LH-II. Hebrew and Christian Historical Understanding

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by Msgr. Eugene Kevane
©2003 The Miriam Press. All Rights Reserved

II. Hebrew and Christian Historical Understanding

Christian culture is the historic reality which succeeds in the West to the Graeco-Roman culture of classical antiquity.1 It is affiliated to that earlier civilization; qualitatively, however, it is quite different from it. The essential reason for the difference is to be found among the Hebrews.

The Hebrew Fact stands as a historic reality in its own right. It is documented in the priestly annals of Jerusalem, the capital city of the Hebrews, known today as the historical books of the Old Testament and available everywhere today in the Bible. For these books are written “history,” independent and indeed strikingly unique in their literary genre.2 In form they go beyond the mere chronicles of the Mesopotamian and Egyptian cities; in content they enter entirely upon God as operating in the events of their national history, putting this people descending from Abraham into a special relationship to Himself, called the Covenant or Testament, and thus making of it the chosen People of God with a new and unique purpose.3

The Doctrine Of Creation

These writings present God as the thrice-holy One, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth. It would be difficult to over-emphasize the universality of the doctrine of Creation in the pages of the Hebrew writings. Its history is a record of the interventions of God into the ongoing processes of human life, something that already belongs to Him because He made it and hence is in a position to rule and to guide its unfolding development. “Lord, Lord, King and Master of all things,” a Hebrew prays in a national crisis, “everything is subject to your power…. Yes, you have made heaven and earth and all the marvels that are under heaven.”4 The Psalm which calls Israel to its daily prayer expresses the mind of the Hebrew people:

“Come, let us praise Yahweh joyfully…. For Yahweh is a great God, a greater King than all other gods; from depths of earth to mountain top everything comes under his rule; the sea belongs to him, he made it, so does the land, he shaped this too. Come in, let us bow, prostrate ourselves, and kneel in front of Yahweh our maker, for this is our God, and we are the people he pastures, the flock that he guides.”5

These instances, which could be multiplied indefinitely from the Bible, illustrate the profound difference between “history” as this people understood and wrote it, and the discipline cultivated under the same name by the Greeks and the Romans. This is history that records contact with the Supreme Being of the universe: at one and the same time contact with the Creator of the cosmos and the Lord of history.

Rome in the conquest of her Empire was able to subjugate every city, snuffing out its local religious and political life, terminating its local priestly annals, replacing them with her own cult and code and educational system — save one city alone.6 Jerusalem she could not conquer in this way of education and culture which she preferred. In the end she had to destroy Jerusalem utterly, pulling apart every stone of her buildings and running a plow over her site. And even then this remarkable nation refused to yield: it kept its treasure of these unique writings and continued its life clustered about its synagogues in every place, always hoping for the great return to Jerusalem and the re-building of that Temple which Titus had destroyed. Each year, for centuries, the aspiration has been voiced: “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Historical Succession

What was (and is) unique about this durable Hebrew Fact? It was the paradoxical understanding of itself as provisional and temporary. Moses and after him all the Prophets wrote of a Coming One who would establish a new and final Testament.

“The scepter shall not pass from Judah… until he come to whom it belongs, to whom the peoples shall render obedience” (Gen. 49, 10).

“I will shake all the nations and the treasures of all the nations shall flow in, and I will fill this Temple with glory, says Yahweh Sabaoth” (Haggai 2, 7).

“Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says Yahweh Sabaoth. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming?… I mean to visit you for the judgment…” (Malachi 2, 1-5).

Thus the Hebrews envisaged a vast religious succession in human history, descending parallel to the succession of the politico-cultural Empires of the Gentiles, but qualitatively quite different from them: “Yahweh…, to you the nations will come from the confines of the earth” (Jer. 16, 19).

“My heart is stirred by a noble theme,” Psalm 45 sings, describing an everlasting throne and addressing a queen in gold from Ophir:

“Listen, daughter, pay careful attention. Forget your nation and your ancestral home…. The daughter of Tyre will solicit your favor with gifts, the wealthiest nations, with jewels set in gold…. Your ancestors will be replaced by sons whom you will make lords of the whole world.” The Hebrews looked forward to some kind of universal sway, toto orbe terrarum, in terms which match those of Polybius above on Rome’s empire over “almost the whole world.”

