Category Archives: Theology

The Structure of the Psalms

A 3000-year general history on the Book of Psalms numbering and divisional systems.

The structural development of the Book of Psalms has an interesting and complex history.

The results will weave through almost 3000 years of documents. The reader will be journeying through Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Latin and English texts. Don’t worry. You don’t need to know the languages itself to join in this expedition. This work is designed for both the researcher and the passionate lay reader. Many pictures will be provided that will assist. One can marvel at the beauty of the handwritten text without understanding it.

This is a general survey. The subject is endless.

The findings show that the Psalms began as an unordered list with no assigned numbers. The arrival of the Greek translation called the Septuagint brought about a numbering scheme for the Book of Psalms. The Septuagint also limited to the Book of Psalms to 151 poems, though this was not adhered to by other traditions who went up to 155. Verses were not introduced until much later. This was covered in a previous article titled, A History of Chapters and Verses in the Hebrew Bible.

As demonstrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls, the order of the poems in the Book of Psalms was not established in the early centuries. This happened after the widespread acceptance of the Septuagint later on.

The headers introducing most of the Psalms are the most controversial and misunderstood. We are not so sure today on the meaning behind the original Hebrew or even the Greek translation. This has led to a multitude of interpretations even within the English Bible translation tradition.

The Septuagint assignments of numbers and order were assumed by the Latin translators, which in turn had an influence on the English Bible tradition.

How this conclusion was arrived at

The focus was on comparing the Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, and Latin manuscripts for building a framework.

The Book of Psalms is a large compilation and to examine the details of each and every Psalm would be a major ambition. So this project has been reductionistic to save time and resources. Psalms 9 and 10 as found in the English Bibles serves as the basis for this study, and more general information is provided for the rest. There are two caveats though, no Dead Sea Scroll text has been found that contains Psalms 9 and 10. We have to simply live with that and work with other manuscripts that are available. Secondly, the references to the Psalms in the Talmudic writings have been ignored because of the time involved.

The Book of Psalms was originally written in Hebrew, but the greatest influence of the divisions, numbering and the modern English name of this Book can be found in the Greek edition called the Septuagint. This Greek translation is old—the first one appeared around 250 BC.(1)See A Brief History of the Septuagint for more information Greek was the universal language of government, the courts, and trade in the middle east from 200 BC to 300 AD. It was critical to learn Greek for both commercial and financial success. Greek held prominence similar to English in the international community today. The Septuagint was the authoritative text for Jews who lived in Egypt and the Roman Empire. The available manuscripts for this Greek translation outdates almost every Hebrew Bible text except for the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The prominence of the Book of Psalms in the narrative of human history

The Book of Psalms, whose poems were first collated around 970 BC, is one of the oldest collections of poetry/hymns on the human record. Sure, there are older ones such as Ludlul-Bel-Nimeqi — an Akkadian narrative developed around 1700 BC with themes similar to that of the Book of Job.(2)see Ludlul-Bel-Nimeqi by Joshua J. Mark Or Homer’s work The Iliad which has entertained children and adults for almost 2700 years. Neither of these works reflects the depth of the human soul on the themes of joy, loss, deceit, war, peace, love, yearnings, awe, the divine interplay between God and man, and mysteries of life that the Book of Psalms invokes in the hearts of readers.

The power of human emotion somehow transcends from the original Hebrew into almost every known language of the world. The Book of Psalms demonstrates that great poetry has a magic unto itself that overcomes language and cultural barriers.

Authors of the Book of Psalms

The main contributor to the Book of Psalms was King David (1010–970 BC). Out of the 151 Psalms in the Christian Bible today, 73 are traditionally understood to be produced by him. The rest were produced by various Israelite authors: even one accredited to the great leader Moses.(3)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psalms

How the Book of Psalms received its English name

The Hebrew name for the Book of Psalms is תהילים‎, Tehillim, which means praises.

The Greek translators translated this collection of poems as ψαλμοί Psalmoi which then was adapted by the Latin translators as Liber Psalmorum and then anglicized as the Book of Psalms in all the English Bible versions.

The order of the Book of Psalms in the various Bibles throughout history

The ancient Hebrew editors squeezed the Book of Psalms in between II Chronicles and the Book of Job in their third section of writings called the Ketubim (Writings). This is the place for tertiary writings. They had less authoritative power than the writings of Moses (the Torah) or the section allotted to the Nevi’im (The major prophets of ancient Israel. The minor prophets were relegated to Ketubim). (4)see the Hebrew Bible listing at Wikipedia for more information The Jewish people call the collection of the Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketubim the Tanakh.

The Septuagint has a different classification system. The editors broke the format into three categories. The first one was the Pentateuch (The anglicized Greek word for the five books of Moses). The second was poetic and wisdom literature which included the Book of Psalms. It is sandwiched between Job and Proverbs. The third was the histories of Israel which went from Joshua to III Maccabees. The last category was the prophets. Both major and minor prophets were lumped into this section.

The Latin Vulgate agrees with the Septuagint ordering system. This framework was adopted by the later English Bible translators.

The internal structure of the Book of Psalms

A Dead Sea Scroll called the Great Psalm Scroll which was copied around 30 – 50 AD has a substantial amount of Psalms, but not all. However, given by what is found in this scroll, the order and number of Psalms are different than what is found in the present English Bible traditions. The different order may be a distinctive of the Qumran community that copied the Psalms, or, could be that the order within the Psalms had not been settled by this period.

The English Book of Psalms traditionally contains 151 psalms. This was not always the case in history. There has been up to 155.(5)Qumran Psalms Scroll A good explanation for these differences can be found by a Dead Scroll specialist named Peter W. Flint in his article Psalm 151 and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

What are the extra Psalms 151b – 155? Here is a composition of these texts. Psalms 151-155 translated by W. Wright, 1886

The method to demonstrate the start and end of a Psalm

The Great Psalm Scroll

The Great Psalm Scroll identified the beginning of a poem by spacing and often a small attribution to the author. They did not use numbers to divide the Psalms. This device came later.

Psalm 138
The start of Psalm 138 in the Great Dead Sea Scrolls

One of the distinctives of the Great Psalm Scroll was the reverence for the holy name of God (the tetragammeton). The copyists believed it unholy to alter the original calligraphic script for the personal name of God and so the left it in the much older Hebrew writing style:

Psalm 138-2
Psalm 138 Dead Sea Scroll with the Sacred name of God in Paleo-Hebrew.

