pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 February 2017 to 22 March 2017.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The Church wishes to be close to each person with the love, compassion and consolation that come from Christ.” @Pontifex 16 March 2017
  • “Fasting means not only abstaining from food, but also from any unhealthy attachment, and especially sin.” @Pontifex 17 March 2017
  • “I invite you not to build walls but bridges, to conquer evil with good, offence with forgiveness, to live in peace with everyone.” @Pontifex 18 March 2017
  • “May St Joseph, Spouse of Mary and Patron of the Universal Church, bless you and watch over you. And best wishes to fathers!” @Pontifex 19 March 2017
  • “t is vital that we sow the seeds of goodness in order to cultivate justice, foster accord, and sustain integration, without growing weary.” @Pontifex 21 March 2017
  • “Even if we may be men and women of little faith, the Lord saves us. We must always have hope in the Lord!” @Pontifex 22 March 2017

Papal Instagram

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

prayersIn this episode of Catholic Answers Live (March 21, 2017, 1st hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

  • What is a “eucharistic minister”?
  • Do Muslims (and Jews) worship the same God as Christians?
  • Is it necessary to renew your marriage vows at some point? Does it need to be done during a Mass?
  • Who was James “the brother of the Lord”?
  • When should you conclude something is not God’s will and stop praying?
  • If someone has requested that you don’t pray for them after they die, should you honor that request? Can an angry soul take revenge?
  • How to understand the issues of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana?
  • Why is pouring more common in the Catholic Church than immersion when performing baptism?
  • If you’re invited to someone’s house on a Friday in Lent, is it mortal sin to eat the meat they serve?

Click the link to watch the video on YouTube.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

BASKETBALLWould Jesus have been the all-time, all-history MVP if he played basketball?

Did he have to learn his craft of carpentry? Did he have to learn table manners?

There are all kinds of questions one can ask about the way Jesus’ divine and human natures related in his earthly life, and we can’t know the answers to all of them.

But looking at the principles involved can be instructive.

Let’s talk about that.

 

Carpentry and Table Manners

A reader writes:

We know that Jesus is completely divine and completely human, so did Joseph have to teach him how to cut stone? How to measure correctly?

Did the Blessed Mother ever say something like, “Chew with your mouth closed. Stay in your seat. Don’t interrupt when someone else is speaking”—like I have to do with my children?

 

What Jesus Knew and When He Knew It

Jesus had both a divine knowledge and a human knowledge.

His divine knowledge was unlimited, and therefore in his divine intellect, he knew everything. He was omniscient.

The question here pertains more directly to his human knowledge. Concerning that, the Catechism states:

[The] human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time.

This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man,” and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.

This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave” (CCC 472).

The statement about Jesus “increasing in wisdom” is taken from Luke 2:52, which discusses Jesus’ growth as a young person. Commenting on this passage, Pope Benedict wrote:

[I]t is also true that his wisdom grows. As a human being, he does not live in some abstract omniscience, but he is rooted in a concrete history, a place and a time, in the different phases of human life, and this is what gives concrete shape to his knowledge.

So it emerges clearly here that he thought and learned in human fashion.

It becomes quite apparent that he is true man and true God, as the Church’s faith expresses it. The interplay between the two is something that we cannot ultimately define (Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 3: The Infancy Narratives, “Epilogue”).

 

The Child Jesus

As Pope Benedict indicates, we can’t fully understand the interplay between Christ’s divine and human natures.

However, it would seem that, in terms of learning his craft as a carpenter in his human knowledge, Jesus would have been instructed by Joseph, like any boy being apprenticed in that trade.

What are considered appropriate table manners varies widely from one culture to another, so they are not built directly into human nature. Presumably Joseph and Mary would have taught him these things as well.

Having said that, Jesus would have been intelligent and obedient (cf. Luke 2:51), so it’s not like he would have been an unruly child.

Yet he could do things that were surprising, confusing, and even dismaying to his parents (cf. Luke 2:48), as illustrated by the incident in the Temple when he was twelve (Luke 2:41-50).

Jesus would have appeared to others as an unusual child—unusually intelligent, unusually holy, etc.—but not so otherworldly that people automatically recognized him as the Son of God.

After all, they didn’t automatically see him that way even when he was an adult (cf. 1 Cor. 2:8).

 

Basketball

The reader continues:

The theology teacher at the school where I work referenced Aquinas saying that Jesus being human and divine, had to learn as a human—but once he learned he never erred.

The example he gave was this: If Lebron James went back in time and taught Jesus how to play basketball then Jesus would then be the greatest basketball player ever. He would never miss a shot, never lose a game, never miss a free throw, etc.

It seems to me that there are pitfalls on both sides of this question. If Jesus is fully human, then he would HAVE to miss a shot, misbehave, miss cut a piece of wood from time to time—like we all do. And if he’s fully divine, then of course he would never miss a shot, misbehave as a child, miss cut wood or stone, etc.

The Christian Faith holds that Jesus was like us in all things but sin (cf. Heb. 4:15). It does not teach that he wouldn’t need to practice in order to build skills, whether they are skills used in carpentry or sports.

 

Practicing Skills

Any athlete, or athletics teacher, can tell you that practice is necessary to build skills even once the concepts involved are understood intellectually.

It takes repetition to build the neural pathways needed for a move to become second nature—part of one’s “muscle memory.” And it certainly takes repetition to build one’s muscles up and to develop fine motor control and hand-eye coordination.

