Monthly Archives: August 2011

Playing or Persecuting? Paul’s reading of Genesis 21.9

In my Greek class this semester we are reading through Philo’s On the Cherubim. Before we get started on that, we read through some texts today in Genesis 16, Genesis 21, Galatians 4, and Wisdom 10.

Genesis 16 discusses the birth of Ishmael by Hagar, Sara’s “handmaid” (παιδίσκη). Genesis 21 discusses the birth of Isaac by Sara. In chapter 21, Sara becomes angry about Hagar, Ishmael, and their position within her family. Verse 9 of chapter 21 is interesting:

ἰδοῦσα δὲ Σαρρα τὸν υἱὸν Αγαρ τῆς Αἰγυπτίας, ὅς ἐγένετο τῷ Αβρααμ, παίζοντα μετὰ Ισαακ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς.

But Sara saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, the one whom was (born) to Abraham, playing with Isaac her son.

The participle underlined is pretty interesting. παίζω, the verb from which παίζοντα comes, can mean “to play”, but also can mean to pursue, chase, or even hunt (LSJ A.6). This is somewhat preserved in the Vulgate where Ishmael is described as a filium ludentem, “ludo” having the meaning “to play” as well as to mock or tease (not nearly as harsh as the other meanings of παίζω it seems). Does this “harsh” reading of παίζω show up in Paul’s allegorical reading of this text?

ἡμεῖς δὲ, ἀδελφοὶ, κατὰ ᾿Ισαὰκ ἐπαγγελίας τέκνα ἐσμέν. ἀλλ’ ὥσπερ τότε ὁ κατὰ σάρκα γεννηθεὶς ἐδίωκεν τὸν κατὰ πνεῦμα, οὕτως καὶ νῦν.

But we, brethren, are children like Isaac according to the promise. But just as then the one born according to the flesh persecuted the one born according to the spirit, so it is now.

διώκω has a variety of meanings ranging from “pursue” to “persecute.” διώκω is obviously not παίζω, but it seems that Paul can only come up with this reading of Ishmael and Isaac’s story if he’s reading the παίζοντα as “hunting”. I cannot read Hebrew, but I would be grateful if someone would like to share the Hebrew word here and if it too has a variety of meanings as παίζω and ludo do.

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A response to nonsense: Catholics and Scholarship again.

As an undergraduate student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I could, without a second thought, dismiss Catholicism (without knowing what it really was) and all Catholics easily. In fact, like C. Michael Patton, I would say that I hated Roman Catholicism and, not that he has said this, that I just knew that most Catholics (those who were actually Papists) were going to hell. I was not in the minority there. I get this sort of response to Catholicism. I, however, never wrote blog posts titled “Why I hate Roman Catholicism.” Patton has decided, after being taken to task both with the content and tone of his post by Protestants and Catholics alike, to write a post in defense of what he said.

Jeremy at “Unsettled Christianity” has responded against to Patton’s post and I think has made an interesting point with his story.

Brian LePort has written another calm response to Michael as well.

I have a few things I guess I can add to this discussion as an Evangelical-turned-Catholic.

Firstly, all revelation, by nature, restricts our freedom in what we can and cannot say if we’re to remain honest to revelation.  If we believe that God really did reveal some things (whatever you take the word ‘reveal’ to mean), then there is already a limitation. This is the nature of naming or categorizing anything – it is a limitation.  Not all limitations are bad. The Church’s teaching authority is as much an imposition on me as gravity is on my body or logic is on my mind. I was an atheist before I became an Evangelical. I was an irritating, know-it-all, quoting Nietzsche without understanding Nietzsche atheist. I have heard from atheist friends that by becoming a Christian, I have given up my ability to be a rational, critical reader of the Bible and Church history.  Would Michael say that I am no longer a critical thinker because I now affirm the Resurrection and say with faith that I know it to be true? How about the Apostles? Ought they to have doubted Christ’s resurrection in perpetuity for good measure? Is ‘faith’ just a good guess in Michael’s theology, not a gift from God, an epistemological source of Truth about the mysteries? Ought I to have remained atheist or perhaps only made my way to agnosticism? I know he wouldn’t prefer that, but in trying to score cheap points against Catholics, he’s set the stage for such an argument.

Michael’s praise of doubt has rightly been criticized as empty skepticism, the sort of methodology used by people who tell us that by not believing anything, they are the true scholars, the truly unbiased.  Bryan Cross’ examples were great. If someone tells me I don’t have arms, I need not think, “Well, in order to be truly critical here, I ought to accept the fact that maybe I’m wrong about my having arms. Perhaps they are right.” At that point I should throw up my possibly non-existent arms because that sort of thinking makes people crazy.

Catholics are a community and do theology accordingly. Could one remain an orthodox Christian in the 4th century while claiming that the logos is simply an emanation of the supreme God who did not create but sent His Wisdom to teach us about how we can be liberated from materiality? No. Can one imagine Marcion writing a letter to his friends complaining that those silly orthodox Christians are so weighed down with their orthodoxy that they won’t even let him teach that the OT is not Scripture?  I cannot. It would have been ridiculous. There are certain things that go into being a Christian and those things, as stated above, are naturally limitations. Apples cannot be oranges. This is not an insult to oranges. If one does not want to be Catholic because they find something objectionable, they are free not to be Catholic. But, calling oneself Catholic naturally brings with it certain “things” and those things are, just like revelation in general, limitations. If they are true, and I believe they are, they are beneficial limitations.

Michael goes through a list of things with which he disagrees (the usual list, handled so many times on the internet it makes little sense to get into it here).  I think the difference between what Michael does as a Protestant and what I do as a Catholic is that I am willing to submit that the democracy of the Christian dead and the community of the living is probably in the right when I disagree with things. Does this mean that the Church asks me to be infantile in my beliefs? μη γένοιτοThe Church asks no such thing. Read Fides et Ratio by Blessed John Paul II. As a Catholic, I have yet to have anyone tell me anything is “out of bounds” for questioning. Does this mean that I teach against something before I understand it? No.  Chesterton tells a story of two types of men who come across a fence built across a road. The modern reforming type of man looks at the fence and determines that he has no use for it, that it serves no purpose and knocks it down. The other man is a bit more historically inclined, a bit less sure that he is in the right about the fence. He studies it and thinks on the fence for a long time before deciding how to proceed. I try to be the second man, even when my modern reforming tendencies come out.

Lastly, I just want to speak to the tone. I am at times snarky, perhaps even downright mean. I can admit this. However, Michael’s justification of his gaffe has me shaking my head. When you are taken to task for your tone and content of your post, the wise decision is probably not to write a post with a title such as, “Why I hate Roman Catholicism” and then discuss how you feel you have the “right” to write such a “wounds a friend post every once in awhile.” He affirms how great it is to see his Protestant brethren supporting Catholics, but then justifies his own ridiculous post. At least he affirms that posts like that do little to glorify Christ.

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Eusebius of Caesarea’s “Gospel Problems and Solutions”

Eusebius of Caesarea wrote a great treatise titled “Gospel Problems and Solutions.Roger Pearse has put a lot of his own time and money into bringing this fantastic treatise to English readers. How do I know this translation is a worthwhile one? Well, I helped edit the underlying Greek text, so it has to be good. I recommend going out and buying it and rewarding Roger for his relentless efforts in preserving and making accessible great works from antiquity.

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Can Catholics, Roman or Otherwise, be Scholars?

C. Michael Patton over at the “Parchment and Pen” blog has written a post where he states that he doubts that Catholics are able to be scholars, or at least honest ones. He writes:

 I don’t believe one can be a true Roman Catholic and a scholar at the same time. Why? Because being a Roman Catholic militates against what makes someone a scholar in my opinion.

What is it about true scholarship that Patton finds is incongruent with Catholicism? Doubt. Because Catholics cannot doubt the Magisterium, says Patton, we cannot be true scholars. I think his post has been met with several good critiques in the comments that I do not think he has handled, specifically by Bryan Cross (of Called to Communion Fame) and Frank Beckwith. If I can quote Bryan here, I think he has hit the nail on the head with respect to Patton’s post:

Your position eliminates all *Christian* theological scholarship, insofar as anyone attempts to engage in theological research while taking as a given any theological proposition. In other words, it instantly eliminates from the canon of scholarship any piece of work (Protestant or Catholic) that takes any theological claim (e.g. Jesus is God, the Bible is true, etc.) as a given. In that respect, you’ve just destroyed the possibility of all *Christian* scholarship.

Patton, in looking to score points against Catholics, has used an argument that could just as easily be used by someone who is not a Christian against Christians who study Christianity.

Jeremy at “Unsettled Christianitywrote a post in response to this wherein he quotes Donum Veritatis (On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian). The document handles just what it means for a theologian to doubt Magisterial teaching and what sorts of things go on in that situation.

Brian LePort responds on his blog “Near Emmaus” with a post entitled “Roman Catholics cannot be scholars?! If so, then neither can most evangelicals.” On top of listing a number of great Catholic scholars (and to his list I would add people like my adviser, Blake Leyerle, John Cavadini, Brian Daley, Robin Darling Young, Paul Griffiths, Reinhard Hütter, and a whole host of others), he makes a great point with two questions and answers:

Would the University of Notre Dame employ an accomplished evangelical scholar? Sure. Would Wheaton College employ a Roman Catholic scholar? No.

Not only would we here at ND employ Evangelical and other non-Catholic scholars, we do so! Even in the theology department! The kind of dialogue we have here at Notre Dame is fantastic. Some of the people with whom I have grown close in the last year, students and faculty, are Protestants. Did I get this sort of interaction while a student at Southeastern Baptist? Of course not. Would Southeastern Baptist ever think to hire a Catholic to teach Hebrew or Greek or Church history? Not in a million years.

Patton’s arguments are ridiculous, but they have been handled both in the comments on his own blog and on the websites of others. If I respond at all, it will be to one aspect of his post, the idea of Luther’s “doubt.” Luther undoubtedly doubted himself at some points, but we have claims to authority from his very hand that would be absolutely shocking if a Pope were to claim the same thing.

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The Ark and the Assumption

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catholic belief is that after Mary’s Dormition, God assumed her body into Heaven. The readings today in the Mass reveal the Biblical basis for this celebration. Our first text came from Rev. 11.19-12.10.

Revelation 11:19 is particularly striking:

καὶ ἠνοίγη ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ ὤφθη ἡ κιβωτὸς τῆς διαθήκης αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ ναῷ αὐτοῦ και ἐγένοντο ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ καὶ σεισμὸς καὶ χάλαζα μεγάλη.

And the Temple of God which is in Heaven was opened and the Ark of the Covenant  was seen in His Temple, and there was lightning and sounds and thunder and an earthquake and great hail.

John writes about an exciting revelation – the Ark in Heaven. It had been hidden since Jeremiah (2 Macc. 2.4-8) and John was saying that he had seen it. Except John goes on to say in the very next verse:

καὶ σημεῖον μέγα ὤφθη ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, γυνὴ περιβεβλημένη τὸν ἥλιον καὶ ἡ σελήνη ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτῆς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς στέφανος ἀστέρων δώδεκα…

And a great sign appeared in a heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.

Rev. 11.19 and 12.1 are separated only by virtue of a rather modern numbering system. They ought, in my mind, to be read together. John links the Ark with the woman. This would be supported if we could find another instance in the New Testament where this woman who carries the Messiah is also compared with the Ark.

In the Gospel readings today, we read from Luke 1.39-56, Mary’s visitation with Elizabeth. I think Luke here is drawing on Ark typology, particularly the story in 2 Samuel 6 where David recovers the Ark. Like David, Mary rises and goes into the hill country of Judea. David asks, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam. 6.9), while Elizabeth asks, “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” David leaps and dances in front of the Ark (2 Sam 6.16), and John the Baptist likewise “leaps” at Mary’s arrival (Lk 1.41). While the Ark stays in the house of Obed-Edom for 3 months and blesses it (2 Sam. 6.11), Mary stays in the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah for 3 months (Lk 1.56).  There is also the fact that like the Ark in Exodus 40 that is “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit (Ex 40.35 – ἐπεσκίαζεν), so too Mary will be ‘overshadowed’ by the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1.35 – ἐπισκιάσει).

Considering all the parallels (and more not mentioned here) between Luke 1 and various Ark passages within the OT, particularly the episode where David retrieves the Ark, I think it’s fair to say that Luke has linked Mary in some way with the Ark of the OT. Therefore, when one reads Rev. 11.19-12.1, seeing the “ark” and the “woman” as one sight is entirely justified.

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When posts create more heat than light

Despite my better judgment, I recently got involved in a little ‘debate’ online with a guy on his blog. I then brought the topic to my blog because I felt like this individual wasn’t addressing some of my points. Sadly, the “discussion” (if it ever was one) went downhill quickly and instantly made me regret even getting involved. Plenty of things were said that, instead of addressing my arguments, were simply attacks on my person. This isn’t why I got involved in blogging. I blog because I enjoy fruitful discussions and sharing what’s going on in my own little life. Therefore, I removed my post on my blog because it was a sort of depressing record of a conversation that devolved.

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Joel Watts wants a Protestant Pope?

Joel Watts writes some really interesting stuff. I love reading his blog because I think he’s got some interesting insights. He recently posted this on his blog and I want to see what you think about his ideas.

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