Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Presentation of the Lord – 2016

Yegorov-Simeon the Righteous.jpg

Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus” – at the Presentation of Our Lord

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Tuesday, February 2, was the Feast for the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:

Counting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2.  A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem…

The Presentation of Christ in the TempleSee The Presentation, from the Satucket web site.  (The one with all the DORs.)  See also On The Presentation of Our Lord, a post I did last year at this time.  And as noted last year, this Feast celebrates the episode in Jesus’ life described in Luke 2:22-40.

Luke said that “Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem … to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth.”  They did so “in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15.”

Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) (Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”  Leviticus 12:1–4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas.

That’s where “Simeon and Anna” come in.  Briefly, they recognize the Lord in Jesus.

That is, Simeon had previously been “visited by the Holy Spirit” – as imagined in the image below right – “and told that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”  So – according to Luke 2:27 – Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple,” on what happened to be the exact day that Jesus’ parents brought Him in.  (For “ritual purification.”)

(See also 2d Peter 1:21 for an example of prophets being moved in the spirit: “no prophecy ever originated through a human decision.  Instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”)

So anyway, on seeing the baby Jesus, Simeon “uttered the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis,” Luke 2:29-32 (NIV):

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Simeon then prophesied to Mary, as told in Luke 2:34-35.  And finally there was the “elderly prophetess Anna,” who was also in the Temple at the time.

She too offered prayers and praise to God – for Jesus – and spoke to everyone there of His importance to the redemption of His People.  (In Luke 2:36-38.)

KosmicFrenchmenPurpleFaceMardiGras2009.JPGIn last year’s post on the Presentation, I wrote a lot about Mardi Gras.

Put simply, Mardi Gras is one final blowout (celebration) on the last day before by Lent.  (A “solemn religious observance” involving some 40 days of “prayer, penance,repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.”)  And both of those Feast Days are right around the corner.

Shrove Tuesday in 2016 comes a week after the Presentation, on February 9.  The next day, February 10, is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.  And Lent serves as a reminder of the last time that Jesus would be “Presented to the People.”

The painting below shows us that last time Jesus would be presented.  This time it was by Pontius Pilate, “presenting the mocked and scourged Jesus to the people.”

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Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri (1).jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of the “Simeon” link in the Wikipedia article on the Presentation.  That caption:  “Simeon the Godreceiver by Alexei Egorov. 1830–40s.”  The caption I used for the upper image is actually the one from Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus.  That’s another interpretation of the event, by Rembrandt (van Rijn).  (Who is far better known that Egorov.)  You can see Rembrandt’s interpretation at “Wikigallery,” or at “Rembrandtonline.”

And I’m assuming “Anna” is one of the women in Egorov’s background.

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The Nunc Dimittis is also known as the Canticle Of Simeon, “which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus.”  See Prayers – Catholic Online for another good image of the event. 

The lower image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”

See also Rembrandt van Rijn: Christ Presented to the People – for a drypoint image – and Jesus Christ Presented to the People by Rembrandt, which provided the “mocked and scourged Jesus” text.

Thomas Aquinas – “mystic” and angelic

St. Thomas Aquinas, being “girded by angels with a mystical belt of purity…” 

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January 28 is the feast day of perhaps the greatest intellect of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, known as the Angelic Doctor due to his purity of mind and body.  He gave up a life of nobility and wealth to be a poor Dominican friar, at the time a new religious order, much to the consternation of his family.

See January 28 … Thomas Aquinas.  See also Thomas Aquinas – Wikipedia, which noted that this St. Thomas is considered the Catholic Church’s greatest theologian and philosopher, and was “honored as a Doctor of the Church.”

But first note the word “doctor” used here comes from the Latin docere.  That means “to instruct, teach, or point out.”

Thus Doctor of the Church – like St. Isidore of Seville, at left – “is a title given by a variety of Christian Churches, to those they recognize as “having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.”

(And incidentally, I’d argue that any good “doctor of the church” would recognize that he – or she – can learn as much from the person being taught, as he – or she – knows already.  See also Seneca the Younger …)

So anyway, for more on what made this St. Thomas so special, see St. Thomas Aquinas.  (From the Satucket website.)  For starters, he was born in 1225 and died – a mere 49 years old – in 1274.

That means he lived right at the end of the Dark Ages.  (A time of “cultural and economic deterioration” in Western Europe, “following the decline of the Roman Empire.”)

During the Dark Ages, one of the institutions that kept things together was “Holy Mother Church.”  (In Latin, “Sancta Mater Ecclesia.”)  But one problem was that – largely due to widespread illiteracy – the Bible became the only book that was widely studied.  (And then only as interpreted by local parish priests, and many of them couldn’t read.)

Thomas Aquinas changed things up.  He “modernized” things.

Ironically, he did that by reading golden oldies, books written by people like Aristotle.  (Shown at “right right,” but who was at the time of Aquinas ” largely forgotten in Western Europe.”)

There was no such thing as printing – not until Gutenberg, in and around 1450 – and there were precious few books other than the Bible to “read.”  (Or more likely, have read to you.)

But then by Aquinas’s time – after a “dark” millennium or more – such books started reappearing.  (They’d been preserved “partly from Eastern European sources and partly from Moslem Arab sources in Africa and Spain.”)  And like all good golden oldies, such re-discovered books got “liked:”

These works offered a new and exciting way of looking at the world.  Many enthusiastic students of Aristotle adopted him quite frankly as as an alternative to Christianity.  The response of many Christians was to denounce Aristotle as an enemy of the Christian Faith.

Stoning of Moses, Joshua and CalebPut another way, there were two initial reactions.  Some people rejected the Bible and adopted the philosophy of Aristotle “whole cloth.”  Others reacted vehemently and felt that reading such books bordered on heresy.  (See On Moses getting stoned, on a similar phenomenon, illustrated at left.)

