We see Him come and know Him ours

These photos are from the Illinois farm bureau staff photographer. DO NOT USE FOR ANY OTHER PROJECT EXCEPT PARTNERS. MADATORY CREDIT Ken Kashian

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to save you, Israel

Yesterday was of course Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. It takes its name from the first word of the introit in both the traditional Mass and the new order of Mass – Gaudete in Domino semper … Dominus prope est (ever rejoice in the Lord… the Lord is indeed near).

I suggest that, although there still remain 11 days of Advent till Christmas, we are now beginning inevitably to get very christmassy in our sentiments and even in the matters we find ourselves attending to.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674) was a celibate Royalist Devonshire parson who wrote some 2000 poems known for their lyricism. He was the one who said Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…

Old Time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today,

Tomorrow will be dying.

He wrote a number of poems for the Christmas weeks, among which was A Christmas Carol, written in 1648.

One may ask why I’m talking of Christmas carols while it’s still Advent. Well, there are Advent and Easter carols too and a carol was originally a circle dance, later a dance associated with a religious procession.

I’m suggesting that this poem of Herrick’s fits quite well as a Gaudete carol. In it, Christ’s advent is shown to be like Spring and Summer appearing suddenly in deep Winter.

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honour to this day,
That sees December turn’d to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like to a mead new-shorn,
Thus on the sudden?

I find this verse particularly poignant and adventy; lyrical, most certainly:

We see Him come, and know Him ours,
Who with His sunshine and His showers
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

We can watch Him coming now and see the world fill with life and colour as He approaches. That’s a bit like many of us would feel in these latter days of Advent. Actually, it is more likely our own interior “ground” gaining more and more life and colour – or lustre, as the poet says.

I think.

 

 

 

 

About GC

Poor sinner.
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93 Responses to We see Him come and know Him ours

  1. toad says:

    “When as in silks my Julia goes,
    Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
    That liquefaction of her clothes.

    Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
    That brave vibration each way free ;
    O how that glittering taketh me ! “

    Herrick! I’m surprised and delighted, to see him quoted, particularly by GC. One of the “sexist”
    poems ever written. (In my opinion.)
    Breasts have never been better described, as in the penultimate line.
    Herrick may have been celibate.
    I don’t know. No matter.

  2. toad says:

    Oops! – not “sexist,” – not a bit of it – but “sexiest.” Inane apologies from Toad to both Mr. Herrick and GC!
    The idea – that the man who wrote that was celibate – is, to me, bizarre. But who knows?
    And, so what if he was, anyway? We all know what he meant.

  3. toad says:

    “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…
    Old Time is still a-flying;
    And this same flower that smiles today,
    Tomorrow will be dying.”

    Which I inanely interpret as meaning –
    ” Have as much fun as you can while you are still above ground – because you are going to be a very long time dead.”
    Rather an unCatholic sentiment – but I have roughly subscribed to it throughout my life.
    Without regrets.

  4. GC says:

    The idea – that the man who wrote that was celibate – is, to me, bizarre.

    Well, he remained unmarried and died at age 83, Toad.

    This is his church (of St. George Martyr) in Dean Prior, Devon, a pre-reformation church, only about four and a half miles from Buckfast Abbey.

    Not too many “vibrations” in evidence there, Toad, even in this liberated age.

  5. Tom Fisher says:

    Not sure why a field in Illinois illustrates this piece. Doesn’t quite seem right. But Herrick is very fine

  6. toad says:

    Were Toad not married, he might expect to live to 853 himself. A goodish span in which to gather rosebuds (it was the name of Kane’s sledge, as we all know.)

    Well I’ll take Mr Fisher’s kindly advice – and run my Christmas query past CP&S. Why did the census demand every man go back to his place of birth, thus causing vast confusion and ending up with people having to sleep in stables? It would surely have been more logical and sensible to do the opposite – to order everyone to stay where they were until their names had been taken. I also gather the “census” itself was very dubious, and that Augustus didn’t order a world-wide one ever. (But that’s a separate issue,)

  7. GC says:

    They’re smiling cornfields – the line place is immaterial, Mr Worthing Fisher – or would you have preferred a picture of a fragrant meadow newly shorn?

    See Herrick’s words.

    (Actually, I wanted to put in a picture of a nice old church in Belgium among cornfields, but I would have had to pay for that one.)

  8. GC says:

    But Herrick is very fine

    Mr Fisher, you will find us in complete agreement there, though a lot of his stuff sounded old hat, even to his contemporaries. We see, however, that Toad finds particular lines from some of his other verse quite titillating still.😉

    It’s a lovely sort of image, Christ’s advent each year brings about a lovely Spring in our hearts even in deep Winter. And it is thus most fitting that we find heartroom to welcome Him.

    Still very poignant that We see him come and know Him ours. When we see Him come we know Him to be profoundly one with us. We become deeply aware of an utter affinity with Him. He is the Darling of the world, as the poet says. He is Christ, the Lover of Mankind, as the Orthodox very often repeat.

  9. GC says:

    Toad, the greatest exponents of male longevity seem to be retired Catholic bishops. There appear to be oodles of them in their late eighties and nineties. Pope Benedict himself is approaching his 90th year.

    Jimmy Akin’s article at Catholic Answers didn’t help Toad on the Christmas question?

    We don’t know, from other sources, of a census earlier than Quirinius’ (in 6 AD). But there are a great many things that we don’t know in ancient history.

    Toad might find their latest article of interest and may wish to engage them there?

    Is the Only Real Knowledge Scientific Knowledge?

    But then again.

  10. toad says:

    GC:
    1: Jimmy doesn’t really address “my” census problem, which is basically – why did men have to go back to where they originally were born to make it function?
    Sounds crazy, inefficient and un-Roman to me.
    2: “We don’t know, from other sources, of a census earlier than Quirinius’ (in 6 AD). But there are a great many things that we don’t know in ancient history.”
    Indeed there are – and it would seem prudent to withold judgement in the meantime. If you can’t find out enough reliable information on that second hand car, it’s advisable to hold off buying it until you can.
    3: The interesting-looking link won’t work on my Wurlitzer. Still, it all depends on what we call “knowledge.” Things that can’t be verified should be treated in a different manner than those that can. With very great suspicion, in my opinion. Still, sometimes we must just decide for ourselves.
    I happen to confidently believe Maria Callas is a better singer than Madonna. Can’t verify it, though.

  11. Robert says:

    Toad where does it say that St Joseph was born in Bethlehem? He was of the lineage of David!

    “..why did men have to go back to where they originally were born to make it function?..”

    Scripture doesn’t say this does it? St Joseph knew prophecy’s so its not unreasonable that He obeyed Heaven and took His Virgin Wife and her holy child to Bethlehem.

    As Toad realises the source of this information is Our Lady, whom else more than 34 years later would have known this?

    Toad no doubt will next start on the Star that lead the Magi. The wise and prudent will talk of super novas and comets etc.. I believe 3 BC is mentioned and all sorts of theories however we have Fatima in Our generation with a Star (the SUN is a star) moving!

    At Fatima 70,000 (including Press) saw the Sun Dance and move in the sky. Richard Dawkins dismisses this BUT has no answer other than couldn’t hasppen. So the question is why was the Dance of the Sun ONLY seen at Fatima and NOT elsewhere. There are no reports away from Fatima of the Sun Dancing are there. So in 2000 years time no doubt some smart idiot will look at the London papers and say see NO Dancing sun on Oct 13 1917!

    Taken from Douay Rheims and Notes
    “..in those days there came forth an edict from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled.
    2. This first enrolling was made by the President of Syria Cyrinus.
    3. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.
    4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Jewry, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem: for because he was of the house and family of David,

    “.. JESUS CHRIST the son of God is born in Bethlehem of Juda in the year of Caesar Augustus 42. Usuard. in martyro! Dec. 25, according to the common ancient supputation.

    Toad can take comfort that there is more evidence for the existence of Christ than Julius Caesar! More written about him and the early church is replete with information from those who personally knew and met the Apostles.

  12. Tom Fisher says:

    Why did the census demand every man go back to his place of birth

    Ah yes. There’s not much to say about that really. The Romans were very skilled administrators. Governance and war were their particular talent. The only way to answer that query without expressing doubt about dear old Luke’s narrative is the following: in one particular census the Roman administrators took leave of their senses and made an insane demand that everyone return to their ancestral home-town. Presumably the Romans learnt a lesson from this, since they never did such a daft thing again.

  13. Tom Fisher says:

    Toad, as a point of interest, the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke provide one of the strongest rebuttals to the “Jesus never existed” crowd. It was desirable that the Messiah come from David’s home town. But both Matthew and Luke have to do quite a bit of narrative work to make that so. (Each solves the problem in a completely different and unrelated way). — The mere existence of the problem (Jesus was thought not to have come from Bethlehem), indicates that the evangelists were definitely writing about a known individual. Of course Matthew sends him off to Egypt so he can come up out of it, while Luke has him both publicly presented in the temple, just down the road from Herod. But those are issues for another time.

  14. Tom Fisher says:

    They’re smiling cornfields – the line place is immaterial, Mr Worthing Fisher – or would you have preferred a picture of a fragrant meadow newly shorn?

    You are right of course, GC. It was just my personal biases showing through. I have strong ‘associations’ when it comes to Herrick, and a ‘sense of place’ about him, if that makes sense. The North American image felt a bit jarring to me, it was silly to frame it as a criticism. Thanks for posting something so wonderful. I suspect Toad is easily titillated

  15. toad says:

    “I suspect Toad is easily titillated..” not as easily as he once was, Mr Thomas Fisher, and not as easily as he’d like, these days. There’s Herrick of course…
    Thanks for the census comment. I’d be surprised to learn Christ never existed, in view of what we know. Don’t see how we could ever learn that, anyway.
    Certainly though, Robert, there is no 18 year gap (more than half his life!) in the history of Julius Caesar, who incidentally, did not claim to be the Messiah. I find that utterly blank space, in four separate biographies, very troubling. Others don’t, so maybe I shouldn’t either.
    Bur my years as a hack make me suspicious of mysteries like that. Want to know why the silence, what he was really up to, and all that. They were the formative years, too.
    …Though I don’t suppose it matters all that much.
    Just nosey old Toad.
    And then, there’s the business of the very odd crucifixion….but, another time, indeed…

  16. toad says:

    “Toad where does it say that St Joseph was born in Bethlehem? He was of the lineage of David!”
    Oh, I see Roger. People from the lineage of David were banned from being born in Bethlehem, were they? Probably a good idea.

