Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pentecost, the 70, and a Female Priesthood

Since the Holy Spirit fell on everyone in the Upper Room on Pentecost — and there were women present — why can’t women be priests? Can we say of the 70 sent two by two that they were all men?

First of all, if you would like to read about these events, the Spirit falling on everyone in the Upper Room is in Acts 2:1-4. The 70 disciples sent by Jesus is found in Lk 10:1.

Now, regarding the Upper Room, tradition has it that at least one woman, Mary, was there. There were probably other women there too, if we assume that the 120 who were gathered for prayer (cf. Acts 1:14-15) were also present when the Holy Spirit came down. But, it’s not clear.

I also don't know if the 70 sent out by Jesus were all men. If Jesus meant to pattern this after the 70 men that Moses chose to help him lead the people (cf. Num 11:24-25), then we could infer that the 70 were all men. But, Luke only refers to them as “disciples”, and we know that Jesus had female followers. Here too, it is difficult to say.

What I can tell you is that the ministerial priesthood did not begin with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, nor did it begin when the disciples were sent two-by-two. It began at the Last Supper, when Jesus told the 12 apostles -- all men -- to "Do this in memory of me." This is considered to be the moment when the ministerial priesthood was instituted because this is when Jesus commanded that the Sacrifice of the Mass be offered, and the offering of a sacrifice is a priestly act.

Since the apostles were men, and their successors are men (cf. 2 Tim 2:2), this is why only men can receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Of course, there are other reasons too.

Another reason why the priest must be a man is because the primary function of the priest is to act in the person of Christ in the Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Mass, the Bridegroom comes to meet His Bride. The Son gives Himself to the Father. The King invites His subjects to the wedding feast. This symbolism is destroyed when the priest is not a man, for a woman cannot be a groom, son, or king.

We must also keep in mind that Jesus did not choose 12 men simply because He lived in a patriarchal society. Instead, He chose 12 men because He discerned it to be the will of the Father, after much prayer and deliberation (cf. Lk 6:12-13). Jesus was not a puppet of His culture, and the Church is not either. The Church can only do what Jesus did, and Jesus only did what the Father sent Him to do. Jesus chose men, so the Church does too.

For more on the ministerial priesthood, see the following blog posts:

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Debate on the Office of New Testament Priest: Part 3a

After some very busy weeks at work and a long vacation, I am finally ready to post Part 3 in my debate with Russell on the New Testament priesthood. Also see Parts One and Two.

The topic of this debate has basically shifted to the Sacrifice of the Mass, but I'm okay with that. As Russell has pointed out, there is no ministerial priesthood without a sacrifice to offer. As such, confirming the Eucharist as a sacrificial meal validates the presence and purpose of a ministerial priesthood in the Church. This entry in the debate is pretty long, but I hope that you will hang with me. I think there's some good stuff here. Russell's words will be indented and italicized.

Hello again Nicholas,

Sorry for the delay, and I want to apologize up front the length of my comments here.
Not a problem. My responses are usually just as long, if not longer.

In Matthew 27:51, we find an incredible act of God happening the very moment that Jesus died on the cross. Immediately, an earthquake splits the rocks; and the veil of the temple (which hides the Holy of Holies) is split open, revealing the Ark of the Covenant. This no doubt terrified those priests who were offering the evening sacrifice in the temple at that time. But notice that the Roman soldiers (v. 54), who had previously mocked the Savior, saw all of this as a miraculous sign from God. But the question is, would these Jewish priests also recognize the temple veil tearing as a work of God? It seems they didn’t. The story has it that the priests sewed the veil back together and just kept on sacrificing as they did before. Apparently, they saw the splitting of the veil as a coincidence, rather than an act of God. But they, like Catholics today, miss the whole point of this sign / miracle.
Catholics don't miss the point of this sign/miracle. We just don't think it means what you think it means.

God was surely making a statement here. The split veil symbolizes man’s access to God now, and the end of the ministerial priest, who had formerly mediated between God and man by offering sacrifice for sin. But the priests who sewed the veil, like the Catholic Church, were guilty of trying to “fix and maintain” what God has done away with (i.e., the priesthood).
I agree that the tearing of the veil symbolizes man's greater access to God (cf. Heb 4:14-16; 10:19-22). But, the ministerial priesthood that is symbolically abolished by this rending is that of the Old Covenant. This is clear from the context and from what we read in the Letter to the Hebrews.

