Thursday, 10 September 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 59.

Appendix Part 3.

For this object it is enough that Alexander before his death may have given to his favourite captain, Perdiccas—to whom when dying he left his ring as a symbol of supreme authority— the power to make a partition of his kingdom. What Perdiccas did after his death by his authority may be said, with due regard to truth, to have been done by himself, since it was done in virtue of the authority which he bequeathed. Or there is another way of reconciling the two statements. It is this, to say that Alexander when near death made a testament, in which he divided his kingdom, leaving certain provinces to each of his nobles. Though this testament was only opened after his death, still because the division of the provinces was made by his supreme will, this may be said to have been done while he was alive. Q. Curtius, who flourished under the Emperor Vespasian, and wrote by far the best history of Alexander, to be sure says that "the report" of such a " testament was false." But on the other hand Diodorus Siculus, (Lib. xx. Bibliothecæ.) a Sicilian and historian in the time of Julius Cæsar, writes that Alexander had left at Rhodes, which "city he esteemed beyond others, the testament of all his kingdom." Josephus Gorionides also tells us that he made a testament, in which he disposed of his kingdom. In either of these two ways we can reconcile Holy Writ with the statement that the partition of Alexander's kingdom was made after his death. But if this mode of reconciling them does not please some one, and if the question lies between the veracity of sacred or profane history, we must follow the sacred historian, and cast overboard the profane ones. The historian in spired by God is, beyond comparison, a greater authority than historians who were left to merely human aids. Apart from this, which outweighs every other argument, we have to observe that the writer of Machabees was nearer in time and locality to the death of Alexander and the partition of his empire than a Gorionides, a Diodorus, or a Curtius. His time was a couple of centuries, or near it, before theirs. He lived in Judea, near the scene of the event which he relates, whilst they lived in the west, at a great distance from it.

They pursue their attack on the sacred books. They say that in the same First Book, first chapter and eleventh verse, it is stated that Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, or the illustrious, who was son of Antiochus the Great, reigned "in the year 137 of the reign of the Greeks." Yet Eusebius, the celebrated historian, relates that he reigned in the year 153. And in reality there were 153 years from the foundation of the empire of the Greeks to the commence ment of the reign of Antiochus.

Bellarmine and others answer this by observing that the sacred writ in the objected text computes the reign of the Greeks from Seleucus Nicanor, who did not commence to reign in Syria till eleven years after the death of Alexander. Thus, from Seleucus Nicanor to Antiochus Epiphanes we have exactly 137 years. If we add to this computation the five years during which Alexander, having overthrown the Persian monarchy reigned over all Greece, and the eleven years from the death of Alexander to the reign of Seleucus Nicanor—that is, sixteen years in all— we will have 153, the number of years named by Eusebius, who computed them from the time that Alexander commenced to reign over all Greece; whereas the sacred historian computed them from the reign of Seleucus Nicanor.

They insist on another difficulty, which they consider of great moment, and which they think they detect in the same first chapter (from which they are so fond of raising arguments that may favour their view), as well as in the sixth. It is this, that Alexander is said to have reigned first in Greece, not withstanding that, as we read in Grecian history, many kings reigned before him in that country.

The answer given to this objection is that Alexander the Great, though not the first king who ruled in Greece, was the first king, or monarch, who ruled in all, or almost all, Greece. He conquered many of the Greeks, and became the founder of the Grecian monarchy. Thus he was the first who ruled in Greece, not because there were no kings in that country before him, but because he was the first who ruled in all, or nearly all Greece. Or, we can say, with Grotius, that he was the first who ruled in Syria and Egypt, which, united, were called the kingdom of the Greeks, at the time the first book of Machabees was written. There is another answer, which is suggested by the clause in the text, " coming out of the land of Cethim." He was the first monarch who, coming out of the land of Cethim, ruled in Greece. In different words, he was the first king who came out of the land of Cethim, and ruled in Greece. When he is said to be the first to come out of the land of Cethim, it does not follow, nor is it necessary in regard to truth, that other rulers should come out of that country after him. According to the style of the Scripture, first refers to ancestors and not to successors ; that is, a person is said to be first who has no ancestors—no persons that went before him, although he may not have any successors, any persons to follow him, either. We have many instances of this. Thus in St. Matthew (Ch.i. v. 25.) it is said of the ever Blessed Virgin Mary, that "she brought forth her first born son." St. Jerome proves by numerous examples that this expression of the Evangelist was a mode of speaking usual with the Hebrews, denoting only what is done, or takes place, and having no reference to the future, or what may come after. This saint, renowned in all time for his biblical knowledge, shows by examples taken from Scripture, that even an only son, or only begotten one, was called first begotten, or first born.

