Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Synthesis, Part 2

Because the art of reading Scripture synthetically was such an enlightening experience for me, I thought I'd provide another passage from John J. O'Keefe & R.R. Reno's book Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible. In this passage they really capture the differences between how we "moderns" instinctively read Scripture, and how the "premoderns" did it:
To our surprise, our views about the Bible’s meaning were not held by premodern readers. Premodern readers assumed that events depicted in the Bible actually occurred as described, but surprisingly little of their interpretation depended on this assumption. They simply did not ask: “What is the event or truth to which the Bible refers?” For them, the text was woven into the fabric of truth by virtue of being scripture. As Irenaeus affirmed, “the scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His spirit.” For Irenaeus and for the patristic tradition in general, the Bible was not a perfect historical record. Scripture was, for them, the orienting, luminous center of a highly varied and complex reality, shaped by divine providence. It was true not by virtue of successfully or accurately representing any one event or part of this divinely ordained reality. Rather, the truth rested in the scripture’s power to illuminate and disclose the order and pattern of all things.

As a consequence, in patristic exegesis literality functioned as the basis for interpretation. Scripture certainly did refer, evoke, symbolize, exhort, command, and more. In all these particular instances, the fathers took the text as doing something that reached beyond the literality of the words. The words of the synoptic gospels pointed to events such as the life and teachings of Jesus. The opening verses of the Gospel of John referred to truths about the divine Word. The ten commandments represented God’s will for human beings. The list could go on and on, but the important point is that the fathers treated all these aspects as local phenomena. Treated as a whole, the Bible absorbed their attention rather than directing it elsewhere, either to the events to which the text refers or the divine truths to which it points. Scripture was the magnetic pole of their thought. In this way, the fathers differ from modern readers, not in any particular assumption about a verse or episode, or in any specific method, but in their overall assumptions. Modern readers assume that the Bible means by accurately refering to an x, whether event, mode of consciousness, or theological truth. For the fathers, the Bible is the array of words, sentences, laws, images, episodes, and narratives that does not acquire meaning because of its connection to an x; it confers meaning because it is divine revelation. Scripture is ordained by God to edify, and that power of edification is intrinsic to scripture.

The image of direction illuminates the difference we discovered in the fathers. Ancient readers of scripture moved within, across, and through the text, exploring its orienting, unifying potency. Modern readers of scripture move in the reverse direction, adopting techniques that lead out of what seems a confusing, inaccurate, and contradictory text and into a realm of history or theological ideas. Thus, premodern readers are rightly called precritical, not because they presumed the historical accuracy of scripture or because they failed to use the various techniques of critical analysis that characterize modern study of the Bible. Rather, they are precritical because they did not ask, “What gives meaning to the story of Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai?” They assumed the authority of the dual accounts in Exodus and Deuteronomy, and they sought to order their interpretations accordingly. Instead of looking behind the text to the events, they looked into the text for clues and solutions.
For further information on the proper approach to reading Scripture, I refer you to Scott Hahn's St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, which has a whole chapter on The Interpretation of Sacred Scripture. (Hat tip to Ray for the link.) The key passage from Hahn that I think is critical to recall is: "We must always keep in mind that the Bible has two authors: God and man. For a proper understanding of any text, whether it be a psalm verse, or a Gospel narration, or a prophecy, both authors must be taken into account." It's the tendency in theology today to focus almost exclusively on man's authorship of the Bible, to the detriment of recalling God's authorship. The church fathers, on the other hand, had the understanding of Scripture as the Word of God down pat, and for this reason it's so refreshing to read it as they did.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


syn·the·sis: The combining of separate elements or substances to form a coherent whole.
a·nal·y·sis: The separation of an intellectual or material whole into its constituent parts for individual study.

One of the tasks of the past year was learning how to read Scripture synthetically. A tall order, for people in our age of analysis. We analyze everything - it's how our brains are wired. Give us the Bible, and we will sit down and break it up into pieces and try to understand all we can about those pieces. If we read the Gospel of John, we want to know who John was, when he wrote it, what the cultural setting was surrounding the writing, and what he meant with every turn of phrase that came from his pen.

