Monday, June 30, 2008

Martin Luther and Other Protestant "Reformers" On the Assumption of Mary (+ Historic Lutheran Liturgical Celebration of the Assumption)

I've documented in the past that both Catholic and Protestant (including Lutheran) historians and Luther scholars accept the fact that Luther believed in the Assumption, at least in his early days, if not later. Catholic writer Thomas A. O'Meara, O.P., presents the confusing evidence about Luther (claiming he did accept this doctrine early on):

In 1522 Luther preaches on the feast of the Assumption, apparently taking this belief for granted, although he notes that it is not an article of faith . . . [WA, 10, III, 268]. In 1530 he decrees that the Assumption is an aspect of the "hypocritical Church" which should be eliminated. [WA, 30, II, 351]. In 1544 the Assumption is abandoned as a feast . . . [WA 52, 681] The period of drastic change lies within the years 1522 to 1532. It is impossible to pinpoint the moment of change, for as is usual in Luther the change is gradual and there are inconsistencies and reversals. In 1521 Luther says he does not know exactly when he gave up the veneration of the saints and of Mary, but in 1526 he writes that he venerated the saints for thirty years.

Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1966, 118-119; my emphases)
Lutheran scholar Eric W. Gritsch, who was a major translator in the English set of the works of Luther (edited by Jaroslav Pelikan), also states pretty much the same, from the same evidence (the 1522 sermon):
Luther affirmed Mary's assumption into heaven but did not consider it to be of benefit to others or accomplished in any special way.(in The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VIII, edited by H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1992, 241; footnote 44; p. 382: "Sermon on the Festival of the Assumption, August 15, 1522. WA 10/3:269.12-13. Sermon on the Festival of the Visitation . . . August 15, 1522. WA 52:681.27-31."; my emphasis)
In the same book, twelve Lutheran and ten Catholic scholars participated. Their "Common Statement" (a sort of creed-like formulation agreed-upon by all) yielded some very interesting conclusions indeed:

(89) Luther preached on the Assumption . . . There were early Lutheran pastors who affirmed the Assumption as both evangelical and Lutheran.

(101) From the Lutheran side, one may recall the honor and devotion paid to the Mother of God by Luther himself, including his own attitude to the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which he accepted in some form.

(p. 55)
Luther signed an August 19, 1527 letter to Georg Spalatin in the following (very "unProtestant") manner:
Yours, Monday after the Assumption of Mary, 1527. Martin Luther.

(in Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, edited and translated by Theodore G. Tappert, Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2003, 230)
Historic Lutheranism has also, in various places, retained the Feast of the Assumption on the liturgical calendar. For example, the Wikipedia article, "Liturgical calendar (Lutheran)" notes:
Some of the Marian festivals, notably the Nativity of Mary (September 8) and her Assumption (August 15) were retained by Luther whereas the feasts of her conception and presentation in the Temple were suppressed “because they were judged to have no scriptural or dogmatic interest.”

[source: Frank C. Senn, Christian Worship and Its Cultural Setting, 344]

The Swedish Mass draws from a number of different sources, though Luther’s Formulae Missae is apparent in regards to the Eucharistic structure [1] This included revising the calendar along similar lines as those in Germany. Laurentius Petri further revised the Swedish Mass 1557. In large part, the Swedish liturgy retained “vestments, altars and frontals, gold and silver chalices and patens” and many other “popish” customs. [2] Following Laurentius’ death in 1573, King John III embarked on a separate, though similar, religious policy more conciliatory towards Catholicism. Much of his work was in the area of liturgy and his Nova Ordinantia reinstated much of the sanctoral cycle from the Old Swedish Mass, reviving the feasts of Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint Lawrence, Corpus Christi, and the Assumption and Nativity of Mary. [3]

[footnotes: (1) Senn, 407; (2) Senn, 415; (3) Senn, 419; my emphases for both paragraphs]
Lutheran Latif Haki Gaba, who oversees "a Traditionalist Lutheran Blog," writes about this feast day in Lutheranism:
The LCMS Lutheran could call it the feast of Mary's Assumption. Most Lutherans, even of those dissatisfied with the Missouri Synod's practice, shy away from this, for a variety of reasons. Not all have all the same reasons. You would really need to ask each Lutheran who dislikes using "Assumption" just why it is that he feels that way. Some say, for example, that it is Roman Catholic. Lutherans are not Catholic. Therefore it is unLutheran terminology. This logic has many problems, but for now let us just point out that Mary's Assumption is not something that has ever been condemned by the Lutheran Church. In fact, there is a history of this feast being kept as the Assumption in the Reformation churches. As Professor Joseph Herl shows in his book, Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism, [p. 254] the Assumption is listed in the church orders in Weissenburg 1528, Dessau 1532, Nordlingen 1538, Brandenburg 1540, Palatinate-Neuburg 1543, Schwabisch Hall 1543, Brandenburg-Ansbach-Kulmbach 1548, Hohenlohe 1553, & Nuremberg 1543. To dogmatize the Assumption, as Rome did in 1950, is not the sort of thing the Church of the Augsburg Confession would do, yet it is quite another thing to claim that the Assumption itself (the event, not the dogma) is impossible and unLutheran.

There is another option, namely, to see this as the feast of Mary's Dormition. Some see this as too Byzantine, too Orthodox. Here we must clarify a few things. One is that there is no conflict or contradiction between the Assumption and the Dormition, as if one necessarily cancels the other out. Many of those who, even in the ancient church, believed and celebrated and preached the Dormition also believed that Mary was taken bodily to heaven. Likewise many who believe in Mary's assumption also believe that she did in fact die. Even the Roman Church's official definition of the dogma of the Assumption allows for Mary's death at the end of her earthly life, contrary to what I've heard some claim about that dogma. Many do prefer to simply celebrate this, though, as Mary's Dormition, and to be content that she is now in heaven.
Trent Sebits, of unknown denominational affiliation (but presumably Lutheran), wrote in a combox on the popular blog of Lutheran pastor Paul T. McCain (on 16 August 2007):
I have a Lutheran liturgical calendar from 1879, published out of Pennsylvania, that lists Aug. 15th as, "Assumption of the BVM".
Interesting to note that not only did the Lutheran publishers of this calendar call it the assumption, buy also refer to St. Mary as still a virgin at the time of her assumption . . . two pretty unpopular stances in Lutheranism these days.
As to other Protestant "Reformers," there is evidence that some accepted this doctrine or something quite similar to it:
In regard to the Marian doctrine of the Reformers, we have already seen how unanimous they are in all that concerns Mary's holiness and perpetual virginity. Whatever the theological position which we may hold today, in regard to the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary it is right to know, perhaps to our great surprise, that these two Catholic dogmas were accepted by certain Reformers, not of course in their present form but certainly in the form that was current in their day.

