Jimmy Akin Podcast

You sometimes encounter the charge that the Catholic Church wrongly "changed the sabbath" from Saturday to Sunday.

This claim is often made by Seventh-Day Adventists, for example.

But even if one isn't accusing the Church of wrongdoing, the question can still arise: Why do Catholics worship on Sunday rather than Saturday?

Here's the story . . .

First, let's clear away a potential source of confusion. While it's true that people sometimes speak of Sunday as "the Christian sabbath," this is a loose way of speaking.

Strictly speaking, the sabbath is the day it always was--Saturday--though it should be noted that traditionally Jewish people have celebrated the sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.

Sunday is a distinct day, which follows the sabbath. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ.

That same paragraph explains why we celebrate on Sunday. For Christians the ceremonial observance of Sunday replaces that of the sabbath. Properly speaking, we're not celebrating the sabbath on Sunday. We're celebrating something else, but it's something that the sabbath points toward.

What we are celebrating instead of the sabbath is "the Lord's day."

That's something Christians have celebrated since the first century. In fact, in the very first chapter of Revelation, we read that John experienced the inaugural vision of the book on "the Lord's day." He writes:

I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet [Revelation 1:9-10].

And he goes on to describe the vision of Jesus Christ he received.

For our purposes, the important thing to note is that he speaks of the Lord's day as an already-established thing. He expects his readers to know what it is.

So, when is it?

The first Christians commonly spoke of Jesus Christ as "the Lord," and the Lord's day is Jesus Christ's day--the day he rose from the dead and his tomb was found empty. That's the day after the sabbath, or Sunday.

In Matthew's gospel we read:

Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Mag'dalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher.

But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay [Matthew 28:1, 5-6].

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week is something stressed by all four gospels:

And that's why Christians celebrate the Lord's day. The Catechism explains:

Jesus rose from the dead "on the first day of the week." Because it is the "first day," the day of Christ's Resurrection recalls the first creation. . . . For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord's day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica), Sunday.

We can confirm that the early Christians were meeting on the first day of the week from the letters of St. Paul, because he tells the Corinthians to take up a collection on that day of the week so that they won't have to take up a collection when he arrives. He says:

Now concerning the contribution for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come [1 Corinthians 16:1-2].

He expects the collection to already be taken up by the time he arrives so that they don't have to get people to give at that point. This indicates that the early Christians were meeting on the first day of the week, celebrating the Lord's day.

Does that mean that no Christians in the first century ever celebrated the sabbath?

No. Many Jewish Christians celebrated both the sabbath and Sunday in the first century, just as many also practiced the Jewish dietary laws and ritual circumcision and offered sacrifices in the Temple.

St. Paul himself went to synagogue services on the sabbath so that he could preach the message of Jesus to his Jewish countrymen, for that is where and when they would gather together.

But Paul is clear that sabbath observance is not binding on Christians.

He addresses this very directly in the letter to the Colossians, where he writes:

And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. . . .

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath.

These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ [Colossians 2:13-17].

When St. Paul refers to the bond which stood against us with its legal demands, he is referring to the Law of Moses. Christ cancelled this bond. That is why he says not to let anyone pass judgment on us in questions of food and drink--what is kosher and what isn't.

And he says not to let anyone judge us with regard to keeping a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. Those are the three types of days on the Jewish liturgical calendar: the annual feasts (like Yom Kippur), the monthly new moon, and the weekly sabbath.

All of these things had a symbolic value, which pointed forward to Christ, but now that the substance which cast the shadow has come--Christ himself--the things pointing forward to him are no longer needed.

The Church Fathers agree. Thus in the early A.D. 100s, we find St. Ignatius of Antioch writing:

Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord's day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death [Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians 9:1].

So let's loop back to our original question of whether the Catholic Church "changed the sabbath." From what we've seen, it didn't.

There was no Medieval pope or council who said, "We're now going to celebrate the sabbath on Sunday."

The weekly sabbath is the day it always was--Saturday--the day before the Lord's day.

What's different is that Jewish Christians are no longer obligated to celebrate the sabbath, because Jesus Christ himself fulfilled it and all the other Old Testament ceremonies and instituted the New Covenant.

