Monday, March 31, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
This is a very detailed study--we're going through about a chapter or a half of a chapter a session. Each night participants get a packet of handouts that contains outlines, summaries, and a ton of footnotes with bibliographic information for further study. We're looking at all kinds of elements and issues attached with the Gospel--historical, apologetic, theological, pastoral, etc. The effort is made to appeal to both a popular and more academically inclined audiences. We're going through everything from Catholic magisterial teaching to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the early fathers, contemporary scholarship, Pope Benedict's new book on Jesus, etc.
After we are through with Luke we will take up Acts of the Apostles.
Some of the issues we are discussing include:
--Whether the Gospel of Luke is historically reliable
--Why Jesus called himself "the Son of Man
--How the Dead Sea Scrolls relate to our understanding of Jesus and the Judaism of his day
--Why Mary is likely a source for Luke's knowledge of Jesus
--Why there are differences in the Gospel accounts of episodes and teachings of Jesus
--How Luke's Gospel is related to Paul's Epistles
--How Old Testament hopes are fulfilled in Jesus and his ministry
--Why the Apostles are described by Luke as priests of the messianic age
--How Daniel's prophecy of 490 years (cf. Dan 9) is related to Jesus' ministry
--How Jesus is presented as a new Adam, Isaac, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, etc.
--What contemporary scholarship is saying about the various Gospel episodes and the historical Jesus
--How the early Church interpreted Jesus' teachings
--and much, much more...
Next week: As we move into Luke 7, we will discuss:
--Jesus' role as the new Elisha
--miracles and historical research
--Why John the Baptist, who had leaped in his mother's womb at the Visitation and had baptized Jesus, sent messengers to Jesus with the question, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (cf. Lk 7:19).
--and much more...
If you really want to do some extra preparation before each session, get a hold of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The Gospel of Luke (buy it through this link and support the St. Paul Center!).
Monday, March 24, 2008
For more information on Jesus' Descent into Hell see 1 Peter 3:18-21, Ephesians 4:8-10, the treatment in Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica IIIa, q. 52 (the third Summa citation in three posts!), the Catechism of the Catholic Church 631-637, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent, art. 5.
The idea is found in some of the earliest Christian writings:
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5, 31, 2 (c. 180 A.D.): "If, then, the Lord observed the law of the dead, that He might become the first-begotten from the dead, and tarried until the third day “in the lower parts of the earth" [Eph 4:9] then afterwards rising in the flesh, so that He even showed the print of the nails to His disciples, He thus ascended to the Father;—[if all these things occurred, I say], how must these men not be put to confusion, who allege that “the lower parts” refer to this world of ours, but that their inner man, leaving the body here, ascends into the super-celestial place? For as the Lord “went away in the midst of the shadow of death,” [Ps 23:4] where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up [into heaven], it is manifest that the souls of His disciples also, upon whose account the Lord underwent these things, shall go away into the invisible place allotted to them by God, and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event..."
Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, 60 (c. 197-220 A.D.): ... we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth [cf. Matt 12:40] that is, in the secret inner recess which is hidden in the earth, and enclosed by the earth, and superimposed on the abysmal depths which lie still lower down. Now although Christ is God, yet, being also man, “He died according to the Scriptures,” [ and “according to the same Scriptures was buried” [1 Cor 15:4]. With the same law of His being He fully complied, by remaining in Hades in the form and condition of a dead man; nor did He ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth, that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself."
It is also found in Melito of Sardis, the Odes of Solomon, Cyril of Jerusalem, and others. For a number of citations and a look at the iconography associated with the Descent into Hell, go to the Australian E-Journal of Theology 7 (2006).
I also recommend the audio set of Brant Pitre's excellent lecture series, Life After Death: The Seven Last Things.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
1. It reveals God’s justice. Because Christ humbled himself and died on the cross out of love and obedience to the Father, God lifted him up by a glorious resurrection.
2. It was necessary for the confirmation of our faith in Christ. Thomas cites Paul, who explains that the resurrection attests to the power of God (2 Cor 13:4).
