Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Luke the Physician looks at Scientific Education in America

Luke the Physician would not recognize this dispute but because it is so important as to how we view sacred scriptures, I am going to say a few words about it.

Holiday weekends are a time to visit with friends and relatives. It can also be a time of reflection. On our five state road trip last weekend, I noticed that there is a brewing church state conflict that is creeping onto the front pages on newspapers across America. It is a dispute about what education is appropriate for teaching in public schools. The real church state conflict takes place in the classroom where the government tells teachers what they can and cannot teach about science, such as the origin of man, creation of the universe and how life begins. In fact, the textbook John Scopes used to teach his high school biology class in April 1925 had been previously selected by the State of Tennessee.

Like the Ten Commandment dispute, many people believe that the courts had already decided the question of whether or not evolution could be taught in the public schools. Yet just as the United States Supreme Court will revisit the question of the public display of the Ten Commandments, the court will be asked to revisit its 1968 holding in Epperson v. Arkansas that a state law prohibiting the teaching of evolution violated the establishment clause of the first amendment of the United States Constitution.

The birth control pill was invented by a devout Catholic looking for ways to assist infertile Catholic couples to become pregnant. The history of this research, including list of the people involved, such as Margaret Sanger, is fascinating. It however is not being taught in our public schools. It is in fact a classic study on how new ideas come to fruition.

These new ideas are treated as a threat to the fundamental teachings of the church. Rather than discussing the threat or the perceived threat, this article will briefly discuss the background, which in a sense is a continuation of my blog on Shifting Paradigms:

The publication of the Origin of Species in November 1859 and the Descent of Man in 1871 is a good beginning point but the dispute was first litigated in the courtroom in 1925 in the famous Scopes monkey trial. However, the launching of Sputnik caused educators to evaluate how science is taught in the public schools. The current dispute is a delayed reaction to the widespread acceptance of the teaching of evolution that followed the launch of Sputnik in 1957.

If someone told me that the purpose of public school education was about brainwashing our children to respect our values so that they do not overthrow the government and our way of life, I would probably say the person is crazy. But consider this: the really important subjects are off-limits! Why? Because they are too controversial? Violate the First Amendment Church State rulings? Or they threaten our values?

David Friedrich Strauss published Das Leben Jesu in 1835. His work introduced and questioned the historicity of acts and events occurring during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the understanding of his divinity. As a result the accuracy of the gospel accounts were severely questioned and an era of biblical skepticism began. This made it possible for individuals such as Charles Darwin to look beyond the account contained in the Book of Genesis. One of the many responses to the publication of Das Leben Jesu was to determine which if any of the gospel accounts could be said to contain a kernel of truth.

F.C. Baur developed the idea of historical theology and began a historical investigation of primitive Christianity and the New Testament. Baur insisted that Christianity must have a historical foundation and that there is a historical basis for the faith of the church. Consequently we should not feel threatened by science and its numerous advances. Evolution does not contradict essential church teachings nor is “Education chained to the Devil’s throne.”

Only one thing is certain. In matters of faith, there is no final decision by the Supreme Court. Witness the continuing battle over abortion.

copyrighted 2005

update and as a partial response to comment:
Kansas Board Committee Finishes Draft of New Science Standards

Monday, May 30, 2005

Road Trip

It being Memorial Day Weekend and my wife being one of twelve DaFermo kids, it seem appropriate that we would do a five state road trip this weekend attending a birthday party for 47 year old brother-in-law in Warrenton VA and 50 year old brother-in-law in Greencastle PA. Next year, the family reunion is in Colorado. The Catholic priest from the Greencastle parish attended the second birthday party and was shocked to learn that Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. The Italians make spaghetti the first course while the Irish, at least at this second party, made spaghetti the last course. It was a relaxing weekend and because I somehow twisted my back, I was able to read several chapters of Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century by Claude Welch in the hot tub while supervising the cooking on the grille.

