Friday, June 24, 2011

RKIA's Guide to Reading the Bible... part 5



So now I come to the moment, dear Eve, of actually answering your question. Whom did the children of Adam and Eve marry? There are a number of theories.

(Genesis 5:4) “The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.” Adam and Eve had bunches of kids, of both genders, so we are presented with the most obvious answer, to which I can hear you responding “Yuuuuuck......”

The Jewish Sages are very creative about the whole thing. According to the always useful “32 rules of Rabbi Eliezer”: The particles "et"(direct object marker that has absolutely no translatable meaning”), "gam"(literally “also”), and "af" (“even” and a hundred other possible things), indicate that something not mentioned is included in a given text. The great commentator Rashi looks at the “gam”s, “et”s and “af”s in the story“ of Genesis to mean that Cain had a twin sister and Abel had two twin sisters. If that doesn’t confuse you nothing will (Merci bien, mon ami Pierre!) Isn’t this wonderfully obscure?

Let us look at other possible answers. Perhaps God created spouses for the children of Adam and Eve, but no one I know who espouses this theory because Genesis says that Eve was the mother of all the living. There are some commentators who claim that the children of Adam and Eve married other kinds of beings, but again that would be problematic since Eve is the mother of all the living and what kinds of creatures could they have married? That could really increase the yuck factor.

The other and most usual answer is that they married, you guessed it, their siblings!!! But I thought that wasn’t allowed. It is forbidden in the book of Leviticus, but it is clear that before the Exodus and the law of Moses there were some interesting incidents of sibling marriages, such as Abraham and Sarah, who were half siblings! In Genesis 20:12 we read that Abraham’s wife Sarah is also his half-sister, on his father's side. In the rabbinic literature, Sarah is only considered his niece. (Once again, yuuuuck!)

The whole topic is very disturbing. I will never forget once, when my mother was reading the Bible, and found the story of Lot and his daughters. She called me to ask if I was aware of what was in this book!!! This is my point! The Bible is the great narrative of real people whom God loves. I personally don’t find many of them that appealing. They do some really outrageous things. I can hear you say , “If it was alright for Abraham or Lot, it must be alright for me.” Not so fast. God is always smiting people in the Bible, and if you read the fine print you realize that they deserved a good smiting now and then. The Bible relates stories of dishonesty and violence and other goings on that we won’t mention in a family column. That’s because the Bible really is history about real people. And those real people are sometimes their own worst enemies. The bible points out their foibles, not for our imitation, but for our instruction.

It is interesting to look at modern genetic studies of the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa. They seem to indicate that between all humans now living had common ancestors between 100,00 and 45,000 years ago. This in no way corroborates the story as told in Genesis, but it does agree with some of the important points of Genesis. We are all descended from one man and one woman. Geneticists don’t say this man and this woman necessarily lived at the same time, though the Bible and the Church say they did. Still, this refutes the pseudo science of the racists of the nineteenth century who claimed that there were inferior races of human beings. We are all one race; the human race. I may look pretty odd to you, but I am still your cousin. The Bible taught this long before scientists caught up with the Church.

Another point on which geneticist and the Bible agree, is that we are descended from a remarkably small group of people who live not so very long ago, perhaps as recently as 5000 years ago. “All humans alive today share a surprisingly recent common ancestor, perhaps even within the last 5,000 years, even for people born on different continents.” (Rohde, DL; Olson, S; Chang, JT, Nature, September 2004, "Modeling the recent common ancestry of all living humans") I figure I had better footnote that point.

Do not think for a minute that genetic science is corroborating Bishop Ussher, but my point in referring to genetic research is that Genesis and genetics agree that there must have been some really close family ties, if you catch my drift. Abel and Cain and Seth couldn’t marry the girl next door, because there was no next door. Which theory is right? Scientists are absolutely sure of something until they change their mind upon receiving new information. And then they are absolutely convinced until a new theory comes along. University comes from a very ancient Latin word meaning “Fog bound scholars arguing with each other.” It’s true. I know because I actually taught in a university for a very long time. The Bible is interested in teaching the principles of the Kingdom of God. Science is mostly interested in getting grant money. (I’m only kidding. Scientists are interested in truth. In order to argue with each other, which is their means for arriving at truth, they need buckets of grant money.)


Jesus once said to the disciples, “No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” (Matthew 24:36) Jesus, the Son of God, was content to remain ignorant about certain things because His perfection as the Son of god consisted in trusting and loving His Fatter completely. I however have to know everything right know.

