Religion

Congratulations to the new Cardinals

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From Master Antonio Paris, OSMTHU comments on a full day of engagements:

“Concistoro per la Creazione di Nuovi Cardinali. Basilica Papale di San Pietro. Con il Cardinale Pietro Parolin Segretario di Stato Vaticano.”

Congratulations also to Mons. Tolentino de Mendonça, new Portuguese Cardinal, currently heading the Vatican Library and the Vatican Secret Archive.

 

The Mystery of the Our Father’s Ending

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Why do Christians say the Our Father (the “Lord’s Prayer”) slightly differently?

Catholics conclude with “deliver us from evil,” whereas most Protestants, following Matthew 6:13 in the King James Version, go on to say something like, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

Are Catholics leaving out this phrase from Jesus’ prayer, or are Protestants adding to it?

Neither seems to be a good idea for Christians (e.g., Deut. 4:2, 12:21; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:19). To some Protestants, the Catholic omission seems like a clear example of the Church “subtracting from Scripture” (due to some “tradition of men,” perhaps). However, the history behind this little phrase is a bit more involved—and it argues for the reliability of Church tradition, not against it.

The first thing to note is that the prayer differs even among the Gospels themselves. Although the form in Matthew is the one used by nearly all Christians today, a shorter version is recorded in Luke chapter 11, where it ends with “lead us not into temptation” (v.4). So technically, one would be completely biblically justified in simply ending the prayer there.

A second interesting thing is that the verse in question is not included in the “oldest and best” biblical manuscripts, and is therefore not considered by the majority of biblical scholars today, whether Catholic or Protestant, to be part of the original biblical text. The King James Version of the Bible is based on the Textus Receptus, which itself was not based on the oldest manuscripts we have today. Neither Codex Sinaiticus nor Vaticanus contains the verse—in fact, the earliest witness we have to the longer ending of the Our Father is a late fourth- or early fifth-century parchment called Codex Washingtonensis.

The English wording of the Our Father that Protestants use today reflects the version based on the English version of the Bible produced by Tyndale in 1525. Tyndale’s version was not found in the liturgical tradition of western Christendom until the 1637 Scottish Book of Common Prayer. And although the longer ending remains popular today, there are many Bibles that do not include it. Catholic Bible translations (e.g., the Vulgate, the Douay-Rheims, or the New American) have never included it, and most Protestant Bibles do not either.[1] Even modern versions of the King James includes a footnote stating that the phrase is omitted in older manuscripts.

Furthermore, although early Church Fathers such as Jerome, Gregory the Great, Ambrose, and Augustine wrote of the importance and beauty of the “Our Father” prayer, none of them included the phrase when they referenced it. The commentaries on the prayer by Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian do not include it either. John Chrysostom did discuss the phrase in his fourth-century homily on Matthew (19:10).

When we turn from Scripture commentary to Church Tradition, we find this phrase (which resembles 1 Chronicles 29:11) in ancient liturgical use as a short doxology (praise response) to the Lord’s Prayer. The Christian manual known as the Didache (c. A.D. 95) has a short version of the doxology after the Our Father in chapter 8, and the longer reading is found in the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions (7.24). From there it was incorporated into the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as well. Thus, it seems that this phrase might very well have been a doxology—a conclusion to the original prayer that Jesus instructed his disciples to say.

Scriptural and traditional evidence points to a fourth-century addition of the phrase to the original prayer. It is likely that around this time, a scribe familiar with the liturgy added the doxology to Sacred Scripture while copying the Our Father passage, and it found its way into later translations of the Bible itself. These copies eventually outnumbered the more ancient documents, and the phrase was included in the Gospels in the majority of ancient Bible manuscripts from then on.

When early Protestants produced their own Bible translations in the sixteenth century, they used the majority text as their source. The result was that their translations included the phrase as if it were part of the original Gospel writings. In England, Tyndale’s translation included it, and when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church, he decreed its inclusion in worship. Finally, the virulently anti-Catholic Queen Elizabeth had it included in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Once it was brought over to America by the Puritans, the phrase’s addition was further solidified.

So, in conclusion, it seems that English Protestants added a traditional Catholic prayer to the Bible in order to distance themselves from what they thought were unbiblical Catholic traditions. Although Protestants have corrected many of their modern Bible translations, it seems their tradition(!) of adding a Catholic doxology to the scriptural Lord’s Prayer may take a bit more time to overcome.


