Thursday, August 8, 2013

Did Jesus condemn clerical dress? (cf. Mt. 23:5-6)

But these people slander whatever they do not understand,
and they are destroyed by those things that, like irrational animals, they know by instinct.

Jude 1:10 NRSVCE

A non-catholic friend of mine in Facebook challenges Catholics to prove the catholicity of the bible by answering his set of questions. We will try to answer all of it one by one.

His first question is:

If the Bible is a Catholic Book...
1. Why does it condemn clerical dress? (Matt. 23:5-6).

MY REPLY: Let's try to see if the above mentioned biblical passages contain any sort of condemnation on priestly garments...
Matthew 23:5-6 NRSVCE
They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues,
Interestingly, these verses neither says anything about priests nor their liturgical vestments in anyway. The whole context of Matthew 23 is dealing with the sermon of Christ against the hypocrisy of both Pharisees and Scribes primarily because "they do not practice what they teach" (cf. verse 3). The account further describes Christ's opposition on their ungodly motive to earn credit from men rather than from God (see also Matthew 6) thus making their God-given duties a mere set of vain human traditions.

On Phylacteries

The use of these scrolls of paper or parchment wherein four paragraphs of the law are written which must be worn on foreheads and left arms (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary) is prescribed by God himself in the OT [cf. Ex. 13:2-10; 13:11-16; Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21].

On Fringes

In Numbers 15:38, God ordered his people to make fringes upon their garments to remind them of their being a peculiar people (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary).

Ergo, Christ cannot condemn these jewish garbs lest he be found in complete opposition with God's commandment. Clearly, it is the amendments made by Pharisees and Scribes to these holy commandments regarding "phylacteries" and "fringes" (to make them noticeable by others) that the LORD is against into and not the mere garbs.

Now, let's proceed with presenting the biblical foundation of clerical vestments / dress...

God commanded that clerical vestments / dress be used in the Old Testament.
Exodus 28:1-5 NRSVCE
Then bring near to you your brother Aaron, and his sons with him, from among the Israelites, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. You shall make sacred vestments for the glorious adornment of your brother Aaron. And you shall speak to all who have ability, whom I have endowed with skill, that they make Aaron’s vestments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the vestments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, and a sash. When they make these sacred vestments for your brother Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests, they shall use gold, blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen.
The entirety of Exodus 28 gives details on each garment--ephod, breastplate and other priestly vestments.

Evangelists of Catholic Answers, a US-based catholic apologetics ministry once wrote:
Nothing in the New Testament requires abolition of priestly vestments. Our Lord attacked the Jewish leaders for a number of sins, but he never condemned their priestly garb. It's true the early Church didn't use the Old Testament vestments, but this is because Christians didn't want to identify their leaders with the Jewish priesthood.
retrieved from:
CONCLUSION: The Bible affirms the use of clerical dress therefore in line with his reasoning the Bible is a Catholic Book. :)

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