Category Archives: New Testament

Lk 12:49


-by Br. Christopher Daniel, OP

“In his Confessions, St. Augustine describes how, as his conversion approaches, God had begun to scatter sparks on his life from the lives of others. Only the wind of the Spirit can fan these sparks into flame, but Augustine recounts several examples which helped move him to that critical moment when the Lord changed his heart.

Most dramatically and immediately before his conversion, Augustine heard the story of two friends of his friend Ponticianus. While walking outside the city, they wandered into a monastery where they read the Life of St. Anthony. Moved by his example, the two friends decided to leave everything and begin a life in pursuit of sanctity. Augustine was inspired but also distressed upon hearing this story. Although he was held back from the faith by his sinful attachments to worldly goods, he longed to throw all things aside like the two friends and give himself to Jesus.

Notice how widely this fire has spread before its spark landed in Augustine’s heart! The fire began in the heart of St. Anthony. When he heard the Gospel proclaimed where Jesus counsels the rich young man to leave everything and follow him, he responded by entering the Egyptian desert as one of the founders of monasticism. Upon reading about St. Anthony’s response, the two young men were set ablaze. Now, Ponticianus conducts a spark from the fire of their lives to Augustine. Through this spark, Augustine’s heart will burst into flame as the kindling long prepared by God is ignited through the wind of the Holy Spirit.

And notice too that the original fire was not started with the intention of spreading a blaze. St. Anthony’s decision to leave everything and seek intimacy with God in the desert was not motivated by the thought that he would inspire others. Nor was the decision of the young men to enter the monastery done for that reason: they simply followed the call of God in their own lives.

So what can we learn from all of this?

First, in this life we may never know the ways in which the workings of grace in our lives may become an instrumental source of grace for others. Likewise, we may never know the many people whom God has used to touch our hearts. The people who directly impact our lives of faith are only the burning trees nearest to us. Beyond them is a forest of people who helped to set them aflame.

Furthermore, we can also learn from this the importance of looking to examples in the life of faith. Reading about how God has worked in the lives of others can help to stoke the fires in our own hearts and can also help enkindle the hearts of those with whom we share the faith. As Augustine’s life bears witness, God loves to use the examples of his work in the lives of believers as an instrument to move others.

Finally, we must remember that, although we may never know the many people who helped to conduct the fire of faith to us or the many who may receive it from us, we know that the original source is the furnace of God’s love. Ultimately, only he can communicate the fire of his love even when he uses us as his human instruments. And although we may scatter the sparks of his love far and wide, it is ultimately only the grace of his Holy Spirit which can fan those sparks into glorious flame. We ask Him then to fill our hearts with His own longing to set the world ablaze.”

Love,
Matthew

Catholic marriage & Mt 19:9


-by Karlo Broussard

“The Church teaches that marriage is indissoluble. Thus, the Catechism teaches that while spouses are living, a new marital union “cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was” (1650). Those who attempt civil remarriage after divorce, therefore, “find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law.” The Church bases this teaching on Jesus’ words in Mark 10:11-12: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Many Protestants critique this teaching for not taking into consideration what Jesus says in Matthew 19:9: “Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.” Since Jesus inserts the clause “except for unchastity,” it’s argued, a man who divorced his wife and married another wouldn’t be committing adultery if his wife were guilty of infidelity.

Is the Catholic Church contradicting Jesus? It seems the Church is telling divorced people they can’t remarry when Jesus says they can. [There are several points to support the Church’s teaching in light of this Gospel passage.]

One is to point out that porneia/πορνεία—the Greek word for unchastity in this verse—isn’t part of the group of words Matthew uses for adultery in his Gospel.

Porneia/πορνεία, translated as “unchastity” or sometimes “fornication” or “sexual immorality,” is different from the Greek word for adultery (moichaō/μοιχάω). In its broadest sense, porneia/πορνεία means unlawful sexual intercourse, so it can include adultery, but Matthew never uses the word that way in his Gospel. Instead, he uses moichaō and related words. For example, in the same verse of the porneia/πορνεία clause, Matthew uses moichaō/μοιχάω twice to refer specifically to adultery: “Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery [Gk. moichatai/μοιχάω]; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery [Gk. moichatai/μοιχάω].” In 5:27, Matthew uses moicheuō/μοιχάω to refer to the literal act of adultery, in 5:28 to broaden the concept of adultery to include lust, and in 5:32 in reference to the husband making his wife an “adulteress” by divorcing her.

If Matthew thought Jesus was talking about adultery providing an exception to his teaching on divorce, why didn’t he use the word he always used for adultery? As Bible scholar John P. Meier argues, “If Matthew wishes to name adultery as a reason for divorce, he would be almost forced to employ some form of moicheia/μοιχάω [noun] to express the concept.”

Since Matthew doesn’t use any form of the Greek word that he commonly uses for adultery, it’s reasonable to conclude that Matthew doesn’t think Jesus was referring to spousal infidelity when he spoke of “unchastity.”

A second strategy focuses on the disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ teaching: “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry” (Matt. 19:10).

At the time of Jesus, there were two rabbinic schools of thought as to what constituted legitimate grounds for divorce. The Hillel school, which followed the Jewish leader Hillel, believed that practically anything could be grounds for divorce. It could be something as simple as burnt food or a prettier woman. The school of Shammai, on the other hand, believed that only sexual immorality was cause for divorce.

Given this background, the disciples’ reaction that it would be better not to marry would be unintelligible if Jesus were allowing for divorce and remarriage in cases of adultery or sexual immorality. The disciples already were accustomed to divorce and remarriage, as the Hillel and Shammai schools attest. Their strong reaction suggests that they understood Jesus to be giving a new and different teaching.

For our third strategy, we can point to how Jesus’ teaching stands alone amid the thought of the age. His teaching about divorce and remarriage in verse 9 is part of his response to a question posed by the Pharisees: “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (v. 3). Notice the phrase “for any cause.” It seems the Pharisees were testing Jesus to see which school of thought he would side with: Hillel or Shammai.

But Jesus’ response indicates that he sides with neither. He appeals to God’s original design for marriage and says, “What therefore God had joined together, let not man put asunder” (vv. 4-6; see also Gen. 2:24). In other words, it’s not that Moses allowed divorce for any cause, but “from the beginning” (v.8) it was only adultery-justified divorce. Rather, from the beginning there was no divorce: “it [divorce] was not so” (v.8). This proves that he sides with neither the Hillel nor the Shammai view on divorce and remarriage.

This context excludes the interpretation that porneia/πορνεία refers to adultery; in fact, it excludes reference to sexual immorality of any manner within marriage. For if Jesus intended the porneia/πορνεία clause to refer to any of these alternative interpretations, he would have been siding with either the Hillel or Shammai school. Instead, he gave a more radical teaching: that marriage is indissoluble. Therefore, we must conclude that Jesus didn’t intend the porneia/πορνεία clause to refer to sexual immorality within the context of the marriage bond, whether adultery or some other kind of immoral conduct.

Jesus underscores his radical view by saying no man can marry a divorced woman without committing adultery: “He who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery” (v.9; see also Matt. 5:32). This implies that no deed for which the woman is divorced, including adultery, renders her free to marry another man.

One last strategy: There are good reasons to think porneia/πορνεία instead refers to forms of sexual immorality that took place before or at the time of the attempted union, rendering it unlawful (invalid).

The Jews understood that certain sexual relationships rendered a union unlawful, meaning null and void—such as relationships of close consanguinity and affinity (Lev. 18:1-20). Only the Jewish community would know about the Levitical law concerning unlawful unions, and thus only the Jewish community would raise the question about whether these unions are an exception to Jesus’ teaching against divorce and remarriage. And Matthew, who is writing to a Jewish audience, is the only Gospel that records this exception clause.

As for porneia/πορνεία, the word is used twenty-five times in the New Testament. For only two of these do scholars even suggest it’s used for adultery: the passages that include the debated porneia/πορνεία clause concerning divorce and remarriage (Matt. 5:32, 19:9). Every other time, porneia/πορνεία refers to some sort of sexual immorality outside the lawful bounds of marriage: fornication (Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21; John 8:41; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; Rev. 17:2, 17:4, 19:2), incest (Acts 15:20,29, 21:25; 1 Cor. 5:1;), general sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:13,18, 7:2; 2 Cor. 12:21; 1 Thess. 4:3; Rev. 2:21, 9:21), and metaphorical impure passions (Rev. 14:8, 18:3).

Since we know from above that porneia/πορνεία can’t refer to adultery in Matthew 19:9, and every time porneia/πορνεία is used in the New Testament, it refers to sexual immorality outside the boundaries of the marital bond, it’s likely that the “porneia/πορνεία exception” in Matthew refers to sexual immorality that took place before and at the time of the attempted union, invalidating it.

