The Birth of God in Historical Context

Dear Readers,

I mentioned earlier this year that I hoped to publish this book by year’s end. The book is a compilation of my earlier work in history as an undergraduate student, posts and debates that had been published on this blog and material written from my most recent Master’s class in theology on the Synoptic Gospels.

The book looks for a historical foundation within the gospel texts under a proper understanding of historicism. An understanding of the influence of both era and culture of the authors in their proper contexts. It expresses agreement with Pope Benedict XVI that the writers do not give a video camera recording of the Gospels, but rather gives a substance of the historical truth–no different from modern testimony. The book sets out to explain why there is good evidence to believe that the Christmas date is of Christian origin and not of pagan origin. It explains via Thomas Aquinas why Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem and what Bethlehem was like when Jesus was born. In the book, I examine the veracity of the census found in Luke’s gospel account. The book also examines the traditions of Mary–the Mother of God, Old Testament typology and prophecy, different historical figures found in the infancy narratives. Finally, the book concludes with a chapter on what is the importance of the genealogies found in the texts of the gospels and the Incarnation of Christ.

Excerpt:

The conception of this book began a few years back, originating from a course I took in college called “The History of Christmas”. The course introduced me to many of the written sources presented in this book as well as fostering a great interest in the infancy narratives of Jesus Christ. After some years, I decided to present some of the material in a discussion group at my local parish to discuss some of the historic legitimacy of infancy narratives found in the Gospels. The book’s text expands on my notes and outlines from this discussion group.

My goal for this book is to distill the many arguments about and ideas on the infancy narratives into one, easily accessible analysis, as well as to shape the dense academic historiography and theological typology into something more palatable for lay readers. Naturally, in this project, some generalizations are needed to summarize the extensive academic scholarship on the subject, so I fully encourage readers to look beyond this book and to explore all sources that I’ve presented here.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-birth-of-god-in-history-phillip-hadden/1134980944;jsessionid=93B1BDFE33FD0730049AD04C9BE50EB0.prodny_store02-atgap10?ean=9781078744492

 

Farewell to the Devil?

In his essay “Farewell to the Devil?”, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) examines and rebuts the argument presented by Swiss Catholic Theologian Herbert Haag, who asserts that Satan does not exist and that Satan was an idea that manifested ancient Jewish culture’s understanding of evil and sin. (Ratzinger, Farewell to the Devil? 197.) Haag’s thesis was written during the time of great cultural upheaval both in secular culture and in Catholic Culture as his book “Farewell to the Devil” would be printed after the Vatican II council. It should be no surprise that Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Sosa, has recently made comments that Satan is an analogy making very similar points as presented in Haag’s argument ( A comment that Fr. Sosa has since walked back a bit).

Ratzinger explains that this position is one that uses a methodology that is devoid of literary analysis of scripture but rather is a methodology that focuses on a false historicism (emphasis mine) that those of a different era are either stupid, naive, or both, so in effect, Haag’s position is based on the rhetoric fallacy of “poisoning the well” of the witness testimony of Jesus and the Apostles as it is presented in the New Testament. Haag’s thesis is refuted by Ratzinger by examining the New Testament in which Satan and Demons exist, and the Devil is not a synonym for sin which is claimed by Haag (Ratzinger, Ibid.).

It’s so glaringly obvious in the belief of those in scripture that both Satan and Demons exist that Haag had to admit this is a commonly held belief of those in 1st century Palestine. However, Haag argues that these people were victims of their understanding and culture during this period of time. Again, it’s important to reiterate that Haag’s position is based on his own cultural bias in which he has already assumed those in Jesus’ time are inferior to his own understanding. Naturally, this type of assertion is one of the most dangerous facets of a strict historical-critic exegesis and the use of historicism by modern scholars. Ratzinger does a good job acknowledging that it’s Haag’s bias that has predetermined his conclusion on this matter, Ratzinger writes, “Haag bids the devil farewell, not in his capacity as exegete or interpreter of Scripture, but rather as a contemporary, who considered the existence of a devil untenable (Ratzinger, 198).”

One of the key aspects in understanding Satan and Demons, after examining the role of the Old Testament as being dependent on the New Testament, is understood when Ratzinger writes, “The spiritual battle against the enslaving powers, the exorcism pronounced over a world blinded by demons, is an inseparable part of Jesus’ spiritual way that belongs to the heart of his own mission and of the mission of his disciples.” (Ratzinger, 202). Furthermore, Ratzinger indicates that our understanding of the faith must be rendered within the faith community. If it is to be determined that Satan is merely an analogy to sin or a sort of moral taboo then the Church’s sacramental life with the foundation of baptism would be moot. Ratzinger writes, “One must be able to take baptism at its word, especially in its central action. It indicates what takes place in becoming a Christian and what does not…exorcism and the renunciation of Satan are part of the central action of baptism.” (Ratzinger, 203.)

