Category Archives: Old Testament

Is 40:6-8


-Mater Dolorosa, ca. 1674–85, Pedro de Mena, Spanish, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY. Carved wood sculpture, enhanced by paint and other media, including glass eyes and hair, reached a pinnacle of naturalism and expressive force in 17th-century Spain. Pedro de Mena’s virtuoso manipulation of these materials created startling likenesses of bodies and clothing. They encourage in the beholder an empathetic response to the suffering of mother and son, who appear as exemplars of worldly forbearance in the face of tragedy. Carved details such as the twisted and knotted rope binding Christ’s hands or the Virgin’s thin, deeply undercut drapery are joined by the subtle and descriptive painting in thin glazes of the silver and red brocade of the Virgin’s tunic and the bruises that cover Christ’s flesh. Mena’s desire was to make the figures seem physically present before the viewer. At the same time, they have a dignity and reserve that made them ideal works for contemplation.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“Disease and pandemics have always been a part of human life. While this current disease and the unprecedented world-wide shutdown imposes extraordinary hardships, illness is not a new thing. In fact, this infection embodies and manifests our already frail human condition; it is a shocking reminder of the daily reality we inhabit—not a break or contradiction.

But in the beginning, it was not so. Death and disease are the curse of original sin and the inheritance we receive from our first parents. Because our fallen state of sin is the cause of disease, no human work can completely heal it. No advance in medicine, or epidemiology, or public health policy will eliminate pandemics altogether, for our brokenness is too deep and beyond the reach of mere human progress. And so this coronavirus teaches us our frailty anew and reminds us of what has always been true: we walk in the vale of tears under the shadow of death, our lives are like grass that springs up beautiful in the morning but by evening withers and fades (Ps 90:6).

[There are] three ways to respond to our desperate and fallen state. We could respond with denial, perhaps imagining that scientific progress will fix everything, and ignore our inevitable fate. We have been choosing this option for far too long, embalming ourselves within a cocoon of entertainment and comfort and suffocating trivialities, dulling the latent pain of our precarious existence. Just look at how many shows there are to binge-watch, the vast scope of meaningless social media content, and see a society desperate to avoid an unavoidable experience of existential fragility.

We could also choose to flee, and refuse to live for fear of death. When the crisis hits, whether it’s a global sickness or a much more personal trial, it shakes us awake from our stupor and forces us to confront our mortality. And then we are tempted to run and hide, and shut everything down in terror.

The third choice is a noble one: confront the brokenness of the world and of ourselves, and in the face of danger and death choose courage and strength and virtue. We cannot fix what is so broken, but we can live well and seek what goodness lies in our power. This kind of noble choice traces itself back to the pagan philosophers, and perhaps a desire for this natural goodness lies behind recent interest in the stoic philosophers, or the similar strength exhibited in Jordan Peterson’s advice to “accept the terrible responsibility of life with eyes wide open” (12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, 27). And yet, even this noble choice is not enough. It is not enough, for it leaves us in the clutches of a merciless enemy, and cannot guide us out of the shadow of death.

It can sound harsh to summarize our human condition so bleakly. But only when you appreciate the fragility and brokenness of human life, only when you confront the curse of mortality, can you begin to appreciate the gift that Jesus Christ brings. He came to save us from death. If you’ve been reflecting on death in a time of pandemic, you will know what that means in a deeper way than you did before. He saved us from death. He saved us from disease. He saved us from this.

Marvelously, and in a way only God could imagine, He saved us not by destroying the fact of death, but by emptying death of its power. For the Christian, life is changed not ended: “We were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” (Rom 6:4-5).

And here we find a better choice, which is not so much a choice as a gift. Enlivened by the grace of God poured forth from the pierced heart of Christ, living in these last days and knowing that this world and its vanities are passing away, we can mock death: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) Yes, it is true that each one of us will die, and disease brings that truth closer than ever. But there is nothing of value that death can truly and permanently take from you, for by your baptism “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col 3:3).

Life is like this, and has always been like this, but we have a life that is beyond this life. For death and life have contended in that combat stupendous; the Prince of Life Who died reigns immortal.”

Love,
Matthew

Original sin

“Christians have long counted pride, aka, “the sin of Satan”, as a sin—indeed, the “original sin”, that generates every other and is the vital principle in each. C.S. Lewis speaks for many Christian moralists when he calls pride “the essential vice, the utmost evil.” He asserts that pride “is the complete anti-God state of mind” (Lewis, 1980, pp.121-22)

Pride is also the sin by which Satan fell. St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) wrote, “‘Pride is the commencement of all sin'(1) because it was this which overthrew the devil, from whom arose the origin of sin; and afterwards, when his malice and envy pursued man, who was yet standing in his uprightness, it subverted him in the same way in which he himself fell. For the serpent, in fact, only sought for the door of pride whereby to enter when he said, ‘Ye shall be as gods.'”(2), (also see Gen 3:5)

Pride finds pleasure only in what sets it apart. That is why William May calls pride “the sin of the first person singular, I.” Proud people not only put themselves before others, they separate themselves from others. And, firstly, THE Other.  God is totally transcendent.