We can support this interpretation by considering two things. First, it adequately explains why in these cases a man who “puts away his wife” and marries another doesn’t commit adultery. If he was never in a lawful union to begin with, he would be free to marry. This is the basis for Catholic teaching on annulments: allowing marriage for civilly divorced persons whose first “marriage” was judged not to have been valid.

Matthew’s intention in including the porneia/πορνεία exception is to clarify for his Jewish audience that Jesus was concerned with lawful marriages. His prohibition of divorce didn’t apply to those unions contracted before Christian baptism because they weren’t lawful to begin with. You can’t divorce if you were never married!

The great irony here is that rather than the Catholic Church telling people they can’t remarry when Jesus says they can, the view that the challenge implies tells people they can remarry when Jesus says they can’t. It’s not the Catholic Church that’s contradicting Jesus’ teaching. It’s the view that spousal infidelity dissolves a valid marital bond and gives grounds to divorce and remarry.

Unlike the many Christian groups that have caved to the pressures of modern society, the Catholic Church’s doctrines remain faithful to Jesus’ teaching on marriage, echoing Christ’s words: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”

The seven sacraments: baptism, confession, eucharist, confirmation, holy orders, extreme unction, and…martyrdom. 🙂 I’m in trouble now! Actually, I’m always in trouble, no matter what, cuz I’m a man.

Love,
Matthew

Jn 20:20, 25


-“The Incredulity of Saint Thomas”, Caravaggio, 1601–1602, oil on canvas, 107 cm × 146 cm (42 in × 57 in), Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany, please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Fr. Joseph Gill

“It may just be a guy thing, but young boys love to tell stories of their scars. It’s always humorous when I’m at the middle school and I just ask, “Hey, where’d you get that scar on your forehead?” and then the kid launches into an excited description of that time he was having a rock fight with his friend, and then he proceeds to show me three other scars and tell me their stories too.

Scars have stories. Even Shakespeare recognized this when he writes in his play Henry V about the warriors that fought with King Henry at the Battle of Crispin’s Day. He writes: “He that lives through this day and comes home safe, will stand when Crispin’s Day is named and will strip his sleeve and show his scars and say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s Day!’” For these men who fought with the king, their wounds would be their badge of honor, a testament to their courage. And Shakespeare goes on to say that any man who, out of cowardice, stayed home on Crispin’s Day would “hold their manhoods cheap” when in the presence of those brave warriors who bear the scars of the battle.

Jesus, then, to show His courage, His victory, shows His disciples His scars. Have you ever thought how odd that is? I mean, if you’re going to resurrect into a perfect Body, why not get rid of those scars in the hands and feet? Why not look perfect?

Very simple – the scars are a visible reminder of what He endured for them. When they see the scars, they see the price of repentance – but also the Victory of Christ.

As an ancient homily from the second century says, “We had left a garden; Christ returned to a garden to be betrayed and a garden to be buried. See on His face the spittle He received in order to restore to us the life He once breathed into us. See there the marks of the blows He received in order to refashion our warped nature in His image. On His back see the marks of the scourging He endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon our back. See His hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for we once wickedly stretched out our hands to a tree” in the Garden of Eden.

And consider the words of St. Theodore the Studite: “The Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in His hands, feet, and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature.”

His wounds undo our wounds. His scars wipe away our scars. All of us have wounds and scars – we can’t get through life unscathed. Sometimes those scars are caused by other people: maybe we’ve been abused, treated poorly, bullied, hated, rejected. Maybe people we love have died. Maybe we’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, illness, fear. Maybe the scars came because we made bad choices: the guilt of our sin, the addictions we’ve developed, the broken relationships that we just can’t heal. All of us have wounds; all of us have scars. It would be impossible for any human being not to suffer or be wounded.

But wounds can either be healed or kill us. Wounds that are brought to Christ, the Divine Doctor, can be healed. Wounds that we hide, that we don’t treat, will fester and cause misery and unhappiness – and eventually the spiritual death of hatred.

We bring our wounds to Christ through prayer and Confession. Pray about it – “Lord, what are You teaching me through my suffering? How can You use it to make me more like You? What are You calling me to let go of? How can I trust You more?” This is bringing our wounds to Christ. Then, if the wound involves our own sin, we can bring it to the Lord in Confession. Sin is the biggest wound because it wounds our relationship with God – thus, Jesus’ first gift here in today’s Gospel is that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” comes through our faith in Him.

Life is tough, and sometimes we suffer. We suffer because of other people’s choices, we suffer because of our own bad choices and our sins, and sometimes we just suffer because we’re human. But when we get wounded, we can bring those wounds to Christ. He can forgive our sins. He can heal our wounds and make them, like His, signs of victory and triumph.”

Love,
Matthew

The Timing of Jesus’ Death 2


-wall mosaic of entombment of Jesus, Church of Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel. Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Karlo Broussard

“I argued that John’s phrase “the day of preparation of Passover” (John 18:28) doesn’t refer to the day on which Jews prepare for Passover, but the Friday of Passover week. This resolves what some have said is a contradiction between John and the Synoptics concerning whether Jesus died before the Passover meal or after.

But some argue against this solution. Let’s consider some of their counters.

One is that Jews would not have held an execution on such an important Jewish feast day as Passover. However, it was not Jews who performed the execution, but Romans. The Jewish authorities had not been able to arrest Jesus until after the Passover meal, and then they brought him to Pilate, who determined when the Crucifixion took place.

He could have kept Jesus in prison awaiting execution, as he was doing with the rebel Barabbas. However, it was expedient for Pilate to conduct public crucifixions in conjunction with Passover, when a large number of Jewish pilgrims would be in Jerusalem and thus able to witness what happened to those who defied the Roman state. Thus, he was likely holding Barabbas for execution at Passover, as well as the two criminals crucified alongside Jesus. He then substituted Jesus for Barabbas at the demand of the Jewish leaders and the crowd.

The Tosefta, a second-century collection of Jewish legal traditions, records that, when they had control of their land, Jewish leaders also practiced executions in conjunction with major feasts:

A rebellious and incorrigible son, a defiant elder, one who leads people astray to worship idols, one who leads a town to apostasy, a false prophet, and perjured witnesses—they do not kill them immediately. But they bring them up to the court in Jerusalem and keep them until the festival, and then they put them to death on the festival, as it is said, ‘And all the people shall hear and fear, and no more do presumptuously (Deut. 17:13),’ (Sanhedrin 11:7 cf. m. Sanh. 11:4-5; b. Sanh. 89a; Sifre on Deut. 17:3 [105a]).

The “festival” refers to any of the three Jewish pilgrimage feasts, when adult males were required to go to Jerusalem. These were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

The above Tosefta passage also provides a possible answer to the objection that the Jews wouldn’t have held a trial on the Passover feast. If the Jews would have executed Jesus on the Passover had the Romans not had control over their land, then surely they would not have seen a problem with holding a trial for him, which is something they could do even under Roman rule.

Similar to the above counter, some have argued that Friday can’t be the Passover because Mark says Joseph of Arimathea “bought a linen shroud” on that day (Mark 15:46) and Luke tells us the women “prepared spices and ointments” (Luke 23:56), activities both of which would have be forbidden by the Law’s requirements to do no work on the first day of the Passover festival (Exod. 12:16). There are a few things we can say in response.

First, the verb for “bought” is an aorist participle, and so it does not definitely indicate when the shroud was bought. The phrase can also be translated “having bought fine linen . . . [Joseph] wrapped him in the linen” (Young’s Literal Translation). It is possible that Mark does not intend for us to understand that Joseph bought the linen that day. It may have been fine linen that he had bought previously, perhaps for a different purpose.

And even if we suppose Joseph bought the linen that day, the Mishnah indicates that there were provisions for “buying” needed things on the Sabbath (e.g., jugs of wine, oil, and loaves of bread), whereby one left a cloak in trust and then paid for them later (Shabbat 23:1). If such provisions were made for those who required things on the Sabbath, then similar provisions could be made for buying things on Jewish feast days.

Second, when referring to the rest that must be observed on the first day of the seven-day Passover festival, Leviticus specifies that everyone must refrain from “laborious work” (Lev. 23:7). This is different from the prohibition of work on the Sabbath: “on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work” (Lev. 23:3; emphasis added).

The meaning of “laborious work” is debated, but many scholars have suggested that it is meant to allow certain types of work to be done on the first day of Passover—work that was not allowed on the Sabbath, when all work was prohibited.