Gradually a third approach emerged:  Those “who tried to hold both Christian and Aristotelian views side by side with no attempt to reconcile the two.”  And finally came Aquinas, who developed what has been called his “fourth approach:”

Aquinas had a fourth approach.  While remaining a Christian, he immersed himself in the ideas of Aristotle, and then undertook to explain Christian ideas and beliefs in language that would make sense to disciples of Aristotle.  At the time, this seemed like a very dangerous and radical idea, and Aquinas spent much of his life living on the edge of ecclesiastical approval.  His success can be measured by the prevalence today of the notion that of course all Christian scholars in the Middle Ages were followers of Aristotle.

Another source said Aquinas “lived at a critical juncture of western culture when the arrival of the Aristotelian corpus in Latin translation reopened the question of the relation between faith and reason.”  Which is another way of asking:  “Can you be ‘smart’ and still believe in the Bible?

(See also On broadminded, spelled “s-i-n”,” about the old – 1952 – Louvin Brothers song.)

Which is another way of saying that – even to this day – some believe you can’t do both.  That you can’t have “true faith” and at the same time use your powers of reason.  In other words, such people reject any modus vivendi.  They say you have to choose between faith and reason.

And pardon me for saying so, but such people are idiots.**  (Or at least greatly misled.)

Which is another way of saying such views are antithetical to this blog.  But I’m not alone.  St. Thomas Aquinas – for one – is “on the same page” as me.  (And the image at right is titled, “Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas.”)

That is, beginning with Thomas Aquinas, people started reading books in addition to the Bible.  And from that developed – in due course – things like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  (Referring to the use of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason as a “methodology for theological reflection.”)

All of which brings us – as if “preordained before the beginning of time” – to one of the Daily Office Readings for Monday, January 25, 2016.  (To wit: the Feast Day for the Conversion of St. Paul.)  That reading is Ecclesiasticus – not to be confused with Ecclesiastes – 39:1-10;

He seeks out the wisdom of all the ancients…   [H]e preserves the sayings of the famous and penetrates the subtleties of parables;  he seeks out the hidden meanings of proverbs and is at home with the obscurities of parables.

Which is another of saying that when it comes to God – or for that matter the Bible:

There’s no such thing as a know-it-all


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“Four Great Doctors,” including Saint Augustine and Saint Jerome… 

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The upper image is courtesy of Thomas Aquinas – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Diego Velázquez, Aquinas is girded by angels with a mystical belt of purity after his proof of chastity.”  

Re: “Doctors” – as teachers – learning from their students:

One of the best ways to understand something is to try to explain it to others.  If you want to test your own understanding of this new way of thinking, try springing it on some of your friends.  Undoubtedly, you will discover something all teachers know – that the person giving instruction often learns more than the person receiving it…

See How to Develop Your Thinking Ability, by Kenneth S. Keyes, Jr., originally published in 1950.  The quote is found on page 34 of the McGraw-Hill paperback edition, published in 1963.

See also Know-it-all – Wikipedia, referring to a person “who obnoxiously purports an expansive comprehension of a topic and/or situation when in reality, his/her comprehension is inaccurate or limited.”  Based in part on Mr. Keyes’ point of view – with which I agree – I’d argue that – when it comes to “God” – there’s no such thing as a “know it all.”  (Notwithstanding the massive evidence to the contrary in too many religious circles.)

And finally, see Learning by teaching – Wikipedia:  “Seneca the Younger told … Lucilius that we are learning if we teach[:] docendo discimus (lat.: ‘by teaching we are learning’).”

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Here’s the full quote from the St. Thomas Aquinas link at Satucket, on his “fourth approach,” etc:

In the thirteenth century, when Thomas Aquinas lived, the works of Aristotle, largely forgotten in Western Europe, began to be available again, partly from Eastern European sources and partly from Moslem Arab sources in Africa and Spain.  These works offered a new and exciting way of looking at the world.  Many enthusiastic students of Aristotle adopted him quite frankly as as an alternative to Christianity.  The response of many Christians was to denounce Aristotle as an enemy of the Christian Faith.  A third approach was that of those who tried to hold both Christian and Aristotelian views side by side with no attempt to reconcile the two.  Aquinas had a fourth approach.  While remaining a Christian…

I added the emphasized “dangerous and radical idea,” in the quoted section in the main text.  The all in “all Christian scholars in the Middle Ages” was emphasized in the original.

The image of Aristotle is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Aristotle.  A partial caption reads: “Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael.”

Re: Thomas living “at a critical juncture of western culture.”  See Saint Thomas Aquinas (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).  That article also used the term modus vivendi in a way that seemed incongruous at best, at least to me.

**  Re: “such people are idiots.”  That statement is an example of hyperbole, “the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech.”  Obviously – as a good Christian – I could never really believe such a thing.  I merely believe that such Biblical literalists are greatly misquided.  On the other hand, it seems that most people won’t listen to anything but overblown hyperbole these days…

Re: Antithetical.  See also Anathema, referring to “something dedicated to evil and thus accursed.” 

The side panel of Aquinas is courtesy of Thomas Aquinas – Wikipedia. The full caption:  “Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas, ‘Doctor Angelicus,’ with saints and angels, Andrea di Bonaiuto, 1366.  Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, fresco.”

Re: “Preordained before the beginning of time.”  See also Ephesians 1:4, “For he [God] chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…” 

On that note, the link phrased as “preordained before the beginning of time” – near the end of the main text – will take you to the article, Incentives, Predestination and Free Will, by “Glaeser, Edward L.,” and “Glendon, Spencer.”  That excerpt distinguished some points of theology between Catholicism on the one hand and some brands of Protestantism:

One of the largest theological gaps between the denominations is that Calvinism accepts the dogma of predestination while Catholicism argues for a dogma of free will…  Under predestination, a spiritual elite is preordained before the beginning of time and will receive eternal life.  Under free will, it is only through a lifetime of good actions that individuals are accepted into Heaven. (E.A.)

