gospel, John’s Gospel is all about the Passover, Jesus as the Passover lamb, the fulfillment of … In John 6 and beyond, as well as Him being God, He’s the God man because He is the only person in the universe that can reconcile us to God. How does he reconcile us? Through the Eucharist.

So, when you understand that context, this is our salvation. When Jesus says, “This is my the New Covenant in my blood,” … Scott Hahn famously says, “Jesus says the New Covenant was a sacrament long before it was a book.” Or, a series of books.

Cy Kellett:
Exactly.

Tim Staples:
The New Covenant is the Eucharist. This is our salvation, and that’s why, again, we emphasize that for the early Christians, this was most dear to them. The Eucharist, they would literally die for our blessed Lord in the most blessed sacrament and in fact, many, many of them did.

Cy Kellett:
Before we have to end then, I want to give you a couple more objections. Two, in fact. One will be about the priesthood, that you don’t need a priest to do this, which I think is an important one to get to, but first, what about the person who said, “Look, Tim, I accept all of that because I accept all of what the scripture says. I accept what Paul says in the first letter to the Corinthians. I accept what John says in the sixth chapter, but Jesus also says things like, ‘I’m the vine and you are the branches.’ Do you want me to believe that he’s literally a vine and I’m literally a branch? Clearly, the Lord is just speaking symbolically here.”

Tim Staples:
Yes, yes. Well, let’s get to that one, the latter first because that’s a very important question. That was my question, Cy, when I was a Pentecostal first engaging Catholicism because look, John, chapter 10, Jesus says, “I’m a door. I am the door into the sheepfold.” In John 15:1, “I am the vine. You are the branches.” Nobody runs around there saying, “Oh my goodness, we got to turn Jesus’s doorknob to get to Heaven. We’ve got to break off a leaf from Jesus.” But you see, that’s the point. Nobody who heard Jesus say, “I am a door. I am a vine” ran around and said those things. Why? Because it’s clear from the context Jesus was speaking metaphorically.

But, when you go to John 6, we have a radical difference because nobody, whereas everybody understood those other two metaphors to be metaphors, nobody understood Jesus to speaking metaphorically and that includes three very important categories of people that we see in John, chapter six. The multitudes of people, Jews who had been following Jesus and listening to Him for a while, number one. Number two, the disciples. These were not the apostles, but these were men and women that had been following Jesus for months, perhaps even a year or more. And then, a third category are the apostles themselves. Cy, according to the text, every single one in these categories believed Jesus meant exactly what he said. In fact, they walked away.

The overwhelming majority of them, in fact, you could argue he started with a crowd of about 20,000 and he ended up with 11 because, of course, this is the point where Judas left Him as well over this teaching of the Eucharist. At least that’s hinted at in John 6 because it was then that Satan entered into Judas. But, the point is everyone acknowledged … In other words, Jesus taught in such a way that no one understood Him to be metaphorical. And, there’s many reasons for that. Number one, Cy, is the language that he uses, “Eat flesh and drink blood.” You can look all over the Old Testament from Malachi, I believe it’s chapter three, to Psalm 27, verses 1 and 2, to all over the Psalms. And even in the New Testament, in Revelation, chapter 17, the phrase to eat flesh and drink blood did have symbolic meaning, but it meant to persecute or assault someone.

So, nobody listening would have thought Jesus was using that metaphorically because Jesus could never teach, “Unless you assault me and kill me, you can not be my disciple.” Jesus could not encourage people to commit mortal sin. That’s absurd. And also, when you look at the structure of the text, the language used, for example, “Unless you eat the flesh son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you,” Jesus begins with a term in Greek that is just a common word for eating, which theoretically could be used in a symbolic sense. However, as he goes into verse 53 and then into verse 54, the language becomes more graphic. He goes from using … And, by the way, for our Greek scholars out there, [Greek 00:32:15] is the term. It’s just a basic second aorist form of the verb, [Greek 00:32:22] that just means to eat.

But, then he moves to the verb [Greek 00:32:27], which has a very visceral meaning. It’s used in the connotation of a lion ripping flesh from its prey. So, the language used accentuates that He means what He says, and again, that lends itself to us understanding why everybody there believed He meant what he said. I mean, the bottom line is when 20,000 people walked away. Jesus never said, “Hey guys, you were wrong. I didn’t really mean that. Let me explain it to you.” No, He let them walk away and He actually turned to the apostles and He didn’t say to them, “Hey guys, I’ll give you the scoop. Let those people walk away, but I’ll give you the scoop.”