As Bible scholar Brant Pitre argues in his book Jesus and the Last Supperthis distinction between “laborious work” and “no work” provides a plausible explanation as to why Joseph of Arimathea and the women viewed their activities as permissible on the Friday of Passover but not on the Sabbath.

Luke specifically tells us that the women prepared spices and ointments late Friday afternoon because “the Sabbath was beginning” and they didn’t want to violate the Sabbath rest (Luke 23:54, cf. 55-56).

Third, even if someone doesn’t accept the above distinction between “laborious work” and “no work,” the Law of Moses required Jesus’ immediate burial:

[I]f a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

The Torah expressly forbade leaving a body hanging overnight, so if the Romans crucified Jesus on Passover, he had to be taken down and hurriedly buried before night.

Furthermore, even though this passage speaks only of a condemned person, the rabbinical interpretation derives from it that “no corpse is to remain unburied overnight” (Sanh. 6.4, 46a, b; Maimonides, “Abel,” 4.8; emphasis added). According to the Tosefta, “To keep the dead overnight was not permitted in the city of Jerusalem” (Tosef., Neg. 6.2).

This is consistent with what Josephus reports concerning Jewish burial: “[T]he Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun” (The Jewish War 4.317).

Given this Jewish sense of urgency for burial, both in the first century and in later rabbinical tradition, Joseph of Arimathea and the women would have interpreted the circumstances of Jesus’ death as overriding the general rules governing work on the first day of Passover, that is if they were forbidden from all work.

Since we have plausible explanations as how to reconcile the view that Good Friday is Passover and the activities involving Jesus’ execution and burial, these counters don’t succeed in undermining the view that John and the Synoptics are working with the same chronology of Jesus’ passion.

The Timing of Jesus’ Trial


-Jesus about to be struck in the front of High Priest Annas, Jn 18:22, by José de Madrazo, 1803, Museo del Prado, Spain.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Karlo Broussard

“Every year during Holy Week, Christians focus on those last and most important moments of Jesus’s life: his passion and death.

But for some, these gospel narratives aren’t historically reliable because they apparently contradict each other in certain places. We’re going to consider two alleged contradictions here, both of which involve the timing of Jesus’ trial.

First, some say John contradicts the Synoptics with regard to the day on which Jesus was taken before Pilate. Mark, Matthew, and Luke all affirm that Jesus was brought to Pilate the day after the initial Passover meal on 15 Nisan, the night on which the lamb was eaten and the Haggadah (or Passover liturgy) was recited (Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7). But in John 18:28 it seems Jesus was brought before Pilate on the day before the initial Passover meal was eaten, for John says the Jews who led Jesus to Pilate didn’t enter the praetorium “so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” One possible way to resolve this apparent discrepancy is to say that the Jewish leaders were so preoccupied with the events of the previous evening that they put off celebrating the initial Passover meal until the following day.

There is a question, however, of whether Jesus’ arrest and the subsequent events would have begun early enough on Thursday evening to interfere with eating the initial Passover meal, which normally began soon after sundown.

But we know the chief priests and scribes were plotting to arrest and kill Jesus (Mark 14:1). It’s not beyond reason that their efforts would have been a catalyst to put off eating the initial Passover meal.

Also, Mark tells us that Judas led “a crowd . . . from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” (Mark 14:43). This suggests the Jewish leaders may have coordinated this crowd to go and fetch Jesus. The time such coordinating activity would have taken could very well have interfered with eating the initial Passover meal on Thursday after sundown.

The uncertainty of when the group would bring Jesus to the Jewish leaders could be another reason why they put off the Seder meal. It makes sense they wouldn’t want their celebration of the Passover to be interrupted.

And speaking of eating the Passover, the substantial amount of wine that’s required to be consumed at the Seder meal could also have motivated the Jewish leaders to put off the celebration. They would want to be of sound mind to question Jesus once he was brought to them.

There’s another possible way to reconcile John and the Synoptics. The phrase “eat the Passover” (John 18:28) likely refers to other sacrificial meals eaten with unleavened bread during the seven days of the Passover festival.

The Old Testament uses the word “Passover” (Greek, pascha) in a way that extends beyond the initial Seder meal, and applies it to various animal sacrifices offered during the Passover week. For example, Deuteronomy 16:2 speaks of the “Passover [pascha] sacrifice” to the Lord “from the flock or the herd,” which was to be eaten with unleavened bread for seven days during the Passover festival (v.3; see also Num. 28:16-25).

So, it’s possible John refers to those Passover sacrifices offered during the seven-day festival when he speaks of the Jewish leaders needing to “eat the Passover.”

Three lines of thought further support this interpretation.

First, the Last Supper in John’s Gospel is a Passover Meal. New Testament scholar Brant Pitre lists several details that reveal it to be such, all of which are common aspects of a Jewish Passover meal: the reclining posture of Jesus and his disciples (John 13:23-25); the dipping of the morsel (John 13:26-27); the giving to the poor during a festal meal (John 13:29); and the last-minute purchase of something during the feast (John 13:29-30).

As Pitre argues, since John identifies the Last Supper as the Passover meal that takes place on 15 Nisan, his reference to eating the “Passover” in John 18:28 doesn’t appear to be a reference to the initial Passover lamb, but the sacrifices eaten during the seven-day festival.

Second, according to Leviticus 7:19-20, these festal offerings (called “peace offerings”) eaten during the seven-day paschal festival were also subject to ritual purity laws. This would explain why the Jewish leaders were concerned about defilement.

Third, as New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg points out, the Jewish leaders’ concern for defilement in John 18:28 doesn’t jibe with the interpretation that John places the initial “Passover” meal on Friday evening:

The ceremonial uncleanness that the Jewish leaders would have incurred in entering Pilate’s Praetorium would have lasted only until sundown, so that they would not have been defiled in eating an evening meal on Friday.

Blomberg argues that uncleanness would have been an issue if they were thinking of the above-mentioned sacrificial offerings they needed to eat on Friday during the seven-day festival. It could also be due to the fact that they were unable to eat the meal during the preceding night and now needed to eat it before sunset.

The second supposed contradiction has to do with how the Synoptics report the time of day that Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin. According to both Mark (Mark 14:53-65) and Matthew (Matthew 26:57-68), the high priest questions Jesus Thursday night after Jesus is taken in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke, however, places the high priest’s interrogation of Jesus early the next morning (“when day came”—Luke 22:66).

The first thing we can say is that there’s no contradiction in these reports, only a difference.

Consider that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that Jesus was brought before the high priest late Thursday night at Caiaphas’s house (Luke 22:54; Matt. 26:57-58; Mark 14:53-54). All three also agree that, while there, Jesus was physically beaten and mocked. Matthew and Mark report Caiaphas questioning Jesus at that time, asking Jesus if He is the Christ.

Also, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that the high priest, scribes, and elders convened again early Friday morning to consult each other about putting Jesus to death (Mark 15:1; Matt. 27:1; Luke 22:66). The difference is that Matthew and Mark don’t mention an interrogation of Jesus at this morning convocation, whereas Luke does.

For there to be a contradiction, Matthew and/or Mark would have to deny that the high priest interrogated Jesus at the Friday morning convocation. But they don’t do that. They’re silent on the matter. Therefore, there’s no contradiction.

But the question remains: “Who’s right and who’s wrong?” Did Matthew and Mark get it right and Luke got it wrong? Or, vice versa?

The answer is likely that they’re all right because it’s reasonable to hold that the interrogation happened Thursday night and early Friday morning. Since Matthew and Mark left out the Friday morning interrogation, Luke includes it. And since Matthew and Mark included the Thursday night interrogation, Luke left it out.

That Caiaphas would question Jesus immediately when the crowd brought Jesus to Caiaphas’s house late Thursday night is reasonable, especially in light of the their intent to destroy Jesus. Why else would Caiaphas demand Jesus be brought to his house if he didn’t intend to question him in a preliminary manner, before the morning’s more formal gathering?

The claim that Caiaphas would have questioned Jesus again Friday morning is also reasonable because, as Blomberg argues, the Thursday night interrogation and charge of blasphemy weren’t legally binding. The Sanhedrin only had legal authority to sit in judgment for capital cases during the day (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:1). This leads Blomberg to conclude, “it is quite probable that they repeated their questions to make at least some kind of show of legality when daylight first dawned.”

Differences among the gospels might be a stumbling block for some, but they need not be. Differences don’t entail contradictions. And when such differences can be plausibly explained, we have all that much more reason to trust the reliability of the reports.”