A Coming One

No theme is more common or more characteristic of the Hebrew writings than this prophetic expectation of a new historical order in which a new covenant or testament with all nations will replace the present one with the Hebrew nation. And all the peoples, including the Hebrews, will be renewed in this coming dispensation. Let one passage from the Prophets serve as an example:

“I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am Yahweh — it is the Lord Yahweh who speaks — when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes. Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land. I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God” (Ezech. 36, 23-28).

Always this new and universal religious dispensation is expected to be the work of the Coming One.

It is important to recognize the universality of this understanding of succession, meaning and direction in human affairs. The Hebrews professed as basic articles of their Faith the origin of all mankind by creation of the first human pair, and the Fall of all mankind in a sin of that first man. Their writings and their national religion transcend their own national origin in Abraham. The Coming One was to be like Moses, indeed, but not a new Moses or even a new Abraham. He was to be the New Adam, from whom a new race and kind of man would proceed and populate the earth, new men with hearts of flesh instead of hearts of stone.

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is the world-historical figure who intervenes at this point with transforming power over human thought upon the meaning and direction of universal history. He appeared as a Rabbi or Teacher according to the accepted pattern among the Hebrews. The key to the situation emerges in the very beginning of His Talmudim, when His group of disciples clustered about Him, attaching themselves to Him as students in the common didactic procedure of the day.

John the Baptist pointed Him out to his own disciples, and two of them went to explore. “Jesus turned around, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi’ — which means Teacher — ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see,’ he replied.” They stayed with Him the rest of that day, and forthwith began to contact and enlist their companions: “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth” (John 1, 37-46).7

The Teacher proceeded with an intensive program of teaching and formation designed to prepare His twelve ordinary Hebrew men, outdoor men of the common people, men with only the common elementary schooling of the Synagogue, to receive His own mission and to be sent out with it to all nations.

“Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt. 28, 19-20).8

His teaching came to a sudden shattering end in the ignominious crucifixion. It resulted directly from betrayal. He died and was buried. Then on the third day the illuminating and transforming fact of His Resurrection from the dead burst upon His scattered and demoralized followers. The effect was of course electrifying, for His disciples were convinced from His appearances that it was really He, alive again after death. But not all accepted their witness easily.

“‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails,’” Thomas maintained stoutly, “‘…I will not believe.’ And after eight days… Jesus came, the doors being closed, and stood in their midst…. Then he said to Thomas, ‘Bring here thy finger, and see my hands… and be not unbelieving, but believing.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20, 25-28).

The Profession Of The Apostolic Faith

This is one of the original forms of the Profession of the Apostolic Faith. Many instances of this nucleus of the Profession are scattered through the pages of the New Testament, the sudden and dramatic conclusion of the Old Testament, as men everywhere find it to this day in the Bible. Sent by the Risen Lord to teach all nations and to baptize them in the Names of the Three Persons in the Unity of Yahweh’s Godhead, the Apostles now recognized with new clarity that Jesus Himself had taught and trained and formed them precisely for this mission when they were with Him in His rabbinical school.

It is readily understandable, as a simple practical necessity in taking up their assignment, that they needed a brief summary of the news about Jesus, His events and His doctrine on the Three Persons in the One God of the Hebrews. This summary gathered the content of their evangelization into a set of articles which state the Apostolic Faith. This was the pattern or standard of their catechetical teaching which prepared men and women for baptism.9 The profession of this same Faith at baptism was required from the beginning for the reception of members into what He had called “My Church,” and it has been required consistently across the centuries to the present.

This official summary of the Apostolic Faith is known popularly today, in a particular verbal form at home among peoples whose languages derive from the Latin, as the Apostles’ Creed. It is a marvelously compact statement of the Christian message about Jesus, relating Him, His Person and His work, to the Three Divine Persons, and stating that everything about Him took place “according to the Scriptures,” meaning the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures which Christians call the Old Testament. For everything about Jesus, Peter insists, took place “by the settled purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2, 23). The Profession of the Apostolic Faith, furthermore, recognizes two Comings of Jesus Christ: this first one, now accomplished and completed, and a second one in glory, at the end of this present world and its history, as the Judge of the living and the dead.10

The New Center Of History

It is clear that this Profession of the Apostolic Faith contains a new and specifically Christian understanding of the universal history of mankind. In fact, the event to which it bears witness and makes known by its witness, the Incarnation of the Supreme Being and the Redemption of mankind on His Cross, changes the character of history itself.