It’s not simply a question of understanding the concepts involved. You have to do the work to train your body.

The same thing goes for a skill like touch typing. You can explain the concept in minutes, but becoming a proficient, ten-finger typist—so that you can hit the correct key without having to stop and think about where it is—takes lots of practice.

Playing the piano—or any instrument—is the same.

Also, your body has to be old enough to have the kind of muscles and neurology needed to learn a skill. Before that point, practicing it won’t work.

That’s why there aren’t any toddlers who are professional weight lifters or professional ballerinas, even if they try to imitate the moves of adults engaging in these activities.

 

Jesus’ Miracles

As the miracle-working Son of God, Jesus could have instantaneously given himself any skill, in any degree, and been the best in world history at anything.

However, in the Gospels Jesus performs miracles in service of his mission, not to show off or do things completely unrelated to his mission.

Except when his mission was involved, he chose to live like others in a non-glorified human condition.

This is what Scripture means when it says he “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).

 

Jesus’ Growth

As one born into a non-glorified human condition, Jesus did not start with all physical perfections. He grew and developed like we do.

He was not born with his adult height, an adult’s bodily agility, an adult’s fine motor skills, or an adult’s hand-eye coordination.

He was born as a baby, with a baby’s height, a baby’s agility, a baby’s motor skills, and a baby’s hand-eye coordination.

He also was not born with specialized skills in his human knowledge involving carpentry, basketball, playing the piano, or other activities.

 

All-Time MVP?

Even once Jesus did start working on a skill, the Faith does not oblige us to hold that he would automatically have been the best in human history at that skill.

Skills come in degrees, and the degree to which you have a skill depends on your natural aptitude for it and how much effort you have put into practicing it.

Jesus may have had a great deal of natural aptitude, but that wouldn’t mean he had every conceivable advantage.

In basketball, height is an advantage, but the Church does not hold that Jesus was the tallest man in history.

Similarly, the ability to run fast—which is dependent on factors like body weight, leg muscle mass, and how many fast-twitch nerve fibers you have in your legs—is also an advantage in basketball. But the Church does not teach that Jesus had the biggest leg muscles or the most fast-twitch nerve fibers in human history.

Jesus also didn’t eat a special sports nutrition diet, lift weights, or take performance-enhancers.

And—even on our imaginary scenario where Lebron James teaches him basketball—he wouldn’t have spent hours a day practicing on the court. It would have interfered with his mission.

Consequently, as one living in a non-glorified human condition, Jesus would not automatically have been the greatest basketball player in world history from the moment he learned, in his human knowledge, how the game is played.

Of course, as the omnipotent Son of God, he could have become the all-time MVP using his miraculous powers, but that wasn’t his mission.

 

Mr. Popular?

Finally, the reader writes:

In my mind I am struggling to envision a teenage Jesus who never ever makes a mistake. Nobody likes being around someone who is perfect—someone who never loses a game, never stubs his toe, never over sleeps, never hit his thumb with the hammer.

Jesus, we know, had to be charismatic. People followed Him; people liked him. I can’t seem to reconcile Jesus’ perfection and also being human like us.

I think I view this differently.

While people would notice if someone never loses a game, that would alternately be attractive or off-putting depending on whether you’re on the same team or the opposite one.

Also, whether a sports team wins generally doesn’t depend on the actions of just one person. That’s why they’re team sports. Even if Jesus were the greatest basketball player in history, his teammates (e.g., a ragtag bunch of Galilean fishermen) could lose the game.

In addition, few people would notice that another person doesn’t stub his toe or hit his thumb with a hammer.

And in the ancient world—before alarm clocks, watches, and tight schedules—oversleeping almost wasn’t even a thing.

A person who always got up when he intended wouldn’t be noticed, though people may have simply thought such a person was “an early riser” (cf. Mark 1:35).

What people don’t like are know-it-alls and show-offs: people who have high skill levels and are arrogant about it.

However, Jesus was meek and humble of heart (Matt. 11:29), and people do find it attractive when a person has high skill levels but is humble.

In fact, that’s very attractive, and Jesus’ humility no doubt played a significant role in his popularity.

Of course, even when a skilled person is humble, some will still be jealous. And some people were jealous of Jesus (Matt. 27:18, Mark 15:10).

But then he didn’t come to be Mr. Popular and win everybody over. He came to be “a sign of contradiction” who was set “for the fall and rising of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34).

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

josephusRecently we began looking at claims that the Jewish historian Josephus (A.D. 37-c. 100) said that his people believed in reincarnation.

This is not true.

As we’ve already seen, there were two general views of the afterlife among Jews in his day.

One view—which was a minority position held by the Sadducees—claimed that there was no afterlife at all.

The other view—which was the majority position and which was held by Pharisees, Christians, and other Jews—claimed the dead would be resurrected on the last day.

For a discussion of evidence regarding these views, see my previous blog post.

In this post, we’ll look at the writings of Josephus himself.

 

1) What Josephus might have said

Josephus’s surviving works were written to a Greco-Roman audience, following the disastrous Jewish War of the A.D. 60s, when the Jews had a very bad reputation around the Mediterranean world.

Consequently, in his writings Josephus does his best to rehabilitate his co-religionists’ reputation, and sometimes he stretches the truth to do so.

If Josephus had said that Jews believe in reincarnation, it wouldn’t have been because this was true—the evidence against that in this period is just too strong—but because he wanted to make his countrymen seem less weird to his audience, many of whom (being Greco-Romans) did believe in reincarnation.

