The Downward Spiral: 6 Quick Catholic Lessons on the Book of Judges

Listers, the Historical Books are paramount in understanding salvation history. The Historical Books of the Old Testament are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and I & II Maccabees. The Historical Books capture the story of how Israel gains the Promise Land through obedience to the covenant but also how they eventually lose the Promise Land through their disobedience. There are seven major dates within the narrative of the Historical Books.

  • c. 1200 BC – Conquest, then Judge’s Period
  • c. 1030 BC – The United Kingdom: Saul, David, & Solomon
  • 931 BC – Divided Kingdom: Northern Kingdom of Israel & Southern Kingdom of Judah
  • 722 BC – Assyrian Exile of the Northern Kingdom
  • 586 BC – First Temple Destroyed as Babylon Conquers the Southern Kingdom
  • 516 BC – The Dedication of the Second Temple
  • 165 BC – The Rededication of the Second Template under the Maccabees

The theological significance of the Historical Books is exemplified by their alternative title: theFormer Prophets. While the Latter Prophets represent the minor and major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, etc.), the Former Prophets mark the beginning of the prophets appearing in the history of Israel. Furthermore, they record a prophetic history insofar as they point toward the coming of Jesus Christ. The internal text of the Historical Books or Former Prophets testifies to the distinction between prophetic history and general history when it utilizes the phrase are not the other works of the King written in the books of… and similar statements denoting that certain historical narratives belong in the records of prophetic history and some do not. A foundational understanding of the theological significance of the Former Prophets as a whole is found in the book of Deuteronomy. The seminal chapter is chapter twenty-eight, which records the blessings of following the covenant and the curses of breaking the covenant. Arguably the entire theme of the Historical Books is the unfolding of Deuteronomy twenty-eight: whether or not Israel is faithful to the covenant.

For a discussion of the first Historical Book, please visit The Conquest: 9 Catholic Lessons from the Book of Joshua. The list contains short discussions on the morality of the military conquest of the Promise Land, the Hexateuch, typological scenes of Mary, and much more.

 

The Book of Judges

 

1. Judges as a Downward Spiral

The Book of Judges should have been a continuation of the success of Joshua. Instead, Israel suffered a series of cycles from fidelity to failure.1

1. Sin—People did what was evil in the sight of the Lord
2. Suffering—God sends suffering, e.g., defeated by enemies, etc.
3. Supplication to God—apologies
4. Salvation—God sends a savior
5. Shalom—a period of peace
6. Repeat (repeated a cycle of seven times)

The cycles actually represent a downward spiral – each cycle being progressively worse than the one before. Note also that the text echoes a threefold repetition: at that time, there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was good in his or her own eyes, i.e., massive confusion and evil; note that it is connected to there being no king. The author or editor wants it to be known that they need a king to keep them faithful to the covenant.2

 

2. The Prophecy of Eve & the Serpent

In Genesis, our first parents suffered a curse due to their fall into sin. One condition of the Fall was that God would place enmity between the woman and the serpent – but the phrase explaining the enmity and what will happen due to that enmity has been a matter of much debate. To wit, should it read he shall crush thy head or she shall crush thy head or even they shall crush thy head? Notice older translation below from the Douay-Rheims Bible:

And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. Douay-Rheims Bible3

Modern Catholic texts read he shall crush your head:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. RSV-CE

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel. NAB4

Proponents of the prophecy reading and she shall crush often cite the strong biblical typology of women killing men by “crushing” their head. The debate is pertinent to the Book of Judges due to the story of Jael as a type cast of the woman “crushing” the head:

Sisera, in the meantime, had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of the Kenite Heber, since Jabin, king of Hazor, and the family of the Kenite Heber were at peace with one another. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord, come in with me; do not be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a rug.

He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink. I am thirsty.” But she opened a jug of milk for him to drink, and then covered him over. “Stand at the entrance of the tent,” he said to her. “If anyone comes and asks, ‘Is there someone here?’ say, ‘No!'”

Instead Jael, wife of Heber, got a tent peg and took a mallet in her hand. While Sisera was sound asleep, she stealthily approached him and drove the peg through his temple down into the ground, so that he perished in death. Then when Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man you seek.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg through his temple.5

The typological pattern of a woman killing a man via “crushing” their head occurs three times in the Historical Books and five times overall in the Old Testament. The fulfillment of the prophecy comes with Mother Mary standing on Golgotha – the mount Christ was crucified upon named the skull.6 Thus, you have a woman crushing the head of the serpent through the victory of Christ.7

 

3. The Story of Gideon

Chapter seven contains the famous narrative of Gideon leading the army of the Lord. First, Gideon is commanded to tell all the soldiers in the army that if they are afraid they can go home. As a result, twenty-two thousand left and ten thousand remained. Second, the army is led to water and some drank by lapping up the water like dogs and others knelt and drank by cupping the water in their hand. The Lord commands Gideon to only keep those men who lapped the water – 300 soldiers. Third, the army of three hundred win a military victory by holding trumpets in one hand and lamps in the other (no weapons in hand). The principle here is that the victory belonged to the Lord. The victory came through obedience and liturgy.8

In chapter eight, Gideon is asked to rule as King and he declines and says the Lord should rule; however, Gideon uses his clout to ask for the spoils of war – especially gold. He then makes a golden ephod – a priestly garment – and leads the people of God into idolatry. Once again, Israel plays the harlot and there is liturgical confusion.

 

4. Jephthah’s Vow

During the sixth cycle, Jephthah makes a vow to sacrifice to God the first thing that exits his house. His vow is the first of two brash and ill fated vows in the Book of Judges. As the story goes, Jepthah’s daughter is the first thing to exit the house. Holy Scripture does not record whether or not the sacrifice was ever carried out; however, scripture does record his daughter taking a time to mourn she will die a virgin. The pericope of Jephthah’s vow serves as another example of liturgical confusion during the Judges period.9

 

5. Samson & Sight

In chapter thirteen the seventh cycle in Judges contains the Samson narrative. The story of Samson has a subtle motif of “sight.” In chapter fourteen, Samson desires a Philistine woman over any woman in Israel. He tells his parents, “Get her for me, for she pleases me” or literally, “she is good in my eyes.”10 The attitude of Samson serves as a microcosm of the current idolatrous disposition of Israel. The motif of sight characterizes the entire Judges narrative: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”11 The motif continues with Samson’s demise as Samson’s eyes are plucked out after he submits to Delilah the secret to his strength.

 

6. The Concubine Raped, Cut Up, & Mailed

The Israelite discovers his concubine, dead on his doorstep - by Gustave Doré, Circa 1880. Wiki.
The Israelite discovers his concubine, dead on his doorstep – by Gustave Doré, Circa 1880. Wiki.

Judges ends with a narrative that shows exactly how deep Israel has spiraled. In chapter nineteen, a Levite and his concubine (the first clue something is wrong) go to a town within the tribe of Benjamin. Despite being among his kin, no one in the town is hospitable save one old man. The man takes the Levite and the concubine into his home for the night. During the night, the men of the city demand that the Levite priest come out so they can rape him. Instead, the old man offers his virgin daughters and the priest’s concubine. Ultimately, the concubine is thrown out to the men and she is raped throughout the night and dies.

Upon finding her dead outside, the Levite priest cuts the concubine into pieces and sends one piece to each tribe to show the wickedness that has manifested in the tribe of Benjamin. The other tribes turn against the Benjaminites and war against them. The other tribes then make the second ill fated vow of the Book of Judges – they make a covenant not to give their daughters to Benjaminite men in marriage. The error here is that this means the tribe of Benjamin will either die out or have to seek pagan wives. The narrative shows the depravity and confusion found at the bottom of the spiral.

The most telling sign of how far the tribes have fallen is comparing how the book begins to how the book ends. The first verse of the book states, “After the death of Joshua the Israelites consulted the LORD, asking, “Who shall be first among us to attack the Canaanites and to do battle with them?”12 Yet, at the end of the book the tribes of Israel are asking, “who will go with us against the tribe of Benjamin?” The People of God have gone from warring for the Promise Land to civil war – the bottom of the downward spiral of the Book of Judges.

