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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ Appearing to Over 500?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ is risen!
Dr Taylor Marshall

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

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132: St Patrick in 9 Bullet Points and the “Two Patrick Theory” [Podcast]

Who was the historical Saint Patrick? In this 8 minute podcast, I give you an overview of his person, theology, and tradition based primarily on his own autobiography: St Patrick’s Confessio. Click on the triangle player below to get started:

PARENTAL WARNING: I discuss a strange episode in Patrick’s life where sailors ask him to “suck their breasts” and explain what that meant in ancient Ireland (Hint: it symbolized as oath of coming under another person’s protection.)

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

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  • POPULARITY: 1,448,642 downloads on iTunes as of today.
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129: Aquinas Why Fish and No Meat in Lent PLUS the Demonic Incubus and Sucubus! [Podcast]

Join Dr Taylor Marshall this week as he explains why Thomas Aquinas thought animal and bird flesh caused a higher human sexual libido and how it relates to our customs for fasting and abstinence during Lent. Believe it or not, what Saint Thomas says in the 1200s about diet is actually confirmed by testosterone studies in our time.

We also look Eastern Catholic Church Bible translations AND the demonic sexual apparitions of the sucubus (female version) and incubus (male version) attested to by Augustine and Aquinas.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

129: Aquinas Why Fish and No Meat in Lent PLUS the Demonic Incubus and Sucubus! [Podcast]

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

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: 1,448,642 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.”

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

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Medieval Lent was Harder than Islamic Ramadan

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

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

Rules for Islamic Ramadan:

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

Rules for Medieval Quadragesima or “Lent”:

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

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

Ramadan vs Medieval Lent:

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

Conclusion: Medieval Christians were Tough

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

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

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Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Don’t miss my Catholic Webinar on Mohammad and Islam (and the Crusades):

YOU WILL DISCOVER:

  • the real story behind Muhammad and the Quran
  • how Muhammad’s wife had heretical Christian connections
  • how Islam spread by the sword
  • the defensive reason for the Catholic Crusades
  • how “the Crusades” are used by liberals to malign Christianity
  • PLUS: Book recommendations
  • EVERYONE THAT ATTENDS WILL RECEIVE A pdf Handout on Muhammad. Please register below.

You can sign up to attend by clicking here.

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.

Holy Innocents: Why does God allow so many babies to die?

How do Christians account for child martyrdom, child death, original sin and the fact that the majority of Homo sapiens have died before birth?

The feast of the Holy Innocents marks the martyrdom of an unnumbered group of boys aged 2 and under during the reign of King Herod and fulfills the prophecy of St Jeremias:

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.’ (Jer 31:15)

How can children become martyrs if they cannot speak or affirm faith?

These holy innocents are martyrs because they were murdered in odium fidei (in hatred of the Faith). If someone kills a child on accident or even through malice, that child is not a martyr. However, if the murderer kills the child out of hatred for Christ or the Christian faith, then the child is a martyr. Same goes for adults. If a robber shoots a father in his home, he is not a martyr. If an Islamic State terrorists shoots because a man because he won’t renounce Christ, then that victim is a martyr.

Children can become martyrs for the same reason that children are baptized. Other persons can effect persecution (or sacramental grace) upon them. Babies have personal relationships. My babies had “personal relationships” with their mother at the breast immediately (and even before birth). It’s a unique non-verbal relationship. And if that “personal relationship” between mother and baby exists, then a “personal relationship” can exist between a baby and our Triune God.

Parents usher their babies into the eternal life and energy of the Holy Trinity at the baptismal font and so also did Herod’s soldiers baptize the Holy Innocents with their own blood.

Our family asks for the intercession of the boy Holy Innocents every evening and their presence in Scripture and the Catholic Calendar remind us that children die. But why?

Why do children die?

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202) explained how the sin of Adam and Eve passed down to all generations and deprived even infants of the supernatural blessing of Eden.

The Eastern Fathers such as Saint Gregory Nazianzus noted the theological problem of children dying. Children are not guilty of personal sins. Why would God allow them to die. And when they die, where do they go? Heaven? Hell? Perhaps a special place reserved for them?

Saint Gregory and others noted that children die not through their own fault, but on account of being born outside Eden – that is being born under the sin of Adam and Eve. The Eastern Churched calls this προπατορικὸν ἁμάρτημα (propatorikon harmatema) or “ancestral sin.”

The Western Church calls it peccatum originale or “original sin.” Without getting into Eastern vs. Western distinctions, all Christians agree that the penalty of death has spread to all human persons, even children. And we all agree (even the Jansenist or Calvinist) that children die not on account of their own personal misdeeds.

