Monthly Archives: September 2013

FAITH AND REASON

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Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Faith Seeking Understanding” ~ Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) 

St. Thomas Aquinas is considered the greatest Catholic philosopher and theologian. He’s renowned for his unique ability of demonstrating harmony between faith and reason, and between Christianity and philosophy. His five proofs of the existence of God have withstood the test of time and are still taught at any good Catholic seminary to this day.  It can be argued today that science is now pointing the way to God.  Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Hubbell Telescope, DNA Molecules, and just last year the Higgs Boson particle, all seem to display some sort of intelligence working behind the scenes in the universe.

800 years ago Saint Thomas Aquinas argued this idea very effectively and as a result, his philosophy and theology have been taught in Catholic seminaries and schools since the 13th Century.  As a young man, Thomas was introduced to the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle.  Much of his life was devoted to studying Aristotle’s teaching, exploring its logical principles and demonstrating its value for Christian thought.  The idea of the Unmoved Mover was introduced by Aristotle 1,600 years before the birth of Aquinas.  Thomas Aquinas supported Aristotle’s idea and demonstrated that the motion we have today is traceable to an initial motion originator, referred to by millions of people throughout countless civilizations as the Supreme God.  Aquinas was a Catholic Priest from the Dominican Order who taught theology throughout Europe. He was a prolific writer, and his greatest work, the Summa Theologiae, states his conviction of the natural harmony between faith and reason.

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Aquinas sees reason and faith as two ways of knowing. “Reason” covers what we can know by experience and logic alone.  From reason, we can know that there is a God and that there is only one God; these truths about God are accessible to anyone by experience and logic alone, apart from any special revelation from God.

“Faith” covers what we can know by God’s special revelation to us, which comes through the Bible and Catholic Tradition. By faith, we can know that God came into the world through Jesus Christ and that God is triune (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). These truths about God cannot be known by reason alone.

According to Aquinas, faith builds on reason. Since faith and reason are both ways of arriving at truth — and since all truths are harmonious with each other — faith is consistent with reason. If we understand faith and reason correctly, there will be no conflict between what faith tells us and what reason tells us.

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Saint Thomas Aquinas five ways to know the existence of God:

  • PROOF I – From Motion
  • PROOF II – From Cause
  • PROOF III – From Necessary and Contingent Being
  • PROOF IV – From Levels of Perfection
  • PROOF V – From Order

Proof one from motion states that everything that we see in the universe is in motion.  Like a leave falling from a tree, a river, people etc.  And everything in the universe didn’t get itself in motion.  It was placed in motion by something or someone else.  Saint Thomas refers to this as the first mover.  There has to be a first mover who itself was not moved and yet is the cause of all motion.  Hence, the unmoved mover.  A train needs an engine to get into motion.  We had to have parents who got together to put us into motion.  But your parents aren’t the source of ultimate motion, because they had to be placed in motion.  In order for you to learn to talk and walk, you had to be placed in motion intellectually by someone who has actualized the knowledge and can communicate that to you.  The unmoved mover is not in motion physically he is not in motion intellectually.  Nothing, no one moved Him.  He is pure actuality, pure act.  The unmoved mover can’t walk from here to there, he’s already there.  If He could He wouldn’t be the unmoved mover.  He can’t come to learn something because he already knows it.  He is pure actuality.

Proof two from cause, states everything has a cause.  This is one of the foundational principles of the scientific method.  When we see anything in the universe we know it has a cause. Which means that if everything in the universe has a cause then that means nothing in the universe can explain itself.  Therefore there must be an uncaused cause.  Like the unmoved mover there must be an uncaused cause.  And what that tells us is the unmoved mover and uncaused cause has no beginning and therefore He must be eternal.

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Proof three from necessary and contingent being.  Everything in the universe can either be or not be.  There must be a being who did not receive its being from anything else.  The reason you can either be or not be is because you received your being from someone else. Just like the Sun can either be or not be.  The Sun received its being from something else, something or someone created it.  We received our being from our parents.  So there must be a being that is pure being, having not received its being from something else.  Its essence is existence.  Here’s an interesting tidbit, in the Bible, in the chapter 3 of Exodus verse 14, God revealed himself to Moses in this way – I AM WHO I AM.  Meaning pure being, or eternal.

Proof four from levels of perfection states that when we look around the universe we see things in various states of perfection.  That being the case, there must then be a being that gives all perfection but did not receive its perfection.  Meaning the unmoved mover and the uncaused cause has all perfection.