[1]  The ASV, CEV, ESV, GWT, GNT, NET, NIV, NIRV, NLT, and TNIV do not include the phrase, and others such as the HCSB, NASB, and NCV often bracket the phrase to set it off from the original text.

by Douglas M. Beaumont, in catholic.com

Son of God – Discussion of how this expression is used in the Old and New Testaments

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Son of God. IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.—The title “son of God” is frequent in the Old Testament. The word “son” was employed among the Semites to signify not only filiation, but other close connection or intimate relationship. Thus, “a son of strength” was a hero, a warrior, “son of wickedness” a wicked man, “sons of pride” wild beasts, “son of possession” a possessor, “son of pledging” a hostage, “son of lightning” a swift bird, “son of death” one doomed to death, “son of a bow” an arrow, “son of Belial” a wicked man, “sons of prophets” disciples of prophets, etc. The title “son of God” was applied in the Old Testament to persons having any special relationship with God. Angels, just and pious men, the descendants of Seth, were called “sons of God” (Job, i, 6; ii, 1; Ps. lxxxviii, 7; Wisd., ii, 13; etc.). In a similar manner it was given to Israelites (Deut., xiv, 1); and of Israel, as a nation, we read: “And thou shalt say to him: Thus saith the Lord: Israel is my son, my firstborn. I have said to thee: Let my son go, that he may serve me” (Ex., iv, 22 sq.). The leaders of the people, kings, princes, judges, as holding authority from God, were called sons of God. The theocratic king as lieutenant of God, and especially when he was providentially selected to be a type of the Messiah, was honored with the title “son of God”. But the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Elect of God, was par excellence called the Son of God (Pa. ii, 7). Even Wellhausen admits that Ps. ii is Messianic (see Hast., “Dict. of the Bible”, IV, 571). The prophecies regarding the Messiah became clearer as time went on, and the result is ably summed up by Sanday (ibid.): “The Scriptures of which we have been speaking mark so many different contributions to the total result, but the result, when it is attained, has the completeness of an organic whole. A Figure was created—projected as it were upon the clouds which was invested with all the attributes of a person. And the minds of men were turned towards it in an attitude of expectation. It makes no matter that the lines of the Figure are drawn from different originals. They meet at last in a single portraiture. And we should never have known how perfectly they meet if we had not the New Testament picture to compare with that of the Old Testament. The most literal fulfillment of prediction would not be more conclusive proof that all the course of the world and all the threads of history are in one guiding Hand.” The Messiah besides being the Son of God was to be called Emmanuel (God with us), Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, Prince of Peace (Is., viii, 8; ix, 6) (see Messiah).

IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.—The title “the Son of God” is frequently applied to Jesus Christ in the Gospels and Epistles. In the latter it is everywhere employed as a short formula for expressing His Divinity (Sanday); and this usage throws light on the meaning to be attached to it in many passages of the Gospels. The angel announced: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High … the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke, i, 32, 35). Nathaniel, at his first meeting, called Him the Son of God (John, i, 49). The devils called Him by the same name, the Jews ironically, and the Apostles after He quelled the storm. In all these cases its meaning was equivalent to the Messiah, at least. But much more is implied in the confession of St. Peter, the testimony of the Father, and the words of Jesus Christ.

Confession of St. Peter.—We read in Matt., xvi, 15, 16: “Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.” The parallel passages have: “Thou art the Christ” (Mark, viii, 29), “The Christ of God” (Luke, ix, 20). There can be no doubt that St. Matthew gives the original form of the expression, and that St. Mark and St. Luke in giving “the Christ” (the Messiah), instead, used it in the sense in which they understood it when they wrote, viz. as equivalent to “the incarnate Son of God” (see Rose, VI). Sanday, writing of St. Peter’s confession, says: “the context clearly proves that Matthew had before him some further tradition, possibly that of the Logia, but in any case a tradition that has the look of being original” (Hastings, “Dict. of the Bible”). As Rose well points out, in the minds of the Evangelists Jesus Christ was the Messiah because He was the Son of God, and not the Son of God because He was the Messiah.

Testimony of the Father.—At the Baptism.—”And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him. And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt., iii, 16, 17). “And there came a voice from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Mark, i, 11; Luke, iii, 22).

At the Transfiguration.—”And lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him” (Matt., xvii, 5; Mark, ix, 6; Luke, ix, 35). Though Rose admits that the words spoken at the Baptism need not necessarily mean more than what was suggested by the Old Testament, viz. Son of God is equal to the Messiah, still, as the same words were used on both occasions, it is likely they had the same meaning in both cases. The Transfiguration took place within a week after St. Peter’s confession, and the words were used in the meaning in which the three disciples would then understand them; and at the Baptism it is probable that only Christ, and perhaps the Baptist, heard them, so that it is not necessary to interpret them according to the current opinions of the crowd. Even so cautious a critic as the Anglican Professor Sanday writes on these passages: “And if, on the occasions in question, the Spirit of God did intimate prophetically to chosen witnesses, more or fewer, a revelation couched partly in the language of the ancient Scriptures, it would by no means follow that the meaning of the revelation was limited to the meaning of the older Scriptures. On the contrary, it would be likely enough that the old words would be charged with new meaning—that, indeed the revelation … would yet be in substance a new revelation ….And we may assume that to His (Christ’s) mind the announcement `Thou art my Son’ meant not only all that it ever meant to the most enlightened seers of the past, but, yet more, all that the response of His own heart told Him that it meant in the present…. But it is possible, and we should be justified in supposing—not by way of dogmatic assertion but by way of pious belief—in view of the later history and the progress of subsequent revelation, that the words were intended to suggest a new truth, not hitherto made known, viz. that the Son was Son not only in the sense of the Messianic King, or of an Ideal People, but that the idea of sonship was fulfilled in Him in a way yet more mysterious and yet more essential; in other words, that He was Son, not merely in prophetic revelation, but in actual transcendent fact before the foundation of the world” (Hastings, “Dict. of the Bible”).

