Biblical Exposition

adam_and_eveThis is a question that has puzzled people from the beginning. If God is good and all powerful why didn’t he stop Adam and Eve from sinning? Fair question. Of course we all know that he took the risk of giving us free will so that we could choose to love him.

I don’t want my kids to be born with a red button on their forehead that I push every time I want to hear them say, “I love you Daddy!” I want them to choose to say it from their own free will. No one wants a robot son or daughter – God included. 

But even knowing God created us with a free will, wasn’t there something he could have done to keep Man from sinning? Why did he allow this evil deed that brought alienation and death into the world? My friend Jimmy Akin did some pondering after reading a paragraph in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He wrote,

Today something leapt out that deals with the problem of evil, even though it wasn’t in the section on the problem of evil. It deals with the question of why God allowed original sin to take place.

Here’s what it says:

CCC 412  But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, “Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.” and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!’”

communion-of-saints_sThe answers provided by Leo the Great, Aquinas, Paul, and the Exsultet [at Easter] all converge on the idea that God allowed man to fall into sin because he knew he could bring about a greater good by doing so.

This does not necessarily mean a greater good for every individual (e.g., people who commit mortal sin and decide to stay there may not end up with a greater benefit in the long run, although this is itself arguable), but it does mean that there will be greater net good in general.

Thinking of Jimmy’s words reminded me of another paragraph in the Catechism which has caused quite a stir at times. It deals with the divinization of us humans. Had we not sinned, God would presumably not had to become Man. But when God became Man, though his humanity he drew us up into himself and made it possible for us to be sharers in his nature, to share in the very life of the Trinity!

CCC 460  The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”

This is not some strange kind of Mormon theology or New Age nonsense. It is the essence of our salvation. We are not just saved from our sins, but we are drawn right up into the very nature of God by the incarnation and redemption acquired through Jesus Christ.

St. Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 1:4, “He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.”

If you are not dancing yet, re-read the above and then start dancing and sharing this joyous news with everyone!!

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A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I know. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. And that was with protective equipment!

Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain and suffering. Today there is protective equipment and methods to harvest honey, but in times past it took a man willing to experience bitter pain today for the sweet rewards later.

There seems to be a principle built into the real world that is expressed with maxims such as “good things take time,” and “no pain no gain.” A paycheck is preceded by forty hours of work. Muscles appear after weeks of sweat equity and exercise.

Shortcuts seldom pay off and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Achievement takes effort and rewards are given to those who work hard.

Suffering is shunned by most people. Pain is avoided. We usually chose the path of least resistance. It seems most people are hard-wired for pleasure, relaxation and personal gratification. Following these baser impulses rarely reap the rewards human beings aspire to.

The number forty is used symbolically in the Bible over and over again. Jewish and Christian tradition has known this from the beginning. Forty is the number of testing, suffering, fasting, repentance and self-denial.

It often precedes new beginnings and new stages of salvation and restoration. Noah’s flood lasted forty days, Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years, Jonah gave Ninevah forty days to repent, Elijah fasted forty days and nights—as did Jesus in the wilderness.

John the Baptist wandered in the Judean Wilderness east of Jerusalem. He wore rustic clothing and suffered the pain of harvesting his own wild honey. He ate his wild honey with locusts, another word for a grasshopper.

Such hopping insects were declared “clean” foods for the Jews (Lev 11:22). I once jokingly told a group of pilgrims I “loved living the Bible in the Holy Land” and if they found a grasshopper I would eat it like John the Baptist had done. They went on a mission and found a 4” wiggly grasshopper. I had no choice but to imitate the Baptist. (See me eat it here.)

In the summer months, the wilderness of Judea hovers around 120?. John looked and acted a lot like Elijah the prophet and it was from this exact location that Elijah was assumed body and soul into heaven.

No wonder the Pharisees questioned if John was the Elijah who was to come. He was baptizing repentant Jews about thirty miles down from the mountains of Jerusalem and about three miles from the ancient community of Qumran.

John undoubtedly associated with these devout Essenes who had moved to the hot wilderness to seek God and become the Children of Light. The wilderness, like the number forty, is usually associated with seeking God and a sincere holiness brought about by self-denial and isolation.

