Viking Creation Myth vs. Jewish Creation in Genesis 1-3

I’m reading Viking Norse Cosmology. I got into it while writing Storm of Fire and Blood depicting Saint George in northern Europe, as well as Saint Christopher (and Saint Nicholas) as historical types of an authentic and Christian “Odin.”

The Norse creation myths are interesting and entertaining. Yet they is also ridiculous. Fire and ice converge to make an evil giant. Another giant spring from that giant’s left armpit sweat. His right foot breeding with his left foot and makes another giant.

Odin and the gods chop him up to create planet earth. They pulverize his bones to create sand and extract the giant’s teeth to make mountains and rocky crags.

At this point you realize the profound scientific and philosophical accuracy of Hebrew cosmology in Genesis 1-3 and John 1. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

Compare this to the recitation of the Norse Viking creation myth:

Philosophically, the Norse creation myth lacks what the Jewish creation account has: God speaking and creating through His Word (John 1). This makes the universe into a rational construct. It isn’t the recycling of a giant’s mutilated body. It is the result of the spoken word. A word goes forth from God and “bang” there is space and time.

It is remarkable how well our scientific knowledge about the expanding universe maps on to the account in Genesis. Even the progressive creation of the vegetable and animal species lacks the fantastical accounts.

The Norse myths are fun but I don’t see how a modern man could honestly assent to them – even in an extremely allegorical way. Meanwhile the account in Genesis, with man formed from the earth, is quite on point.

Godspeed,

Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: Please share this post via Facebook by clicking here.

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

Saint Paul never once mentions the word Hell

I’m writing a commentary on Romans for the New Saint Thomas Institute, and I’ve been going over his passages on salvation and damnation. I’m certainly not the first to notice it, but Paul never once mentions “hell” or “hades” or “gehenna” in his epistles. This is interesting, because our Lord Jesus Christ speaks about hell all the time. Yet Paul does not mention the word once.

Don’t take this too far. Saint Paul speaks plenty of human damnation and believes in punishment in the afterlife. For example:

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed…But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Rom 2:5, 8)

“If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal 1:8-9).

“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among those who have believed.” (2 Thess 1:8-10)

“All will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (2 Thes 2:12)

My belief is that Paul is does not use the language of “Hades” because it conjures ideas of Homer and Virgil in Roman audiences. And he does not use the language of “Gehenna” because it’s an exclusively Jewish idea. So “eternal condemnation” and “fire” are his favorite categories for Gentile audiences.

There is a lot of crazy stuff on the internet (and bookstores) on Saint Paul. If you want a concise Catholic commentary on all the writings of Saint Paul, please check out this book: The Catholic Perspective on Paul.

 

7 Reasons to Love Thomas Aquinas (His Theology as Ancient Beauty)

In 1879, Pope Leo XIII sought to revitalize Catholic thinking with what he called the “ancient beauty” of the “renowned teaching of Thomas Aquinas.”

“With wise forethought, therefore, not a few of the advocates of philosophic studies, when turning their minds recently to the practical reform of philosophy, aimed and aim at restoring the renowned teaching of Thomas Aquinas and winning it back to its ancient beauty.” (Pope Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris, 25)

Yet in the last 70 years we have observed in secular culture (but even inside Catholicism) a turn to the ugly and grotesque. An extreme example of this would be a “Crucified Cow” on approved display in a parish chapel of Saint John the Baptist of Kuttekoven, Belgium. Lesser examples would sterile or ugly churches, or altar appointments meant to shock the mind, rather than elevate the mind contemplation of glories of our Savior Jesus Christ. As we will see, ugliness is related to ugly theology.

Beauty as Intro to Goodness and Truth:

Long before Christ, Socrates identified the True with the Good and the Beautiful. In his Symposium, Plato has Socrates explain how Beauty is the “Intro Course” to good philosophy. Socrates says that Beauty leads to “fair practices” (Good) and that in turn leads to “fair notions” (Truth).

“The true order of going is to use the beauties of the earth as steps along which to mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty: from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions until he arrives at the idea of absolute beauty.”