Testimony of Jesus Christ.—(I) The Synoptics.—The key to this is contained in His words, after the Resurrection: “I ascend to my Father and to your Father” (John, xx, 17). He always spoke of my Father, never of our Father. He said to the disciples: “Thus then shall you pray: Our Father”, etc. He everywhere draws the clearest possible distinction between the way in which God was His Father and in which He was the Father of all creatures. His expressions clearly prove that He claimed to be of the same nature with God; and His claims to Divine Sonship are contained very clearly in the Synoptic Gospels, though not as frequently as in St. John.

“Did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business?” (Luke, ii, 49); “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me you, that work iniquity” (Matt., vii, 21-23). “Everyone therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt., x, 32). “At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him. Come to me, all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you” (Matt., xi, 25-30; Luke, x, 21, 22). In the parable of the wicked husbandmen the son is distinguished from all other messengers: “Therefore having yet one son, most dear to him; he also sent him unto them last of all, saying: They will reverence my son. But the husbandmen said one to another: This is the heir; come let us kill him” (Mark, xii, 6). Compare Matt., xxii, 2, “The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son.” In Matt., xvii, 25, He states that as Son of God He is free from the temple tax. “David therefore himself calleth him Lord, and whence is he then his son?” (Mark, xii, 37). He is Lord of the angels. He shall come “in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty. And he shall send his angels” (Matt., xxiv, 30, 31). He confessed before Caiphas that he was the Son of the blessed God (Mark, xiv, 61-2). “Going therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost … and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt., xxviii, 19, 20).

The claims of Jesus Christ, as set forth in the Synoptic Gospels, are so great that Salmon is justified in writing (Introd. to New Test., p. 197): “We deny that they [Christ’s utterances in the Fourth Gospel] are at all inconsistent with what is attributed to Him in the Synoptic Gospels. On the contrary, the dignity of our Savior’s person, and the duty of adhering to Him, are as strongly stated in the discourses which St. Matthew puts into His mouth as in any later Gospel…. The Synoptic Evangelists all agree in representing Jesus as persisting in this claim [of Supreme Judge] to the end, and finally incurring condemnation for blasphemy from the high-priest and the Jewish Council. . It follows that the claims which the Synoptic Gospels represent our Lord as making for Himself are so high … that, if we accept the Synoptic Gospels as truly representing the character of our Lord’s language about Himself, we certainly have no right to reject St. John’s account, on the score that he puts too exalted language about Himself into the mouth of our Lord.”

St. John’s Gospel.—It will not be necessary to give more than a few passages from St. John’s Gospel. “My Father worketh until now; and I work. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things which he himself doth: and greater works than these will he shew him, that you may wonder. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and giveth life: so the Son also giveth life to whom he will. For neither doth the Father judge any man, but hath given’ all judgment to the Son. That all may honor the Son, as they honor the Father” (v, 17, 20-23). “And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth in him, may have life everlasting, and I will raise him up in the last day” (vi, 40). “Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee….And now glorify thou me, O Father, with thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with thee” (xvii, 1, 5).

St. Paul.—St. Paul in the Epistles, which were written much earlier than most of our Gospels, clearly teaches the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that He was the true Son of God; and it is important to remember that his enemies the Judaizers never dared to attack this teaching, a fact which proves that they could not find the smallest semblance of a discrepancy between his doctrines on this point and that of the other Apostles.

Son of Man.—In the Old Testament “son of man” is always translated in the Septuaginst without the article as Greek: uios anthropou. It is employed as a poetical synonym for man, or for the ideal man, e.g. “God is not as a man, that he should lie, nor as a son of man, that he should be changed” (Num., xxiii, 19). “Blessed is the man that doth this and the son of man that shall lay hold on this” (Is., lvi, 2). “Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand: and upon the son of man whom thou hast confirmed for thyself” (Ps. lxxix, 18). The Prophet Ezechiel is addressed by God as “son of man” more than ninety times, e.g. “Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak to thee” (Ezech., ii, 1). This usage is confined to Ezechiel except one passage in Daniel, where Gabriel said: “Understand, O son of man, for in the time of the end the vision shall be fulfilled” (Dan., viii, 17).

