Now here's a hell of a guy.
Let's start where I
started, long ago in a galaxy far far away -- by which I mean, the
preconciliar Roman Catholic Church, which, there having been lots of
councils to be pre- to, means pre-Vatican II.
The Jerome Of My Younger Days.
what I recall from those days. We used an official Bible in Latin,
and our English versions were made from the Latin, and that Latin
Bible was the Latin translation of St Jerome, often called the
Vulgate. Protestants didn't do that. They had the King James Bible,
translated from Hebrew and Greek, not translated from a translation
into Latin, and, it was claimed by those who claimed it, therefore
Not so, we were told, or at least I
remember being told. St Jerome, for one thing, was a saint, a term
not at least as yet applicable to modern Biblical scholars. And, he
was much closer in time to the Biblical, particularly the New
Testament, authors, which meant his understanding of the languages was
more immediate and not from scholarly studies centuries later. And
also, he worked from better sources than we have, including texts
that no longer exist. Therefore, in using Jerome's Latin Bible, we
are using a source altogether more trustworthy than the much later
sources and scholarship of the Protestant Bibles translations.
The Historical Jerome versus The Jerome Of Faith.
ironic is, in his own day, Jerome was highly controversial for using
the Hebrew text of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, as the Jewish
translation into Greek called the Septuagint was considered the
normative and inspired text for centuries going back to the
Greek-speaking early church, and whose longer canon was the basis for
the Old Testament canon.
Fact is, Jerome was
controversial for a hell of a lot more than that and was run out of
Rome! Holy crap, people jumped all over Jimmy Swaggart for getting
caught with a prostitute, but that ain't nuttin compared to this
story. Here it is.
Jerome was born a pagan in a town
called Stridon, which was in the Roman territory called Dalmatia.
The town no longer exists because the Goths trashed it in 379, and
no-body knows exactly where it was, except that it was in Dalmatia,
which was more or less modern Croatia and Bosnia and Slovenia. As a
young man he went to Rome to pursue classical education, and by his
own account pursue the various extra-curricular activities often
found in student life then as now. Somewhere along the line he
converted to Christianity and was baptised.
some years in Rome he set out for France, well, Gaul, and ended up in
Trier, which is among the most magnificent and enchanting places it
has been my good fortune to visit, ever, anywhere. Here in this most
wonderful place he seems to have taken up theology. Then about 373
or so he sets out for what is now called the Middle East,
particularly Antioch, in what is now Turkey and one of the oldest
centres of Christianity. It was there that he came to give up secular
learning altogether and focus on the Bible, learning Hebrew from
Jewish Christians, and, apparently seized with remorse for his past
behaviour, got into all sorts of ascetic penitential practices.
Always a danger -- the Good News just isn't news enough, gotta have
The Ladies' Ear Tickler Enters the Story.
in 382 he goes back to Rome again, this time as assistant to Pope
Damasus I. Now there's another hell of a guy. Man, papal elections
just ain't what they used to be. Twice over actually. Once upon a
time, they were a matter of the clergy and people of the area choosing a
bishop, or overseer, with overseers from nearby areas confirming it.
But by this time we have Constantine, and Christianity attaining
respectable state-recognised status, and the Emperor confirmed newly
elected bishops. That's helpful because sometimes more than one guy
claimed to be elected, sometimes in more than one election!
when Pope Liberius, whom the Emperor Constantine had thrown out of
Rome, died on 24 September 366, one faction supported Ursinus, the
previous pope's deacon, while another, which had previously supported a
rival pope, Felix II, supported Damasus. The patrician class, the
old noble families of Rome, supported Damasus, but the plebian class,
the regular folks, and the deacons supported Ursinus. Each was
elected, in separate elections. Some real apostolic succession there,
It gets worse. There was outright rioting
between supporters of the two, each side killing the other, so bad
that the prefects of the city had to be called on to restore order.