The tri-fold flow moves from 1 to 3  like this:

  1. καλόν kalon “beautiful,” leads to:
  2. ἀγαθόν agathon “good,” which leads to:
  3. ἀληθές alethes “true”

Thomas Aquinas as “Ancient Beauty”

Pope Leo XIII was prophetic in referring to the writing of Thomas Aquinas as “Ancient Beauty.” Most Catholics wrongly assume that the Thomas Aquinas is head-in-the-sky, ivory-tower, academic speculation that no layman could possibly understand. Regretfully, I once heard a sermon in which the priest told the congregation that Thomas Aquinas is “too hard” and that nobody should try to read him! I almost stood up and hollared “heresy!” Thomas Aquinas wrote that his Summa theologiae was written to “instruct beginners” and to give them “milk and not yet meat.”

Thomas Aquinas is Beautifully Accessible:

Against the false claim of that good-willed but misled pastor, Saint Thomas Aquinas can be easy, simple, and accessible to any Catholic who is able to read. I am so convinced of this that I earned my Ph.D on the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, and I have made it is my life goal to make the world “a more Thomistic place.”

Over the last five years, I have helped over 100,000 people get started with studying Thomas Aquinas with a short (free) book: Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (digital download for free).The hardcopy version of Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages is the most popular intro book on Thomas Aquinas available at amazon.com. I’ve been told by seminarians and priests across the world, that this is the book that they begin with and recommend to others. Again, I make it available to everyone for free by clicking here.

I have also helped another 10,000 Catholics with online courses on getting started with Saint Thomas Aquinas through the New Saint Thomas Institute.

7 Reasons to Love Thomas Aquinas:

Since today is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I’m sharing one of our most popular 9 minute videos with you. It is titled “7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas” and I will share 7 reasons why Thomas Aquinas can change your life, change our culture, and change our evangelism efforts as Catholic Christians. Please watch it and leave a comment.

This video will share the profound “ancient beauty” of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Please share it with others on this feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It will also introduce you to a series of over 100 similar video lessons culminating in our online Certificate Programs (click here to see one example of our 7 Current NSTI Certificates).

If taking online video courses (all through the lens of Thomas Aquinas) is something that interests you, check out the New Saint Thomas Institute – the worlds largest online Institute for studying Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, Mariology, Catholic Apologetics, Church History, and (recently) New Testament Studies. Visit us at New Saint Thomas Institute and read our NSTI Student Reviews.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Dr Taylor Marshall

Concerning the Death of Unbaptized Infants by St Gregory Nazianzus

Two of the most rewarding practices for a Christian are 1) reading the Bible from beginning to end, and 2) reading the sermons of the Church Fathers. One of the greatest theologians and orators of the Church Fathers is Saint Gregory Nazianzus. He is simply called Saint Gregory “the Theologian” in the East because of his precise and excellent presentation of theology.

Since the Apostles and Church Fathers universally recognized that baptism was the instrumental means by which Jesus Christ removes sin and infuses grace, they also received the pastoral question of what happens to unbaptized babies. Before we look St Gregory the Theologian, let that sink in. The presumption is that infants should be baptized.

Not only that, but we know from the Eastern Fathers and from Western Fathers like Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine that baptized infants were confirmed and received the Holy Eucharist. We Roman Catholics would do well to request that the Apostolic and Patristic practice of paedo-communion (infant communion) be rightfully restored to our children.

Here is Saint Gregory “the Theologian” Nazianzus on the death of unbaptized children:

The Son of God pervades the Whole of Reality – St Athanasius on the Word

Saint Athanasius rightfully taught us that the Word/Son of the Father is the rational principle that holds the entire created universe together. For this reason, the Word cannot be created. He stands over creation from all eternity.

