Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 57.

Appendix Part 1.

The Great Isaiah Scroll is one of the most iconic of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Image Source Bible History Daily

Protestants reject Tradition (a), and yet they adhere to the Tradition of the Jews in regard to the canon of Scripture. They accept Tradition as an authority to determine what books are divinely inspired. Thus they allow Tradition to decide that some books are the Word of God, whilst the moment after they decline to listen to the same Tradition when it declares that there are other books which are likewise divinely inspired. The Catholic is guilty of no such contradiction. While he refuses to give to what is human any other assent than it deserves, he accepts divine Tradition as imperative; and with a docile heart, under the guidance of an infallible church, listens to Christ and his Apostles, who have delivered to him, as in truth, the Word of God, those very books of the Machabees which Protestants call apocryphal.

Protestants endeavour to show from internal evidence that these books are not genuine. They think they detect contradictions, or false moral principles in them. This was precisely the way in which the Manicheans of old acted. These heretics objected that many portions of the Bible presented unbecoming notions of God, of His law, of the patriarchs, and of the prescribed Jewish ceremonial. Protestant writers themselves have vindicated the Scripture from such aspersions. While doing so, however, they turn round and raise objections against those portions of it which Catholics receive as divinely inspired, but which the English church numbers as apocryphal.

In the first place, then, they who are adverse to receiving the Machabees object that the second letter of the Jews of Jerusalem to those of Egypt is written in the name of Judas Machabeus, who at the time was thirty-six years dead. In the ninth chapter and eighteenth verse of the first book it is recorded that Judas was slain, and, as we gather from the same chapter, this happened in the year one hundred and fifty-two of the Grecian reign, whilst in the first chapter and tenth verse of the second book he is found to be alive in the hundred and eighty-eighth year of the same reign, when with the Jewish people and senate he wrote the epistle to Aristobolus and the Jews in Egypt.

The first answer we can give to this objection is, that the name of Machabeus is not added to that of the Judas, whose name appears in the second letter. Then the writer of it may have been another Jew whose name was Judas. The writer of this epistle of "the year one hundred and eighty-eight" may have been even Aristobolus, the son of John Hircanus, who was also called Judas as we learn from Josephus, (Lib, xx. Antiq. ch. 18.) and who was a man held in great esteem by the Jewish people and of much authority in their senate. There was also another Judas of whom Josephus (Lib. xiii. ch. 19.) speaks in the most laudatory terms on account of his wonderful knowledge of future events and his great wisdom. He was known by the name of Judas Essenus. He too may have been the writer of the epistle. Another answer we can give is this, that if we suppose it to have been really written by Judas Machabeus, we can reconcile the date—" In the year one hundred and eighty-eight" —with his death, which took place years before, by placing a period or full-stop instead of a comma after the words " In the year one hundred and eighty-eight." By this means we will connect the date " In the year one hundred and eighty-eight " with what precedes it, and not with what follows, in which the name of Judas is inscribed. Thus we will have two epistles, one ending with the words, "In the year one hundred and eighty-eight," and the other beginning with the clause, "The people that is at Jerusalem." The Jews of Jerusalem would have written the first in the year one hundred and eighty-eight to the Jews of Egypt. They would have sent along with it the second, which was written by Judas Machabeus before his death, but only after the lapse of thirty-six years, when peace had been accorded to the Jews in the time of John Hircanus, was despatched to the Jews who dwelt in Egypt. Then the date, one hundred and eighty-eight, was placed between the two epistles, or rather at the end of the first. It was quite usual to place the date at the end of an epistle. The Greek copies are in favour of this interpretation, for they place a period (a full stop) between the date and the following clause, "The people that is at Jerusalem."

