Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Islamic History in Relation to Christianity

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

“I, the one speaking to you—I am He.”

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many Samaritans Believe

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”


Taken from: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Was Mary a Temple Virgin?

Previously we examined the tradition and biblical foundation for the Catholic teaching that Mary was consecrated as a Temple virgin at the age of three and lived in the temple precincts till the age of fourteen when she was married to Saint Joseph and there after virginally conceived the Son of God.*

This school of Temple virgins in Jerusalem formed an altar guild that fulfilled the necessary tasks at the Temple. This included sewing and creating vestments, washing the vestments of the priests which would be stained regularly by animal blood, preparing liturgical linen, weaving the veil of the Temple, and most importantly, liturgical prayer. The Jewish and Catholic tradition holds that this school for Israelite virgins was completed by marrying age of about 14 and that they were dismissed at this time. There were also older women, perhaps widows such as the prophetess Anna, who served as teachers and governesses for the virgins under their care.
There has been some doubt as to whether their were really consecreated Jewish virgins at the Temple. In my previous post I referenced the first-century Jewish historian Josephus in support of “Temple virgins” in Jerusalem, but I fear that this cannot be substantiated. Jimmy Akin asked me for the citation and I cannot find it. One would assume that it would be in Book 5 of the Jewish Wars of Josephus. There Josephus mentions cloisters, but he does not tell us who lived in them. That’s as close as Josephus gets.
There are, however, three Scriptural accounts that are used by Catholics to demonstrate that there were special women who ministered at the Temple complex.
Exodus 38:8 mentions women who “watch (צָבָא) at the door of the tabernacle.”
The second is in 1 Samuel:
“Now Heli was very old, and he heard all that his sons did to all Israel: and how they lay with the women that waited (צָבָא) at the door of the tabernacle:” (1 Samuel 2:22, D-R)
In both of the verses above, Hebrew verb for “watch” and “waited” is the same. It is the Hebrew word צָבָא, which is the same verb used to described the liturgical activity of the Levites (see Num 4:23; 8:24). This corresponds to the Latin translation in the Clementine Vulgate, which relates that these women “observabant” at the temple doors – another liturgical reading.
So these women are not simply hanging out around the Temple, looking for men, gossiping, or chatting about the weather. These are pious women devoted to a liturgical function. In fact, the Court of Women might exist formally for these special “liturgical women.”
The third and final reference to these liturgical females is in 2 Maccabees:
And the virgins also that were shut up, came forth, some to {High Priest} Onias, and some to the walls, and others looked out of the windows. And all holding up their hands towards heaven, made supplication. (2 Macc 3:19-20)
Here are virgins that are shut up. In the Greek it is “αἱ δὲ κατάκλειστοι τῶν παρθένων” or “the shut up ones of the virgins.” In this passage the Holy Spirit refers not to all the virgins of Jerusalem, but to a special set of virgins, that is, those virgins who had the privilege and right to be in the presence of the High Priest and address him. It’s rather ridiculous to think that young girls would have general access to the High Priest of Israel. However, if these virgins had a special liturgical role at the Temple, it becomes clear that they would both address the High Priest Onias and would also be featured as an essential part of the intense supplication in the Temple at this moment of crisis.
There is further testimony of temple virgins in the traditions of the Jews. In the Mishnah, it is recorded that there were 82 consecrated virgins who wove the veil of the Temple:
“The veil of the Temple was a palm-length in width. It was woven with seventy-two smooth stitches each made of twenty-four threads. The length was of forty cubits and the width of twenty cubits. Eighty-two virgins wove it. Two veils were made each year and three hundred priests were needed to carry it to the pool” (Mishna Shekalim 8, 5-6).
We find another reference to the “women who made the veils for the Temple…baked the showbread…prepared the incense” (Babylonian Talmud Kethuboth 106a).