No. He says, “Will you walk away also?” Peter responds in faith in verse 67, “To whom shall we go? For you have the words of eternal life.” Everything about the text indicates that Jesus meant what He said, and of course, St. Paul understood it that way because in 1st Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 15, he says in about as plain terms as you want to hear, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a partaking of the blood of the Lord? And, the bread which we break, is it not a partaking of the body of the Lord?” It’s pretty airtight, Cy.

Cy Kellett:
So, let me ask you about the priest then, because what about the person who says, “Okay Tim, I do accept all of it and I want to do what the Lord did and we do that in my family, or we do that with the pastor at my Foursquare Bible Church. We do that.”

Tim Staples:
Yes, and unfortunately that pastor at your Foursquare Bible Church does not have the power to confect the Eucharist. And, why is that? Because we believe as Luke 22:19 says Jesus, in the context of saying the first mass, when he used those terms that J.N.D. Kelly, the famous Anglican scholar referred to again in his early Christian doctrines, “Do this in memory of me,” which has powerful connotations here. This is a sacrificial act, but it’s also an act of ordination because when He says, “Do this” … In fact, St. Justin Martyr actually interprets the Greek there, [Greek 00:34:54], as offer this, as J.N.D. Kelly says.

And, in fact, it would be legitimate to interpret it that way because that [Greek 00:35:02] is used all over the Old Testament and in the Greek’s [crosstalk 00:35:05] in the context of the sacrifice of the Old Testament. I could give you numerous examples from the Old Testament from the [Greek 00:35:12]. It said this language has a sacrificial connotation but when He says, “Do this,” the implication is He empowers them to do the same thing that He did. And, Jesus did not give that power to everyone. He gave it explicitly to the apostles. And then, Jesus then, we believe in the tradition, encouraged them to ordain others, and that’s exactly what we see in New Testament. For example, in 2nd Corinthians 1:6, St. Paul says of St. Timothy, “Stir up the gift that is in thee through the laying on of my hands.”

He exhorts Timothy to ordain others as well to continue the work in 2nd Timothy, chapter 2, the few verses there. And, we also have as one of the foundational doctrines that the inspired author of the Hebrews uses, in Hebrews, chapter 6, the first six verses, one of the foundational … In fact, he says, “Let us not lay again the foundation.” And, he lays out several, including baptism, teachings that are foundational that we all agree on as Christians, right? And, let us move on to perfection. Well, one of them is the laying on of hands. That is Holy Orders, ordination. Jesus didn’t give this power just to anyone, but to the apostles.

And, the apostles in succession, very importantly, Cy, are called bishops. And, we see that right in Acts, chapter 1, verse 20, when St. Peter takes the helm of the church in deciding how Judas would be replaced. In Acts, chapter 1, verse 20, St. Peter quoting the Psalms in the Old Testament, he quotes both Psalms 69 and Psalms 109. He says, “Let another man take his office.” The Greek word there is bishoprick. And so, Mathias is chosen by the authority of St. Peter to be the replacement for Judas.

Well, that Greek word for office is [Greek 00:37:23] or bishoprick. So, the apostle in succession is referred to as a bishopric, and we see in 1st Timothy 3:1, St. Paul lays out bishop as one of the offices in the church that succeeds the apostles. And, interestingly enough, when St. Paul lays out the fivefold ministry in the church in Ephesians 4:11, he refers to apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher for the work of the ministry of the building of the body of Christ, “til we all come to the unity of the faith,” he says, “so that we henceforth be not children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.”

That’s verse 14. You’ll notice that bishop isn’t there. It’s apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist, teacher. Why doesn’t he mention bishop? Well, he does in a later letter as I mentioned, 1st Timothy, chapter 3, verse 1, because the bishop, again, is the successor of the apostle. So, unless you can trace your Holy Orders back to one of the apostles, you can not be a bishop because a bishop is the apostle in succession and you have no authority from Jesus Christ to confect the Eucharist.

Cy Kellett:
So, we see there how this conversation about how the early church is Eucharistic, and I’m convinced, Tim. I’m going to continue receiving the Eucharist for the rest of my life.

Tim Staples:
That’s good to hear, Cy.

Cy Kellett:
It leads into a conversation about what the structure of the early church was, and that the early church was hierarchal. So, let’s do that in our next conversation, all right?

Tim Staples:
Let’s do that.

Cy Kellett:
Tim Staples has been our guest. He’s the director of Apologetics and Evangelization here at Catholic Answers. He’s the author of Behold, Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marion Doctrines. And, we’re going to do more of these so come back and you’ll find more on the form and the beliefs of the early church, because there are so many people who say, “I want to be a Christian like the earliest Christians were.” Well, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to help with that right here, and we’ll continue to do that here on Catholic Answers Focus.

If you like Catholic Answers Focus, let people know. Share it with other people and give us five stars wherever you get your podcast. I’m Cy Kellett, your host, and we’ll see you next time right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

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