Catholic Theology Video: St Justin Martyr and His Heretic Disciple Tatian

I recently fielded a question about rigorist Christians (even Catholics) who believe that Adam and Eve would have never had physical marital relations had it not been for original sin.

This belief goes back to the heretical Encratites. The Encratites were a rigorist Christian sect that condemned not only sexual relations within Christian marriage (that is, that said that even married people must abstain after baptism), but they also condemned the consumption of alcohol – even omitting wine in the Eucharistic liturgy.

This latter point is ironic since Jesus turned water into wine at a marriage.

Perhaps the most infamous Encratite was Tatian – the disciple of Saint Justin Martyr. This proves that even the greatest theologians and teachers can have disciples that become heretics!

So since today is the feast of Saint Justin Martyr, here is a free Catholic Church History lesson from the New Saint Thomas Institute:

Catholic Course on Saint Justin Martyr and Tatian the Heretic:

If you’d like to join thousands of other online students, and take online classes in Catholic history, theology, apologetics, philosophy, Church Councils, Christology, Mariology, etc. please sign up and begin one of our curricula at the New Saint Thomas Institute.

Is Our Salvation Based on the Concepts of Debt and Law?

I just happened upon your blog so I admit that I have not read your books or very much of your blog. However, it concerned me that in this article, you suggest that our salvation was accomplished by payment of a debt.

I am a Catholic and that is not what I believe. The concept of “debt” implies that sin is a sort of legal problem rather than an ontological one. However, I will hold off (for now!) on sharing any further thoughts because quite possibly I have misunderstood you.

Thank you Mary. I love how you hold off on judgment and ask for clarity. So often in the Catholic theological community, people start casting stones. I appreciate your moderation, prudence, and charity. Let’s look more deeply on this topic of debt and law.

“Ontological” = referring to being:

For new readers, by “ontological,” Mary means “having to do with our being or nature” (from Greek ὄν (gen. ὄντος) meaning being. Ontology is the study of being.

If you’d like to get a dictionary or lexicon of all these philosophical words used in Catholic theology, please download my book (for free), Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (top right corner of taylormarshall.com).

Ontological or Debt/Law?

Salvation is ontological (the elevation of our human nature) and entails Christ transforming us “in Him” into “new creations.” We partake of the divine nature of Christ through His humanity. The hypostatic union becomes the bridge by which we partake of the divine nature. We are deified and in the Beatific Vision, Thomas Aquinas teaches that we will become “deiform” while remaining human and creatures.

So yes, ontological all the way. Catholics (like the Eastern Orthodox) teach that salvation is chiefly a transformation and elevation of human nature.

However, Scripture is replete of examples also discussing salvation in terms of both law and debt/remission.

It’s true Protestants focus almost solely on legal/forensic categories and hence Catholics tend to move away from them. This is a mistake on the Catholic’s part.

We are “freed from the law”. We are “justified” (legal term). Our debts are paid. The jubilee remission of debts is inaugurated by Christ.

Our terms “remission” and “redemption” (to buy back) are financial terms.

The Greek word for “redemption” is strongly legal and financial: ἀπολύτρωσις. It literally means “buying back from, re-purchasing, winning back what was previously forfeited.”

Saint Paul repeatedly refers to how the baptized have been “purchased” by the blood of Christ: “you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20).

Christ Himself uses money examples as an analogy of sin remission: “And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:27). “So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’” (Luke 16:5). “And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

It’s not either ontological or legal/debt. It’s all. It’s both/and.

Thomism on Nature and Law

As a Thomist, I would go on to say that all true law (lex) must necessarily based on being (esse). In fact, if a law does not conform to being (natural law), according to Thomas it is not a law at all.

This is why Thomas divides history and covenants into three epochs: Natural Law (Adam to Moses), Old Law (Moses to Christ), and New Law (Christ till Parousia).

For him “New Law” is just another way of saying “New Creation.” Law and ontology are parallel.

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Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Did Christ Appear First to His Mother after Resurrection?

All the Gospel writers specifically describe Christ appearing first to Saint Mary Magdalene on the morning of His resurrection from the dead: “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene” (Mark 16:9).

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There is however a [late] Christian tradition that Christ first appeared to His Mother Mary and then afterwards appeared to Saint Mary Magdalene as depicted in the Gospel accounts. This would explain why the Blessed Mother felt no need to go to the tomb of Christ. She already knew and believed that He had risen from the dead early Sunday morning.

It also explains why Christ is not at the tomb Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene arrives. He is somewhere else and then arrives to speak with her. Where was He at that moment? Well, some say Christ was visiting His mother on the third day – just as she also discovered Christ again “in His Father’s house” when she had lost Him at age twelve in the Temple after three days.

So did Christ appear first to His Mother Mary?

We find Saint Anselm as the first Catholic Doctor of the Church to teach that Christ secretly appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and then appeared to Saint Mary Magdalene. This is the opinion of Saint Ignatius Loyola and Saint Teresa of Avila.

The visionary Blessed Maria of Agreda also received a vision showing that Christ first appeared to the Blessed Mother before visiting Saint Mary Magdalene. Even Saint John Paul II affirmed the possibility that Christ secretly appeared to His Mother first of all:

“It is legitimate to think that the Mother may really have been the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared.” (Saint John Paul II, May 21, 1997)

We already explored the idea that Mary was not at the tomb Sunday morning because Christ had already appeared to her and she was confirmed already in her belief in the resurrection. However, one might assert that the Mother of God’s faith was already so strong that she had not need to see the resurrected Christ. She already believed without proof.

