Is there literal physical fire in Purgatory? Video and Thomas Aquinas

The Eastern Orthodox often reject the Latin doctrine of Purgatory based on the Latin tradition of “physical fire” purifying souls in purgatory.

The Latin phrase used by Thomas Aquinas and others is “corporal fire.” For example:

I answer that, In Purgatory there will be a twofold pain; one will be the pain of loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely punishment by corporeal fire. (STh Supp. App I. q. 2, a. 5)

The Latin is ignis corporalis. The “corporeal fire” of Purgatory is one of the doctrines that the Greek Orthodox objected to during the Second Council of Lyons (1274). Saint Thomas Aquinas was discharged to defend the doctrine at this council, but he died on the way. Saint Bonaventure was sent in his stead (and Bonaventure died at the end of Council).

I very rarely disagree with Saint Thomas Aquinas, but I do disagree here – but I will offer a Benedict XVI suggestion that might provide a unique solution.

How can “corporeal fire” purify an immaterial non-corporeal soul in Purgatory? This is a metaphysical problem. You cold corporeal fire under an immaterial soul all day long and it would not touch the soul. And yet Thomas is insistent on the fire of Purgatory (and Gehenna) as corporeal.

Pope Benedict, in his Encyclical Spe Salvi, writes:

Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgment. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves (Pope Benedict, Spe Salvi 47).

This goes along with the teaching of Moses that “the Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Deut 4:24). If Christ Himself is the purifying fire, then here’s the twist: Christ is corporeal! He is resurrected. So a Christian might in fact say that the fire of purgatory is “corporeal” if in fact we are referencing the resurrected corpus Christi.

burning bush icon

Is the particular judgment when we stand face to face with the resurrected Christ the burning fire of love that hurts, burns, cleanses, and restores the soul alive with sanctifying grace but lacking full sanctification at death. I think so.

I think all of this can be held along with holding (as do I) that Purgatory is “located” not in Heaven with the Beatific Vision but in the Infernus or Sheol.

Here’s my video on Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Four Regions of Hell:

Question: Comments are open. Please share your thoughts. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Was St Simeon in Luke 2 also the Son of Hillel the Rabbi?

Ever since I wrote The Crucified Rabbi, I continue to come across great rabbinical insights into Catholicism. Once recent example is the probability that the Simeon in Luke’s G0spel is the famous Simeon ben Hillel – son of the famous Rabbi Hillel.

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Here’s the passage from Luke:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” – Luke 2:25-35

Simeon is the first explicit prophet of Mary’s sorrow at the crucifixion and piercing of Christ: “a sword shall pierce through your own soul also.”

Simeon ben Hillel was the son of Hillel the Elder. When Hillel died, Simeon took over as President of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.Hillel did not die until about 10 AD. Simeon was likely active at the Temple during this time, but I doubt he was an “old man.”

At first I thought this was proof that Simeon could NOT be Hillel’s son, since the Simeon in Luke 2 is an “old man” but Simeon ben Hillel would have been a middle aged man. And then I noticed that Luke never calls Simeon “old.” I read it over and over. It’s not there in Luke’s text. Simeon is not necessarily old in Luke 2. I’ve seen so many paintings of the Presentation and of Simeon as an old grey bearded priest that I’ve assumed that he was “old,” but the text doesn’t say it.

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So could Simeon in Luke 2 be Simeon ben Hillel? Perhaps.

Saint Simeon pray for us to Christ our Lord and Mediator!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why was Mary purified at the Temple? And did she receive Sacraments?

If Mary was immaculate and without sin, why was she “purified” in Luke 2? Also, would she have been Baptized, Confirmed, and have received Extreme Unction? Read on for answers:

February 2 marks the 40th day from Christmas, and as Saint Luke tells us, Mary and Joseph presented Our Infant Lord at the Temple on the 40th day after his birth.