In the great vision of Daniel, after the appearance of the four beasts, we read: “I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes, and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom shall not be destroyed” (vii, 13 sq.). The person who appears here as son of man is interpreted by many non-Catholics as representing the Messianic kingdom, but there is nothing to prevent the passage from being taken to represent not only the Messianic kingdom, but par excellence the Messianic king. In the explanation, verse 17, the four beasts are “four kings” R.V., not “four kingdoms” as translated by D. V., though they appear to signify four kingdoms as well, for the characteristics of oriental kingdoms were identified with the characters of their kings. So when it is said in verse 18: “But the saints of the most high God shall take the kingdom: and they shall possess the kingdom for ever and ever”, the king is no more excluded here than in the case of the four beasts. The “son of man” here was early interpreted of the Messiah, in the Book of Henoch, where the expression is used almost as a Messianic title, though there is a good deal in Drummond’s argument that even here it was not used as a Messianic title notwithstanding the fact that it was understood of the Messiah. It has to be added that in the time of Christ it was not very widely, if at all, known as a Messianic title.

The employment of the expression in the Gospels is very remarkable. It is used to designate Jesus Christ no fewer than eighty-one times—thirty times in St. Matthew, fourteen times in St. Mark, twenty-five times in St. Luke, and twelve times in St. John. Contrary to what obtains in the Septuagint, it appears everywhere with the article, as o uios tou anthropou. Greek scholars are agreed that the correct translation of this is “the son of man”, not “the son of the man”. The possible ambiguity may be one of the reasons why it is seldom or never found in the early Greek Fathers as a title for Christ. But the most remarkable thing connected with “the Son of Man” is that it is found only in the mouth of Christ. It is never employed by the disciples or Evangelists, nor by the early Christian writers. It is found once only in Acts, where St. Stephen exclaims: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God” (vii, 55). The whole incident proves that it was a well-known expression of Christ’s. Though the saying was so frequently employed by Christ, the disciples preferred some more honorific title and we do not find it at all in St. Paul nor in the other Epistles. St. Paul perhaps uses something like an equivalent when he calls Christ the second or last Adam. The writers of the Epistles, moreover, probably wished to avoid the Greek ambiguity just alluded to.

The expression is Christ’s, in spite of the futile attempts of some German Rationalists and others to show that He could not have used it. It was not invented by the writers of the Gospels to whom it did not appear to be a favorite title, as they never use it of Christ themselves. It was not derived by them from what is asserted was a false interpretation of Daniel, because it appears in the early portions of the public ministry where there is no reference to Daniel. The objection that Christ could not have used it in Aramaic because the only similar expression was bar-nasha, which then meant only “man”, bar having by that time lost its meaning of “son”, is not of much weight. Only little is known of the Aramaic spoken in Palestine in the time of Christ; and as Drummond points out special meaning could be given to the word by the emphasis with which it was pronounced, even if bar-nasha had lost its primary meaning in Palestine, which is not at all proved. As the same writer shows, there were other expressions in Aramaic which Christ could have employed for the purpose, and Sanday suggests that He may have occasionally spoken in Greek.

The early Fathers were of the opinion that the expression was used out of humility and to show Christ’s human nature, and this is very probable considering the early rise of Docetism. This is also the opinion of Cornelius a Lapide. Others, such as Knabenbauer, think that He adopted a title which would not give umbrage to His enemies, and which, as time went on, was capable of being applied so as to cover His Messianic claims—to include everything that had been foretold of the representative man, the second Adam, the suffering servant of Jehovah, the Messianic king.

By C. Aherne in catholic.com

La fin des travaux de restauration du château de Quéribus

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Le chantier aura duré sept mois. Le château cathare de Quéribus, à la frontière entre l’Aude et les Pyrénées-Orientales, a subi une cure de jouvence. Un chantier indispensable pour ce site qui date du Xe siècle.

Les visiteurs ont pu redécouvrir ce mardi le château de Quéribus après sept mois de travaux. Un chantier périlleux en raison de la localisation du château cathare : en haut d’une falaise, à 728 mètres d’altitude.

Des maçons alpinistes !

Il a fallu utiliser des hélicoptères pour acheminer le matériel nécessaire (eau, chaux, sable, etc..) au pied de l’édifice. Parmi les travaux réalisés : le rejointoiement des murs. Pour Bruno Schenck, premier adjoint au maire de Cucugnan “c’était impératif. On pouvait passer la moitié du bras entre les pierres ! Cela n’avait jamais été fait depuis des siècles.” Il a aussi fallu s’occuper de plusieurs voûtes. Celle entre le corps de logis et le parvis du donjon a été refaite à l’ancienne, avec des moellons, et l’autre a été réalisée avec des pierres de taille travaillées sur place.

