Re: [XTalk] Origin of Christian dogmatics
- At 11:07 AM 06/03/01, you wrote:
>Hello Bob:Well, I know it is always supposed that dogma is supposed to be *based on*
>...Yes, and Paul also claims that his understanding of Christ crucified
>was REVEALED to him on the road to Damascus. This is the very
>essence of dogma.
revelation. But at least in modern times, when I see "dogma," I see many
words in a carefully articulated statement. But let's see what the Catholic
Encyclopedia (<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05089a.htm>) has to say
> DogmaIn our discussion, I was leaning on the latter relation, and you seem to
> I. DEFINITION
> The word dogma (Gr. dogma from dokein)
> signifies, in the writings of the ancient
> classical authors, sometimes, an opinion or
> that which seems true to a person;
> sometimes, the philosophical doctrines or
> tenets, and especially the distinctive
> philosophical doctrines, of a particular school
> of philosophers (cf. Cic. Ac., ii, 9),
> and sometimes, a public decree or ordinance, as
> dogma poieisthai.
> In Sacred Scripture it is used, at one time, in
> the sense of a decree or edict of
> the civil authority, as in Luke, ii, 1: "And it
> came to pass, that in those days
> there went out a decree [edictum, dogma] from
> Caesar Augustus" (cf. Acts, xvii,
> 7; Esther, iii, 3); at another time, in the
> sense of an ordinance of the Mosaic Law
> as in Eph., ii 15: "Making void the law of
> commandments contained in decrees"
> (dogmasin), and again, it is applied to the
> ordinances or decrees of the first
> Apostolic Council in Jerusalem: "And as they
> passed through the cities, they
> delivered unto them the decrees [dogmata] for
> to keep, that were decreed by the
> apostles and ancients who were at Jerusalem"
> (Acts, xvi, 4).
> Among the early Fathers the usage was prevalent
> of designating as dogmas the
> doctrines and moral precepts taught or
> promulgated by the Saviour or by the
> Apostles; and a distinction was sometimes made
> between Divine, Apostolical,
> and ecclesiastical dogmas, according as a
> doctrine was conceived as having
> been taught by Christ, by the Apostles, or as
> having been delivered to the faithful
> by the Church.
> But according to a long-standing usage a dogma
> is now understood to be a truth
> appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by
> God, transmitted from the Apostles in
> the Scriptures or by tradition, and proposed by
> the Church for the acceptance of
> the faithful. It might be described briefly as
> a revealed truth defined by the Church
> -- but private revelations do not constitute
> dogmas, and some theologians confine
> the word defined to doctrines solemnly defined
> by the pope or by a general
> council, while a revealed truth becomes a dogma
> even when proposed by the
> Church through her ordinary magisterium or
> teaching office. A dogma therefore
> implies a twofold relation: to Divine
> revelation and to the authoritative teaching of
> the Church.
have been leaning on the former part. The article continues:
> The three classes of revealed truths.Again, it seems that you were leaning on the latter classes of revealed
> Theologians distinguish three classes of
> revealed truths: truths formally and explicitly
> revealed; truths revealed formally,
> but only implicitly; and truths only virtually
> A truth is said to be formally revealed, when
> the speaker or revealer really means
> to convey that truth by his language, to
> guarantee it by the authority of his word.
> The revelation is formal and explicit, when
> made in clear express terms. It is
> formal but only implicit, when the language is
> somewhat obscure, when the rules
> of interpretation must be carefully employed to
> determine the meaning of the
> revelation. And a truth is said to be revealed
> only virtually, when it is not formally
> guaranteed by the word of the speaker, but is
> inferred from something formally
truths, whereas I was assuming the first.
For example, did Jesus think he was uttering dogma? Given that the Gospels
are generally considered to have been written 35 to 65 years after his
statements, and given how the evangelists differed in their reporting of
what Jesus said, who's truth is being revealed? I'm somewhat lost here.
> Was this Damascus road experience Pentecostal ini.e., Class Two, or maybe Three, above?
>nature? Yes (and today is Pentecost Sunday!). Was it inarticulate?
>You mean was Paul dumbfounded by the revelation? Again, yes.