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There are 2 things happening here:

  1. Leviticus 12 states that when an Israelite woman gives birth she becomes ritually unclean:
    1. if child is a boy, she is unclean 7 days after birth and that her uncleanness endures for an additional 33 days due to the flow of her post-partum blood flow. So after 40 days, she is presented herself at the Temple to be purified and readmitted to the liturgical life of Israel.
    2. if child is a girl, she is unclean 14 days after birth and that her uncleanness endures for an additional 66 days due to the flow of her post-partum blood flow. So after 80 days, she is presented herself at the Temple to be purified and readmitted to the liturgical life of Israel.
    3. Jesus is male and so the timeline is 40 days. Dec 25 + 40 days = Feb 2.
  2. The woman is to bring a sacrifice to the Temple to dedicate the son or daughter:
    1. Ideally, she brings a lamb.
    2. However, “if she cannot lay her hand on a lamb fit to be offered, she must bring two turtle-doves or two young pigeons, one as a burnt-sacrifice and one by way of amends.”
    3. Mary, being poor, brought two doves – but in reality she brought THE Lamb of God.

There are two theological conundrums here:

  1. Jesus is the Son of God. Why would he need sacrifice offered for Him?
  2. How could Jesus, the Pure One, make Mary impure through birthAnd isn’t Mary immaculate and entirely pure?

The answer is found in the Baptism of Christ. Christ submitted to Baptism not because he needed grace or the remission of Original Sin, but because He wanted to unite himself to sinners while at the same time instituting the Sacrament of Baptism.

Christ indeed submitted to every law of Moses so as to fulfill the Old Law perfectly (hence, we Christians do not need to submit the ceremonial and judicial precepts of Moses – like not eating pork).

Mary and the Rites of the Old Law and New Law

The same is true of Mary – both for the Old Law and the New Law. She submitted to the entire Old Law even though she knew that her Son fulfilled the Law and stood above the Law as God. She beautifully conformed to His pattern and example. Same goes for Joseph.

It is Catholic tradition that Mary was full of grace and that she did not need the sacraments, but that she submitted to the rites and sacraments of the New Law – namely that she was baptized, confirmed, and fervently received the Eucharist – even though all the graces were already present within her.

There is a tradition that Christ only baptized two persons by His own hand: Peter and Mary. Peter then baptized the other 11 Apostles and then the 12 Apostles baptized the multitudes.

Catholic commentator Cornelius Lapide even speculates that Mary received Extreme Unction from the hand of an Apostle before her Dormition, even though she didn’t need it since corruption could not touch her. Lapide is clear that she would have never gone to confession, however. Confession requires the matter of actual sins committed in order for the form of absolution to be proclaimed. Mary had nothing at all to confess.

Question: Are you humbled that Jesus and Mary submitted to rules and rites that she did not need? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

PS: Joy and I were once able to attend Mass with Pope Benedict XVI (when we were not yet Catholics) on February 2 for the feast of the Presentation of Christ. It was a moment of conversion for us to Catholicism – since I in that moment came to know that I was not in communion with the Successor of Saint Peter.

The CATHOLIC (not Protestant) Perspective on Paul

Happy Feast Day of Saint Paul!

When I was Protestant, we relished in the belief that the Apostle Paul was thoroughly Protestant. We considered him to be the proto-Martin Luther. We believed that Paul taught:

  • justification by faith alone
  • once saved always saved
  • authority of Scripture alone (no Tradition)
  • sacraments as symbolic

However, there were always those little verses in Paul that made me feel uncomfortable. Here were things that we tried to ignore:

  • Paul rejoiced in being celibate – I didn’t know any celibate Protestant pastors that spoke like Paul did
  • Paul called himself “Father” in relation to his converts – he once refers to his ministry as “priestly”
  • he speaks of baptism transformative and saving
  • he speaks of obedience and good works quite often
  • he holds out the possibility that he might forfeit his own salvation through infidelity

This passages kept bubbling up until at last I saw that Protestantism couldn’t hold all the tension within these passages…and so I became Catholic.

After entering the Catholic Church, I wrote a simple and systematic explanation of nearly every major Catholic doctrine within the writings of Saint Paul. Not only does the book walk you step by step through Paul’s thoroughly sacramental and ecclesial theology, it also includes an appendix with all the verses in Paul – a kind of Pauline cheat sheet for Catholic theology. This appendix will save you hours of time looking for passages. It already arranged for you.

