Sunday, June 28, 2009

Catholic Interpretation of Scripture (Hermeneutics / Exegesis): Resource List (Links)

By Dave Armstrong (6-28-09)


Britannica Concise Encyclopedia
: hermeneutics

    Study of the general principles of biblical interpretation. Its primary purpose is to discover the truths and values of the Bible, which is seen as a receptacle of divine revelation. Four major types of hermeneutics have emerged: literal (asserting that the text is to be interpreted according to the "plain meaning"), moral (seeking to establish the principles from which ethical lessons may be drawn), allegorical (interpreting narratives as having a level of reference beyond the explicit), and anagogical or mystical (seeking to explain biblical events as they relate to the life to come). More recently the word has come to refer to all "deep" reading of literary and philosophical texts.

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia: exegesis

    Scholarly interpretation of religious texts, using linguistic, historical, and other methods. In Judaism and Christianity, it has been used extensively in the study of the Bible. Textual criticism tries to establish the accuracy of biblical texts. Philological criticism deals with grammar, vocabulary, and style in pursuit of faithful translation. Literary criticism classifies texts according to style and attempts to establish authorship, date, and audience. Tradition criticism seeks the sources of biblical materials and traces their development. Redaction criticism examines the way pieces of the tradition have been assembled into a literary composition by editors. Form criticism studies the way narratives are shaped by the cultures that produce them. Historical criticism looks at a text's historical context.

Hermeneutics: Understanding Revelation (Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl)

The Limits of Scripture Interpretation (Jimmy Akin, This Rock, January 2001)

The Divine Authority of Scripture vs. the "Hermeneutic of Suspicion" (James Hitchcock)

Are Catholics into the Bible? (David MacDonald)

In-Depth Catholic Studies

Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Today (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: Pope Benedict XVI: 1988)

Benedict's Hermeneutic of Continuity (Dr. Jeff Mirus)

Catholic Scripture Interpretation: Resting on Fundamentals, Resisting Fundamentalism (Eric Sammons)

Interpreting the Holy Bible, Eric Sammons

The Catholic Encyclopedia: "Biblical Exegesis"

The Catholic Encyclopedia: "Hermeneutics"

The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (Pontifical Bible Commission, 1994)

Principles of Catholic Interpretation in the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993)
(Peter S. Williamson)

Catholic Church Documents Related to Biblical Studies (compiled by Felix Just, S.J.)

Electronic New Testament Educational Resources (Felix Just, S.J.)

St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology (Scott Hahn)

Catholic Biblical Study: A Bibliography (Scott & Kimberly Hahn)

Dr. Scott Hahn's Academic Publications

The Bible and the Church: Both or Neither (Scott Hahn)

The Church and the Bible: Resources (St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology)

The Word of God: Resources (St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology)

A Catholic Guide to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Many Worlds of Scripture With Faith, Reason and Praxis (Dr. John Gresham)

Catholic Bible Study Links (Dr. John Gresham)

Historical-Critical Scripture Studies and the Catholic Faith (Michael Waldstein)

Neo-Patristic Exegesis: Its Approach and Method (Msgr. John F. McCarthy)

Catholicism and the Bible: An Inerview with Albert Vanhoye, by Peter Williamson (First Things, June/July 1997)

The Catholic Understanding of the Bible, John A. Hardon, S. J.


Opening Up the Scriptures: Joseph Ratzinger and the Foundations of Biblical Interpretation (2008)

Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible As the First Christians Did (Mark P. Shea, 1999)

Catholic Bible Dictionary (Scott Hahn, 2009)

The Catholic Church and the Bible (Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, 1996)

You Can Understand The Bible: A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible (Peter Kreeft, 2005)

Inside the Bible: An Introduction to Each Book of the Bible (Kenneth Baker, 1998)

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, 2001 -)

The Navarre Bible (1999 - )

Good Protestant Resources

Resource Pages for Biblical Studies (Torrey Seland)

Materials from Dr. Mark Goodacre

Biblical Studies on the Web

Biblical Interpretation (Hermeneutics) [Links]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Choice Tidbits from Luther's 1522 Blast Against Henry VIII: Delusions of Grandeur and Extreme Anti-Traditionalism

By Dave Armstrong (6-17-09)

Recently I discovered an entire online translation of Martin Luther's tract, Against Henry [VIII], King of England (15 July 1522), translated by E. S. Buchanan, and published in New York by Charles A. Swift in 1928. It is hosted on the Project Canterbury Anglican website. This is great news, since it is a fun, interesting piece (from the few quotes I had seen from it), and the standard 55-volume set of Luther's Works in English didn't see fit (for some inexplicable reason) to include it.

I believe it is included in the scheduled ten-volume addition of all sorts of writings of Luther, previously unavailable in English. Better late than never . . . I've known for years that there were a lot of untranslated Luther writings in German (Fr. Hardon told me that back in 1990). Some folks who fancy themselves Luther experts / apologists didn't know that, according to recent silly (and highly amusing) pronouncements, but now they do (or soon will), with the announcement of the expansion.

Here, then, are many fascinating, typically extreme and outrageous Luther utterances, from this work (but by all means read the whole thing, too, at the link above, to grasp the entire context):

* * * * *

Luther as Quasi-Prophet / God's Unique Oracle and Man of the Hour, Etc.

For I have been given unto them by my Lord Christ as a sign that whether they spare me, or kill me, their infuriated conscience will have no grace, no peace, no solace.

* * *

For merely by my books in a short while (Christ helping me) I will bring it to pass that the Bohemians will be set free from their reproach, and that the Papists alone in the earth will have an abominable name, nay, will become a curse and an anathema. Not that I approve of all that the Bohemians do. I know nothing of their affairs and am told that there are sects among them; but I will bring it about that the Papists compared with them will be a world-wide disgust and nausea, since they themselves are nothing else but sects, the Franciscans alone having about six sects.

(Introductory Epistle)

* * *

If I have trampled down for Christ's sake the idol of the Roman abomination after it had stood itself in the place of God and had made itself the ruler of Kings and of the whole world, who is this Henry, this new Thomist, this disciple of the idle monsters, that I should treat with respect his poisonous blasphemies? Let him be the Defender of the Church, but let him know that the Church which he boasts of and upholds, is the Church of the scarlet woman, drunk with the wine of her fornications. Both that Church and him, whom I consider its defender, I will attack with the same fierceness and, with Christ as my Leader, I will demolish them both. For I am certain that it is from heaven that I have my teachings; for they have triumphed against him [the devil] who in his little finger has more power and craftiness than have all Popes and Kings and Doctors put together. They will therefore accomplish nothing, who boast of their Bulls condemning me, with names and titles attached, and make much capital of their books attacking me, written by royal authors.

My teachings will stand, and the Pope will fall, although he should be supported by all the gates of hell and the powers of the air and the earth and the sea.

* * *

Ye will have Luther as a she-bear in your way and as a lioness in your path. He will attack you on all sides, and will give you no rest until he has broken in pieces your iron necks and brazen foreheads, either for your salvation or for your destruction.

* * *

For my teaching is in no particular contradictory, nor can be contradictory, because it is Christ's.