Damasus got formally recognised, and then his supporters commenced a
slaughter of 137 of Unsinus' supporters, right in a church. Damasus
was accused of murder, and hauled up on charges before a later
prefect, but, being the favourite of the wealthy class, they bought
the support of the Emperor and got Damasus off. He was known as
Auriscalpius Matronarum, the ladies' ear scratcher.
was "pope" from 366 until he died on 11 December 384. During which
time, we have to remember to really get what was going on here, the
Emperors East and West made the church as headed by Damasus, and Peter
in Antioch, the official state church and the one recognised as
"catholic", in the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380, the
birthday of the Catholic Church, as distinct from the catholic church.
It was during Damasus' papacy that the Emperor Gratian. one of the
signatories to the Edict of Thessalonica, refused the traditional
title of pontifex maximus, which then became associated with the
bishop of Rome as the chief priest of the Roman state religion. In
sum, this is the era of the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity of
the Church (Babylon of course being a figure for Rome).
Back to the Historical Jerome.
in 382, when Damasus calls Jerome back to Rome to help him shape
things up, what was being shaped up was the new Catholic Church, the
new official state religion, which by Imperial edict was the only
church entitled to the name and all others were heretics and deserving
of such punishment as the Empire should choose to inflict. The
Western Roman Empire at this time was starting to fall apart and was
just decades away from falling apart, so a lot of this had to do with trying to prevent that.
Jerome was no slouch at matronly
ear tickling himself, and once back soon had a little group of
wealthy patrician widows around him, whose money supported him, a
Paula in particular. And he had this ascetic works-righteousness
thing going, into which he got them all. Nothing like having lots of
someone else's money to support you if you want a monastic ascetic
life. Hell yes.
In fact, the daughter of Paula, a
lively young woman named Blaesilla, after just four months of having
to live this way, died of it! Yeah, died. On top of which Jerome tells
Paula not to mourn her daughter. This got the Romans really pissed,
there was an inquiry into just what was really going on between
Jerome and Paula, and then Damasus dies, and with that support gone,
Jerome is forced out of Rome.
So where's he go?
Where else, the Eastern Empire, where they really get into all this
monkery and fasting and stuff. Paula and her money follow. The whole
sham of a works-based sparse life funded by patrician wealthy-class
money. There's some real apostolic stuff for you. Lemme tell ya, if
somebody wants to convince you of their mistaking the physiological
effects of self induced glucose denial for some sort of spiritual
state of attainment, you'd be better off running right to the nearest
McDonald's and ordering a double quarter pounder, which, if memory
serves, is combo 4 on the menu. Personally I like our
Nebraska favourite Runza better, which also makes a helluva burger, and it's Wolgadeutsch too, but being a regional chain may not be available where you are.
This sort of stuff is not
self-denial, it's life denial. Utterly pathological. It is no curb
whatever to excess and greed, but is rather an equally odious extreme
reaction to it, both extremes equally devoid of the Gospel altogether.
It comes rather from an empire about to collapse under the tension
of its classic past and Christian present and efforts to reconcile
them within, with huge civil unrest in its wake, and threats from
without in the West. Which was bad enough, but in the East, where it
did not collapse for another thousand years or so, it continued
unabated, which is equally bad. The opposite of greed and excess is
not this pathological repression, but Judas H Priest, just eat a
normal balanced diet and go about a life of use to God and your
fellow Man, stay in your parish where you find everything that made
the saints saints, the Word, the Word preached, the Sacrament, and
your fellow Christians.
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever -- Despite the "Church".