  17. Michael says:

    Silly old Romans. The questioning of this or that aspect of Christian tradition around Christmas and Easter time seems to have become a bit of a tradition itself – just this week there was a news report making ‘shattering’ claims about the fact that Our Lord might have looked a bit different from the way He is ordinarily depicted in Christian iconography etc. Of course, in the report ‘might have looked’ was replaced by ‘definitely did look’, despite the fact all the report had ‘uncovered’ was that first century Jewish men in general looked a bit different to classical depictions of Jesus Christ (not something that’s really news in and of itself) and that therefore Jesus ‘must’ have looked exactly like a generalised picture of first century Jewish man, drawn from archaeological scraps and large servings of conjecture. But it’s ‘science’, so it must be true.

    Anyway, with respect to the census debate, I think the section from Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives covers this quite well. After referring to Josephus’ citation of the Quirinian census in 6 AD, he goes on to say:

    At any rate, there are indications that Quirinius was already in the Emperor’s service in Syria around 9 B.C. So it is most illuminating when such scholars as Alois Stoger suggest that the “population census” was a slow process in the conditions of the time, dragging on over several years. Moreover, it was implemented in two stages: firstly, registration of all land and property ownership, and then – in the second phase – determination of the payments that were due. The first stage would have taken place at the time of Jesus’ birth; the second, much more injurious for the people, was what provoked the uprising* (c.f.; Stoger, Lukasevangelium,pp. 372f.)

    Some have raised the further objection that there was no need, in a census of this kind, for each person to travel to his hometown (c.f.; Luke 2:3). But we also know from various sources that those affected had to present themselves where they owned property. Accordingly, we may assume that Joseph, of the house of David, had property in Bethlehem, so that he had to go there for tax registration.

    Regarding the details, the discussion could continue indefinitely. It is difficult to gain an insight into the daily life of a society so complex and so distant from our own as that of the Roman Empire. Yet the essential content of Luke’s narrative remains historically credible all the same: Luke set out, as he says in the prologue to his Gospel, “to write an orderly account” (1:3). This he evidently did, making use of the means of his disposal. In any case, he was situated much closer to the sources and events than we could ever claim to be, despite all our historical scholarship.

    The key points here are, I think, that:

    1. Not only were the Romans concerned with war and governance, but with money, which was needed to sustain an enormous series of administrative tasks, as well as near-constant military campaigns on the borders of the Empire. As good a motivation for a massive census of this kind as any would therefore have been money (i.e.; taxation), as I’m sure most will agree.

    2. Whilst it is often claimed that there is no evidence of a census when Saint Luke says one occurred, the clear answer is that we do have one source – namely the Gospel of Luke. As Pope Benedict points out, he sets out to make the best use of all the information available to him at the time, and would hardly have mentioned a census that never occurred, as his audience might well have noticed that he was referring to something they had never heard of. Just as Saint Jerome knew the ancient languages better than modern biblical scholars, so did Saint Luke know the history of the last fifty years or so surrounding Jesus’ birth than anyone living today.

    3. As has often been pointed out on these threads, the Church does not operate according to a Scripture alone principle. When the evangelists were writing their Gospels, they didn’t include every last bit of information because they were writing for audiences who were already well acquainted with a lot of the relevant facts themselves. Similarly, we do not have to rely on what is included in the sacred text, but can refer to Tradition in order to either ‘fill in the gaps’ or assure us that any apparent inconsistencies are indeed only apparent.

    *The uprising of Judas the Galilean (c.f.; Acts 5:37), most likely in response to heavy taxation by the Romans.

  18. Michael says:

    P.S. There’s a good reflection by Msgr. Pope today on the virtue of holy silence, and the wisdom that can be gained from it approaching the divine mysteries with reverence, patience and humility instead of trying to pick them apart and put them back together again like sticklebricks (or lego perhaps – depends on personal preference):

    http://blog.adw.org/2015/12/on-the-virtue-of-holy-silence-before-the-mysteries-of-god-a-meditation-on-the-silence-imposed-upon-zechariah/

  19. Michael says:

    P.P.S. This shouldn’t need saying, but unfortunately it probably does – the above link (and my accompanying comment) is not proposing an either/or in methodology. Historical investigation and rigorous analysis of sources have their place and are necessary, but there comes a time when it might just be more beneficial to the enquirer that they simply stop all the second-guessing and contemplate what is revealed instead.

  20. GC says:

    Then a picture of smiling corn fields in Devonshire you certainly shall have, my dear Mr Fisher, near Shobrooke in Devon, about 35 miles from the Reverend Mr Herrick’s parish of Dean Prior, on the edge of Dartmoor (Dean Prior is, that is).

    (Actually, this one here is the photo I wanted to use at the top, a church set in corn fields in Wallonia, but they wanted my money.)

  21. toad says:

    “– just this week there was a news report making ‘shattering’ claims about the fact that Our Lord might have looked a bit different from the way He is ordinarily depicted in Christian iconography etc.”
    True. If it is a French, fifteenth century painting of Christ, not only will Christ look like a fifteenth century Frenchman, but the soldiers around him will be fifteenth century French soldiers, clothes and all. Same as for a thirteenth century Italian mural. Nothing wrong with that, artistically, at least.
    Today, current depictions of Jesus show him as most closely resembling a long-haired, bearded, hippie from Surbition. And why not?

  22. GC says:

    Yes indeed, Michael, and thanks for linking Monsignor Pope. He rarely, if ever, does not repay greatly his readers’ efforts. We see Toad is going on again about “the four biographies” of Jesus. I am pretty sure the Gospels were not intended to be biographies at all in any usual sense, but more like “revelation to be contemplated”.

    St Luke himself in his prologue talks of “an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us” and sets out to make an orderly account of these too. The word “fulfilled”, of course, immediately suggests prophecy and revelation, which are not the usual business of biographers.

  23. Michael says:

    GC @ 12:01:

    True indeed, on all counts! I do not think that this point (that we must, in assessing what the Gospels do and do not include, remember what kind of document they were writing, what kind of audience they were writing for and what they therefore deemed important to communicate) can be emphasised enough. It seems to me to be one of the major underlying principles which generate the almost-inevitable festive questions about the New Testament in the first place.

    Incidentally, another document which greatly repays the efforts of its readers (IMO anyway) is the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum. It covers many of the issues underlying these sort of questions, skillfully describes the relationship between Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium, and much more. It is also mercifully short (compared to other official Church documents anyway):

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

  24. Tom Fisher says:

    Michael, here are the relevant verses, (In the unimpeachable Douay Rheims)

    And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child

    Now, think about this for a moment Michael. Think of the Roman Empire, stretching from Spain to Syria. Think of the city of Rome itself. Think of the unprecedented movement of people which this census caused. Thousands upon thousands of people were on the move. Everyone had to head for the town of their birth. Celts from Spain and Gaul abandoned their homes and livelihoods to head home. German tribesman who had been in Rome for 30 years threw up their hands, dropped their tools, and headed north. Jewish traders boarded the nearest ship in their hurry to get home. Syrian traders who had been in Europe for decades flocked to the ports to get ships to the east. — It was the greatest movement of people in Roman history, before the invasions of the third century.

    Now, the two most obvious questions are; 1.) why did this unprecedented movement of peoples (all to satisfy the whims of the Census collectors) go utterly unnoticed by every Roman writer. 2.) Why, if it was such a sensible way to conduct a census, did no Roman administration ever again (as they had never in the past) attempt to enforce the idea that everyone went to their town of birth?

  25. GC says:

    Michael, I wonder whether Dei Verbum could countenance this sort of thing, in 8 parts?!!

    I’ve heard it suggested that the final “a” (just before the “dot com”) in the website’s title should really be moved to an initial position, i.e. as an “a” in bold joined firmly onto the beginning of the word “catholic”, like this – acatholic.😀

  26. Michael says:

    GC @ 12:50:

    Blimey! What’s truly amazing about these sort of projects to find out what the Gospels ‘really’ teach or how the Church has been duping us all these years, etc, is that each person embarking upon them seems to be under the impression that the very same project has been taken up by countless other peoples already, and produced a bewildering variety of conclusions.

    Dei Verbum might help him out (though I wouldn’t bet on it), but it might be worthwhile acquainting him with what the Irish priest Fr. George Tyrrell had to say about Adolf von Harnack’s (and by implication all other biblical scholarship deracinated from the Church’s teachings) quest for the ‘historical Jesus’:

    The Christ that Harnack sees, looking back through nineteen centuries of “Catholic darkness”, is only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well.

    Well said Father🙂

  27. Michael says:

    Tom @ 12:44:

    In response to your questions:

    1. I refer you back to the suggestion of Alois Stoger (via Pope Benedict XVI) that the census was ‘a slow process…dragging on over several years’. Not an unreasonable suggestion I would have thought, and could well explain why the movement of peoples would not have been mentioned by any of the Roman writings that have survived to the present day.

    It is very important of course to remember that, in comparison to the documentary evidence we have for the New Testament, the amount of literature we have from the classical world is very small – someone might have written about it, but the writings didn’t survive. At any rate, given its spreading out over a long period, it is equally plausible that noone thought it worth mentioning, as it was something that was ongoing and so merged into the background of daily life.

    2. Presumably because such exceptional measures were needed at the time (probably for both monetary and administrative reasons) and possibly also because this took place during the realm of the first Roman Emperor, who may well have been keen to stamp his authority on his Empire and ascertain its limits.