Love & His Passion,
Matthew

Abuse/misuse of Creation, which is Good


-Matthew 25:31-46


-by Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem., a convert from Episcopalianism

“Why does Christ, our great King and Judge, call those on his right “you who are blessed by my Father” but those on his left “accursed”—not “accursed by my Father”?…

…The fact is that if we really understand sin and virtue, we will see that every material aspect of a sin is not something bad or evil; all the aspects of the things we want to do or say or think about or use are just good, created qualities. When we misuse those good things slightly or seriously, we sin. The misuse is not due to their nature, but to our own self-will. Beautiful bodies, sums of wealth, effective words, possessions, associations, skills, and talents are all good in themselves. It is our willed misuse of them that constitutes sin.

This is necessarily true because everything is created by God, and God did not create anything evil. Even our will is so good that we cannot choose evil unless we pretend to ourselves that it is really good. Evil is not a thing; it is rather something missing, a lack of good, a disorder.

This has everything to do with how Christ our Lord and Creator judges and rewards our actions. He rewards those who are about to enter heaven for using the good things that God has given them so as to fulfill his commandments; that is, to do his will. Their actions showed that they prayed sincerely, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and now they are finally going there! They were positively blessed by the Father because they are going to that happiness that was prepared for all human goodness by the creator of human goodness.

They sinned, yes, but their love, especially their works of mercy (yes, that’s what Our Lord says!) made them blessed by the Father, since these very works and their reward were prepared for them by Him. God is the Creator of all things, but most of all of loving persons and their actions. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” the apostle tells us.

In the case of those who are sent away to the fires of hell, yes, they are accursed, but not “by my Father.” St. Thomas, explicitly following Origen on this point, tells us that the blessed are blessed by God, but those who are cursed have their own curse that does not come from Him. Their curse cannot ultimately be the work of God. He can bless after a curse, but He does not curse definitively because His curse is ultimately not on any of His creatures, but only on sin.

Thomas, following St. Gregory, says that God takes no delight or complacency in the condemnation of the wicked; rather He loves His goodness and therefore cannot love, cannot reward, the evil in which they persist. Hell, Gregory tells us, is not for any good nature, angelic or human, but is prepared simply for sin. Heaven, on the other hand, is God and all he has created come to the fullest perfection. Compared to this, hell is a shadow as close to nothing as nothing can be.

“And of his fullness, we have all received,”(Jn 1:16) St. John tells us. This can give us some insight into the mercy of God. He really does not hate the sinner (that means you and me!), but only the sin. Hell is the condemnation of a sinful will, and only accidentally the eternal condemnation of those who will not rid themselves of it. Christ our King knows that everything you have, and especially the will that you can use to love or offend Him, is good and comes from Him. He loves your will even more than you do. Just as the baby’s mother loves his potential health and happiness more than he does, even though she knows he can resist her love.

So let’s not be stubborn, loving our own will against our own true good, but repent and begin to love as our King enthroned in judgment has taught us, and then some great day we will hear Him say, “Come, blessed of my Father…””

His Love, joy, blessedness, beatitude,
Matthew

My eyes have seen your salvation – Lk 2:30

beatific” etymology: Latin beatificus, beatific, blissful, imparting great happiness or blessedness; from beatus, happy.

In my own experience, both past and present, I love history, but it comes “alive” for me when I have the privilege to visit the physical place where it happened, makes it more undeniable, leaps off the page.  I am meeting a lot of people “virtually” now, even before the pandemic.  I am saying “nice to meet you, virtually” a lot more these days than actual greetings.  Exchanges are reduced to quick, focused, on topic, email to the point.  I look forward, however it might happen, to saying hello in person, someday.  Some people I am grateful to never have had the displeasure to meet in person.  Mea culpa.  🙁

The Beatific Vision

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Beatific_vision

“The beatific vision is when God, though transcendent, opens Himself up to man and gives man the capacity to contemplate God in His heavenly glory (CCC 1028). Contemplation is the prayer of silently focusing on God and heeding His Word; in other words, contemplation is the prayer of uniting with God (CCC 2715). The beatific vision, then, is ultimate union with God; indeed, it comes from sharing in God’s holy nature via sanctifying grace (CCC 163). Because God is beatitude and holiness itself, the beatific vision entails ultimate beatitude and holiness (CCC 1405). The beatific vision is a grace and a privilege intended for every man and angel, since God created men and angels to enjoy the beatific vision; the beatific vision is the ultimate purpose of each person’s and angel’s life (CCC 1722).

Thomas Aquinas, OP

Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the human being’s “final end” in which one attains to a perfect happiness. Thomas reasons that one is perfectly happy only when all one’s desires are perfectly satisfied, to the degree that happiness could not increase and could not be lost. “Man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek.”STh I–II, q., 3, a. 8. But this kind of perfect happiness cannot be found in any physical pleasure, any amount of worldly power, any degree of temporal fame or honor, or indeed in any finite reality. It can only be found in something that is infinite and perfect – and this is God. STh I–II, q. 2, a. 8. And since God is not a material thing but is pure spirit, we are united to God by knowing and loving Him. Consequently, the most perfect union with God is the most perfect human happiness and the goal of the whole of the human life. But we cannot attain to this happiness by our own natural powers; it is a gift that must be given us by God, Who strengthens us by the “light of glory” so that we can see Him as He is, without any intermediary. (Thomas quotes Psalm 36:9 on this point: “In your light we shall see light.”)STh I, q. 12, a. 4. Further, since every created image or likeness of God (including even the most perfect “ideas” or “images” of God we might generate in our minds) is necessarily finite, it would thus be infinitely less than God Himself.STh I, q. 12, a. 2. The only perfect and infinite good, therefore, is God Himself, which is why Aquinas argues that our perfect happiness and final end can only be the direct union with God Himself and not with any created image of Him. This union comes about by a kind of “seeing” perfectly the divine essence Itself, a gift given to our intellects when God joins them directly to Himself without any intermediary. And since in seeing this perfect vision of What (and Who) God is, we grasp also His perfect goodness, this act of “seeing” is at the same time a perfect act of loving God as the highest and infinite goodness. (Summa Theologiae, I–II, qq. 2–5)

According to Aquinas, the Beatific Vision surpasses both faith and reason. Rational knowledge does not fully satisfy humankind’s innate desire to know God, since reason is primarily concerned with sensible objects and thus can only infer its conclusions about God indirectly. -Summa Theologiae

The Theological virtue of faith, too, is incomplete, since Aquinas thinks that it always implies some imperfection in the understanding. The believer does not wish to remain merely on the level of faith but to grasp directly the object of faith, who is God himself. -Summa Contra Gentiles

Thus only the fullness of the Beatific Vision satisfies this fundamental desire of the human soul to know God. Quoting St Paul, Aquinas notes “We see now in a glass darkly, but then face to face” (i Cor. 13:12). The Beatific Vision is the final reward for those saints elect by God to partake in and “enjoy the same happiness wherewith God is happy, seeing Him in the way which He sees Himself” in the next life. -Summa Contra Gentiles”


-by Fr. Kenneth Doyle, CNS – Catholic News Service. Fr. Doyle is a priest of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y. He is the former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service and director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The “beatific vision” means the eternal and direct visual perception of God. It means seeing God face to face.

We have some sense, even in the natural order, of the importance of direct perception: Those who endured years of meetings by telephone conference call can appreciate what an advance “videoconferencing” has been, allowing people to see one another, and thereby making their presence much more real.

In the divine scheme of things, Christians have always believed that this direct vision of God is the goal that awaits us all. St. Paul said: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13:12).

St. Thomas Aquinas reasoned that one is perfectly happy only when all of one’s desires are perfectly satisfied, and this cannot occur until we are fully united with God.

That complete union can happen not through human imagining nor even in the most deeply contemplative prayer, but only by the direct presence of God in heaven.

It is a human instinct, and a good one, to try to imagine what heaven will feel like.

When I was a child, I may have thought that heaven would be like playing baseball all day, with occasional breaks to drink soda and read comic books – but deep down I knew even then that it would be much, much better than that.

We are cautioned that all of our efforts at imagining must fall short. (St. Paul says in I Corinthians 2:9 that “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, (is) what God has prepared for those who love Him.”)

But it doesn’t hurt to dream.

Last year, a young woman, who would die two days later from cancer, told me what she was expecting in heaven.

“I think it will be like the way my mother loves me,” she said, “times a thousand.””