Le chantier a été compliqué techniquement. Un seul mot d’ordre: respecter l’architecture médiévale de l’époque. Ce sont des maçons spécialisés qui s’en sont chargés, des maçons alpinistes accrochés à la façade pour certains travaux, comme sur le donjon.

Bruno Schenck, l’adjoint au maire de Cucugnan est fier du résultat: “c’est un vrai bonheur d’avoir réalisé ce chantier, c’est essentiel pour le maintien du patrimoine. Le dossier en vue d’un classement au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO continue, mais c’est très long !”

Par Isabelle Rolland, Sébastien Berriot, France Bleu Roussillon, France Bleu Occitanie

How to Resolve Alleged Gospel Contradictions

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Christians have always known that the four canonical Gospels describe the same major events in Christ’s life but in different ways. For example, consider what God says at Jesus’ baptism. In Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22, God says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” But in Matthew 3:17 God says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” So which is it? Did God say, “You are my beloved son” or “This is my beloved son?”

The apocryphal second-century Gospel of the Ebionites proposed a novel answer to this question. In this account, written more than a century after the events it purports to describe, the Father speaks three times—presumably to account for what Matthew, Mark, and Luke record. But this seems implausible given that none of the canonical Gospels—the ones the Church recognizes to be inspired—describe the Father speaking more than once. Besides, would the Father really need to repeat himself to the crowd, or to Jesus, when both could hear what he said the first time?[1]

A better explanation for passages like these is that they differ only in what they say, not in what they assert. This brings us to a good rule of thumb: differing Gospel descriptions do not equal contradictions. A true contradiction in Scripture would occur only when two statements taken together assert that both “X” and “not X” are true at the same time and in the same circumstance. Non-identical descriptions are not necessarily contradictions, because the author may not have asserted the literal truth of every detail in his account. This is understandable, given the nature of ancient historical writing.

How to write history

The second-century Roman author Lucian of Samosata said that the historian “must sacrifice to no God but Truth” and that “Facts are not to be collected at haphazard but with careful, laborious, repeated investigation.”[2] This parallels the prologue of Luke’s Gospel in which the evangelist describes gathering sources in order to create his historical record of what Jesus said and did. Both Luke and Lucian were committed to accurately recording the past, but Lucian also wrote, “The historian’s spirit should not be without a touch of the poetical.”[3]

Consider, for example, how ancient historians recorded speeches that were given decades or centuries earlier. According to Lucian, speeches “should suit the character both of the speaker and of the occasion . . . but in these cases you have the counsel’s right of showing your eloquence.”[4]

In other words, historians can compose speeches with words that were never actually spoken as long as the words they choose are something the person would have said. Thucydides, one of ancient Greece’s most important historians, put it this way: with reference to the speeches in this history, some

were delivered before the war began, others while it was going on; some I heard myself, others I got from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in one’s memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said.[5]

Historiography scholar Jonas Grethlein corroborates this: “It is widely agreed that most speeches in ancient historiography do not reproduce verba ipissima [what was originally said].”[6] As long as the meaning of the speaker was preserved, an ancient historian was free to use words that differed from what the speaker might actually have said.

We do this even today when we paraphrase speeches given at formal events. After all, when we are asked, “What did the speaker say?” we give a summary with some quotation—not an hour-long recitation.

What is true of ancient historians is also true of the authors of the Gospels. They were concerned with recording history, but their style of historical writing was not the same as the histories we are familiar with today. According to New Testament scholar Craig Keener,

It is anachronistic to assume that ancient and modern histories would share all the same generic features (such as the way speeches should be composed) simply because we employ the same term today to describe both . . . Ancient historians sometimes fleshed out scenes and speeches to produce a coherent narrative in a way that their contemporaries expected but that modern academic historians would not consider acceptable when writing for their own peers.[7]

This is why when we read the Gospels we must distinguish between truths the evangelists were asserting and details they provided to accompany those assertions. The latter could vary in accordance with the standards of ancient historical writing without compromising the truths the author wanted to express to his audience.

Effects on the Gospels

Let’s return to the example of Jesus’ baptism. All three evangelists agree that at this event God publicly revealed himself to be the Father of Jesus. The accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke differ only in the words they used to describe that revelation. Matthew chose to emphasize how this message affected the crowd, whereas Mark and Luke emphasized how the message affected Jesus. There is no contradiction, because all three writers are asserting the same truth: that Jesus is God’s Son. They only do so in different ways.

