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Sunday, July 05, 2009

The historical Mary


- The Girlhood of Mary Virgin by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I saw an interesting post at Far From Rome about The brothers and sisters of Jesus, and it made me think about Jesus' mother, Mary. In looking around, I came across a 2005 America magazine article about the historical Mary (no immaculate conception/perpetual virgin stuff :) . Here's part of it .....

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The Historical Mary

[...] Focusing on Mary’s Jewish roots, writers like Raymond E. Brown, S.S., in The Birth of the Messiah, John P. Meier in A Marginal Jew and Elizabeth A. Johnson in Truly Our Sister have carefully examined the religious, economic, cultural and political circumstances of her daily life. The scene they reconstruct is quite different from the idyllic portraits of medieval artists and the serene rhapsodies of musicians and poets.

Mary was actually called Miriam, after the sister of Moses. Most likely she was born in Nazareth, a tiny Galilean town of about 1,600 people, during the reign of Herod the Great, a violent puppet-king propped up by Roman military might. Nazareth was of little consequence for most Jews: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). It is never mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, nor in the Talmud. Mary spoke Aramaic, with a Galilean accent (see Matt 26:73), but she also had contact with a multilingual world. She heard Latin as it slipped from the tongues of Roman soldiers, Greek as it was used in commerce and educated circles and Hebrew as the Torah was proclaimed in the synagogue.

She belonged to the peasant class, which eked out its living through agriculture and small commercial ventures like carpentry, the profession of both Joseph and Jesus. This group made up 90 percent of the population and bore the burden of supporting the state and the small privileged class. Their life was grinding, with a triple tax burden: to Rome, to Herod the Great and to the temple (to which, traditionally, they owed 10 percent of the harvest). Artisans, who made up about 5 percent of the population, had an even lower median income than those who worked the land full time. Consequently, in order to have a steady supply of food, they usually combined their craft with farming.

The picture of the Holy Family as a tiny group of three living in a tranquil, monastic-like carpenter’s shop is highly improbable. Like most people at that time, they probably lived in an extended family unit, where three or four houses of one or two rooms each were built around an open courtyard, in which relatives shared an oven, a cistern and a millstone for grinding grain, and where domestic animals also lived. Like women in many parts of the world today, Mary most likely spent, on the average, 10 hours a day on domestic chores like carrying water from a nearby well or stream, gathering wood for the fire, cooking meals and washing utensils and clothes.

Who were the members of this extended household? Mark’s Gospel speaks of Jesus, “the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here among us?” (Mark 6:3). Were these “brothers and sisters” children of Jesus’ aunt (see John 19:25) and therefore cousins? Were they Joseph’s children by a previous marriage? We do not know their precise relationship to Jesus and Mary, but it is probable that they all lived in close proximity within the same compound.

In Palestine at that time, women ordinarily married at about 13 years of age in order to maximize childbearing and to guarantee their virginity, so it is likely that Mary’s espousal to Joseph (Matt 1:18) and the birth of Jesus occurred when she was very young. Luke indicates that Mary gave birth to Jesus during a census required by the Romans around 6 B.C., in a cave or stall where animals were stabled. A feeding trough served as his crib, as today poor refugees use cardboard boxes and other homemade artifacts as makeshift beds for newborn infants.

It would be a mistake to think of Mary as fragile, even at 13. As a peasant woman capable of walking the hill country of Judea while pregnant, of giving birth in a stable, of making a four- or five-day journey on foot to Jerusalem once a year or so, of sleeping in the open country like other pilgrims and of engaging in daily hard labor at home, she probably had a robust physique in youth and even in her later years. We also err when we picture her as Fra Lippo Lippi’s gorgeously dressed, blue-eyed, blond-haired Madonna, who often adorns Christmas cards. Whether she was beautiful or not, she would have had features like those of Jewish and Palestinian women today, most likely with dark hair and dark eyes.

It is doubtful that she knew how to read or write, since literacy was extremely rare among women of the time. The culture was highly oral, with public reading of the Scriptures, the telling of stories, the recitation of poems and the singing of songs.

A Jewish culture permeated Mary’s life. One might legitimately ask: Did she keep a kosher kitchen? Was there a mezuzah on the doorpost of her family’s modest home in Nazareth?