-Father Garrigou-Lagrange, Ch 8: “The True Nature of Christian Perfection,” The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I

“St. Thomas admits also that in heaven our beatitude will consist essentially in the beatific vision, in the intellectual and immediate vision of the divine essence, for it is above all by this immediate vision that we shall take possession of God for eternity. We shall plunge the gaze of our intellect into the depths of His inner life seen directly. God will thus give Himself immediately to us, and we shall give ourselves to Him. We shall possess Him and He will possess us, because we shall know Him as He knows Himself and as He knows us. Beatific love will be in us a consequence of this immediate vision of the divine essence; it will even be a necessary consequence, for the beatific love of God will no longer be free, but superfree, above liberty. Our will will be invincibly ravished by the attraction of God seen face to face. We shall see His infinite goodness and beauty so clearly that we shall be unable not to love Him; we shall even be unable to find any pretext of momentarily interrupting this act of superfree love, which will no longer be measured by time, but by participated eternity, by the single instant of the immobile duration of God, the instant that never passes. In heaven the love of God and the joy of possessing Him will necessarily follow the beatific vision, which will thus be the essence of our beatitude.(31) All this is true. It is difficult to affirm more strongly than St. Thomas does the superiority of the intellect over the will in principle and in the perfect life of heaven.”


-by Karlo Broussard

“The Catechism defines heaven as the “ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme definitive happiness” (CCC 1024).

But how?

The textbook answer is the knowledge that we will have of the divine essence, which theologians call the beatific vision. St. John writes about it in 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

In his 1336 Apostolic Constitution Benedictus Deus, Pope Benedict XII defined this vision as:

“[Seeing] the divine essence by intuitive vision, and even face to face, with no mediating creature, serving in the capacity of an object seen, but divine essence immediately revealing itself plainly, clearly, and openly, to them.”

By intuitive Benedict XII means this vision is a knowledge that is higher than all abstraction, discursive reasoning, and analogy. By immediate he means that we will know God’s essence without any mental image or created idea that merely represents the divine essence.

Just as the form of a dog is immediately united to my intellect when I know a dog, so too the divine essence will be immediately united to my intellect when I know God’s essence in the beatific vision. Rather than knowing a similitude of the divine essence, I will know the divine essence itself.

This immediate knowledge of God’s essence is what constitutes man’s perfect happiness—hence the name beatific (Latin for happy). The reason is because the intellect attains its complete perfection. And it does so in two ways.

First, it comes to know the essence of its ultimate end, that which it was created to know. Second, it arrives at the terminus of all intellectual inquiry. Because God is that than which nothing greater can be known, knowledge of his essence leaves the intellect with no further desire to acquire knowledge for its perfection.

Consider how when we seek to understand something we either look to the thing itself for answers to our questions or to something outside it. Take a tree, for example. We may ask, “What makes its leaves green?” The answer is chlorophyll. We may then ask, “Why do the leaves have chlorophyll?, and answer because the tree’s genes tell the tree to make chlorophyll. But why do its genes tell it to make chlorophyll? The answer is because the leaves need to make energy for the tree, and they use chlorophyll to do that.

Notice that to answer these questions we didn’t have to appeal to anything outside the tree.

But what if we ask, “How do the leaves make energy?” Unlike the other questions, we must appeal to something outside the tree to answer this one: Leaves make energy using light from the sun. They do this using chlorophyll in the process called photosynthesis.

Even the tree’s very existence must be explained by something outside itself. We know the tree doesn’t exist by nature—if it did, there would never be a time when the tree didn’t exist! So we must appeal to something else.

What all this means is that any reality that depends upon something else for its intelligibility leaves our intellect unsatisfied. The only thing that can fully satisfy its quest for truth is something that doesn’t rely on anything outside itself in order to be known. Knowing the essence of such a reality would leave the intellect desiring nothing else, thus perfecting it and constituting complete human happiness.

And this reality is God.

It’s important to note that the beatific vision—the intuitive and immediate knowledge of God’s essence—is not comprehensive. Our knowledge can’t exhaust the divine essence. Only God can fully know himself, as he does in the persons of the Trinity. It requires infinite intellective power to know infinite being.

So how do the saints know God perfectly but not fully? Consider how two people may know the same truth, but know it more or less profoundly.

For example, someone may know that God exists based on reasonable belief. He looks out into the world and sees a great complexity and order that extends all the way back to the beginning of the universe. And since complexity and order are ordinarily explained by intelligence, this person concludes that a super intelligence, like God, is responsible for making the universe. This is a reasonable belief.

Another person, however, might know the same truth—that God exists—but know it by way of metaphysical demonstration. He says, “I know God exists because it’s a matter of metaphysical necessity that he exists. For without him, nothing would exist.

In these two examples, we see that the same object can be known in accord with the mode of the knower. Both God and the saints know the divine essence, but in essentially different ways: according to the mode of the knower.

God’s intellective power is infinite, so he knows the divine essence in an infinite way. The blessed, however, know the divine essence in a way that is consistent with a finite intellect: they know it in a limited way. Although they have a real knowledge of God’s essence, their knowledge doesn’t exhaust it.

The knowledge that we can have of God on this side of the veil is real knowledge and can be a source of intellectual delight. But it pales in comparison to the delight that we will have when the intellect finally rests in seeing God face to face in the beatific vision and our rational natures are ultimately fulfilled.”


-by Br Linus Martz, OP

“Some questions need a second glance. Even when the answer seems obvious.

For instance, Saint Thomas fields this question: “Whether the essence of God can be seen with the bodily eye?” (ST I q. 12, a. 3).

If this was ever posed “live” in a thirteenth-century Dominican priory, one can imagine the other brothers’ own bodily eyes blinking in embarrassed frustration. Haven’t we been over this? The master already clarified that God is not a body (q. 3, a.1). We know God to be immaterial, infinite, pure act, pure spirit. “God is spirit,” our Lord says, “and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Why waste Father’s time like this?

The student scrambles to justify himself, remembering a quote from Saint Augustine. He had written that we will rise again with glorified eyes, which will be able to see “even incorporeal things” (q. 12, a. 3, obj. 2).

The brothers sit quietly, probably hoping for a one-word resolution: “No.”

To be sure, Aquinas gives a straightforward response: “It is impossible for God to be seen by the sense of sight, or by any other sense. . . . [E]very such kind of power is the act of a corporeal organ. . . . God is incorporeal, as was shown above” (q. 12, a. 3, corp.). Material sense powers have no proportion to immaterial objects. Therefore, even in heaven, God’s essence will not be seen with the corporeal eye.

The brothers know, of course, that we do see God spiritually, now by grace and then by glory, through the perfection of our intellect and will (q. 43 a. 5). This beatifying vision elevates these powers in wisdom and love, conforming us to the Triune God we know and love: “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The perfection of this spiritual union, not some biological operation, will be our Heaven.

But St. Thomas is a wise teacher. He takes up his student’s citation and expands it: “It is very credible,” suggested Augustine, “that we shall so see the mundane bodies of the new heaven and the new earth, as to see most clearly God everywhere present, governing all corporeal things . . . as when we see men among whom we live, living and exercising the functions of human life, we do not believe they live, but see it.” After the resurrection, rather than gradually reasoning to the divine from the creature, we will recognize God’s presence as an immediate and indirect object of sight. The eye will still see material realities (“mundane bodies”), but the intellect will instantly perceive the divine presence sustaining all we see (q. 12, a. 3, ad 2).

Even now, our inability to see God with our bodily eyes doesn’t prevent us from seeing His works: “the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork” (Ps 19:1). We can reason to and about God by recognizing that the universe demands a First Cause: “Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). After the resurrection, the saints will perceive God in the visible order effortlessly, “from the perspicuity of the intellect, and from the refulgence of the divine glory” (q. 12, a. 3, ad 2). We hope to join them in this, above all since we know that they look upon the Incarnate Lord, risen in his own humanity: the invisible God, yet visible in the flesh.

Some questions deserve a second glance. So does the whole universe, shot through as it is with light from the Creator. As Christians, we hope after death to give it that perfect, definitive, and spiritual “double-take” it deserves—aided by our own corporeal (resurrected) eyes.”

We are not angels, not merely pure spirit.  We will not be pure spirit when resurrected.  We will be spirit and resurrected, incorruptible, impassible flesh, as was intended from the beginning, but only more infinitely grand now to our elevation towards God Himself by Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Love, and the beatific vision,
Matthew

The Weight of Glory -Mt 25:14-30


-by Fr. Luke Doherty, OP, English Province

“A talent in ancient times was a large sum of money, something of great value. It was also something quite heavy. I am not exactly sure what a talent was in terms of empirical weight, but it was most likely equivalent to a large case or rucksack full of a metal such as gold or silver. Say one talent was for argument’s sake worth around £1million ($1,316,945) in today’s money (actually $217,500). That would be the equivalent value of the weight of one talent in gold. A talent would be equivalent to a heavy case or rucksack, something worth a lot. Then of course, there is the question of what to do with that sort of weight of valuable material if the master has gone abroad for a considerable length of time.

