The Touch of a Woman

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In my last two posts, I have highlighted how in medieval days Mary was revered, not least because she was approachable. That’s important, I think. Women, as a rule, are seen as non-threatening as compared with even the best-intentioned men, by men but perhaps even more by women. It’s certainly true for me.

The idea of telling my sins to a man (especially when I was young) was a very frightening thing. Not so much Christ, of course, because He knew me better than I did anyway. But I wonder, and always will if Marian devotion had been available to me in those days if it might have made a difference. Not that I was any terrible ogre, mind, but I did things that even then I wasn’t proud of, and would have been embarrassed to tell my mom, so I wonder if knowing Mary then would have made a difference.

And now, as I start to draw near the end, Mary indeed provides me much comfort. Those of you who know me will know that I am divorced and without kids, and sadly see no possibility of that changing. And yes, Mary provides a comfort, nearly a companionship, that I find in no other way, anymore. She is the one I can talk about anything with. Strange how life works out isn’t it? But so it is.

But she is much more than that, of course. She is Theotokos, the Mother of God. And that is surely much more important than my little problems, but still, she finds time to tell me that she has talked to her Son about me and to comfort this old man, not that it is overt or anything, just a feeling.

But this very human and attractive side of Our Lady goes way back in our history. In our archives there is an article, bylined by Jessica (although I wonder, as it reads more as Chalcedon) speaking of The Protoevangelium of St. James

The Protoevangelium of St. James, which dates from the mid second century, belongs to that group of works which, whilst never canonical, was treasured by Christians for centuries because it filled in the gaps left by the Gospels. Nothing will shake my conviction that in St. Luke we have portions of the memoirs of Our Lady herself; where else could the Magnificat come from, or the story of the Annunciation. It thrills me to know that when I read these things, I am reading what the Blessed Virgin herself said; so I understand why it is early Christians wanted more.

The Protoevangelium filled the gap admirably. It described the circumstances of Our Lady’s birth, and how at the age of three she was brought by her parents to the Temple. It contains one of my favourite accounts of Our Lady. When she came to the Temple she was given to the High Priest who

 set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her

How adorable is that?

Here is where those charming legends that we looked in my article on Lady Day in Harvest got their start. In the 2d century, well before the Scripture was canonized. We have always venerated Mary, she is one of the things that sets Christians apart. It is our kinder gentler side and something that is lacking in most religions which tend to be ‘by the book’ and the book alone. She introduces mercy into the whole thing, and yes, it shown forth in her Son as well. But it is, I think, one of the singularities that divide the Second Covenant from the First.

Coasting to the Well

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I get the feeling that AATW is coasting lately. Yes, Jessica has retired, Chalcedon is overbusy, I too am busy with diverse things, one of which is rebuilding my own blog, Philip Augustine has been carrying us, and as fascinating as his articles are, there is a spark missing.

Perhaps, as we’ve said before it is the touch of a woman. Our longtime commenter and friend Annie reblogged an article the other day that moved me, as so many here have over the years. Here is a bit of it.

First, I didn’t know what to write in this blog, so I remained silent for a time and asked the Spirit to lead me. This is the title that came out, and I had to ponder why. And this blog is filled with whys. But the Spirit answers them all by revealing the intention of Jesus in this story.

Whenever I’m in confusion or doubt, I always look to Jesus’ words and actions to inform me and enlighten me. I opened my Bible to review the familiar red-letter words in order to read them again and digest them in light of the leading I received. Since I believe the Bible is the living word – the Living Water and Nourishment – of God, it always has a different meaning depending on where you might be at the moment you read it.

As I read the words of the woman at the well (John 4:4-42), it came to me slowly and certainly. I think as I explain it, the meaning will come to you too.

The first thing Jesus says to the woman is in the form of a request: “Please give me a drink of water.”

The Samarian woman is shocked he is talking to her. After all, she has been treated as unworthy all her life by her kinsmen and her Hebrew neighbors, and she now believes it. Why does he ask the woman for a drink? Does he want something from her? Yes, he does. He wants her to ask him for a drink. He wants her to open her heart and receive.

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you Living Water.”

All he wants is for her to see she has immeasurable value, for her to attain what she thinks is unattainable, for her to accept the unconditional love and grace he offers. Yet she does not understand the gift. She looks at life literally, and measures what she can see and touch.

THE WOMAN AT THE WELL IS ME

It’s very very good, do read the whole thing.

It’s also something we have spoken of here, Philip here, Jessica here, but the memory that was triggered for me by Susan’s lovely article was also one from Jessica, one which moved me deeply when she wrote it, and moves me still. It is here. Here is a little bit of that.

I am the woman at the well.

I see someone I fear to approach; what would one like him have to do with one like me? But he speaks to me. I do not want to speak back. I am a sinner, I am an outsider; who am I that he should speak to me? When I do, I do not know what to say that will not condemn me. I am working. The man needs the water from the well, and my job, among many, is to get it for him; he will be waiting; he may be angry with me if I am late. Yet this man insists on engaging me in conversation. He wants water from me too; another man who wants something from me?

But as I talk to him it is not what I think. I cannot take in all his words. What is this water he has? How can he offer it to me when he wants something from me? What is it he really wants? He seems to be offering me something; he wants something from me, but it is something good for me. I don’t understand. Then he asks me what I had feared.

Jessica ended with this, and there is no answer to it, for we are all the woman at the well. But it is true, and for me, part of it has been AATW.

It was all long ago now, and I tell my grandchildren of him. We worshipped him before he was crucified; we worshipped him after the Resurrection. He is God. His Spirit is with me. That moment at the well changed my life; it changed the world. Though I was a sinner He loved me; that opened my heart to something which bubbles up in it even this day.

Our Lady Day in Harvest

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You’ll forgive me, I hope, as usual, I am a few days late (we won’t talk about how many dollars short, OK?). In any case, the other day was the Feast of the Assumption, which used to be called, “Our Lady Day in Harvest”. You’ll find there is still another Lady Day next month. As per usual, I’m going to lean on my favorite Medievalist A Clerk of Oxford heavily here.