We can see, then, that pride is an assertion of the self that is both irreligious and antisocial. The actual form pride takes will vary from
person to person. In general, however, we may say that the “genus” pride appears in three “species”: vanity, conceit, and arrogance.  Pride goeth before THE Fall. (Gen 3)

This sort of self-assertion is incompatible with a true knowledge of God. As C. S. Lewis explains, “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all.” Of course, the proud are ready to admit theoretically that they are nothing before God, but they “are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people.” (Lewis, 1980, p. 124). Be it ever so religious, pride alienates humans from God. Vice decays wherever virtue flourishes. One should attack pride by cultivating humility, not striving to be co-equal with God, not striving to know (as in the biblical “know”, for biblically to “know” the name of something is to have power over it, as in Ex 3:14 “I AM WHO AM”, or as in Adam, whom God gave the power to name God’s other creatures, Gen 2:20, which is why demons are loathe to identify themselves in exorcisms), or desire to know, and therefore define, good from evil, as did Adam and Eve in eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Gen 3:5, as God had forbidden them, Gen 2:16-17. Is pride a “deadly sin”? Yes. Vanity, conceit, and arrogance disrupt and disorder individual lives, families, and communities.

Original sin, the absence of holiness and original justice, by which Adam and Eve enjoyed the preternatural gifts, which included infused science, or knowledge without learning, the gift of integrity allowing his passions to freely follow reason, and the absence of bodily suffering and death, is the fallen state, or condition, of man’s nature owing to an absence of sanctifying grace, the grace that makes the soul pleasing to God and able to live with Him in Heaven, in his soul at conception. It was caused by Adam and Eve’s first personal sin, which involved pride in wanting to be like God and disobedience. Adam, who was created in the state of original justice, immediately lost sanctifying grace by his first sin. All people, being his bodily descendants, are consequently conceived without God’s sanctifying presence in their souls, through no personal, actual fault of their own.

Therefore, mankind is subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence, defects that include a darkened intellect, making learning arduous; a will tainted with malice, inclining it to choose sin; and unruly passions ever ready to rebel against reason. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns man back towards God, but the consequences for man’s nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (cf CCC 405)

You won’t find the phrase “original sin” in the Bible. The story of humanity’s “fall” in Genesis 3 doesn’t use the term, and St. Paul, one of the church’s earliest theologians, only hints at it in places. After the first century the early church fathers started to define it, but those in the East and West took different approaches.

Both groups acknowledged that sin had entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command, but the Eastern fathers did not think guilt for that sin was passed on; rather, human beings in subsequent generations imitated their first ancestors’ misbehavior. The Western fathers, however, believed sin was passed on like a hereditary disease of the soul (thus the emphasis on baptism erasing the inherited “contagion of death,” to use St. Cyprian of Carthage’s phrase).

Saints Irenaeus and Augustine illustrate these two perspectives. For Irenaeus the disobedience of the first parents was rather like the actions of a child who didn’t know better. Augustine, however, thought the first sin had resulted from a very conscious, adult decision that actually damaged human nature and was passed on through procreation.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, (130-202 AD) first alluded to the concept of original sin in the 2nd century in his controversy with certain dualist Gnostics. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, (354-430 AD) also shaped and developed the doctrine, seeing it as based on the New Testament teaching of St Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22) and the Old Testament verse of Psalms 51:5.

But a question remained: Why did the possibility of sin enter the world in the first place? Irenaeus thought the turning away of Adam and Eve from God resulted from their immaturity and weakness. Augustine saw the source in a fatal flaw in human nature: pride. For him pride meant the capacity to exercise free will to choose to try to live without God—to see yourself only in reference to yourself, not to God, and to have a sense of false autonomy that you forget you are created.

Through the Middle Ages and after the Reformation, Catholic theology began to emphasize another aspect of the doctrine of original sin: the absence of “sanctifying grace,” the indwelling spirit that brought the inner harmony.

Augustine’s formulation of original sin after 412 AD was popular among Protestant reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, who equated original sin with concupiscence (or “hurtful desire”, the inclination to sin), affirming that it persisted even after baptism and completely destroyed freedom to do good. Catholic doctrine holds before the fall of Adam & Eve there existed, in contraposition, a state of Original Justice, in which no concupiscence existed. Before 412 AD, Augustine said that free will was weakened but not destroyed by original sin, the Catholic doctrine. But after 412 AD Augustine proposed that original sin involved a loss of free will except to sin, which the Catholic Church has rejected as doctrine. Modern Augustinian Calvinism, and indeed Protestantism holds this later view. The Jansenist movement, a Catholic heresy, which the Catholic Church declared heretical from 1653, also maintained that original sin destroyed freedom of will.

Love & His salvation,
Matthew

1. Augustine is here quoting from Ecclesiasticus 10:12-13, “The beginning of pride is when one departs from God, and his heart is turned away from his Maker. For pride is the beginning of sin, and he that has it shall pour out abomination…”
2. Philip Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Volume 5 St. Augustin: Anti-pelagian Writings, chapter 33.

Lev 17:10


-by Karlo Broussard

“Every Catholic has heard the challenge:

“How can you believe that? Don’t you know the Bible says…”

It’s a challenge we have to meet. If we can’t reconcile apparent contradictions between Scripture and Catholic teaching, how can our own faith survive? And if we can’t help our Protestant brothers and sisters overcome their preconceptions about “unbiblical” Catholic doctrines and practices, how will they ever come to embrace the fullness of the Faith?

In this excerpt from Meeting the Protestant Challenge, Karlo Broussard gives an example of how to counteract the Protestant claims that Catholics are misunderstanding the Bible’s teaching on the Eucharist.

“God Will Cut Off the Person Who Eats Blood”
Leviticus 17:10 and the Real Presence of Jesus’ Blood

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church teach that we actually eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus when Scripture forbids partaking of blood?