There's nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. But it's an incomplete way of looking at the Word of God, if that's all that we ever do. And, interestingly enough, it's not how the early Christians read Scripture. They certainly wanted to understand the meaning behind each passage. But they were more apt to spend their time making connections between passages throughout the whole of scripture than they were to sit down and analyze one particular section.

It's for this reason that we modern folk often have a hard time understanding what the church fathers were talking about in many of their writings. John J. O'Keefe and R.R. Reno offer their experience in the opening paragraph of their book Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible:
Reading the church fathers is difficult. Simply to pick up Irenaeus' treatise Against the Heresies and read invites confusion and boredom if one does not know the point of the many digressions. Most of them involve biblical details, either as misread by his adversaries or arranged as so many bricks in Irenaeus' seemingly endless wall of defense... As first-time readers, we dutifully soldiered through page after page, underlining here and there when he seemed to be saying something that fit with what we were told. Vast stretches of text seemed irrelevant to these issues; they were veritable wastelands under titles helpfully provided by a patient nineteenth-century translator... We did not so much thirst for righteousness as hunger for what we imagined to be the red meat of doctrine.
The key to reading Scripture synthetically, is first of all to see the Bible as a unified whole. It's true that the Bible is a collection of many books written at different times by different authors. But it's also true that, as Vatican II's Dei Verbum maintains, the scriptures "have God as their author" and "firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures." Hence the many parts can be taken together as a whole to transmit a unified message. Not surprisingly, this was the starting point for the church fathers. Origen, in fact, held that the scriptures were "the sole source of wisdom."

Once you see the entire Bible in this way, connections come alive that otherwise wouldn't seem possible. The Old and the New Testaments complement each other and bring new understanding to each other. For example, Israel's passing through the Nile river into freedom from slavery becomes a precursor to the waters of Baptism, through which we pass into freedom from the slavery of original sin. Likewise, the suffering servant found in Isaiah 52 tells us an awful lot about Christ and his sacrifice. And the list goes on...

This is how the church fathers read Scripture.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


The existence of evil is quite possibly the most troublesome fact to reconcile with our faith. Everything about Christianity stresses over and over, that God is good, Good, GOOD. Yet it's only natural, then, to wonder why such a "good" God allows evil in the world. Why do innocent children get sick and die? Why do tsunamis devastate the lives of thousands of people? The list goes on...

There are a couple of precursor points I'd like to make. First, there's a time and a place to discuss this topic. In the moment of grief, when someone is crying out in pain, "WHY???" --- that is generally NOT the time to launch into a philosophical or theological diatribe, as it's really a request for compassion, not a long-winded answer. Philosophy can wait for a less emotional time. The second point is that, at some point and time, every single one of us will be that emotional person. And the time to be prepared for it is NOW, when we are able to think calmly about it. The less prepared for it we are the more likely such moments of grief will become serious challenges to our faith.

Of course, the only final, difinitive answer to the question of evil is to look at the cross. We can say that Jesus Christ became evil for our sake. By this we don't mean that he was actually evil, but that he took upon himself the consequences of evil. There is, at our disposal, a lifetime's worth of reflection on this fact, and we will still only have skimmed the surface.

But there is another way of approaching the subject, too. One of our assignments for our Fundamental Theology final exam, in fact, was to explain how one can circumvent the problem of evil philosophically (recall that philosophy = "natural" theology), without relying on God's revelation to man (in other words, without talking about Christ). As deep as the mystery of Christ's suffering is, we only know about it because it was revealed to us through Scripture and Tradition. Someone who doesn't accept Scripture and Tradition will not find a reflection upon Christ to be a useful way of resolving the problem of the existence of evil in the world, and in fact will find evil to be a barrier to ever accepting the Christian notion of a "good" God or even of the existence of a God at all. Their argument will likely go:
If God is all-good and all-powerful, then He would not will evil, and would have the power to make sure it doesn't happen. Since evil exists, either God is not good or He is not all-powerful.
It's a conundrum for the Christian to answer, because we do believe that God does not will evil, and we also believe that He is all-powerful. But we don't accept that the above conclusion follows from the premises given. The tricky part, then, is in countering this argument without resorting to the negation of God’s attributes of “good” and “all-powerful.”