Check out this profound insight from Saint Athanasius about the relationship between the Word of the Father and the created universe:

He is God, the living and creative God of the universe, the Word of the good God, who is God in his own right. The Word is different from all created things: he is the unique Word belonging only to the good Father. This is the Word that created this whole world and enlightens it by his loving wisdom. He who is the good Word of the good Father produced the order in all creation, joining opposites together, and forming from them one harmonious sound. He is God, one and only-begotten, who proceeds in goodness from the Father as from the fountain of goodness, and gives order, direction and unity to creation. (Discourse Against the Pagans)

Consider the most complicated mathematical problems, the rate of gravity, the structure of DNA sequences, the speed of light, the chemical compounds of substances, the expanding universe, etc. All these things are designed, controlled, measured, and governed constantly by the divine Word of God.

Even before Christ entered the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He was perfectly guiding and controlling the universe like a conductor over all reality.

But the Son of God does not simply govern over. He is not merely a conductor of trillion piece orchestra. He is also intimately present in every person, instrument, note, chord, and sound. He lives and moves in all of creation as the rational binding principle of everything. Here is Saint Athanasius again:

The almighty and most holy Word of the Father pervades the whole of reality, everywhere unfolding his power and shining on all things visible and invisible. He sustains it all and binds it all together in himself. He leaves nothing devoid of his power but gives life and keeps it in being throughout all of creation and in each individual creature.

This is not “pantheism,” which is the heresy that “God is everything,” or that “my pencil is God, and my table is God, and that tree is God.”

Rather, this is the Christian mystery of Word of God as the measure, ratio, and animator of every single created element and force in the universe.

While we enjoy our lives and our salvation through the Son of God Jesus Christ, He is also tending to that black hole light years away, and perfectly spinning the 69 (known) moons of Jupiter. He delights in the presence of the Father as He builds and holds the galaxies (and the molecular structure of your lunch) together.

We Christians rightly focus on the historical Jesus Christ as the Crucified Rabbi who died and resurrected for our sins, but we should also follow the awe of Saint Athanasius in seeing Him as the personal order of everything that ever was, is now, and ever shall be.

To learn more about the Church Fathers (and especially Saint Athanasius), check out our Curriculum on Patristics.

The Sexual Motivation for the European -> Muslim Slave Trade

A few days ago I wrote about how Pope Zachary banned the selling of slaves in Rome. The slave trade in Italy was focused on the selling of Europeans to Muslims.

People often neglect the fact that this slave trade was sexually and racially motivated. What I am about to write is politically incorrect, but the historical facts bear witness to it:

Muslim men wanted to purchase fair skinned, blonde or redheaded European girls as sex slaves. It didn’t start with the film Taken. Giulio Rosati’s painting pretty much says it all about this sick arrangement:

Giulio Rosati’s “Inspection of New Arrivals” (Edited with black bars)

Muhammad repeatedly taught that Muslim men may copulate with slave girls without sin or fault. Even Muslim wives recognized this right of Muslim men. So Muslim men wanted to buy what they believed was “the best.”

[In Islamic texts, we see the “divine and celestial sexual preference” for female “whiteness” in the promised 72 Virgins (Houri) who are described as very white or almost translucent. In fact, the word “houri” may be etymologically related to the word for “white grapes.” The 72 Houri waiting in Heaven for Muslim men are “white, wide-eyed, large breasted, never menstruate or urinate.”]

Males were also kidnapped for labor, eg as chained rowers in ships. At the battle of Lepanto, almost all of the rowers for the Turks were enslaved Christian men. I give all the numbers in the New Saint Thomas Institute video lesson on the Battle of Lepanto.

The Muslim slave trade of Europeans did not cease in the 1500s. According to Robert Davis, between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured between the 16th and 19th centuries by Muslim pirates, who were vassals of the Ottoman Empire, and sold as slaves.

The Price of European Males Slaves vs Female Slaves

The sexual motivation for selling European women to Muslims can be seen in the price being paid:

  • female slaves sold at a tremissa ($75 USD in 2018 USD weight in gold)
  • male slaves sold at a obolos ($17 in 2018 USD weight in silver).
  • So a European female was worth to the Muslim slave buyer 4.4x that of a European male.

“The Merchant’s Pearl” by Alfredo Valenzuela Puelma
depicted a northern European woman being sold in Muslim lands.