He also said, “I have much to tell you that you cannot bear now.” (John 16:12) Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) was a Dutch woman who helped Jews escape the Nazis during World War II and was eventually imprisoned herself. In 1970, she wrote her autobiography, The Hiding Place, a book that believe is a “must read” for every serious Christian. She tells a story from her childhood that relates to our present problem. When she was a little girl, she would accompany her father, Kaspar, on his trips to the big city when he went to buy supplies for his watch repair business. On one of these train rides, she asked her father what “sex” was. She had heard some older girls discussing it on the playground at school. Her father looked at her and then looked out the window and said nothing. When the train stopped, he asked the little girl to pick up his tool bag. Corrie tried and couldn’t. She said, “Papa it’s too heavy.” Then Kaspar said, “There are some things that are too heavy for you to carry right now. When you are older I will tell you what sex is. Until then you are going to have to trust me.” So it is with our heavenly Father. He wants us to trust Him.

The Holy Spirit also tells us that, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) In other words the Bible doesn’t exist to tell us everything we want to know.

So here is Biblical principle #6:


Whoever Cain and Abel and Seth and the rest of them married, I am sure that they were lovely brides, though they probably came from a disreputable family: the human family.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

RKIA's Guide to Reading the Bible -- part 4

First a note to my dear friends in cyberspace. Until very recently, I was working with goose quill pens and carrier pigeons. Until recently, I didn’t even know how to turn on a computer. I write these fulminations for the parish bulletin. I really have nothing to do with my blog spot and not a lot to do with my website. Some very unbalanced people, who actually read what I write, have taken it on themselves to create these spaces, and, though I suspect that their doctors should increase their medications, I am very grateful to them.

Some people have asked why I don’t respond to bloggers. I have tried but I can’t seem to figure out how to do it. I read the comments and am very grateful for them, most of them. I try to answer all the E-mails I get from the column and the radio show, but sometimes I just get a sinking feeling and start humming “Nearer My God to Thee.” By the way, if you are really a glutton for punishment, you can hear my sermons at the St. Lambert’s Parish, (Skokie) web site and one can hear any “Go Ask Your Father” show at the archives of Relevant Radio. Just google in Relevant Radio, click on the archives at the home page, then click on Go Ask Your Father. A calendar will pop up. Then you click on the show you want to hear. You can also hear Fr. Rocky and Monsignor Swetland who are both truly smart people and who, unlike your friend, the Rev. Know it all, don’t have to make things up. While you’re at the Relevant Radio Web site, you might as well listen to the whole bunch like Sean and Drew and Sheila and Wendy. They are an amazing bunch.

Humor aside, I cannot tell you how grateful I am to those who make these columns so widely available, especially the webmaster, Jim Frommeyer. He’s the only one whose name I actually know. May it be for the glory of God, the salvation of souls and the up building of the Church.

You are in my prayers,
Fr. S

Part 4


There are some very troubling numbers in the Bible. First of all we have the ages of the patriarchs: Adam 930; Seth 912; Enosh 905; Kenan 910; Mahalalel 895; Jared 962; Enoch did not even die, but, like our Blessed Mother and the Prophet Elijah was assumed into Heaven) Methuselah 969; Lamech 777; Noah 950; Abraham 175; Isaac 180; Jacob 147 ;Moses 120.

James Ussher , the Protestant Archbishop of Ireland in 1625, published a chronology that established the date of the creation as the night preceding Sunday, 23 October 4004 BC, by making creative use of the ages of the patriarchs and the Julian calendar. I suppose October 22nd/23rd is as good a date as any to have a happy birthday party for the planet.

Another problem is that 6,000,000 Jews left Egypt in the Exodus, according to some estimates 2,000,000.) The estimated population of Egypt at the time was between 2 and 5 million. Certainly 6,000,000 people, even 2,000,000 people would not have had to worry about Pharaoh and his chariots. They would have simply walked over them. So what’s with all the numbers? Are you expecting me to believe that at a certain point in history, numbers just settled down and behaved? Or before that, did people just do things in a bigger way?

Calm down. Have you ever heard of gematria? Of course not. (Unless you are the pop singer Madonna or are a Jewish Kabballist.) Gematria is the Hebrew system of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase. This comes from the fact that words can have numerical value in certain languages such as Greek and Hebrew. Those languages didn’t have numerals. They used letters instead of numbers, a =1, b=2 c=3, d=4 and so on.