(Reformed scholar Max Thurian, Mary: Mother of all Christians, translated by Neville B. Cryer, New York: Herder & Herder, 1963, 197)
Noted Protestant scholar Donald G. Bloesch concurs:
It is well to note that the notions of Mary's immaculate conception, her assumption, her perpetual virginity and her spiritual motherhood were all present in varying degrees among the Protestant Reformers. Zwingli could refer to Mary as "the Mother of God, the perpetually pure and immaculate Virgin Mary." The Reformed theologian Henry Bullinger seemed to support the assumption of Mary when he declared that "the most pure chamber of the Mother of God and the temple of the Holy Spirit, her most holy body, was taken up by the angels to heaven."

(Jesus Christ: Savior & Lord, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997, 116-117)
In another book, Bloesch wrote:
[T]he Reformers did not jettison all Marian doctrine . . . Bullinger, Zwingli's successor, held that Mary was taken up bodily into heaven.

(The Church: Sacraments, Worship, Ministry, Mission, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002, 67)
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, in a debate book about Mary with Episcopalian David Gustafson, noted how many Anglicans have accepted Mary's Assumption in faith:
[I]t was held by Lutherans at the Reformation and by many Lutherans today. It is also affirmed by the Anglican Church. The Scottish Anglican lectionary actually celebrates a feast of the Falling Asleep of Mary on the fifteenth of August just as the Orthodox and Catholics do. The new lectionary in the Church of England also institutes a Marian feast on the fifteenth of August in keeping with the tradition. Even your own Episcopal Church of the USA celebrates a Marian feast on the traditional date for the Feast of the Assumption. On that day Episcopalians pray, "O God, you have taken to yourself the Blessed Virgin Mary, . . . grant that we may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom." . . . If you allow for the Assumption as a permissible pious opinion, you've left the door open, and that isn't really "heretical denial."

(Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate, Gracewing Publishing, 2003, 128-129)
The most remarkable assertion of Mary's Assumption or something highly akin to it, by a major Protestant "Reformer" that I've found, was made by Heinrich Bullinger of Zurich (alluded to above):

Elijah was transported body and soul in a chariot of fire; he was not buried in any Church bearing his name, but mounted up to heaven, so that . . . we might know what immortality and recompense God prepares for his faithful prophets and for his most outstanding and incomparable creatures. . . . It is for this reason, we believe, that the pure and immaculate embodiment of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that is to say her saintly body, was carried up to heaven by the angels.

(in Thurian, ibid., 197-198; for further secondary and primary source information, see my paper specifically devoted to that issue; the quotation comes from a 1568 work entitled De Origine Erroris)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Catholics and the Historicity of Jonah the Prophet


Jonah Cast Forth by the Whale, by Gustave Dore (d. 1883)

[ source ]

Regarding Jonah, the straightforward sense would seem to be that he was an actual historical person, as were all the prophets. The book about him, after all, is included in the prophetic writings in both the Christian and Jewish Bibles. We don't deny that any of the other prophets (to my knowledge) were actual persons; why should Jonah be any different, then?

Beyond that, Catholics have usually taken the position that Jonah was an actual person and that this event (with the "fish" and so forth) really happened. Note that the fish incident is not even necessarily a miracle. There is reason to believe it could have literally happened on a natural level. But God, of course, would have used the fish (some sharks are large enough to swallow a man, though it is difficult to conceive surviving the wounds of all those teeth) or whale for His purposes, in His Providence. Recently, of course, liberals in the Church have taken the view that the book was fantastic allegory or fiction, with a message. For example, John L. McKenzie, S.J.:
Modern students of the Bible, observing the historical and geographical background of the book, know that Jonah is a parable, as fictitious a composition as the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan; and they seek the truth which is there conveyed in the form of a story.

(The Two-Edged Sword: An Interpretation of the Old Testament, Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1956, 202)
It's the usual liberal condescension of those who follow traditional Catholic teaching, by, in effect, collapsing the honorable category of "literal" or narrative into "parable" and "fictitious." The implication is that those who accept the plain literal presentation are gullible, a bit infantile (kids love fairy tales, after all) and unsophisticated. If you've seen it once, you've seen it a hundred times . . .

In fact, quite intelligent (even "modern"!) Catholics have taken a different view. How about the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J., a scholar who authored many books, was one of the leading catechists in America, and close advisor to both Pope Paul VI and Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity:
Jonah. An Israelite prophet, son of Amittai. Unlike the books of the other Minor Prophets, the short book of Jonah (only four chapters) is narrative rather than oracular. . . . he lived in the eighth century B.C. . . . To evade Yahweh's assignment, Jonah had fled in a ship but a terrible storm led to his being thrown overboard and being swallowed by a huge fish . . . The story uses an actual personality to teach a moral lesson: God's mercy is at hand provided man is willing to repent.

(Modern Catholic Dictionary, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1980, 296)
The Catholic Encyclopedia ("Jonah", written by James F. Driscoll in 1910) gives the traditional Catholic view:

Catholics have always looked upon the Book of Jonah as a fact-narrative. In the works of some recent Catholic writers there is a leaning to regard the book as fiction. Only Simon and Jahn, among prominent Catholic scholars, have clearly denied the historicity of Jonah; and the orthodoxy of these two critics may no longer be defended: "Providentissimus Deus" implicitly condemned the ideas of both in the matter of inspiration, and the Congregation of the Index expressly condemned the "Introduction" of the latter.

Reasons for the traditional acceptance of the historicity of Jonah:

Jewish Tradition

According to the Septuagint text of the Book of Tobias (xiv, 4), the words of Jonah in regard to the destruction of Ninive are accepted as facts; the same reading is found in the Aramaic text and one Hebrew manuscript. The apocryphal III Mach., vi, 8, lists the saving of Jonah in the belly of the fish along with the other wonders of Old Testament history. Josephus (Ant. Jud., IX, 2) clearly deems the story of Jonah to be historical.