The Greek texts

These ancient christian manuscripts which contained the Book of Psalms were examined: Codex Vaticanus 1209 (@315AD),(6)http://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.gr.1209 pg. 628 Codex Sinaiticus (@345 AD),(7)http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx?book=26&chapter=9&lid=en&side=r&zoomSlider=0 and Codex Alexandrinus (@420 AD).(8)http://www.csntm.org/Manuscript/View/GA_02 CSNTM image IDs, 143222 and 143223. Manuscript handwritten pages 534–535

Both the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus has each Psalm numbered. The Sinaiticus goes a step further and colors the header text in red. The Codex Alexandrinus has all the Psalms numbered but the headers are not so easy to distinguish. The physical condition of Codex Alexandrinus is lower than the two mentioned above. Codex Alexandrinus lacks the aesthetic beauty of its two other counterparts.

Psalm 9 Codex Sinaiticus
A portion of Psalm 9 from Codex Sinaiticus (Image from the Codex Sinaiticus Project)

All of them emphasize the chorus line called a dipsalma (a pause between two verses so that different parts of the choir could properly harmonize in singing the Psalm).

It is clear that the numbering system in use with the Psalms today comes from the Septuagint but it is unclear when the Greeks started this tradition. We know it began before the 300s because both the Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus contains them. However, none of the New Testament writings contain any numbered Bible references. Similarly, the Jewish Aramaic community does not cite such a tradition either throughout the Mishnah or Gemarrah – the two main pieces that constitute the Jewish Babylonian Talmud.

The Latin

Two Latin texts examined from the 900s: Codex Toletanus,(9)Codex Toletanus Pg. 356 and Theodolphianus,(10)Codex Theodolphianus 147r have no numbers assigned to any poem.

The Syriac

Three Syriac texts were looked at, though I will not make comments about two them on the issue of numbering and order. They are the product of collations from the 1800s provided by Western-based scholars. These texts show modern influences in reference to structure. The first text is the UBS Syriac Bible, 1979. This Bible can be traced to the Arabic scholar, Samuel Lee, in the early 1800s. The Second one is the Urmia edition which also traces its roots to the 1800s.

There are only a handful of ancient Syriac Old Testament manuscripts available. One manuscript, the @750 AD Codex Syro-Hexaplaris Ambrosianus(11)Codex Syrohexaplaris Ambrosianus Pg. 526 is the only one available online and so we will have to settle for this one. The text has the Book of Psalms marked by a Syriac number. There is also Latin numbering and verses on the outside of text, but this is likely a later addition.

Codex Syro-Hexaplaris Ambrosianus
The start of Psalm 9 from Codex Syro-Hexaplaris Ambrosianus

The Leningrad Codex

Next to the Dead Sea Scrolls, this is one of the earliest complete Hebrew copies of the Tanakh available. It was completed in 1008 AD by the hand of Samuel ben Jacob in Cairo, Egypt.

This Codex, unlike the Great Psalm Dead Sea Scroll, has a Hebrew number assigned to each poem. This Codex follows the numerical pattern already established by the Septuagint with a few exceptions.

Psalm 9 Leningrad Codex
Beginning of Psalm 9 in the Leningrad Codex

When the Hebrew numbering system was added to the Masoretic texts is not known. Historians generally believe this became entrenched by Rabbi Solomon ben Ismael around 1330 AD. This is much later than the publication of the Leningrad Codex.(12) The Hebrew Bible as found at the Catholic based New Advent website.

Latin Texts

Codex Tolentanus (950 AD)(13)Codex Toletanus Pg. 356 and Codex Theodolphianus (950 AD)(14)Codex Theodolphianus 147r do not have any numbering system for the Book of Psalms. This may have been for artistic reasons that the numbers were excluded. More has to be researched on the Latin texts to see if numbering was consistenly omitted from the Book of Psalms.

The problem of Psalms 9 and 10. Were they intended to be separate or different poems?

There is a difficulty between the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts like the Leningrad Codex on the numbering of Psalms 9, 10, and 11. The Hebrew Leningrad Codex breaks Psalm 9 into two poems while the Septuagint does not. At least from what can be seen from the Latin Codex Theodolphianus (@950 AD), the medieval Catholic Church followed the Septuagint structure.(15)http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8452776m/f299.item.zoom The modern English Bibles follow the Septuagint structure via Latin influence.

The Hebrew stops at 9:21, and begins a new poem at 9:22, while the Greek continues it as the same poem.

It has been contended that Psalm 9 and 10 poem is an acrostic. It apparently uses each letter of the alphabet in a unique order until the end of the poem. It cannot easily be seen and I have my doubts as there are 7 missing letters from this poem.(16)http://www.jhsonline.org/cocoon/JHS/a055.html

The Septuagint may be correct on this one. There is no header in the Hebrew that defines a start of a new poem at 9:21. There is a musical interlude called the sela in Hebrew, and translated as a dipsalma in Greek at this point. The poem is one entity. It should not have been separated into two because of the sela.

The Headers

Most poems listed in the Book of Psalms has a traditional header as a preface to them. One will frequently see at the start of a poem: by David, For the director of music, song of ascents, A contemplation of Asaph etc. On other occasions it can be a lengthy explanation of the Psalm such as Psalm 9 “For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.” A Psalm of David.”(17)Psalm 9 NIV.

These were not penned as part of the poem by the original author but added later by an editor. This must have done early because there is no ancient manuscript without them.

The Psalm 9 header has an inconsistent history and translations are highly variable. It is an interesting facet in the Book of Psalms. This problem applies with more headers in the Book of Psalms but these potential instances have hardly been investigated for this article.

The muth-labben

The greatest reason for this variety is the original Hebrew. The Hebrew introduces Psalm 9 with: לַמְנַצֵּחַ, עַל-מוּת לַבֵּן. Lamnazecha, a’l-muth labben. The problem here is we don’t know what this line, especially מוּת לַבֵּן muth labben means. There is no definitive dictionary or historical artifact that can enlighten the translator. Because of this, translators throughout the centuries have arrived at different conclusions.

If one is to take מוּת לַבֵּן muth labben literally here, it could be understood as death to a son. However, this is not the theme of the Psalm itself which starts with an emphatic note of thankfulness. Muth labben is more likely an idiom related to a musical rite or instrument, but this is a calculated guess.

