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The Sacrament Of Confession . . . Confession In The Old Testament

August 26, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 1

Protestants and the like do not have the Sacrament of Confession. They strongly object to it. The mere idea of a Christian humbling himself to the point of confessing his sins to another Christian is simply unbearable to them. They prefer, or so they claim, to confess their sins directly to God alone. And in so doing, they are forgiven — or so they think.
The first — and usually the only — objection coming from them against the Sacrament of Confession is: “It is not in the Bible.” Period. And, according to the first heresy of Martin Luther (Sola Scriptura) whereby everything must be in the Bible, and Confession is not, Christians are under no obligation to confess their sins to anyone — let alone to a Catholic priest.
In previous articles I have already refuted Sola Scriptura in detail. So, it suffices here to recall the four basic headings of the arguments:
Sola Scriptura is unhistorical — no one, but simply no Christian in history, had ever suggested this idea until Martin Luther invented it 1,500 years after the birth of Christ.
Sola Scriptura is unreasonable — the idea that the Holy Spirit guides every Christian to interpret the Bible is unreasonable because thousands upon thousands of different Christian denominations sprang from Luther’s Deformation of Christianity. So, either the Holy Spirit is misguiding the people and leading them to fall into contradictions, or Sola Scriptura is a fraud.
Sola Scriptura is unworkable in practice, because the Christian must be able to read in the first place. It is pointless to have the book if you are not able to read it. To have it explained to you is not Sola Scriptura — it is preaching, as Catholics do.
It is unworkable because, even if you can read it, you must have the Bible in your own language or at least in a language you understand. To speak only English and have a Bible in Italian or Greek is not helpful. Also, you must be sure that your Bible was properly translated, and so on and so on. Without the Catholic Church to guarantee the authenticity of the text, everything is up for grabs.
Sola Scriptura is unscriptural — That is the biggest irony: Sola Scriptura is nowhere mentioned in the Bible! Scriptura, yes, but sola, no! Tradition is equally defended in the Bible itself.
Whenever non-Catholics challenge you to show them the word “Confession” or “Purgatory” in the Bible, just ask them to show you the word “Trinity,” or “Incarnation,” or even “Bible” in the Bible. They are not there, and yet they say they believe in them.
But the fact is that Confession is in the Bible, and only those who blind themselves to it cannot see it. Let us take a look at the Old Testament:
The Book of Proverbs (28:13) teaches it: “He that hides his sins, shall not prosper: but he that shall confess, and forsake them, shall obtain mercy.” And Ecclesiasticus (4:31) confirms it: “Be not ashamed to confess your sins.”
The Second Book of Esdras (9:1-2) tells us: “The children of Israel separated themselves from every stranger: and they stood, and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.”
Under the Old Law (Numb. 5:6-8), when a sinner offered a sacrifice for sin, it was the priest who decided whether the sacrifice presented was of sufficient value or not. He did so according to the gravity of the sin.
So, the repentant sinner had to let the priest know the sin he had committed and for which he was offering the sacrifice — there you have confession of sins to a priest!
Let us see this in more detail: “If anyone sin…he shall bear his iniquity . . . he is guilty, and hath offended . . . he shall be guilty of an offense. Let him do penance for his sin” (Lev. 5:1-5).
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Say to the children of Israel: When a man or woman shall have committed any of all the sins that men are wont to commit, and by negligence shall have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and offended, they shall confess their sin.”
“Shall confess”: This confession and satisfaction, ordained in the Old Law, formed a figure of the Sacrament of Penance to come in the New Law (Lev. 5:10-11, 18; 6:2-7).
Then comes a list of options of sacrifices, and finally “the priest shall pray for him, and for his sin, and it shall be forgiven him” (Lev. 5:10). Please note well this sentence: “And the priest shall pray for him, and for his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.” A prefigure of the Sacrament of Penance!
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: If anyone sin through ignorance, and do one of those things which by the law of the Lord are forbidden, and being guilty of sin, understand his iniquity, he shall offer of the flocks a ram without blemish to the priest, according to the measure and estimation of the sin: and the priest shall pray for him, because he did it ignorantly: and it shall be forgiven him, because by mistake he trespassed against the Lord” (Lev. 5:17-19).
In the Old Testament it was very clear to all Hebrews that to offer the required sacrifice for sin, the penitent had to inform the priest of his sin(s) and the priest would decide if the gift he had to offer in sacrifice was sufficient. This was the Old Testament form of confession.
In the early days of the Church, a Jewish convert could see at once how the New Law fulfilled the Old: He still had to go to the priest and admit his guilt, and still had to hope for pardon in the blood of a Victim — no longer a beast of the herd, but the Lamb of God, offered once for all, possessing a power of propitiation available at every moment.
In the New Testament, when Jews confessed their sins before John the Baptist and were symbolically washed clean by him in the waters of the Jordan, there was no shock at the ritual; something like it was already a part of Jewish life.

Symbol And Reality

It was similarly with leprosy: Leprosy is to the body what sin is to the soul. The leper had to present himself to the priest, was judged to be unclean, was separated from the Jewish community; but, if purified again, could present himself to the priest once again who would judge if this were so, and if so, he could rejoin the community. After this, the priest made a guilt offering on his behalf (Lev. 13-14; cf. Luke 5:12-14; 17:11-15.).
This clearly is an image, a prefigure, of the contraction of sin, confession of guilt to the priest, removal from communion with the Church, forgiveness, return to communion, and atonement before God.
What the Old Testament had in symbol, the New Testament has in reality.
Next article: Confession in the New Testament.

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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