Were we to do this in English, the word “dad” would add up to 9 (4+1+4). So, if I wrote my mother that I had 9 worries, it might be a poetic way to say that I was worried about my father. Or it might just mean I was worried about nine things. A common Jewish example of gematria is the Hebrew word “Khai” (life), which is composed of two letters which add up to 18. This has made 18 a special number among Jews, and gifts in multiples of 18 are very common among Jews.

The Greek Language can do the same thing, though I don’t know that the Greeks themselves did this sort of thing. We get our tedious scientific attitude from them and I suspect that for them a number was just a number. Greek speaking Jews, of whom the early Church was in large part composed, would have been aware of gematria meanings.

The most famous New Testament gematria comes from the book of Revelation, 13:18 “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” The Hebrew letters that spell out the Greek name Nero Caesar add up to 666!!! Hollywood has made a fortune with 666 and no one wants that number as part of their address or telephone number or anything else for that matter. It was probably just a coded reference to the emperor Nero. Big deal. So, from all of this we can gather that Bible numbers can have literal or symbolic meanings.

So what do all the old geezers in the beginning of the Bible mean? It would seem that longevity declined the farther away we get from humanity’s original state of perfection in the Eden. Things just got worse and worse until God finally smacked us with a flood “ Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." (Genesis 6:3) Moses, Abraham, Sarah and a few others got a longevity pass, because they were good enough to be numbered among the patriarchs, but that was it. My point here is that the ages of the patriarchs may be symbols of their virtue and/or importance in the divine plan. I remember a modern day example of a symbolic number value.

When I was a boy, we did not eat yogurt, unless we came from Greenwich Village in New York and were communists. Mother would have said “Throw that milk out it’s spoiled. Just smell it!” There was no market for yogurt in the United States. So some clever entrepreneurs decided to create a market for the stuff and make a fortune.

They aired these wonderful commercials about old people from some place in the Caucasus mountains called Reelibadistan or something like that. These were people claiming to be older than dirt, and they looked the part. They were 150 years old and still climbing trees. And they gave all the credit to the fact they ate yogurt about 12 times a day. Americans who think of themselves as hard bitten realists all ran out and bought yogurt. A much appreciated Christmas gift during those heady times was a home yogurt making kit. I am amazed more people did not poison themselves. Frozen yogurt, low fat yogurt, fruit flavored yogurt, yogurt coated peanuts, yogurt granola bars, yogurt and wood chips. We are still eating yogurt and pretending to like it. Why? Because all those folks in Reelibadistan could climb tree at the age of 150. America -- a nation of clear and objective thinkers.

Where was I? Oh yes. A few years back, some researchers made the trek back to Reelibadistan to see what had become of those 150 year-old tree climbers. They were all as dead as stones by that time and the locals had no idea what the researchers were talking about. The researchers researched and found that the original yogurt eaters had never been older than a hundred. In fact they most of them were 60 or 70. They looked as old as rocks, because life in Reelibadistan is, in fact, really bad. No one there, back in the late sixties, knew how old anybody was. They didn’t bother to keep records.

So why had they claimed to be ancient? Because old age was considered honorable. To say that someone was 150 years old was, in effect, to say that they were old enough to have gained that much wisdom and virtue. This is nonsense to people like us who treasure immaturity and where 50 year old men sometimes wear baseball caps backwards. The Reelibadistanians had no idea what was going on. They just knew that these weirdos from America were taking their picture and paying them to eat yogurt. What’s not to like?

So here is Biblical principal #5:


Maybe Methuselah was just very, very holy or maybe he actually lived to be 969 years old. It doesn’t matter to the story. That’s one of those questions that I am going to ask when I get to heaven. I am planning to go visit Methuselah a few days after the resurrection. First I am planning to visit the Blessed Mother and ask about the brothers and sisters of Jesus. I am sure she is a really good cook. You are welcome to join me.

In the Bible you are reading history from the perspective of 4000 years ago, and they told stories differently than we do. The point is to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying by means of the story. Perhaps you have heard me say that some of us have the souls of poets and others have the souls of appliance repairmen. If you are not satisfied with this answer and you want the Biblical historical perspective to be more scientific, more modern, more American, well just go eat some yogurt and climb a tree. (What a shame that Methuselah didn’t make an even thousand. We were all hoping)


Friday, June 10, 2011

RKIA's Guide to Reading the Bible... part 3



In the Gospel of Matthew 1st chapter, 17th verse we read: “Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.”