Her husband, Joseph, seems to have died before Jesus’ public ministry began. We know that Mary herself, however, lived through the time of that ministry (Mark 3:31, John 2:1-12). Her separation from Jesus as he went out to preach was undoubtedly painful for her. In a passage that has always embarrassed Mariologists, Mark tells us that Jesus’ family thought him mad (Mark 3:21); but what mother, upon seeing her son challenge Roman authority rather dauntlessly (this often meant death), might not have said to him, “Are you crazy?”

John tells us that Mary was present at Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25-27), though the other evangelists are silent about this. At that time she was probably close to 50 years old, well beyond the age at which most women in that era died. She lived on at least into the early days of the church. Luke states that she was in the upper room in Jerusalem with the 11 remaining apostles “who devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women...and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). The lovely paintings and icons of Pentecost that picture the Spirit descending on Mary and the 11 apostles hardly do justice to Luke’s text, which indicates that she was there with a community of 120 persons.

After Pentecost, Mary disappears from history .......

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55 Comments:

Blogger PrickliestPear said...

Were these “brothers and sisters” children of Jesus’ aunt (see John 19:25) and therefore cousins? Were they Joseph’s children by a previous marriage? We do not know their precise relationship to Jesus and Mary...

Interesting that the most probable answer -- that they were her kids -- isn't even considered!

10:01 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Hi Cyrstal,

Thanks for the link to the America article. I've been trying to finish my reflections following a Novena to Our Lady where I live. That was perfect to post for one of the days, the day where the Mass was just a bit underwhelming and I had no thoughts to share.

11:21 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi PrickliestPear. Yes, I'm kind of surprised they didn't even mention the possibility.

11:56 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Maria. Thanks. How is your fiction story coming along?

11:57 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

It's coming along slowly, but thanks for asking. If only I could tie up the loose ends and write an ending, I'd be done.

I have other stories and characters trying to take over and it's truly annoying. ;-)

12:29 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

It's been a while since I've written anything, but I remember that feeling :) Funny how the characters take on a life of their own. BTW I put some of my old short stories in a blog here.

1:16 AM  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

Crystal,

I'm kind of surprised they didn't even mention the possibility.

I'm not really surprised. A lot of Catholics feel very strongly about the "perpetual virginity" thing. I find it fetishistic, but to each his own.

8:57 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

I find it kind of misogynistic too. It's strange to be so wedded to something that has no basis in the NT.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

I really enjoyed this post Crystal. I like to picture the kind of life Jesus and his family would have had before all of the gospel stuff began.

I guess I'm one of those fetishistic misogynists though.

I don't really have a problem seeing Mary as having remained a virgin or that Jesus' extended family of cousins and such might be those the NT refers to as brothers and sisters.

I think it serves to strike a balance between the real world that Jesus was born into and an active participant in, and a deeper reality that He and Mary and Joseph we also intimately involved in, a reality set apart from the usual course of human history.

In film and art though, I tend to enjoy more historic portrayals over the kitschy fluff that is often presented.

I prefer to think of myself as more of a hopeless romantic who loves a good story. ;o)

Shalom Crystal!

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Liam said...

The assumption that Mary was a peasant is an assumption. It's an attractive assumption. But Mary's self-described lowliness need not have been of material poverty.

It's one thing to deconstruct Scripture to separate out hard facts from soft facts and possible interpretive layers. It's another to interpose another set of deconstructable interpretations of the written narrative. It's common to do this, but it should not be presented as anything other than speculation.

1:28 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Cura,

I like the movie stories too. I just don't understand why the idea of Mary never having a sexual relationship with her husband is so important to people. Why does that make the story of Jesus better?

2:13 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Liam,

Yeah, it's all speculation. I guess this example of speculation is just the counterpart to the other romanticixed extreme of a Mary so often portrayed in art.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Quote:
"I just don't understand why the idea of Mary never having a sexual relationship with her husband is so important to people. Why does that make the story of Jesus better?"

It's not a matter of making it better. We hold to Mary's perpetual virginity for the same reason that the Virgin Birth is in the NT to begin with. Because of what people at the time were saying, disparagingly and otherwise, about Jesus' paternal lineage and whatt the meaning of that lineage was. If something as incredible and hard to believe as the Virgin Birth is in the Gospels, why is it hard to accept Mary's perpetual virginity? St. Paul said nothing about the Virgin Birth.