Even that would be unlikely, though, because all one of his readers would have had to do is ask a local Jew whether their people believed in reincarnation, and they would have gotten a snorting, derisive reply, possibly with the respondent heaping scorn on Josephus.

Josephus was too smart to make such an easily falsifiable claim.

He would have been particularly unlikely to make one because he had Jewish critics, and if there was any reputation he cared about more than that of his people, it was his own.

Josephus was not going to make an easily falsifiable claim that could damage his own reputation!

Consequently, it would be more likely that he would have explained Jewish beliefs about the afterlife in a way that didn’t make them seem too weird, but that wasn’t false.

In other words, he might have soft-pedaled Jewish belief in resurrection, but he wouldn’t have outright falsified it.

As we’ll see, it looks like that’s precisely what he did.

 

2) Josephus and the Jewish sects

In his autobiography (see Life 1-2[1-12]), Josephus tells us that he grew up in a priestly family and was very studious.

When he was 16, he decided to explore the different Jewish sects and determine which was best.

He therefore explored the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes, as well as staying with an ascetic in the desert named Banus. Then, at age 19, he decided to be a Pharisee.

As a teenager, Josephus could not have made a thorough exploration of the teachings of these groups, especially in that amount of time.

He even says he stayed with Banus for three years, which on its face would have consumed the whole period of investigation (though in ancient reckoning “three years” might mean only two years plus part of a third).

Though he may not have made a rigorous, detailed study of these groups as a young man, he did grow up among them, and he continued to live among them as an adult, and it is certain that he was familiar with their principal teachings and main points of difference with each other.

This would have included an awareness of the dispute between the Pharisees and the Sadducees over whether there is a resurrection or whether there is no afterlife.

As a Pharisee, he certainly would have known that the sect he identified with believed in resurrection, and this makes it extraordinarily unlikely that he would say his countrymen believed in reincarnation.

So why would anyone think he did?

 

3) Josephus in Whiston’s Translation

In 1736, a man named William Whiston published a translation of Josephus’s works, and this became the standard English edition of them.

Today it is in the public domain, and it is all over the Internet.

Unfortunately, it’s also quite flawed, and in a moment we’ll see an example of that.

In his history of the Jewish War of the A.D. 60s, Josephus explains the different Jewish sects for the benefit of his readers. In doing so, he notes that the Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife, and—in Whiston’s translation—this is what he says about the Pharisees’ belief on the matter:

They say that all souls are incorruptible; but that the souls of good men are only removed into other bodies,—but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment (War 2:8:14[163]).

Note the phrase: “into other bodies” (plural).

To an inattentive reader, or one unfamiliar with what the Pharisees actually taught, this could suggest reincarnation—that after death a righteous man’s soul would enter one body, only to die and enter another, and so on—life after life.

However, this is a place where Whiston’s translation is mistaken.

I checked the Greek, and what Josephus actually says is that the soul of the good man enters eis heteron sōma—“into another body” (singular).

What Josephus is talking about here is the reconstituted, resurrected body they will receive on the last day—not a series of bodies received in different lifetimes during history.

It’s the same basic mode of language St. Paul uses when—in the middle of a passionate defense of the doctrine of resurrection—he writes:

But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what sort of body do they come?” Foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. . . .

Thus also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruptibility. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:35-36, 42-44, LEB).

St. Paul makes it clear that there is both continuity and difference between the bodies we have in this life and the resurrected bodies we will one day receive.

There is continuity because it is fundamentally the same body: “It” (singular) is sown, and “it” is raised.

But there is also a difference, because its initial condition is natural and corruptible and its later condition is spiritual and incorruptible.

Reflecting this continuity-and-difference, Paul compares our bodies to seeds which are sown in the ground and then transform into mature plants.

Yet the continuity between the two does not stop him from speaking of their two conditions as if they were two bodies—a natural one and a spiritual one.

In reality, it’s one body that experiences a dramatic change in condition.

Josephus is describing the same thing, only he isn’t making clear the continuity between the body we have in this life and the resurrected body—presumably to keep the Pharisees’ belief in the resurrection from seeming “too weird” for his Greco-Roman audience.

He thus accurately describes the Sadducees’ disbelief in the afterlife and the Pharisees’ belief in the resurrection on the last day, but he describes it in a way that keeps it from sounding too strange for his readers.

 

4) Josephus on suicide and resurrection

The above passage isn’t the only one which people have pointed to as evidence for Josephus saying Jews believe in reincarnation, however, the others fare no better.

Later in Jewish War, Josephus recounts a speech he gave to his men when they were about to be captured by the Romans and wanted to commit suicide. In counseling them against this, he reports saying:

Do not you know that those who depart out of this life, according to the law of nature [i.e., who die a natural death], and pay that debt which was received from God, when he that lent it us is pleased to require it back, enjoy eternal fame?

That their houses and their posterity are sure, that their souls are pure and obedient, and obtain a most holy place in heaven, from whence, in the revolution of ages, they are again sent into pure bodies; while the souls of those whose hands have acted madly against themselves [i.e., by committing suicide], are received by the darkest place in Hades, and while God, who is their father, punishes those that offend against either of them in their posterity? (War 3:8:5[374-375]).

Here there is a plural in the Greek: agnois . . . sōmasin—“(into) pure bodies” (plural).

