Wednesday, July 24, 2013

St. Thomas' Division of Scripture

[I'm taking this text, with a few minor corrections, from (I didn't see a copyright...). My reason for copying it here is to manifest the divisions, by formatting them with bullet points. Just a small visual aid.]
This is the book of the commandments of God, and the law that is for ever. All that keep it shall come to life: but they that have forsaken it, to death. — Baruch 4.1
According to Augustine in On Christian Doctrine 4:12 one skilled in speech should so speak as
to teach, to delight and to change; that is,
  • to teach the ignorant, 
  • to delight the bored 
  • and to change the lazy. 
The speech of Sacred Scripture does these three things in the fullest manner. 
  • For it firmly teaches with its eternal truth. Psalm 118:89: ‘Your word, O Lord, stands firm for ever as heaven.’ 
  • And it sweetly delights with its pleasantness. Psalm 118.103: ‘How sweet are your words to my mouth!’ 
  • And it efficaciously changes with its authority. Jeremiah 23:29: ‘Are my words not like fire, says the Lord?’
Therefore in the text above Sacred Scripture is commended for three things.
  • First, for the authority with which it changes: ‘This is the book of the commandments of God.’ 
  • Second, for the eternal truth with which it instructs, when it says, ‘and the law that is for ever’. 
  • Third, for the usefulness with which it entices, when it says, ‘All that keep it shall come to life.’
The authority of this Scripture is shown in three things.
  • First, its origin, because God is its origin. Hence it says, the commandments of God’. Baruch 3.37: ‘He found out all the way of knowledge.’ Hebrews 2:3: ‘For it was first announced by the Lord and was confirmed unto us.’ Such an author is infallibly to be believed, both 
    • on account of the condition of his nature, because he is truth; John 14:4: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’ 
    • And on account of his fullness of knowledge; Romans 11:33: ‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!’ 
    • And also on account of the power of the words; Hebrews 4:12: ‘For the word of God is living and efficient and keener than any two-edged sword.’
  • Second, it is shown to be efficacious by the necessity with which it is imposed. Mark 16.16: ‘He who does not believe shall be condemned.’ The truth of Sacred Scripture is proposed in the manner of a precept, hence the text says, ‘the commandments of God’. These commandments 
    • direct the intellect through faith: ‘You believe in God, believe also in me’, John 14:1; 
    • inform the affections with love: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another’, John 15:12; 
    • and induce to action: ‘Do this and you shall live’, Luke 10:28.
  • Third, it is shown to be efficacious by the uniformity of its sayings, because all who teach the sacred doctrine teach the same thing. 1 Corinthians 15:11: ‘Whether then it is I or they, so we preach, and so you have believed.’ And this is necessary because 
    • they all had one teacher. Matthew 23:8: ‘Your teacher is one.’ 
    • And they had one spirit, ‘Have we not walked in the same spirit?’ 
    • and one love from above, ‘Now the multitude of believers were of one heart and one soul’ (Acts 4:32). Therefore, as a sign of the uniformity of doctrine, it says significantly, ‘This is the book.’
The truth of this teaching of Scripture is immutable and eternal, hence the words, ‘and the law that is for ever’. Luke 21.33: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away but my words shall not pass away.’ This law will endure for ever because of three things:
  • First, because of the power of the lawgiver. Isaiah 14:27: ‘For the Lord of hosts hath decreed, and who can disannul it.’ 
  • Second, on account of his immutability. Malachi 3:6: ‘For I am the Lord and I do not change’; Numbers 23:19: ‘God is not a man, that he should lie: nor like the son of man, that he should be changed.’ 
  • Third, because of the truth of the law. Psalm 118:86: ‘All your commandments are faithful.’ Proverbs 12:19: ‘The lip of truth shall be steadfast for ever.’ 3 Ezra 4:38: ‘Truth remains and gathers strength eternally.’
The usefulness of this Scripture is the greatest: ‘I am the Lord your God who teaches you profitable things.’ Hence our text continues: ‘All who keep it shall come to life.’ Which indeed is threefold:
  • First it is the life of grace, to which Sacred Scripture disposes. John 6:64: ‘The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.’ For through this life the spirit lives in God. Galatians 2:20: ‘It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.’ 
  • Second is the life of justice consisting in works, to which Sacred Scripture directs. Psalm 118.93: ‘Your decrees I will never forget, for by them you have given me life.’ 
  • Third is the life of glory which Sacred Scripture promises and to which it leads. John 6.69: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of everlasting life.’ John 20:31: ‘But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.’
The Division of Sacred Scripture
Sacred Scripture leads to this life in two ways, by commanding and by helping.
  • Commanding through the mandates which it proposes, which belong to the Old Testament. Sirach 24-33: ‘Moses commanded a law in the precepts of justice.’ 
  • Helping, through the gift of grace which the lawgiver dispenses, which pertains to the New Testament. Both of these are touched on in John 1:17: ‘For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’
Hence the whole of Sacred Scripture is divided into two principal parts, the Old and New Testaments, which are mentioned in Matthew 13:52: ‘So then every Scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings forth from his storeroom things new and old.’ And Song of Songs 7:13: ‘In our gates are all fruits, the new and the old, my beloved, I have kept for you.’
The Old Testament is divided according to the teaching of the commandments, for the commandment is of two kinds, the binding and the warning.
  • The binding is the command of a king who can punish transgressors. Proverbs 20:2: ‘As the roaring of a lion, so also is the dread of a king.’ 
  • But a warning is the precept of a father who must teach. Sirach 7:25: ‘Do you have you children? Instruct them.’ 
The precept of a king is of two kinds,
  • one which establishes the laws, 
  • another which induces to observance of the law, which is customarily done through his heralds and ambassadors. 
Thus it is that three kinds of command are distinguished,
  • that of the king, 
  • that of the herald 
  • and that of the father. 
On this basis the Old Testament is subdivided into three parts, according to Jerome in his prologue to the Book of Kings.
  • The first part is contained in the law which is proposed by the king himself. Isaiah 33:22: ‘For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King.’
  • The second is contained in the Prophets who were, as it were, ambassadors and heralds of God, speaking to the people in the person of God, and urging them to observance of the law. Haggai 11:13: ‘And Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, as one of the messengers of the Lord, spoke.’
  • The third is contained in the works of hagiographers, writers who were inspired by the Holy Spirit and spoke as for themselves and not for God. Hence they are called saintly writers because they were writers of the sacred, agios meaning ‘sacred’, and graphia meaning ‘scripture’. Thus the precepts found in them are paternal. As is evident in Proverbs 6:20: ‘My son, keep the commandments of your father.’
  • Jerome mentions a fourth kind of book, namely, the apocryphal, so called from apo, that is, ‘especially’, and cryphon, that is, ‘obscure’, because there is doubt about their contents and authors. The Catholic Church includes among the books of Sacred Scripture some whose teachings are not doubted, but whose authors are. Not that the authors are unknown, but because these men were not of known authority. Hence they do not have force from the authority of the authors but rather from their reception by the Church. Because there is the same manner of speaking in them and in the hagiographical works, they are for now counted among them.
The first part, which contains the law, is divided into two parts, insofar as there are two kinds of law, public and private.