This is how you do it: The first integral step is to ensure a correct definition of evil. The common misperception about evil is that it is some thing; it has an existence, or being, of its own, which is opposed to goodness. Yet this dualistic understanding of good and evil ascribes evil more credit than is its due, for the correct definition is that it is rather an absence of something good, a privation. Existence, in and of itself, is a good bestowed by God. Evil rears its ugly head when some aspect of existence that is due a thing by its very nature is not present. That is, evil is encountered when something ought to possess some good, but does not. If I, as a human, am supposed to have two arms, but I only have one, then I am experiencing an evil. As a contrast, I do not experience evil by not having a tail, for humans are, by nature, not supposed to have tails.

A second step in overcoming this argument is by making clear the distinction and connection between the types of evil: moral evil and physical evil. As embodied creatures, humans generally experience what we consider physical evil (disease, injury, etc.) most vividly. Yet moral evil is no less present in human experience, if perhaps more subtle. As moral agents with free will, men are always capable of sinning, by making lesser choices that do not allow them to attain some good which they rightfully should possess. This deficiency is a moral evil. With this distinction in place, there is a correlation between physical and moral evil that provides the explanation for how they came to be. The greatest moral good that a person can possess is God himself; a right relationship with the Creator. Yet the common condition of all humans is that we do not possess this good; rather our relationship with God begins, from our very birth, broken. Among the effects of this deprivation include the exposure to physical evil in the world. Moral evil is therefore, properly speaking, the preeminent evil, and all evil can be explained by the presence of the broken relationship with God (i.e. Original Sin).

One further thing must yet be demonstrated to see that God can be good, all-powerful, and still allow evil in the world. God’s tolerance towards moral evil can be shown to be a result of His protection of a greater good. Human beings are free moral agents; free will is a good that is due to men by their nature. It is true that man experiences moral evil because of the poor choices of his free will. Yet if God were to remove free will, then that would be another absence of a good due to man by his nature, and that by definition would be a moral evil. God, of course, is good and cannot will evil. Therefore, by tolerating the evil brought about by man’s free will, God is protecting the greater good of keeping man free to choose his own actions.

So there you have it. In a nutshell, evil is the result of man's free will, and therefore God allows evil to continue in the world because it would be evil for Him to remove our free will.

Of course, this argument only brings you so far. If you believe that Christ died for our sins, then you will find an inexhaustible amount of reflection on the problem of evil by meditating on this:

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Grade

And in other news, my report card arrived in the mail yesterday. Let's just say I'm wearing a smile today. Thanks for all who offered prayers for me during the past semester!

I am now enjoying my precious "time off" until fall semester starts (already on July 29).


I've been a little scarce around these parts lately. But I just know you all will forgive me when I tell you what's up:

Joy & I are pregnant!!!!!

Here's the new little one. Our first child. God is good indeed!

January 6, 2007 is the big day. Unfortunately, I'm supposed to be in Green Bay sitting in class that day. Hmmmm.... we'll have to work something out. Or we'll just have to tell the kid he's (she's?) gotta wait another couple days before bursting forth onto the scene.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Corpus Christi Procession

Sunday, June 18. 2:00 pm.

From Assumption Church to the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Get the details here!

(hat tip: Roamin' Roman)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Boyz in da haus

I just have to pass this along, especially for my readers with large families.

I recently stumbled upon the website of a family who was profiled in Rod Dreher's book Crunchy Cons.

It's the online journal of a woman who lives in a house with her four young sons (and her husband) titled, aptly, Testosterhome.

If you ever need a good laugh, here's your one stop shop to get your fix.


You may have noticed that the right-hand sidebar on this site is considerably fuller than it used to be. I took all of my links, which used to be buried deep within a perma-post, and moved them to the sidebar, where they would be more accessible. I also added a few new ones.