From these prices we see that Muslim men were chiefly interested in buying European women, not men. Clearly, European women were not being bought for their strength or endurance in manual labor.

Yes, yes. Islam is a religion of peace and the tremendously respects women. Yawn. Here is the authentic Islamic tradition on how men may copulate (rape) their slave girls:

The Quran (23:6 and 70:30) draw a distinction between spouses and “those whom one’s right hands possess” (ie “slavegirls”) while clarifying that sexual intercourse with either is permissible.

“And successful are the believers who guard their chastity…except from their wives or those that their right hands possess.” (Quran 23:6)

“And those who guard their private parts: except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they are not to be blamed.” (Quran 70:29-30)

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi explains that “two categories of women have been excluded from the general command of guarding the private parts: (a) wives, (b) women who are legally in one’s possession.” So if you buy the girl, she is yours.

Islam is not good for the world. It is violent. It is intolerant. It is sexually corrupt. Christians need to wake up. Please Share this post via Facebook to get the word out by clicking here!

Here’s my Webinar on “The History of Mohammad and Islam” to learn more about the sinful and perverted life of Mohammad. Sign up and watch it (for FREE) by clicking here.

Pope Zachary (d. 752) in 7 Points

Pope Zachary is one of the top 10 Popes of the early medieval periods. Let’s take a look at some high points in his pontificate:

  1. Pope Zachary appointed Saint Boniface (Apostle of Germany) in AD 742 as Papal Legate to the German dioceses.
  2. Pope Zachary condemned the practice of worshipping angels in AD 745.
  3. He is the Pope known for deposing the Merovingian King of the Franks, Childeric III and then granting the crown to Pepin the Short, the father of Charlemagne. Saint Boniface crowned Pepin King of the Franks at Soissons in 752.
  4. Pope Zachary accused the court of Constantinople, along with its Patriarch, and its Emperor Constantine V of heresy. They promoted iconoclasm: the destruction of images of Christ and the saints and banned their production. (Here’s my podcast on iconoclasm in its Byzantine context.)
  5. Pope Zachary built the original church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (“over Minerva”) over an ancient temple to Minerva near the Pantheon. This church would later become a setting for the Dominican Order. It’s (revised) interior is stunning.
  6. Pope Zachary forbade the selling of slaves to Muslims in the city of Rome.
  7. But here is why I really like Pope Zachary: While restoring the Lateran Palace, he relocated the relic of the skull of Saint George to the church of San Giorgio al Velabro (a church I visit annually in Rome).

Here’s a photo of me in San Giorgio al Velabro kneeling by the altar that holds the skull of Saint George.

It looks empty now but a cleric in the church told me that the skull is still in there. Just not visible (if I understood his Italian).

If you’d like to read my bestselling historical fictional account of Saint George’s life, please check out my novel: Sword and Serpent at amazon.com.

Are Catholic Canonizations of Saints Infallible? Yes

On the interwebs you sometimes bump into a few Catholics that assert that canonizations are not infallible or are reversible. They will cite saints who are allegedly un-sainted (eg. St George, St Christopher, St Philomena – I explain why they are NOT un-sainted in this podcast) or they will object to canonized saints that they don’t like (eg, St John XIII or St Josemaria).

Canonizations are Infallible. Here’s why:

Concerning the Potential Problem of “Damned Saints”:

When a person is damned, he hates and curses God forever in Hell. That’s what damnation is. It’s a decision to reject God and His love. The damned person lacks all charity toward God. As Thomas Aquinas, would say, he belongs to the Kingdom of Satan. He is officially anti-Christ.

If the Church mistakingly were to canonize a damned man, then that means monks and nuns would be praying the Liturgy of the Hours and commemorating a man who currently curses God – and doing so annually in the liturgical cycle. Moreover, this would entail that priests are celebrating Masses in honor of a man who is literally diabolical. Even more so, churches, chapels, and cathedrals would be erected and consecrated in honor a man who hates God. No doubt, the devil would love all of this. So canonizations are infallible.

Concerning the Potential Problem of “Make-Believe Saints”

The same goes saints who are claimed to not have existed. If someone were to say that St George or St Christopher were make-believe people, then you have the Liturgy of Hours and Holy Mass celebrated to what amount to cartoon characters. It would be like celebrating Mass in honor of Luke Skywalker. It’s a mockery of true religion.

[Shameless plug: Check out my #1 Bestselling Historical Novel Sword and Serpent for a plausible biography of Saint George (and the “Dragon”) along with Saint Christopher by clicking here.]

We can grant that the legends and hagiography about certain saints are exaggerated or embellished, but we cannot say that the Church formally venerates imaginary people, celebrated Mass in honor of imaginary people, or that there are Churches dedicated to imaginary people.

If so, the devil would love all of this. So canonizations are infallible. It’s also worth noting that when a Pope canonizes a saint he invokes his authority as Vicar of Christ and successor to Saints Peter and Paul in a way similar to declaring dogmas infallible.

I recently wrote a history of the process of canonizations. You can read it here: “How Saints are Canonized: from Local to Papal Canonizations over Time.”

Subordination to Joseph in the Holy Family

The modern feminist/socialist objects to the traditional Israelite structure of the family: the male father is the head of the wife and the children.

Instead, we observe the media’s depiction of the father is a comical dolt. The children laugh at him. The mother goes around his back. Sitcoms and films are replete with foolish fathers who justify the claim that there is no hierarchy in family.

Society tells all men to “man up” and marry but as soon as he does, he is presumed to become an embarrassing caricature of manhood, as someone resembling Homer Simpson or George McFly from Back to the Future:

We find the perfect familiar order (and corrective to our times) in the Holy Family, which conforms perfectly with divine law and natural law. Moreover, God in providential irony set up the Holy Family so that the most wise and meritorious members of the family submit to the less wise and meritorious.

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Jesus Christ (Divine Logos and Son of God) submits to Mary and Joseph.
  2. Mary (Immaculate Conception and Mother of God) submits to Joseph.
  3. Joseph (neither divine person like Christ nor immaculate like Mary) is the Head of Holy Family.

If merit, grace, or dignity were the criteria for leadership and headship, clearly it would be Joseph at the bottom of the leadership chain. But not so. God honors the natural order of fathers in the family and he recognizes Joseph as the leader. Although Joseph is least gifted and least worthy, he is nonetheless submitted to and obeyed by the Divine Jesus and the Immaculate Mary.

Children often test their fathers: Is he truly a great man? Do I truly want to follow him? Wives do the same: Did I marry the right man? Is he the hero that chose me and swept me off my feet or is he George McFly?

We all question our leaders. For this reason, fathers should strive to be excellent and fulfill their mission in life. This earns respect from wives and children. It quiets their worries about whether he is the great man that they hope him to be. However, no man is perfect. Jesus and Mary were greater than Joseph, and yet they were patient with him as he understood less than they did.

If any man in history were comparatively outclassed by his wife and child, it was Saint Joseph. This is an example to all families. The father of the home should be honored as the head of the wife and head of the family – even if he is less holy, less wise, less prudent, less pious than his mother and children: because that was once the case with Saint Joseph.

No doubt, the comments will be filled with testimonies such as: “My father was evil and he did XYZ.” I grant that these deep fractures exist in countless famliies. There are fathers out there that earn a score of F-.

But let’s be honest, many (most?) fathers out there are scoring As, Bs, and Cs on their report card. They work hard. The pay for Christmas. They tell bedtime stories. They play catch and teach children how to swim. They pay for insurance and health care. They fix the car. They live the faith. They take the family to church. They spend time investing in their children. They respect and love their wives. They are the oak.

So if your husband/father is scoring a B+ in your mind (and you think you’re scoring an A+), be like Mary and Joseph and honor him anyway as chosen by God to be your unworthy leader. The soul of a man is fueled by respect. I have no doubt that the soul of Joseph was rocket-boosted to highest heaven by the fuel of respect poured into him by his betters: by his wife Mary and his foster son Jesus.

Happy Feast of Holy Family. May Jesus protect all families from the Devil and from the Herods of the world,

Dr Taylor Marhall