A common Jewish form of argumentation at the time was called "building a fence around the Torah." It was the taking of of an extreme position to defend a a more important interior truth.
The early Church Fathers followed the same principle. The doctrines and claims about Mary are not really about her. They are there to build a fence around the divinity of Jesus.

There were those at the time, for example, who said that Jesus was illegitimate, and possibly the son of a Roman soldier.

There were others who believed, more charitably to be sure, that Jesus was not divine and had come to establish an earthly kingdom, and was a messiah in the more conventionally understood sense of the word. For these people, it was very important to emphasise the royal kinsmen of Jesus. In this interpretation, Jesus and his cousin John the Baptist came to act as two messiahs, John as the Priestly/Aaronic messiah, Jesus as the Royal/Davidic messiah (Jesus, after all, was baptized by John, and people have a hard time explaining why this was necessary). After the death of Jesus, his "brother" James became the Bishop of Jerusalem, to be a royal placeholder until Jesus returned.

In order to combat this concept of a royal family line, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary had to be defended by the early Church Fathers, or the "proto-orthodox victors in the early church struggles" or whatever we want to call them these days. It wasn't about the Da Vinci Code nonsense. It was an internal fight about Gentile Christianity vs. Jewish Christianity.

As for art... Mary was often portrayed as a queen rather than a peasant in medieval art, because this was important, meaningful, and comforting to many people in medieval times. I've seen plenty of other examples in art of Mary portrayed more humbly.

If we accept the Gentile version of Christianity that won out over the Jewish form of Christianity in any case, the perpetual virginity of Mary makes perfect sense. If I was Mary's husband, and I believed her story, I wouldn't have dared to make use of that womb myself.

3:45 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the comment.

I understand what you are saying about how and why the idea that Mary was a virgin for her whole life came about. It sounds like you are saying it was in a way a practical solution to a problem of belief in Jesus' divinity?

But the fact that the idea was useful to the growing church doesn't make it true. And that matters to me. It's hard enough for me to believe God exists, to believe in the resurrection, to believe Jesus was both human and divine .... I do believe all this stuff is true, btw ..... without the church cooking up ideas from whole cloth because it made selling Christianity easier.

As for the idea that Joseph wouldn't want to have sex with Mary after she gave birth to Jesus (this is Anne Rice's idea in her Jesus book, isn't it?) that is really an interesting assumption :) I think an assumption that is just as viable would be that Joseph and Mary went on, after Jesus' divine conception and birth, to have a marriage strengthened by the unitive blessings of love in all its forms.

Guess we'll never know.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Liam said...

Mary as Queen borrows more from Jewish than Gentile thought - in the Jewish kingdoms, the mother of the king was the ranking queen, as it were. This is true in some other cultures, btw.

Before one ascribes the idea of Mary's perpetual virginity to the category of Fable of the Oppressive Patriarchy, one should first read the Patristic literature that fairly systematically analyzed the issue. One might not agree with their conclusions, but it should be remembered that there are many distinct strands that ended up reinforcing their deductions. Occam's razor does not slice away at these as neatly as many have tended to assume in the past 200 years, and deconstructionists are having a field day with the biases of higher criticism in turn. Many things that people were taught as true or probably from the perspective of higher criticism in college a generation ago are now shakier ground.

6:12 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Laim,

Thanks for the comment. I saw in wikipedia .....

Origen, in his Commentary on Matthew (c. 248), expressly states belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity .... In this context, Origen interpreted the comments of Ignatius of Antioch (d. c 108) as significant .... By the fourth century, the doctrine is well attested. For example, references can be found in the writings of Athanasius, Epiphanius, Hilary, Didymus, Ambrose, Jerome, Siricius, and others .....

But I must admit that I don't find this convincing proof of the fact of her perpetual virginity. The NT states Jesus had brothers and sisters and it nowhere states Mary was a perpetual virgin.

I don't know, of course, what the truth on this is, but I guess I believe that the perpetual virginity idea seemed like something that "should" be true to the early church, irrespective of the actual facts, so it became a tradition.

8:22 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

P.S. - Tertullian's on my side :)

8:28 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

The NT is "tradition," and quite frankly, apologetics in its own right. The gospels are not biographies. St. Paul, who wrote before the synoptic authors, shows no awareness of the virgin birth whatsoever.