At any rate, the New Covenant ministerial priesthood is a new and better priesthood than what the author of the Letter describes as "vanishing away" (Heb 8:13). For one, it is concerned with doing what Jesus did (cf. Lk 22:19), that is, making present the New Covenant in His Blood (cf. Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25), not the Old Covenant blood of sheep and goats. Secondly, what the New Covenant priest offers is not the repeated sacrifices for sin of the Old Covenant but the one sacrifice of Christ, continually made present so that we can, as it were, "go forth to Him outside the camp" (Heb 13:13) and be "sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb 10:10).

The Old Testament ministerial priesthood has served its purpose. It was a “type” and a “shadow” that pointed to something greater, and HAS BEEN FULFILLED in Jesus Christ (the Perfect Sacrifice). There was only one offering by Him (Hebrews 10:12, 14), and it was “once for all” (10:10). No more offering (sacrifice) for sin is needed (Hebrews 10:18). So, that type of sacrifice and its priesthood is now unnecessary.
I agree. The Old Testament ministerial priesthood has served its purpose. It is now unnecessary.

In fact, the whole book of Hebrews screams out to us that the ministerial priesthood is abolished. See also here.
The whole book of Hebrews screams out to us that the Old Covenant ministerial priesthood is abolished. Like I've said, and hope to further prove, the New Testament ministerial priesthood is something new and better. It has a purpose still to serve.

Nicholas, the following are the verses you used in attempting to demonstrate that a ministerial priesthood should exist today:

Romans 15:15-16 – This speaks of a “priestly service” done by Paul. But the priestly service he is speaking of is SHARING THE GOSPEL with the gentiles. This is something ALL Christians should be doing. But sharing the gospel with gentiles does NOT make one a ministerial priest. You are reading that into the text.
The priestly service that is of the gospel is the offering of the Gentiles. I realize that we are all called to bring people to Christ and His salvation, but this work is also characteristic of the ministerial priest. And since Paul is not your typical layman, since he is Christ's "minister" (cf. Rom 15:15; Col 1:25)) fulfilling a special "office" (Acts 1:20; Col 1:25), I don't think he is referring to the work of all believers. He is identifying himself with the ministerial priesthood by describing his work in that manner.

Paul never calls himself a priest, nor does he ever refer to his office / position as that of a priest… and yet HE is the one who gives us the names of the offices for Christian ministers (1 Timothy chap. 3 and 5; Titus 1; Ephesians 4). If there were priests today, he would have specifically mentioned that office. But notice that not a single person in the New Testament is addressed as a (Christian) ministerial priest.

Of course, many Catholics will say that “elder” means priest, but as I said before, “presbuteros” (elder) and “hiereus” (priest) are two different Greek words that are never used interchangeably. Even in the Old Testament, “elder” did not automatically mean “priest.”
What you don't allow is for the usage of the word (πρεσβύτεροι, "presbyters") to develop over time. In the Old Testament we see it used, for example, to refer to the group of 70 men who received an outpouring of the Spirit to aid Moses in leading the people (cf. Num 11:16-17). In the NT, we see presbyters "in every church" (Acts 14:23) performing the unique duties of a ministerial priest. I outlined these in my last post, but here they are again:
  • receiving tithes: presbyteros (cf. Acts 11:29-30) and priests (cf. Heb 7:4-5)
  • laying on hands: presbyteros (cf. 1 Tim 4:14) and priests (cf. Gen 48:14; Num 27:18-20)
  • preaching and teaching with authority: presbyteros (cf. 1 Tim 5:17) and priests (cf. Mal 2:7)
  • shepherding the people: presbyteros (cf. 1 Pet 5:1-3) and priests (cf. Isa 63:11; Jer 3:15)
  • wearing special garments and crowns during worship: presbyteros (cf. Rev 4:4) and priests (cf. Lev 8:6-9)
  • offering incense: presbyteros (cf. Rev 5:8) and priests (cf. Num 16:40; 1 Sam 2:28)
Early Christians, in documents too numerous to list, did not hesitate to use this same Gk word to refer to men who held a unique office in the Church, administering sacraments and celebrating the Mass, which they considered to be a sacrifice. They understood the presbyters of the NT as having the same function and office as these men. It is a historical fact that πρεσβύτεροι was used and understood in this way. I don't really know what else to say.