  1. Cycle: See 2:11-17 as an example. []
  2. King David and the Jebusites: Notice in 1:19 the Jebusites are still present in the Promise Land. The Jebusites occupy what will later become Jerusalem. It is King David that will conquer the Jebusites and raise Jerusalem to the center of political and spiritual power in the Kingdom. Interestingly, after a young David slew Goliath, he places Goliath’s head outside of the Jebusite controlled Jerusalem – a foreshadowing of the coming conquest. []
  3. Note on v. 15 from DRB commentary – [15] She shall crush: Ipsa, the woman; so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz., the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent’s head. []
  4. Notes on v. 15 NAB – “He will strike . . . at his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer’s words would be, “They will strike . . . at their heels.” However, later theology saw in this passage more than unending hostility between snakes and men. The serpent was regarded as the devil (⇒ Wisdom 2:24; ⇒ John 8:44; ⇒ Rev 12:9; ⇒ 20:2), whose eventual defeat seems implied in the contrast between head and heel. Because “the Son of God appeared that he might destroy the works of the devil” (⇒ 1 John 3:8), the passage can be understood as the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind. The woman’s offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ.” []
  5. 4:17-22 []
  6. Golgotha: ORIGIN from late Latin, via Greek from an Aramaic form of Hebrew gulgoleth ‘skull’ (see Matt. 27:33). []
  7. Women of the Gen. 3:15 Prophecy: in Judges you have Jael and the woman who drops the millstone on Abimelech in chapter nine; the head of Seba in II Samuel 20:16; it occurs again with Judith and in the book of Esther. []
  8. Gideon: Gideon’s victory shows that victory belongs to the Lord and the glory belongs to him, which will later serve as a comparison to King Saul. It also adds to a motif of proper liturgy. []
  9. Jephthah’s Vow see chapter eleven. []
  10. 14:2-3. []
  11. 21:25. []
  12. NAB. []

The Conquest: 9 Catholic Lessons from the Book of Joshua

Listers, the Historical Books are paramount in understanding salvation history. The Historical Books of the Old Testament are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and I & II Maccabees. The Historical Books capture the story of how Israel gains the Promise Land through obedience to the covenant but also how they eventually lose the Promise Land through their disobedience. There are seven major dates within the narrative of the Historical Books.

  • c. 1200 BC – Conquest, then Judge’s Period
  • c. 1030 BC – The United Kingdom: Saul, David, & Solomon
  • 931 BC – Divided Kingdom: Northern Kingdom of Israel & Southern Kingdom of Judah
  • 722 BC – Assyrian Exile of the Northern Kingdom
  • 586 BC – First Temple Destroyed as Babylon Conquers the Southern Kingdom
  • 516 BC – The Dedication of the Second Temple
  • 165 BC – The Rededication of the Second Template under the Maccabees

The theological significance of the Historical Books is exemplified by their alternative title: the Former Prophets. While the Latter Prophets represent the minor and major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, etc.), the Former Prophets mark the beginning of the prophets appearing in the history of Israel. Furthermore, they record a prophetic history insofar as they point toward the coming of Jesus Christ. The internal text of the Historical Books or Former Prophets testifies to the distinction between prophetic history and general history when it utilizes the phrase are not the other works of the King written in the books of… and similar statements denoting that certain historical narratives belong in the records of prophetic history and some do not. A foundational understanding of the theological significance of the Former Prophets as a whole is found in the book of Deuteronomy. The seminal chapter is chapter twenty-eight, which records the blessings of following the covenant and the curses of breaking the covenant. Arguably the entire theme of the Historical Books is the unfolding of Deuteronomy twenty-eight: whether or not Israel is faithful to the covenant.

 

 

The Book of Joshua

The Book of Joshua is the story of the conquest of the Promise Land by the Israelites. The following is a basic chapter outline of the book.1

1-12 – The Conquest
13-21 – The Division
22 – The Test (or the Real Victory)
23-24 – A Covenant Renewal

 

1. Early Church Significance

The Early Church Fathers saw a twofold significance in the Book of Joshua. In subject matter, the book records the people of God entering into the Promised Land, which serves as a type of heaven. In leadership, though Moses led them to the Promised Land, it was Joshua who served as the Christ-figure ushering in salvation. In Hebrew, Joshua means the LORD is salvation, which is also exactly what Jesus means.2 To wit, you have Joshua leading the People of God into the Promised Land as a type scene of Jesus leading the Church into heaven.

 

2. The Hexateuch

The first five books of Holy Scripture are referred to as the Pentateuch meaning five books in Greek; however, some biblical commentators saw Joshua as a necessary addition to the first five books as it finishes the story of Exodus. Adding Joshua makes it the Hexateuch. Proponents of the Hexateuch model focused on narrative of the books more than the authorship of the books. The basic literary outline of the Hexateuch is as follows:

Adam – Mankind
Moses – Drawn out
Joshua – Saved

Adding Joshua to the Pentateuch allows for the first six books of the Bible to serve as type of salvation narrative. It takes the strong typological connections between Joshua and Christ mentioned above and places it at the end of the Exodus narrative to create a small typological story of salvation.

 

3. The Jordan River & Mary Immaculate

The journey through the desert has brought Israel to the eastern bank of the Jordan River, and Jericho is located past the western shore. The Jordan River ran straight south from the fresh water sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south. The Jordan River serves a typological significance in studying sin and holiness. The river was seen as the washing away sin into the sea of death, the Dead Sea. In chapter three of Joshua, as the Ark of the Covenant approaches the river, God causes the river to back up all the way to the city of Adam. It calls to mind the person of Adam and original sin. Therefore, if Mary is the New Ark of the New Covenant, the fact the Jordan dried up and backed up all the way to Adam to let the Ark pass into the Promised Land may be seen as a type scene of the Immaculate Conception.

 

4. Understanding the “Cherem”

Few things in Holy Scripture elicit more debates than the military conquest of the Promised Land. Though it certainly merits a longer conversation, there are a few quick lessons to be learned using the victory over Jericho as an example. First, Rahab’s testimony reveals that Jericho knew of Israel’s military victories and they feared the Israelites. The implication being that they could have abandoned the city or surrendered – as other cities later did. Second, the first victory of the Promise land belonged exclusively to the Lord. The battle was won supernaturally and liturgically-not militarily. It is the beginning of a liturgical theme of “right worship” throughout the Historical Books.

After the liturgical destruction of the walls of Jericho comes the Cherem or Herem:

Then the people cried aloud, and still the trumpets blew, till every ear was deafened by the shouting and the clangour; and all at once the walls fell down flat. Thereupon each man went to the assault where he was posted, and they took the city. All that was in it they slew, sparing neither man nor woman, neither youth nor age; even cattle and sheep and asses were put to the sword.3

The Cherem is the curse or the ban meaning to be devoted to destruction. Quite literally, these people are devoted to God via their destruction. They are given to God. They are handed to God due to their hardened hearts which carry the virus of idolatry. Is the cherem genocide? Not necessarily. Notice that Rahab is spared due to her profession of faith. It is a distinction of religious identity not national or ethnic identity. Is the cherem jihad? No, unlike the Islamic jihad there is no military mandate to take over the whole world. Salvation will come to the world through the wisdom of Israel not through military conquest. The concept of cherem is discussed further in the lessons below.

 

5. No Such Thing as Private Sin

In the book of Joshua, the major theological theme of convent faithfulness is demonstrated in the principle that there is no private sin. The armies of Ai rout Joshua and the Israelites, and in response Joshua cries out before the Ark of the Covenant.4 The Lord responds, “Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, and lied, and put them among their own stuff.”5 Note that the Lord’s response is communal—Israel has sinned; however, only one man, A’chan, had sinned by hiding spoils of war in his tent.6 Though it was a private sin, the entire community was guilty of breaking the covenant and has lost favor with God.

Notice that the narrative of Achan almost ruins an entire people. Archan and his family are stoned to death and his possessions are burned. The story of Archan is arguably a flip side of the Cherem. The whole nation suffers until the infidelity to offered to God via destruction. It is an issue of covenant faithfulness not race or nationality.

 

6. The Sun Stands Still

What happened to Rahab in Jericho now happens to an entire community. Upon hearing what had happened to Jericho, the people of Gabaon devised a way to make peace with Israel. They dressed themselves in worn clothes and presented themselves as having traveled from far away to make an alliance. Israel was deceived and the people of Gabaon entered into a covenant with Israel. Once the deceit is discovered, Joshua curses them and they become laborers – but Israel remains in covenant with them and Gabaon becomes a pagan people ordered toward the true God. Note again that the cherem is not about race or nationality but about religious devotion to the true God of Israel. In chapter ten, the Gibeonites come under attack and Israel – in fidelity to their covenantal relationship – come to their defense. During the battle, the Lord makes the sun stand still in order that Israel may finish the battle and secure victory.

 

7. The Division of the Land

The division of the Promise Land amongst the tribes sets the stage for the rest of the history of Israel. The tribes will be a loose collection of entities during the Judges period, they will be united under Saul, David, and Solomon, and then they will fragment and will be conquered and exiled by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. It is these section of Joshua that sets the geographic stage for the rest of Historical Books. The most important tribe in the north becomes Ephraim and in the south Judah. Typologically, the Early Church commented on this section as showing the different levels of glory in heaven, because the Promise Land is not dividing equally among the tribes. Finally, note that the Jebusities who control what will later become Jerusalem still remain unconquered in the Promise Land.7

 

8. The Test

In the twenty-second chapter, a few tribes of Israel still remain on the east side of the Jordan. The question of the narrative of “the test” is whether the physical barrier of the Jordan will also become a spiritual barrier. Those on the east side decide to set up a huge altar next to river to show they are part of the body of Israel and that the God of Israel is their God; however, those on the west side misread their actions and believe those on the east bank have erected a false altar. The idea of cherem re-enters the story as the Israelites on the west bank believe they must now destroy those on the east bank due to their unfaithfulness to the covenant. They are willing to war with their own kinsmen in order that Israel may remain pure and faithful to their covenant with the Lord. Fortunately, before the war begins the true purpose of the altar on the east bank is discovered and all ends well.