Christian tradition from the earliest times understood the spiritual benefits of established periods of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-denial. This practice of self-abandonment to the wilderness for forty days was incorporated into the liturgical year. It was called Lent. The word originates from an old English word meaning “spring” and was used because Lent, the time of fasting and prayer was practiced in the spring of the year in preparation for Easter.

 John the Baptist wandered in the wilderness to mortify the flesh and earthly desires, focusing his mind and heart on things above. He was seeking holiness and spirituality. Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the same wilderness to be tempted by the Devil and prepared for his ministry.

The Church wants us to share in this deeper life of God. Lent is a time set aside so that we can join John in the wilderness—setting aside the distractions of daily life and earthly pursuits, turning to God and prayer.

Of course, it is not as easy for most of us since we have families, work schedules, diapers to change, houses to clean and on and on. The Lord and the Church understand this completely. But even the daily service of a family, the quality labor provided on the job and extra love shown to others can be an act of penance and self-giving.

We can all fit in time for confession, a bit more prayer and spiritual readings, deny ourselves a few extravagances or pleasures and seek to get closer to God. It is never easy—it wasn’t for John, Jesus or others who wandered for forty days looking for a deeper walk with God and a richer human experience.

We buy honey in the store and few of us like John are willing to reach into a hive and grab the honey at great cost. But like John we can impose a bit of self-denial upon ourselves, entering into penance, prayer, repentance and self-denial—though it often feels like reaching for the honey. The minimal pain of Lent can bring about the sweetness of holiness.

These places in the desert still exist. We can walk through the ruins of Qumran, see the mist over the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab in Jordan and stand on the shore of the River Jordan at the place Jesus met John. We can walk with Jesus in the with his forty days of temptation when he stepped out of the wilderness. No prayer or sacrifice, no self-denial or charitable act will go unnoticed by God. The sweetness of the Spirit will certainly be our reward.

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Bible Verses Missing in Modern Translations?
By Steve Ray       (PDF version here)

There are a lot of people today that are what we call “King James only“ Christians. They believe that the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the only inspired version and that modern translations are modernist. One argument for this is that there are some verses contained in the KJV which are not in recent modern versions.

The argument of KJV-only adherents only betrays their ignorance of the process of inspiration, transmission and translation. We sometimes joked that, “If the KJV was good enough for St. Paul, it is good enough for me.”

Examples of missing verses and passages are Mark 16:9–20John 5:4Acts 8:37, and 1 John 5:7.

downloadWe don’t have any of the original writings of the documents in the New Testament, only copies and copies of copies. There are thousands of fragments and manuscripts from the early centuries. The earliest is called the John Ryland fragment which contains a small portion of John 17 and 18. It is dated at AD 125 and was found in the sands of Egypt and written of papyrus.

The more ancient the manuscripts the more likely they are to be accurate to what the apostles actually wrote. And the more ancient manuscripts found to compare and analyze, the more accurate the translation will be.

The KJV was translated in 1611 by Protestant King James of England and was translated when we were still devoid of the best and most ancient manuscripts that testify to the original writings of the apostles. Over the last 400 years since the translation of the KJV there have been many newly discovered ancient and more reliable manuscripts.

Modern scholarship uses the most authoritative and trustworthy manuscripts to update the text of Scripture to make it much more accurate to what the apostles actually wrote. These manuscripts were not available during the translations of the KJV.

So, it was discovered there were some verses added by copyists over the centuries so King James had these later interpolations included in his translation.

download (1)But modern translations do not include them as part of the text, because they were not part of the original texts. But, even though modern translators know that those verses are not in the original Greek text, they still often add them in brackets with comments like: “Early mss [manuscripts] do not contain this v [verse].” This note is from the New American Standard Bible which is the translation I was raised with in my middle years along with the KJV.

Commenting on the later interpolation, the NIV footnote adds, “Some less important manuscripts [add]…”  The Catholic New American Bible, used for Mass in the US, footnotes, “Toward the end of the second century in the West and among the fourth-century Greek Fathers, an additional verse was known… This verse is missing from all early Greek manuscripts and the earliest versions, including the original Vulgate. Its vocabulary is markedly non-Johannine.”

Anybody who claims that those verses are definitely part of the original writings — and that Bibles that don’t include them are modernist and in error — only show their ignorance and the whole process of inspiration, transmission, translation and hermeneutics. For more on this check this Protestant but very good source: Why Are Newer Translations of the Bible Missing Verses?

