Tag Archives: Christian history

Possible oldest Christian art identified

Garima gospel page.jpgHave you asked yourself: What is the oldest piece of Christian art in the world today? I have. AND reading UK’s Telegraph online I found out the answer to my question. A page in the famous Garima gospel collection was identified and re-dated.

Read the story here.

Diggin’ in Nazareth

Nazareth Dwelling.jpgFranciscan Friar Jack Karam (left) stands near Israel
Antiquities Authority workers at the excavation site of the remains of the
first dwelling in Nazareth, Israel, that can be dated back to the time of
Jesus. Archaeologist Yardena Alexandre (unseen) says remains of a wall, a
hideout and a cistern were found after builders dug up an old convent courtyard
in the northern Israeli city. (AP Photos/Dan Balilty)

Benedict XVI & Israel’s Chief Rabbinate

In the published comments of Pope Benedict to the distinguished representatives of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Catholic delegates he said in part:


The Church recognizes that the beginnings of her faith are found in the historical divine intervention in the life of the Jewish people and that here our unique relationship has its foundation. The Jewish people, who were chosen as the elected people, communicate to the whole human family, knowledge of and fidelity to the one, unique and true God. Christians gladly acknowledge that their own roots are found in the same self-revelation of God, in which the religious experience of the Jewish people is nourished.


I sit choir with a group of monks and other Christians praying the Scritpures on a daily basis and I’m coming to understand (judge, evaluate) more and more the connections, i.e., the reality that exists between Jewish and Catholic theology/liturgy. This is especially true in the Psalms but no less with the daily readings from Pentateuch and the Prophets. One of the books I am re-reading selections from these days is Father Richard Veras’ book, Jesus of Israel: Finding Christ in the Old Testament (Servant Books, 2007), who speaks about the promises made to us down through the ages by the Lord, promises of the hundredfold, promises of life, liberation and communion with the Lord as they are revealed in the sacred Scriptures.


For what it’s worth, Pope Benedict said the following 19 years ago when he was still known as Joseph Ratzinger, the CDF Prefect:


Abraham, father of the people of Israel, father of faith, thus become the source of blessing, for in him all the families of the earth shall call themselves blessed. The task of the Chosen People is, therefore, to make a gift of their God – the one true God – to every other people; in reality, as Christians we are the inheritors of their faith in the one God. Our gratitude, therefore, must be extended to our Jewish brothers and sisters who, despite the hardships of their own history, have held on to faith in this God right up to the present, and who witness to it in the sight of those peoples who, lacking knowledge of the one God, dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Down through the history of Christianity, already-strained relations deteriorated further, even giving birth in many cases to anti-Jewish attitudes, which throughout history have led to deplorable acts of violence. Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to its atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians.

Perhaps it is precisely because of this latest tragedy that a new vision of the relationship between the Church and Israel has been born: a sincere willingness to overcome every kind of anti-Judaism, and to initiate a constructive dialogue based on knowledge of each other, and on reconciliation. If such a dialogue is to be fruitful, it must begin with a prayer to our God, first of all that he might grant to us Christians a greater esteem and love for that people – the people of Israel – to whom belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs are the patriarchs, and from them comes Christ according to the flesh, he who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen. And this not only in the past, but still today, for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. In the same way, let us pray that he may grant also to the children of Israel a deeper knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, who is their son, and the gift they have made to us. Since we are both awaiting the final redemption, let us pray that the paths we follow may converge.

It is evident that, as Christians, our dialogue with the Jews is situated on a different level than that in which we engage with other religions. The faith witnessed to by the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament for Christians) is not merely another religion to us, but is the foundation of our own faith. Therefore, Christians – and today increasingly in collaboration with their Jewish sisters and brothers – read and attentively study these books of Sacred Scripture, as a part of their common heritage. (Excerpts from Cardinal Ratzinger’s “The Heritage of Abraham: The Gift of Christmas,” L’Osservatore Romano, 29 December 2000)


In light of all of this public speaking I think today’s allocution by the Pope reveals a consistent line of teaching not only by a man with a keen intellect and a profound faith in the Divinity but also consistent with magisterial teaching of the Holy See. Hence, I don’t think that Benedict’s thoughts today are not throw away lines to ease tensions, real or imaginary between the Catholic Church and the Jewish leadership. Moreover, I also don’t think it’s a political ploy before a papal visit to the Holy Land in May.


My sense is that the Pope is rather genuine in his judgment that Christians and Jews need each other because each provide an interpretative key in self-identity and the theological journey we both make toward our destiny. For Christians we need to grasp what is being done (the action) and what is said (the content) in order to take seriously our own faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior and Brother. So no, these remarks today aren’t lines denoting mere policy, mechanical ways to engage a touchy politic serving a group’s interests. These lines reflect not only this pontiff’s thinking but the Church’s self-understanding and theological grounding. Nostra Aetate (1965) and Dabru Emet (2000) like documents demonstrate a commitment from which to work with each other in an effort to know, love and serve the Almighty while coming to understand a common theological and liturgical history. Consequently, Jews and Catholics should not only work on projects that serve the common good but also work for greater understanding in the process of dialogue leading to the eternal.


