Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is Peter the Rock? (Part 3: "You are Petrina"?)

Read Part 1, Part 2

As I explained in the last post in this series, Gundry has made the case that Jesus’ use of petros / petra was intended to highlight the fact that Peter was not the foundation but that the church would be built upon Jesus’ own words.

While this reading may at first seem possible, a number of observations, in my opinion, render such an approach highly implausible. In sum, I would suggest that while Gundry’s reading is possible, it is exceedingly unlikely. Indeed, I think a growing number of commentators would agree--even Protestant ones.

First, we must first acknowledge that it would be odd for Jesus to state that he was building upon a πέτρος (petros), since one would usually associate a building-project with the more sturdy foundation of a πέτρα (petra), as Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24 indicate.

Going on from this we can point out that, as reader Cale Clark wrote correctly in the comment-box of the previous post, there is a perfectly natural explanation for the πέτρος (petros) / πέτρα (petra) construction: πέτρα (petra) is a feminine word. Jesus could hardly have used a feminine noun as the name of Simon Peter—“You are Petrina”? I think not!

So, grammatically, we have a problem. On the one hand, one cannot use πέτρος (petros) to describe a suitable foundation for a building project—for that, again as Matthew 7:24 indicates, one must speak of πέτρα (petra). Yet, on the other hand, Jesus can hardly name Peter, πέτρα (petra)—because the word is feminine! Jesus can’t give Peter a feminine name!

In fact, if Jesus wanted to apply the terminology of the πέτρα (petra), i.e., that which the Church is built upon, to Peter, we would expect to find very kind of shift in language we have in Matthew 16:18. France puts it well:
“The reason for the different Greek form is simply that Peter, as a man, needs a masculine name, and so the form Petros has been coined. But the flow of the sentence makes it clear that the wordplay is intended to identify Peter as the rock.”[1]

But perhaps all of this is moot. Perhaps Jesus didn’t intend to link Peter to the “rock” the Church is built upon. Well, we’ll tackle that one in the next offering.

(Continue reading: Part 4)


[1] France, Gospel of Matthew, 621.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Is Peter the Rock? (Part 2: Gundry's Take)

Read Part 1.

In his detailed commentary on Matthew, Robert Gundry makes the argument that Jesus was purposeful in using different words in his declaration to Peter—“you are petros, and on this petra I will build my church” (Matt 16:18).

Gundry is representative of many Protestant commentators. His view: the rock the Church is built upon is decidedly not Peter, but something else. In Gundry's view, the petra, the "rock", is the very words of Jesus. This, he argues, flows from a more careful reading of Matthew’s Gospel. For earlier, in Matthew 7:24–25, Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount:
“Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock [Greek: petra]; 25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock [Greek: petra]” (Matt 7:24–25).

Here's Gundry in his own words. I'll offer my own thoughts soon, but I do think he offers an opinion worthy of consideration:
. . . we can see that Πέτρος [petros] is not the πέτρα [petra] on which Jesus will build his church. For Matthew, Peter represents all disciples, including those who are weak and even those who apostatize, and thus the superstructure of the church, not its foundation . . . In accord with 7:24, which Matthew quotes here, the πέτρα [petra], consists of Jesus’ teaching, i.e., the law of Christ. “This rock” no longer poses the problem that ‘this’ ill suits an address to Peter in which he is the rock. For that meaning the text would have read more naturally “on you”. Instead, the demonstrative echoes 7:24; i.e., “this rock” echoes “these my words.” Only Matthew put the demonstrative with Jesus’ words, which the rock stood for in the following parable (7:24–27). His reusing it in 16:18 points away from Peter to those same words as the foundation of the church. Consequently, we are free from the necessity of appealing to Aramaic in order to explain away the usual distinction between Πέτρος [petros], “detached stone” (hardly a firm foundation), and πέτρα [petra],“bedrock.” The two words retain their peculiar Greek connotations, for Matthew’s Jesus will build only on the firm bedrock of his law (cf. 5:19–20; 28:19), not on the loose stone Peter. Also, we no longer need to explain away the association of the church’s foundation with Christ rather than with Peter in Matthew 21:42 (cf. Mark 12:1; Luke 20:17; 1 Cor 3:10–17; 1 Pet 2:6–7; Eph 2:20).[1]
(Continue reading: Part 3)

[1] Robert Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church under Persecution (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982/1994), 334.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is Peter the Rock? (Part 1)

Heads-up. Let’s get ready to rumble! 

