The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.
Wisdom 2:1A, 12-22
This was the first reading for the Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent 2014. It was extremely poignant to me for a couple of reasons. I will admit right off that I am only somewhat familiar with the Old Testament. Mia culpa but I honestly have a very difficult time reading the Old Testament because I’ve had a hard time staying with much of the subject matter. I think this has seemed to bother some non-Catholic people I know because, as a Catholic with all those “extra books”, I am expected to have studied and read them all in order to verify their validity. That being said I will admit that I haven’t read through the Book of Wisdom completely yet.
At any rate it was poignant to me because of its context. In the strongest language possible they’re talking about the events of Christ’s life and Passion. This is a stark prophesy of exactly what will happen to Christ and out of minds who hated Him. I love reading Old Testament passages pointing to Christ and discovering it for the first time, as I did today, gives me a wondrous sense of amazement at so many Holy passages which prophesy His Life, Death, and Resurrection and ultimately give promise to Who He Is and What He came to accomplish for us.
Secondly, it saddens me on some level because it is so magnificent in its testament to Jesus Christ along with so many other wise and Holy words that so many don’t have the opportunity to read because those books are missing from their Bibles. In its entirety the Scriptures lay out and compliment each other, but when certain texts are missing from the Old Testament, blanks are left in the New. A stark example of this is in Hebrews 11 where it says in verse 35:
“Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life” (Heb. 11:35).
Jimmy Akin explains this saying, “There are a couple of examples of women receiving back their dead by resurrection in the Protestant Old Testament. You can find Elijah raising the son of the widow of Zarepheth in 1 Kings 17, and you can find his successor Elisha raising the son of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4, but one thing you can never find—anywhere in the Protestant Old Testament, from front to back, from Genesis to Malachi—is someone being tortured and refusing to accept release for the sake of a better resurrection. If you want to find that, you have to look in the Catholic Old Testament—in the deuterocanonical books Martin Luther cut out of his Bible.
The story is found in 2 Maccabees 7, where we read that during the Maccabean persecution, “It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and cords, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh. . . . [B]ut the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying, ‘The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us . . . ‘ After the first brother had died . . . they brought forward the second for their sport. . . . he in turn underwent tortures as the first brother had done. And when he was at his last breath, he said, ‘You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life'” (2 Macc. 7:1, 5-9).
One by one the sons die, proclaiming that they will be vindicated in the resurrection.
“The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them . . . [saying], ‘the Creator of the world, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws,'” telling the last one, “Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers” (2 Macc. 7:20-23, 29). This is but one example of the New Testaments’ references to the deuterocanonicals.”¹
There are several others² but I want to get back to this passage of Wisdom. I found that having an “insight” into the minds of those who felt themselves religious but didn’t know Jesus as Messiah because they thought they knew all the signs and in turn hating Him and rejecting Him gave me more inspiration to study these books more thoroughly because they do point to the events from the New Testament and help expound on the things that took place in His time here. In fact, the second reading of the day is from St. John’s Gospel and says in part,
“Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, ‘Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.’
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, ‘You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.’
So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.”
The books that were removed from the Bible by Martin Luther are certainly worth reading and I would encourage anyone to go pick up a complete Bible and do just that. I would encourage people to get a Bible instead of looking for them online or through other Protestant sources because not all Protestant lists are the same and can include titles to letters or books which range from canonical to spurious (those whose subject matter is theologically inconsistent with Apostolic teaching i.e. – Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas).
The Books which had been accepted as canonized Scripture in Christianity and which were taken out of the Bible by Luther are:
- Additions to Esther (Vulgate Esther 10:4-16:24)
- Wisdom (or Wisdom of Solomon)
- Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus or Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira)
- Baruch, including the Letter of Jeremiah (Additions to Jeremiah in the Septuagint)
- Additions to Daniel:
- Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children (Vulgate Daniel 3:24-90)
- Susanna (Vulgate Daniel 13, Septuagint prologue)
- Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14, Septuagint epilogue)
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
Read them for yourselves if you haven’t. It will help expound on and “fill in the blanks” to the New Testament ultimately, I think, making your faith life all the richer for having understood in greater depth the elements which preceded, which comprise, and which explain elements of our faith today.
2. Deuterocanonical quotes in the New Testament – http://bit.ly/QLtCRM
Everyone in the English speaking world today takes for granted the fact that their language is interspersed with words that have root meanings of ancient origin. Who wouldn’t? Honestly, there are very few times that I can recall doing something and wondering what the ancient root of the word is that I’m thinking about. Sure there’s been times when I’ve wondered where we got a phrase or where that vernacular came from but, like most people, I haven’t devoted a lot of energy to the study of my own language’s root words outside of an obscure mandatory high school course of study which is obsolete in public American classrooms called Etymology .
However, when it comes to my faith much, much, much more rests on understanding the meanings of words and their implications since, by doing so, we understand the depths of our faith all the more clearly. Some of the time Latin words feed our understanding of faith since most of our own language has Latin root words, thus our “faith words” utilize the Latin origin. Sometimes it’s Greek since most of the Bible was read and studied in Greek in the ancient world. For the Latin terms, however, we have words like sanctus which is the Latin word for ‘holy’ or ‘hallowed’ (past participle of sancīre meaning “to hallow”). From it we get our word “sanctified”. This is the beginning of the eternal call of the Seraphim in Heaven (cf. Is. 6:3, Rev. 4:8) and what is thus recited in a Catholic Church prefacing the Eucharistic prayer, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus…” or “Holy, Holy, Holy…” It is also where we get the word, “saint” which of course means holy person.
Some words have changed meaning in the course of time like the word “apology” which is from the Latin word apologia which in turn is from the Greek word apologiā. It means “an explanation or an excuse” this gradually came to primarily mean “an expression of regret or contrition for a fault.” The derivative of this word, “apologetics” retains the definition of the latter, or older definition, “an explanation or excuse” for something. It is specifically used to refer to a branch of study which is concerned with the explanation of matters of belief.
While this course of study offers interesting insight into one’s words and terminology there is far more to be gained by reviewing the passages of Scripture in the context of their original language in order to more fully understand what is being conveyed to the reader in the passage. We can turn to that oft disputed passage of Scripture in Matthew 19 where Jesus gives Simon the new name “Rock”¹ and thus confers upon him a great title and responsibility. We can also look at another passage in the Gospel where a great title and responsibility was handed on to a human being whose unique and singular title is being grossly and sadly misused today: the greeting to Mary in the Gospel of Luke.
“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 he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:26-28)
[Other translations say, “Hail, favored one!” or “Hail, highly favored one!” this is a poorer translation of the original Greek words used and will be discussed more fully later on.]
When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary in the first chapter of Luke and he greets her, he’s not simply making a statement. He’s not saying, “Hello, Mary, boy does God really favor you! You are so blessed! Guess why!” First, considering everything Mary went through, all her heartbreak and sorrow, I think the first thing I’d do when I got to Heaven is to go up to Gabriel and say, “Whatdaya mean ‘God really favors me and I’m so blessed?'” Without the understanding of cultural and lexological meaning this phrase is being taken at face value and extrapolated from its genuine meaning to this unintended meaning.
This is where the understanding of language comes in and since the original languages the words were written in are not used now (Koine Greek), and since it’s also being translated into our language whose structure and grammatical makeup so differ, the intentions and meanings are lost without the scholastic benefits to impart to the reader. The less that knowledge abounds all the more gives rise to incomplete understandings which, in turn, give rise to misused and misapplied beliefs. In utilizing vernacular with today’s understanding of the English word rather than the historical understanding of it in context with the ancient Christological beliefs one applies a meaning to words that never existed or which impart an idea contrary to the commonly understood meanings of the terms used. So to be “blessed” or “favored” by God today implies one has obtained an abundance of good events or things which have come into their lives. Although Mary and many in the Bible who shared a high favor with God often had just the opposite type of life. Understanding this is not simply a “Catholic thing” trying to ‘make Mary distinct’ rather it is about correcting a claim to something which was never ours to claim to begin with and to which we are not rightly able to properly claim about ourselves.
The statement of the angel Gabriel to Mary, “Hail, highly favored one!” must be understood in it’s proper verbal and grammatical context. First, as mentioned before, “Hail, favored/highly favored one!” is a poorer translation of the statement. The more accurate translation is, “Hail, full of grace!” This matters because of the Greek word that Luke uses for this greeting specifically and directly speaks of being ‘perfectly filled with grace’. No one makes this bold a claim about themselves since it implies a self-determined very high state of holiness, but this is exactly the point since what Gabriel is really stating about Mary here is not that she’s “greatly favored” with God, but that she’s a very righteous person before God because she’s filled perfectly with grace.
The Koine Greek words that are used by Luke in this passage are, Chaire, kekaritomene. The first word charie means: “be cheerful, hail, rejoice”. Kekaritomene is formed from the same root word charitoo whose varient word also appears in Ephesians 1:6. Protestants will argue that since a varient of charitoo is used elsewhere in the Bible it has no special meaning in Luke’s Gospel. However, the variant of charitoo used in Ephesians is echaritosen. The difference being that echaritosen means, “he graced” (or bestowed grace) and signifies a momentary action, an action brought to pass while kekaritomene means “a perfect action which is considered to have been completed before the time of the speaker.” The Greek perfect tense means “a present state exists which took place at some point in the past and is continuing on in the present.”
“It is permissible, on Greek grammatical and linguistic grounds, to paraphrase kecharitomene as completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace.” (Blass and DeBrunner, Greek Grammar of the New Testament).
Kekaritomene shows a completeness with a permanent result and denotes continuance of a completed action (H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar [Harvard Univ Press, 1968], p. 108-109, sec 1852:b; ibid).²
In other words, the word in Greek that Luke chooses to use when he writes about Gabriel’s greeting to Mary is both unique and special because what Gabriel is telling Mary when he greets her is, in fact, recognizing in her a state of continued, completely full, perfect grace which has been present in her from a past action and is in effect in this present moment. Therefore, the fact that the angel greets Mary this way is anything but common and is testified to by Mary’s reaction in the very next verse when it says, “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.” (Also, because of the fact that Luke states that internally Mary [as evidenced by the passage, “considered in her mind”] was wondering what this meant traditionally has indicated that Mary herself was telling Luke this story, or, at the least, this version of the story was originally conveyed by Mary herself.)
This extremely unusual greeting which even Mary herself was greatly troubled by was given by Heaven to her and her alone because nowhere else in the Bible is the word with the same tense and meaning as kekaritomene used for anyone else. Unless an individual really believes they have been endowed by Heaven with a completely full state of perfected grace supernaturally given to them in the past and continuing all the way into the present moment, this self-appointed statement, which is taken from this very passage of Scripture, is erroneous and misapplied.
What Mary has been given here is validation of an extraordinarily high honor confirmed by Heaven that she had been, in a perfect way, filled with Grace and that Grace was maintained to the present day. This is not an ordinary honor that was given to all believers and to utilize it in a manner with which is is not intended is a disservice and a dishonor to her unique role in Christianity. One may not believe all the dogmas proclaimed by the Catholic Church but she’s due a great and unique honor and this Scripture verse lends remarkable insight into that truth.
1. Aramaic – Kepha (Cephas) ; Greek – Petros. (The dispute argues from the point of the two forms of the word “‘rock” used in the passage, petros and petras.
2. ref. excerpted from http://bit.ly/1g3847V author pfairban
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,
that they may all be one…
The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them,
that they may be one even as we are one,
I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one…”
The Gospel According to St. John
This week marks the beginning of the annual week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It seems a remarkably difficult task and the accomplishment of it seems ever more impossible as the years and divisions seem to multiply in the ranks of Christianity. It seems that new (or reintroduced) theology springs up every day. In some places there is even a reintroduction of ‘archaic’ sounding titles for the ministers like “bishop”, “apostle”, and “prophet” preceding their names. In some circles there is a desire to imitate the early or primitive church and in some a reach back even further to celebrate and imitate elements of Judaism as a way of “connecting with our roots”. Some churches (including those with very well known names) do not even hold to Trinitarian doctrine and claim they are Christian. Some incorporate New Age ideas and practices. Some which claim Christian titles eschew traditional ideas about God and insist on calling Him both Father and/or mother or still further, refusing to acknowledge the Trinity by Who They Are but rather categorize only by one task – Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.