The authority of Our Lord

This reason is deemed by Catholics to remove all doubt as to the fact of the story of Jonah. The Jews asked a "sign" -- a miracle to prove the Messiahship of Jesus. He made answer that no "sign" would be given them other than the "sign of Jonah the Prophet. For as the Jonah was in the whale's belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it: because they did penance at the preaching of Jonah. And behold a greater than Jonah here" (Matthew 12:40-1; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32). The Jews asked for a real miracle; Christ would have deceived them had He presented a mere fancy. He argues clearly that just as Jonah was in the whale's belly three days and three nights even so He will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. If, then, the stay of Jonah in the belly of the fish be only a fiction, the stay of Christ's body in the heart of the earth is only a fiction. If the men of Ninive will really not rise in judgment, neither will the Jews really rise. Christ contrasts fact with fact, not fancy with fancy, nor fancy with fact. It would be very strange, indeed, were He to say that He was greater than a fancy-formed man. It would be little less strange were he to berate the Jews for their real lack of penance by rating this lack in contrast with the penance of Ninive which never existed at all. The whole force of these striking contrasts is lost, if we admit that the story of Jonah is not fact-narrative. Finally, Christ makes no distinction between the story of the Queen of Sheba and that of Jonah (see Matthew 12:42). He sets the very same historical value upon the Book of Jonah as upon the Third Book of Kings. Such is the very strongest argument that Catholics offer for the firm stand they take upon the ground of the fact-narrative of the story of Jonah.

The authority of the Fathers

Not a single Father has ever been cited in favor of the opinion that Jonah is a fancy-tale and no fact-narrative at all. To the Fathers Jonah was a fact and a type of the Messias, just such a one as Christ presented to the Jews. Saints Jerome, Cyril, and Theophilus explain in detail the type-meaning of the facts of the Book of Jonah. St. Cyril even forestalls the objections of the Rationalists of today: Jonah flees his ministry, bewails God's mercy to the Ninivites, and in other ways shows a spirit that ill becomes a Prophet and an historical type of Christ. Cyril admits that in all this Jonah failed and is not a type of Christ, but does not admit that these failures of Jonah prove the story of his doings to have been a mere fiction. . . .
Likewise, A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (general editor: Dom Bernard Orchard, London: Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd, 1953). It provides an excellent introduction to the book of Jonah, written by E.F. Sutcliffe, S.J.:
It is recorded that Jeroboam II (782-753) 'restored the borders of Israel . . . according to the word of the Lord the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonas, the son of Amathi, the prophet, who was of Geth, which is in Opher', 4 Kg 14:25 [2 Kings 14:25]. As this prophet and his father have the same names as the prophet of our book and his father, it can hardly be doubted that they are the same persons. Our prophet was, therefore, probably a contemporary of Jeroboam and a member of the Northern Kingdom. (p. 669)
This is highly important in showing Jonah's historicity, because he is mentioned in what all agree is historical narrative. The chapter of 2 Kings 14 is filled with historical writing and persons (the kings of Judah and Israel: Joash, Amaziah, Jehu, David, Jehoash, Jeroboam, and their fathers). In the middle of all these historical persons (that no one -- even liberals -- doubt as historical, we are led to believe that the historical narrative suddenly switches to mere fiction and parable, in mentioning Jonah and his father (complete with the place name of where they lived). Right after they're mentioned, it talks about God and the "affliction" of Israel, then back to King Jeroboam, succeeded by King Zechariah.

Sutcliffe continues:
Until recent times, however, the historical character of this narrative was never seriously doubted in the Church. Now several Catholic authors, such as Van Hoonacker and Condamin, have denied or questioned it. They explain the book as a parable or in some similar way.
He goes on to list defenses of the book's historicity by Church fathers Augustine, Jerome, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzen, and Theophylact, and concludes:
That the book has an important lesson to teach is not, of course, a proof of its being parabolic. (p. 670)
Protestant Bible scholar Gleason L. Archer, Jr. offers similar reasoning, favoring a literal, historical interpretation:
A closer examination of the text . . . shows that numerous features of the narrative can scarcely be fitted into the allegorical pattern. If the whale represented Babylon, what did Nineveh represent? As for the ship that set sail from Joppa, it is hard to see what this would correspond with in the allegory, nor is it clear why three days would be selected to represent seventy years of captivity. . . .

In view of the vigorous objections of rationalists to the historicity of Jonah, it is appropriate at this point to refer to the statements of the Lord Jesus . . . Every other instance where an Old Testament typical event is referred to in Scripture (for example, John 3:14; 1 Cor. 10:1-11), a historical episode is involved. There is no objective evidence whatsoever that Jesus of Nazareth regarded this experience of Jonah's as nonhistorical.

(A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Chicago: Moody Press, 1964, 297, 301)
Archer (p. 302) also provides several accounts of men swallowed by whales who survived, from the years 1758, 1771, and 1891. In the latter case (carefully investigated by two scientists) the man (one James Bartley) was inside a sperm whale for a day and a half. Thus, what happened to Jonah is entirely possible and has, in fact, been observed.

Books That Refute the "Health-and-Wealth / Prosperity" False Teaching

All of these are Protestant authors, far as I know, and several are themselves charismatic / pentecostal (because that is where the error arises). These viewpoints are sadly rampant within charismatic circles, as I know first-hand from my four years at an Assembly of God congregation. I've personally seen it wreak havoc in the lives of people (including some in my larger family). I wrote my own refutation of this terribly dangerous strain of thought in 1982:

Biblical Refutation of "Hyperfaith" / "Name-it-Claim it" Teaching: Is it Always God's Will to Heal in Every Instance?

And just for the record (because this always comes up when one expresses this opinion), I firmly believe that God continues to heal today, when He chooses to do so, in His Providence, not based on our preferences. Here's one remarkable example concerning a son of a friend of mine. I could tell personal stories about myself, my wife, and others I know, but I'll refrain, because that isn't the point of this post.

The Word-Faith Controversy: Understanding the Health and Wealth Gospel by Robert M., Jr. Bowman (Paperback - Sep 2001)
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In God we trust?: The deadly cancer of the "health and wealth gospel" by Greg Loren Durand (Unknown Binding - 1996)
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The Health and Wealth Gospel: What's Going on Today in a Movement That Has Shaped the Faith of Millions
by Bruce Barron (Paperback - Jan 1987)
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The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels by Gordon D. Fee (Paperback - Jan 1, 1985)
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A Different Gospel: Biblical and Historical Insights into the Word of Faith Movement by D. R. McConnell (Paperback - Feb 1, 1995)
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A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement by D. R. McConnell (Paperback - Jul 1988)
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Charisma versus charismania by Chuck Smith (Unknown Binding - 2000)
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Charisma Vs. Charismania by Chuck Smith (Paperback - Sep 1993)
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Charisma Vs. Charismania by Chuck Smith (Paperback - 1983)
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Counter-"Traditionalist" Argument From Liturgical Development: Method of Receiving Holy Communion (vs. David Palm )


The Last Supper: the first Catholic service with communion in the hand

[ source ]

In the course of vigorous discussions over my defense of the Pauline Mass (aka Novus Ordo or "New Mass"), "traditionalist" David Palm (blue font) made the following statements / arguments (almost ad nauseum) in the combox (all bolded emphases are my own):

The heart of the effective traditionalist argument isn't that the various aspects reintroduced into the Pauline rite are intrinsically wrong--there is acknowledgement that they did at one time exist in the Church. Rather, the argument is that the innovations were neither required for the good of the Church, nor were they introduced in an organic way. Sacrosanctum Concilium insisted that, "care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing." I would argue that in numerous instances among those examples you cited, that dictum was violated. . . . Your essay would be stronger if you could go down the list of innovations and show, not that they existed somewhere, sometime, in some unknown measure in Church history, but rather that they "in some way grow organically from forms already existing."