Today, back in Wallingford, we ate lobsters with Lancers. A delightful end to a special weekend.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Some Patristic Reflections on the Mission to the Jews

The ending of Acts is not about the final rejection of the Jewish people.[i] Some scholars who argue the 'wicked tenants' are the Jewish people and that the parable is about the vineyard being turned over to the Gentiles point to the ending of Acts as further evidence in support of their position. The usual approach of those who disagree is for them to cite biblical passages supporting the contrary position and the authors who hold such views. I am going to take a different tack and ask, what was the view of the early church fathers on the mission to the Jewish people?

According to Oskar Skarsaune, the Epistula Apostolorum’s version of the Great Commission “includes a special mission to Israel to restore it and equip the believers in Israel as witnesses among the Gentiles.” Skarsaune has also assembled evidence from Justin Martyr to demonstrate that the missionaries of the second century carried a mission to the Jews and a mission to the Gentiles. Justin makes a great effort to prove the Christian kergma using Old Testament texts recognized as authenic by Jews. This effort would be meaningless unless Justin also had a genuine desire to persuade Jewish readers. Justin also insisted that Christians continued to make intercessory prayers for the Jewish people. Congar and Kretschner have shown that there were few comparable intercessory prayers for the salvation of Gentiles in the same period. The Didascalia, a pastoral treatise composed in the third century, is even more positive than Justin concerning prayer for the Jews.

[i]. Jervell; R.L. Brawley, Luke-Acts and the Jews, (Atlanta Ga. 1987), 155; and Ravens, Luke and the Restoration of Israel, (Sheffield 1995), 255.

copyright 2005

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Mission to the Jews

Oskar Skarsaune writes: “When speaking about the mission to the Jews being a closed chapter, we should be very careful to specify in which sense we speak about mission. If we mean the apostolic mission, the mission carried out by the Apostles in person, the mission to the Jews necessarily had to be a closed chapter. But so had the mission to the Gentiles, and for the same reason. If we mean, however, the ever ongoing witness to the truth of the Gospel, for which all and every Christian is responsible, neither of the two missions can be called closed chapters.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Use of Possessions and Wealth in Luke

A number of scholars have concluded that Luke intended to criticize the wrong use of wealth by the rich Christians in his community, or perhaps I should say, the wrong use of wealth by the members of his community. The problem with this conclusion is that there is an assumption that there are rich people in Luke’s community. This assumption is neither stated nor proven. Furthermore what evidence is there that Luke is writing to his community?

Last week in Luke Remembered the Poor, I suggested that the Macedonian example cited by Paul was the culmination of Luke’s six or seven years of service in Philippi and the surrounding communities. However, I am not suggesting the Macedonian communities are the first recipients of the Gospel of Luke. They did however receive the gospel, which Luke preached.

None of the numerous studies have recognized that Luke is criticizing the wrong use of wealth by the temple establishment. It is my theory that Luke is criticizing the temple establishment.

The following is a preliminary bibliography:

Degenhardt, Lukas Evangelist der Armen (1965);
Johnson, The Literary Function of Possessions in Luke-Acts (1977);
Pilgrim, Good News to the Poor (1981);
Seccombe, Possessions and the Poor in Luke-Acts (1985);
Schottroff & Stegemann, Jesus and the Hope of the Poor, (1986);
Esler, Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts (1987);
Ireland, Stewardship and the kingdom of God: an historical, exegetical, and contextual study of the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16:1-13, (1992);
Kyoung-Jin Kim, Stewardship and Almsgiving in Luke’s Theology (1998).

copyrighted 2005

Monday, May 23, 2005

What would Jesus eat?

Helenann Hartley in her Reflections on daily life, religious news and biblical studies reports on a story carried by BBC News in her article, Lose weight the biblical way.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Fundamental Methodological Question

Is it possible to interpret a text in light of the Old Testament texts and traditions?