On þone fifteogðan dæg þæs monðes bið seo tid þæt is sancta Marian tid. On þone dæg heo geleorde of middangearde to Criste, ond heo nu scineð on þam heofonlican mægene betwyh þa þreatas haligra fæmnena, swa swa sunne scineð on þisne middangeard. Englas þær blissiað, ond heahenglas wynsumiað, ond ealle þa halgan þær gefeoð in sancta Marian. Sancta Maria wæs on feower ond sixtegum geara þa þa heo ferde to Criste. Sancta Maria is godfæder snoru ond godes suna modur ond haligra sauwla sweger ond seo æðele cwen þara uplicra cesterwara; seo stondeð on þa swyðran healfe þæs heahfæder ond þæs heahcyninges.

On the fifteenth day of the month is the feast which is St Mary’s feast. On this day she departed from the world to Christ, and now she shines in the heavenly host among the crowd of holy virgins, as the sun shines upon this middle-earth. Angels rejoice there, and archangels exult, and all the saints are glad with St Mary. St Mary was sixty-four years old when she went to Christ. St Mary is daughter-in-law of God the Father and the mother of God’s son, and mother-in-law of the holy souls and the noble queen of the citizens of heaven; she stands upon the right side of the great Father and High King.

She reminds us that all these feasts grew out of ancient traditions, some scriptural, some apocryphal, and some popular legend. Many of them were fully formed by the fifth century.

The Clerk tells us, “This is a translation of a text known as the Transitus Mariae, a widely-known apocryphal account of Mary’s life which circulated in several different versions and in multiple languages in the Middle Ages. The English translation comes from the tenth-century Blicking Homilies; it’s too long to give in full, but the whole text can be found at part 1 and part 2. ” Here is one excerpt that she gives us

& þa æfter þysum wordum þa com þær ure Drihten & he hie gemette ealle anmodlice wæccende, & he hie onlyhte mid his þæs Halgan Gastes gife. & he wæs cweþende to him, ‘Broþor þa leofestan, ne sy eow nænigu cearo þæt ge geseon þæt þeos eadige Maria sy geceged to deaþe, & ne biþ heo no to þæm eorþlican deaþe ac heo bið gehered mid Gode, forþon þe hire bið mycel wuldor gegearwod.’ & mid þy þe he þis gecweden hæfde, þa ascean samninga mycel leoht on hire huse þæt ealle þa fynd wæron oferswiþde þa þe þær wæron, & þa þe þæt leoht gesawon þa ne meahton asecgan for þæs leohtes mycelnesse. & þa wæs geworden mycel stefn of heofenum to Petre & wæs cweþende, ‘Ic beo mid eow ealle dagas oþ þa gyfylnesse þisse worlde.’ & þa ahof Petrus his stefne & wæs cweþende, ‘We bletsiaþ þinne naman mid urum saulum & we biddaþ þæt þu fram us ne gewite; & we bletsiaþ þe & we biddaþ þæt þu onlyhte ure world, for þæm þe þu eallum miltsast þæm þe on þe gelyfaþ.’ & þis wæs cweþende se eadiga Petrus to eallum þæm apostolum & he trymede heora heortan mid Godes geleafan.

Æfter þyssum wordum gefylde, þa wæs Maria arisende & wæs ut gangende of hire huse, & hie gebæd to þæm gebede þe se engel hire tocwæþ þe þær com to hire; þa þis gebed wæs gefylled þa wæs heo eft gangende on hire hus & heo þa wæs hleonigende ofer hire ræste, & æt hire heafdan sæt se eadiga Petrus & emb þa ræste oþre Cristes þegnas. & þa ær þære syxtan tide þæs dæges þa wæs semninga geworden mycel þunorrad, & þær wæs swiþe swete stenc swa þætte ealle þa slepan þe þær wæron. & þa apostolas onfengon þære eadigan Marian & þa þre fæmnan þe him Crist ær bebead, þæt hie wacedon buton forlætnesse & þæt hie cyþdon Drihtnes wuldor be hire & ealle medemnesse be þære eadigan Marian. Þa slepan þa ealle þe þær wæron; þa com þær semninga ure Drihten Hælend Crist þurh wolcnum mid myccle mengeo engla & wæs ingangende on þære halgan Marian hus on þæt þe heo hie inne reste. Michahel se heahengel se wæs ealra engla ealderman, he wæs ymen singende mid eallum þæm englum, mid þy þe Hælend wæs ingongende. Þa gemette he ealle þa apostolas emb þære eadigan Marian ræste, and he bletsode þa halgan Marian & wæs cweþende, Benedico te quia quicumque promisisti — ‘Ic þe bletsige min Sancta Maria; & eal swa hwæt swa ic þe gehet eal ic hit gesette.’ Ond þa andswarode him seo halige Maria & wæs cweþende, ‘Ic do a þine gife, min Drihten, & ic þe bidde for þinum naman þæt þu gehwyrfe on me ealle eaþmodnesse þinra beboda, forþon þe ic mæg don þine gife. Þu eart gemedemod on ecnesse.’ & þa onfeng ure Drihten hire saule & he hie þa sealde Sancte Michahele þæm heahengle, & he onfeng hire saule mid ealra hisleoma eaþmodnesse. & næfde heo noht on hire buton þæt an þæt heo hæfde mennisce onlicnesse; & heo hæfde seofon siþum beorhtran saule þonne snaw…þa cleopode semninga þære eadigan Marian lichoma beforan him eallum & wæs cweþende, ‘Wes þu gemyndig, þu gewuldroda Cyning, forþon ic beo þin hondgeweorc, & wes þu min gemyndig, forþon ic healde þinra beboda goldhord.’ & þa cwæþ ure Drihten to þære eadigan Marian lichoman, ‘Ne forlæte ic þe næfre min meregrot, ne ic þe næfre ne forlæte, min eorclanstan, forþon þe þu eart soþlice Godes templ.’