    Fundamentally though, and given that I don’t think any of what I’ve just written is implausible, I am much happier accepting these possible explanations than believing that Saint Luke, after having stated his intention to write an ‘orderly narrative’ of the events and their context, and knowing that any falsities would have been noticed immediately by his contemporaries, just made up a census that didn’t exist, or exaggerated its scope. Furthermore, there’s that tricky issue of belief in scriptural veracity as well – not something I’m too comfortable undermining (though I’m certainly open to explanations of how one reconciles such a belief with the idea that Luke was lying/wrong).

  28. GC says:

    😆

    Eight books and ten years to reveal that “Paul and the Gentile Christians” have always been the villains.

    Wonder how the book sales are going?

  29. Tom Fisher says:

    Hi Michael,

    I refer you back to the suggestion of Alois Stoger (via Pope Benedict XVI) that the census was ‘a slow process…dragging on over several years’. Not an unreasonable suggestion I would have thought, and could well explain why the movement of peoples would not have been mentioned by any of the Roman writings that have survived to the present day.

    I don’t know how to respond. It seems to be a straightforward issue – In the reign of Augustus, did the Roman State order a Census which required a massive movement of people, all across the Empire, in violation of common sense, and bureaucratic practice before and since. If it happened it was the most significant political event of the early Empire. The scale of it would have dwarfed the invasion of Britain for example. The absence of even a hint of such a bizarre census in the historical record is noteworthy.

    The extent of our ignorance about the Roman Empire is often exaggerated — it’s true as far as it goes, but there are (for example) enough documents from Roman Egypt to bore the average person to death.

    But the point bears repeating Michael. The census described in Luke was the most significant population movement in the early empire — but went entirely unnoticed by the machinery of Imperial government. — Or, it was a narrative device to place the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

  30. toad says:

    I don’t personally think Luke was lying. What for? I think he might have been misinformed, but I don’t know. Anyway, what I do think is that this census stuff is clearly too indeterminate to be automatically regarded as “Gospel.”

  31. Robert says:

    Toad What I am seeing is this wordly mistrust and rational thinking all of which leads to arguments and contentions. I have told you before to look with eyes of Faith but you are determined to wallow in the pig swill called worldy wisdom. The Messiah didn’t explain to the worldy wise 2000 years ago! He will not give this generation of worldy wise plaudits signs and proof! Beware the silence of Christ!
    The Bible has three levels. Literal, Moral and Mystical. Pope Gregory the Great.
    It is interlinked and prophetic this is especially true of the four gospels. The so called Nativity circumstances are de factor the fulfilment of prophecy. The gospels demonstrate how these were fulfilled.
    1/ The Messiah came to be sacrificed as reparation for the Sin of Adam. He came to die a shocking death, the lamb of God! (During the Passover the sacrificial lamb traditionally came from Bethlehem). Bethlehem means House Of Bread. It was known as David’s City. Being a Son In law of St Joseph, direct linage of David, means Our Lord was the King of Israel!
    2/ The signs of the coming Messiah were known and watched for by the worldly prudent! That means to you and I that families living in that city and Boy babies born at Bethlehem attracted attention!
    3/ The arrival of the Holy Family wouldn’t have attracted attention and the lowliest hovel was all that was available to them.
    4/ There were political reasons for killing the Messiah and what is more that Temple colluded with the powers that be. Rather like the Vatican-Moscow agreement!

    The gospels are only concerned in explaining God’s Providence that brought the pregnant Virgin to Bethlehem in fulfilment of Prophecy!

    Your talk of the missing years of Our Lord? Well again you are NOT thinking! The child at the Age of 12 and His wisdom in the Temple! Now make no mistake that appearance attracted the Authorities! The time for the Passion had not yet come! But the Prophecy’s were being fulfilled. Our Lord vanishes? Perhaps you think he was lounging around Nazareth? That doesn’t make any sense. His hidden Life remains precisely that, hidden in God.

    You are simply wallowing in worldy wisdom. You must start looking through the eyes of the Faith and that closed Book called the Bible will begin to give you the answers that you are seeking.

    Peace and Goodness

  32. toad says:

    “…you are determined to wallow in the pig swill called worldy wisdom. “
    Yes, I suppose I am, Robert. Sorry.

    “What I am seeing is this wordly mistrust and rational thinking…”
    Well, I can’t help it, Robert. All my life I’ve regarded rational thinking as a reasonably sound idea.
    And I’m too old to change now.

    “Perhaps you think (Christ) was lounging around Nazareth? “
    No. From what I can gather, Robert, he wasn’t the lounging sort. I’m just curious as to why the Gospel writers seem as uninterested in these vital years as practically everyone on CP&S. Doesn’t it interest you?

    …Only on CP&S folks. What a website!

  33. Michael says:

    Tom @ 15:10:

    I don’t know how to respond. It seems to be a straightforward issue

    I thought my answer was fairly straightforward as well – the point being that large movements of people over a long period of time (the time suggested by Stoger is between 9 B.C. and 6 A.D., based on when Quirinius was known to have been in the Emperor’s service in Syria) are not as noteworthy as movements of the same number of people all at once, or over very short periods of time. This is only one suggestion of what Saint Luke was referring to mind, and I’m not saying it’s definitely what happened, but it seems fairly straightforward to me.

    If it happened it was the most significant political event of the early Empire…The absence of even a hint of such a bizarre census in the historical record is noteworthy.

    Not so. For one, as I said earlier, given that Augustus was the first Emperor, and would have done (indeed, did do) lots of notable things during his reign, this would not necessarily have garnered as much publicity as you suggest. Secondly, in his ‘Deeds of the Divine Augustus’ the Emperor himself writes that he ordered three censuses of all Roman citizens (in 28 B.C., 8 B.C. and 14 A.D.):

    http://classics.mit.edu/Augustus/deeds.html#71

    or

    http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Augustus/Res_Gestae/2*.html

    See section 8 for the relevant passage.

    Furthermore, with respect to there being other examples of people travelling for censuses, in 104 A.D., the Roman prefect of Egypt (C. Vibius Maximus) gave notice to do just that:

    The enrolment of household being at hand, it is necessary to notify all who for any cause whatsoever are away from their administrative divisions to return home in order to comply with the customary ordinance of enrolment, and to remain in their own agricultural land.

    So, as you can see, neither the nature or the scope of the census mentioned by Luke is without precedent. Perhaps another reason that this particular census (the Lucan one) is not mentioned anywhere else is because such things were actually much more common in the Roman Empire than some believe… Again, not a definite solution, but the above sources do suggest that the difficulties being suggested are not as great as they seem.

    The extent of our ignorance about the Roman Empire is often exaggerated — it’s true as far as it goes, but there are (for example) enough documents from Roman Egypt to bore the average person to death.

    My point is that, despite there being a goodly amount of information available, there is also an enormous amount not available, and it is imprudent to expect everything we want corroborating to have an equivalent piece of documentary evidence to back it up.

    But the point bears repeating Michael. The census described in Luke was the most significant population movement in the early empire — but went entirely unnoticed by the machinery of Imperial government. — Or, it was a narrative device to place the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

    This is the crux of the matter for me. Saint Luke quite plainly makes historical claims in his Gospel, in order to place the events he is describing within a definite framework that his readers would both understand and be familiar with. Even as a ‘literary device’ (which itself is, IMO, a strange way of receiving something of which the plain sense is historical information, especially given Luke’s description of what he had set out to do), this is bizarre, as he would be referring to something everybody knew didn’t happen – he would be placing the events he wished to describe in a context that didn’t exist.

    Why then would a Christian of any stripe prefer to believe that Saint Luke, after setting himself up as someone aiming to teach real history about the life of Our Lord, simply made things up about that life, things which would have been manifestly checkable as true or not by his contemporaries, just because the questions of where, when and how re the facts he cites are not immediately resolvable with some aspects of known historical fact? After all, it is not as if this is the only apparent difficulty in the New Testament.

    The Gospel according to Saint Luke is a historical source for the events of that period, and Christians which believe in the inspiration and trustworthiness of Scripture (as Catholics should, according to what the Church teaches therein) have good reason for giving that source and what it says even more credit than other data. Especially when the apparent difficulties are easily surmountable.

  34. Michael says:

    GC @ 14:24:

    Haha – indeed! Apparently in nine hundred years we’ll all be proved wrong though🙂

  35. toad says:

    Maybe the Gospels are like a big wooly jumper – pull on one loose thread and the whole thing begins to unravel.
    ….Or maybe not.
    Anyway, Toad’s hopping off for a few days. Merry Xmas to all.

  36. kathleen says:

    Tom Fisher @ 15:10 yesterday

    The census described in Luke was the most significant population movement in the early empire — but went entirely unnoticed by the machinery of Imperial government.

    What makes you think that? It was not necessarily “unnoticed” either, due to our lack of documents that have survived to our day of first century Roman administration in Palestine. And then why would any tedious bureaucratic order need to have been constantly mentioned in any case?

    Whilst a significant number of people would have had to travel “every one into his own city” and so “Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Jewry, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem: for because he was of the house and family of David” (Douay Rheims), that does not signify that this would necessitate “a massive movement of people, all across the Empire” as you say, for two obvious reasons.

    The First (as Michael has already pointed out) because this edict of the Census was most likely spread out over a long period of time, even perhaps years. And secondly because this event took place at a time when many of the people would already be living “in his own city”!
    In other words, no journey “fraught with difficulties” – as was the case for the Blessed Holy Family – would have been necessary for the majority of citizens, only for those who were not currently living in the towns that corresponded to the house of their family names.

    Quite honestly, I think this “mistrust” of the Gospel accounts to be a sign of lack of Faith in those who doubt them! All the prophesies of the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus, as Robert has noted. The whole testimony of the heroic lives of the Apostles and Disciples – firsthand witnesses of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s life, death and glorious Resurrection – gives such overwhelmingly powerful evidence to their absolute Truth. There is no way these men who, at Our Lord’s command to “teach all nations”, went to the ends of the earth (the known “earth”) to spread the Gospel through their preaching and lives of extreme holiness, and who all, bar St John, suffered willingly for Christ the most agnosing of drawn-out deaths, could have been faking. (Or lying, in the case of St Luke’s account of the Census at the time of Our Lord’s Birth.) Their incredible testimony speaks for itself.