My own opinion (which carries no weight) is that Mary’s soul was so united to that of Christ at His death and even to His soul’s descent to the dead that she was aware of His ministry to the dead (including her husband Saint Joseph and her kinfoll such as Saint John the Baptist, Saint Zechariah, and Saint Elizabeth, Saint Anna, et al.), that she knew the precise moment of His resurrection and saw it in her soul. Whether Christ appeared outwardly to her physical eyes or only in her heart – her perception of Christ by Faith was more than any saint will have when they “see” Jesus Christ.

Christos anesti,

Dr. Taylor Marshall

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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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.

Cardinals who are not Bishops and a Short History on Cardinals

Originally, cardinals were simply clergy “incardinated” within the Diocese of Rome. In the 6th century, the cardinals of Rome included the pastor presbyters of the titular churchs and the seven deacons of Rome so that there were “cardinal priests” and “cardinal deacons.” By the 8th century, the title was extended to the seven bishops of the seven “suburbicarian dioceses” surrounding Rome and thus there were also “cardinal bishops.”

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This collection of cardinal deacons, cardinal priests, and the cardinal bishops established the “College of Cardinals” that elected the Bishop of Rome from amongst themselves.

  • Before the 1900s, it was possible for a man in minor orders to become a “lay” cardinal in the order of cardinal deacons.
  • For example, in the 16th century, the Englishman Reginald Pole was a cardinal for 18 years before he was ordained a priest.
  • In 1917 it was established that all cardinals, even cardinal deacons, had to be ordained priests.
  • In 1962, Pope John XXIII ruled that all cardinals must be ordained as bishops unless given a papal dispensation to remain as a priest. One might recall that John Henry Cardinal Newman (d. 1890) was a cardinal while being a priest and not a bishop.
  • For example, His Eminence Albert Cardinal Vanhoye is a cardinal who has not been ordained as a bishop.
  • A cardinal who is not a bishop does wear the pontificalia associated with the bishop (mitre, crozier, zucchetto, pectoral cross, ring).
  • Here’s the amazing thing about cardinals: even if not ordained as a bishop, any cardinal possesses ecclesial and liturgical precedence above a bishop, and even above an Archbishop or a Patriarch!
  • This is why Eastern Patriarchs are now usually made Cardinals.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Pope That Rejected Christ: Pope Marcellinus

According to legend, Saint Marcellinus was like Saint Peter in three ways:

  1. He was a Pope
  2. He denied Christ publicly
  3. He repented and died a martyr’s death
Pope Marcellinus offering incense with Saint Peter behind him.

Pope Marcellinus offering incense with Saint Peter behind him.

Lets take a look at his life:

  • The Liber Pontificalis records that during Diocletian’s persecution (AD 303) Marcellinus was captured and commanded to offer incense to the Roman idols.
  • Fearful of death, he scattered incense to the false gods.
  • Remorseful after a few days, he confessed his faith of Christ.
  • He was captured again, stayed true to Christ and received martyrdom.
  • Marcellinus was buried on 26 April 304 in the cemetery of Priscilla, on the Via Salaria, 25 days after his martyrdom.

These details are hotly debated. For example, Saint Augustine of Hippo (died AD 430) denies that Pope Marcellinus offered incense to idols – although he knows of the story and the accusation (see St Augustine, Against Petilian 2.202). The Church Historian Eusebius does not mention it at all.

However, scholars have noted that the pontificate of “Marcellinus” is notably omitted in the Roman “Chronograph” of AD 336. He had undoubtedly been the bishop of Rome, so this absence on the list reveals some doubt about his status as Bishop of Rome.

I wish that we had a way to know the truth of the matter.

I incorporated Pope Marcellinus into my best-selling historical fiction novel: Sword and Serpent: A Historical Retelling of Saint George and the Dragon. The novel features Saint George visiting Pope Marcellinus hiding in a cavern-like catacomb and receiving a sword from him (which will eventually become the sword of King Arthur). The novel has received great reviews and a shining endorsement from Father Dwight Longenecker. I hope you enjoy it. You can get a copy on amazon.com (or check out the 340 reviews) by clicking here.

sword and serpent look inside

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 Eastern Orthodox on Divorce and Remarriage

How do the Eastern Orthodox handle divorce and remarriage? It seems that the trajectory of Pope Francis is to move toward the practice of the Patriarch of Constantinople – to say that divorce and remarriage is objectively wrong, but allowable on a case by case basis.

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I’m rather amazed that neither side is currently examining (and boldly appealing to) the Eastern practice. It’s likely only a matter of time, so I thought I’d try to put some things together in the timeline.

Deacon Daniel Gordon Dozier (Eastern Catholic) helped me find some primary sources on this matter.

  • Patriarch Alexius I of Constantinople (Patriarch from 1025-1043) no longer upheld the practice of suspending priests who blessed second marriages after divorce. Patriarch Alexius, however, only allowed second marriages to the innocent party in a separation. That is, if the husband abandoned a wife, she (but not him) could have a second church wedding while that offending husband still lived. And vice versa.
  • Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J. observes that in 1086 (after the schism with Rome), the Byzantine Empire made the Orthodox Church the “only institution with legal competence for the celebration of matrimony…As a consequence the Eastern Church had to conform its practices to State and civil legislation (a regretful consequence of caesaropapism). Then once civil legislation began to allow divorce and successive remarriages, the Eastern Church was obligated to recognize these practices.”
  • It seems to me as the Eastern Church fell away from union with Rome, it inevitably followed the secular practice of the Empire.

It’s notable that the initial changes in practice happened in Constantinople while Rome and Constantinople were in formal union (even if only for a few decades). It was the successor of Alexius I, Michael Cerularius who formally established schism between Rome and Constantinople in 1054. The practice was officially changed in 1086. So the entire process seems to have taken about 50 years in Constantinople.

Question: What do you think? Will the Eastern Orthodox practice become part of this debate on divorce and remarriage at Rome? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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.