To celebrate Saint Paul’s own conversion, this book is half price today (and down to only $0.99 on Kindle): The Catholic Perspective on Paul. This is a great resource for anyone interested in Apologetics, Pauline theology, New Testament studies, or for anyone who wants to become familiar with Paul’s letters. Check out the Table of Contents and read a free sample here:

If you’ve read the book already, please leave a review by clicking here. I’d love to read your thoughts and I’d be grateful for your review.

Saint Paul, pray for us.

Happy Feast Day of Saint Paul,

Taylor Marshall

Do we have spirit, soul, and body or just soul and body?

I was at a coffee shop yesterday and I got pulled into a conversation with a stranger about metaphysical nature of the soul.

This man emphasized that we are not simply a soul and body, but that we are spirit, soul, and body.

So what is the Catholic to say?

dante-souls

This the bipartite vs. tripartite debate on human anthropology. The majority position in the Catholic Church is that we have a physical element (body headed by the brain) and a metaphysical element (soul headed by the spirit). The spirit is the highest intellectual faculty of the soul.

The locus classicus on this topic is Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Tripartite advocates point here showing that “soul and spirit” are distinguished and thus separate. The problem here is that if soul and spirit are different entities then our body is also twofold with different entities, namely joins and marrow.

Soul Vocab in Scripture

Let’s review the terminology in Hebrew and Greek:

Hebrew

  • Basar: flesh or body. In Genesis, this comes from dirt, mud, or grime. It is the lowest basest element of man.
  • Nephesh: soul or life force. In Genesis this is the life of a living thing. It can be said that animals and perhaps plants have nephesh or a living force within them.
  • Ruach: spirit or breath. In Genesis, God breathes this into Adam and it is what makes human unique from all other animals. It is something we share with God – the intellectual and voluntary faculty that makes us rational animals or human.

Greek

  • Sarx: flesh. In Greek it is the body but also includes the animal passions of the body for nutrition and sex. Saint Paul typically uses sarx to include the effects of original sin in all humans. Hence sarx has a somewhat pejorative meaning in the New Testament as in the sinful “law of the flesh.”
  • Soma: body. This is a physical body and doesn’t necessarily include the passionate elements of sarx above, but it can. Used 129 times in NT.
  • Psyche: soul or life force. The Greeks explicitly stated that all living things have a “soul” or psyche, including plants, animals, and humans. Some speculated whether each star and planet had a psyche since they also had an interior principle of motion similar to life. Used 105 times.
  • Nous: mind. In Greek this refers to the highest intellectual faculty of the human.
  • Pneuma: spirit or breath. This is a spiritual or supernatural element in man. Used 385 times, but about 80 times for the human spirit, as opposed to the Holy Spirit.

The Church Father Origen (who spoke Greek) speculated that “nous” referred to the human mind, but “pneuma” referred to the human mind redeemed and filled with grace. I rather like Origen’s suggestion. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Early Gnostics (drawing from Paul in 1 Corinthians, esp. chs. 2 and 15) spoke of three kinds of people:

  1. sarkic or fleshly people. He relates this to Jews and unsaved people who have not the ability to see Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior. They live according to sight and according to the flesh. For Paul, the Jewish preoccupation with circumcision is an example of them living “by the flesh.”
  2. pscyhic or soulish people. Common people in the mainstream church who have not been initiated into the deeper knowledge of the Gnostic teachers.
  3. pneumatic or spiritual people. Those who have acquired the secret teachings passed along by visions or by secret traditions allegedly derived from the Paul or the Apostles.

Church Fathers on Bipartite vs. Tripartite

The Eastern Orthodox Church tends toward a tripartite anthropology and this likely derives from the distinctions of Saint Paul, but especially from the writings of Origen and, through his influence, the writings of the three Cappadocian Fathers Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory Nazianzus. If you are interested in learning more about Origen and these three sainted teachers and their theology, please watch the NSTI video lessons on them in our Historical Theology Modules.

In the West, the Pelagian heretics wrongly taught that the soul and body were corrupted by sin, but that the human spirit remained unaffected by sin and remained righteous and good. Consequently, Saint Augustine and others blew a hole in the Pelagian tripartite anthropology showing that the moral state of the soul was the same as the moral state of the human spirit. The strict tripartite arrangement was associated with Pelagianism and was thus held suspect in the Latin West.