    Remember Our Lord’s words to St Thomas: “Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.” (John 20:29)

    P.S. Michael @ 17:30 yesterday… Great comment! Should lay to rest many doubts expressed above.🙂

  37. Michael says:

    Kathleen @ 09:24:

    Excellent point there re the actual distance most people would likely have had to have moved (i.e.; most likely not a widespread mass migration, given that the majority of people either lived in or near to their hometowns)! A point which I managed to miss out in my last comment, despite spilling an absurd amount of electronic ‘ink’ 🙂

    The bottom line is, as you say, one of faith here. Unless there is a stone cold, cut and dry, good reason for believing that one of the sacred writers either erred or deliberately misled their readers, the onus on the believer is to receive what they have written in a spirit of trust. That not everything we read by them is straightforwardly or clearly compatible with what we currently know about ancient history (which, again, we should not expect to be comprehensive, able to provide evidence for every query we have) is by the by – as long as we can see that what the Evangelists say is within the realms of possibility and plausibility, where’s the problem?

  38. GC says:

    kathleen, I’ve been trying to think of similar mass “returning to their home towns” type things that occur even these days.

    I suppose Christmas is an obvious one.

    In China hundreds of millions of people return to their home towns and villages from the cities in the days just before their Spring Festival (Lunar New Year). Though routes are clogged and the trains packed, they do it every year.

    Similarly for the Muslim Eid here. Ten million people are on the roads returning to their villages or even to their grandparents’ villages. During general elections millions again go back to their towns and villages to cast their vote in the parliament constituencies where they grew up or were registered when they applied for their national identity cards.

    As you say, it’s not the whole population on the move. Many are already “home”. But vast movements of people happen every year or even a few times a year over here.

    So all in all, I think we have Mr Fisher cornered.

  39. GC says:

    And the very same to you and Mrs Toad.

    Toad is off hopping just when we need Toad’s steel-trap mind to help sort out these knotty historical problems. Typical.

    Safe travelling and God bless.

  40. Robert says:

    The Bible is God’s work through the hands of Prophets/Seers (no difference). It is timeless because it is written from the perspective of Eternity. Man and especially fallen Man is seriously limited by His mind and understanding (which we call Rational) . St Aquinas synthesis was to take the highest reasoning , Philosophy (which peaked with the Greeks ) and Revelation.
    Reasoning without Revelation falls into error! Pope Leo XIII “Pope Leo XIII in 1879 issued his encyclical Aeterni Patris (on the restoration of Christian philosophy) urging that the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas ”
    Now Toad I repeat yet again we have to see revelation (which is above human reasoning!) sic the Faith revealed to Us as Truth! We MUST see through the eyes of Faith. This is what the Gospels and the Apostolic Catholic Faith is supposed to be about!
    Fallen Man Rational thinking Falls into error!
    Your serious interest in Our Lord’s Life is very commendable. But His Life started when? 2000 years ago or was His soul created before Creation? St John’s Gospel!! ”
    [9] That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world.
    [10] He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”
    Revelation is superior to Rational (which is sadly flawed by Original Sin). So hard bitten Toad you must start looking through the eyes of your Faith.
    This world is careering downwards away from Revelation having been seduced into believing that Rational is superior to Revelation!! Utter madness.

  41. kathleen says:

    GC @ 12:38 yesterday

    Re other mass movements of people – two excellent examples there, GC, that make the supposed “massive movement” for the Census ordered by Caesar Augustus at the time of the Nativity of Our Lord look quite small in comparison!😉

    And here we are in the year of the Lord, 2015, expecting another annual “migration” of our families, coming home to celebrate His Blessed arrival in our midst once more. May we pray for a safe journey for one and all… for travelling these days is just as fraught with dangers and difficulties (albeit, completely different ones!)

    Michael @ 10:12 yesterday

    Please keep on “spilling an absurd amount of electronic ‘ink’” for our benefit, dear friend. None of it goes to waste.🙂

  42. GC says:

    kathleen, if any of your close relatives are returning via South-East Asia for their annual turkey, tell them what to expect if they have to pass across the Singapore/Malaysia divide. Nasty traffic snarls at the border-crossing places just as we speak. But they appear to be managing. There are three or four times as many people crossing today as usual, due to the coming Solemnity of the Lord’s Nativity. One could almost imagine Mary and Joseph with their donkey using the motorcycle lane in the left of the picture.😆

    https://i2.wp.com/www.thestar.com.my/~/media/online/2015/12/17/21/18/main_ni_1812_p3a_nurilyanna_1.ashx/

    Here are a few verses by Richard Crashaw – 1612-1649, and thus a younger contemporary of Herrick – just to get back towards our topic a bit. They reflect what Herrick was getting at – Our Lord’s advent joins heaven with earth, winter becomes spring. Something to contemplate while on our dull or fretful journeys back to our own cities and towns, perhaps profitably?

    Winter chid aloud, and sent
    The angry North to wage his wars.
    The North forgot his fierce intent,
    and left perfumes instead of scars.
    By those sweet eyes’ persuasive powers
    Where he meant frost, he scattered flowers.

    We saw Thee in Thy balmy nest,
    Young dawn of our eternal Day!
    We saw Thine eyes break from Their East
    and chase the trembling shades away.
    We saw Thee: and we blest the sight,
    We saw Thee, by Thine Own sweet light.

    Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
    Eternity shut in a span!
    Summer in Winter, Day in Night!
    Heaven in Earth, and God in Man!
    Great little One! Whose all-embracing birth
    Lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to Earth!

    Very apparently, Mr Crashaw “knew Him ours” too.

  43. Tom Fisher says:

    So all in all, I think we have Mr Fisher cornered.

    That’s possible GC, but it’s too early to tell. I haven’t caught up on everything Michael et al had to say yet. I’ll try and reply shortly. Us Pakeha get very busy just before Christmas. Am I in trouble? I was Tom briefly, but back to being Mr now I see!

  44. Tom Fisher says:

    In China hundreds of millions of people return to their home towns and villages from the cities in the days just before their Spring Festival (Lunar New Year). Though routes are clogged and the trains packed, they do it every year. Similarly for the Muslim Eid here. Ten million people are on the roads returning to their villages or even to their grandparents’ villages.

    This is not my full response; but re one particular point: The above are both examples of long established cultural/religious practices, and they occur in that context. Neither of them can be seen as meaningful analogies for the one-off bureaucratic procedure that I am questioning. — What we are discussing is the notion that the early empire ran a one off census which had the following characteristics: 1.) it was a census of such bureaucratic detail that even the poorest of the poor were required to return to the towns which their family had originated from. 2.) It was a census which was conducted simultaneously across the entire early empire (for no obvious reason, a census takes time, it’s better to do them province by province). 3.) despite its unprecedented, and never to be repeated scale, this particular census was utterly unnoticed by the Romans themselves*.

    *Our sources aren’t all that we’d like them to be for the early Empire, but it simply isn’t true to say that we’re blundering about in the dark.

    All this is ignoring Michael’s very interesting comments from Dec 16. I apologise for that and plan to amend for it shortly.

  45. Tom Fisher says:

    in his ‘Deeds of the Divine Augustus’ the Emperor himself writes that he ordered three censuses of all Roman citizens (in 28 B.C., 8 B.C. and 14 A.D.):

    You need to remember that Roman Citizenship in the time of Augustus still ‘meant something’. Especially once you’re looking beyond Italy, it incurred a few obligations and many benefits. — And it involved interaction with the Imperial bureaucracy. — A census of the ‘entire’ population, broad enough to include humble Galileans with ancient ancestors in Bethlehem, is an entirely different proposition — and, if accomplished, eminently worthy of being recorded as a great achievement. (Which it apparently wasn’t) You’ll remember that England wasn’t shy about its pride in the Doomsday book. — The Lucan census, if strictly historical, was a staggering feat…

  46. Tom Fisher says:

    Michael, (I imagine you are seeing these posts in the ‘wrong’ order)

    I am much happier accepting these possible explanations than believing that Saint Luke, after having stated his intention to write an ‘orderly narrative’ of the events and their context, and knowing that any falsities would have been noticed immediately by his contemporaries, just made up a census that didn’t exist, or exaggerated its scope. Furthermore, there’s that tricky issue of belief in scriptural veracity as well – not something I’m too comfortable undermining (though I’m certainly open to explanations of how one reconciles such a belief with the idea that Luke was lying/wrong).

    I’ll put my neck on the block and say what I think. I don’t think Luke was ‘lying’. I do think that he was (like Matthew) heir to a problem and a prophecy. Prophecy made it most suitable that the Messiah was born in Bethlehem. The oral tradition implied Jesus was born in the humble town of Nazareth. The tradition inherited by Matthew solved the problem via the flight to Egypt (consistent with Matthew’s Jewish focus). The Lucan tradition solved the problem with a universal census (consistent with Luke’s interest in the wider gentile world). — It is very telling that two different writers solved the same problem in completely different ways —- that in itself is indicative. As I said above, the argument that the ‘Bethlehem birth’ is problematic is also one of the strongest arguments against the ‘mythicists’.

    But as to the implied question: “is the most reasonable interpretation of our evidence for the early empire that there was an empire wide Census in about 6 BC”? I’d say, no, that isn’t the most reasonable reading of the evidence.

  47. Tom Fisher says:

    There is no way these men who, at Our Lord’s command to “teach all nations”, went to the ends of the earth (the known “earth”) to spread the Gospel through their preaching and lives of extreme holiness, and who all, bar St John, suffered willingly for Christ the most agnosing of drawn-out deaths, could have been faking. (Or lying, in the case of St Luke’s account of the Census at the time of Our Lord’s Birth.) Their incredible testimony speaks for itself.