Over the next coming days I’m going to spend some time here looking at one of the most debated passages in all of the Gospels. I’d love to get feedback. So please, make use of the comment box. So, here we go. . .
In Matthew 16:13–20 we read the famous confession of faith by Peter at Caesarea Philippi. In response to his statement affirming him as the “Son of the Living God,” Jesus tells Peter: “I tell you, you are Peter [Greek: petros] and on this rock [Greek: petra]. I will build my church . . .” (Matt 16:18).
About this text, Davies and Allison write that is “among the most controversial [verses] in all of Scripture.”[1] Specifically, the question revolves around the identification of Peter as the “rock” upon which Jesus builds the church. Because two different terms are used Πέτρος [petros], referring to a small stone, and πέτρα [petra], which carries the connotation of a larger rock, some have suggested that something other than Peter himself is to be seen as that which the church is built upon (e.g., Peter’s confession of faith).
This however, as a number of commentators have noted, would seem to ignore some important grammatical issues involved. I’ll be covering them here in the next few days. So again, stay tuned! And tell all your friends!



[1] Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:623.

Happy Birthday, Jim West!

Yes, that's right! Today my friend, biblioblogger extraordinaire, Jim West celebrates his birthday.

Here's to you Jim. Hope you have a great day!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Good Times. . .

I love being a husband and a father. My wife and I love our boys, Michael (2 years) and Matthew (9 months). Here are a few pictures my wife took recently.

Matthias Scheeben on the Mysteries of Christianity (Part 5)

"The fascination of mystery is so strong that almost all religious and social organizations that exercise or have exercised an inspiring and lasting influence on mankind have wrapped themselves up in the obscurity of mystery, and have even gloried in the mysteries which they were aware of, although they disdained Christianity because of its mysteries. Their mysteries, products of human invention, are of course mere caricatures of the divine mysteries. Either they are plain mystifications with which to dupe the uninitiate, or they are in part genuine, in part spurious truths which lose the noble character of mystery by the very fact that they are proposed to the initiate as evident.

The Christian, on the other hand, is really initiated into the mysteries of God. He rightly regards this initiation as an illumination replete with wonder and grace; but for this very reason he is filled with the deepest reverence for the sublimity of his mysteries. He acknowledges the grace of God with holy gratitude, but without despising the uninitiated. He earnestly desires that they too may participate in this same tremendous grace; and if in former ages Christians kept their mysteries hidden from unbelievers, it was only because of their solicitude that what was sacred should not be profaned and defiled in the eyes and hands of the unclean.

But when the Christian humbly receives the revelation of God’s mysteries as a great grace, he is entitled to a holy pride. With holy pride he can and ought to glory in the exalted mysteries that he possesses by the grace of God; he can and should regard himself as the object of an extraordinary illumination, as an initiate inot the great mysteries, which are hidden from the mighty and wise of this world. Today especially, when a superficial enlightenment with its deceptive glimmer is intent on supplanting the mysteries of our faith, the Christian must be conscious of his sublime illumination and proud of the dawn of a higher, fairer, supernatural world that has risen over him in the faith. How can we call forth and strengthen this lofty consciousness, this holy pride? Not by denying the darkness which still shrouds the mysteries from the eyes of the initiate, but by pointing out that even the feeble ray gleaming forth from the darkness is strong enough at least to herald the incredible magnificence of the mysteries. Such demonstration is what we have desired to furnish in the present work, and thus we hope to make a contribution to the advancement of Christian knowledge and Christian life.”

--The Mysteries of Christianity, 5.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Harvard's Valedictorian to Become Dominican Nun

Here's a great story. . .
Don’t tell Mary Anne Marks the Catholic Church is an oppressive, misogynistic disaster. She knows better. And she’s got a Harvard degree, too.

Miss Marks, a native of Queens, N.Y., graduated from Harvard University this past semester with an undergraduate degree in classics and English, delivering her commencement address in Latin. This fall, she begins a new life, discerning her future consecrated to Christ as a Catholic religious sister with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
. . .

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You are a Harvard graduate. Aren’t you surrendering all the possibilities that entails by entering a convent?

MARY ANNE MARKS: Yes, if one doesn’t see becoming a well-educated, intellectually alive nun as one of the possibilities. . . .

LOPEZ: I don’t know about you, but I read the New York Times. A number of the op-ed columnists there, and a number of the news stories, tell me that the Catholic Church is anti-woman. And from other stories, about the various scandals, the Catholic Church also sounds like a dying, loser organization of sinners. Why would you choose to represent it in such a public, hard-to-miss way — in a religious habit?

MARKS: I feel privileged to represent the Catholic Church in a visible way, because it is an organization of sinners and sinners-turned-saints, emphatically alive, expanding, and responsive to the needs of the time, an organization that has been enormously effective in promoting the spiritual and material well-being of women and men throughout the 2,000 years of its existence.