The same can be said of the cock crowing before Peter’s denial. Each evangelist records this detail differently (possibly because they used different sources), but they all assert the same truth: that the cock’s crow coincided with Peter’s denial of Jesus. In fact, sometimes these differences reveal more about the author of a story than the story he was describing.

For example, think about how Mark describes the hemorrhaging woman who Jesus healed. He says she “suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse” (Mark 5:26). Luke, “the beloved physician” (see Colossians 4:14), on the other hand, may not have wanted to unduly criticize his peers, so he simply said the woman “spent all her living upon physicians and could not be healed by any one” (Luke 8:43). Both statements assert the same thing—the best human medicine could not help this woman. They simply describe this fact differently.

In conclusion, it is a fallacy to say the Gospels must either be chronologically ordered and detail rich accounts of the life of Christ, or else they must be fictional, theological treatises. Instead, the closest literary genre that describes the Gospels is bioi, or ancient biography.[8]

According to Richard Burridge, ancient biography, “was a flexible genre having strong relationships with history, encomium and rhetoric, moral philosophy and the concern for character.”[9] The purpose of bioi was to recount stories of important people for the purpose of edifying readers, not merely to recount historical facts in the life of a certain person.

Burridge goes on to say, “[T]rying to decode the Gospels through the genre of modern biography, when the author encoded his message in the genre of ancient [biography], will lead to another nonsense—blaming the text for not containing modern predilections which it was never meant to contain.”[10] This includes blaming Mark for not describing Jesus’ infancy, blaming John for not describing events like the Last Supper, or blaming the evangelists as a whole for not conforming to our expectations of a modern biography or newspaper article.

The differences among the Gospel accounts are also typical of ancient Roman historical writing. For example, there are three contradictory ancient accounts of what Emperor Nero did during the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Some say he metaphorically “fiddled while Rome burned,” but others say he had nothing to do with the fire.[11]

Since scholars rarely doubt the accuracy of non=biblical ancient Roman history in spite of these contradictions, they should give the same benefit of the doubt to the Gospels and not hastily write them off as unhistorical contradictions just because they differ in the details they record.

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Notes

[1] Even Tatian the Syrian, who authored the earliest known attempt to harmonize the four Gospels in the Diatessaron, says that God only spoke once and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (4.28).

[2] “H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, trans., The Works of Lucian of Samosata, Vol. II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), 129–31.”

[3] Ibid, 130.

[4] Ibid, 134.

[5] “Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 1.22.1. Cited in Brant Pitre, The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for “Christ (New York: Doubleday, 2016), 79–81.”

[6] “Jonas Grethlein, Experience and Teleology in Ancient Historiography: “Futures Past” from Herodotus to Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 64.

[7] “Craig Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009), 110.”

[8] “It has become much clearer that the Gospels are in fact very similar in type to ancient biographies (Greek, bioi; Latin, vitae).” James D.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2003), 185.”

[9] “Richard Burridge, What Are the Gospels?: A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography, second edition (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004), 67.”

[10] Ibid., 249.

[11] “Our main sources for the fire are Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio. All three of these ancient Roman historians agree there was a fire in Rome, but they disagree about the actions of the emperor, who many believed had started the fire in order to free up space for the construction of a future palace. Was Nero not responsible and away in the city of Antium during the fire as Tacitus says (Annals 15.44)? Did Nero send men to burn the city and watch from the tower of Maecenas as Suetonius says (Life of Nero 38)? Or did Nero start the fire himself and watch from the rooftop of the imperial palace as Dio Cassius says (Roman History 62.16–17)? See also Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010), 570.”

in catholic.com

Mary Magdalen – Treatment of the New Testament figure

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Mary Magdalen , so called either from Magdala near Tiberias on the west shore of Galilee, or, possibly from a Talmudic expression MNRLA SY`RA NSYYA, i.e.” curling women’s hair”, which the Talmud explains as of an adulteress. In the New Testament she is mentioned among the women who accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Luke, viii, 2-3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mark, xvi, 9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mark, xv, 40; Matt., xxvii, 56; John, xix, 25; Luke, xxiii, 49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. The Greek Fathers, as a whole, distinguish the three persons: the “sinner” of Luke, vii, 36-50; the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Luke, x, 38-42, and John, xi; and Mary Magdalen. On the other hand most of the Latins hold that these three were one and the same. Protestant critics, however, believe there were two, if not three, distinct persons. It is impossible to demonstrate the identity of the three; but those commentators undoubtedly go too far who assert, as does Westcott (on John, xi, 1), “that the identity of Mary with Mary Magdalene is a mere conjecture supported by no direct evidence, and opposed to the general tenour of the gospels”. It is the identification of Mary of Bethany with the “sinner” of Luke, vii, 37, which is most combatted by Protestants (see Plummer, “International Critical Comment. on St. Luke”, p. 209). It almost seems as if this reluctance to identify the “sinner” with the sister of Martha were due to a failure to grasp the full significance of the forgiveness of sin. (See Mayor in Hastings, “Dictionary of the Bible”, III, 284.) The harmonizing tendencies of so many modern critics, too, are responsible for much of the existing confusion.

