St. Eusebius of Emesa on Gospel Sources

St. Eusebius of Emesa was born about AD 300 and died around AD 360. He was a student of St. Eusebius of Caesarea, the church historian and Gospel commentary writer, but he also studied and taught in Antioch. His Homiliae in Evangelia was originally written in Greek, but we don’t have that original; we have the Latin. Some of his stuff also survives in Armenian. We have a few bits and pieces of him in Greek.

He seems to have been a very devout Christian, but his flock in Emesa (famed for its sun/mountain god, Heliogabalus, which was worshipped in the form of a black rock) distrusted his interest in astrology and threw him out of town for a while. He wrote many commentaries on Scripture, and was known to be pretty darned Trinitarian for a friend of so many Semi-Arians. An interesting character, all around.

Here’s a translation from the Latin version of Homiliae in Evangelia, “In Natale Domini, in Aurora” (Christmas at dawn):

And then it is added: “And Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.” (Lk. 2:19)

O most wise mother, and most worthy alone of such a son! She who “kept all these words… in her heart” for that reason, and “kept” them for us, and committed them to memory, so that they could be written down according to her instruction, her narration, and her recital; and could be published and preached throughout the whole world and in all the nations! For the Apostles heard these things from her, and they wrote down what she dictated, and it was committed to us to read.

Why, therefore, would one not believe the Gospels?

Who would presume to contradict them, when they are fortified by the authority of both mother and Son?

For the Apostles and the Evangelists heard certain things from the Lord’s mother, just as they have written these things and the rest, about the childhood of Our Savior. Indeed, they had gotten to learn many things from seeing and hearing the Lord Himself.

We should also take an example from the Lord’s mother, and we should faithfully keep the things they have reported about Our Savior in our hearts, and be careful to commit them to memory.

For it is written about those who hear “the word” of God and do not commit it to memory, that the devil “comes and takes away” the word that was sown in their hearts, lest they be saved. (Mt. 13:19)

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Lack of Belief in Infallible Scripture Implies a Fallible, Limited God

There are different ways to define the infallibility of Holy Scripture, and there are different ways of defining what the Bible contains.

But the basic idea is the same for both Jews and Christians; the Bible is important because it is God’s trustworthy revelation to us.

Given this premise, one would think that people would be a bit more careful about what they infer from the Bible, or how careless they are about ignoring it.

For example….

“The pericope of the adultress” is obviously a story about the Jesus we know and love. A lot of people think it’s obviously by Luke, and there is some verbal evidence of this. All the same, a lot of modern people are willing to ditch this famous bit because it’s not in Luke; and some even claim that it isn’t and never was inspired Scripture, even though it was used in the Church as a reading from earliest times.

Well, obviously if Jesus is God, and if God is omnipotent and omniscient, Jesus Christ is quite capable of looking out for His own reputation, and protecting His Bible from unwanted, un-inspired incursions.

And yet, there’s the adulteress’ story, large as life and twice as famous.

So either Jesus Christ is God, and approves, and inspired that part too… or Jesus Christ is not God, and it doesn’t really matter except to manuscript scholars.

And in fact, there is no indication in OT or NT that only the original author of a book is capable of being inspired, and that scribes and editors cannot be inspired. The Psalms had multiple authors, and they’re inspired.

So yes, it is annoying when a Bible translation takes it upon itself to remove verses. God is a big God, and He is quite capable of handling His own books. It’s even more annoying when Christians actually swallow this idiocy.

Another example is Margaret Barker’s work. Her idea is that real Judaism involved Yahweh and a female god (yeah, “El” is not a female name, but let’s pass that over), and that it was cruelly destroyed by King Josiah when he cleaned all the idol-crud out of the Temple. The Bible was then corrupted and changed to remove all evidence of this divine spouse thing, except for little bits that only Barker has been smart enough to uncover and understand. Also there was a Jewish version of the “trail of blood” connecting these female El-worshippers to early Christianity, and yet the only trace of them is the stuff in the NT about Mary and Holy Church.

Well, if that’s true, then who cares if the Bible was “corrupted”? Obviously this female El must be the worst god ever at protecting her reputation and her worshippers. She is a pathetic weakling, and the only prophet she has dug up in the last 3000 years is an English academic. Sad.

But there are two other possibilities. 1) She was always an imaginary being that got globbed into real Judaism, and she obviously didn’t belong in a true book about the relationship between Israel and the true, omnipotent, omniscient God. 2) She is an imaginary being invented by an English academic, and globbed onto real historical Middle Eastern paganism and syncretism.

The last explanation seems the most likely.

Obviously, the infallibility of the Bible isn’t something perceived as relevant by non-Christians, and it shouldn’t be dragged into academic discussions. But any Jewish or Christian believer should keep this in mind, as an easy crap detector.

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Research Fail: Dave Duncan Edition

Everybody who writes historical fiction, or any other book that needs research, will have a failure somewhere.