“From the moment that it takes place,” writes Gigon, “it necessarily takes its position as the center of all history, as the midpoint in the strict sense, insofar as it simultaneously establishes the beginning and ending points of universal history to which it itself as midpoint is related.”11 The historical time which reaches from the beginning, the creation of the world and its history, to the midpoint, stands revealed as a time of preparation precisely for this central event. This is the meaning of the phrase “according to the Scriptures” in the Profession of Faith. “And this preparatory movement of history forward toward the Incarnation of God correlates with the subsequent movement of history from this event toward the End of the World.”12

It is fundamentally important to note that the Profession of the Apostolic Faith, by its First Article, continues and fulfills the Hebrew doctrine of creation. It is through this same Eternal Son, now incarnate, that God the Father created heaven and earth, meaning all things visible and invisible. The plan which the Almighty put into His creation is a plan for the redemption of mankind.13 This is accomplished through the sending of His Eternal Son, and then through the consequent sending of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son upon the new entity which Jesus organized as a part of his teaching program and called “My Church” (Mt. 16, 18). Hence the three-fold division of the Apostles’ Profession and its resulting masterful synthesis of the meaning and direction of history as salvation history, built by God into reality as an integral part of creation as such.14 And it is the Third Article on the work of the Holy Spirit, raising up “a standard for the nations” (cf. Is. 11, 12), which bears directly upon the Christian understanding of universal history.

The Apostles, particularly Sts. Peter and Paul, made this standard, the Catholic Church, visible on the stage of history already in the First Century by their energetic apostolate. Quickly they moved out from the original base at Jerusalem to Antioch and then to Rome. Soon afterward the fourth original Apostolic See was established at Alexandria, an action traditionally attributed to St. Mark, who had been with St. Peter at Rome as his younger associate. For the Apostles did not share an erroneous opinion on the imminence of the Second Coming which was widespread among Christians in the decades immediately following the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The Apostles themselves were careful to clarify the official teaching of the Church to the contrary. As St. Paul explains to the Thessalonians, the day of the Lord is not yet near at hand.

“Let no one deceive you in any way, for the day of the Lord will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and is exalted above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sits in the temple of God and gives himself out as if he were God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I used to tell you these things? And now you know what restrains him, that he may be revealed in his proper time” (2 Thes. 2, 3-6).

Thus the Apostles saw the time before them as divided into two moments: first, the period of the mission to all peoples and nations with the Christian message; and after that, the mysterious events leading directly and immediately to the Second Coming. For the Apostles, the obvious answer regarding the delay was to use the time for the formation of the Christian assemblies or ecclesiae, the churches being actively organized ever more widely out into every place from the four original Apostolic Sees. St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, was witnessing already the conversion of the pagan peoples to God in the universal Church of Jesus Christ: for him it was already a present fact which he was able to see and to experience. And he states clearly his understanding of it.

The Catholic Act

A New Israel is being formed by means of these ecclesiae, an eschatological Israel arising out of Abraham’s seed and formed out of Jews and Gentiles without the distinctions and national customs of the Old Testament.15 The Hebrew Torah is recognized as preparatory for this new fact. St. Paul, and the entire Early Church with him, recognizes what is beginning to take place as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures in their prophecy of the calling of the Gentiles into the world-wide New Testament which is to succeed in the times of the Coming One. The emergence of this New Israel on the stage of universal history, furthermore, is in turn preparatory to coming events regarding the Hebrew nation itself. For the refusal of this people to join the universal movement of the Gentile nations into the unity of the New Israel is seen by the Apostles as an apostasy which is itself a fulfillment of prophecy; and Saint Paul in his profound chapters to the Romans looks forward to the conversion of a remnant of the Hebrew people sometime in the future, on the eve of the final manifestation of divine power.16

This is the substance of the Christian understanding of history. The Fathers of the Church from Justin through Augustine to Gregory the Great will develop it greatly, but they will not change it.