    Kathleen,

    I don’t think these men were liars either. However I do think that there are instances in the Gospel texts where scriptural interpretation of a truth has become an event in itself. For example, I think that the fact that Jesus is in some ways an heir to David generated the Bethlehem birth I discussed above. I think that the Gospel texts as we know them consist of apostolic witness, and theological interpretation of that testimony. And in some cases interpretation has become ‘narrative’. I don’t apologise for that view, and I’m happy to defend it; I don’t think the first generation of Christians were liars, at all.

  48. toadspittle says:

    “So all in all, I think we have Mr Fisher cornered.”
    Cornered! There is no escape! Surrender, Mr Fisher! For you, the war is over!
    What extraordinary mentality.

    “Their (the Gospel writers) incredible testimony speaks for itself.”
    …Assuming we all mean the same thing by “incredible,” then – yes it does.

  49. Tom Fisher says:

    What extraordinary mentality.

    Not to worry Toad! Actually it is almost exactly what my future father in law said at the beginning of a rather odd evening long ago.

  50. Michael says:

    Tom,

    Regarding your thesis that the census would have been the most significant population movement in the Empire, and that this would involve mass migrations across huge distances, the clearest reply is Kathleen’s at 09:24 on December 17th. Why do you assume that this would be the case?

    1. Yes, some people did live a long way from their ancestral home. But the vast majority would not have been travelling huge distances at all – they would most likely either already be in their family town, or would leave fairly close by. Thus we do not need to imagine huge distances being travelled on the scale you are suggesting.

    2. A census of the entire Empire* would itself require individual provinces to administrate the proceedings, and then coordinate with ‘HQ’ (as it were) – the only way in which we can set this up over and against a ‘province by province’ procedure is if you assume that it had to all have been done in a very short period of time, which is also something we don’t have to assume at all, for reasons given above.

    Basically, I think you are assuming far too much, and adopting (to invoke a favourite term of Pope Benedict) a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’. I have no truck with assessing the NT honestly, and confronting difficulties where they exist – this is a necessary thing to do when making the case for a religion rooted in historical claims – but to make the situation seem more difficult than it need be is something I don’t really understand, and leads to the sort of exegesis you’ve outlined briefly in your last few comments.

    This particular kind of exegesis is, IMO, exactly the sort of thing that makes outside observers think that Christians don’t really have any confidence in their religion and so continue to shift the goalposts in order to make things look more presentable to a sceptical world. For example, to say that what we have in Matthew and Luke is a case where ‘scriptural interpretation of a truth has become an event in itself‘ or that ‘interpretation has become narrative‘ is just a way of dancing around the fact that you think the Evangelists made something up. Just because you think they did so in a particularly creative way, or in a way that has theological resonance, or whatever, it does not get away from the fact that they fabricated events, whilst claiming to provide a frankly historical account of Our Lord’s origins.

    I don’t dispute that each Evangelist had a particular audience and intention, or that one emphasised one aspect of the story more than another, and so presented their data in ways that gave more colour to (e.g.) the Jewish parts of the story vs. the universal aspects. But to say that Christ was born in Bethlehem when he patently wasn’t is a lie, and no amount of literary devices or creative licence gets away from that. Moreover, the oral traditions they received came from somewhere as well – were they just ‘interpretation become narrative’ as well, or did they have a basis in historical fact? If the latter, then Matthew and Luke’s audience would know full well what did or didn’t actually happen, and would have no truck with being misled (for theological reasons or any other); if the former, then the whole Nativity story is built on shifting sands.

    *My point regarding Augustus’ claims about his deeds is that worldwide administrative activities were not unprecedented. You seem to be implying that doing things like this across the whole Empire is so ridiculous as to not even be countenanced, but what we have in the ‘Divine Deeds’ suggests that the Emperor Augustus was actually quite fond of doing things on a large scale. As to the numbers involved therein, and how far people might actually have had to move, I refer you back to the other things I and others have written above.

  51. Michael says:

    Or, to put it another way, when presented with the fact that there was a tradition that Christ was born in Bethlehem, and also one that he came from/grew up in Nazareth, why assume that the Evangelists used a ‘literary device’ (which in my opinion would be a straightforward misrepresentation of the historical facts if no such thing actually happened) to solve a problem (where one doesn’t necessarily exist) and superficially fulfil prophecy?

    Why not assume that Our Lord was actually born in Bethlehem and that he came from/grew up in Nazareth? I.e.; why not assume that the Evangelists are actually doing what they purport to do, and recording history that really does fulfil prophecy? The only reason I can think not to assume the latter is a disbelief in prophecy or its fulfilment, and/or a general suspicion of the traditions upon which the New Testament is based (including the strange belief that Saints Matthew and Luke had no idea what the other was doing, and were working on completely separate pieces of tradition whilst remaining unaware of the data used by the other).

    People assumed that this history was reported plainly and truthfully for centuries, and did not see that the fulfilment of OT prophecies by historical events need mean that those events were ‘generated’ in order to meet a prophetical need (as it were). It is not as if they were unaware of the apparent contradictions or difficulties presented by some aspects of the texts. Why should we then approach the NT any differently?

  52. Tom Fisher says:

    People assumed that this history was reported plainly and truthfully for centuries, and did not see that the fulfilment of OT prophecies by historical events need mean that those events were ‘generated’ in order to meet a prophetical need (as it were). It is not as if they were unaware of the apparent contradictions or difficulties presented by some aspects of the texts. Why should we then approach the NT any differently?

    Not so. If you grant the self evident premise that laws restricting academic discussion render academic debate hopelessly compromised, the picture is quite different. Full and frank discussion of these texts was quite simply illegal in most European countries until well into the modern era. The critical tradition took off as soon as it was possible for it to do so. In the 17th century serious Biblical criticism would get you killed. — It’s an irritating fact about a man as brilliant as C.S.L that he could force himself to be so stupid as to call common sense “chronological snobbery”

  53. Tom Fisher says:

    Or, to put it another way, when presented with the fact that there was a tradition that Christ was born in Bethlehem, and also one that he came from/grew up in Nazareth, why assume that the Evangelists used a ‘literary device’ (which in my opinion would be a straightforward misrepresentation of the historical facts if no such thing actually happened) to solve a problem (where one doesn’t necessarily exist) and superficially fulfil prophecy?

    Outside of Luke and Matthew I’m not aware of any early tradition that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Mark does not think it was worth mentioning, John doesn’t even bother alluding to it, Paul even mentions Davidic descent but doesn’t bother mentioning the Bethlehem birth.

    And here I come back to a point you have ignored; Luke and Matthew solve the same theological problem in utterly distinct ways. — Both want the Messiah to have been born in Bethlehem, both know he was from Nazareth — and each of them invents a unique solution.

    Have you ever, even as a thought experiment, tried regarding Matthew’s and Luke’s infancy narratives as both literally true?

  54. Robert says:

    Our Lady is the source of Luke’s Nativity and the Gospels demonstrate how the Truth of Prophecy and he would have been told this first hand. There are conflicting stories over when and where the Gospels were written BUT it should be obvious that copies were manually compiled from source documents. In other words the Gospels were written much earlier than the extent sources suppose.
    I repeat the Gospels are Heavens and from the perspective of Eternity, St Aquinas pointed out that Revelation is Superior to the Queen of Sciences Philosophy.

  55. toadspittle says:

    “St Aquinas pointed out that Revelation is Superior to the Queen of Sciences Philosophy.”
    The “other” Thomas can point it out until his mitre falls to bits, and his crozier sags in the middle – but it doesn’t make it so. And Tom A. could offer not a vestige of evidence for that rather eccentric opinion. What ‘Revelation’ anyway? The revelation Brigham Young got from God – or that of Mohammed?
    Some Catholics seems to think they have the monopoly on revelation. Not so. All religions (as far as I can see) have a taste for unverifiable information, which you will be damned all eternity for failing to believe.
    Also interesting is the face that people believe ‘incredible’ stuff – not in spite of it being very highly unlikely but because it’s very highly unlikely.
    (Took Toad centuries to figure that one out.)

    On a lighter note – surely, if the Gospels are the world’s most significant book*, no amount of diligent research, let alone sceptical and interpretive thinking can ever do them justice?

    * Which they are, I suggest. Certainly caused the most differences of opinion and trouble (although Koran fans may not agree.)

  56. Michael says:

    Full and frank discussion of these texts was quite simply illegal in most European countries until well into the modern era. The critical tradition took off as soon as it was possible for it to do so.

    You are assuming here that the only two choices we have are to be critical, which results in doubting the reliability (or veracity) of the sacred writers, or blind adherence to what the Church teaches therein. This is not my point – as I wrote just now, I have no problem with a rigorous investigation of the biblical texts. My problem is when people assume a default air of suspicion with respect to those texts, and then argue as if the only valid interpretation of them is one that explains away their plain sense.

    The main difference between now and then, I would suggest, is not that people are able to examine the texts in a way they were not free to do at other times (though this is true as well), but that the examination of the texts now routinely takes place within an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion of the texts, where an unjustified amount of difficulty is attributed to them. For the believer though, the texts should be approached with a spirit of trust and humility (which does not negate or undermine proper critical enquiry when it is necessary), especially when there is no overwhelming reason to doubt what they are saying (see the other arguments above). This is my basic issue here.

    Have you ever, even as a thought experiment, tried regarding Matthew’s and Luke’s infancy narratives as both literally true?

    No Tom, I’ve managed to avoid doing that for a good while now. Whether this is down to wilful self-deception or stupidity I couldn’t say for sure…

    More seriously, I just don’t see the two accounts as being contradictory, nor do I have any problem in seeing them as being reported independently but both coming from a shared tradition, each one selected for reasons to do with the individual Evangelists’ purposes. I also find it much more plausible that each knew of the other’s ‘project’ than that they were working without knowledge of other documents being created in the early Church.

    Outside of Luke and Matthew I’m not aware of any early tradition that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Mark does not think it was worth mentioning, John doesn’t even bother alluding to it, Paul even mentions Davidic descent but doesn’t bother mentioning the Bethlehem birth.

