Saturday, August 07, 2010

Hermeneutics of Discontinuity? JP2 vs. Florence on the Revocation of the Mosaic Covenant


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Commemorating the 565th Anniversary of the Closing of the Council of Florence


The previous post on Pope John Paul II's claim that the Church did not have a philosophy drew many interesting comments.  I would like to try another topic within the same broad theme of the apparent discontinuity between traditional Catholic doctrine and post-Vatican II doctrine: the supposed non-revocation of the Mosaic covenant.

In an allocution to the Jewish community of West Germany at Mainz (November 17, 1980), Pope John Paul II spoke of "... the people of God of the Old Covenant, which has never been revoked.'" 

[Information Service No. 57, 1985/I, 16-21, 16. Comp. H. H. Henrix in: Hinweise fuer eine richtige Darstellung von Juden und Judentum in der Predigt und in der Katechese der katholischen Kirchen - 24. Juni 1985 (Arbeitshilfen 44), Bonn o. J. (1986), 12-44.]


Compare this with Session 11 of the Council of Florence (4 February 1442, Bull of Union with the Copts):


It [The Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ's passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation...."  (Denzinger 712)

Are these reconcilable?  Comments from all positions are welcome, but especially those who argue using the scholastic method (Major, Minor, and Conclusion, etc.).


13 comments:

ologgio said...

Dear Brother,

The argument is as follows:

1. The mosaic law cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation
2. That which can't be observed without loss of eternal salvation is not part of the covenant of God

Therefore the Old Covenant has been revoked.

-------------
The major flaw with this argument is the premise that "Old Covenant"="Mosaic law". The argument is missing a common term. Although both (1) and (2) are correct.

The Old Covenant of the chosen people started with the Covenant with Abraham which DID NOT include the Mosaic law. The Mosaic law (not including those laws deriving from natural law, such as the 10 commandments) was a temporal correction and a sign pointing to Christ for the people of God at the time before the coming of Jesus.

The essence of the Old Covenant is that the people of Israel are a chosen people, to whom the coming of the Messiah was revealed, first through the symbolic actions of Abraham and then explicitly through the Deuteronomy Prophecy of Moses about the prophet that was to come.

When Pope John Paul II stated that the old covenant has not been revoked, he means that the people of Israel are still a chosen people (even though they haven not accepted the advancement of the Old Covenant into the New).

As pope Benedict XVI has stated, the Old Covenant has been superseded by the new Covenant, however the Jews who have not yet accepted the New Covenant remain waiting for the second coming of the Messiah, which for them will be perceived as the first coming, until Christ reveals to them that He is the same one that came and was Crucified. At that point they will "weep for Him whom they have pierced".

Until then we should encourage them in their belief of the coming of the Messiah, and propose to them that the Messiah already came, and that His name is Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, who suffered, died and rose from the dead for them and for us.

In the Holy Eucharist,
Fr. Omar Loggiodice

Don Paco said...

Thank you for your comment, ologgio. Let me see if I understand you correctly: you are essentially making a distinction between "Old Covenant" and "Mosaic Law." The Old Covenant is a larger whole of which the Mosaic Law was a temporal correction. The Mosaic law WAS revoked, but not the Old Covenant.

Yet would you concede that neither the Old Covenant nor the Mosaic Law is profitable unto salvation?

If your answer is affirmative, then we could take your argument's minor premise and replace "Mosaic Law" with "Old Covenant". I would also like to rephrase the Major for the sake of clarity. The result would be this:

Major: That which can't be observed without loss of eternal salvation does not belong to God's CURRENT covenant with mankind.

Minor: The Old Covenant cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation.

Conclusion: Therefore, the Old Covenant is not part of the covenant of God (i.e., the Old Covenant has been revoked).

Do you agree with this argument? If not, please explain. Thanks in advance.

Don Paco said...

Nota bene: Florence does not only prohibit that which is of Mosaic origin, but also non-Mosaic elements of the Old Covenant, such as circumcision, and states they cannot be observed without mortal sin.

Anonymous said...