In Dave Duncan’s otherwise excellent medieval alt-history fantasy, Ironfoot, his failure comes in his description of Old English grammar. It’s hard to write about the future in Old English, he says, because it has no future tense.

Um. Dave. Neither does Modern English. Not the conjugation-within-the-verb kind. We have “compound tenses,” which use a helper verb like “will” or “shall.”

It’s also possible to talk about the future in English by using time markers.

“Tomorrow, we go to the Moon!”

“As soon as the rocket finishes refueling and fires up, we go to the Moon!”

I blame elementary school grammar classes. They don’t actually teach people the rules of English grammar; instead, they focus on an idealized version based on Latin.

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Here’s an Interesting Historical Figure.

St. Joseph of Palestine.

No, not St. Joseph the Carpenter. No, this is a different guy.

Among the notable Christians of Emperor Constantine’s time was an ex-disciple of Rabbi Hillel II (?). He was named Joseph, and was left the guardianship of Hillel’s son, Judah, after the rabbi died. He was a member of the Sanhedrin and also worked as an envoy for them.

Joseph alleged that in his last days, Hillel sent for a “physician” who was actually the local bishop, and received a “bath for his health” that was actually Baptism. Joseph kept silent about this, but he did get interested in reading the Gospels. At one point, he had a vision of Jesus. So he decided to become a Christian, but hadn’t done anything about it when he was caught with his suspicious Christian books, all the way out in Cilicia, where he was being an envoy. He was saved from being drowned in the river by the public arrival of s Cilician bishop, who took Joseph off to safety.

Emperor Constantine got very interested in the story and made Joseph a high officia in AD 323. During his time in office, he dealt with opposition by both Jews and Arian Christians, as he tried to build a church in his headquarters city, Tiberias. He also built churches in several Galilean towns important to the Gospels, including Sepphoris, Nazareth, and Capernaum. (There’s a lot of question as to whether any Christians lived there, or if he was just trying to create pilgrimage centers, or what. Apparently these were big centers of unrest during the Jewish revolt against Constantius Gallus.)

The good life ended when Emperor Constantine started to favor Arian bishops and persecute orthodox ones. Joseph moved to a nice place in Scythopolis, which had the advantage of being away from both Jewish and Christian factions. He used his place as a safe house for orthodox folks in trouble, including St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Epiphanius (who recorded his story in his book on heresies, the Panarion, in Lib. 30, c. 4).

Joseph died in AD 356. His feastday is July 22, and it is on the calendars of both East and West. He’s also known as Joseph of Tiberias.

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Hey, My Brother Has the #1 Steampunk EBook on Amazon!

The Sculpted Ship is back up on the Amazon charts!

Kevin recently put out the paper edition of his book, and then was accepted by BookBub for a promotion. So right now, you can get the Kindle edition for a great discount price.

99 cents!

Buy, read, enjoy! It’s good fun space sf, where the suns never set on the Iris Empire!

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Be Kind: Everyone Is Fighting a Great Battle

A few years back, I ran into a blog called Fencing Bear at Prayer. It was written by a medievalist who liked Mary, so of course I was interested. But the farther back I got into her blog, the more I got the impression that she liked Mary in a neopagan way. So I posted some argumentative stuff about it in the comments and on here somewhere, and went on.

Well, I was wrong about her. So I hope the lady didn’t take my comments to heart.

She was doing the conversion thing and was very new to starting it, so I should have been a lot gentler. And more, she was just at the beginning of fighting a great Internet battle.

Milo Yiannopoulos took an interest in this lady and helped her in her conversion to Catholicism. Yup, the original Peck’s Bad Boy had an eye for the slightly puzzled-looking lost sheep… and I didn’t. That is a prodigious failure on my part.

Yiannopoulos has written a big fat essay, fully researched and linked, about the online mobbing that has been suffered by this kindly lady professor for the last three years, from members of her own field, and why medieval studies is being attacked as a discipline. He calls it “Middle Rages: Why the Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America,” and it is worth reading the whole thing.

And then, one of the mob leaders threatened to sue the university where the professor works… over the article that had nothing to do with the university… and before the article even came out.

OTOH, the essay also exposes the way a lot of nasty people on the Internet are happy to speak with forked tongue — writing gentle prose to one group of “friends” on the same day they are whipping up hatemobs against their “friends” in another closed group. No wonder such people like to employ sock puppets; it’s just an extension of their usual methods.

In other news, the Fencing Bear at Prayer has a second book out. Mary and the Art of Prayer, by Rachel Fulton Brown is a tad bit pricey, but where else are you going to get this kind of research and all these great sources? It takes the subject of prayer seriously, instead of treating it as some mysterious obscure practice done only in the dark of the moon in lemur holes, by aliens with five heads. But it is also a history of ideas book, which I love. Prayer has its tides that go in and out, and this is a book about older ways to think about prayer.

And it’s about Mary, who is a great person to get to know. Why do Catholics insist on praying with her and chatting to her? It’s hard for us to explain, because it’s like fish doing dissertations on water. Rachel Fulton Brown is the new fish on the reef, so she can still talk about it instead of just breathing it!

Mostly, though, we need to pray for Rachel Fulton Brown, aka Fencing Bear at Prayer. Because she is still fighting a great battle.

O Blessed Virgin Mary,
Queen to angels and men,
Hypermachos Strategos (Great General) of the hosts of Heaven,
please continue to pray for your fencer and her champions.
O beautiful as an army set for battle,
send your subject St. Michael to give them aid and counsel!

O Queen of poets and prophets,
As you spoke your mind freely to your Son and to angels,
teach us to speak boldly and with honesty —
even if it makes us seem foolish before the world,
and even if the world hates us for it —
for we are body parts of your Son, and cannot expect better than He got.
Help us learn to make suffering a path to heaven; and help us not despair.

We ask this in Christ Our Lord, Amen.

* I still think some of the modern academics that Fulton Brown was using as sources are whacked out beyond wacky. But the main ones are useful-wacky, and worth picking through and yelling at. I later saw a lot of super-orthodox folks referencing the same whackdoodles, and some of them trained under the same people! Theology and Bible studies can get pretty offbeat.

Also, it’s well-known that a prof can make really good points and really stupid points in the same book or article, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the same thing happening in theology history books. And to be fair, 90% of all new experiments and theories are bound to turn out to be wrong, if you are actually investigating anything new.

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Marian Shrines for Cyclists

Mary has a long relationship with athletes needing help, and many sports have favorite Marian shrines. Cyclists have Our Lady of Ghisallo, sometimes called Our Lady of the Bicycle, or Our Lady of Cyclists. It’s an old roadside shrine which stands along the route of the Giro di Lombardia. The small chapel was built by a medieval man who was saved from bandits by Mary’s protection.

Our Lady of Ghisallo’s image is a painting of Mary, with Christ as a baby or toddler seated on her knee; He blesses the onlooker while she bends toward him, nursing him. But there’s a common variation on prayer cards where Mary is not nursing Him, but lifting toddler Jesus onto a bicycle seat! Medals of Our Lady of Ghisallo or the “Madonna del Ghisallo” are pretty common, too.

Our Lady of Ghisallo’s patronage of cyclists was made official by Pope Pius XII in 1949. The relevant feasts are October 13 and November 2 (because a lot of people go there to pray for dead cyclists’ souls).

A post about the place with a nice picture, from a cycling blog. Did you know that Cadel Evans donated his Tour de France yellow jersey to the chapel? No, me neither.

Here’s a bigger article about the place, with some amazing pictures.

There’s also a Museum of Cycling on the grounds, basically to handle all the donations and ex votos that overflow from the chapel. Here’s a news story about it. And another.

Other bicycle shrines include Notre-Dame des Cyclistes in Labastide-d’Armagnac, in the Aquitaine in France; and Nuestra Señora de Dorleta in Leintz Gatzaga, Spain. (Also spelled Lentz and Leniz.)

Notre-Dame des Cyclistes is an old Templar chapel. Pretty cool. It was approved as the French national shrine for cyclists by Pope John XXIII, in 1959.

This blog article talks about Spanish cyclists’ devotion to Our Lady of the Assumption of Dorleta, as well as the shrine itself.

The post also includes a more generic Spanish devotional statue, Our Lady of Sports (Nuesta Señora de Deporte), aka the Virgin of Athletes (La Virgen de los Deportistas) which features Toddler Jesus standing on an Olympic podium, and Mary with a gold medal around her neck. I have to say, it makes me smile and cry.

“Do you not know that everyone runs in the race? Indeed, they all run, but one wins the prize. So run so that you can get it.

“And everyone who strives to win, stops doing anything else — and they do it for a crown that withers, but we for an incorruptible one!

“So I run, but not as one without a finish line, and I box, but not like one pounding the air. I drill my body, and bring it under control.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27)

“Forgetting what lies behind, and leaning forward toward what is before me, I head for the finish line, for the prize of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)

“And therefore, having so great a cloud of witnesses around us, let us lay aside every burden and throw off every sin prone to entangle us; and with endurance, let us run the race set before us.” (Hebr. 12:1)

The post also includes a prayer to Our Lady of Sports. Here’s part of it:

“Our Lady and Mother,
we place in your hands all the efforts made by all the world’s athletes,
so that we can win a ‘crown that withers.’

May our physical efforts be a part of our search for higher virtues,
that forge character and give dignity and meaning to our lives.

As disciples of Our Teacher, Jesus Christ,
life itself is a competition,
and a striving for goodness and holiness.

Intercede before Him for all of us.
May all our work, sacrifice, and worry
culminate for us and for our families
in being filled to the brim with His love, His joy, and His peace.

Amen.”

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