Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Oldest Gospel?


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Fragment 5 from Cave 7 of the Qumran Community in its entirety

Among the Dead Sea scrolls, 7Q5 is the designation for a small papyrus fragment discovered in Qumran Cave 7. The significance of this fragment is derived from an argument made by Jose O´Callaghan in his work ¿Papiros neotestamentarios en la cueva 7 de Qumrân? ("New Testament Papyri in Cave 7 at Qumran?") in 1972, later reasserted and expanded by German scholar Carsten Peter Thiede in his work The Earliest Gospel Manuscript? in 1982. The assertion is that the previously unidentified 7Q5 is actually a fragment of the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6 verse 52-53. The majority of scholars have not been convinced by O'Callaghan's and Thiede's identification[1][2] and it is "now virtually universally rejected".[3][4]
O'Callaghan's proposed identification

This shows the Greek text of Mark 6:52-53. Bold characters represent proposed identifications with characters from 7Q5:[5]

ου γαρ
συνηκαν επι τοις αρτοις,
αλλ ην αυτων η καρδια πεπωρω-
μενη. και διαπερασαντες [επι την γην]
ηλθον εις γεννησαρετ και
προσωρμισθησαν. και εξελ-
θοντων αυτων εκ του πλοιου ευθυς
επιγνοντες αυτον.

for they did not
understand concerning the loaves
but was their heart harden-
ed. And crossing over [unto the land]
they came unto Gennesaret and
drew to the shore. And com-
ing forth out of the boat immediately
they recognized him.

The 7th Cave at Qumran, where 7Q5 was found.

The argument is weighted on two points.

* First, the spacing before the word και ("and") signifies a paragraph break, which is consistent with the normative layout of Mark in early copies. Secondly, the combination of letters ννησ found in line 4 is highly characteristic and may point at the word Γεννησαρετ , found three times in the New Testament.
* Furthermore, a computer search "using the most elaborate Greek texts ... has failed to yield any text other than Mark 6:52-53 for the combination of letters identified by O’Callaghan et al. in 7Q5".[6]

Several counterarguments exist.

* The spacing before the word και ("and") might be a paragraph break. But spacings of this width can be found in papyri sometimes even within words (Pap. Bodmer XXIV, plate 26; in Qumran in fragment 4Q122). Other examples in the Qumran texts show that the word και ("and") in many cases was separated with spacings - and this has in many cases nothing to do with the text's structure.
* Although the sequence ννησ is unusual in Greek, the word εγεννησεν ("begot") also contains those four letters. In fact, this conjecture was proposed by the authors of the first edition (editio princeps) published in 1962. In such case the fragment might be part of some genealogy.
* In order to identify the fragment with Mark 6:52-53, one must account for the replacement of original δ with τ in line 3, and, although such difference is not without parallel in ancient Greek where two similar meaning words might be confused, the suggested reading requires the misspelling of a prepositional prefix to create an unknown word.[7]
* As the lines of a column are always more or less of the same length, it must be assumed that the words επι την γην ("to the land") were omitted, a variant which is not attested elsewhere.[7].
* The identification of the last letter in line 2 with nu has been strongly disputed because it does not fit into the pattern of this Greek letter as it is clearly written in line 4.[8]
* The computer search performed by Thiede assumed that all the disputed letter identifications made by O'Callaghan were correct. However, a similar search performed by scholar Daniel Wallace, but allowing other possible identifications for the disputed letters, found sixteen matches [7]. If a computer search is performed with the undisputed letters of the fragment 7Q5 it will not find the text Mk 6,52-53, because the undisputed letter τ in line 3 does not fit to this text.[9]


If 7Q5 were identified as Mark 6:52-53 and was deposited in the cave at Qumran by 68 AD, it would become the earliest known fragment of the New Testament, predating P52 by at least some if not many decades.

Since the amount of text in the manuscript is so small, even a confirmation of 7Q5 as Markan "might mean nothing more than that the contents of these few verses were already formalized, not necessarily that there was a manuscript of Mark's Gospel on hand".[10] Since the entirety of the find in Cave 7 consists of fragments in Greek, it is possible that the contents of this cave are of a separate "Hellenized" library than the Hebrew texts found in the other caves. Additionally, as Robert Eisenman points out: "Most scholars agree that the scrolls were deposited in the cave in or around 68 AD, but often mistake this date...for the terminus ad quem for the deposit of the scrolls in the caves/cessation of Jewish habitation at the site, when it cannot be considered anything but the terminus a quo for both of these, i.e., not the latest but the earliest possible date for such a deposit and/or Jewish abandonment of the site. The actual terminus ad quem for both of these events, however difficult it may be to accept at first, is 136 AD."(italics his)[11] This is long after the currently accepted date range for the composition of Mark.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart

As given by Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.

2. I will give peace in their families.

3. I will console them in all their troubles.

4. They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of death.

5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.

6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.

7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.

8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.

9. I will bless the homes in which the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored.

10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.

11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their name written in My Heart, and it shall never be effaced.

12. I promise thee in the excess of the mercy of My Heart, that its all-powerful Love will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of Nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under My displeasure, nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.

For in depth explanation of these 12 promises, see Fr. Joseph McDonnell S.J.'s excellent reflections at www.DailyCatholic.org/2005pro.htm Archives.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Matthew Buckley on the Doctrine of Transubstantiation

What About Those Accidents?