And he had the authority to do that, for as he himself told us:

The Son of man is lord of the sabbath [Matthew 12:8].

Of course, Gentile Christians were never obligated to celebrate the sabbath in the first place, because the Law of Moses was given to the Jewish people and was only binding on them (in contrast to God's eternal, moral law, which is binding on everyone).

What we are obliged to celebrate is the Lord's day, which fulfills the principles that were contained within the sabbath, including the need to set aside adequate time for rest and worship.

But there wasn't a Medieval pope or council who instituted that, either. As we've, seen, it's something that dates from the New Testament age itself. Thus the Catechism states:

This practice of the Christian assembly dates from the beginnings of the apostolic age. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds the faithful "not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another" [Hebrews 10:25].

Direct download: 047final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:19pm PDT

Abortion is a controversial issue, and at the center of the controversy is the question of whether the unborn are human beings. If they are, then abortion kills a human being.

Many people think that this is somehow a religious issue and involves religious questions like when the soul arrives.

Some people deliberately try to frame the issue this way in order to shut down rational discussion of the subject.

So let's set the question of religious aside <em>entirely</em>.

Instead, let's look at something we should all be able to agree upon: science.

What does science say about whether the unborn are human beings?

Direct download: 046final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:14pm PDT

One of the most controversial passages in the Bible is Matthew 16:18, where Jesus tells Peter, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church."

Catholics see this passage as evidence that Jesus made Peter the first pope.

Many Evangelicals look at it as just the opposite.

Who is right?

It's an interesting question, and I've been on both sides of the question. In fact, this passage played a pivotal role in my conversion to the Catholic Church.

You may think you've heard all the arguments about whether Peter is the rock, but I'm going to show you the one that convinced me, and you probably haven't heard it anywhere else . . .


The Basic Argument

A common claim in Protestant apologetics is that in Matthew 16:18, Jesus is actually contrasting St. Peter with the rock on which he will build his Church.

The argument is based on the fact that in Greek the word for Peter is petros, while the word used for "rock" here is petra.

It is often claimed that these words meant two different things--that petros meant a small stone or a pebble, while petra meant a large rock.

The idea is that Jesus is contrasting Peter--a tiny, insignificant stone--with the great rock on which he will build his Church, which is often said not to be Peter but Peter's faith.

How well does this argument work?


Small Stone vs. Large Rock?

In the Expositor's Bible Commentary, the esteemed Evangelical Bible scholar D. A. Carson writes on this passage:

Although it is true that petros and petra can mean "stone" and "rock" respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry.

Moreover the underlying Aramaic in this case is unquestionable; and most probably kepha was used in both clauses ("you are kepha and on this kepha"), since the word was used both for a name and for "rock."

The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses.

The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name.

So the argument that petros and petra have different meanings in this passage is actually quite weak.

But for the sake of argument, let's suppose that they did. Would this mean that Peter isn't the rock?


You May Look Small . . . 

The argument that he isn't is based on the fact that there is a clear parallelism between Peter and the rock in this passage, and it assumes a particular kind of parallelism--one that contrasts Peter with the rock.

This is sometimes called antithetic parallelism.

But that isn't the only kind of parallelism there is. The Bible often uses another form, known as synthetic parallelism.

In synthetic parallelism, the second item mentioned builds on or amplifies the meaning of the first.

If that's what's happening in this passage--even if we grant that petros means a small stone and petra means a large rock--then it does not follow that Peter and the rock are two different things.

Instead, Jesus would be saying something like, "Although you may seem to be a small stone, Peter, on the large rock that you really are, I will build my Church."

In this case petra or large rock would bring out the actual significance of the small stone that Peter appears to be.

But there are even more decisive arguments, and you don't have to speak Greek or Aramaic to understand them . . .


My Own Conversion

A key moment in my own conversion occurred one day when I was reading a book, and it had an extended quotation from Matthew 16.

I suddenly realized that there was a structural feature in the text that pointed to Peter being the rock.

Soon afterward, I noticed additional features that indicated the same thing.