And then after these words our Lord came there, and found them all watching together, and he enlightened them with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and said to them, ‘Dearest brethren, have no sorrow because you see that this blessed Mary is called unto death; for she is not called to earthly death, but she shall be favoured by God, for great glory is prepared for her.’ And when he had said this, there suddenly shone a great light upon her house, so that all the fiends who were there and those who saw the light were overpowered, and were unable to speak because of the greatness of the light. And then came a loud voice from heaven to Peter, saying, ‘I am with you always unto the end of this world.’ And Peter lifted up his voice, and said, ‘We bless your name with our souls, and we beseech you never to depart from us; and we bless you and beseech you to bring light to our world, for you have mercy upon all those who believe in you.’ And blessed Peter said this to all the apostles, and he strengthened their hearts with the faith of God.

After he had finished these words, Mary arose and went out of her house, and she prayed the prayer that the angel who came to her had told her. When this prayer was finished, she returned to her house and rested on her bed, and at her head sat the blessed Peter, and about the bed Christ’s other disciples. And before the sixth hour of the day there suddenly came a loud thunder, and there was a very sweet smell, so that all that who were there slept, and the apostles and the three women, whom Christ had commanded to watch without intermission, took charge of the holy Mary, so that they should make known the glory of the Lord in her and all his kindness to the blessed Mary. And while all who were there were sleeping, our Lord Christ suddenly appeared there in a cloud with a great company of angels, and entered the house of the holy Mary where she was at rest. The Archangel Michael, the leader of all angels, was singing hymns with all the angels, as the Lord entered. He found all the apostles round the blessed Mary’s bed, and he blessed the holy Mary, and said, ‘Benedico te quia quæcumque promisisti — ‘I bless you, my holy Mary, and all I have promised you, I will perform.’ And holy Mary answered him, and said, ‘My Lord, I give forth your grace always, and I beseech you for your name’s sake that you grant me obdience to your commands, so that I may give forth your grace. You are honoured for ever.’ And then the Lord received her soul, and gave it to Saint Michael the archangel, and he received her soul with reverence in all his limbs. She had nothing upon her save only a human body, and she had a soul seven times brighter than snow…

Then suddenly the body of the blessed Mary cried out before them all, and said, ‘Remember, glorious King, that I am your handiwork; and be mindful of me, for I keep the gold-hoard of your commandments’. And then our Lord said to the blessed Mary’s body, ‘I will never leave you, my pearl; I will never leave you, my arkenstone, for truly you are the temple of God.’

The Clerk then sums up some on why Mary is so appealing to our ancestors, especially but not only women, saying this

Though they contain plenty of miracles and marvels and angels, they’re somehow very human and ordinary. At the heart of them is a woman, loving and much loved, whose life is traced from the first wonder of her conception to her peaceful death. In a sequence like that at Chalgrove, or in Ely’s Lady Chapel, or in the Book of Hours or the plays, Mary’s life is mapped out through domestic, everyday scenes: parents rejoicing in the birth of a longed-for baby; a little girl learning to read with her mother, or climbing the steps to the temple like a child on her first day at school; a teenage Mary with her female friends, happy with her baby, at her churching, or in the last days of her life. These were familiar rituals of childhood and motherhood which resonated with medieval audiences – with women especially, but not only women. They are completely relatable, not only for mothers like Margery Kempe but for anyone who has ever had a mother, ever been a child, and there’s something beautiful about elevating such ordinary family relationships to the dignity of high art. In these scenes Mary is not an unapproachably distant figure but a woman imagined in relationship to others: a daughter, wife, mother, friend. In particular, the story of her passing is full of other people and their love for her – the apostles and her friends gathering around her bedside, Christ cradling her soul in his arms like a child. She is unique, but never alone.

And you know, when I was introduced to her, mostly here as Our Lady of Walsingham, that is what drew me to her. I don’t care who you are, the Son of God can appear intimidating, even if He tries very hard not to be. But it is different with His mom, somehow we can more easily talk with her, she’s just more sympathetic. A lot of this was lost at the Reformation, although there is little in our documents precluding her. Luther, particularly, venerated her all his life, and I think him right.

There is much more at A Clerk of Oxford, and I highly recommend the article linked above. And I do hope you had a Happy Marymass.

 

St. Athanasius, St. Thomas Aquinas, and The Incarnation

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On the Incarnation

In Athanasius’ work, the first 5 sections discuss creation and the fall of man. In the text, we are reminded of the God’s only prohibition and the result of ignoring such an edict from God.

Section 3

“First of all believe that God is one, which created and framed all things, and made them to exist out of nothing.” 2. To which also Paul refers when he says, “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the Word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear.” 3. For God is good, or rather is essentially the source of goodness: nor could one that is good be niggardly of anything: whence, grudging existence to none, He has made all things out of nothing by His own Word, Jesus Christ our Lord… and He did not barely create man, as He did all the irrational creatures on the earth, but made them after His own image, giving them a portion even of the power of His own Word; so that having as it were a kind of reflexion of the Word, and being made rational, they might be able to abide ever in blessedness, living the true life which belongs to the saints in paradise. 4. But knowing once more how the will of man could sway to either side, in anticipation He secured the grace given them by a law and by the spot where He placed them. For He brought them into His own garden, and gave them a law: so that, if they kept the grace and remained good, they might still keep the life in paradise without sorrow or pain or care, besides having the promise of incorruption in heaven; but that if they transgressed and turned back, and became evil, they might know that they were incurring that corruption in death which was theirs by nature: no longer to live in paradise, but cast out of it from that time forth to die and to abide in death and in corruption.[1]

 Section 5

 Here, St. Athanasius reminds us, that by committing this sin against God by ignoring his edict, we, in fact, lost existence with God being cast out of the garden by inventing wickedness

as Wisdom also says: “God made man for incorruption, and as an image of His own eternity; but by envy of the devil death came into the world.” But when this was come to pass, men began to die, while corruption thence-forward prevailed against them… having to begin with been inventors of wickedness and called down upon themselves death and corruption; while later on, having turned aside to wrong and exceeding all lawlessness, and stopping at no one evil but devising all manner of new evils in succession, they have become insatiable in sinning[2]

However, in sections six through ten, St. Athanasius explains God’s resolution for the salvation of humanity. He explains, in section six, that he cannot go back on his word in Genesis, in regards to his prohibition, humanity must die; however, if God were to leave his creation as thus it would show God to be limited in his own nature.[3]

It is in section six of On The Incarnation that we come to a theological crossroads between St. Athanasius and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Arguably, the greatest thinker, philosopher, and theologian of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas argues for a theological position which is in contradiction with St. Athanasius work in On the Incarnation about the necessity of The Word becoming flesh. In the Summa, St. Thomas remarks that the Incarnation is not necessary, but fitting; however, in On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius, by explaining that God cannot go back on his word in Genesis, there is only one fitting method for deification or theosis of humanity in salvation history. For all practical purposes, as I’ve quoted both sources, they appear contradictory, as I would assume St. Thomas would agree with the Aristotelian law of non-contradiction, only one explanation can be correct.