I abhor clutter, so I will do my best to strike a balance between keeping a thorough list of links, and yet not overwhelming the page with too much. But feel free to head over and browse - there's a lot of great resources and websites over there!

Ave Maria Pizza

This past weekend I had the pleasure of conversation and company with a few other Twin Cities' Catholic bloggers. (The event was chronicled here.)

While there, our host, Catholic cartoonist Dan Lacey, shared the following drawing with me that he had composed in response to the big ACLU brouhaha over Ave Maria University's plan to build a town that would promote family values:

You can see many of his other cartoons at his website, faithmouse.blogspot.com. Check it out!

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Bible, Online

And while I'm on the topic of great resources for Scripture study and research, I would be remiss if I didn't include this site, which has bailed me out many times while in a pinch for completing an assignment:


This site has a searchable or browseable database of the entire contents of over 25 translations of the Bible. I'll put in my plug here for the best translation - the Revised Standard Version - but it's useful to sometimes see how different translations parsed out a particular passage. It's a piece of cake to do on this site. Plus, the mere ability to search the entire Bible for a particular word or phrase is worth oodles, in my book.

In addition to that handy feature, there are other tools as well: concordances, commentaries, lexicons, other historical writings, and much more.

Originally, the Word of God was part of oral tradition. Then it became part of written tradition. And now, it's part of "electronic" tradition, on this bookmark-worthy site.


Oh, how I love maps.

Seriously. Ask my wife - I'm a very cheap date. For fun, we sometimes go to Barnes & Noble just to browse and invariably, if Joy loses me, she knows exactly where to find me: in front of the map section, gazing longingly at the two-dimensional representation of some part of the world.

I suppose I could attribute it to my love of travelling. But by the same token, I think my love of travelling stems as much from an obsession with geography as it does from anything else. I could have a blast on a vacation where all I did was drive and drive and drive, enjoying the scenery while paying attention to the changes in topography and vegetation, committing them to memory to create in my head something of a virtual map of some part of the world. I know that's wierd. But it's true. And it's me. Now that you know my deepest, darkest secret, I suppose it's time for me to show you where I'm going with this post.

This past year's Old and New Testament courses surveyed events which covered a large span of time and geography. So, one of my favorite parts of the studies were the opportunity to - you guessed it - study MAPS! And lots of them. Big ones, little ones, regional maps and localized maps. And maps showing key cities during different time periods. A significant component of each test was even an exercise of our ablity to identify the locations of many of those sites. What better excuse to spend hours looking at maps, under the guise of "studying"? I was - quite literally - in map heaven.

Along the way, I stumbled upon the following very useful resource for biblical maps: The Bible Atlas Online, by the Access Foundation. It's a collection of very easy-to-read maps which can help enhance one's reading of scripture.
For example, this map showing Paul's third missionary journey puts his travels in perspective, and helps show the locations of the churches to whom he wrote his letters (which we now include as part of the canon of Scripture).

It's definitely a site worth bookmarking.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Once upon a time, I thought the doctrine of predestination was merely the domain of Calvinist Christians.

And then, sitting in Catholic Theological Traditions class one day, we read some of St. Augustine, who clearly articulated a notion of predestination.

Wait a sec. Augustine wasn't a Calvinist!

Okay, so it turns out that the Catholic Church does teach the doctrine of predestination. Sure enough, you can even look it up in the index of the Catechism. We just understand it differently than the average Calvinist.

The Calvinist position assumes that, in order to retain the truth of the predestination of the elect, one must also conclude the predestination of the damned, thus in effect denying our free will and saying that God wills for some people to go to hell. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, affirms the predestination of the elect and free will and maintains that there is no contradiction between the two.