The Catholic Church teaches that when we partake of the Eucharist in Holy Communion we are literally consuming the blood of Jesus Christ. Paragraph 1244 of the Catechism says that we “receive the food of the new life, the body and blood of Christ” (emphasis added). In 1275, it states that the Eucharist nourishes us with “Christ’s body and blood” in order for us to be transformed in Christ. According to paragraph 1335, the faithful “drink the new wine that has become the blood of Christ” (emphasis added).

For some Protestants, this idea of drinking Christ’s blood violates the Bible’s prohibition of drinking blood:

If any man of the house of Israel or of the strangers that sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people (Lev. 17:10).

In light of this prohibition, in John 6 and at the Last Supper Jesus couldn’t have possibly meant for us to really drink his blood, meaning that Catholic teaching on the Eucharist is unbiblical.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE:

1. The dietary laws of the old law, to which the prohibition of drinking blood belonged, passed away with the advent of Christ.

The prohibition of consuming blood was not a precept rooted in the natural law, which is forever binding (Rom. 2:14-15). Rather, it was one of many dietary regulations that involved the ritual purity of Jews—disciplinary in nature, not moral, and thus subject to change.

That it did change is proven by the New Testament’s affirmation that the dietary laws of the old law are no longer binding for Christians. Consider, for example, what Jesus says in Mark 7:15: “[T]here is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” Mark tells us that by saying this Jesus “declared all foods clean” (v.19).

This is made even clearer in God’s revelation to Peter in Acts 10:9-16. We’re told that Peter “fell into a trance,” and saw a “great sheet” in which were “all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.” Peter heard a voice command him to “kill and eat.” But Peter refused, saying, “No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” The voice responded, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” Luke tells us that this happened three times.

We find this new revelation in Paul’s writings as well. For example, he instructs the Colossians,

Having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this [Jesus] set aside, nailing it to the cross…Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Col. 2:16-17).

Similarly, Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1 Cor. 8:8).

If the dietary laws of the Old law are no longer binding for Christians, and the prohibition of consuming blood was a part of those dietary laws, it follows that the prohibition of consuming blood is no longer binding for Christians. This challenge from Leviticus 17:10, therefore, doesn’t undermine the Catholic belief that we literally partake of Jesus’ blood in the Eucharist.
2. Jesus gives a positive command to drink his blood, which by nature supersedes the Old Testament precept.

Jesus says, “He who drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). At the Last Supper he instructs the apostles, “Drink it,” in reference to the cup that he says contained his blood. Such a positive command tells us that the Old Testament’s prohibition of partaking of blood was disciplinary in nature, for Christ could never command us to violate a precept of the natural law. And when Christ gives us a new command, it supersedes the old.

3. Given the Jewish understanding that blood contains the life of the animal, it makes sense why Jesus would command us to drink his blood in order to have his eternal life.

The reason for the ritual prohibition of drinking blood was that the life of the animal was believed to be in the blood:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life (Lev. 17:11).

If Jews believed that the life of an animal is in its blood, it makes sense for Jesus would say, “He who drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). Because Jesus is God, his blood contains the divine life. As Paul writes, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9).

Christ wants his disciples to have his eternal life. And since his divine life dwells within his blood, he commands his disciples to drink his blood. Bible scholar Brant Pitre puts it nicely: “The very reason God forbids drinking blood in the Old Covenant is the same reason Jesus commands his disciples to drink his blood.” Therefore, if we want Christ’s life to dwell within us, we need to drink his blood in the Holy Eucharist.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Why should we abide by this Old Testament precept when Jesus clearly gives us a command that supersedes it? If Jesus commands us to do something new, shouldn’t we follow it?

AFTERTHOUGHT: Even if the Old Testament precept were still binding on Christians, the Catholic teaching on drinking Christ’s blood would not run contrary to it. The Old Testament prohibition forbade normal consumption of blood, where blood is digested as food. But the Eucharist does not involve the digestion of blood, since the substantial reality of Christ’s blood is consumed under the species of wine. Therefore, the consumption of the Eucharist doesn’t violate Leviticus 17:10, even if it were still binding for God’s people in the New Testament.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Idols – Ex 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” –Ex 20:4-6

The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region (commonly referred to as the Amazon synod) met in Rome from 6 to 27 October 2019. Pope Francis announced on 15 October 2017 that it would work “to identify new paths for the evangelization of God’s people in that region”, specifically the indigenous peoples.

The Amazon basin, according to one Vatican report, covers some 6,000,000 km^2, with a population of 2.8 million divided among 400 tribes that speak some 240 languages belonging to 49 linguistic families. The Synod defines the region to include all or parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Suriname.

On Oct. 21, five statues were taken, apparently quite early in the morning, from the Carmelite Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, four blocks from St. Peter’s Basilica. They were thrown off a nearby bridge into the Tiber River. These events have been a source of much controversy in the Church.

In a Universal Church, especially one that spans the globe, just like in any society, some Catholics do weird things; depending on what side of weird you may be standing on from the viewpoint of the other doing weird things from your point of view, being human.  They may be misunderstood, culturally, or not, or they may be wrong, or somewhere in between.  Welcome to being human.  Love one another.  Even if they throw your artwork off a bridge.  -cf Jn 13:34-35


-pachamama statue in Santa Maria in Traspontina

-Amazon synod participants bow in tree planting ceremony, Vatican gardens

Catholics ONLY WORSHIP GOD!!!!!!!! – dulia, hyperdulia, honor, veneration vs latria, adoration, worship

CCC 2132 “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone:

Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.”