Ulrich Luz states: “one may only appeal to biblical intertexts when the combination between them has been made explicit to the readers through clear correspondence between the wordings and the basic meanings of the text.” In a footnote, Luz explains: “As a general rule, for readers to have recognized a biblical intertextual reference, I assume there must exist a specific correspondence, i.e. a correspondence particular to the texts in question only, between at least two words of the suggested parallels, as well a correspondence in basic meaning.”

Using the rule set forth by Ulrich Luz, I am comfortable in stating that Paul, in praising the example of the Macedonians, was in fact made an allusion to the poor widow in the temple. There are at least two words, “abundance” and “poverty” in parallel, and also a clear correspondence in basic meaning.

In 2 Cor. 8, Paul discusses the collection for the saints and the example of the Macedonians. In verse 2, Paul mentions the extreme poverty of the Macedonians. Paul tells us that the Macedonians gave to the utmost limits of their means and even beyond it in the face of severe hardship and poverty.

The Lucan Jesus informed us, “this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.”[i] The Macedonians collectively are the living embodiment of the poor widow.

[i] Luke 21:3-4.

copyrighted 2005

Friday, May 20, 2005

They are filled with new wine.

At the first Christian Pentecost, the skeptics said, “They are filled with new wine.”

The use of the word “gleukos” in this context is somewhat surprising for a number of reasons. Apart from Acts 2:13, the word is not used to convey a sense that people are drunk. Furthermore, some scholars have suggested grape juice was probably not available in May-June at the time of Pentecost since the grape harvest in Palestine does not start until later in the year nor could this grape juice be from a prior harvest.

Why not the phrase “oinos neos,” as in Luke 5:37-39 and the LXX Isaiah 49:26, if Luke intended this translation?

Pervo considered Acts 2:13-14 to be an instance of Lucan irony, but only because it shows that “some people are spiritually blind, such as those cynics in Jerusalem who could not distinguish between enthusiastic inspiration and a holiday binge.”[i]

According to Daniel Schwartz, it is more likely that Luke employed “gleukos” in the same sense as he found it in the Septuagint: Job 32:19. In the instance in Job 32:19, it appears as the image Elihu uses of the spirit of God within him which forces him to speak.

Peter’s Pentecost Speech is yet another example how the Septuagint provided Luke with his unique vocabulary and understanding of the events that transpired.

[i] Profit with Delight: The Literary Genre of the Acts of the Apostles, 59.

copyrighted 2005

Chartres Labyrinth with Rose Window

In Circles for Pentecost, Notes provides a "Java applet for Pentecost Sunday."

take a few minutes to allow the program to load and for you to enjoy something different!

The History of Tefillin

The History of Tefillin can be read at Orthoprax


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Luke Remembered the Poor

Luke’s concept of almsgiving based on stewardship was unique and radical. We find more references to alms and almsgiving in his writings than anywhere else in the New Testament. In addition, Luke includes the Parable of the Unjust Steward, which has long been recognized as one of the most enigmatic passages in the New Testament.

In Acts 16:10, the author for the first time associates himself with the narrative we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God has called us to preach the gospel to them. It appears that Luke joined Paul and his group in Troas, went with them to Philippi in Macedonia but he did not accompany them when they left Philippi. Luke stayed behind to preach the gospel to them. Six or seven years later, the next “we” section begins in Philippi when Luke rejoins Paul and continues to the end of the book.

In 2 Cor. 8, Paul discusses the collection for the saints and the example of the Macedonians. In verse 2, Paul mentions the extreme poverty of the Macedonians. Paul tells us that the Macedonians gave to the utmost limits of their means and even beyond it in the face of severe hardship and poverty.

The Lucan Jesus informed us, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.”[i] The Macedonians collectively are the living embodiment of the poor widow. The contrast with the conduct of “the rich man dressed in purple”[ii] is so stark there can be no mistake about the meaning of the message.