The Catholic Fact emerges in this way and becomes visible on the panorama of universal history. It results from the apostolate, through the distinct yet interrelated processes of evangelization and catechesis. It is the work of the catechumenate, the apostolic teaching program which explained the creedal facts about Jesus secundum Scripturas, as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, and then baptized into membership in the New Israel of God and its way of life. Thus the Catholic Fact follows upon the Hebrew Fact, and is one thing with it in the continuity of religious succession, the succession of the Testaments as an actual happening of history.

  1. 17. Cf. Christopher Dawson, The Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1938). Two decades later when he had come from England, full of hope for Catholic education in the United States, to a Professorship at Harvard University in Boston, Dawson had to suffer an attack upon the idea of Christian culture by a Catholic college professor, an episode which historians of the future doubtless will footnote in their studies of the “Americanism” in religion which was ripening as the 20th century proceeded. The incident evoked Dawson’s book, The Historic Reality of Christian Culture (New York: Harper, 1960). Toynbee agrees that Christian culture is both a reality and qualitatively different. Cf. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History (London: Oxford University Press, 1935; 2nd ed.), Vol. I, pp. 57-58: “When the moribund Empire fell, the ensuring ‘interregnum’ gave the living Church an opportunity to perform an act of creation. The Church then played the part of a chrysalis out of which there emerged in the fullness of time a new society of the same species as the old society which had disappeared — but disappeared without carrying away the Church in its ruins as it had carried away the Empire. The essence of the Christian Church, which at once differentiates it as an institution from the Roman Empire and explains how it was able to go on living and growing when the Empire perished, was the germ of creative power which it harbored…. The Church was intimately concerned and not just accidentally associated with the ‘affiliation’ of our Western Society to the Hellenic Society…. It was the chrysalis out of which our Western Society emerged.” 

  2. 18. There can be different literary kinds in the writing of history; the Gospels offer a variation in the Hebrew genre. Records of the past, other ways of describing the way things actually took place, wie es eigentlich gewesen ist, in Ranke’s famous phrase, can be quite truthful without the “modern” literary genre with its weight of footnotes. And heavy scholarship can be quite aberrational in its understanding and interpretation of the facts which it documents. For a detailed discussion of this point with modern and contemporary bearing, cf. Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics, op. cit., pp. 1-26. For a standard presentation of the Hebrew concept of history and historical writing, cf. C. R. North, The Old Testament Interpretation of History (London: The Epworth Press, 1954). 

  3. 19. Cf. Vatican II, Dei verbum (Nov. 18, 1965), Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, no. 2; in Austin Flannery (ed.). Vatican Council II (New York: Costello, 1975), p. 751: “This economy of Revelation is realized by deeds and words, which are intrinsically bound up with each other. As a result, the works performed by God in the history of salvation show forth and bear out the doctrine and realities signified by the words; the words, for their part, proclaim the works, and bring to light the mystery they contain.” 

  4. 20. Esther 4, 17. The standard treatises on the Biblical Theology of the Old Testament gather the relevant texts and synthesize this distinctive Hebrew doctrine of Creation. Cf. for example P.F. Ceuppens, O.P., De Deo Uno (Romae: Marietti, 1949); Alfons Deissler, Die Grundbotschaft des Alten Testaments (Freiburg: Herder, 1978, 6th edition); P. Van Imschoot, Theology of the Old Testament (New York: Desclee, 1965), Vol. I, pp. 86-108, “God and the World”; and especially Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), Vol. I, pp. 136-153, “The Place in the Theology of the Witness Concerning Creation.” 

  5. 21. Psalm 95 (Jerusalem Bible; Psalm 94 in the older numeration); this psalm is the Invitatorium to prayer used daily in the Liturgia Horarum of the Catholic Church. 

  6. 22. Cf. Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956), pp. 374-388, “Rome Everywhere Destroys the Municipal System”; “The Conquered Nations successively enter the Roman City.” 