 

9. Covenant Renewal

The Book of Joshua ends with a renewal of the covenant.8 Joshua demands that Israel chose who they will serve, which has become a famous passage in Holy Scripture:

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”9

“And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”10

“But if it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, you have your choice: choose this day that which pleaseth you, whom you would rather serve… but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”11

“If the Lord’s service mislikes you, choose some other way… I and mine will worship the Lord.”12

The larger passage denotes that either the Israelites still have foreign gods among them or rather the spirit of idolatry is still dwelling in their hearts. What they need is a cherem of the heart. Israel chooses to follow the Lord and does so as long as Joshua is alive; however, the Promise Land is not completely conquered. The Jebusites still remain in what will become Jerusalem.

  1. Resources: These lessons on Joshua were drawn primarily from a lecture by a professor at a FSSP seminary. []
  2. “The word Jesus is the Latin form of the Greek ‘Ina-00s, which in turn is the transliteration of the Hebrew Jeshua, or Joshua, or again Jehoshua, meaning “Jehovah is salvation”.” – Catholic Answers. []
  3. 6:20-21, Knox. []
  4. 7:4-9 []
  5. v. 11 []
  6. vv. 19-21 []
  7. Jebusites remain, 15:63; it is not until King David that they are conquered and Jerusalem becomes the central political and spiritual point for the People of God. []
  8. 24:24-15 []
  9. 24:14, KJV. []
  10. RSVCE []
  11. Douay-Rheims []
  12. Knox Bible []

Bible Study: 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Biblical Interpretation

7 Essential Principles for Catholic Study
Click to view on Amazon.

Listers, “what does a Catholic approach to Scripture study look like?” This is the question Dr. Steven C. Smith takes up in his work 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study: The Word of the Lord. The book strikes an excellent balance between academic insights and a tone/format that is easily accessible to the everyday Catholic. His Eminence Cardinal George comments, “this is a helpful book at a time when the relations between Scripture and Tradition and Scripture and Divine Revelation are background for many other conversations in the Church today.” In the Foreward by Dr. Scott Hahn, the Scripture scholar states, “most importantly, readers are guided step by step through seven principles of Catholic biblical interpretation by a veteran teacher of Sacred Scripture at Mount St. Mary’s seminary, one of the oldest and most respected houses of formation in the United States. From years of experience in the classroom and parish, Dr. Smith is able to communicate clearly for a wide range of readers, from seminarians and clergy to young adults and professionals.” The following are the principle titles and descriptions as written in Dr. Smith’s work. SPL highly suggests 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study as a proper introduction to reading Holy Scripture as a Catholic.1

 


 

 

Principle 1: God’s Word: Divine Words in Human Language

Catholic Biblical Interpretation is governed by the firm belief that Scripture is the inspired word of God, expressed in human language. God’s Word was written under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit and – at the same time – was written by true human authors with their intellectual capacities and limitations The thought and the words belong both to God and to human beings in such a way that the whole Bible comes simultaneously from God and from the inspired human authors.2

 

Principle 2: God’s Word is Revealed in History

Catholic Biblical Interpretation is profoundly concerned with history because of the nature of biblical revelation and the Living Word who revealed himself to humanity in history (John 1:14). Yet, Scripture can never be reduced to the natural order but fully affirms the supernatural and God’s intervention in history. Interpretation of a biblical text must be consistent with the meaning expressed by the human authors. Thus, Catholic exegetes must place biblical texts in their ancient contexts, helping to clarify the meaning of the biblical authors’ message for their original audience and for the contemporary reader.3

 

Principle 3: God’s Word is Revealed in History

Catholic Biblical Interpretation is grounded in the firm belief that there is one source of Divine revelation: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The living presence of God’s Word in the Church’s life through time “flow from the same one divine wellspring” (DV, 9) and “form one sacred deposit of the word of God” (DV, 10). It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the biblical canon (DV, 8) and it is above all Sacred Tradition that helps us to truly and properly understand the Word of God.4

 

Principle 4: God’s Word: Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture

Catholic biblical interpretation insists upon the unity and coherence of the whole canon of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. This unitive dimension of the word of God is evident in many ways; Catholic exegetes should be particularly aware of three:

The Theme of Covenant
Biblical Typology
Recapitulation in Christ

In these and other ways, we affirm Augustine’s conclusion: “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”5

 

Principle 5: God’s Word Has Meanings(s)

Catholic Biblical interpretation affirms that God’s Word is rich in meaning and a multiplicity of approaches can assist the exegete in explaining texts. No one method of interpretation is adequate in itself to plumb the depths of Scripture. Catholic exegetes thus benefit from exploration of various methods, including ancient, medieval, and modern biblical scholarship. Such an array of approaches can cast valuable light on the Sacred Page, provided one “reads” them within the tradition of the Church and according to the hermeneutics faith.6

 

Principle 6: God’s Word Requires Sound, Balanced, Methodological Analysis

Catholic biblical interpretation requires sound and balanced analysis. In the end, all analysis should be based upon excellence in scholarship, encountered from a robust Christian faith, and reflect pastoral concern and the needs of God’s people. Three essential criteria for ensuring such control in one’s exegesis of Sacred Scripture:

1. Attention to the content and unity of the Bible
2. Reading all of Scripture within the living Tradition of the Church
3. Reference to the analogy (or rule) of faith.7

 

Principle 7: God’s Word is Life-giving and Active!

God’s inspired word fulfills a life-giving, foundational, and authoritative role in the life of the Church. Thus, Catholic biblical interpretation does not conclude with an understanding of words, concepts and events. It must seek to arrive at the reality of which the language speaks, a transcendent reality, communication with God. The Church is called to continually actualize the ancient texts as the Word for today, and embody it in all situations and cultures. To this end, the Catholic student of Scripture must have competence in all of the previous principles so that he/she can read, study, pray and proclaim Scripture faithfully and clearly with full confidence in their transformative power.8

 

Once again, please visit Dr. Smith’s personal website and check out his 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study.

 


 

New list coming soon on how to read Scripture as a Catholic – or just how to read it correctly. #catholic #catholicism #bible

A photo posted by St. Peter’s List (@stpeterslist) on

 

More Lists on Holy Scripture

 

  1. Dr. Smith’s personal website is The God Who Speaks. []
  2. Id. 17. []
  3. Id. 61. []
  4. Id. 85. []
  5. Id. 109. []
  6. Id. 161. []
  7. Id. 199. []
  8. Id. 215. []

The 12 Step Biblical Guide to the Pope and Infallibility

The pope leads the King’s people according to the King’s laws and at times must clarify those laws so the people may continue to live in full adherence to the King.

Listers, the Office of the Papacy and Infallibility are biblical gifts to the Church. According to the Gospels, St. Peter – the first to be given the Office of the Papacy – was commissioned by Christ to be the vicar of the kingdom of God, to strengthen the faithful, and to be the chief shepherd of the Lord’s flock. In short, the Vicar governs the kingdom according to the King’s laws until the King returns. The following list is meant to demonstrate the strong biblical argument for the papacy, but it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Catholics should be weary of proof-texting – a subpar hermeneutic that seeks to support ideas by stringing together selective Scriptures – for a few reasons. First, Holy Scripture should always be viewed holistically. A single verse that can be tortured to read a certain way is not a legitimate reading of Scripture. The list at hand seeks to avoid proof-texting by offering a wide range of Scriptures from both the New and Old Testaments supported by historical and linguistic insights.