In the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas writes:

“Second Article

Whether it was necessary for the restoration of the human race that the word of god should become incarnate?

We proceed thus to the Second Article:

Objection 1. It seems that it was not necessary for the reparation of the human race that the Word of God should become incarnate. For since the Word of God is perfect God, as has been said (I., Q. IV., AA. 1 and 2), no power was added to Him by the assumption of flesh. Therefore, if the incarnate Word of God restored human nature, He could also have restored it without assuming flesh.

Obj. 2. Further, for the restoration of human nature, which had fallen through sin, nothing more is required than that man should satisfy for sin. Now man can satisfy, as it would seem, for sin; for God cannot require from man more than man can do, and since He is more inclined to be merciful than to punish, as He lays the act of sin to man’s charge, so He ought to credit him with the contrary act. Therefore it was not necessary for the restoration of human nature that the Word of God should become incarnate.

Obj. 3. Further, to revere God pertains especially to man’s salvation; hence it is written (Mal. 1:6): If, then, I be a father, where is my honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? But men revere God the more by considering Him as elevated above all, and far beyond man’s senses, hence (Ps. 112:4) it is written: The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens; and farther on: Who is as the Lord our God? which pertains to reverence. Therefore it would seem unfitting to man’s salvation that God should be made like unto us by assuming flesh.

On the contrary, What frees the human race from perdition is necessary for the salvation of man. But the mystery of the Incarnation is such; according to John 3:16: God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting. Therefore it was necessary for man’s salvation that God should become incarnate.

I answer that, A thing is said to be necessary for a certain end in two ways. First, when the end cannot be without it; as food is necessary for the preservation of human life. Secondly, when the end is attained better and more conveniently, as a horse is necessary for a journey. In the first way it was not necessary that God should become incarnate for the restoration of human nature. For God of His omnipotent power could have restored human nature in many other ways. But in the second way it was necessary that God should become incarnate for the restoration of human nature. Hence Augustine says (De Trin. xiii.): We shall also show that other ways were not wanting to God, to Whose power all things are equally subject; but that there was not a more fitting way of healing our misery.[4]

St. Thomas is correct that the omnipotent eternal God can choose whatever course for salvation; however, what it appears that St. Thomas fails to realize that it wouldn’t be possible for God though to chose a course that would contradict He that is logic. Athanasius reminds us that necessity of the Incarnation in six section of the Incarnation by stating:

For this cause, then, death having gained upon men, and corruption abiding upon them, the race of man was perishing; the rational man made in God’s image was disappearing, and the handiwork of God was in process of dissolution. 2. For death, as I said above, gained from that time forth a legal hold over us, and it was impossible to evade the law, since it had been laid down by God because3 of the transgression, and the result was in truth at once monstrous and unseemly. 3. For it were monstrous, firstly, that God, having spoken, should prove false—that, when once He had ordained that man, if he transgressed the commandment, should die the death, after the transgression man should not die, but God’s word should be broken. For God would not be true, if, when He had said we should die, man died not. 4. Again, it were unseemly that creatures once made rational, and having partaken of the Word, should go to ruin, and turn again toward non-existence by the way of corruption. 5. For it were not worthy of God’s goodness that the things He had made should waste away, because of the deceit practised on men by the devil. Especially it was unseemly to the last degree that God’s handicraft among men should be done away, either because of their own carelessness, or because of the deceitfulness of evil spirits.”[5]

Now and again, I’ll hear atheist come up with a question in an attempt to stump Christians. Two examples: “Could your all-powerful God create a rock that he could not lift?” or “Could God make a square a triangle?” These ideas by their nature violate the very foundation of reason because God could not possibly make a square a triangle for it would lose its essence of being a square. It’s also an illogical proposition for the idea of God to create an immovable rock for it would violate the essence of an omnipotent God. At the same time, the necessity of the Incarnation becomes apparent because of mankind, by the words of God, as stated by the first Doctor of the Church, St. Athanasius, must be sentenced to the penalty of death. Man must die.

However, in accord to salvation, in section nine, St. Athanasius writes so beautifully the purpose and necessity of Christ’s incarnation in fulfillment of His divine plan explaining that because man must die and the Word cannot die, the Word becomes true flesh:

He takes to Himself a body capable of death, that it, by partaking of the Word Who is above all, might be worthy to die in the stead of all, and might, because of the Word which was come to dwell in it, remain incorruptible, and that thenceforth corruption might be stayed from all by the Grace of the Resurrection. Whence, by offering unto death the body He Himself had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from any stain, straightway He put away death from all His peers by the offering of an equivalent. 2. For being over all, the Word of God naturally by offering His own temple and corporeal instrument for the life of all satisfied the debt by His death. And thus He, the incorruptible Son of God,[6]

 It’s important to remember St. Athanasius’ story in our own current time. When the culture demands that our faith change and “get with the times.” In fact, many of our own bishops, priests, and fellow laymen may side against the orthodoxy of our own faith just as many emperors, bishops, and fellow Christians of Athanasius’ time sided with Arius.

[1] Athanasius of Alexandria, “On the Incarnation of the Word,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 37–38.

[2] Ibid, 39.

[3] On the Incarnation, 6.

[4] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.).

[5] Athanasius of Alexandria, “On the Incarnation of the Word,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 39.

[6] On The Incarnation, 9

Lutheranism in Russia

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Lutheran St. Peter. and Paul Moscow Service

Vladimir Putin continues to crackdown on religions that are “non-traditional” to Russia, persecuting people because of their religious beliefs on a scale unknown since Soviet days.  Interestingly, Lutheranism is considered one of the “traditional” religions (as are Baptists), so that some Protestant church work is still legal.  In fact, Lutheran Christianity, as an alternative to both Orthodoxy and other kinds of Protestantism, is reportedly showing special appeal to Russians, particularly to intellectuals and scientists.

I stumbled upon an article entitled Russian Lutheranism:  Between Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and Catholicism.  in the East-West Church & Ministry Report (Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 2003), a journal about Christian work in the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe.  The authors are an Orthodox scholar and his assistant, Sergei B. Filatov and Aleksandra Styopina.

They survey the various Lutheran groups in Russia–which owe their “traditional” bona fides to the German immigrants Catherine the Great and other Czars moved in to help modernist the country, to the strongly Lutheran Ingrian ethnic group, and to Lutherans in the Baltic regions.

They say that Lutheranism appeals to Russians because its sacramentalism and liturgical worship preserves the sense of “mystery” that they value in the Orthodox Church.  Lutherans also affirm the ecumenical creeds and thus much of what Orthodoxy teaches.

But Lutheranism is said to be more “intellectual” and to promote more “freedom.”  Russians like the emphasis on the Gospel and on the Bible.  But they think Lutherans are less “extreme” in their theology than other Protestants. (Whatever that means.)  They appreciate how Lutherans teach that salvation is by grace alone, and yet avoid the predestinarianism of Calvinists.

Also the Lutheran theology of culture–the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms–allows them to affirm Russian culture in a way that other kinds of Protestantism can’t or won’t.

Though there have been some liberal Lutherans, most Russian Lutherans have avoided the liberalism of so much of Western Christianity.  That too is a plus for Russians.

From: Why Lutheranism appeals to Russians

Dr. Veith also quotes a pastor of the Bible Lutheran Church in Irkutsk. He says something I find quite remarkable, perhaps astonishing.

There are two major religions in Russia, Orthodoxy and Lutheranism. Since the sixteenth century Lutheranism together with Orthodoxy has formed a part of Russian culture, science, and politics. Without the Lutheran tradition in Russia, only half of Russia would be left and the Lutheran part is not the worst half. You will become tired if you start counting everything that Lutherans have given to Russia. The regeneration of Russian Lutheranism is the restoration of the natural order of things.”

There’s considerably more at the link (and its linked article) but what I find interesting is that in Russia vis a vis the Orthodox Church, as with many of us in the west with our more hierarchical churches, there is a sense that the more decentralized Lutheran church, while still offering the mystery and sacramentalism of liturgical worship appears to be more honest because of its lack of ties to the government.

Seems to me something that most of us can relate to.

ST. Athanasius: The Father of Orthodoxy

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Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Athanasius was undoubtedly one of the most important and revered early Church Fathers. But this great Saint was above all the impassioned theologian of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word of God who – as the Prologue of the fourth Gospel says – “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1: 14).”[1]

St. Athanasius was born around 300 A.D, his exact date of birth is debated among scholars,  and died on May 2, 373 A.D. Fr. Christopher Rengers writes in his book, The 35 Doctors of the Church, “nothing is known of his family. From the thoroughness of his education, it is presumed that he came from well-to-do parents who could afford a good education. But he could have received much of this through the influence of Alexander (Patriarch of Alexandria)”[2] Pope Benedict believes that this education occurred before any contact with Bishop Alexander of Alexandria.[3] Prior to the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., in 318 A.D, Athanasius wrote his most famous work called On the Incarnation in which Marcellino D’Ambrosio articulates as “one of the great theological classics of all time.”[4] However, it must be expressed that there is some debate when the classic text was written; D’ambrosio dates it to an earlier period due to addressing the topics brought forth by Arius and the Arian heresy, but not ever naming Arius distinctly.[5]

The issues brought forth by St. Athanasius and settled during the Council of Nicaea would appear to us modern Catholics as non-controversial, but Catholics of the modern age have to realize that much of our creedal traditions were forged during these pivotal years. Fr. Rengers explains, “A GREAT controversy that involved emperors, popes and bishops, that stirred up intrigue and bloodshed, that shook Christianity to its depths, centered on one simple, sure answer in the Catechism. The answer goes very simply: ‘The chief teaching of the Catholic Church about Jesus Christ is that He is God made man.”[6] Fr. Renger goes on, “Because of his championship of this fundamental truth he is called ‘The Father of Orthodoxy’…St. Athanasius defended the divine Sonship at the cost of immense personal discomfort, suffering and danger. His whole live was shaped around his defense of the divinity of Christ.”[7]

St. Athanasius’ orthodoxy exhibited in his work On the Incarnation and others that defended the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ caused him a lot of turmoil in his life. D’Ambrosio reminds us that “during the forty-five years he was bishop, he was banished five times for a total of seventeen years in exile. By the time he died in A.D. 373, he had outlasted most of his enemies. He fought tirelessly, sometimes almost singlehandedly, for the truth of the Catholic faith taught at Nicaea.”[8] During one of his many exiles, St. Athanasius “was pursued up the Nile, When the imperial officers were gaining on him, he ordered his boat turned around. At the time it was still hidden from the pursuers by a bend in the river. When the two boats crossed paths, the Roman officers, not personally knowing Athanasius shouted out, asking if anyone had seen Athanasius. St. Athanasius himself answered them: “He is not very far off.” It’s important to ponder this story, for it reveals that in our future struggles, we must use our intelligence to not only defend ourselves from our enemies but also to defend the faith.

Arius was a priest in Alexandria who “threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring the Logos was not a true God but a created God, a creature “halfway” between God and man who hence remained for ever inaccessible to us.”[9] Jimmy Akin explains Arianism very well in his book, The Fathers Know Best, writing that the heresy was “Founded by Arius, a priest of Alexandria, Egypt, in the early 300s. Arius held that originally the Son of God did not exist. There was a time in which there was a single divine Person who became the Father when he created the Son out of nothing. The Son was the first of all created beings and thus separate from the Father in being. The heresy was condemned at the first ecumenical council—Nicaea I in 325—but the controversy intensified and lasted much longer.[10]

What would be the result if Arius’ assertion were true?

D’Ambrosio explains “If Christ is simply a demigod, an intermediary who is something less than God, he is not really Emmanuel, God with us, Rather, he is an emissary sent by God…the emissary conveys the orders of the Sovereign but does not himself know the Sovereign intimately, he cannot reveal God to us as he really is. We are condemned to obey God but to never really know him.”[11]

The idea of the Incarnation and Divinity of Jesus is important to Christianity that D”Ambrosio explains it as “the linchpin of our salvation. If Christ were only a creature, the Gospel would truly be such a good news after all.”[12] In many ways, it has always been sin that is easily visible in the world. The good news of the Gospels gives us hope that the hole that has been caused by our sin against God will be healed by God with our cooperation, as St. Athanasius explains so beautifully in his work On the Incarnation.

I am reminded of the consequence of Christ being a creation of God and also of an essay written by G.K. Chesterton on Original Sin.

Chesterton writes:

ONCE upon a time when Mr. H. G. Wells was setting forth on his varied and splendid voyage from Utopia to Utopia, he announced as a sort of watchword or war-cry that the new world would have nothing to do with the idea of Original Sin. He did not specially speak, and, indeed, there was no reason for him to speak, about his other beliefs or unbeliefs. He had not then compared the Trinity to a dance; but neither had he called adoring multitudes to the shrine of the Invisible King. But, standing at the end of the great scientific nineteenth century, he thought it time to announce that the one doctrine he did not believe in was Original Sin. Standing at the beginning of the still more scientific twentieth century, Mr. Aldous Huxley calmly announces that the one doctrine he does believe in is Original Sin. He may be a sceptic or a heretic about many things, but on that point he is quite orthodox. He may not hold many theological dogmas, but about this dogma he is quite dogmatic. There is one fragment of the ancient creed which he not only clings to, but declares to be necessary to all clear minds of the new generation. And that is the very fragment which Mr. Wells threw away thirty years ago, as something that would never be needed any more. The stone that the builder of Utopia rejected . . .”[13]

 It is St. Athanasius work, On the Incarnation, where he lays down both the importance of the divinity of Christ and his necessary sacrifice to make the world anew as a result of humanities sin against God.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2008),58.

[2] Christopher Rengers and Matthew E. Bunson, The 35 Doctors of the Church (Tan Books: Charlotte, 2014), 2.

[3] Pope Benedict XVI, 59.

[4] Marcellino D’Ambrosio, When The Church was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers (Servant Books: San Francisco, 2014),162.

[5] Ibid, 163.

[6] Renger and Bunson, 1.

[7] Ibid.

[8] D’Ambrosio, 177.

[9] Pope Benedict XVI, 59.

[10] Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2010), 85.

[11] D’Ambrosio, 165.

[12] Ibid, 164.

[13] http://www.gkc.org.uk/gkc/books/GKC_Come_to_Think.html#c28

St. Justin Martyr: The Eucharist and Sacrifice.

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The second biggest accusation towards the Christian faithful during St. Justin Martyr’s time is the charge of cannibalism, which much of this was brought about by the secretiveness of the liturgy of the Eucharist. Strangers were not allowed to witness such rites and those learning the faith, known as catechumens, were compelled to leave during the meal part of the liturgy—a practice which still occurred in the old form of the Mass.  What is important to note about St. Justin’s explanation in regards to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, by revealing the Mass to the Emperor, is that it very much the same liturgy used during current Masses in our post-Vatican II era. In this manner, one could make the argument that our current Liturgy is much more ancient than the Tridentine Latin Mass. As I’ve heard our more traditional brothers and sisters articulate that “the mass of all ages” has been responsible for more saints than any other form, should we perhaps reassess such a claim in light to Justin’s description of the mass which was used by the Second Vatican Council to “renew the Mass according to the most ancient pattern of the Roman liturgy as recorded by Justin.”[1]

The entire period of the patristic era of the Church Is filled with nothing but Saints.

Justin explains the Church’s liturgy:

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; (Liturgy of the Word) then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs(Homily), and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray(Creed and Prayers of petition), and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability,2 and the people assent,(Liturgy of the Eucharist) saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each(Communion), and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.[2]

 Finally, when Justin Martyr refutes the challenges of cannibalism, D’Ambrosio notes that “Justin refrains from any empty symbolism.”[3]

“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.[4]

The vital lesson to take from Justin’s life is to consider whether we’ve chosen the way of Christian life, the Christian community—the body of Christ. And if we have chosen the way of life, how have we held true to these beliefs? Do we retreat from our dominating secular culture in regards to defending orthodox Christian beliefs? Or are we willing to challenge that culture, just as St. Justin Martyr did even if it means to die for it?

In the end, it was the critique of Cynic philosopher Crescens of St. Justin Martyr in his Second Apologia that led to being brought forth to Rusticus, the prefect of the Rome.[5] As exhibited in D’Ambrosio’s book, an account of Justin’s witness to Christ exists to this day:

Rusticus—“You are then a Christian?” Justin—“Yes, I am.” The judge then put the same question to each of the rest, viz., Chariton, a man; Charitana, a woman; Evelpistus, a servant of Cæsar, by birth a Cappadocian; Hierax, a Phrygian; Peon, and Liberianus, who all answered, “that, by the divine mercy, they were Christians.” Evelpistus said he had learned the faith from his parents, but had with great pleasure heard Justin’s discourses. Then the prefect addressed himself again to Justin in this manner: “Hear you, who are noted for your eloquence, and think you make profession of the right philosophy, if I cause you to be scourged from head to foot, do you think you shall go to heaven?” Justin replied, “If I suffer what you mention, I hope to receive the reward which those have already received who have observed the precepts of Jesus Christ.” Rusticus said, “You imagine then that you shall go to heaven, and be there rewarded.” The martyr answered, “I do not only imagine it, but I know it; and am so well assured of it, that I have no reason to make the least doubt of it.” The prefect seeing it was to no purpose to argue, bade them go together and unanimously sacrifice to the gods, and told them that in case of refusal they should be tormented without mercy. Justin replied, “There is nothing which we more earnestly desire than to endure torments for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; for this is what will promote our happiness, and give us confidence at his bar, where all men must appear to be judged.” To this the rest assented, adding, “Do quickly what you are about. We are Christians, and will never sacrifice to idols.” The prefect thereupon ordered them to be scourged and then beheaded,[6]

[1] Ibid, 55.

[2] Justin Martyr, 186. 1 Apologia 67.

[3] D’ambrosio, 55.

[4] Justin Martyr, 185. 1 Apologia 66.

[5] D’Ambriosio, 56.

[6] Alban Butler, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, vol. 2 (New York: P. J. Kenedy, 1903), 463.

St. Justin Martyr and Our Sexual Degeneration.

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Generally, Apologists, because their job description entails the defense of the faith, their works are generally reactive to the charges of the non-believers. Justin’s responses are no different in this aspect, from D’ambrosio we learn that the calumny of the day expressed charges of incest and cannibalism, “Rumors had arisen, based on Christians’ terminology, that their secret meetings were “love feasts” between “brothers and sisters” who “consumed the flesh and blood of a man called Christus.”[1] These types of accusations continue through St. Augustine’s day to our present “meme” culture. The First Apology starts off, as D’ambrosio explains, “by blasting the idolatry and sexual immorality of the pagan society of his day…adultery and promiscuity, including homosexual liaisons and pedophilia, were rife in the empire at this time.”[2] By studying Church history, we learn that the culture of “free love” or the modern version “love is love” brought forth by the sexual revolution of the late 60s is not a result of modern progression from the dark ages, but rather, a regression to the pagan moral system of hedonism.

Justin challenges the majority culture of the day with a polemical response accusing the pagan faithful of immoral behavior as exhibited in D’ambrosio’s book:

“as for us, we have been taught that to expose newly-born children is the part of wicked men; and this we have been taught lest we should do any one an injury, and lest we should sin against God, first, because we see that almost all so exposed (not only the girls, but also the males) are brought up to prostitution…And you receive the hire of these, and duty and taxes from them, whom you ought to exterminate from your realm. And any one who uses such persons, besides the godless and infamous and impure intercourse, may possibly be having intercourse with his own child, or relative, or brother. And there are some who prostitute even their own children and wives, and some are openly mutilated for the purpose of sodomy;[3] (1 Apology 27.)

St. Justin also by discrediting the accusations of incest by Christians gives a magnificent opus of the purity and dignity that is exhibited in Marriage founded on Christian principles taught by Jesus Christ himself:

“Concerning chastity, He uttered such sentiments as these: “Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart before God.” And, “If thy right eye offend thee, cut it out; for it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of heaven with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into everlasting fire.” And, “Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced from another husband, committeth adultery.”4 And, “There are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; but all cannot receive this saying.” So that all who, by human law, are twice married,6 are in the eye of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman to lust after her. For not only he who in act commits adultery is rejected by Him, but also he who desires to commit adultery: since not only our works, but also our thoughts, are open before God. And many, both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years; and I boast that I could produce such from every race of men. For what shall I say, too, of the countless multitude of those who have reformed intemperate habits, and learned these things? For Christ called not the just nor the chaste to repentance, but the ungodly, and the licentious, and the unjust; His words being, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” For the heavenly Father desires rather the repentance than the punishment of the sinner. And of our love to all, He taught thus: “If ye love them that love you, what new thing do ye? for even fornicators do this. But I say unto you, Pray for your enemies, and love them that hate you, and bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.”8[4]

What one finds in St. Justin’s text is a belief system pulled straight from scripture. First and foremost, it indicates the early Christian understanding of Jesus’ concept of what constitutes as marriage, as Justin is responding to the promiscuity of pagan culture.  In Matthew Chapter 19, as a response to the Pharisees challenging Christ in regards to Moses’ allowance for divorce, Jesus gives a definition of marriage based on Genesis chapter three. The only indication from Christ for a properly ordered relationship, in accordance to God’s creation, is a relationship ordered by biological compatibility and one predisposed to life, anything other than this type of relationship is one that does not reflect the proper sense of Christian community, but rather, pleasure of each single individual; and therefore, in the most proper sense is not true love.

So, If we compare what we’ve learned from our study of the Didache with the writings of St. Justin Martyr, D’ambrioso articulates that “Justin insists that Christianity is not just a belief system but a whole new way of living.”[5] A Christian must choose either the way of life or the way of death. In many ways, the struggle between the two choices sets up much of the frame work of St. Augustine’s text the City of God. We must ultimately between the City of God or the City of Man while living in the City of Man.

[1]D’ambrosio, 49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 172.

[4] Justin Martyr, 167.

[5] D’Ambrosio, 50.

Covenant

Covenants are a fundamental part of biblical theology and the biblical narrative. Reformed churches tend to preach on covenants more than others, depending on the training and interest of the preacher. A covenant can be understood as an agreement, a contract (note: I will not be using the English legal definitions of terms in this post as that would be anachronistic; unless otherwise stated, take them in their normal quotidian sense). Sometimes there is an exchange of promises, sometimes the human side of the arrangement is implicit. God is the initiator of the covenants of the Bible (for most part).

Is there a covenant in the Eden story (Gen. 1-3)? It seems there is, although this word is not used explicitly. Consider the following text.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

-Gen. 2:16-17

Here the word “commanded” (Heb.:  וַיְצַו֙ ) is used, but there is an implied covenant, an exchange. In return for receiving the right to eat of all but one tree in the Garden, the Man must promise not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Contracts often come with penalties to be applied in the instance of a breach. The curses of Gen. 3 can be understood as an example of this.

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

-Gen. 3:17-19

In many cases, when covenants are broken, even after the penalties have been upheld by the courts, the parties cease to have dealings with one another: breach of promise is a serious thing. Now a covenant presupposes relationship: it is built on a “meeting of minds” that occurs between two parties. God is committed to relationship with us. The Genesis story could have ended with the expulsion of the humans from the Garden and their death in the wilderness. But God does not merely curse the humans; He also promises to restore the Man and the Woman through the Woman’s “Seed”, Jesus. This part of the speech is known as the “Protoevangelium”, the “First Gospel”.

I will put enmity between thee [the Serpent] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

-Gen. 3:15

This commitment to relationship with us, the faithfulness to His promises and covenants, is a characteristic of God that runs through the Bible as a major theme. It is expressed with the Hebrew word chesed, often translated as “loving kindness” or “faithfulness”.

 

The Importance of Moses and the Exodus

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I began to be interested in the topic after conversations with several Atheists who make the claim that Moses isn’t real. In fact, these gentlemen would make the claim that the historical consensus has dictated that Moses is a myth.[1] In this regard, they would be correct, the historical consensus would indicate that the Exodus account didn’t take place. However, when presented with contrary evidence, the atheist scholar indicates that they will only accept unbiased work, which means they will only accept a historical thesis by a none Abrahamic believer. The truth of the matter though is that all people have biases when it comes to forming the narrative and conclusions on historical events, a historian learns this in historiography 101. It’s natural that the secular scholar will not actively search for a result that contradicts their beliefs, but expects scholars of faith to do so.

Where’s the evidence? Now, this isn’t a philosophical discussion that relies on the metaphysical like the discussion whether there is a supreme being or not. The thesis being discussed is whether Moses was a living breathing actor in the temporal world. The secular assertion is mostly based on the lack of archaeological evidence, notwithstanding, I personally, as one who has operated in the field of history, do not believe that archaeology has the final say on all events—especially ones where archaeological evidence would be hard pressed to find—in deserts spanning over three thousand years. This debate is as important, if not more, than the metaphysical debate of the existence of God. The ramifications, of course, are that those who wish to discredit the historicity of Moses expand their assertion to the understanding that if Moses is fictional then Christianity is fiction, due largely to the Transfiguration of Christ, among other events. It’s important for our ability to make fishers of men to refute such secular biased scholarship. Egyptologist K.A. Kitchen writes, “Throughout the Hebrew Bible, there is no single event (or theme, if the status of ‘event’ be denied) to which its various writers hark back so pervasively as the tradition of the ancestral Israelites being liberated from servitude in Egypt, then forming a community under their deliverer deity YHWH.”[2]

Scholars to fully consider whether Moses is truly a historic actor must understand that it’s certainly okay as scholars, and furthermore as the faithful, to disregard the consensus, especially if one is seeking to argue against it. There are other modern scholars who have argued for the case for a historical Moses and are basing their findings on archaeological evidence. One of them by the name of Gerard Gertoux who is Ph.D. candidate in France, who based on his biography at Academic.edu has been black balled by French academia, not by his dissertation on Moses and Exodus, but because he is a Jehovah Witness. Gertoux has published another essay on the topic writing:

“Some atheists refuse to take into account the Bible because that book states clearly the existence of God as well as miracles. However, in my opinion, searching the truth must be the fundamental purpose of any honest historian.“What is truth” Pilate said to Jesus (Jn 18:38). For honest and scientific historians, “truth” is based on two main pillars: 1) an accurate chronology anchored on absolute dates(Herodotus’ principle) and 2) reliable documents coming from critical editions(Thucydides’ principle)”[3]

 Again, as one who has worked in the field of history, I thoroughly support Gertoux on the above statement. After explaining what Gertoux considers truth he runs through a list of scholarly experts making claims that the Exodus story and Moses are fiction.

Here is an example:

Modern archaeology has shown that the concept of archives kept in Jerusalem with writings of the tenth century, is an absurdity based on a biblical witness and not on factual evidence. Bible stories would rank therefore among national mythologies, and would have no more historical foundation than the Homeric saga of Ulysses, or that of Aeneas, founder of Rome, sung by Virgil –Israel Finkelstein, Israeli archaeologist[4]

Gertoux makes a clear distinction in his essay by stating, “An objective reader should note that most reasons put forward by these prestigious scholars are ideological, not based on any verifiable factual data”[5]

Now it’s important to note that I am not necessarily endorsing Gertoux’s thesis, if this were the case I wouldn’t be interested in researching the topic myself. However, I do agree with is introductory comments on the topic. Here is his thesis:

According to Egyptian accounts the last king of the XV the dynasty, named Apopi, “very pretty” in Hebrew that is Moses’ birth name (Ex 2:2), reigned 40 years in Egypt from 1613 to 1573 BCE, then 40 years later hemet Seqenenre Taa the last pharaoh of the XVII the dynasty and gave him an unspecified disturbing message.”[6]

However, there are two particulars of the debate that I would like to discuss and one of them is the term myth. The modern understanding of this word often renders that anything labeled as a myth is fiction; however, this is an incomplete definition of the word. Most ancient oral traditions that would be considered myths effectively conveyed truth to folks who continued to tell the events–a method that was vital before the advent of writing.  The Book of Exodus, and the Bible, are not supposed to be read as a historical account per say. It’s merely an account, albeit a cultural one that is a reflection of those who wrote it, of the revelation of God to man. Thus, it is the empiricists who have difficulty understanding that with those who continue to look to this collection of books that appear to reject empirical evidence for valuable information. Empiricists will do their best to dismiss the entirety of the Bible as a credible source, but they negate the fact that it was written by authors who would have recorded events from oral histories that predate the invention of modern historical research and writing. The second part, perhaps broken into subparts, is that does Christianity—due to the Transfiguration—require Moses to be truly historic, and how much of the account of Exodus has to be factual due to oral traditions? (An important point throughout the entire Exodus narrative)
[1] William G. Dever ‘What Remains of the House That Albright Built?,’ in George Ernest Wright, Frank Moore Cross, Edward Fay Campbell, Floyd Vivian Filson (eds.) The Biblical Archaeologist, American Schools of Oriental Research, Scholars Press, Vol. 56, No 1, 2 March 1993 pp.25-35, p.33:’the overwhelming scholarly consensus today is that Moses is a mythical figure.’

 

[2] K.A. Kitchen On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2003), 241.

[3] Gertoux, Gerard. “Moses and the Exodus: What Evidence?” Moses and the Exodus: What Evidence? Accessed March 24, 2016. https://www.academia.edu/13001480/Moses_and_the_Exodus_what_evidence.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.