The Catholic Church acknowledged which ancient writings were inspired books of "scripture," and which were not. The NT is the story of the development of the Church. As you say, a lot of this is hard enough to believe as it is. To be willing to believe in the virgin birth as "true" merely because it was written on some ancient parchments while believing at the same time that the perpetual virginity of Mary is absurd, even though they are both products of the same church, seems like hair-splitting foolishness to me.

11:24 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

The NT is (almost) all we have about Jesus. If we don't put any faith in that then we might as well call it a day as Christians. Fr. Marsh once told me ......

"The gospels might have been written a generation or two after Jesus' death but that doesn't make them untrustworthy as documents. As documents the gospels (and the rest of the NT) are much better attested than anything else we have from the ancient world. There are more copies, better mutual agreement, and less time between first composition and final extant manuscript than for any other text. Plato, Caesar, Alexander ... all are very poorly attested compared with the NT."

The info in the gospels (and Paul) about Jesus and Mary is as close to primary sources as we get on the subject. Which isn' to say I think everything in the gospels is necessarily true, but to compare the gospels with the later "spinning" that the early fathers did to make Mary "good enough" seems unconvincing to me.

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Liam said...

Crystal

There are two major schools of Patristic thought on the relationship of the adelphoi of Jesus. One is that crystalized by Jerome - which dominated the Western church - and the other is that of Epiphanius - which tended to dominate in the Eastern church (though I am not sure if that extended to what became the Oriental churches).

The assumption that the Scriptural text settles things is, after all, an assumption often based on an array of biases that are often not free of internal contradiction. People who cite Scripture to prove Mary had other children by Joseph are often those least inclined to be literal about other Scriptural passages, for example. Cherry-picking one's method depending on the passage is, shall we say, problematic.

Again, it's one thing to say one finds the arguments in favor of the tradition wanting. It's quite another to propose an argument to take their place without sufficient consistency in method.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Crystal, I know this will offend some, but there is no evidence whatsoever that Mary was a perpetual virgin. Some of the comments here are truly amazing. The gist of these sophistic arguments here is "prove she wasn't".The perpetual virginity of Mary is nothing other than the consistent effort to elevate virginity over the married state, which is still a basic teaching of the Church.
The arguments shown here for her perpetual virginity are why catholic apologetics has no respect among historians.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Crystal,

Quote:
“The NT is (almost) all we have about Jesus. If we don't put any faith in that then we might as well call it a day as Christians. Fr. Marsh once told me ......”

If Fr. Marsh didn’t accept the perpetual virginity of Mary, I’d be very surprised.

I agree with you completely on that, but you can’t separate out the NT from the church that gave it to us either. The only reason why I believe the NT is inspired truth is because I believe in the apostolic witness of the people who gave it to us. Otherwise, I’d have no reason to believe that it’s any more true than the Koran or the Sutras or any other ancient book. I’m not a Protestant. I don’t believe in the Bible as the sole authority. I believe in the indefectability of the Church that Christ founded (though not necessarily of popes).

One of the few Augustine quotes I like: "I would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."

I’m tired of hearing about all the supposed Catholic corruption of scripture and the pristine early church. If the Orthodox and Catholic churches that developed in the East and the West in the first few centuries AD are not the true churches, then ALL Christianity is bunk, and we SHOULD call it a day.

Quote:
“to compare the gospels with the later "spinning" that the early fathers did to make Mary "good enough" seems unconvincing to me."

How do you know the authors of Matthew and Luke weren’t “spinning” by trying to make Jesus fit Isaiah’s messianic prophecy in Isaiah 7:14? Did you know that they often get accused of a fatal mistransalation? In the Greek Septuagint, the word ‘parthenos” is used in Isaiah, which means ‘virgin.” In the original Hebrew, the word is “almah” is used, which means ‘young girl.”

I still think it was a more of a matter of downplaying James and the other blood relatives of Jesus than it was about making Mary seem “good enough.”

It’s silly to believe that a virgin gave birth to God merely because it’s written in the pages of a book, but to refuse to believe that a virgin’s husband refrained from having sex with her after she gave birth to God, just because the same people who gave us the book didn’t include it in the same pages in Matthew and Luke.

