Scripture and Science: Historical Day of Christ’s Death in AD 33

In our Church History Certificate in the New Saint Thomas Institute, we looked at the biblical and scientific data for determining the exact date of Christ’s death on the cross. Please join us for this sample video from our Church History Module 2: Christ and the Covenants:

“Good Friday – Finding the Historical Date” from Church History Module 2: Christ and the Covenants

If you don’t see the video in your browser or email, please click here to watch it.

[If you’d like to begin online Catholic classes and earn your Certificate(s) in: Catholic Church History Church Fathers or in Medieval History and Theology, you can begin this Easter with Spring Enrollment. The New Saint Thomas Institute is currently having $1 tuition discount for Easter. Click here to learn more.]

Here’s a preview of our New Saint Thomas Institute Certificate in Church History. Please explore and sign up if it’s a good fit:

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A blessed Good Friday to you,

Taylor Marshall

How did Christ ride a Donkey AND a Colt (at the same time?)

The Mystical Sign of Christ riding a Donkey and a Colt

For years I was confused by Saint Matthew’s description about Palm Sunday: we read that Christ rode a female donkey and her baby colt.

However, in Mark, Luke, and John, we read that Christ rode a donkey without any mention of the her colt. For some reason, I had imagined that Christ rode the she-donkey and the little colt at the same time – wide straddling both. This seems ridiculous, but I didn’t know how else to visualize what Matthew was describing.

jesus-christ-riding-into-jerusalem-for-passover

I finally found clarity while reading Cornelius a Lapide’s commentary on the passage. According to Lapide, Christ first rode the ass up and down the mount and then transferred and rode the colt into the city.

There is a practical reason for this. The she-ass would be stronger and more able to go up and down the terrain. Next, the colt would be able to bring him into the city easily.

Yet there is a mystical signification is this as well. The she-ass and her colt signify “the two sorts of people of which the world is made up—the Jews, accustomed to the yoke of the Mosaic law, who were represented by the ass; and the Gentiles, living up to this time without the Law of God, and who were denoted by the colt.”

The she-ass represents Mother Israel who has been burdened with the Law of Moses. Saint Peter our first Pope described the Mosaic Law as “a yoke…which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10, D-R).

The young colt represents the new and untrained Gentiles – the wild olive branch that the Apostle describes as the Gentiles.

Christ our Lord rode both to signify that both the Jews and the Gentiles were called to be Christophoroi – Christ-bearers.

Question: Now it’s your turn:

How did we carry “Christ to the world” in our age. What is the humble donkey or colt in our lives that communicates Christ’s Gospel to others? Please leave a comment. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Here’s Thomas Aquinas on why Christ rode a donkey on Palm Sunday. 

Get Dr. Marshall’s book Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages for free by clicking here.

The Horrific Dream of the Wife of Pontius Pilate (about the Nicene Creed)

Let’s examine at the tradition of Pontius Pilate’s wife and the horrific dream that she had in Matthew 27 and how it relates to the Apostles and Nicene Creed.

St Claudia Pontius Pilate

In our New Saint Thomas Institute Catholic Church History series on the Arian Heresy Controversy and the Council of Constantinople, our student Alicia asks:

Is there a reason why the name of Pontius Pilate was included in the second creed?

Pontius Pilate’s name is in the Creeds because it anchors the life of Christ into human history, specifically Roman history. If you interested in the redemptive meaning of Rome, the Roman Pontius Pilate, and the Roman cross of execution in the redemption of man by a Jewish Messiah, please see my book The Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholicism. 

There is a “tradition” that Pontius Pilate’s wife Claudia Procula had a dream of billions of people chanting “sub Pontio Pilato” over and over and over.

What she was hearing was the billions of Christians who recite “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.”

Most woman would be honored to know that their husband’s name would be on the lips of billions over a period of 20 centuries. But in the case of this Prefect of Judaea, it is the notorious reputation of being the remote efficient cause of Christ’s crucifixion.

The dream of “Claudia” is referred to in Matthew 27:19:

While Pilate was sitting in the judgment hall, his wife sent him a message: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him.”

If the tradition is true, she dreamed of the countless recitations and liturgical chants of “under Pontius Pilate.”