The first fact mentioned in the Gospel relating to the question under discussion is the anointing of Christ’s feet by a woman, a “sinner” in the city (Luke, vii, 37-50). This belongs to the Galilean ministry, it precedes the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and the third Passover. Immediately afterwards St. Luke describes a missionary circuit in Galilee and tells us of the women who ministered to Christ, among them being “Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth” (Luke, viii, 2); but he does not tell us that she is to be identified with the” sinner” of the previous chapter. In x, 38-42, he tells us of Christ’s visit to Martha and Mary” in a certain town”; it is impossible to identify this town, but it is clear from ix, 53, that Christ had definitively left Galilee, and it is quite possible that this “town” was Bethany. This seems confirmed by the preceding parable of the good Samaritan, which must almost certainly have been spoken on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. But here again we note that there is no suggestion of an identification of the three persons, viz., the “sinner”, Mary Magdalen, and Mary of Bethany; and if we had only St. Luke to guide us we should certainly have no grounds for so identifying them. St. John, however, clearly identifies Mary of Bethany with the woman who anointed Christ’s feet (xii; cf. Matt., xxvit and Mark, xiv). It is remarkable that already in xi, 2, St. John has spoken of Mary as “she that anointed the Lord’s feet”, e aleipsasa; it is commonly said that he refers to the subsequent anointing which he himself describes in xii, 3-8; but it may be questioned whether he would have used e aleipsasa if another woman, and she a “sinner” in the city, had done the same. It is conceivable that St. John, just because he is writing so long after the event and at a time when Mary was dead, wishes to point out to us that she was really the same as the “sinner”. In the same way St. Luke may have veiled her identity precisely because he did not wish to defame one who was yet living; he certainly does something similar in the case of St. Matthew whose identity with Levi the publican (v, 7) he conceals.

If the foregoing argument holds good, Mary of Bethany and the “sinner” are one and the same. But an examination of St. John’s Gospel makes it almost impossible to deny the identity of Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalen. From St. John we learn the name of the “woman” who anointed Christ’s feet previous to the last supper. We may remark here that it seems unnecessary to hold that because St. Matthew and St. Mark say “two days before the Passover”, while St. John says “six days” there were, therefore, two distinct anointings following one another. St. John does not necessarily mean that the supper and the anointing took place six days before, but only that Christ came to Bethany six days before the Passover. At that supper, then, Mary received the glorious encomium, “she hath wrought a good work upon Me.. in pouring this ointment upon My body she hath done it for My burial. wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached… that also which she bath done shall be told for a memory of her.” Is it credible, in view of all this, that this Mary should have no place at the foot of the cross, nor at the tomb of Christ? Yet it is Mary Magdalen who, according to all the Evangelists, stood at the foot of the cross and assisted at the entombment and was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. And while St. John calls, her “Mary Magdalen” in xix, 25, xx, 1, 18, he calls her simply “Mary” in xx, 11 and 16.

In the view we have advocated the series of events forms a consistent whole the “sinner” comes early in the ministry to seek for pardon; she is described immediately afterwards as Mary Magdalen “out of whom seven devils were gone forth”; shortly after, we find her “sitting at the Lord’s feet and hearing His words”. To the Catholic mind it all seems fitting and natural. At a later period Mary and Martha turn to “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”, and He restores to them their brother Lazarus; a short time afterwards they make Him a supper and Mary once more repeats the act she had performed when a penitent. At the Passion she stands near by; she sees Him laid in the tomb; and she is the first witness of His Resurrection—excepting always His Mother, to whom He must needs have appeared first, though the New Testament is silent on this point. In our view, then, there were two anointings of Christ’s feet—it should surely be no difficulty that St. Matthew and St. Mark speak of His head—the first (Luke, vii) took place at a comparatively early date; the second, two days before the last Passover. But it was one and the same woman who performed this pious act on each occasion.