What and How Can We Speak of “Spirit and Soul”?

When speak of the soul by the Hebrews (nephesh) and by the Greeks (psyche), they spoke chiefly of life and motion. Oak trees, weeds, crabs, fish, squirrels, and gorillas possess this “life force” or “soul.” The Jews by divine revelation and the Greeks through philosophy were speaking of the same thing.

Even more, both understand that within the human person, there was something beyond the life force. Beyond our motion across earth. Beyond our pursuit for food and sex. It was something that set us apart. Something that made us religious and reflective. It is what made us homo liturgicus. It was the rational spirit they sparks within us the questions of “Why am I alive? What is the purpose of life? Who made us? What are we supposed to be doing? Where are we headed? What happens after all this?”

In the Latin West, we call this the “rational soul” or the “intellectus.” Those terms work, but I rather like the poetic distinction between the “soul” and the “spirit” in Scripture. As Saint Paul said, Adam had for us a soul. But Christ became for us a “life giving spirit.” Here Paul doesn’t mean that Christ was a docetic or solely spiritual phantasm. Rather, he is capturing that Christ becomes for us the means by which we find the answers to the spiritual questions that I’ve listed above.

And as Origen (though not a saint and somewhat dangerous) observed, his suggestion that “mind/intellect” and “spirit” are simply two ways of referring to the same thing but from different points of view – with the spirit being the way to refer to the illuminated and redeemed mind.

It seems that the presence of the divine Holy Spirit in our soul transforms our intellect into a spiritual intellect or into a spirit. My guess is that the liturgical response “and with your spirit” is an acknowledgment of this reality in the communal life of the Church. When we respond that way, we aren’t just saying “and also with you,” but we are acknowledging the transformative power of the Holy Spirit within the celebrant.

Taylor Marshall is Part Jewish as it turns out

When I was 22 years old, a Jewish woman stopped me in the street. I remember her cupping my face in her hands and she said, “You are a Jewish boy.”

I said, “I’m not Jewish.”

She responded, “Oh yes you are. You are Jewish. However, you just don’t know that you’re Jewish. I see it in your eyes and in your mouth. You are Jewish.”

She smiled and was so kind and sweet. It was a surreal moment.

But as it turns out, she was correct!

My uncle recently had a genealogical blood test that identified him as 19.3% Ashkenazi Jewish…which makes me 9.65% Jewish.

There have been rumors of our Jewish ancestry for years. My grandfather Philip claimed to be Swedish and Lutheran, but he had the last name of “Koppel” – a traditional Jewish last name.

“Koppel” is the Ashkenazic Jewish diminutive (little nick name) for Jakob, that is “Little Jacob.”

 

So this explains a few Jewish things in my life:

  1. My first book is titled: The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholicism
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  2. That trilogy of books is given to showing how Christianity transitioned from Jerusalem to Rome by God’s design and as a fulfillment of Jewish prophecy:
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  3. My audio series on the book of Revelation is a study on the forgotten Jewishness of the Apocalyptic signs and visions.
  4. A teach a class in Rome for Seminarians that includes the Jewish origins of the Catholic Church in Rome.
  5. A founded the Maccabee Society – a Christian fraternity for men – and named it after the great Jewish warrior and general Judas Maccabeus. I did this before I knew about the Jewish lineage.

So there you have it. My inner Jew has been discreetly speaking all along.

I’m going to anticipate an objection that I foresee in the comments: “You’re not Jewish because Judaism says that your mother must be Jewish in order for you to be Jewish.”

Some Jews may say this, but it’s not biblical and it’s not true. Here’s why Judaism has never truly been matrilineal:

  1. Ephraim and Manasseh were the fathers of two Jewish tribes. Their father was Joseph of the colored coat. And their mother was an Egyptian daughter of an Egyptian priest, that is, non-Israelite. So these 2 men were born of a non-Israelite mother. Are you seriously going to claim that 2 of the 12 Tribes of Israel are not truly Israelite?
  2. Moses married a non-Israelite wife. His children were obviously Israelite.
  3. Boaz married the non-Jewish Ruth. She has a book of the Bible named after her. Ruth was the mother of Obed, the grandfather of David. So if Obed (born of a non-Jewish mother) is not Jewish, then, neither is King David.