The reason is that Josephus is trying to persuade a group of men not to kill themselves, and so he’s contrasting the fate of those who don’t commit suicide with the fate of those who do. This is the reason he uses the plural here.

It’s not that a single righteous man will enter multiple bodies over the course of history. It’s that multiple righteous men will each enter a single body on the last day.

What makes this certain is his reference to what happens before hand: The souls of the righteous “obtain a most holy place in heaven” and then at the end of the world—“in the revolution of ages”—they are again returned to bodily form.

This is a description of the normal Pharisaic (and Christian) belief in the soul continuing in the intermediate state until the eventual, eschatological resurrection.

 

5) Josephus on the rewards of keeping God’s law

In a similar vein, Josephus elsewhere discusses the rewards his people believed they would gain for keeping God’s law as given by Moses.

Surprisingly, this passage has also been appeal to as teaching reincarnation, but a careful reading indicates it does not. Josephus writes:

[T]he reward for such as live exactly according to the laws, is not silver or gold; it is not a garland of olive branches or of smallage [i.e., parsley], nor any such public sign of commendation; but every good man hath his own conscience bearing witness to himself, and by virtue of our legislator’s [Moses’] prophetic spirit, and of the firm security God himself affords such a one, he believes that God hath made this grant to those that observe these laws, even though they be obliged readily to die for them, that they shall come into being again, and at a certain revolution of things receive a better life than they had enjoyed before (Against Apion 2:31[217-218]).

There is even less here than in previous passages to suggest reincarnation.

There is no explicit mention of “bodies”—either singular or plural, in the Greek or the English—and we again have the time cue telling us when the restoration to life will happen.

What Josephus says in the Greek is that it will happen ek peritropēs—literally, “at (the) turning round/revolution.”

This is a shortened form of the Greek phrase he used in his speech to his men, when he said they would be reembodied ek peritropēs aiōnōn—“at the turning round/revolution of the ages.”

The meaning is the same: The resurrection will happen at the last day, at the turning of the ages.

Josephus is simply describing belief in the eschatological resurrection, which was normal among Jews (with the exception of the Sadducees, who denied the afterlife).

 

6) Confirmation from the Antiquities

Josephus also discusses the major Jewish sects in his longest work, Antiquities of the Jews, and there we find further confirmation. Josephus writes:

They [the Pharisees] also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again. . . .

But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies. (18:1:3-4[14, 16]).

Here again we have the expected contrast between the Sadducees’ denial of the afterlife and the Pharisees’ belief that, after death, the soul will experience rewards or punishment, with the righteous being given new life at the resurrection of the dead.

 

7) Conclusion

From what we’ve seen, there is no basis for the claim that Josephus teaches that Jews in general, or the Pharisees in particular, believe in reincarnation.

He accurately describes the standard contrast between the Sadducees’ disbelief in the afterlife and the Pharisees’ belief in resurrection on the last day—a view that was held broadly among non-Sadducee Jews, including the early Christian movement.

Josephus does not stress that the righteous will rise in the same body they had in this life—presumably because that would harm his audience’s impression of Jews—but it is clear from what he says that the return to life happens once, on the last day, rather than over and over through history.

It is less clear whether he thinks the wicked will be raised. Although he does not specifically deny that they will be resurrected, one could conclude from what he writes that they will not be.

Despite the fact Daniel speaks of a resurrection of the wicked, the belief that the wicked would not be raised may have been common, and this may have left traces in the language even of Jews who did believe in the resurrection of the wicked (as with the New Testament’s identification of “the resurrection” and “the resurrection to/of life” with the righteous; see our previous post).

The claim that Josephus said Jews believe in reincarnation, however, is simply false.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

guardian angelIn this episode of Catholic Answers Live (March 16, 2017, 1st hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

  • Why do the Gospels say that mustard seeds are the smallest seeds when they aren’t?
  • Is it correct to refer to “obedient faith,” and how is faith to be defined?
  • Why did Jesus teach in parables? How to understand Jesus’ statement that he told parables so people wouldn’t convert and be forgiven?
  • Can you go camping if it will conflict with you going to Mass on Sunday?
  • What do “heart,” “soul,” and “spirit” mean?
  • How to explain the Real Presence to a small child?
  • How to invite a fallen away Catholic back to the Faith?
  • Did the apostles go to confession before receiving Communion for the first time?
  • Are you obliged to go to confession in your parish with your pastor?
  • Can Catholics join the military? When is war justified?
  • Can you go to a doctor who performs abortions if you aren’t getting an abortion?
  • What happens to our guardian angels when we die?
  • When did purgatory begin and who was the first person to go there?


Click the link to watch the video on YouTube.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

Afterlife1Every so often I’ve encountered people claiming that the Jewish historian Josephus (A.D. 37-c. 100) said that Jews believe in reincarnation.

Sometimes this claim is made by New Agers, who want to bolster the antiquity of the idea in Judeo-Christian circles, but I’ve also seen it made by others.

It has always struck me as very implausible that Josephus would say this, but the people making the claim never gave references to where in his writings he was supposed to have said this, making it very hard to check out.

Web searches didn’t turn up anything useful, either.

Recently, however, I hit pay dirt.

We’ll look at what Josephus did say in my next blog post on this subject, but first, some context about Jewish views on the afterlife in this period.

 

1) The afterlife in the Old Testament

The earlier books of the Old Testament—as well as the archaeological evidence we have—indicate that the Israelites believed in an afterlife. That’s not surprising, because belief in an afterlife is a human universal—something that appears in all cultures.