Rabbinic Jewish sources also record how when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in AD 70, the Temple virgins leapt into the flames so as not to be abducted by the heathen soldiers: ”the virgins who were weaving threw themselves in the flames” (Pesikta Rabbati 26, 6). Here we also learn that these virgins lived in the three-storey building inside the Temple area. However, it is difficult to find any other details about this structure. The visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich placed the cloisters of the Temple Virgins on the north side of the Temple (Emmerich’s Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary 3, 5).
Even more, the first century document by the name of the Apocalypse of Baruch (sometimes called “2 Baruch”) describes the Temple virgins living in the Temple as weavers of the holy veil:
“And you virgins who weave byssus and silk, and gold from Ophir, in haste pick it all up and throw it in the fire that it will return it to its Author, and that the flame will take it back to its Creator, from fear that the enemy might seize it” (2 Baruch 10:19).
So then, there is ample evidence for the role of consecrated women, especially virgins at the Temple. If one were to accept the passages above, we have plenty of testimony for cultic women in the time of Moses’ tabernacle, in the time of David, in the Second Temple era, and in the first century of Our Lord.
This substantiates the claims of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church who claim that the Blessed Virgin Mary was presented to the Temple and served there from the age of three until the age of fourteen. To claim that Temple virgins are a myth of celibacy-crazed Catholic bishops does not hold up. Scripture and Jewish tradition records that there were specially commissioned virgins associated with the Temple. We may not know much about them, but we know that they existed.
That the most holy human girl of all time, the Mother of the Messiah, should live as a temple virgin should come as no surprise. This also accounts for the vow of virginity she had taken since she “knew not a man” even though she was already espoused to Joseph.
Now then, there is also a tradition that Mary was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. This seems absurd to us. Moses stipulated that the High Priest and only the High Priest be allowed to enter the Holy of Holies and that only once a year. It was the greatest privilege in Israel. Why was the Holy of Holies so special? It was the inner room that housed the ark of the covenant.
Yet remember that this is the Second Temple, not the original Temple of Solomon. The Ark of the Covenant was hidden by Jeremiah and it had been lost ever since. The Second Temple, therefore, had an empty Holy of Holies. It was an empty room. No Ark of the Covenant. Nothing. In a sense, the Second Temple was a sham. It was like an empty suit. The Temple was built to house the Ark of the Covenant, but Ark was not there.
So then, the Temple in Jerusalem was empty. It did not contain the ark of the covenant. And yet we Catholics know from Revelation 11:19-12:1 that the Mother of Christ is truly the Ark of the New Covenant. The wood ark of old contained the Word of God engraved in stone. The stainless womb of Mary contained the Word of God made flesh.
Perhaps by a singular inspiration, the High Priest of that time had been inspired to lead this immaculate virgin into the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies. My heart leaps when contemplating this. The angels of heaven would rejoice to see the true Ark of the Covenant restored into the earthly Temple of Jerusalem. In fact, it would be a foretaste of the glorious assumption of Mary. The Temple represented a new Garden of Eden and, of course, Mary is the New Eve. Thus, her entry into the Temple reveals that the fullness of time has come. The New Eve will soon bring forth the New Adam to reverse the curse and lead the faithful into the presence of God.
This is speculation and I do not want it to obscure the purpose of this post, which is to defend the existence of Temple virgins in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the presence of the New Eve at or in the Temple certainly is fitting since it hearkens back to the prophecy that the virgin mother will crush the head of the serpent. This is an exciting new perspective at the meaning of Christmas.
Immaculate Mary, dutiful at the Temple, pray for us.
*It is blasphemy to say that the Blessed Virgin Mary was an “unwed mother” or that she conceived Christ “out of wedlock.” Joseph and Mary were married before the angel Gabriel came to her in the Annunciation, and thus she conceived Christ after she was married to Saint Joseph. “The angel Gabriel was sent…to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph.” Joseph and Mary were “spouses.”


