St. Irenaeus Ministries
Scripture Studies brought to you by the St. Irenaeus Center.
St. Irenaeus Ministries - a center of orthodox Catholic mission and renewal in Rochester, NY
St. Jerome tells us that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, and that it was reworked into a Greek version later, which is supported by some evidence. Jerome also tells us that Matthew was the first gospel, but the actual order of composition is not clear. Matthew is also associated with a winged human in ecclesiastical symbolism, though this is not part of the inspired text.

The initial genealogy is abbreviated and separated into 3 sets of 14 generations beginning with Abraham, which provide a synopsis of Jewish history. Three women are mentioned in this genealogy, which is unusual for Jewish genealogies: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth.

Matthew then begins the infancy narrative. Mary is a virgin who is betrothed to Joseph, which was more like marriage than a modern-day engagement. When Mary is found with child, Joseph resolves to divorce her privately, but an angel tells Joseph to remain with Mary and the child, who is to be called Emmanuel, which is translated for the benefit of Greeks as 'God with us.'

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: Matthew1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:13am EDT

After the death of Antipater, Antigonus became high priest after mutilating the high priest Hyrcanus. Herod had been quickly rising to prominence, marrying into the house of Hasmon, sending his wife into exile, and Herod sought to have the Romans proclaim him leader of the Jews. Rome did declare him King of the Jews, a title never before declared for someone who was not of nobility. To ensure that the Hasmonean dynasty never returned to challenge his position, the remaining heirs to the Hasmonean dynasty suspiciously died.

Alexandra, the mother of one of these heirs, sent to Rome to request an inquiry, and Marc Antony requested that Herod defend himself. Herod went to Rome, but left instructions that if Antony killed him, his wife must die as well. His wife discovered this plan and this caused much intrigue and eventually his wife's death when Herod returned alive.

Herod built a new temple in Jerusalem and also several temples to Roman gods. It is against this backdrop that the magi arrived in Jerusalem and ask Herod ''where is the king born of the Jews?'' Herod, who was not born king, was outraged at this and sought to eliminate this threat. After he died, Herod was buried near the cave where Jesus was born.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_5b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:42am EDT

The Romans came to rule Judea in 63 BC. Leading up to that, the high priests of the Hasmonean Dynasty were the de facto kings in Israel, though their official title was Ethnarch. This dynasty began from the Maccabees, and lasted roughly eighty years. They did not want to be seen as usurping the rightful place of the line of David, since they were dependent on the pious Jews. The line of David was still known through this period, but it had fallen into obscurity. In this sense, the Hasmonean state is a biblical anomaly, lacking any leaders truly chosen by God. These rulers tended to be despots of a sort similar to Oriental and Hellenistic despots. These rulers were also expansionist, reacting to the rising birth rates of the neighboring countries. These circumstances give rise to a large upsurge in Messianic hope.

Salome Alexandra instituted a number of changes that pleased the Pharisees, and was fondly remembered by them for this. Her sons, Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus, fought for the high priesthood. At this point, Pompey comes to Israel and seeks an alliance with Hyrcanus, since Israel had sought such an alliance before. Hyrcanus was confirmed as high priest, but the position of king was saved for Rome, with local political authority resting in Hyrcanus' minister, Antipater the Idumean. Antipater made his son Phasael governor of Jerusalem and his other son Herod, who would be called the Great, was made governor of Galilee. Then, in 43 BC, Antipater was poisoned and the two sons battled for control of Judea.Messianic hope in the days of the Maccabees; the rise of the Pharisees and Salome Alexandra; Roman History.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_5a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:09am EDT

Out of the Maccabean revolt, three rulers rise successively, Judah Maccabee, Jonathan, and then Simon. Simon and two of his his sons were murdered, and only John Hyrcanus was left to rule. Various other rulers rise and fall, but Salome Alexandra is the only woman in antiquity to rule Judea and be praised for it.

During this time, Israel was consolidating power and various cities were breaking from Seleucid empire. John Hyrcanus rules as high priest and ethnarch, annexing Samaria and the remnants of Edom (now the Idumeans), forcing the people to become Jewish and be circumcised. The leading families of the Idumeans would become important, including the family of Herod.