* * *

And why does Christ Himself (Matt. XXIII) attack the Scribes and Pharisees with such vehemence and call them hypocrites, blind, fools, full of uncleanness, hypocrisy and murder? And Paul, how often he speaks with vehemence against the concision (as he calls them), and the false prophets, who adulterate and corrupt the word of God, calling them dogs, deceitful workers, apostles of Satan, children of the devil, full of guile and malice, deceivers, grandiloquent, frequenters of houses and leaders astray of women? And will the flippant Thomist accuse them as he accuses me of hatred and pride?

* * *

I do not ask them to believe me; but to believe the clear word of God.

* * *

It is not I that know but Christ alone knows, etc.

* * *

But I against the sayings of the Fathers, of men, of angels, of devils place not ancient usage, not multitudes of men, but the word of the one Eternal Majesty, the Gospel, which they are forced to approve, . . . Here I stand, here I sit, here I remain, here I glory, here I triumph, here I laugh at the Papists, Thomists, Henrys, Sophists and all the gates of hell, nay, at the sayings of men, however saintly, and at their fallacious customs.

The Unconquerable Luther and the Cowardly Catholic Wimps Deathly Afraid of Him

And yet this effeminate and cowardly crew dare to hope for a triumph, and a covering up of their shameful cowardice, by my flight into Bohemia, to which they give world-wide celebrity, while they themselves because of their mental unpreparedness and timidity do not dare to come out into the open against Luther by his lone half.

What do you think these feeble Bulls would avail them if they were compelled to stand themselves against the adversary of their Caesar, and against his powerful opponents? We should see them fleeing in all directions, these wretched creatures, who now whimper to one another in their holes like mice: Luther is planning flight!

(Introductory Epistle)

Catholics Who Hate Luther Will End Up in Hell

I await them therefore here, and am ready to meet their impotent rage. I will irritate and torment them as long as I live; and if they kill me, I will torment them many times more . . . They will have a double affliction, the torment of their present hatred, and that which it is earning for them,--the eternal torment of Gehenna.

* * *

So I shall not only make a flight into Bohemia, but I shall dwell there, even if this fury of the strange woman should burn me. But her hatred I shall at the same time both kindle and conquer in Christ. No more shall she prosper. Christ has so resolved. Amen.

(Introductory Epistle)

Anti-Papacy Motifs

For that senseless, ignorant and monstrous body of the Papacy,--after it perceives itself overcome by learning and truth, and sees the whole unclean, crowd of its dunces unable to stand against Luther alone,--torments itself and consumes itself with this one longing that I should flee into Bohemia. For so at last they may console themselves by abusing me as an alien, and representing themselves as terrible giants, who (thanks to their ignorance and evil conscience) none dare contend with.

* * *

The consummation of the abominable Papacy is at hand; from its fate it has no escape, and (as Daniel says) it is coming to its end and no man will help it. Thus we; are both of us boiling over, they with extreme madness, I with supreme contempt; but my courage in Christ will conquer their latest fury that is already waning.

(Introductory Epistle)

* * *

And so they have made the rock of the unconquerable faith to be the Papacy and the Pope, who have not only been overcome by disgusting errors and sins, but are being overwhelmed and absorbed by daily abominations.

* * *

Indeed I treated that crow at first very humbly and reverently, and was especially insistent that the Papacy was not a negligible thing; for I did not know then that it diametrically opposed all Scripture. I was content to expound the Scriptures only, and in the meantime to hold that the Papacy was in its character such as are the kingdoms and dominions of men. But they, hardened by long use of their tyranny and elated by the success up till now of their fraud (as Daniel calls it), despised my modesty and reverence and presumed to set up their idol in the place of God and intrude it into the very heart of the Scriptures. Then Christ gave me a spirit that despised both the fraud and the fury of the Papists, and brought it to pass that the more I saw into the Scriptures the more certainly I found this abomination had been foisted therein, . . .

* * *

And so, compelled by truth, I am driven to retract certain things that I have written, wherever I have written good things concerning the Papacy and concerning the things that are taught without Scripture warrant. Now at last I revoke these things, and am unfeignedly sorry that I ever wrote one syllable concerning the good of the Papacy, and of its rule. And I beg my readers diligently and wisely to beware of those errors of mine.

* * *

More truly I speak of the Papacy: The Papacy is the most pestilent abomination of Satan, its leader, that there ever was, or will be, under heaven.

* * *

In truth, while I live I will be the enemy of the Papacy; if I am burned, I will be twice its enemy.

* * *

This rather is the meaning of conflicting dogmas, when at one and the same time you teach contradictory things, at the same time defending and maintaining both of them, and refusing to revoke, or condemn, either one of them. This is the way the insane Papists act when (in Matt. XVI) they make the Rock both Christ and the Pope, when Christ is holy and the Pope impious, and when holiness has as much in common with impiety as light with darkness, and Christ with Belial. For the Papacy only stands (or rather falls) by its inconsistent, contradictory and lying dogmas, which teach, assert and maintain both of these conflicting teachings at the same time.

* * *

I believe the papacy to be anti-Christ's Kingdom, which even Job (III, 6) commands should be cursed by those who were ready to raise up Leviathan.

* * *

For this papal kingdom, engendered by lies, can do nothing else, in keeping with its character, except deceive, pretend, mock and trample upon the golden grain, and then glory in all these things and boast of them as triumphs.

"Papist Monsters"

Although my soul burns to see Bohemia, and the religion so hated by our papist monsters, . . .

* * *

I do not fear the shame of the name Bohemian, which is glorious in the sight of God; but Christ has placed me here that I may torment the papist monsters, while they find nothing in me of which they can make public use in vomiting forth their unbelievable animosity. Christ wishes them to be tormented by their own hatred, and destroyed by their own malice.

(Introductory Epistle)

* * *

But I, who hitherto have been somewhat lenient toward the papist monsters, in the hope of their coming to their senses, now when I see of what kind of nature they are, given over to a reprobate mind and deplorably wilful, going to their own place with Pharoah their leader, I am resolved to use towards them no more modesty, no more pity. (Nor will I any longer permit my friends to bridle their pens, but will quietly despise them if they should do so.) If I have to treat with them, I will do it with all the violence that I can in order properly to irritate and anger them, the stupid blocks, the silly asses, the fatted swine, since they deserve no other consideration than to be brought to their punishment.

* * *

And what shall I say to these sacrilegious monsters, who show by such arguments how that they have written thus out of impotent hatred, so that nothing more foolish and senseless can be imagined?

"Papist Abomination"

With such blindness and madness has our Lord Jesus Christ stricken the whole kingdom of the papist abomination, . . .

* * *

It is only the Papists and Thomists, this worst of new abominations, who have taken on the brazen manner of the strumpet, so that they confess that thus and thus the sacred Scriptures state, and yet they will not allow men thus to think. Not even Satan himself so openly blasphemes and gives the lie to what is right, even in the very face of the Divine Majesty.

* * *

. . . this Babylon, this abomination worthy of these last days.