Ancient readers would make the connection with this parable of the talents and the kabod of the Lord. This Hebrew word means ‘heavy’, and also translates into gloria. The root meaning behind kabod (heavy) developed into being heavy with riches (in Isaiah 10:3 for instance). The term kabod also refers to the glory of God. In the temple of Jerusalem, the kabod was housed above the mercy seat. This was seen as the place where the Lord dwelled, and the place from where the Lord dispensed his mercy. And this was such a heavy, infinite mercy of God. The glory of the Lord would also fill the temple.

The talents in the Gospel passage refer to our share in the life of Grace. We have a huge share in the mercy of God. Even someone given one talent is given a large weight of valuable ‘stuff’. We are given a substantial share in the divine life, but there is also an expectation that it will increase in value (and, in this parable it would also increase in weight).

Another consideration is that even one talent would be of such a weight that it would be difficult to transport anywhere. It would be of course much easier to distribute the bars or ingots of gold or silver to others, and in some way invest the talents. The problem with the man who buried the talent in the ground is that he misunderstood what he was given. As pointed out, even investing it in a bank would have meant gaining interest on the talent’s value.

When we keep possession of the divine mercy, thinking it is our own – that is what we are told not to do. The message of Christ is that in relation to the thing of great value we have been given: much will be asked of those to whom much has been given – more will be expected of them, because they were entrusted with more.
One message to take from the parable is that burying a talent in the ground is not pleasing to the Lord. Yet, the other stewards managed to invest and generate more valuable gold. Having to haul five talents of heavy valuable metal around and make investments, would also entail some degree of suffering. In the context of the Gospel, this equates to not only taking our share in the Glory of God, but also accepting a fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. Investing the talents is a witness to the power of his resurrection. What is pleasing to the Lord is loving others in charity, fulfilling his commands, and increasing the gift of faith we have been given. The Lord’s gift of the Spirit can be squandered by corruption or irresponsible behaviour. But it can also be squandered by just not sharing or distributing the life of grace we have been given.”

Love, His glory & mercy, Praise Him, Church!!! Praise, Him!!!
Matthew

Do not judge? Do discern good vs evil. Judge actions, not the heart.

-“The Return of the Prodigal Son” (1773) by Pompeo Batoni, please click on the image for greater detail

https://www.catholicbible101.com/judgenot.htm

“How many people today take Mt 7:1 from the Bible and apply it wrongly? They will tell others that no one can tell them that what they are doing is wrong, because that would be judging them. Then they throw out the verse where Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. And since we are all sinners, then that means that no one can tell anyone that what they are doing is sinful.

Let’s take a look at this strange philosophy and dissect it. First off, “to judge”, as it is used in “Judge not, lest you be judged”, means to condemn someone on moral grounds, and then to pass judgment. Only God can condemn and pass judgment. “To judge” as it is used here does not mean that people cannot discern that an act is sinful, nor does it mean we can’t tell the sinner that he or she is sinning. If that were so, then parents could not ever tell their child that it is wrong to lie, to cheat, or to steal. And if the child were caught in the act, then no parent could tell him or her that they were wrong. And they could certainly not ever punish the child, because there could never be any wrongdoing. How dumb is that? Carried to its logical conclusion, no one could ever tell anyone that anything is sinful or wrong, including fornication, adultery, stealing, murder, taking the Lord’s name in vain, etc. And we would have to fire every judge in every courtroom worldwide. St. John the Baptist, the greatest man born of woman, according to Jesus, certainly told Herod that it was wrong for him to have married his own brother’s wife. And John the Baptist was certainly not judging Herod himself, but rather, he was judging his action as sinful. BIG difference.

In today’s society, someone caught fornicating or getting drunk all of the time will tell his or her accuser, “Who are you to judge me?” And the accused sinner will then feel morally superior to his accuser for having pointed out to him that he is not God, and how dare he, with all of his sins, “judge me”? But this action flies in the face of the spiritual work of mercy that commands Christians to admonish the sinner. To admonish the sinner means to caution him or her about a particular sin they are committing. This is the job of all Christians, to warn others about sin and where it will lead them.

And St. James says that correcting a sinner has many spiritual benefits, not only for the sinner, but also for us:

James 5:20: “Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

And whether we want to admit it or not, we are indeed our brother’s keeper:

Genesis 4:9: Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

Secular society today does not want to hear any of this, because it believes that this world is all there is, and that we will not come to a supernatural end in heaven or hell. So, the hedonists in charge of government and media today belittle Christians for having the audacity to even mention to others about the wages of sin (which is death). GK Chesterton once said that only dead bodies float downstream with the current; it takes live ones to go against the flow. And this is so true in society today. How many people just go with the flow of pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexual marriage, abortion, assisted suicide, etc., and never speak out against these evils because they don’t want to be belittled by the so-called “mainstream media”? A lot. The devil only has one commandment, “Do as you will”. So many people in the world today follow that demonic philosophy, and they really hate it when Christians bring up the fact that sin exists.

To sum up, judging the actions of a person as being sinful is NOT condemning a person and passing judgment. It would be wrong to say to a person, “You are an adulterer, and you are going to hell”. It would not be wrong to tell a person “You are committing adultery, and that is sinful. You need to repent of it, go to confession, and never do it again, because it breaks one of the Ten Commandments”. The former is passing judgment; the latter admonishes the sinner. Big difference. A judge passes sentence; discernment of people’s sinful actions does not. A good rule of thumb to follow is that we humans do all of the praying, and we let God do all of the judging of people. That in no way stops us from discerning that a person’s actions are wrong and sinful.

Here are some excellent scripture verses on judging:

Leviticus 19:15: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”

Proverbs 31:9: “Open your mouth, judge righteously; maintain the rights of the poor and needy.”

Matthew 7:2: “Judge and you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure measured unto you.”

Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

(**NOTE—Here we see the link between judging and condemning)

Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained (won over) your brother.”

(**NOTE – Here is a prime case of Jesus telling us all to admonish the sinner).

Luke 7:40-43: And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

(**NOTE – Here we see the use of the term “judged” in the context of judging someone’s actions, rather than personal condemnation).

Luke 12:57: “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?

(**NOTE – Once again, we see the use of the term “judge” in the context of judging actions, not condemning people and passing judgment).

John 7:24: Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

(**NOTE – Here Jesus commands us to judge people’s actions and deeds with “right judgment”.)

Acts 4:19: But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge;

(**NOTE – Another case of judging people’s actions, rather than the person).

1 Corinthians 2:15: The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3: Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!

(**Note – No wonder satan hates Christians so much – we will be judging him one day!)

Hebrews 10:30: For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

(**NOTE – Here we see that the Lord judges people. That in no way precludes us from judging whether or not people’s actions are sinful or not.)

James 4:12: There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor?

(**NOTE – James says that we should not judge our neighbor. Once again, this does not stop us from judging whether or not our neighbor’s actions (killing his wife, stealing money, etc.) is sinful. Note how this differs from James 5:20 above, where James talks about bringing a sinner back from the error of his ways (sinfulness)).”


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“CHALLENGE: “Christians shouldn’t criticize others’ lifestyles or actions. Didn’t Jesus say not to judge?”

DEFENSE: Jesus didn’t tell us that we should close our eyes to moral evil in the world.

The exhortation not to judge is found in Jesus’ major ethical discourse (Matt. 5:1–7:29, Luke 6:17–49). The point of the discourse is to give moral instruction. In it, Jesus discusses what conduct counts as good and bad, and he expects his followers to acknowledge the difference.

Not only does he expect them to distinguish between good and evil in their own behavior, he also expects them to do so with others’ conduct, telling them, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:20). Thus, whatever Jesus meant, it was not that we should pretend that nobody does evil.

What he did mean is not difficult to discern if we read the statement itself: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matt. 7:1–2); “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

Jesus is saying we should take a generous, forgiving attitude with others so God will take a generous, forgiving attitude with us. We should treat others as we want to be treated. This is a prominent theme in his teaching (cf. Matt. 5:43–48, 6:12–15, 7:12, 18:21–35).

Although we are to be forgiving and merciful to others, this does not mean ignoring, much less approving, immoral behavior. Neither does it mean we should not try to help others. Admonishing the sinner is a spiritual work of mercy. Scripture elsewhere says: “Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” ( James 5:20).

Often the exhortation not to judge is used as a conversation stopper to shut down discussions of immoral behavior. Sometimes it carries the insinuation that the one “judging” is doing something morally wrong. When this is the case, the person making the accusation is himself judging, and thus risks being a hypocrite (cf. Matt. 7:3–5).”


-by Jim Blackburn, Catholic Answers

“An adult child who’s living with her boyfriend or coping with an adult sibling who has announced that he is gay, we often struggle with whether to allow the child or sibling to practice the immoral lifestyle. What do I tell my kids? How do I deal with this in a loving way? Can I truly love my neighbor while rejecting an immoral lifestyle?