Wait a minute -- In verse 6, King David is counted twice! That’s cheating, and if you compare the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew to that in Luke, something is screwy . In Luke, Levi is Joseph’s great grandfather, Matthat his grandfather and Heli his father. In the Gospel of Matthew it’s Eleazar, Matthan and Jacob who comprise the generations preceding Joseph. They can’t both be right!

If you are treating the Bible like a high school text book written for 21st century illiterates, well, I guess the bible is wrong. If however you understand that the Bible is a collection of books written in the idiom of a middle eastern people over the course of two thousand years, and removed from us by yet another two thousand years, maybe they can both be right after all. As for the three sets of fourteen generations, there is a symbolic meaning involved. Ancient Israel had no numbers. The used letters, a=1, b=2, g=3 and so on. Numbers had word meanings. 14 is a special number. It is twice 7, which is the number that stands for perfection and for covenant oaths. It is written as “y-d” (14). If you read it as four and ten (d and y) it means fulfillment. Jesus is the fulfillment of the three epochs of the history of Israel, the law, the prophets and the writings. The Gospel of Matthew is constantly talking about thing done to fulfill a prophecy. That’s point of that Gospel. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise. When you see numbers in the Bible, they have a lot more than numerical value.

Scholars have spilled a lot of ink over the problem of the divergent genealogies of Jesus. Some insist that Luke really gives us the blessed Mother’s genealogy. I don’t see how this can be since the genealogies themselves both clearly say that they are Joseph’s lineage. My personal opinion is that Sextus Julius Africanus got it right. He was a Christian historian born around 160 AD, probably in the area of Jerusalem. He asked some of the same questions that we ask and living where Jesus had lived a little more than a century before, Africanus was able to ask the answers from the descendants of Jesus’ relatives. He tells us that Joseph was descended from a number of Levirate marriages, in which a man married the widow of his relative, if the relative died childless. That way, no family line in Israel would be extinguished.

The royal family of David probably intermarried regularly and Eusebius of Caesarea, who quotes Africanus regarding the genealogies of Jesus, goes on to say that Mary was a close relative of Joseph as was the custom, and still is in much of the Middle East, so their genealogies are essentially the same. This may be the answer to that particular question. It may not be.

My point is this: THE BIBLE IS NOT A SELF INTERPRETING BOOK. Remember, it isn’t a book at all, it is a library. One needs a competent authority if one is going to find their way around it. There are other discrepancies in the Bible and rather than detract from the trustworthiness of the Bible, they add to it.

The Church is always accused of trying to cover things up or smooth things over. No one smoothed out the Gospels. They were kept just as they were received because they contain eye witness accounts. The apparent contradictions only make this more clearly true. For instance, Matthew and Mark seem to say there is only one angel at Jesus’ empty tomb. Luke and John seem to mention two. As for where Jesus met the disciples after the resurrection in Matthew, He seems to meet them in Galilee. In Mark, Luke and John, He seems to appear first in Jerusalem. In John, He meets them at different times in both places. I suspect that He met them in both places. The accounts in Matthew and Mark seem to be summaries. I often talk about my grandfather when I really mean great-grandfather, but in telling family stories, the great grandfather-ness would only confuse my hearers and I do that enough already. Unless you are getting a doctorate in history, one may sometimes leave out extraneous detail for the sake of the point, and as for the angels at the tomb, I have never seen an angel, but people who have say the experience is quite overwhelming and you are not counting or taking names and addresses. Again, my point here is not to reconcile the Scriptures but to point out that the Books of the Bible are true to the principle of the Incarnation. They contain historical facts, but are not meant to be histories, their authors used details that they had seen in order to make their point about their faith. The Holy Spirit filled their words with what was necessary for our growth in the knowledge of God’s love for us. Nothing more and nothing less.

Most Christians say they believe in the Incarnation, the idea that Jesus is both fully God and fully man, but most of us really have a hard time with the concept. We find it hard to believe that, if Jesus was really God, eternal and equal to the Father, how could he say something like, “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28), or “the time is known to the Father alone.” (Matt 24:36 and Mark 13:32). Read a little further in St. Paul’s letter to the Phillipians 2:5-7 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave.” It is as if Jesus took off the powers of His divinity and without ceasing to be that perfect love which is God, left the heavenly throne for love of us.

