||QUESTION FOR A SOLA SCRIPTURA
("BIBLE ALONE") BELIEVER.
by Mark J. Bonocore
Do you believe that the Gospel of Matthew is the inspired Word of
God? Okay. If so, how do you know that it is? How do you know that
Matthew authored it? Does Matthew's Gospel claim to be inspired?
Does it even claim that Matthew authored it? Does any other book of
Scripture tell us how Matthew's Gospel came about? Okay, then. Why do
you accept that it's inspired? Why do you accept that it's authored by
Matthew and/or comes from him?
I'll tell you why we Catholics believe that Matthew is inspired.
Because that is the Sacred oral Tradition of the Catholic Church.
And, if you are honest, you will have to admit that this is why you
believe Matthew is the Word of God too -- because you trust the
Church's Sacred oral Tradition on this matter.
Well, if that's the case, how can you accept this particular
Tradition of the Catholic Church, yet reject the Church's oral
Traditions about Mary, the Papacy, or the Real Presence of Christ in the
Eucharist? That doesn't make sense.
For example, the very first recorded testimony we have for Matthew's
reliability comes to us from St. Irenaeus of Lyons in 180 A.D. St.
Ireneaus was the disciple of St. Polycarp, who was the disciple of St.
John the Apostle himself. And, in 180 A.D., St. Irenaeus tells us:
"Matthew also issued among the Hebrews a written Gospel in
their own language, while Peter and Paul were evangelizing in Rome and
laying the foundation of the Church." (St. Irenaeus,
Against the Heresies 3, 1:1)
And, thus, we can provide evidence from the early Church indicating
that those who were faithful to the Apostles' teachings believed that
the Gospel of Matthew was reliable and inspired by God. However, in this
very same book ("Against the Heresies"), St. Irenaeus also
calls Mary the "New Eve" and speaks of her as intimately
participating in the salvation of mankind. Irenaeus writes:
"Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be
obedient, saying: ‘Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me
according to your word.’ Eve, however, was disobedient; and when yet
a virgin, she did not obey.... having become disobedient, was made the
cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary,
betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was
made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race....
Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of
Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary
loosed through faith."
So, do you believe that Mary actively participated in the salvation
of the human race? Well, if not, why not? After all, this comes from the
same (and the earliest) source which tells you that Matthew is
And also, in this same book, St. Irenaeus writes:
"Since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume
as this the bishops' successions of all the city-churches, we shall
confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through
self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness or wicked
opinion, assemble other than where it is proper (i.e., renegade
heretics), by pointing out here the succession of the bishops of the
greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized
at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that
church which has the Tradition and the Faith which comes down to us
after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For it is a
matter of necessity that all other city-churches agree with this
church (Rome) because of its preeminent authority."
Ireneaus then goes on to list the succession from Peter's successor
Linus to the Pope of his day. (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 3,
So, do you believe in the Papacy? Well, if not, why not? The same
early source which proves the reliability of Matthew's Gospel also
speaks of the Papacy -- that is, the "preeminent authority"
of the Bishop of Rome as the successor of St. Peter.
And again, in this same book, St. Irenaeus also writes of the
Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, saying:
"For just as the bread which comes from the earth, having
received the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread,
but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly,
so our bodies, having received the Eucharist, are no longer
corruptible, because they have the hope of the resurrection."
(Irenaeus, Against The Heresies 4, 18:4-5)
... and ...
"[Christ] has declared the cup, a part of creation, to
be his own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the
bread, a part of creation, He has established as his own Body,
from which He gives increase to our bodies." (Irenaeus,
Against The Heresies)
... and ...
"So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread
receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the
Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and build up the substance of
our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of
receiving God's gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ's
Blood and Body and is His member? As the blessed Apostle (Paul)
says in his letter to the Ephesians, 'For we are members of His Body,
of His flesh and of His bones' [Eph. 5:30].. He is not talking
about some kind of 'spiritual' and 'invisible' man, 'for a spirit does
not have flesh an bones' [Lk. 24:39].
No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being,
composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished
by the Cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the Bread which
is His Body. The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and
eventually bears fruit, and 'the grain of wheat falls into the earth' [Jn.
12:24], dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing
Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human
use. These two then receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist,
which is the Body and Blood of Christ." (Irenaeus of
Lyons, Against the Heresies, 5:2, 2-3, all c. 180 A.D.)
So, again -- Why do you accept some of the Church's ancient
Traditions, yet ignore other ones?
Mark J. Bonocore