1 Corinthians 10:16-21 – Although Paul does mention Christian Communion, i.e., the partaking of the bread and wine, his whole point in this passage is about abstaining from idolatry (10:14).
Specifically, he wishes them to abstain from eating food that has been offered to idols, since this amounts to idolatry. He does this by drawing a parallel between the Jewish sacrifice, the pagan sacrifice, and the Christian Communion. Yet, there is no parallel if the Christian Communion is not also a sacrifice.

Terms like “cup,” “table” and “altar” that Paul speaks of are simply symbolism, representing our participation and identification with Jesus Christ.
For one, the parallel is destroyed if there is no actual cup, table, or altar. The pagan sacrifice and the Jewish sacrifice actually included cups and tables/altars. The whole reason these are even worth comparing to the Christian Communion is because it includes actual cups and tables/altars too

Secondly, don't forget that the Eucharist was instituted within the context of the Passover meal, in which lambs that were sacrificed on an actual altar were actually eaten and Jesus picked up an actual cup and said it was His Blood. The "cup of blessing", which Paul says is a participation in the Blood of the Lord, is the name for the third cup of the Passover meal. It is an inescapable fact that these are actual items that were found in the Christian Communion and worship ... and they are all the things of sacrifice.

You’re insisting that these are literal, but if these are literal then must we also literally purchase, kill, and burn our New Testament sacrifices today, as well? Of course, that’s a ridiculous (if not blasphemous) idea, but this is where this type of logic leads.
That's not true. Jesus showed us at the Last Supper that the Eucharist was a sacrifice, but of a different kind. It would no longer require the bloody offering of animals but instead the unbloody offering of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. I realize this remains to be proven. I shall do so shortly.

This “literal” argument doesn’t work here. All this terminology is pointing to Calvary, i.e., to Jesus’ suffering on the cross, not to a ministerial priesthood with literal tables and altars.
Ya know, I'm fine with that. The Eucharist points to Calvary. It has tremendous sign value. I don't deny that. But, I think it points to Calvary because it makes the sacrifice of Christ substantially present.

One might object and say, “What about all the ‘sacrificial’ language, and the ‘priestly’ overtones used in the context? It MUST be speaking of a priesthood and an actual sacrifice, right?”

But OF COURSE there is “sacrificial” language and “priestly” overtones here… once again, this is all pointing to Jesus’ work and suffering on the cross; He is our Perfect Sacrifice and our High Priest! All the typology and the “sacrificial language” is fulfilled in HIM! It is NOT fulfilled in the Catholic Eucharist.
Jesus is our perfect sacrifice: Amen! Jesus is our High Priest: Amen! All the typology and sacrificial language is fulfilled in Him: Amen! How then can I believe in the Eucharist? Because I believe (and the Church teaches) that it is in the celebration of the Eucharist that the grand drama of Jesus' high priestly work unfolds before us for our benefit.

Jesus is the priest who makes the offering. Jesus is the offering. Jesus is the altar upon which the offering is made. Jesus is the New Covenant. The bread is Him. The wine is Him. The priest is His instrument who stands in His Person, in obedience to His words, "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19). It's all about Jesus and affirming His unique work and power.

Perhaps Paul's discussion of Christian Communion is filled with "sacrificial language and priestly overtones" because it's an actual sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ.

It is all about a PAST event (Calvary), not about a “continual offering” to God. So, all this sacrificial language does not make Paul or any other Christian some sort of ministerial priest. Once again, biblically, this office does not exist, and is only there if you read it into the text.
For one thing, Christian Communion is not simply about remembering a past event. After all, the Passover meal, in which Jesus instituted Christian Communion, is not itself simply about remembering a past event. When the Jews celebrated the Passover, it was a mystical making-present of the very same salvation from slavery and death that their ancestors experienced. It was as if the Jew, though separated from the first Passover by several thousands of years, became, through the celebration of that same meal, one of the very ones fleeing Egypt and the angel of death.

And so it is with the Eucharist. Remember, Paul even called the cup of Christian Communion "the cup of blessing". Perhaps this is because, in his mind, the cup of Christian Communion and the third cup of that last Passover meal are the same cup. At the Last Supper, Jesus replaced one mystical re-presentation with a new, fuller, and better one.

Secondly, the Letter to the Hebrews is very clear that Jesus' work on Calvary is more than just a past event, it is in fact continually offered to God. Like I said in my last post, Christ has entered into heaven itself "now to appear" in the presence of God on our behalf (Heb 9:24). Not one time a long time ago, but now. "Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb 7:25). "To make" is in the present tense.

John said of his vision of heaven, "I saw a lamb standing as though it had been slain" (Rev 5:6). Jesus is depicted as a lamb 28 times in the Book of Revelation. Why would Jesus still appear in heaven as a passover lamb if He did not continually offer His sacrifice to the Father for us? God desires that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure offering be made (cf. Mal 1:11).

I'd imagine that one reason why you resist the notion of Christ continually offering Himself to the Father is because, in the Letter to the Hebrews, one thing that makes the Jewish sacrifices so deficient is the fact that they had to be continually performed -- and this is set in contrast to the one sacrifice of Christ. "The priests go continually into the outer tent" (Heb 9:6), "sacrifices which are continually offered year after year" (Heb 10:1), I get it. But, the Eucharist does not revive again what made the Old Covenant sacrifices deficient.

There is a difference between multiple sacrifices of various animals and one sacrifice perpetually offered. The sacrifices of the Old Covenant ministerial priest were of the first kind. The sacrifice of the New Covenant ministerial priest is of the second kind. This is a crucial distinction that must not be forgotten in this debate. We don't have multiple offerings, we have one offering without end, and every time the Mass is celebrated this offering is made present and it's merits applied to us.

Hebrews 9:23 – Here, you point out the plural (“sacrifices”), as though this use of a plural form should nullify the whole mountain of evidence of the Savior’s single one-time sacrifice in this same book of Hebrews. This whole once-for-all atmosphere is undeniable.
I don't deny the once-for-all atmosphere of the Letter to the Hebrews. I just don't think that the Sacrifice of the Mass contradicts this. Do you understand why I would think that?

Some recognize the use of the plural here as an “enallage,” which is a substitution of one form of grammar for another. For example, according to A.W. Pink, “It is the use of the plural number here in connection with the sacrifice of Christ which has occasioned difficulty to some. It is a figure of speech known as an ‘enallage,’ the plural being put for the singular by way of emphasis… Thus, the plural, "sacrifices" here emphasizes the one offering of Christ, expresses its superlative excellency, and denotes that it provides the substance of the many shadows under the law.” (“An Exposition of Hebrews” by A.W. Pink, Chapter 44, The Great Sacrifice)
Interesting! You taught me something new here. I'll admit that this is a difficult passage to understand. It seems to me that the use of the plural in the place of the singular would more readily indicate the Mass, in which, in a mysterious way, the sacrifice is plural and singular. But, I'm also okay with understanding the passage as expressing the superlative excellency of Christ's sacrifice. Nothing about the Church's teaching about the ministerial priesthood or the Mass should be seen as denigrating that excellency.

There is still much more from Russell's response that I need to address, but this post is already quite long enough. I also anticipate having to make a rather lengthy argument in defense of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, and this is best served with a post of it's own. So, I'll end it here and finish up with a subsequent post in a day or two.

Pax Christi,

PS: From here you may proceed to Part 3b.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On Wars and Rumors of Wars

A reader recently asked me what exactly Jesus meant by "wars and rumors of wars" in Mt 24:6. First, it might be helpful to provide the passage in context:
Mt 24:3-8 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8 all this is but the beginning of the sufferings.
My understanding has always been that Jesus words here have a double meaning: they speak of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple there, AND they also refer to the Second Coming and the end of the world. But, I was keen to do some research on this and see what the various bible reference works at my disposal have to say. Here is what I found:

Newman, B. M., & Stine, P. C. (1992). A handbook on the Gospel of Matthew. UBS Handbook Series (734–735). New York: United Bible Societies:
Wars and rumors of wars is the well-known and traditional rendering. But the noun translated rumors may also mean “noise” (of battle), which is the grounds for “the noise of battles close by and the news of battles far away” (TEV). Both GeCL (“when wars break out near and far”) and NEB (“the noise of battle near at hand the news of battles far away”) reflect this same exegesis. The word rumors in English is usually used for news about things that may or may not have happened, but it is important to note that the sense here is that there will be wars everywhere. The TEV rendering is thus a good model to follow.

Are … alarmed translates a verb which also appears in the Marcan parallel (13:7); elsewhere in the New Testament it is used only in 2 Thessalonians 2:2. Translators may render the sentence as “Don’t let yourself become frightened” or “Be sure that you don’t panic.”

This must take place states a basic assumption of apocalyptic literature: history is under the control of God, and so the course of human events is determined by divine decree (see Dan 2:28). This belief, which developed among the Jews during a period of extreme persecution, is now used to encourage Christian believers to remain calm, even when earth-shaking events are taking place. Nothing can take place that contradicts the divine will.

Note that this refers to the wars that will go on, not to the panic or fear the disciples might experience. In some languages the pronoun used will make this clear, but other translators will say “these things (or, events)” or even “these wars.”

But the end is not yet receives fuller explanation in TEV: “but they do not mean that the end has come.” NEB prefers a positive reformulation: “but the end is still to come.” Verse 8 repeats the affirmation that the end is not signaled by historical happenings.

The end refers to the end of the age, the same as “the close of the age” in verse 3, and translators can render it with a similar expression.

Maas, A. J. (1898). The Gospel according to Saint Matthew with an Explanatory and Critical Commentary (239–240). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder:
6. Secondly, “you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars,” a prediction that refers not merely to the seditions and disturbances mentioned by Josephus [Ant. XVIII. ix. 1; XX. iii. 3; v. 3, 4; B. J. II. xii. 1, 2; cf. Wetstein, ad h. l.], nor to the Syrian commotion under Florus [cf. Chrys. Theoph. op. imp. Thom. Jans. Tost. Calm.]. For the predicted events are more definitely described in what follows: “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”; even if the latter part is not a fuller development of the foregoing, its broad generality cannot be limited to the war of the Romans and Parthians [Tacit. Annal. xii. 13, 14, 44; xiii. 6–8, 34; xiv. 23; xv. 1, 2, 25; Suet. Ner. 39] and to Vitellius expedition against Aretas [Jos. Ant. XVIII. v. 3; cf. Wetstein], nor to the disturbances in Cæsarea, Scythopolis, Ascalon, Ptolemais, Alexandria, Damascus [cf. Jans.], even if the contention between Otho and Vitellius after the death of Nero, and between Vitellius and Vespasian [cf. Calm.], be added. This becomes the more evident if we consider the consequences of these wars; for the “famines” cannot be identified with the Palestinian famine in the reign of Claudius [cf. Acts 11:28; Jos. Ant. III. xv. 3; XX. ii. 5; v. 2], nor are the “earthquakes” those that destroyed Colossæ, Laodicea, Pompeii [cf. Tac. Ann. xiv. 27; xv. 22], or Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos [cf. Grotius, ad h. l.; Calm.]. “Now all these are the beginnings of sorrows,” or, according to the Greek text, “of the pangs of childbirth,” a term often used in Holy Scripture to denote the most intense suffering [cf. Ps. 47:7; Is. 13:8; 21:3; 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; Ez. 30:16; Os. 13:13; Mich. 4:9, 10; etc.], so that the coming pain will exceed the preceding indefinitely [cf. Mald.]. The appropriateness of the figure in the present case has been shown by Theoph. [cf. Buxtorf, p. 700; Schöttgen, ii. p. 509 f., 550; Weiss, Schegg, Schanz, Keil].

Robertson, A. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mt 24:6). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press:
Matthew 24:6
See that ye be not troubled (ὁρατε μη θροεισθε [horate mē throeisthe]). Asyndeton here with these two imperatives as Mark 8:15 ὀρατε βλεπετε [orate blepete] (Robertson, Grammar, p. 949). Look out for the wars and rumours of wars, but do not be scared out of your wits by them. Θροεω [Throeō] means to cry aloud, to scream, and in the passive to be terrified by an outcry. Paul uses this very verb (μηδε θροεισθαι [mēde throeisthai]) in II Thess. 2:2 as a warning against excitement over false reports that he had predicted the immediate second coming of Christ. But the end is not yet (ἀλλʼ οὐπω ἐστιν το τελος [all’ oupō estin to telos]). It is curious how people overlook these words of Jesus and proceed to set dates for the immediate end. That happened during the Great War and it has happened since.

Metzger, B. M., & United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (51). London; New York: United Bible Societies:
24:6 γενέσθαι {B}
The shortest reading is supported by a wide variety of early witnesses. It is probable that copyists expanded the saying by adding such natural expressions as “all things must take place,” or “these things must take place,” or “all these things must take place.” If any of these had been the original reading, there is no satisfactory reason that would account for its deletion.