Catholic "Murderers and Antichrists"

For the Bohemians had a most just reason for deserting those murderers and anti-christs after they, who were themselves sevenfold heretics, had burned that innocent man, John Huss, and had sacrilegiously condemned the two kinds in the Sacrament as instituted by Christ. This is why this nation is hated by the Papists, who never acknowledge the cruel murder done by the scarlet woman, . . .

(Introductory Epistle)

* * *

For what Henry calls the Church we call the scarlet woman. For although the Church cannot do without rites and ceremonies, it does not make laws and ensnare men's souls with them. They do this, who boast the name of Church, those swine and asses, those followers of Henry, those Papists and Sophists, who are deceivers of their fellow men and Anti-Christs.

Catholic Church is "Satan's Sect"

My second crime is that I have covered with my abuse the Pope and the Church, that is, have abused Satan's procurer and procuress and his sect, of which King Henry has lately been declared the Defender,--with indulgences!

* * *

. . . tares sown by Satan, by means of the brains of his Roman idol, in the Lord's field. . . . A lie is worshipped in place of the truth, an idol instead of God, and an abomination in lieu of holiness.

* * *

. . . establishing in its [Scripture's] place the reign of a doctrine that is written out of the Roman heart, a heart possessed by that most wicked Satan.

* * *

As they were carrying on their abominations the Lord drew me in my rashness into the middle of the crowds, and in the matter of lying indulgences enabled me to extort certain passages of Scripture from Satan, as one might wrench the club from the hand of Hercules, and to restore the Scripture interpretation to its rightful meaning.

* * *

This Church is not Christ's Church; . . .

* * *

Plainly he is a chosen vessel of Satan, and a most worthy Defender of the papal Church.

* * *

Wherefore we see by this that all Bishops, all Councils, all Schools, who teach anything else in the Church besides the word of the only God, are wolves, ministers of Satan, and false prophets.

* * *

The Church of the Papists places its unity in the unity of its outward idol the Pope, while inwardly it is broken up by a vast confusion of errors in order to fulfill all the will of Satan.

Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon / Scarlet Woman

. . . I became convinced by the clear and pure Scriptures that the Pope, the Cardinals, the Bishops, the Priests, the Monks, the Monasteries, the Masses and the whole of that organization, with their dogmas and rituals, was nothing else than mere shews, idols, gew-gaws, lies, and that abomination standing in the holy place, showing itself as though it were the true bishops and the real church, while all the time it was that same scarlet woman, who sits on the many-headed beast and makes the kings of the earth drunk with the cup of her fornications and abominations.

* * *

. . . our Papist neighbours and friends have repeated vainly, to wit, The Mass is a work and a sacrifice; for the daily usage of many has it so; So the Church (that is, the harlot of Babylon) thinks; It must be so; Our Teachers have taught us so; The Fathers have said so.

* * *

. . . to the Church (that is, to the Romish harlot, who is neither Church nor Christian except in name) . . .

Lying, Idolatrous Catholics Hate Holy Scripture

When therefore the sacred Scripture says nothing at all concerning these things, the mad Papists, the masters of lies and framers of idols, have started a business, worthy of themselves, which is to twist the whole of Scripture and deprave it into poisons and lies, so that those passages which taught us concerning faith had to have a Papacy created to interpret them; those which taught humility had to have set up beside them the pomp of tyranny, until they have succeeded with their unlimited lying in throwing everything into confusion, in abolishing the whole Scripture . . .

* * *

They demand that we believe the worm-eaten product of their brain, old wives' tales; and they despise the word of God.

* * *

But all this is done by that restless Satan in order that he may, by his wicked Henrys and sacrilegious Thomists, turn us away from the Scriptures, and fix our faith on the lies of men. For there is no longer any need of sacred Scripture, if it is sufficient for us to be supported by some new sayings of men found outside of the Scriptures.

Catholics Condemned the Gospel (?)

. . . their sacrilege in condemning the Gospel; . . .

(Introductory Epistle)

Catholics Are Pelagian and Believe in Salvation by Works (?)

This sacrilegious people have all one obsession; they wish to justify themselves in God's presence by works, and not by faith alone. Whence it is necessary that Christ be denied and faith made of none effect, while lucre is increased, and the wealth of the whole world absorbed for their Masses and their Vigils. For thus do the perverse followers of the abomination pervert everything; the works, which they ought to use toward men, they offer to God; the faith, by which alone God is served, they offer to men.

Dubious and Ridiculous Assertions About the Church Fathers

But when they come to apply their teaching, they do nothing except viciously beg the question. And so when I exclaim: The Gospel, the Gospel, Christ, Christ; they reply, The Fathers, the Fathers, use, use, statute, statute!

When I say, the Fathers, use, statute have often erred; we must have a stronger and surer authority--Christ cannot err; then they are like the mute fishes, and become as the Scripture saith, like deaf adders that shut their ears lest they hear the voice of the charmer. Or they reply thus to me, in words which they always have on the tip of their tongue: Ambrose saith so; art thou wiser than Ambrose? Do you alone know? And this is all they have to say. As though the question was between Ambrose's teaching and mine; or as though I could not answer: You misunderstand and misinterpret Ambrose. What is gained, I ask, by disputing with those who are blind and bad-tempered and utterly senseless?

* * *

In vain, I say, I have kept on singing to these deaf adders, who endlessly repeat and gabble their silly talk: Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome says so and so! Therefore Luther is a heretic, for the sayings of Augustine and Ambrose are articles of faith. Yet those holy men wished nothing less than this sacrilegious worship given to them by Henry and his fellow dunces, by whom their sayings are equated with articles of faith, desiring as they did all their sayings to be free, and placed at the disposal, or rejection, of every believer. Nay, the swinish Thomists themselves are forced to admit that holy men have often erred, and therefore the use of their words for establishing the faith, and burdening the conscience, cannot be of sufficient authority even by the judgment of common sense.

* * *

Furthermore the glorious Lord King, after his manner, lies quite arrantly when he makes Jerome a defender of the papacy; for that writer does not call his own Roman church the mother-church of the world, but inveighs more bitterly than all others against her monarchical ambition.

* * *

The word of God is above all. The divine Majesty makes me care not at all though a thousand Augustines, a thousand Cyprians, or a thousand of Henry's Churches should stand against me. God cannot err, or be deceived. Augustine and Cyprian and all the elect could err, and have erred.

* * *

Briefly, even if Augustine should have asserted in round words that any one in the Church has the right to make laws, who is Augustine? Who compels us to believe him? By what authority is his word an article of faith? I confess that his saying has come to my notice; but it is not safe enough, nor firm enough. The right of making a law must be proved by a saying of God, not by a saying of man.

* * *

For I do not ask what Ambrose, Augustine, or the Councils, and use of the centuries say; nor was there any need for King Henry to teach me these things; for I knew them so well that I once before even attacked them,

A Bit of Projection?

He does not come forth to battle with a royal mind, or with any drop of royal blood, but with a slavish and impudent and strumpet-like insolence and silliness, proving nothing by argument but only by cursings. And what is more disgraceful in a man, and especially in a man in the highest position, than openly and deliberately to be, so that you can recognize him as a Sophist, a creature of ignorance and virulence?

Thomist "Sophists" and "Hogs"

. . . it is agreed that the Thomists are such a stupid and clearly lazy kind of Sophists, . . .

* * *

Do what ye can, ye Thomist swine.

* * *

Let the reader then see from this one argument how asinine is the ignorance of the Thomists, and how mentally puerile is their insolence, which does not allow them to understand their own words. And yet they dare to write a Defence of the Sacraments, and to boast of their fine bombast, which is the proof of their incredible lack of knowledge. For I think this book of the King's was written for this reason, that the world might never believe I had falsely accused the Sophists of folly and ignorance, especially the hogs that are among them (I mean the Thomists).

* * *

. . . sordid fellow-Thomists . . .

* * *

. . . he has chosen to act the Thomist hypocrite and masquerader . . .

* * *

. . . Aristotle, who is the God of the Thomists . . .

* * *

. . . these lethargic Thomists . . .

* * *

. . . this senseless Thomist crew . . .

* * *

. . . in his Thomist folly . . .

* * *

. . . a senseless Thomist . . .

* * *

. . . this Thomist straw and stubble, . . . this demented Thomist . . .

* * *

. . . Thomists and Papists and their impure, foul, filthy, wicked and sacrilegious associates . . .

* * *

. . . these blots and corruptions of men, these Thomists and Henrys . . .

* * *

. . . I should be arguing to no purpose with such stupid and dull block-heads. How much less would they understand me if I argued this matter according to the divine Scriptures?

* * *

. . . as befits a Thomist, he omits the Scriptures . . .

* * *

. . . the Thomist scum . . .

* * *

As I said before, nothing under the sun is born more thick and stupid than the Thomists, these monstrous creatures.

* * *

. . . in the dignified manner of the Thomists, whose custom is to pass over the rule for understanding Scripture (which is to take notice of the consequences, circumstances and objections), and to pick up and twist some word, and then assert anything you have a mind to.

* * *

. . . there is no judgment, no discernment, no diligence in the whole Thomist body; but all things are said and transacted and done with incredible rashness and presumption and arrogance, so that they can kill with tediousness both readers and listeners.

* * *

. . . nevertheless the worthiness of this reasoning is beyond all price, and could dwell and flourish in Thomist and asinine brains and nowhere else.

* * *

. . . We have therefore this article, although never with much concern exacted by me before, now greatly confirmed by the assertions of the Papists themselves,--that is by their lies and stupidity and blasphemies,--so that now we are very sure that it is the merest figment that which these impious and blind Thomists babble concerning this transubstantiation,

* * *

. . . the dullness of the Thomists . . .

* * *

. . . The Thomist asses have nothing they can bring forward but the number of men and the antiquity of the use, and then they say to one who brings forward Scripture, Are you the wisest of all?

* * *

. . . mere Thomist wickedness, forcing all words to mean all things . . .

* * *

But it is not to be wondered that the Thomist asses are so ridiculous; for God has willed that they should show no sign of sanity, or even of right thinking.

Luther Consigns Henry VIII to Hell

The offering of the viper keeps the inborn qualities of its nature, and imitates the example of its parents. For even against Paul, when he had taught that all the sons of Adam were justified without works, his enemies made the same accusation, as he writes in Romans (Chapter III): Some say we teach, Let us do evil that good may come. But what is the judgment upon them? Their damnation (he says) is just.

And what can I pronounce against my King, concerning his lie, except the same judgment of damnation?

St. Paul Was Self-Contradictory?

If this is to conflict in dogmas, as the Thomist King declares, if a man should think otherwise, when he knows the truth and revokes his error, than he thought before, I ask which of our wisest and most holy men was ever consistent? We shall damn the whole epistles of Paul because after his conversion he calls dung what before, when he was in Judaism, he had considered to be gain.

Violent Rhetoric

What are we to do now? except to let even fools see that our Thomist Henrys, in their notorious ignorance, have turned our faith into a subject of ridicule; and have strengthened the wickedness of the world; deserving therefore to have their tongue and hands cut off, so that they might never either speak or write again.

Goofy, Universally Rejected, Anti-Petrine Interpretation of Matthew 16

Therefore we will cleave to the Defender of our Church who says (Matt. XVI): I will build My Church,--and build it not on the length of time, nor on the multitude of men, nor on It must be so, nor on the use and sayings of the saints, not even on John the Baptist, nor on Elijah, nor on Jeremiah, nor on any of the prophets;--but upon that only and solid rock, upon Christ, the Son of God.

Extreme Bible-Only Position

. . . Scripture requires that we believe nothing except Scripture.

Extreme Private Judgment Position

To know and judge concerning doctrine belongs to all men, even to individual Christians; and in such a way belongs that, Let him be anathema who shall injure this right, even in the least particular. . . . And here Christ has established not only the right, but the commandment to judge, so that this sole authority can be sufficient against the opinions of all the Fathers, of all the Councils, and of all the Schools,. . .

* * *

We have it established then beyond all controversy that the right of discerning and judging doctrines, or of approving teachers, is within our power, and not in the power of Councils, or Bishops, or Fathers, or Doctors. But it does not follow from this that at the same time we have the right to make laws; for this belongs to God alone. Our duty is to recognize His law (and His word), to approve it, judge and separate it from all other laws; but in no wise to make laws or make commands.

"Sacrilegious and Abominable Councils"

You now see of what spirit were those sacrilegious and abominable Councils, which against so many clear fulminations of Scripture, and such uncontrovertible opinions, have dared to arrogate to themselves as Bishops the right of judging and discerning, and, above all, of commanding and constructing. Without doubt from Satan came those thoughts, whereby he has inundated the world with the workings of error, and has set up an abomination in the sacred place;. . .

Luther Even Goes After the Council of Nicaea (!!!)

For in the Council of Nicaea itself, the best of all the Councils, even then they were beginning to make laws and claim that right for themselves. And from that time till the present, it has been in force, so that nothing is more worthy to be received, nor can anything be more firmly proved on the theory of numbers and duration than this usurpation. So much so that there is no one today who does not think it to be wholesome, right, and divine. Nevertheless you see how this thing is sacrilege and impiety against the clear and invincible Scriptures of God.

Wherefore if such error, and such sacrilege, for such length of time has reigned among such great numbers of men who were either consenting, or seduced, or approving, and has reigned against the truth of God, I wish here, once for all, that, as regards the Sophists and Papists, their chief argument from duration and numbers should be trampled in the dust, and their mouths stopped, that they may see why God wills that we should believe in no creature whatever, however continuous, or numerous, or stupendous it may be, but only in His infallible word.

"Sacrilegious and Abominable Mass"

Having triumphed over the Mass, I think we have triumphed over the whole papacy. For upon the Mass as upon a rock is built the whole papacy with its monasteries, its bishoprics, its colleges, its altars, its ministers, its doctrines, and leans on it with its whole weight. And all these things must fall with the sacrilegious and abominable Mass.

How Does the Individual Catholic Approach and Interpret Holy Scripture?

By Dave Armstrong (6-17-09)

I was asked:
How, then, is the Catholic to interpret Scripture, the basic rules of hermeneutics; exegesis, along with what the Church teaches? I'm still a bit in the dark on this.
Excellent question. Basically, first of all, the Catholic needs to learn good basic skills of Bible interpretation. I would recommend a book such as Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible As the First Christians Did, by Mark Shea.

Once that is understood, so elementary errors in exegesis and hermeneutics are not committed, a reader so informed is able to learn on his own, pretty much, from Scripture. But the Catholic always has a boundary, beyond which he cannot go: Catholic dogma. The Catholic exegete should always seek to conform his opinion with that of the Church. So it isn't so much that the Church is saying:
A) "You can't interpret Scripture on your own"
(as Protestant critics often caricature our approach). Rather, it is saying:
B) "don't become so independent that you interpret in a way that is contrary to Church dogma."
Some Protestant critics think this stricture implies that Catholic exegetes aren't "free." But that is silly, since all Protestant traditions have doctrines, too, which are non-negotiable. A professor at a [traditional] Calvinist seminary, for example, couldn't interpret Scripture in an Arminian, non-Calvinist fashion, or he would be out of a job. Every conscious Christian interpreter comes to the text with prior biases or beliefs, and believes that Scripture teaches those things. Why should Catholics be singled out? It's a double-standard argument.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

St. Augustine's "Confessions" as the Prototype of Today's Popular Catholic Conversion Stories

By Dave Armstrong (6-10-09)

St. Augustine critiqued many belief-systems and practices in his famous spiritual autobiography. He critiqued, for example, astrology:
I then turned my thoughts to those that are born twins, who generally come out of the womb so near the one to the other that the short interval between them--whatever importance they may ascribe to it in the nature of things -- cannot be noted by human observation or expressed in those tables which the astrologer uses to examine when he undertakes to pronounce the truth. But such pronouncements cannot be true. For looking into the same horoscopes, he must have foretold the same future for Esau and Jacob . . .

(Book VII, Chapter 6; Outler translation, as throughout)
The Manichaeans, as we would expect, are strongly criticized by Augustine:
Thus I fell among men, delirious in their pride, carnal and voluble, whose mouths were the snares of the devil -- a trap made out of a mixture of the syllables of thy name and the names of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Paraclete. These names were never out of their mouths, but only as sound and the clatter of tongues, for their heart was empty of truth. Still they cried, “Truth, Truth,” and were forever speaking the word to me. But the thing itself was not in them. Indeed, they spoke falsely not only of thee -- who truly art the Truth -- but also about the basic elements of this world, thy creation.

(Book III, Chapter 6)
He spoke of discovering particular objective truths in Catholicism; for example, concerning substance:
As I increased in years, the worse was my vanity. For I could not conceive of any substance but the sort I could see with my own eyes. I no longer thought of thee, O God, by the analogy of a human body. Ever since I inclined my ear to philosophy I had avoided this error -- and the truth on this point I rejoiced to find in the faith of our spiritual mother, thy Catholic Church.

(Book VII, Chapter 1)
He makes general statements about "the truth":
. . . though I had not yet grasped the truth, I was rescued from falsehood.

(Book VI, Chapter 1)

Such perplexities I revolved in my wretched breast, overwhelmed with gnawing cares lest I die before I discovered the truth.

(Book VII, Chapter 5)

I should have more readily doubted that I am alive than that the Truth exists -- the Truth which is “clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”

(Book VII, Chapter 10)

For when I inquired how it was that I could appreciate the beauty of bodies, both celestial and terrestrial; and what it was that supported me in making correct judgments about things mutable; and when I concluded, “This ought to be thus; this ought not” -- then when I inquired how it was that I could make such judgments (since I did, in fact, make them), I realized that I had found the unchangeable and true eternity of truth above my changeable mind.

(Book VII, Chapter 17)

I have had experience with many who wished to deceive, but not one who wished to be deceived. Where, then, did they ever know about this happy life, except where they knew also what the truth is? For they love it, too, since they are not willing to be deceived. And when they love the happy life, which is nothing else but joy in the truth, then certainly they also love the truth.

(Book X, Chapter 23)

Thus, thus, truly thus: the human mind so blind and sick, so base and ill-mannered, desires to lie hidden, but does not wish that anything should be hidden from it. And yet the opposite is what happens -- the mind itself is not hidden from the truth, but the truth is hidden from it. Yet even so, for all its wretchedness, it still prefers to rejoice in truth rather than in known falsehoods. It will, then, be happy only when without other distractions it comes to rejoice in that single Truth through which all things else are true.

(Book X, Chapter 23)

For where I found Truth, there found I my God, who is the Truth.

(Book X, Chapter 24)

In this discord of true opinions let Truth itself bring concord, . . .

(Book XII, Chapter 30)

He distinguishes Catholic truth from the errors of philosophers and other false teachers on various subjects:
. . . I had no hope of finding in thy Church the truth from which they had turned me aside, . . .

(Book V, Chapter 10)

I felt quite ashamed because during the long time I had been deluded and deceived by the [Manichean] promises of certainties, I had, with childish petulance, prated of so many uncertainties as if they were certain. That they were falsehoods became apparent to me only afterward. However, I was certain that they were uncertain and since I had held them as certainly uncertain I had accused thy Catholic Church with a blind contentiousness. I had not yet discovered that it taught the truth, but I now knew that it did not teach what I had so vehemently accused it of.

(Book VI, Chapter 4)

For myself, I must confess that it was even later that I learned how in the sentence, “The Word was made flesh,” the Catholic truth can be distinguished from the falsehood of Photinus.

(Book VII, Chapter 19)
He condemns heresies:
But when he later learned that this was the error of the Apollinarian heretics, he rejoiced in the Catholic faith and accepted it. . . . For the refutation of heretics makes the tenets of thy Church and sound doctrine to stand out boldly. “For there must also be heresies [factions] that those who are approved may be made manifest among the weak.”

(Book VII, Chapter 19)

Let them perish from thy presence, O God, as vain talkers, and deceivers of the soul perish, who, when they observe that there are two wills in the act of deliberation, go on to affirm that there are two kinds of minds in us: one good, the other evil. They are indeed themselves evil when they hold these evil opinions -- and they shall become good only when they come to hold the truth and consent to the truth . . .

(Book VIII, Chapter 10)

Else they must be converted to the truth, and no longer deny that when anyone deliberates there is one soul fluctuating between conflicting wills.

(Book VIII, Chapter 10)

For he was not yet a Christian, and had fallen into the pit of deadly error, believing that the flesh of thy Son, the Truth, was a phantom. Yet he had come up out of that pit and now held the same belief that we did.

(Book IX, Chapter 3)

For it was only about a year -- not much more -- since Justina, the mother of the boy-emperor Valentinian, had persecuted thy servant Ambrose on behalf of her heresy, in which she had been seduced by the Arians.

(Book IX, Chapter 7)
He acknowledges partial truth in other belief-systems:
For he did not create them, and then go away. They are of him and in him. Behold, there he is, wherever truth is known. He is within the inmost heart, yet the heart has wandered away from him. Return to your heart, O you transgressors, and hold fast to him who made you. Stand with him and you shall stand fast. Rest in him and you shall be at rest. Where do you go along these rugged paths? Where are you going? The good that you love is from him, and insofar as it is also for him, it is both good and pleasant.

(Book IV, Chapter 12)

So I began, and I found that whatever truth I had read [in the Platonists] was here combined with the exaltation of thy grace.

(Book VII, Chapter 21)

And though he was not as yet initiated in any of the sacraments of thy Church, he was a most earnest inquirer after truth.

(Book IX, Chapter 3)
He deliberately aims to persuade others, based on his own odyssey:
But, because “love believes all things” -- at least among those who are bound together in love by its bonds -- I confess to thee, O Lord, so that men may also hear; for if I cannot prove to them that I confess the truth, yet those whose ears love opens to me will believe me.

(Book X, Chapter 3)

Why, then, does truth generate hatred, and why does thy servant who preaches the truth come to be an enemy to them who also love the happy life, which is nothing else than joy in the truth -- unless it be that truth is loved in such a way that those who love something else besides her wish that to be the truth which they do love.

(Book X, Chapter 23)

For if anyone arrogates to himself what thou hast bestowed on all to enjoy, and if he desires something for his own that belongs to all, he is forced away from what is common to all to what is, indeed, his very own -- that is, from truth to falsehood.

(Book XII, Chapter 25)

And yet, O my God, thou exaltation of my humility and rest of my toil, who hearest my confessions and forgivest my sins, since thou commandest me to love my neighbor as myself, I cannot believe that thou gavest thy most faithful servant Moses a lesser gift than I should wish and desire for myself from thee, if I had been born in his time, and if thou hadst placed me in the position where, by the use of my heart and my tongue, those books might be produced which so long after were to profit all nations throughout the whole world -- from such a great pinnacle of authority -- and were to surmount the words of all false and proud teachings. If I had been Moses -- and we all come from the same mass, and what is man that thou art mindful of him? -- if I had been Moses at the time that he was, and if I had been ordered by thee to write the book of Genesis, I would surely have wished for such a power of expression and such an art of arrangement to be given me, that those who cannot as yet understand how God createth would still not reject my words as surpassing their powers of understanding. And I would have wished that those who are already able to do this would find fully contained in the laconic speech of thy servant whatever truths they had arrived at in their own thought; and if, in the light of the Truth, some other man saw some further meaning, that too would be found congruent to my words.

(Book XII, Chapter 26)

For just as a spring dammed up is more plentiful and affords a larger supply of water for more streams over wider fields than any single stream led off from the same spring over a long course -- so also is the narration of thy minister: it is intended to benefit many who are likely to discourse about it and, with an economy of language, it overflows into various streams of clear truth, from which each one may draw out for himself that particular truth which he can about these topics--this one that truth that one another truth, by the broader survey of various interpretations.

(Book XII, Chapter 27)
He joins objective and subjective truth together:
Indeed, it actually speaks to all, but only they understand it who compare the voice received from without with the truth within.

(Book X, Chapter 6)

It is not because they are godly men and have seen in the heart of thy servant what they say, but rather they are proud men and have not considered Moses’ meaning, but only love their own -- not because it is true but because it is their own. Otherwise they could equally love another true opinion, as I love what they say when what they speak is true -- not because it is theirs but because it is true, and therefore not theirs but true. And if they love an opinion because it is true, it becomes both theirs and mine, since it is the common property of all lovers of the truth. . . . And therefore, O Lord, thy judgments should be held in awe, because thy truth is neither mine nor his nor anyone else’s; but it belongs to all of us whom thou hast openly called to have it in common; and thou hast warned us not to hold on to it as our own special property, for if we do we lose it.

(Book XII, Chapter 25)

My Confessions, in thirteen books, praise the righteous and good God as they speak either of my evil or good, and they are meant to excite men’s minds and affections toward him. At least as far as I am concerned, this is what they did for me when they were being written and they still do this when read. What some people think of them is their own affair [ipse viderint]; but I do know that they have given pleasure to many of my brethren and still do so.

(From the Retractations, II, 6; written in A.D. 427)
Catholic conversion stories (including my own and especially those in the Surprised by Truth series) exhibit all these things. If people don't care for that, then they should also condemn St. Augustine for committing all the same "transgressions."

St. Augustine espoused the notions of possessing a greater measure of truth and attempting, out of charitable motives, to pass it on to someone else. His very famous book has continued to do this these past 16 centuries, and many Catholic converts (particularly the apologetics-minded) try to do the same today.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Jephthah's Burnt Offering Sacrifice of His Daughter (Judges 11:30-40): Did God Command or Sanction It?

By Dave Armstrong (6-8-09)

This is an exchange from the Coming Home Network forum, with a Catholic who was troubled by difficult Old Testament "genocide" and "commanded killing" passages. His words will be in green.

* * * * *

I am a Catholic who is coming back to his faith, that being said I am having some trouble with certain passages in the Bible where God commands Israel to wipe out all the people of Amalek (essentially Genocide) 1 Sam. 15:2-3.

Good question, and one many people struggle with. Here is my fairly "short answer" from a paper of mine:
Because God is Creator He also has the prerogative to judge. This is analogous to our experience. Society takes it upon itself to judge the criminal and punish him if he supercedes the "just" laws that govern the society, in order to prevent chaos and suffering. If that is true of human society (one man to another), it is all the more of God, because He is ontologically above us (Creator and created).

So it is perfectly sensible and moral to posit (apart from the data of revelation) a notion of God judging both individuals and nations. God's omniscience is such that He can determine if an entire nation has gone bad ("beyond repair," so to speak) and should be punished. And He did so. Now, even in a wicked nation there may be individuals who are exceptions to the rule. So some innocent people will be killed. But this is like our human experience as well. In wartime, we go to war against an entire nation. In so doing, even if it is unintentional, some innocent non-combatants will be killed.

But it's also different in God's case because He judged nations in part in order to prevent their idolatry and other sins to infiltrate Jewish (i.e., true) religion. He also judged Israel at various times (lest He be accused of being unfair). In any event, it is not true that nations or individuals were punished because of what their ancestors did. There is a sense of corporate punishment, just described, and it is also true that the entire human race is a fallen race. We all deserve punishment for that fact alone, and God would be perfectly just to wipe us all out the next second. No one could hold it against Him.

He decides to be merciful and grant us grace to do better, but He is under no obligation to do so, anymore than the governor is obliged to pardon convicted criminals. Again, the societal analogy is perfectly apt. If someone rebels at every turn against every societal norm and law and appropriate behavior and so forth, is society to be blamed? Say someone grows up thinking that serial rape is fine and dandy and shouldn't be prevented at all. So he goes and does this. Eventually, the legal system catches up with him and he gets his punishment. He rebelled against what most people think is wrong, and more than deserved his punishment.

We don't say that there should be no punishment. We don't blame society for his suffering in prison. We don't deny that society has a right to judge such persons. So if mere human beings can judge each other, why cannot God judge His creation, and (particularly) those of His creation that have rebelled against Him at every turn? What is so incomprehensible about that? One may not believe it, but there is no radical incoherence or inconsistency or monstrous injustice or immorality in this Christian (and Jewish) viewpoint (which is what is always claimed by the critics).


"'How Can God [in the OT] Order the Killing and Massacre of Innocents?'" [Amalekites, etc.]

Also, here are three more related papers of mine, that may be of some benefit:

"Did Moses (and God) Sin In Judging the Midianites (Numbers 31)?"

"Difficulties in Understanding God's Judgment on Heathen Nations (and other 'Problem Passages' in the OT)"

"The Judgment of Nations: Biblical Passages and Commentary"

Also there was a man named Jephthah who sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering to the Lord -- Judges 11:39,

The first thing to notice here is that there is no hint of the approval of God in this passage. Just because a man does something, it's not a given that God wanted him to do it. According to orthodox Jewish religion, under the Mosaic Law, human sacrifice was strictly forbidden:

Deuteronomy 12:31 (RSV) You shall not do so to the LORD your God; for every abominable thing which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 20:2-3 Say to the people of Israel, Any man of the people of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, who gives any of his children to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. I myself will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, defiling my sanctuary and profaning my holy name.
There are many other similar passages showing that this was not God's will, and was an evil thing:

2 Kings 16:2-3 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

2 Kings 17:17-18 And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings, and used divination and sorcery, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah only.

2 Kings 23:10 And he defiled To'pheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech.

2 Chronicles 28:3 and he burned incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burned his sons as an offering, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

2 Chronicles 33:6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and practiced soothsaying and augury and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

Psalm 106:36-39 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the harlot in their doings.

Jeremiah 7:31-32 And they have built the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere.

Jeremiah 19:5 and have built the high places of Ba'al to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Ba'al, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind;

Jeremiah 32:35 They built the high places of Ba'al in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Ezekiel 16:20-21 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?

Ezekiel 20:31 When you offer your gifts and sacrifice your sons by fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. . . .

Ezekiel 23:37-39 For they have committed adultery, and blood is upon their hands; with their idols they have committed adultery; and they have even offered up to them for food the sons whom they had borne to me. Moreover this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my sabbaths. For when they had slaughtered their children in sacrifice to their idols, on the same day they came into my sanctuary to profane it. And lo, this is what they did in my house.
Quite obviously, then, this was not God's will, which is why God didn't condone the action. That really resolves all difficulty, because it's simply a matter of a man sinning and not knowing what was right and wrong in this instance.

Jephthah was half-Canaanite (Jud 11:1), and so he was influenced by some tenets of the false Canaanite religion (cf. Ps 106:36-39 above), as was often the case among the Jews (and one reason why God judged the heathen nations so harshly). He had been living among the heathen, who regularly offered human sacrifice (cf. 2 Kings 3:27), and the law of Moses was fairly unknown and not much practiced. He wrongly assumed that God would be propitiated in the same way as was believed about the Canaanite false gods.

The non-approval of the author of Judges shows that he may have regarded this as an instance of what he expressed later in the book:

Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. (cf. 21:25: identical language)
Protestant apologist Glenn Miller, who specializes in "problem passages" in the Bible, offers a completely different (and interesting, thoughtful) take: that actual sacrifice did not occur (though this is considered an implausible interpretation by most of the commentators I have seen):

    Most commentators believe that Jephthah literally killed and burned his daughter on an altar somewhere, and that this human sacrifice was condoned by God (since it was a vow thing). It seems to me that this is probably NOT the case--there are just two many incongruities in the text/context for that. Consider:

    1. Literal "burnt offerings" HAD TO BE male (Lev 22.18-19). Jephthah's daughter obviously wasn't.

    2. What did Jeff THINK would come out of a house? Not animals! He must have known that only a human would have come out.

    3. Human sacrifice was STRICTLY forbidden (Dt 12.31) and we have NO record of it being practiced (even in horrible Judges-period Israel) by mainstream Israel during this period.

    4. The lament for the daughter is about 'not marrying' NOT about 'not living'--it makes me wonder if some kind of religious celibacy is not in view. (Maybe the women at the Entrance to the Tent were celibate--Ex 38.8--living as widows in Israel later did on Temple payrolls.)

    5. Verse 39 calls his action a 'vow'. Lev 27.28 (coupled with 27.21) allowed people to be given over the Lord, who became servants of the Priests. As devoted to the Lord's service, some of them probably did NOT marry (cf. the Nazarite vow, in its restriction on becoming 'unclean' for family members (Num 6.7) omits the words 'husband' or 'wife'...perhaps it was sometimes involving celibacy. The only Nazies we know, though, were married--Samuel and Samson)

    6. As the only child, and if given to the priest in this fashion, Jephthah's entire estate would go to someone else.

    7. We have the VERY parallel case of Hannah and Samuel. She takes a vow, and offers her son to the Lord for all his life. (I Sam 1-2), and such vows did NOT allow the person to be redeemed with money (Lev 27.28-29).

    8. Burnt offerings were ALWAYS associated with condemnation/evil--not thanksgiving and vows. Even the one non-literal use of it in Dt 13.16 (in which a town is offered as a burnt offering) involves abject judgment/condemnation--NOT at all in view in the Jephthah passage.

    9. He would have had to offer her at some cultic site, which would have had a priest. I cannot imagine a priest (even those as lax as elsewhere in the book of Judges) that would have agreed to perform a human sacrifice!

    What I have to conclude from this passage is that Jephthah is using 'burnt offering' in a general 'offering' sense, and that he is meaning an 'irredeemable vow' as a thank-offering, along the line of Hannah/Samuel. This is the only way to make sense of all the particulars. (Interestingly, Jephthah is surprisingly literate—his knowledge of biblical history,evidenced in the letter to his adversary, shows that he knows the mosaic history—he WOULD have known how bad a literal human sacrifice would have been.)
( Link )

Another Protestant apologist, J.P. Holding, takes the same position. See his article: Jephthah and Daughter: Bad News for the Firstborn? Also, see his piece: Does God Endorse Human Sacrifice?

Glenn Miller has also written a more general article: "Was Jesus' death a violation of the commandment against human sacrifice?"

Further related articles:

Human Sacrifice in the Old Testament (Rational Christianity website)

Rereading Judges 11:31: The Sacrifice of Jephthah’s Daughter, Dr. Claude Mariottini

Judges 11:39: The Fate of Jephthah’s Daughter, Dr. Claude Mariottini

For in-depth reading on this incident with Jephthah, see an entire book about it: Tell it in the Mountain, by Barbara Miller (Liturgical press, 2005). Much of it can be read online. Exercise caution, however, as it is a "feminist" book, and may have elements contrary to orthodox Catholicism.

* * *

Joshua 6:21, Joshua 10:40-41 tells us that Joshua took possession of the Land of the Philistines and Canaanites and killed everything that "breathed" as it says.

This is an instance of God's righteous judgment. Glenn Miller deals with it in extreme depth, in his article, How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites?

There are other passages that I have trouble with too, but I will stick with these specific ones.

I'd be happy to discuss anything further, but you need to read some of these treatments to get a sense of how Christians understand these things.

Not only am I interested to hear the explanation of these but just the idea of Genocide in the bible in general. Its not that I am trying to show God out to be a monster but I have heard both fundamentalists try and justify these passages (one even told me if God told him to murder me he would) and that "God murders people every day."

Judgment is not murder (they are making a fundamental [no pun intended] category mistake there): rather, it's like a death sentence given to a guilty man.

Also The atheists love to point out these passages to make God out to be a tyrant.

Exactly. Well, they are unlikely to understand the notion of God as judge and giver of life, since they reject God in the first place. The best we can do with them is show that the Bible is not an ethically dubious document.

I would love to be able to understand because like I said it is really bothersome to my faith.

I don't think it has to be. Do some serious reading, following the sources I have provided, and I think your difficulties will be resolved. And we can talk more about it if you like. My goal as an apologist is precisely to help people get over honest difficulties they are having, so they can have a more robust, confident faith.

My good friend had two things to say. "Studying theology will challenge you and will sometimes have your worst fears be confronted." Also he says that the Bible is the Word of God as understood as the literature of the faith community, so the faith community sometimes justifies stuff that may or may not be what God's nature actually is. Just trying to understand, because I believe God to be Just and Good and Loving, not some bloodthirsty, vengeful, monster who is ticked off at every turn!

That's what I believe. When all is said and done, no one can deny that God judges people and nations. That's not "murder" or "genocide"; it is the just judgment against those who have deliberately chosen evil and rebellion, over against God. No one is forced to be evil or to reject God. That's their choice. God warns us all, and if we don't heed His merciful, loving warnings, eventually there are eternally negative consequences.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

John Calvin's Rejection of the Epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 110)

By Dave Armstrong (6-7-09)

The Catholic Encyclopedia ("St. Ignatius of Antioch") provides an overview summary, with which we can begin our closer examination (my bolding):
At intervals during the last several centuries a warm controversy has been carried on by patrologists concerning the authenticity of the Ignatian letters. Each particular recension has had its apologists and its opponents. Each has been favored to the exclusion of all the others, and all, in turn, have been collectively rejected, especially by the coreligionists of Calvin. The reformer himself, in language as violent as it is uncritical (Institutes, 1-3), repudiates in globo the letters which so completely discredit his own peculiar views on ecclesiastical government. The convincing evidence which the letters bear to the Divine origin of Catholic doctrine is not conducive to predisposing non-Catholic critics in their favor, in fact, it has added not a little to the heat of the controversy. In general, Catholic and Anglican scholars are ranged on the side of the letters written to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrniots, and to Polycarp; whilst Presbyterians, as a rule, and perhaps a priori, repudiate everything claiming Ignatian authorship.
Calvin exclaimed in his Institutes:
With regard to what they pretend as to Ignatius, if they would have it to be of the least importance, let them prove that the apostles enacted laws concerning Lent, and other corruptions. Nothing can be more nauseating, than the absurdities which have been published under the name of Ignatius; and therefore, the conduct of those who provide themselves with such masks for deception is the less entitled to toleration.

(Book I, Chapter 13, Section 29)
And again in his commentary for Philippians 4:3:
Those who maintain this, quote Clement and Ignatius as their authorities. If they quoted correctly, I would not certainly despise men of such eminence. But as writings are brought forward from Eusebius which are spurious, and were contrived by ignorant monks, they are not deserving of much credit among readers of sound judgment.

Let us, therefore, inquire as to the thing itself, without taking any false impression from the opinions of men.

Presbyterian W. D. Killen wrote a book in 1886, entitled, The Ignatian Epistles Entirely Spurious. Here is an excerpt, where he mentions Calvin:
The question of the genuineness of the Epistles attributed to Ignatius of Antioch has continued to awaken interest ever since the period of the Reformation. That great religious revolution gave an immense impetus to the critical spirit; and when brought under the light of its examination not a few documents the claims of which had long passed unchallenged were summarily pronounced spurious. Eusebius writing in the fourth century names only seven letters as attributed to Ignatius; but long before the days of Luther more than double that number were in circulation. Many of these were speedily condemned by the critics of the sixteenth century. Even the seven recognised by Eusebius were regarded with grave suspicion; and Calvin--who then stood at the head of Protestant theologians--did not hesitate to denounce the whole of them as forgeries. The work long employed as a text-book in Cambridge and Oxford was the Institutes of the Reformer of Geneva; [Endnote 2:1] and as his views on this subject are there proclaimed very emphatically [2:2] we may presume that the entire body of the Ignatian literature was at that time viewed with distrust by the leaders of thought in the English universities.
Elsewhere in the book, he greatly extolled Calvin for his (now thoroughly discredited) opinions:
[I]t is no mean proof of the sagacity of the great Calvin that upwards of three centuries ago he passed a sweeping condemnation on these Ignatian epistles. . . . Calvin knew that an apostolic man must be acquainted with apostolic doctrine, and he saw that these letters must have been the production of an age when the pure light of Christianity was greatly obscured. Hence he denounced them so emphatically; and time has verified his deliverance.

(cited in Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, John McClintock, pp. 492-493)
Robert Ellis Thompson (Presbyterian) notes:
In 1557 Valentin Pacaeus published in Greek twelve epistles bearing the name of Ignatius of Antioch. Their genuineness was at once called into question by Calvin and other good scholars, but they were treated as an authority for primitive episcopacy by Drs. Whitgift, Hooker, Andrews, Hall and others who favored that form of government.

(The Historic Episcopate, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1910, p. 76)
Protestant historian Philip Schaff concurs:
The Larger Greek Recension of Seven Epistles with eight additional ones. Four of them were published in Latin at Paris, 1495, as an appendix to another book; eleven more by Faber Stapulensis, also in Latin, at Paris, 1498; then all fifteen in Greek by Valentine Hartung (called Paceus or Irenaeus) at Dillingen, 1557; and twelve by Andreas Gesner at Zurich, 1560. The Catholics at first accepted them all as genuine works of Ignatius; and Hartung, Baronius, Bellarmin defended at least twelve; but Calvin and the Magdeburg Centuriators rejected them all, and later Catholics surrendered at least eight as utterly untenable.

(History of the Christian Church, Vol. II: Ante-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 100-325, chapter 13, § 165. The Ignatian Controversy)
William Cureton, an important and key Ignatian scholar, also confirms this assessment:
. . . others, with J. Calvin, did not scruple to denounce the whole as a barefaced and stupid forgery.

(Corpus Ignatianum: A Complete Collection of the Ignatian Epistles, London: Francis & John Rivington, 1849, p. xvii)
A recent book on the apostolic fathers reiterates not only Calvin's, but general Protestant opposition to the authenticity of the seven Ignatian letters now generally accepted:
Catholic scholars generally defended the authenticity of the letters because of the obvious polemical value of Ignatius's early date and emphasis on the monepiscopal form of church structure, while Protestants generally denied their authenticity for similar reasons. . . .
Not until the independent work of Theodor Zahn (1873) and J. B. Lightfoot (1885) was general recognition of the authenticity of the seven letters contained in the middle recension attained. Recent challenges to the current consensus have not altered the situation.

(The Apostolic Fathers, second edition, translated by J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, edited and revised by Michael W. Holmes, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989, p. 83)
So, not only did Calvin not accept what St. Ignatius taught in his epistles; he didn't even accept them as genuine. So he can hardly have incorporated the data therein into his anti-Catholic apologetic. For him, the Ignatian corpus was entirely out of the equation of Protestant-Catholic disputation.