it would also be about a thousand years or so until THAT message got
out, little thing called the Lutheran Reformation, by a fellow
survivor of the remnants of all this nonsense, guy named Martin
Luther. Sorry if this stuff isn't in the sanitised reductive
biographical sketches that turn up in treasuries of prayer and stuff
like that, but them's the facts. It's a disgusting pagan mess,
massacres, murders, politics, scandals and all, and from the time of
Jerome's life on, the official religion of the state held to be right
from the Apostles, which remained in the East, and remained in the
West after it reconstituted itself as the Holy Roman Empire, and
remains to this day in the former state churches that survive these
This is the world of Augustine, Jerome,
Damasus, etc -- the Western Roman Empire, which contains Rome, once
the centre of the whole thing, in utter turmoil between its classic
philosophy, art, culture and religion and the new religion, in
attendant civil turmoil, and under assault from Germanic forces
outside it. The sack of Rome came in 410, 24 August to be exact, by
Alaric, King of the Visigoths. The efforts to synthesise Rome's past
and present failed utterly to preserve Rome. But it created a state
religion which survived the death of the state that created it,
and became the one remaining link upon which the new state would be
built, the Holy Roman Empire. It survives to this day, in the West as
the Roman Catholic Church as well as other state churches, some of
them with the word Lutheran in them, and most having now severed the
connexion to their modern state as mandatory, and in the East as the
various Eastern Orthodox churches.
And all of it based
entirely on the characteristics of this age, not in the least on the
Gospel, as a dying empire tried to redefine itself for survival --
hence "true" churches, "apostolic succession", "bishops" who were as
well state officials and political powers, and all the other nonsense
by which the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches try to
justify themselves and their pagan accretions which would hold the
catholic church in captivity until the Lutheran Reformation, the need
for which was so strong amid all this horse dung and bullroar that
later "reforms" blew right past the Lutheran Reformation to an
opposite but equally bad extreme, which to-day but not originally
travels under the name Protestant or Evangelical.
So we have a
pope supported by the wealthy Roman class in their twilight who kills
his opponents and becomes by edict of the Emperor the true recipient
of the true faith, and holy man whose "I'd better inflict all this on
myself" asceticism is funded by more wealthy Roman class money and
kills the daughter of his main supporter and disgusts even the Romans.
what do we do then, forget about all this as an unholy mess we can
ignore and just get back to the Bible, the "New Testament" church?
No. And hell no. Judas H Priest, the New Testament church did not
have the New Testament, so how ya gonna do that? You ain't.
here's the thing, the Babylonian Captivity was just that, a
captivity, not an extinction. The catholic church survived and
continues to survive even the invention of the Catholic Church by the
Roman Empire. And why is that? Because of the truth expressed in the
motto of the Lutheran Reformation, which motto is simply Scripture
itself, both New and Old Testament.
Domini manet in aeternum. The Word of the Lord endures forever. It
cannot be overcome, and on its central truth about Jesus Christ is
built the church against which the gates of hell itself cannot
prevail, let alone the Roman Empire. It can survive power mongers like
Damasus and pathological lunatics like Augustine and Jerome.
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever -- Despite Translators.
Jerome. His new Latin translation really did, even if the work of a
nut case whose nuttiness was fatal and whose supposed self-denial was based on
the wealth of others, establish a better text of the Bible in the
most widely understood language of its time and remained key in the
availability of the Bible for centuries to come, as Latin became the language of learning, and really did introduce, to a
thoroughly Gentilised Christianity with the barest of understandings
of the Jewish faith it fulfilled that had replaced it with reworkings
in Christian dress of its classic philosophy, a more Jewish
understanding of the texts, admired to this day by Jews, not to
mention the Hebrew itself.
Not only that, but Jerome
set in motion a tradition of selections from Scripture for reading at
the preaching part if the Divine Service which would continue for
about 1,500 years, and still continues as what we now call the
"historic" lectionary. And why is it "historic"? Because it's, well,
old, you know, historic? Hell no. Because there's another one now, a
product in the 1960s of part of the church still in Babylonian
Captivity in its last council, Babylon II, er,
The Western Roman Empire, under its new
Germanic leaders, managed after a few hundred years known as the Dark
Ages to more or less reconstitute itself as the Holy Roman Empire,
and the old state church of the old Roman Empire, the Catholic
Church, was right there to take its place in the whole set up. Some
consider the HRE to have begun with the coronation -- by the "pope"
of course -- of Charlemagne, Karl der Grosse, in 800, as Emperor of
the Romans, and some consider it to have begun with the coronation --
by the "pope" of course -- of Otto on 2 February 962. But in any
case it lasted for about another 1,000 years, and formally ended on 6
August 1806 at the hands of Napoleon. The deposed last
HRE, Francis II, however continued as Francis I, Emperor of
Austria. Francis hell, it was Franz dammit, the only Doppelkaiser in
history. Kaiser, that's a Germanisation of guess what, Caesar.