-by Karlo Broussard

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church approve of religious statues when the Bible forbids having graven images?

Catholics are known for putting statues and images in their churches and using them in their private devotions. The Catechism affirms such devotions, calling the “honor paid to sacred images” a “respectful veneration” (2132).

But, for many Protestants this is problematic, biblically speaking. God commands in Exodus 20:4-5,

You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.

God says, “No graven images,” but yet the Catholic Church has images all over the place. God says, “Don’t bow down to images,” but the Catholic Church encourages such acts of piety. These Catholic practices contradict God’s word.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. In these verses, God can’t be condemning religious statues and images, because elsewhere he explicitly commands making them.

Consider, for example, the two gold cherubim (cast sculptures of angels) that God commanded to be put on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (Exod. 25:18-20). God also instructed that cherubim be woven into the curtains of the tabernacle (Exod. 26:1).

When God gave instructions for building the temple during the reign of King Solomon, he commanded that two fifteen-foot tall cherubim statues be placed in the holy of holies (1 Kings 6:23-28) and that “figures of cherubim” be carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). Later, in 1 Kings 9:3, we read that God approved of such things, saying to Solomon, “I have consecrated this house which you have built, and put My name there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there for all time.” God’s blessing on the temple is certain evidence that He doesn’t oppose having statues and sacred images in places of worship.

Another example where God commanded the making of a statue is Numbers 21:6-9. The Israelites were suffering from venomous snakebites; in order to heal them, God instructed Moses to construct a bronze serpent and set it on a pole so that those who were bitten could look upon it and be healed (Num. 21:6-9). God did later command that the bronze serpent be destroyed, but only because the Israelites started worshiping it as a god (2 Kings 18:4).

2.  What God’s commandment forbids is the making of idols.

The context bears this out. Consider the prohibition that precedes it: “You shall have no other gods before me” (v.3).

Then after the passage in question, we read, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” Given this contextual prohibition of idolatry, it’s reasonable to conclude that God’s command not to make “graven images” refers to making images to be worshiped as deities, or idols.

Accordingly, we note that every time the Hebrew word for “graven images” (pesel) is used in the Old Testament it’s used in reference to idols or the images of idols. For example, the prophet Isaiah warns, “All who make idols [pesel] are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit; their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.” Other examples include, but are not limited to, Isaiah 40:19; 44:9, 17; 45:20, Jeremiah 10:14; 51:17, and Habakkuk 2:18).

Since making idols is what this commandment forbids, the Catholic custom of using statues and images for religious purposes doesn’t contradict it, because Catholics don’t use statues and sacred images as idols. The whole of paragraph 2132 (referenced above) states the following:

The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone.

Catholics don’t treat statues, or the people whom the statues represent, as gods. As such, the biblical prohibition of idolatry doesn’t apply.

This challenge from modern Evangelicals shows that there’s nothing new under the sun. The Catholic Church dealt with this sort of objection all the way back in the eighth century when it condemned the heresy of iconoclasm at the Second Council of Nicaea (787).

Iconoclasm was the belief that all religious images are superstitious. In response to this heresy, the council declared that religious images were worthy veneration and that any respect shown to a religious image is really respect given to the person it represents.

In having images or statues of Jesus, angels, Mary, and the saints in its places of worship, the Catholic Church is following the Old Testament precedent of incorporating images of heavenly inhabitants that serve as reminders of Who is present with us when we approach God in liturgical worship.

The representations of the cherubim in the Old Testament served as reminders that they were heavenly inhabitants present with God. Since humans have been admitted into heaven (Rev. 5:8; Rev. 6:9; 7:14-17), it’s reasonable to employ representations of them, too.

What about pious acts directed to the statues, such as bowing? Doesn’t Exodus 20:4 prohibit “bowing” before graven images? Well, the Bible forbids bowing before idols. It doesn’t forbid the physical act of bowing before something or someone when that something or someone is not an idol.

For example, Solomon was not guilty of idolatry when he bowed before his mother in 1 Kings 2:19. It was simply a gesture of honor given her as queen mother. Jesus Himself says in Revelation 3:9 that He will make “those of the synagogue of Satan” “bow down” before the feet of the Christians in Philadelphia. If bowing before another were, in and of itself, an act of worship, Jesus would be causing idolatry. But that’s absurd.

So, pious acts and postures can be legitimate when directed to the person that a statue or picture represents if the action is not used as a sign of the adoration or worship that is due to God alone. And such honor for the saints is their due because of what God has done for them. Jesus says, “If any one serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26). The saints in heaven, who our statues represent, have served and do continue to serve Jesus. As such, the Father honors them. And if the Father honors them, we can too.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Are all religious images idols? How can you know?

AFTERTHOUGHT: Among some Christian communities, the commandment not to make “graven images” is listed as the second of the Ten Commandments. This differs from the Catholic numbering of the Ten Commandments. But seeing the prohibition to make “graven images” as part of God’s overall prohibition of idolatry provides an explanation for why the Catholic Church doesn’t consider it a separate commandment.”

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book: 400 silent years?

Many in the Protestant community discount books not found in their version of the Old Testament on the ground that there were “400 silent years” between Malachi and the ministry of Jesus.

This claim is bolstered by the assertion that there were no prophets in this period. The implication is that, without the divine inspiration given to prophets, books of Scripture couldn’t be written.

There are several problems with this assertion. One is that it isn’t clear that all the books in the Protestant Old Testament were written before 400 B.C. Even among conservative Protestant scholars, a significant body of opinion holds that some were much closer to the time of Christ.