I am interpreting "existing forms" to mean something that presently exists, not something that existed sometime in the past but fell out of use. To me that's the only way that something can organically develop, from an existing (present tense) form. Any number of analogies (plant growth, etc.) would support this. It's an area deserving of some discussion.


The "Tridentine Mass" (or Gregorian Rite as Cardinal Hoyos has recently insisted is its correct name) was not formulated by the Council of Trent. It had been celebrated for well over a thousand years prior to that council. Rather, the Council of Trent cracked down on the liturgical uncertainty/anarchy of that day by mandating that unless a liturgy could prove its pedigree to be more than two hundred years old it had to give way to the Gregorian Rite as codified by its celebration in Rome. . . . Vatican II mandated that the changes to the liturgy develop organically from *existing forms*. Upon some reflection, I think I want to camp on the position that "existing" means presently in existence, not just resurrected from the distant past after umpteen centuries of extinction (or, in the case of such things as female altar servers, female lectors, etc. introduced based on no historical precident [sic] at all.)


. . . what I see as the heart of the issue, namely, that the liturgical "reforms" were not organic developments but artificial constructs--sometimes more or less supported by historical precident, sometimes not at all, and sometimes outright condemned . . . mainstream critics of the NO does not hold that the myriad changes and innovations are intrinsically evil. Even Davies, an outspoken critic, wrote a book in defense of the validity of the NO. Rather, they contend that a) they were not introduced through organic development, b) that they frequently have no historical precident at all or were introduced from dissident influences, . . .


. . . *some* of the changes have historical precident and to cite this precident against those who would argue that the NO is invalid or intrinsically evil is legitimate. However, this does not make their reintroduction an organic development, since an organic development can only come from “existing forms”. . . . I argue that the introduction/imposition of so much non-organic change has (gravely) harmed the Church.


. . . he [Msgr. Klaus Gamber] argued that the 1965 revision of the Roman missal was an organic development along the lines of what Vatican II actually called for, whereas the NO was uncalled for by Vatican II, contained numerous inorganic and highly imprudent innovations, represents a radical break with the Roman liturgical tradition, . . . if you believe that the entire approved liturgical reform has been represented by nothing but true, organic developments, then you will need to provide a different set of arguments than those contained in your essay.


. . . is the almost universal adoption of this orientation [priest facing the people, or versus populum] in the celebration of the NO a result of organic liturgical development and a legitimate application of Vatican II, or does it represent a liturgical novelty and an abuse of ecclesiastical authority?


For my part, I would submit that the questions on the table would be 1) was the introduction of the almost universal celebration of the NO Mass versus populum an organic development in the liturgy that was certainly required for the good of the Church . . .


Picture a liturgy celebrated in Latin, with . . . Holy Communion received by kneeling recipients on the tongue. . . . Now imagine another NO [Novus Ordo] . . . Holy Communion received in the hand by standing recipients. . . . The two liturgical expressions are night and day from one another. One is distinctively, unmistakably Roman Catholic. In the other, the actually distinctive Catholic content is approaching zero-- . . . I personally would argue that the first is objectively superior [original emphasis here, not mine] to the second in terms of preserving the Roman Church's venerable liturgical tradition, in expressing the fullness of the Catholic Faith in word and deed, and in instilling by example a holy reverence in the parishioners. Two abuse-free Novus Ordo Masses. Huge difference. One objectively superior to the other . . .


Let us summarize for brevity's and argument's sake. Our self-described "reluctant traditionalist" friend David Palm contends (and also contends that it is the Church's proper and orthodox view) that:

A) Liturgical changes (so Holy Mother Church has decreed and established) must be organic developments from preceding liturgy.

B) This means, furthermore, that the development has to flow from what immediately preceded it (i.e., "organically"), not from earlier or primitive Christian precedents from many hundreds of years prior (but with a break of time in-between).

C) The Council of Trent (agreeably to David Palm) asserted that liturgical rites that lacked a pedigree of at least two hundred years, could be overthrown by the then-to-be-codified Gregorian (Tridentine rite).

D) Vatican II (400 years later) reiterated the requirement of development from "existing forms."

E) Conversely, any liturgical changes that can be shown to have no historical precedent at all are no developments, but in fact a harmful corruptions, and therefore to be rejected as a violation of the above established principles, and deleterious to the Church and the piety of the Catholic faithful.

F) As particular examples, David Palm suggests that kneeling to receive communion, on the tongue, are practices "
distinctively, unmistakably Roman Catholic" and "objectively superior . . . in terms of preserving the Roman Church's venerable liturgical tradition" while contrary actions possess a "distinctive Catholic content" that "is approaching zero."

G) Moreover, the actions described in F, according to David Palm, are characterized as
"expressing the fullness of the Catholic Faith in word and deed, and in instilling by example a holy reverence in the parishioners." And again, it logically follows that actions to the contrary (Holy Communion received standing, in the hand) signify a lack of same.
These are the principles and contentions that shall be presently scrutinized. I hope to prove that they are internally inconsistent and incoherent, through a rather simple exercise of logic (so apparent in the end, once the "spotlight" is shone upon them, that it is almost as easy to miss as the nose on one's own face).

To do this, we shall examine (as a question of verifiable history) the examples of pious Catholic eucharistic practices suggested by Mr. Palm and see whether they themselves pass this crucial test of organic development from immediately existing forms. Obviously, if they do not, then they (assuming the desirability and helpfulness of logical consistency) would have to (logically speaking) be rejected on the selfsame basis as their contrary liturgical practices were rejected by Mr. Palm. For development (as Cardinal Newman generally argued in his magnum opus on the topic) is not a "herky-jerky" process that follows one rule at one point of time, and another in a future era, but rather, consistent throughout, and true to itself. In much simpler terms, I'll apply the old proverb: "what's good for the goose is good for the gander."

