Saturday, September 17, 2016

"If interested"

Commenting on Zechariah 12:1-3, Didymus the Blind (313-398 A.D.) makes all of the historical connections presented so far in this series, regarding Jesus' prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Didymus wrote:
An oracle of the word of the Lord on Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heaven, lays the foundation of earth, and forms a spirit of a human being in it: Lo, I am making Jerusalem like a shaken threshold for all the people round about and in Judah; there will be a siege against jerusalem. On that day I shall make Jerusalem a stone trodden on by all the nations; everyone who treads on it will mockingly mock it, and all the nations of the earth will gather against it. 
The prophet Zechariah prophesies the fate of Judah and Jerusalem and its inhabitants after the crucifixion of Jesus, receiving his message from the Creator of everything, who stretches out the heaven lays the foundation of earth, and forms a spirit of a human being in it. 
...The one who stretches out heaven lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of the human being in it threatens to devastate and destroy the city and region of the Jews on account of the crimes committed by those guilty godless deeds against the savior who has come. They inflicted the cross and scourging, remember, on the one who gave his life as a ransom, removing the sin of the world--and this despite his coming for the salvation of all. Now, what is the awful fate he forecasts for the Christ-killers? Lo, I am making Jerusalem like a shaken threshold and Judah for all the peoples round about so that they will no longer have a basis and security because they will be abandoned by the one who laid its foundation and protects it.
...Before the abandonment and surrender, remember, the city to which this refers was a house and inheritance and beloved soul; but later he said of it because of its impiety towards him, "Lo, your house is left to you in ruins."1
...The awful fate that was threatened befell both the material Judah and its capital, which in fact was destroyed to the point that there was no longer stone standing on stone.2
...On approaching Jerusalem the savior had said this would happen to her: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if even you had only recognized the things that make for peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes: your enemies will come upon you, surround you, and throw a rampart around you,"3 so that you will be abandoned and dashed to the ground, with all then hostile nations encircling you, and so you will be seen to be desolate. "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies," Scripture says, remember, "you will know that its devastation has come near."4 The killers of the Lord had actual experience of this when the Romans overpowered them, destroyed their cities, and enslaved them; they were taken off into captivity or, rather, uprooted from their motherland, and so no longer had their own land or country, but were taken to every quarter of the earth. 
In reference to the wrath that had at last befallen Judah and its inhabitants, an historian, one individual from those who actually experienced it, wrote an account in many volumes of them and their places,5 so that the fulfillment is indisputably visible both of what the savior said and of what Zechariah uttered in prophetic mode, beginning with the verse I am making Jerusalem like a shaken threshold. When the threshold was reduced to shaking and the city subjected to a siege, all the foreign nations scornfully entered and trampled on it like an unclean stone, no longer approaching it as a shrine and sacred surface, showing no respect or performance of due rites of expiation and purification. They mockingly mocked it like a ruin, with everyone from that time coming to it to "plough it like a field."6

Commenting on Zechariah 12:10, he wrote:
Having fallen foul of grievous misfortune, the Jews, after gaily murdering the Lord, were in the grip of severe pangs of grief as if grieving for a dear departed and lamenting a firstborn son; "wrath has overtaken them at last,"7 the result being that their homeland has been ruined and they have been enslaved and forced to wander throughout all the earth. It is possible to learn from the present text itself that it was by the decree of God's providence that they were subjected to this for the sacrilege they committed in subjecting the savior of all to crucifixion.8

Commenting on Zechariah 14:1-2, he wrote:
There is reference to days of the Lord when harsh and punitive actions are taken on the guilty, as sense you can find confirmed in many places. ...After the verse saying, Lo, days of the Lord are coming, when your plunder will be divided in your midst, the Lord immediately says he will assemble all the nations against them to battle, as happens on a day of engagement; the nations are assembled for military action in the assault on Jerusalem. 
Such things befell them, resembling the savagely inhuman fate of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea when the Jews were captured by the nations on account of the guilt incurred by the killers of the Lord. "The nations raged, the people informed vain and futile plots, the kings took their stand, and the rulers came together in concert against the Lord and against his Christ. God ridiculed and mocked them, in wrath speaking against them and in his rage confounding them."9 So the apostle writes to the same effect about those who killed the Lord and the prophets and persecuted the apostles: "God's wrath has overtaken them at last."10 It was noted above as well that a Jewish historian, Josephus by name, truthfully and precisely described the disasters befalling the nation, including starvation and other misfortunes much worse than that; the searcher after good can meditate on it if interested in reading directed to learning and the fear of experiencing the same fate.11

1.  Matt. 23:38; Luke 13:35
2.  Matt. 24:2; Luke 19:44
3.  Matt. 23:37; Luke 19:41-43
4.  Luke 21:20
5.  This is a reference to Josephus, who he will reference later on in his commentary.
6. Robert C. Hill, trans., The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Didymus the Blind, Commentary on Zechariah (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006) pp. 286-290
7.  A reference to 1 Thessalonians 2:16
8. Robert C. Hill, trans., The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Didymus the Blind, Commentary on Zechariah (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006) p. 301
9.  Psalm 2:1-4
10.  Another reference to 1 Thessalonians 2:16
11. Robert C. Hill, trans., The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Didymus the Blind, Commentary on Zechariah (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006) pp. 319-321

"What you are saying is obvious"

Origen (184-254 A.D.) makes a few passing comments in his homilies on Luke's Gospel, illustrating his keen awareness that Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. as his "visitation" (which is the main point of this series).