  • A private law is imposed for the observance of one person or one family. Such law is contained in Genesis, as is evident from the first precept given to man, ‘But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil ‘you shalt not eat’ (2:17), and to Noah, ‘Saving that flesh with blood you shall not eat’ (9:4), and to Abraham, ‘And again God said to Abraham: And you therefore shalt keep my covenant, and your descendants after you in their generations’ (17:9).
  • The public law is that which is given to the people. For the divine law was given to the Jewish people through a mediator, because it was not fitting that the people should receive it immediately from God. Deuteronomy 5:5: ‘I was the mediator and stood between the Lord and You and at that time to show you his words.’ Galatians 3.19: ‘What then was the Law? It was enacted on account of transgressors, being delivered by angels through a mediator.’Thus a twofold level is found in legislation. 
    • First, when the law comes from the Lord to the mediator, and this pertains to three books, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Hence we frequently read in them, ‘God spoke to Moses.’ 
    • Second, when the law is given to the people by the mediator, and this pertains to Deuteronomy, as is evident from its very beginning, ‘These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel.’
These three books are distinguished by the three things in which a people should be ordered.
  • First, precepts bearing on equity of judgement, and this is found in Exodus
  • Second, in sacraments with respect to the establishment of worship, and this in Leviticus
  • And third, in offices, with respect to the administration of the community, and this in Numbers.
The second part, which is the prophets, is subdivided insofar as a herald ought to do two things. He should
  • manifest the beneficence of the king, so that men will be inclined to obey, 
  • and he should declare the edict of the law.
There is a threefold divine beneficence that the prophets expose to the people.
  • First, the effect of heredity, and this in Joshua, of which Sirach 46:1 says, ‘Valiant in war was Joshua.’ 
  • Second, the destruction of armies, and this in the book of Judges, of whose destruction Psalm 82:10 says, ‘Do to them as to Midian, as to Sisera.’ 
  • Third, the exultation of the people, which is twofold, namely 
    • the private exaltation of one person, and this in Ruth
    • and a public which is of the whole people, and this in Kings, which benefice God grants to them. Ezekiel 16.13: ‘And you were adorned with gold and silver.’ For these books, according to Jerome, are placed in the rank of prophets.
In other books which are commonly said to be of the prophets, the prophets posed divine edicts for the observance of the law. And this is said,
  • first, in general, in the major prophets who were sent to the whole people and called for the observance of the whole law; 
  • second, in particular, and this in the minor prophets, different ones of whom were sent for different reasons to special tribes, as Hosea to the ten tribes, Joel to the old men of Israel, Jonah to the Ninevites, and so with the rest.
The major prophets differ according to the different ways the prophets sought to lead the people to observance of the law, namely, cajoling by the promise of benefits, frightening with the threat of punishment, arguing by condemnation of sins. Although each of these is found in every prophet,  
  • Isaiah chiefly cajoles, as is said in Sirach 48-27: ‘With a great spirit he saw the things that are come to pass at last, and comforted the mourners in Sion.’  
  • Jeremiah chiefly warns, hence Jeremiah 3 8-4: ‘He weakened the hands of the men of war that remain in this city.’ 
  • But Ezekiel argues and scolds. Ezekiel 16-3: ‘Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.’
They can be distinguished in another way, insofar as  
  • Isaiah chiefly foretells the mystery of the Incarnation, which is why he is read during the time of Advent by the Church, 
  • and Jeremiah the mystery of the Passion, hence he is read in Passiontide, 
  • and Ezekiel the mystery of the Resurrection, hence his book finishes with the raising of the bones and the repair of the temple.  
  • Daniel, however, is included among the prophets insofar as he predicted future events in a prophetic spirit; although he did not speak to the people in the person of the Lord, he dealt with the divinity of Christ. Thus the four prophets answer to the four evangelists, and also to the call to judgement.
The third part, which contains the hagiographic and the apocryphal books, is subdivided according to the two ways fathers instruct their sons in virtue, namely, by word and deed, since in morals examples are no less important than words.
  • Some teach by deed alone, 
  • some by word alone, 
  • some by word and deed.
By deed, however, in two ways.
  • One, instructing about the future by warning, and this in Joshua, whom Jerome places among the hagiographs. For although one is a prophet because of the gift of prophecy, this is not his office, because he was not sent by God to prophesy to the people. Hence what is said in Wisdom 8:8 can be applied to the prophet: ‘She knows signs and wonders before they are done.’ 
  • In another way, speaking of past events as examples of virtue. There are four principal virtues, namely 
    • justice, which serves the common good, an example of which is given in Chronicles, in which the condition of a whole people who were governed with justice is described. 
    • The second is temperance, an example of which is given in Judith, which is why Jerome says, ‘Take Judith as an example of the chaste widow.’ Judith 15. 11: ‘For you have acted manfully, and your heart has been strengthened, because you loved chastity.’ 
    • Third is fortitude, which has two attributes. 
      • To attack, and an example of this is found in the Book of Maccabees
      • and to endure, and an example of this is found in Tobit 2:12: ‘Now this trial the Lord therefore permitted to happen to him, that an example might be given to posterity of his patience.’ 
    • The fourth is prudence, 
      • by which dangers are avoided, and an example of this is given in Ezra. For in that book we are shown how Ezra and Nehemiah and other princes prudently guarded against the plots of enemies wishing to impede the building of the temple and the city. 
      • It also pertains to prudence wisely to repel the violent, and an example of this is given in Esther, where it is shown how Mordecai and Esther handled the deceptions of the most powerful Haman.
The hagiographical and apocryphal books which instruct by word, are divided insofar as words work in a twofold way to instruct,
  • in one way, by asking for the gift of wisdom. Wisdom 7:7: ‘Wherefore I have wished, and understanding was given me, and I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me.’ This is how the Psalter instructs, speaking to God in prayer. 
  • In another way, by teaching wisdom, and this in two ways according to the twofold work of wisdom, 
    • one of which is to expose the liar, and Job who drove out errors by way of disputation exhibits this. Job 13.3-4: ‘But yet I will speak to the Almighty and I desire to reason with God, having first shown that you are forgers of lies and maintainers of perverse opinions.’ 
    • The other work is not to lie about what it knows, and thus we are instructed in a twofold way, because either wisdom is commended to us, and this in the book of Wisdom, or the precepts of wisdom are proposed, and this in the three books of Solomon, which indeed differ according to the three grades of virtue that Plotinus, in Enneads, distinguishes, since the precepts of wisdom ought to concern only the acts of virtue. 
      • In the first grade, according to him, are political virtues, whereby a man moderately uses the things of this world and lives among men, and this in the Proverbs
      • In the second grade are the purgative virtues, whereby a man regards the world with contempt, and this in Ecclesiastes, which aims at contempt of the world, as is clear from Jerome’s prologue. 
      • In the third grade are the virtues of the purged soul, whereby a man, wholly cleansed of worldly cares, delights in the contemplation of wisdom alone, and this is found in the Song of Songs
      • In the fourth grade are the exemplar virtues existing in God, concerning which precepts of wisdom are not given but are rather derived from them.
In word and in deed Sirach instructs. Hence the precepts of wisdom in praise of fathers close his book, as is clear in Chapter 44 and after.

