Over at Answering Catholicism, Erol is making some interesting claims about the Catholic Church. Apart from subscribing to the long discredited Vicarius Filii Dei = papal title myth, he has a number of less unreasonable articles about Catholicism, to which he objects.
Erol’s first contact with me was in 2006, when he called me a LIARRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Back then he wasn’t interested in discussion, just name calling.
I posted 2 blog posts about him in 2006:
Erol appears to be a Sabbath keeper, not of the Adventist sort, but subscribing to some of their ideas about Catholicism, and a few more of his own. He’s also a type of Oneness Pentecostal, although the evidence of that appears to have been removed from his website – the links in my blog post no longer exist.
Erol has now written a post on his blog [dead link] detailing why he disagrees with me. For the record, I am placing a PDF here as well, as he won’t allow my most recent comment to appear. Another comment from me was also not allowed through; it doesn’t add much, so I’m not going to worry about posting that PDF.
I’ll go through a few points, the most important being Erol’s claim that Paul instructed the Christians at Corinth to stay at home with their offerings, and that he planned to collect them from the individual homes when he was passing through town.
As a reminder, the two passages in question in the KJV are:
(Acts 20:6) And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
(Acts 20:7) And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
(Acts 20:8] And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
(Acts 20:9) And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
(Acts 20:10) And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
(Acts 20:11) When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
(1 Cor 16:2) Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
(1 Cor 16:3) And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
(1 Cor 16:4) And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.
(1 Cor 16:5) Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia.
(1 Cor 16:6) And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.
But lets first quote verse 16:1, he conviniently left that out, it will become clear why in a second.
Erol accuses me of leaving out verse 1, but as you can see on the original page (which he erroneously thinks was written in answer to his e-mail), verses 1-6 are quoted there in full.
Regarding Acts 20:7, Erol states that “Paul traveled on the 1st day, he therefore did not keep the 1st day holy“.
Erol makes an assumption here regarding the rules by which Paul would have kept the 1st day of the week holy. He assumes that Paul would not have travelled on this day, and therefore concludes that this day was not kept holy by Paul because Paul travelled on that day. However, there is no rational basis for that assumption, either in the Bible, or in the evidence we have of how first and second century Christians kept Sunday. One could just as easily conclude that many modern Catholic bishops and priests do not observe Sunday because they travel on that day.
Erol also makes the inaccurate claim that the Catholic Church changed the Sabbath to Sunday. Firstly, the Sabbath was never changed, it remains Saturday. Secondly, the Catholic Church teaches that the Apostles began the practice of Sunday observance.
Erol states: Rome did change the Sabbath and she claims that act proudly by saying its her MARK, furthermore she claims she needs no authority for she herself assumes authority over the BIble to make up whatever bat crazy idea’s come to her mind.
He doesn’t back that up with any official Catholic statement on the matter; as I’ve mentioned before on this blog and elsewhere, Sabbath keepers tend to provide inaccurate quotes or quotes from unofficial sources such as newspapers. See my article on Who changed the Sabbath which provides REAL Catholic teaching (not newspaper clippings) on the matter.
Also take a look at Constantine, the Papacy, and the real origins of Sunday which explains the difference between newspaper clippings and official sources of Catholic teaching.
Erol also claims that Paul instructed the Christians to keep their offering at home. This seems plausible at first glance, if one considers the words “lay by him” and “in store“. Erol seems to rely heavily on his understanding of these words. They are the best argument he has for his position. However, based on context, I believe they do not require a home-kept offering. There are also several questions and problems that a home-kept offering would raise, and Erol doesn’t want to address these.
The first is the issue of the day on which the offering is to be set aside – the 1st day of the week. Why the first day? Adventists and other Sabbath keepers have put forward the theory that the first day of the week was the day on which people got paid, and so that would be the logical day for any offering based on their payment. Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny – the world at that time didn’t subscribe to the policy envisaged by the Sabbath keepers proposing it. Romans, for instance, had an 8-day business week. Corinth was in Greece, and they didn’t have a 1st-day-of-7 payment system either.
The only answer that fits the historical evidence for what went on on the 1st day of the week is the one where the Christians gathered together on that day because that was their normal custom. Barnabas highlights this in his epistle in the first century; Ignatius, the disciple of the Apostle John, points this out in the early second century AD.