I realized that these were far stronger indicators than the arguments I had previously taken for granted regarding the alleged difference in meaning between petros and petra, and I had to change my view.

Here is what I discovered . . .


Jesus Asks a Question

If we back up a few verses, we find Jesus asking the disciples a question:

[13] Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare'a Philip'pi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?"

[14] And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli'jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

[15] He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

[16] Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

That's the correct answer, and Jesus says three things to Peter in reply:

[17] And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

[18] And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.

[19] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

What I noticed was that there are structural features in Jesus' three statements to Peter that indicate he is the rock.


Blessed Are You

One thing I noticed is that the statements immediately before and after the "You are Peter" passage are both blessings.

First, Jesus says "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!" That is clearly a blessing.

Then he says, "You are Peter."

And finally he says, "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven." That also is clearly a blessing.

So "You are Peter" is sandwiched between two blessings. The passage unambiguously stresses the blessedness of St. Peter.

That argues against the idea that Jesus is belittling Peter in this passage.

It would be like Jesus saying, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! . . . You insignificant pebble. . . . Here are the keys to the kingdom of God!"


What It Means to Be Peter

I also noticed that each of Jesus' three statements to St. Peter has a two-part explanation attached to it.

The first statement, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!" is explained by "For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you," which is then further explained by "but my Father who is in heaven."

These are why Peter is blessed. He didn't learn of Jesus' identity from man. It was revealed to him by the Father.

The third statement, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven," is explained by "and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven," which is then further explained by "and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

These are part of what it means for Peter to have the keys of the kingdom. He is able to bind things with authority from God, and he is able to loose things with authority from God.

So when it turns out that the second, or middle statement also has the same structure, then we need to read it in the same way.

The statement "you are Peter," is explained by "and on this rock I will build my church," which is further explained by "and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it."

So that is what it means for him to be Peter: Jesus will build his Church on him, and the gates of hades will not prevail against it.


What This Means for Us

When I realized these things, I realized that Peter had to be the rock Jesus was talking about. And that was a pivotal moment in my journey with God.

Because if Peter is the rock on which Jesus builds his Church, that means that Peter is the chief apostle, the chief shepherd of Christ's flock. And that means that, once Jesus has ascended to heaven, Peter is the earthly head of the Church.

That's a good description of the office of the pope.

And so, when I realized these things, I concluded that I had to reconsider matters. I had to review my beliefs with an open mind toward whether the Catholic Church was right after all.

In the end, I concluded that it is, and so I became Catholic.

In the years since, my conviction has only strengthened as I have learned more about Catholic teaching and its basis in the Bible, including the role of the pope.

Direct download: 045final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:50pm PDT

The Bible records a number of ancient civilizations. Perhaps the most famous of these is ancient Rome.

By the time of the New Testament, Rome was the major world power, and it was in control of the Holy Land during the entire earthly life of Jesus and during the lives of his immediate followers.

Jesus was born during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus. He was crucified during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius. The book of Acts records the Roman emperor Claudius by name. And both St. Peter and St. Paul were crucified at Rome by the Emperor Nero.

It is clear that the Romans were extraordinarily important to the world in which the New Testament was written.

All that makes it worth asking: Who were the Romans, and where did their civilization come from?


The Legendary Founding

The answer is shrouded in the mists of time, and ancient legends get in the way of an exact knowledge of the facts.

According to the Romans’ own account, the city of Rome was founded in the wake of the famous Trojan War.

Specifically, it was founded on April 21st in 753 B.C. by two twins named Romulus and Remus.

These two twins were supposedly the grandsons of an earlier king—Numitor—but they were raised by a she-wolf, and so they were feral children.

When they founded the city of Rome they had a quarrel, and Romulus killed Remus. Romulus thus became the sole and original king of Rome.

The Roman Kingdom

This led to a period known as “the Roman kindom,” in which Rome was ruled by a series of kings.

This period is supposed to have lasted from the founding in 753 B.C. until about 509 B.C.

It is characterized by the fact that Rome was ruled by kings, just like other peoples were. During this time seven kings supposedly reigned over Rome, beginning with Romulus and ending with Tarquinius Superbus, or “Tarquin the Proud.”

Eventually, however, the people of Rome were fed up with their kings and overthrew them, leading to a new period in the history of Rome.

The Roman Republic

This led to the “Roman Republic,” a period in which Rome lacked a monarch.

The word “republic” comes from the Latin res publica, which means “public thing”—a reference to the fact that how the state was governed was now a public thing rather than a matter for just the kings.

To replace the kings, power was divided between two men, known as consuls, who were elected every year and had significant checks on their powers, including term limits. 

The Roman Republic lasted from the overthrow of the kings around 509 B.C. until the first century B.C.

The Roman Empire

The Romans found that their system of divided government, with power split up among the consuls and other government officials, was at times unwieldy. 

As a result, in times of crisis, they sometimes appointed dictators—men who could run the state as single individuals, but only for a limited period prescribed by law, to keep the dictator from turning into a tyrant.

Eventually this system broke down, when one particular dictator—Julius Caesar—engineered a situation in which he was proclaimed “dictator in perpetuity.”

That was too close to the idea of kingship, and the situation didn’t last long. He was quickly assassinated by a conspiracy in the Senate.

His heir was a man named Octavian, and he eventually accumulated as much power as Julius Caesar had possessed—and more.

Some wanted him to be given the title “king,” but Octavian knew that would be dangerous, so he allowed the Roman Senate to vote him different titles.

One title became the name he is known by today: Augustus.

The other was a military title that meant “commander.” In Latin this word is imperator, and from it we get the English word emperor.

Augustus this became the first of the Roman emperors, and the Roman empire was born.

Rome and the Life of Jesus

Rome had been accumulating power through conquest even since the time of the Roman kings, and by the reign of Augustus Caesar it had become the dominant power in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

They were in political control of the Holy Land at the time Jesus was born, and it was they who had appointed Herod as “king of the Jews.” It was also Augustus Caesar who called for the enrollment that led Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.

The impact of the Romans on the gospel story is thus apparent right from the beginning.

Their impact was still present at the time of Jesus’ adult ministry, when other members of the Herod family were ruling parts of his kingdom, and when the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, agreed to have Jesus crucified.

“We Have No King But Caesar”

It is ironic that, at the time of Jesus’ Passion, the crowds cried, “We have no king but Caesar!” 

The Roman ruler of the day was Augustus’s successor, Tiberius Caesar, and he did not technically have the title “king.” The Romans were too proud of having overthrown their kings for that. But the emperors were functioning as kings, and it was obvious to everyone.

The Empire Strikes Back

The power of the emperors continued to have an impact on the early Church. Just a few decades later it was the Emperor Nero who put St. Peter and St. Paul to death at Rome.

Later emperors launched the persecutions that martyred so many early Christians—and paradoxically caused the Church to grow, until the Roman empire itself was converted to Christ.

The Roman empire was something that the first Christians had to deal with constantly. It loomed over their lives and tried to destroy them and their faith.

It will help us all understand and appreciate our faith better if we know something about the Roman empire and the impact it had on the Bible and the early Church.

Learning More

The persecution by the Roman authorities is a big part of what the book of Revelation is about. 

If you’d like to learn more about that, I’d like to invite you to join my my Secret Information Club at www.SecretInfoClub.com.

It’s a service I operate by email which is absolutely free. I send out information on a variety of fascinating topics connected with the Catholic faith.

The very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is an “interview” I did with Pope Benedict on the book of Revelation. What I did was compose questions about the book of Revelation and take the answers from his writings.

He has a lot of interesting things to say!

If you’d like to find out what they are, just sign up at www.SecretInfoClub.com. Thank you!

Direct download: 044final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:48pm PDT

One of the distinctive Protestant principles is expressed in the slogan sola scriptura, which is Latin for “by Scripture only.” The idea is that every teaching on faith or morals must be directly or indirectly based on the Scriptures. 

That leads to the common question, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

It’s an important question. In fact, it’s a question that needs to be asked about the doctrine of sola scriptura itself. Because if every teaching on faith or morals has to be based on the Bible then sola scriptura must be based on the Bible. 

If it’s not, then it is a self-refuting claim and is false.

So what passages do Protestant Christians appeal to in support of sola scriptura?

One that is sometimes cited is Acts 17, which deals with an incident that happened when St. Paul preached in the Jewish synagogue in the Greek city of Berea.

St. Luke writes:

[11] Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Many in the Protestant community have found this an inspiring story, and some have even named their ministries after the Berean Jews. If you go online you can find all kinds of Berean churches, schools, ministries, and bookstores.

The idea is that we should imitate the Berean Jews and take a skeptical attitude of theological ideas we are presented with. Instead of just accepting them, we should search the Scriptures daily to see if what we are being told is true or not. If it’s not, then we should not accept it.

If that’s what the passage means—if it is commending the Bereans for their skeptical attitude and refusal to believe a teaching unless it can be found in Scripture—then this would be good evidence for sola scriptura.

But that’s not what it means, and it’s easy to show that.

You’ll notice that Acts 17:11 says that the Berean Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, which raises an immediate question: “What were the Thessalonian Jews like?”

If they are less noble in contrast to the skeptical Bereans, presumably they were credulous individuals who accepted what they were told without Scriptural proof.

That’s not what they were like at all. To see this, let’s back up to the beginning of the chapter, where we read:

Acts 17

[1] Now when [Paul and his companions] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.

[2] And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, 

[3] explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." 

[4] And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 

[5] But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. 

[6] And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 

[7] and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." 

[8] And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard this. 

[9] And when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 

[10] The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea; and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.

It’s in that context that we now return to the verse where we started:

 [11] Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

So the contrast isn’t between the skeptical Bereans, who insisted on Scriptural proof of what Paul was saying, and the credulous Thessalonians, who accepted it without question.

Instead, the contrast is between the open-minded Bereans, who were willing and eager to examine the Scriptures and see if what Paul was saying was true, versus the hostile Thessalonians, who started a riot and got Paul in trouble with the authorities, even though he had proved from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

This understanding is confirmed by the following verses, where we read:

[12] Many of [the Bereans] therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 

[13] But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Beroea also, they came there too, stirring up and inciting the crowds. 

[14] Then the brethren immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there.

So the Thessalonians forced Paul to flee Berea, just as they had forced him to flee from their own town.

Thus it wasn’t the Bereans who were skeptical. It was the Thessalonians.

There is also another reason why this passage isn’t a good proof text for sola scriptura, which is this: The Christian faith contains doctrines that aren’t found in the Old Testament.

What’s why even those who favor doing theology “by Scripture alone” don’t favor doing it “by the Old Testament alone.”

While the Old Testament does contain prophecies that point forward to Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, it doesn’t contain the whole of the Christian faith.

What the Berean Jews were willing to do, therefore, was to open-mindedly look at the Old Testament Scriptures, see if they confirmed Paul’s preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, and then go on to accept the new, Christian revelation that Paul also imparted.

And he imparted it by preaching, because the books of the New Testament were not all written yet.

If we were to follow the example of the Bereans, we would look at whether the Scriptures we do have support a particular message and, if they do, then be willing to accept further revelation not found in those Scriptures.

We would, ironically, embrace the attitude of those at Thessalonica who did accept the Christian faith, for in 2 Thessalonians 2, St. Paul told them:

2 Thessialonians 2

[15] So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

In other words, we would recognize the authority of all of the traditions passed on from Christ and the apostles, whether they were written or not.

And this is what the Catholic Church says we should do.

If you’d like to learn more about these and other matters, I’d like to invite you to join my Secret Information Club at www.SecretInfoClub.com.

It’s a service I operate by email which is absolutely free. I send out fascinating information on a variety of topics connected with the Catholic faith.

The very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is an “interview” I did with Pope Benedict on the book of Revelation. What I did was compose questions about the book of Revelation and take the answers from his writings.

He has a lot of interesting things to say!

If you’d like to find out what they are, just sign up at www.SecretInfoClub.com. Thank you!

Direct download: 043final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:46pm PDT