The New Testament, which is ordered to eternal life not only through precepts but also through the gifts of grace, is divided into three parts.
  • In the first the origin of grace is treated, in the Gospels. 
  • in the second, the power of grace, and this in the epistles of Paul, hence he begins in the power of the Gospel, in Romans 1:16 saying, ‘For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.’ 
  • In the third, the execution of the aforesaid virtues is treated, and this in the rest of the books of the New Testament.
Christ is the origin of grace. John 1:16-17: ‘And of his fullness we have all received, grace for grace. For the Law was given through Moses: grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ In Christ a twofold nature is to be considered,
  • a divine, and the Gospel of John is chiefly concerned with this, hence he begins, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ 
  • And a human, and the other Gospels treat chiefly of this, and they are distinguished according to the threefold dignity that belongs to the man Christ. 
    • With respect to his royal honour, Matthew speaks. Hence in the beginning of his Gospel he shows that Christ descended from kings and was adored by the Magi kings. 
    • With respect to his prophetic honour, Mark speaks, hence he begins with the preaching of the Gospel. 
    • With respect to his priestly dignity, Luke speaks, and he begins with the temple and the priesthood and ends his Gospel in the temple, and frequently returns to the temple, as the Gloss says about Luke 2.46: ‘And they found him sitting in the temple in the midst of the teachers.’
In another way,
  • Matthew might be said to speak of Christ chiefly with respect to the mystery of the Incarnation, and thus he is depicted in the figure of a man.  
  • Luke, with respect to the mystery of the Passion, and therefore he is depicted as a bull, which is an animal to be immolated.  
  • Mark, with respect to the victory of the Resurrection, and thus he is depicted as a lion. 
  • But John, who soars to the heights of his divinity, is depicted as an eagle.
[The part dealing with the power of grace as exemplified in the epistles of Paul is missing from the text, but this outline is given at the beginning of his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.]
The execution of the power of grace is shown in the progress of the Church, in which there are three things to consider.
  • First, the beginning of the Church, and this is treated in the Acts of the Apostles, hence Jerome says, in his preface to the Pentateuch, that ‘The Acts of the Apostles seem to give the bare history of the birth and to clothe the infant Church.’ 
  • Second, the progress of the Church, and to this is ordered the apostolic instruction of the canonical epistles
  • Third, the end of the Church, with which the whole content of Scripture concludes in the Apocalypse, with the spouse in the abode of Jesus Christ sharing the life of glory, to which Jesus Christ himself conducts, and may he be blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