  7. 23. Thus the disciples from the very beginning recognized Jesus as the Coming One, and this was their experience of His presence and activity throughout their time with Him as His students. That the final events of mankind began to occur with the first preaching, or better, heralding of the news that the Kingdom of God is now at hand, is recognized accurately by L. G. Patterson, op. cit., p. 9: “Such a classic description of the first preaching [as that in Mark 1, 14-15 and Matthew 4,17]…arises from a powerful apprehension, attributable to no one but Jesus Himself, of the immediate manifestation of divine power in the happenings of the present.” This insight underlies the breaking of demonic power in the Gospels and the frequent references to the Hebrew Prophets, especially Isaiah and Daniel. “It is inherent in the appeal made to Isaiah 29, 18ff., in support of taking not only the healings but the preaching of the Gospel to the poor as proof that the ‘Coming One,’ the agency in the establishment of the Kingdom, is even now present to perform His redemptive functions (Mt. 11, 4-6; Lk. 4, 18-19).” Patterson, ibid., p. 9. Thus the Christian Era, however protracted, is the period of the ending of this world. 

  8. 24. The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles always have been considered historical books of the Bible, continuing the literary genre of historiography among the Hebrew. Cf. John L. McKenzie, “History; Historical Writing,” Dictionary of the Bible (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1965), 360-363; and “Gospel,” 320-323, quoting the happy phrase of Léon-Dufour which calls the Gospels “catechetical booklets reporting history.” The defense of the historicity of the historical books of the Bible always has been an essential aspect of intellectual life among Christians. Gnosticism, both in antiquity and in its resurrected form which has become common in the Twentieth Century, characteristically seeks to evade and to deny the historical element in Christianity. The Early Church defended this historicity tooth and nail, for instance Irenaeus’ Against the Heresies. There is a consistent series of Documents of the Magisterium from Leo XIII to the present on this point. Cf. in particular the Constitution Dei verbum of Vatican II. For an example of the manner in which younger, post-Conciliar scholars are coming to grips with the contemporary philosophical Gnosticism, particularly in Bultmann’s version of it, cf. John F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology (Rome: Prop. Mariana, 1976). 

  9. 25. Cf. Romans 6, 17, where St. Paul’s original Greek refers to the typon didaches which had been delivered to the converts by the apostolic program of evangelization and catechesis, and which they obeyed from the heart. Jerome translates in the Vulgate: in eam formam doctrinae in quam traditi estis; the New American Bible: “that rule of teaching which was imparted to you”; and the Jerusalem Bible: “you submitted without reservation to the creed you were taught.” This creedal standard or pattern which gave the catechetical teaching program of the Apostles its form and its content was not yet fixed into one set of words known at that time as “The Apostles’ Creed.” That particular set of words emerged later from the life and practice of the Church. But the substance was proclaimed in evangelization, taught in catechesis, and professed at baptism, constantly and consistently forward from the Apostolic origins of the Church. In fact, this vital practice is the dynamic process of the on-going Apostolicity of the Church, the life-process which constitutes the Catholic Fact and builds it into visibility in human history. Cf. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (London: Longman, 1972 [3rd ed.]). 

  10. 26. The Apostles’ Profession of Faith or “Creed” was a summary made officially by the teaching authority of the Church, of the essential facts reported in the historical books of the Bible, and hence it itself bore directly upon history. In one of the earliest extant allusions to this Professor, written when the Apostle John was still alive, St. Ignatius of Antioch stresses this historicity by using the words “really,” “in reality” and “truly”: “Stop your ears, therefore, when anyone speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly begotten of God and of the Virgin, but not after the same manner. For indeed God and man are not the same. He truly assumed a body; for ‘the Word was made flesh’ and lived on earth without sin…. He did in reality both eat and drink. He was crucified and died under Pontius Pilate. He really, and not merely in appearance, was crucified, and died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth…. He descended, indeed, into Hades alone, but He arose accompanied by a multitude…. He also rose again in three days, the Father raising Him up; and after spending forty days with the apostles, He was received up to the Father…. Mary then did truly conceive a body which had God inhabiting it. And God the Word was truly born of the Virgin, having clothes Himself with a body of like passions with our own…and was really born, as we also are…. And when He had lived among men for thirty years, He was baptized by John, really, and not in appearance; and when He had preached the Gospel three years, and done signs and wonders, He who was Himself the Judge was judged by the Jews, falsely so called, and by Pilate the governor; was scourged, was smitten on the cheek, was spit upon; He wore a crown of thorns and a purple robe; He was condemned: He was crucified in reality, and not in appearance, not in imagination, not in deceit. He really died, and was buried, and rose from the dead… The Father, therefore, who raised Him up, will also raise us up through Him, apart from whom no one will attain to true life. For He says, ‘I am the life; he that believeth in me, even though he die, shall live: and every one that liveth and believeth in me, even though he die, shall live forever.’” (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Trallians, cc. 9-10; in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson [eds.], The Ante-Nicene Fathers [New York: Scribner’s, 1926], Vol. I, pp. 69-71). 