Often people in these situations have tried to take some action already, only to be shot down immediately with the accusation that they are being “judgmental,” that the Bible teaches us not to judge others, that they should just mind their own business. “After all,” they’re told, “I’m not judging you and you shouldn’t be judging me. Read the Bible.” But is that really what the Bible teaches?

When pressed to show where the Bible supports this, those who can come up with any response at all usually point to Jesus’ words found in the Gospel of Matthew, “Judge not, that you not be judged.” Most people will stop there, with the clear conviction that the Bible teaches that we are not to pass any form of judgment on others. A closer look at this Bible verse and other related verses, however, uncovers a different understanding of Jesus’ teaching.

First, let’s look at the full context of Jesus’ words:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:1-5)

If we break this passage down line by line, it becomes clear that Jesus was not telling his disciples that they could not ever judge the behavior of others. Rather, he was cautioning them to live righteous lives themselves so that their judgment of others’ behavior would not be rash judgment and their efforts would be effective in admonishing their neighbors.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” By itself, this statement could be construed to mean that one may escape even God’s judgment simply by not judging the behavior of others. Of course, everyone is judged by God, so this cannot be a proper understanding. Jesus goes on to reformulate his statement in a positive way: “With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Jesus indeed expects his disciples to judge but he warns that they, too, will be judged in a like manner.

This is reminiscent of the line in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12). Much more than a simple warning that God will treat us as we treat others, this is an appeal to each of us to be as much as we can like God in the way that we treat others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make ‘ours’ the same mind that was in Christ Jesus” (CCC 2842).

In the next two lines Jesus cautions against hypocrisy: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” Judging hypocritically is not effective. A petty thief admonished by a bank robber only scoffs at his admonisher.

Jesus then explains how to judge rightly: “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Much to the point of this article, there can be no doubt that those final words—”take the speck out of your brother’s eye”—are, indeed, permission to judge so long as it is done rightly.

Other Bible passages which seem on the surface to indicate a condemnation of judging others’ behavior may be treated similarly in their full context. The idea of rightly judging the behavior of others can be found throughout the New Testament.

Jesus told the Jews, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

He instructed his disciples what to do if someone sins against them:

Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matt. 18:15-17)

It is not possible to follow Jesus’ instructions without being “judgmental” of another’s behavior.

Paul, too, exhorted right judgment of other Christians: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Drive out the wicked person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:12-13).

Also, “Do you not know that the saints [i.e. Christians] will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!…Shun immorality” (1 Cor. 6:2-18).

A look at the Old Testament reveals similar teaching: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15).

Clearly, contrary to what many would prefer to believe, the Bible exhorts us to rightly judge the behavior of others. The Catholic Church teaches likewise but cautions us just as Jesus did the disciples:

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:  of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;  of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;  of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way: “Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.” (CCC 2477-2478)

Having said all that, there is a big difference between judging another’s behavior and judging the eternal state of his soul. The latter judgment belongs only to God. Jesus addressed this type of judgment too:

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. (John 5:22-30)

Clearly, in this context, Jesus was speaking of judgment as condemnation or eternal damnation. Such judgment is reserved to him alone.

So, when faced with the immoral behavior of loved ones, how can we be sure to rightly judge behavior? In Jesus’ own words, we must start by taking the logs out of our own eyes—by making sure we are doing the best we can to live lives of good example. We must also strive to form our consciences correctly so that we know sin when we see it. Finally, we must not jump to conclusions about another’s culpability in sin. Doing all this will help to ensure that our admonitions are seen as the loving actions we intend them to be—meant to help our loved ones live their lives in ways that are pleasing to God. Only then can our efforts be effective in helping to take these ugly specks out of our brothers’ eyes.”

Love,
Matthew

Bible: books that J U S T missed it….


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“It took more than a thousand years for the books of the Bible to be written. Afterward, it took several centuries for the Church to determine which of the books written were Scripture and which weren’t.

God didn’t simply give the Church a revelation saying, “The following books and only the following books are Scripture.” Instead, the Holy Spirit guided the Church as it conducted a process of discernment. This means we don’t find early, universal agreement on the books of Scripture. We find churchmen having different opinions.

There was always a broad consensus about the core books of the Bible. All orthodox Christians recognized works such as the five books of Moses in the Old Testament or the four Gospels in the New Testament. There also was broad agreement about the prophets and the letters of Paul.  (Ed.  the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. They stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct.  The Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation were highly controversial.  They were not accepted into the canon until the 4th century AD.)

But there was debate about other books. Certain churchmen questioned or opposed books that were eventually included. Some had reservations about seven books of the Old Testament—1-2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Sirach, and Wisdom. Others had reservations about seven books of the New Testament—Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

All these were eventually included in the Bible, but there were books that some early churchmen did regard as Scripture but that didn’t find a place in the canon. We’re going to take a look at these books that “almost” made it into the Bible. We have to put quotation marks around “almost” because the Holy Spirit was in charge of the process, and God always knew which books He had inspired and which He hadn’t. But, on the human level, there was uncertainty about the status of certain books for some time.

The criterion of discernment

The criterion the early Church used to determine the status of a book was whether it had been handed down from the apostles as authoritative.

Of course, if a book was written by an apostle, it was authoritative. But apostolic authorship wasn’t required. The apostles also regarded the books of the Old Testament as authoritative, so they counted as Scripture. Even certain books of the New Testament that had been written by associates of apostles—such as Mark and Luke—were held to be authoritative and so found a place in Scripture.

The fact the apostles didn’t have to write a book led to differences in opinion in the early Church. Just how far removed from the apostles did a book have to be before it wouldn’t count as Scripture? If it was an orthodox book written in the Apostolic Age, did that imply apostolic consent to it? If it was thought to be written by someone who knew the apostles—though not a traveling companion such as Mark or Luke—was that enough?

The heretical books that were written after the first century could be recognized as fakes because of the false doctrine they contained. However, the early orthodox books were another matter.

The fact some were considered Scripture by orthodox Christians illustrates the important role that the Church played, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in determining what belongs in the Bible. (For more information, see my book The Bible Is a Catholic Book.) What were these books?

The Didache

What it is: A Church manual giving basic instruction on morality, the sacraments, prayer, church officers, and prophecy.

When it was written: The Didache likely appeared in more than one edition, but the earliest clearly was penned when there were traveling apostles and prophets, because the document includes instructions on how to tell true ones from false ones. This edition thus belongs to the apostolic age.

Who thought it was Scripture: Although this work was popular in the early Church, the evidence for people thinking it was Scripture is thinner than for some other works we’ll consider. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215) quoted it and may have considered it Scripture (Stromateis 1:20:100:4). In the 300s, Pseudo-Cyprian refers to it as “Scripture” (De Centesima 14). And in the late 300s, the Syriac Book of Steps, or Liber Graduum, refers to it using the scriptural citation “it is written” (7:20).

Why they thought it was Scripture: The first edition of this work dates to the Apostolic Age, and the Didache (Greek, “teaching”) often circulated under the titles “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” or “The Teaching of the Apostles.”

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Too many in the early Church doubted its apostolic authorship. The titles under which it circulated indicate it is a good summary of the teaching of the apostles, not that it was written by them.

What it said: The Didache touches on many matters connected with Christian morality and Church discipline. It contains a noteworthy passage discussing the ways (plural) in which baptism was performed in the first century.

Now concerning baptism, baptize as follows: After you have reviewed all these things, baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in running water. But if you have no running water, then baptize in some other water; and if you are not able to baptize in cold water, then do so in warm. But if you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit” (7:1-3).

1 Clement

What it is: A letter written by Pope St. Clement I to the church of Corinth.

When it was written: Many scholars think it was written in the A.D. 90s, but a careful examination of the text suggests it was written in the first half of A.D. 70, after the disastrous “year of four emperors” in 69 but before the destruction of the temple in August of 70.

Who thought it was Scripture: Apparently, quite a few people. Eusebius notes that this letter was “publicly read for common benefit, in most of the churches” (Church History 3:16), and because of its early origin “it is probable that this was also numbered with the other writings of the apostles” (3:38). In the early 400s, it was included in the Codex Alexandrinus, an important copy of the Bible.

Why they thought it was Scripture: Clement was a man who lived in the apostolic age and who apparently knew and was approved by the apostles Peter and Paul. He was often thought to be the Clement that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3 (Church History 3:15), and early traditions indicate that he was ordained at least to the priesthood by St. Peter. Some even held that he was Peter’s immediate successor as pope. St. Jerome notes that “the greater part of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle” (Lives of Illustrious Men 15:1).