From its earliest years, the Church’s doctrine of the equality of all humans as beloved children of God and its reverence for Mary as the spouse and mother of God elevated women to a status previously unheard of. In our own times, the Church’s unequivocal opposition to practices such as abortion and contraception, which harm women physically and psychologically, and threaten to render them victims of their own and others’ unchecked desires, makes the Church a lone voice above the chaos, promoting women’s dignity and happiness.

The cry that the Church is a “dying, loser organization of sinners” echoes down the centuries; it rang out in Christ’s day, it rang out in Luther’s day, and it rings out in ours. The second part always has and always will be too true. Kyrie eleison. The erroneousness of the first part is suggested by the Church’s record of accomplishments and its longevity to this point, and by the new growth that people of my generation rejoice to see.

. . .

LOPEZ: I don’t know Harvard to be a great incubator or beacon of religious vocations. Am I wrong?

MARKS: Yes, Deo gratias! A couple of years ago, a young man who finished Harvard in three years entered the seminary in St. Louis. A little further back, a young woman who attended Harvard and lived in the same women's residence that I did joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. One of my friends, whom I met while she was pursuing a degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, joined the Religious Sisters of Mercy two years ago. This July 25, two young men from Harvard joined the Eastern Province of the Dominicans.

Read the whole interview here. Here's a video of her delivering her now famous commencement speech in Latin:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Moses as a Priestly Figure

Earlier this week I posted on the way the Tabernacle seems to be reflected in the Sinai experience. Specifically, Sinai appears to have a tripartite structure. The top of the mountain would seem analogous then to the holy of holies.

Given this, we might go on to point out that if Sinai is a Tabernacle, Moses is depicted as a quasi-high priestly figure--Moses alone ascends to the top, i.e., the holy of holies.

In fact, Exodus seems to suggest Moses' sacerdotal identity in other ways. Notably, Moses is portrayed as performing priestly actions, such as:
1. interceding for Israel before the Lord (cf. Exod 19:9; 34:27)
2. making atonement for Israel (cf. e.g., Exod 32:11–14; Jer 15:1; 4Q504 [4QWords of the Luminariesa])
3. carrying out cultic actions (cf. Exod 24:3–8)
4. officiating the ordination ritual of the Levites (cf. Lev 8)
serving in the tabernacle (cf. Exod 33:7–11).
Of course, Moses’ Levitical lineage further links him with the priesthood (cf. Exod 2:1).

It is probably not surprising then that in a lengthy section Philo explicitly identifies Moses as a priestly figure (cf. Mos. 2:66–186). He begins:
We have already, then, gone through two parts of the life of Moses, discussing his character in his capacity of a king and of a lawgiver. We must now consider him in a third light, as fulfilling the office of the priesthood.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sinai as a Temple: The Tripartite Description of the Mountain

Scholars generally recognize that Israel's tabernacle was meant to in some way extend the Sinai experience. Along these lines it is interesting to note that the graded holiness of the tabernacle reflects the Sinai experience. At Sinai most of the Israelites remained at the foot of the mountain (Exod 19:12, 23), while the leaders were permitted to ascend upwards (Exod 19:22) and Moses alone allowed access into the cloud at the top (Exod 24:2).

Mary Douglas, (Leviticus as Literature, 59–64) made this observation long ago:
“Both Sinai and the Tabernacle evidence a tripartite division. The summit corresponds to the inner sanctum, or Holy of Holies. The second zone, partway up the mountain, is the equivalent of the Tabernacle’s outer sanctum, or Holy Place. The third zone, at the foot of the mountain, is analogous to the outer court. As with the Tabernacle, the three distinct zones of Sinai feature three gradations of holiness in descending order. Just as Moses alone may ascend to the peak of the mountain, so all but one are barred from the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle” (59).
Likewise, Larsson writes,
“Just as here at Sinai, there came to be an area to which all of Israel had access, another reserved for the priests, and finally an inner ‘holy of holies’ into which only the high priest could enter. . . The model for this division is found already here, and the tabernacle becomes an important way of carrying the Sinai experience forward during the subsequent wanderings. . .” (Bound for Freedom, 134).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Klawans on Bias Against Cultic Sacrifice

As I'm preparing for my graduate level Pentateuch class tomorrow evening--we are in Leviticus--I've been re-reading Jonathan Klawans, Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple: Symbolism and Supersessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Klawans does a great job explaining how prejudices against cult and sacrifice continues to permeate much scholarship.