By Matthew Buckley

The doctrine of transubstantiation has certainly gone through a very difficult time during the past half a century. There has been no shortage of erroneous explanations of this central tenet of Catholic faith. One thinks of new-fangled terms such as transfinalisation and transignification in an attempt to change what is an unchanging and unchangeable dogma of the faith. Some clearly didn’t receive the memo from Vatican I on the enduring permanence of meaning of the Church’s definitions. These false opinions were given an eloquent rebuke in Paul VI’s masterly encyclical Mysterium Fidei which remains for myself a personal favourite in my reading of encyclical letters.

I think most good, faithful Catholics would be well aware of this lack of belief in the Real Presence and perhaps even the attempts to give equal weighting to Christ’s presence in the Eucharistic elements as to his presence in the congregation, the minister or the Scriptures. Something that I call the equi-presence doctrine. Most too would probably have heard of figures thrown around from surveys that only 30% of Mass attending Catholics believe in Christ’s Real Presence as the Church understands it.

But what I am concerned with presently is not these egregious errors that demonstrate the truth of those words “this is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?” but rather errors I have noticed amongst otherwise good, devout, faithful who most certainly give their wholehearted assent to Christ’s presence under the consecrated species. If your classical dissident is prepared to deny the presence of Christ’s substance, your occasional good Catholic it seems is prepared to deny (somewhat selectively it must be said) the enduring presence of the consecrated species’ accidents.

When I say selectively I mean that such persons do not deny that the consecrated species of bread let us say, looks the same, tastes the same and weighs the same. It concerns what might be considered some of the slightly more subtle implications of the presence of the accidents after the consecration. I remember once discussing with a good Catholic friend about the hypothetical scenario of a person taking in a large quantity of consecrated wine and noting that it would be capable of making them drunk. He replied, “it’s the blood of Christ by the time you get to it.” That is without a doubt true but in no way invalidates the point.

I further assume the distinction between “accidents” and “substance” is most likely a familiar one to the Catholic of this sort or the words at any rate. But the full implications of what this means is sometimes lacking. This may be because what we call the “accidents” (the understanding of which I will elaborate on soon) are not after all the most important thing about the Eucharist; the main emphasis being (rightly) on the presence of Christ. So perhaps they are not given as much attention.

So how are accidents meant to be understood? Philosophically they must not be confused with an unintended mistake like a car smash. Accidents are a secondary mode of being. Being primarily refers to that which simply is, the actual thing itself such as a dog. This is a substance which means it has its own being in itself (per se) and not by virtue of another. This is in contrast to an accident which does not have being simply but be’s in another. An accident cannot exist by itself without a substance in which to inhere. An example of an accident would be a colour such as greenness. We do not see greenness walking about all by itself; rather we see a green thing. Greenness is an accident which means it must exist in some substance. A substance is an ‘upstander’ which supports the accidents which could be considered ‘instickers’ inhering in the substance. There is a real distinction between the two since a green thing is not its greenness but rather has greenness. It can be especially tempting to confuse the accident of quantity with substance. But a thing is not identically the same with its property of extension rather it has extension.

The only time this relationship between accidents and substance does not obtain is in the Eucharist. For here, by a miracle, the accidents are sustained by the power of God without their natural substance within which to inhere. The first point to be noted if we are to have a proper understanding of the Catholic faith on this matter therefore is the Church is not teaching that the Eucharist involves some kind of optical illusion. To begin with, colour or appearance is only one sort of accident. But more fundamentally it is the dogmatic teaching of the Church that the accidents really continue to exist after the consecration. Hence all the accidents we perceive are in fact present. But the bread and wine themselves, the substance, is not there. It is not true to say the wine is there because we can perceive its accidents since the wine is not its accidents. Transubstantiation essentially means that even if (God forbid) a consecrated element were taken to a laboratory nothing could ever prove any change to have actually occurred. But neither of course could a scientist disprove transubstantiation when the precise nature of what is claimed to have occurred is understood. For no scientific experiment can disprove that God can uphold the accidents while taking the substance away since the claim is not one that falls inside the scope of natural science’s ability to investigate.

My interest in all this was piqued recently by the resurfacing of a claim that one could not possibly receive any ill effects from receiving the sacramental species including diseases from the communion chalice. When I went to further investigate this I came across an interesting news story from last year when Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart temporarily banned the reception of communion from the chalice due to concern of spreading the H1N1 virus otherwise known as the swine flu. What was most revealing – prompting me to write this present piece in fact – is the vast number of comments underneath the Catholic News Agency story that I read by Catholics questioning the Archbishop’s “lack of faith.” How could he think that someone could catch something from receiving Christ? What sort of blasphemy was this? I’ve no doubt many such commentators were well intentioned and in good faith but the central problem here was no lack of faith on the Archbishop’s behalf but, it must be said, a lack of sound theology by the internet commentariat.

Now let me clarify here that the point of this article is not to discuss one way or another whether someone should receive from the chalice. My points here will relate to both species even if this form of reception naturally has the greater attention given to it in this matter. Whether someone receives in this manner when the option is available to them is their prudent choice. My concern in this article is with the theological claim which I will spell out just now.

I think the general thesis of this school could be fairly summarised by the following proposition:

The reception of the Eucharistic cannot result in any unfavourable physical side effect because it is Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

To this I would make the following observations:

(1) There is no dogmatic teaching of the Church which binds us to hold this.