Why do they die? We don’t know, but we trust that their eternal life is better than any life they had here. Whether it is postulated as natural paradise, limbo, or a hope for supernatural Heaven itself, their life is one of peace, rest, happiness, and beatitude.

Do most humans die in infancy?

It’s patently obvious that more than 51+% of members of the race of homo sapiens died before the age of 7. We might even dare to say that 51+% of every homo sapiens died before being born. This is a starting fact to consider from a theological perspective. Most humans in God’s image died prior breathing.

Why is this?

There are a few optional explanations:

  1. Predestination Option: God predestines most humans to die in utero or in infancy because he likes the idea of Heaven (or limbo) being populated with people who have never committed a personal sin against him or another – despite them having been conceived without habitual grace. This theory would posit that every human child receives habitual or sacramental grace prior to death to Heaven OR that they don’t receive habitual grace and so end up in perfect natural (but not supernatural) paradise. And this natural paradise is often known off the cuff as limbo. (Pun intended. The Latin limbus means “cuff”.)

    [NOTE: I should add here that the heretic John Calvin used this argument above (that all deceased babies go to Heaven) in favor of unconditional election. He noted that so many babies die before and after birth (including his own dead children), and so this confirms the fact that God chooses them for Heaven without any faith or merit.]

  2. Pre-Existence Option: The Church Father (but not saint) Origen posited that every human pre-existed in a celestial realm prior to conception in a mother’s womb. Each of these minds erred or sinned in this celestial realm and thus were consigned to a carnal life on earth suiting the measure of their rebellion. So a pre-existent mind that rebelled greatly against the Trinity would be given a very tedious life on earth so that they could merit salvation through Christ. However, a pre-existent mind that only slightly rebelled against the Trinity would be given a very brief life on earth by which they would turn back to God. And these, then, are the little children that die before and after birth. They are the ones who sinned in a lesser degree before being conceived on earth.

    [NOTE: This opinion of Origen is not held by many today – except in a corrupted form by Mormons.]

  3. We don’t really know. I think this is the theological position of most Christians. There is no easily packaged explanation for a pair of parents standing over their child’s tiny grave. There is no easy answer for a woman after miscarriage. It’s never been the position of Christians to dogmatically describe the afterlife for children other than saying: “they do not suffer and they are at peace.” We don’t know much because the Bible says nothing about it. We can only rest on the conviction that God desires all men to be saved and that He is fully aware that 51+% die before attaining the age of reason or before professing faith.

PS: If you’re interested in reading more of my posts on the topic of infant death, limbo, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas etc., check out this series of posts: Unbaptized babies that die: 5 Theories.

What was St Nicholas like as a Young Priest: Sword and Serpent Book 3 released!

Happy feast day of Saint Nicholas!

What was Saint Nicholas like as a young priest? Could he bi-locate? Could he read souls?

These are topics that I explored in my bestselling historical novel Sword and Serpent, in which I imagined a young and clairvoyant Saint Nicholas meeting a traveling pair of young future saints: Saint George and the recently baptized Saint Christopher.

These novels explore the historical martyrdoms of Christians under the Emperor Diocletian from the point of view of St George, St Christopher, St Nicholas, St Catherine of Alexandria, St Helena, Constantine, and dozens of other men and women who will go on to be known as Catholic saints. The novels are “clean” but contain gruesome and detailed accounts of martyrdoms, Roman battles, and gladiatorial bouts. If you mixed together Catholic Saint stories, The Princess Bride, and Lord of the Rings – you’d get the Sword and Serpent Trilogy.

Sword and Serpent Book 3: released today!

The first 2 novels were Amazon best-sellers in their categories – and on the feast of Saint Nicholas, we are announcing the print version of the third and final novel in the Sword and Serpent Trilogy is released: Storm of Fire and Blood.

The consensus from the reader reviews from the ebook version is that this third novel is exhilarating, well-researched, and the best of the three in the trilogy. Some have said it is the best book that they’ve read all year:

Here are the three novels in the Sword and Serpent Trilogy:

Just like first two novels in the series: we are having a Launch Party to get the word out with prizes.

How To Join the Party and Get FREE Books (hashtag: #SwordAndSerpent #TenthRegion #StormofFireandBlood)

Here are 8 epic ways you can do epic things and win epic stuff:

1. Take an Epic #Selfie with the Book
(Prize: a Free signed copy of Storm of Fire and Blood)

HOW TO ENTER: Take a photo with the book Storm of Fire and Blood. Extra points will be awarded for costumes or exotic places. We once had one taken in front of the Colosseum in Rome! The more epic, the more likely you are to win. Take a photo, post it on Facebook and then send an email to swordandserpent+selfie@gmail.com with a link to your picture.