It is a favorite device of JPII apologists to claim that he was merely referring to the Abrahamic Covenant. His comments don't bear this out. First of all, he refers to "the people of the old covenant." Who are these people if not the Jews? But the Jews were formed by way of the Mosaic covenant. Abraham has never been referred to as part of the "old covenant" precisely because of his priority in time and significance. If one were to claim that modern Pharisaical Jews actually have Abraham as their Father in Faith, they would directly contradict the doctrine of Jesus Christ Himself. Their entire reason for existing is reduced to their denial of the Messiah. If they did not deny the Messiah, there would be no more Jews. JPII and company re-interpret their modern existence as a positive thing and then through a sort of pseudo-mysticism, attempt to ponder the reasons why. They go so far as to assert they are still "chosen" and have not been rejecting by God. Cf. Nostrae Aetate.

Sorry this wasn't in scholastic form, a simple syllogism wouldn't have answered the weak objection that he was referring to another covenant.

Don Paco said...

Anonymous, I appreciate your point. But of course the scholastic method can be used to deny a distinction! It's only a matter of bringing logical order to one's thoughts. You just have to announce that you are denying a distinction and then provide a short argument, along with an (optional) explanation. Something like this:

I deny the distinction between "Old Covenant" and "Mosaic Covenant."

Major: JPII says that the 'Old Covenant' has not been revoked.

Minor: But the only thing he can mean by "Old Covenant" is the Mosaic Covenant.

Conclusion: Therefore, JPII meant that the Mosaic Covenant has not been revoked.

Explanation of the Minor:
It is a favorite device of JPII apologists to claim that he was merely referring to the Abrahamic Covenant. His comments don't bear this out. First of all, he refers to "the people of the old covenant." Who are these people if not the Jews? But the Jews were formed by way of the Mosaic covenant. Abraham has never been referred to as part of the "old covenant" precisely because of his priority in time and significance. If one were to claim that modern Pharisaical Jews actually have Abraham as their Father in Faith, they would directly contradict the doctrine of Jesus Christ Himself. Their entire reason for existing is reduced to their denial of the Messiah. If they did not deny the Messiah, there would be no more Jews. JPII and company re-interpret their modern existence as a positive thing and then through a sort of pseudo-mysticism, attempt to ponder the reasons why. They go so far as to assert they are still "chosen" and have not been rejecting by God. Cf. Nostrae Aetate.

---------------------------

I've added the words in bold. Do they accurately capture what you mean?

Anonymous said...

Don Paco,

Your probatory syllogism appears to be deficient:

You write:

Major: JPII says that the 'Old Covenant' has not been revoked.
Minor: But the only thing he can mean by "Old Covenant" is the Mosaic Covenant.
Conclusion: Therefore, JPII meant that the Mosaic Covenant has not been revoked.

On the one hand, it appears that you are attempting to construct a 3rd Figure Syllogism, because "JP2 + verb" is the subject of both Major and Minor. By equating the term, "JP2 said" (subject of major premiss), with the term, "JP2 meant" (subject of minor premiss), you appear to make it the Middle Term of the proof.

On the other hand, you use the term, "JP2 meant" as the subject of your Minor and your conclusion, thereby lending credence to the interpretation that you are attempting to construct a 1st Figure syllogism.

Which one is it?

Even if you attempt to make it an expository syllogism, or simply a 1st or 3rd Figure syllogism, it appears to violate the Third Canon of the Laws of the Syllogism ("Nequaquam medium capiat...")

Advocatus ratiocinationis

Don Paco said...

No, it's not a fallacy. "JPII meant" is accidental to the premises. Sorry, I didn't think it would take so much erudition to realize that it's just a simple Barbara (1st figure). I thought you'd be able to see it that way; that's why I didn't bother to formulate it in standard form. So here it is again, this time in an easier-to-see format:

Major: The 'Old Covenant' has not been revoked (according to John Paul II).

Minor: The Mosaic Covenant is the 'Old Covenant'.

Conclusion: The Mosaic Covenant has not been revoked (according to John Paul II).

The argument is valid, so let's move on and talk about the truth or falsehood of its premises.

Anonymous said...

Don Paco,


You argue thus, Domne:

Maj.: The 'Old Covenant' has not been revoked per JP2.

Min.: The Mosaic Covenant is the 'Old Covenant'.

Ergo, the Mosaic Covenant has not been revoked per JP2.

I concede the Major.