(2) It ignores the principle that the accidents that is, the properties of the substance, and the interaction thereof with other substances remains as it was prior to the consecration.

(3) In the case of bacteria or viruses these are in no way changed in their effects simply because they happen to be placed near or with the sacramental species which species themselves retain their own properties.

(4) Even abstracting from the question of protection from external agents separate from the species, on rare occasion the species themselves may affect the recipient in a less than desirable manner due to the remaining accidents. I’m thinking chiefly here of people who suffer of celiac disease which makes them intolerant to gluten products. A person who has this condition will quickly discover that they need to consume either a very small amount of the host or under the other species. Some of these cases have received notoriety in the news usually in the form of attacking the Church for not relaxing the requirements for what constitutes valid matter. If the sacramental species no longer had these effects these controversies would never have occurred in the first place.

(5) If this is true of the very sacramental consecrated species then a fortiori even more so is it true of bacteria and other undesirables. Many people seem to frame an objection that one couldn’t possibly ‘catch something’ from ‘receiving Jesus.’ However one is not catching something formally speaking from ‘receiving Jesus’ anymore than one is receiving the reaction proper to celiac disease from Him.

Therefore if a serious risk of spreading an ill effect via the manner of distribution of the species is perceived then a bishop is perfectly within his rights to act responsibility to curb any danger arising from this without the charge of having a weak faith.

Now is it a prudent idea to receive from the chalice? That isn’t the point of this article. I’ll leave that to the individual reader’s prudence. Many are not comfortable with it; others do not think there is much risk in normal circumstances. People are free to hold those opinions as they see fit. The point I’m making is there is no theological a priori guarantee that it will not be a medium for spreading something should all the usual conditions be present. To assume God would simply work miracles ad infinitum to protect us from our own decisions when it is very simple to choose differently is not sound theology especially when God has no problem in permitting us to suffer these things in the usual course of our existence.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jesus Son of Mary, Son of David

What does it mean that Jesus is the son of David?

Jesus son of David

Question: "What does it mean that Jesus is the son of David?"

Seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the "son of David." But the question arises, how could Jesus be the son of David if David lived approximately 1000 years before Jesus? The answer is that Christ (the Messiah) was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the seed of David (2 Samuel 7:14-16). Jesus was the promised Messiah, which meant He was of the seed of David. Matthew 1 gives the genealogical proof that Jesus, in His humanity, was a direct descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, Jesus' legal father. The genealogy in Luke chapter 3 gives Jesus' lineage through His mother, Mary. Jesus is a descendant of David, by adoption through Joseph, and by blood through Mary. Primarily though, when Christ was referred to as the Son of David, it was meant to refer to His Messianic title as the Old Testament prophesied concerning Him.

Jesus was addressed as “Lord, thou son of David” several times by people who, by faith, were seeking mercy or healing. The woman whose daughter was being tormented by a demon (Matthew 15:22), the two blind men by the wayside (Matthew 20:30), and blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47), all cried out to the son of David for help. The titles of honor they gave Him declared their faith in Him. Calling Him Lord expressed their sense of His deity, dominion, and power, and by calling Him “son of David,” they were professing Him to be the Messiah.

The Pharisees, too, understood what was meant when they heard the people calling Jesus “son of David.” But unlike those who cried out in faith, they were so blinded by their own pride and lack of understanding of the Scriptures that they couldn’t see what the blind beggars could see – that here was the Messiah they had supposedly been waiting for all their lives. They hated Jesus because He wouldn’t give them the honor they thought they deserved, so when they heard the people hailing Jesus as the Savior, they became enraged (Matthew 21:15) and plotted to destroy Him (Luke 19:47).

Jesus further confounded the scribes and Pharisees by asking them to explain the meaning of this very title. How could it be that the Messiah is the son of David when David himself refers to Him as “my Lord” (Mark 12:35-37)? Of course the teachers of the law couldn’t answer the question. Jesus thereby exposed the Jewish spiritual leaders’ ineptitude as teachers and their ignorance of what the Old Testament taught as to the true nature of the Messiah, further alienating them from Him.

Jesus Christ, the only son of God and the only means of salvation for the world (Acts 4:12), is also the son of David, both in a physical sense and a spiritual sense.

Taken from: http://www.gotquestions.org/jesus-son-of-david.html

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Matthew Buckley Explains the True Purpose of Marriage

Living Tradition

Editor: Msgr. John F. McCarthy, J.C.D., S.T.D. Distributed several times a year to interested members.
Associate Editor: Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D. Not to be republished without permission.
Please address all correspondence to: www.rtforum.org e-mail: jfm@rtforum.org

Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA

No. 144 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program January 2010


by Matthew Buckley

Read this excellent article at: http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt144.html

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Justice of God Manifested Through Faith in Jesus Christ

Text of pope’s message for Lent 2010

(Related story: Conversion breaks bonds of selfishness, pope says in Lenten message)
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI’s message for Lent 2010 was released by the Vatican today at a press conference. Here is the full text:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Each year, on the occasion of Lent, the Church invites us to a sincere review of our life in light of the teachings of the Gospel. This year, I would like to offer you some reflections on the great theme of justice, beginning from the Pauline affirmation: “The justice of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ” (cf. Rm 3, 21-22).
Justice: “dare cuique suum”

