Angels having Relations with Humans within Jude and 2 Peter and 1 Enoch

Genesis 6 has a confusing reference to “when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them” and how this occurrence led to Yahweh flooding the earth. What does this mean?

Sometime around the 200s BC a Jewish document called “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch was produced. It gives all the details on how angelic beings copulated with human women and created a cosmic mess before the Flood. And here’s the interesting problem we have:

Saint Jude (Jude 1:14-15) directly quotes this non-biblical document known as “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch:

Jude 14–15
It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying:“Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment on all and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
1 Enoch 1:9

Behold, he comes with ten thousand saints to execute judgment upon all, and he will destroy all the ungodly and convict all flesh of all the deeds of their ungodliness that they have ungodly committed in an ungodly way, and of all the arrogant and hard words which sinners have spoken against him.

It’s not only this direct quotation of 1 Enoch by Jude, but Jude (and 2 Peter) allude to the fantastical events of 1 Enoch, namely the sexual encounters of fallen angels with human women, which gives birth to the nephilim or “giants.” The birth of the giants, according to 1 Enoch, is the reason for the Noah’s Flood.

And this belief is also found in the canonical book of Wisdom:

“And from the beginning also when the proud giants (γιγάντων) perished, the hope of the world fleeing to a vessel, which was governed by thy hand, left to the world seed of generation.” (Wisdom 14:6)

The author of Wisdom clearly associates the flood to a divine genocide of the race of the giants (γιγάντων) to leave the world a “seed of generation.” (Saint Paul quotes from Wisdom about 7 times – so Saint Paul also likely hold this belief.)

Let me tell you the story of Angels and Giants that 1 Enoch tells:

In 1 Enoch, Yahweh sends 200 angels to guide and instruct humanity. These 200 angels are called “Irin” in Aramaic and “Egregoroi” in Greek. Both words mean “Watchers.” These Watchers corrupt humanity by teaching them evil arts such as cosmetology (sorry ladies), sorcery, astrology, and the arts of war.

These angels also seduce human women and copulate with them. The women give birth to nephilim or giants. God causes these giants to fight and die. Then the souls of the giants turn into demons that haunt and tempt humans for the rest of time.

  • So Yahweh binds these 200 evil angelic Watchers into “Tartarus.”
  • What is Tartarus? In the Homer’s Iliad, Zeus teaches that Tartarus is “as far beneath Hades as heaven is above earth.” Tartarus is the deepest part of the underworld, far below Hades.
  • It’s noteworthy that the term “tartarus” is used by Enoch and 2 Peter. This signals the blending of Hebrew history with Greek mythology since Greek myth depict Zeus (after 10 years of battle or titanomachy) sending the older primordial deities called Titans into the deep dungeon abyss of “tartarus.”

Notably 2 Peter explicitly uses Enoch’s word “Tartarus” for the condemnation of fallen “angels.” Jude and 2 Peter use almost the same words, but 2 Peter uses “Tartarus”:

Jude 6
And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day. 
2 Peter 2:4a
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartaros and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment;

It seems that 1 Enoch (and maybe Jude and 2 Peter) have assimilated the titanomachy legend of Zeus condemning the Titans into Tartaus into a legend about Yahweh condemning the 200 angelic Watchers into the chains of Tartarus. But in the 1 Enoch legend the crime is that of angels procreating mutant giants with human women.

“And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.” (1 Enoch 7:2)

The resulting children are called nephilim in Hebrew or gigantes (giants) in Latin and Greek. In 1 Enoch, the historical Enoch goes to God and seeks to make intercession for the forgiveness of the giants. God refuses and the giants are condemned. This part of the story is referred to in Sirach:

“He was not propitiated for the ancient giants who revolted in their might.” (Sirach 16:7)

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain 10 copies (!) of the Book of Giants – a work that describes in detail the conception of giants in Genesis 6 from the union of women and angelic watchers. The giants were warriors and cannibals. This theology was an important part of the theology of Second Temple Judaism.

Church Fathers who explicitly teach that angels copulated with women and bred giants in Genesis 6:

Justin Martyr, Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Commodianus, Ambrose of Milan.

In the City of God, Saint Augustine taught that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were simply human ancestors of Seth and that they bred with the evil daughters of men/Cain. This became the received tradition in the post Augustinian Christian West. It’s notable, however, that his mentor Saint Ambrose believed that the “sons of God” were in fact angels that copulated with humans.

What’s going on here in the Hebrew tradition?