At the end of the essay, Ratzinger questions what Haag means that the Devil cannot be understood to exist by what we know in our modern age. In many respects, I believe the question of “Farewell to the Devil?” is one that originates in the metaphysical and spiritual and moves into the material, perhaps, there is to be understood better the sacred and the profane. A good measurement of whether something is contingent on faith testimony which is the essence of the faith is its relation to the Incarnation itself.

How does Satan, the demonic, and hell relate to the Incarnation? In the course of the history of the Church, the great heresies have always been misguided teachings on who is Jesus Christ. Satan and hell must be articles of faith as without those parts of revelation, it would render the Incarnation useless. If theologians eliminate Adam and Eve, the fall, hell, and then the slope—as we see today—leads to there being no such thing as sin, then those theologians have rendered Jesus Christ merely an ancient understanding of the world.

Moonlight’s Grace

A  series of Haiku inspired by Chopin’s Nocturne No. 19

Soft clouds in moonlight

Precision grace strikes my heart

A twill spins twilight

Iv’ry sounds belt sky

A soul lifted up Divine

clouds cover moonlight

Truth known by beauty

Expressed; heard; attained—now gone.

Drowned by modern noise

Biblical Exegesis: Primarily a philosophical discussion or historical?

Bourdon_Sebastien-Moses_and_the_Burning_Bush

Pope Benedict XVI explained in his 1988 Erasmus lectures, “The debate about modern exegesis is not at its core a debate among historians, but among philosophers”. (Matthew J. Ramage, Jesus Interpreted, 9).

Is the discussion of the Holy Scriptures primarily a philosophical debate of those who claim there is a God and those who do not?

The statement appears to be correct on the surface; however, the difficulty with this particular assertion is that it is a false dichotomy when it comes to the interpretation of what is true and what actually happened as it is described in the written word. In attempting to determine what is true, the historian–both secular and religious–deals with the axiological value judgment of the truth just as much as any philosopher would when it comes to scriptural exegesis and the matter of what is the truth.

Make sure to pre-order my new book: The Birth of God in Historical Context: An Examination of the Infancy Narrative of Jesus Christ: 

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-birth-of-god-in-history-phillip-hadden/1134980944?ean=9781078744492

A Seed Must Fall

O’ Ancient Beauty
Thy torrents call deep to deep
Thy Word makes it be

Darkness; frost and chill
The Sun rises into vale
Thy word; speak and melt

O’ Morning Sun, shine forth
Thy rays of promise to renew
A Handmaid says, “yes.”

Water drops renew
For those who repent unto law
Now Binds all to He

Hand to Hand—Matters
a seed that died now revived
Single touch from He

Do Miracles need a priori knowledge?

Bril_Jesus_walking_on_the_Sea_of_Galilee

Objection: The affirmation of the Resurrection as a miracle is connected to the event itself, a position that rejects, a priori of the miraculous would leave no room for the Resurrection as the Gospels teach it.”

First off, I’d simply point to the picture and ask, “If you had no idea of the miraculous, wouldn’t you have some understanding seeing this event transpire?”

Therefore, No affirmation of the existence of miracles is necessarily needed to witness an event that would be described by one with priori knowledge of miracles as miraculous.

If one did not have the concept of a miracle– or apathetic to the idea–prior to or have a knowledge of miracles before the Resurrection, but had the basic knowledge that dead people do not come back to life; then one would simply have to conclude the very nature of the event is outside of the realms of natural occurrences. If someone knows that people who are dead, by rule, do not come back to life then they would have to formulate a concept for the supernatural as a response to a new discover, thus they would now attain the concept of the miraculous.

The attainment of knowledge of the miraculous (the first reception) from a miraculous event would need to precede any sort of priori concept of the miraculous because if it were required that one needed such knowledge there could never be any miracles that could be recognized to be such as Aristotle, and Aquinas agrees, that all knowledge comes from the senses.

Although, I’d be willing to be more persuaded if one argues from Augustine’s Divine Illumination theory.

Make sure to pre-order my new book: The Birth of God in Historical Context: An Examination of the Infancy Narrative of Jesus Christ:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-birth-of-god-in-history-phillip-hadden/1134980944?ean=9781078744492