Origen is the first to mention that she converted to Christianity. She is a saint. In art, she is depicted as whispering into the ear of Pontius. Mel Gibson’s Passion depicts Claudia giving linens to the Blessed Mother to collect the Blood of Christ from the scourging.

St Claudia cloths to Mary

Saint Claudia, pray for us.

If you’d like to take our courses on Historical Theology, the Creeds, the Councils, and Catholic Tradition, please sign up with us at newsaintthomas.com.

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9 Facts about Saint Joseph (Plus Old vs Young Joseph Debate)

Happy feast day of Saint Joseph. Here are 9 Facts about Saint Joseph for our edification:
St Joseph

  1. The name “Joseph” in Hebrew means “he increases.” We get it from the Greek form of Ιωσηφ (Ioseph), which comes from the Hebrew name יוֹסֵף (Yoseph). Saint Bernard of Clairvaux taught Joseph was rightly named, because God “increased” the gifts and graces that were in the world through Saint Joseph (Hom. 2 super Missus est).
  2. Saint Joseph is not mentioned in Mark’s Gospel, but he features in Matthew and Luke. He is only briefly mentioned by Saint John when he writes: “Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know” (John 6:41-51).
  3. Saint Joseph is described in Greek as a τέκτων or “tekton,” which is translated as “carpenter,” but it is better translated as “artisan.” A tekton is anyone involved in physical construction and repair. Joseph may have worked with stone, wood, metal, cement, clay, and other substances. The words “technology” and “architecture” are related to the Indo-European root for tekton.
  4. Joseph, while of the House of David in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth, which is only a 40 mile (65km) walk to Jerusalem. Nazareth was a suburb of the town of Sepphoris described as:”Rich, cosmopolitan, deeply influenced by Greek culture, and surrounded by a panoply of races and religions, the Jews of Sepphoris were the product of the Herodian social revolution – the nouveaux riches who rose to prominence after Herod’s massacre of the old priestly aristocracy.” (Aslan, Reza. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, 44)This places Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the proximity of a wealthy, Gentile culture. Most craftsmen in this region would likely have learned Greek and perhaps Latin to serve the economy of Sepphoris. This is why some speculated that Christ our Lord knew Hebrew (as a student of Scripture), Aramaic (as a native of Nazareth), Greek (Gentile language of politics and commerce), and Latin (language of Roman occupants).
  5. History testifies to two traditions of Saint Joseph – the Old Joseph (widower) and the Young Joseph (virgin) traditions. I personally follow the Young Joseph tradition as I think it’s more historical and more biblical. I’ve detailed the debate here: ARTICLE the Old Joseph (widower) and the Young Joseph (virgin).
  6. Saint Joseph was truly married to the Blessed Virgin. This was debated and settled in the early Church. Some people wrongly state that Mary was an “unwed mother” and this is blasphemy. See my article: “Thomas Aquinas 12 Reasons Why Joseph was Married to Mary.”
  7. It is speculated that Saint Joseph never sinned (confirmed in grace) and that he was sanctified before birth – but not at conception like the Blessed Virgin. Francisco Suarez, Jean Gerson, and Saint Alphonsus Ligouri each teach that Saint Joseph was sanctified and regenerated in his mother’s womb prior to birth. Sacred Scripture teaches us that the Prophet Jeremiah and Saint John the Baptist received this honor of sanctification in the womb. The eminent theologians above, notably Saint Alphonsus – a doctor of the Holy Church, extend this privilege to Saint Joseph. They even teach that Saint Joseph was confirmed in the grace, which means that he was so filled with grace that he never committed a mortal sin or a deliberate venial sin.
  8. Some also speculate that since there are no relics of Saint Joseph, he was assumed bodily into Heaven. Francis Suarez maintained St. Joseph was taken up into heaven bodily. St. Bernardino of Siena, Gerson, and St. Vincent Ferrer held the same. St. Francis de Sales points out the fact that nobody claims the tomb of St. Joseph and that there are no relics of this saint. Then he continues in Les Vrais Entretiens Spirituels:Surely, when Our Lord went down into Limbo, St. Joseph addressed Him in this wise: “Be pleased to remember, Lord, that when you came down from Heaven to earth I received you into my house and family, that I took you into my arms from the moment you were born. Now you are going back to Heaven, take me with you (body and soul). I received you into my family, receive me into yours; I took you in my arms; take me into yours; I looked after you and fed you and guided you during your life on earth; stretch forth your hand and lead me into life everlasting.”Some have speculated that Saint Joseph was among the “saints” who were resurrected shortly after the death of Christ on Good Friday: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Mt 27:51-53).
  9. It’s common practice to bury a statue of Saint Joseph to sell one’s home. This comes from a condemned divination practiced called “Deprecation of the Saints,” whereby a person places a sack on a saint’s statue head or hides a statue in the closet or otherwise treats a saint statue disrespectfully until a request is granted. This is why folklore states that you’re supposed to dig up the Saint Joseph statue after the sale of the home to “reward” him for granting a request. It’s probably not a wholesome practice. Perhaps its better to place Saint Joseph’s statue in a place of honor in the home for intercession through Saint Joseph to our Lord Jesus Christ for the sale of one’s home. (Though feel free to debate this the comments box.)