Jones, A. (1953). The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St Matthew. In B. Orchard & E. F. Sutcliffe (Eds.), A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (B. Orchard & E. F. Sutcliffe, Ed.) (894). Toronto;New York;Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson:
6–7, Still anxious to warn his own rather than to foretell the future, our Lord speaks of the inward peace the disciples must preserve in a troubled world. The prophetic style he uses does not call for minute verification though this is not lacking for the years before A.D.70. It was a period savage in its wars, ferocious in its very peace (Tacitus, Hist. 3, 2, 1) with war’s usual concomitants: plagues (Tacitus, Annales 16, 13) and famine (Ac 11:28; Jos., Ant. 20, 2, 5); even earthquakes (in towns of Asia Minor, A.D. 61–2; Pompeii in A.D. 63 etc.). All this does not closely concern the Apostles, as the Jerusalem catastrophe will; cf. 15 ff. The ‘end’ of Jerusalem with its final break with the old order is still to come.

Haydock, G. L. (1859). Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary (Mt 24:6). New York: Edward Dunigan and Brother:
Ver. 6. Shall hear of wars. Most authors understand this second sign of the Jewish wars which preceded the ruin of Jerusalem; others of the wars of Antichrist, previous to the end of the world. Both are very probable. The first is proved from history, and from the events; the latter, from what we learn from the Apocalypse, will certainly happen. M.—These things must happen, as is said of scandals and heresies, not absolutely, but considering the malice of man, and the decree of God, by which he had determined to punish the Jews. Maldonatus.

Thomas Aquinas, S., & Newman, J. H. (1841). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers, Volume 1: St. Matthew (802–805). Oxford: John Henry Parker:

6. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

AUGUSTINE. (Ep. 199. 25.) To this enquiry of the disciples the Lord makes answer, declaring all things which were to come to pass from that time forwards, whether relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, which had given occasion to their enquiry; or to His coming through the Church, in which He ceases not to come to the end of time; for He is acknowledged as coming among His own, while new members are daily born to Him; or relating to the end itself when He shall appear to judge the quick and the dead. When then He describes the signs which shall attend these three events, we must carefully consider which signs belong to which events, lest perchance we refer to one that which belongs to another.

CHRYSOSTOM. Here He speaks of the battles which should be fought at Jerusalem; when He says, Ye shall hear wars, and rumours of wars.

ORIGEN. To hear the shouts raised in the battles, is to hear wars; to hear rumours of wars, is to hear accounts of wars waged afar off.

CHRYSOSTOM. And because this might alarm the disciples, He continues, See that ye be not troubled. And because they supposed that the end of the world would follow immediately after the war in which Jerusalem should be destroyed, He corrects their suspicions concerning this, These things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

JEROME. That is, Think not that the day of judgment is at hand, but that it is reserved against another time; the sign of which is plainly put in what follows, For nation shall rise against-nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

RABANUS. Or, this is a warning to the Apostles not to flee from Jerusalem and Judæa in terror of these things, when they should begin to come upon them; because the end was not immediately, but the desolation of the province, and the destruction of the city and temple should not come till the fortieth year. And we know that most grievous woes, which spread over the whole province, fell out to the very letter.

CHRYSOSTOM. And to shew that He also should fight against the Jews, He tells them not only of wars, but of calamities inflicted by Providence, And there shall be pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes in divers places.

RABANUS. Nation shall rise against nation, shews the disquietude of men’s minds; pestilences, the affliction of their bodies; famines, the barrenness of the soil; earthquakes in dicers places, wrath from heaven above.

CHRYSOSTOM. And these things shall not happen according to the order of nature before established among men, but shall come of wrath from heaven, and therefore He said not that they should come only, or come suddenly, but adds significantly, These all are the beginnings of troubles, that is, of the Jewish troubles.