The second problem is how Paul would go about collecting the offerings. He explicitly states that he does not want collections when he comes. It seems as if he wants the collections completed by the time he gets there. In his words, as translated in the KJV: “that there be no gatherings when I come“. Gatherings = monetary collections.
Erol insists that Paul would collect the offerings as he passed through town, but this seems to contradict what Paul had said about there being no collections when he got there.
There seem to be two important aspects of the instruction in verse 2 that we can use to analyse the various scenarios possible:
1. That the collections be done on the 1st day of the week
2. That no offerings be collected when Paul arrives
Here are a few of the scenarios that are possible:
Problems: the offerings can be put aside on any day of the week, making the instruction to do so on the 1st day meaningless. The scenario also results in Paul having to visit each Christian household in Corinth, and then visit the leaders of the community. This would be impractical – Paul wants things done fast when he gets there, and this would just slow things down. It would be more practical to give the offerings to the leadership prior to Paul’s arrival, so that the offerings were already ready and waiting in one place. The scenario also makes meaningless Paul’s request that the offerings not be made when he comes, but rather in advance – this scenario has Paul doing the collecting he doesn’t want to do when he gets there – “that there be no gatherings [collections] when I come“.
People put aside offerings in their home on the first day of the week … they hand them in later to their leadership … Paul meets with the leaders when he gets there, and gives the offering to someone to take to Jerusalem.
Problems: this leaves open the question as to why it should be done on the first day of the week. There was no financial reason to do it on that day. Was there a religious one? Sabbath keepers wouldn’t accept that answer. It remains illogical. It also contradicts Erol’s requirement that the offerings be kept at home; I don’t see that as a real problem, but it makes it unacceptable to him.
Problems: This meets the criteria a) of the collection being on the first day of the week without the timing being illogical, and b) of collections not being held when Paul comes. It does, however, leave a problem for those who want to have “lay by him in store” mean that the donation would be kept at home.
Is that a problem? Yes, a real one. Many commentators take that view, even great Catholic scholars such as St John Chrysostom.
How to resolve the problem: the three aspects of the instruction must make sense together. Sunday, “lay by him in store“, and no collections when Paul gets there.
That this be done on Sunday is clear, and there must be a reason for this being part of the instruction. I’ve found no alternative explanation apart from the claim that this had to do with when people got paid; that claim doesn’t appear to hold any water, as secular society back then didn’t run its finances by the Christian or Jewish calendar. The only logical reasons for a specific timing by the Christian calendar would be for it to coincide with a Christian meeting, or with financial practicalities. For the latter, I find no evidence.
That there be no collections held when Paul gets there is hard to get around, though several have tried. I’ve found those that suggest Paul would hold his own collection passing each home, but that defeats the purpose of his instruction. There are some that say that putting something aside at home each week would allow for a weekly commitment – i.e. planning – instead of a single collection at the end when Paul comes, followed by gathering it together when he gets there (either by Paul collecting it himself, or by calling the people to bring it to where Paul is.) That would allow for “that there be no gatherings when I come” to apply only to individual contributions, but not to the final collection of what has already been designated as a donation. I don’t think there is enough in the text to consider that to be a safe interpretation – that the instruction was meant to have such an exception. And in no way does it solve the problem of why the individuals should do this on the first day of the week.
So, can “lay by him in store” be reasonably interpreted to allow for a weekly collection of the donations into one place to be kept safe by the Christian leaders? And if such an interpretation is reasonable, it is at least equal to Erol’s interpretation, because he is not the one true interpreter of the Bible, and he doesn’t have the authority to say that his interpretations are not mere interpretations, but what the Bible actually says. He’d either have to prove that, or show why my interpretation is not possible, or not reasonable, if he hopes to win any argument.
I believe there is a reasonable interpretation that allows such a scenario. I believe there is a way to read those words that allows harmony between the two apparently contradicting statements – “lay by him in store” and “no gatherings when I come“.