Second, Catholics embrace the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Piecing together an argument from Scriptures holds little weight if no Christian in the last two-thousand years has held it to be legitimate. For Catholics, there is always the historical and spiritual consideration of how the Early Church interpreted Scriptures. They lived in a biblical time and worked with the disciples of the disciples. In this context, it should be noted the Early Church undoubtedly held that the Bishop of Rome held a special authority in Christ’s Kingdom. He was the successor to St. Peter, the first Vicar of Christ; thus, the following argument is not simply a Catholic reading of Scripture, it is also the historical Christian reading.1

 

The Last Supper is a painting painted between 1496 to 1498 by Leonardo Da Vinci in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The Last Supper is a painting painted between 1496 to 1498 by Leonardo Da Vinci in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

 

St. Peter Among the Apostles

 

1. What is an Apostle?

Before discussing whether or not St. Peter held a primacy among the apostles, the term apostle should be defined. The Hebrew word for apostle is shaliah, which is defined as an agent or legal emissary. The term agent in the context of shaliah, however, is richer than the modern concept of an ambassador or representative. The term denotes someone who comes with the same authority as the one who sent him. The person may delegate any task to his shaliah, his apostle.2

The Apostles received full authority and power from Christ to go forth with the mission of representing him. The apostles did not simply go out and tell people about Christ, they went forth with the power of Christ, e.g., casting out demons, after Christ’s Ascension, the power to forgive and retain sins (discussed below), . The requirements for the title apostles are (1) an encounter with the Risen Christ and (2) be personally commissioned.3

 

2. Did St. Peter Hold Any Honor Among the Twelve?

There are many small signs within the Gospel narratives that indicate St. Peter held an honored place among the twelve. When choosing his twelve disciples, Christ called St. Peter first and his interaction with Christ served as a the “original pattern of apostolic vocation par excellence.”4 Second, throughout the New Testament, St. Peter is named first when the disciples are listed, e.g., “And the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother…”5 Third, St. Peter is always among those disciples chosen for a particular event; thus, he is present with James and John at the Transfiguration and at the Mt. of Olives. In both instances, St. Peter is singled out from the other two.6 Finally, St. Peter was the only apostle to walk on water and delivered the homily on the first Pentecost.7

For these reasons – and Scriptures below – St. Peter held a primacy among the twelve and is known historically as the “Prince of the Apostles.”

 

St. Peter receiving the Keys of the Kingdom.
St. Peter receiving the Keys of the Kingdom.

 

St. Peter’s Vocation in the Gospel of St. Matthew

 

3. What Type of Kingdom did Christ Intend?

In writing his gospel to the Jews, St. Matthew draws heavily from the Old Testament in order to show Christ as the Jewish Messiah. One of the most important Messianic Old Testament concepts is the New Davidic Kingdom. King David is promised a descendent who would “rule forever” and sit on “David’s throne” forever.8  According to the Bible, Jesus Christ is a descendent of King David. He is referred to as the “Son of David.”9

 

4. What Office did Christ give to St. Peter?

St. Matthew records one of the most import pericopes in Scripture. First, St. Peter is singled out as the one among the twelve that correctly identifies Christ as the Son of the Living God. Second, Christ singles out St. Peter and gives him a unique vocation/office within the New Davidic Kingdom.

And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

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. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

Christ changes Simon Bar-Jona’s name to Peter, meaning Rock and declares that it is upon this rock Christ will build his Church.10 In the Old Testament, God changing a person’s name signified a new vocation for that individual. Abram was changed to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and Jacob to Israel. Simon Bar-Jona’s new vocation as Peter is to be the Rock for Christ’s Church. How exactly St. Peter is to fulfill this role of rock is expressed in a biblical understanding of the keys he is given.

 

5. Is St. Peter the Rock in the Original Language?

Before a discussion of the keys, certain protestant polemics that attempt to state St. Peter was not the rock in St. Matthew’s famous passage should be addressed. In Greek, Christ changes St. Peter’s name to Petros and then says upon this petra I will build my Church. The assertion here is that the two terms are distinct and St. Peter is consequently not the rock upon which the Church is built. There  are two main reasons this polemic is in error.

First, there is a distinction between the language Christ spoke and the language of the New Testament. Christ spoke Aramaic, which renders the passage, “That thou art Kepha; and upon this kepha I will build my church.” There is no distinction.11 This reading in the Aramaic is affirmed by the fact St. Peter is also called Cephas in the New Testament. The name Peter comes from the Greek petros/petra meaning rock, while Cephas comes from the Aramaic word kepha.

Second, there is a distinction in the Greek itself. First, even though Greek is an inflected language – meaning the form/spelling of the noun is predicated upon its function in the sentence – the distinction between petros and petra is not an inflection of the same word. They are cognates, meaning they are two words with the same root word. In the old Attic Greek, this distinction held a nuanced difference in the definitions; however, this nuance had disappeared by the time the New Testament was written. The New Testament is written in Koine Greek, which holds petros and petra to be synonyms.12 There is again, no discernible distinction between petros and petra.

St. Peter is the rock in both the spoken language and the written language of the New Testament. There are other protestant concerns that pivot on the misguided belief that only Christ may be referred to as the rock. This belief lends to a tormented reading of the text that asserts the rock is either Christ himself or St. Peter’s faith. First, the text is difficult to reconcile with these views as St. Peter is undeniably given the keys of the kingdom. He is the focus on the entire passage. Second, many forget that Abraham was also referred to as the rock of Israel. Isaiah 51:1-3 states, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn… look to Abraham your father.” The connection between Abraham and St. Peter only further solidifies the belief that St. Peter’s vocation is one of extreme importance – as both Abraham and St. Peter serve as foundations for the People of God.13

 

6. Are St. Peter’s Keys in the Bible?

One of the most intriguing aspects of St. Matthew’s passage is Christ giving St. Peter the keys of the kingdom. Since Christ is the “Son of David” and he sits on throne in the New Jerusalem, it follows that the keys must have a Davidic significance.  In examining the passage, it is clear that Christ is drawing from the Old Testament and perfecting a passage from Isaiah that speaks of a position within the Davidic Kingdom.

And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place, and he shall be for a throne of glory to the house of his father.

The similarities in the Old Testament passage are striking. In both passages, a person within the Davidic Kingdom is given keys that come with the authority to open and shut or to bind and loose.14 Reading Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16 together, the office given to St. Peter appears to be one of a steward or vicar. The vicar is the person who governs in the king’s stead when the king is away. He does not have the authority to change the teachings of the king, but he does have the authority to enforce and clarify them. In King David’s time, his vicar would rule when David was off to war or some other errand. In our age, the Vicar of Christ, aka the Office of the Papacy, governs the Church according to Christ’s teachings until Christ the King returns for his Kingdom. Notice David’s Vicar has one key to open and close the earthly kingdom, but Christ’s Vicar has two keys: one for heaven and one for earth.

Another important aspect of the keys is their ability to “bind and loose.” The phrase is deeply rooted in the Jewish rabbinic tradition and denotes the power to set the boundaries of a community. The binding and loosing power Christ attached to the keys clarifies for the community what was right and what was wrong. As the steward governed King David’s House according to the King’s order, so too does the new steward of the Eternal King’s House govern according to the Eternal King’s order.

 

St. Peter’s Vocation in the Gospel of St. Luke

 

7. How does St. Luke describe St. Peter’s Vocation?

In the Gospel of St. Luke, Christ charges St. Peter with the role of confirming his brothers in the faith.15

And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. Who said to him: Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said: I say to thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, till thou thrice deniest that thou knowest me.

One of the comforts of being a Catholic is that Christ chose an imperfect man to be the first Pope. St. Peter fails time and time again. Note here, however, that it appears God has given up St. Peter to Satan as he did Job. St. Peter does fail and he betrays Christ three times, however, unlike Judas, St. Peter is able to discover grace and return to fulfill his biblical role. He returns and strengthens the brethren. Compare the St. Peter who denied Christ to the St. Peter who – again in a unique act – stood and delivered the homily at the first Pentecost.

 

St. Peter’s Vocation in the Gospel of St. John

 

8. What is St. Peter’s Vocation in St. John’s Gospel?

The Gospel of St. John records St. Peter’s vocation in terms of a chief shepherd. Take note of the threefold commission given to St. Peter. The thrice nature of the commission has both a ancient juridical element and hearkens back to St. Luke’s description.16

This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to his disciples, after he was risen from the dead. When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep. Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had said this, he saith to him: Follow me.

First, notice that the vocation given to St. Peter is one founded on love and expressed in service. The threefold nature of the commission serves two purposes. First, St. Peter thrice proclaims his love for Christ, which corresponds and heals his three denials of Christ. Second, Christ asking St. Peter the same question three times in a row is a juridical formula. The threefold question was a solemn juridical rite that expressed the installation of an office or the transfer of authority.

 

9. How does the modern papacy reflect St. Peter’s biblical vocation?

Did the office of the papacy endure after St. Peter? Yes, if the role of the pope is to be the vicar in the King’s absence, then the office of the papacy endures until the King returns. The pope leads the King’s people according to the King’s laws until the King returns. Moreover, the Isaiah 22 passage that speaks of the Davidic key is in the context of one steward replacing another.

The pope’s authority is articulated in Holy Scripture. The pope strengthens his brother bishops and all Catholics in the faith by writing encyclicals and other works. He stands as an exemplar – hopefully – in faith, morals, and the liturgy. He is the Chief Shepherd watching over God’s flock.

He is the Rock that holds the Keys of the Kingdom. He may bind and loose. Historically, this authority has given us dogma. How many books should be in the Bible? What is the canon for the New Testament? What is the true identity of Christ? What is justification? All these questions have been confirmed at Council by the authority of the papacy. Even the core dogmas that the Protestants hold on to were defined and declared dogma by the Pope and the Church.