During the later times leading up to Roman rule, the Jewish rulers start calling themselves kings, and their courts populated by Hellenized Jews. Several factions emerge, including the Pharisees and Essenes who react against these rulers. The Pharisees have a number of beliefs, such as belief in the resurrection and in oral tradition, that mark them as very different from the beliefs of the ruling class, which would include the Sadducees.

The Pharisees also had leaders who were not priests, but rather what would become the modern-day rabbi. The tension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees reached a head when the Pharisees demanded that the king choose between being a king or being high priest. The king sided with the Sadducees, which led to a civil war and suppression of the Pharisees.

Be sure to look at the image embedded in the MP3, which will make it much easier to follow.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_4b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:24am EDT

The period between the Maccabean Revolt and Roman rule of Judea is not represented by any writings in the Scriptures, but like all things that touch the history of Israel and Christ, it is worth studying. The Hasmoneans, named after the house of Hasmon, are not related to David, but are a priestly family from the tribe of Levi.

The Maccabean Revolt started when Mattathias, a Hasmonean, refused to offer sacrifice to pagan gods, with the eventual result that the Temple was purged and rededicated an event the Jews celebrate at Hanukkah for eight days.

After the fighting had ended and Roman and Spartan rulers had expressed their support for Simon Maccabeus as high priest, and King Demetrius confirmed Simon as high priest and afforded him most of the traditional effects of a king, though Simon was not granted that title.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_4a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:22am EDT

At the time of the Greeks, the Davidic line passes into obscurity, and the political power in Israel is held by the high priests. One such high priest, Onias II, refuses to pay taxes to the Ptolemaic empire. The Tobiad family steps in to cover the debt, and winds up becoming responsible for the tax collection in Israel. The Seleucid Empire takes over Israel, and gives the Jews certain concessions for their assistance.

Onias III becomes high priest, and owing to a dispute with the governor of the Temple, receives a favorable preliminary ruling from the Seleucid Empire. Onias tries to confirm the ruling, but while he seeks out this confirmation, a new emperor takes power, Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

In Jerusalem, a new group of rulers also takes over, and a man named Jason becomes high priest. Jason was not a particularly pious man, and allows certain Hellenistic influences into Israel, most notably a gymnasium. In this gymnasium, the men exercise naked, and in order to appear more like the Greeks whom they exercise with, some Jews begin to have cosmetic surgery to reverse their circumcisions.

Meanwhile, a man named Menelaus convinces the Seleucids to assassinate Onias III and remove Jason to have himself named high priest. Menelaus starts selling off temple vessels, and the people riot. Menelaus seeks help from the Seleucids, who put down the riots bloodily. To keep the peace, the Seleucids conscript some Jews to build a garrison near the temple, and decide to begin construction on a Sabbath to prevent riots. This backfires and there are even more riots. The pro-Greek populace moved into the garrison and only left to enforce the edicts of the empire. People fled Jerusalem, since it was not safe for either orthodox or liberal.

Antiochus wages a preemptive war on Egypt and wins, but the cost of the war causes him to despoil the Temple. As Antiochus attempts to completely conquer Egypt, Rome intervenes and turns Antiochus back, who now places the blame for this failure on the disunity in the empire caused by the nonconforming Jews.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_3b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

After the Persian period, the Greeks conquered a vast empire, spreading Hellenistic Greek culture throughout the area from Rome to India. Alexander the Great conquered the area from Rome and Egypt to India, including Israel. This land would be divided after Alexander's death, and the area including Israel was known as the Seleucid Empire, ruled by Ptolemy. The Jews found themselves increasingly in opposition to these new Greek rulers in Israel. This sets up the conditions which will result in the Maccabean revolt.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_3a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:12am EDT

Period history up to the beginning of 1 Maccabees.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:35am EDT

The return to the land of Israel was an event which really broadened the world of the Israelites. When Jews began forming a Diaspora, it clarified the concept that God was not just a local deity, but rather the God of the universe. Babylon, in particular, appears as a true cosmopolis until the time when Revelation was written.