The four senses of Scripture

I found what I was looking for. Words like anagogical are intimidating most of the time (thankfully tropological doesn't show up here), but the more I read Scripture, the more I see that these senses are really present. They help manifest the unity of Scripture in pointing to Christ.

Original text here:

The senses of Scripture
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."83
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.84
  • 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".85
  • 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.86
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.87
119 "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgement. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God."88
But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.89

Dei Verbum notes

  • "Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love."
  • Principle of continuity.
  • Purpose of faith, hope and charity.

Chapter 1 - Revelation itself
  • Deeds and words of God have inner unity.
  • Deeds manifest and confirms words.
  • Words proclaim and clarify mystery of the deeds.
  • [Summary of divine revelation of from Adam to Christ, who is the fullness thereof.]
  • "Obedience of faith" is necessary for receiving divine revelation.
  • God can be known by light of human reason.
  • Yet with revelation such truths "can be known by all men with ease, with solid certitude and with no trace of error, even in this present state of the human race."

Chapter 2 - Transmission of Divine Revelation
  • Prophets looked forward to Gospel.
  • Christ fulfilled it and taught it.
  • Then Apostles and the bishops after them were commissioned to teach it.
  • "Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes."
  • Everything must be handed on from one generation to the next.
  • Tradition can develop through understanding, study, contemplation.
  • "Both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence."
  • They form one sacred deposit.
  • Only the living teaching office of the Church authentically interprets this sacred deposit.
  • All three of these together lead to the salvation of souls.

Chapter 3 - Divine Inspiration and Interpretation of Sacred Scripture
  • "The books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."
  • "The books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation"
  • Interpreter must attend to literary form.
  • "Serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out.

Chapter 4 - Old Testament
  • "The plan of salvation foretold by the sacred authors, recounted and explained by them, is found as the true word of God in the books of the Old Testament: these books, therefore, written under divine inspiration, remain permanently valuable."
  • "The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ, the redeemer of all and of the messianic kingdom, 
    • to announce this coming by prophecy (see Luke 24:44; John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:10), 
    • and to indicate its meaning through various types (see 1 Cor. 10:12)."
  • "These same books, then, 
    • give expression to a lively sense of God, 
    • contain a store of sublime teachings about God, 
    • sound wisdom about human life, 
    • and a wonderful treasury of prayers, 
    • and in them the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way. 
    • Christians should receive them with reverence."
  • "God, the inspirer and author of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New."

Chapter 5 - New Testament
  • Common knowledge: The Gospels have preeminence among all the Scripture.
  • The fourfold Gospel is of apostolic origin.
  • Other parts of New Testament strengthen and support this Gospel.

Chapter 6 - Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church
  • "All the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture."
  • "Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful."
  • "She also encourages the study of the holy Fathers of both East and West and of sacred liturgies."
  • "This should be so done that as many ministers of the divine word as possible will be able effectively 
    • to provide the nourishment of the Scriptures for the people of God, 
    • to enlighten their minds, 
    • strengthen their wills, 
    • and set men's hearts on fire with the love of God."
  • Prayer must accompany reading so that it becomes a divine conversation.
  • Bishops are to give the faithful instruction in reading Scripture, especially the New Testament, and most of all the Gospels.

I had thought that this document contained information on the various senses of Scripture, and how to read it through attending to those senses. That is probably in the Catechism, so I'll have to look at that later. Still, there are many wonderful principles here. The unity of the whole of divine revelation and the primacy of the Gospels. Also the work of teaching the faithful how to read Scripture is emphasized toward the end, something which must be further encouraged. How one is to read the Old Testament is said here briefly: by looking at prophecy and types which point to Christ. That's a fair summary, but how to discern such types would require a more thorough explanation. Hopefully the Catechism will have more..

Here is Dei Verbum:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Honey and Wisdom

"My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off." (Prov. 24:13-14)

So wisdom is great, just like honey! But then a few verses later...
"If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you be sated with it and vomit it." (Prov. 25:16)

Taking our mystical knowledge that honey can be interpreted as wisdom, we can learn from that latter verse that one should only take in so much lest sating and vomiting come. That's probably also why the previous verse says to take "drippings", and not heaping handfuls. 

Unless you're Samson... Judg. 14:8-9. "He scraped it [the honey] out into his hands, and went on, eating as he went; and he came to his father and mother, and have some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion."

Christ is the lion of Judah. By his death, we have received the sweetest wisdom of all. We must scrape as much of this as we can and be quick to share it with others, being careful to reveal its source at the proper time.