    So what? There are plenty of things mentioned in one or more Gospels that aren’t mentioned in all of them, or that Saint Paul doesn’t mention. But unless we assume that all these writers knew nothing of what the others were doing (again, something that only a unjustified amount of suspicion regarding the tradition would lead to us doing, and rather an odd assumption to make in any case), why is this a problem? As you say, they were writing with particular intentions of their own and to specific audiences, so presumably didn’t feel they needed to mention everything, especially if it had already been documented by another writer, and even more so if it was already known via the oral tradition.

    And here I come back to a point you have ignored; Luke and Matthew solve the same theological problem in utterly distinct ways. — Both want the Messiah to have been born in Bethlehem, both know he was from Nazareth — and each of them invents a unique solution.

    I find it strange that you think I’ve ignored this point, given that it is one of the basic things we have been discussing this whole time. But again, my point is, why do we have to see them as ‘inventing’ a ‘solution’ – why can we not just see them as reporting a different aspect to the same story, both of which actually happened? Why is that so hard for you to accept? Especially when you already accept that they have different intentions and audiences.

  57. Robert says:

    To start with during the early centuries Christian Books were burned and destroyed! Copies were made by hand and passed within a small circle. We are talking of a minority within a Empire. In England Henry VIII burned and destroyed the libraries of the religious houses!
    The moment you go down the path of Luke and Matthew INVENT! you have already ceased to be a Catholic because the twin pillars are the Bible and Sacred Tradition.
    When St Jerome produced the vulgate texts that were available to him are nolonger in existence!
    St Aquinas Toad studied for years and especially the Greek Philosophers (their work included nature science and remains the foundation of scholastic research which is why Greek and Latin were considered important until what 20th century!).
    I repeat the source of all information of Our Lord’s pre public Life was Our Lady.
    Just like today the scholars of Israel and the Prophecy’s of the Messiah thought they knew everything
    So today St Malachy’s list which is 100% accurate is derided! So much for the opinion of Fallen Man.

  58. kathleen says:

    Michael,

    Thank you very much for your outstanding comments @ 9:58, 10:16 & 11:55 this morning. You have defended sole-handedly, using both logic and strong arguments, the aspersions cast on the truthfulness of the Gospel accounts surrounding Our Lord’s Birth.

    Tom,

    What on Earth are you doing casting unfounded doubts on the truth of the Gospels? This is not simply a matter of acting as the Devil’s Advocate for the sake of discovering ‘the Truth’. It is a cunning way of saying that Luke and Matthew were ‘twisting’ facts to suit their supposed propositions, or IOW, they lied!! There is absolutely no basis whatsoever for this hypothesis… and this is a very dangerous path to go along, for obvious reasons.

    Whilst Faith is always a matter of belief without seeing (with the naked eye), we nonetheless see through experience, using our reason, in the powerful evidence of the thousands of witnesses, notably the Apostles, to the Life and (very especially) to the Resurrection from the Dead of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He proved Himself to be the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God, Who fulfilled the ancient prophesies, performing many miracles and gave us His Word of true authority.
    Everything we know, together with faith (where a good dose of humility is needed to turn from our strong desire to be self-made ‘gods’, making up our own ‘rules’), points to the Catholic Church being the One Holy Living Body that Our Lord left to teach and ‘nourish’ us in order to continue His mission on Earth. If we doubt the Bible is truly the Word of God, we are in Big Trouble!

    See here what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the reliability of Sacred Scripture:
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c2a3.htm

    The astounding logic and reasonableness of the writings of the Early Church Fathers; the history of the whole Catholic Church with Her outstanding accomplishments in her saints and scholars, Popes and bishops, martyrs, missionaries, and also her inspired art and architecture; the countless Eucharistic miracles, apparitions of Our Lady, Mother of God and the proven miracles therein… Do I need to go on? And all this despite the Church being made up of sinful, fallen men, has shown Herself in so many wonders to be the very Bride of Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. If she were no more than a human endeavour, She would never have survived the constant and very determined persecution of Her enemies – Satan with his many and varied helpers!

    And as for Toad who pours nothing more than non-stop scorn on all that is Sacred…. well, what can one say except that it looks like he could have unwittingly ‘signed on’ as one of those “helpers”!

    Satan dictated the Koran to Mohammad, as many saints have testified to. The life of the Muslims’ so-called ‘prophet’ – all his actions and those of his followers who spread his faith system by the force of the sword (persecution, blood and death) – speak for themselves.
    ‘Good’ Muslims, i.e. the majority, who ‘disobey’ the Koran’s call to violence, are despised and hated by those many fanatics who adhere closely to its teachings!
    Christians: those who adhere closely to Christ’s teachings in the Gospel, may become great and holy saints.

    Spot the difference?

  59. toadspittle says:

    “Satan dictated the Koran to Mohammad, as many saints have testified to.”
    The saints might have testified to it, but how could they know any better than anyone else*? Any more than any of us know? If Toad announced that Satan had written the Koran, why should any sane person believe him? He hasn’t got a clue who “wrote,” it or – why. And neither does anyone.

    “And as for Toad who pours nothing more than non-stop scorn on all that is Sacred…. well, what can one say except that it looks like he could have unwittingly ‘signed on’ as one of those “helpers”!” Toad has ‘signed on’ for nothing. He is only interested in suggesting that people read it all, then make up their own minds. If that means believing what he says is rubbish, that’s fine with him.
    Good idea, actually.

    “The astounding logic and reasonableness of the writings of the Early Church Fathers; the history of the whole Catholic Church with Her outstanding accomplishments in her saints and scholars, Popes and bishops, martyrs, missionaries, and also her inspired art and architecture; the countless Eucharistic miracles, apparitions of Our Lady, Mother of God and the proven miracles therein… Do I need to go on?”
    No, but you certainly will. …And quite right, too. Because it’s all wonderful stuff. Can’t get enough of it. However, one small detail – there has never been one “proven”miracle in the history of the world. Doesn’t mean they don’t happen, of course. But we can’t “prove” them.

    *Sigh.. because the saints are holy, Toad.
    So they know everything. Revelation. Er…that’s it.

  60. Robert says:

    Toad I repeat Our Lord didn’t come to prove the existence of God, because Man has always believed in God. We see this belief wherever we find traces of Man.
    What Our Lord did was show Us what God was like; revealed the Trinity and died in reparation for Original Sin. The Gospels are the public revelation of God incarnate.
    Revelation is necessary because Man’s intellect and knowledge errs. (St Aquinas deals with this)
    The Bible is God’s work and written from the perspective of Eternity.
    St Augustine in City Of God demonstrates how the pagan Gods did not exhibit virtue (and hence were demonic).
    Man has Free Will to choose between Heaven and Hell (the afterlife is commonly understood wherever we find Man, sic Homer and Hades). But Free Will means we are Free to choose Sin and its consequences which are Hatred and Hell on Earth. The Saints exhibit myriad reflections of Our Lord, which includes numerous and proven miracles.
    However Free Will doesn’t mean Man being permitted to destroy Creation! No it means the certainty of Hell for Sin. The Apostacy and Anti Christian world we see today can only end in the Loss of myriads of Souls into Hell for Eternity.
    We are required to live a Life of Faith. To see the world through the eyes of the Faith, Our Lords eyes) these eyes are Superior to Naturalism(materialism, modernism etc..).

  61. toadspittle says:

    “Toad I repeat Our Lord didn’t come to prove the existence of God”.
    As far as I know, Robert – nobody has ever remotely suggested that He did.

    “Man has always believed in God. We see this belief wherever we find traces of Man.”
    True, God has always been the explanation (and label) for all the horrible disasters that daily happen to humans on Earth. In turn, this gives rise to the hope that – if we make enough sacrifices to Him – things will be rather less unpleasant for us in The Next World. Who knows? Maybe it’s true.

  62. toadspittle says:

    “That’s really what religion – and the whole argument on CP&S – is all about, isn’t it?”
    No,Toad.
    Unamuno was right – it’s all about immortality. That’s what we really all want.

  63. Robert says:

    sacrificing to Demons/Gods that actually thrive on Sin you have the world of the Pre Christ. When Our Lord was born there had existed the Augustus peace! He came in a period of Peace!
    Immortality? No that has always been Mans belief just look at the Egyptians!
    St Augustine stands before modern science including multi universes BECAUSE CHRIST CAME ONCE! That means One Universe and in a common State under Original Sin.
    Understand that Christ came so that Man as Created sic Adams Fallen Children could be Forgiven, But that is conditional on their repentance and SINNING No more! Its their Free Will, without that repentance how will they be saved?
    Its that simply and Sin clouds mans reasoning. Now todays sacrifice of infants (abortion) the global WARS and we have already had two with now a third in prospect (terrorist war is already global) Wars, Sin, Bestiality the decline in Christianity and the growth of mistrust hatred and herald Anti Christ just as Augustus peace heralded Christ.
    The signs are there. Now the question before Us today is like St Augustine to distinguish between a False Christ and Faith and the True Faith!

  64. toadspittle says:

    “Immortality? No that has always been Man’s belief just look at the Egyptians!”
    If you read carefully, Robert, – you will see that I’m saying that all religions, (including Greeks and Romans) believed in immortality. At least, as far as I know. Did the Egyptians regard paradise as a place everyone could go – or was it just reserved for Kings and nobles? I don’t know.
    Anyway, we do know Christianity promised eternal happiness for all who wanted it, and followed the rules. So it was, and still is, popular.

  65. toadspittle says:

    “I repeat the source of all information of Our Lord’s pre public Life was Our Lady.”
    If so, Robert (and I’m not denying it – how do I know?) why doesn’t it ever say so? Isn’t the fact that Christ’s mother told someone this fascinating information worth mentioning in itself?
    But I’m re-reading the Gospels now (at, I think, GC’s suggestion) and I keep finding myself asking “How do they know that?” How do we know what Satan said to Christ in the desert? How do we know about Pilate’s wife’s dream? That’s two for starters. There are more. And, if the Gospel writers were getting some of their early information from Christ’s mother, didn’t her son say, or do, one single thing worth mentioning for 18 solid years?