Taken from: http://taylormarshall.com/2011/12/did-jewish-temple-virgins-exist-and-was.html

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pope Francis a year on: 'A witness to history, I got him all wrong'

'American tourists gawped. Congolese nuns looked at me in amazement. A German woman – the shame of it – asked if I was a priest.' With typical wit, our writer remembers the day of sublime drama offered by the papal election 

Thousands waited in St Peter's Square for the white smoke that would announce that the cardinals had elected a new pope
Max Davidson was among the thousands waiting in St Peter's Square for the white smoke that would announce the election of a new pope Photo: AFP

What made me do it? What possessed this lapsed Catholic, an agnostic who has not darkened the door of a church in 30 years, to travel to Rome and join the crowds in St Peter’s Square, waiting for white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel?
Quite simply, it was on my "bucket list". I love ritual, I love drama, I love tales of the unexpected, and the election of a new pope provides such a magnificent combination of all three that I had promised myself that, given the chance, I would witness it first-hand before I died.
In this country, great public events such as jubilees and royal weddings reach their climax on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, with thousands massed in the Mall. They are all very jolly, and I will tune in if there is no cricket on the other channel, but when you compare the stolid bourgeois architecture of Buckingham Palace with the great soaring columns of St Peter’s Basilica, it is like comparing bingo in the village hall with Aida at Covent Garden.
If the stage is sublime, the drama that unfolds on the stage is also sublime. At a secular election, you know who the candidates are, so even when the outcome is momentous, like the election of Barack Obama, there is no element of surprise.
Papal elections, by contrast, are all surprise. Over 100 cardinals take part in the Conclave and, by the time one of them has secured the necessary majority of votes, it is anybody’s guess who it will be. Soon afterwards, an old man who is a complete stranger to the watching world steps blinking on to the balcony, the chosen successor to St Peter.
It is a beautiful moment and having watched previous popes take their bow on television, I have been captivated by the rich play of emotions on their faces: half petrified by the magnitude of their new responsibilities, half bursting with boyish pride - "If my mum could see me now…"
But the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on March 13 last year exceeded all my expectations.
I had caught a Ryanair flight from Stansted that morning and spent the afternoon with the crowds in St Peter’s Square. There was a steady drizzle and, like most people, I had taken shelter in the colonnade at the edge of the square.
Only when white smoke appeared above the Sistine Chapel, and the bells of St Peter’s pealed in celebration, did we surge forward into the square and await the traditional announcement in Latin. "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum…. Habemus papam!"
Here I have a confession to make. I love a flutter, so I had studied the form-book, weighed up the chances of the various pababili (cardinals viewed as possible Popes) and invested £30 on a 40-1 shot from Honduras. He fell at the first fence, alas, but when the winner was announced as Cardinal Bergoglio, I had an advantage over the people standing next to me. I knew who he was.
"Argentine," I said with authority. "Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Mid-seventies." American tourists gawped. Congolese nuns looked at me in amazement. A German woman – the shame of it – asked if I was a priest.
(Incidentally, I did better than the "Vatican expert" covering the event for ABC, the Australian broadcaster, whose Latin failed him and who told viewers that Italians would be delighted as the Archbishop of Genoa had been elected Pope. Whoops!)
A couple of minutes later, to thunderous applause, the new Pontiff stepped out on to the balcony. Here I have another confession to make. Embarrassing though it is to admit, my first thought when the man from Buenos Aires took centre stage, shy, unsmiling, his face tight with tension, was: "They’ve elected Mr Bean!"
"Underwhelmed," I texted a friend in London. ‘He looks like a civil servant who has wandered into the wrong script.’ How wrong I was. How utterly, utterly, wrong.
As the new Pope Francis – and his very choice of that iconic name had been applauded by the crowd – took the microphone, and said a few words, his warmth, if not yet his charisma, started to shine through. The crowds cheered him to the echo and drifted off into the night.
Two hours later, I witnessed what I still jokingly refer to as the first miracle of the Pope’s reign. I was having dinner in a restaurant in a suburb of Rome when the elderly American couple at the next table rose to leave. They had paid their bill with a credit card and left a 20-euro tip. Minutes later, to general amazement, the waiter chased them down the street to return their money and explain that service was included. "Uno miracolo!" whispered the Italian lady at the next table.
Since then, hardly a day has passed when I haven’t marvelled at the wise choice made by the College of Cardinals that day, and thought, as one might think of some famous sporting event: "I was there." Not since Pope John XXIIII, who revitalised the Church by convening the Second Vatican Council, has a new Pope won so many hearts so quickly. Pope John Paul II certainly had star quality but, for me, there was a scintilla of vanity in his make-up – he knew he had star quality, and played to the gallery – that stifled admiration. Poor Pope Benedict XVI was far too donnish to have the common touch.
In the new Pope, day after day, one can see a palpably good man living the Christian life with an unfailing smile. He has taken a leaf out of the book of his namesake, St Francis of Assisi, living in a simple hostel in the Vatican rather than the grand Papal apartments. As a pastor, he has been, in the words of the old hymn, slow to chide and swift to bless.
"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" he asked astonished reporters during an impromptu news conference on a flight back from Brazil. Could this really be the Pope talking? It was if centuries of narrow theological dogma were being, not discarded, but infused with Christian charity and love.
Nobody is expecting sweeping changes in traditional Catholic teaching, but the change of tone – light years from the bad old days, epitomised by the infamous Magdalene laundries in Ireland – has been like throwing open a window.
Formidable challenges lie ahead for Pope Francis. It will take leadership of rare sure-footedness to erase the stain of the child abuse scandals that have rocked the Church. Catholic homosexuals will demand not just understanding, but the respect due to equals, and rightly. The Holy Father will also need to surf the choppy waves of celebrity – epitomised by the launch of a glossy new fanzine, Il Mio Papa, by Silvio Berlusconi, the evil genius of Italian tittle-tattle.
But one thing is already clear. The whole face of the Church – the face the world sees and by which it judges Catholics and Christians generally – has been transformed.
And I thought the College of Cardinals had messed up and elected Mr Bean! Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Taken from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/10692116/Pope-Francis-a-year-on-A-witness-to-history-I-got-him-all-wrong.html

Monday, March 3, 2014

Jesus Christ Tops Wikipedia Popularity List

Christ is most significant person in history, according to analysis of Wiki’s 3 million pages

| Jan 31, 2014 2:22 pm |

What do Jesus, Napoleon and the prophet Muhammad all have in common? They are the top three most significant historical figures, according to new analysis of online encyclopedia Wikipedia’s three million pages. Computer scientists Steven Skiena and Charles B Ward have studied the Wiki pages of more than 800,000 people to come up with a list of the world’s most important figures. Jesus is the most famous person in history according to a software programme that scours the internet to rank people’s importance+5 Jesus is the most famous person in history according to a software programme that scours the internet to rank people’s importance Using a ‘ranking algorithm’, the pair looked at the length of a person’s Wikipedia page, how many times it was read and the number of links from the pages of other major figures. Jesus came out at number one, while French Emperor was ranked at number two and the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, was at number three. The rankings are also compared against public opinion polls, Hall of Fame voting records, sports statistics, and the prices of paintings and autographs. William Shakespeare was in fourth place+5 Napoleon Bonaparte was in second place+5 Lasting impression: William Shakespeare was in fourth place while Napoleon was deemed the second most important person in history Other figures who ranked among the top ten include William Shakespeare, Adolf Hitler and Aristotle. The list appears in a new book called ‘Who’s Bigger: Where Historical Figures Really Rank’ and also includes separate rankings for artists and literary figures. The top pre-20th century artist is Leonardo da Vinci, with Michelangelo at number two and Raphael at number three. Vincent van Gogh topped the list for the modern-era artists with Picasso second and Monet third. The highest ranked literary figure is Shakespeare, followed by Charles Dickens and then Mark Twain.