That means that the word of God learned to speak Aramaic and Hebrew and probably some Greek in the carpenter’s shop. The hand that shaped the galaxies learned how to make tables and chairs from Joseph. He was a little boy who ran to his mother when frightened or hurt. Because He had submitted Himself to our human limitations, He knew only what His Heavenly Father was pleased to tell Him by means of their Holy Spirit, and the day and the hour were not among these things. In this sense, the Father was greater than Jesus, but Jesus was no less divine, no less eternal and no less perfect in that reality which constitutes divinity: perfect Love.

We who believe He was truly God, have a hard time believing that God could be humble, He was. It is perhaps the most amazing thing about our faith that we say the All-powerful became powerless for love of sinners like you and me. It is a very hard thing to believe, and there are principally two ways not to believe. One is Arianism, the other is Monophysitism.

An Alexandrian priest named Arius (250–336) denied that Jesus could be fully God. One, after all, is not three. The Arian concept of Christ is that the Son of God did not always exist, but was created by God the Father and though adopted and divinized, by the Father, He was less than the Father. It seems that the Emperor Constantine favored Arainism, (Roman emperors liked things tidy and tended to favor Arian Christianity) but when he convened the Council of Nicea, the bishops told him “Nope. We’ve always believed that God is a trinity Father, Son and Holy spirit. The oneness of God is the unity of Love; solidarity, not solitude.” Constantine, the most powerful man in the world at them time said “Oh well, I guess I’m wrong. I’m just the emperor. You guys are the pope and the bishops.”

Despite what you may have heard, Constantine believed that the state shouldn’t control the Church. Some of his successors thought otherwise and ever since then the Church has struggled to maintain her independence from the state. The Church has struggled with emperors and kings and currently is struggling with the ruler of the United States: King Popular Opinion (as interpreted by the Mediacracy) this is a government of, by and for the people. Shouldn’t the people, whose voice is "Entertainment Tonight" and whose art is "Dancing With the Stars", shouldn’t the sovereign people run the Church in America? I digress. Governments, whether popular or monarchical, are much more comfortable with a Christ who is slightly less than divine, because after all, the state, whether popular or monarchical, really should be god. Those who humanize Jesus excessively have an odd tendency to divinize the power of the world. Arianism has devolved in our times into the belief among many that Jesus was just a really nice guy.

Monophysitism is the reaction to Arianism. Many Christians, especially in Egypt and Syria, two of the three centers of the Christian world, the other being Rome, reacted to Arius by going to the other extreme, denying that Jesus was one person as did Nestorius, the Archbishop of Constantinople (for whom Nestorianism is named) or by saying He had no human nature, or at least humanity being so much less than divinity was "dissolved like a drop of honey in the sea" as Eutyches, an Archimandrate in Constantinople insisted. So, Monophysitism is the belief that either there was no human nature in Jesus or it was so inconsequential as to be unimportant. The Bishop of Rome firmly maintained what today is the position of most Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, the Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine, and as I have said, this a hard thing to get your mind around, but it is the truth. And we call it the Incarnation.

I think the doctrine has further implications. Just as Jesus was God in the flesh, so too we are incarnate spirits, not just spirits trapped in flesh. That is why Jesus promises us resurrection. Going to heaven when we die isn’t enough. God promises to raise us from the dead because our bodies are really us. I would stretch it even farther to say that just as our Lord was truly God and man, so too, I am really spirit and flesh. Similarly, the Bible is fully human and completely inspired.

Orthodox Jews believe the Torah is not simply the inspired word of God. It is God’s verbatim dictation. In the same way Muslims believe that the Qur’an is word for word written by God. We believe that the entire Bible is written by the Holy Spirit of God, using human beings to do it. In other words there’s a lot of human-ness in the Bible. The stories and prophecies and visions and poetry and laws of the Bible are “God-breathed” though written as seen by human eyes, heard by human ears and touched by human hands. It speaks in words that humans can hear. It’s meaning is made clear by those to whom Jesus gave authority, but it is wonderfully human as well as perfectly divine. It is as hard to believe this as it is to believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man. We want the Bible to be only divine, but it tells the amazing story of the meeting of God and humanity. It is full of sin and sainthood, weakness and strength, all sometimes in the same people.



Friday, June 3, 2011

RKIA's Guide to Reading the Bible... part 2


Many years ago my mother, one of the finest, kindest and wisest people I have ever known, decided to read the Bible cover to cover. Somewhere around the story of Lot and his daughters, she called me and asked, “Have you any idea what’s in this book!?!!”