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More biblical examples could be given. Israelites are merely children of the Israelites, even if there is a mixed marriage. Michael Barber even has a cool theory that the DNA of Abraham has descended to almost of all humanity through the exile and assimilation of the ten northern tribes.

Question: Has anyone else out there discovered a Jewish heritage later in life? I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Shalom,
Taylor Marshall

Catholic Webinar on the Book of Revelation with Dr Marshall

This Thursday night at 8pm I’ll be hosting another free Catholic Webinar on the Book of Revelation from a biblical, traditional, and Catholic point of view. If you’ve ever had questions or confusions about the End Times of the Book of Revelation, you won’t want to miss this Catholic Webinar Event.

YOU WILL DISCOVER:

  • Why the Book of Revelation was written
  • a Catholic interpretation of Revelation based on Scripture, Tradition, and Church Fathers
  • the Virgin Mary in Revelation 12
  • the Mark of the Beast and 666 from a Catholic view point of view
  • EVERYONE THAT ATTENDS WILL RECEIVE a FREE pdf worksheet of the Webinar. Dr Marshall will make available his 16 part series on Catholic Revelation.
  • Register to reserve your spot by clicking here.

Register here no border

St Michael vs. Lucifer: Why St Michael Won!

Catholic Video Lesson

Saint Michael was one of the lower angels. Lucifer was the highest angel. How did Lucifer fall and how did Saint Michael get his name (Mi Cha El?).

Here’s a free video from the New Saint Thomas Institute on the subject of Satan and Michael. You’ll learn about the creation of the angels, the fall of Satan according to Saint Augustine, and the reason Saint Michael is called “Mi Cha El.”

Don’t see the video? Click here to watch it.

Are you not yet a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute? If not, Fall Enrollment is now open. Join well over 3,000 Members of the New Saint Thomas Institute from all over the world as we study Catholic theology together.

There are limited spots and our tuition sale is limited. We also have a bunch of great bonuses for this fall. Want to join? Learn by clicking here.

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How to Explain Sign of the Cross to Protestants

Sarah K, a Premium Member student at the New Saint Thomas Institute recently asked:

What is the history of the Sign of the Cross? How can I defend this practice to Protestants/atheists/other religions?

St Helen and the true cross

St Helen and the true cross

Many of our students responded with excellent answers (if you’re a student of NSTI, you can read them here), but here is my advice to Sarah:

Sarah,

When talking about this with a non-Catholic, you should be succinct and convincing. Protestants prefer “Scripture alone” but they can be swayed by quotes from the earliest Church Fathers. So I would recommend this line of argument:

The Apostles would place the sign of the cross on the foreheads of newly baptized people in fulfillment prophetic visions found in Ezekiel and Revelation. After baptism, Christians would continue to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, and we see evidence of it in the Bible and Church Fathers. When Christianity became legal, the larger sign of the cross made from head to stomach became adopted. But the original form is simply made with the thumb on the forehead.

SCRIPTURE
Ezekiel speaks of the “mark of the t” administered by the heavenly “man in linen” on the head of the faithful. “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”

The heavenly “man in linen” is the Second Person of the Trinity. Revelation depicts Jesus Christ as the man in linen.

So Ezekiel describes Christ placing a saving “t” or “x” shaped letter on the forehead. The Book of Revelation carries on the description of placing the cross on the forehead.

For my in depth discussion on the sign of the cross as “the mark of the Christ” in the Book of Revelation (in contrast with “the Mark of the Beast:), you can listen for free here.

CHURCH FATHERS
For Church Fathers goes with Tertullian. Writing in around A.D. 204, Tertullian explained that Christians mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross.

In all our travels and movements in all our coming in and going out, in putting of our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupieth us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross. (Tertullian, De corona milites, 3)

My bestselling novel Sword and Serpent features early Christians often making the signum crucis on their foreheads. You can read a sample and reviews by clicking here at amazon.com.

Sword and Serpent