However, how does the Church know that these declarations by the Pope and the Church has correct? What if the Church erred in explaining Christ’s identity as fully man and fully God? What if the Church erred in the books of the New Testament? What if one of the hundreds of doctrines the Church declared was heresy was actually God’s truth? If the Church has erred, is she not teaching heresy? Have the gates of hell – despite Christ’s promise – prevailed? By what principle do we declare our faith in the decisions of the Church are correct?

 

A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean II Restout, 1732.
A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean II Restout, 1732.

 

The Gift of Infallibility

 

10. What is the Soul of the Church?

The concept of infallibility is predicated upon several key biblical concepts. First, the office Christ gave to St. Peter – the role of Vicar who guides, strengthens, and shepherds – second, the promise the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, and third, Pentecost. In Pentecost we learn that the Holy Spirit is the power of the Church. Just as the soul animates the body, so too does the Holy Spirit animate the Catholic Church.17 The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church.

The primary text associated with Pentecost describes the power of the Holy Spirit falling upon Mary and the disciples.18

And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.

With the power of the Holy Spirit upon him, St. Peter stands up and strengthens the brothers and shepherds the Church. “But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them…” One of the undercurrents of St. Peter’s homily is the basic biblical principles that the New Testament is foreshadowed in the Old and the Old Testament is perfected in the New. The old Pentecost celebrating the harvests and the the Covenant at Sinai is perfected in the new Pentecost of the Holy Spirit and the Church. Similarly, the old Davidic kingdom has its steward, so too does the Davidic Kingdom have its steward.

The Pentecost in Acts – in which St. Peter gives the homily – demonstrates the Holy Spirit as the power of the Church. It is the power that fell upon the Apostles, Christ’s agents or legal emissaries. The Pentecost in St. John’s Gospel more fully demonstrates the unique connection between the Apostles, the Holy Spirit, and the governance of Christ’s Church.19

And when he [Christ] had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.

He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

St. John’s Pentecost is characterized by Christ breathing the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles. The act grants them the power – through the Holy Spirit – to forgive and retain sins, the biblical foundation for the Sacrament of Confession, inter alia. The two passages serve to demonstrate the Holy Spirit’s intimate role with the Church, and the latter passage more clearly indicates the instruments of the Holy Spirit are the Apostles. St. Peter then, stands unique among the rest, as he holds a special place among the Apostles – the Vicar of Christ.

 

11. What is the Gift of Infallibility?

The Gift of Infallibility is the belief the Holy Spirit fulfills Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Infallibility is first and foremost a gift to the Church; however, like the gift to forgive and retain sins, the means by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this gift is the papacy and the magisterium of the Church. The promise that hell would not prevail was given by Christ in the same passage that he gives St. Peter the keys and renames him the Rock. The vocation of St. Peter and the promise hell will not prevail against the Church are intimately connected.

If the Pope is the Rock and he has the keys to “bind and loose,” what if the Pope was to lead the Church into error? What if the Pope at the Council of Nicaea would have submitted Christ was not fully God and fully Man? What if Pope would have allowed Gnostic books filled with errors into the biblical canon? The Pope and the Church – but never the Church without the Pope – has determined what is and is not Christianity. Many of these proclamations are still held by protestants as core undeniable tenants of the Christian faith. But by what faith do Catholics take these decisions? By what surety do Christians hold the doctrines of Christ’s Incarnation and the Trinity? Catholics take them on the faith that the Holy Spirit protects the Church and keeps her from error.

The Gift of Infallibility is a negative gift not a positive gift. It is a negative gift that prevents the pope from leading the Church into serious error. It is a gift of prevention and not of assertion. In other words, it is a gift of clarifying the faith, not creating the faith. Ultimately, it is the a gift to the Church preserving the Bride of Christ from the stain of adultery (idolatry). Call to mind the keys of the kingdom and the role of the vicar. The pope leads the King’s people according to the King’s laws and at times must clarify those laws so the people may continue to live in full adherence to the King.

 

12. How does Infallibility Work?

First, there are the councils that decided matters of faith. For example, the Council of Nicaea articulated the identity of Christ and the Council of Trent the doctrine of justification. Through the Holy Spirit working in the Church and the Chief Shepherd, the Pope, the Faithful may believe these doctrines have been defined infallibly. It is the Church and the Pope, but never the Church without the Pope.

Second, when the bishops of the world teach in unison with the Pope and the Sacred Tradition of the Church there is infallibility. A council may declare something, but then the bishops are charged with sharing that truth with their flock. When a bishop teaches the Faithful about Sacred Tradition there is infallibility. The sole belief that this doctrine has been given infallibly to the Church.

Third, there is when the Pope speaks ex cathedra or from the throne. An ex cathedra pronouncement declares a clarification of Catholic doctrine that is consistent with the faith of the Church, is universally applicable, and seriously tied enough to salvation to merit an extraordinary clarification. The Council of Vatican I (AD 1869-70) declared:

Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

Note that the Council did not invent a new papal power, but clarified an existing one.20 The papal infallibility is a Gift to the Church that is used to clarify longstanding doctrinal issues. For example, Pope Pius IX infallibly declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8, 1854.21 Similarly, the Assumption of Mary was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950.22 Neither of these doctrines were invented in 1854 or 1950; rather, they were longstanding debates in the Church that the Pope felt were serious enough to merit an infallibly clarification.


Further Resources on Understanding the Papacy

  1. Early Church & the Papacy: SPL has three lists of quotes in this area – The Early Church in Jerusalem Followed the Pope: 7 Quotes from HistoryConstantinople: 25 Quotes from the Eastern Fathers on the Petrine MinistryRome is the Apostolic Throne: 24 Quotes from Alexandria, Antioch, and Cyprus. []
  2. Shaliah: In cross-referencing sources, the term was also listed as shali’ah and shaliach. For example, “The first shaliaḥ mentioned in the written Torah is Eliezer, who was sent by Abraham to find a wife for Isaac.” Source. []
  3. Apostles: First, there are always question about St. Paul referring to himself as an apostle. St. Paul did meet the Risen Christ and he was personally commissioned. Second, the “power” of the apostles is articulated throughout the article, but outside all the examples of them casting out demons, etc., look to the Pentecost of St. John’s Gospel, chapter 20. There, Christ breathes on the apostles and gives them the power to forgive and retain sins. []
  4. First to be Called: St. Luke 5:1-11, quote from Cardinal Ratzinger’s Called to Communion, 54. []
  5. St. Peter Listed First: Matt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13 []
  6. Transfiguration & Mt. of Olives: Mark 9:2-8; 14:33 []
  7. Walk on Water: Mt 14:28ff, also note St. Peter asked Christ how many times we ought to forgive (Mt 18:21) and his shadow healed people (Acts 5). For a whole list on this subject, see 13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles []
  8. King David’s Throne: I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31 []
  9. Son of David: Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48) Christ, as the Eternal King, fulfills God’s covenant with David, because Christ will “rule forever” from King David’s Throne in the New Jerusalem. During the exiles of Israel, the people wrote with hope about the New Jerusalem and the Messiah that would usher in the New Davidic Kingdom; thus, any conversation about what is and what is not properly intended by Christ, regarding his Kingdom, must be couched within the template of the Davidic Kingdom. ((David’s Kingdom: Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-3; Jer 33:14-15, 17, 19-21, 26; Ps 132:10-14, 17; Luke 1:31-33, 68-71; II Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5, 22:16; Rom 1:3 []
  10. Name Change: St. Matthew 16:13-20, D-R. []
  11. Cephas in the New Testament: cf. John 1:42; I Cor 1:12, 3:22, 9:5. []
  12. Greek Petros/Petra: For a further discussion see 10 Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy and its citations on this issue; moreover, the entire discussion of St. Peter’s vocation from the Gospel of St. Matthew is drawn from the same article. []
  13. Abraham & St. Peter: Cardinal Ratzinger stated the following in his book Called to Communion, 56, “Abraham, the father of faith, is by his faith the rock that holds back chaos, the onrushing primordial flood of destruction, and thus sustains creation. Simon, the first to confess Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the Resurrection, now becomes by virtue of his Abrahamic faith, which is renewed in Christ, the rock that stands against the impure tide of unbelief and its destruction of man.” []
  14. Keys in the Old Testament: The verse is Isaiah 22:22-23 D-R, but the entire passage is notable for discerning the vocation of St. Peter. For instance, the passage is actually taking the keys from one steward to the next. This detail is often used to combat those Protestant circles who affirm St. Peter had a unique role, but argue the role died with he died. []
  15. Strengthen the Brothers: Gospel of St. Luke 22:29-32 []
  16. Feed my Sheep: St. John 21:15-19 []
  17. Soul of the Church: In Latin the soul is anima which English derives words like animate; thus, the Holy Spirit as the anima of the Church animates all she does. []
  18. Pentecost: Acts 2 D-R []
  19. John’s Pentecost: Gospel of John 20:20-23 []
  20. Vatican I: Papal Infallibility, Session Four, Chapter Four. []
  21. Immaculate Conception:  Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus. []
  22. Assumption of Mary: Infallibly declared in Munificentissimus Deus. []

In Dust and Ashes: 21 Images from the Book of Job

Listers, the following is the entire gallery of William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job. The gallery displayed is known as the Linell Set (AD 1821) and contains 21 watercolor pieces. There is also an earlier watercolor gallery known as the Butts set (1806). Later, Blake went on to recreate the images on engraved plates (1826), which is widely consider his greatest work in that medium.

“Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.”

– Job 42:6

Blake never titled the pieces, so each title and respective verse was added later by scholars.1

 

 

Thus did Job continually.
Job 1:5

Job and His Family.
1. Job and His Family.

 

When the Almighty was yet with me, When my Children were about me.
Job 29:5

Satan Before the Throne of God.
2. Satan Before the Throne of God.

 

Thy Sons & thy Daughters were eating & drinking Wine in their eldest Brothers house & behold there came a great wind from the Wilderness & smote upon the four faces of the house & it fell upon the young Men & they are Dead.
Job 1:18–1:19

Job's Sons and Daughters Overwhelmed by Satan.
3. Job’s Sons and Daughters Overwhelmed by Satan.

 

And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Job 1:15

The Messengers Tell Job of His Misfortunes.
4. The Messengers Tell Job of His Misfortunes.

 

Then went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord.
Job 2:7

Satan Going Forth from the Presence of the Lord and Job's Charity.
5. Satan Going Forth from the Presence of the Lord and Job’s Charity.

 

And smote Job with sore Boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
Job 2:7

Satan Smiting Job with Boils.
6. Satan Smiting Job with Boils.

 

And when they lifted up their eyes afar off & knew him not they lifted up their voice & wept, and rent every Man his mantle & sprinkled dust upon their heads towards heaven.
Job 2:12

Job's Comforters.
7. Job’s Comforters.

 

Let the Day perish wherin I was Born.
Job 3:3

Job's Despair.
8. Job’s Despair.

 

Then a Spirit passed before my face the hair of my flesh stood up.
Job 4:14

The Vision of Eliphaz.
9. The Vision of Eliphaz.

 

The Just Upright Man is laughed to scorn.
Job 12:4

Job Rebuked by His Friends.
10. Job Rebuked by His Friends.

 

With Dreams upon my bed thou scarest me & affrightest me with Visions.
Job 7:14

Job's Evil Dreams.
11. Job’s Evil Dreams.

 

I am Young & ye are very Old wherefore I was afraid.
Job 32:6

The Wrath of Elihu.
12. The Wrath of Elihu.

 

Then the Lord answered Job out of the Whirlwind.
Job 38:1

The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind.
13. The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind.

 

When the morning Stars sang together, & all the Sons of God shouted for joy.
Job 38:7

When the Morning Stars Sang Together.
14. When the Morning Stars Sang Together.

 

Behold now Behemoth which I made with thee.
Job 40:15

Behemoth and Leviathan.
15. Behemoth and Leviathan.

 

Thou hast fulfilled the Judgment of the Wicked.
Job 36:17

The Fall of Satan.
16. The Fall of Satan.

 

I have heard thee with the hearing of the Ear but now my Eye seeth thee.
Job 42:5

The Vision of Christ.
17. The Vision of Christ.

 

And my Servant Job shall pray for you.
Job 42:8

Job's Sacrifice.
18. Job’s Sacrifice.

 

Every one also gave him a piece of Money.
Job 42:11

Every one also gave him a piece of Money.
19. Every one also gave him a piece of Money.

 

There were not found Women as fair as the Daughters of Job in all the Land & their Father gave them Inheritance among their Brethren.
Job 42:15

Job and His Daughters.
20. Job and His Daughters.

 

So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.
Job 42:12

Job and His Family Restored to Prosperity.
21. Job and His Family Restored to Prosperity.

  1. William Blake: All images and information was taken from William Blake’s Illustrations on the Book of Job. []

10 Basic Questions on Creation

“The chief creatures of God are angels and men.”

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions. SPL has reproduced 29 Questions Explaining Indulgences, 46 Questions to Help Explain the Sacraments,and What Is Meant By the “End of Man” and 10 other Questions.

SPL also recently published four lists with questions explaining the Eucharist:
This Is My Body: 10 Questions to Help Explain the Holy Eucharist
Transubstantiation: 10 Questions on the Substance of the Holy Eucharist
Do This in Memory of Me: 7 Questions on the Eucharist 
21 Questions on Why the Eucharist Was Given to Humanity

 

Baltimore Catechism No. 3

LESSON FOUR
On Creation – Part I

 

Q. 206. What is the difference between making and creating?

A. “Making” means bringing forth or forming out of some material already existing, as workmen do. “Creating” means bringing forth out of nothing, as God alone can do.

 

Q. 207. Has everything that exists been created?

A. Everything that exists except God Himself has been created.

 

Q. 208. Who created heaven and earth, and all things?

A. God created heaven and earth, and all things.

 

Q. 209. From what do we learn that God created heaven and earth and all things?

A. We learn that God created heaven and earth and all things from the Bible or Holy Scripture, in which the account of the Creation is given.

 

Q. 210. Why did God create all things?

A. God created all things for His own glory and for their or our good.

 

Q. 211. Did God leave all things to themselves after He had created them?

A. God did not leave all things to themselves after He had created them; He continues to preserve and govern them.

 

Q. 212. What do we call the care by which God preserves and governs the world and all it contains?

A. We call the care by which God preserves and governs the world and all it contains His providence.

 

Q. 213. How did God create heaven and earth?

A. God created heaven and earth from nothing by His word only; that is, by a single act of His all-powerful will.

 

Q. 214. Which are the chief creatures of God?

A. The chief creatures of God are angels and men.

 

Q. 215. How may God’s creatures on earth be divided?

A. God’s creatures on earth may be divided into four classes:

Things that exist, as air;
Things that exist, grow and live, as plants and trees;
Things that exist, grow, live and feel, as animals;
Things that exist, grow, live, feel and understand, as man.

 

Drink coffee and cheat Satan. Click the picture to view the SPL Store.

6 Biblical Reasons Mary Is the “New Eve”

“The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.” – Bishop Irenaeus. Lyon, France. 2nd Century

Listers, Mother Mary is the New Eve. Through St. Paul, Holy Scripture tells us that Christ is the New Adam, and where all died in Adam, all may be made alive in Christ. The comparison between Adam and Christ revealed a parallel in salvation history between the story of humanity’s first parents and the story of humanity’s salvation. Within this parallel, the Virgin Mary plays a role that rightfully entitles her the New Eve.

4 Teachings: The Immaculate Conception
Rejoice Ye Angels: 19 More Rosary Quotes
All SPL Lists on Mother Mary

An SPL Introduction: The Necessity of a New Adam & New Eve

The New Adam and the New Eve are not poetic titles given to express a certain biblical view. They are necessary roles in salvation history that speak to the recreation of mankind and offering of salvation to all men.

Why did the sin of the First Parents affect humanity?
Many often ask why the seemingly simple sin of eating of a tree has condemned humanity to suffering in a fallen world. The truth is that humanity is one body, and Adam is the head of that body – and as the head goes, the body must follow. In being one body, all humans share the same human nature, and that human nature has been suffering a privation ushered in by the First Parents. Sin is nothing more than a privation of the good: it is a corruption, a lacking, a malformation of God’s good creation – and since the First Parents’ betrayal, humanity has had to deal with this privation in all human nature, this Original Sin.

What is recapitulation?
Here we arrive at St. Anselm’s Dilema: humanity is responsible to repay and satisfy the debt of sin, however, only God, as the Creator, has the power to pay the debt. In this light, the Incarnation of God as fully man and fully God was the perfect answer: Christ as a man was a valid sacrifice for the sin debt owed, and Christ as God granted him the perfection, power, and authority to do so. Still, the Incarnation of God did not immediately solve everything. What humanity needed was a “new head” or a recapitulation. Humanity needed to be brought out from under the original sin of Adam and placed under a new head with a new body. Here we see the “body of Christ” and Christ as the “New Adam.” Christ’s death offers forgiveness to humanity, satisfies the debt owed, allows humanity to become “new creatures,” baptism removes the stain/guilt of Original Sin, and the Church becomes the Body of Christ.

A simple comparison of Adam and Christ is incomplete. What is needed is a holistic comparison between the original creation and the recreation: Adam to Christ, Eve to Mary, Fall to Salvation, and Tree to Cross. The following list explores the role of Eve in the Fall to the role of Mother Mary – the New Eve – in the Salvation of the World.

