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When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He did not leave a book; He left a Body. That Body was equipped with the spiritual gifts necessary to preach Jesus to the whole world. That Body has never died and will never die. "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

As the apostles preached Jesus, questions and controversies arose:

"For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths" (2 Tim 4:3-4).

The Magisterium is a relatively recent term derived from the Latin word, magister, which means "teacher." It refers to the teaching authority of the Church by means of which sound doctrine may be distinguished from false teaching.

  • Ordinary Magisterium: Bishops acting in union with the pope, especially in an ecumenical council.
  • Extraordinary Magisterium: The pope exercising the infallibility of the Church in union with the College of Bishops.
  • Representatives of the Magisterium: priests, deacons, theologians.

Scriptural roots of the magisterium

Pastoral gifts--"Living the truth in love"

The pastoral gifts (Greek, charismata or "charisms") are given to human beings who act as instruments in God's hands to build, unify, and maintain the Body of Christ. No verse in the Scriptures says, "These offices and charisms have been replaced by the Bible." The Scriptures are actually incapable of saying that because the word "Bible" is not in the Bible.

Eph 4:11-16
11 And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. 15 Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love.
apostles ἀπόστολος
prophets προφήτης
evangelists εὐαγγελιστής
pastors ποιμήν, -ένος, ὁ
teachers διδάσκαλος
1 Cor 12:28
Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues.
apostles ἀπόστολος
prophets προφήτης
teachers διδάσκαλος
administration κυβέρνησις


Lk 10:16.
"Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."
Jn 16:12-15

12 “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.

13 But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.

14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.

15 Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.

2 Tim 3:16-17
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.


They say that "hindsight is 20-20 vision." The gospels were written down long after the events told in them had revealed their full significance to believers. The entire structure of the gospels is dictated by a post-Pentecost understanding.

This is devastating for the biblical critics, who want to extract a transcript from the canonical gospels that would describe exactly what Jesus Himself said and did before the disciples understood His words and deeds. Every word and action attributed to Jesus in the gospels is suspect. Any part of the gospel might have been put there by the evangelists because of later developments in the Church.

Such critics implicitly reject the Scriptural claim that the "Spirit of truth" was and is given to the Body of Christ to guide it to "all truth" (Jn 16:13). For them, the only thing that counts is "the very words" (ipsissima verba) of Christ; any extra words or passages provided by the Spirit through the ministry of the Church are negligible.

Catholics trust the Holy Spirit and accept that "all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17).

It is the Church who defines the meaning of "all scripture." No book of the Bible lists the books of the Bible. Telling us what is--and is not--the "Word of God" is the work of the Church.

The Protestant theory is that a stream is cleanest closest to its source. As the water runs downhill, other streams run into the original and pollute it.

For Catholics, the Church is most herself after Jesus has ascended and sent the Holy Spirit to "complete His work on earth"[1] The Church uses an organic model of revelation. Just as the body needs to develop from a single cell into a mature organism, so the Church needed to develop its structures and powers over the course of time. The very earliest moment of an organism's existence is not the best part of its life; the single cell is meant to multiply and differentiate until all the powers of its nature are expressed in its mature form.

We have to draw some of the meaning of Jesus' words from what comes after. Hindsight is the servant of insight, and insight is essential to the act of faith.

"What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand" (Jn 13:7).

"For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13:15).

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 34-35).

"I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you" (Jn 14:18).

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26).

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (Jn 15:13-15).

Re-reading the Sacred Scriptures

We read the scriptures of the original covenant (TNK, LXX, OT) in the light of the paschal mystery: Jesus' death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, and sending of the Spirit. For us, every significant figure in the Old Testament points to Jesus:

- Jesus is the new Adam.
- Jesus is the new Abel.
- Jesus is the new Noah.
- Jesus is the new Abraham.
- Jesus is the new Isaac.
- Jesus is the new Jacob (Israel).
- Jesus is the new Joseph.
- Jesus is the new Judah.
- Jesus is the new Moses.
- Jesus is the new Exodus.
- Jesus is the new Joshua.
- Jesus is the new David.
- Jesus is the new Solomon.
- Jesus is the new Son of David.
- Jesus is the new Isaiah.
- Jesus is the new Emmanuel.
- Jesus is the new Suffering Servant.
- Jesus is the new Ezekiel.
- Jesus is the new Jeremiah.
- Jesus is the new Hosea.
- Jesus is the new Daniel.
- Jesus is the new Jonah.
- Jesus is the new Shepherd of Israel.
- Jesus is the new the High Priest.
- Jesus is the new Temple.
- Jesus is the new altar of sacrifice.
- Jesus is the new Paschal Lamb.
- Jesus is the new holocaust.

We see Jesus as the living Temple in which He offers Himself as the Paschal Lamb, once and through all time--He is the priest, the victim, and the altar of sacrifice.

For the original audience, the People of the Covenant, this amalgamation of the meaning of all these personalities, events, and sacred mysteries in one divine Person was not foreseen. It was not and is not the natural, literal reading of their Scriptures.

To believe that Jesus is the Christ requires a thoroughgoing re-reading, a decisive re-interpretation, of the first Testament. Jesus spent all day explaining this to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. I imagine they spent the rest of their lives trying to explain it to anyone who would listen to them.

Joseph and Jesus

Joseph overcame real adversity in his life, even though he was the favored son (fathers can err by playing favorites, bringing sorrow to the one they want to bless!). He is a prototype of Jesus because he saved his brothers by forgiving them the real evil that they did to him.

When we look back at the Old Testament through New Testament eyes, we see that Joseph really suffered, died symbolically, and was effectively "raised from the dead" by God's Providence. Jesus really suffered, really died, and was truly raised from the dead by His Father. For us, Joseph's story is a "prophecy" about Jesus. We see things through hindsight that are invisible to the original audience--and probably to the original authors, too!

The power of the keys

Isaiah 22:20-24

20 On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;

21 I will clothe him with your robe,
gird him with your sash,
confer on him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.

22 I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder;
what he opens, no one will shut,
what he shuts, no one will open.

23 I will fix him as a peg in a firm place,
a seat of honor for his ancestral house;

24 On him shall hang all the glory of his ancestral house:
descendants and offspring,
all the little dishes, from bowls to jugs.

Matthew 16:18-19

18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Revelation 3:7-8

7 To the angel of the church in Philadelphia, write this:
"The holy one, the true,
who holds the key of David,
who opens and no one shall close,
who closes and no one shall open,
says this:

8 "'I know your works (behold, I have left an open door before you, which no one can close). You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.'"

To fill in later ...

"Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way" (Hebrews 13:17-18).

"You are rock, and upon this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18).

"Call no man Teacher" (Mt 23:8). The authority of Jesus is different from that of rabbis and academics!


  1. Eucharistic Prayer IV, 1973 translation.