Monday, November 28, 2011

New Developments in Dead Sea Scrolls Research

Here's a link to a popular article about research on textiles recovered from Qumran, the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It seems the Qumranites dressed exclusively in white linen, just like Josephus' descriptions of the Essenes.

The article exaggerates, in my opinion, the amount of debate about the identity of the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The majority of scholars have been convinced that they were Essenes almost since their initial discovery, although there have always been a few dissenting voices that have gotten more press coverage than their theories necessarily merit.

The idea of the Qumran site having been a fortress is not new: however, it was not built with defensive fortifications, and there is little in the area that the vicinity that the Romans would have been interested in defending (for example, see this article).

There are many lines of evidence that converge to identify the Qumran community as an Essene settlement.  This latest contribution of data from textile studies is a welcome confirmation of what most Qumran scholars have already believed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The True Temple in Mark: Podcast and Post on Mark 13 (Sunday's Gospel)

This Sunday Advent begins. Here is our podcast on the Sunday readings (see below).

Podcast: First Sunday of Advent 2011

My friend, New Testament scholar, Leroy Huizenga has some great reflections here. He points out that Jesus' coming in Mark 13 is linked with the destruction of the temple.

Here I thought I'd highlight another aspect of the chapter. It seems clear Mark describes the destruction of the temple and the end of the cosmos with language also evocative of Jesus' passion narrative.

That Mark sees a connection between the two events--Jesus' death and the destruction of the temple--is clear from the account of the tearing of the temple veil at the moment of Jesus’ death. As Donald Juel writes, “The result of Jesus’ death is the end of the Jewish temple, foreshadowed in the tearing of the veil.”[1]

The Apocalyptic Discourse and the Passion Narrative

The Gospel reading this Sunday comes from Mark 13. Scholars have noted numerous connections between the apocalyptic discourse, which, as Leroy shows, relates to the destruction of the temple and the passion narrative.

"Semper Paratus!": The Readings for the First Sunday of Advent

The last month of the liturgical year was spent reflecting on the Last Things, culminating in the Feast of Christ the King last week, when we pondered the Final Judgment, the separation of the “sheep” and the “goats.”

There is actually a fairly smooth transition from the end of the liturgical year to its beginning, because the first week of Advent is spent meditating not on the First Coming of Christ, but on his Second. By next week, the perspective will shift, and the liturgy will anticipate the coming celebration of the incarnation.

In any event, although it is a new liturgical year this week, the end-times focus of previous weeks continues:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Podcast: The "Thanksgiving Sacrifice", the Last Supper & the Eucharist

Here is our special Thanksgiving podcast! In this episode we explore the idea of the thank offering in the Old Testament, known as the todah, and its connection to the Eucharist.

Enjoy! And please remember to leave us your comments! 

Podcast: The "Thanksgiving Sacrifice", the Last Supper and the Eucharist

New Findings at the Jerusalem Temple Wall

A new archaeological discovery is confirming the report of the first century Jewish historian Josephus regarding the building of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Here's the AP report:
Newly found coins underneath Jerusalem's Western Wall could change the accepted belief about the construction of one of the world's most sacred sites two millennia ago, Israeli archaeologists said Wednesday.

It was long thought that the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary was built in its entirety by Herod, a Jewish ruler who died in 4 B.C. The compound replaced and expanded a much older Jewish temple complex on the same site.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Faithfulness in the Small Matters: The Readings for the 33d Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. Josemaría Escrivà, the founder of the personal prelature Opus Dei, has often been called the “saint of the ordinary” for the emphasis he placed on achieving holiness in every-day living.

In fact, one of his most famous sermons was entitled “The Richness of Ordinary Life.”

St. Josemaría once said he could tell a great deal about a man’s interior life by looking at his closet. Good order in one’s soul is often reflected by good order in one’s lifestyle. A man who is sloppy or inattentive in the care of his personal effects will often likewise be careless in his life of prayer.

The Readings for this Lord’s Day focus on the theme of fidelity to the seemingly small matters that God places in our care.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Successor of Peter and Biblical Interpretation

The Chair of Peter in the Basilica of St. John Lateran
Some months ago on this blog, we had a discussion about the role of the Papacy in the Church and specifically with respect to the interpretation of Scripture. 

I keep coming back to the Pope's homily upon assuming the Chair of Peter in St. John Lateran (7 May 2005).