Never try to read the bible cover to cover. If you do, it will make less sense than before you started the project. That’s because the Bible isn’t a book. It’s a library. How often have you heard people say that the Bible isn’t true? To say the Bible isn’t true is like walking into the lobby of a library and shouting, “This library is wrong!” Which section is wrong? The history section? The science section? The poetry section? The Bible is a library of 73 books - only 66 if you’re a Protestant. It contains poetry, ancient history, law, prophecy, and much, much more! If you go into the poetry section of a library and say that this isn’t very good science, you would be right, but by the same token if you go into the science section you wouldn’t expect much poetry. Therein lies the problem with treating the Bible like a book. If you think it is somehow a continuous narrative whose purpose is primarily historical you are going to be very confused.

In the Books of the Bible, the Holy Spirit tells us the truth about God and the way He has related to humanity over a 2000-year period from about 2000 BC to about 65AD. How can you tell what’s poetry and what’s history and what’s prophecy? Simple. Listen to those that God has made authoritative teachers, namely the apostles. But the Apostles are dead, aren’t they? Some are, some aren’t.

First of all what do we mean by “apostle?” If you think apostles are those twelve guys who followed Jesus around you are only partly right. Luke 6:13 “When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles”. The noun apostle” is used just short of a hundred times in the new Testament. It has a verb form also that is used almost 200 times. (PAY ATTENTION! GRAMMAR IS IMPORTANT, YOU MIND-NUMBED COUCH POTATO!)

The noun in Greek is “apostolos,” which means missionary or delegate, someone who is sent out with authority to represent the sender) the verb is “apostello” which means “I delegate,” “I send out.” The phrase “twelve apostles” appears only a few times. More commonly, one sees the phrase “the twelve.” Whenever you see the word “twelve” in the Bible you can bet your lunch money that it refers to government. The Bible has lots of numbers that repeat and have a special meaning, 3 (Divinity or heavenly perfection), 7 (covenant), 12 (government), 40 (testing) and so on.

That Jesus named twelve special disciples (a word which itself means “students”) shows He intended to form a government for His followers. The first Christians insisted that Jesus had commanded His followers to continue the government that He Himself had established. In about 80AD,Clement of Rome who had most probably known Peter and Paul said, “Through countryside and city (the apostles) preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers."

Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier...
Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry. (St. Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians)

A century later, Irenaeus was the bishop of Lyon in France. He was a Greek who had been taught by Polycarp, who himself had been a disciple of John the Evangelist, one of the twelve. He wrote around 180 AD what he had learned from the students of the first apostles themselves.
It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about....Since, however, it would be tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; (we do this, I say,) by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul; as also (by pointing out) the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those (faithful men) who exist everywhere. (Against Heresies )

Okay, this is unpleasant. But it seems that the first Christians believed in what we now call apostolic succession. In other words, when someone comes up and says the end of the world is next Saturday, we have the perfect right, nay, we have the duty, to ask them where they got the authority to say that. They will answer, “From the Bible. I added up all the dates and the genealogies and this is surely the exact day!!!” “Well,” you might counter, “have you read the numbers in the poetic books, or just the historical books or just the prophetic books? Or have you just mixed them up like a stew of leftovers in a cheap restaurant?”

How can one tell what is poetry, or prophesy or history? That is precisely my point! You can’t, unless you have an unbroken connection to the people who first chose those books to be part of the library that we call the Bible. Just because you read it and it seems to mean something perfectly clear to you, doesn’t mean you’ve gotten it right. If you take it on yourself to interpret the books, or worse, leave it to some loon with a Swiss bank account and a mail order doctorate to do the interpreting, you are going to end up selling all your stuff, writing a big check to some weirdo who tells you to climb a hill and wait for the Lord who is surely going to show up next Saturday at 6PM. It’s certainly going to happen because he read it in the Bible.

We’ve been reading the Bible very carefully for two thousand years, guided by the delegates (apostles) who received their delegation from those whom the Lord Himself delegated, not some self appointed loon. It’s a free country. You can say to the Lord that you don’t care if He established legitimate authority in the Church. You’re going to read and interpret the Bible the way you want to. Who cares what that old Bavarian in the Vatican says? The first Christians certainly seemed to. I just hope you get a hill with a nice view, because you’re probably going to be there for a long time.

So here are principles 2 and 3

2) THE BIBLE IS NOT A BOOK. IT’S A LIBRARY.(I stole that idea from Fr. Bob Barron)


Next Week 14+14+14 EQUALS HOW MUCH? (The Bible is not a self interpreting book. It isn’t a book at all! Haven’t you been paying attention?