As for the Minor, That the Mosaic Covenant is the “Old Covenant,” I distinguish: That the Mosaic Convenant in the species of its legalia is identical, or coextensive to the term, “Old Covenant,” I deny; that the Mosaic Covenant in its legalia is not identical, or coextensive to the term, “Old Covenant,” I concede.

Ergo, I distinguish the consequent: That the Mosaic Covenant has not been revoked in genere per JP2, I deny; that the Mosaic has been revoked in specie per JP2, I concede. I explain:

The following is Denzinger’s entry for the text of Florence which is at issue:

1348 712 Firmiter credit, profitetur et docet, legalia Veteris Testamenti, seu Mosaicae legis, quae dividuntur in ceremonias, sacra sacrificia, sacramenta, quia significandi alicuius futuri gratia fuerant instituta, licet divino cultui illa aetate congruerunt, significato per illa Domino nostro Jesu Christo adveniente cessasse [...] In short, “[L]egalia Veteris Testamenti, seu Mosaicae legis [...] cessasse [...].” But you equate “Mosaic Covenant” with “Mosaic Law” or “legalia of the Old Testament.”

Faveas probare your Minor: you attribute the accident “(according to JP2) to the supposition of the Major, but omit doing so with respect to the Minor premiss.

Before replying, consider reading the following passages: Nn. 37-39; 45 of the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s recent text addressing the right interpretations to be given to the term, “Covenant,” which can be found at the following hyperlink: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/pcb_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20020212_popolo-ebraico_en.html#A.%20General%20Conclusion

One appears to have committed the Fallacy of the Four Terms by not qualifying the supposition of Minor with the same accident as that used in the Major, namely, "(according to JP2)."

For these reasons, thus do I deny the consequence.

Servus,

Advocatus ratiocinationis

Anonymous said...

"As for the Minor, That the Mosaic Covenant is the “Old Covenant,” I distinguish: That the Mosaic Convenant in the species of its legalia is identical, or coextensive to the term, “Old Covenant,” I deny"

I deny your distinction as it is based upon an equivocal and self-serving definition. In the context of the speech, JPII stated, "the people of the old covenant which was never revoked" thereby manifesting the intended meaning of the term, namely the covenant of which there were a definite people, i.e., the Jews. But the only Covenant which distinguished the Jews as a people of God was the Mosaic Covenant. But the essence of the Mosaic Covenant was the Law. Ergo.

It is futile to refer to any other "covenant" as they all pointed to and were fulfilled in the Divine Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Don Paco said...

Carissime Advocate,

A. I read the part of that document as it pertains to covenant. What specifically am I looking for that is relevant to the argument?

B. Let me stress that my suggested argument is not even 'mine' in the sense that it represents what I believe; rather, it is only my attempt to formalize the other anonymus' reasoning. I'm just helping a fellow traditional Catholic get his ideas in scholastic format.

C. You are hung up on the invalidity of the argument. The reason you give for the argument being invalid is that the "according to JP2" is not being used in the minor premise. I already said such an expression is accidental to the argument, but you seem not to believe so. I am quite insistent that it is indeed accidental, such that the meaning of the premises remains unchanged if one takes those words out. Thus, we can reformulate the argument thus:

Maj.: The 'Old Covenant' has not been revoked.

Min.: The Mosaic Covenant is the 'Old Covenant'.

Conclusion: Therefore, the Mosaic Covenant has not been revoked.

That argument is surely immune to any logical pedantry anyone can offer, no matter how excessive. Let us, then, focus on the matter of the argument, and leave alone its form. The only thing that Anonymous would have to add to this argument is an explanation. He would have to say that this is not an argument that he (Anonymous) defends, but only an argument that JP2 would have to accept given (a) his belief in the Major and (b) the fact that the Minor is true. He would, of course, have to offer a proof of the minor.

D. For the sake of argument, let us assume that you are right in saying that "Old Covenant" is a genus of which "Mosaic Law" is a species. As I assume you know, one cannot consistently affirm a predicate of a species and negate it of its genus. For example, I cannot say that "man" is rational and at the same time that its genus, "animal," is not rational. Or, for example, one cannot say that "dog is carnivore" but "animal is not carnivore." The reason for this is that, as the Philosopher says (Categories 3), where one genus is subordinate to another, there is nothing to prevent their having the same differentiae: for the greater class is predicated of the lesser, so that all the differentiae of the predicate will be differentiae also of the subject." So it is evident that one cannot say that the species is x, and simultaneously that the genus is non-x. Yet this is exactly what you (and the pope, according to your interpretation) are doing: you think the predicate "has been revoked" is to be affirmed of the species "Mosaic law," and yet denied of the genus "Old Covenant." If the Mosaic Law has been revoked, then one cannot say that the Old Covenant has not been revoked. Such a statement would be false, at least simpliciter. At best it would be true secundum quid, insofar as what is predicated of the whole is true only of the part.