RULES:

  • This is not a random drawing. This is a performance-based contest that will be judged. Be epic. Get the family to dress up as Jurian, Sabra, Aikaterina, Menas, Helena, et al. and snap a selfie with the book. Or maybe take a photo of yourself holding the book in someplace amazing. If you get a photo of yourself standing next to Pope Francis holding the book, you win hands down!
  • Selfies with any version of the Storm of Fire and Blood count (printed, ebook).

2. Just Get the Book Contest (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: Buy just one copy of Storm of Fire and Blood and then send an email to swordandserpent+boughtbook@gmail.com simply stating “I bought a copy.” If you buy more than one copy, please send one email for each copy you bought. *If you already reviewed the novel before today and emailed me about it, you’re already entered into this contest.

You can get a copy of Storm of Fire and Blood by clicking here.

RULES:

  • You can enter for each copy purchased. (For example, if you buy four copies, send an email saying “I bought 4” in the subject line.)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

3. St Nicholas Gift Contest (Prize: an iPad Mini mailed to your house! AND a free signed copy of Storm of Fire and Blood)

HOW TO ENTER: Several reviewers on amazon.com said that Sword and Serpent would be a perfect Christmas gift. This contest honors Saint Nicholas who is an important character in the book – it’s also his feast day this week. To win this prize, purchase at least 4 copies (1 for yourself and 3 as gifts to give away at Christmas) and send an email to swordandserpent+gifts@gmail.com. You can order copies by clicking here.

RULES:

  • You must purchase at least 4 copies to enter.
  • If you purchase multiples of 4, you can enter that many times (8 copies = 2 entries; 12 copies = 3 entries; 80 copies = 20 entries – enter how many copies you got in the subject line: “I got 8 copies as Christmas gifts” – that’s 2 entries in this prize)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24 and will receive an iPad for free.

4. Review the Novel at Amazon.com (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card AND a free signed copy of Storm of Fire and Blood)

HOW TO ENTER: Read the book and leave a friendly review at amazon.com. Next, send an email to swordandserpent+reviewed@gmail.com with a link to your review.

RULES:

  • Please leave a review at amazon.com before December 24.
  • Even though GoodReads is not a retailer, we’ll count GoodReads reviews too. So if you review at Amazon and goodreads, that’s two entries. Way to go! Click here for GoodReeds reviews.
  • Send an email to swordandserpent+reviewed@gmail.com with a link to your review.
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

5. Write a Blog Post about Storm of Fire and Blood
(Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card + a promo link to your blog from my blog)

HOW TO ENTER: Write a blog post about Storm of Fire and Blood with the amazon link to the book in your review. Next, send an email to swordandserpent+blog@gmail.com with a link to your review.

RULES:

  • The post does not have to be a “book review.” It can be a theological reflection or an interview with me about the book.
  • Please include this exact amazon.com link: http://amzn.to/2BFTyWh
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

6. Facebook The Book (Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: Write an update on your Facebook wall about Sword and Serpent and include a link to the amazon link and the link to the book trailer. Next send an email to swordandserpent+facebook@gmail.com.

Please use this photo and this link to the book: http://amzn.to/2BFTyWhRULES:

Okay, there are the contests. They all end on Dec 24 2016. Get busy taking epic selfies. By the way the easiest contest to win is #3 – Just Get the Book: Storm of Fire and Blood.

To everyone who already made Storm of Fire and Blood possible and helped it get to #1, THANK YOU!

Happy winnings and Happy Advent!

Saint George, pray for us!
Taylor

Epic Book Trailer for Sword and Serpent, Book I:

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.49.35 AM

Saint George pray for us,
Taylor Marshall

Did Israel’s God have a Wife? “Queen of Heaven” in Jeremiah 7

Why Protestants reject Mary as Queen of Heaven

Most Protestants claim (as well as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses) that in the early 300s, the first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine co-opted Christianity for political purposes and transformed Rome’s pagan theology, imagery and titles into Christian versions:

  1. pagan Temples became Christian Churches
  2. the title “Queen of Heaven” was transferred from the Roman goddess Magna Dea to Jesus Christ’s mother Mary
  3. Pontifex Maximus was transferred as title for Bishop of Rome
  4. patron deities were modified into patron saints
  5. The first day of the week, dedicated as “Sun-Day” became the day of Christian worship rather than the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday

Other examples could be listed. I’ve argued that Constantine was truly Christian and that paganization did not occur in The Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. Rather, I defend the (Catholic) belief that the Holy Trinity planned from creation to use the Roman Empire as the means of salvation through the Roman crucifixion of the eternal Son of God under Roman domination.