You may also appreciate my article What Translation of the Bible Should you Use?

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Mary, Assumed into Heaven as the Queen

August 15, 2020

A while ago a man called in to say my argument for the Assumption of Mary including references from the Old Testament was wrong. I had quoted 1 Kings 2:19 where Solomon had raised his mother up to a throne on his right hand to reign as Queen of the Kingdom. The man arguing with me […]

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How Can Mary Be Sinless if She Rejoices in “God my Savior”?

August 14, 2020

A deacon wrote a question the other day about the sinlessness of Mary. Here is his question and my simple response in two parts. “Hello Steve!  I received a question this morning from a very wise and astute co-worker regarding our Blessed Mother. He is NOT Catholic. He asked, “Well!!  If the Blessed Virgin Mary was […]

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Riddle: What is the New Testament?

August 12, 2020

This is a question that very few people think about. The natural reaction to the question, “What is the New Testament?” is that it is a collection of books in the Bible. But before you say the New Testament is “a book” ask yourself what the book says the New Testament is. A hint is […]

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Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live: St. John & his Gospel

August 8, 2020

Great fun on Catholic Answers Live! St. John and his gospel may not sound that interesting but it was a lively and VERY interesting show. We started off:  1) Who wrote the gospel and what do we know about him? 2) Tell us about your books “St. John’s Gospel” and how you have gotten to […]

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Am I Sick? Naw, I Don’t Think So, Just Feeding the Turkey Vultures

July 31, 2020

The lady at the pet store told me I was a sick individual. I didn’t think so, but then again I am biased and think I’m OK – and my wife tends to agree with me. The whole thing started because of a small hobby of mine. When I was a little boy my dad bought […]

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Feast Day of St. Martha, loved by Jesus

July 29, 2020

Martha is often given the short shrift. She lived with her brother Lazarus and her sister Mary in Bethany where Jesus lived when he was in the Jerusalem area. She worked hard, cared for people but was criticized by Jesus, or so it seems. I don’t think Jesus was criticizing those who serve guests and take […]

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Vine, Branches & Fire: Where Will You End up?

July 27, 2020

One has to take time to care for their land. We own two acres in the country and awhile ago I was cutting wild vines out of the trees and burning them. The overgrown branches from the bushes and trees were also trimmed and burned. The flames brought to mind the words of Jesus in […]

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Feast Day of Joachim & Anna: Nativity and Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

July 26, 2020

July 27 is the Feast Day of Mary’s parents Sts. Joachim and Anna. Their story is not told in the Bible, but in a 2nd-century document entitled The Protoevangelium of James. In this document we read of the birth and presentation of Mary and her childhood through her marriage to Joseph and the birth of Jesus. This […]

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Peter and the Primacy in Scripture and the Early Church Discussion

July 16, 2020

Had another great evening with William Albrecht and Michael Lofton on their popular and wide-ranging Reason & Theology show. It was a great time of discussion, challenge and digging deep into the issue of the primage of Peter and Rome in Scripture and the Church Fathers – East and West. Enjoy the lively discussion…. Throughout […]

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Mass with 2 Protestants and 1 Crucifix

July 14, 2020

A while ago we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar. I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same — “CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS […]

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Peter & the Primacy in the New Testament

June 30, 2020

St. Peter in the New Testament What Do We Know About Him? Peter is the big rugged fisherman who became the humble servant of the servants of God. Jesus chose him from among the Twelve to be the leader and the visible head of the Church. What do we know about Peter from the New […]

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Eucharist Interview with Steve Ray and Paul Sangreal

June 29, 2020

This is a recording of my interview with Paul Thies on the Eucharist. You can listen by clicking below. His website page for this talk is here. Questions discussed: 1.      As a convert to Catholicism, describe how you came to accept the Real Presence? 2.      What was instrumental in increasing your devotion to the Eucharist? 3.      What is […]

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Did Jesus Re-name Simon the “Rock” – Confusion with Petra, Cephas, Rock and Peter

June 29, 2020

A loving wife of an unbelieving Protestant husband asked me to explain to her husband that Jesus renamed Simon as Peter and how that relates to Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. So in simple terms I gave it a simple (though a bit long) explanation. I hope it helps you as well. ******************************* Let’s give this […]

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