However, the nature of this afterlife is not fully clear. It appears that they believed most people had a shadowy kind of existence in the next world, about which not much was known.

As the centuries progressed, however, the afterlife came into clearer focus, manifesting in a belief in bodily resurrection on the last day.

The clearest passages referring to this are found in Daniel and 2 Maccabees. In the former, we read:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2).

This attests to a resurrection of both the righteous (those who gain everlasting life) and the wicked (those who gain shame and everlasting contempt).

The passage does not indicate that all people will be raised. In Hebrew idiom, the word “many” can mean either “all” or “many but not all,” so the matter is ambiguous.

In 2 Maccabees, we read the account of seven brothers who were tortured and killed for their faith, along with their mother:

And when he [one of the sons] 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, because we have died for his laws.”

After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands,  and said nobly, “I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.” As a result the king [i.e., Antiochus IV Epiphanes] himself and those with him were astonished at the young man’s spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

When he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way. And when he was near death, he said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!” (2 Macc. 7:9-14).

As her sons are being killed, the mother also said:

Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.”

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. 7:23, 29).

Later in the book, we read about an incident in which Judah Maccabee and his men found some of their colleagues who had fallen in battle because of their sins:

He [Judah] also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin (2 Macc. 12:43-45).

In 2 Maccabees, the picture is much like in Daniel: God will raise the righteous back to “an everlasting renewal of life,” which will involve receiving back from God the bodily members that have been lost.

However, unlike in Daniel, it is not clear that the wicked will rise again, for the persecuting king is told “for you there will be no resurrection to life.”

This doesn’t mean that the wicked won’t be raised. There may be an implied contrast—as in Daniel—between a resurrection to “everlasting life” and one to “everlasting contempt.”

However, the passage may also indicate that the matter was not yet clear in Jewish thought.

It is also worth noting that the author of 2 Maccabees frames his account of Judah’s sin offering in apologetic terms. He considers two viewpoints: (1) belief in the resurrection and (2) the position of a person who is “not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again.” The author concludes that Judah’s collection for the sin offering for the dead shows that he was a believer in the resurrection.

The second position, which rejects the resurrection, seems to reject belief in the afterlife altogether, since if people continued to live on in any form, it would not be useless to pray for them. It would only be “superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead” if there was no afterlife at all.

The fact the author frames the matter in this way indicates that there were likely some in his audience who did not believe in the resurrection and he wants to win them over by showing that the great, national hero Judah did believe in it.

This sets us up for the conflict between the Sadducees and the Pharisees in the New Testament.

 

2) The resurrection in the New Testament

At the time of Jesus, the two most influential Jewish groups in Palestine were the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

These groups were developing around the time 2 Maccabees was written, and they were divided on the question of whether there is no afterlife.

Thus the smaller group—the Sadducees—challenge Jesus with an argument against the resurrection of the dead (Matt. 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, Luke 20:27-40). In all three of the Synoptic Gospels, they are identified as those “who say there is no resurrection.”

The more popular group—the Pharisees—did believe in the resurrection, and we see the two groups in open debate with each other over this question in Acts 23:6-10, when Paul divides the two factions against each other over this question.

On that occasion, Luke explains: “the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all” (Acts 23:8).

This makes it clear that the Sadducees did not believe in any afterlife at all, for not only did they not acknowledge the resurrection of the dead, they didn’t even acknowledge the existence of angels or human spirits.

The Pharisees, however, believed that human spirits existed after death and would, on the last day, be bodily resurrected.

This view was not only shared by the Pharisees but by the majority of Jews, generally. Thus, Martha says of her brother Lazarus:

I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24).

The New Testament is clear that both the righteous and the wicked will be raised to life. Thus Jesus says:

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29; cf. Acts 24:14-15, Rev. 20:12-15).

Here again we encounter a contrast between a resurrection of/to “life” and one of/to “judgment/contempt.”

Although the authors of the New Testament unambiguously believed in the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked, the mode of language they use to express their beliefs may reflect a popular usage that was shaped by the fact that not all Jews believed the wicked would be raised.

This may be why the fate of the righteous is described as being raised to new “life,” even though both the righteous and the wicked will both be alive again.

It may also be why Paul on one occasion speaks in a way that identifies resurrection itself with the fate of the righteous, saying that he wants to know Christ “and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10-11).

 

3) Other Jewish sources

Our knowledge of Jewish views of the afterlife in this period is not limited to the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Josephus. It is widely discussed in other Jewish writings.

For a general overview of Jewish views regarding the resurrection see the Jewish Encyclopedia’s article on the subject.

We know, in particular, of the conflict between the Sadducees and the Pharisees on the subject:

The Sadducees denied the resurrection (Josephus, “Ant.” xviii. 1, § 4; idem, “B. J.” ii. 8, § 14; Acts 23:8; Sanh. 90b; Ab. R. N. v.). All the more emphatically did the Pharisees enunciate in the liturgy (Shemoneh ‘Esreh, 2d benediction; Ber. v. 2) their belief in resurrection as one of their fundamental convictions (Sanh. x. 1; comp. Abot iv. 22; Soṭah ix. 15) (Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. “Resurrection”).