Let's start with kneeling to receive communion? Was this always the practice of the Church or did it come in later on?
Anglican historian of the liturgy, Dom Gregory Dix, in his classic volume on liturgical history and development, The Shape of the Liturgy (London: Dacre Press, second edition, 1945; reprinted 1970) gives us the historical background:

. . . the practice of kneeling by anybody for communion is confined to the Latin West, and began to come in there only in the early Middle Ages. The ancient church universally stood to receive communion, as in the East clergy and laity alike stand to this day; the apostolic church conceivably reclined in the oriental fashion, though this is uncertain.
It appears to have been the universal tradition in the pre-Nicene church that all should receive communion standing.
(pp. 13, 81; my emphases)
Jovian P. Lang, OFM, in his Dictionary of the Liturgy (New York: Catholic Book Pub. Co., 1989, "Posture in Worship," 512-513) concurs:
(1) Standing. Historically this was the normal attitude of prayer among pagans and Jews, adopted by the first Christians. It indicates a reverence for God. For Christians it took on an added implication, referring to the Resurrection of Christ, and frequently they faced the East toward the rising sun, regarded as the symbol of Christ Himself.

(2) Kneeling. This gesture indicates adoration, or the expression of humility before the greatness of God, fervent entreaty in prayer, a sign of penance or sorrow, even mourning. Historically the congregation knelt more and more instead of maintaining its standing position. Recent rules limit kneeling at Mass. [my emphasis]
Fr. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, S.T.L., in answering a question from a reader, stated:
While you surely have a right to receive kneeling if you so choose, I hope you do not think that kneeling is the only proper way to receive Holy Communion, since the Church of the East has had a tradition of standing for centuries.

(The Catholic Answer Book 2, Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 1994, 162)
The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia ("Genuflexion", written by Frederick Thomas Bergh) gives further corroboration:

The practice of kneeling during the Consecration was introduced during the Middle Ages, and is in relation with the Elevation which originated in the same period. . . .

Nor have we any grounds for believing, against the tradition of the Roman Church, that during the Canon of the Mass the faithful knelt on weekdays, and stood only on Sundays and in paschal time. It is far more likely that the kneeling was limited to Lent and other seasons of penance. . . . That, in the early Church, the faithful stood when receiving into their hands the consecrated particle can hardly be questioned. . . . St. Dionysius of Alexandria, writing to one of the popes of his time, speaks emphatically of "one who has stood by the table and has extended his hand to receive the Holy Food" (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., VII, ix).

[my emphases]
Seemingly unaware of these historical facts, the late, well-known "traditionalist" Michael Davies opined in 2004:
Standing has never been considered an act of reverence within the Roman Rite. . . . I repeat, standing is not an act of reverence, it has never been an act of reverence, and its imposition has nothing to do with the wisdom of the Church—it is antithetical to that wisdom.
Taking all this into account, we can arrive at the following conclusions:
1) Receiving communion standing was the "universal" tradition in the early Church.

2) In other words, it follows that in the early Church congregants did not kneel to receive Holy Communion.

3) Kneeling to receive Holy Communion was only introduced in the Middle Ages.

4) But David Palm has informed us that standing to receive communion possesses a "distinctive Catholic content" that "is approaching zero," and that it is "objectively" inferior and deficient in terms of "expressing the fullness of the Catholic Faith in word and deed" and also in "holy reverence."

5) Therefore, recipients of Holy Communion the early Church, according to David Palm, must have universally suffered from these lamentable and woeful deficiencies of piety, and (astonishingly enough) the very norm and universal practice of the Catholic Church (East and West alike) inculcated these interior attitudes that are antithetical to true, heartfelt worship and eucharistic devotion.

6) Moreover, when the (Palm-asserted) "correct" practice came in, during the Middle Ages, it must have been intrinsically corrupt, since it had no organic, immediate precedent, just as (so David Palm contends), standing at communion in our present era is a corrupt and (at least relatively) impious practice because it, too, had no immediate historical precedent.

7) If standing at communion cannot be considered an organic development of kneeling at communion (as David Palm has argued), then the opposite also logically holds (since they are not organically related): the earlier innovation of kneeling at communion over against the universal standing at communion of the early Church is likewise, a corruption and no true or genuine liturgical development. It's like apples and oranges.

8) Since this leads to logical nonsense (either one or the other practice is inferior, yet by the same "logic" they cannot be, and one or the other is the genuine liturgical tradition and development, but
by the same "logic" they cannot be), we must reject the entire argument as unworthy of allegiance. If standing at communion is a corruption and (at least relatively) impious and inferior now, as an "objective" matter, then it must have been in the early Church as well. And if standing at communion is a corruption because it is essentially distinct from kneeling at communion; thus the latter cannot be regarded as an organic precursor or "seed" of the former (and this is required), then likewise, kneeling when it was first introduced, must have likewise been a corruption, since it was not an organic development of the original standing posture at Holy Communion.
9) Ergo, David Palm must formulate a different argument, since this one utterly fails, logically speaking. It has collapsed as completely irrational; literally nonsensical.
Communion in the hand was likewise, was the widespread and predominant practice in the early days of the Catholic Church (the patristic period) [emphases mine throughout]:

That, in the early Church, the faithful stood when receiving into their hands the consecrated particle can hardly be questioned. . . . St. Dionysius of Alexandria, writing to one of the popes of his time, speaks emphatically of "one who has stood by the table and has extended his hand to receive the Holy Food" (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., VII, ix). The custom of placing the Sacred Particle in the mouth, rather than in the hand of the communicant, dates in Rome from the sixth, and in Gaul from the ninth century (Van der Stappen, IV, 227; cf. St. Greg., Dial., I, III, c. iii).

(Catholic Encyclopedia: "Genuflexion")

In the early days of the Church the faithful frequently carried the Blessed Eucharist with them to their homes (cf. Tertullian, "Ad uxor.", II, v; Cyprian, "De lapsis", xxvi) or upon long journeys (Ambrose, De excessu fratris, I, 43, 46), . . .

(Catholic Encyclopedia [Joseph Pohle], "The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist")

The eucharistic vessel known as the paten is a small shallow plate or disc of precious metal upon which the element of bread is offered to God at the Offertory of the Mass, and upon which the consecrated Host is again placed after the Fraction. The word paten comes from a Latin form patina or patena, evidently imitated from the Greek patane. It seems from the beginning to have been used to denote a flat open vessel of the nature of a plate or dish. Such vessels in the first centuries were used in the service of the altar, and probably served to collect the offerings of bread made by the faithful and also to distribute the consecrated fragments which, after the loaf had been broken by the celebrant, were brought down to the communicants, who in their own hands received each a portion from the patina. . . .
When towards the ninth century the zeal of the faithful regarding the frequent reception of Holy Communion very much declined, the system of consecrating the bread offered by the faithful and of distributing Communion from the patinæ seems gradually to have changed, and the use of the large and proportionately deep patinæ ministeriales grew up for the fell into abeyance. It was probably about the same time that the custom grew up for the priest himself to use a paten at the altar to contain the sacred Host, and obviate the danger of scattered particles after the Fraction. This paten, however, was of much smaller size and resembled those with which we are now familiar.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, [Herbert Thurston], "Paten")

All the solitaries in the desert, where there is no priest, take the communion themselves, keeping communion at home. And at Alexandria and in Egypt, each one of the laity, for the most part, keeps the communion, at his own house, and participates in it when he likes. For when once the priest has completed the offering, and given it, the recipient, participating in it each time as entire, is bound to believe that he properly takes and receives it from the giver.And even in the church, when the priest gives the portion, the recipient takes it with complete power over it, and so lifts it to his lips with his own hand. It has the same validity whether one portion or several portions are received from the priest at the same time.

(St. Basil the Great, Letter 93: To the Patrician Cæsaria, concerning Communion)

When thou goest to receive communion go not with thy wrists extended, nor with thy fingers separated, but placing thy left hand as a throne for thy right, which is to receive so great a King, and in the hollow of the palm receive the body of Christ, saying, Amen.

(St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 23:21)

Wherefore with all fear and a pure conscience and certain faith let us draw near and it will assuredly be to us as we believe, doubting nothing. Let us pay homage to it in all purity both of soul and body: for it is twofold. Let us draw near to it with an ardent desire, and with our hands held in the form of the cross let us receive the body of the Crucified One: and let us apply our eyes and lips and brows and partake of the divine coal, . . .

(St. John Damascene, An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Chapter 13)

Tell me, would you choose to come to the Sacrifice with unwashen hands? No, I suppose, not. But you would rather choose not to come at all, than come with soiled hands. And then, thus scrupulous as you are in this little matter, do you come with soiled soul, and thus dare to touch it? And yet the hands hold it but for a time, whereas into the soul it is dissolved entirely.

(St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Ephesians)
The present counter-argument, using the example of communion in the hand is not as strong as that concerning receiving communion standing, because unlike the latter, it was not the universal practice in the early Church. Yet there was significant usage, as at least eight eminent Church Fathers and three Catholic Encyclopedia articles attest. Thus, the counter-argument from development is not as airtight (though still strong), while the argument opposed to supposed "inferiority" remains compelling. The argument can be put into the following concise form:
1) Receiving communion in the hand was a significantly widespread tradition in the early Church.

2) In other words, it follows that many early Church congregants did not receive Holy Communion on the tongue.

3) Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue began (according to the Catholic Encyclopedia) in, for example, Rome, in the sixth century and in Gaul in the ninth. Likewise, the system of distributing Holy Communion from a metal paten, from which the faithful took the consecrated host with their hands, subsided, according to the same source, only "towards the ninth century." Thus, there was clearly a proportionately great practice of communion in the hand in the early Church.

4) But David Palm has informed us that receiving communion in the hand possesses a "distinctive Catholic content" that "is approaching zero," and that it is "objectively" inferior and deficient in terms of "expressing the fullness of the Catholic Faith in word and deed" and also in "holy reverence."

5) Therefore, many many recipients of Holy Communion in the hand in the early Church (e.g., the first six centuries in Rome), according to David Palm, must have suffered from these lamentable and woeful deficiencies of piety, and (astonishingly enough) the widespread practice of the Catholic Church (East and West alike) inculcated these interior attitudes that are antithetical to true, heartfelt worship and eucharistic devotion.

6) Moreover, when the (Palm-asserted) "correct" practice came in, e.g., in the 6th century in Rome and the 9th in Gaul, it must have been intrinsically corrupt, since it had no organic, immediate precedent, just as (so David Palm contends), receiving communion in the hand in our present era is a corrupt and (at least relatively) impious practice because it, too, had no immediate historical precedent.

7) If receiving communion in the hand cannot be considered an organic development of receiving on the tongue (as David Palm has argued), then the opposite also logically holds (since they are not organically related): the earlier innovation of
receiving on the tongue over against receiving communion in the hand is likewise, a corruption and no true or genuine liturgical development. It's like apples and oranges.

8) Since this leads to logical nonsense (either one or the other practice is inferior, yet by the same "logic" they cannot be, and one or the other is the genuine liturgical tradition and development, but
by the same "logic" they cannot be), we must reject the entire argument as unworthy of allegiance. If receiving communion in the hand is a corruption and (at least relatively) impious and inferior now, as an "objective" matter, then it must have been in the early Church as well. And if receiving in the hand is a corruption because it is essentially distinct from receiving communion on the tongue; thus the latter cannot be regarded as an organic precursor or "seed" of the former (and this is required), then likewise, receiving communion on the tongue, when it was first introduced, must have likewise been a corruption, since it was not an organic development of the earlier practice of receiving communion in the hand.
9) Ergo, David Palm must formulate a different argument, since this one utterly fails, logically speaking. It has collapsed as completely irrational; literally nonsensical.
Even David Palm's fellow "traditionalist" and comrade-in-arms lately on my blog, Ben Douglass, doesn't buy this particular characteristic "traditionalist" argument:
I am in no way arguing that Communion in the hand has been good for the Church or that it was prudent to reintroduce it. On the contrary, I think the decision to permit Communion in the hand has been disastrous; I think that the practice, in the modern form, is less conducive to reverence and far less rich in symbolism as compared to Communion on the tongue; . . . All I desire to establish with this essay is that Communion in the hand in not a sacrilege and does not necessarily tend toward sacrilege, . . . I would like to point out that the laity received Communion in the hand quite frequently in the early Christian Church. [many of the same examples I have given are then cited] . . .

I would also like to comment that there is a strong point to the ancient form of Communion on the hand which even Communion on the tongue is lacking: it gives the communicant some time for private adoration of Jesus in the consecrated host. This could potentially be a very grace-filled moment and excite the communicant to greater reverence and devotion when he receives. Unfortunately, in the modern form of Communion in the hand (no altar rail and a line of people behind you waiting for you to get out of the way) this opportunity is gone. Thus with the modern form of Communion in the hand we have all the drawbacks of the ancient practice but we lose its central benefit. . . .

Taking Communion on the tongue is a venerable, lower-case t tradition of the Catholic Church. Yet while I am unequivocally opposed to the destruction of venerable lower-case t traditions, by the same token I am against conflating them with Sacred Tradition, the source of revelation. To receive Communion in the hand is absolutely not wrong in principle, as should be clear by now.
Not so, David Palm. He appears to oppose it in principle, irregardless of the logical problems inherent in such a position, given the way he has staked out his argument from development of liturgical practice. In an article on the topic of kneeling, from 27 May 2008, he wrote:
Several friends sent me notices about wonderful news concerning the recent Mass at which the Holy Father distributed Holy Communion exclusively to recipients who knelt and received on the tongue . . . They knew I would be interested in this development not just in a general way, as yet another move by the Holy Father to restore liturgical sanity to the Roman Rite, . . .

Recently a local priest expressed his concern in our diocesan paper that Catholics who regularly attend the TLM sometimes refrain from receiving Holy Communion when they attend the NOM. He surmised that it may be because they doubt the validity of the NOM and perhaps in a few cases that's true, although I think that's a rare position. I think it's more likely that they just don't care to be marginalized and possibly publicly ridiculed because their conscience tells them to follow the immemorial custom of the Church and receive kneeling. . . .

I will have more to say about kneeling before our Lord and the new movement against Communion in the hand in future postings. For now, let's just say that this is the worst possible time to shy away from taking a stand (or, in this case, kneeling down) in support of Holy Tradition. The tide is turning.
Mr. Palm is, of course, free to believe and practice as he wishes (I always, by the way, receive Holy Communion kneeling at an altar rail, from the priest, in my parish, but I'll receive on the hand on occasion in other parishes, because I recognize that that has a serious liturgical history and is a venerable, pious tradition as well). But Mr. Palm is not free to revise the laws of classical logic (they are what they are: a=a, etc.), and he is not immune from being illogical in his reasoning, as proven rather conclusively above: as we all are at times.

St. Peter's Denials and the Cock's Crows: A Biblical Contradiction?


St. Peter Denying Christ, by Paul Gustav Doré (1832-1883)

Dr. Jason Long, an agnostic pharmacist, and author of Biblical Nonsense, has recently written a post about the alleged contradiction of the account of the cock's crows in relation to the denials of our Lord by St. Peter. He was responding to a short treatment by Protestant apologist J.P. Holding.

I'd like to (tentatively) propose a different solution. It's controversial itself, but I am simply throwing it out as a possible solution to seeming difficulties in the Gospel accounts: food for thought and speculation. Some may find it plausible; others may not (but that makes the discussion fun).

First, let's see what Dr. Long states (his words in blue):

Perhaps more than any contradiction in the Bible, the cock crowing contradiction has attracted its share of how-it-could-have-been-scenarios. This is my response to one apology. Comments are welcome.

Shortly before the crucifixion, Jesus tells Peter that he will choose to disavow any knowledge of Jesus on three occasions. After these events manifest, a cock will crow to remind him of Jesus’ words. In the books of Matthew, Luke, and John, Jesus warns Peter that all three of his denials will take place before the cock crows. In these three accounts, the situation unfolds exactly how Jesus predicted. The cock crows after, and only after, Peter’s third denial is made in accordance with what Jesus states, “the cock will not crow until you have denied me three times.” However, the details are different in Mark. Here, we see Jesus warning Peter that he will deny their friendship three times before the cock crows twice. Of course, this is exactly how the events play out in Mark. The cock crows after the first denial and again after the third denial. This is an undeniable contradiction without a rational explanation. If Mark is correct, the cock must have crowed after the first denial – even though Jesus said, in the other three Gospels, that it would not crow until after the third denial. If these three Gospels are accurate, Mark is wrong because the cock could not have crowed until after all three of Peter’s denials. How does the apologist handle this one?

. . .
does it make any sense for the author to say that the cock would crow twice (or three, or four, or five, or seventy-two times) if the three denials all took place before the first crow? Of what relevance is the second crowing, and why is it worth mentioning? . . .
Mark is internally consistent. Matthew, Luke, and John are internally consistent and consistent among each other. The only problem is that Mark is not consistent with the other three. The simplest answer is that Mark made a simple error.

And in the combox:
One more thing: Matthew, Luke, and John are explicit that the crowing took place immediately after the third denial. In the exact same place in Matthew, the author mentions the second crowing (implicit in its immediacy). This second crowing can only be the same crowing that the other three mention. If the second crowing took place immediately after the third denial, the first crowing must have taken place before the third denial, which would contradict what Jesus said would happen in Matthew, Luke, and John. What am I supposedly missing here? That the first crowing was understood to be a middle-of-the-night crowing that the other three Gospels did not need to mention? This is wild speculation, is it not?

All four Gospels treat this topic. There are four accounts of Jesus' prediction to Peter, and four accounts of Peter's actual denials:

Predictions: Matthew 26:31-35 / Mark 14:27-31 / Luke 22:34 / John 13:31-38

Peter's Denials: Matthew 26:69-75 / Mark 14:66-72 / Luke 22:54-62 / John 18:15-17,25-27
All these passages can be read in a very handy overview by Edwin K.P. Chong, in the Quodlibet Online Journal of Christian Theology and Philosophy. I'd like to submit as a plausible explanation what is known as "the six-denial solution." Chong describes it as follows:
A more radical solution to the problem is to submit that there were in fact six denials altogether, not three. The rationale here is that Mark's quote of Jesus saying that Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crows twice means that there would be three denials for each crow of the rooster. The rooster crowed after the third and the sixth denials. . . . it explains why the various people involved in the denials in the four Gospels differ somewhat. Is it possible that the four Gospels together account for six different denial episodes altogether, but that each Gospel only describes three of them?

The six-denials approach was popularized by Harold Lindsell in his 1976 book, The Battle for the Bible [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1976]. The success of the approach relies on being able to reconstruct a cogent account of the six denials that is consistent with all the Gospels. One possible account, due to Michael Cortright, is given below [dead link]:

First denial:

A girl at the door to the courtyard (John 18:17).

Second denial:

A servant girl, by the fire in the courtyard (Matthew 26:69, Mark 14:66, Luke 22:56).

Third denial:

A man by the fire in the courtyard (Luke 22:58).

First crow.

Mark 14:68 (King James Version).

Fourth denial:

Another girl, at the gateway (Matthew 26:71) or entryway (Mark 14:68,69).

Fifth denial:

Some anonymous (standing) people by the fire in the courtyard (Matthew 26:73, Mark 14:70, John 18:25).

Sixth denial:

Another man who happens to be a male servant of the high priest (Luke 22:59, John 18:26).

Second crow.

Matthew 26:74, Mark 14:72, Luke 22:60, John 18:27.
The above reconstruction appears to be largely consistent with the Gospel accounts.
This explanation was provided (perhaps definitively) in the book, The Life of Christ in Stereo, by Johnston M. Cheney (edited by Stanley A. Ellisen, Portland: Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, 1969). This is a Harmony of the Gospels, with a few appendices: one of which (#2: pp. 218-220) is devoted to this textual issue. I shall cite it at great length:
Discrepancy has been charged to this account because the related details are so diverse that they simply refuse to group themselves into just three denials without some very questionable manipulating of the texts. A surplus of details has proved embarrassing . . .

The solution that this harmony has evolved is suggested first of all by noting the differences in the two warnings Jesus gave to Peter. The first, recorded by Luke and John, occurred in the Upper room. John shows that this took place before Jesus' great farewell discourse . . . The second, recounted by Mark and Matthew, occurred much later. It was given when Jesus and the disciples were on the way to Gethsemane . . . Note the difference in the wording of the two warnings. In the first warning, Jesus said:
". . . the cock will not at all crow this day till you have denied three times that you know me." (Italics indicate emphasis in Grk.) (John 13:38)
On the latter occasions he said:
". . . today, during the night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." (Mark 14:30)
From just a simple analysis of these words, it is evident that Jesus predicted Peter would both deny Him three times before the cock crowed at all, as well as three times before the cock crowed twice. The grammar itself demands this . . . The evidence is that Jesus predicted six denials.

The First Three Denials. By noting the first denials in each account, it is evident that the one recorded by John occurred first. It had to, for it took place as Peter gained entrance to where the other denials were uttered. And his second denial was the second recorded by John, for here Jesus had just been taken bound from Annas to appear before Caiaphas. This second denial was a response to the men around the court fire as Peter sat with them.

The third denial occurred also by the fire, this time in response to the query of the high priest's servant girl. Following this, Peter went out into the fore-court. But it was at this point, as Mark records (according to Textus Receptus), that "a cock crowed" (Mark 14:68) . . . interestingly enough, this crowing occurred after only the first denial recorded by Mark. By allowing the Evangelists to minutely supplement each other, the first cycle of denials is seen to be precisely as Jesus had predicted: Peter denied Him three times before the cock crowed at all.

The Second Three Denials. . . . There is "another woman" (Matt. 26:71), a second query by the high priest's maid (Mark 14:69), "another man" (Luke 22:58), "another man" (Luke 22:59), and finally "a kinsman of the one whose ear Peter had cut off" (John 18:26). There is obviously some overlap in these accounts, but they are seen to draw out Peter's additional three denials after the first crowing of the cock. Following Peter's adamant curse and his final denial, Mark declares that the cock crowed "the second time." . . .

It is to be recognized that each of the individual Evangelists recorded and was evidently aware of only one warning by Jesus and only three denials by Peter. They each recorded accurately what they knew.
Edward T. Babinski, another agnostic, recommended in the combox for Dr. Long's article, a tightly-argued treatment by Dave E. Matson. The above scenario resolves many if not all of the alleged difficulties suggested by Matson in his section "The Problem" because there are more denials that occur, thus resolving supposed contradictions in the accounts of each denial (that seem even at first glance to add up to more than three specific denials).

The article, Peter's Denial, by Doug Ecklund, lays out a scenario for six denials, with all the verses laid out for the convenience of the reader.

John Schoenheit, in a (transcribed) 1995 talk entitled The Last Week of Christ's Life, concurs with this theory:
This is his first denial [John 18:15-17] and it happened at the house of Annas. E.W. Bullinger and others have worked out the six denials of Peter. Prophecies were there, and one of them said, “Before the cock crow, thou shall deny me thrice,” another says, “Before the cock crow thrice, thou shall deny me twice.” I have worked on this for some time, and I am satisfied that I believe that six denials by Peter are there. It would have worked something like this that Christ would have said, “Before the cock crow thou shall deny me thrice.” Peter would have kept on saying no it is not going to work that way, no that is not the way it is going to be. Christ would have then said, “Before the cock crow twice, thou shall deny me thrice.” In fact, even if you look at the Gospel records and try to harmonize them, we have one denial here with Annas; other Gospels clearly [refer to] three denials in front of Caiaphas, so you already have four denials; . . . you can get your Bible and get 3x5 cards to line out the various denials. Do this like a reporter using who, what, where, when, why, and how. You will see that Peter makes six different denials.
The Defending the Faith website also offers a scenario for six denials:
i. The First Series of Three.

1. The First Denial, John 18:17. Place: the door (thura) without. Time: entering. The questioner: the porteress (Gr. thuroros).

2. The Second Denial, Matthew 26:70 (Mark 14:68). Place: the hall (aule). Time: sitting. Questioner: a certain maid. Luke 22:56-58 combines the same place and time, with the same maid, and another (heteros, masc.).

3. The Third Denial, Matthew 26:71. Place: the gateway or porch (pulon). Time: an interval of an hour. John 18:25, 26 combines the same place and time, with another maid and bystanders, one of them being a relative of Malchus.

A Cock Crew
(Mark 14: 68. John 18:27)

ii. The Second Series of Three.

1. The First Denial, Mark 14:63. Place: "beneath in the hall". Time: shortly after. Questioner: the maid again.

2. The Second Denial, Matthew 26:73 (Mark 14:70). Place: the gate (pulon). Time: shortly after. Questioners: the bystanders.

3. The Third Denial (Luke 22:59, 60). Place: the midst of the hall (aule; v. 55). Time: "an hour after" (v. 59). Questioner : a certain one (masc.).

A Cock Crew

(Matthew 26:74. Mark 14:72. Luke 22:61)

IV. We thus have a combined record in which there remains no difficulty, while each word retains its own true grammatical sense.
Willmington's Guide to the Bible provides another such outline of six denials.

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For those who don't care for this scenario, Protestant apologist Norman L. Geisler offers an explanation with the traditional three denials, in his book Inerrancy (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1980).

The CARM website presents a three-denial schema in a convenient outline form.

Eric Lyons at gives it a shot by explaining the seeming contradiction by analogy to other similar uses of language (scroll down about 3/4 to the bottom).

St. Augustine's explanation from his Harmony of the Gospels, Book III, chapter 2 is also fascinating.

My Anti-Catholic Buddies Made a T-Shirt For Me!

This t-shirt is graciously and lovingly marketed by our old friend Frank Turk -- aka "centuri0n". I'd love to wear this down in Steubenville at the Defending the Faith conference. That would be the funniest thing . .

Yep, I'm free all right: free in Christ (Galatians 5:1); free to proclaim and defend the glorious gospel and the fullness of the Catholic message full-time (made possible by your purchases of my books and generous tax-deductible donations); free to refute error from the comfort of my library / office; free to disagree with and contend against ideologies and worldviews that are wrong and harmful; free to worship and live as I please; free to love my dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, my beautiful wife Judy and my four children and my friends and fellow human beings. I love my work and my life: doing what God called me to do.

It was very thoughtful of ol' Frank to make note of how free in Christ and His Church that I am!

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