Proof five from order states that when we look around in the universe we see things ordered to ends that they did not devise.  Meaning they had nothing to do with order itself.  We had nothing to do with our own creation any more than a flower, an animal, a planet, the sun etc.  There are purposes and orders designed within ourselves that we didn’t give ourselves.  Therefore, there must be an ultimate source of all purpose that did not receive its purpose from anyone else.

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Of course, Saint Thomas’ proofs do not absolutely prove the existence of God because they can be argued. It is faith that provides the bedrock for belief in God.  Nevertheless, these five proofs can help show that Christianity is a rational religion.

Science tells us that the Universe began 13.7 billion years ago.  Physicists tell us that all the galaxies and stars in the Universe can be traced back to one singular point.  They call this singularity, or the big bang theory.  Some faith based people refer to singularity as creationism. Physicists have a hard time with the concept of singularity when they try to get back to the moment of creation, because they always end up running into infinity.

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Albert Einstein in his theory of relativity E=MC2, breaks now like this; Energy = Mass x the speed of light (2).  Meaning it took a whole lot of energy to create a little bit of mass.  Energy is another form of matter and matter is another form of energy.  And physicists agree that energy has a beginning point.  Energy is another form of matter and matter is another form of energy.   They are relative to each other.

Science today can look at a DNA molecule, a human cell and see that it has almost a million working parts inside it.  The human body has 3 trillion cells in it with almost one million cells inside each cell that operate like machines inside of machines that are so complex and precisely designed that Microsoft founder Bill Gates once remarked that, “One human cell makes my greatest super computer look like child’s play.

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Last year physicists declared that they have uncovered the elusive Higgs Boson particle or the “God Particle”, which is a subatomic particle that holds all other particles together, sort of like a glue particle.  It is believed that everything in the universe at one point was all together, one mass.  But after the Big Bang things separated and took on different properties.  The particles that we are made up of – protons, neutrons, and electrons, have mass but no one is sure why.  Physicists now believe that there is an exchange of particles, infused particles, subatomic particles that give them mass which hold us and the universe all together – the God Particle.

So in conclusion we covered Aquinas’ five proofs of the existence of God, from Motion, from cause, from necessary and contingent being, from levels of perfection, and from order.  We covered the ways that science seems to be pointing to God from Einstein’s theory of relativity, through DNA molecules, and most recently the Higgs Boson Particle.  Therefore, faith seeks understanding and reason can point to faith.  Catholic theology states that faith is a gift that has to be cultivated through the reading scripture and the writings of the Doctors of the Church.  I would like to end with a quote from the late and now Blessed John Paul II, who said, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart the desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that by knowing and loving God, men and women can come to the fullness of the truth about themselves”.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

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If I May Respond to Kipling

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IF you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

I was once asked by a priest what I received from my parents in terms of character.  After pondering this for a moment I answered him that from my mother honesty, and from my father the strength to fight for my beliefs. It is no secret that life at times truly is a struggle, and how we deal with those struggles largely depends on the advice we are given.  The main character of Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, gives advice to either his son, or a young man he is fond enough of to give advice in a deeply philosophical way, summing up a lifetime of experiences which should wisely set the young man down the path to wisdom, as well as a way to live among his fellow creatures, advice that would have come in handy if I were given it at an earlier age.  I will describe how the main character of “If”, explores emotions, dreams, winning and virtue, while describing how I connect to its advice from a past and present perspective.

The advice from “If” begins with the main character stressing the need to remain calm during moments of crisis and accusations (Lines 1-2).  Immediately following that the fatherly character advises the young man to trust himself when others doubt him, but to also weigh that doubt to strengthen his trust (3-4).  I could never count the many times I have not done as the character wisely says to do.  My household was one of strife and stress.  Remaining calm during the storm was never on the agenda at my house.  The one acceptable emotion was anger.  If you wanted to get your point across you could only do it one way, by yelling.  Our idea of trusting yourself was actually a cover for over confidence and arrogance, an issue that got me into trouble many times, but actually managed to get attention, albeit usually the wrong kind.  Temperance in areas of raging emotion was rarely exercised.  I particularly like the advice on humility, “don’t look too good, nor talk to wise”, a tough one for a “cool” teenager with something to prove (8).