While the Pharisees clearly believed in resurrection, there were different positions on precisely who would be resurrected:

As to the question, Who will be raised from death? the answers given vary greatly in rabbinical literature. According to R. Simai (Sifre, Deut. 306) and R. Ḥiyya bar Abba (Gen. R. xiii. 4; comp. Lev. R. xiii. 3), resurrection awaits only the Israelites; according to R. Abbahu, only the just (Ta‘an. 7a); some mention especially the martyrs (Yalḳ. ii. 431, after Tanḥuma). R. Abbahu and R. Eleazar confine resurrection to those that die in the Holy Land; others extend it to such as die outside of Palestine (Ket. 111a). According to R. Jonathan (Pirḳe R. El. 34), the resurrection will be universal, but after judgment the wicked will die a second death and forever, whereas the just will be granted life everlasting (comp. Yalḳ. ii. 428, 499). . . .

At first, it seems, resurrection was regarded as a miraculous boon granted only to the righteous (see Test. Patr., Simeon, 6; Levi, 18; Judah, 25; Zebulun, 10; Vita Adæ et Evæ, 13; comp. Luke 14:14, 20:36). Afterward it came to be regarded as an act of God connected with the last judgment, and therefore universal resurrection of the dead became a doctrine, as expressed in the second benediction of the Shemoneh ‘Esreh (tḥyyt hmtym; Sifre, Deut. 329; Sanh. 92b) (Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. “Resurrection”).

However, reincarnation—also known as metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls—was not taught in this period. That only happened in Jewish circles centuries later:

This doctrine was foreign to Judaism until about the eighth century, when, under the influence of the Mohammedan mystics, it was adopted by the Karaites and other Jewish dissenters (Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v., “Transmigration of Souls”).

So, what did Josephus have to say about Jews in the first century?

That’s the subject of our next blog post on this subject.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

popr-francis-teachingThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 15 February 2017 to 15 March 2017.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Let us strive to fast during Lent with a smile, rather than a long face.” @Pontifex 10 March 2017
  • “The road from love to hate is easy. The one from hate to love is more difficult, but brings peace.” @Pontifex 11 March 2017
  • “Lent is the favourable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbour.” @Pontifex 12 March 2017
  • “May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word.” @Pontifex 13 March 2017
  • “Let us pray for one another so that we may open our doors to the weak and poor.” @Pontifex 14 March 2017
  • “The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.” @Pontifex 15 March 2017

Papal Instagram

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

In this episode of Catholic Answers Live (March 14, 2017, 1st hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

  • Why shouldn’t we only believe things verified by science?
  • How can we reconcile the Council of Trent saying that we have free will with John 6:44, where Jesus says “nobody can come to me unless the Father draws him”?
  • How can we reconcile differences in the Gospels like where Jesus exorcizes either one or two men, depending on which Gospel you read?
  • Are John, the Gospel writer, St. John, the Beloved Disciple, and St. John of Patmos are all the same individual.
  • Did the Blessed Mother know she was free from original sin?
  • Why do we not talk about the trauma felt by the soul of an aborted baby after it is separated from the body?
  • What is the Catholic perspective on physician-assisted suicide?

Click the link to watch the video on YouTube.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

eternal securityThe vast majority of Christians recognize the possibility of losing one’s salvation. This is clearly taught in multiple Bible passages. However, in the 1500s, John Calvin proposed a teaching now known as eternal security. Today this teaching takes two forms.

The first version was proposed by Calvin himself. It holds that, although there are actions which theoretically would cause a person to lose salvation (e.g., apostasy), in practice God prevents true Christians from committing these. He preserves them and causes them to persevere in grace until the end.

This view is often called the perseverance of the saints. It is the last of the “five points of Calvinism” expressed by the acronym TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints).

The second version of eternal security, taught by some Baptists and Evangelicals, holds there are no actions which would cost a Christian salvation. A Christian could lose his faith, become an atheist, commit murder and adultery, die unrepentant, and still be saved. This view is often called “once saved, always saved.”

Here we will respond to arguments for eternal security—and particularly for perseverance of the saints.

 

Eternal Insecurity?

Advocates of eternal security sometimes use prejudicial language favoring their view. Perhaps the most obvious example is referring to the opposing view as “eternal insecurity.”

This makes the alternative sound frightening. But prejudicial language doesn’t address the substance of a topic. It doesn’t give us any reason to believe one way or another.

Further, prejudicial language is often reversible. One could refer to the view that you can’t lose salvation as “eternal presumption” and the view that you can as “eternal humility” or “eternal realism.”

“Eternal insecurity” also uses a straw man because the alternative does not propose we are eternally insecure. That would mean one could lose salvation even in heaven, which nobody holds.

Advocates of the alternative thus prefer terms like “conditional security” to describe their position, saying one’s salvation is secure as long as one meets the conditions God has set, such as continuing in faith and repentance.

 

God-Centered or Man-Centered?

Prejudicial language also occurs when advocates of eternal security characterize their position as offering a “God-centered gospel” and conditional salvation as offering a “man-centered gospel.”

The idea is that, if God prevents the believer from losing his salvation, that puts the emphasis on God, but if we can lose our salvation through our actions, that puts emphasis on man.

Making it sound like you are God-centered and those who disagree with you are man-centered is rhetorically slick, but it’s just more prejudicial language.

Ironically, the name “perseverance of the saints” is man-centered. It describes what the saints must do: persevere. That’s why some Calvinists prefer the name “preservation of the saints,” since it focuses on God’s preserving action.