Luke not only preached a radical concept of almsgiving, when he had the opportunity, he implemented it. What we see in the Macedonian example is the radical concept Luke advocated in his writings. I suggest that Luke is the brother of high reputation, well known and respected in all the communities for his commitment to the principle of the gospel.[iii] He had been appointed because he had gained the esteem of the congregations during the six or seven years he had served them as a minister of the word. The message he preached we know as the Gospel of Luke.

Only when we recognize that Luke has practiced what he preached would we understand the meaning of the radical teachings of his gospel.

[i] Luke 21:3-4.
[ii] Luke 16:19.
[iii] 2 Cor. 8:18.

copyrighted 2005

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Mission to the Nations

Ulrich Luz is the name of the theologian that comes to mind when addressing the issue of the abandonment of the Jews in the Gospel of Matthew. The fourth and final volume of Luz’s Commentary on Matthew has been published in German and Fortress Press has published two of three planned volumes in English in the Hermeneia series. The English volume three will correspond to part of volume three and all of volume four in the German. After the appearance of volume three, a revised edition of volume one is due to appear.

I mention this because I understand that Ulrich Luz has revised his position and now agrees that Matthew 10:23 does imply that the mission to the Jews has not ended. Before Luz had indicated that the Matthean Jesus with the Great Commission had initiated a mission directed exclusively to the Gentiles and that Israel had lost its chances. Luz has now indicated that the above statement does not accurately state his previous position and that his fourth volume has clarified his position. I look forward to the English translation containing the revised position of Ulrich Luz. I think this is a major development and one that will also impact Lucan scholarship with respect to this issue.

copyrighted 2005

Monday, May 16, 2005

When the Day of Pentecost had come

Yesterday the reading in Christian churches around the world began with these words. In a few churches, the readings occurred in more than one language attempting to illustrate the miracle of tongues.

Since I have previously mentioned the Book of Jubilees as a possible source for Luke, I should note that the Book of Jubilees makes Pentecost the most important of the annual festivals on the Jewish liturgical calendar. According to Jubilees, the Feast of Pentecost was instituted in connection with Noah and was to be celebrated annually in perpetuity. Of further interest Luke, but not Matthew, includes Noah in the genealogy of Jesus. Since Luke has emphasized Noah and the Noachic decree, he may have used the Book of Jubilees as a source.

Acts reports that there were devout Jews dwelling in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven. This describes the restoration of Israel. For Luke, Jerusalem is the place to which the people of God must return. Luke is perhaps looking to 2 Macc 2:18: “We have hope in God that he will soon have mercy on us and will gather us from everywhere under heaven into his holy place.”

The third point in my mental outline is the list of nations in Acts 2:9-11. What are we to make of the list or the source of the list? The most interesting theory is that of James M. Scott who suggests that the list of nations in Hippolytus’ Diamerismos is a parallel to every name in Acts 2:9-11, except one, and further, this list in Diamerismos was based on the lost Greek version of Jubilees 8-9.

In the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost, the hope of Anna, who is looking for the return from exile and the redemption of Israel, appears to be fulfilled. What then is the significance of the story of Anna in the scheme of Luke-Acts?

Finally, how does the Feast of Pentecost attended by devout Jews dwelling in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven advance the theme of universalism, which pervades Luke-Acts?

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

The key to understanding the Pentecostal event is Isaiah 49:6 which Luke alludes to when Simeon, upon seeing Jesus in the Temple, praises God saying “your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the nations[i] and the glory of your people, Israel.” The mission of the early church and of the church today is inclusive and it is directed to all people in every nation under heaven to the end of the world.[ii]

Justin attests to the continuation of an active mission to the Jews around 160 CE.[iii] Prayers for the conversion of the Jews are still being said[iv] and in addition, there are traces throughout the entire second century and beyond of a mission to the Jews.[v]

I admit I have tunnel vision. I see the world through the eyes of Luke and my understanding of the world is based upon my inclusive understanding of the writings of Luke. In my quest to understand Luke, I keep returning to the themes of Isaiah and the Deuteronomic promises and traditions, which Isaiah utilized. And my reading list is even longer.