The best synopsis that I've been able to find on this topic is actually on the dust jacket of a book by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange (faculty advisor to John Paul II's graduate thesis) called simply Predestination. The following sums up, concisely, the Church's position:
God wills all men to be saved; yet some are not saved. Efficacious grace always effects the good which God intends; yet man's will remains free. Only those are saved who are predestined by God to eternal life; yet those who are lost have only themselves to blame. God's knowledge of our deliberate choice is infallible; yet the freedom of our will is not at all lessened.
If at first it seems there may be inherent contradictions in there, rest assured, they are only apparent contradictions. But this is surely one of those doctrines which retains an element of mystery. For as the same dust jacket concludes:
In the problem of predestination, we reach a point beyond which the human mind cannot penetrate, we reach a realm of mystery which our understanding, even at its best, is unable to comprehend until we attain to the beatific vision. Father Garrigou-Lagrange clearly marks this boundary and explains why the mystery is beyond our grasp.
It's a long book, so the topic is definitely a complex one. It's also fraught with danger, as it is all too easy to get caught up in the minutiae and get led down an incorrect train of thought. This was demonstrated over an hour-long class lecture where we progressively became more and more confused, some of us beginning to worry that the Catholic Church was, unbeknownst to us, actually Calvinist! It's a good thing I ran across that book, and was able to share it with the class. There were many sighs of relief that day.

It was later on that we then stumbled across the words of Ignatius of Loyola, who said:
We should not make predestination an habitual subject of conversation. If it is sometimes mentioned we must speak in such a way that no person will fall into error, as happens on occasion when one will say, "It has already been determined whether I will be saved or lost, and in spite of all the good or evil that I do, this will not be changed." As a result, they become apathetic and neglect the works that are conducive to their salvation and to the spiritual growth of their souls.
Boy, isn't that the truth!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Fr. Joseph Johnson, the priest who was the main celebrant at my wedding, was just appointed rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul. You can definitely expect all kinds of good things to be happening at the Cathedral.

Here's an interview of him by the Star Tribune. This quip from that interview is quintissential Fr. Joseph. When asked if he considers Minnesota home now (he's a reluctant Texas transplant), he replied: "It's as close as any place on Earth to being home. I made a deal with the Lord -- I'd offer up my time in this cold place for a shorter stay in purgatory." I can just see the grin on his face as he said it.

One other quote also is a perfect illustration of his incredible pastoral sensibility. The Cathedral is where all the action is, at least with regard to public protests. It really requires careful handling to offer solid orthodox catechesis and liturgies, while being welcoming to all and yet not pandering to the whims of special interest groups who dissent from church teaching and want to turn Cathedral liturgies into protest events. Fr. Joseph is the man for the job. For sure. Notice his response, when asked about how the Cathedral can be a unifying place, when there are varying opinions within churchgoers:
Sadly, we are all too good at making divisions, and we can't pretend divisions aren't there. But they weren't put there by God. ... The cathedral is a place where we can realize that peace and unity only happen in our own hearts as much as each of us is willing to give up what it is that's an obstacle to love of God and neighbor.
He doesn't deny the divisions, yet he doesn't point fingers either. He states the truth: each and every one of us have obstacles that we hold onto that prevent us from growing in love of God.

One thing is for certain: with Fr. Joseph, everyone will be challenged to embrace Christ and conform their lives to his will for them. And yes, that does include dissenters...


Covenant: A covenant is an arrangement between two parties involving promises of fidelity and the awareness of grave consequences for violations of the agreement. Specifically, it refers to biblical agreements between God and His chosen people.

Bishop Nienstedt in Crisis Magazine

I'm a little late on noticing this, but I just saw that Bishop Nienstedt of New Ulm, MN, made the pages of Crisis Magazine, warning about the family planning agenda of the United Nations' "Millenial Goals". All my readers from the New Ulm diocese will undoubtedly be happy to see their shepherd raising his voice loud and clear in support of the moral law. Already the alternative legacy of his predecessor is beginning to fade into memory...

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Dogma: Dogmas are doctrines of the Church which have been formally declared and to which the faithful are obliged to give their assent.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Get ready.

The Da Vinci Code movie is about to hit the movie theaters (May 19). The hype will undoubtedly increase.

What to do? Well, it doesn't hurt to get yourself educated about some of the claims in the book, so you're well-armed with sound historical research. This resource will do nicely for that task.

But rather than going to see the movie, Barb Nicolosi has a different strategy in mind, to reduce the impact that the opening weekend box-office numbers will have. Is it a boycott? Nope. It's an "othercott".

Full text of her article is here, and the pertinent snippet follows:
I'd like to offer another option.

On DVC's opening weekend—May 19-21—you should go to the movies. Just go to another movie. That's your way of casting your vote, the only vote Hollywood recognizes: The power of cold hard cash laid down on a box office window on opening weekend.

Use your vote. Don't throw it away. Vote for a movie other than DVC. If enough people do it, the powers that be will notice.

The major studio movie scheduled for release against DVC is the DreamWorks animated feature Over the Hedge. The trailers look fun, and you can take your kids. And your friends. And their friends. In fact, let's all go see it.

Let's rock the box office in a way no one expects—without protests, without boycotts, without arguments, without rancor. Let's show up at the box office ballot box and cast our votes. And buy some popcorn, too.

As for The Da Vinci Code, don't go see this stupid movie. Don't pay money to have the insidious lies of the enemy introduced into your heart and mind.

Let's "othercott" DVC on May 19 by going to see Over the Hedge instead.


Conscience: Conscience is the internal discernment of the rightness or wrongfulness of a particular action. It is based upon an objective recognition of an individual’s appropriate behavior and an evaluation of the amount of conformity between such behavior and the action under evaluation.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Gospel of "Q"

These days there's a lot of hubbub about various Gnostic gospels, specifically the newly-released "Gospel of Judas". Given that they were all written 150+ years after Christ's death, it's pretty easy to understand their unreliability in terms of representing Christ's life and teaching. (For all your Gospel of Judas-rebutting needs, here's a good start.)

There is, however, a different "fifth" Gospel out there. It's one that you may never have even heard of. But you can buy it on Amazon. (If you can buy it on Amazon, it must exist, right?)

What is the Gospel of "Q"? Well, scripture scholars have long understood that the Gospel of John is the only gospel of the 4 that was written totally independently of the others. Which means that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, & Luke, (also called the "Synoptic" Gospels) which contain significant similarities, also contain some order of literary dependency between them (meaning that to some extent they were copying one another).

Of the three, Mark is the shortest. Matthew and Luke are longer, and contain nearly all the events in Mark's gospel, plus a very similar list of "sayings" of Jesus, interspersed throughout the narrative.

Traditionally it was understood that Matthew was written first, then Luke and Mark. Evidence for this is found even in the church fathers, where Clement of Alexandria noted that "those Gospels were written first which include the genealogies." (Matthew & Luke both contain a genealogy; Mark does not.) This view, known as the "Two-Gospel Hypothesis", assumed that 1) Luke used Matthew as the source for much of his material, and 2)Mark did as well, but merely cut out information from Matthew that he didn't deem important for his audience.

In the nineteenth century, a differing view began to arise (due to a great extent, to a political crisis that pitted the authority of the state against the authority of the Church - see this book by William Farmer if this topic interests you) in Germany, then spreading throughout the academic world to become the "consensus" opinion. This view saw the Gospel of Mark as having primacy (being written first). Then, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, being written later, simply added material to it to include extra "sayings" of Jesus. Because Matthew & Luke contain very nearly identical lists of the sayings, however (including the same usage of the original Greek), it became necessary to posit a second "source" from which both Matthew and Luke must have copied. This separate source is known as the "Gospel of Q", and this theory which contradicts the Two Gospel Hypothesis is thus known as the "Two-Source Theory".

Now, it should be noted that there is no evidence that such a second source actually exists. There have been no discoveries of papyrus or other archaeological finds that would corroborate this theory. Nevertheless, many scholars are so convinced that it must exist, that they have gone to the lengths of pulling out the "sayings" of Jesus that they think would have been in it, and cobbling them together in book form, and selling it as the "Lost Gospel of Q" (see book above).

So, what difference does it make, except to a bunch of eggheads in tweed sportcoats sitting in a library?

Well, it makes a fair amount of difference, actually. If this Gospel of "Q" in fact, exists, and if, as is theorized, it was the very first gospel in existence, then it becomes mighty important, and in fact the interpretive key to understanding the other Gospels. It happens to be the case that the material in this "gospel" - due to its lack of much of the narrative of Christ's life, and in particular, his passion and death - skews, by its ommissions, the record of Christ's life and gives a very different impression of him. Consider the following statement by Harvard professor Helmut Koester, regarding the way in which the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Q are used, hand in hand, to diminish the importance of Christ's death and resurrection:
One of the most striking features of the Gospel of Thomas is its silence on the matter of Jesus' death and resurrection - the keystone of Paul's missionary proclamation. But Thomas is not alone in this silence. The Synoptic Sayings Source (Q), used by Matthew and Luke, also does not consider Jesus' death a part of the Christian message. And it likewise is not interested in stories and reports about the resurrection and subsequent appearances of the risen lord. The Gospel of Thomas and Q challenge the assumption that the early church was unanimous in making Jesus' death and resurrection the fulcrum of Christian faith. Both documents presuppose that Jesus' significance lay in his words, and in his words alone.
So, in a nutshell, it does matter very much whether or not this Two-Source theory is legit.

But the fact is, as noted before, there's no evidence for the existence of the Gospel of "Q". And in fact, there is plenty of evidence that Matthew was written first, and thus the Two-Gospel theory is the correct theory.

In short, don't believe the hype. There is no "Gospel of Q".

-----Addendum: I should note that, while there is substantial debate in the scholarly community over the existence of the "Gospel of Q", one thing that is generally not even considered up for debate is which Gospel was written first (thus categorizing my above comments on the primacy of Matthew and the Two-Gospel theory as a "minority view"). The vast majority of scholars today, even Catholic scholars, proceed from the assumption that Mark was written first. By simply following along with the "consensus view", however, they overlook much evidence and disregard the Pontifical Biblical Commission's 1911 exhortation to continue ascribing primacy to the Gospel of Matthew. More information on this topic is available in this article or in the William Farmer book linked to above.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Prince Charles, Crunchy Con?

The latest issue of National Geographic contains an article titled Prince Charles - Not Your Typical Radical, which outlines some of his efforts at promoting sustainable agriculture and pedestrian-friendly communities in the land holdings he manages as the Duke of Cornwall. He's got a lot of ideas a Crunchy Con would love:
Prince Charles gave no warning that he was about to abandon his usual restraint. He simply began slicing the air with his hands as his voice rose in frustration: "I had witnessed this appalling horror of the 1960s, when everything was thrown away, denigrated, abandoned. I watched as woods were cut down, hedges uprooted, wonderful old buildings knocked down. I minded dreadfully.

"My whole aim was to repair the damage, to heal the wounds, as it were, of the countryside." Calmer now, his voice falling to its usual hoarse whisper, he settled back in the silk armchair, smoothing his flawless blue suit. Meanwhile, the uniformed footman at Clarence House, the prince's London mansion, went about his business, sliding in and out of the drawing room.

One day Prince Charles, now 57, will be crowned king (his mother is already 80). Judging from the way he has handled his inheritance so far—more than 135,000 acres of mostly rural land known as the Duchy of Cornwall—the country may be in for some surprises. He has used this private little kingdom as a place to test solutions to the problems of modernity, for the prince believes, fervently, that life in both town and country has gone awry.
But then again:
The duchy provides the prince's entire annual income—13.2 million pounds (23.5 million dollars) in 2004—which covers most of the cost of his official duties, his charitable activities, and all his private expenses. It is money that comes as rent from roughly 250 tenanted farms and from, among many other sources, transatlantic undersea fiber-optic cables and a gay bar in London. [Emphasis mine]
"Crunchy" he may be, but "Con", probably not...

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Ecclesiology: Ecclesiology is the study of the nature and mission of the Church.