Catholic Truth to Neil Oliver – Stick To Politics: Scripture Scholarship Is Really Not Your Thing!editor
I found Neil Oliver’s talk in the above video interesting enough until he decided to have a swipe at the Church, setting himself up as something of an expert in the interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. Here’s the gist of his genius…
First-up, he makes the mistake of taking Christ’s words about forgiving debts to mean financial debts. He tries to connect Our Lord’s words with the ancient tradition of cancelling financial debts during a Jubilee year: “Jesus Christ understood the need to write off debt to save society.” he says solemnly – before twisting the knife into the Church by claiming that “Only later, when the Church had made it a matter of craven morality to repay every debt [were] the words “debt” and “debtor” replaced by “trespass” and “trespasses”. Rubbish. For one (key) thing, Christ came to save souls (from Hell) – He did not come to “save society”, either from “debt” or from the occupying Romans, as some of His contemporaries mistakenly believed.
“By then”, according to Oliver, “the Church was in cahoots with the rich…” Groan. Note, no definition of “the Church” and no credible sources offered for this sweeping statement. No awareness, either, of the fact that there were not that many “rich” people, as we would judge wealth, in the early years of Christianity, more a mix of people living north or south of the poverty line, so to speak. Not that many people for “the Church” to be in cahoots with, she said ungrammatically.
Next up, we have Christ’s sermon in the synagogue which, in the Gospel According to Neil Oliver, has Jesus teaching that “He had come to bring a clean debt cancellation.” No, He didn’t! That’s nonsense. Below, a short commentary from a Protestant website, with direct quotes from Luke 4:16-22. There’s no substantial difference between this extract and that in the Douay-Rheims Catholic bible, so read on to see just how wide of the mark is Neil Oliver’s understanding of Christ’s sermon in the synagogue…
Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. There, He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD” (Luke 4: 18,19).
Then, Jesus closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. “And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So all bore witness to Him, and marvelled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” * (vs. 20-22).
* Catholic Bible adds: “And they said: Is not this the son of Joseph?” (vs. 22).
What was Jesus’ first sermon? – BibleAsk
Oliver gets hung up on the use of “debts and debtors” as opposed to “trespass and trespasses” without, obviously understanding that the terms are interchangeable in Scripture and do not always apply to finances. In the Catholic Bible “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” is found in Matthew’s version of the Our Father (Matt 6:12) whereas in Luke’s Gospel we find “forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.”
(Luke 11: 4).
And in the 1962 Missal (Traditional Latin Mass) we pray: “Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.” (And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors). The English translation opposite, in the same Missal, reads “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It has absolutely nothing to do with cash, cheque or credit cards! Jesus was speaking about sin and forgiveness, not money and forgiveness! Gerragrip!
In Aramaic (the everyday language which Jesus would have spoken) the word for debt is also used to mean sin. Thus, the difference between Matthew’s and Luke’s wording could be due to the original form of the prayer having been in Aramaic. The generally accepted scholarship is that the prayer-petition is for the forgiveness of sin, not the cancelling of financial loans.
Neil Oliver, like the majority of the rest of our Godless society, cannot, seemingly, grasp the fact that Jesus did not come to end suffering and strife in the world – He explicitly said the opposite: “The poor you will always have with you” (John 12: 8) and “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt 10:34). That does not mean that we do not work to help the poor, and it certainly doesn’t mean that Jesus condones violence: He is teaching us – always – that He comes first; read the rest of those passages (the poor you will always have, but you will not always have Me) and, since He knew that His teachings would divide people, He makes clear that if we prefer anyone, whether mother, father, or any other close relative or friend to Him, then we are not worthy of Him. That’s the context for the “not peace, sword” remark.
It’s as ridiculous to interpret “forgive us our debts” literally, to mean money, as it is to misinterpret the many other occasions when Jesus drew from the history, culture and occupations of his audiences to teach them about God and all things supernatural – the life of grace in the soul. That’s what Jesus was teaching, all the time. His miracles of healing were primarily aimed at the soul – the body was merely the immediate vehicle to teach, for example, about spiritual blindness (by curing physical blindness) and about gratitude (when he healed ten lepers and only one returned to thank Him). Always, Jesus is focused on the immortal soul, not this passing life, which is why another uncomprehending soul – Judas Iscariot – decided to betray Him in the end… for money.
Scripture has to be interpreted and it’s best not attempted by archaeologists-cum-TV-political-news-presenters-commentators.
All of that said, while Neil Oliver really can’t teach us much, if anything, about Sacred Scripture, does he have a point, or ten, to make us re-think our relationship with the State?
Share your thoughts…