A young survivor of the Haitian earthquake. (CNS/Bob Roller)
First of all, I want to consider the meaning of the term “justice,” which in common usage implies “to render to every man his due,” according to the famous expression of Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the third century. In reality, however, this classical definition does not specify what “due” is to be rendered to each person. What man needs most cannot be guaranteed to him by law. In order to live life to the full, something more intimate is necessary that can be granted only as a gift: we could say that man lives by that love which only God can communicate since He created the human person in His image and likeness. Material goods are certainly useful and required – indeed Jesus Himself was concerned to heal the sick, feed the crowds that followed Him and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water and medicine – yet “distributive” justice does not render to the human being the totality of his “due.” Just as man needs bread, so does man have even more need of God. Saint Augustine notes: if “justice is that virtue which gives every one his due … where, then, is the justice of man, when he deserts the true God?” (De civitate Dei, XIX, 21).
What is the Cause of Injustice?
The Evangelist Mark reports the following words of Jesus, which are inserted within the debate at that time regarding what is pure and impure: “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him … What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts” (Mk 7, 14-15, 20-21). Beyond the immediate question concerning food, we can detect in the reaction of the Pharisees a permanent temptation within man: to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause. Many modern ideologies deep down have this presupposition: since injustice comes “from outside,” in order for justice to reign, it is sufficient to remove the exterior causes that prevent it being achieved. This way of thinking – Jesus warns – is ingenuous and shortsighted. Injustice, the fruit of evil, does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil. With bitterness the Psalmist recognises this: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51,7). Indeed, man is weakened by an intense influence, which wounds his capacity to enter into communion with the other. By nature, he is open to sharing freely, but he finds in his being a strange force of gravity that makes him turn in and affirm himself above and against others: this is egoism, the result of original sin. Adam and Eve, seduced by Satan’s lie, snatching the mysterious fruit against the divine command, replaced the logic of trusting in Love with that of suspicion and competition; the logic of receiving and trustfully expecting from the Other with anxiously seizing and doing on one’s own (cf. Gn 3, 1-6), experiencing, as a consequence, a sense of disquiet and uncertainty. How can man free himself from this selfish influence and open himself to love?
Justice and Sedaqah
At the heart of the wisdom of Israel, we find a profound link between faith in God who “lifts the needy from the ash heap” (Ps 113,7) and justice towards one’s neighbor. The Hebrew word itself that indicates the virtue of justice, sedaqah, expresses this well. Sedaqah, in fact, signifies on the one hand full acceptance of the will of the God of Israel; on the other hand, equity in relation to one’s neighbour (cf. Ex 20, 12-17), especially the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow (cf. Dt 10, 18-19). But the two meanings are linked because giving to the poor for the Israelite is none other than restoring what is owed to God, who had pity on the misery of His people. It was not by chance that the gift to Moses of the tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai took place after the crossing of the Red Sea. Listening to the Law presupposes faith in God who first “heard the cry” of His people and “came down to deliver them out of hand of the Egyptians” (cf. Ex 3,8). God is attentive to the cry of the poor and in return asks to be listened to: He asks for justice towards the poor (cf. Sir 4,4-5, 8-9), the stranger (cf. Ex 22,20), the slave (cf. Dt 15, 12-18). In order to enter into justice, it is thus necessary to leave that illusion of self-sufficiency, the profound state of closure, which is the very origin of injustice. In other words, what is needed is an even deeper “exodus” than that accomplished by God with Moses, a liberation of the heart, which the Law on its own is powerless to realize. Does man have any hope of justice then?
Christ, the Justice of God
The Christian Good News responds positively to man’s thirst for justice, as Saint Paul affirms in the Letter to the Romans: “But now the justice of God has been manifested apart from law … the justice of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (3, 21-25). What then is the justice of Christ? Above all, it is the justice that comes from grace, where it is not man who makes amends, heals himself and others. The fact that “expiation” flows from the “blood” of Christ signifies that it is not man’s sacrifices that free him from the weight of his faults, but the loving act of God who opens Himself in the extreme, even to the point of bearing in Himself the “curse” due to man so as to give in return the “blessing” due to God (cf. Gal 3, 13-14). But this raises an immediate objection: what kind of justice is this where the just man dies for the guilty and the guilty receives in return the blessing due to the just one? Would this not mean that each one receives the contrary of his “due”? In reality, here we discover divine justice, which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart. God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant. Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully. Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. So we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good-feeling, obvious fact: humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from “what is mine,” to give me gratuitously “what is His.” This happens especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the “greatest” justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognises itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected. Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies, where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love.
Dear brothers and sisters, Lent culminates in the Paschal Triduum, in which this year, too, we shall celebrate divine justice – the fullness of charity, gift, salvation. May this penitential season be for every Christian a time of authentic conversion and intense knowledge of the mystery of Christ, who came to fulfill every justice. With these sentiments, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 30 October 2009

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Jesus as the "Issa" of Tibetan religion

Taken from our "Lost Cultural Foundations of Eastern Civilization"