The New International Version Bible translation translates the header as:

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.” A psalm of David.(18)NIV as found at Bible Gateway

The NIV is ignoring the Greek altogether and translating literally from the Hebrew. The concept of music is in the right direction, but “death of a son” doesn’t fit.

The English Standard Version (ESV) takes a more cautious approach and does not even attempt to translate מוּת לַבֵּן muth labben:

To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.(19)ESV as found at Bible Gateway

Given the ambiguity of the idiom, the ESV translation is the proper approach.

The Greek

This line was translated as: εἰς τὸ τέλος ὑπὲρ τῶν κρυφίων τοῦ υἱοῦ ψαλμὸς τῷ Δαυιδ eis to telos huper ton kruphion tou psalmos to Dauid. Unfortunately, the Greeks caused more problems than solutions with their translation of this difficult Hebrew passage.

Εἰς τὸ τέλος eis to telos is frequently used throughout as a header in the Psalms. This is the Greek equivalent for the לַמְנַצֵּחַ lamnazecha. No one is exactly sure what it means either in the Hebrew or the Greek. In the Greek it can be literally understood as to the end but this hardly helps in understanding its context within the Psalms.

A recently published translation of the Septuagint, titled A New English Translation of the Septuagint translates εἰς τὸ τέλος eis to telos as, Regarding completion.(20) Others understand to the end as in the end of the world and the coming of the Messiah. The apocalyptic theme doesn’t fit with the poems but, as will be shown later, has been popular in various editions.

The second part of the header of Psalm 9 isn’t any easier to comprehend except that this is the only occurrence in the Book of Psalms, . . .ὑπὲρ τῶν κρυφίων τοῦ υἱοῦ ψαλμὸς τῷ Δαυιδ . . .huper ton kruphion tou psalmos to Dauid. A New English Translation of the Septuagint translated it as, “Over the secrets of the son. A Psalm. Pertaining to David.”

The Syriac

The Syrians took the most liberty in translating the Book of Psalms headers. This is partly due to the translators using the Septuagint as their basis. The basic premise today is that the headers were influenced by a commentary on the Psalms by Theodore Mopsuestia.(20) Not every manuscript from the Syriac manuscripts are the same either, and it is hard to trace this back to one author. There is more variety in the Syriac headers than in the Greek or even the Latin.

For example, Andrew Oliver translates the header on Psalm 9 from a Syriac text which is the same as the United Bible Society’s 1979 version.

A Psalm of David. — The session of the Messiah, and his reception of the kingdom, and frustration of the enemy.(20)

This UBS Bible quotation is based on a Syriac edition collated and edited by Samuel Lee in 1826. What earlier manuscripts Mr. Lee used is not known at this time.

For the really inquisitive, here are pictures of the actual Syriac text he drew from:

Syriac Psalm 9 from Samuel Lee edition
Syriac Psalm 9 from the Lee edition.

However, this is not representative of all the Syriac texts. The Urmia edition has a completely different take.

Syriac Psalm 9 Urmia edition
Syriac Psalm 9 Urmia edition

Unfortunately, an English translation has not been properly prepared for the Urmia edition. The Urmia text was published around the same time as Samuel Lee’s edition. A superficial reading demonstrates the text is more conservative and non-messianic.

Any Syriac reader will push for the earlier documents Codes Syro-Hexaplaris Ambrosianus (@750 AD) and this one once again has a different header for Psalm 9:

AmbrosianusCh9Header
Psalm 9 Header from the Codex Syro-Hexaplaris Ambrosianus

The translation reads, “For completion on account of the hidden things of the son. A Psalm of David.”(20)My translation The Ambrosianus text literally follows the Greek.

The Latin

The Latin manuscripts researched for this article reflect the same inconsistencies found within the Hebrew, Greek, and Syriac texts. The difference is found in which ancient Latin Bible the manuscript adhered to.

  • The Vetus Italica— a collation of second-century Latin Biblical quotes stitched together into a cohesive narrative has: “In finem propter occulta filii, psalmus ipsis david,”(21)Bibliorum Sacrorum Latinae Versiones Antiqua seu Vitus Italica D. Petri Sabatier. Book II. 1742 Unto the end, for the hidden things of the Son, a Psalm by David about these things.
  • The renowned philologist for his time, Santes Pagnino, tried to correct this problem in the 1400s when he compiled Liber Psalmorum, Hebraice. He took a middle path and translated it as “Victori super Muth-labben Canticum Davidis”For the Victor, about the Muth-labben, a Song of David.(22)Liber Psalmorum, Hebraice Joannis Konig. 1662
  • The Codex Theodolpianus (@950 AD) took from the Latin version credited to Jerome “victori super morte filii canticum david”(23)http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8452776m/f299.image For the Victor, about the death of a son, a song of David.
  • The Codex Toletanus, created around the same time as Theodolphianus, simply ignored any header at all.(24)Codex Toletanus Pg. 356

References   [ + ]

Why the Church is Declining Part II

SupermanJesus

Why is Evangelical Church attendance declining? One of the reasons is because the church cannot compete in the entertainment realm. It should not be completely abandoned, but never should be the sole catalyst for church life.

This is part of a series focusing on declining church audiences. The first one covered the fact that marketing and branding have been on an upswing in the church world while content has been sacrificed. See Why the Evangelical Church is Declining Part I for this.

John Lennon knew back in the 1960s what it was. At the height of Beatlemania he stated, “We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first—rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.”(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/More_popular_than_Jesus He later stated it was a fact that was taken wrong.

Lennon had the numbers to support his claim. And today it is even clearer. For every time two cents is used to promote Christian values, $10 is spent on an alternative message. Yes, the Beatles and the consumer driven attractions that it symbolizes are far greater monoliths than Jesus.

Financial figures back this up. Religious institution donations in the United States are annually around $115 billion and decreasing. This includes donations to churches, not para-church organizations like World Vision and the like, so if these are included it may be more. However, one must keep in mind that 80% of this $115 billion is likely used for infrastructure costs such as building maintenance, equipment, and salaries, the other 20% may be visibly used for marketing and entertainment purposes, which reduces the total to about $23 billion for propagation of the faith.

This amount designated for the church doesn’t even compete with the liquor revenue sold annually in the United States estimated around $211.6 billion.(2)http://www.parkstreet.com/alcoholic-beverage-market-overview/ Nor does it compare to the United States film industry which had $564 billion dollars of revenue in 2014,(3)http://www.statista.com/topics/964/film/ or the conservatively estimated $400 billion amount that gambling and casinos raked in a one-year period in 2014.(4)http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/gamble/procon/ Gambling could be much more, even double by some estimates.(5)http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/06/14/frequently-asked-questions-gambling-in-the-united-states/

So the church has $23 billion to market and instruct the general public about the Christian tenets while the various forms of the entertainment and beverage industry has over one-trillion in revenue to promote an alternate lifestyle. I am not even including the sales of illegal drugs, annual vacations, or sports markets in this total that the general public has vested interests in. If these totals were included, it would make the differential even higher.

Two cents is not going to beat $10 in the realm of influence. I am not going to argue that these two cents have been well used, it simply is not enough to gain any significant public traction and inject ideas or thoughts into the larger social conscience.

But this hasn’t stopped the church from using entertainment and media as a primary medium to engage greater society. Instead of focusing on the message, the medium has become the important part. In essence, many evangelical churches sensing the decline in membership and anticipating the needs of millennials, have switched the function of the church as a place of worship to that of a church theater.

Is this is what the Church is purposed to do? St. Paul exhorted others to adapt the Gospel to the social context.(6)1 Corinthians 9:19-23 But how far do we take this?

If one makes a broad examin, there are some good Christian movies being produced. For example Courageous, which was developed by an associate pastor and he used actors largely recruited from his Church, Sherwood Baptist, on a tight $2 million budget. The gate receipts for this movie greatly exceeded the budget.

It comes across preachy but the story does work for a Christian audience, not so much for those who are not part of this movement. This may not be a bad thing, as this movie is a powerful didactic for instilling and reasserting core values of church life.

Heaven is for Real, which cost $12 million to make, had made into the public realm of discussion on heaven and God and has made a tidy profit. The movie beat out the $200 million blockbuster flop, Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp which tried, but failed to build a cohesive story on the intersection of God, authority, and technology.

The Veggie Tales movie, Jonah, cost $14 million to bring to theatres and led Big Idea Productions into bankruptcy. It did garner a 3 out of 5 rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

This movie, along with the whole Veggie Tale phenomenon has a combination of music, comedy, and storylines that always seemed to work well together. It is well received among a spectrum of viewers.

Mel Gibson’s $30 million dollar re-telling of the Crucifixion stirred controversy for his abstract, violent, gory, and over-simplistic approach. However, the cinematography, sound, clothing, and the speech in various languages really were top-notch. He did succeed in bringing viewers into evaluating the Christian message for their lives.

The DaVinci Code which explores religious themes, especially that of the possibility of Jesus being married to Mary Magdelene and begetting a line of children, brought the Christian faith into a critical review.

Although the theology is whacky, the author, Dan Brown, brought the discussion of history back into the forefront of modern society. It was somewhat of a revival of Greek and Latin literature studies. I am very thankful for this part of his story.

Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz is a refreshing change from shallow or predictable Christian movies.

He is one of the few who has intellectually engaged culture and Christianity into a complex and interesting narrative. A vlogger called Half-The-Mike did a short movie review on this movie and concluded, “I don’t think it is a Christian movie or a religious movie. Its kind of in between… I usually think of those movies as absolute crap and they usually are absolute crap. But I was pleasantly surprised by this movie.”(7)https://youtu.be/r9kINOfVpOA around the 4 minute mark

The Chronicles of Narnia movies are very good but have not impacted or become viral because they are very predictable. Each film has cost between $155 to $225 million and collectively have exceeded over $1 billion dollars in revenue.

C.S. Lewis’ work has been around for fifty years and his stories are well-known. This removes the element of surprise that the movie should possess, and, therefore, audiences are more critical. The expectations are extremely high and almost impossible to meet.

The Left Behind series of movies, based on the books of the same name which have sold over 65 million copies and evoked Jerry Falwell to say the most impactful book in contemporary times outside the Bible,(8)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_Behind hasn’t helped to expand the Christian faith. It really hasn’t detracted either. The latest 2014 installment was rated a 2.1 out of 10 at the Rotten Tomatoes website(9)http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/left_behind_2014/ RogerEbert.com describes the movie in this way:

Christian readers and audiences are the base here, but it’s hard to imagine that this incarnation of the story will persuade anyone else to find the Lord unless they’re sitting in the theater praying for the dialogue or special effects to improve. This is essentially an “Airport” movie with an Evangelical spin, but it lacks the self-awareness to turn such a wild concept into a guilty pleasure.(10)http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/left-behind-2014

In relation to the amount of movies being produced, distributed and watched, christian movies are a small drop in the bucket. It hardly dents into the myriad of genres available for the public to peruse.

Sometimes the use of media can create a negative reaction and hurt the Church brand more than help it. For example, Bible Man was a popular series produced from 1995 to 2011 about “an evangelical superhero who fights evil and quotes scripture.”(11)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibleman

Or the Kenneth Copeland based videos, SuperKid Academy:

This is a b-movie that is a simplistic narrative that the child actors enunciate favourite Christian phrases. It rivals Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

The following may be the most infamous of all. The music video Jesus is a friend of mine by Sonseed.

A YouTube commenter noted: “This song will make terrorists give up hostages...”

One must be reticent of making such a bold assertion. Corny videos may have been a sign of the 1980s music scene. Billy Joel’s For the Longest Time video similarly parallels Jesus is a friend of mine. Joel is singing about a girl, but no woman ever appears in the video. The age of the singers related to the content of the song, clothing, flashbacks and the dancing did not seem synchronized as a cohesive story at all. You be the judge. See the video below:

The use of the theater in church services, which are done on very tight budgets, usually falls into the category of being too preachy and predictable or simply assuaging its already established base. Success usually needs a significant cash infusion and, at least, six months to a year’s worth of full-time preparation by a large committed, creative, smart and salaried team. This type of product is out-of-reach by most churches. I have yet to see a church-based play explore the complex human condition with any meaningful feeling from a faith perspective.

Another problem is the legacy gift of the televangelists – its become a derogatory term throughout most households. If one self-identifies as a Christian in any discussion, this is one of the first topics to be brought up. The televangelist abuses have created real barriers to any discussion about matters of faith.

Last Week Tonight host, John Oliver, recognize most churches have a positive impact, but televangelists are a serious problem. His commentary, small portions laced with profanity, expresses the typical viewer mindset:

John Oliver demonstrates how the power of media can be very profitable, but if not managed properly, can be a real disaster. In the case of Christianity in North America, it is almost irreparable.