They say if the sixth chapter and sixteenth verse of the First be compared with the eleventh chapter of the Second Book, the chronology is also discordant. In the first place the death of King Antiochus is set down at the year one hundred and forty-nine of the Grecian era; whilst in the second are re counted letters of his son, Antiochus Eupator, written after the death of his father, which are ascribed to the date one hundred and forty-eight of the same era. We shall find a similar difference in the dates if we read the sixth chapter and twentieth verse of the First Book beside the thirteenth chapter and first verse of the Second Book.

First we answer this objection by the observation that if we were to cavil at trifles of this kind we should never find an end of them in the Scripture, and the Gospel itself could not stand. How many seeming discrepancies does not the reader observe between the Evangelists in regard to the Last Supper, Death and Resurrection of Christ ? What a diversity of opinion exists even among the most erudite interpreters as to the chronology of the Old Testament ? If we were to trifle over every slight apparent difference which appears in one part of the Scripture from another we should do away with divine revelation altogether.

Secondly, a more direct answer to the objection is given by denying that there is any real contradiction in the cited texts. We should bear in mind that there were two eras or computations of time, one the Jewish and the other the Grecian. The Jewish year began with the month Nisan, which answered to the end of March and the beginning of April with us. The Grecian or civil year began with the month Tisri, which answered a part of our September and October. The ecclesiastical year began about six months before the civil year. The writer of the First Book of Machabees followed the Jewish or ecclesiastical calendar; the writer of the Second Book followed the civil one. According to the Jewish calendar the year 149 commenced in the month Nisan in the spring time. According to the civil calendar it was still the year 148 until the month Tisri, in the following autumn, when the year 149 commenced. Thus it happens that the events, which, according to the writer of the first book, took place in 149, that is, after the month Nisan, are ascribed by the writer of the second book to 148, because they occurred before the month Tisri when the year 149, according to the Grecian or civil calendar, began. Something analogous to this occurs in Ireland where we have Irish and English acres and miles according as we survey them by the Irish or English perch. As the Irish mile and acre, as well as the English ones, are in use in this country, so were the Jewish and Grecian computations of time in use among the Jews.

They raise a like objection when comparing the sixth chapter of the First Book with the eleventh chapter and thirty-first and thirty-third verses of the Second. In the first place it is stated that Antiochus Eupator made peace with the Jews in the year 150 of the Jewish epoch, which year, as is observed in the forty-ninth verse, was a sabbatical one. (b)

In the second place Antiochus is said to have made this peace in 148 which could not be the sabbatical year according to either epoch whether we compute from Nisan or Tisri.

There is no difficulty here when we keep before our mind that Antiochus Eupator established peace with the Jews on two occasions. The first time it was through Lysias immediately after the death of Antiochus Epiphanes. It is of this peace mention is made in the eleventh chapter of the Second Book. The second occasion on which Eupator made peace with the Jews was when having been defeated by Judas he was obliged to turn his arms against Philip. It is of this peace there is question in the sixth chapter of the First Book and in the thirteenth chapter of the Second.

They object that in the fifty-second verse of the fourth chapter of the First Book the cleansing of the temple was performed by Judas Machabeus on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month of the year 148, which was before the death of the king Antiochus, and yet in the tenth chapter of the Second Book this cleansing is referred to the time subsequent to his death.

It is sufficient to observe in answer to this ob jection that the writer in the Second Book does not say that the cleansing of the temple was performed after the death of Antiochus. Although he gives a brief sketch of the circumstances attending the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, and then goes on to speak of the cleansing of the temple, he does not say that this was carried out after the death of that ruthless tyrant and persecutor of the Jewish race. It is well known that the Scripture, in narrating events, does not always follow the order in which they occurred.

A great subject of dispute between Catholics and Protestants is Tradition, or the unwritten Word of God. It will not be irrelevant then to give a passing glance at it.

1. Tradition is a term used to denote the Word of God which is not written in the canonical Scripture, though it may be found in the acts of councils and in the writings of the holy Fathers. This distinction between the written and the unwritten Word of God has been made by ecclesiastical writers of the greatest antiquity. So far back as the second century, St. Irenaeus, (Lib. iii., c. 2.) in censuring some of the heretics of his day, observes that they agree neither with Scripture nor Tradition. In his work on " The Soldier's Crown," Tertullian clearly distinguishes between the Scripture and Tradition when he says, " If you seek to find a law for this, you will find no Scripture; but Tradition is the authority which presents itself to you." St. Cyrian (Lib. ii., Epist. 3.) showing that according to Tradition, mingled wine and water should be used at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, says : " You should know that we have been admonished how, in offering the chalice of the Lord, the Tradition of the Lord is to be observed, so that the chalice which we offer in commemoration of Him should be offered mixed with wine." It is needless, though it would be easy, to cite other testimonies, almost with out number, on this point of the distinction between the written and unwritten Word of God.

Tradition is said to be the Word of God, or a doctrine, which has not been written; not that it has never been committed to writing of any kind, but because it was not penned or written by the first author or promulgator of it. We have a case to illustrate this in infant Baptism. The doctrine according to which we baptise infants is an apostolical Tradition —not written by the apostles, for we find no trace of it in the apostolic writings, and yet we discern it in almost all the works of the ancient Fathers.

There are three classes of Tradition, the divine, apostolic, and ecclesiastical. Let us give a brief glance at each.

Divine Tradition is that which is derived from the lips of Christ Himself when teaching His apostles, but which, however, the sacred page does not record. Of this description is the septenary number, as well as the matter and form, of the sacraments. The Scripture gives us very little information on these subjects. Most of what we know about them comes from Divine Tradition, for no one but Jesus Christ himself could have raised a ceremony to the dignity of a sacrament, or could have determined in particular the respective matter and form of the sacraments, and still we find very little said about these things in the Scripture. It is to this Divine Tradition the apostle refers when he observes to the Corinthians, ( I Cor. xi. 23) "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you."

Apostolical Tradition, to speak accurately, is that which was instituted by the apostles under the special assistance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, but which, however, is not found in any of their epistles or writings. Of this class are the inspiration and canon of Scripture, the change of the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday, the fast of Lent, Baptism by aspersion (for the literal meaning of the word " baptise " is to dip or immerse), infant Baptism, &c. We must attribute all these Traditions to the apostles, unless we wish to violate the rule laid down by St. Augustine, (De Bap. contra Donatist. Lib. iv. c. 24.) "That which the church observes, and which is not decreed by councils but always retained, is of apostolic origin."

(a) It sometimes happens, however, that by a mutual change of language, divine Traditions are called apostolic, and apostolic, divine. Divine Traditions are then said to be apostolic, not that they originated with the apostles, but because the church received them through the apostles, to whom they had been directly and immediately announced from the lips of Christ. On the other hand, apostolic Traditions are termed divine, not inasmuch as they proceeded from the apostles, or were ordained by them, but because the apostles had been moved by the Spirit of God to promulgate them. It is in this sense it happens that all the epistles of the apostles are said to be divine and apostolic. Yet some precepts and counsels which are delivered in them are, to speak properly, divine, whilst some others are as properly apostolic. As an instance of this we may cite the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, where we find the divine and the apostolic even in the same chapter. The apostle says: (I Cor. vi. 10.)  "But to them that are-married, not I but the LORD commandeth." There is the divine precept. Two verses further on the apostle gives us the apostolic precept when he says: "For to the rest I speak, not the Lord,"which implies that the Lord gave no express precept or ordinance in the particular point on which he was going to speak. In the two verses the apostle distinguishes between divine and apostolic Traditions.

Finally, ecclesiastical Traditions are those ordinances and customs of venerable antiquity which were first introduced by the clergy, or originated among the people. By degrees they came to be universally adopted; and so, with the tacit consent of the pastors of the church, and especially of the Roman Pontiff, they acquired the force of law.

(b) In the Jewish economy every seventh year was a sabbatical year. In it the Israelites were commanded to leave their vineyards and fields rest, or remain without tillage.