  11. 27. Olof Gigon, Die antike Kultur und das Christentum (Gütersloh: Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1969), p. 145. This is the intellectual justification for Christocentrism in Catechetics; cf. the General Catechetical Directory, no. 40; and no. 88, on the “religious way of thinking” which is prerequisite for catechesis with adolescents and adults. This Christocentrism literally has no real meaning apart from the understanding of history under analysis here; for either Jesus Christ is really, truly, in reality (to use the words and witness of Ignatius of Antioch) the midpoint of universal history, or Christianity must be re-interpreted according to the project of the Modernists. Cf. the comprehensive work of Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1950), already cited. 

  12. 28. Gigon, ibid., p. 146. The Bible has numerous references to the End, including entire chapters in the Gospels which summarize what Jesus taught about it; and one of its books, Revelation or the Apocalypse, is devoted ex professo to it. From this foundation in the Scriptures the theological treatise on The Last Things has been developed across the centuries. Cf. St. Augustine, De civitate Dei, Books 19-22; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III, qq. 69-99; L. Billot, Quaestiones de Novissimis (Rome: The Gregorian University Press, 1924); Antonius Piolanti, De Novissimis (Rome: Marietti, 1946, 1950); Franz Mussner, Was Lehrt Jesus über das Ende der Welt? (Freiburg: Herder, 1958). (Now in English: Franz Mussner. What did Jesus Teach about the End of the World? (Ann Arbor: Word of Life, 1974). 

  13. 29. Cf. John 1, 1-14: “In the beginning was the Word…. All things were made through him and without him was made nothing that has been made…. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” For the bearings of this upon catechetical teaching in the Church, cf. the General Catechetical Directory, no. 51: “The truth of creation is not to be presented simply as a truth standing by itself, torn from the rest, but as something which is in fact ordered to the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ.” This is another way of stating the principle regarding the philosophy of history which is developed in the present study: this branch of philosophy is unique in that it correlates with the doctrine of Creation, knowing (philosophically) that the Creator would have some kind of plan, and open therefore (i.e., coordinated with theology) to some word from on high about the matter. 

  14. 30. The Epistles of St. Paul mark the beginning of Christian thought about history and the divine plan in history. The centering of the plan upon the historical Jesus as the Eternal Son, Lord of men and their history, is the theme of them all, and both the beginning and the end of universal history recur throughout the Pauline writings. The plan itself is summarized in magnificent sweeping passages, for example Acts 17, 22-34; Ephesians, c. 1; Colossians 1, 1-2, 7; Romans cc. 9-10-11. Vatican II, twenty centuries later, teaches the same understanding of universal history: cf. Gaudium et spes, no. 45: “The Word of God, through whom all things were made, was made flesh, so that as a perfect man he could save all men and sum up all things in himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the center of mankind…. Animated and drawn together in his Spirit we press onwards on our journey towards the consummation of history…”; in Flannery, Vatican Council II, op. cit., p. 947. This teaching emphasizes the need for research on the relationship between philosophy and theology according to Optatam totius, no. 14, a relationship mediated by a correct understanding of the nature and role of philosophy of history. 

  15. 31. Cf. Romans 3, 31—4, 25; Galatians 3, 1-19. 

  16. 32. Cf. L.G. Patterson, op. cit., p. 12. Cf. Romans, Chapters 9-10-11, on the problem of the rejection of Israel during the times of the Gentiles and the future conversion of a remnant of the Jewish people toward the end of history; cf. Erik Peterson, Die Kirche aus Juden und Heiden (Salzburg: Verlag Anton Pustet, 1933). 

  • You are my witnesses (Is. 43:10)  •  You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)