There is an alternative that works and it is found in the Catholic approach. Pope Francis and the present Catholic Church has instead asserted the Church as a “voice of the conscience of the West,”(12)https://www.ewtn.com/library/HUMANITY/VATMOD.HTM on ecological, social, ethical, and humanitarian issues and has not tried to compete as an alternative theater venue.

However, this would be difficult to duplicate. This Pope represents over 400 million adherents, whereas the large 1 billion plus Protestant umbrella group of Pentecostals, Charismatics, Third Wavers, Baptists and so on are fragmented. They do not speak with a unanimous voice nor have any central form of hierarchy. This deeply hurts their message. These groups convey an existential religious smorgasbord that people can pick and choose – a western capitalist form of commoditized religion, or as Reginald Bibby, the author of Fragmented Gods, puts it, a consumerized religion.(13)http://aurora.icaap.org/index.php/aurora/article/view/30/41 This status takes away any moral authority in the public sphere and does not communicate with any unilateral support.

Secondly, the Pope is drawing ideas, thoughts and draws from a strong group of thinkers and strategists. The Pope himself is very intelligent about matters of the church and the modern psyche. Most Protestant-based pastors and leaders do not have the educational background or a professional team that has the ability to properly understand the historic faith and communicate it in modern terms.

The problems of the lack of unity and trained spiritual leaders leaves evangelicals with few options to communicate with the larger society. The church as a theater is the most natural fit in the present circumstance.

This will probably never succeed. First of all, the church isn’t designed to be a media megastar. It is intended to be an embassy for God’s coming kingdom. Making films or using multimedia may be a part of this role, but it cannot be the mission. The church does not have the resources to richly and professionally communicate via film to the public and make its message stand out. The church also has abandoned the richness of the message and shed part of its humanity to be an entertainment alternative. With the one exception of Sherwood Baptist Church, the success of Christian based films is produced by extremely talented third-party religious adherents who feel strongly motivated to present their message in film form. There are always the few exceptions and these must be encouraged. Donald Miller is one of the leading examples of this genre. It may be better for churches to skip their performances and pool their resources for talented people such as Mr. Miller to get their message out.

References   [ + ]

History according to Pentecostals and Charismatics

An overview of how Pentecostals and Charismatics view history. The following four points are gleaned from discussions and readings within these parties.

  1. 1 to 100 A.D. The story unfolds. A perception that the Bible is finalized. This period is the golden age of Christianity and sets the standard.

  2. 101 to 1517 A.D. The Church is corrupt and theologically deviant. There is nothing much to write or necessary to know during this period.

  3. 1517 to 1905 A.D. A little better but still very stodgy. However, Edward Irving and the Irvingites in the 1830s and other fringe groups start a small but important restoration of the ancient Christian faith.

  4. 1906 the Azusa Street revival. The golden age of Christianity is restored. Anything from 1 to 100 A.D. and 1906 forward are acceptable teachings. Anything between 101 and 1830 A.D. and most from 1831 to 1905 are not.

This is a grass-roots definition and does not reflect the small number of academic Pentecostal and even smaller number of Charismatics who work hard to educate their constituencies on a proper reading and integration of history within their communities.

Charismatics, Headaches and Healings

CharismaticWorship

Examining the role of divine healing in charismatic churches and the urgency to review, modify, or abandon this as a staged event.

If you attend almost any charismatic church meeting, you are sure to hear about supernatural healings. They are usually abstract ones such as headaches banished, a sore back relieved, a short leg lengthened, and many other unusual conditions cured. The majority cannot be scientifically proven because of the vague symptoms, but the person feels better. There are seldom any that can be empirically proven.

The practice of divine healings is typical of a charismatic liturgical experience. The charismatic movement, originally birthed from mainline denominations in the 1950s and rising to prominence in the 1960s, was originally assigned to those people deeply connected with the pentecostal wave but still attended their traditional churches. They were part of a theological influence that erupted through the continent emphasizing a mystic union with God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, subsequent speaking in tongues and an emphasis on the supernatural.

Those imbued with the pentecostal wave and still attending their Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist and other mainline churches tried to bring their spiritual awakening to their traditional brethren, but it did not succeed. The result was that many of these people voluntarily left or were forced out. As a consequence, these people formed their independent churches. One of their attributes, apart from their emphasis on the supernatural, is the autonomous nature and avoidance of denominational or sectarian features. Because of this, there is a wide range of expressions and practices within the charismatic movement. There is no key leader, church, or theologian that represents them. Dialogue and cooperation exist between these independent churches, but no desire to form a hierarchical structure.

One may think that the charismatic movement is a small slice of the religious pie, but this is not the case. It is one of the fastest growing segments of the christian faith in the world. In the United States alone, the Barna Group states that four out of every ten independent churches are charismatic based, and 46% of those who attend a protestant meeting are Charismatic. (1)https://www.barna.org/barna-update/congregations/52-is-american-christianity-turning-Charismatic#.Vc1JVB_iubk

Divine healings is part of the charismatic emphasis on the supernatural and the mystic christian life. It is an important part of their religious identity.

Problems with exhibitions of divine healings

However, there are serious problems with the mystic rite that the charismatic movement must address.

First of all, the public exhibition of divine healings strengthen public sentiment that those practising are radicalized religious fanatics. It scares the general populace more than attracts. This healing practice, which is perceived as a staged act rather than fact by most members of the public, also further alienates the christian faith from being a regular participant in public social dialogue.

Secondly, the staged process of divine healing undermines the credibility of the message. I don’t know how many times I have had public discussions where the faith discussion is quickly shut down because they think the whole church thing is a fraudulent process that is for the elderly, the mentally weak, or those who are easily deceived. They usually quote faith healers they have seen on television, the radio, or in print magazines to back up their refusal to discuss any matters of the christian faith.

This leads to a serious concern. Unless the various branches of the protestant churches seriously confront the problems of perceived fraud and lack of accountability in the practice of divine healing, then a serious public relations problem exists. The lack of discipline may lead to a tipping point; some abuse relating to divine intervention will spark the already existent anti-church sentiment and will set a precedent for government intervention. As a result, this will send a very bad message that the church, which is supposed to pursue and encourage moral excellence, is an institution that cannot govern itself, nor be considered reputable. Whose fault is that? Is it a war on the church or is it a backlash the church has created for itself?

The historic problem of supernaturalism

This is not the first time in history that an overemphasis on the supernatural within the christian community has caused problems.

Both Origen in the second and John Chrysostom in the fourth-century touched on it. They agreed that very few pious people would ever achieve the status of producing miracles.(2)Origen, Against Celsus. As found in The Writings of Origen. Translated by the Rev. Frederick Crombie. Vol. II. Origen Contra Celsum. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. 1872. Pg. 426. For Chrysostom see the footnote below Chrysostom especially did not want to attach miracles to the Christian identity. He felt that superstition and magic would be an obstacle to personal growth. He also stated that there was a certain danger of pride with those who were miracle workers and very much de-emphasized such a ministry because of this.(3) Homily on Matthew 9:32 See also: Chrysostom on the Doctrine of Tongues which covers Chrysostom’s beliefs regarding miracles.

Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth-century dwelt deeply on the topic of miracles and formulated the definition into various degrees. He cautions against improperly assigning a natural phenomenon as a miracle. One example he used was an eclipse. To the astronomer, it is part of a routine pattern, but to the thirteenth-century layman, it was out of the natural order and, therefore, a miracle. Aquinas simply assigns this as a wondrous event.

He describes miracles as something out of the natural order of nature, such as the sea temporarily parting so that people can walk through it. The more the event goes against the laws of nature, the greater the miracle. The healing of a blind person, paralysis, etc., are actions that nature cannot do, and, therefore, are categorically a miracle. Another kind of miracle is where God intervenes where nature could have done the same thing such as curing a fever, or bringing on rain. He deems these as a lesser miracle.(4)Thomas Aquinas. Contra Gentils. 101 “On Miracles.” http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles3b.htm#101

One must realize that Aquinas lived in an era where mystic christianity was in a heightened stature. He realized there was a fundamental problem and clearly wrote out basic principles for defining a miracle. Although his work is almost 800 years old, it still surpasses what the present charismatic community has in place today for defining a miracle – which is nothing.

The eighteenth-century English philosopher, David Hume, among others, noted that superstition and adherence to mysticism were too strong a social constant in his society. It permeated all the theaters of decision making. From this perspective he produced this powerful sweeping statement.

The many instances of forged miracles, and prophecies, and supernatural events, which, in all ages, have either been detected by contrary evidence, or which detect themselves by their absurdity, prove sufficiently the strong propensity of mankind to the extraordinary and the marvelous, and ought reasonably to beget a suspicion against all relations of this kind. This is our natural way of thinking, even with regard to the most common and most credible events.(5)David Hume. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Reprinted from the posthumous edition of 1777 with introduction, comparative tables of contents, and analytical index by L.A. Selby-Bigge. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/9662/9662-h/9662-h.htm

He further added that miracles should not justify a system of faith.(6)IBID Hume. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Miracles used to rationalize a charismatic church or christianity as an authentic representation of religion instead of reason delegitimizes such movements within the Canadian social mosaic. Any religious leadership that uses miracles to promote their brand may have short term gain by preaching to the choir, but in the long term, the public will be further disassociated.

Nor are most Charismatics aware that they are simply reinventing the wheel. The topic of divine healings, mysticism, and the supernatural were a central core of European society for centuries. It dominated the political and social landscape. William Lecky, in his book, History of the rise and influence of the spirit of rationalism in Europe, described the circumstances in the 17th to 18th centuries as this:

Nothing could be more common than for a holy man to be lifted up from the floor in the midst of his devotions, or to be visited by the Virgin or by an angel. There was scarcely a town that could not show some relic that had cured the sick, or some image that had opened and shut its eyes, or bowed it head to an earnest worshipper.(7)William Lecky. History of the rise and influence of the spirit of rationalism in Europe, Volume 1. New York: D. Appleton and Company. 1888. Pg. 157

He saw no difference in the attitudes of either the Protestants or the Catholics on the subject.

The improper application of miracles and the supernatural was one of the factors that forced a social revolution that regaled against any perceived spiritual intervention. The desupernaturalizing also had another important factor. It deprived Church of their authority and transferred it to a new entity. As a consequence, it enabled society to establish a new set of laws, selection processes for civic leaders, systems of government, and a different framework for scientific exploration. This correction was an overreaction that downgraded the realm of miracles and supernatural into the place of myth; a piece of history that should remind present day charismatics to tread carefully.

There is also a theological and common sense problem. If a church has regular weekly healing meetings based on the premise that miracles will happen, then this means they have the ability to suspend the laws of nature for an hour or two every week. Such a proposition displays a predictable pattern of health recovery and, therefore, a normal procedure. Such a custom is not consistent with what constitutes a miracle. A miracle is something that cannot be controlled or predicted in any way. This is not a realistic premise to encourage or practice.

Building a proper framework

Miracles do happen but the definition should be purposely narrow and only be declared when something occurs that is obviously outside the laws of regular nature. The cure for a common cold, or a back feeling better are too subjective. An amputated arm that grew back, or somebody clinically defined as dead and then suddenly brought back to life while someone was praying over the coffin are miracles are of substance. However, I have never seen anything like this happen.

It is important that churches who emphasize faith healing have a clear policy in place. An independent third party must empirically prove any miracle. Therefore, meetings that encourage divine healings should state that only a health care professional declares whether a miracle has happened.

It would be difficult to ascribe something as spontaneous healing with many ailments. Diabetes, most cancers, multiple sclerosis, or many other afflictions are all conditions that can be tricky to declare healed. Some can heal through natural means or can even go in remission. They can hide for long periods of time and then surprisingly reappear. These states can lead to a false hope and potentially to a premature death because a sick person who believes that a divine intervention has occurred may fail to take prescribed therapies or refuse medical treatment.

All healings and miracles should be listed according to Aquinas’ system: wonders of nature, greater miracles and lesser miracles.

Some would counter that the positive affirmation of community prayer heals a broken spirit and can alleviate emotional suffering. This then can cross over into the bodily realm and help those with heightened sensitivities to physical pain.

Many divine healing services succeed in encouraging people by instilling a sense of hope. Hope is hard to grasp for those who continually struggle due to a physical malady, lack financial means for the most elementary of provisions such as medications, dental work, food, or employment, or hurting through a divorce, death, or many other reasons. These are situations where many have quietly given up on life and live in the shadows. Many testimonies in healing services attest to overcoming such obstacles and finding the experience as a place for a new kick-start in life.