(St. John Lateran is, of course, the Cathedral of Rome--not St. Peter's in the Vatican.  St. John Lateran is the official church of the Bishop of Rome, and thus considered the mother church of Christianity.  This church has it's own feast day, which we celebrated yesterday.  When a new pope assumes the Chair of Peter in St. John Lateran, it marks the beginning of his tenure as Bishop of the Diocese of Rome.)

In this homily, the Pope pointedly addresses the issue of Scriptural interpretation, and his own role in it.

I quote here the most relevant paragraphs for reflection:

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Shock CDC Study: Most Teenagers NOT Having Sex

"Whether you like it or not, teens are going to have sex."

This is the message broadcasted in our society. We are told that we must get over our hang-ups and simply come to grips with the fact that most teenagers are having sex.

This attitude justifies all sorts of lurid media portrayals of teens. Don't like it? Well, sorry, but you're just out of touch. You're naive. You're ignorant. You're just "too conservative".

Of course, the prevalence of pre-marital sex, we are told, necessitates graphic sex education courses in high school. Just recently parents were in a fury in New York over the new program approved for the city's high schools that--at least to many people--seemed especially inappropriate. The New York Post reported on the details. Among other things. . .
* Kids ages 11 and 12 sort “risk cards” to rate the safety of various activities, including “intercourse using a condom and an oil-based lubricant,’’ mutual masturbation, French kissing, oral sex and anal sex.
* Teens are referred to resources such as Columbia University’s Web site Go Ask Alice, which explores topics like “doggie-style” and other positions, “sadomasochistic sex play,” phone sex, oral sex with braces, fetishes, porn stars, vibrators and bestiality.
Is it really the public high school's job to help kids learn about bestiality?

We are told: "Yes". Why? Because most kids are having sex, they are far more experienced than you think, and you are just silly to believe otherwise.

Or so goes the narrative.

The results of a major recent study carried out by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which shatter such portrayals, are being quietly passed over.

What does it show? David Lapp sums up the most interesting data from the massive report:
From 1988 to 2006-2010, the percentage of never-married males aged 15-19 who have ever had sexual intercourse dropped from 60 percent to 42 percent.

For never-married females aged 15-19, it dropped from 51 percent to 43 percent.

From 2006-2010, of teenagers whose mother has some college or higher, 37 percent of males and 40 percent of females have ever had sexual intercourse.

Of teenagers who live with both biological or adoptive parents, 35 percent of males and 35 percent of females have ever had sexual intercourse.

The latest CDC data remind me of a 2010 study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. It found that 87 percent of teenagers agree that “it is important for teens to be given a strong message that they should not have sex until they are at least out of high school.” Yes, you read that right: that’s teens who are saying that their cultural elders need to give them a strong message about waiting to have sex.
Out of touch? Too conservative?

And who was it again that was out of touch?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Great Time at the Shrine

Shrine Director Leif Arvidson with Drs. Hahn & Bergsma
Dr. Hahn and I had the pleasure of visiting and speaking at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, this weekend.  A crowd of 400 came out to make the Marian pilgrimage, and hear talks on Confession and Eucharist, and receive those very sacraments.  The Shrine, built by the people of the Diocese of La Crosse under the leadership of now-Cardinal Raymond Burke, is a hidden treasure of Catholicism in the Midwest.  Extraordinarily beautiful, the shrine church and its grounds were designed with the help of Duncan Stroik, the expert in ecclesiastical architecture from the Architecture School of the University of Notre Dame. (He's also godfather of several Bergsma children, but that's another story!) If you ever find yourself in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, the Shrine is well worth a day's visit!

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with Monastery of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, overlooking La Crosse, Wisconsin

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Podcast 8: John Bergsma on the Dead Sea Scrolls

This week we explore the Dead Sea Scrolls with John Bergsma, looking specifically at why Catholics should find them interesting.

You can find Dr. Bergsma's audio series on the Scrolls here. There is an excerpt from the series as well as a .pdf of the outline.

Please be sure to leave your comments on the show below!

Podcast: "John Bergsma on the Dead Sea Scrolls" [right click to download]

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (with John Bergsma) (Sunday's Gospel)

This Sunday the Gospel reading is taken from Matthew once again and relates Jesus' parable of the Ten Virgins. We were honored to have John Bergsma with us on this episode of the podcast. Here are our thoughts. I hope you enjoy it! Please leave your comments on the podcast.

Podcast: "Jesus' Shocking Words About the Pharisees in Matthew 23")(31st Sunday Ordinary Time, Cycle A) [right click to download]