As previously stated, the Persians, unlike the Babylonians, allowed a moderate amount of home rule, which was eventually exploited to build a second temple around 522BC, after prodding by Haggai and Zechariah. This second temple was much smaller than the temple built by Solomon, and those who had seen the first temple were struck by the difference between the two.

Zechariah and Haggai prophesy that Zerubbabel will see the completion of the temple, and for that, he is part of the earthly lineage of the Christ. While the people set about funding the rebuilding of their own homes, they do not do all they can to fund the rebuilding of the temple. God, through Haggai, chastises the people for not funding the process and afflicts the land with a drought as punishment. The rebuilding of the temple takes seven years, and then 50 years after that, Nehemiah, the governor arrives in the land. Ezra proclaims the law to the people, and for the Jews, this triumphant echo of Moses forms the end of the historical books of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:14am EDT

The Persians under Xerxes invade Greece, and have some success until Greece expels them. It is during this period that the Book of Esther takes place, a book that has great significance when considering the tensions between the many cultures in the Middle East at the time. After Xerxes, the Persia is ruled by Artaxerxes and Artaxerxes II (among others).

From a more religious perspective, after the return to Israel, Malachi rails against the dullness he sees in the religion as people were practicing it. This should not be surprising, since every generation needs to be evangelized, lest the people fall into a civic religion. It is during this period that the Book of Esther takes place, a book that has great significance when considering the tensions between the many cultures in the Middle East at the time. The prophets and writers of this time period, including Jesus son of Sirach, should remind us that we must refresh our faith today with the same vigor that was demanded by the prophets.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:32am EDT

The Jewish canon ends the Hebrew Scriptures after the return from the Babylonian Exile. While the canon continues for Christians, there is not much Scripture for the 500 years between the return from Babylon and the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. There are many events that occurred in this time, and placing them into a context is important.

The return from exile was did not result in all the Jews returning, nor did they return to a land empty of their kinsmen. Many Jews remained in Babylon, which would remain there for many years after, even compiling the authoritative Babylonian Talmud there. Many lower-class people were allowed to stay in Israel when they were taken into exile, and the influx of that many people posed problems for them. After the conquest of the northern tribes, foreigners came into that land and promoted a form of worship that would become the Samaritans.

The temple had been destroyed, and the rebuilt temple was only a shadow of its original glory. After its completion, Ezra gathered the Jews and read them the Law, which chastened them and convinced them to return to the worship of the true God.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: FBTB_1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:24am EDT

This was recorded at the 2009 Rochester Chesterton Society Conference.

It is very easy to allow ourselves to experience wonder on a purely intellectual basis, which misses the point, since wonder is too powerful to be experienced merely through the intellect.

We should wonder at some of the amazing things written in the Scriptures and at what they should mean to us: if we are created in God's image, how wondrous must that be!

There is also a hierarchy of wonders. While we can and should regard the things God has created and holy artifacts with wonder, these things are only temporary and we must regard the eternal with a greater wonder, and nothing can be as wondrous of the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We are commanded to wonder at these things, in part by the Shema Yisrael (Deut 6), which instructs us all to love God with all our heart, soul and might and think on this always and to teach this to our children.
Direct download: HigbeeWonder.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:56am EDT

This was recorded at the 2009 Rochester Chesterton Society Conference.

As we grow older, we lose our grasp on a sense of wonder in the world. Wonder is modulated by time and repetition, but there are three cases unaffected by time: youth, art and eternity, and it is by studying these three cases where we may reawaken our sense of wonder.

GK Chesterton, CS Lewis and others have commented on how wonder works in our lives. CS Lewis, for example, writes that angels cannot truly grasp the wonder in such simple acts as breathing, since they lack a corporeal form. There are many things for men to wonder at in the world, if we would only take the time.
Direct download: TomHoward_Wonder.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:33am EDT

St. Irenaeus Ministries was invited to be a guest on the Life on the Rock program on EWTN on September 4, 2008. This is a recording of that portion of the program.

St. Irenaeus Ministries is a Rochester, NY based apostolate promoting orthodox Catholic faith named after St. Irenaeus, an early Christian bishop and writer only two generations removed from the time Christ walked the earth who spoke out against heresies. We discuss our activities, with special focus on the practical implications of evangelization, such as conversion. Special attention must also be paid to promoting renewal, and strategies for promoting renewal and a real, living, active faith include paraclesis (the act of walking beside) and challenging men and women through ministries such as Bible study, discipleship counsel, fellowship, and religious teaching, which are discussed thoroughly.

It is the duty of all Christians to bring the message of Christ to the world, not just through programs, but by bringing the message out of the pews and shining forth Christ to everyone we meet, personally and one-on-one. Christ's message is a radical one and requires a radical commitment to His message, and we need brethren to encourage us.

You can also watch this interview on YouTube.

To purchase a copy of this episode of Life on the Rock on DVD, visit the EWTN religious Catalogue.
Direct download: IrenaeusLifeOnTheRock08.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:56am EDT

In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus tells us that there will be wars and rumors of wars that many will wrongly think to be the coming of the end. This suggests that the end will be many years from the time of the Discourse, and thus it is appropriate to focus our attention on how the Apocalyptic impacts our lives today.

We should look to this present time not as a time of delay or a time of anticipation, but as a time when God is making the preparations for the time to come. We must not see this as a time to relax, but it is also unwise to look for numerology or hints to the time of the end. This present time is one where troubles happen, and some of these troubles may have to do with God's plan for the end times, but many will not. God has graciously given us this time so that we may repent, but we should be living it as though the end times are imminent.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: ChristianApoc2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:35am EDT

The early Church viewed the apocalyptic writings as vital to the faith. Early Christians saw the end times as imminent, though not necessarily coming soon, as suggested by the exhortation to preach the Gospel to all the nations. In the same way, faulty wiring might pose an imminent danger, but it might not actually cause a catastrophe for many years.

We also look in-depth at the circumstances surrounding the Olivet Discourse and some prophecies in Daniel.

Every generation should see itself as standing on the precipice of the end times, an end which God has delayed through His mercy so that we may have time to repent. We must keep our attention on the end and keep Heaven as our goal.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: ChristianApoc2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:28am EDT

Continuing the discussion of Christian Apocalyptic literature, we read excerpts from Daniel, who prophesies the coming of the Christ, the pseudepigraphal Enoch, which expands on the Sons of God mentioned in the book of Genesis.

The Olivet Discourse is another example, where Jesus expounds on the last days, as a capstone to a series of questions He was asked.

Like the early Church, we do not know when the End Times will come, but we must assume that the end may be coming at any time, and we must look for the signs that it is coming.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: ChristianApoc1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:30am EDT

This is a direct continuation of the series on 2 Peter and Jude.

Apocalyptic literature refers to writings that reveal the hidden things of God. It is a new term, not one that apocalyptic writers applied to themselves, and there is some debate as to which works are apocalyptic and which are merely prophetic. It is found in canonical and extra-canonical writings of both the Old and New Testaments, mainly after the Babylonian Exile, usually in times of persecution, especially the time from 200BC to 200AD, and deals with the end times (eschatology).

Apocalyptic visions are dramatic and often wild and highly symbolic, and often mediated through an angel. There is no definitive list of apocalyptic literature, but commonly cited as examples are Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Revelation, 2 Thessalonians, The Olivet Discourse (found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke), as well as the extra-canonical books of 1 and 2 Enoch, Jubilees, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, 4 Esdras, 2 Baruch, The Testament of Abraham, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. The extra-canonical books are called pseudepigrapha (or falsely ascribed writings) to distinguish them from the deuterocanonical books sometimes called apocrypha by Protestants.

Apocalyptic eschatology differs from prophetic eschatology in a few ways, but one difference is that some see prophetic eschatology as more personal and more naturalistic, while apocalyptic eschatology is more obviously supernatural and deals with God breaking into history in cataclysmic ways coming from above. Others would note that even in prophetic eschatology, it is God's will which the prophecy follows. Apocalypse is often less well-accepted into the mainstream than other prophecy, but none of these criteria should be viewed as absolute; there is much room for dispute.

Some believe these apocalyptic writings were composed in part to give an answer to why the pious were continuing to be persecuted and the end of prophecy. This is probably true of the pseudepigraphal works, though it must be clear that apocalyptic prophecy is given by God, and not brought down by man. There was a rise in apocalyptic writing in the 19th century in an attempt to understand why some Christian sects were becoming more liberal.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: ChristianApoc1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:49am EDT

In verses 6 and 7, Jude identifies the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as unnatural lust, and not just in-hospitality. Although the ancient world had no real equivalent to the modern conception of sexual preference, it cannot be said that the Bible has no preference regarding sexuality.

Throughout the passage here and later on in verse 14 there is a reference to the apocryphal book of Enoch (verse 14 goes as far as quoting the book) and the ''sons of God'' in Genesis 6. It is unclear what Jude thinks of the book as a whole (the Church eventually rejected it from the canon), but he seems to think the verse he cited was a prophecy.

Jude then speaks against those false teachers who have ''reviled whatever they do not understand,'' and who ''follow their own lusts'' and flatter ''people to gain advantage.'' These worldly people are devoid of the Holy Spirit.

It is notable that Jude refers to Moses and Enoch, both of whom were assumed into Heaven, and that both Sodom and Gomorrah and Korah's rebellion are cases where the Earth opened up to swallow up something into Hell. Much of the language here is similar or identical to that in 2 Peter, suggesting that these authors are consulting a common source (an apostolic memo, perhaps).

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: Jude_b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:49am EDT

This short lesson on Jude and the one that follows it are a direct continuation of the series on 2nd Peter.

The epistle of Jude is very short, but Jude does not shy away from controversy. Jude is the English translation of the Greek name Judas, which ultimately derives from the Hebrew word Judah. We translate it this way to avoid the association with Judas Iscariot, though the name was common in that time. Jude is identified as the brother of James, the bishop of Jerusalem, who is often identified as James the Less (though this identification is difficult to support in the light of 1 Cor 15).

Also noteworthy in the introduction: Jude appears not to see himself in the role of apostle, since he does not identify himself as one, unlike most of the other epistles. Jude appears to be writing while James, who died in the early 60s, is still alive, thus dating this epistle very early. The fact that the issues of false teachers were pressing and were being dealt with at such an early time should be a comfort to those of use who see false teachings today.

Jude says that these false teachers were bound to be, and thus we should not to be scared, since our Lord expected this. The manner in which Jude describes these false teachers is very similar to the way that this is described in 2 Peter, suggesting that there was some collaboration, possibly by a now-lost rubric for dealing with these errors.

Jude then states that the faith has been imparted once for all, implying that there will be no new doctrines, and that those teaching new doctrines are false teachers who have crept into the Church. Jude then goes on to explain that the Hebrews leaving Egypt were likewise fully informed and many fell away, which puts an end to the concept of ''once saved always saved.''

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.

Direct download: Jude_a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:05pm EDT

Peter discusses the teaching of some who claim that Jesus will not come again and deliberately ignore what Jesus has said concerning this. The people Peter is writing about are unhappy with spiritual power and turn not only from the teaching on the end times but also the prophets and the commandments. God created the world out of nothing, and He covered it in the Flood, so He is surely powerful. What is more, God is not slow in His coming, but rather in His mercy has delayed His return to give us time to repent, and some have chosen to see this mercy as a sign of aloofness. This is not out of ignorance but rather a deliberate denial of certain inconvenient facts.

To the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, but when the end comes, it will be like a thief coming in the night. If we are looking forward to that day, we may hasten it by living godly lives. When the end does come, God will take care of His people, not by preserving them from death, but in some cases reserving them for martyrdom. These people will receive their reward in the resurrection of the body.

How much are we and even some teachers in the Church exhorting our fellow Christians to be mindful of these facts today?

Peter then reminds the people to be without spot or blemish and to consider this time of delay as salvation. He tells them that some of Paul's writings have been twisted by the ignorant and unstable to their own destruction. In doing this, Peter tells us two things. First, Paul's epistles are scripture to Peter, and second, though there may be tensions between the apostles, there was never any rivalry or animosity. Peter then concludes by returning to the themes of growth, knowledge and journey.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Peter3b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Peter concludes his message which he was probably writing in the final days of his life, racing to give his fellow Christians a final exhortation before he joins the Church Triumphant. In chapter 2, Peter spoke at length on the false teachers and schismatics, and in the third chapter, he narrows his focus to those who were concerned that Jesus had not yet come again. Peter addresses two issues that the people scoff at, namely the words of the prophets and the teachings of Christ, and we can see the same issues today in the people. People can be uneasy with supernatural religion, since it is not on their terms.

Some in the ancient Church were claiming that since the Second Coming had not yet happened, it would never occur, and they were using this to follow their own passions. Peter denounces this by first stating that the statements of the apostles and the prophecies of the Old Testament are both equally the word of God. These scoffers existed in the ancient Church, Peter tells us that they will be with us in the last days, and they are with us today because the people are extraordinarily resilient and desire to go back to normalcy, even in an abnormal situation. Peter echoes Jesus in noting that this is much like the people in Noah's time.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Peter3a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:25am EDT

Peter says that the false prophets have come, but that the false teachers will be, which may suggest that he sees the time of the prophets as over. He then speaks out about the destructive heresies (or schools), which by their very nature cause division in the Church. In this sense, the heretic and the schismatic are first cousins, one offends the holiness of God, while the other offends the wholeness of God's plan, as the early Church has stated. Some of these operate in the Church (as even Judas shows), and while we trust the mind of the Church not to lead us into error, we must remain alert to the actual teaching that those that claim to come in the name of Holy Mother Church to make sure that it is in line with what she teaches. This is said that we might not have opportunity to be led astray, and that we might attend to our own formation.

Again we look at the methods of those offering false teachings which often come secretly or from the side, and perhaps contain a kernel of truth and then distorting it. In some cases, these heresies come from people who do not accept their role in God's plan, which we have seen leading to every type of heresy. The Old Testament speaks extensively to the unsavory consequences of those such as Uzziah who try to usurp the authority not given to them. Some heretical teachers are called ''false brethren'' by Paul in Galatians 2:4. These would infiltrate the Church as far as they could, but then break with it. God will punish those who are willfully wicked or do not live the Truth, but He will look after those who look to Him.

Peter narrows his comments here, referring specifically to those who attack those who are new to the faith and refers to these teachers as waterless clouds and mists driven by storm, completely lacking in any good teaching. Those who follow these teachers would have been better never knowing the Truth than to have turned away from it. We must listen to and live by the teaching that we have been given throughout the Apostles, and not to those that would lead us astray.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Peter2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55am EDT

We must examine the things that are being taught, regardless of who teaches it to us. 2 Peter chapter 2 deals with this extensively, discussing the teachings of heresies, or sects of people who disagree with the orthodox teachings.

Peter speaks about false teachings that were extant at the time he was writing, but there are false teachers even today. Though these false teachers may not know that they are teaching error, they are a diabolical force on the world and the Church. There are a numbers of condemnations of these destructive heresies, warranting a comparison to great judgments in the Old Testament.

Looking at the sources of heresies, we find that people were looking for answers at that time, and many were seduced by a misreading of Christ's message that was either ascetic and denied the flesh or hedonistic and denied the ability for the flesh to impact the spirit. Leaders were only too eager to help because the received rewards of money, the flesh, or power.

It is sometimes easy to turn a blind eye to this, but we must never forget that there are real consequences to error that affect real people that will cause real suffering. Many of these false teachings come in "from the side" in a clandestine manner and appear in some position of authority. These people betray their true beliefs when they claim to remain faithful while encouraging others to join them in their error. To honor someone who is making a shipwreck of his or her faith simply because of the office is actually to do dishonor to the office.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Peter2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Peter proclaims that he is a servant of Christ like the rest of us and makes a very explicit statement that Jesus is the God and Savior which is not as common in the Gospels as more oblique references. He then turns to his theme for this letter, which is that knowledge of God is not enough; we must also act on it. No addressee is named, and the traditional thanksgiving prayer is omitted from this letter. This may mean that this was written for multiple audiences toward the end of Peter's life as the persecution was being stepped up.

Peter then notes that divine power has assigned to them all things related to eternal life and godliness and by this we may escape our passions and partake in the divine nature, a form of apotheosis. Peter then sets up a series of supports for faith that build upon each other: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.

This is a map for spiritual progress and we must keep moving forward on it, or risk our faith mutating into something else and the way Peter discusses this indicates that this was a well-known formula in first century Christianity.

Peter then recounts the events of Christ's baptism and transfiguration to show that they have been eyewitnesses to His majesty as evidence that these stories are not myths but rather a message like a bright light shining in a dark place.

No prophecy of Scripture, Peter then compels us to understand, came from human will, but rather from the Holy Spirit.

Peter ends with a discussion of the coming of Christ, which is more characteristic of the early Church than the modern Church. This more pilgrim Church should serve as the sort of bright light that Peter mentions in the first chapter, and we would do well to follow this example in the modern Church.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Peter1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

This begins a series entitled ''Second Peter, Jude, and the Christian Apocalyptic". While each the three sections can stand on its own, they share many common themes.

Second Peter is a pastoral letter with some apocalyptic elements traditionally attributed to St. Peter. It and and Jude share so much each other that some have questioned Second Peter's authenticity. There are many arguments on how to date the text and how to identify the author and the author's motives, but an internal analysis of the text does not permit that the author had any of the usual reasons for creating pseudepigraphal works. It is cited by many of the early Church fathers. The Church has declared Second Peter to be canonical and has cited it extensively in its arguments on pastoral issues, and our faith in Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tell us that the text is accurate.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Peter1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:20am EDT

Paul is welcomed by the brethren in Jerusalem, and is shown many Jewish converts to Christianity who are zealous for the law. Many of these had heard that Paul advises converts to forsake Moses, and Paul is told to -- and does indeed -- help some converts to perform a purification ritual to prove that this accusation is untrue. (Paul in fact writes in Galatians that the circumcised should live according to the circumcision.)

Some Jews from Asia see Paul in the temple and mistakenly believe that the converts are Greek Gentiles and that Paul has defiled the temple by doing this. A riot breaks out across Jerusalem, and Paul is arrested. The tribune asks Paul to speak to the crowds, which he does, though the crowds erupt again when Paul tells of the mission to the Gentiles. Paul is then taken away again, but when they find out that he is a Roman citizen, the Roman authorities send him to the Sanhedrin. Paul then pits the Pharisees and the Sadducees against each other and gets off.

Forty men then take up a plot to kill Paul. Paul discovers this and is then taken to Caesarea, where he is shuffled around various rulers (Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa II) and then makes an appeal to the emperor, which means that his case must be heard by the Emperor. On his way to Rome, he is shipwrecked on Malta, where he spends the winter and makes a strong impression on the people there.

Paul then arrives at Rome and the believers meet him as he is in chains. He then makes an impassioned plea to the local leaders of the Jews, who have not heard much about him other than general news of the sect. Some listened but others turned away when Paul claimed that the Gentiles were to be preached to as well. He lived in Rome for two years and sent several letters in the next few years, including one to Timothy where he dispatches several people to preach the good news and asks for material to continue to study. Beyond this, we do not have any definitive information on the life of St. Paul.

Paul's life challenges us to think of the Church as something more than a social group, and to shine forth Christ. If we see the Church as merely a denomination, we do a disservice to the true Church of God. We must keep an active life of mission to bring people to the truth of God and work to form a community to spread the word of Christ.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Allemanda-Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.

The end of our Life of St. Paul series coincides with the end of the Church's observance of the Year of St. Paul. We hope that this year of Pauline material has been beneficial to you. As always, your feedback and comments can be directed to, and are very much appreciated.
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul4b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

After a brief of discussion Corinth and how it is important as one of the most detailed descriptions of the early Church, we move back to the second missionary journey, describing how Paul corrects some of the errors of Apollos other Ephesians. While in Ephesus, several people who had in the past practiced magic publicly burned their magic books. The silversmiths, not happy with the loss of business that the Christians were causing to the temple of Artemis, cause some trouble and Paul leaves Ephesus.