The Creation of Eve – Michelangelo, The Sistine Chapel

1. An Intimate Relationship

Eve From Adam
New Adam from New Eve

In the story of Creation, Eve is pulled from the flesh of Adam.1

“So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

In the story of the Recreation, the New Adam comes from the New Eve.2

“And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Why is the order reversed? 
The most logical answer is that it follows the natural progenitorial method of human reproduction. However, it is also noted that in the Jewish tradition women were often mistrusted due to the belief that Eve had sinned first and had tempted Adam to sin as well. Allowing Mary to come first and be the virgin vessel of God’s Incarnation removes that traditional mistrust. The Early Church thinker Tertullian (c. 160) comments on how Eve – a female – sinned and brought about the Fall; thus, there is a certain justice in God’s providence allowing someone of the same sex – Mary – usher in the salvation of humanity. In his own words:

Into a virgin’s soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex might be the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation.

Moreover, Mother Mary did not simply undo the sin of Eve. In a full understanding of her biblical roles in salvation history – the New Eve, the New Ark of the Covenant, and the Queen of the Eternal Davidic Kingdom – Mary is seen as the highest created being. She was the pure and perfect vessel for Christ’s Incarnation, i.e., the Theotokos, the Mother of God. No other created human being will ever have such an elevated role.3

Why the difference in relations?
Another notable difference beside the progenitorial order is the difference in relation between Adam and Eve and Christ and Mary. A quick answer would be that Adam and Eve’s romantic/sexual relationship had nothing to do with the Fall. Most all Early Church commentators hold that sexual relations occurred after the Fall, and the biblical tradition – at least as far as bearing children – supports this claim; thus, the need for a recapitulation focuses the roles played in the overall context of the Fall and Recreation.

“The Annunciation” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, an early African American Artist, 1898

2. Recipients of Supernatural Messengers

A Virgin Listens to the Serpent
A Virgin Listen to the Angel

Leading up to the Fall of Mankind, Eve listens to the sordid words of the serpent.4

“But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.”

Paving the way for the Recreation and Salvation of Mankind, the New Eve is visited by the Angel Gabriel.5

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greetings this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

Mary Untied the Knot of Eve’s Disobedience:
The Early Church Father and Bishop of Lyon, France, Irenaeus (d. 202) wrote the following famous phrase:

The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot of which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary opened by her belief.

The Virgin Mary is the Advocate of the Virgin Eve:
It was Bishop Irenaeus who more fully developed St. Paul’s concept of recapitulation. He goes on to say:

If the former [Eve] disobeyed God, the latter [Mary] was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin.

An Edifice of Death, An Edifice of Believing:
Further exploring the Early Church, the western thinker of North Africa, Tertullian (c. 160)  states:

For it was while Eve was yet a virgin that the ensnaring word had crept into her ear which was to build the edifice of death. Into a virgin’s soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex might be the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation. As Eve believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel. The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other effaced by believing.

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” – Gabriel, the Archangel

3. Bearers of Universal Change

Eve Gives Birth to Sin & Death
New Eve Gives Birth to Grace & Salvation

Eve listens the words of the serpent and sins against God: sin and death enter the world. It should be noted here that Eve’s sin did not immediately cause the Fall, but rather she was able to find Adam – who had presumably not been standing there the entire time – and offer him the fruit as well.

Mother Mary, the New Eve, literally gives birth to the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, who is the grace and salvation of humanity. Again, the point of interest here is that Christ’s Incarnation did not immediately resolve the problem of a fallen humanity. Humanity was under the sinful head of Adam, and a recapitulation was needed to usher in grace and the New Creation.

The Words of a Serpent & of an Angel:
In AD 135, the Early Church Father Justin Martyr said the following in a diloague with a rabbi in Ephesus.6

For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the world of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God.

Expulsion from the Garden. Milton’s Paradise Lost

4. Together They Change Creation

Eve & Adam Together Cause the Fall
New Eve and New Adam Together Cause Salvation

Creation does not fall until both Adam and Eve have taken of the fruit. Here, under the shadow of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Creation falls.7

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they know that they were naked.”

The Recreation of the world, the recapitulation of mankind, also did not happen immediately, but rather happened when the New Eve, the New Adam, and the Tree – the Cross – were together. Though all the disciples eventually abandoned Christ, the New Eve did not. She remained at his side as he offered forgiveness and satisfaction for humanity. Christ, being the New Adam, became the head of a new humanity of a redeemed and recreated world.

Was Mary necessary? 
Still, Mary’s partnership in salvation goes beyond simply remaining by Christ’s side. As shown by Anselm’s dilema, the Savior of Mankind needed to be fully human and fully divine. Christ being born of a woman was a necessary step in his Incarnation and validity in being the Savior; thus, Mary, as the New Eve, as the Theotokos, the Mother of God, the Mater Dei, was the necessary perfect and pure vessel of Christ’s Incarnation. Just as the Ark of the Covenant was where God came down in the Old Testament to speak to his people, so too was Mother Mary the Ark of the New Convenant where God came down to his people.

The Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

5. Universal Maternity

Eve Becomes the “Mother of All the Living”
New Eve Becomes the “Mother of All Who Live in Christ”

Before the Fall, Adam simply referred to Eve as Woman. However, after the Fall, Adam names his wife Eve, because she is the “mother of all living.”8

It follows that if Mary is the New Eve, then she would be the “Mother of All Who Live in Christ,” or the “Mother of All Who Truly Live.” There are however several biblical traits to support this logical assumption. The first is that like Adam, Christ does not refer to Mary as “Mary” or even “Mother,” but refers to her as “Woman.”9 The most important circumstance in which this title “Woman” was used was when Christ was on the Cross.

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold you son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

It is extremely important to observe that when Christ refers to his relationship with Mary he says “Woman,” which invokes Adam’s pre-Fall title for Eve, but when he refers to the disciple’s relationship with Mary he uses the title “Mother.” Tradition tells us that St. John took Mother Mary into his home in Ephesus and cared for her until the Assumption. Christ called the disciples “brothers,” he told them that God was their “Father,” and he gave Mary to them as their “Mother.” Though popular, it is absurd to believe that Christ gave us a Father, gave himself as the Son or our Brother, and completely left out any maternal figure.10

Mary is often depicted with the Serpent under her right foot.

6. Enmity

Enmity Between Eve & the Serpent
Enmity between the New Eve and Satan

After the Fall, the first messianic promise is given to humanity:11

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The latter part of the verse is certainly referring to the penultimate bruising of Christ upon the cross, and then the ultimate bruising of Satan and his roaming spirits by the Harrowing of Hell and the Resurrection. As the New Eve, Mary gains enmity between her and the serpent even more so than Eve, because she is the very vessel by which the victorious “seed” becomes Incarnate. While the enmity between Mary and Satan is certainly not an outrageous claim, it should be noted that Scripture is much clearer about the enmity between her “seed” and Satan. However in St. John’s book of Revelation12, a certain pericope grasps speaks to this special:

The Woman Bears a Son:

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Traditionally the “ark of the covenant” and the “woman” are considered the same portent. During Christ’s time on the earth, the Ark of the Covenant was not in the Temple; in fact, it had been missing for a few hundred years. As aforementioned, Mary was seen as the New Ark of the Covenant, because like the old ark, she was the vessel wherein heaven and earth met. The “woman” is obviously Mary, as she gives birth to the “male child” that is hostile to the “red dragon,” and that child “is to rule all nations with a rod of iron” – which is a allusion to King David who ruled with a “rod of iron.” At the end of this passage, the woman, Mary, is safeguarded from the dragon by God.13

Enmity Between the Woman and the Dragon:
The next passage describes a war in heaven between the Archangel Michael and the Dragon.14 The passage invokes the notion of Satan being thrown from heaven. However, it is the following passage that returns to the aforesaid woman:

And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

After failing to conquer her son, the dragon then turns to the woman, Mary. The specifics of the hostility between Mary and Satan have always been a point of intrigue for biblical scholars, but it is clear the woman is protected by God. Foiled by God’s protection of Mary, the dragon then turns to her “offspring,” i.e., Christians.

Mother to All Christians: Why Mary Is Important to All Believers in Christ

Every single unique grace and role given to Mother Mary is anchored in Jesus Christ. All her honor and due veneration rests on understanding Jesus Christ as the Savior of Mankind. Due to this connection, the Marian doctrines of the Church help articulate the truths of Christ, e.g., the Theotokos or Mater Dei shows Christ to be God and Man, the New Eve shows Christ to be the New Adam, the New Ark of the Covenant proclaims Christ’s divinity, the Queen of Heaven title calls to mind Christ as the Son of David and his eternal Davidic throne, and much more. As the scholar and popular author Scott Hahn has intimates, Mary, like all good mothers, continually points to her Son.