Re: The difference between Ecclesiasticus and Ecclesiastes.  The former – also known as Wisdom of Sirach – is “accepted as part of the Christian biblical canons by CatholicsEastern Orthodox, and most of Oriental Orthodox.  The Anglican Church [does] not accept Sirach as protocanonical, and say[s] it should be read only ‘for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth not apply them to establish any doctrine.'”  Ecclesiastes on the other hand is far more widely known.  It’s “one of 24 books of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible” – classified as Ketuvim (or ‘Writings’) – and is “among the canonical Wisdom Books in the Old Testament of most denominations of Christianity.”

See also On Ecclesiasticus – NOT “Ecclesiastes,” which noted in part that the latter was popularized by the 1965 hit song “Turn! Turn! Turn!”  See also The Byrds … YouTube.   

The lower image is courtesy of the Doctor of the Church, at Thomas Aquinas – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “The Four Great Doctors of the Western Church were often depicted in art, here by Pier Francesco Sacchi, c. 1516.  From the left: Saint Augustine,Pope Gregory I, Saint Jerome, and Saint Ambrose, with their attributes.”

Peter confesses, Paul converts

“Saints Peter and Paul,” by El Greco

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January 20, 2016 – Here’s a parable.  Or at least a quasi-parable.

Two marathon runners were enrolled in a race.  By all accounts they were perfectly equal, in speed and endurance. But there was one minor difference:  One runner wanted to do it all on his own.  He didn’t want help from anyone.  But the other runner could imagine.  So as the race wore on and each runner got more and more tired, the second runner “imagined.”

He imagined wearing a harness, attached to a long rope.  And he further imagined that long, strong rope pulled him along, pulled him forward.  And as he imagined that long, strong rope, he could feel himself pulled along, a process that seemed to give him extra strength.

So here’s the question. Which runner has a better chance of winning the marathon?

“Just sayin’…”

But getting back to the topic at hand, see Peter, Paul – and other “relics:”

On January 18 we celebrate the Confession of Peter:  “Thou art the Christ, Son of the Living God.”  A week later on January 25 we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul.  Then comes June 29, when we celebrate both men…

That post – from last June 25 – noted that the June 29 Feast Day remembers both Peter and Paul, together.  We remember that both men were martyred at about the same time.  (In Rome, around 65 A.D.)  We also remember on June 29 that their body parts – relics – were removed (translated) at about the same time, to keep them from being desecrated.

(That’s where the “relics” came in, in the post title.  In turn, the image at right – from that June 25 post – shows “St. Corbinian’s relics being moved…”)

But on the other side of the liturgical year – here, in the dead of winter – we remember both men separately, on January 18 and 25.  Or more precisely, we remember how these two “Pillars of the Church” took two completely different paths to the same destination.

On 18 January we remember how the Apostle Peter was led by God’s grace to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20), and we join with Peter, and with all Christians everywhere, in hailing Jesus as our Lord, God, and Savior.

(See Confession of St. Peter, from the Satucket website.)  Put another way, the January 18 Feast Day commemorates Peter being the first apostle “to confess Jesus as Messiah.”

On the other hand, the January 25 Feast Day commemorates how “Saul (or Paul) of Tarsus, formerly an enemy and persecutor of the early Christian Church, was led by God’s grace to become one of its chief spokesmen.”  (See Conversion of St. Paul, emphasis added.)

In other words, Peter came to his position of authority from “inside the church.”  Paul on the other hand was pretty much dragged kicking and screaming into his position of authority.

Turning to the Confession of Peter, that refers to “an episode in the New Testament:”

[The] Apostle Peter proclaims Jesus to be Christ – the Messiah.  The proclamation is described in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27–30 and Luke 9:18–20.  The proclamation of Jesus as Christ is fundamental to Christology … and Jesus’ acceptance of the title is a definitive statement for it in the New Testament narrative.

On the other hand, the Conversion of St. Paul commemorates “an event in the life of Paul the Apostle that led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus.”

Wikipedia noted that before that event, Paul – known as Saul – was a zealous “Pharisee who ‘intensely persecuted‘” what might then have been called the Jesus Movement.  (An allusion to an arguably-similar movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s):

…beginning on the West Coast of the United States … and spreading primarily throughout North America and Europe, before subsiding by the early 1980s.  [The Jesus movement] was the major Christian element within the hippie counterculture…  Members of the movement were called Jesus people, or Jesus freaks.

Getting back to Paul:  He wrote about his former life – as a devout and zealous enemy of the budding Christian church – in Galatians 1:13-14.  There he wrote about his being “extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”  Accordingly, he intensely “persecuted the church of God” – that is, the newly-formed Christian Church –  “and tried to destroy it.”  

But then he had his Damascus Road Experience (illustrated above right).  In that episode he was literally struck blind, for three days.  So like I said before, Paul was “pretty much dragged kicking and screaming into his position of authority.”

Paul also wrote about his former life – as a persecutor of the church – and in particular his part in the stoning of Stephen, in Acts 7:57-8:3.  (“Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”)

In plain words, Paul’s Damascus experience “changed him from a Christ-hating persecutor of Christians to the foremost spokesman for the faith.”  But before that could happen, the people most afraid of him – in Jerusalem especially – had to be convinced that his change of heart was genuine.  In turn, that change of heart by those early Christians started with Barnabas:

To sum up, if it hadn’t been for Barnabas and his willingness to give Paul a second chance – a second chance for the formerly zealous persecutor of the early Church – he might never have become Christianity’s most important early convert, if not the “Founder of Christianity.”

See St. Barnabus’ Day, 2015, and also On St. Barnabas – from 2014.  Both posts noted:

[E]ven after Paul’s Damascus Road experience, most Christians in Jerusalem “wanted nothing to do with him.  They had known him as a persecutor and an enemy of the Church.  But Barnabas was willing to give him a second chance.”

