I befriended a number of young native Israelis when I lived in the country and was surprised at their indifference upon hearing that I was a Christian. They seemed equally apathetic about Judaism. It was their ethnicity as Jews and connection to the land of Israel as their national homeland that unified them.
Something else that came as a surprise was when one friend gave me a Hebrew Bible published specifically for the Israeli Defense Forces. It was given to her brother when he was conscripted into the army; every soldier gets one and almost all 18 year-old’s are drafted, men and women. He didn’t want it. I was shocked when I noticed that it contained the New Testament, which in Hebrew is called Haberit Hakhadasha, “The New Covenant”. There’s probably a copy sitting in most Israeli households. Continue reading “The Promise that Israel Will be Saved.”→
A valuable study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1986 (Volume 256) entitled “On the Physical Death of Jesus”. The authors included a Pathologist, an expert in Medical Graphics from the Mayo Clinic, and an Evangelical minister. It begins with a historical analysis of crucifixion as a form of execution and moves to the physiology of Jesus’ suffering and death.
Two things make this study important. First, it takes the accounts of the crucifixion from the gospels as we have them as authentic; Evangelicals don’t do historical criticism so there was no attempt to theorize based on reconstructed source material. Secondly, the experts regarded Shroud of Turin as the actual burial cloth of Christ, which provides many of the details of what occurred during Jesus’ final hours. Some of the findings:
St. Luke recorded that during the agony in the garden, Jesus’ sweat became like blood. Bloody sweat is known as either hematidrosis or hemohidrosis and is caused by blood hemorrhaging into the sweat glands. While it is rare, it “…may occur in highly emotional states or in persons with bleeding disorders.”
Scourging always preceded crucifixion and was intended to weaken the victim to shorten the time spent on the cross. “[A]s the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. …The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a preshock state.”
Jesus did not carry the whole cross but just the crossbar (patibulum). The whole cross would have weighed about 300 lbs.
The sign that Pilate had ordered to be made, “Jesus the Nazorean, King of the Jews”, was customary and was held up by a Roman soldier in the front of the condemned man during the procession to the place of crucifixion. It displayed the name of the criminal and charge against him.
The wine with the gall (a “mild analgesic”), which was offered to Christ, was a requirement under Roman law.
Since nailing the palms would not have supported the weight of the body, the wrists were nailed (as in the Shroud). “…[T]he driven nail would crush or sever the rather large sensorimotor median nerve. The stimulated nerve would produce excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms. Although the severed median nerve would result in paralysis of a portion of the hand, ischemic contractures and impalement of various ligaments by the iron spike might produce a clawlike grasp.”
Fixing the feet to the cross could be done with either nails or ropes, the Shroud indicates that Jesus’ were nailed. His knees may have been bent since crosses did not always have a footrest.
“Although scourging may have resulted in considerable blood loss, crucifixion per se was a relatively bloodless procedure, since no major arteries, other than perhaps the deep plantar arch, pass through the favored anatomic sites of transfixion.”
Jesus’ death came unusually quickly; crucifixions could go on for days. This was likely the result of the severity of the scourging. “The fact that he could not carry the crossbar supports this interpretation. The actual cause of Jesus’ death, like that of other crucified victims, may have been multifactorial and related primarily to hypovolemic shock [rapid blood loss], exhaustion asphyxia, and perhaps acute heart failure. A fatal cardiac arrhythmia may have accounted for the apparent catastrophic terminal event.”
The language of the article and the accompanying illustrations are rather cold and come across like a coroner’s report. It is heartbreaking to read. The crime against the state for which he was executed was for being “The King of the Jews”.
One of my former Hebrew instructors has argued that recent translators of the Bible are still too influenced by earlier translations, especially the King James Version, and this negatively affects the rendering in English of many important passages.
A good example comes from Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (KJV). “Earth” in English means two things: The whole planet, or the soil in the ground. In Hebrew, However, the word is eretz and means “land”, look how it’s described in verses 9-10:
“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth…”
Thus, eretz is distinct from the waters that were gathered together and refers to “land”. And as for heaven:
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven (Gen. 1:7-8).
“Mizrahi” [hard ‘h’] which in Hebrew means “Eastern”, describes the musical traditions brought by diaspora Jews returning to Palestine from places like Morocco, Iraq, Egypt or other Middle East/North African countries. Few of the new arrivals spoke Hebrew; it had been a dead language since before the time of Christ. It was revived in early 20th-century by a few pioneering families who would only speak to each other and their children in a modern form of classical Hebrew. Mizrahi music and the Hebrew language were a natural match and as the generations have passed has become very popular among young Israelis today.
The interesting thing is that the music of the Mizrahi countries might reflect the music of the land of Israel at the time of Christ, which historians note would have been influenced by the traditional music of both Egypt (the captivity) and Assyria (the Babylonian Exile). In other words, not only have the Jews returned to Israel, but also has her ancient language and music.
The first example below features the guitar-like oud, which was common in both Ancient Egypt and Assyria, flutes and winds were as well.
The second example is a blend of Misrahi and Western rock. By reading the transliteration of the Hebrew text of Psalm 150, which is repeated several times, you will notice how its poetry lends itself to the music style.
The Jews have their ancient homeland back, its language and music, and one day, soon I hope, they will also have their Messiah.
[I’ve heard many times that for every person that is received into the Church, six leave. This Easter Sunday, with the churches crammed like sardines, homilies should include a reminder of the aftereffects of dying unforgiven]
Oh, why am I here in this place of unrest When others have entered the land of the blest? God’s way of salvation was preached unto men; I heard it and heard it, again and again.
Why did I not listen and turn from my sin And open my heart and let Jesus come in? For vain earthly pleasures my soul did I sell The way I had chosen has brought me to hell.
I wish I were dreaming, but ah, it is true. The way to be saved I had heard and I knew; My time on the earth, oh, so quickly fled by, How little I thought of the day I would die.
When God’s Holy Spirit was pleading with me, I hardened my heart and I turned from His plea. The way that was sinful, the path that was wide, I chose and I walked till the time that I died.
Eternally now, I must dwell in this place. If I from my memory could but erase The thoughts of my past which are haunting me so. Oh, where is a refuge to which I can go?
This torture and suff’ring, how long can I stand? For Satan and demons this only was planned. God’s refuge is Jesus, the One that I spurned; He offered salvation, but from Him I turned.
My brothers and sisters I wish I could warn. Far better ‘twould be if I had not been born. The price I must pay is too horrid to tell My life without God led directly to Hell.
Oh, soul without Christ, will these words be your cry? God’s Word so declares it that all men must die. From hell and its terrors, Oh, flee while you may! So, come to the Saviour; He’ll save you today!
The Pope appears to regard free-market capitalism as a form of colonialism:
“The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor” (link).
“It is a truly pressing duty to use the earth’s resources in such a way that all may be free from hunger. …We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being” (link).
It will not be visible, as it will occur during daylight hours. For most of the day, from about 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM PST the following will occur, beginning in the eastern sky:
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered” (Revelation 12:1-2).
As the sun envelopes the constellation Virgo (a virgin maiden in Greek mythology) the moon will cross beneath her feet. At the same time twelve stars will congregate just above her head, nine from the constellation Leo plus three visiting planets: Mercury, Venus, and Mars.* The planet Jupiter (mythological king), which had entered Virgo’s torso back on Dec. 1, 2016, will have just exited between her legs on Sept. 12th, 9 1/2 months later. (Recall that Jupiter’s entry into the constellation Leo represented the birth of a prince in Babylonian astrology and inspired the journey of the Magi).
Elena Maria Vidal recently reviewed Liberating Marriage in an Age of Heresy: St. Hildegard of Bingen and Reform in the 12th-Century on her beautiful and popular website Tea at Trianon. She writes:
“The book is short but bursting with fascinating information about medieval views of love and sin. It became clear to me that the doctrines of the Church, as they continued to be clarified by reforming popes, were meant to protect women and children from the abuses of lust as well as those of material and political gain. As we know, the teachings were often ignored in the face of worldly expediency. Nevertheless, St. Hildegard’s voice is one that is as relevant now as it was nine hundred years ago.”
Author Joseph Pearce recently wrote an article with a hopeful title that caught my eye and I’m sure many others, “The Son Rises in the West: France & the Resurrection of the Faith”. It’s based on a piece from the Jesuit magazine America by Pascal-Emmanuel Goby, who cites evidence for what he sees as the early stage of a Catholic renaissance in France. He noticed that his church was getting increasingly crowded on Sundays:
“I have started going to other, random parishes on Sundays, just to see if this is a real trend. And indeed, Sunday high Mass is packed in most parishes in Paris. This is also true in Lyon, the second biggest city in the country.”
In a recently published interview, Pope Francis was again disparaging those with a preference for the traditional Latin mass, referring to them as nostalgic and marginalizing them and the mass itself. He also quashed the notion of a “reform of the reform” as a restoration of certain elements of traditional liturgy:
“Pope Benedict accomplished a just and magnanimous gesture to reach out to a certain mindset of some groups and persons who felt nostalgia and were distancing themselves. But it is an exception. That is why one speaks of an ‘extraordinary’ rite. The ordinary in the Church is not this. It is necessary to approach with magnanimity those attached to a certain form of prayer. But the ordinary is not this. Vatican II and Sacrosanctum Concilium must go on as they are. To speak of a ‘reform of the reform’ is an error.” (trans. by Rorate-Caeli)
The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote about a year ago. Bishop Floyd Begin of Oakland, California (1962-1977) had attended every session of the Second Vatican Council and had even claimed to be the author of Council documents. When it ended in 1964, he returned determined to renovate the cathedral, built in 1893. If anyone knew what the intention of Sacrosanctum Concilium was, it would have been Bishop Begin:
INFLUENCE OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL
St. Francis de Sales became known as the “…first cathedral in the United States to be completely remodeled according to the liturgical spirit of the Second Vatican Council”. (All quotations herein are from: Jeffrey M. Burns and Mary Carmen Bautista, We are the Church: A History of the Diocese of Oakland. Strasbourg: Editions du Singe, 2001). The enthusiastic bishop had a bold plan for remodeling the Cathedral:
“With the priest now facing the people, the bishop found the venerable stained glass windows behind the alter distracting. ‘The rather colorful windows in the sanctuary impeded the vision of the service, just like the headlights of an oncoming car do.’ The stained glass windows were covered over by redwood paneling. The interior was whitewashed and the exterior was painted in a creme color [it was red brick]. The alter rail was removed as were all the statues, except for that of Jesus. In sum, the remodeled building followed Vatican II directives and created ‘…an atmosphere conducive to participation, worship, and prayer.'”
The Cathedral interior before the renovation:
The Cathedral interior after the renovation:
The new altar:
THE NEW LITURGY
Since the inspiration for these changes was “…the liturgical spirit of the Second Vatican Council”, by 1969 the Cathedral’s liturgical spirit had incorporated elements from contemporary arts:
“Dance, slide presentations, photography, innovative preaching [?], all became regular features in the Cathedral liturgies. …In late 1969, the Cathedral featured an Advent series entitled ‘We Hold a Strange Hope’ to explore how to maintain hope in the midst of the social chaos that was engulfing the United States. The first week featured four blown-up portraits hanging in the sanctuary — Che Guevara, Joan Baez, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Neil Armstrong” (p.52).
The historians report that the organ was replaced by an ensemble of strings, brass, piano, and various musicians (p.51). The liturgical innovations attracted national attention:
“In May, 1971, Time Magazine observed, ‘twice each Sunday, the music runs the scale between such unlikely extremes as Gregorian chant and rock. On one recent Sunday, the mixture embraced both Bach’s Aire for the G-String and Amazing Grace. On another, included a Hayden trio, Bob Dylan’s The Times They are A Changin’ and Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God.'”
The historians recount that in 1971, during one of the themed liturgies, a song was performed that was composed especially for the occasion, “A Traditionalist’s Lament”. It mocked anyone still attached to the traditional form of the mass. It was sung to the tune of a song from the film Mary Poppins, “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious”:
Introibo. Tantum. Ergo. Kyrie Eleison.
Give me back my pamphlet rack and surplices with lace on.
If Catholic means rock-and-roll I’d rather be a Mason.
Introibo. Tantum. Ergo. Kyrie Eleison.
You can read the rest of the post here. The Cathedral was destroyed in an earthquake some years later, reminding me that in too many cases the vernacularization of the liturgy brings to mind the Tower of Babel rather than Pentecost.