However, both eternal and conditional security acknowledge that both God and man have a role in salvation. God gives us his grace, and man responds, at least by making an act of saving faith. Eternal security advocates thus don’t reject man’s role. They simply ignore it for rhetorical purposes when making the “God-centered vs. man-centered” claim.

Further, since all acknowledge that God’s grace is indispensible and must precede man’s response, both positions are fundamentally God-centered.

What happens after initial salvation, and whether it can be lost, must be decided by looking at the biblical evidence, not simply by which position sounds like it’s attributing more to God.

The prejudicial nature of the “God-centered” language can be seen by applying it in a different context—say, to the problem of evil. One could say it would be more “God-centered” to attribute evil directly to God, so that he would be the author of all evil, even moral evil. By contrast, it could sound “man-centered” to attribute moral evil not to God’s divine choices but to man’s creaturely choices.

On the rhetorical level this might sound like it’s glorifying God, but it would be charging the all-holy God with moral evil—with sin! Thus the fact something may superficially sound like it’s more glorifying to God is not a test of which position is true.

And, as before, the language is reversible. One could argue that if God can create free will in man, such that man may freely accept or reject salvation, then this brings more glory to God than the view God can’t create such free will. Conditional security thus can be framed as more God-glorifying because of what it says about God’s creative power.

 

God Glorifying Himself

Advocates of eternal security often argue that God saves people to bring himself glory and say a person losing salvation would not bring him glory. It would represent divine failure.

But what about the case of those who are never saved—people who lived and died without responding to God’s initiative of grace? If one too closely identifies the salvation of souls with God’s glory then those never saved would represent cases of divine failure as well.

The logical alternative is to say that the never-saved also bring glory to God, not by being examples of his mercy upon the repentant but of his justice upon the unrepentant.

However, if this is the case then it means God brings himself glory even in the case of someone who is not saved, and if that’s true then God also could bring himself glory through someone who is initially saved and who then loses salvation.

Such a case would serve to illustrate both God’s mercy and his justice—as well as his creative power by giving that person free will.

Ultimately, all of God’s actions bring him glory, and he seems to have chosen to glorify himself by creating and permitting a wide variety of things in the world. He thus may choose to glorify himself by saving some, by allowing some never to be saved, and by allowing some to switch between these states.

 

Divine Failure?

Sometimes advocates of eternal security argue that if God is the perfect savior, if he is omnipotent, then he should be able to save those he chooses. He cannot fail.

This begs the question of whether God intends to bring everyone who experiences initial salvation to final salvation.

If God intends to allow people who experience initial salvation to freely choose to change their mind, to return to sin, and to fall from grace then such people do not represent divine failure.

It is only if you presuppose that God intends to cause all believers to persevere to the end that their failure to do so would represent divine failure—but that is assuming the thing that needs to be proved.

 

Theological and Exegetical Arguments

None of the points we’ve discussed thus far have quoted Scripture. Two involve prejudicial language. The other two are arguments from theological premises, making them theological rather than exegetical arguments.

Of course, advocates of eternal security do appeal to Bible passages, but it is important to note the degree to which theological reasoning rather than simply exegetical reasoning plays a role in the discussion.

In fact, advocates of eternal security sometimes acknowledge that to prove eternal security you first need to establish certain theological points, like what God’s intention regarding salvation is.

This is a significant admission, because it means the passages they appeal to for eternal security are not clear enough on their own. They can be read other ways.

It’s only when read in light of certain theological premises that they acquire the meaning that eternal advocates want them to have. Without those premises, they are consistent with the view that one can lose salvation.

In particular, Calvinists sometimes acknowledge that the other points of TULIP are needed to prove P. Without T, U, L, and I constraining the way key Bible verses are taken, they are consistent with conditional security.

This reveals a significant weakness, because it means each of the other beliefs must be backed up by Scripture to prove P, and if there are exegetical reasons to doubt any of them then that doubt transfers to P. The Calvinist thus needs to prove his whole set of beliefs to prove perseverance of the saints. It can’t be proved on its own.

This is not the place to argue each point of TULIP, but let’s look at some of the verses used to support P and the ways they are consistent with conditional security. Here we will look at verses from the Gospel of John which are among those most commonly cited to support P.

 

“The One Hearing and Believing”

In John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

A less elegant translation of the first part of this would be, “the one hearing my word and believing him who sent me” has eternal life. In this case, the Greek present participles for “hearing” and “believing” (akouōn, pisteuōn) indicate an ongoing action.

Thus if one were to stop hearing Jesus’ word and stop believing the one who sent him, one would lose eternal life and pass back from life to death.

 

“All That the Father Gives Me”

In John 6:37a, Jesus states: “All that the Father gives me will come to me.”

Commentators note that the Greek phrase translated “all that” (pan ho) is neuter rather than the expected masculine.

They have thus seen the first statement as not simply speaking of individuals but of the whole people that God gives Jesus—i.e., a Church.

Jesus is thus affirming that the whole Church will come to Jesus.

 

“The One Coming to Me”

But what about the individual? This is dealt with in the second half of John 6:37b: “and him who comes to me I will not cast out.”

Translated less elegantly, the statement would read “and the one coming to me I would certainly not cast out.”

Here “the one” (ton) is masculine, indicating the individual, and the present tense participle “coming” (erchomenon) indicates an ongoing action, not a one-time encounter. This is not controversial and is acknowledged by Calvinists.

The second part of the verse thus indicates Jesus will not cast out those who come and keep coming to him. But this does not establish eternal security.

Nobody would argue that Jesus would cast out those who, with repentance and faith, continue to follow him. But, by implication, if a person ceases to turn to Jesus in this way, he would cease to be part of the people that God gives to his Son, and he would be cast out.

 

“The Will of My Father”

Jesus tells us that he has not come to do his own will but that of his Father (John 6:38). He then says: “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day” (John 6:39).

Here the Greek again uses neuter rather than masculine pronouns, pointing to the collective people—the Church—that God gives to Jesus. It is not God’s will that Jesus lose any from the Church, and Jesus will raise up this body on the last day.

We now face the question of how God’s will works, which is more subtle than it may first appear.

God sometimes wills things in an irresistible, unfailing way. When he created the universe, the universe did not have a choice about being created. We might refer to this as God’s “efficacious will,” because when he wills something in this way, it is always effective.

But Scripture also tells us that it is not God’s will for people to commit murder or adultery, and sometimes they do. Creatures can make choices that don’t conform to God’s will. We might refer to this as God’s “conditional will,” because he has made what actually happens conditional on the choices of his creatures.

Which kind of will is involved in John 6:39? Does God will that those he has given Jesus remain with him in such a way that it is impossible for them to be lost? Or does he allow them to make choices which would cause them to be lost?

This is clarified in John 17, where Jesus prays concerning the disciples who accompanied him in his earthly ministry. He tells his Father, “you gave them to me” (17:6) and goes on to say that “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (17:12).

Though Judas was one of the disciples God gave Jesus, and though Judas came to him and even became an apostle in his Church, God allowed Judas to make choices causing him to be lost.

God’s desire for none to be lost from the people he gives his Son is thus part of his conditional rather than his efficacious will.

 

“Everyone Seeing and Believing”

Once again, Jesus turns from the collective to the individual and says, “For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).

Less elegantly, what he says is that “anyone seeing the Son and believing in him” will have eternal life and be raised on the last day. Again, the text indicates an ongoing relationship with the Son, not a one-time encounter.

Thus, should one turn away from the Son (stop seeing him) and stop believing in him, one would forfeit eternal life.

 

“Unless the Father Draws Him”

In John 6:44, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The first part of this is an affirmation that salvation is always based on God’s initiative (CCC 2022).

For this to be a prooftext for perseverance of the saints, it would need to mean (1) that individuals who the Father draws to Jesus will always come to him and (2) that they will always remain with him. Only in that way would the person be guaranteed the resurrection of the blessed.

However, Jesus merely says that one can’t come to him unless the Father draws him, not that people are incapable of resisting the Father’s grace. And he says nothing at all about people being unable to leave once they come to him.

In fact, the verse entirely leaps over the mechanics of salvation. It doesn’t mention repentance, faith, baptism, or anything else. It treats all of these under the single heading of “coming” to Jesus, and as we’ve seen, the coming which saves is a continuous, ongoing one, not a one-time event.

From this passage we can infer that no one comes to Jesus without the Father’s action and that those who come and keep coming to Jesus will be raised on the last day. But, unless we press the passage beyond its limits, we cannot infer that all who come to Jesus remain with him.

 

“My Sheep”

In John 10:26-28, Jesus tells inquirers: “You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”

He also explains why they can’t be snatched away: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (10:29).

Once again, the actions of the believer are ongoing. Sheep do not just hear the voice of their shepherd once, and they do not just follow him once. They do so on a continuing basis.

Consequently, to stop listening to Jesus and to stop following him would be to cease to be one of his sheep and to lose the eternal life that he gives.

Advocates of eternal security hold this inference is blocked by the statement that no one will snatch the sheep out of Jesus’ or the Father’s hand.

The metaphor Jesus is using envisions thieves, wolves, or other predators taking a shepherd’s sheep. However, to remain on the level of the metaphor, this is not the only way a shepherd can lose sheep. They also can leave on their own. They can stray, as Jesus himself noted (Matt. 18:12-14, Luke 15:3-7).

Because Jesus does not exclude this possibility in the passage—he does not say, “And I will never let them stray”—one cannot appeal to this passage as if it eliminated the possibility of Christians making choices that cost them salvation.

 

“You Are the Branches”

John’s Gospel also contains passages indicating the loss of salvation, and these can’t be ignored.

A notable one occurs when Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. . . . I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:1, 5).

He states, “Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he [the Father] takes away. . . . If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned” (15:2, 6).

Here the Father himself removes people from Christ, and their fate is to be burned—an obvious reference to hell.

Jesus thus commands the disciples, “Abide in me. . . . Abide in my love” (15:4, 9)—a theme he continues to stress (vv. 5, 7)—and he tells them how to abide: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (v. 10).

Keeping God’s commandments thus is essential for remaining in Christ and avoiding the fate of the branches which the Father removes from Christ to be burned.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

illnessIn this episode of Catholic Answers Live (March 9, 2017, 2nd hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

  • Where is the physical location of Heaven?
  • How to explain praying to the saints to others, and what are some Bible verses that deal with this?
  • If you’re killed immediately after going to confession, will you go straight to heaven or might you go to purgatory?
  • Are physical illnesses caused by God?
  • Why do we take Jesus literally when he says the Eucharist is his Body and Blood but not when he says we should pluck out our eyes or cut off our hands if they lead us into sin?
  • How to answer Christians who say that the dead enter a sleep-like state until the Final Judgment?
  • Why is the number 666 associated with the devil?

Click the link to watch the video on YouTube.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy