It’s fairly common knowledge among Christians that we don’t know for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews in the Bible. The Church knows it to be inspired Scripture, despite the lack of certainty regarding its author.
Well, I’ve been reading an interesting book on Church history called Roots of the Faith, by Mike Aquilina, and he directed my attention to an interesting section in the writings of a Church historian named Eusebius, who lived in the late 200’s through the early 300’s. Since I happen to have Eusebius’ Church History on my shelf, I looked that particular section up for myself because it sounded intriguing.
Here, Eusebius is describing the writings of Clement of Alexandria, who was born circa 150, and Clement seemed to be quite confident in his knowledge of who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews:
“He says that the Epistle to the Hebrews is the work of Paul, and that it was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language; but that Luke translated it carefully and published it for the Greeks, and hence the same style of expression is found in this epistle and in the Acts. But he says that the words, Paul the Apostle, were probably not prefixed, because, in sending it to the Hebrews, who were prejudiced and suspicious of him, he wisely did not wish to repel them at the very beginning by giving his name.”
–Eusebius, Church History, 6.14.2-3
So he’s saying that Paul wrote Hebrews, but left out his usual greeting for good reasons. The writing somewhat resembles Luke, because Luke translated it into the Greek.
“Farther on he says: ‘But now, as the blessed presbyter said, since the Lord being the apostle of the Almighty, was sent to the Hebrews, Paul, as sent to the Gentiles, on account of his modesty did not subscribe himself an apostle of the Hebrews, through respect for the Lord, and because being a herald and apostle of the Gentiles he wrote to the Hebrews out of his superabundance.’” (6.14.4)
So even though Paul’s primary mission was to the Gentiles, his “superabundance” overflowed to the Hebrews as well, and the Church has been blessed to this day with the Epistle to the Hebrews apparently as a result of Paul going above and beyond the call of duty (so to speak). I understand that there are other sources from the early Church which also offer insight into the subject of Hebrews’ authorship, but Eusebius is the one I came across and I just thought it was really interesting.
Unrelated to the authorship of Hebrews but included in the same chapter, Eusebius refers to Clement’s writings regarding Mark’s Gospel:
“As Peter had preached the Word publically at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it.”
–Eusebius, Church History, 6.14.6
First of all, if you have not seen the movie, there will be spoilers in this review, so I encourage you to go watch it first, then come back. You’ll probably want to discuss it afterwards. If you don’t know which movie I’m talking about, here’s a trailer:
Even though there have been a handful of new releases lately that look interesting, and no one seems to be talking about The Signal, I was curious because I came across the trailer on youtube. In the trailer, we see evidence of some kind of typical “indie film”, with a sentimental love story (which is not as emphasized in the movie as it appears in the trailer), and scenes of people enjoying normal lives, but suddenly we see Laurence Fishburne in some kind of bio-hazard suit and we see things flying around like in Looper. I couldn’t resist.
Those of you who are reading beyond this point should have already watched the movie, and noticed the pleasant PG-13 rating, proving yet again that good movies can be made without loading them down with cussing and sex, yet utilizing just enough suspense and action to require the little ones to be off in bed. In this respect, if I may make the comparison, The Signal could be in the same category as quality flicks like The Village. It definitely has the surprise ending.
I enjoy a movie that gets me wondering what is going on, but manages to outsmart me in a satisfying way all the way to the end. And it wasn’t until the very end that I was able to really start seeing what happened. Even though the end does leave things somewhat unresolved for the characters (to say the least), the crazy coolness of the ending more than made up for it. I’ve come to appreciate the artistic courage that can leave things unresolved at the end of a movie, putting our imaginations to work. Examples of this are John Carpenter’s The Thing and the more recent The Grey, in which I found myself willing the credits to roll at the perfect time that they did. Unresolved is one thing, but thankfully The Signal was not left unexplained, especially for people willing to assemble the clues.
Okay, let’s talk about the movie!
So, the kids (you can see how invested I was in the characters) were traveling across the U.S. and were in some kind of online duel with a serious hacker, and in cleverly managing to trace his signal, followed it out into the desert of Nevada (at night) and into an old abandoned house… and by this point I was extremely dissatisfied, because if I wanted to watch lame horror movies I would, but I don’t. Obviously, things turn out badly, but we are quickly transitioned into the scenes shown in the trailer where the main character is being questioned as though he went through some kind of traumatic event. He doesn’t have any idea what happened, or what’s going on, but the lab technicians all seem interested in testing him and his friends. It’s revealed that they encountered aliens at the abandoned house, and were perhaps used for experiments. Low and behold, his previously crippled legs have been replaced by high-tech prosthetics, and we later see his friend’s hands have been replaced by alien robotic ones. Nevertheless, the kids escape to the world above and manage to elude the authorities, partially aided by the use of their extra-strong new limbs. All of the people they meet act very strangely, and Laurence Fishburne (“Damon”) follows along, still in his bio-hazard suit, calmly tracking them. The kids are confused by the inaccuracy of maps, the strangeness of the people they meet, and the contrived nature of things around them… but they are determined to get away.
Some insights for discussion…
Obviously, aliens had been abducting people for awhile in Nevada in order to study them, and they had been getting the typical sort of people that we think of in regard to alien encounters (dot dot dot…). These are the people we see in the desert scenes. But what if the aliens wanted to study the most clever, determined, adventurous humans? Draw them in with a signal.
I was fascinated to find out by the end that the entire thing (from the time of the abduction) was a testing process, in a massive controlled area, like The Truman Show meets The Forgotten. This explains Damon’s benign approach to chasing the kids. It also explains the rifle not firing in the hands of the guy in the chair, and the empty cans on the shelf, and pens that don’t work. I liked how the movie gives you enough so that you think you’ve got it figured out “oh… they’re in Area 51!” but you only think you’re smart… kind of like the characters think they’re smart. Clever movie making.
The kids are indeed smart (for humans), and they do indeed manage to figure out ways to surmount obstacles, but as impressive as this is, they come shatteringly face-to-face with their own limitations by the end, despite the aid of their new powers. Part of the test was combining human will with “alien” technology to see the result, so all the escapes were allowed, but ultimately foiled.
It seemed necessary for people to be “agitated” for proper analysis to take place and the alien gadgetry to work most effectively. A large amount of agitation was obviously induced, and the study of agitated humans explains Damon’s fascination with the guy in the chair who was trying to shoot him. Speaking of “agitated” it was funny to read through a few negative reviews of the movie online.
The old technology (tape recorder, etc.) in the lab had me wondering if there were precautions being taken against the aliens’ ability to monitor newer technology (ex. the street cam picture of their car supposedly taken by the hacker “Nomad”). This was probably just intended to throw the audience off the actual plot line, but perhaps it’s simply what the the aliens had from previous excursions to earth? As in, what they assumed might be found in a lab. Also, bleeding (something?) from the nose is apparently a sign of a failed experiment, and a need for terminating that experiment, hence the concern during questioning when the main character got a bloody nose.
I understand that there were general experiments going on in the lab, probably apart from the ones related to the kids, so an answer may not be necessary, but I still don’t know what the deal is with the cow in the room followed by the chair hitting the window. I’m satisfied at the thought that the “lab technicians” were testing many different things from different planets, and our imaginations are left to figure out details like the bloody room. Although I think we can assume that the torn-up walls were from the robot hands during escape…?
The slow motion freak-out scenes were the icing on the cake for me. The punching of the concrete pillar and the fast running were just so cool. Unlike many movies today that can be boring despite CG action on a massive scale, the special effects in this movie were amazing, in part because they were moderately used, and based within an already-interesting plot. CG by itself does not a good movie make. Having said that, the action scenes rocked me. I also liked the way the heavy ending transitioned into upbeat music for the credits, which can blend really well if done right, like at the end of The Matrix, and give the movie a more lighthearted overall feel for you to walk away pondering the craziness of the story.
The kids basically lost their freedom while driving down the dark road to find the hacker. I guess the moral of the story is: especially if you’re smart, don’t be dumb. Although, I can see how being shipped off to a distant galaxy to be tested by aliens might be more interesting than finishing college.
What did you think of the movie?
Understandably, Protestants try to find ways to demonstrate that the authority of the Catholic Church is illegitimate or that Catholic doctrines are somehow corrupt. The more Catholics they find who can’t refute an argument, the more effective that argument appears to be. Even after arguments have been refuted by knowledgeable Catholics, Protestants often keep using them. With a bit of homework, Catholics can prepare themselves to address persistent misconceptions.
A classic Protestant argument has popped up on my radar from three different sources lately, so I think it might be good to address it in a public way, in order to help my fellow Catholics.
The argument goes something like this: “Did you know that the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments is different? They re-arranged the numbers, taking out the second commandment and splitting the tenth commandment into two! Of course we can see past the scheme of these sneaky Catholics… by removing God’s clear commandment against making graven images, they can get away with worshiping their statues!”
Before we go any further, I need to clarify a few things. First of all, Catholics are strictly prohibited from worshiping/adoring anyone or anything other than God (this is serious stuff). Secondly, the definition of “worship” can be a debate in itself, and if it comes down to a Protestant insisting that a Catholic person is worshiping something involuntarily… well that dog just ain’t gonna hunt. Thirdly, although the “ten commandments” are referred to in Exodus 34:28, nowhere in the Bible are they assigned numbers. The numbering of the commandments is an extra-biblical matter settled (for Christians) by Church authority.
Right off the bat we can see that the Protestants are appealing to tradition in the way they number the commandments. But, setting that aside, let’s proceed…
There are two places in the Old Testament where we see the Commandments listed. First, let’s take a look at Exodus 20:3-17
3 you shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Protestants claim that verse 3 should be kept separate from 4-6, and that dividing verse 17 into separate references against coveting your neighbor’s wife and possessions is a stretch by Catholics in order to fill out the number of commandments to ten. However, let’s pause for a moment and consider a slightly awkward question…
Why are Protestants so determined to number wives in the same category as possessions, when Catholics are pointing out that it’s not necessary?
But it gets stickier from there. The case can biblically be made that verses 4-6 are a further clarification of the larger point made in verse 3, which is to not worship anything other than God (note also how verses 9-11 further clarify verse 8 regarding the Sabbath). There is good reason to not interpret words like “graven image” or “likeness” (depending on your translation) literalistically, because God instructed the people to make images, as seen in Exodus 25:18, Numbers 21:8-9, and 1 Kings 6:23-28. Finally, a blanket rejection of statues and images puts many Protestants in a tight spot, if their households contain photographs of loved ones or little statues in Nativity scenes during the Christmas season, or if they appreciate statues of historical figures.
You might still be thinking that dividing verse 17 into two distinct commandments (and ones apparently out of order, for that matter) is a bit of a stretch. That’s fair enough, and it brings us to the other list in the Old Testament of the Ten Commandments: Deuteronomy 5:6-21. This list is just as legitimate as the one found in Exodus 20, by the way. I encourage you to read it for yourself, but for the sake of brevity I’ll just quote verse 21:
21 Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife.
Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Here we can see two distinctly different commandments… the ones Catholics know to be the 9th and the 10th.
This was not a comprehensive examination of the subject, but hopefully enough explanation to be helpful.
For a much better explanation:
Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know that I’m becoming Catholic. We now have December 21st scheduled as the day that my wife and kids and I will be officially received into the Church. We’re so happy!!!
Like many other converts we are blessed to become aware of the fullness of the Christian faith during this great time of Pope Francis’ leadership, and when apologetics books and media are readily available to help people efficiently understand the Catholic Church. Coming from Protestantism, we came to the uncomfortable realization that Protestant answers to questions of Christianity were insufficient in comparison to Catholic answers. But all credit must go to God for patiently leading us home to His Church through the ups and downs of the process.
Looks like this year we’ll be putting the “Mass” back in Christmas.
My wife and I (and our little girls too) are practically giddy with excitement. The thought of taking part in the Eucharist at Christmas time is like a dream come true, and the thought of seeing my girls baptized into the faith will be a relief to say the least, and although I do feel a healthy bit of trepidation, I look forward to the liberation I’ll feel from my first confession. I will welcome the Holy Spirit at confirmation, and trust that He will adequately equip me to serve.
This day is at least as big of a deal as a wedding day, involving at least as much commitment.
We would be thrilled to have family and friends there for us, but we also understand that some loved ones may find supporting us in this to be difficult.
I know that the day-to-day year-after-year life of being a Catholic will not always be easy or fun, but I have counted the cost, and it is wonderful to know that my kids, and my kids’ kids can be in the same Church all their lives, anywhere in the world.
We’ll be home soon! Thank God.
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” -1 Cor. 15:17-19
“The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross:
Christ is risen from the dead!
Dying, he conquered death;
To the dead, he has given life.”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 638
On October 7, 1571, the Battle of Lepanto was fought, which can be called the Battle that Saved the Christian West. The victory of that battle can be seen as a result of many people fervently praying the Rosary. To this day, October 7 is known throughout the Christian world as the day we remember Our Lady of the Rosary, the close call at the Battle of Lepanto, and the importance of sincere and frequent prayer.
“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
-St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way #558
The Rosary consists of very important, biblical prayers, said while meditating on events involving Jesus and Mary. The “Hail Mary” derives from the greetings of the angel Gabriel and Mary’s cousin Elizabeth which can be found in Luke chapter 1. The “Our Father” was taught to the disciples by our Lord and can be seen in Matthew chapter 6. The Apostle’s Creed is perhaps the oldest statement of Christian beliefs from the early Church. And it is believed that the Fatima Prayer was given to three small children at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 by Mary herself:
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of thy mercy.”
The more I ponder that simple prayer, the more amazed I am at its depth. If only all Christians prayed it every day!
Here is a fun old video that does a really good job of summarizing the history of the Rosary:
“…a powerful means of renewing our courage will undoubtedly be found in the Holy Rosary…”
-Pope Leo XIII
“No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary- either he will give up sin or he will give up the Rosary.”
– Bishop Hugh Boyle
The Rosary is the best prayer for men.
When I first began investigating Catholic Christianity as a Protestant, I had a hard time seeing myself ever praying to Mary or any saints, asking for their intercession. It took a step of faith, combined with an understanding of the effectiveness and origins of such prayers, and a realization that the most trustworthy Christians are the same ones saying that we should be praying the Rosary often. Over time, I learned to really appreciate the humble opportunity we each have to take time out of our day and pray these wonderful prayers. I encourage you to learn them and pray often… it makes a difference.
“Say the Rosary every day, to obtain peace for the world.”
-Our Lady of Fatima, 1917
“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church- which is, of course, quite a different thing.”
-Archbishop Fulton Sheen in the preface to Radio Replies