The People’s New Testament commentary has the following to say:
The usual view is that every one was directed to set aside something on the Lord’s day and keep it until Paul came. This view is sanctioned by the translations and most of the commentators. Macknight renders: “On the first day of the week, let each one of you lay somewhat by itself, putting it into the treasury.” I believe Macknight is right; for (1) there were to be no collections when Paul came. That implies that the money was to be placed in the treasury. Otherwise, it would have to be collected. (2) Thesaurizoon, rendered in the Common Version “in store,” is a present participle, meaning literally, “putting into the thesaurus,” or “treasury.” (3) All church history testifies that the early church took up weekly collections on the first day of the week. See Pliny’s Letter to the Emperor Trajan. (4) We know, from Acts 21:7, and from all early church history, that the church met on the first day of the week. It only remains to add that par’ heauto, rendered by the translators “by him,” is rendered with equal correctness, “by itself.” Its form is that of the neuter reflexive pronoun.
I find no source for the Macknight reference, but the argument holds.
Point 4 in the commentary above – Acts 21:7 should read Acts 20:7, and I agree with those who say that this is not an absolute proof that meetings on the first day were regular ones. It does, however, add to the body of evidence that it was the norm.
Point 3 in the commentary above – Pliny’s letter, as far as I can find, doesn’t deal with collections of money. An additional reference to Justin Martyr, 150 AD:
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president … (First Apology 68, Weekly worship of the Christians)
The word “in store” can mean a central treasury in the Bible. In the Greek Old Testament (the one quoted from by the Apostles), the same word is used in the following passages, where it indicates a central treasury:
Joshua 6:19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.
1 Kings 7:51 So was ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the LORD. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD.
Nehemiah 7:70-1 And some of the chief of the fathers gave unto the work. The Tirshatha gave to the treasure a thousand drams of gold, fifty basons, five hundred and thirty priests’ garments. And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasure of the work twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand and two hundred pound of silver.
Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
The words “lay by him“, as we have seen above, can be translated “lay by itself“. That is then completely compatible with placing the donation in a central treasury. However, it remains a bit odd that the offering would be placed “by itself” – I’ll leave that one open for thought, as it isn’t really necessary. The “by him” can be interpreted to mean, not merely the location, but the disposition of the person. Thus the “by him” and the “in store” need not be the same place. “By him” may refer to the way it is done (whether at home or anywhere else), while the “in store” may refer to the central location from which Paul would send it to Jerusalem.
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible clarifies this:
Let him lay up at home, treasuring up as he has been prospered. The Greek phrase, “by himself“, means, probably, the same as at home. Let him set it apart; let him designate a certain portion; let him do this by himself, when he is at home, when he can calmly look at the evidence of his prosperity. Let him do it not under the influence of pathetic appeals, or for the sake of display when he is with others; but let him do it as a matter of principle, and when he is by himself. The phrase in Greek, “treasuring up“, may mean that each one was to put the part which he had designated into the common treasury. This interpretation seems to be demanded by the latter part of the verse. They were to lay it by, and to put it into the common treasury, that there might be no trouble of collecting when he should come. Or it may, perhaps, mean that they were individually to treasure it up, having designated in their own mind the sum which they could give, and have it in readiness when he should come.
The first part of his explanation makes the most sense. The last sentence, giving another interpretation, has the same problems as previously discussed in this post – the question as to why it had to be Sunday, and the problem with a collection of all the donations being required when Paul arrived, contrary to his instructions, and impractical if there was a functioning leadership in Corinth.
Here are a few of the more interesting quotes from Erol:
Sabbatarians often claim that the money was to be collected at home on a weekly basis.
We do not claim, scripture does! Like I showed in the post, the Greek shows the true meaning of the place where they gathered, at home!
He makes no distinction between the Bible and his interpretation of it.
Since Rome claims Sunday is now the Sabbath they have to do away with such verses because they expose their lies too easily.
That is the real reason Stephen assumes and claims but shows no scriptural evidence for his claims.
I’ve shown that Rome claims no such thing. The comment I made to that effect never appeared on his blog. And I’m really interested to know how he concludes that I show no scriptural evidence for my claims, when he has been shown where I discuss Acts 20:7 and 1 Cor 16:1-2.
In reply to 1 chorintians 16:1-2 he said and i quote.
I wasn’t replying to “1 chorintians”, or even 1 Corinthians. I was explaining my understanding of it.