The “Legend of the Watchers” in 1 Enoch was written in the Maccabean period before Christ. It’s could be a Jewish appropriation of a Greek myth but it’s likely explaining how the Hellenistic invaders are:

  1. The Gentile invaders of the Holy Land (312-63 BC)
  2. Greeks teaching and requiring Jews to follow pagan customs
  3. Greeks marrying and copulating with Jewish women
  4. The production of “hybrid” Greek/Jewish children that are considered “monstrous”
  5. The need to destroy and drive out the Greeks by means of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC)

The titanomachy of Enoch is not historically “Zeus vs. Titans” or “Yahweh vs. Watchers,” but Judah Maccabeus vs. Greeks.

How does Catholic Christianity understand the “angels and tartarus” sections?

Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas (both had not read 1 Enoch) interpretted the passages in Jude and 2 Peter in this way:

  1. Before the flood, the “sons of God” were the righteous humans and the “daughters of men” were the female daughters of evil humans from Cain. These women were evil and and they seduced the noble and righteous sons of Seth.
  2. They interbred and this lead to the moral corruption of humanity.
  3. God sent a flood to kill everyone since they were all now a mixture of sons of Seth and daughters of Cain.

The solution here is to read “sons of God” not as “angelic beings” but as holy humans. It’s plausible and it has become the accepted tradition in Catholicism. However, ever since the Flood, good people have been interbreeding with evil people. And we know that the child of a holy mother and an evil father can turn out either good or bad. There are not “evil genetics.”

We can see here that the problem of intermarrying between the righteous and the wicked didn’t suddenly stop because water covered the land.

So it seems that Genesis describes a “water genocide” of a corrupted angel-human species. And certainly 1 Enoch is following the idea. If Jude (and 2 Peter) considered 1 Enoch as theological true, this would mean that at least one (or two) Apostle(s) believed the Enochic legend of the Watcher angels being sent to “Tartarus” because they had deceived humans and copulated with them.

The Enochic Legend as a theological device in Jude and 2 Peter:

Regardless of whether Jude and 2 Peter believed the Enochic “Watcher-Angel legend,” we know for a fact that they applied it as a teaching paradigm for their contemporary Apostolic Church:

  1. There are false heretical teachers that were once part of the Apostolic Church
  2. These have fallen away from Christ and are teaching Christians false doctrine and sin
  3. These heretics are having illicit sex with Christians (their lust here and in Revelation is highlighted)
  4. These heretics will be judged in the same way as the Watchers: they will be locked up in the dark tartarus forever.

If Jude and 2 Peter did not quote and/or reference 1 Enoch, we could cast off 1 Enoch forever as a Jewish oddity. But since there is a theological reference of 1 Enoch within Jude and 2 Peter, it provides a challenge.

I’m curious, how do you read the canonical passages of Genesis 6, Jude, 2 Peter (as well as Wisdom, Sirach and several Dead Sea Scrolls that promote the idea of giants as children of human women and demonic angels) in light of 1 Enoch? Secondly, do you think Jude and 2 Peter take the Enochic Watcher-Legend literally or are they simply using it to make an contemporary application against lustful heretics?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: I recorded a podcast on the role of 1 Enoch in the Noah film that came out a few years ago starring Russell Crowe as Noah. You can listen to it by clicking here: Podcast on Noah (2014 Film) and 1 Enoch.

Plato’s Aristocracy and Why Catholics are Losing the Culture War

Whether you like it or not, we in the West have a layered class system and our inability to see it and plan accordingly has led contemporary Catholics to lose our cultural impact on the global stage. Before we get to the reasons why, let’s look at the classical Greek and Indo-European idea of society and rank and then move on to how Catholics are losing their social and political influence:

Political Society is like a Human Body:

For Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno and the Stoics, the soul of the human is aristocratic and consists of estates or ranks. You will find this doctrine in Plato’s Timaeus (the book Plato holds in Raphael’s “School of Athens”) and in his Republic. You will also find it referenced or built upon in almost call classical Catholic treatments of government. See also Saint Thomas Aquinas’s De regno.

Here is how Plato puts it together:

  1. Head = Philosophers, Scholars, Astronomers, Mystics, Priests
  2. Chest = Generals, Warriors, Police (for the Greeks, nobility always is martial)
  3. Stomach and Genitals = Merchants, Farmers, Artisans, Lawyers, Corporate Owners, CEOs
  4. Arms and legs = Laborers or at the very bottom Slaves (Plato doesn’t explicitly identify them as “arms and legs” but it could be implied)

Plato’s City-Man

It’s easy to see how the cosmo-man fits together:

  1. The head thinks and plans. This is the philosopher and mystic who examines reality and plans or foretells the future and explores future contingencies for the cosmo-man (the State).
  2. The chest keeps the cosmo-man alive by pumping blood and moving air. The chest is brave and forces the body to fight and run. He fights enemies inside and outside the populace.
  3. The stomach receives food and produces capital and art through procreation.
  4. Slaves work the limbs and get things done.