Bob Dylan said in one of his songs that reality has too many heads.  Illusions come in many guises and in different times in one’s life:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same:. (9-12)

As one that has had the tenacity to dream and not the fortitude to sustain it, this smacks hard.  One of the last things I asked my ex-wife was whether or not she knew what it was like to watch a dream die.  She never answered at the time, but I now know she did.  As a former actor intent on meeting success through screenwriter and independent filmmaking while maintaining a marriage with a displaced New Yorker, those lines jump off the page.  The character uses Triumph and Disaster in the form of nouns while describing them as identical imposters (11-12).

How many of us have had our own words twisted and used against us, and by people that we secretly see as beneath us: “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken / Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools” (13-14).  Gossip, I once heard is the Devil’s Radio, and backbiting can be a National Sport.  As a practicing Roman Catholic, I know full well the damage this can cause to one’s soul and to one’s reputation.  Not only should you not engage in such activity, we must also deal with the injustice against us with great humility and charity.  Not always an easy task.

 It is my faith that attracts me to this poem, as it reads like the sort of wisdom found in a devotional book written by a Saint.  Perseverance is key, and so the main character continues: “Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken / And stoop and build’em up with worn out tools” (15-16).  Repairing the damage to a soul, a mind, or reputation, is more difficult than repairing a house or car.  I remember a story I heard once about a Saint who asked a couple to pluck a chicken on the way to dinner at his residence, he was very specific about that, to the puzzlement of the couple.  Once they arrived to the Saints home he instructed them to go back and pick up all the feathers that they left strewn along the way.  They of course protested that this was impossible.  And the Saint remarked, “And so it is with the false words that you have spread against your neighbor once they have left your lips.”  The couple was guilty of backbiting and helped to ruin the good reputation of a townsman.

Life can be a game of chance or risk.  Sometime it seems we must be able to risk it all in order to achieve the gain that will either make us or break us.  And so the character advises further:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss: (17-20)

I have always been a risk taker.  When I was twenty-three years old I packed a suitcase and headed to New York to become an actor.  Success eluded me, but adventure was found along the way.  I have teetered many times on whether or not this was right for me or wrong, and how my life would have been different if I had pursued another path:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!” (21-24)

What I have taken from this is that our past made us who we are today and our future will be built on the past mistakes of yesterday.  Wisdom is the key that unlocks the door to knowledge.  Complaints and regrets do not bring forth good fruit; they only keep alive the burdens from our past.  Without hope man loses the reasons to continue.

If I have learned anything in life, it would be the need for balance.  The fatherly character hits on this point in a social way, “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue / Or walk with Kings – – nor lose the common touch” and strikes a nerve (25-26).  Having been in this situation many times I’m touched by this seemingly simple virtue.  My father has an eighth grade education and was a welder for thirty-five years.  I married into an upper-middle class family in New York, the hoity toity crowd of Long Island.  The difference was painfully apparent and awkward.  Today I’m proud of the fact that I possess the wisdom to straddle both worlds, and in my sales profession this is an ability that has definitely help.

Confidence is a necessary ingredient for any type of success in this world: “If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you / If all men count with you, but none too much”; true, and self-reliance is more beneficial than having the bulk of the burden of others who are reliant on you (27-28).  Some men have the strength to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, and some would rather have all their teeth extracted without sedatives then to be in their position.  I use to carry the burden of the world on my shoulders as a young struggling artist, but the world was oblivious to my plight, so I got crushed.  The reason for the crumble was simply poor direction.  Since then I know full well the value of good advice.  Reading this poem reminds me of how difficult it is to pick out a greeting card for children from dysfunctional families.  I once had an idea to start my own line of Dysfunctional Family Greeting Cards to save myself the agony of reading syrupy sweet salutations for families of proper pedigree.

 It is so easy to be distracted in our world today.  And it is always so difficult to not let criticism take us down the path of false pride and anger. The main character cautions the young man towards wallowing in disagreeable moments, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run”; and I might add, to carry on with flights of more uplifting flow (29-30).  Saint Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7, one of his last letters before his execution, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” This reminds me that when I set my course toward my goal I must fight to keep my focus on that goal, and not let little arrows of doubt or disappointments detract me from that ultimate good end.

 The main character now shifts to the conclusions of the many “If’s”, he has sprinkled along the way and sums up his point, if one can do all these things: “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it / And- – -which is more- – -you’ll be a Man, my son!”, quite a lofty prize for anyone!  Now my focus shifts once again to the Gospels where Christ warns us in Matthew 16:26, “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” Which begs the question, what is it that the world is offering to the man that he finds so worth having?  Of course that can’t be known, and is open for interpretation.  Having once wanted to “gain” the whole world and not ever having given thought to my soul, that statement forces me to pause.

Pope Benedict XVI said recently that we live under a dictatorship of relativism today, where objective truth is losing the battle over emotionalism.  You will hear a lot of people begin a sentence with, “I feel”, rather than “I think”. I once heard a priest say that we are much worse than the pagans of old, yesterday pagans worshipped false gods, and today they worship the self.  As a Catholic I’ve been taught to conquer my passions in order to save my soul.  This is thought of as medieval to those enslaved to their passions, or just plain ignorant and a waste of time.  I have become a student of Catholic Theology and a proud proponent of the Catholic intellectual tradition.  G.K. Chesterton once famously said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”. But perhaps the main character of “If” has the same thing in mind, who’s to know from what little we can discover about his personal intentions in the poem.

Either way, my own personal growth from stumbling upon various bits of wisdom accidentally along the way over the course of forty-two years might have been just want I needed.  Some can handle wisdom better in tiny chunks rather than all at once.  When it comes to eating, learning, or spiritual growth, it seems to work out better in little spurts rather than to force it all at once.  However, some people are forced to grow up a lot faster than others, but in either case, as we Catholics say, it is all God’s Will.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

Bibliography

Kipling, Rudyard. “If.” A Choice of Kipling’s Verse. 1943.

     Poetry Foundation. Web. 2012.

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The Order and Codification of the Gospels

Long before the atom was split, time was split; fissioned so sharply that it cut history in two. B.C. and A.D.. Nothing that will ever happen again will have so much importance. What happened temporally and spatially since is a reaction for or against that event.

~ Ven. Fulton J. SheenImage

The four Gospels of the Bible have arguably had more of an influence on Western Civilization in the last 2,000 years than any other writings from antiquity.  There are various theories about when they were written.  But all do agree that they were composed somewhere between the middle and end of the first century. Out of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels.  They share this distinction because they include many of the same stories, usually in the same order, using similar phrasing. There are three main schools of thought toward the order in which the Gospel’s were written; the Jerome Tradition (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the Markan priority theory (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John), and the Clementine Tradition (Matthew, Luke, Mark, John), all of which are based on a particular theory as to who wrote first.

The order in which the Gospels are laid out in our Bible’s today is of the Jerome Tradition. The Jerome Tradition places each Gospel in the Bible in the order it was understood to have been written.  Not many have contested that John’s Gospel was the last to be composed.  According to the recent Ignatius Catholic Study Bible published in 2010, John’s Gospel was composed by at least A.D. 100, and that most scholars date it somewhere in the 90’s of the first century (157). According to Kenneth Baker in his book Inside the Bible, “Most place it about A.D. 90, when John was an old man, but there are also persuasive arguments that St. John’s Gospel was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70” (253).

Some have contested that the Gospel of Mark may have been the first Gospel to be written. Those people hold to the Markan priority theory, claiming that Mark was the first of the three Synoptic Gospels, and that the other two synoptic writers, Matthew and Luke, used Mark’s Gospel as one of their sources. Their theory is based on the fact that Mark’s Gospel was written in “poor Greek”, whereas Matthew and Luke are not.  They believe that the other two authors cleaned up the language and form in their Gospels.  Kenneth Baker disagrees with this theory and believes that Matthew was more than likely to have been the first Gospel written, “Scholars of the past hundred years have tended to place Matthew late in the first century, after the fall of Jerusalem.”  In fact, the majority of scholars are in agreement that all of the Gospels were written in the first century.  Baker continues, “A good case can be made from ancient tradition and from the language and ideas in the Gospel that it is early and indeed the first of the four Gospels” (235).

Dennis Barton in his work, The Authors of the Gospels, is in favor of the Clementine Tradition, (Matthew, Luke, Mark, John), “Every ancient historical source says the Apostle Matthew wrote the first Gospel and most of them record that it was in Hebrew or at least in a Semitic language or style” (V: 27/5/12).

And those sources include the Early Church Fathers, Papias (c. 60-130), Irenaeus (c. 130-200), Origen (c. 185-254), Eusebius (c. 260-340) Jerome (c. 340-420), and Augustine of Hippo (c. 354-430).  Barton also claims that it is unlikely that Matthew, an eyewitness and actual Apostle would have borrowed anything from a non-apostle or actual eyewitness like himself.

Baker believes that the Gospel of Mark was composed close to the year A.D. 60 (242).  Several scholars believe that Mark was written around 70 A.D. before the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem, and that this can be found in the Gospel itself.  According to the new Ignatius Catholic Study Bible we read, “In MK 13, Jesus prophesies the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  This was fulfilled in A.D. 70, when the Romans violently destroyed the Holy City.”  They go on to describe Mark’s lack of reference to this historical fact, “Mark, however, makes no mention of this as a past event, nor does he give detailed information about the catastrophe that would indicate he was writing after the fact” (61).  This is an interesting point worth considering.

Mark was a traveling companion of Peter, and it is believed that Peter dictated to him this Gospel from his memories and experiences living with Jesus all during His three year ministry. Mark’s Gospel is known for its poor grammar when compared to the other two Synoptic Gospels.  Dennis Barton quotes scripture scholar Dom Bernard Orchard who believed that the reason for Mark’s roughness of language is due to dictation and his desire to capture the story and its details quickly from a live speech, “The Gospel of Mark is in no way the smooth product of a skilled author sitting at a desk, but has all the vividness, the inconsistencies, and the peculiar turns of speech, that one finds in actual transcripts of live speeches, for example, sudden breaks, asides, anacolutha [incoherence within a sentence] and so forth” ((RO 273)) (V:28/3/12). Unlike the other Gospels, the Gospel of Luke is the only Gospel where the nativity story is contained.

It is in the Gospel of Luke that we learn of Jesus’ birth in a stable, His circumcision as an infant, and the finding of Him in the Temple at the age of twelve.  Many scholars believe that Luke could only have been given such details from Mary the Mother of Jesus herself.  Again, there is a division among scholars as to when Luke’s Gospel was written.  Some believe that it could have been composed as early as the 60’s, while others suggest the 90’s. Kenneth Baker explains from Inside the Bible, “The book was written about 64 A.D., before the date of St. Paul.  The literary form and the theology of the book clearly show that it is the work of a Gentile Christian written for Gentile Christians” (248).  One thing they are certain of is that Luke was a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul.  Luke is also known to have written the Book of Acts contained in the New Testament, which describes the birth of the Church, and the adventures of the remaining apostles.

The proponents of the Clementine Tradition base their theory on the writings of Clement of Alexandria (c 150-215), which were preserved by the historian Eusebius who quoted from Clement’s book: The Outlines, “And again in the same books, Clement states a tradition of the earliest presbyters about the order of the gospels; and it has this form. He used to say that the earlier-written of the gospels were those having the genealogies” ((EH 6:14, 5-7 and RO 166r)) (V: 24/5/12). With this statement, Clement referred to the Gospels which contained the genealogies of Jesus as having been written first, meaning Matthew and Luke’s Gospel.  According to Dennis Barton’s work, Clement is the only early historian to actually mention the sequence of the writing of the Gospels. He was also the bishop of the diocese founded by Mark.  All of Mark’s possessions would have been housed somewhere in that diocese, and most likely under the watchful care of Clement of Alexandria.

Another interesting bit of information in regards to the Clementine Tradition comes from a quote by an anonymous author of the late fourth century by the name of Ambrosiaster.  There is a passage in one of his writings which alludes to a fascinating and theological arrangement of the Gospels that is based more on its contents rather than order in which they were written:

The gospel is arranged according to the order [of their contents] rather than in chronological order. Therefore, Matthew is put in the first place because he begins from the promise, that is, from Abraham to whom was made the promise of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Next comes Luke, because he relates how this incarnation took place. Third comes Mark, who witnesses that the gospel preached by Christ has been promised in the Law. Fourthly, John … ((AS and RO 201-2)) (V: 24/5/12).

Regardless of which Synoptic Gospel came first, one thing we know for certain is that they were written in the first century, twenty-forty years after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  The other certainty we have from scholars and theologians is that two of the four Gospels are eyewitness accounts.  The Gospel of John and Matthew were written by two of the original apostles, men who lived with Jesus and heard Him teach and speak.  Another interesting tidbit is that John’s Gospel is the only one where we have Christ’s final words from the cross, “It is finished.”  This is interesting because according to scripture and tradition, John was the only Apostle who witnessed the crucifixion.

Award winning journalist Lee Strobel interviewed Dr. Craig Blomberg, professor of New Testament studies at Aberdeen University in Scotland, in his book The Case for Christ on the eyewitnesses to Synoptic Gospel history.  Dr. Bloomberg states,

“It’s important to acknowledge that strictly speaking, the Gospels are anonymous.”  Which they are, however Bloomberg acknowledges the traditional understanding of who those authors are, “But the uniform testimony of the early Church was that Matthew, also known as Levi, the tax collector and one of the twelve apostles, was the author of the first Gospel in the New Testament; that John Mark, a companion of Peter, was the author of the Gospel we call Mark; and that Luke, known as Paul’s ‘beloved physician,’ wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostle” (22-23).

Another question sometimes arises when discussing the Gospels and that is this; how was it that the Gospels were placed in the Bible and by whose authority?  To answer this question we go to Rev. Henry Graham in his book, Where We Got the Bible, “The Church existed before the Bible; she made the Bible; she selected its books, and she preserved it.  She handed it down; through her we know what is the Word of God, and what the word of man” (40).

The Catholic Church convened the Council of Carthage in the year 397 A.D. in order to fix the Canon of Scripture once and for all, and in the process, compiled the bestselling book of all time, the Bible.  The main criterion came down to this, the oldest writings that were used in Christian worship, and the ones that came from an original Apostle, or one that traveled with one in the first century, were the only ones considered worthy of being included in the Bible.

There was an abundance of writings scattered about for the last four centuries, all vying for a place of authenticity.  And there was no shortage of poorly translated text that were in conflict with each other.  The Church had to wade through these various writings to determine which were the most accurately translated from the original sources.  The Church had three sources at their disposal to help guide them.  The first source used came from Greek manuscripts that contained the writings in its original language. There were over four thousand original Greek sources used in this process, the oldest dated back to 125 A.D. The second source used came from translations of those original sources that were checked for accuracy by comparing the two.  The third source that was used came from referencing the ancient Church Fathers writings who quoted these Scripture passages often in their own writings (25). And by so doing, they were able to gain an understanding as to what text were highly used and trusted most by the Church in worship services and private study.

Setting the Canon at the Council was no easy task.  The writings were broken up into three classes. According to Rev. Graham, “These classes were (1) the books “acknowledged” as Canonical, (2) books “disputed” or “controverted”, (3) books declared “spurious” or false” (34). The majority of the disputed books were forgeries from the second, third, and fourth century.  Those books claimed as an author an apostle who was long dead before its writing.  Others were questionable only slightly, but in the name of prudence and caution they were excluded, not for their content, but its authenticity.

It has to be noted that the majority of inaccuracies in the text were of a trivial matter, and had to do with the order of the words and the spelling of them.  According to Dr. Homer Kent Jr., Dean of Grace Theological Seminary, “With the wealth of documentary evidence at our disposal for determining the true text, biblical scholars are in much better position than are textual scholars of any other ancient literature” (26).

One thing we know for certain is the aftermath of the writings of those Gospels. The world was dramatically changed. Art, architecture, Universities, Western Law, modern science, and the idea of free market economics were all effected and developed due to their having been written.  To illustrate that point here’s a quote from the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

Long before the atom was split, time was split; fissioned so sharply that it cut history in two. B.C. and A.D.. Nothing that will ever happen again will have so much importance. What happened temporally and spatially since is a reaction for or against that event (16).

How the Gospels were written, by whom, and when they were written has fascinated scholars and Christians for almost two thousand years.  Their influence is unquestionable.  The only thing questionable for some is its contents and its Catalyst.  For those with faith this is a non-issue, but for those without faith it is everything.

 

~ John Andrew Dorsey

Bibliography

Baker S.J, Kenneth. Inside the Bible. San Francisco: Ignatius,

1998. Print.

Barton, Dennis. The Authors of the Gospel (According to the                                                                                                                                                       Clementine Tradition). Church in History, 2012. Web. 16 April. 2012.

Graham, Rt. Rev. Henry G. Where We Got the Bible. North

Carolina: Tan, 2010. Print.

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament Ed. Curtis Mitch

and Scott Hahn. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2010. Print. Rev.

Standard Vers.

Kent Jr., Homer A. “How We Got Our New Testament.” Grace

Theological 8.2 (1967): 22-26. Print.

Sheen, Bishop Fulton. “A Conviction Need by the Mind.” Toledo

     Blade 4 Feb. 1962, Ohio ed.: 16. Print

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1998. Print.

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