ORIGEN. Or otherwise; As the body sickens before the death of the man, so it must needs be that before the consummation of this world the earth should be shaken, as though it were palsied, with frequent earthquakes, the air should gather a deadly quality and become pestilential, and that the vital energy of the soil should fail, and its fruits wither. And by consequence of this scarcity, men are stirred up to robbery and war. But because war and strife arise sometimes from covctousness, and sometimes from desire of power and empty glory, of these which shall happen before the end of the world a yet deeper cause shall be assignable. For as Christ’s coming brought through His divine power peace to divers nations, so it shall be on the other hand, that when iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold, and God and His Christ shall desert them; wars shall be again when actions which beget wars are not hindered by holiness; and hostile powers when they are not restrained by the Saints and by Christ shall work unchecked in the hearts of men, stirring up nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. But if, as some will have it, famine and pestilence are from the Angels of Satan, these shall then gather might from opposite powers, when the salt of the earth, and the lights of the world, Christ’s disciples, shall be no longer, destroying those things which the malice of dæmons hatches. Ofttimes in Israel famines and pestilences were caused by sin, and removed by the prayers of the Saints. (1 Kings 17:1. Jer. 14. James 5:17, 18.) Well is that said, In divers places, for God will not destroy the whole race of men at once, but judging them in portions, He gives opportunity of repentance. But if some stop be not put to these evils in their commencement, they will progress to worse, as it follows, These all are the beginnings of sorrows, that is, sorrows common to the whole world, and those which are to come upon the wicked who shall be tormented in most sharp pains.

JEROME. Figuratively; Kingdom rising against kingdom and pestilence of that discourse which spreadeth as a plague-spot, and hunger of hearing the word of God, and commotion throughout the earth, and separation from the true faith, my be rather understood of the heretics, who fighting among themselves give the victory to the Church.

ORIGEN. This must come to pass before we can see the perfection of that wisdom which is in Christ; but not yet shall be that end which we seek, for a peaceful end is far from those men.

JEROME. These all are the beginnings of sorrows, is better understood of pains of labour, as it were the conception of the coming of Antichrist, and not of the birth.

MacEvilly, J. (1898). An Exposition of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (444–445). Dublin; New York: M. H. Gill & Son; Benziger Brothers:
6. “And you shall hear of wars,” &c. For “and,” the Vulgate has “enim,” “for,” and the Greek, δε, “but.” If the Vulgate reading be adopted, “for,” has reference to what follows; as if He said: See that you be not troubled, because of your “hearing of wars,” &c. In the Greek, it is a digression to another precursory sign. Our Redeemer having warned them against being seduced from the path of justice by the blandishments of false teachers, now cautions them against being turned aside by the fear of evil. “Wars,” tumults, seditions, &c., and what is more embarrassing and terrifying, “rumours of wars.” This was literally verified at the destruction of Jerusalem. The history of the wars and bloodshed among the Jews, which preceded the final destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, as well in Jerusalem itself, as in the provinces, is given by Josephus (Lib. 2 de Bello, Jud. to the end of Lib. 7). The same shall happen, no doubt, at the end of the world (Apocalypse). So that this second sign applies to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world.
“For, these things must come to pass,” not from absolute necessity; but, as a matter of consequent necessity, like scandals, heresies, &c., considering the malice of man, on the one hand; and the decrees of God, drawing good out of the evil, which He permits, on the other. “These things,” wars, and rumours of wars. Why, then, should men be disturbed or turned aside from the straight path, by events which cannot be avoided, that must come to pass by a just judgment of God?
“But the end is not yet,” that is, the end of the evils, which are to fall on Jerusalem. Greater ones still are to follow, or, “the end” of the world, which is to be preceded by the wars of Antichrist. (St. Jerome, Theophylact, &c.) The word, “end,” may, probably, refer to both, one being the type and precursor of the other.

Cornelius à Lapide. (1891). The Great Commentary of Cornelius à Lapide, Volume 3: S. Matthew’s Gospel—Chaps. 22 to 28 and S. Mark’s Gospel—Complete (T. W. Mossman, Trans.) (Third Edition) (61). London: John Hodges:
When ye shall hear of wars, &c. Rumours: Gr. ἀκοάς, reports; Arab, news, which are often more miserable than the battles themselves, and more thoroughly torment the mind with the fear of evils to come, even though they do not come. Here is another sign given by Christ, prior to the destruction of the city and the world, viz., tumults, wars, seditions, &c. Josephus shows that such took place before the destruction of Jerusalem (lib. 2, de Bello, cap. 11). As S. Chrysostom says, “He declares there shall be a twofold war, one by the seducers, the other by the enemies.”
Take heed, &c. That through fear of the enemy ye do not depart from My faith, or by despairing of fruit give up preaching the Gospel; but with generous minds struggling against fear and all opposition, go forward and proclaim faith in Me and My Gospel. He adds the reason why the Apostles must not be troubled, saying,
For all those things must be. The Greek has all, which the Vulgate omits. But the end is not yet, the end of Jerusalem and the Temple, much less of the world, also of the battles and evils prior to the destruction of both. For the end of any one battle or trouble will be but the beginning of some greater one, as Josephus says happened at the siege of Jerusalem. Be not troubled, or lose confidence, but have greater courage, that ye may be prepared for the greater evils which shall follow, so as to sustain and overcome them. Do not hope for peace on earth, but by bearing troubles here, pass on to the eternal and happy rest of Heaven.

Jose Maria Casciaro, Director. (2002). The Navarre Bible, St. Matthew: Texts and Commentaries (202). Ireland: Four Courts Press:
4-14. Our Lord says that between then and the end of the world, the Gospel will be preached to every creature. In the intervening period, the Church will experience all kinds of tribulations. These are not signs of the end of the world; they are simply the normal context in which Christian preaching takes place.

Hahn, Scott and Mitch, Curtis. (2000). Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, The Gospel of Matthew: Commentary, Notes, and Study Questions (59). San Francisco: Ignatius Press:
24:1--25:46 The Olivet Discourse is Jesus' final sermon in Matthew (see outline). His words have two shades of meaning: (1) At the literal-historical level, Jesus forewarns the disciples that Jerusalem and the Temple will be destroyed. The Holy City is about to reject Jesus as the Messiah and erect itself as a barrier to God's New Covenant. The Temple, an architectural symbol of the Old Covenant, must be eliminated to make way for the Church, the new Temple of God (cf. 16:18; Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:4-8). Jesus uses dramatic imagery- called "apocalyptic" language-and draws heavily on the OT to forecast this coming military catastrophe. Forty years later, in A.D. 70, the prophecy was fulfilled when Roman troops marched on Jerusalem, destroying the city and Temple. (2) On a spiritual level, the Temple's devastation foreshadows the destruction of the world itself to make way for the eternal dwelling of heaven. This will coincide with Jesus' Second Coming and the General Judgment of all nations (CCC 585-86). See topical essay: End of the World? at Mt 24 * The earliest summaries of the Church's faith - the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed - affirm Jesus' Second Coming in glory. The Church has always maintained that Christ will come again from heaven as mankind's Judge and Lord (Acts 1:11; CCC 671, 681).

Brown, Raymond E; Fitzmeyer, Joseph A; Murphy, Roland E. (1968). The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Vol. II: The New Testament and Topical Articles (104-105). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.:
6. Widespread wars, earthquakes, and famine are commonplaces in biblical and extrabiblical apocalyptic literature. There can be no allusion to events contemporary with the composition of the Gospel unless we suppose that the author exaggerates the Jewish War into a cosmic catastrophe, which he may very well do according to the principle mentioned (--> 164 above).

Pax Christi,

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Catholic Q&A: Part 32

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Is Clement and Linus in the Bible the same men that would later become popes?

It's difficult to say for sure, but traditionally these are considered to be references to future popes. Clement is mentioned in Phil 4:3. He became the fourth pope. Linus is mentioned in 2 Tim 4:21. He became the second pope.

In Mark 6:48-49, it says that Jesus meant to pass by them, but the apostles saw Him anyway. Does this mean that Jesus failed in what He was trying to do?

First of all, here is the passage in question:
And he saw that they were distressed in rowing, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out;
Now, when it says, “He meant to pass by them”, this could mean that He wished to go undetected, or it could mean that He wished to walk in their direction. He “passed by them” as in, alongside them.

Now, if Jesus wanted to be undetected, then He would have been undetected. I think Mark meant that Jesus wanted to walk toward them or alongside them. This is confirmed by the parallel passages in Matthew and John, where we read that “he came to them” (Mt 14:25) and “they saw Jesus … walking near to the boat” (Jn 6:19).

Somewhere in 2 Chronicles it says that if you turn your back on God then He will turn His back on you. I have trouble believing that God would do that. Can you explain this for me?

The closest thing I could find to the passage you are referring to is 2 Chron 30:9, “He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” The opposite of this is basically what you have in mind. If you do not return to Him, then He will turn his face from you.

When God turns away from His people, it is a punishment for sin. This does not mean that he completely abandons them. Instead, He withdraws His blessing and His protection from them because with their lives they refuse Him ... but He will never forsake them. As St. Paul said, “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every man be false” (Rom 3:3-4). "He will not fail you or forsake you" (Deut 31:6).

God is always waiting for us to return to Him and to take us back and shower us with His blessing. Sometimes He even blesses us when we don’t deserve it!

Pax Christi,
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