With this ever more fractured construction upon the ideas of Christianity how are we ever to “be one” as Christ prays? St. Paul tells us, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household [the church], having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” (Eph 2:20) St. John tells us in Revelation, “And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God… And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. ” (Rev 21:10,14) We also have the Gospel of St. Matthew which Jesus states to St. Peter, “Thou art Peter [“Rock”, “Kepha” Aramaic, “Cephas”, anglicanized] and on this Rock [Kepha/Cephas] I will build my church. (Matt 16:18) The idea laid out here is that the foundation which has been laid by Jesus Christ establishing His Kingdom here on earth and which, the verse goes on to tell us, “the gates of Hell shall not” either “overpower it”, “conquer it” or “prevail against it” depending on which translation you read.
Which Church was founded by Jesus Christ, has withstood the test of time (since it cannot be overpowered, conquered or prevailed against by the forces Hell), and was laid on the teachings of the apostles with Christ as their cornerstone? This foundation cannot be laid again. If the Church was re-founded it cannot be re-founded on the Rock which was Peter upon the Rock which is Christ. Instead of being re-founded, it is reinvented. Because of the diversity and disunity within the Protestant faith there comes an idea that the Church has to be an invisible entity since unity within the Protestant faith is found only in core beliefs such as the Trinity and Trinitarian formula Baptism along with the belief in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Similar though many faith traditions are to each other, there is still division, even on the slightest of points, but which caused enough of a rift to form a separate church and a refusal to remain associated together. From these branches sprang other branches whose main theology differs no so much from their association with a church but enough to separate within the church. There are any number of different governing bodies which a Protestant may choose to adhere to yet still remain in their denomination. Mostly these fall along the lines of a “liberal”‘ and “conservative” posture. Rather than an invisible entity, Catholicism argues for a visible rather than an invisible organization with a clear head and governing body. (You can read more about that in my entry “What is the Church?“)
This brings us back to our question, which church was founded by Jesus Christ? Do you know who founded your church? Was it founded by Christ or by a man? How far back does your faith lineage go? In whom do you put your trust for your immortal soul – the guidance and interpretations of self-proclaimed fallible men – or those who have been told by Christ, “I will not let evil (the characters of which are lies, error, fallibility, and corruption) overcome you”?
To me, if historical documents and lineage can verify the latter and one choses not to investigate and verify it and stay with the former then does that make a case for willful ignorance? Especially if the former is chosen for the sake of comfort, personal tastes, or the church’s stance on issues which the believer already adheres to (in other words, you chose the church for these pre-believed ideas which you were not willing to forfeit).
There is only one Church in existence that makes the claim that they are founded by Jesus Christ Himself. There is only one Church in all of existence that claims they are descended directly from the Apostles themselves. One Church that claims by the power of the Holy Spirit that they are protected from error and are thus infallible when teaching or proclaiming matters of faith.
I’m excluding certain Baptists claim and any other evangelical or non-denominational church’s claim that they were there from the beginning or “hidden”. As Thomas Howard or Cardinal Gibbons says (and I’m paraphrasing), “Indeed! You were so hidden that no trace or proof of your existence can be verified or found nor has any scrap of it ever been!” I’m excluding those who take “by force” the titles given to predecessors and/or claim apostolic link. I say “by force” because they cannot provide any clear lineage of succession and in this no valid Holy Orders exist. As Tertullian said:
“But if there be any [heresies] which are bold enough to plant [their origin] in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [their first] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter” The Prescription of Heretics, 200 AD.
I’m also excluding those who are staunchly anti-Catholic since they are simply decidedly dead set against any claim of Catholicism and will stubbornly deny, even in the face of bald-faced facts, that such validity exists at all in the Church or her claims and therefore the aforementioned claims speak not of authority but confirm madness. There’s no point in arguing with such people and no point in wasting time proving the truth.
However, those that do acknowledge at least some form of validity in the Catholic faith have to, I think, examine these claims seriously. Examine the claims and history of their own faith tradition, especially in light of the entire scope of Christian history which predates their own sect’s foundation. For if Christian history cannot be trusted, or is suspect to corruption, then what faith can one have that they are truly on the right path at all? Simply put, mankind armed with only their Bibles and their willpower have not been able to either validate a common truth we could all agree on nor could they arrive at a unity prayed for in Our Saviors last hours.
As the week of Prayers for Christian Unity proceeds, even though the path to that unity seems more fragmented by the passage of time, I pray that understanding and a willingness to follow wherever the truth leads will at least bring us closer to that goal.