I concluded the second Barnabas post by saying:

“So we might just call Barnabas ‘the Apostle of Second Chances.’”

Which seems – after all – to be pretty much what “the Jesus movement” is all about.

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The original post had an upper image courtesy of Saints Peter and Paul by GRECO – Web Gallery and showed:

The two saints … the most influential leaders of the early Church … engaged in an animated discussion.  The older, white-haired Peter … inclines his head thoughtfully to one side as he looks towards the text being expounded.  In his left hand he holds his attribute, the key to the kingdom of Heaven.  His right hand is cupped as if weighing up an idea.  Paul presses his left hand down firmly on the open volume on the table, his right hand raised in a gesture of explanation as he looks directly at the viewer.

The article said El Greco painted the two together several times “with remarkable consistency.”  Peter always has white hair and a beard, while “Paul is always shown slightly balding, with dark hair and beard, wearing a red mantle…”  See also Feast of Peter and Paul – Wikipedia, with caption:  “Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Oil on canvas by El Greco. circa 16th-century. Hermitage Museum,Russia.”

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A “marathon” image was courtesy of Marathon – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A competitor collapses just prior to the finish line of the 2006 Melbourne Marathon.”

The point of the parable:  That if the second runner couldn’t “imagine” the existence of that Helping Rope, he had no hope of “finding” that Source of Help…

The death-dates of Peter and Paul.  The best answer seems to come from

Tradition has it that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome, Italy.  The actual date is unknown but is probably around the late 50s to late 60s AD.  The Annuario Pontificio gives the year of Peter’s death as … A.D. 67.  Early church tradition says Peter probably died at the time of the Great Fire of Rome of the year 64.  His co-worker Paul was also executed a little later, but as Paul was a Roman citizen … he was granted a swift death by beheading by sword … as opposed to crucifixion which was reserved for foreigners.

Re:  “Pillars of the church.”  A Google-search will lead to widely disparate answers as to who or what such “pillars” are.  (Some sites refer to people, but most refer to Biblical principles.)  But see especially The Three Pillars of the First Century Christian Church, citing Galatians 2:9.  In the New Living Translation, Paul wrote of a meeting in Jerusalem:  

James, Peter, and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers.  They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews.

This was some 14 to 17 years or more after his Damascus Road Experience.

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A “Conversion of St. Paul” image was courtesy of The title of the painting, “The Conversion of St. Paul, 1767 by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie.” See also Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie | Conversion of St. Paul.  (For a print.)

A quote about Paul changing from “Christ-hating persecutor of Christians” can be found at the post, Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.”  That post discussed Doubting Thomases in general, and specifically “the ‘mother of all‘ such skeptics,” the Apostle Thomas himself.   The post also discussed the differences between “skeptical” and “cynical.” 

A lower image was courtesy of  See also Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn.

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An original caption: “Two Scholars Disputing” – Peter and Paul – but working together… 

On Moses getting stoned…

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Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb

One time when Moses almost got stoned – to death – along with Joshua and Caleb…

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Here’s an update on some recent Dally Office Readings.

The Old Testament reading for last Sunday – January 10, 2015 – was Genesis 1:1, up to Chapter 2:3.  That story of the creation of the world begins – and ends – like this:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters…  And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

In turn, that account causes a lot of non-believers to scoff.

They scoff because the person who wrote it – presumably Moses – didn’t put forth a “carefully constructed treatise, reflecting a well-thought-out plan.”  They scoff because Moses said the earth was created in seven days.

And they scoff because Moses didn’t tell his audience that the earth was some billions of years old by that time.  Or that there’d been “dinosaurs” roaming the earth millions of years before the Israelites became slaves in Egypt.

Or that that the terra firma on which they stood actually revolved around that “big bright round thing in the sky.”  (And not the other way around.)

What those scoffers fail to realize is that if Moses had mentioned any such things, he would have been stoned to death.  (At yet another time and for yet another reason;  one such incident is shown in the image at the top of the page.)

In other words, what those scoffers fail to realize is that at the time he was writing, Moses was addressing an audience of the largely “unwashed.”  That is, illiterate men and women who had been trained since birth to be “mindless, docile slaves.”

So again, if Moses had mentioned any of the things above, he would have certainly been “stoned,” there in the Wilderness.  (And not in a good way.)  And by the way, Jesus noted a similar problem in John 3:12, where He told His disciples, “If you don’t believe me when I tell you about things on earth, how will you believe me when I tell you about things in heaven?

Which is another way of saying that our puny little human minds are simply incapable of fully understanding God and all that “He” – anthropomorphism – is.  And this was especially true of the main audience Moses addressed when he wrote the First Five Books of the Bible.

Suppose Moses had mentioned dinosaurs in his writings.  Or how “we” revolve around that “big bright thing in the sky.”  The result would have been similar to what nearly happened in the Old Testament reading for January 8 – 2016 – Exodus 17:1-7.  In Exodus 17:4, “Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What should I do with these people?  They are ready to stone me!'”

That was the incident at Mount Horeb, where God responded to the Israelites’ whining about being thirsty.  (By telling Moses to “strike the rock,” out of which came a stream of water.)

And that’s not to mention Numbers 14:10, “The whole assembly talked about stoning them.”  That was also part of “the people rebelling” – while Wandering in the Wilderness – told in Numbers 14.  (And as mapped out below right.)

In this case, the Bible noted “the people” were ready to stone not just Moses and Aaron, but also Joshua and Caleb.  (Who tried to defend them.)  In turn, God told Moses He was ready to “strike them down with a plague and destroy them,” that is, the Whiners.  But fortunately, Moses was able to persuade God not to do that.  (See also On arguing with God.)