I say on my site:
1 Cor 16:2 is quite good evidence for regular Sunday observance. It shows that every week – regularly, weekly – on a certain day, the people collected money for mission work done by Paul.
If Stephen had read the context he would have noticed that this is not the case at all in this passage. The context shows that this was an emergency event (famine) and that because of that Paul had to give them ORDERS to do this. “… as I have given orders to the churches of galatia…” (16:1). It was not their regular practise.
The passage itself does not state that Sunday observance was a regular practice, I agree. However, it does indicate that the instructions given cover a number of Sundays. It’s highly unlikely that Paul wrote the letter the week before he arrived. If there were a number of weeks between the letter and its arrival, the instructions would mean that each Sunday this should happen. Just as when I pay my rent on the last day of the month, or submit my lab’s monthly report by the 7th of the month, I do these things every month, so when they take up a collection on the 1st day of the week, they probably did this every week until Paul came. This is supported by the word “kata“, which can render “upon the first day” as “every first day“.
“Kata has a distributive force, every first day” – Vincent’s Word Studies.
In my article I wrote:
The passage does not directly state that there are worship services on the first day of the week, but one can deduce from the context that this had to be so.
Again, assumption is not evidence. He assumes that there where worship services even though the context reveals there where not. ea, people being at home, not gathering together in a place etc. Paul even said it himself, “that there be no gatherings when I come”.
It’s a deduction, not an assumption. I think Erol has a problem with degrees of interpretation: his interpretations are declared to be “what the Bible says“, while any deductions are labelled “assumptions“. His assumption that Paul’s words “no gatherings” shows that people would be at home, “not gathering together in a place” is very faulty, since the word for “gatherings” is the same as the word for “collections” and refers to monetary collections, not human meetings.
The context is clear, Paul giving people specific instructions not to gather and to be at home for him to collect the money upon passing trough the city.
I called him out on that one, and it was at this point that he started saying the following:
I can keep explaining the verse allowing scripture to define scripture again however you won’t understand it, so I won’t.
And thats the last thing I am gonna say about it to you.
And that’s where it ends. Erol deleted my last comment so it couldn’t be seen. He has the final word on his blog, and clearly isn’t going to deal with the evidence against his claims.
Erol tries to blame my disagreement with him on “tradition” that I am obliged to defend or that has blinded me. Yet the Catholic Church does not have a defined interpretation of this text, and Erol’s interpretation (that the donation was kept at home) would not be considered heresy – after all, St John Chrysostom shared his view. (His other conclusions would be, however.) I, in turn, postulate that Erol’s opinions are similarly guided by his tradition – he needs to have Paul visiting from house to house in order to maintain his argument against Catholicism, and that is, in my view, what drives his interpretation. Erol claims that his view is what the Bible teaches, as clear as mud for all to see – if they’re not Catholics twisting the text to suit their tradition, of course. Erol has fallen into the trap of thinking that how he understands a certain passage IS the correct way, the only way, the inspired way. A common tendency with some Protestants. His interpretation is what the Bible says; everything else is the teachings of men. The key ingredient is that he is not a mere man, but one who has the Holy Spirit guiding him so that he can sit in judgement of all interpretations of the Bible, to declare them to be correct if they agree with him, and to be traditions of men if they don’t. His inability to differentiate between the Bible and his interpretation of it is evident throughout his posts. To him, it’s a choice between traditions of men and the personal interpretation of Erol.
He also likes to dodge issues by referring to the fact that I am Catholic. He forgets that this is a matter of interpretation, that many Protestants hold the same view as I do on this matter, and that it really has nothing to do with being Catholic.
Well, surprise – I am claiming that my interpretations are equally inspired and of equal authority as any of his are. Well, my authority IS equal to his, is it not? And I believe what the Bible says too.
Update: commentary over at the SDA2RC blog here. Read all the comments to see the development of the discussion.
Comments imported from the old blog:
Posted by Erol on February 22, 2009, 9:41 pm
IF you want the overal scope of this dialogue and not just the fragments you can read it at my website at http://answeringcatholicism.com/did-paul-keep-sunday-holy
*The post no longer exists – see the PDF here.