Some will say that the Pope made a nice gesture by speaking honestly with the Jews. But that would be yet another example of a tyranny of the “nice,” and we don’t need more “nice.” What we need is true honesty, faith and reason before reality. What I believe the Pope is indicating to us is the profound need because it is reasonable as people of faith to draw deeply from the common faith experience in order to discern our relationship with the Lord and to foster a deeper communion between Jews and Christians. We need to understand the reality that’s in front of us, the gift of friendship in faith with others on a similar path to destiny.

Robert George speaks on religion, dignity, Christian History & the Constitution

Robert George.jpgRobert George is the Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, where he teaches Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. As a leading scholar of Natural Law, we interviewed him about the role of religion and tradition in the so-called United States Constitutional Experiment. His contribution takes a proper place in the current debate about the relationship between state, religion and society.

A. P. : Do you think that religion is meaningful to interpret the US Constitution?

R. G.: Yes. The US is a religious Country. It remains a much more religious Country than most of the Countries of continental Europe. And this is not new. The American Revolution was not like the French Revolution. The American Revolution was not an anti-religious revolution. On the contrary, it appealed to the core ideas of ethical monotheism, which are derived from the witness of the Bible. The language of the Declaration of Independence represents an interpretation of the idea from Genesis that all the men are created in the Image and Likeness of God. This is the foundation of the principle of equality – which, in turn, is the foundation of democracy. Democracy is based on the idea that all men are equal and worth of dignity. And they have right to have their opinion taken into account for the formation of the public policy. This is true if and only if human beings have an equal dignity.

What is the source of that dignity? The Declaration of Independence says it is because of our Creator – that God created us equal. Again, this is the reflection of the Biblical idea that we are created at the image and likeness of God. We have reason, and we have freedom – we have these powers, which are small but meaningful share in God’s own powers. So, the US is truly a religious country, even in the sense that our Constitutional principles are considered the effectuation of the declaration of independence.

As late as 1953 Justice William O. Douglas – which is much recorded from the left wing of American politics and Constitutional interpretation –  could still say in the decision Zorach vs. Clauson: “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose the Supreme Being.” And this is true. Our institutions presuppose the idea that there is a Supreme Being, a God who is the Source of human dignity and human equality.

A. P.: So you mean that Christianity and Christian history does matter, even in policy, right now?

R. G.: Yes, of course. But not simply Christian history. It is the Biblical witness. The ethical monotheism. Something which is common to Christian and Jews, and perhaps even to Muslims, although I don’t know the Muslim tradition very well. But it is not a specific Christian tradition. US weren’t just founded under the preposition that Christ is the Son of God, or that God is three Persons in the Trinity, but on the proposition that there is a Divine Ruler and Judge of the Universe. According to the Declaration of Independence, for instance, there is a Divine Ruler and Judge of the Universe and that we are His children, and share a profound and equal dignity as a result of our relationship to Him.

So, all the American policies are supposed to be in line with this idea that all men are created equal, that there is a Creator and that all of us share His Image and Likeness so we own dignity and must be respected, via the political institutions and society.

A. P.: Which is the role of tradition in American Constitutional history, in your opinion? Does tradition play some role in interpreting Constitution?

R. G.: In my opinion the question touches the sources of Constitution. These are the text, the logical implications of the provisions of the text, the structure of the document, the provisions within the document and its historical understanding.

It is in this broad sense – the historical understanding of the text – that tradition plays a role. We look at what was the goal of those who were responsible in making the Constitution. These goals are meant to be the effectuation of the values for the sake of which the Constitution was created and the institutions put into place. In our commitment to understand them, for example, we can consider the “equal dignity of the human person”. The Declaration of Independence, which was the founding document of the American regime, says “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. The Constitution, ratified many years later, was meant to give life to these principles.

So our tradition is one of respect to these principles and the role of the Constitution is to give life to them. So our tradition of Constitutional interpretation pays attention of the historical purposes of the Constitution. So this, too, might be understood as a role that tradition plays in the interpretation of our Constitution.

A. P.: So which is your opinion about Justice Scalia’s approach, who pays much attention to the Framers?

R. G.: Scalia is not purported to get into the subjective consciousness of the Framers who ratified the Constitution, but rather to recover what was understood, at the time of the ratification by all those who deliberated and participated in the debate on the particular provisions of the Constitution, should be ratified.

That attempt to recover the understanding is itself something difficult and is a matter of tradition: the historical understanding of the text and the meaning of the text of the Constitution. So I think this is the role for tradition.

We also have a common law tradition, which has an impressive difference from continental European systems. Tradition inside the tradition: this is the idea that the decisions can establish a tradition, which should be respected even if decisions in the first instance are not entirely correct.


Interview with Robert George by Andrea Pin from the Oasis Center

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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