So here’s what the Pulpit Commentary said about that incident:

This is the first which we hear of stoning as a punishment.  It is naturally one of the easiest modes of wreaking popular vengeance on an obnoxious individual, and was known to the Greeks as early as the time of the Persian War

A couple of notes:  The reference to the Persian War (or “Wars”) means the ancient Greeks were also familiar with stoning-as-punishment, apparently somewhere around 470 B.C.  And that wreaking “popular vengeance on an obnoxious individual” has also been around awhile.

(Not making any suggestions about our current political situation…)

But getting back to the problem Moses faced, writing the Pentateuch

In plain words, “Moses was forced by circumstance ‘to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand.'” (See On the readings for June 15 – Part I.)  And to the extent he was writing for a future audience, he probably expected that future audience to understand those circumstances, and take them into account.

But getting back to the point, “our puny little human minds are simply incapable of fully understanding God:”  On that note the DORs for January 11 included Isaiah 55:8 and 9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Gill’s Exposition of the Bible said that this passage denotes “the heavenliness of the ways and thoughts of God, the eternity and unsearchableness of them, and their excellency and preciousness; as well as the very great distance between [God’s] ways and thoughts and men’s [ways and thoughts] which this is designed to illustrate.”

All of which is another way of saying that “our puny little human minds are simply incapable of fully understanding God.”  Or as one professor put it – on our inability to understand God:

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload.  We are no more prepared to comprehend [God] than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus.  It’s just not in our nature. (E.A.)

So to sum up, if Moses had mentioned dinosaurs – or the earth being billions of years old, or our earth revolving around that “big bright round thing in the sky – in the first five books of the Bible, “the people” would have thought he was crazy, or worse.  They probably would have stoned him to death – as a heretic – or burnt him at some nearby convenient stake.

At the very least, Moses would have faced some sort of Inquisition – like Galileo did, some 2,800 years after Moses.  (For holding a view ostensibly “contrary to Scripture,” that the earth revolved around the sun, and as shown below.)   Which leads to one final comment:

It was never “contrary to Scripture” that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of the Scripture…

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The upper image is courtesy of Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb | Byzantine | The Metroplitan Museum of Art.  (It’s a mosaic from the 5th century.)  See also Stoning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which includes another painting of the incident. The caption to that painting, under Punishment of the Rebels:  “The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron (1480–1482), by Sandro Botticelli, Sistine Chapel, Rome.”  See also Heresy – Wikipedia

The stoning article said this of a “Korah” painting of the incident:

The painting … tells of a rebellion by the Hebrews against Moses and Aaron.  On the right the rebels attempt to stone Moses after becoming disenchanted by their trials on their emigration from Egypt.  Joshua has placed himself between the rebels and Moses, protecting him from the stoning

Which raises anew the question:  “What would those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert have done to Moses if he’d told them the truth about that ‘big bright round thing in the sky?’”

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Re:  The Creation Story.  See also The Creation Story – Bible Story Summary and/or Creation Stories (from around the World) – University of Georgia.

The “dinosaurs” image is courtesy of Dinosaur – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Artist’s impression of six dromaeosaurid theropods:  from left to right Microraptor, Dromaeosaurus,Austroraptor, Velociraptor, Utahraptor, and Deinonychus.”

The “Moses striking the rock” image is courtesy of BLB Image Gallery :: Moses Striking the Rock.

The “wandering in the wilderness” map is courtesy of davidblum61 … /2012/01/09/bible-maps-2.

Re:  The DORs for January 11.  The four-volume book version of the Daily Office has readings specified for a specific day in January – January 7 through 12 – beginning with the “Epiphany and following,” up to the “Eve of 1 Epiphany.”  However, in the online Satucket website, the reading for January 11 is listed as for the Monday after the First Sunday of Epiphany.  The net effect is to require the assiduous Daily Office reader to have two sets of readings for the days in January from the 7th to the 12th. 

Re:  the “cats-calculus” quote.  See On “Job the not patient” – REDUX, citing Professor Timothy Shutt of Kenyon College, author of Hebrews, Greeks and Romans:  Foundations of Western Civilization.

The lower image – Cristiano Banti‘s 1857 painting Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition” – is courtesy of the article, Heresy – Wikipedia:

Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for heresy, but abjured his views and was sentenced to house arrest, under which he spent the rest of his life. Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture.  He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions. (E.A.)

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 And here’s more on the  ostensible “Bible contradictions,” alluded to above.  See the notes for The Bible readings for September 27.  They cited the For or against link at the Secular Web site.  (Owned and operated by Internet Infidels, Inc.)  The site included this:  “The Bible is riddled with repetitions and contradictions, things that the Bible bangers would be quick to point out in anything that they want to criticize.”  The website also took the Bible to task for not creating a “carefully constructed treatise, reflecting a well-thought-out plan.” 

I addressed such criticisms in posts like The readings for June 15 – Part I.  I pointed out that Moses – for example – in writing the first five books of the Bible, was limited by “his audience’s ability to comprehend.”   The audience he “wrote” for was almost wholly illiterate – not to mention ignorant by present-day standards – and had been trained since birth only to be mindless, docile slaves.  Thus Moses was forced by circumstance “to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand.” 

In further words, if Moses had written the “carefully constructed treatise” suggested by the “Infidels,” he almost certainly would be burned at the stake or stoned to death.  (Or both.)  See also Reflections on Volume 3 – Part II, which includes “The Stoning of Moses and Aaron.”

Then too, those “Bible bangers” are just the type of people inclined to give a “narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of the Scripture.”

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A final note:  The DOR Gospel reading for Saturday, January 16 – the day this was posted – was John 2: 13-22.  That included verses 19-22, where Jesus was asked about his “authority:”

 Jesus answered them, Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”  They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”   But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

Which leads to another reason not to read the Bible too literally:  Jesus often spoke in metaphors, not to mention “parables.”  See for example, On three suitors (a parable)

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On Hilary – 1″L,” and HE was a bishop…

Chelsea, Bill, and Hillary Clinton take an inauguration day walk

The “Hillary” in pink is NOT the one we’re talking about today…


Wednesday, January 13, is the Feast Day for St. Hilary.  And the “Hillary” we’re talking about today is not the one shown in the image above.