Another problem is that an author doesn’t have to be a prophet to write Scripture. While all of the biblical authors were divinely inspired, this didn’t mean that they functioned in society as prophets. Psalms and Proverbs attribute many passages to David and Solomon, but they were kings, not prophets. The truth is, we don’t know who wrote many Old Testament books—including all the historical ones (Joshua to 2 Chronicles)—and it’s just supposition to claim that they were by prophets. We also have no evidence that New Testament authors like Mark and Luke ever received prophetic revelations.

But even if we granted that one had to be a prophet to author Scripture, we don’t have evidence that the gift of prophecy was absent in this period. Sometimes advocates of the “four hundred silent years” appeal to passages like 1 Maccabees 4:46 and 9:27 to support the claim that there were no prophets in this era, but these passages don’t show this.

The first describes how, around 164 B.C., Judah Maccabee and his men debated what to do about an altar the Gentiles had defiled. They tore it down and stored “the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them.” The second refers to a few years later, when “there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.”

These passages indicate that—in the 160s B.C.—there were no prophets functioning, but that doesn’t mean that God never gave prophecies between Malachi and John the Baptist, or that Jews of the period didn’t expect new prophets. First Maccabees shows they did. Thus, in 4:46, it says that they set aside the altar stones until “there should come a prophet to tell them what to do with them.” Similarly, 1 Maccabees 14:41 states that, in 140 B.C., Simon Maccabee was made ruler of the people “until a trustworthy prophet should arise”—again indicating an expectation of further prophets, including the possibility of one arriving in the reign of Simon Maccabee.

The absence of prophets in the time of the Maccabees thus was a temporary event, and it wasn’t unprecedented. There were similar lulls in prophetic activity in other periods. First Samuel 3:1 reveals that, when the prophet Samuel was a boy, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” Yet later in his life, when Samuel anointed Saul as king, there was a band of prophets that met Saul on the road, and he himself was overcome by the Spirit and began to prophecy. Thus, it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (see 1 Sam. 10:9-12).

Another prophetic lull is mentioned during the Babylonian Exile. Psalm 74, which records the destruction of the temple (vv. 4-7), says, “We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet” (v. 9). Similarly, Lamentations 2:9 describes events following the destruction of the temple by saying Zion’s “prophets obtain no vision from the Lord.” Yet neither passage indicates that the age of Old Testament prophecy was closed, for prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were active during the Exile. Neither do these prophetic lulls indicate Scripture couldn’t be written, for both passages are part of Scripture!

Even in a prophetic lull, God could give revelation, as in the case of the previous two passages. Similarly, in the time of the Maccabees, Judah Maccabee himself received a revelation (2 Macc. 15:11-16), though he didn’t function as a formal prophet.”

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book: Protestant & Catholic Bibles

Oral Torah


-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.

“Q. Our Protestant friends often speak of “the word of God” as if it was limited to just the Bible. Is that true?

Jimmy: No. The Bible speaks of the “word of God” as being several different things. It certainly includes the Bible, but it also includes the word of God communicated to people orally—in the form of Tradition, as when the apostles preached the word to people before the New Testament was written, or when the prophets preached God’s word before any book of Scripture was written. The ultimate Word of God is Jesus himself, so we can’t limit the word of God to just the Bible.

Q. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for “making void the word of God” by their tradition. Does that mean all Tradition is bad?

Jimmy: Just because one group misuses tradition doesn’t mean that all tradition is bad. Elsewhere, the New Testament speaks highly of the traditions that come from the apostles, and it commands Christians to honor them whether they are written in the Bible or not. The tradition of the Pharisees isn’t binding on us, but the Tradition of the apostles is!

Q. Our Protestant friends say we should base our doctrine on “Scripture alone.” What’s wrong with this idea?

Jimmy: A big problem is that, if we have to prove every doctrine “by Scripture alone” or sola scriptura then we’d have to prove this doctrine in the same way. But we can’t. There are no verses that say or imply that we should prove every doctrine by Scripture alone. That makes sola scriptura a self-refuting doctrine.

Q. Some anti-Catholics say that the Catholic Church “hates” the Bible and tried to keep it from the people. How can we reply to that?

Jimmy: If the Catholic Church “hated” the Bible, then it wouldn’t have laboriously hand-copied Bibles in the long centuries before the invention of the printing press. Further, the monks wouldn’t have made the beautiful, illuminated Bibles, whose pages they literally covered in gold by applying gold leaf to the illustrations to honor God’s word.

Q. When were the Gospels written? Are they late documents written long after the life of Jesus?

Jimmy: As biblical scholarship has progressed, the dates for the Gospels have been steadily rolled back. You no longer have scholars saying they were written a hundred or more years after Jesus. Today, virtually all scholars acknowledge that they were all written in the first century, and the best evidence indicates that they were written between about A.D. 55 and 65—only around twenty to thirty years after Jesus’ ministry.

Q. Did all Jews in Jesus’ day honor the same books as Scripture?

Jimmy: No. Different groups of Jews had different opinions about which books were sacred, and most did not have a single, closed list or “canon” of biblical books. The precise boundaries of the Old Testament continued to be debated in Jewish circles for centuries.

Q. Why does the Bible contain the books that it does? How did we get the exact list of books it has today?

Jimmy: God guided the Church, over the course of centuries, to recognize certain books and not others as being written expressions of his word. On the human level, this was done through the teachings of the Magisterium—the popes and the bishops. The Catholic Church thus played a crucial role in identifying the books of the Old and New Testaments.