According to Zechariah 13:7, the messianic shepherd will be slain and his flock dispersed until the purified remnant is gathered again as the people of God.[vi] Does Luke see the devout men as the purified remnant gathered as the people of God? Or does Luke see a future Day of Pentecost when the faithful remnant will be gathered? I would like to think that the faithful remnant will include the cynical lawyer who asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

[i] It seems to me that a correct understanding of the writings of Luke requires the translation, “nations” rather than “Gentiles” in the quotation from Luke 2:32.
[ii] See also Matt. 10:23 implying the mission to the Jews has not been completed; and Rom. 1:16; 2:9. Hans Kvalbein cites these verses in “Has Matthew abandoned the Jews?”
[iii] cf. Dial. 39:1 f.
[iv] cf. Dial. 35:8; 96:3; 108:3; and 133:6.
[v] See the writings of Origen of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Eusebius and Jerome.
[vi] I do not mean to suggest that Luke alludes to or cites Zechariah 13:7 as do Matthew and Mark or that Luke shows awareness of the destruction of Jerusalem as do Matthew and Mark.

copyrighted 2005

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Mighty Minority

In 1980, Jacob Jervell wrote an article entitled, “Mighty Minority,” wherein he asserted that the Jewish segment of early Christianity late in the first century was a significant minority. In 1980, Jacob Jervell probably stood alone as a Mighty Minority among Lucan scholars in asserting that the community for which the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles were written contained a significant Jewish segment. In 1995, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, David Hellholm, Halvor Moxnes, Turid Karlsen Seim as editors published Mighty minorities?: minorities in early Christianity, positions and strategies: essays in honour of Jacob Jervell on his 70th birthday, 21 May 1995. C. K. Barrett, Adela Yarbro Collins, Lars Hartman, David Hellholm and Donald Juel contributed essays.

In 1972, Jacob Jervell had invited scholars to take a new look at Luke-Acts with Luke and the People of God: A New Look at Luke-Acts, (Minneapolis 1972). Since 1972, a number of scholars have challenged the essentially Gentile composition of the Lucan audience by noting the Judaic roots of Christianity as emphasized by Luke. Fletcher-Louis writes “there is a growing consensus, spearheaded by the work of Jacob Jervell, that accepts essential interaction with Jewish concerns and a Jewish readership.”[i] In my opinion the audience of Luke-Acts was predominantly of Jewish background[ii] as was the target of Stark's missionaries.

Jervell asserted there can be no Gentile mission without a mission to Israel at the same time. There is no final rejection by the Jews recorded at the end of Acts.[iii]

Recently I noticed more scholars are quoting and citing approval Jacob Jervell with approval: for instance, Hans Kvalbein, Oskar Skarsaune, James M. Scott and Jostein Adna to name a few. Jacob Jervell no longer stands alone.

[i]. Fletcher-Louis, 19; footnote 83 on page 19 mentions Jervell, Drury, Salmon, Sterling, Evans, Ellis; and 'mixed community' with respect to Esler and Tyson.
[ii]. Anderson, EQ 69:3 (1997), 195-215.
[iii]. Jervell; R.L. Brawley, Luke-Acts and the Jews, (Atlanta Ga. 1987), 155; and Ravens, Luke and the Restoration of Israel, (Sheffield 1995), 255.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Reaction to Papal Infallibility

There was a worldwide reaction to the proclamation of the doctrine of papal infallibility. Millions of Protestants contributed to the first worldwide fund drive. The proceeds were used to construct a magnificent cathedral on the Rhine River at Speyer Germany known as The Memorial Church. Simultaneous with this fund drive, and perhaps related thereto, was the Kulturkampf, a battle between Bismarck and the German Protestant Churches on one side against the Vatican and the German Catholic Churches over state control of faculty and pastoral assignments. Dungan states: “In this highly charged climate of national crisis, it was politically important for Protestant theologians to be able to say in effect to the Roman Catholics, “Not only is your recent (1870) doctrine of papal infallibility utter nonsense, your tradition regarding the priority of the Gospel of Matthew is equally mistaken. We German Protestants have proven scientifically that Mark was written first!”[i]