Kersten kicks off with the story of Nicolai Notovitch, a 'Russian historian and itinerant scholar', who in 1887 is alleged to have had a most interesting encounter with a lama in Ladakh, Tibet (though he will add on p. 15 that German expert on India, Max Müller, would later dispute this, saying that Notovitch's presence in Ladakh was 'not documented'). Kersten tells of the alleged conversation that took place between the Russian and a lama at a Buddhist monastery, in which the lama recognizes for his leader, the Dalai Lama, a status similar to that which Catholics accord to the Pope (pp.7f.):
Notovitch eventually arrived at a Buddhist monastery where, as a European, he was afforded a reception that was much more cordial than any Asiatic Muslim might have expected. He asked a lama why he should be favoured in this way, and the following conversation took place:
'The Muslims have little in common with our religion. Indeed, not long ago they waged an all-too-successful campaign to forcibly convert a number of our Buddhists to Islam. It has caused us immense difficulty to reconvert these ex-Buddhist Muslims back to the way of the true God. Now the Europeans are altogether different. Not only do they profess the essential principles of monotheism, they have almost as much title to be considered worshippers of the Buddha as the lamas of Tibet themselves. The only difference between the Christians and ourselves is that, after having adopted the great doctrines of Buddha, the Christians have parted from him completely by creating for themselves a different Dalai Lama. Our Dalai Lama alone retained the divine gift of seeing the majesty of Buddha, and the power to act as an intermediary between earth and Heaven'.
'Who is this Christian Dalai Lama you are talking about?' asked Notovitch. 'We have a Son of God, to whom we direct our fervent prayers, and whom in time of need we beseech to intercede for us with our one and indivisible God …'
'It is not of him I speak, Sahib! We too respect the one you recognize as Son of the one God – not that we see in him an only Son, rather a Being perfect among all the elect. The spirit of Buddha was indeed incarnate in the sacred person of Issa, who, without aid from fire or sword, has spread knowledge of our great and true religion throughout the world. I speak instead of your earthly Dalai Lama, him to whom you have given the title "Father of the Church". This is a great sin; may the flocks be forgiven who have gone astray because of it'.
And so saying, the lama hastened to turn his prayer wheel. Understanding the lama to be alluding to the Pope, Notovitch probed further.
'You tell me that a son of Buddha, Issa, spread your religion over the Earth. Who is he, then?'
At this question the lama opened his eyes wide and looked at his visitor in astonishment. After uttering a few words the interpreter did not catch, he explained:
'Issa is a great prophet, one of the first after the twenty-two Buddhas. He is greater than any one of the Dalai Lamas, for he constitutes part of the spiritual essence of our Lord. It is he who has enlightened you, who has brought back within the fold of religion the souls of the erring, and who allows every human being to distinguish between good and evil. His name and his deeds are recorded in our sacred writings'.
By this time Notovitch was feeling quite stunned at the lama's words, for the prophet Issa, his teaching, his martyrdom, and the reference to a Christian Dalai Lama were increasingly reminiscent of Jesus Christ.
Notovitch, according to Kersten (p. 10), would later view the sacred writings on Issa at the Hemis monastery in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, and would take notes as they were read to him via an interpreter. These notes would later be published, firstly in French. Kersten continues:
Its contents may be succinctly outlined (using the French translation as a basis):
A short introductory section precedes a brief description of the early history of the people of Israel and the life of Moses. An account then follows of how the eternal Spirit resolves to take on human form 'so that he might demonstrate by his own example how moral purity may be attained, and by freeing the soul from its rude mortality [sic], achieve the degree of perfection required to enter into the kingdom of Heaven, which is unchanging and ruled by eternal happiness'. And so a divine infant is born in faraway Israel, and is given the name Issa. Sometime during the fourteenth year of his life, the lad arrived in the region of the Sind (the Indus) in the company of merchants, 'and he settled among the Aryans, in the land beloved of God, with the intention of perfecting himself and of learning from the laws of the great Buddha'. The young Issa travels through the land of the five rivers (the Punjab), stays briefly with the 'erring Jains', and then proceeds to Jagannath, 'where the white priests of Brahma honoured him with a joyous reception'. At Jagannath Issa/Jesus learns to read and understand the Veda. But by then instructing the Sudras of the lower castes, he incurs the displeasure of the Brahmans, who feel their position and power threatened. After spending six years in Jagannath, Rajagriha, Benbares and other holy cities, he is compelled to flee the Brahmans who are outraged at his continuing to teach that it is not the will of God that the worth of human beings should be judged by their caste. [40]

This is really the Buddha all over again. And I had noted at the end of the previous article a parallel between Jesus' attitude towards the Jewish priests and Buddha's towards the Brahmans. Kersten himself will note the same with regard to Jesus and Issa (pp. 10f.):
There is an extraordinary correlation between the accounts in the texts found by Notovitch and those of the Gospels, a correlation that can shed more light on Jesus' own personality – especially in what he said. Notovitch's Issa opposes the abuses of the caste system, which rob the lower castes of their basic human rights, saying, 'God our father makes no difference between any of his children, all of whom he loves equally'. And later on in his travels he takes issue with a rigid and inhumane adherence to the letter of the law, declaring that 'The law was made for Man, to show him the way.' He consoles the weak: 'The eternal Judge, the eternal Spirit, who forms the sole and indivisible Word-soul … will proceed sternly against those who arrogate His rights to themselves.' When the priests challenge Issa to produce miracles, to prove the omnipotence of his God, he retorts, 'The miracles of our God have been performed ever since the first day when the universe was created; they take place every day and at every moment. Those who cannot perceive them are robbed of one of the most beautiful gifts of life'.
Issa, after having spent six years in Nepal, finally moves on towards the West, to Persia, where he 'also stands up to the priests of Persia, who expel him one night in the hope that he will quickly fall prey to wild animals'. And then on to Palestine. When the wise men there inquire of him 'Who are you, and from what country do you come? We have never heard of you and do not even know your name', Issa answers in terms that actually, in part, recall Moses more than they do Jesus (pp.11f.):
'I am an Israelite', Issa replies, 'and on the day of my birth I saw the walls of Jerusalem and heard the sobs of my brothers in their slavery and the wails of my sisters condemned to live among the heathen. And my soul grieved sorely when I heard that my brothers had forgotten the true God. As a child, I left my parents' home to live among other peoples. But after hearing of the great sorrows that my brothers were suffering, I returned to the land where my parents lived, in order to bring my brothers back to the faith of our ancestors, a faith which enjoins us to be patient on earth so that we might achieve the consummate and highest happiness in the Beyond.'