Anway, the teaching about the perpetual virginity of Mary is ancient, and it was argued about over concerns that are very different from what we are dealing with now in the 21st century. It wasn’t dreamed up by some dusty-eared old anti-sex eunuchs shuffling around the Vatican in their cassocks and slippers.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

The rape of reason. Because Matthew and Luke might be 'spinning' about the Virgin Birth that is evidence for the perpetual virginity of Mary!!!! Truly amazing!!!!

9:16 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Liam,

Thanks for the info. I have to admit I'm in over my hear with the history of the doctrine and I appreciate your comments - must read up more! :)

9:50 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Jack,

I would tend to agree with you.

9:51 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Jeff,

I’m not a Protestant. I don’t believe in the Bible as the sole authority. I believe in the indefectability of the Church that Christ founded .... "I would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."

It’s silly to believe that a virgin gave birth to God merely because it’s written in the pages of a book, but to refuse to believe that a virgin’s husband refrained from having sex with her after she gave birth to God, just because the same people who gave us the book didn’t include it in the same pages in Matthew and Luke.

I'm not a Protstant either, but I have more confidence in the NT, the basis of which is a story about a person who so inspired his friends with love that they changed their lives, than in the Catholic Church because although the Church may have chosen what of the gospel story would go into the canon, they didn't invent Jesus.

Probably part of the reason I feel this way is that I became a believer by taking that retreat, a Jesuit retreat that encourages a person to get to know Jesus through the gospel stories and through interactive prayer.

I don't believe because the authority of the church moves me to do so, but because the Jesus who meets me in scripture and in prayer moves me to do so. The Catholic church is how I worship, not what I worship.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

The rape of reason. Because Matthew and Luke might be 'spinning' about the Virgin Birth that is evidence for the perpetual virginity of Mary!!!! Truly amazing!!!!

What you just said is a logical fallacy. I said no such thing.

Besides, you don't really believe in the virgin conception. Do you, Jack? You suspect that Matthew and Luke were spinning.

Which is harder to believe in? That a virgin had a baby, or that Joseph and Mary had a sexless marriage? Sexless marriages happen all the time. Mary's virgin birth is the only one I hear people in the 21st century claiming to believe in. To be willing to believe that a virgin had a baby, but that a sexless marriage couldn't have occurred seems ridiculous to me.

I'm not attacking the NT, I'm just saying you can't separate it from the Church.

The Catholic church is how I worship, not what I worship.

I wouldn't say it any differently and neither would Fr. Marsh, who I am quite sure accepts the perpetual virginity of Mary as he does the virgin conception.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Joe, Jim, and Mike went to the county fair. Joe and Jim came home and told exagerated stories about their exploits. Therefore, that is evidence that Mike's story is true.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Jeff, I don't believe in Biblical inerrancy, Nor do I believe in Church inerrancy. You obviously deny the former, but accept the latter.Does the Bible have any signifgance? Obviously, to you, none. You would have loved it when the Bible was suppressed. Too complicated. The Church tells you all you need. I thought even the Church had dropped this view.

11:02 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

I think we will not be able to reach agreement, so probably best to agree to disagree :)

11:04 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Jeff, I don't believe in Biblical inerrancy, Nor do I believe in Church inerrancy.

I thought not. I was right.

Then what the heck are you doing on religious blogs other than trying to cause trouble? I know you don't care much for the troll label, but it fits.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Okay, Jeff. You believe that the world was created in 7 days(Biblical inerrancy) and that torture was okay (Church inerrancy.) Well, good luck.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I do not believe the Bible is inerrant as far as history is concerned. I do not believe the Church has been free from sin.

For the record, I happen to believe in the virgin birth and the perpetual virginity of Mary. You believe in neither.

As far as scripture and tradition are concerned, this is how they are related:

"Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit." (Dei Verbum)

11:30 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Jeff, you're dodging. You say the Bible is not inerrant; but only say the Chuch can sin.Is the Church inerrant? Had you lived when it accepted torture, you would have acceptedthat teaching? Right?

11:36 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I don't take a literalist reading of the Bible which requires me to look at it as being authoritative in either science or history.

What I said above is that the Church is indefectable, which means that the Church will persist to the end of time, that it will preserve unimpaired its essential characteristics, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It does not mean that it will be free from the Torquemadas and other sinful men of history.