The psychological help and inspiration of a divine hope appears to be a great argument for divine healing services. However, these aren’t miracles. They are words of encouragement. They are a divine wonder.

These last two arguments gloss over the serious trust broken by faith healers and ignores the ominous task of rebuilding it. Until the various branches of the protestant movement seriously address this subject, the Good News will remain stagnant or even regress in the hearts of the majority of North Americans.

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Thoughts on Ecstasy, Private Revelation, and Prophecy

The use of private revelations, ecstasy and prophecy in the 18th century European religious vernacular. What these words stood for, the growing opposition, and parallels to modern Christian mystics.

These states of Christian being had individual, group and societal effects. The perceived infusion of the divine impartation can be found in decision making on small personal things and large ones too. They had an impact in the larger political and community realm as well.

The following conclusions are from research derived from reading Medieval and Reformation literature on the subject along with these through historical narratives: William Lecky’s monumental work, History of the rise and influence of the spirit of rationalism in Europe, Volume 1 (1)William Lecky. History of the rise and influence of the spirit of rationalism in Europe, Volume 1. New York: D. Appleton and Company. 1888., Paul Carus’ publication, The History of the Devil and The European Witch-craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries by Hugh Trevor-Roper.(2)Further details on Christian mysticism and how it affected the role of Patristics can be found in the following article, The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy. A third influence is my affiliation with the modern Charismatic and Pentecostal communities for over 30 years. Their modern experiences, especially those of the Charismatics, accidentally parallel those of the Medieval period. This creates a framework to address this subject.

These three books demonstrate that all of Europe, whether Protestant or Catholic, was immersed in a mystic lifestyle. This age cannot be understood without this as a central axis.

Private revelation is understood as a divine message. This revelation was imparted on a person by a dream or vision. The person does not necessarily have to asleep in bed for this to occur but could be wide awake. It could be the discerning of a devil or witch’s presence. The experience could outcome with a miracle or healing. The private revelation could be an inner locution (an inner voice). It did not necessarily have to be major, nor theologically deep. It often applied to the mundane things in life such as decision making in a business transaction, marriage, divine appointment of a leader, or family life.(3)Decision making such as marriage, appointments of leaders etc. is my own conclusions based on being within the confines of the Charismatic movement that practices private revelations. It may be my own bias but this is seen as a natural progression of private revelation.

Charismatics and Pentecostals still believe in private revelation but this term is not consistently nor universally applied. Most contemporary Christian mystics would say, “God spoke to me,” and add nothing more.

The eighteenth century philosopher John Locke categorically railed against its effect. He called these types of persons enthusiasts:

Their minds being thus prepared, whatever groundless opinion comes to settle itself strongly upon their fancies is an illumination from the Spirit of God, and presently of divine authority: and whatsoever odd action they find in themselves a strong inclination to do, that impulse is concluded to be a call or direction from heaven, and must be obeyed: it is a commission from above, and they cannot err in executing it.(4)An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, by John Locke. Book IV, XIX:5

Locke was outlining the problem of absolutism with the office of private revelation. If someone speaks out publicly with a private revelation, then it is an absolute thought that cannot be disputed. The disputation against such a revelation would then be arguing against God. A person or institution could act or behave irrationally with little or no accountability to anyone else because the motivation was perceived to be of higher origin. Locke attempted to outline a balanced approach on dealing with private revelations in his work, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Private revelation would be especially problematic if leaders used it as a means to instruct the masses. The public would have no choice but give absolute consent to whatever the leader’s divine revelation consisted of.

Another practice was that of divine ecstasy. This is a state where the mind is either totally fixated on a religious subject such as the crucifixion of Christ, the love of God, the sign of the cross, the end-times etc. It typically was understood that the persons physical senses are totally overtaken by what is perceived as an external power. It may cause the person to go in a trance, or enter into a temporary catatonic state. The person is overwhelmed by the perceived presence of the divine.(5)Ecstasy A similar description is described in contemporary Pentecostal and Charismatic theological terms as spirit baptism or slain in the spiritslain in the spirit may be a closer parallel because it can occur on numerous occasions. This is unlike spirit baptism which Pentecostals and Charismatics teach can only happen once.

The sixteenth century Teresa of Avila was a religious icon celebrated throughout all of Europe. Her book, the Inner Castle, “forms one of the most remarkablespiritual biographies with which only the “Confessions of St. Augustine” can bear comparison,” according to the Catholic Encyclopedia(6)http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14515b.htm She popularized ecstasy throughout the international religious community. She described ecstasy in her book, The Inner Castle, as:

This supreme state of ecstasy never lasts long, but although it ceases, it leaves the will so inebriated, and the mind so transported out of itself that for a day, or sometimes for several days, such a person is incapable of attending to anything but what excites the will to the love of God; although wide awake enough to this, she seems asleep as regards all earthly matters.(7)The Inner Castle by Theresa of Avila. Chapter 4:18

St. John of the Cross echoed similar sentiments to that of Teresa, but added that the state of ecstasy provided knowledge beyond anything science could offer:

I was so far beyond,

So lost and absorbed,

I lost all my senses

I was of all sensing dispossessed;

And my spirit was filled

With knowledge not knowing,

Beyond all science knowing.(8)Nine verses made upon an ecstasy of high contemplation by John of the Cross. tr: Willis Barnstone 1968

The sixteenth century Stephanus’ Greek Lexicon devoted three columns to defining the word ecstasy,(9)Stephanus Vol. 3 Col. 570-572 This was not normative for Stephanus to devote so much page space. This long entry demonstrated how controversial and popular this noun had become.

Conyers Middleton, in his 1749 publication Free Inquiry, demonstrated that by his time the mark of a prophet was by the confirmation of an ecstatic experience. He attacked this correlation which was a direct reproach against the Church and Civil authorities:

For whereas the Montanists delivered their prophecies always in ecstasy, or with loss of senses ; it was then urged against them, “that this was the proof of a Diabolical spirit ; that the true Prophets never had such fits ; never lost their senses ; but calmly and sedately received and understood whatever was revealed to them.” And Epiphanius makes this the very criterion or distinguishing character between a true and false prophet ; that the true had no ecstasies, constantly retained his senses, and with firmness of mind apprehended and uttered the divine oracles. St. Jerome also declares, that the true Prophets never spake in ecstasy, or in madness of heart, like Montanus and his mad women, Prisca and Maximilla, but understood what they delivered, and could speak or bold their tongues, whenever they pleased, which these, who spake in ecstasy could not do. Eusebius also mentions a book of one Miltiades, written against Montanus, the purpose of which was to prove, that a prophet ought not to speak in ecstasy.(10)Conyers Middleton. A Free Inquiry into the Miraculous Powers, which are supposed to have subsisted in the Christian Church, from the Earliest Ages through Several Effective Centuries: By which it is shown, that we have no sufficient Reason to believe, upon the Authority of the Primitive Fathers, that any such Powers were continued to the Church, after the Days of the Apostles. London: R. Manby and H.S. Cox. 1749. Pg. 110

The Montanists were a critical piece of evidence by Middleton in demonstrating the improper use of the supernatural to communicate with and control society. It was a vanguard in the argument against the religious tyranny of the time.

