Thursday, August 25, 2022

Asking To Be Heard By God When You Don't Hear Yourself

"But what carelessness it is, to be distracted and carried away by foolish and profane thoughts when you are praying to the Lord, as if there were anything which you should rather be thinking of than that you are speaking with God! How can you ask to be heard of God, when you yourself do not hear yourself? Do you wish that God should remember you when you ask, if you yourself do not remember yourself? This is absolutely to take no precaution against the enemy; this is, when you pray to God, to offend the majesty of God by the carelessness of your prayer; this is to be watchful with your eyes, and to be asleep with your heart" (Cyprian, Treatise 4, On The Lord's Prayer, 31)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Other Ways To Evaluate The Assumption Of Mary

I've mentioned some of the contexts in which the early Christians could have discussed an assumption of Mary, if they thought she was assumed. See here, for example. Even lesser figures who were assumed to heaven, supernaturally transported from one location to another, or some such thing get mentioned in the early literature, like Habakkuk in Bel And The Dragon and the witnesses in Revelation 11:12. Figures like Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus get mentioned frequently (Luke 24:51; Hebrews 11:5; First Clement 9; Aristides, Apology, 2; etc.). From the second century onward, there are many discussions of Paul's being taken up to heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2 (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2:30:7, 5:5:1; Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 1:6; etc.). I've come across several discussions of that incident in Paul's life in the writings of Origen alone. Eusebius, in his Church History, sometimes discusses events reminiscent of what's supposed to have happened at the end of Mary's life, such as Quadratus' reference to people who had survived down to his day who had been raised from the dead by Jesus (4:3:2) and a bishop and his wife who went missing and whose bodies were never found (6:42:3).

One of the Biblical passages to keep in mind in these contexts is 1 Corinthians 15:20. The early Christians sometimes discuss how Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection and write about the implications for later resurrections that will occur (e.g., First Clement 24-26). They could have used Mary as an illustration, if they thought she'd already been resurrected in that manner.

Another context to consider is the earliest Christian art. Eventually, there were depictions of Mary being assumed. But I don't know of any examples in the earliest years when Christians were producing artwork that's extant. The early Christian opposition to the use of images in some contexts complicates the situation. (And offers more contradictions of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claims about church history, apostolic tradition, and so on.) Frederick Norris referred to a couple of depictions of Elijah being assumed in a chariot, one before the time of Constantine and the other in the fourth century (in Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia Of Early Christianity [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], 368). I know that there are some depictions of Jesus' resurrection and ascension in the early artwork (sometimes indirectly, it seems, such as by showing scenes from Jonah and the whale to represent Jesus' resurrection). There are depictions of the raising of various individuals from the gospels. The raising of Lazarus was a popular subject in early Christian art. I'm not aware of any depiction of a resurrection or assumption of Mary in the earliest centuries. By contrast, Mary does appear in other artistic contexts during that timeframe.

The Other Paul's New Web Site

Paul does a lot of good work on a lot of important issues. He has a new web site.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Patristic And Medieval Beliefs Are More Complicated Than Often Suggested

When discussing the history of beliefs, people often underestimate the diversity of views that have been held. I'm focused on patristic and medieval sources, since those come up so prominently in the sort of discussions I've been having lately about the claims of groups like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. We shouldn't just count up how many people were for or against a particular view. For example, sometimes a source was agnostic on an issue or held a position on it, but qualified that position with an expression of hesitation about it.

I've been posting a lot about the Assumption of Mary lately, and that's a good example of a belief that's relevant in this context. It's not as though every source was ignorant of the assumption claim, favored it, or opposed it. There are more categories than those three, and we should be taking more of the details involved in each category into account. There were some patristic and medieval sources who were agnostic about whether Mary was assumed or expressed a view, but accompanied that expression with significant qualifiers, such as by commenting on how hesitant they were about their conclusion. That's relevant to the claims Pope Pius XII and other Catholics and non-Catholics have made about an assumption of Mary. If somebody says that he thinks it seems fitting that God would assume Mary to heaven, but that he's hesitant about it, that other Christians are free to not accept her assumption, or something like that, that's significantly different than saying that Mary's assumption is an apostolic tradition always held by the church. It's important to make distinctions like these. And though I've used the Assumption of Mary as an example, we need to take these issues into account across the board, whatever the issue is that's being considered.