Have a happy and holy Feast of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph pray for us.

Question: Do you think of Saint Joseph as an older widower or as a young guardian? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Dr. Taylor Marshall

9 facts about Saint Patrick of Ireland (PLUS the Two Patrick Theory)

Here are 9 facts (including the Two Patrick Theory) about Saint Patrick of Ireland:

  1. Saint Patrick was not Irish. He was born in in Roman Britain. His Latin name Patricius is Roman and in Latin it means “Patrician” or “noble.” Saint Augustine of Hippo’s father (Saint Monica’s husband) was also named Patricius.
  2. Saint Patrick wrote an autobiography titled Confessio or “Confession.”
  3. Saint Patrick was the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest, as he himself testifies: “My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon. His father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae (Confessio, 1).
  4. At age 16, Saint Patrick was abducted by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland to serve as a slave for 6 years, until his 22nd year. He served as a slave shepherd and during his time in the fields, he returned to the Christian God that he had learned about as a child. Patrick speaks of God in this way: “This is the one we acknowledge and adore – one God in a trinity of the sacred name.”
  5. At age 22, he heard the voice of God telling him to escape slavery and run to the ocean’s port…200 miles away.
  6. Patrick was asked “suck the breasts” of the sailors who offered him a ride to Britain. Saint Patrick explains:I heard one of them shout aloud at me: “Come quickly – those men are calling you!” I turned back right away, and they began to say to me: “Come – we’ll trust you. Prove you’re our friend in any way you wish.” That day, I refused to suck their breasts, because of my reverence for God. They were pagans, and I hoped they might come to faith in Jesus Christ. This is how I got to go with them, and we set sail right away. (Confessio, 18)Literally sucking the breast of another signified the protection of one over the other. The practice was known in North Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, Turkey, Armenia, Caucasus region, Albania, as well as Ireland.
  7. Saint Patrick studied Christianity on continental Europe: He studied at Auxerre and received the tonsure at Lérins Abbey. Saint Germanus of Auxerre consecrated him as a missionary bishop.
  8. Saint Patrick is said to have driven all the serpents from the island of Ireland. However, post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. The tradition of driving snakes out of Ireland may be an allegory for Saint Patrick refuting and winning back the adherents of the Pelagian heresy (the false teaching that a person may be saved through the positive power of human nature without grace).
  9. Irish documents seem to refer to “Two Patricks” and this has given rise to the “Two Patricks Theory.””Patrick the Elder” (Patraic Sen) is said to have died in AD 457. However, there is also a record for the death of the another Patrick in AD 493 (33 years later) who is called the “Patricius the Arch-apostle of the Scoti.” The Annals record annals record that in AD 553 “the relics of Patrick were placed sixty years after his death in a shrine by Colum Cille.” This would testify to his death in AD 493. It’s very likely that the “first Patrick” or “Patrick the Elder” is in fact Saint Palladius who was a Catholic missionary bishop to Ireland and died around AD 460. The missionary efforts of Saint Palladius were likely conflated into the life and memory of Saint Patrick who effectively succeeded Saint Palladius.

Happy feast of Saint Patrick’s Day. Please share and spread this post about Saint Patrick so that people come to know the historical Catholic bishop, theology, and missionary of Ireland: Saint Patricius!