The letter has great literary merit and is often compared in style to the book of Hebrews. In fact, in the early 200s, Origen knew a tradition that held Clement was the author of Hebrews (Church History 6:25:14), which would be another reason for thinking the letter might be Scripture.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Despite its considerable merits, its long use in the churches, and Clement’s connection to the apostles, not enough churchmen came to regard it as Scripture. Thus, in the list of approved, disputed, and rejected books that Eusebius made in the early 300s, he didn’t mention “1 Clement.”

What it said: Clement wrote because the Corinthians had appealed to the Church of Rome to settle a dispute in their community. A faction had kicked out the duly ordained leaders of the church, and Clement argued they needed to be reinstated. This apparently happened, because Clement’s letter was kept and read in Corinth for many years.

The book contains a number of points of interest, including the earliest surviving reference to the martyrdoms of Sts. Peter and Paul:

There was Peter, who, because of unrighteous jealousy, endured not one or two but many trials, and thus having given his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. Because of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the way to the prize for patient endurance. After he had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West. Finally, when he had given his testimony before the rulers, he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place, having become an outstanding example of patient endurance (5:4-7).

The Letter of Barnabas

What it is: An early document offering a spiritual interpretation of Jewish law and customs and how they are fulfilled in Christ and the Church.

When it was written: Shortly after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple (ch. 16), perhaps around A.D. 75.

Who thought it was Scripture: Around 200, Clement of Alexandria considered it Scripture (Church History 6:14). In the 300s, it also was included in the important Bible known as Codex Sinaiticus.

Why they thought it was Scrip­­ture: Barnabas was a companion of the apostles (Acts 4:36), including Paul, and Luke even describes Barnabas as an apostle (Acts 14:14).

Also, around A.D. 200, Tertullian recorded a tradition that the book of Hebrews was written by Barnabas (On Modesty 20), which would provide additional reason to think the “Letter of Barnabas” might be Scripture.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Barnabas was an apostle of a lesser rank. Also, the letter does not claim to be written by him (his name is found only in the title), which may have led to doubts about its authorship. Eusebius lists this letter among the books “rejected” by most orthodox Christians in his day as Scripture (Church History 3:25). St. Jerome apparently thought it was written by Barnabas but nevertheless was not Scripture (Lives of Illustrious Men 6). Scholars today generally don’t think it was written by the biblical Barnabas.

What it said: There are many fascinating things in this letter, but I’m personally glad that it’s not in Scripture. When allegorizing various Old Testament commandments, the author makes several scientifically inaccurate statements that I would not like to have to explain as an apologist. Consider:

“You shall not eat the hare.” Why? Do not become, [Moses] means, one who corrupts boys, or even resemble such people, because the hare grows another opening every year, and thus has as many orifices as it is years old.
Again, “Neither shall you eat the hyena.” Do not become, he means, an adulterer or a seducer, or even resemble such people. Why? Because this animal changes its nature from year to year and becomes male one time and female another.
* * *
But he also hated the weasel, and with good reason. Do not become, he means, like those men who, we hear, with immoral intent do things with the mouth that are forbidden, nor associate with those immoral women who do things with the mouth that are forbidden. For this animal conceives through its mouth (10:6-8).

The Shepherd of Hermas

What it is: A collection of visions by a simple and sincere man named Hermas who was a former slave living in Rome.

When it was written: Although sometimes wrongly dated to the mid-second century, Hermas lived during the time of Pope St. Clement I (“The Shepherd,” Vision 2:4[8:3]). He began receiving the visions perhaps around A.D. 80.

Who thought it was Scripture: Around A.D. 175, St. Irenaeus of Lyons described it as “Scripture” (Against Heresies 4:20:2). About the same time, Clement of Alexandria repeatedly used the work and said it was written “by divine inspiration” (Stromateis 1:29:181:1). In the early 200s, Origen also referred to it as Scripture, though he said it was “not acknowledged by all to be divine” (Commentary on Matthew 14:21). In the 300s, it was included in Codex Sinaiticus.

Why they thought it was Scripture: It’s a work of prophecy that dates to the first century. Also, many at the time believed that Hermas was the man whom Paul greets in Romans 16:14.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Almost every author in the early Church who mentioned “The Shepherd” had a high opinion of it and regarded it as valuable for private reading, even those who didn’t regard it as Scripture. Ultimately, the latter came to be the majority, and Eusebius lists it among the books “rejected” by most orthodox Christians in his day as Scripture (Church History 3:25).

What it said: “The Shepherd” is astonishingly long for a book of this period. Its visions deal with virtue, forgiveness, and the need to repent. A central theme of the book is that repentance and forgiveness are possible for Christians who have sinned. A major figure in the visions is an angel who appears to Hermas dressed like a shepherd and thus gives the book its title. He is identified as “the angel of repentance” (Vision 5[25:7]).

After I had prayed in my house and sat down on my bed, there came a man glorious in appearance, dressed like a shepherd, with a white skin wrapped around him and with a bag on his shoulders and a staff in his hand. He greeted me, and I greeted him in return. He immediately sat down beside me and said to me, “I was sent by the most holy angel to live with you the rest of the days of your life” (Vision 5[25:1-2]).

The Apocalypse of Peter

What it is: A series of revelations allegedly given by Christ to St. Peter.

When it was written: Likely between A.D. 132-135, during the rebellion under the Jewish leader Simon bar-Kokhba, who is likely the false Christ discussed in 2:7-9 of the “Apocalypse.”

Who thought it was Scripture: Around 200, Clement of Alexandria referred to the “Apocalypse of Peter ”as Scripture (Eclogae Propheticae 41) and attributes it to Peter (48-49). The Muratorian Fragment, an early work dated between the late second and the fourth century, accepts the Apocalypses of John (i.e., the book of Revelation) and Peter as Scripture, but it acknowledges that “some of us are not willing that the latter be read in church.” Other early churchmen also supported it.

Why they thought it was Scripture: It is an early work claiming to preserve the words of St. Peter.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Many recognized that it wasn’t actually by Peter—that the tradition supporting its apostolic authorship wasn’t strong enough. Thus, in the early 300s, Eusebius included it among the books “rejected” by most orthodox Christians of his time as Scripture (Church History 3:25).

What it said: The book contains prophecies about Israel as well as descriptions of hell and heaven. Its descriptions of the punishments of the damned are particularly vivid, but the book also contains a description of the blessings of the righteous. It concludes with an account of the ascension of Christ:

A large, very white cloud came above us and picked up our Lord and Moses and Elijah. I shook and was terrified. We watched as this heaven opened up and men with physical bodies came to welcome our Lord and Moses and Elijah. They went into the second heaven. The saying of Scripture was fulfilled, “This generation looks for him; it looks for the face of the God of Jacob.”

There was great awe and amazement in heaven. The angels flocked together to fulfill the saying of Scripture, “Open the gates, ye princes.” Then this heaven, the one which had been opened, was closed.

We prayed, and as we descended from the mountain, we praised God who has written the names of the righteous in the book of life in heaven (17:2-7).

Sidebar

How the Bible Came Together

Many in the Protestant community find it hard to imagine the Church existing for centuries without a closed, fixed list of the books of the Bible. This is because of the Protestant principle of sola scriptura—the idea that Christian doctrine should be determined “by Scripture alone.” If you use sola scriptura, then there is an urgent need to know the precise boundaries of the canon.

If you’re uncertain about the status of a book, you don’t know whether it’s authoritative for doctrine or not. You could err in either extreme: ignore statements God meant to be authoritative or treat something as authoritative when it isn’t.

But the early Church didn’t employ sola scriptura. Instead, Christians used the same principles for formulating doctrine that had been used since the Apostolic Age: Yes, Scripture was authoritative, but so was the Tradition that Christ and the apostles had passed down—and one could rely on the Church’s divinely guided Magisterium to settle cases of dispute. Therefore, pre-Reformation Christians felt no urgency to know the exact status of lesser books.

Early in the 300s, Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea wrote his famous Church History in which he described the state of views in his own day (Church History 3:25:1-6 with 3:3:5-6). He divided the books into several categories: those that orthodox Christians accepted, disputed, or rejected.

By later that century, the borders of the canon were firmer. In 382, Pope Damasus I held a council at Rome that taught essentially the same canon that Catholics have today. Pope Innocent I affirmed this list in A.D. 405, and it was endorsed by various local councils including Hippo in 393 and Carthage in 397 and 419. The traditional canon continued to be affirmed down through history, such as at the Council of Florence in 1442.

When the Protestant Reformers began a major controversy about the authority of certain books, the need to define the canon became more urgent, and in 1546 the Council of Trent infallibly defined which books the Church holds as sacred and canonical..”

Love, and His will,
Matthew