Q. Why do our Protestant friends have smaller Bibles?

Jimmy: Martin Luther and other early Protestant leaders rejected certain Catholic teachings, such as purgatory, which is strongly supported in the Old Testament book 2 Maccabees. They therefore appealed to the European Jews of their day, who didn’t honor 2 Maccabees and certain other books as Scripture. They thus removed certain books from the Protestant Bible that Christians had historically regarded as Scripture.

Q. Bottom line: Why is the Bible a Catholic book?

Jimmy: The Bible is a Catholic book because the New Testament was written by Catholics, because the Catholic Church determined which books belong in the Bible, and because the Catholic Church preserved and published the books of the Bible by hand-copying them down through the centuries. The Bible is a gift that God gave to the world through the Catholic Church.”

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book – Scripture

“Jesus and the apostles did appeal to Scripture, and we should mention how the term was used in Jesus’ day. The Greek word graphê originally just meant writing, especially a brief piece of writing, but in Jewish and Christian contexts it came to mean a holy writing, which is why it is often translated scripture.

Today we use this term to refer to the entire collection of holy books, saying things like, “Scripture contains the Old and the New Testaments.” But in the first century, when the term was used in the singular, it normally referred to a specific book or passage. Thus, in Mark 12:10, Jesus says:

Have you not read this scripture: “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?

The passage Jesus is quoting (“this scripture”) is Psalm 118:22-23. By contrast, when people wanted to refer to all the holy writings as a group, they used the plural: “the scriptures.” Thus, Jesus tells his Sadducee critics they are wrong, “because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29).

Christians initially used this term for writings composed in the Old Testament period, for these were the only holy books at the time. Even when they began writing the books of the New Testament, they used “the scriptures” as a technical term for the earlier holy books.

There are a few exceptions, such as when Paul refers to Luke’s Gospel as “scripture” (1 Tim. 5:18; see Luke 10:7) or when Peter lists Paul’s letters alongside “the other scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:16), but referring to the books of the New Testament as “Scripture” really didn’t catch on until the second century.

Jesus overturned many common religious ideas of in his day, but he didn’t challenge the authority of Scripture. As the incarnate Word of God, he acknowledged the authority of the written word. Thus, he declared, “Not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17); and, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

Jesus saw his ministry as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. At the Triumphal Entry, Jesus rode a young donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 (see John 12:14-15); and when he was arrested, he declared, “All this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (Matt. 26:56). Following the Resurrection, he spoke with two disciples, and “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

The Scriptures Jesus Accepted

If Jesus saw his ministry as the fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures, which ones did he have in mind?

In the Gospels, he commonly refers to “the Law” and “the prophets” (e.g., Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 11:13). This was a common way of referring to the whole of the Old Testament, though it doesn’t tell us which specific books he saw it including.

From the evidence of the Gospels, we can tell Jesus placed more emphasis on certain books than others. The ones he quoted from most were Psalms, Deuteronomy, Exodus, and Isaiah. Depending on how you reckon what counts as a passage, he quotes fifteen passages from the Psalms, eleven from Deuteronomy, eight from Exodus, and seven from Isaiah.

The large number of quotations from Deuteronomy and Exodus are to be expected, given the prominence of the Pentateuch in Jewish thought, and it’s no surprise he also quotes from Genesis, Leviticus, and Numbers. When it comes to the prophets, Jesus quotes not only from Isaiah but also from Jeremiah and Daniel, as well as several minor prophets (Hosea, Jonah, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi).

Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow us to say precisely which books he regarded as Scripture. The Gospels are only partial records of his words and actions, and the fact that they don’t record him quoting a book doesn’t mean that he never quoted it or didn’t regard it as Scripture.

When scholars commonly believed there was a “Palestinian canon” that all Palestinian Jews accepted, it was easy to claim—based on where He lived—that Jesus simply accepted that one. But as scholarship has advanced, it’s become clear there were multiple, fuzzy canonical traditions even in Palestine.

It’s likely Jesus accepted more books than the Sadducees. When they challenged Him on the resurrection of the dead (Matt. 22:23-32), he conspicuously used Exodus 3:6 (“I am the God . . . of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”) to prove that the dead will one day rise, though there are much clearer passages, such as Daniel 12:2 (“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”). Jesus elsewhere cites Daniel as a prophet (Matt. 24:15) and quotes from his book (Matt. 24:30; 26:64). This indicates that Jesus treated Daniel as Scripture, and He probably avoided using it with the Sadducees because they didn’t accept it.

Some have tried to shed light on which books Jesus accepted by appealing to the languages he spoke. From various Aramaic words and phrases in the Gospels (see Mark 3:17; 5:41; 15:34), it’s clear Jesus’ daily language was Aramaic. When he quoted Scripture, he likely did so in Aramaic, based on the targums read in the synagogues. But it’s also likely he used Hebrew, and some have argued he would have accepted a book as Scripture only if it was in Hebrew or Aramaic—excluding the deuterocanonical books.

There are several problems with this argument. One is that modern scholarship has shown most of the deuterocanonicals were actually written in Hebrew or Aramaic. These include Sirach, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, and 1 Maccabees, so language would not prevent Jesus from accepting them.

Also, Greek was an international language at the time, and it was spoken in Palestine. Modern scholars have taken seriously the idea that Jesus and his disciples may also have used Greek. In the Gospels, Jesus speaks to Gentiles on various occasions (e.g., Matt. 8:38-34; Mark 7:26), including the Roman governor (Matt. 27:11), who would not have known Aramaic; and a group of Greeks asked Philip to arrange an audience with Jesus for them (John 12:20-22).