Commenting on Luke 19:41-45, he wrote in Homily 38:
When our Lord and Savior approached Jerusalem, he saw the city, wept, and said, "If only you had known on that day what meant peace for you! But now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will surround you with earthworks. These are mysteries that are spoken. If God reveals their significance, we hope we can open to you what is hidden. ...No one suffered such persecution on account of justice as the Lord Jesus did, who was crucified for our sins. Thus, the Lord exhibited all the beatitudes in himself. For the sake of this likeness, he himself wept, because of what he had said: "Blessed are those who weep," to lay the foundations for this beatitude, too. He wept for Jerusalem "and said, 'If only you had known on that day what meant peace for you! But now it is hidden from your eyes,'" and the rest, up to the point where he says, "Because you did not know the time of your visitation." One of the hearers might say, "What you are saying is obvious, and indeed has been accomplished in Jerusalem. For, the Roman army surrounded it, destroyed it, and exterminated the people. And a time will come when a stone will not be left upon a stone in this city." Now I do not deny that Jerusalem itself was destroyed on account of the crimes of its inhabitants.1

And in another fragment of a homily about Luke 19, he wrote:
In the hardening that has happened to a part of Israel, "until the full number of Gentiles comes in," there is hidden from the eyes of Jerusalem "the things that belong to her peace." She did not know them, and this in the day of Jesus' visitation. But days are coming upon her when her "enemies will cast up a wall" around her, and what follows. 
This is the sense of the words: since you did not recognize your peace, namely myself, you were handed over to your enemies. Now, since peace "has been hidden from your eyes," you have no peaceful thoughts, nor do you love what has happened, but you look to contradiction. "Days will come upon you" in which "your enemies" will lord it over you--and intelligible enemies instead of sensible ones. For, externally, the Jews were conquered by Romans, but internally by unclean demons. Thirty-five years after Christ's Ascension the city was conquered by Romans.

1.  Joseph T. Lienhard, trans., The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, Volume 94. Origen. Homilies on Luke, Fragments on Luke (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996) pp. 156-7
2.  Ibid. pp. 221-2

Monday, September 5, 2016

Highlighting the rapidity of disaster

Commenting on the book of Daniel, Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus (423-457 A.D.), clearly interpreted the "abomination of desolation" mentioned in Daniel's prophecy as foreshadowing a future, first century fulfillment of the "abomination of desolation" mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:15. This, of course, is another example of what I've been showing throughout this series: the early Christian Church saw Jesus clearly prophesying about the Jewish wars and the factions which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Theodoret wrote: abomination of desolation on the temple: as a result of this sacrifice not only will the other sacrifice cease but as well an abomination of desolation will be inflicted on the temple--that is, that formerly venerable and fearsome place will be made desolate. A sign of the desolation will be the introduction into it of certain images forbidden by the law; Pilate was guilty of this by introducing into the divine temple by night the imperial images in violation of the law. The Lord also in the sacred Gospels foretold to his holy disciples, "When you see the abomination of desolation..." He said this to highlight the rapidity of the disaster about to overtake them.1

Likewise, in his commentary on the twelve prophets, Theodoret makes similar connections. When discussing the prophecy Zechariah about the Lord's feet standing on the Mount of Olives (14:4), he describes the fulfillment of such promises as the victory given to Jesus as the Lord of armies, even of the Roman armies as they surrounded the apostate, anti-Christian Jews during the siege of Jerusalem. He wrote:

"On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem from the east." From where he ascended into heaven, from there he gives the victory to those fighting against the Jews. He then says the mountain would be divided into four parts, one going to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south. ...By "mountain" he refers to the cohort of the enemy divided for the purpose of besieging Jerusalem, some occupying its eastern part, some its western, others guarding the north, others the south.2 

1. Robert C. Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on Daniel (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006), 257-8. Cited in Francis X. Gumerlock, Revelation and the First Century: Preterist Interpretations of the Apocalypse in Early Christianity (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press; 2012) pp. 174-175

2. Ibid. p. 203. Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Twelve Prophets. On Zech. 14:4.

"A Clear Proof"

St. Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople from 858-886 A.D., referenced Jesus' prophecy in Matthew 24 while describing the Jewish wars of the first century. Clearly he understood Matthew 24, at least verses one through seven, as being fulfilled in the first century (as I've been showing throughout this series). He wrote:

The city [of Jerusalem] suffered so grievously from famine that the inhabitants were driven to all kinds of excesses; a woman even ate the flesh of her own son. Famine was succeeded by pestilence, a clear proof that it was the work of divine wrath, in fulfillment of the Lord's proclamation and threat that the city should be taken and utterly destroyed.1

1. Photius of Constantinople, Bibliotheca, 47. Cited in Francis X. Gumerlock, Revelation and the First Century: Preterist Interpretations of the Apocalypse in Early Christianity (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press; 2012) p. 172

Confounding by His predicting

Paulus Orosius (375-418 a.d.), a Catholic priest, historian, and theologian, and a close friend and student of St Augustine, recorded a seven-volume history of important events in life of the Christian Church. In one of his works he quotes Matthew 24:6-9 as a prediction of Jesus, warning first century Jewish believers about the soon-coming destruction of Jerusalem under Vespasian and Titus. This of course, fits neatly into what I've been saying throughout this series, namely, that the early Christian church believed and taught this seemingly "preterist" view consistently. Orosius wrote:

But when at that time the city of Jerusalem had been captured and overthrown, as the prophets foretold, and after the complete destruction of the Jewish people, Titus, who had been ordained by the judgment of God to avenge the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, as victor, holding a triumph with his father, Vespasian, closed the temple of Janus. Thus, although the temple of Janus was opened in the last days of Caesar, nevertheless, for long periods of time thereafter there were no sounds of war, although the army was in readiness for action. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, then, in the Gospels, when in those times the whole world was living in the greatest tranquility and a single peace covered all peoples and He was asked by His disciples about the end of the coming times, among other things said this: "You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. Take care that you do not be alarmed, for these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nations will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be pestilences and famines and earthquakes in various places. But all those things are the beginnings of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and will put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake." Moreover, Divine Providence, by teaching this, strengthened the believers by giving warning and confounded the unbelievers by His predicting.1

1. Roy J. Deferrer, trans., Paulus Orosius: The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans. FC 50: 289-90. Cited in Francis X. Gumerlock, Revelation and the First Century: Preterist Interpretations of the Apocalypse in Early Christianity (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press; 2012) p. 171 

Athletes of Piety

Other writers of historical works have confined themselves to the written tradition of victories in wars, of triumphs over enemies, of the exploits of generals and the valour of soldiers, men stained with blood and with countless murders for the sake of children and country and other possessions; but it is wars most peaceful, waged for the very peace of the soul, and men who therein have been valiant for truth rather than for country, and for piety rather than for their dear ones, that our record of those who order their lives according to God will inscribe on everlasting monuments: it is the struggles of the athletes of piety and their valour which braved so much, trophies won from demons, and victories against unseen adversaries, and the crowns at the end of all, that it will proclaim for everlasting remembrance.1

1. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 5.praef.3-4; cited in Aaron P. Johnson, Eusebius: Understanding Classics (New York, NY: L.B. Taurus & Co. Ltd.; 2014) pp. 100-101

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Written for the sake of remembrance, became permanent"

Continuing in this series about the early church and their awareness that Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.,  Lactantius (250-325 A.D.) comments about the ascension of Jesus and the prophesies foretold beforehand:

But when He had made arrangements with His disciples for the preaching of the Gospel and His name, a cloud suddenly surrounded Him, and carried Him up into heaven, on the fortieth day after His passion, as Daniel had shown that it would be, saying (Daniel 7:13)“And, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days.” But the disciples, being dispersed through the provinces, everywhere laid the foundations of the Church, themselves also in the name of their divine Master doing many and almost incredible miracles; for at His departure He had endowed them with power and strength, by which the system of their new announcement might be founded and confirmed. 
But He also opened to them all things which were about to happen, which Peter and Paul preached at Rome; and this preaching being written for the sake of remembrance, became permanent, in which they both declared other wonderful things, and also said that it was about to come to pass, that after a short time God would send against them a king who would subdue the Jews, and level their cities to the ground, and besiege the people themselves, worn out with hunger and thirst. Then it should come to pass that they should feed on the bodies of their own children, and consume one another. Lastly, that they should be taken captive, and come into the hands of their enemies, and should see their wives most cruelly harassed before their eyes, their virgins ravished and polluted, their sons torn in pieces, their little ones dashed to the ground; and lastly, everything laid waste with fire and sword, the captives banished for ever from their own lands, because they had exulted over the well-beloved and most approved Son of God. And so, after their decease, when Nero had put them to death, Vespasian destroyed the name and nation of the Jews, and did all things which they had foretold as about to come to pass.1

1. Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book IV (Of True Wisdom and Religion), Chapter 21. Found in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Translations of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. T&T Clark, Edinburgh, Volume VII