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The Lord of History, by Msgr. Eugene Kevane. ©2003 The Miriam Press. All Rights Reserved

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References – II. Hebrew and Christian Historical Understanding

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.”

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).

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.”

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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).

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.]).

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).

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.

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).

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.

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.

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

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).