Land flowing with milk and honey. If honey is wisdom, what then is milk? St. Paul talks about having to feed with milk instead of meat. Milk is the food of a child. It is due to a child as it were. I'm thinking of Judges again. When Sisera asked Jael for water, she gave him milk instead--she gave him justice. So the land flowing with milk and honey, is it full of justice and wisdom? And again! St. Paul says they need milk, which is for newborns. Is not justification (making just) the beginning of our Christian life? So the milk is the justice which Christ offers. I hope that is not too absurd, and I am willing to hear other interpretations. Until then, I look forward to the land of milk and honey, the fullness of justice and wisdom.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bible in 90 Days

Bible in 90 Days

I didn't realize it was a thing, but apparently there is a Protestant out there who read the Bible in three months and then developed what he calls the "Bible in 90 Days Challenge," and then many using his advice successfully finished this challenge. Well, I'm a little late to make it. I started my current read on April 26, so that leaves me about 4 days to finish...all the historical books after 2 Chr, all the prophets, all the wisdom books besides Psalms, and half of the New Testament. I'm also Catholic, so there are 7 more books in there than most are reading. My current goal is to finish by the end of August, when I will enter seminary. That means I will have to read a twelfth of the Bible each week, pretty much the same rate as the 90 day challenge (90/12=7.5).

Chronicles flew by, and with more understanding than ever, but I am not so sure the prophets will. I want especially to understand Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. I plan to get commentaries on these soon by Jerome, Cyril, and Gregory, but probably not until I finish my read-through. After I finish this and read handfuls of commentaries, I want to write a more formal instruction for reading Scripture. Augustine's is excellent but dated and difficult for many readers. I want everyone to read the Bible, the written word of God. Scott Hahn and many like him have done wonders for making it more intelligible for many, but I want to find a way that is closer to prayer. A lectio divina.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, July 19, 2013

Boethius and the 10 Commandments

Boethius and the 10 Commandments

Today I was reading 1 Corinthians, thinking about how things in this world distract from God, and then I thought of Boethius! It seems that the 5 false happinesses he names in Book 3 of the Consolation correspond to the middle commandments.

Honor - Honor your father and mother
Power - Thou shall not kill
Pleasure - Thou shall not commit adultery
Riches - Thou shall not steal
Fame - Thou shall not bear false witness

While thinking, honor was the one I forgot, collapsing it with fame. Honor is what pertains to a politician or military hero, whereas fame would pertain more to a celebrity.

The first 3 commandments require that God be our end, and that we reverence him in speech and with our time. The next 5 commandments keep us from 5 idols, false beatitudes. Honor, by requiring that we honor another; power, by forbidding us from taking the life of others; pleasure, by limiting and ordering the most intense animal pleasure; riches, by commanding we respect the goods of other; and fame, by forbidding that we lie (for we often do this for the sake our reputation, so we can control how others esteem us).

The last 2 commandments are about coveting, which teaches us that the heart is essential. It does not matter what you do or don't do, unless the Lord be present to your heart. The heart, a mystery.

(I'm reading Proverbs: I will share later what it says about the heart.)

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Merit and Redemption, drawing mostly on St. Thomas

After reading St. Thomas on questions related to merit and redemption, I can give a partial answer to what the word "Co-redemptrix" means when applied to Mary.

Here are some preliminaries:
  1. No creature can merit anything from God without God himself determining that some created action deserves a reward. This is because God is infinitely greater than any creature and the source of all its goodness, so God never owes man anything in the strictest sense.
  2. There are two ways of meriting often referred to by St. Thomas and other doctors: de condigno and de congruo.
  3. To merit de condigno, is to merit worthily, to really in some way deserve the reward that is given.
  4. To merit de congruo, is to receive a reward due to a kind of fittingness, but not according to justice in the strict sense. For example, a friend may have reason to expect a gift on his birthday (one might even say he deserves it), but this exceeds the realm of justice. The one giving the reward is not bound to do so, but is reasonable in doing so.
So the question: How can a man merit anything from God?
  1. Before grace enters the soul, man cannot merit this grace. The first grace is wholly gratuitous.
  2. In a righteous action, there are two principles to consider: the human will and grace.
  3. As far as the human will goes, there can be no meriting de condigno, no meriting according to justice. The human will is a creature infinitely unequal to God.
  4. Yet the human will can merit de congruo, if by it man does some action for which God has designated a reward.
  5. With regard to grace as principle, man can merit de condigno. This is because grace is really a participation in divine life. Since God himself deserves all the glory that agrees with his nature, so also we inasmuch as we participate in his divinity deserve all that is becoming to him.
So can one person merit from God something for another?
  1. We know the answer to this question must be yes, at least in the case of Christ.
  2. Christ, by his death, merits that removal of our sins and the sharing of divine life within us.
  3. Since Christ is divine, he deserves all things according to justice, and therefore he merits eternal life for us de condigno.
  4. As for other men, they cannot merit eternal life for others de condigno. God does not owe anything to any man according to strict justice.
  5. Yet, "You are my friends if you do what I command." Those who possess the grace of God become his friends, and it is fitting that friends answer requests when it is possible to do so. And all things are possible for God.
  6. So a man merit eternal life for another de congruo, insofar as he is friends with God and asks him this favor.
So then the question, what about Mary?
  1. Although grace is present in her in a super-eminent way (for she is full of grace and the Almighty has done great things for her), she possesses divine life only by participation.
  2. Just as with other men, it is also the case that she cannot merit eternal life for other men de condigno. She is a creature, so there is an infinite distance between her and God.
  3. Yet on account of grace, she can merit for other de congruo, and more so than anyone else on account of her closeness to her own Son.
  4. So when Mary is called "co-redemptrix", this is meant to refer to her role in meriting eternal life for us de congruo, in a manner exceeding any other creature.
  5. This may seem misleading, as it seems to indicate an equality with the redemptive action of Christ. Such a position is not tenable.
There are still plenty more questions to ask, but this is meant to be a starting place. Another question I want to look into is the kind of justice that exists between Christ and Mary on account of their relationship as parent and child. Christ submitted to political authority in his time, and the Gospel of Luke is clear about him being obedient to his parents. What sort of justice is this between God and man? A mystery.