We also have evidence that Jesus read and valued some of the deuterocanonicals. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus made a single petition contingent on our own actions rather than simply being a request made to God. He taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12), following it up by saying, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

Scholars have noted that this expresses the same teaching found in Sirach 28:1-5, but not present elsewhere in the Old Testament. Thus, Sirach states, “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (Sir. 28:2).”

Love,
Matthew

Revelation 22:18-19

“Catholic Bibles are bigger than Protestant ones. The Catechism teaches that the canon of Scripture includes “forty-six books for the Old Testament (forty-five if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and twenty-seven for the New” (120). Although Protestants agree with Catholics on the books that make up the New Testament, there are seven books in the Catholic Old Testament canon that they reject: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. They also reject portions of the books of Daniel and Esther. Catholics refer to these seven books as the deuterocanonical (second-canon) books and Protestants call them the Apocrypha.

You may run across a Protestant who rejects the deuterocanonical books because he thinks the Catholic Church added these books, in violation of John’s prohibition to add to the Bible:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Rev. 22:18-19).

John says not to add to Scripture, yet the Catholic Church literally added seven whole books and more!

Reply:

1. If we granted for argument’s sake that John here is referring to the entire canon of Scripture, then Protestants would be guilty for removing the deuterocanonicals.

If we suppose that John is talking about the biblical canon (the list of all the books that make up the Bible) in Revelation 22:18-19, then the challenge becomes a two-edged sword. A Protestant may argue that the Catholic Church added books to the Bible, but a Catholic can just as easily argue that the Protestant community took some books away.

The seven books found in the Catholic Old Testament that are not found in the Protestant Old Testament were widely held as Scripture all throughout Christian history, and it was not until the Protestant Reformation that their canonicity was called into question and rejected on a major scale.

Prior to the Reformation, some individuals did question the canonicity of these books, but for the most part Christians as a whole accepted them. Numerous fourth and fifth-century Church councils authoritatively declared them to be inspired: the Synod of Rome (A.D. 382), Council of Hippo (393), Third Council of Carthage (397), and Sixth Council of Carthage (419). Protestant scholar J.N.D. Kelly affirms the major consensus on these books in the early Church: “For the great majority, however, the deuterocanonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense.”

Such historical evidence makes this challenge difficult for a Protestant. If Revelation 22:18-19 refers to the canon, then the prohibition of “taking away” from it is just as strong as the prohibition of adding to it. So how can Protestants reject seven books from the Bible when Revelation 22:18-19 forbids it?
2. This passage is not even discussing the canon of Scripture but merely the book of Revelation.

These verses, however, don’t even refer to the entire Bible. The Greek word use here for book, biblion, can mean “small book” or “scroll.” In the ancient world, it was impossible to fit the entire Bible on a single scroll. The books of the Bible were originally individual compositions, such as an individual scroll, and the biblical canon as we know it was a collection of individual scrolls, a library of books. That’s why they’re called the “books” (plural) of the Bible. These books would not be put into a single volume until centuries later.

Therefore, it makes most sense to read the phrase “book of this prophecy” as referring to the scroll in which John is recording his prophecy, namely, the book of Revelation. As such, John’s instruction not to add or remove anything refers to the book he was writing—Revelation—and not the future canon of Scripture (which wouldn’t be authoritatively settled for centuries after).

A similar instruction is given is Deuteronomy 4:2, where Moses says, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Moses wasn’t referring to the whole Old Testament canon; otherwise we would have to side with the Sadducees and reject every Old Testament book outside the Pentateuch. He was merely prohibiting adding or taking away from the “statutes and the ordinances” that constitute the Mosaic Law.

Since we now know that John was not giving instructions concerning the biblical canon, but instructions governing the book of Revelation (don’t add to the prophetic text of Revelation and don’t take away from it), it becomes clear that Revelation 22:18-19 doesn’t undermine the Catholic canon, regardless of whether the Catholic Church added books to the biblical canon or Protestants subtracted from it. Of course, we must not add to or subtract from the canon of Scripture. But that is not what John is talking about in this passage.

Reply: How could John be referring to the entire biblical canon in Revelation 22:18-19 when the canon wouldn’t be settled for another several hundred years?

Consider: Your Protestant friend might argue that because the New Testament doesn’t quote any of the deuterocanonical books we have good reason to exclude them from the canon of Scripture. This is common among some Protestants. But this logic would demand that we also exclude from the canon Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, Nahum, Joshua, Obadiah, and Zephaniah, since the New Testament doesn’t quote any of these. I don’t think your Protestant friend wants to make his biblical canon any smaller!”

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book – Hebrew Scriptures

“Scholars frequently discuss a concept known as the canon of Scripture.

This is based on the Greek word kanôn, which means a rule or measuring rod. It came to mean an authoritative standard, and so the canon of Scripture is the collection of writings that are divinely authoritative.

The Pentateuch was the first authoritative collection of books. These books tell how the people of Israel came to be, as well as God’s law for Israel, so they became the core books of Scripture for his people, and thus the first part of the biblical canon.

The importance of these books is indicated by their name in Hebrew. They are called the Torah—a word meaning “instruction.” They contain the fundamental instructions God gave Israel. Later, when the Old Testament was translated into Greek, they became known as the Law (Greek, nomos) which is why they’re referred to as the Law of Moses.

They became an authoritative collection early. This is shown by the fact that the Samaritans have their own Pentateuch.

The Samaritans are descended from the ten northern tribes of Israel. They seceded and formed their own nation around 930 B.C., resulting in the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. They were conquered by the Assyrians around 723 B.C., and many were deported, but there is still a community of Samaritans in Israel. They worship Yahweh, the God of Israel, though they do so on Mt. Gerizim, in their own territory, rather than in Jerusalem.

They have a version of the Torah—known as the Samaritan Pentateuch—that includes the same books as the Jewish one and differs only in minor details. This indicates that it has an early date and was considered authoritative—canonical—from early times. It’s also significant because the Samaritans accept as canonical only the five books of Moses. They don’t accept the other books of the Old Testament, which suggests that the Pentateuch was the first group to be canonized, and the canon gradually expanded after this time.

New Books of Scripture Composed

The ten centuries leading up to the time of Christ were an active period. It was when the Old Testament took shape.

The Pentateuch ends with the death of Moses, and the story of what happened next is continued in a series of historical books. The first—Joshua—tells of the conquest of the promised land. The book of Judges then records how God repeatedly delivered his people from oppression through a series of divinely chosen military leaders. Ruth focuses on the life of a woman who was an ancestor of Israel’s most famous king, David.

Israel’s history continues in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Each of these was originally a single book, but they are divided in two in modern Bibles.

The books of Samuel tell the story of the last of Israel’s judges, how the monarchy was established under King Saul, and how it was passed to King David.

The books of Kings cover the final stage of David’s life and how Solomon succeeded him. Following Solomon’s time, the nation split in two, with the ten northern tribes seceding and forming the kingdom of Israel, leaving the southern tribes as the kingdom of Judah. The story of these two kingdoms is then related, until Israel is conquered and deported by the Assyrian empire around 723 B.C. and Judah is conquered and deported by the Babylonian empire around 587 B.C., beginning the Babylonian Exile.

The books of Chronicles cover the same period as the books of Samuel and Kings, but they focus on the southern kingdom and provide a supplemental theological perspective on the events.

Ezra and Nehemiah—which were originally one book—cover events after the Babylonian Exile and deal with the people’s return to the land of Judah and the rebuilding of the temple.

Esther also deals with the Babylonian Exile, and it is often grouped with the historical books. However, according to Pope St. John Paul II, this book has “the character of allegorical and moral narrative rather than history properly so called” (General Audience, May 8, 1985).

God also began to inspire what are known as wisdom books. They are devoted to philosophical reflection and the worship of God. The book of Job is a meditation on human suffering, while Ecclesiastes is devoted to the quest for meaning in life. The Song of Solomon celebrates the love of man and woman, and Proverbs offers practical advice for daily living. By far the longest wisdom book is Psalms, which is a collection of hymns.

The final type of book God inspired in the Old Testament period is prophetic. Several of these books are significantly longer than the others, so they are known as the major prophets. They consist of Isaiah, Jeremiah (together with the short book of Lamentations), Ezekiel, and Daniel. These prophets all related to the Babylonian Exile in one way or another.

By contrast, the minor prophets are generally shorter. There are twelve such books, and they were originally collected in a single volume called the Twelve. However, in Christian Bibles they are listed separately. The minor prophets lived between the 800s and 400s B.C., meaning they covered the period both before and after the Babylonian Exile.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 7 – Fourth Commandment: Honor thy Mother & thy Father


Sts Monica & Augustine, by Ary Scheffer, (1846), please click on the image for greater detail.

Today happens to be my late parents’ historical anniversary, and my late mother’s historical birthday.  It has always been a special day in my family.  Little did I know the Dominicans are required by their constitutions to remember deceased parents on this day.  Praise Him!!!!


-by Br Irenaeus Dunleavy, OP

““I told them I was pulling the fourth.”

A wise father once shared with me that the fourth commandment—honor thy father and mother—is a trump card he holds up his sleeve. He pulls it out when his children need to hear it. A stubborn teenager or a young adult know that Dad means business when the precept sounds. Sometimes the pater familias has to lay down the law for the good of the family.

Today, the Order of Preachers pulls the fourth on us friars. The Constitutions state:

Mass of the Dead shall be celebrated in each convent on 7 February for the anniversary of fathers and mothers (LCO 70.II).

St. Thomas teaches us that we can never repay our parents for everything they’ve done for us. They’ve given us life, nourishment, and instruction. In many ways, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. Existence, health, and (for many of us) the faith … our parents generously bestow all of these to us.

Honoring our father and mother is an act of justice, but it is also an act of charity. More than just repaying a debt, fulfilling this commandment fosters gratitude for something we could never earn. The love that our parents have given us comes first, and we are called to respond. The parallel to the love of God is evident, and this is why the fourth commandment straddles between the commandments concerning love of neighbor and love of God.

For those who have suffered the loss of a parent, a temptation can sink in that the time for the fourth no longer applies. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and there’s a more profound reason than mere obligation.

Saint Augustine says that we are bound to love all, but cannot do good to all. Our limitations require us to perform acts of mercy in a selective way, and this begins with mom and dad. The filial bond we share with our parents orders our love, and death does not change that bond. Our love, thanks be to Jesus Christ, can pierce through the dark cloud of death.

There is no better example of this than the mother of St. Augustine, St. Monica. On her death-bed, she too pulled the forth on her son:

“Bury my body wherever you will, do not be concerned about that. One thing only I ask you [Augustine], that you remember me at the altar of the Lord.” (Confessions, 9.11.27).

Love, praise for holy parents, especially my own,
Matthew