For example, Klawans explains that this bias is especially on display in commentaries which deal with cultic texts in Scripture. Rather than offering serious discussions about the meaning or theology of the rites, scholars instead substitute treatments of the primitive anthropological origins of the various rituals associated with Israel’s cult, thus implying such elements are mere vestiges of a forgotten, irrelevant past.

He writes:

“While biblical scholars frequently approach purity rites as a symbolic system, what we generally find in analyses of sacrifice in ancient Israel is, rather, a concern with origins. And this concern takes two forms. One is the standard discussion―found in numerous commentaries―of the basic theories . . . that sacrifice originated as offerings of food for the gods, as gifts to the gods, or as communion with the gods. The other is René Girard’s search for the original murder that accounts for all subsequent sacrificial rituals. Again, Milgrom’s commentary is a case in point. Although he endorses no single theory on the origins of sacrifice, his treatment of the ritual concedes that the interesting issue is not what sacrifice actually means for the ancient Israelites, but rather how sacrifice came about in the first place. . . . When dealing with the food laws or the purity systems, biblical scholars have long avoided getting sidetracked by explorations into the origins of dietary restrictions or the menstrual taboo. When dealing with circumcision in the Hebrew Bible, very few have felt the need to explore the early history of human body marking. But when it comes to sacrifice, the interest shifts to questions of origins. Biblical scholars seem to get along just fine without ‘theories’ concerning most of the rites of the Hebrew Bible, but when it comes to sacrifice, everyone wants a ‘theory’” (Klawans, Purity, Sacrifice and the Temple, 6).

Indeed, Klawans appears correct: scholars typically shy away from finding anything meaningful in cultic sacrifice itself. This is a serious problem. Certainly, I would affirm what the New Testament has to say, namely, that there was typological significance to the sacrifices of the Old Testament. However, I think more work must be done at the literal-historical level.

"Practically anyone could understand the cult symbolically, with the exception of the priests and pilgrims who willingly and happily performed cultic rituals" (Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple, 3). Such a view, I concur, is problematic.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Matthias Scheeben on the Mysteries of Christianity (Part 4)

"Fundamentally, of course, it is not exactly the obscurity engulfing an object that makes the mystery so highly prized and attractive for us. Our souls, born of Light and destined for Light, flee darkness and long for light; darkness as such has no enticement for them. Why does the dawn exercise so enchanting an influence over us, why does it charm us more than the full light of day? Not because the light is mixed with darkness, but rather because it disperses the darkness that surrounded us, and brings in its train the light we have yearned for so long and so earnestly, and because our anxious hearts are cheered by the ever growing glories of the sun.

"What captivates us is the emergence of a light that had been hidden from us. Mysteries must in themselves be lucid, glorious truths. The darkness can be only on our side, so far as our eyes are turned away from the mysteries, or at any rate are not keen enough to confront them and see through them. There must be truths that baffle our scrutiny not because of their intrinsic darkness and confusion but because of their excessive brilliance, sublimity, and beauty, which not even the sturdiest human eye can encounter without going blind.

"When truths which had been entirely inaccessible to us become manifest, when God by His grace makes it possible for us, if only from afar, to cast a timid glance into their depth, a wondrous light dawns in us and the rosy morning glow of a heavenly world breaks over us; and although the darkness that surrounded us and still surrounds us strikes our consciousness only when we have such an experience, a single ray of the higher light that shines upon us is powerful enough to fill us with unutterable rapture."

--Mysteries of Christianity, 5.

Consequences of Contraception

A couple of weeks ago, a local paper out of Louisiana ran an op-ed on contraception on the anniversary of the release of "the pill". I had wished to cover it back then but I was traveling all about the country and didn't have time to post on it. Anyways, here it is, "better late then never" I suppose. Come to think of it, that actually sounds like a slogan for a birth control company, doesn't it?
. . . Women have been told for this entire time that they would now be in charge of their fertility.

Many have taken the bait, finding that emotional, physical and spiritual scars follow the use of artificial hormonal chemicals for control of fertility. . .

. . . The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 65 million Americans have an incurable sexually transmitted disease, with 13 million new cases developing each year.

In 2005, the World Health Organization classified oral contraceptives as Type I carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).

The following year, “Mayo Clinic Proceedings” published an analysis in which at least 21 studies showed links between oral contraceptives and breast cancer.

Many women never realize that the birth-control pill does not always prevent ovulation.

A statistically significant number of times the pill prevents implantation of fertilized embryos, causing early abortions when women aren’t even aware they are pregnant.

According to the package inserts contained in the pill packages, missing the pill for one day or taking it at a different time can allow women to ovulate, conceive and abort without ever knowing it.

