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.

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 5.31.51 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 5.31.51 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 4.54.04 PM

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.

7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas in 2017

Happy feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

If you wish that you had that intellectual edge in discussing and debating Catholicism, Thomas Aquinas is your best resource. And yet, most Catholics feel intimidated by Thomas Aquinas because they have been wrongly introduced to him and his writings. It doesn’t need to be that way. Thomas Aquinas expressly stated that he wrote for “beginners in theology.”

I’ve assembled over 100 video lessons to help you answer skeptics, Evangelicals, Mormons, Muslims, atheists, and fallen away Catholic through the lens of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Since it is his feast day, I want to share one with you:

Here is a free sample video on “7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas”. Like all of our New Saint Thomas Institute HD video lessons, it is short, to the point, and provides you practical and tangible theological education:

If you’d like to join the New Saint Thomas Institute, you can take more classes like this, receive access to hundreds of free Catholic books by the saints and Fathers and follow our clear and organized curricula in:

  1. Certificate in Catholic Philosophy and Thomistic Studies
  2. Certificate in Catholic Theology
  3. Certificate in Catholic Apologetics
  4. Certificate in Church History: Church Fathers
  5. Certificate in Church History Medieval Theology
  6. Certificate in Church History: Modern (coming 2017)
  • “NSTI is such an AWESOME resource for me to know my faith, defend my faith, and bring others back to my Catholic faith, that I can’t wait to get started! We can’t really financially afford it with a one person income and 5 children, but it is so worth the sacrifice. We won’t go out to eat much but instead feed our souls with the fullness of the truth. Thanks be to God for the NSTI and what you are doing for the Kingdom of God!” – Sandra
  • “I am really enjoying the current certificates and learning a lot (which was my original purpose in joining NSTI.)” – Frank
  • “These resources are awesome! I can learn so much, and I don’t even have to take out a student loan!” – Besty

Our priority is that you begin obtaining a philosophical and theological education through the perspective on Saint Thomas Aquinas.Tuition is just over $1 a day and there are no contracts, so you can cancel at any time. We are 3000+ students (retired, students, mothers, professionals, religious, priests, deacons) strong delivering high quality theology and education through a cloud based delivery system to over 55 nations:

Learn more about the educational and charitable work of the New Saint Thomas Institute by clicking here:

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 2.07.48 PM

If you’ve wanted to go back to school to study theology or philosophy, this is the easiest, most popular, and least expensive way to do it: newsaintthomas.com.

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

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.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-11-08-28-am

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.

With whom would you eat dinner with from the Bible? (excepting Jesus and Mary)

So you’re praying one afternoon and Christ appears to you and says that you will be allowed to have dinner that night with one person from the Bible. He or she will be able to speak your language and discuss whatever you desire.

Who would you pick? Jesus and Mary are excepted and your pick must be human (ie, no angels).

Options include:

  • Adam
  • Eve
  • Moses
  • Ruth
  • David
  • Solomon
  • Esther
  • Isaiah
  • Malachi
  • Joseph
  • John the Baptist
  • Peter
  • Paul
  • John
  • Mary Magdalene
  • or anyone you choose.

Your choice could even be a villain, if you like, such as Pharaoh, Jezebel, or even Judas. But your choice must be from the Bible.

Question: Who would you choose and why? What would you ask them? I’ll reveal my answer after several people have left comments below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I am not worthy to untie his shoe-latchet, according to Origen

I continue to read and study Origen and I was recently impressed with his spiritual interpretation of the words of Saint John the Baptist regarding Christ:

john-the-baptist

“I baptize with water, but in the midst of you stands one whom you know not, even He who comes after me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose.” (Jn 1:26)

According to Origen, John the Baptist is here confessing his amazement over the incarnation of the Divine Logos. Origen interprets:

…he goes on: The latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose. By which he conveys, as in a riddle, that he is not fit to solve and to explain the argument about Christ’s assuming a human body, an argument tied up and hidden (like a shoe-tie) to those who do not understand it—so as to say anything worthy of such an advent, compressed, as it was, into so short a space. (Origen, Commentary on John, Book 6, Ch. 15)

If you’d like to take my online class on Origen and see my full online Church History Certificate syllabus, please click here and explore Module 4.