Today we address the title “Queen of Heaven” as applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Protestants adhere to the principle of sola scripture (only scripture). In doing so, they search the pages of Scripture for “Queen of Heaven” and they find it in the Old Testament:

The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. (Jer 7:18)

and again:

But we will do everything that we have vowed, burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out libations to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no evil. (Jer 44:7)

The prophet Jeremiah here condemns how Israelites adopted then pagan practice of offering cakes and drink offerings to “the queen of heaven.” This “queen of heaven” was the goddess Asherah who was universally worshipped in the Middle East as a consort bride to Baal or even Yahweh.

We have, in fact, found an archeological pithos sherd found at Kuntillet Ajrud be with an inscription reading: “Yahweh and his Asherah” as depicted below:

There is biblical and archeological evidence for devotion to God’s wife Asherah. But this devotion was contrary to the monotheism practiced by Abraham, Moses, and David. The Israelite prophets were constantly recalling Israel away from worship of Asherah and back to the monotheistic worship of Yahweh.

It would seem, then, to the Protestant that the Catholic practice of calling Mary “Queen of Heaven” is a return to this banned practice in Jeremiah. Epiphanius of Salamis even writes of an early female Christian heresy around AD 375, whereby women devotees in Arabia would worship Mary and offer bread-rolls (Greek κολλυρις or kollyris) to Mary as if she were a goddess. This seems to be a holdover from worship of Asherah as described by Jeremiah.

And yet the Catholic Church does NOT give worship (Greek latria) to Mary. She receives the highest form of praise for a created human (Greek hyperdulia), since she is a human and will always remain a human. However, she is the earthly mother of the King of Heaven and Earth. And by that honor, she is Queen of Heaven.

Moreover, Revelation chapter 12 depicts the mother of the Messiah as crowned with 12 stars, clothed with the sun, and standing on the moon. She is no doubt the Queen of Heaven, just as she is also the Queen of the Jews.

And we should remember that pagan kings were also called Messiah, Son of God, King of Kings, King of Heaven, etc. and yet we do not hesitate to grant these titles to our Lord Jesus Christ.

The abuse of a term by pagans (e.g. Son of God, Queen of Heaven, Pontifex Maximus) does not forfeit their proper use by God-fearing Christians in an orthodox sense.

Question: Do you honor the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Liturgy does NOT mean Work of the People (Against Liturgical Pelagianism)

Examples of λειτουργία from the New Testament

It became quite stylish in the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s to teach that the Greek word for liturgy is λειτουργία (leitourgia) and that this word means “work of the people.” This led to the new idea that λειτουργία or “liturgy” is something that lay people should be leading and even performing within the context of worship.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people”? No.

Photo: Pope John XXIII Celebrating the Eastern Divine Liturgy

Liturgy certainly does not mean “work of the people,” and I’ll show you why from examples in Sacred Scripture. But before looking at Scripture, let’s look at the actual Greek word:

The Word “Liturgy” in Greek

λειτουργία, like so many words in Greek, is a composite. The first word half of the word derives form the Greek word “laos” meaning “people.” (There is also the variation of “leos” which is the Attic Greek version of the same word for “people.”) This word “laos” (or “leos” in Attic) is where we get laity and laypeople. It’s a generic word for a collection of people. The Greek name Menelaos means “withstanding the people” and the Greek name Nikolaos means “conquering the people.”

The second part of the word derives from the Greek word “ergon” meaning “work,” as in ergonomic, energy, and synergy.

When you smash the two Greek words together to describe something you get: leitourgia or λειτουργία.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people” or “work for the people”?

So the term contains the two Greek words for “people” and “work,” but how do we arrange it for its meaning? On one hand, it could be “work of the people,” meaning something the people work out together. On the other hand, it could be “work for the people,” meaning something done for the benefit of the people.

Option 1: Liturgy as “Work of the People”

The kumbaya (Elvis liturgy) crowd of the 1960s and 1970s insisted that it was former – something people work out when they come together. This led to the idea that lay people should lead prayers, read the lessons, prepare the altar, handle chalices, handle the Eucharist, distribute the Eucharist, bless people in the Communion line, and cleanse the vessels. After all, if liturgy means “work of the people,” then the people ought to be up there doing active work.