    Although. I might as well ask how do we know what Lancelot told Guinevere: Because it’s in the book, on page 236, Toad – you idiot.

  66. Robert says:

    No Toad wrong. The Ancients believed in Immortality of the person (outside of the body).
    The Greeks had interaction with Egyptians sic Plato and Atlantis. So with the Greeks we have the summit of Science. Hades, Reincarnation etc.. The Ancients believed in God and Immortality of the person! But the Kingdom of Heaven?
    God wasn’t known and neither was this Kingdom of Heaven. The Trinity wasn’t known and this was expressly revealed by Our Lord.
    What are these Rules that you are talking about? Look Man/Men have all a consistent and common set of beliefs a Natural Law. The Ten Commandments were not revealed but were common to all men. Dawkins has these Natural Laws associated with the genes! Even talk of a God gene! The point is that this knowledge of God and natural Laws are within Man.
    What on earth do you mean by Christianity being popular? The Holy Martyrs and Persecution of the first 3/4 hundred years refutes that. The sacraments and the Acts of the Disciples/Apostles and miracles were experienced and understood. The lives of the saints are replete with examples and evidence of the living Christ through His mystical Body the Church.
    The Prophets/seers continued! These have always existed from generation to generation in Our time we have St Pio for instance.
    Its good that you are reading the Bible. But read it in small portions do not treat it as copy! You are asking good questions How did they know that? Well the Bible is interlinked Prophetic Genesis for instance links into Apoc! Much of the Nativity is about the realisation of known Prophecy and how this was realised. I have already pointed out what St John wrote about Christ! Our Lady was also known in Genesis reference is made to the woman who crushes the serpents head.
    The Old Testament is replete with Christ and Mary!
    The 18 years? Well start thinking again about the Messiah and the need to protect and hide Him to protect Him. The Persecution known to the mystical Body is the Truth of the continual Persecution of the Christ! We know and understand that the Mystical Body (Church) recreates the Life of Christ.
    The mistake is to see the Gospels as just another Book. This work is written from the perception of Eternity. The words are charged and pregnant with depths and meanings.
    We are attracted to Christ because in the depths of our being we see and recognise Him! We see in Him the hidden God. We want to be with Him. He is alive Resurrected so is Our Lady. Living breathing and alive! He is evidence of the Life of Virtue and Graces that these exist and open a Kingdom of Eternity Heaven. But the Gospels also show the Free Will choices that can be made to reject, violently reject this Life of Virtue and Grace AND that Satan is also very Real and exists in Eternity BUT His Kingdom is of Vice, Sin and Graceless.
    Start to see through the eyes of Faith because that is Our Lords gift to you!

  67. toadspittle says:

    “What on earth do you mean by Christianity being popular? The Holy Martyrs and Persecution of the first 3/4 hundred years refutes that. “
    What on earth I mean, Rogebert, is that over the past two thousand years Christianity has become relatively popular. Not many people would contest that. You seem to have ignored the next 16 hundred years, for some reason only you can know.
    That’s it. No, as you point out, it wasn’t always so, and maybe Christianity’s popularity is inexorably on the wane. And maybe not.

    “The Ancients believed in Immortality of the person (outside of the body).”
    …And Christians don’t. OK.

    “Start to see through the eyes of Faith because that is Our Lords gift to you!”
    Does He give His gift to Muslims and Hindus, or even Lutheran women? No? If not, why not?

  68. kathleen says:

    Robert @ 9:27

    This must surely be one of the best comments you have ever written (IMHO) as a summary of how and why we put our faith and trust in all that Sacred Scripture reveals. It is also a fine definition of why: “We see Him come and know Him ours” – the title of GC’s lovely article!
    I truly wish Toad would read your explanation slowly and absorb it all, without giving us his usual tongue-in-cheek approach.

    @ Toad (about the hidden years of Jesus)

    In fact your question is a good one, and is something that has been voiced by very many Christians over the centuries. It actually has a quite simple answer, but quite a lengthy one, so I shall write a post about it to give you a few more details, okay?

  69. Robert says:

    I look forward to reading Kathleen’s intended Post.
    Toad Peace and Goodness.
    God doesn’t Create Man/Men destined for Hell!
    We are judged by God on what we know! Not what we cannot or do not know. The Creed One Holy Catholic Apostolic. That All Men but through the Sacraments. The Holy Sacrifice Of The Mass is the place to seek and understand the Salvation of souls who through no fault of their own have never had the privileges and Graces of the Catholics. They have a sincere Love of God and respond in the only ways that are known to them! BUT Christ is the only door to Heaven The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! Think Our Lord and the Centurion’s Daughter!
    To many Catholics lack Love and Charity towards Muslims and Protestants, you must reach out with the Love which you have been given This is what St Francis did he walked alone to the preach to the Muslims!
    Christians believe in Christ! That they will be where He is!

  70. GC says:

    It is also a fine definition of why: “We see Him come and know Him ours”

    kathleen, this must be true. How else can we explain the lasting magnetic(?) attraction Our Lord has on souls, even those of great intellect, all around the world?

    How to explain the great feats of the saints in their stunning wisdom, virtue, talents, courage and charity?

    It can only be that we see in Our Lord the summit of human perfection we know we should strive to reach.

    As for Our Lord’s “hidden” 18 years, I think we have to remember that the evangelists were writing “gospels” (the good news, evangelion), not “biographies”. I somehow suspect they weren’t particularly counting on gaining the strict approval of repetitive toads 1900+ years later as to their status as 20th/21st century “biographers”. Tough, isn’t it.

  71. Michael says:

    Kathleen @ 16:29, December 21st:

    Thank you, very much! Sorry for the delayed reply, but I have been busy getting things ready for Christmas and travelling about a bit the last couple of days.

    Also, regarding Roger’s comment at 09:27, I agree – worth poring over, as there are some excellent points in there indeed. The only thing I’d want to add to this particular conversation (by way of supplementing, not disagreeing with Roger’s excellent comment) is that personal immortality was not widely assumed in the ancient world at all – the Egyptians were something of a special case in this respect, in that they had a well worked out theology of the afterlife and believed the end of this mortal life to end in some kind of personal survival living close to God/the gods.

    For most other pre-Christian cultures, the afterlife was a shady concept indeed, and the many rites of the ancient world (apart from perhaps some of the mystery cults that emerged in the period just before the Nativity of Our Lord had the purpose of reconciling humankind to the eternal cycle of birth and death, maintained in perpetuity by the gods but not designed to bring us in to communion with them.

    It is easy to assume now, living in an age and culture that is so shaped by Christian ideas of the afterlife, that religion is all about personal immortality, but the reality is that for most peoples it was about creating a context (in rites, liturgies, prayers, myths, etc) in which we could give voice to our basic intuition that, based on our experiences here and now, there has to be something more that underpins all our apprehension of meaning, etc. The idea that the universe just made itself, or that one could have intuition of meaning without a wider context to underpin that experience, is a very modern idea indeed and would have been seen (rightly) as utterly ridiculous to the vast, vast majority of humans that have ever lived – that is why we have always had religion, not the desire for personal immortality.

    Anyway, it is good to reflect on these things, because it is a good reminder of just how much we do take for granted regarding the difference Christ made/makes. The way we think about human dignity and the subsequent ways in which our culture has made provision for the weak, elderly and infirm is one difference that gets mentioned a lot. But what doesn’t get mentioned quite as often is the change in the way we see God – in coming to us in great humility to show us the depth and extent of His love for us, and in opening the way to build a relationship with Him that is so strong it continues after death, the way in which people saw the nature and purpose of God changed radically as well. What GC writes above, that:

    It can only be that we see in Our Lord the summit of human perfection we know we should strive to reach.

    brings these aspects together very well indeed! As she also points out, it is not really that strange that the Evangelists weren’t too bothered about detailing every year of Our Lord’s life (Hello magazine style) when there all these other, rather more important, things to focus on🙂

  72. Michael says:

    P.S. I look forward to the intended post as well! I expect it will be a good ‘un🙂

  73. Michael says:

    P.P.S. I have just read a post that concludes with a reading from the Divine Office by Saint Hippolytus. I quote it here because, given due attention to what it says, and to the rich web of assumptions and allusions it makes (i.e.; not reacting to the text in ways that would be foreign to the writer or anyone receiving it from within the tradition that he writes within, and not imposing any assumptions upon it that neglect that context in which the text arose)/, I find it connects in some very significant ways with a great many of the issues that have been discussed above, and possibly (there is a great deal included/alluded to in what Saint Hippolytus has to say here) more:

    There is only one God, brethren, and we learn about him only from sacred Scripture. It is therefore our duty to become acquainted with what Scripture proclaims and to investigate its teachings thoroughly. We should believe them in the sense that the Father wills, thinking of the Son in the way the Father wills, and accepting the teaching he wills to give us with regard to the Holy Spirit. Sacred Scripture is God’s gift to us and it should be understood in the way that he intends: we should not do violence to it by interpreting it according to our own preconceived ideas.

    God was all alone and nothing existed but himself when he determined to create the world. He thought of it, willed it, spoke the word and so made it. It came into being instantaneously, exactly as he had willed. It is enough then for us to be aware of a single fact: nothing is coeternal with God. Apart from God there was simply nothing else. Yet although he was alone, he was manifold because he lacked neither reason, wisdom, power, nor counsel. All things were in him and he himself was all. At a moment of his own choosing and in a manner determined by himself, God manifested his Word, and through him he made the whole universe.

    When the Word was hidden within God himself he was invisible to the created world, but God made him visible. First God gave utterance to his voice, engendering light from light, and then he sent his own mind into the world as its Lord. Visible before to God alone and not to the world, God made him visible so that the world could be saved by seeing him. This mind that entered our world was made known as the Son of God. All things came into being through him; but he alone is begotten by the Father.