Don Paco said...

Apart from whether it is logical or true to say such that the Old Covenant has not been revoked, I would like us also to keep in mind the broader picture--whether it is prudent to say such a thing. Why would any traditional-minded Catholic would ever want to defend such a statement by the pope? To the average Joe, who is unaware of any subtle distinctions, and especially to the average Jew, to the average Catholic, and to the average everything else, especially to the average reporter, it sounds like the pope is saying that all of the Old Covenant is still in force (note that JP2 purposely did not mention that the legal prescriptions of the Old Law are null and void--saying that would produce the opposite effect of what he intends them to 'feel'). To them, the pope's words mean that Judaism (i.e., the modern-day religion one of whose essential beliefs is the rejection of Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah) is still a viable religion, that such a religion is still approved by and pleasing to God, or worse, that being a Jew is profitable unto salvation. That is how most people take it and cite it. That is why so many pious traditional Catholics are scandalized by the claim. Even if it is somehow technically true secundum quid (which I would hesitate a bit to admit), the statement is at least misleading, offensive to pious ears, and perhaps downright scandalous given the errors of indifferentism, liberalism, and (neo-)modernism which are rampant in our ecumenical age.

So I don't see why anyone would put so much energy in defending such a statement, other than due to some sort of misguided ecclesiology. I am speaking of the deeply-erroneous belief that the pope is infallible in every statement he makes concerning the faith, regardless of his intent to bind the faithful to assent to it; or worse, the idea that he is somehow omni-prudent, such that his everyday statements are not only infallibly true, but infallibly prudent. That, of course, is a ridiculous suggestion and is an enormous aberration from traditional Catholic ecclesiology.

(Interestingly, this supposed omni-prudence is affirmed primarily of the post-Vatican II popes---they would of course hesitate to ascribe it to excessively negative popes like Bl. Pius IX and St Pius X.)

Anonymous said...

There is no rational for making such a statement. There is no foundation for it in the entire history of Catholic theology, yet people seem to approach such an enormous novelty as if it is perfectly legitimate. Such an attitude conceals the error of which you speak.

I have studied the writings of John Paul and the only way one can "understand" his writings is from the viewpoint of neo-modernism or a "new theology." To claim that he had all of these alleged "distinctions" in mind while making perfectly orthodox statements is simply special pleading. One can strain at gnats while swallowing the camel.

All of the elements of his thinking can be found, more or less, in Pascendi Dominici Gregis. It is a sober but very real fact.

They may hold that the legal presriptions of the law have been abrogated, but they never say it because their new theology isn't concerned with these facts for that represents the "old experiences" of a bygone people. The new Judaism, stripped of the old baggage of the legal prescriptions is seen as a vital religion precisely because they are enamoured with their continued existence. In the mind of the neo-Modernist, this "phenomenon" is interpreted as something good because something living is necessarily vital, especially regarding a "people" who claim such a history. Their denial of Christ isn't ever mentioned because it is a purely negative fact that doesn't bear on their religious experience.

Sorry for the book. This goes deep, but it is very important to note this in the face of logical "pedants" who think they are exonerating perfectly "orthodox" statements.

Anonymous said...

No pre-conciliar Catholic theologian, much less a pope, would ever dream of stating such a thing, especially to a Jewish audience, and most especially without mentioning also that they cannot be saved without embracing the New Covenant, the Catholic faith.

One has to have a completely novel theological outlook to be able to do such a thing. One must have a very different notion of theology: one must think that one can profess the same immutable dogmas as always (at least the same external formulae) but reinterpret them anew in every age in a "dynamic" way that is fitting with the spirit of the age (e.g., extra ecclesiam nulla salus). This is exactly what the nouvelle theologie does. For this reason, Pope Ven. Pius XII condemned it as a form of neo-modernism, because it is nothing but a more subtle form of modernism.