Option 2: Liturgy as “Work Done for the People”:

The historical, traditional, and received definition of liturgy or λειτουργία is that it is something done by one for the sake of the people. This may come as a crushing blow to the legions of Christians who were taught that liturgy was the “work of the people,” but it’s the plain truth. In Plato and other Greek authors, λειτουργία is something done by one for the sake of the people. Consequently, the Greek term is usually a priestly or political term depending on the context. And in the Bible, it is usually a priestly term, but we will examine one passage in Romans that is expressly political:

Let’s look at Sacred Scripture to settle the debate:

In the account of the birth of John the Baptist, we discover that his father Zacharias is an Aaronic priest of the tribe of Levi. As such, he serves in the Temple as a priest when it is the time of his allotment. [I explain elsewhere how this detail leads us to know that Christ as born in late December.] The passage explains that St Zacharias goes to the Temple to minister and the original Greek word is that he goes there to do liturgy:

And when his time of service (λειτουργίας) was ended, he went to his home. (Luke 1:23)

Did Zacharias gather a bunch of people to worship the Lord? No, the passage explains that his duty was to go into the Temple and offer incense to Yahweh. He did this to ceremoniously present the prayers of the people to God. It becomes obvious that his “liturgy” was something he did as a priest for the benefit of the people, not something he did as a priest with other people present.

Let’s look at another example from Hebrews:

And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship (λειτουργίας). (Heb 9:22)

This is a description of how Moses consecrated the tabernacle and vessels for divine worship in the Old Testament. The tent/tabernacle and the vessels could only be handled and used by the Levites, as they administered them for the benefit of Israel. Once again we see that λειτουργία refers to what is done by a priestly class on behalf of the laity.

The Liturgy of Christ as for the people:

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry (λειτουργίας) which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Heb 8:6)

The author describes Christ as a High Priest who now administers a better New Covenant through a better λειτουργία or Liturgy. Once again, this λειτουργία is something Christ is administering on our behalf for our salvation. Notably it is His presentation of His Body and Blood to the Father for our redemption – something that is presented in every Liturgy of the Mass.

Roman Emperor as Liturgizer:

And let’s not forget that Saint Paul calls the evil Emperor Nero a “liturgizer.” In Romans 13, Saint Paul explains how the Roman Emperor (at that time Nero) and all political rulers are “liturgizers””

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant (διάκονός or diakonos) of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers (λειτουργοὶ or leitourgoi) of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Saint Paul identifies the Emperor as διάκονός or deacon and as all rulers as λειτουργοὶ or liturgizers. Be mindful that this Emperor was Nero, and yet he receives sacerdotal titles from Paul.

In fact, the dalmatic (which is worn by deacons) is an imperial garment traditionally reserved for the Byzantine court. I cannot find the source at the moment, but I recall reading once that Constantine was allowed to read Scripture in liturgy while still unbaptized because he was considered to be a quasi-deacon by virtue of his status as Emperor. And the Emperor in Constantinople processed with the Patriarch and the clergy, often in a dalmatic.

Back to “liturgy” in Romans 13. It’s manifest that the Roman Emperor and other Roman rulers are accorded the title of λειτουργοὶ. They are not liturgists designing services. Nero isn’t leading the people in “Gather us in, the rich and the haughty.” Rather these Roman rulers are, according to Paul, appointed by God to administer justice for the people. 

Liturgy as Something Done for People

Liturgy, at least in the Old and New Testament is something priestly or political that is done for the sake of the people. It is communal only in that it is done for others.

A priest saying the Mass alone in a Russian hotel room is doing “work for the people” without anyone else gathered together with him.

Likewise, the Pope gathered at a Mass of 10,000 people is doing “work for the people,” but the people being present doesn’t make it “liturgy.” The liturgy is accomplished in persona Christi for the people. Just as Zacharias was able to do “liturgy” all alone with his thurible in the Temple.

When Christ died on the cross, He administered a new λειτουργία for the people of the world. It was a liturgical act in which nobody participated by dancing, performing, reading from a book, or carrying a vessel. The truly “active participation” was accomplished by the Mother of God, Saint Mary Magdalene, the other women, and by the Apostle John when they lifted up their hearts to the divine Crucified Rabbi on the cross. They painfully and silently received the bloody λειτουργία of Christ on their behalf.

The time has come for us to understand liturgy as sacerdotal and as something done by Christ for His people. Cardinal Sarah summed this up recently with these words:

Liturgy is about God and His work for His people. Whoever tells us that we must celebrate ourselves in the liturgy is undermining biblical liturgy. Liturgy as “work of the people” is liturgical Pelagianism – the heresy that says that man can naturally work for his salvation.

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Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall