Friday, 11 September 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 60.

Appendix Part 4.

II. In answer to the second reason by which the objection is sustained, that Jeremias could not have taken them away because the Chaldeans plundered and burnt the temple, we may remark in the first place that, as is evident from what we have just said, we are under no necessity of admitting that the prophet had not taken the precaution of having these invaluable treasures removed before the siege. It is a disputed point whether he had or not. But even though we may grant, for the sake of argument, that he had not removed them in the reign of Joachim, he could still remove them in the reign of Sedecias, after the capture of the city by the Chaldeans, but before the temple was consigned to flames. He stood high in favour with Nabuchodonosor, (Jeremias, xxxix. 11, 12.) and was restored to liberty by Nabuzardan, the com mander of the Babylonian army. If he asked leave of Nabuzardan, or his lord the king of Babylon, to remove them, he would be likely to obtain such a favour. Hence most interpreters think that Nabu-zardan gave him this leave, Eusebius (Præp. ix. 39.) cites Eupolemus as an authority to say that Nabuchodonosor, after taking the city, gave the Tabernacle and Ark to Jeremias.

III. We may grant in answer to the third point— that the tabernacle and ark no longer appear or are mentioned in Scripture after the captivity, unless in that passage of Machabees (2 Mach. xi. 8.) to which exception is taken—raised in favour of the objection, that they may have no longer found a place in the temple of Jerusalem ; but it does not follow from this that Jeremias did not conceal them. There is a difference of opinion, however, among Catholic interpreters as to what became of them. This difference arises from the different interpretations that are given to the seventh and eighth verses of the second chapter of the Second Book, where, after describing how the prophet had concealed the tabernacle and Ark, and how some of them who followed him came up to mark the place, but could not find it, the sacred writer goes on to say: " When Jeremias perceived it, he blamed them, saying: The place shall be unknown, till God gather together the congregation of the people, and receive them to mercy. And then the Lord will show these things, and the majesty of the Lord shall appear, and there shall be a cloud as it was shewed to Moses, and he shewed it when Solomon prayed that the place might be sanctified to the great God." This prophecy of Jeremias has been since lost. There is no longer any vestige of it to be found. It was in existence, however, as is evident from the quotation just given, in the age in which the writer of the Second Book of Machabees lived. There are three opinions founded on the different interpretations given to the text,

1. The first opinion holds that this revelation or showing- of the tabernacle and ark is to be under stood in a mystic sense of Christ. Nor is it unusual in the Scripture to take them in this sense. Thus, in the Apocalypse, (xi 19.) St. John, referring to Christ, says : " The ark of His testament was seen in His temple." Our Lord was the mediator in both Testaments, the Old and the New. He was in a special manner the true ark and the true tabernacle of the new covenant, " which," to use the words of St. Paul to the Hebrews, (viii. 2.) "the Lord hath pitched, and not man." St. Ambrose (Lib. 3, De Officiis. ch. 14.) receives the text in this sense, that is, in mystic reference to Christ. He is followed, in the twelfth century, by Rupert, the Abbot, who, after noticing the notion which the carnal Jews entertained on the point, which was, that there should be a congregation of the Jews on earth, at one time or other, and that the temple should be restored under such a cloud as overhung Moses when he received the law, continues thus : " But we after that time in which these things were written, after the victorious battles of the Machabees, know no congregation of the people of God, beyond that which the same Spirit who spoke in the Prophets draws to us from John the Evangelist: that Jesus was to die not only for the nation, but that he should congregate in one the children of God, who were dispersed. Then verily appeared the glory of God, the glory of the Son of God effulgent with the resurrection of the dead ; from that time the cloud, as it was manifested to Moses, when he received the law. . . . the cloud, I say, from that time is the same, that is, the blindness of the Jews. . . . Until that time it shall be unknown, says Jeremias, where are the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense. That is, it shall not be known by peoples or nations, of whom or of what kind they were the celestial resemblances."

2. The second opinion holds that the words of the text refer to the real tabernacle and ark of Moses, and that the revelation of these, which shall promote the conversion of the Jews, will be made at the end of the world, when Enoch and Elias shall return upon earth to do battle in the cause of God. The adherents of this opinion say that when Egesippus describes how when Pompey was going through the temple, viewing and admiring it, the cherubs and the tablets caught his eye, these were not the Mosaic cherubs and tablets, but other ones constructed in imitation of them. And when the altar of incense is said to have been used by the Jews after they re turned home from Babylon, this should be under stood to be an imitation altar, fashioned in resemblance to the old one. But if some think they discover in the triumphal arch of Titus at Rome the image of the ancient ark, this is to be treated as a mere illusion. They who decipher the figure in the arch in that sense, confound the table of the breads of Proposition with the Ark of the Covenant, which is a great mistake. Such is the opinion held, amongst others, by Richard of St. Victor.