Many have noted that Plato’s four strata are deeply Indo-European and map perfectly onto the Vedic system (1500 BC) of India:

  1. Brahmins (priestly scholar class)
  2. Kshatriyas (royal warrior class)
  3. Vaishyas (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers)
  4. Shudras (laboring classes)

Nota bene: the Rigveda (the oldest Sanskrit text) identifies the 4 levels descending with the human body in a modified way: 1) head/mouth > 2) arms > 3) stomach/loins > 4) feet.

For Plato and the Greeks (and for Europe), people could move up and down the classes based on merit. For example, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle went from level 3 to level 1. The High Priest Aaron went from level 4 to level 1. King David went from level 3 to level 1. However, in Hindu theology, a person cannot move up and down the classes in this life (because of the false theology of reincarnation). This is a fundamental difference between Western and Eastern philosophy.

Trigger Warning: You maybe be triggered by the talk of classes and castes

We like to think that human society is now finally enlightened and that there are no castes or classes. Whether you call it a “caste” or a “demographic,” you’re just moving around words. The concept may become more humanitarian over time, but the idea of “political layers” transcends cultures and transcends time. Human society has different parts.

The Platonic way of understanding political levels has little to do with wealth. Bill Gates is very rich, but he still belongs to level 3 as a merchant and producer. A modern example of how the the levels can be transcended is how both Barack Obama and Donald Trump ascended from level 3 to level 1. A person at level 3 could be poor, middle class, or a billionaire.

The 4 Levels of Society in Contemporary Society:

In America we may think of ourselves as egalitarian and without castes, but we still preserve this natural human hierarchy of political layers:

  1. Head (priestly scholar class). This was the Catholic Church’s ecclesial hierarchy (from AD 600-1500). Now it is the University, the Professor, Politician, Judges, the “experts” and (since the 1960s) the TV Media and Social Media (Facebook). They are still almost impossible to circumvent. They seek to influence our daily thoughts and our children. And as always, they are usually very rich.
  2. Chest (royal warrior class). This is the military, but more and more so it is the IRS, FBI, CIA, police, ATF, TSA, game warden, et al. They have the power to imprison us and kill us. In a good political system, they are inspired by the Head to promote justice and protect the innocent. It was for fear of a corrupted “chest level” that the United States allowed its citizens to arm themselves with weapons and, notably, firearms.
  3. Stomach/Loins (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers). This is your “middle class” white collar executives, and your corporate owners. They bear the load of society according to Plato, they must be controlled through “myths or noble lies” crafted by the philosophers. Civil religion is the best way to do this. It can be Roman imperial paganism with an Emperor cult (very powerful). In the same way it can be 16th century Church of England with civil obligations ordered to the king or queen who is “Head of the Church.” Or it can be a form of state-controlled Catholicism (Napoleonic Catholicism or Chinese Communistic Catholicism) or controlled Protestantism (state Protestantism/Lutheranism found in Northern European nations). In the last 30 years, the controlled state religions are being replaced with political correctness and class Socialism.
  4. Limbs (laboring class). We no longer call them “servants” but our society has people who are deeply in debt (in the Bible, debt is de facto slavery) and who work only to: pay off debt (to banks), have food, and have a roof over their heads.

How do we fix it?

Now for the first question:

Where are you in the hierarchy? The most important point in this essay is that you can ascend and descend in these layers. It has always been accomplished in every age. The common born Socrates reached level 1 (but he was killed by level 2). Popes have arisen from slave status level 4 to high priest status level 1. Many Roman Emperors began as level 2 generals and then later became level 1 emperors and even philosophers (Marcus Aurelius). In fact, it has always been quite easy for some people to ascend to level 1. Just be aware that level 1 people are often killed by level 2 people.

Now for the second question:

Isn’t it obvious that Christians are leaving or being forced out of level 1 (head) and level 2 (chest)? Christians are less welcome in Universities. Less welcome in politics. Less welcome in film, TV, and media. It’s a given. This means a revolution is under way whether we recognize it or not. The TV stations, the internet, the news media, and the social media have driven out everything Christian and are replacing it with a new state-sponsored religion of political correctness, which is really environmentalism, pansexuality, and moral tolerance. 