Places to look at: (all of the articles here)  (article about merit)
There are more related articles. Just about anything related to justice or grace will be relevant in some way.
Another note: This may seem Thomas-heavy, but he often returns to Scripture and a more thorough understanding of this whole question will require returning to Scripture and seeing what is presented for our benefit.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Merit according to St. Thomas, notes on articles 1-4

(My goal in reading St. Thomas today is to better understand the nature of merit, with a view to better understanding the title "Co-Redemptrix" which is often given to Mary. After looking at merit in general, I will look at the articles about Christ's merit and the work of redemption. Note: I'm going to use the Scripture tag for this and just about any post on theology. For isn't Scripture the font of all theology?)

(from I-II, q. 114)
Whether man is able to merit something from God?
It seems not:
When you do all that is commanded, say "We are useless servants. We did what we ought to do."
Man merits from one he benefits. We cannot benefit God.
Also, God would then owe us. But God cannot be a debtor.
Respondeo: "You work shall be rewarded." (Jeremiah 31:16)
  • Merit and reward refer to the same.
  • A reward is given to someone for some work of labor.
  • This is an act of justice.
  • Justice is a certain equality.
  • Where there is simple equality, there is simple justice.
  • Where there is not, there is a certain mode of justice.
  • In the way a son merits/something from his father, a slave from his lord.
  • Between God and man is the greatest inequality.
  • (For the whole good of man is from God.)
  • So there is not justice according to simple equality, but according to a certain proportion.
  • The reward of man from God would not be, except by presupposing God's ordinance that it be so.

So the conclusion is that we are able to "deserve" something from God, but only because he has himself established such rewards. He is the source of all our goodness and so there is no equality between God and man. It must also be remembered that we are only able to merit/deserve because of the grace of God itself. The passage quoted from Jeremiah is in a chapter that starts, "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness." (Jer. 31:2)

Art. 2 Notes
No created nature is a sufficient principle of an act meritorious of eternal life, except that some supernatural gift be added to it (which is called grace).
In our fallen state, we have the additional impediment of sin, which requires grace to remove.
quis prior dedit ei, et retribuetur illi?
Art. 3 Notes
New vocabulary: ex condigno
Used in a sentence: "non sunt condignae passiones huius temporis ad futuram gloriam quae revelabitur in nobis."
An English rendition: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)
So condigno has something to do with worth. Co-worthiness? Worthiness/worth might be good enough.
That which someone merits co-worthily, is not from mercy, but from merit. But, etc.
Sed contra
  • That which is rendered according to a just judgment, seems to be a worthy reward.
  • But judgment is rendered by God according to a just judgment.
  • Therefore man merits eternal life worthily.
(I'm going to render ex condigno as worthily. The prepositional phrase is adverbial, so that should work pretty well. We'll see if it breaks...)
  • Meritorious work of man considered in 2 ways:
  • (1) As it proceeds from free will.
  • (2) As it proceeds from the grace fo the Holy Spirit.
  • According to (1), man's work does not have the worth for eternal life due to the inequality. Though there may be congruity due to a kind of proportion.
  • According to (2), man's work is worthily meritorious of eternal life.
  • fiet in eo fons aquae salientis in vitam aeternam (John 4)
  • So there really is something in us with is a font unto eternal life. We are really made sharers of the divine nature, adopted into a son of God, to which is due the inheritance from the law of adoption. If sons, heirs.
The grace we have in the present time is not actually, but virtually equal to the glory of eternal life, as the seed to the tree. Holy Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance (2 Cor. 1:22)

Art. 4
Acts from charity are principally meritorious.
The act of charity is turning the mind to the enjoyment of God, so etc.
Also what is done from charity is most voluntary, which voluntariness is a prereq for meriting.
An interesting little passage for those caught up in Kantian moral teachings:
"Ad secundum dicendum quod opus aliquod potest esse laboriosum et difficile dupliciter. Uno modo, ex magnitudine operis. Et sic magnitudo laboris pertinet ad augmentum meriti. Et sic caritas non diminuit laborem, immo facit aggredi opera maxima; magna enim operatur, si est, ut Gregorius dicit in quadam homilia. Alio modo ex defectu ipsius operantis, unicuique enim est laboriosum et difficile quod non prompta voluntate facit. Et talis labor diminuit meritum, et a caritate tollitur."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Genesis and Kings, a difference

In Genesis, it is a great happening when Abram becomes Abraham. Yet in Second Kings, the authors goes between Joram and Jehoram, Joash and Jehoash, Joahaz and Jehoahaz without giving any reasons. The differences in sound are equal, yet what is the reason?

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A Likeness Between Genesis And Kings

I was reading 2 Kings and I kept noticing the format "He was ... years old when he began to reign, and he reigned ... years in ... ."

This reminded me of genealogies in Genesis: "When ... had lived ... years, he became the father of ... ; and he lived so many years after this birth and had other sons and daughters."

Almost as though when a king begins to reign, he becomes a father of his people.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

St. Jerome on Psalm 41

There was an excellent sermon by St. Jerome the other day in the Office of Readings, so I am sharing it here:

Like a deer that longs for springs of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. Now just as those deer long for springs of water, so do our deer. Fleeing Egypt – that is, fleeing worldly things – they have killed Pharaoh and drowned all his army in the waters of baptism. Now, after the devil has been killed, they long for the springs of the Church: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We can find the Father described as a spring in Jeremiah: They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, to dig themselves leaky cisterns that cannot hold water. About the Son we read somewhere: They have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. Finally, of the Holy Spirit: Anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will have a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life. Here the evangelist is saying that the words of the Saviour come from the Holy Spirit. So you see it very clearly confirmed that the springs that water the Church are the mystery of the Trinity.

These are the springs that believers long for. These are the springs that the souls of the baptized seek, saying My soul thirsts for God, the living God. The soul does not just feel like seeing God, it longs for him fervently, it is on fire with thirst for him. Before they received baptism, the catechumens spoke to each other and said, When shall I come and stand before the face of God? What they asked for has now been given them: they have come and stood before the face of God. They have come before the altar and been confronted by the mystery of the Savior.

Welcomed into the body of Christ and reborn in the springs of life, they confidently say: I will go up to your glorious dwelling-place and into the house of God. The house of God is the Church, the ‘dwelling-place’ where dwells the sound of joy and thanksgiving, the crowds at the festival.

So then, you who have followed our lead and robed yourselves in Christ, let the words of God lift you out of this turbulent age as a net lifts the little fishes out of the water. In us the laws of nature are turned upside down – for fish, taken out of the water, die; but the Apostles have fished us out of the sea that is this world not to kill us but to bring us from death to life. As long as we were in the world, our eyes were peering into the depths and we led our lives in the mud. Now we have been torn from the waves, we begin to see the true light. Moved by overwhelming joy, we say to our souls: Put your hope in the Lord, I will praise him still, my savior and my God.

(Text taken from: )

The Scriptorium and a useful book

I've been keeping my eyes peeled lately for a decent Scripture blog and I found one! The blog is called The Scriptorium. So far I've only read posts by a Fred Sanders on there, but they are very good. He reads Scripture the way St. Jerome and Origen read it: by comparing spiritual things with spiritual. Here's a link:

In a couple of his posts, he mentions a book called The Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge. I had never heard of it, but he says that it far out does the references in any study Bible, so I took a look. It's available on the internet here:

I will probably buy a copy before long, but that will be very helpful for the meantime. The blogger I mentioned is supposedly an Evangelical, but he refers to Medieval theologians far more often than any Evangelicals I know! I will have to keep him in my prayers as I read what he says about Scripture.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Four Arabic Letters

Thrice this last weekend I saw Arabic script and was not able to read it, so I am now seeking to remedy this problem. I found a website with a very nifty alphabet tutorial, but some of the letters remain very difficult to recognize.

Here is the website:
(Yes, it promotes Islam and Shariah Law, but it was a lot easier and more helpful than any other website, so I'll recommend it to anyone who wants to pronounce Arabic.)


So those are the letter I am struggling with: Saad, Daad, Taa, Zaa. The difficulty is that they are "deeper" forms of other letters: Seen, Daal, Taa (yep, same name), and Zeiy. SoDa TaZor, is going to be how I remember these letters, at least for a while. I do think this is working, I opened up an Arabic Bible to the Matthew the other day and was recognized the word "abnu" which is probably "son", but I had trouble finding the name of the Lord. It has an "ein" on the end, which is easy to pick out in speech but uncomfortable to make. It is pronounced "Yasu'a", with the apostrophe standing for the ein. Google Translate has a nifty button the will speak Arabic that is typed in. I hope to have this alphabet down before too long.

يَسُوعَ (Yasu'a)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reading Euthyphro

"I prefer nothing, unless it is true."

I hadn't read Plato for the last couple months but I found out that my cousin is reading Euthyphro for a summer program, so I decided to reread it.
It starts with Socrates and Euthyphro waiting outside a court room. Euthyphro is going to prosecute his father who killed a murderer of one of his own slaves. Euthyphro says it is pious to do what he does, against the opinions of his relatives.
What is piety? This is the question that starts and ends the dialogue, but the consideration allows a number of topics to be considered.
1. What is favored by the gods. This response is problematic from the beginning since the gods seems to disagree about what is right and wrong, always disputing with each other. If such were truly the definition of piety, there could be only one God or at least all the gods would have to be of one mind. Which leads to the second account:
2. What is favored by all of the gods. At this point, the speakers agree that it is an axiom that "the wicked is to be punished" but find that many disagree about who is wicked. There is a comparison with sciences here. If two disagree about how many something is, the argument can be solved by counting. But if there is an argument about good and bad, beautiful and ugly, then it becomes difficult to resolve the questions. Math is easy. The question is also asked. Is something pious because gods love it, or do they love it because it is pious? This question is never wholly resolved.
3. Piety is the species of justice concerned with care for the gods. At first Euthyphro identifies justice and piety, but Socrates shows him how they must differ in account. The remainder is concerned with what care of the gods means. They come to sacrificing and praying, which Socrates says is like "trading" with them. The problem is that we are needy and they are not. So Socrates suggests other ways our care could be good for the gods, but Euthyphro becomes frustrated and he then must hurry on.