Doppel is double.
But by about 100 years after that,
the underpinnings of the Roman Catholic Church seemed even to many
within it as wearing a bit thin, the Roman Empire being long gone and
now the Holy Roman Empire being long gone too, and movements began
in various circles, some Scriptural, some doctrinal, some liturgical,
to re-express this whole deal in terms not so connected to things
long gone. So they set about coming up with something more attuned
to the existentialism and phenomenology then all the rage.
couple of problems with that. Once again, just as in the time of
Jerome, Augustine, Damasus, et al, we have an entity trying to
preserve itself by merging its past with its present and future of
different origin. But this time, that past was itself exactly the product of what was
once the different origin the last time around. IOW, that church's
Empire, both of them (Roman and Holy Roman), were gone and now their church had to go it
alone in another emerging new world, and once again it sought to
reinvent itself as a synthesis, hybrid, reconciliation, something like
that, of the two. This culminated at Vatican II, when the old
Imperial church reinvented itself for a new post-Imperial age.
is, the old Imperial church was just that, the old Imperial church,
not the catholic church or the church of Jesus Christ, and one of the
two elements being synthesised into a new synthesis was itself a
previous synthesis of Christianity and the old empire. Christianity,
the catholic church, the church of Jesus Christ, thought by the
proponents of this movement to be re-emerging after centuries of being
obscured, was in fact being yet further obscured; the Babylonian
Captivity deepened, only re-expressed in terms of the new Babylon that
no longer had it as its church, or had a church at all.
this way it only superficially resembled the real reformation of the
church, which had happened nearly five centuries before already, with
such things as vernacular languages and free standing altars. And so
the Whore of Babylon thoroughly remodelled the brothel, with a new
order of liturgy (yeah, literally, a novus ordo) complete with new
calendar of observances and new lectionary of readings, replacing the
one that had grown for centuries.
Now that's not
surprising, that's what you do when you're the Whore of Babylon, and
the Babylon that formed you and kept you as its whore is gone and
there is a new Babylon.
But these "reforms" came about on an
entirely different basis than the reforms of the Reformation, which
did not run from the march of history nor wish to discard or
disparage it for all its warts and blemishes, but instead accept it and move
on, not reinventing anything but continuing in continuity, discarding
only that which contradicted Scripture but otherwise, as the Augsburg Confession states, retaining the ceremonies and readings previously in use.
So what is
surprising is that the churches of the Reformation generally, and even
those of the Lutheran Reformation, jumped on board with this
Roman insanity, took the novus ordo and revised and reworked their own
versions of it! And now we have an "historic" lectionary right
alongside a Vatican II For Lutherans Lutheranised version of this
novus ordo. We even lead the Whore herself in this regard, because we
didn't have to wait a generation or so for a Roman Imperial official
with only the church of the former state left -- a "pope", in case you
were wondering -- to say it's OK with a motu proprio! Utter madness.
on this feast of St Jerome, let us remember that, you know what, he
really was closer to the authors and sources of the Bible than our
vaunted modern scholars working removed by centuries, and really did,
nut case and all, contribute to the church which even he and his
contemporaries and times and subsequent times could put in captivity
but not extinction, a thing of great value in the Vulgate Bible and
the tradition of the historic lectionary.
And let us
remember that the Reformation has already happened and not at all on
the basis that fuelled Babylon II, er, Vatican II, and we continue as
the catholic church where the Word is rightly proclaimed and the
Sacraments rightly administered, no new faith, no new doctrine, no new
anything, and sure as hell no new orders of worship, based on the
scholarship emerging from the dissolution, not just politically but in
every way, of the Holy Roman Empire, in which there is no
"hermeneutic of continuity" whatever but a pathetic old whore trying
to still work the streets, but rather the organic continuity of the
catholic church normed by its very own book, the Bible, rejecting only
what contradicts it.
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