Now for the third question:

What is our response as Christians? There are two options for us:

  1. FIRST OPTION: We can fight to take back levels 1 and 2 through intellectual and moral excellence.
  2. SECOND OPTION: We can recreate our own parallel society/culture and seek to win the long distance race of permanence. This is sometimes called the Benedict Option (hat tip to Eastern Orthodox author Rod Dreher) since it follows Saint Benedict creating an alternative culture and intellectual climate.

Taylor Marshall’s conclusion on the matter:

My belief is that Christians currently have possess all 4 levels in action whether or not we are recognized in society (we have intellectuals, warriors, artisans, laborers).

Therefore we should be pursuing both strategies at the same time:

  1. We should be fighting to take back levels 1 and 2 (apologetics, academics, along with undermining the anti-Christian institutions).
    AND
  2. We should build parallel institutions (e.g., our own Universities, schools, Troops of Saint George, our own TV/radio stations, our own art, our own Social Media outlets, our own news stations).

Some of us can push forward and fight on the front lines of layers 1 and 2 now, while some of us can retreat and construct our own parallel society (of layers 1-4).

Why Catholics are struggling at the moment to accomplish this transition:

The hardest part is that Christians (especially Catholics) are still deeply tied to all the old institutions, old universities, old political parties, and old means of communication (eg, announcements during liturgy and bulletins). This means we are having a very difficult time establishing a pivot.

Also, the Catholic hierarchy in the West still acts like it is operating at level 1 influence. Sadly, this is not the case. Secular nations have spent the last several decades figuring out ways to transform bishops from level 1 priestly spiritual leaders into level 3 producers of funds (taxation of church is the end game) and into level 3 producers of government service (grants to do government work which we saw occur in America under President Obama).

The ultimate aim here is the same as that of King Henry VIII – to make the bishops into level 3 producers and transfer their wealth, land, and production (offerings) to the State. See 16th century England, Denmark, Sweden, Norway for details on how it all goes down.

The difficulty in establishing a Christian pivot for a new era can be observed in how both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are so deeply wedded to the European Union and traditional forms of communication (eg, Encyclicals) as means for bringing about Catholic influence. The Pope might as well be talking about feudalism and the Code of Hammurabi. It’s like carrying bows and arrows into an era of nuclear war.

The most brilliant minds in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are talking about the Benedict Option (Option 2: parallel institutions), but we need to engage both fronts. The intellectuals who are currently “fighting the culture war” while trying to win back levels 1 and 2 are either Jewish (Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin, Michael Savage) or secular in outlook (Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnis, Jordan Peterson). Some might see this “diversity” as a strength. I see it as as weakness. Here’s why:

As much as I like listening Jordan Peterson or even Ben Shapiro, I sometimes cringe when I think of how much better an equipped Christian could respond. We have a profound intellectual tradition (Thomism), but we are not using it. This is likely why God has allowed Christian influence to wane.

Where are the Christians? We need to spend the next decade prayerfully cultivating sharp and relevant Christian minds to engage the culture and social media. It’s required for the common good of society and for the moral excellence of next generation. It’s not enough to possess them only within our own parallel “Benedict Option” institutions. We need them out front in the current culture war. And in case you’re ready to sign up for this “level 1” position, be mindful of those level 1 intellectuals and prophets who came before you marked with blood: Isaiah, Socrates, Cicero, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Boethius, Thomas Becket, and Thomas More to name a few.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Jesus’s Holy Land only had 1 Million People and He fed 1 Percent of Them

Josephus relates that 1.1 million Jews were killed in AD 70 with the destruction of the Temple. I’ve spilled a lot of ink showing that Josephus cannot and should not be trusted with numbers or dates (and that’s why we should believe that Jesus was born on Dec 25 1 BC as I explain in this book).

Scholars suggest that about 1 million people lived in the Holy Land during the time of Jesus. For perspective, one million people is the population of the state of Rhode Island at 1 million people.

Houston Texas has about 2.2 million people. So when Jesus was walking around Galilee, Samaria, and Judea, he was engaging with a population less than half of Houston, Texas.

Here’s something else to consider about the impact of Jesus on the population:

Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000 people on two separate occasions. Assuming that they these two groups did not overlap, that means that Jesus personally fed about 1% of the population of the Holy Land (9,000 / 1,000,000). 1 out 100 people had been fed miraculously by Jesus Christ. If you add in Christ’s travel, preaching, and teaching it’s not far off to estimate that 10% of the populace had seen or heard Jesus in person.