This is a wonderful place to start philosophy! The attempt to define is important in philosophy and that is precisely the project here. He shows that many examples are not the same as a definition, distinguish the caused and the cause, distinguish genus and species, test your definition. Another reason this dialogue is great is that it quickly rises from moral philosophy, which is necessary for one who desires wisdom, to theology, which is wisdom itself. Unfortunately, he does not reach a satisfactory conclusion, but the reader is more prepared for a future inquiry.
A good question: Does it belong to philosophy to consider prayer and sacrifice? Such questions are often dealt with in the context of sacred theology, and yet the topics are so universal and natural that they may belong even in natural accounts of God and the moral life. That is why thy show up here. I was always disappointed that Aristotle did not say much about worshipping God or the gods. For Moses, this is the first of all commandments. Plato and Aristotle certainly hold the divine in esteem, but the former is not explicit about what exactly is due to God and Aristotle seems to say nothing. Prayer seems close to what Aristotle means by contemplation, though Aristotle's account does not have the petition aspect. Sacrifice is even more obscure.

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The Gospel of Mark, a first look

Perhaps my biggest question about the Gospel of Mark is Why? It looks as though nearly everything written in this gospel is found in the other gospels, and so this one seems superfluous. The one benefit that stands out is that it is the shortest of the gospels and therefore the one I most quickly recommend to those who have never read Scripture. This brevity also means that looking at the content of this gospel and its order should take less time than any of the others. Unfortunately, whereas we had the aid of St. Thomas Aquinas in reading Matthew, we do not have such help for this gospel.

Another commentator whom I find impressive is Cornelius a Lapide (d. 1637), a Jesuit who wrote on nearly every book of Scripture, incorporating the teachings of the Fathers and all the language aids available in his day. Let's see what he says... [this always leads to me either reading until I become tired and unable to write, or I become distracted and want to write about something else]

"For this cause the cherubim of Ezek. i. and the Apocalypse, which have four faces, signify the four Evangelists. For the face of a man denotes Matthew, who relates the works of Christ’s humanity; the face of an eagle, John, who speaks of the divinity of Christ; the face of an ox denotes Luke, who begins with the priesthood of Zacharias; and the face of a lion designates Mark, because he begins his Gospel from the loud roaring of John the Baptist, as it were of a lion. For these four have drawn the chariot of the glory of God, the chariot of the Gospel, through the whole world, and have subdued all nations to Him, that He may triumph." (intro to Commentary on Mark)

This is great reading. He just lays out various Hebrew etymologies for Mark, looks at what all the Fathers taught about him, and then he looks at the intros and conclusions to the Arabic and Syriac versions of the text. He must have been in grad school for a very long time... Here is a link to his New Testament commentary translated into English:

“The wonders of Christ for the Hebrews S. Matthew did write;
  S. Mark for Westerns; for Greeks S. Luke in learning bright;
  For all S. John, who soared aloft with heavenly sight.”
(from a poem by St. Gregory Nazianzen)

"Observe Mark’s whole strength is given to narration, and does not care for the order in which things were done. Hence he places events which were done afterwards before some which were prior to them in order of time, and vice versa. Hear S. Jerome (Introd. to S. Matt.), “Second, Mark, the interpreter of the Apostle Peter, who indeed had not himself seen the Lord, the Saviour, but had heard his master’s preaching, related according to the truth of the things which were done, rather than the order in which they were done.” " (Comm. Marc. intro)

At the end of his intro, Cornelius states, "Here only a few things occur to be noted, because most have been spoken of in S. Matthew. There the reader will find them annotated. Here, therefore, I shall be brief."

Although the statement above says that St. Mark did not care for the order, I think he only meant order of time, for Mark intends to teach, and order is essential for teaching. So we shall try to discern an order. First, a brief summary of the chapters. I just read the last ones, so I'll start there:
  • 11: Entrance into Jerusalem (he enters 3 distinct times here)
  • 12: Refutation of Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, scribes
  • 13: Prophecy
  • 14: Passover and Betrayal (chapter starts 2 days before Passover)
  • 15: Suffering and Death
  • 16: Resurrection
It's odd that the commentators say Mark spends more time on narrative and less time on teaching than Matthew, but then that he should lack chronological order. He also uses temporal words like "immediately" and "on the following day", so it would seem odd for him to be inconsistent when it comes to time.

All right, I just went through the first 10 chapters again and briefly summed up what happens. An order is not particularly forthcoming, but here are some grouping of the events that occur:
  • Healing
    • 1: Fever
    • 1: Leprosy
    • 2: Paralytic
    • 3: Withered hand
    • 5: Flow of blood (he also raises the dead: is that healing?)
    • 7: Deaf
    • 8: Blind
    • 9: Dumb
    • 10: Blind
  • Casting out demons
    • 1: "What have you to do with Jesus of Nazareth?"
    • 5: "My name is Legion"
    • 7: "For this saying you may go; the demon has left your daughter"
    • 9: "I believe; help my unbelief!"
  • Other miracles
    • 4: Calming the storms
    • 6: Feeds 5000
    • 6: Walking on the sea and calming storm
    • 7: Feeds 4000
  • Teaching
    • (He teaches pretty much all the time, but there are several sizable places where he teaches)
    • 4: Introduces parables
    • 7: On the traditions of the Pharisees
    • 9: On children
    • 10: Evangelical counsels