We saw in the previous article how legends and mythology often intertwine the lives of Christ and Moses, and this is perhaps yet another example. We saw it in the case of Mohammed, for example, and it may be that the Indian story of Issa was filtered into India through Islam. Issa's being brought up in slavery and growing up amongst foreigners, and then returning to liberate his people, is the classical story of Moses and the Oppression by pharaoh, and his adoption into the Egyptian royal family; and, later, his sojourning in the foreign country of Midian (for which the Buddhists apparently substituted India and Nepal); and then his returning to liberate his brethren (all recorded in the Book of Exodus). The name Issa though, and Jerusalem, would be more appropriate for Jesus, who achieved a spiritual – rather than Moses' physical – release of his people from their bondage (to sin).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Buddhist Borrowing of the Magi and Nativity Star

Extract from our "Lost Cultural Foundations of Eastern Civilization"

Childhood of Jesus

Before going on to record Kersten's amazing comparisons between Jesus and the Buddha, I should like to pause for a moment to touch upon a fascinating matter that the author has raised regarding the Nativity of Jesus and the Magi's star, on the one hand, and the Tibetan practice of locating child reincarnations of deceased Buddhist Dalai Lamas on the other.

In his 'Who Were the Three Wise Men?' (Chapter 4), Kersten firstly concludes on p. 63 that: "At this distance in time it is well-nigh impossible to prove that the Magi came from either Persia or from India". Then he introduces his fascinating new twist:

Yet it is absolutely amazing how much the story of the three wise men corresponds with accounts of the methods by which reincarnations of great Buddhist dignitaries are located in Tibet after their demise, even to this day. The way in which such a search is carried out, following ancient and traditional ritual, is described in the present Dalai Lama's own accounts of his 'discovery' as a little boy, and in the book by the Austrian Heinrich Harrer, who spent seven years at the court of the god-king in Lhasa.

And on p. 64, Kersten goes on to write regarding the 1937 search for the child of destiny:

… Most important to these preparations were the pronouncements of the astrologers, without whose calculations no significant moves could be made at all. At last, in 1937, various expeditions were dispatched from Lhasa to seek out the holy child according to the heavenly omens, in the direction indicated. Each group included wise and worthy lamas of highly distinguished status in the theocracy. In addition to their servants, each group took costly gifts with them ….

Is this yet another far eastern tradition that has arisen from a biblical prototype, namely the Gospel account of the Magi's visit to the Christ-child in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-11)?


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Texan Lawyer’s Attempt to Identify the Star of Bethlehem

Christmas is a celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It can also be a time for receiving presents that we might not really want, those really bad presents, such as a plastic candle holder, or a box of apples for someone who has bad dentures. Not everyone is as intuitive as were the Magi (gold, frankincense and myrrh).
In our mail was the new DVD, “The Star of Bethlehem”, promising to: “Unlock The Mystery of the World’s Most Famous Star”. Was this going to be another of those dud Christmas presents? Was this going to be yet another failed attempt to arrive at a convincing identification of history’s most enigmatic Star?
No, as it turned out this was one present that really does live up to expectations, and we thank the sender for it. And we also hope that our readers received the sorts of Christmas presents that they really wanted. Whilst the DVD is advertised as being: “From Producer Stephen McEveety The Passion of the Christ”, the actual brains behind the whole project is a Texan lawyer, Frederick (‘Rick’) A. Larson, whose perceptive research into the Star of Bethlehem provides the substance for this DVD. Larson has the lawyer’s detective-like knack of being able to pick up clues in, say, Matthew 2:1-12, the account of the Magi and the Star, that other readers might pass over without due pause. He brings to the narrative, awe, passion, emotion, a love and knowledge of the Scriptures (including Genesis; the Psalms; Isaiah; the Book of Job; Malachi; and Revelation), as well as the benefit of sophisticated computer software, such as the astronomical program, “Starry Night”. This last enables for him to illustrate for the benefit of his audience exactly what he is attempting to explain to it. It also results in a sumptuous visual feast.
The demand for Larson’s talks have skyrocketted, even including overseas engagements. And the DVD has already been very widely circulated. This is one case where a truly worthwhile project is getting the sort of publicity that it deserves.
The back of the DVD reads:

Scholars debate whether the Star of Bethlehem is a legend created by the early church or a miracle that marked the advent of Christ. Is it possible that the star was a real astronomical event?
From Producer Stephen McEveety The Passion of the Christ comes an amazing documentary on the Star of Bethlehem. This presentation has been viewed by tens of thousands in the U.S. and in Europe and this new DVD reveals the evidence for God’s existence as seen in the stars above.
Presenter Rick Larson talks you through biblical and historical clues revealing the eternal significance of this celestial event as well as the vastness of God’s creativity. Discover the secret of the Star … a secret of magnificent beauty.