The pill also has serious detrimental effects on the environment. Contrary to popular thought, the pill is not natural. Whereas the hormones women and men normally produce are rapidly processed by nature, the artificial steroidal sex hormones contained in the pill remain in the environment almost indefinitely.

Scientists have determined that the high levels of artificial estrogen and progestin in bodies of water downstream from city sewer plants are causing alterations in the sex characteristics of numerous animals and plants.

While many in the media, as well as trusted sectors of government, science and medicine, are celebrating this 50-year milestone and continue to promote the pill as safe, informed people should be aware of the long-term personal, societal and environmental consequences of using artificial hormones to control our fertility.
The story mentions the fact that scientists have now linked unhealthy levels of estrogen in drinking water with the use of contraceptives. Indeed, this is an old story. . . Strangely (or maybe not!), I don't find too many people concerned about the fact that we aren't doing anything to stem the tide of this ecological nightmare.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Matthias Scheeben on the Mysteries of Christianity (Part 3)

"I would go even further: the truths of Christianity would not stir us as they do, nor would they draw us or hearten us, and they would not be embraced by us with such love and joy, if they contained no mysteries. What makes many a man recoil from the Christian mysteries as from sinister specters is neither the voice of nature nor the inner impulse of the heart nor the yearning for light and truth, but the arrogance of a wanton and overweening pride. When the heart thirsts after truth, when the knowledge of the truth is its purest delight and highest joy, the sublime, the exalted, the extraordinary, the incomprehensible all exercise an especial attraction. A truth that is easily discovered and quickly grasped can neither enchant nor hold. To enchant and hold us it must surprise us by its novelty, it must overpower us with its magnificence; its wealth and profundity must exhibit ever new splendors, ever deeper abysses to the exploring eye. We find but slight stimulation and pleasure in studies whose subject matter is soon exhausted and so leaves nothing further for our wonderment. But how powerfully sciences enthrall us when every glance into them suggests new marvels to divine, and every facet of the object imprisons new and greater splendors.

"The greatest charm in knowledge is astonishment, surprise, wonderment. The less we previously knew of a thing, especially the less we dared hope to learn about it by ourselves and the more we marvel at its existence, the more fortunate we regard ourselves when at length we come to know it. The more exalted an object is, the more its beauty and greatness impress us and the more it compels our admiration, the more even the slightest glance that we dare fix on it captivates us. In a word, the charm of truth is proportionate to its abstruseness and mystery. Must not Christianity, too, be especially valuable and dear to us because of the mysteries it involves? And indeed is it not all the more precious the greater are the mysteries which it harbors within itself? Does not Christianity impress us so powerfully just because it is one vast mystery, because it is the greatest of mysteries, the mystery of God?"

--Mysteries of Christianity, 4-5.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Matthias Scheeben on the Mysteries of Christianity (Part 2)

“Far from repudiating Christianity or regarding it with suspicious eyes because of its mysteries, we ought to recognize its divine grandeur in these very mysteries. So essential to Christianity are its mysteries that in its character of truth revealed by the Son of God and the Holy Spirit it would stand convicted of intrinsic contradiction if it brought forward no mysteries. Its Author would carry with Him a poor recommendation for His divinity if he taught us only such truths as in the last analysis we could have learned from a mere man, or could have perceived and adequately grasped by our own unaided powers."

--Matthias Scheeben, Mysteries of Christianity (trans. C. Vollert; St. Louis: B. Herder Book, Co., 1946 [1865/1888]), 4

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Matthias Scheeben on the Mysteries of Christianity (Part 1)

One of my all-time favorite theologians is Matthias Joseph Scheeben (pronounced: "shay-ben"), an obscure German theologian who lived in the 19th century. I want to post up some of what he has said about the mysterious dimension of the Christian faith. Before I do that though, a little bio.


Eugene Druwé gives a short biography of Scheeben in the a preface to Scheeben's two volume work on Mariology.[1] Scheeben was born in 1835. He had already finished studying the humanities at age 17 and, upon completing his studies, entered the seminary at Cologne.[2] Because of his extraordinary talents, he was sent to Rome for his seminary studies.[3] He spent the next seven years as one of the students at the Collegium Germanicum.[4]

Scheeben was ordained a priest on December 18, 1858.[5] He went on to teach as a doctor of theology in the seminary of Cologne.[6] His first work was a German translation of the early Fathers.[7] He completed his first book, Nature and Grace, in 1861.[8] In 1863 he wrote The Splendors of Divine Grace.