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Saint Patricius, pray for us.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Dr. Taylor Marshall

Descended into Hell – Latin and Greek versions of Apostles Creed

Inferos or Infernos or Inferna?

One of our New Saint Thomas Institute students named Jana from Slovakia had a question about the translation of “descended into Hell” from the Apostles’ Creed:

I am from from Slovakia and in our language we do not use the word “hell” in the Creed, rather we use “he descended to those who died / departed”. We use “hell” only in the meaning of gehenna. Therefore I was a bit confused at first when I saw the title of this lesson: “he descended into hell” – I immediately associated hell with gehenna, but now I understand that hell is more like a collective term.

Jana, it’s so great to have members from Slovakia!

Harrowing of Hell

In English, we usually recite the Apostles’ Creed with the translation “He descended into hell.” To get to the bottom of this, let’s look at both the Greek and Latin versions of the Apostles’ Creed.

Mental Experiment: How Would Demons Lead You to Hell?

Your Personal Screwtape Letter

C.S. Lewis wrote a popular book titled Screwtape Letters in which a senior demon writes to an apprentice demon on how to sinfully deceive humans into Hell.

st antony of egypt

During Lent, it may be helpful to imagine a draft “Screwtape letter” written by demon precisely about you.

Here’s a mental experiment for Lent discernment:

Knowing what I know about myself, my spiritual strengths and weaknesses, how would a demon go about deceiving me and bring me into Hell?

Which lies, insecurities, and ingrained vices would the demon use to deceive you into betraying Christ by apostasy or mortal sin. Think about that for a moment.

For review, here are the 7 deadly sins explained in this video on “How to Make a Catholic Confession.”

Every military general contemplates the weak areas of his armies and his strategy. That is where he places the most effort into improvement.

Pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Use that wisdom during Lent to build up your spiritual defenses where you are weak.

And remember, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). Stay near to Jesus and the evil ones will never triumph!

Have a Joyful Lent,
Taylor

Martyred by Freezing to Death: 40 Martyrs of Sebaste

The glorious catalogue of the martyrs of Christ retell their macabre deaths as being roasted, boiled, decapitated, crucified, starved, strangled, and hung-draw-quartered.

Today’s saints received the crown of martyrdom through the pain of ice. Dante places punishment by cold and ice at the bottom of hell. He perceived it as the worst punishment, and he even describes Satan as frozen at the waist inside a block of ice, as in the illustration below:

Dante's Lucifer Frozen in Ice taylor marshall

The earliest account of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste is found in a sermon  by Saint Basil of Caesarea (370–379). They were 40 Roman soldiers in AD 320 who refused to renounce Christ. They were stripped naked and tied down to a frozen lake near Sebaste (present-day Sivas in Turkey). They were instructed that if they renounced Christ, they would be freed and taken to a hot bath nearby in order to recover.

Consider for a moment, the feeling of your skin and body being overtaken by frost bite. All you need to say is, “I reject and renounce Jesus Christ,” and you’d be sitting in a warm hot tub.

The 40 soldiers persevered until one man relented. He renounced Christ and was taken to the hot baths to warm up, leaving 39 soldiers on the ice. However, one of the guards watching the 39 was allowed to see the supernatural glory resting on these 39 confessors of Christ. Desiring to receive that same glory, he stripped naked and joined them on the ice, thereby restoring the number to 40.

The traditional icon of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste always shows the apostate running away into warm bathhouse, while another man removes his clothes to join the 39. See the icon image below:

40 martyrs of sebaste

In the morning, the stiff bodies (some were still alive) were cast into fires and their bodies burned. The faithful collected their ashes as relics.

The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste were popular in the East and they symbolized for monastics the tight bond of brothers in co-suffering for Christ.

The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste Today: Iron Sharpening Iron

Proverbs 27:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” These men were each blessed to know at least 30 friends who were willing to die for Christ. Every Christian suffers. How much sweeter it would be if we had friends with which to suffer. Pray for faithful and holy friends. Nobody goes to heaven alone. Nobody goes to hell alone. We travel as pilgrims in a collection. If you need advice or help on finding solid Catholic friends, please consider listening to this podcast I recorded: Finding Friends Like Samwise Gamgee.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Timeline: How Thomas Aquinas died of a Brain Injury on March 7

On March 7 1274, the greatest Catholic mind died from brain trauma. Here’s a timeline of what happened brought you to by the New Saint Thomas Institute:

Aquinas Cropped 470 wide

  • Sometime in 1273: The sacristan Domenic of Caserta observes Thomas Aquinas to be levitating in prayer with tears before an icon of the crucified Christ. Christ said to Thomas, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?” Thomas responded, “Nothing but you, Lord.”
  • Dec 6 1273: While celebrating the Mass of Saint Nicholas, Thomas went into ecstasy. Thomas’ friend and secretary Reginald later asks him: “Master, will you not return to your work?” Thomas Aquinas replied: “I can write no more. All that I have written seems like straw.” Thomas no longer works on the Summa theologiae.
  • Pope Gregory X asks Saint Thomas Aquinas to reconcile the Greek Orthodox bishops at the Second Council of Lyon in France to be held on 1 May 1274.
  • Early 1274, Thomas strikes his head on a tree branch along the Appian way near Monte Cassino. It’s not clear whether this happened while he was riding a horse or whether the branch or log was already on the ground.
  • Thomas recovers and continues his journey to the port. His health fails again and he is taken to the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova. While he was conscious, he gave a commentary on the Song of Songs, as had Saint Bernard.
  • March 7, 1274: His brain continued to swell. He received Last Rites and his last words were: “I receive Thee, ransom of my soul. For love of Thee have I studied and kept vigil, toiled, preached and taught….” and then he was received into Heaven by Jesus Christ.

From this timeline, you can perceive the deep mysticism of Thomas Aquinas. Many wrongly assume that Thomas was an aloof college professor or academician. Far from it. He was a mystic full in love with Christ and driven to preach in teach in the parish churches and in the universities.

I’d like to share two FREE resources for you to help you fall more in love with Saint Thomas Aquinas:

  1. Here is a free book titled Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages. It is currently the most popular introduction to Thomas Aquinas available on amazon.com. You can have it free by clicking here.Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages
  2. Here is a free video called “NSTI: VIDEO: 7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas”. This video will help you see the various levels of the spirituality and theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas in only a few short minutes. Watch it here.
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If you’re a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, you can explore the dozens of video lessons on Saint Thomas Aquinas in our Philosophy and Thomistic Studies online curriculum by clicking here.

If you’d like to try taking online classes on Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Mariology, Apologetics, Church History, and/or Medieval Theology, please explore the New Saint Thomas Institute: newsaintthomas.com.

Intro to Thomas Module

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Dr. Taylor Marshall

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How NOT to do Meatless Fridays in Lent (Plus 12 Meatless Meal Ideas)

I had the best Fish Friday of my entire life on the first Friday of Lent this year. I was blessed to lead a retreat for the Bishop’s Servers of the Diocese of Shreveport, and the bishop and I caught a couple of catfish whoppers (see pic below).

Fishing with a bishop (successor of the apostolic fishermen) and landing monster catfish: Thank you Lord!

But Louisiana catfish are not necessary for a great Fish Friday. Here are some great ideas on how to keep “meatless Fridays” in Lent, and how NOT to do meatless Fridays:

Taylor Marshall w Big Catfish

[I’ve discussed the theological reasons for why we Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays in another post: Please read “Why is Fish Okay But Not Meat.”]

Before creating an intentional plan for “Friday fare” or “fish Fridays,” Joy and I would just sort of wing it: “Oh it’s Friday. Shucks. Mmmm. I guess we’ll have to order some cheese pizzas.” Even worse, we’d remember after the fact. I’d order a chicken sandwich at lunch and then suddenly remember.

This is playing defense. You want to plan offense. Defense reacts. Offense creates a clear strategy. You need to make a plan. Write it down and post it on the fridge.

Today’s post focuses on the practical aspect. How do you and/or your family keep meatless Fridays?

It seems like such a chore. However, with some creativity, it can become an act of penance and a family tradition. And when your conference of bishops restores the custom, you’ll already be accustomed to the laudable and ancient practice. I’ve listed some suggestions below.