3. There is a third opinion, however, which asserts that the unknown place of which the Prophet speaks was discovered when, as we read in the first chapter of the Second Book, the sacred author, after having told how the priests who were then faithful worshippers of God had hidden the fire from the altar in a certain valley unknown to all men, goes on to say that Nehemias sent some priests, descendants of those who had hid it, to seek for it, but that instead of finding it, they found thick water, with which they sprinkled the sacrifices. Then at once, to use the words of the author, " was a great fire kindled, so that all wondered." We may be pardoned if we here call the attention of the reader to how often in the economy of God water has been adopted as the instrument wherewith He displays His power, and dispenses His favours and graces to man. We need only cite as instances of this, Moses at the passage of the Red Sea, whose waters he divided, and at the Rock, from which he drew water; and Christian Baptism, in which God remits sin through the instrumentality of water. The thick water was found by Nehemias in the reign of Darius I., king of Persia, and son of Hystaspes. When it is said in the second chapter and eighth verse that " the majesty of the Lord shall appear" in a cloud as it did to Moses and Solomon, the patrons of this third opinion think that the time in which this was verified and the majesty of God really appeared was when, as we read in the first chapter and twenty-second verse, a great fire was kindled, and a cloud covered the sun, the altar, and the sacrifices, as was the case in the times of Moses and Solomon, Hence the congregation of the people prophesied by Jeremias was fulfilled when, after the captivity of Babylon, the Jews were brought together under Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes. Such is the third opinion, held by Menochius and others, who, to strengthen their position, allege that some erudite believe that the image of the ark is discernible in the Arch of Titus, which would go to show that the ark was among the objects found in the temple at the time of the siege of Jerusalem. Furthermore, they observe that, as a negative argument does not weaken the force of a positive one, their opinion is not weakened by the silence of Esdras and Nehemias, or the negative assertion of Josephus. Such is a fair summary of the different opinions held by interpreters as to what became of the tabernacle and the ark. Let the reader adopt whichever one of them he prefers. With either of them he will be able to meet the third argument—the non-appearance of the tabernacle and ark after the captivity—put forth to sustain the objection. He will see that it is a much debated question whether the ark and tabernacle were in the second temple. The opinion of those who hold the negative, how ever, seems to be the better established. For my part, I should be inclined to lean to the side of those who maintain that the ark and tabernacle found no place in the second temple. In this opinion the promises contained in the text referred to, and were verified in, that true ark of the Covenant, Christ, of whom the ancient material ark was a type. God, by having the ark and tabernacle concealed, wished to draw away the heart of the Jews gradually from sensible objects, and to elevate their minds to things of a more spiritual order. Hence this opinion seems to give more satisfaction. According to it, the prediction as to the appearance of a cloud, was fulfilled at the time Christ collected together his disciples, when the Father and the Holy Ghost bore testimony to Him in a bright cloud. There is no reason to expect that the ark and tabernacle shall be revealed at the end of the world, for the types of the old law have come to an end, and there is no need to restore them when all things are about to see their consummation.

They object also that an inspired writer would not be likely to ask pardon of his faults, as does the writer of the Second Book of Machabees. (xv. 38 and 39) " I will also here make an end of my narration. Which if I have done well, and as it becometh the history, it is what I desired : but if not so perfectly it must be pardoned me."

In answer to this, we say that if due attention be paid to his words, the sacred writer does not ask pardon of the faults or mistakes he may have committed against truth, or in the subject matter of his narration; but only for any mistakes he may have committed in the form of his discourse, or for any want of elegance in expression there may have been. His words, as given in the Douay version, are: "If not so perfectly." ( In the Vulgate, "Si minus digne.") In other words, he asks to be pardoned if he may have inelegantly related some things. Hence the Douay annotator observes: "This is not said with regard to the truth of the narration, but with regard to the style and manner of writing, which in the sacred penmen is not always the most accurate." St. Paul (ii. Cor. xi. 6.) has a similar passage: " For although I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge." The Greek version also is in favour of this interpretation. The verse in the original Greek runs thus : " If in a frugal and middling style, this is as well as I was able." The inspiration, whereby the Holy Ghost assists and guides the writer, does not exclude natural ability or acquirement. The writer of the Machabees is not afraid that he has said anything erroneous, or in the least deviated from the truth, though he may be afraid that his language is not over polished. It may be, too, as Father Schouppe (Curs. Scrip. Sac., Tom. i, Diff. Lib. I and II Mack. p. 237, Quaest. 4.) observes, that the writer may have been unaware that he was inspired by the Holy Ghost. In this case, inspired by the same Spirit of God, he would, through humility, have asked pardon of any faults that may be in his style. If it may be questioned whether the inspired penman could be unaware that he was inspired, it can be replied that we have the authority of the Scripture itself to say that he could. We learn in the Gospel of St. John (xi. 51.) that Caiphas, though not aware of it, spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost,when he prophesied that Christ should die for the nation.

Another objection is raised from the first chapter and ninth verse of the Second Book, where the Encenia, or feast of the dedication of the altar, is called Scenopegia, or feast of tabernacles.

This objection is met by referring the reader to the sixth verse of the tenth chapter, where is explained the reason why the feast of the dedication of the altar is called Scenopegia. It is so called be cause it was celebrated for eight days, " after the manner of the feast of the tabernacles"

Finally, another portion of these books to which the infidel, the rationalist, and the Protestant object, is the fourth chapter and twenty-third verse of the Second, where it is said that Menelaus, who was raised to the dignity of High Priest, was brother to Simon the Benjamite, and, in consequence, of the tribe of Benjamin. But Josephus tells us he was the son of Simon II., and brother of Onias and Jason, and therefore of the race of Aaron and of the priestly tribe of Levi. Add to this, that a member of the tribe of Benjamin could not have been raised to the high priesthood, which, according to law, should be filled from the ranks of the tribe of Levi.

Our reply to this is, that, if we are to accept the word "brother" in the literal and obvious sense, there was an usurpation of the office of high priest in the person of Menelaus, who, being brother of Simon and one of the tribe of Benjamin, was by law ineligible for that dignity. By law no one but a member of the tribe of Levi could become high priest. Then the law was broken, and the office of high priest was usurped by Menelaus, if he were the real brother of Simon, who was a Benjamite. But some, after St. Thomas, meet the difficulty by saying that Menelaus was not the real brother of Simon. These are of opinion that he was called his brother either because he was his brother-in-law, or because he was his brother in resemblance, being like him in guilt. Against this opinion, however, it may be said that the testimony of Josephus, who contradicts himself (Aut. xii., 6, and xv. 3.) in other points, though not in this, is not sufficient to convince us that Menelaus was not the true brother in the flesh of Simon.