But note first that the term “feast” here doesn’t mean a large meal.  (As in a family celebration.) Instead it refers to a religious celebration dedicated to a particular saint.

Illuminated manuscript showing Hilary writing his commentary on MatthewIn this case, Saint Hilary was born in Poitiers, a city in France.  (Some 210 miles southwest of Paris.)  We don’t know exactly when he was born.  (Either “at the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century A.D.” Best guess: somewhere around 310 A.D.)

For the Bible readings of the day – and a short biography –  see Hilary, from the “Satucket” Lectionary.  (That page included the image at left, apparently related to Hilary.  For more on the image, right-click “Search Google for image.”)  And speaking of Hilary, we’re not real sure when he died either.  But according to St. Jerome, he died in Poitiers in 367.

(Jerome was a noted priest, confessor, theologian, historian, and Doctor of the Church.)

Hilary’s parents were pagans – “of distinction.”  And he was said to have had a “good pagan education, which included a high level of Greek.”  His name came from the Latin for “happy” or “cheerful.”  And somewhere between 350 and 353, the Christians of Poitiers “so respected Hilary” that they unanimously elected him their bishop.

Ikone Athanasius von Alexandria.jpgThe problem was that Hilary served as bishop at the time of a great early-church conflict:  The one pitting Athanasius – shown at right – against Arius.  (For whom Arianism was named.)

Arianism is the nontrinitarian belief that Jesus, as the Son of God, was “created by God the Father.”  In other words, that “God the Father and the Son of God did not always exist together eternally.”

For more information on the conflict, see Arian controversy:

The Arian controversy …  arose between Arius, a priest and theologian, and Bishop Athanasius, a Church Father.  The most important of these controversies concerned the substantial relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ.  These disagreements divided the Church into two opposing theological factions for over 55 years … until after the Council of Constantinople in 381.  There was no formal resolution or formal schism[.]  The Catholic church eventually formed its own theology on this matter.

In a nutshell, the issue was whether Jesus was of the “same substance” as God – the Athanasian position – or of (merely) a “similar substance.”  (The position held by Arius.)

The argument may sound pretty obtuse to us today.  But back in the mid-300s, it was immensely important.  It had just been some 40 years – since around 313 – that Christianity had been “decriminalized.”  (It changed from being a persecuted religion to one that was “tolerated” by the Roman state.  In documents including the Edict of Milan.)

And contrary to the popular assertion that Roman emperor Constantine the Great made Christianity Rome’s official religion, that didn’t happen in 313.

The image at right shows Constantine’s conversion (As “imagined by Rubens.”)  But despite that conversion, Constantine “continued to support both Christianity and paganism.  In 314, the cross appeared on Constantine’s coins, but so did the figures of Sol Invictus and Mars.” (Mars was the Roman god of war.  See also “to hedge your bets.”)

In fact, Christianity wasn’t made Rome’s official religion until 380 – or 391 – under Theodosius I.

The point is this:  That at the time of the Arian controversy, the stakes were pretty high. (Basically the future of the Western Church was at stake.)  Then too, Roman emperors changed their minds quite often.  That’s what happened to St. Hilary.  For a time the Emperor backed the Arian argument, which led to Hilary getting exiled for four years.

On that note, the Gospel for Hilary’s day – Luke 12:8-12 – included this:

When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Those are the words of Jesus, in Luke 12:11 and 12:12.  And they pretty much summed up what Hilary had to go through, facing up to the Roman emperor Constantius II.

Constantius II ultimately followed a compromise position – between Arius and Athanasius. (“Retrospectively called Semi-Arianism.”)  But in 356 A.D., he found the Arian position persuasive enough to banish Hilary to Phrygia for four long years.  (At the time, Phrygia – in the west central part of what is now Turkey – was something of a backwater of the Roman Empire.)

Put another way, for his strong defense of Athanasius, “Hilary has often been referred to as ‘Athanasius of the West.'”  But in 356, he essentially backed the wrong horse.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr circa 1930-edit.jpgOn the other hand, Hilary put his four years in exile to good use.  He honed his arguments so well that they ultimately acquired the force of (church) law.  In essence he was a “Great Dissenter” over 1,500 years before Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.  (Holmes’ “dissents were often prescient and acquired so much authority that he became known as ‘The Great Dissenter.'”  He is shown at right.)

Which is another way of saying “Athanasianism” ultimately won the day.

In fact – and as a bit of an aside – you can see the full text of the Athanasian Creed in today’s Book of Common Prayer.  (Under the link, Historical Documents of the Church, and/or beginning on page 864, under the “Council of Chalcedon” entry.  For more on the Creed, see the notes.)

But note also that Athanasius wrote his creed “during his exile in Rome.”  In fact, Athanasius got exiled five times during his bishopric, mostly because succeeding emperors kept changing their minds.  (Between “orthodoxy” and Arianism.)  Which could go to show that some of the great writing in history has come from people “in exile.”  (See e.g. Prison literature – Wikipedia.)

Be that as it may, on January 13 we remember Hilary of Poitiers, the 4th-century philosopher:

[His] studies made him a champion of orthodox Trinitarian theology during one of the most difficult periods of Church history. He protected the Church and its members by brilliantly defending the sacred humanity of Jesus while also defeating aranism which denied Christ’s divinity.  St. Hilary was a gentle and courteous man, devoted to writing some of the greatest theology on the Trinity, and … in being labeled a “disturber of the peace.”  In a very troubled period in the Church, his holiness was lived out in both scholarship and controversy.

Which could show that sometimes God’s work means being “a disturber of the peace.”



“The ordination of Saint Hilary of Poitiers…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Hillary Clinton – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption: “The Clinton family takes an Inauguration Day walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to start President Bill Clinton’s second term in office, January 20, 1997.”

The text of this post was gleaned from from sources including Hilary of Poitiers – WikipediaST. HILARY OF POITIERS :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Hilary of Poitiers, and What is Arianism? –

Re: Constantine’s conversion, said to happen in 313.  See Constantine … and Christianity – Wikipedia:

[When] Constantine the Great reigned … Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire.  Historians remain uncertain about Constantine’s reasons for favoring Christianity, and theologians and historians have argued about which form of Early Christianity he subscribed to…  Some scholars question whether he should be considered a Christian at all … and he did not receive baptism until shortly before his death.

[His] decision to cease the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was a turning point for Early Christianity…  In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan decriminalizing Christian worship.  The emperor became a great patron of the Church and set a precedent … and the notion of orthodoxy, Christendom, ecumenical councils and the state church of the Roman Empire declared by edict in 380.

As noted above, the edict in 380 – or 391 depending on the source – was promulgated by Theodisius. 

Re: Athanasius and his Creed.  Note that his first exile was to Gaul (to what is now Trier in Germany). His second exile was a type of “protective custody” in Rome, where he wrote his Creed.  Later exiles included his twice “withdrawing” into the desert of Upper Egypt, and lastly an exile of a few months to the outskirts of Alexandria, where he had been serving as bishop.  As to the Creed:

The Latin name of the creed, Quicunque vult, is taken from the opening words, “Whosoever wishes.”  The creed has been used by Christian churches since the sixth century.  It is the first creed in which the equality of the three persons of the Trinity is explicitly stated.

The lower image is courtesy of Hilary of Poitiers – Wikipedia.  The full caption indicated that the image was gleaned from a 14th-century manuscript.  



Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys”

The Adoration of the Magi, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

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The 12 Days of Christmas officially end on January 6.  But in another sense you could say the extended Christmas holiday season doesn’t end – this year – until January 11.

To the Church of England – and others – that Feast Day is known as Plough Monday.  (As noted in the post of the same name, which also noted the preceding “Plough Sunday.”)  But the key to all these Feast Days is January 6, familiar to most church-goers as the Epiphany.

The Epiphany is the “Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as human in Jesus Christ.”  Yet another name for January 6 is Three Kings’ Day:

The observance [of Epiphany] was a general celebration of the manifestation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi [and] all of Jesus’ childhood events, up to and including his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist;  and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. [E.A.]

So January 6 is celebrated for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the Epiphany. That’s another way of saying the day also commemorates – inter alia – the circumcision of Jesus, as noted below.  But first some more on the Magi (“Three Kings”).

In its original sense – circa 600 A.D. – Magi meant “followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.”

But starting about 1200 A.D., the term became more commonly used “in reference to the “μάγοι” [“magoi”] from the east who visit Jesus.”  (As noted in Matthew 2, verses 1-12.  And incidentally, these “Three Wise Men” were mentioned only in Matthew’s Gospel.)

The consensus – that there were three “kings” – seems to have arisen because they brought three gifts:  Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And while a literal view of the Three Wise Men seems to indicate that they arrived at the manger-scene shortly after the birth of Jesus, the truth of the matter seems a bit harder to pin down.

For one thing the Bible doesn’t name these three kings.  (Shown at left.)

But later tradition and legend did provide a number of names.  The most common names given the three are:  Melchior, from Persia; Caspar, from India; and Balthazar, from Babylon.  (Which could have presented some logistical difficulties;  for example, in their getting together to start the trip.)  And as to when they actually visited Jesus:

The Bible specifies no interval between the birth and the visit [by the Magi, but] artistic depictions … encourage the popular assumption that the visit took place the same winter as the birth…  [L]ater traditions varied, with the visit [said to occur] up to two winters later.  This maximum interval explained Herod’s command at Matthew 2:16–18 that the Massacre of the Innocents included boys up to two years old. (E.A.)

Thus adding some more confusion to these after-Christmas holidays.

One thing we do know – from the Revised Common Lectionary – is the list of Bible readings for the Epiphany.  It includes Isaiah 60:1-6Psalm 72, Ephesians 3:1-12, and Matthew 2:1-12.

Matthew’s Gospel begins, “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.'”  

Unfortunately, this news scared the stuffing out of Herod the Great.  (At the time the “Roman client king of Judea.”)  That kingly fright led to another Feast Day – December 28 – remembering the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.  See also the Wikipedia article, which included the image at right:

Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him by the Magi.  In typical Matthean style, it is understood as the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy [in] Jeremiah 31:15:  [“Rachel weeping for her children…”]

On a more cheerful note – and also getting back to the Three Kings:

We’re familiar with those three wise men today largely thanks to a Christmas carol,  “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”  (For a live “old-timey” version see the Kings College Choir, Cambridge.)

That carol – a “song of praise or joy, especially for Christmas” – was written in 1857 by John Henry Hopkins, Jr.   (At the time he was an Episcopal deacon serving as the musical director for the General Theological Seminary in New York City.)  But as noted in We Three Kings – Wikipedia, solid facts about the three are hard to pin down:  “Though the event is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, there are no further details given with regards to their names, the number of Magi that were present or whether they were even royal.”

On that note – and continuing the theme of confusion in these recent “Christmasy” holidays:

We may know January 1st as National Hangover Day.  But in and to the universal church, it’s better known as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.  (See also CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Feast of the Holy Name.)  And for the full “rest of the story,” see Lectionary – Satucket.

“Satucket” has full sets of Bible readings for the Daily Office.  (As noted below, that’s where the “DOR” in Dorscribe” came from.)  And a fuller, more earthy explanation:

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ.  Since we are more squeamish than our ancestors [ – “easily shocked, offended, or disgusted by unpleasant things” – ], modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older.  Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.  It is a fit close for a week of martyrs, and reminds us that to suffer for Christ is to suffer with Him.  (E.A.)