According to the Mosaic law the first-born males were to be consecrated to God, or deputed to act the part of minister in Divine worship : " Sanctify unto me every first born that openeth the womb among the children of Israel." (Exod. xiii. 2.) But in the law an only son would be a. first born, and as such should be consecrated to God. The Scripture then, as we see in this instance, means by a first born, one who is an only son, as well as the senior of two or more brothers. Again, it is said (Exod. xii. 29.) that " the Lord slew every first born in the land of Egypt." In this passage by first born we are to under stand also only born sons. There is no doubt that there were many families in all Egypt in which there were only sons ; and these were slain, and, consequently, included in the term first born. That only sons fell by the hand of the destroying angel is apparent from the verse which immediately follows that just quoted, where it is said that every house had one dead. From these passages, in which we have a similar word, it is evident that if we take first in connection with the coming of Alexander out of the land of Cethim, we should not infer that, according to Scriptural usage, others should follow him out of that place. Finally, there is another observation to be made in regard to the word first in the text to which exception is taken. It is this, that in the Greek text the word used for first is not an adjective, but an adverb. If we adopt the Greek construction, the sense would be that Alexander reigned in Greece first, that is, before he overthrew Darius and his Persians. In this sense the verse presents no difficulty at all, as there is no question of other kings reigning before or after Alexander in Greece or anywhere else, and no question of other rulers coming out of Cethim or any other land.

They raise another objection against the authority of the Machabees, from the eighth chapter and sixteenth verse of the First Book, where it is said that the Romans " committed their government to one ' man every year to rule over all their country, and they all obey one, and there is no envy or jealousy amongst them." They object to this text for two reasons;

1. Because, as is known to all the world, the Romans elected two consuls every year, in whose hands was placed supreme power in the republic; and yet it is expressly stated in this verse that they committed their government to one man.

2. Because it is stated that there was no envy nor jealousy amongst them, which seems incredible.

This objection, when viewed in a proper light, is found to offer no difficulty. The verse is easy of interpretation. The first reason that has been adduced in support of the objection, is explained away when it is observed that although there were two consuls chosen every year at Rome, only one of them, at the time, exercised supreme power. They ruled alternately. This is the explanation that is given by Bellarmine, Natalis Alexander, and others. In this sense the text offers no difficulty. Each of the consuls held the government of the republic in his hands, in his day, or in his turn. We have a verification of this in the record of the bloody field of Cannae, whereon Hannibal slew forty thousand of the Romans-This disaster to the Roman arms was attributed to the temerity of the consul, Terentius Varro, whose turn or lot it was to command on that day —" to whom the lot of empire fell on that day" ("Cui sors ejus diei imperii erat.") Thus the consular power was exercised alternately by those who were raised to the office of consul. Livy tells us that the motive of the alternate exercise of the duties of consul was, that the people may not be too much terrified at seeing two men bearing the symbol of consular authority at the same time; " lest if both consuls should have the fasces, terror would seem to be doubled." (Lib. 2. Ne si ambo consules fasces haberent, duplicatus terror videretur.) These fasces were a bundle of rods, which were tied round the helve of an axe, and borne before the Roman magistrates as a badge of their authority.

The second reason by which they try to prop the objection is, that it is incredible there was no envy nor jealousy among the Romans. The answer to this is supplied in the following remarks. It is simply true that the ancient Romans, those who lived in the time of Judas Machabeus, and before it, were not yet split up into open factions, and did not wage fratricidal war between themselves, as they afterwards did in the days of Marius and Sylla and others. In this sense they were not actuated by mistrust, and there was neither envy nor jealousy among them. It may be observed, moreover—and this is another and satisfactory way of solving the difficulty—that the sacred text does not say absolutely that the Romans committed supreme power to one man, but only that Judas heard this: "Now Judas heard of the fame of the Romans," &c. This solution of the difficulty recommends itself to Estius, Menochius, and others. Thus, although it may not happen to be true that there was no envy nor jealousy among the Romans, it was true that Judas heard so, and this alone does the Scripture represent him as stating. On account of this there can be no more objection raised against the inspiration of the Machabees, than against that of the Gospels, when they relate that the Jews, with blasphemy on their lips, called the incarnate Word of God a seducer of the people, a drinker of wine, and full of the devil. These reproaches were not true of Him. They were egregiously and notoriously untrue. Still these reproaches were uttered against Him. A similar thing occurs in the case we are considering. Judas heard, in fact, that envy and jealousy found no place among the Romans, and the sacred Writ merely relates that he had heard so; but, what is a very different thing, it does not state whether or not the Romans were in reality envious or jealous toward each other. It merely relates what was heard, but it does not affirm that what was heard was true.

