Monthly Archives: January 2008

John Henry Cardinal Newman, “An Essay on the Inspiration of Scripture”

I came across this essay which was quite influential in the time it was written. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Catholic doctrine of inspiration and this is part of my inquiry. Let me know what you think. Oh yeah, and before I forget here’s the link. The guy in the picture is John Henry Cardinal Newman and if anyone can figure out why his left index finger is tucked behind his ear in this picture, you’ll win my accolades.

Biblical Times, Children and Abortion

A thought by Fr. George Montague, S.M.:

  • The pagan world of Biblical times showed little concern for mercy. Two groups especially suffered–slaves and children. Slaves were considered tools, and masters had the right to kill them as they wished. Unwanted infants were left to die of exposure, particularly girls. And, as happens even today in some countries, unwanted children could be picked up for the “slave trade” or deliberately maimed and used by racketeers to beg. The modern world flinches at such accounts, then abets them by legalized abortion. Our mercy, like that of our pagan forebears, is selective.

(from Montague, George T. Companion God: A Cross-Cultural Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989. p. 60.)

How to Memorize

I struggled with memorizing vocab words when I first started learning Greek. My friend introduced me to the Leitner Cardfile System, invented by psychologist Sebastian Leitner. I have used it for vocab memorization and found that it helped me. I just use index cards with the foreign word on the front and its English equivalent on the back. There are a few vocab memorizing programs that use the same method: and Memory Lifter.

There are other programs out there for memorizing Greek and Hebrew Bible vocabulary. I have used Flash Works and QuickMem Greek and would recommend both.

I also just found this great site which rates memorization programs.

Temah Seal Find

Yesterday, Dr. Eilat Mazar announced the discovery of a seal she claims dates from 538-445 BC according to the Jerusalem Post story. (The seal is pictured at right.) It was found at a dig in Jerusalem. The name on the seal, Temah or Temech, appears in Nehemiah 7:55 and Ezra 2:53. Mazar’s interpretation of the seal is hotly debated in the comments posted with the story. I think it’s significance will take a little working out. But it clearly shows two male figures on either side of an altar, probably priests offering incense, as she claims. The controversial part is what the thing shaped like a smile at the top of the picture is. Is it a crescent moon, the sun, a cloud? And if it is one of these things, what does it mean?

Verse Numbering Systems in Esther

Catholics accept the Greek additions to Esther as canonical, while most Protestants do not. Unfortunately, no uniform number system has been developed for incorporating the Greek editions in Esther. They are always arranged in the same order, according to the Septuagint’s ordering, but each major Catholic translation or version follows a different numbering system. So, in attempt to make sense of things for myself, I compiled this chart which compares numbering systems for Esther in the New American Bible, the Vulgate, the Nova Vulgata and the typical Protestant numbering for the book (which coincides with the Hebrew numbering). I know this is rather tedious, but I couldn’t find a resource like this on the internet and figured I would supply it. You can access the NAB, the Vulgate and the Nova Vulgata in the sidebar on this website. Maybe I will make a further post which lists the books which Catholics accept as canonical, but for now, here is my comparison of verse numbering systems in Esther. As a reminder, Protestants accept Hebrew Esther as canonical, while Catholics accept Hebrew Esther plus the Septuagint’s Greek additions. All the parts not listed in the “Protestant Esther” column are Greek.

Verse Number Systems for Esther According to the Catholic Canon Compared with Esther According to the Protestant Canon.

NAB Vulgate Nova Vulgata Protestant Esther
A 11:2-12:6 1:1a-1:1k
1 1 1 1
2 2 2 2
3:1-13 3:1-13 3:1-13 3:1-13
B:1-7 13:1-7 3:13a-3:13g
3:14-15 3:14-15 3:14-15 3:14-15
4:1-8 4:1-8 4:1-8 4:1-8
B:8 15:1-3 4:8a
4:9-16 4:9-16 4:9-16 4:9-16
C 13:8-14:19 4:17-4:17kk
D 15:4-19 5:1-2
D:1 (omitted)
5 5 5 5
6 6 6 6
7 7 7 7
8:1-12 8:1-12 8:1-12 8:1-12
E 16 8:12a-8:12cc
8:13-17 8:13-17 8:13-17 8:13-17
9 9 9 9
10 10 10 10
F 10:4-13 10:3a-10:3k

Verse Numbers in Joel

If you look in a typical English Bible, Joel has three chapters. If you look in the NAB it has four. So what’s the deal? The NAB follows the Hebrew numbering system, most other English translations follow the KJV system. So here’s a little explanation of the difference by the commentators at the Net Bible:

  • Beginning with 2:28, the verse numbers through 3:21 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 2:28 ET = 3:1 HT, 2:29 ET = 3:2 HT, 2:30 ET = 3:3 HT, 2:31 ET = 3:4 HT, 2:32 ET = 3:5 HT, 3:1 ET = 4:1 HT, etc., through 3:21 ET = 4:21 HT. Thus Joel in the Hebrew Bible has 4 chapters, the 5 verses of ch. 3 being included at the end of ch. 2 in the English Bible. (cite)

A sidenote or two: BHS stands for Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, which is the standard critical edition of Hebrew Bible which scholars use. ET stands for “English Text.” HT stands for Hebrew Text.

Haydock’s Bible Commentary

A tireless typer has transcribed the entirety of a 19th Century Catholic study Bible by Fr. George Haydock. He has written introductions to every book and notes to every chapter. And he quotes Church Fathers and other Catholic authors at length. It is quite a resource though I’m sure some of it is outdated. Phat Catholic brought it to my attention on his blog. Check it out if you get a chance.

Christian Life v. Theology

Catholics like studying. I guess it’s just part of what we do. We like to sit in classrooms, take notes and have study groups. A typical parish bulletin will advertise the weekly Bible Study or a 4-part series on an encyclical or a Catechism group or a Catholic social teaching book group. For us, “learning about The Faith” often means “learning theology.” We don’t usually see a difference between the two. But I think this is a problem.

Christian Life and Theology are two different things. In theology we learn about God, about the Church, about the Bible. But when we study Christian Life we learn how to be a Christian, how to pray, how to act rightly in different situations, how to live for God. The study of Christian Life should take precedence over the study of theology in the life of the average Catholic. We should be spending our time and mental energy learning how to love God and live for Him, not simply learning about Him. There’s a big difference.

Update 3/28/08: I just read an essay by Canon Drinkwater, a 20th Century English catechist, about how to teach the faith. He argues that the faith should be taught as something to be done not just something to be learned about. He says that if someone sees his faith as something to do then it becomes inherently more interesting and relevant. I think that’s a profound insight. Christianity must be done, practiced, lived out not just read about, learned or studied.

Who is “he” in Matt 3:16?

When Jesus gets baptized in Matt 3:16, we get this snippet: “the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him” (ESV).

First, a couple textual notes. The phrase “to him” does not appear in all manuscripts, not that it really matters except, I’d like to know who the “him” is. Presumably it is the same as the “he” in “he saw.” Also, the English pronoun “he” is embedded in the Greek verb since Greek does not need pronouns to express the number and person of the subject.

So is the “he” Jesus or John the Baptist? On my first reading I thought it was Jesus, but then I read John 1:32 where it says: “And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.” (ESV)

So, the “he” in Matt 3:16 is John the Baptist, not Jesus. John is the one who sees the dove come to rest on Jesus, not Jesus himself.

I think it would be helpful if English Bible editions added a footnote clarifying the antecedent of “he” in Matt 3:16. It would make the whole thing less confusing for all of us.