Origen holds that John the Baptist indicates that he can cannot untie the mysterious knot that the Logos can possess a physical body by which to fill a shoe or sandal.

How wonderful and mysterious that the eternal Son of God became man? He came not only to wear a simple shoe on his incarnate foot, but also to receive the cleansing baptism of water in the Jordan River upon his anointed body. And even more to die on a cross and rise again.

John the Baptist is stunned. It is as if John the Baptist might say: “Look guys. I’m the last prophet of the Old Testament and I’m not worthy to untie the mystery of His incarnation. I’ll leave that the next seven Ecumenical Councils to untie over time.

If you’d like to take my online classes on the Ecumenical Councils and their theology and see my full online Church History Certificate syllabus, please click here and explore Module 6 “Christology Controversy“.

While Origen is not a saint and not a doctor of the Church (and has some theological oddities), his exegesis is fascinating and helpful. Even in something in small as the shoe-latchet saying of John, he has something beautiful to draw out. As we say in Texas: That’ll preach.

Godspeed,
Taylor Marshall

120: Your Virtue of Fortitude with Aquinas (Virtues Part 4) [Podcast]

Dr. Taylor Marshall continues his series on the 4 Cardinal Virtues (click here for Part 1) this episode with the virtue of Fortitude as it relates to Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Thomas Aquinas and the life of Christ in the Temple and on the Cross. He closes with a Tip of the Week and practical advise on how to grow in Fortitude/Courage and how to ask Jesus Christ to gain and grow in this important virtue for our times.

Virtue of Fortitude

120 Your Virtue of Fortitude [Podcast]

Play

If the audio player does not show up in your email or browser, please click here to listen.

  • Proverb of the week: None this week
  • Featured Segment: The Virtue of Fortitude
  • Latin Word of the Week: Fortitudo
  • Tip of the Week: Estate Planning and End of Life
  • Announcements:

I’d love to read your feedback: While you listen to today’s podcast, would you please take 30 seconds to write a review? Please click here to Rate this Podcast!

Please Share Your Feedback:

  • POPULARITY: 1,068,658 downloads on iTunes as of today.
  • SHOUT OUTS: A huge “shout out” to all 520 (!) of you who wrote amazing 5-star reviews at iTunes. Please rate this podcast by clicking here. From there you can leave a review. I appreciate you for this! Thank you!

Subscribe to This Weekly Podcast:

  • Apple/Mac Users: Please subscribe via iTunes by clicking here and then clicking on “View in iTunes.”

subscribe_on_itunes_badge

  • Android Users: For listening to The Taylor Marshall Show on Android devices (free) using the Stitcher app.

stitcher banner

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 9.37.52 AM

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If you like this podcast, please leave a review.

How to Make S.M.A.R.T. Unbreakable New Year’s Goals for God and Yourself

Did you know that 25% of people give up on their New Year’s Resolution within the first seven days of January? A majority will not see their resolutions past February 1!

God made humans to be goal-oriented. Our ultimate goal is Heaven, but there are sub-goals along the way. Today I’ll share how I attain goals using the “S.M.A.R.T.” (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound) system of goal making. When I learned this system, it literally changed my life. I will also share how making these kind of goals for the New Year can lead to a breakthrough in any category with which you struggle: spiritual, marital, familial, economic, health, etc.

How to Make S.M.A.R.T. Goals for the New Year

Please watch the video below as explain how you can make goals for the New Year and make this next year the most productive of your life:

Are you having trouble seeing the video? Please click here to watch it.

Do you have family and friends who need help with goals for the New Year? Please share this article on Facebook by clicking here.

Question: What’s your goal this year? What could you change this New Year with a system of written-down goals? 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.