Middleton’s diatribe set in motion new principles of thought that could now be expressed. Science no longer was a prisoner of prophecy, nor were the institutions of law, or civil duties, to be occupied solely by those people considered spiritually enlightened: spiritual absolutism could no longer dominate.

Evelyn Underhill was an English Anglo-Catholic writer in the early 1900s who devoted much of her intellectual pursuits documenting the concept of Christian mysticism. She wrote a comprehensive book entitled, Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness.(11)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evelyn_Underhill She acknowledges the religious dimension of ecstasy but believed it to be a psychological contrivement:

“Such ecstasy as this, so far as its physical symptoms go, is not of course the peculiar privilege of the mystics. It is an abnormal bodily state, caused by a psychic state: and this causal psychic state may be healthy or unhealthy, the result of genius or disease. It is common in the little understood type of personality called “sensitive” or mediumistic: it is a well-known symptom of certain mental and nervous illnesses. A feeble mind concentrated on one idea—like a hypnotic subject gazing at one spot—easily becomes entranced; however trivial the idea which gained possession of his consciousness. Apart from its content, then, ecstasy carries no guarantee of spiritual value. It merely indicates the presence of certain abnormal psycho-physical conditions: an alteration of the normal equilibrium, a shifting of the threshold of consciousness, which leaves the body, and the whole usual “external world” outside instead of inside the conscious field, and even affects those physical functions—such as breathing—which are almost entirely automatic. Thus ecstasy, physically considered, may occur in any person in whom (1) the threshold of consciousness is exceptionally mobile and (2) there is a tendency to dwell upon one governing idea or intuition. Its worth depends entirely on the objective value of that idea or intuition.

In the hysterical patient, thanks to an unhealthy condition of the centres of consciousness, any trivial or irrational idea, any one of the odds and ends stored up in the subliminal region, may thus become fixed, dominate the mind, and produce entrancement. Such ecstasy is an illness: the emphasis is on the pathological state which makes it possible. In the mystic, the idea which fills his life is so great a one—the idea of God—that, in proportion as it is vivid, real, and intimate, it inevitably tends to monopolize the field of consciousness. Here the emphasis is on the overpowering strength of spirit, not on the feeble and unhealthy state of body or mind. This true ecstasy, says Godferneaux, is not a malady, but “the extreme form of a state which must be classed amongst the ordinary accidents of conscious life.”

The mystics themselves are fully aware of the importance of this distinction. Ecstasies, no less than visions and voices, must they declare, be subjected to unsparing criticism before they are recognized as divine: whilst some are undoubtedly “of God,” others are no less clearly “of the devil.” “The great doctors of the mystic life,” says Malaval, “teach that there are two sorts of rapture, which must be carefully distinguished. The first are produced in persons but little advanced in the Way, and still full of selfhood; either by the force of a heated imagination which vividly apprehends a sensible object, or by the artifice of the Devil. These are the raptures which St. Teresa calls, in various parts of her works, Raptures of Feminine Weakness. The other sort of Rapture is, on the contrary, the effect of pure intellectual vision in those who have a great and generous love for God. To generous souls who have utterly renounced themselves, God never fails in these raptures to communicate high things.”(12)http://www.sacred-texts.com/myst/myst/myst19.htm

The Catholic Encyclopedia was well aware of such an argument and countered:

“The rigid condition of the ecstatic’s body has given rise to a fourth error. Ecstasy, we are told, is but another form of lethargy or catalepsy. The loss of consciousness, however, that accompanies these latter states points to a marked difference.

(5) In view of this, some have sought to identify ecstasy with the hypnotic state. Physically, there are usually some points of contrast. Ecstasy is always accompanied by noble attitudes of the body, whereas in hospitals one often marks motions of the body that are convulsive or repelling; barring, of course, any counter-command of the hypnotist. The chief difference, though, is to be found in the soul. The intellectual faculties, in the case of the saints, became keener. The sick in our hospitals, on the contrary, experience during their trances a lessening of their intelligences, while the gain is only a slight representation in the imagination. A single idea, let it be ever so trivial, e.g. that of a flower, or a bird, is strong enough to fasten upon it their profound and undivided attention. This is what is meant by the narrowing of the field of consciousness; and this is precisely the starting-point of all theories that have been advanced to explain hypnotic ecstasy. Moreover, the hallucination noticed in the case of these patients consists always of representations of the imagination. They are visual, auricular, or tactual; consequently they differ widely from the purely intellectual perceptions which the saints usually enjoy. It is no longer possible, then, to start with the extremely simple hypothesis that the two kinds of phenomena are one and the same.”(13)http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05277a.htm

Another important contributor to the public’s supernatural sense was the office of prophecy. Thomas Aquinas had described it as the greatest gift because it could take all sensory data, whether physical, intellectual, or spiritual and make a cohesive meaning out of it.(14)See Thomas Aquinas on the Miracle of Tongues for more information Anyone who was conferred with such a gift, would rise to prominence. It was reserved for the blessed — which was typically assigned to Church representatives — persons who were central to the international, national, and local political mechanizations. This definition seemed to hold quite well in the Catholic realm but it was not universal within the Protestant world. The Huguenot Camisards, who lived in the mountainous south-central part of France called Cévennes, saw the prophetic rite as a God sanctioned directive for the overthrowing of a Catholic based Government.

The study of these three terms are preliminary. It is a good start but I am still not thoroughly convinced about prophecy or ecstasy. Prophecy from a Catholic point of view is understood, but the Protestant position is not clearly researched in this work and needs more attention. Why the term ecstasy got dropped from the religious vernacular and slain in the spirit or baptism in the spirit took its place, are not resolved.

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