Farmer, Dungan and Peabody have written about the state control of faculty and pastoral assignments in an effort to support their claim that the results of the research of the German Protestant theologians on the priority of Mark was politically motivated and less than objective. I write to suggest that to complete the story of the history of an idea, one must also research The Memorial Church’s building fund campaign drive and the literature generated about the need to have an edifice on the Rhine as the final triumph of the Reformation. My research has convinced me, in agreement with Hans-Herbert Stoldt, that a “strong, emotion-charged engagement can be discerned in the history of Gospel research for the last hundred and forty years.”[ii] Stoldt finds the evidence of a “strong, emotion-charged engagement” in the literature of the Marcan Hypothesis while I find it in the writings of the Kulturkampf period. The eighty-page Memorial Church brochure contains this statement: “It was the proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility (1870) and the foundation of a new empire under a Protestant emperor (1871) which brought new impetus to the Speyer project.” The construction was made possible by the gifts of Protestant Christians throughout the world.

My wife and I visited The Memorial Church[iii] in July 1990 as part of our Martin Luther tour of the Reformation sites. We arrived in Germany and were able to visit East Germany days after the walls came down. Our tour guide was crying tears of joy. I plan to return to Speyer Germany to do further research on Shifting Paradigms.

[i] Dungan, A History of the Synoptic Problem, (1999), 329.
[ii] Hans-Herbert Stoldt, History and Criticism of the Marcan Hypothesis (1977, tr. 1980), 2.
[iii] The most famous session of the imperial parliament of the Holy Roman Empire took place in Speyer in 1529 when the Protestant states lodged a protest (hence “Protestants”) against decisions of the Catholic majority. The construction of The Memorial Church sought to commemorate this historic event.

copyrighted 2005

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Shifting Paradigms

One of my interests has been the history of ideas.[i] Lately there have been a lot of articles in the popular press on the Virgin Mary and how she is becoming accepted in Protestant churches. As Protestants begin to accept and engage in dialogue about the Virgin Mary as more than the human mother of Jesus and as Catholics, Protestants and people of faith engage in more dialogues about the roles of women in the church and society, I suspect there may even be discussions about doctrine of papal infallibility and perhaps there may even be open non-confrontational dialogue about abortion. These ideas are related to each other and another idea that I will be developing.

The Roman Catholic Church proclaims that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra on matters of church doctrine his teachings are infallilible. Roman Catholics base the doctrine of the papacy on the belief that the bishop of Rome inherits the position and authority of the Apostle Peter. The Petrine doctrine of papal supremacy was first stated by Pope Leo the Great (440-461) and defended in the writings of certain church fathers, in particular Augustine and Gregory the Great, who himself became pope in 590. Today Catholic doctrine holds that the pope is the representative of Christ on earth, and that his solemn official pronouncements on matters of faith and morals are infallible, safeguarded from error by God. This doctrine is based upon the biblical text of the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. However this text, while acknowledging the foundational role of Peter and the apostles, says nothing about Peter's successors, the infallibility of those successors or their exclusive authority. The argument is based more on tradition than scripture.