I probably wouldn't have faith in that indefectability, and wouldn't still be a Christian today, if it wasn't for the Second Vatican Council.

Is Jesus Christ the Son of God? Was Jesus divine?

11:56 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Jeff, I don't mean to be abrasive, but to me the "indfectability" thing is just words. I ask you about what the Church has taught in the past that is obvious error, and what you would have done had you lived them. The "indefectability" quote can only say, it seems to me, that no matter when you had lived you would have had to accept the teaching--right or wrong of the 'magisterium.' Which I am sure you know has replaced infallibility as the basis of Church teaching.

You once said to me that Vatican 2 was dead.

Was the Council of Trent right when it said celibacy is clearly superior to the married state?

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Paul Maurice Martin said...

"Her husband, Joseph, seems to have died before Jesus’ public ministry began."

Is this what's made of the fact that Joseph pretty much disappears from the gospels after that scene when Jesus is 12 and his parents can't find him and he turns up at the temple?

1:19 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

In the fac eof all of this...some really interesting and thought provolking, and some just silly, I couldn't resist adding a litle tongue-in-cheek...

From one of my favorite movies;

"In telling the story of my father's life, it's impossible to separate fact from fiction, the man from the myth. The best I can do is to tell it the way he told me. It doesn't always make sense and most of it never happened... but that's what kind of story this is."

And again;

(Bloom senior's story of his son's birth involves him in a wresting match with a giant catfish in order to win back the wedding ring he'd used as bait to catch the legendary 'uncatchable' fish)

"Senior Dr. Bennett: Do you want to know what really happened on the day you were born?
Will Bloom: Sure.
Senior Dr. Bennett: Your mother came in about three in the afternoon. Her neighbor drove her, on account of your father was on business in Wichita. You were born a week early, but there were no complications. It was a perfect delivery. Now, your father was sorry to miss it, but it wasn't the custom for the men to be in the room for deliveries then, so I can't see as it would have been much different had he been there. And that's the real story of how you were born. Not very exciting, is it? And I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one involving a fish and a wedding ring, I might choose the fancy version. But that's just me."

There is a fundamental difference in how sacred story is approached. The Bible as a whole is not, nor was it ever intended to be read as a book of facts, history and biography. It's sacred story.

That's how I see it anyway. And I'm not one to ruin someone else's story with a boatload of 'facts'.

It sure will be interesting to hear Mary's side of things though...assuming I get there. ;o)

Shalom my friends...shalom.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Crystal wants us to shut up. But...

Is the Bible a religious story? Yes, I agree.Scholars still debate their meaning.

Is a Church pronouncement NOT subject to interpretation?

Should people keep a Bible at their bedside of a book of papal encyclicals? If you could just have one.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Jeff, I don't mean to be abrasive, but to me the "indfectability" thing is just words.

I'm not sure what you're getting at. Words have meanings. I told you what is meant by the word "indefectability."

I ask you about what the Church has taught in the past that is obvious error, and what you would have done had you lived them. The "indefectability" quote can only say, it seems to me, that no matter when you had lived you would have had to accept the teaching--right or wrong of the 'magisterium.'

I'm not sure the Church ever "taught" torture as a "doctrine," but no, I think it was obvious in my answer that I would not have accepted just anything, right or wrong. I think it was pretty obvious in my answer that if it wasn't for the Second Vatican Council, I would have lost faith in the Catholic Church's claim of indefectability.

You once said to me that Vatican 2 was dead.

I seem to recall that I said it was dead as far as the hierarchy as presently constituted was concerned. Thankfully, they do not represent the entire Church. But, yeah, it's in pretty big trouble.

Was the Council of Trent right when it said celibacy is clearly superior to the married state?

The Vatican II Fathers didn't seem to think so. It was dropped from the catechisms after Vatican II, and the laity has embraced the new concept with a vengeance.

Want to try answering my questions now?

Is Jesus Christ the Son of God? Was Jesus divine?

1:48 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Paul,

Yes, I think that's the assumption - that Joseph perished before Jesus started his public ministry. And now we know what killed him :)

2:27 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Cura,

I wish you would start a bible blog group for the NT - that would be fun!

2:27 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Jack,

A bible or an encyclical? I saw a post elsewhere that asked if Catholic were more likely to keep a bible or a rosary :)

I'd pick the bible.

2:29 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Jeff,

Is Jesus Christ the Son of God? Was Jesus divine?

I think so.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Should people keep a Bible at their bedside of (sic) a book of papal encyclicals? If you could just have one.

Was that meant to be an 'or' question? Should people keep a Bible at their bedside or a book of papal encyclicals? The Bible, without hesitation.

The Bible is preferable over a set of rosaries too, especially for us poor dumb Catlicks who need the scriptures explained to us cuz the Whore of Baylon in Rome has kept them from us for so long....

Of course, none of these objects do anyone much good at the bedside table unless they actually get picked up and used.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Jeff,

Thanks for this:

Was that meant to be an 'or' question? Should people keep a Bible at their bedside or a book of papal encyclicals? The Bible, without hesitation.

The Bible is preferable over a set of rosaries too, especially for us poor dumb Catlicks who need the scriptures explained to us cuz the Whore of Babylon in Rome has kept them from us for so long....

Of course, none of these objects do anyone much good at the bedside table unless they actually get picked up and used.


I needed a smile and a giggle.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

I was just thinking about that Bible Study blog today! That is so funny!

There's a really good 8 week 'quick study' of the bible on dvd that I'm thinking of introducing to the parish this fall. It might be interesting to do a brief series on the salient connections that series brings up and then jump into the NT.

I really like their approach because it pulls out 12 narrative books from the cannon of scripture that outline the whole of the salvation story from Genesis through to Acts. Teamouse and I are reviewing it at home through the summer.

8 wks to form the foundation for the story and then jump right into the NT? That might not be a bad idea.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Jeff, well what is a doctrine? The Church teaches today that one cannot support a pro-choice candidate. Yes, I know the exceptions.Is the the sin of using all methods of contraception a doctrine? Is masturbation a sin? Venal or mortal? Is it a doctrine that victims of rape cannot have abortions? Is it a doctrine that one must give explanation for supporting Obama or one should be denied communion? Is it a doctrine that all social justice issues are only relative, except abortion? Is it a doctrine that all thougts about having sex with another when unmarried a sin? Is it a doctrine that celibacy is superior to the married state a doctrine? Was the Council of Trent in error? Is the church teaching that "men are God's glory, and women are man's glory" a doctrine. Well the 1912 Catholic encyclopedia says so and it has an imprimature. Did Vatican 2 change that, and had you lived them what would have been your position? Is the "catechism" protected by God from being in error?

What is the status of writings of the early fathers. Should they not be used in Church rather than Gospel, Epistle readings.After all they are more "modern" and often address specific matters of faith.

Now to your question. Yes I believe Jesus was divine, in my definition of divine, along with millions of other Christians. Was he the son of God? Well, is God a father? Is God male? In what sense? Is God a physical person? In what sense is Mary the mother of God? Did she give physical birth to God?


Again with no malice, questions like "Is Jesus divine?" and is God his "father" are a bit more complicated than some would think. I have written extensively on the levels of language, as you probably have too.

What does "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?" mean? I find that a bit simplistic as I do "was Jesus divine."

And last, are all supporters of Obama who cannot give reasons why they do supporters of murder? In you opinion should a 13 year old who has been raped and had an abortion, a murderer? What prison time do you suggest. After all the Church has made it quite clear that all abortion is murder.Excuse me. Possible exceptiom--to save the life of the mother, very, very rare! Oh yes, two accidental deaths are better than one murder? Is that doctrine? A lot of high mucky mucks(sp?) in the Church say so.

Jeff, thse are real questions and only a sample of the questions that can be raised about "is the Church always right on doctrine." How is the average Catholic to determine doctrine just from idle talk.:)

3:41 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Now Jeff, I can tell you've had it when you have to fall back on finding "typos." I once knew a "Jeff" that could reason. This obviously is the Jeff here that has Archbishop Burke and Randall Terry as his heroes. What a pity.

3:52 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I have both a bible and a rosary but I don't use either - I read the daily reading at Creighton's reflections page and look up stuff at the online New American Bible site. Started out blogging in 2004 by being part of a group bible study blog :)

4:06 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Jeff, well what is a doctrine?

It's a word that generally refers to "teaching" and should not be confused with Dogma, which is unchangeable and must be held by Catholics De Fide. Doctrine can develop, it can change, and can even be dissented from if it is done faithfully and respectfully.

The Church teaches today that one cannot support a pro-choice candidate.

That's not true. It would be wrong to support that candidate specifically for the reason of advancing and advocatng abortion.

Yes, I know the exceptions.

Well, if there exceptions, there are exceptions.

Is the the sin of using all methods of contraception a doctrine?

Not all methods. Artificial methods are condemned. This is not infallible teaching either. I think this may be an example of a teaching not received. A teaching cannot be valid if it is not received and accepted by the laity. The jury is still out on this one, and will take a bit more time to shake out. The question is, is this a teaching not received, or a teaching poorly communicated and taught?

Is masturbation a sin?

It depends. Can be, if you prefer it over your spouse. Immaturity and force of habit need to be taken into consideration. All in all, I think this may be a teaching not received either. It may owe more to pagan stoicism than to Christianity and Judaism.

Venal or mortal?

The word is "venial." Don't worry about it. If you feel a need, flog it.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Is it a doctrine that victims of rape cannot have abortions?

It's not the baby's fault that a rape occurred. I know the difficlties, but why not at least consider, if we claim to be Christians, not compounding a tragedy? Why not consider letting something good come out of it? Pastoral concerns need to be taken into consideration too. Excommunications for it are entirely unwarranted.

Is it a doctrine that one must give explanation for supporting Obama or one should be denied communion?

No.

Is it a doctrine that all social justice issues are only relative, except abortion?

No the social gospel is as non-negotiable.

Is it a doctrine that all thougts about having sex with another when unmarried a sin?

All thoughts? No.

Is it a doctrine that celibacy is superior to the married state a doctrine?

No.

Was the Council of Trent in error?

On that one, I'd say yes.

Is the church teaching that "men are God's glory, and women are man's glory" a doctrine. Well the 1912 Catholic encyclopedia says so and it has an imprimature.

What did your Anglican Church say about it in 1912?

Did Vatican 2 change that, and had you lived them what would have been your position?

I don't think it did explicitly, but I think it did implicitly. If I lived in 1912, I'd probably have thought of it the same way that everyone else in society did back then.

Is the "catechism" protected by God from being in error?

In referring to dogma, yes.

What is the status of writings of the early fathers. Should they not be used in Church rather than Gospel, Epistle readings.After all they are more "modern" and often address specific matters of faith.

The writings of the early Church Fathers are highly regarded, with some reservations. No, I don't think they should be part of the Mass, except in homiletics. How are they more modern?

Well, is God a father?

So we call Him, as does scripture.

Is God male?

I've heard some priests explain that God is sexless, but I'm not sure I follow that. I confess to having a sort of anthropomorphic view.

In what sense is Mary the mother of God? Did she give physical birth to God?

Yes, she is Theotokos, as spelled out at Nicea, if I remember right.

What does "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?" mean? I find that a bit simplistic as I do "was Jesus divine."

It's a phrase used by evangelicals and Born-Again Christians. I think it means, have you come to grips with the fact that you are totally depraved and hopeless, and that you need to let go of the idea of saving yourself, and just let Christ do it instead. Once that's done, you can't be lost.

And last, are all supporters of Obama who cannot give reasons why they do supporters of murder?

No.

In you opinion should a 13 year old who has been raped and had an abortion, a murderer?

No.

What prison time do you suggest.

I do not.

Oh yes, two accidental deaths are better than one murder? Is that doctrine?

I'd have to look up Suarez on that, but I don't think so. If mother and child are both going to die, why not save the mother, or whomever you can? What's the point of two deaths?

A lot of high mucky mucks(sp?) in the Church say so.

A lot of mucky-mucks have their own opinions.

Jeff, thse are real questions and only a sample of the questions that can be raised about "is the Church always right on doctrine." How is the average Catholic to determine doctrine just from idle talk.:)

I believe, like Newman, in the development of doctrine, so constant dialogue makes up the life of the Church. I don't care, much however, much for the casual throwaway dismissal of dogmas.

5:08 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

OK you guys, I'm pulling the plug. If you want to talk more, get a room :)

6:01 PM  

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