However, Scheeben’s magnum opus is his treatise on the supernatural mysteries, entitled The Mysteries of Christianity. The book is truly a masterpiece. It offers a synthesis of all the Christian mysteries, highlighting the inner-coherence of the Christian faith. I will be quoting from one of my favorite sections in it in the following posts in this series, namely, his treatment on the "mysterious" dimension of Christianity.

Scheeben died in 1888. At the time of his death he had not completed the revised edition of this book. His friend Benjamin Herder published the final edition in 1941, which was “scrupulously reconstructed from his notes”.[9]

Theological Approach

As mentioned above, Scheeben wanted to show how the supernatural mysteries were inextricably connected.[10] His theological system, therefore, looks at each of the supernatural mysteries as part of a larger whole. Scheeben writes:

“The light derived from the consideration of each separate mystery spreads automatically far and wide over the inner relationship and the wonderful harmony pervading them all, and thus the individual pictures take their places in an orderly gallery, which comprises everything magnificent and sublime that theology possesses far in excess of all the other sciences, including even philosophy.”[11]

Scheeben, therefore, believed that to properly understand each individual mystery the theologian must see how it relates to the other mysteries. Much more could be said about this, but, in this short post, I'll just mention that in particular Scheeben emphasized the essentially Trinitarian nature of Christian theology.

Growing Recognition

Though Scheeben’s work was first received with much criticism[12], an interest in his work emerged years later. Indeed, major theologians have pointed to Scheeben as a shining light. For example, Hans Urs von Balthasar, stated confidently that he was “the greatest German theologian to date. . . a milestone.” [13]

Indeed, back in 1935, on the centennial anniversary of Scheeben’s birth, Pope Pius XI encouraged the students of the Germanicum to study Scheeben’s theology. In an audience with the students the Pope said, “The entire theology of Scheeben bears the stamp of a pious ascetical theology; as another great theologian, Franzelin, said: ‘I like ascetical books with much theology and dogma, and dogmatic books with much asceticism.’ This is as it should be.”[14]

As I understand it, a new book is also about to be released by Aidan Nichols exploring his work. I sincerely hope that Nichols' treatment helps to raise interest in Scheeben's very beautiful theology.


[1] Aidan Nichols, Scribe of the Kingdom: Essays on Theology and Culture. (London: Sheed and Ward, 1994), 205.

[2] Preface by Eugene Druwé in Matthias Joseph Scheeben, Mariology (2 vols.; trans. T. L. M. J. Geukers; St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1946), 1:iv-v.

[3] Druwé in Mariology, 1:iv-v.

[4] Druwé in Mariology, 1:iv-v.

[5] Druwé in Mariology, 1:v.

[6] Nichols, Scribe of the Kingdom, 207.

[7] Druwé in Scheeben, Mariology, vi.

[8] Nichols, Scribe of the Kingdom, 207.

[9] Nichols, Scribe of the Kingdom, 207.

[10] Nichols, Scribe of the Kingdom, 209: “[Scheeben] offered a total overview of the Christian mysteries, aimed at showing the organic interrelatedness of the revealed truths, their wonderful harmony both with each other and with the truths of the natural order to which they are linked, as well as their value for human living, their capacity to satisfy the needs of the human heart.”

[11] Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity (St. Louis: B. Herder Books, 1946), 21.

[12] For example, Wenzeslaus Mattes wrote in reference to The Mysteries of Christianity: “Through the whole work there reigns such an indistictness, confusion, and unintelligibility that it is almost impossible to read it through to the end. So the author will have worked practically in vain; some will read passages in the book, no one, except possibly the critics, will read it through. Even this may be doubtful” (cited in Druwé's Preface to Scheeben's, Mariology, ix).

[13] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Glory of the Lord. Vol. 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982], 104. Aidan Nichols likewise states, “Scheeben’s theology is that extraordinary thing, a lyrical Scholasticism, in which the mind in love, while abandoning nothing of its rigour in thinking, does not fear to end its activity in adoration and praise. This is our ‘reasonable worship’ (Romans 12:1): it was for this that the mind of man was made” (Nichols, Scribe of the Kingdom, 213).

[14] Scheeben, Mariology, xv.

Brant Pitre's New Book on Amazon!

This is going to be fantastic--trust me! It's slated for release on February 15, 2011. Order your copy today!

By the way, Brant has two books coming out on the Eucharist. This one is a book written for popular audiences. He is also working on a massive scholarly book on the Last Supper for Eerdmans.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Speculation on the Next Papal Consistory

Canon Lawyer Ed Peters (pictured right), who now serves under Archbishop Burke (pictured right) as a "Referendarius" at the Vatican's office of the "Apostolic Signatura" is now speculating about who Pope Benedict might name as new Cardinals at the next papal Consistory. Since it is Cardinals who vote in papal elections, the choices will be in some way consequential for the Church's future.
Rome basically shuts down in August, and here in the USA summer vacation is winding its way toward Labor Day. So it’s a great time to speculate on the next Consistory, rumored to be scheduled for as early as this Fall, but more likely in the Spring of 2011. Or, not. We'll see.

Setting aside a few variations in their modern structure, Consistories are chiefly important in that new cardinals are formally named thereat, and it's cardinals (under the age of 80) who elect popes. Since the time of Paul VI, the number of eligible electors in the College of Cardinals has been officially capped at 120(pace John Paul II, who at one time had some 133 eligible electors on the list!). Benedict XVI is not likely to exceed the cap, nor will he, at age 83, lightly assume that he will have several more chances to shape the College over the years. So, if he wants to impact the direction of the College of Cardinals, my guess is, he will do so at his next opportunity.

If the Consistory were held today, Benedict could name 13 new cardinal electors; if he waits till the end of August he could name 14, and if he goes into October he could appoint 17, maybe 18. That would be a sizeable class, and some significant reshaping could be accomplished by naming so many new cardinals at one time.
Read the rest here.

H / T Te Deum laudamus! Photo: Fr. Z, who also blogged about the conference at which he took the photo.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Is this Scroll about the Davidic Messiah?

A fascinating fragment from Qumran (i.e., the Dead Sea Scrolls) that deserves mention is 4Q369 (4QPEnosh?) 1, II, 6–12. Here’s how it reads:

“and your good judgments you explained to him to […] 6 in eternal light, and you made him for you a first bo[rn] son […] 7 like him, to (be) a prince and ruler in all /your/inhabited world […] 8 the c[row]n of the heavens, and the glory of the clouds you have placed [on him …] 9 […] and the angel of your peace in his congregation and … […] 10 […] for him (?) righteous rules, as a father to [his] s[on] 11 his love, your soul cleaves to … […] 12 […] … for in them you [have placed] your glory […].”[1]

Of course, nowhere does the text explicitly identify the figure as a Davidide and, though the Davidic king is associated with divine sonship (e.g., 2 Sam 7; Ps 89; etc.), it is true that language of being God’s “firstborn son” is also applied to Israel elsewhere (Exod 4:22).

Nonetheless, it seems to me that all of the evidence points in the direction of a Davidic association. For one thing, one is hard pressed to find a passage where Israel is described as a “prince” and God’s “firstborn”. The fact that language of divine sonshipspecifically the term “first-born son” (cf. Ps 89:21, 26–27)—is linked with the term “prince” coheres best with Davidic traditions.

In fact, Craig Evans[2] goes on to support a Davidic reading by pointing to three parallels with Psalm 89, which clearly has a Davidide in view:

“(1) David calls God his Father, which parallels line 10, ‘as a father to his son’; (2) the Psalmist says that God ‘will make him the first-born,’ which parallels line 6, ‘you made him a first-born son to you’; and (3) the psalmist says that God’s first-born will be ‘the highest of the kings of the earth,’ which finds a partial parallel in line 7, ‘like a prince and ruler in all your earthly land.’ From these parallels we may cautiously conclude that the ‘first-born’ of 4Q369 is either the historical David or a Davidic descendent.”

Similarly Chester wrote, “This fragment is most naturally to be understood, then, as representing expectation of a Davidic messiah who will be instrumental in bringing about the final kingdom of peace on earth.”[3] Likewise, Collins writes: “This passage is extremely fragmentary, and the context is quite uncertain, but a prince and ruler who is treated as a firstborn son must surely be related to the Davidic line, whether past or future.”[4]

I'm inclined to agree. What are your thoughts?


[1] Florentino García Martínez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar. The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (2 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1997/1998), 2:731.

[2] Craig Evans, “Are the Son of God Texts at Qumran Messianic?,” in Qumran-Messianism (eds. J. H. Charlesworth, H. Lightenberger, and G. S. Oegema; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1998), 151 (135–53).

[3] Andrew Chester, Messiah and Exaltation. (WUNT 207; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 237.

[4] John Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1995), 165.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

One of the Most Neglected Verses in Scripture

Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice

--Matthew 23:1-3

Friday, August 06, 2010

Magazine: Growing Trend--Evangelicals ‘Crossing the Tiber’ to Catholicism

The magazine Religion Dispatches has a new piece up by Jonathan Fitzgerald, entitled, "Evangelicals ‘Crossing the Tiber’ to Catholicism: Under the radar of most observers a trend is emerging of evangelicals converting to Catholicism."

As he points out, there are an increasing number Evangelicals coming into the Catholic Church. In fact, while my wife and I were at Fuller we witnessed this phenomenon firsthand. Indeed, students would come up and ask us if they could follow us to daily Mass (which was celebrated at a Catholic Church down the street). I went to Mass with many fellow students who had never experienced a Eucharistic liturgy. . . and, for many of them, once they started attending they couldn't stop.

Here's the story as Fitzgerald reports it:
In the fall of 1999, I was a freshman at Gordon College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Massachusetts. There, fifteen years earlier, a professor named Thomas Howard resigned from the English department when he felt his beliefs were no longer in line with the college’s statement of faith. Despite all those intervening years, during my time at Gordon the specter of Thomas Howard loomed large on campus. The story of his resignation captured my imagination; it came about, ultimately, because he converted to Roman Catholicism.

Though his reasons for converting were unclear and perhaps unimaginable to me at the time (they are actually well-documented in his book Evangelical is Not Enough which, back then, I had not yet read), his reasons seemed less important than the knowledge that it could happen. I had never heard of such a thing. . .

. . . [M]y parents never spoke ill of the Catholic Church; though the pastors and congregants of our non-denominational, charismatic church-that-met-in-a-warehouse, often did. Despite my firsthand experience with the Church, between the legend of my parents’ conversion (anything that happens in a child’s life before he is born is the stuff of legends) and the portrait of the Catholic Church as an oppressive institution that took all the fun out of being “saved,” I understood Catholicism as a religion that a person leaves when she becomes serious about her faith.

And yet, Thomas Howard is only the tip of the iceberg of a hastening trend of evangelicals converting to Catholicism. North Park University professor of religious studies Scot McKnight documented some of the reasons behind this trend in his important 2002 essay entitled “From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals become Roman Catholic.” The essay was originally published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and was later included in a collection of conversion stories he co-edited with Hauna Ondrey entitled Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy.

Thomas Howard comes in at number five on McKnight’s list of significant conversions, behind former Presbyterian pastor and author of Rome Sweet Home, Scott Hahn, and Marcus Grodi founder of The Coming Home Network International, an organization that provides “fellowship, encouragement and support for Protestant pastors and laymen who are somewhere along the journey or have already been received into the Catholic Church,” according to their Web site. Other featured converts include singer-songwriter John Michael Talbot and Patrick Madrid, editor of the Surprised by Truth books, which showcase conversion stories.

Would Saint Augustine Go to a Southern Baptist Church in Houston?

McKnight first identified these converts eight years ago, and the trend has continued to grow in the intervening years. It shows up in a variety of places, in the musings of the late Michael Spencer (the “Internet Monk”) about his wife’s conversion and his decision not to follow, as well as at the Evangelical Theological Society where the former President and Baylor University professor Francis J. Beckwith made a well-documented “return to Rome.” Additionally, the conversion trend is once again picking up steam as the Millennial generation, the first to be born and raised in the contemporary brand of evangelicalism, comes of age. Though perhaps an unlikely setting, The King’s College, an evangelical Christian college in New York City, provides an excellent case study for the way this phenomenon is manifesting itself among young evangelicals.

The King’s College campus is comprised of two floors in the Empire State Building and some office space in a neighboring building on Fifth Avenue. The approximately 300 students who attend King’s are thoughtful, considerate and serious. They are also intellectually curious. This combination of traits, it turns out, makes the college a ripe breeding ground for interest in Roman Catholicism. Among the traits of the Catholic Church that attract TKC students—and indeed many young evangelicals at large—are its history, emphasis on liturgy, and tradition of intellectualism.

Lucas Croslow was one such student to whom these and other attributes of Catholicism appealed. This past spring, graduating from The King’s College was not the only major change in Croslow’s life, he was also confirmed into the Catholic Church.

Croslow’s interest in Catholicism began over six years ago when he was a sophomore in high school. At the time, Croslow’s Midwestern evangelical church experienced a crisis that is all too common among evangelical churches: what he describes as “a crisis of spiritual authority.” As a result of experiencing disappointment in his pastor, Croslow began to question everything he had learned from him. This questioning led him to study the historical origins of scripture and then of the Christian church itself. Eventually he concluded that Catholicism in its current form is the closest iteration of the early church fathers’ intentions. He asks, “If Saint Augustine showed up today, could we seriously think that he’d attend a Southern Baptist church in Houston?” The answer, to Croslow, is a resounding “No.”
. . .

You can read the rest here.