Friday, March 28, 2008

Answering the "Fundamental Questions": Part 2

This is the conclusion of my response to the challenge sent to me by "E.L." See Part 1 for Questions 1-4.

That said, on to Question #5:

(5) Is the resurrection a resurrection of the dead or the living? Why did Jesus not agree with Martha when she connected the resurrection to the Last Day? Has the resurrection already taken place and if so when?
To answer the first question, the resurrection is of the dead. In other words, when Jesus comes again, the bodies of all who have died will rise again and be united once again with their souls. The righteous souls will receive glorified bodies. The wicked souls will receive bodies that will only add to their torment.

Why did Jesus not agree with Martha when she connected the resurrection to the Last Day? From what I can tell, he did not actually disagree with her. Instead, I think he simply refocused her attention. Here is the passage in question:

Jn 11:21-27 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."

Basically, Martha says, "I know he will rise again at the last day" and Jesus replies, "He can rise today, as a symbol of the power of your faith, if you in fact believe in me." Of course, Martha does, and so Jesus brings Lazarus back to life. I don't think that this necessarily precludes the resurrection of the body that we will experience when Jesus comes again.

Also, we know that Jesus would never deny a connection between the resurrection and the last day, for he affirmed this very connection when he said, in at least two places:
  • Jn 5:28-29 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."

  • Jn 6:39-40 [A]nd this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
So, I see no disagreement here between Jesus and Martha.

(6) If God gave us dominion or ownership rights over creation did He also give us ownership rights over human beings? If He did not then who owns human beings? What is the consequence of this?
Well, no one has the right to own another human being, as if he were property to be bought and sold. Human beings are unique in that they exist for their own sake, not for the sake of anyone or anything else. This is affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
  • 1703 Endowed with "a spiritual and immortal" soul, the human person is "the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake." From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.

  • 2414 The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason - selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian - lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord."
The only one who could rightly claim "ownership" of human being is God Himself.

(7) Why did Jesus always sidestep questions connected with the running of the State even when it concerned the Law of Moses e.g. the coin of tribute and the woman caught in adultery?
Jesus does not "sidestep" anything. I think that to say such a thing is to attribute a disingenuous quality to Jesus that is simply not characteristic of Him. Let's look at Jesus' responses in the two examples you mentioned.

First, the coin of tribute:

Mt 22:15-22 (cf. Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:20-26) Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle him in his talk. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Hero'di-ans, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the money for the tax." And they brought him a coin. 20 And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" 21 They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." 22 When they heard it, they marveled; and they left him and went away.

Jesus did not sidestep this issue. Instead, he answered it in a way that foiled the plot of the Pharisees. Their question to Him was purposefully difficult. If Jesus says, "Yes, pay the tax," then He will anger the Jews, who generally thought that it was unjust for the People of God to pay taxes to someone who wasn't there rightful king (Herod was not of the line of David); and if He says, "No, do not pay it," then He will be accused of treason and the Herodians, who were standing right there, would have captured Him right away and had Him killed.

So, instead, he affirms the rights of both. Pay to Ceasar what is Caesar's, and pay to God what is God's. It is the middle ground that avoids both extremes, and in His wisdom, He knew that this would stump them. For more on the coin of tribute, see the following resources: Now, for the second example you mentioned: the woman caught in adultery:

Jn 8:3-11 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?" 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again."

Here too the Pharisees are attempting to trick Jesus into giving them a reason to seize Him. St. Augustine explains the situation beautifully:
  • What answer, then, did the Lord Jesus make? How answered the Truth? How answered Wisdom? How answered that Righteousness against which a false accusation was ready? He did not say, "Let her not be stoned," lest He should seem to speak against the law. But God forbid that He should say, "Let her be stoned," for He came not to lose what He had found, but to seek what was lost. What then did He answer? See you how full it is of righteousness, how full of meekness and truth! (Augustine of Hippo, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 33:5)
Of course, we all know His answer: "He who is without sin cast the first stone."

At first, it may seem as though Jesus has transgressed the law by not stoning the woman. But, instead, He has fulfilled it. Ultimately, the Law is fulfilled when it is enforced, not by sinners who themselves are transgressors of it, but by He who is sinless, a transgressor in no way of the Law of God (cf. Heb 4:15). In exposing them to their own sinfulness, Jesus has shown the Pharisees that HE is the Just and Merciful Judge, not them. Plus, He did judge the sin when He told the woman, "Go and sin no more." So, I see now way in which Jesus should be accused of skirting the issue.

For more on Jesus' response to the woman caught in adultery, see the following resources: Thank you "E.L." for presenting this challenge to me. I hope that I have resolved it to your satisfaction.

Pax Christi,

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