> Is the word dogma anachronistic? I suppose so, but it's still a good wordI think that after 1700 years of official Catholic dogma, it is hard to
>if you define it as revealed truth or faith, having no preconditions.
>Does that make it narrow and stiff? A dogmatist, as Stott defines
>it, would call his faith merely simple and straightforward.
think in other terms.
>...Please understand, just because the content of what is debated byAgreed.
>Jesus is dogmatic (a revealed truth) does not mean that he typically
>operated in a dogmatic fashion (with or without your negative
> I am not trying to deconstruct yet another caricatureThank goodness!! :-)
>to explain the historical Jesus.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Do you think these folks were armed?
No. With the possible exception of the Samaritan
Prophet, the popular prophets didn't lead armed
revolts. "Violence" was left as the prerogative of God
alone, when He soon acted. Jesus followed suit here,
never condoning human violence, elsewhere promising
divine retribution (as in Mt. 11:20-24/Lk. 10:13-16).
So, would you say that it is possible that the masses
went out just to see IF a miracle would be performed,
rather than to participate? Would they necessarily
had any clue as to the chance of being
slaughtered as they were?
I think the masses went out because they believed,
fervently, that God would act; that the Kingdom was
imminent. I see no reason to question the enthusiastic
level of their participation in the march around
How many do you suppose there actually were?
A lot -- these are called "popular" prophets for good
Josephus is surely exaggerating with the numbers
though, isn't he?
Probably. I imagine hundreds, rather than thousands,
of followers for the Egyptian prophet.
What do you think was their reason for being
there? Just to innocently see if the Egyptian's
claim would come to pass or to
actually fight their way into Jerusalem?
I believe they circled Jerusalem with the expectation
that (at the prophet's command) the walls of the city
would come tumbling down, as Joshua's legendary shout
had done to the walls of Jericho in ages past. This
would have been the first apoacalyptic prelude to the
Kingdom of God. I don't know how "innocent" this is,
but I sense your sarcasm. However preposterous and
naive such expectations may seem to us, they were no
more so than, say, those of the followers of Theudas,
who was supposed to have parted the waters of the
Jordan before getting decapitated by Cuspius Fadus.
Well, I'm wondering how we know any of these people
were really doing anything more than going out to
possibly observe a miracle...I'm reacting to the
following article written by an historian who seems to
paint first century peoples with too broad of a brush
of gullibility, in an attempt to give us the
background against which we should view claims about
If you have the time, I'd appreciate any
feedback/guidance on the overall quality of/points
raised in that article.
I would say the author of this article is daft,
deluded, and devoid of sense. His disdain for the
people of antiquity is galling. He writes:
"The age of Jesus was not an age of critical
reflection and remarkable religious acumen. It was an
era filled with con artists, gullible believers,
martyrs without a cause, and reputed miracles of every
variety. In light of this picture, the tales of the
gospels do not seem remarkable at all. Even if they
were false in every detail, there is no evidence that
they would have been disbelieved or rejected as absurd
by a people largely lacking in education or critical
thinking skills. They had no newspapers, telephones,
photographs, or public documents to consult to check a
story...The shouts of the credulous rabble overpowered
their voice and seized the world from them, boldly
leading them all into the darkness of a thousand years
First of all, we cannot dismiss the movements of
Theudas, the Egyptian Prophet, John the Baptist, or
Jesus of Nazareth with the above sort of indictment.
Much in these prophetic movements can be commended,
just as much can be criticized. But we fail miserably
in the historical task when we judge the past by
so-called "enlightened" standards. Secondly, far from
lacking "religious acumen", the age of Jesus -- that
is, 2nd-Temple Judaism -- was marked by vibrancy,
diversity, and (often enough) fierce intelligence.
Obviously the author and I have very different views
of the people of antiquity.
So I can appreciate you reacting against this fellow.
But that the Egyptian prophet and his followers were
incited to riot (mad as they were under the Romans and
Judean elite), and that they fervently believed Yahweh
would soon act dramatically in history (in accordance
with ways He had in the past), does not necessarily
make the leader a "con artist" nor his followers
"gullible". Does it?
Loren Rosson III
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