(See the Holy Name link.)  But one problem leading to confusion is that January 1 is only seven days after December 25.  That problem could be solved by saying Jesus was actually born on Christmas Eve – December 24 – but the confusion wouldn’t end there:

In the Latin Rite Catholic Church it [ – the Feast of the Holy Name – ] is observed as an optional memorial on January 3 by Catholics following the present General Roman Calendar. Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustinians kept the feast on January 14; Dominicans on January 15[, and] in some localities the date was January 8, in others January 31, in some localities in Great Britain on August 7.*

For one sure answer we can look to Luke 2:21:  “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”  That was in accordance with Genesis 17:12:  “For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised.”

The reason for such a practice was given in Genesis 17:11.  There God told Abraham (nee “Abram”) – and those who would follow him – “You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.”  And finally, this was consistent with what happened to John the Baptist, in Luke 1:59: “On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah.”  (But his mother said, “No!  His name is John!“)

And now – in closing – a few words about circumcision.  It’s “the world’s oldest planned surgical procedure,” thought to be “over 15,000 years old, pre-dating recorded history.”  And aside from showing one’s “covenant with God,” some historians suggest it began as a way to mark slaves.  (Perhaps with an instrument like that at right.)

But the consensus seems to be that it served as a “mark of distinction:”

The earliest historical record of circumcision comes from Egypt … dating to about 2400–2300 BCE…  No well-accepted theory explains the significance of circumcision to the Egyptians, but it appears to have been endowed with great honor and importance as a rite of passage into adulthood…  It may have been a mark of distinction for the elite: the Egyptian Book of the Dead describes the sun god Ra as having circumcised himself. (E.A.)

It’s thought that about a third of males worldwide have been circumcised.  (Mostly in the “Muslim world and Israel (where it is near-universal), the United States and parts of Southeast Asia and Africa.”  It’s rare in Europe, Latin America, parts of Southern Africa and most of Asia.)

Also – per Wikipedia – a study in 2014 showed the benefits outweigh the risks “by at least 100 to 1.”  (And that “over their lifetime, half of uncircumcised males will require treatment for a medical condition associated with retention of the foreskin.”)

Which pretty much sums up everything you always wanted to know about circumcision – but were afraid to ask.  Except to say that that Ra guy had to be “One Tough Monkey!

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The Circumcision, by Luca Signorelli.jpgThe Circumcision of Jesus by Signorelli

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The upper image is courtesy of Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption: “Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century.”

Re: the “Innocents” image.  Courtesy of the Wikipedia article, it’s caption is:  “François-Joseph Navez, The massacre of the innocents, 1824.”  For a different take, see The Triumph of the Innocents, by William Holman Hunt.  That painting showed both the “Holy Family” – Joseph, Mary and Jesus – on their Flight into Egypt, and the martyred “innocents” in ultimate triumph, as shown below:

The Holy Family are surrounded by the spirits of the children slain by Herod.  Hunt wanted the bubbles, or “airy globes” which accompany the procession, to convey a sense of the waves of “the streams of eternal life.”

William Holman Hunt ‘The Triumph of the Innocents’, 1883–4

Re: The seminary musical director who wrote “We Three Kings.”  Wikipedia first indicated that “At the time of composing the carol, Hopkins served as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.”   But it later added, “Hopkins studied at the General Theological Seminary in New York City and after graduating and being ordained a deacon in 1850, he became its first music teacher five years later, holding the post until 1857 alongside his ministry in the Episcopal Church.

See also Double dipper … The Free Dictionary.

Re: “Carol.”  According to the Urban Dictionary, the term can also refer to “a hot, irresistable female with a big heart,” and/or a “short, fiery red-headed female.”

Re: the asterisk (“*”) in the indented quote beginning “In the Latin Rite.”  The Wikipedia article featured dates in the “military” format, that is, “14 January,” “7 August,” etc.  I took the liberty of changing the format to the easier-to-read “January 14,” “August 7,” etc.

Re: Circumcision.  As Wikipedia noted, the over 15,000 years old claim was “suggested by anatomist and hyperdiffusionist historian Grafton Elliot Smith.”  The article also noted:

In his 1891 work History of Circumcision, physician Peter Charles Remondino suggested that it began as a less severe form of emasculating a captured enemy:  penectomy or castration would likely have been fatal, while some form of circumcision would permanently mark the defeated yet leave him alive to serve as a slave.

The image of the “instrument like that at right” is courtesy of Wikipedia, with the caption:  “Circumcision knife from the Congo; wood, iron; late 19th/early 20th century.”  

Re: “Everything you wanted to know.”  The phrase is an allusion to the 1969 book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).  Since then the phrase has been used to apply to all “you” wanted to know about topics as diverse as the Carry TradePig LatinFamily Trusts, and Probability Theory.

Re: “One tough monkey.”  See Jerry Seinfeld (Character) – Quotes – IMDb, and also “1991” “Seinfeld Clip” “Mr. Bookman, Library Cop,” where Seinfeld used the term to describe Bookman.  Former American sportscaster Billy Packer – who spent “more than three decades as a color analyst for television coverage of college basketball” – also used the phrase to describe Georgetown Hoyas star guard Allen Iverson.  Packer’s use of the term led to controversy, as having “racist” overtones:

Packer later apologized, insisting he was actually trying to praise Iverson’s relentless play. Neither Iverson nor Georgetown coach John Thompson [ – both of whom are black – ] said they were offended by the remark. Thompson told USA Today he doesn’t “have to explain to anybody about Billy being a racist because he’s not.

Note that Seinfeld was not accused of being racist by applying the phrase to an older white man,”Mr. Bookman.”  On that note see also Howard Cosell – ‘Little Monkey’ Comments, Facts and Video,  Political correctness – Wikipedia, and possibly the definition of squeamish used above.  

The lower image is courtesy of The Circumcision (Signorelli) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.