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY OF ST. MARY MAGDALEN.—The Greek Church maintains that the saint retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin and there died, that her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 and are there preserved. Gregory of Tours, “De miraculis”, I, xxx, supports the statement that she went to Ephesus. However, according to a French tradition (LAZARUS OF BETHANY, Saint), Mary, Lazarus, and some companions came to Marseilles and converted the whole of Provence. Magdalen is said to have retired to a hill, La Sainte-Baume, near by, where she gave herself up to a life of penance for thirty years. When the time of her death arrived she was carried by angels to Aix and into the oratory of St. Maximinus, where she received the viaticum; her body was then laid in an oratory constructed by St. Maximinus at Villa Lath, afterwards called St. Maxi-min. History is silent about these relics till 745, when, according to the chronicler Sigebert, they were removed to Vezelay through fear of the Saracens. No record is preserved of their return, but in 1279, when Charles II, King of Naples, erected a convent at La Sainte-Baume for the Dominicans, the shrine was found intact, with an inscription stating why they were hidden. In 1600 the relics were placed in a sarcophagus sent by Clement VIII, the head being placed in a separate vessel. In 1814 the church of La Ste Baume, wrecked during the Revolution, was restored, and in 1822 the grotto was consecrated afresh. The head of the saint now lies there, where it has lain so long, and where it has been the center of so many pilgrimages.

by Hugh Pope, in catholic.com

Uncanny Bible Coincidences

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There are many ways to argue for the historical reliability of the Gospels. One compelling approach is to point to what nineteenth-century Anglican priest J.J. Blunt called “undesigned coincidences.”

These occur when you have two texts containing pieces of information that fit together in ways that corroborate each other—without the authors having colluded to plant the information. The existence of such interlocking details in the Gospels suggest their veracity. They don’t corroborate each other in ways that you would expect if the authors were colluding. They’re not conspicuous verbatim agreements on the main facts, suggesting a conspiracy, but rather random details that fit together in subtle ways that may not be immediately apparent.

So many undesigned coincidences in the Gospels have been identified that a whole book can be written on them. But let me just share two of them.

  • Undesigned coincidence #1: Luke’s account of the feeding of the five thousand provides a detail that explains why Jesus asks Philip where they can buy some bread in John’s account of the same event (John 6:5; Luke 9:10-12).

John sets up the feeding of the five thousand with a conversation that Jesus has with Philip, in which Jesus asks, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5). Philip responds in distress, telling Jesus, “two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little” (v.6).

What’s important for our purposes is that Jesus asks Philip. Why does he? You might think that Jesus would ask someone a little more important, like Peter, James, or John, rather than an apostle whose name is always listed among the second tier of apostles in Scripture (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13-14).

We find a clue at the beginning of Luke’s account of the same miracle, in chapter 9. Luke tells us that Jesus took the apostles and “withdrew apart to a city called Bethsaida” (v.10). This is important because according to John 1:43, “Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.”

Being from Bethsaida, Philip would’ve had current local knowledge of where to buy bread. Thus, we have a plausible explanation for why Jesus asks Philip. Luke provides a piece of information that John lacks, but in an indirect way that doesn’t seem to be planned; hence an “undesigned coincidence.”

But someone may object, “Of course, John 1:43 tells us that Philip was from Bethsaida, but he also says that Andrew and Peter were from there as well. So why didn’t Jesus ask Peter or Andrew? They would have had the same local knowledge, right?”

This would be true if they were all residents there at the time of the miracle. But we have evidence that they weren’t: they were residents of Capernaum. In Mark 1:21, we read about how Jesus, along with Simon, Andrew, James, and John, “went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath . . . entered a synagogue and taught.” Then in verse 29, Mark tells us, “And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.”

Peter and Andrew, therefore, although originally from Bethsaida, were living in Capernaum during the time of Jesus’s ministry. As such, they wouldn’t have known the best place in Bethsaida to buy bread.  But Phillip did.

  • Undesigned coincidence #2: Mark’s account of the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law (1:21, 29-32) provides a detail that explains why people in Matthew’s account waited until evening to approach Jesus for healing (8:14-16).

Here’s what we read in Matthew 8:14-16:

And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and served him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick.

Why did people wait until evening to bring to Jesus those who were possessed and sick? You would think they’d want Jesus to start healing the sick and suffering right away.

The answer is found in Mark’s parallel account of this event (Mark 1:21, 29-32):

And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught . . . And immediately he [Jesus] left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.

Notice how verse 21 tells us the day on which Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law: the Sabbath. This is why people waited until sundown, the end of the Sabbath (during which it was forbidden to do work), to bring their sick and possessed loved ones to Jesus.

They waited until evening lest the Pharisees view their attempt to bring the sick and possessed to Jesus for healing as a breach of the Sabbath rest. This is a reasonable assumption given the fact that the Pharisees viewed even the performance of a miracle as breaking the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6; John 5:16).

By themselves, undesigned coincidences might not be fully convincing for a skeptic. But they are not meant to stand alone. They form a cumulative argument: it’s strongest when the coincidences are taken as a whole. As one author put it, “it’s death by a thousand mosquito bites.” (Being from Louisiana, I know what that’s all about!) They’re even stronger when presented alongside other evidence to make a comprehensive and convincing case for the trustworthiness of the Gospels.

by Karlo Broussard, in catholic.com