They draw another objection from the Second Book, the second chapter, and fifth verse, where the prophet Jeremias is said to have hidden the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, in a cave in Mount Nebo. Our adversaries look upon this as a fable ;

1. Because in the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth chapters of Jeremias, the prophet himself describes how he was cast into prison before the Chaldeans laid siege to Jerusalem, or destroyed that city.

2. Because we find in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Kings, that Nabuzardan, the commander of the Babylonian army, " burnt the house of the Lord," and carried off to Babylon its pillars of brass, bases, sea of brass, and vessels of gold, and silver, and brass. In the midst of such plunder and conflagration, they cannot conceive how Jeremias could, unobserved, carry off the tabernacle and ark through the Chaldean lines.

3. Because after the return of the Jews from Babylon, where they had been detained in captivity, we no longer find in Scripture any mention of the tabernacle and ark. Neither Esdras, nor the prophets who lived after the captivity any longer speak of, or allude to, them, nor does any Jewish history refer to them. Even Josephus is silent as to them, although he describes (Lib. 14, Antiquit. ch. 8.) accurately what were in the temple when Pompey visited it. He does not say a word about the tabernacle and ark, even when he is relating at great length (De Bello Judaico, lib. 7, ch. 17 and 19.) what Titus carried off out of the temple, on the destruction of Jerusalem. More than this, he even positively states (Lib. 6.) that there was nothing in the Holy of Holies at the time of the fearful visitation of Titus.

This objection is met by maintaining that the text of Machabees is quite correct, and by denying that it contains anything that may savour of the fabulous. We must recall to memory that there were three invasions of Judea by Nabuchodonosor, who, as Scripture attests, with fury, threw himself each time upon the devoted Jews with a numerous army. The first invasion was in the reign of King Joachaz. Of this there is mention in the Second Book of Paralipomenon, the thirty-sixth chapter and sixth verse, The second was in the reign of King Joachim, On this occasion the king and all Jerusalem were carried away to Babylon by Nabuchodonosor. This is described in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Fourth Book of Kings. The third invasion of Judea, and the third time that Nabuchodonosor besieged Jerusalem, was when Sedecias was king. This is described, with great precision, in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Fourth Book of Kings. This last time, which was about 590 years before the Christian era, the temple and city were destroyed, and all Judea was laid waste. Before proceeding to answer each of the reasons put forth in proof of their objection by those who are adverse to us, it may be observed that it is certain the tabernacle and ark were not borne off to Babylon. All the objects—all the precious ornaments and furniture of the temple —which the Chaldeans removed to Babylon, are very minutely and circumstantially detailed in the fifty-second chapter of the Prophecy of Jeremias, who, however, does not say one word about the tabernacle and ark, which were the most precious and esteemed monuments of religion, bequeathed to the Jews by their great deliverer and law-giver. The prophet gives a detailed and exact account of all the things, even to the fleshhooks, little mortars, and cups, which the Chaldeans plundered from the temple and conveyed to Babylon, whilst he makes no mention of the most precious treasures which the temple contained, the tabernacle and the ark. There is no doubt he would have mentioned them had they been among the spoils of the victorious Chaldeans. We shall now examine the force of the reasons by which the objection is sustained :—

I. The first reason why Jeremias could not have taken away the tabernacle and ark, as alleged by our adversaries, is that he was in prison, and consequently could not touch them. To this it may be answered that Jeremias could have taken them away and concealed them. Although he was detained in prison during the reign of the impious Sedecias, he enjoyed ample liberty before that time, under King Joachim, with whom, as well as with the people, he obtained such influence and authority, that it is more than likely that it was by his advice Joachim delivered himself into the hands of the king of Babylon. This is a very reasonable inference to draw from the twenty-seventh chapter of Jeremias, where, at the inspiration of God, and as His mouth-piece, the prophet exhorts all nations to serve Nabuchodonosor, king of Babylon, and to bend their neck under his yoke, and, in case of a refusal, threatens them with pestilence, famine, and the sword. Now, Jeremias was a man favoured of heaven, deeply versed in the knowledge of God—a man who saw into the future, who beheld with the eye of the prophet the impending ruin of the city and temple of Jerusalem. What was there to prevent him to take, with the consent of Joachim, the tabernacle and ark out of the temple, to transfer them to Mount Nebo, and hide them there ? There was nothing. And hence some think that the prophet, having taken only a few of the priests into his confidence, removed these objects of veneration under Joachim. It is in favour of this opinion that God, as we read in the Second Book of Machabees, (xi. 4.) commanded Jeremias to take away the tabernacle and ark: " The prophet being warned by God, commanded that the tabernacle and the ark should accompany him, till he came forth to the mountain where Moses went up, and saw the inheritance of God."