    The Son gave us the law and the prophets, and he filled the prophets with the Holy Spirit to compel them to speak out. Inspired by the Father’s power, they were to proclaim the Father’s purpose and his will.

    So the Word was made manifest, as Saint John declares when, summing up all the sayings of the prophets, he announces that this is the Word through whom the whole universe was made. He says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things came into being; not one thing was created without him. And further on he adds: The world was made through him, and yet the world did not know him. He entered his own creation, and his own did not receive him.

  74. kathleen says:

    @ Michael,

    Thank you for that truly lovely meditation by Saint Hippolytus, that as you say, is most appropriate to combat* some of the arguments and issues that have been discussed on this post.

    The info you give on how those pre-Christian cultures viewed the afterlife was most interesting too. How blessed we are to have been born after the Anno Domini and know ourselves destined for Heaven where we shall contemplate the Beatific Vision for all Eternity…
    Just so long as we ‘pick up our daily cross’ and follow Our Lord and Saviour, in Whom we put all our trust.

    A very joyful and holy Christmas to you and all our faithful visitors and commenters on CP&S.🙂

    P.S. The “intended post” I mentioned will be along after Christmas!

    * [Ed. this word got omitted by mistake]

  75. GC says:

    kathleen, I can only second your vote of thanks. Those last 3 comments of Michael were much admired down here.

    Christmas blessings to you too, kathleen, and to all CP&S followers and visitors.

    It’s one hour and 48 minutes into Christmas here in equatorial Asia, so I’m going to go and stick a Christmas type fanfare over on kathleen’s new article.

  76. Michael says:

    Kathleen and GC, thank you both, and I wish you a very merry Christmas (though we have about an hour and a half still to go here in the UK…)

    How blessed we are indeed to have received all we have from the coming of Our Lord, and how wise the Church is to build this festivals into the yearly round so that we can reflect upon those blessings again and again, letting them weave their way ever deeper into our memories, thoughts and feelings. Now also seems an appropriate time to thank all the team at CP&S for all the good work you do here writing and posting articles and keeping things in order! May your Christmas seasons all be filled with a renewed sense of inner peace and joy🙂

  77. Tom Fisher says:

    The astounding logic and reasonableness of the writings of the Early Church Fathers

    Kathleen, have you actually taken the time (aside from snippets quoted in apologetic texts) to read through the “Early Church Fathers”? I’ve made a fair crack at reading Papias, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, and Clement. If you really think they are paragons of logic and reasonableness, I question your judgement.

    Judas may well have literally exploded from the gut, because he had become so obese that he couldn’t move. And the early post-New Testament writers, replete with such stories, may well be a sound source for Christian doctrine. But I really doubt it.

    Given the the corpus of “Early Church Fathers” what is an example of their astounding logic?

  78. Tom Fisher says:

    ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams is my Christmas suggestion. The particular video I link to below features a carefully constructed slideshow by an RVW fan. It is a profoundly religious piece, without the faintest hint of unresolved dogmatic disputes.

    If you spend hours upon hours reading writers such as Tertullian, et al. you eventually realise that the reason they sometimes seem like such insane fanatics, is that they were.

    The New Testament, and many later writings are profoundly beautiful. But the notion that the “Early Church Fathers” were astounding in their logic and reasonableness is hard to understand

  79. toadspittle says:

    Toad, who is about to pass though the Door of Mercy* at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in a hour or so, wishes all his CP&S friends a happy and holy Christmas.

    *Might work. Never know, do you?

  80. GC says:

    A toad hopping through the holy doors of Compostela must be an interesting sight.

    I’m sure we wish the same to you, Toad, and to Mrs Toad.

  81. GC says:

    A holy and happy Christmas to you too, Mr Fisher.

    I think The Lark Ascending is also one of Toad’s favouritest classical pieces and a survey last year revealed it was Britain’s favourite too.

    I recall that Pope Benedict gave talks on the Church Fathers every Wednesday during his public audiences. I think he held the Fathers in higher esteem than you appear to. Tertullian, who you refer to, was according to the Pope emeritus a very great apologist and an original thinker; but of course he eventually ended up not completely in the good books.

  82. Michael says:

    GC @ 11:54:

    An excellent and very restrained defence of the insane fanatics of the Early Church🙂 To continue the festive humour, here’s Bruvver Eccles most recent installment:

    http://ecclesandbosco.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/a-good-thrashing-for-giles-fraser.html

  83. Michael says:

    P.S. May I sugggest you remove that link to ‘Early Christian Writings’ from your sidebar? After all, Saint Paul tells us (c.f.; 1 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:9, 2:1) that we should only teach what befits sound doctrine.

  84. Tom Fisher says:

    May I suggest you remove that link to ‘Early Christian Writings’ from your sidebar? After all, Saint Paul tells us (c.f.; 1 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:9, 2:1) that we should only teach what befits sound doctrine.

    Michael may well be right. The whole business of making these writings available in the vernacular was dubious enough to begin with.
    The term ‘Apostolic Fathers’ (referring to the generation after the Apostles) is one of those titles which throws a veil of venerability over the 2nd Century writers. They are, as Michael wisely suggests they shouldn’t be, freely available in (somewhat archaic translations) on the internet. For modern scholarly translations you need to spend some money.
    After Tertullian (and maybe before) the term ‘Early Apostolic Fathers’ ceases to be much use. I would suggest, to Michael especially, everybody face up to (and read) the material that was produced in the 2nd Century, and then judge if it was a worthy parent.

    GC, ‘The Lark Ascending’ isn’t really Christmas music at all, of course. But it is to me.

  85. Tom Fisher says:

    An excellent and very restrained defence of the insane fanatics of the Early Church..

    Yes Michael, GC did well as always. But is it not a revealing fact that you want such “defences” posted, at the same time as you want freely available (though archaic) translations removed from the sidebar? It might seem to indicate a certain discomfiture with the primary texts.

  86. Michael says:

    Ahem. Tom, it was meant to be a joke, with reference to your suggestion that the early post-NT writers might not be such a good source for sound doctrine. A pretty bad joke perhaps, but I had hoped it was clear that joke it was. Nevermind.

    Also, funny you assume that the only reason people disagree with your position on the early Church Fathers is because they haven’t read them… ho, ho, ho!

  87. Tom Fisher says:

    Ah. I see now. Well it wasn’t a bad joke, and it’s not your fault that I was too dense to see it.

    I really don’t make that last assumption you mention. But I don’t find the post NT writers to be full of ‘astounding logic and reasonableness’ either. I reckon there was a noticeable drop off in quality after the NT, and that Christian writing got back on track in the 3rd century. And there’s a subjective element, I find Irenaeus to be an authoritarian, and I have instinctive sympathy for some of those he rails against. It’s a personal bias. And I accept that I’ve been a bit waspish lately. Sorry about that.

  88. Michael says:

    Not a problem Tom, and apologies for making fun in the first place – I should have bridled my keyboard! But yes, I think we just have a basic difference in approach to and/or reception of those Fathers of the first two centuries here. I don’t know who you have in mind, but I can’t imagine Church teaching as we know it without the witness of Saints Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and Irenaeus (and re that last one, I don’t have the same issues with his exercising his authority as you – in fact, I see this as another important testimony to an identifiable apostolic lineage and the exercising of its teaching authority).

    We would not only be a poorer Church, but a completely different one, without them. And I do find them to be quite reasonable and logical for the most part too (especially when you take into account what kind of arguments they are making, as well as separate the rhetoric from the content of the arguments per se). Anyway, as I say, though I cannot see where you are coming from here, there is clearly basic difference in approach/reception, and its therefore probably not worth banging on about it any more here. Best to return to RVW (who I don’t particularly associate with Christmas either, but am greatly appreciative of – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis being a particular favourite) and let his magic dissolve any personal differences of opinion🙂

  89. kathleen says:

    Tom Fisher @ 6:49 yesterday

    “Kathleen, have you actually taken the time (aside from snippets quoted in apologetic texts) to read through the “Early Church Fathers”?

    Yes, I have in fact! Surprised? (By your tone, it certainly sounds as though you will be!)

    Not all and every single thing of course – indeed, probably only a small part of the total number of voluminous works the esteemed Early Fathers wrote covering those first centuries of our era – but I’ve read quite a lot all the same. A basic knowledge of their work was necessary to obtain my diploma for a theological course I once did. Some of them I found heavy-going, I admit, but others were a joy and inspiration, and I think they give us a sound and deeper understanding of our Faith, as (H/T to GC) the Holy Father himself, Pope Benedict XVI, tried to get across in his wonderful Wednesday audiences. (Sorry, no time to go into greater detail right now.)

    Well, Tom, I think you must have been either skim-reading the comments here, or else you were recovering from a drop too much of the good and bountiful Christmas fare, not to have noticed that Michael was pulling your leg ^ @ 23:31 yesterday in pretending to agree with your criticism of the ECF’s writings!😉
    Still, you were very gracious in your apology… and I sometimes ‘put my foot in it’ too, so who am I to judge?🙂

    A happy St Stephen’s day to you and everyone. The Church’s first martyr, and what a great one!

  90. GC says:

    kathleen, I could say that Mr Fisher would very possibly feel inclined to number St Stephen Protomartyr among the “early Church fanatics” of whom he speaks. But that might give rise to some feeling of irritation in Mr Fisher, so I won’t.

  91. Tom Fisher says:

    kathleen, I could say that I think Mr Fisher would very possibly feel inclined to number St Stephen Protomartyr among the “early Church fanatics” of whom he speaks. But that might give rise to some feeling of annoyance in Mr Fisher, so I won’t.

    I thoroughly deserve that; and Kathleen is right that I’ve been thin-skinned, and irritable. I’ve been in a bad mood, but it has nothing to do with CP&S, it’s purely personal. I’m sorry about that. I’ll take a wee sabbatical – and respectfully respond to previous comments after that.

  92. GC says:

    Actually, you didn’t deserve it, Mr Tom. I myself am checking out the availability of those “bridles” that Michael mentioned specifically for keyboards.

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