  1. Gen 2:21, 22 []
  2. Luke 2:6, 7 []
  3. Christ not the “highest created being”? – Christ’s human nature was created, but Christ the person, the second person of the Trinity, certainly existed before the creation of his human nature; thus, his mother, Mary, the Mater Dei, is considered the highest created being. []
  4. Gen 3:4-6a []
  5. Luke 1:28-31 []
  6. Dialogue with Trypho; For further reading on this document, Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn, 40. []
  7. Gen 3:7a []
  8. Gen 3:20 []
  9. Mary as Woman: cf. the Wedding at Cana & Christ on the Cross, St. John 2:1, 19:26, 27 []
  10. Protestant Error on “Woman” – The fact that Christ calls his own mother “woman” is not common. In fact, it can be considered rude. However, it is beyond comprehension that Christ would dishonor his own mother while telling others to honor theirs. Protestant scholarship has attempt to use the title “woman” as a way of Christ belittling his own mother and thus belittling her role. Again, to assert Christ would diminish his own mother’s role in salvation history by criticizing her is absurd. In the greater context, the term “woman” is referring to her role as the “New Eve” in salvation history. []
  11. Gen 3:15 []
  12. Rev 11:19; 12 []
  13. The Woman as Israel: Interpreting the “woman” as a generic Israel is not necessarily wrong, but it is a more ambiguous interpretation that does not itself exclude a more specific reading of the woman as Mary; especially considering the dragon then goes after “her children” which are not the Jews, but the followers of her child, Christ. []
  14. The War of the Child and the Dragon: Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” []

3 Basic Biblical Questions About the Sacrament of Confirmation

The Sacrament of Confirmation confers a Messianic maturity on the individual, a particular maturation that is not present in the baptized individual.

 

Sacrament of Confirmation

 

1. What is the biblical basis of Confirmation?

All Seven Sacrament of the Catholic Church can be seen in Holy Scripture, but often times the biblical origin of the the Sacrament of Confirmation is missed. The scriptural event from which Confirmation is drawn is Pentecost.

In Acts 2, St. Luke records, “this is what is spoke by the prophet Joel… pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…” Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. St. Peter’s point is that the pouring out of the Holy Ghost is the definitive sign that the Messianic Age had arrived – everything that was promised has been fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Ghost, the ability for the Church to live fully in the Messianic Age.

St. Peter regarded the Spirit who had come down upon the apostles as the gift of the Messianic Age.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. […]

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: `And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
The Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4,  15-21 

SPL's own Carlos Urbina receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

2. What is the effect of Confirmation?

The Sacrament of Confirmation confers a Messianic maturity on the individual, a particular maturation that is not present in the baptized individual. The Baltimore Catechism says, “Confirmation is a Sacrament through which we receive the Holy Ghost to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.”1 The Sacrament of confirmation perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.

Baptism accomplishes all it is ordered to do; however it is not all that ought be done – baptism points to a further maturity in forming ourselves according to Our Lord, and the ability to do so are found in the gifts and grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed at Confirmation.

To wit, the effects of Confirmation are “an increase of sanctifying grace, the strengthening of our faith, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.”2

"In Confirmation, the extending of the bishop's hands over us signifies the descent of the Holy Ghost upon us and the special protection of God through the grace of Confirmation."

3. What is the basis for chrism oil being used?

The biblical event of Pentecost did not include the matter of oil; thus, it is fair to ask from where that tradition comes? St. Thomas Aquinas uses Dionysius as an authoritative source for chrism oils, but it is unclear exactly who he think Dionysius is. He appears to view him as an apostolic authority, as a first hand account of the works of the apostles.3 The Baltimore Catechism states, “The exact time at which Confirmation was instituted is not known. But as this Sacrament was administered by the Apostles and numbered with the other Sacraments instituted by Our Lord, it is certain that He instituted this Sacrament also and instructed His Apostles in its use, at some time before His ascension into heaven.”4

The chrism oil or Holy Chrism is “a mixture of olive-oil and balm, consecrated by the bishop,” and “the oil signifies strength, and the balm signifies the freedom from corruption and the sweetness which virtue must give to our lives.”5

What is the best argument for chrism oils? – Apostolic tradition. It is dangerous to ask for biblical “proof texts,” because Catholic theologians look to both Scripture and Tradition. For the Catholic theologian to fall into the “proof text” argument is for him to fall from his Catholic epistemology and into protestant/heretical methods.

Holy Chrism also stands in the place of the bishop, for if the bishop cannot be there, the bishop will bless the chrism oil the priest will perform the sacrament of Confirmation.

The Old Testament sets a precedent for Holy Chrism and the biblical logic dictating the use of Holy Chrism; because, the anointing oils were used by the prophets throughout Holy Scripture.

  1. BC Q670 []
  2. BC Q698 []
  3. ST III 72.2.ad1 []
  4. BC Q671 []
  5. BC Q679-680 []

4 Reasons God Gave Us Scripture by Aquinas

Divine Law responds to a certain lack in and transcends the limits of man’s knowledge and naturally given end and capacity.

Listers, St. Thomas Aquinas asks the question Whether there was any need for a Divine Law? in his Summa Theologica I-II.91.4. The article is part of the Angelic Doctor’s treatment of law and more specifically the four laws that govern existence: Eternal, Divine, Natural and Human. In essence, the reason there was a need for the Divine Law – a law revealed by God – is because  Divine Law responds to a certain lack in and transcends the limits of man’s knowledge and naturally given end and capacity.

1. Eternal Happiness & Natural Capacity

“First, because it is by law that man is directed how to perform his proper acts in view of his last end. And indeed if man were ordained to no other end than that which is proportionate to his natural faculty, there would be no need for man to have any further direction of the part of his reason, besides the natural law and human law which is derived from it. But since man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness which is inproportionate to man’s natural faculty, as stated above (Question 5, Article 5), therefore it was necessary that, besides the natural and the human law, man should be directed to his end by a law given by God.”1

2. Human Judgement Leads to Flawed Laws

“Secondly, because, on account of the uncertainty of human judgment, especially on contingent and particular matters, different people form different judgments on human acts; whence also different and contrary laws result. In order, therefore, that man may know without any doubt what he ought to do and what he ought to avoid, it was necessary for man to be directed in his proper acts by a law given by God, for it is certain that such a law cannot err.”

3. Man Cannot Judge the Heart

“Thirdly, because man can make laws in those matters of which he is competent to judge. But man is not competent to judge of interior movements, that are hidden, but only of exterior acts which appear: and yet for the perfection of virtue it is necessary for man to conduct himself aright in both kinds of acts. Consequently human law could not sufficiently curb and direct interior acts; and it was necessary for this purpose that a Divine law should supervene.”2

4. For the Perfection of Justice

“Fourthly, because, as Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5,6), human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds: since while aiming at doing away with all evils, it would do away with many good things, and would hinder the advance of the common good, which is necessary for human intercourse.3 In order, therefore, that no evil might remain unforbidden and unpunished, it was necessary for the Divine law to supervene, whereby all sins are forbidden.”4

  1. Grace: A common misunderstanding of grace is that it exist as an exemption from the law or allows us to bypass law – however, in actuality grace elevates the individual in order that he or she might live according to the law. []
  2. Interior Acts:  Divine law is capable of doing what natural/human law cannot do – it is capable of judging and guiding interior acts; “human law could not sufficiently curb and direct interior acts; and it was necessary for this purpose that a Divine law should supervene.” While man can judge man’s actions by natural and human law, divine law brings in an infallible judge – even in interior actions. []
  3. Imperfect Justice: “Human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds,” thus that “no evil might remain unforbidden and unpunished, it was necessary for the Divine Law to supervene, whereby all sins are forbidden.” E.G. – look at the history of prohibition: an over zealous moral law led to the rise of the American Mafia. Divine Law – unlike Human Law – is capable of punishing evil without the exclusion of any goods. []
  4. Aquinas’ Summary of the Four Laws: “And these four causes are touched upon in Psalm 118:8, where it is said: ‘The law of the Lord is unspotted,’ i.e. allowing no foulness of sin; ‘converting souls,’ because it directs not only exterior, but also interior acts; ‘the testimony of the Lord is faithful,’ because of the certainty of what is true and right; ‘giving wisdom to little ones,’ by directing man to an end supernatural and Divine.” []

The Elephant and the Lamb: 7 Catholic Quotes on Scripture

“Holy Scripture is a stream in which the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade.”
Pope St. Gregory

Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.
St. Jerome

 

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.
St. Augustine

 

The Holy Bible is like a mirror before our mind’s eye. In it we see our inner face. From the Scriptures we can learn our spiritual deformities and beauties. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection.
Pope St. Gregory

 

Learn the heart of God from the word of God.
Pope St. Gregory

 

Holy Scripture is a stream in which the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade.
Pope St. Gregory 1

 

Holy Scripture by the manner of its language transcends every science, because in one and the same sentence, while it describes a fact, it reveals a mystery.
Pope St. Gregory

 

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.
G.K. Chesterton

 

More Quotes: SPL has many quote lists, including many over Our Lady of the Rosary in particular, Mother Mary and GK Chesterton.2

  1. Elephant River Variations: “Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.” Source. []
  2. Scripture Quotes: Source []