The View From Beyond.

We thoroughly recommend to all this DVD, for it really serves - as the above advertisement claims - to illustrate God’s handiwork and his pre-ordained pattern, or cosmic design, in the heavens. Pope Benedict XVI spoke along somewhat similar lines of God’s creative wisdom last year, using Thomistic concepts and also directly quoting St. Thomas Aquinas:


… A decisive advance in understanding the origin of the cosmos was the consideration of being qua being and the concern of metaphysics with the most basic question of the first or transcendent origin of participated being. In order to develop and evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created, in other words, by the first Being who is such by essence.
To state that the foundation of the cosmos and its developments is the provident wisdom of the Creator is not to say that creation has only to do with the beginning of the history of the world and of life. It implies, rather, that the Creator founds these developments and supports them, underpins them and sustains them continuously. Thomas Aquinas taught that the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history, and consequently all our purely naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world. Thomas observed that creation is neither a movement nor a mutation.

It is instead the foundational and continuing relationship that links the creature to the Creator, for he is the cause of every being and all becoming (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q.45, a. 3).

Clementine Hall
Friday, 31 October 2008

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The strength of Rick Larson’s research into the Star of Bethlehem is, as already noted, his ability to pick up crucial points of evidence in the biblical texts that others might have overlooked. He has picked up what he has called “The Nine Points of Christ’s Star” that he believes to be the key pieces in the puzzle of the sacred text, and he will not be satisfied with a final scenario that does not accommodate all nine of these. Such is Larson’s thoroughness that even eight points for him will not suffice.
Could the star have been a meteorite; a comet; a supernova; a planet; or a new star?
One point that most pick up is that the star seen by the Magi rose in the East (“Greek "en anatole”, meaning they saw his star rising in the east”. Larson). This can apply to various of these aforementioned types of heavenly bodies. Another is that it was seen for an extended period of time. Larson rules out a comet on various grounds; one being that, in antiquity, comets were generally associated with doom.
A crucial point that Larson has picked up is that Herod - and seemingly Jerusalem in general - seemed blissfully unaware of the presence of this harbinger star. It was only the arrival of the Magi in Jerusalem that had awakened Herod to the extraordinary situation that had now arisen in his kingdom. That would again rule out a comet, which the ancients (so much better attuned to the sky than we are today) would not have missed. A comet would have been “the talk of the town”, Larson rightly says.
The Magi of course, who Larson thinks may have arisen from the school of Daniel in the East, would have had the benefit of Daniel’s Messianic prophecy to guide them as to the approximate time to expect the Messiah. They were able to combine this with their expert reading of the ‘book’ of the heavens. Daniel’s prophecy no longer works for us chronologically, with its beginning in the first year of King Cyrus, now dated to 539 BC. As Martin Anstey (The Romance of Bible Chronology) and Philip Mauro (The Wonders of Bible Chronology) have shown, this date is 82 years too early for Daniel’s prophecy to work, meaning that historians have created too many Persian kings. Daniel’s count of years should begin at 457 BC instead. This point is crucial
Whatever the Star was, it did no arrest the attention of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Another vital point is that the star stopped. This was the point that had given Larson the greatest difficulty. But then it occurred to him that the planets, due to the optical phenomenon known as “retrograde motion”, actually appear to stop. Mars does a loop; Venus does a backflip; Jupiter inscribes a shallow circle.
Larson has opted for the bright planet Jupiter as the “Star” seen by the Magi.
One of Larson’s nine points, his first in fact, has to do with chronology. And this may be his weak link, and may actually vitiate his whole argument. Larson has determined, based on an ancient version of the (not entirely reliable) Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, that the Birth of the Messiah had occurred in relation to the reign of Herod in 3-2 BC. Here is a simplification of Larson’s fascinating account of it all, from the Annunciation (in September of 3 BC) to the Birth (in June of 2 BC), reading from his computer program for that period, beginning with a most unusual triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus, the “King” star:

Jupiter crowns Regulus [King] in Leo [Tribe of Judah].
Up rises Virgo [the Virgin] clothed with the Sun, the Moon under her feet. It is Rosh-hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Nine months later the biggest planet [Jupiter] goes together with the brightest planet [Venus, the Mother planet] to make the brightest star anyone alive has ever seen. Right over Jerusalem it sets.
The Magi arrive, about November, and go to Herod – ‘where is the baby king?’ Herod, after consultation with his scribes, says ‘Bethlehem’. The Magi leave on the 5-mile trek, look up and there is the star Jupiter right over the little town of Bethlehem.
The one who is doing the maths for the Magi informs them that Jupiter is in full retrograde – it has stopped. It is now the 25th of December.

It is interesting to compare this part of Larson’s scenario with mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich’s picturesque version of what the Magi saw (The Life of Jesus Christ):

There was a certain constellation at which [the Magi] always gazed, and whose variations they noted. In it they saw visions and pictures. Upon this night [of the Nativity] also, they had several visions of various kinds. It was not in one star alone that they saw those visions, but in several that formed a figure, and there seemed to be a movement in them. They saw the vision of the moon over which arose a beautiful rainbow-colored arch on which was seated a Virgin. The left limb was drawn up in a sitting posture, the right hung a little lower and rested on the moon. To the left of the Virgin and rising above the arch, was a grapevine, and on her right a sheaf of wheat. In front of the Virgin was a chalice like that used at the Last Supper. It appeared to issue, but with greater clearness and brightness, from the brilliancy that emanated from her. Out of the chalice arose a Child, and over the Child stood a bright disk like an empty ostensorium. It was surrounded by radiating beams. It reminded me of the Blessed Sacrament ….
Over the head of the Virgin sitting on the arch shone a star, which suddenly shot from its place and skimmed along the heavens before the Kings. It was for them a voice announcing as never before that the Child, so long awaited by them and by their ancestors, was at last born in Judea, and that they were to follow that star.
[End of quote]

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich also seems to confirm Larson’s view that Herod and Jerusalem were quite unaware of any significant signs at the time, and that this fact had caused the Magi to wonder if they had actually made the right calculations. And the Star was not always shining brightly on the Magi’s journey, as would indeed be the case with a heavenly object such as a planet.
She has the Magi taking “about sixty days” to arrive at Bethlehem.

G. Mackinlay, in The Magi: How They Recognised Christ’s Star (1907), had also determined that it was a planet, namely Venus in his case, that was the Star of the Magi. He did not, back then, have the advantage of modern computer software, as has Larson, but was reliant on astronomical charts to put a date to the circumstances of Venus that he had determined had pertained to the chronology of Jesus Christ. Mackinlay showed from the Scriptures just how significant Venus was as “the morning star” and “the evening star”, and he quotes texts from the prophet Micah; including that fateful text without which Herod, the Godfather of today’s abortionists, would never have condemned to death the children of Bethlehem. Mackinlay also shows through Micah that John the Baptist was symbolised as the morning star, heralding as it does the dawn (Christ). He was able to determine an internal chronology of Jesus Christ, and the Baptist, based on the periods of shining of the morning star, all this in connection with historical data, seasons and Jewish feasts. This is all too intricate to do justice to here. The interested reader is advised to read Mackinlay’s book at our site: http://amaic-alphaomega.blogspot.com/
Mackinlay’s is one of those theories so consistent right the way through that one suspects it must be correct. That might put severe pressure on Larson’s choice of the Magi’s Star as Jupiter. Mackinlay’s theory has the same sort of consistency as has Florence Wood’s explanation in her “Homer’s Secret ‘Iliad’” that the battles between Greeks and Trojans mirror the movements of stars and constellations as they appear to fight for ascendancy in the sky. See our http://brightmorningstar.blog.com/
Likely, too, John P. Pratt’s “The Lost Constellation Testifies of Christ”, as featured in an earlier MATRIX, will be an essential element in all of this.
The inherent weakness we think in both Larson’s and Mackinlay’s systems is their presumption that the conventional dates for Herod and Jesus Christ are basically accurate - just as 539 BC is now wrongly presumed to be a certain date for King Cyrus - and that it is therefore simply a matter of finding an astronomical scenario within that conventional period and then being able to refine the dates using sophisticated modern scientific data. This was a problem that we had when typing up Mackinlay’s book. Though the whole substance of the book was readily accepted, notes still had to be added to explain that the actual dates given there, now with such certainty on the part of Mackinlay (e.g. 26 AD for the beginning of Christ’s public ministry), had not necessarily yet been established.
Happily, neither Larson’s nor Mackinlay’s scenario has that odd situation of the shepherds watching their sheep out in the open, in winter, that critics seem to latch on to every Christmas in order to ridicule St. Matthew’s account.

We definitely think that the type of heavenly body that had guided the Magi must have been a planet. And we should favour Mackinlay’s Venus, which does however also figure in Larson’s scenario in conjunction with Jupiter, his showcase “Star”.

The solar system is like a vast clock of immense power, precision and beauty. Upon viewing the Star of Bethlehem DVD, one will better appreciate that statement in Genesis 1:14 that these objects were created to “be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years”. For if the Star wasn't magic or a special miracle from outside of the natural order, then it was something even more startling. It was a Clockwork Star. And that is overwhelming. The movement of the heavenly bodies is regular, like a great clock. The Clockwork Star finally means that from the very instant at which God flung the universe into existence, he also knew the moment he would enter human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He marked it in the stars. …”. (Larson).

The Bible has provided us with an exact chronology from Adam to Jesus Christ (the “second Adam”). Though it is difficult now for human beings to arrive at the exact calculations, we can nevertheless get close. For our AD calculations, however, we do not have this advantage. But the answer must nevertheless lie with Jesus Christ, who is the key to time. He is the Lord of all History, the First and the Last; the Beginning and the End; the Alpha and the Omega. Jesus Christ is the reason for history, the creator of history, and the guide and culmination of all history (cf. Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 2:13). For a perfect chronology, one will need to be able to read this celestial clock, or cosmic book, along the lines of a Rick Larson, with the benefit of advanced computer technology perhaps - but also independently of the stumbling block that is the conventional chronology - to find at what precise point in time the Birth of the Messiah actually occurred. Who will be wise enough to do this?
As the Pope has taught:

The human mind therefore can engage not only in a “cosmography” … but also in a “cosmology” discerning the visible inner logic of the cosmos. We may not at first be able to see the harmony both of the whole and of the relations of the individual parts, or their relationship to the whole. Yet, there always remains a broad range of intelligible events, and the process is rational in that it reveals an order of evident correspondences ….
[End of quote]
For more on Christian films of this nature, go to: