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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting a Better Senses of Scriptures

As Catholics we are encouraged to read the Bible daily, both publically in Mass and privately. We don’t read the Bible like we do every other book and I don’t just mean reading it as a Holy Book. God had put inside of the Bible different layers which make the Bible a much later book than it already is.

This is called the senses of Scripture. The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks about this in paragraphs 115-118

115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."

117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God's plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ's victory and also of Christian Baptism.

2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written "for our instruction".

3. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, "leading"). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.

118 A medieval couplet summarizes the significance of the four senses:

The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;
The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.

Beginning with the literal sense.

The literal sense of scripture is just a fancy title for how we read every piece of literature. We read the literature as the author intended. Some authors write poems, and we should read them and interpret them as poems. Other authors write history and they should be read as history. Parables are just that – parables. Mystical visions probably shouldn’t be read as history, they should be read as mystical visions. This is the literal sense, what did the author intend, and all the other senses of scripture should be based on the literal.

Next is the allegorical.

That is right St. Paul gives us an example of this in Galatians 4:22-31 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. …Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now. But what does the scripture say? "Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

So St. Paul is saying that these real women who really lived on a deeper level represent two whole groups of people. Reading the OT with Christ in mind makes the Bible twice as thick and infinitely more beautiful.

What does the Bible say about the moral sense?

The moral sense really asks – what does this have to do with me? Again St. Paul gives us an answer:

1 Corinthians 10:1-11 I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance." We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come.

So St. Paul is saying – see how they messed up – don’t do that. The opposite is true as well with being virtuous and holy.

Finally how about the anagogical sense?

The anagogical sense says – what does this have to do with heaven?

Jerusalem, the city is seen in Scripture as a figure for heaven.

Psalm 122:1-9 I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!" Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem, built as a city which is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! "May they prosper who love you! Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!" For my brethren and companions' sake I will say, "Peace be within you!" For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

So while the original readers are praising the city of Jerusalem, we sing the Psalm to sing of our Heavenly Jerusalem.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church Fathers

(Yes, you should!)

When Jehovah’s Witnesses come to the door, we can get tempted to respond with either rudeness for interrupting our afternoon, hiding and on occasion the charitable chat. Usually though the chats can turn toward the subject of the center of our Faith: the Most Holy Trinity.

What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about the Trinity?

They don’t believe in a Triune God, Three persons that share one nature. The say that there is one person – Jehovah God and no other. They believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel and the Holy Spirit is not even a person at all. They say he is like electricity or as they describe him – God’s active force.

Usually when someone ventures onto this conversation with them, they receive the JW publication – Should you believe in the Trinity? This publication is jam packed with arguments against the Trinity which would take several hours to take apart but one group that they try to rope into this is the Early Church Fathers. – Big Mistake.

How do the Jehovah’s Witnesses use the Church Fathers in their publication?

The Jehovah’s Witnesses on page 7 of their publication – ‘Should you believe in the Trinity?’ – quote 6 church fathers: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Origen. They conclude the quotes of the church fathers which this line – “Thus, the testimony of the Bible and of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter.”

Well let’s test that quote as far as the church fathers are concerned?

Right off the bat I looked up the word “Trinity” in each one of these church fathers cited and right away I found that 4 of the 6 church fathers used the word “ Trinity” in a positive light. They are Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Origen.

So even before getting into one quote from this magazine, the reader should know that at least 67% of those quoted are misquoted.

Let’s get into some details here – how do they quote Justin Martyr?

Here is what they say Justin Martyr said –

Justin calls the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is “other than the God who made all things” – He said that Jesus was inferior to God and “ never did anything except what the Creator…willed him to do and say.”

So does St. Justin Martyr call Jesus an angel? Yes he does, which when I saw some quotes were shocking for about 2 seconds until I read the context.

This is from the Dialogue with Trypho:

“Moreover, I consider it necessary to repeat to you the words which narrate how He who is both Angel and God and Lord, and who appeared as a man to Abraham, and who wrestled in human form with Jacob, was seen by him when he fled from his brother Esau.”

"Have you perceived, sirs, that this very God whom Moses speaks of as an Angel that talked to him in the flame of fire, declares to Moses that He is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob?"

St. Justin is saying that the prehuman Jesus was not an angel, but only appeared as one, and not only that he is the very God of the Old Testament . All of this JW’s would disagree with.

What about Irenaeus how do the JW’s quote him?

They say:

…”the prehuman Jesus had a separate existence from God and was inferior to him. He showed that Jesus was not equal to the “one true and only God” who is “supreme over all, and besides whom there is no other.”

I could not find this chopped up quote anywhere but what I did find is this:

"For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, … and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who announced through the prophets the dispensations and the comings, and the birth from a Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to reestablish all things; and the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . " (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).
So with even a minimal amount of work, we can show the Jehovah’s Witness at the door that not only was pretty much the entirety of page 7 in error in the brochure – Should you believe in the Trinity? – but also that the early church did believe in the Trinity even before the word was used to describe God. This is not just poor scholarship on those in charge of the JW’s, but deceitful.

IF you live around the Greater Cincinnati area and you would like help answering Jehovah's Witnesses, I am available to give a talk to a parish or group. Please contact me through email -