That’s a low estimate since we know that Jesus was preaching and teaching at least annually in Jerusalem when most people were assembled there in the city for Passover. So it could be that as much as 25-50% of people living in the Holy Land had heard or witnessed Jesus Christ. This is why Peter on Pentecost AD 33 speaks to the crowd there about “Jesus” and they know who he is talking about.

To use an analogy, how many people living in Houston know of the local preacher Joel Osteen? All of them. And this is why the High Priest and Sanhedrin wanted to kill Jesus so badly. Jesus was a big deal. Everyone knew him or knew of him.

This should change how we understand both the historicity of Jesus but also impact of Jesus ministry.

Practical question:

If Jesus Christ could touch so many lives in three years, shouldn’t we be able to touch so many now with the power of literacy, digital communication, and social media?

Question:  What is lacking in modern Christianity that makes it so easily dismissed? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

PS: To learn more about Catholic History and the birth date and death date of Jesus Christ, check out my book The Eternal City.

Did St George really fight a Dragon? Byzantine Icon Analysis and History

Was Saint George a real person and Christian saint?

How was he martyred and why do Catholic and Orthodox images of Saint George have him fighting a mythical dragon?

Best-selling author and scholar Dr Taylor Marshall explains the authentic history of Saint George and the meaning of the “George and Dragon legend.”

Watch the New Saint Thomas Institute Catholic video on Saint George and the Dragon Icon here:

If you’d like to sign up for a Catholic course in Catholic Church History featuring Church Fathers and early Catholic Saints, please click here: New Saint Thomas Institute Course on Church History and Church Fathers.

For more information about online courses and Certificates in Theology through the New Saint Thomas Institute, please visit newsaintthomas.com.

Sword and Serpent: My Best-Selling Novel about Saint George is on sale this weekend

sword and serpent look insideLooking for a Catholic fiction page-turner? I published a #1 best-selling historical fiction novel about Saint George and the Dragon (plus St Christopher, Emperor Constantine, Diocletian, et al.) titled Sword and Serpent

Father Dwight Longenecker wrote a glowing review of Sword and Serpent here.

Here’s the book trailer for Sword and Serpent on YouTube:

The novel is now on sale for this April 23 week on Kindle and in paperback. Click here to get a copy.

sword and serpent look inside

Get a copy of this novel about Saint George on sale here.

The Chalice of the Last Supper and Saint Laurence of Rome

A curious element of the Roman Canon is that it refers to the chalice as “this chalice”:

Simili modo postquam coenatum est, accipiens et hunc praeclarum Calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas: item tibi gratias agens, benedixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes…

Which I translate as:

In similar way, after He had supped, taking also this precious chalice into His holy and venerable hands again giving thanks to Thee, He blessed it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: All of you, take and drink this…

There is a tradition that the chalice used in Rome was once the actual chalice used by our Lord Jesus Christ at the first Eucharist.

When the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered the beheading of Pope Sixtus II in Rome, the Pope’s deacon named Lawrence sold the gold chalices and precious items and gave the proceeds to the poor. However, there was one item that was preserved. According to legend it was the chalice used at the Last Supper by Christ and served as the personal chalice of Saint Peter who had brought it to Rome. This is why the Roman liturgy reads: “hunc praeclarum Calicem.” Laurence gave this special chalice to a Roman soldier who took it to Spain.

Here is a photo of it paired with a painting from 1560 by Juan de Juanes that incorporated it:

And painted by Juan de Juanes:

If this tradition is valid, then this is the chalice of the Son of God and also the chalice of Saint Peter used by Peter and all popes up till the martyred Pope Sixtus II. The mystery of faith.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Did Paul write Hebrews? Historical Place of Hebrews in New Testament Canon

The Epistle to the Hebrew is anonymous. Since it mentions “Timothy” as a companion, it is written “from Italy,” and it has essentially the same theology as Galatians, it is presumed to a prison epistle of Saint Paul – perhaps penned by Saint Luke on the Apostle’s behalf.

My own theory is that Luke-Acts-Hebrew is a Pauline dissertation packet prepared by Luke (see my book on this topic) for the Jews of Jerusalem and that the books were likely delivered together.

Did Luke and Paul create Luke-Acts-Hebrews as an theological apologetics packet? I think so.

What’s interesting is how Hebrews came into the canon of the New Testament with regard to selection of book order:

Saint Jerome placed Hebrews after all the Pauline epistles and before the 7 Catholic epistles. This has become our received ordering of the epistles.

However, there are examples before Jerome of placing Hebrews within the Pauline corpus of epistles. For example:

  1. One of our oldest manuscripts Papyrus 46 (dated between AD 175 and 225) places Hebrews between Romans and 1 Corinthians. It confirms that Christians in the second century believed Hebrews to by authored by Paul. This order is also found in minuscules 103, 455, 1961, 1964, 1977, 1994.
  2. Codex Vaticanus (ca. AD 330) lists Hebrews between Galatians and Ephesians. This is either an error or left over from a previous manuscript from which Vaticanus was copied, because in the actual text of Vaticanus, Hebrews follows 2 Thessalonians.
  3. This order (2 Thess > Hebrews) conforms to almost all of our earliest Greek manuscripts have Hebrews between 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy: Sinaiticus (ca. AD 400), Alexandrinus (ca AD 400), Ephraemi, H, I, P, 0150, 0151, and about 60 others.

It’s also noteworthy that in the Roman Rite liturgy of the Mass up until 1970, whenever Hebrews was read in the liturgy it was announced as “Paul to the Hebrews” with Paul stated explicitly.

134: Saint Veronica in 9 Points: Was She Berenike? [Podcast]

Join Dr Marshall as he takes 10 minutes to run through 9 points on Saint Veronica – the woman to wipe the face of Jesus Christ. Click below to listen:

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The Resurrected Christ appeared to 500: When and Where did this Happen?

Saint Paul mentions an interesting detail: that the resurrected Jesus appeared to 500 people! That’s a big deal. Why isn’t it mentioned in the Gospels (or is it)? We’ll explore this detail in this post:

In 1 Corinthians 15, Saint Paul recites what seems to be a formula or creedal statement about the resurrection of Christ. I’ll bullet point it to make it clear:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:

  • that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
  • that he was buried,
  • that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
  • and that he appeared to Cephas,
  • then to the Twelve.
  • Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
  • Then he appeared to James,
  • then to all the Apostles.
  • Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Cor 15:3-8)

Here we have the kernel of the Apostles Creed (died, buried, rose on third day) but appended to it six resurrection appearances. Five apparitions and then finally one apparition to Saint Paul himself.

Paul speaks of the resurrected Christ appearing to “more than five hundred” and this event is recorded nowhere in the four Gospels or within St Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. So what is Saint Paul describing?

Christ Appearing to Over 500?

There are 4 opinions on this “500 witnesses event”:

  1. Never Happened: Liberal scholars say that Saint Paul made this up to make it sound like there were plenty of witnesses to the resurrection. It never happened. It’s a lie. The Catholic Christian cannot allow that the Apostle Paul would bear false witness within Divine Scripture.
  2. Galilee Event: Saint Paul refers to the Galilee appearance of the resurrected Jesus Christ as described by Saint Mark: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee. There you shall see him, as he told you” (Mark 16:7). The 11 Apostles would have then gathered over 500 believers to join them in Galilee where Jesus appeared to them in His resurrected body.
  3. After the Ascension: Saint John Chrysostom speculates that this event happened after Ascension because the Greek “more than (ἐπάνω) five hundred” could accurately be translated “above five hundred,” as in “above in the sky.”
  4. Pentecost in Jerusalem: Saint Paul is referring to Pentecost. Saint Luke says that 120 Christians (Mary, Apostles, the Seventy, the women, the brethren of Jesus) were gathered for miracle of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost in Jerusalem. These 120 and the first several converts somehow witnessed an apparition of the resurrected Christ on this day, as well. Or perhaps the manifestation of the “Spirit of Christ” is counted as an apparition of Christ by Paul.

The majority position is (2) that this happened in Galilee when the Apostles went back to Jerusalem to witness Christ there. Here’s why this is the best answer:

  1. The Ten Apostles (without Thomas) saw the resurrected Christ on the evening of the Resurrection Sunday when Christ appeared to them within locked doors and breathed on them.
  2. The Eleven Apostles (now with Thomas) saw the resurrected Christ one Sunday later and allowed Thomas to place his fingers within His wounds.
  3. If the Apostles saw Christ at least twice in Jerusalem, why then would Christ instruct them to go to Galilee to be witnesses there? Presumably so that all of Christ’s followers in Galilee could see Him resurrected there. This would make sense and this is why “more than five hundred” would see Christ resurrected. This “more than 500” would be the nucleus of the 5000 that were fed and of those who had seen His miracles.
  4. When Saint Paul writes: “then to all the Apostles,” at the end of his list, he is likely referring to the Ascension of Christ. So the appearance to 500 likely happened before the Ascension. That rules out (3) Christ appearing after Ascension as suggested by Saint John Chrysostom. Sorry Chrysostom.
  5. It also rules out (4) Christ appearing at Pentecost, because Christ appearing to disciples at Pentecost would have been recorded by Paul’s friend Saint Luke. After all, Saint Luke mentions Christ appearing to Saint Stephen – so why would he omit an apparition of Jesus on Pentecost? So then, it seems safe to say that Christ did not appear on Pentecost.

It could also be that Saint Matthew records the “500 Event” as having occurred in Galilee without mentioning “500”:

“The eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted” (Mt 28:16-17).

Matthew speaks only of the 11 living Apostles but says “some doubted.” Surely the 11 didn’t doubt at this time since it follows the “doubting Thomas” event that happened 13 days after the Resurrection in Jerusalem. So it could be that “some doubted” refers to “some of the 500 doubted.”

Christ is risen!
Dr Taylor Marshall

Question: I’d love to hear others weigh in on this topic. Who were the five hundred and when did it happen? I think it was the Galilee Event but I’m open to other ideas. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Medieval Lent was Harder than Islamic Ramadan

I have been told that medieval Christians would ridicule the Islamic season of fasting called Ramadan as weak, effeminate, and easy when compared to the austere Christian season of fasting during Lent or Quadragesima.

The Catholic Church has decreased the austerity of Lent over the centuries so much that Islamic Ramadan now appears as more challenging than Lent. Let’s take a look at Ramadan compared to Medieval Lent.

Rules for Islamic Ramadan:

  1. Duration? 29-30 days during the entire month of during the entire month of Ramadan.
  2. Fasting rules? Fasting completely from the break of dawn until sunset:
    1. food (zero calories and no food intake)
    2. drink (including water)
    3. sexual intercourse
    4. smoking

Rules for Medieval Quadragesima or “Lent”:

Nota bene: I’m using the standards of the Roman Church. The Eastern Churches have had various disciplines by jurisdiction. For this article, we are focusing only on the Roman rules. Perhaps we’ll study the Eastern fasting rules in a future post.

  1. Duration? 46 days. 40 Days plus 6 Sundays in the Roman Church.
  2. Fasting rules? Medieval Lenten rules (as described Saint Thomas Aquinas) were as follows:
    1. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday were black fasts: no food at all.
    2. No food from waking until 3pm (the hour when Christ died). This practice of fasting till 3pm goes back to the 5th century (see Socrates’ Church History V.22).
    3. No animal meat or fats (no lard).
    4. Fish was allowed. Click here to understand the theology of why fish was is allowed, but not meat.
    5. No eggs.
    6. No lacticinia or “dairy products”: milk, cheese, cream, and butter. However, Catholics of the British Isles before the arrival of Saint Augustine of Canterbury were still consuming dairy products and perhaps eggs during Lent. Roman influence brought this to an end.
    7. Wine and beer were allowed.
    8. Medieval Europeans during Lent subsisted on bread, vegetables, and salt.
    9. No sexual intercourse between spouses. Pagan kings were pretty pissed to learn about this after they married hot Catholic princesses.
    10. No Sundays off. All these rules apply for 46 days. The 6 Sundays in Lent were relaxed liturgically (less penitential), but the fasting and abstinence were not relaxed on Sundays.
    11. For the Good Friday black fast, many would begin fast from Maundy Thursday night till about noon on Saturday. The Easter Vigil was usually celebrated about noon on Saturday and this ended the Lenten fasting officially.
  3. Was it Changed?
    1. Breaking the no food fast before 3pm began to creep in as early as AD 800. The reason we English speakers call 12pm “noon” is because the liturgical recitation of nones (“ninth hour” or 3pm in Latin) was moved up by hungry monks more and more until nones (3pm) was celebrated as early as 12pm so that they could break fast and eat lunch!)
    2. In Germany, dispensations were given for consuming lacticinia or dairy products based on payment or performing good deeds. In honesty, wealthy people simply paid a fee to the diocese, and were allowed to serve and eat dairy in their homes during Lent. It was a popular “fundraising technique” by (German!) bishops.
    3. Dinner snacks were allowed at the time of reading Cassians book Collationes and so this snack became known as a “collation” – the term we still use today for a snack during fasting.
    4. With the advent of tea and coffee, it became allowable to have tea or coffee in the morning and this was considered as not violating the fast before nones.
    5. Over time, papal indults allowed meat on Sundays and then to other days of the week until only Friday remained “meatless.”
    6. Pope Paul VI’s 1966 Apostolic Constitution of Paenitemini changed Lenten practice to what it is today:
      1. No meat (only fish) allowed on Fridays in Lent.
      2. 1 meal and 2 collations (snacks) allowed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Ramadan vs Medieval Lent:

  1. Both have no food at all until 3pm (Catholic) or sundown (Muslim).
  2. Both have no sex allowed at all, but the Muslim is allowed at night.
  3. Only the Catholic is restricted on kinds of food (no meat, dairy, eggs), whereas the Muslim can eat steak every night.
  4. Muslims may not drink even water during the daylight, but Christians may.

Conclusion: Medieval Christians were Tough

For the Medieval Christian, he would have seen the chief difference between Lent and Ramadan as the Muslims having a “reset” every single night with refreshment with food and sex every 24 hours. Whereas the Christian had to wait until Easter. The Muslim had daily sprints. The Medieval Christian had a marathon that ended on Easter.

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So could you do it? No sex, butter, or bacon for 46 days? No food daily till 3pm? Leave a comment and tell me what you think about this old Lenten rules. Is it good or bad that changed them?

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Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

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  • the real story behind Muhammad and the Quran
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  • how Islam spread by the sword
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Saint Agatha in 7 Points (Patroness of Breast Cancer Patients)

In our sexually obsessed culture, the virgin martyrs are our “cloud of witnesses” for sexual purity and chastity. Today is the feast of Saint Agatha who is famous for her iconographical depiction of her breasts – sometimes euphemistically referred to as “Saint Agatha’s Bells.”

I’ve assembled her life and story (along with the legendary significance of her breasts) below in seven points:

  1. Dates. Saint Agatha (not be be confused with the virgin martyr Saint Agnes) was murdered as a consecrated virgin during the persecution of Decius (250–253) in Catania, Sicily.
  2. Her Passion and Martyrdom. According to legend, Agatha was the daughter of a rich and noble family. She consecrated her virginity to our Lord Jesus at age 15. The Roman prefect Quintianus sought to either rape her or marry her and she refused his advances. In retaliation, he sent Agatha to a whorehouse under a madame named Aphrodisia. Agatha refused to serve as a prostitute and was sent back to Quintianus who had both of her breasts cut off (the so-called “bells of Agatha”) and sentenced her to be burned at the stake. An earthquake prevented this fate. Saint Peter appeared to her and healed her breasts. She died in at peace in prison.
    Painting: St Peter healing the breasts of Saint Agatha.
  3. An Early Legend featuring Saint Peter. The legend is ancient because by AD 325, male bishops would not touch Christian females – so that deaconesses were employed for the baptism by immersion of females. This legend describes Saint Peter not only touching Agatha’s body, but touching her breasts to heal her – something quite scandalous by the fourth century. The story also reveals that Christians in the 200s had a deep understanding of the Communion of the Saints and believed that saints can and did intervene miraculously in the lives of Christians.
  4. Her Relics. Agatha’s body is buried at the Badia di Sant’Agata in Catania, Sicily.
  5. Agatha’s Church in Rome. Church of Saint Agnes of the Goths. The Church of Sant’Agata dei Goti (of the Goths) adapted to Arian Church of the Goths, hence its name “Saint Agatha of Goths.” It was re-consecrated as a Catholic Church by Saint Gregory the Great.
  6. Agatha’s Iconography. Agatha is almost always depicted carrying her breasts on a tray as in the painting by Zurbarán (below). It is difficult to find a traditional image, statue, or icon that does not depict her breasts. The removal of her breasts is a sign of consecrated virginity. For centuries, this depiction of Agatha visibly depicted how Agatha sacrificed the ability to nurse children. The breasts are a sign of motherhood.
    Saint Agatha by Zurbarán
  7. Her Patronage for Breast Cancer Patients. She is the first recorded woman to experience a full and radical mastectomy, and she naturally became the patroness of breast cancer patients. Traditionally, she is also the patroness of Sicily, wet nurses, bell-founders, bakers, earthquakes, and eruptions of Mount Etna.

Please share this with you friends on this feast of Saint Agatha on Facebook by clicking here. May she pray for us and inspire to prefer chastity and love for Christ above all the temptations of this life.

Saint Agatha, pray for us,
Dr Taylor Marshall