3. It gives us hope for the resurrection of our bodies. This, of course, is the whole point of 1 Corinthians 15. As Paul writes, “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Cor 15:12)
4. It means death to sin and new life in Christ for us. Since we are united with Christ we have not only died with him but been raised with him to newness of life. Thomas cites Romans 6:4, 11: “We were buried therefore 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… 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
5. It completes the work of salvation. This is an especially important point that is far too often overlooked. Christ’s death is not the only aspect of his work for our salvation. Again, Thomas cites Paul, who explains that Christ was “put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25). Most people forget about this verse and simply profess that Jesus died for our salvation--but that's only part of it!
Thomas pays very close attention to Paul’s language. Salvation involves two elements: (1) the payment of the debt due to sin, which is accomplished on the cross (e.g., he was “put to death for our trespasses”) and (2) he is raised for our sakes as well (e.g., "for our justification"). Ultimately, Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t for his sake but for ours. The goal of salvation was not simply to save us from sin, but to unite our humanity to God. Peter explains that we are called to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). Christ’s resurrection then is the cause of our sharing in the new life of grace―the unity of our humanity with divinity. Salvation isn’t just a matter of being delivered from the punishment due to sin, namely, hell―it also means being delivered to life in God (cf. also ST IIIa q. 56, art. 2; cf. also IIIa q. 57, art. 6.; also see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 654).
Hallelujah―He is Risen!
Friday, March 21, 2008
In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas gives the following five reasons for why the Crucifixion of Jess was the most suitable way for our redemption (III. Q.46, Art. 3). They are worth pondering during this Holy Week:
In the first place, man knows thereby how much God loves him, and is thereby stirred to love Him in return, and herein lies the perfection of human salvation; hence the Apostle says (Romans 5:8): "God commendeth His charity towards us; for when as yet we were sinners . . . Christ died for us."
Secondly, because thereby He set us an example of obedience, humility, constancy, justice, and the other virtues displayed in the Passion, which are requisite for man's salvation. Hence it is written (1 Peter 2:21): "Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps."
Thirdly, because Christ by His Passion not only delivered man from sin, but also merited justifying grace for him and the glory of bliss, as shall be shown later (48, 1; 49, 1, 5).
Fourthly, because by this man is all the more bound to refrain from sin, according to 1 Corinthians 6:20: "You are bought with a great price: glorify and bear God in your body."
Fifthly, because it redounded to man's greater dignity, that as man was overcome and deceived by the devil, so also it should be a man that should overthrow the devil; and as man deserved death, so a man by dying should vanquish death. Hence it is written (1 Corinthians 15:57): "Thanks be to God who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." It was accordingly more fitting that we should be delivered by Christ's Passion than simply by God's good-will.
As St. Augustine says (De Trin. xiii): "There was no other more suitable way of healing our misery" than by the Passion of Christ.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Consider the striking image of the prodigal son on the cover of Lord, Have Mercy (2003):
Or take a gander at Letter and Spirit (2005):
Apparently, Dr. Hahn is taking a different route with his next book, Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God (2008):
My order is in!
Monday, March 17, 2008
The "purification of the temple", however, is more than a "fight against abuses": it signifies "a new chapter of history", in which Jesus offers Himself as the New Temple, the new place in which God is encountered.
"The purification of the temple", the pope explains, "as the culmination of the solemn entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, is the sign both of the impending ruin of the building and of the promise of the New Temple; the promise of the Kingdom of reconciliation and love that, in communion with Christ, is established beyond all boundaries".
"Immediately after Jesus' words about the house of prayer for all peoples, the evangelist [Matthew] continues in this way: 'The blind and the lame approached him in the temple area, and he cured them'. And furthermore, Matthew tells us that there were children repeating in the temple the acclamation that the pilgrims had made at His entrance into the city: 'Hosanna to the son of David' (Mt 21:14 ff). To the selling of animals and the business of the moneychangers Jesus opposes his own healing goodness. This is the true purification of the temple. He does not come as a destroyer, He does not come with the sword of the revolutionary. He comes with the gift of healing. He dedicates himself to those who because of their infirmity are driven to the extremes of their life and to the margin of society. Jesus shows God as He who loves, and His power as the power of love. And so He tells us what will always be part of the true worship of God: healing, service, the goodness that heals ".
Thursday, March 13, 2008
2. Vows of sexual abstinence taken by a married woman.
3. Vows of sexual abstinence taken by a widow or divorced woman.
However implausible it may sound to a sex-saturated Western culture that a man would ever do such a thing, the fact of the matter is that the Old Testament appears to assume it as a real possibility. Indeed, the fact that an entire chapter of the Bible is devoted to it appears to suggest that vows of sexual abstinence on the part of women must have been a visible enough part of the culture that a law was necessary to deal with the situation! (This should come as no surprise to students of antiquity; consecrated virgins were part of the religious landscape of the ancient world). Should there be any doubt about this, I would suggest in passing that the reader call to mind the controversy that faced Pauline churches about young widows renegging on their vows of sexual abstinence (1 Timothy 4) and the otherwise difficult and confusing passage in 1 Corinthians about what a man should do about marrying his "virgin" (1 Cor 7:36-38). If both these texts apply to the situation envisaged in Numbers 30, then Mary's situation is anything but unique in culture.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
At one point or another all students of the Bible are told something along those lines.
However, as one continues to study one soon discovers that "true scholarship" also means something else. In many circles "true" scholarship means taking a metaphysical position. Now you might expect, given that students are studying the Bible, that this position would invovle something like the following: the natural world is not a closed system; the supernatural can sometimes break in and effect the natural order of things.
Such a position would be consistent with the beliefs of those who actually wrote the Bible. It would also be consistent with the worldview and culture in which the biblical texts were produced.
Unfortunately, such a position is not generally seen as acceptable for scholars.
Instead, students soon learn that "true" scholarship means accepting a very different metaphysical position. That position is as follows: the world is a closed system and there is no supernatural intervention within the natural order.
Make no mistake about it--that is a metaphysical claim as well. It makes a claim not only about the natural world but also about its relationship to the supernatural. Yet somehow this metaphysical claim is not only tolerable among academics, it is often seen as a prerequisite position for scholarly work.
Which leads us to the following actual news story relating the findings of one Israeli researcher:
No kidding, this has actually passed for "news" story. (Someone call Baruch Spinoza and tell him someone is stealing his press!) Here is the source.
Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.
"As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don't believe, or a legend, which I don't believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics," Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.
Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the "burning bush," suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.
"The Bible says people see sounds, and that is a clasic phenomenon," he said citing the example of religious ceremonies in the Amazon in which drugs are used that induce people to "see music."
He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil's Amazon forest in 1991. "I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations," Shanon said.
He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by
concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible.
Now, let's see here... just who is it that is allowing presuppositions to determine their conclusions about what happened to Moses? Ah, yes, that would be me, of course, since I believed the account of Moses talking to God was actually about Moses talking to God! I guess I totally read that into the text. Whew, I really missed the boat on that one! Drugs--it's so obvious. I see it now: Moses was a hippie. My mistake.
By the way, I'm preparing a press release of my own. Newsflash...: "Professor Says Ancient Account of Moses Talking to God Relates That Moses Talked To God".
Look for the following related story: "New Claim: Researchers Who Use Experimental Substances Misread Ancient Texts Due To Poor Reading Light From Lava Lamps".
(On the right there's a visualization of what me presenting this post orally would have looked like. You should also note that David Currie is not impressed.)
Sunday, March 02, 2008
As a professor at JP Catholic--a school where a large number of the students are studying media and the role faith has to play fo those working in that area--I also feel compelled to tell you that Fr. Barron is also a bit of a film critic. Here is his review of The Departed (2006)--not a movie I'd necessarily recommend, though the review is quite interesting. Also here is his review of Fargo (1996).
Go ahead and check Fr. Barron out!
For more about Fr. Barron check out Carl Olson's interview with him.