The dogma that the Church is infallible in her definitions on faith and morals was formulated ecumenically for the first time in the Vatican Council in 1870. I will discuss the reaction to this doctrine in another blog. However, what is important for this discussion is that the doctrine of papal infallibility has only been invoked on a few occasions and I believe in all instances in matters pertaining to the Virgin Mary. Pope Pius IX first pronounced the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and subsequently as infallible in 1870, this being the first time the doctrine was invoked. In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was an infallible doctrine of the Catholic faith. I am not aware of any other ex cathedra proclamations.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception proclaims that Mary was conceived without any stain of Original Sin. Thus began an argument among and between theologians and scientists as to when life begins. Does human life begin at conception? In 1871 the American Medical Association’s report on criminal abortion, perhaps influenced by the debate surrounding conception arising with doctrine of Immaculate Conception, ended with the observation, “We had to deal with human life.” Abortion before quickening became a crime in Connecticut in 1860 and by 1973 it was a crime in most states. The United States Supreme Court addressed the question, as well as the regulation of abortion, in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, (1973) with the Justices writing six separate opinions, but the issue is still hotly debated.

This blog has shown how three seemingly unrelated ideas are related.

I note that the doctrine of infallibility became dogma in 1870. Since ideas have to be examined in their context to be properly understood, I note that Pope Pius IX asserted for the first time and established papal control over worldwide Catholic missionary activity. The definition of papal primacy by the First Vatican Council centralized ecclesiastical government in Rome. This new exercise of papal power followed the loss of papal temporal power that occurred when the Pope lost political control of the Papal States. Thus as the pope lost political power, he asserted spiritual power. From 1870 to 1929, the status of the city of Vatican was in limbo. The history of this time period, and the reaction of the papacy to this situation, is explored in the controversial book, Hitler’s Pope.

My interest is the reaction to proclamation of the doctrine of papal infallibility. Initially it should be noted that most of the non-Italian cardinals, including the cardinals from Germany, vehemently opposed this doctrine.

The papacy addressed the limbo situation by asserting the supremacy of canon law and asserting absolute control over all catholic entities and properties. The papacy entered into treaties containing provisions recognizing these assertions. This was necessary because, for instance, in Germany beginning with Bismarck, the German government asserted the right to veto all faculty and pastoral appointments and assignments.

I will follow-up with a blog on the worldwide reactions to the proclamation of the doctrine of papal infallibility.

[i] The synoptic problem is considered to be one of the most difficult research problems in the history of ideas.

copyrighted 2005

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Atonement as a Rite of Healing

In my last blog, Transference and the Day of Atonement, I discussed the concept of transference as a modern day of explanation of the meaning of the temple rituals performed two thousand years ago on the Day of Atonement.

As part of her explanation of Atonement as a rite of Healing, Margaret Barker in Great High Priest stated: “The priests are said to ‘bear’ the guilt of the sinner after they have performed the atonement ritual for inadvertent offenses (e.g. Lev. 10.17), yet the LORD, with the same verb, is said to ‘forgive.’ ‘Who’, asked Micah, ‘is a God like you bearing, i.e. forgiving, sin?’ (Mic. 7.18). Job asked (again reading literally): ‘Why do you not bear my transgression and cause my guilt to pass away?’ (Job 7.21). There are many examples. What emerges is that ‘carrying’ iniquity was the role of the priests, of the LORD and of the scapegoat.”[i]

[i] Barker, 48.

copyrighted 2005

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Origin of the term, Theocracy

But I suspect that most people who use the word simply have no understanding of its meaning. Theocracy, which literally means "rule by the deity," is the name given to political regimes that claim to represent God on earth both directly and immediately. The role of the theocratic leader is to play the role of both priest and king, implementing and enforcing divine laws.

The term was first used by the Jewish historian Josephus to describe the way the Jews were under the direct government of God himself. In ancient Israel everyone was a direct subject of Jehovah, who ruled over all and communicated through the prophets. This arrangement was short-lived, though, and the Jews eventually rejected theocratic rule in favor of an earthly king. While the sovereign did not always enforce all of the laws of the former theocracy, he retained the authority given to him “by God.” During the medieval era, a version of this concept was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church. The idea of the divine right of kings combined the secular government with the spiritual authority of the Christian Church to form caesaropapism.

The above appears in today’s
evangelical outpost article, "Of Theocrats and Theophobes:Carter’s Law of Political Rhetoric"