Following a missed rendezvous in Troas, Paul receives word from Titus that Corinth is at peace with him and he continues on to winter in Corinth for three months. It was here that Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, intending full well to continue on. A plot against Paul turns him around to return by land through Troas, rather than by water as he had expected. Paul then speaks about how the Holy Spirit tells him that imprisonment awaits him in every city, and Jerusalem in particular. Paul then talks about how he has not withheld any portion of the gospel and thus that he is not responsible for the blood of the people.

Then, after exhorting the Ephesian elders to watch for wolves, Paul goes up into Caesarea and then Jerusalem.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Allemanda-Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul4a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:34am EDT

After Paul leaves Perga, his company arrives in Antioch in Pisidia (a different Antioch than the great Syrian city). Soon their ministry to the Gentiles spreads throughout this entire region. Such success brought much consternation to a number of Jews.

In every synagogue and Gentile gathering, Paul takes every opportunity to boldly proclaim the Gospel. His powerful proclamation of the Word excites much joy and many conversions among some. Others are enraged by his message and frank approach.

Ministering to Gentiles ever proves to be an exciting endeavor: in Lyconium, Paul is mistaken for Hermes and Barnabas for Zeus and only with great difficulty do they convince them not to offer sacrifice on their behalf.

Paul’s adversaries in each city tend to be Non-Christian Jews and Judaizers, those Christians who say circumcision is necessary for salvation. The issue of circumcising Christians becomes a hot-button issue, and it is eventually addressed by the Council of Jerusalem. At this council the early Church rules that Gentile Christians must abstain from eating meat with blood in it, engaging in fornication, and practicing any type of idolatry. After attending this council, Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch.

From Antioch, Barnabas asks Paul to join him in a visit to all the churches they had planted on their first Missionary Journey. The two argue whether or not to bring John Mark on the journey, and part company over the issue. Paul and Silas then begin the Second Missionary Journey, picking up key disciples like Timothy as they travel.

When the Holy Spirit prevents Paul from entering the Roman province of Asia, he journeys to Europe. It is during this period that the Gospel first reaches the major metropolitan cities of Corinth and Ephesus. It is at this time that he meets Priscilla and Aquilla. He also incites even more negative reaction from the Jews.

His ministry becomes increasingly dynamic during the Second Missionary journey. With the exception of Athens, it seems that the larger the city he enters, the greater the fruit. Possessing orthodox theology, awe-inspiring miracles, deep learning and mature pastoral skills, he is nothing short of a marvel. This missionary-statesman inaugurates a new chapter in Christianity.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Affettuoso, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul3b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:19am EDT

Having powerfully witnessed Christ on the road to Damascus, Saul finds his zeal redirected and renewed towards the Gospel. But who in the early Church (which was almost entirely Jewish) could have imagined the great outpouring of faith upon the Gentiles that came from the ''First Missionary Journey''?

After praying and fasting, the leaders of the Antioch Church sent off Saul and Barnabas to preach the Gospel, ''the work to which [the Holy Spirit had] called them.''

Their setting sail from Antioch to Cyprus (an intentional invasion of Gentile territory to convert the world) was nothing short of revolutionary and entirely unprecedented in the Jewish world.

Shortly thereafter the missionaries become known as ''Paul and company.'' They depart for the further travels, eventually traveling to Europe. As the journey continues, the grace-inspired genius of this missionary strategist comes to the fore.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul3a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:17pm EDT

The persecution of ''the Way'' that followed the stoning of Stephen spurred a large Jewish Christian diaspora. Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem spread all across the Mediterranean world. While many of them kept solely Hebraic social circles after settling into new homes, the exceptions were the inhabitants of Cyprus and Cyrene (a region in North Africa). Likely traders or Mediterranean businessmen, these men began speaking to Gentiles about Jesus. Some of these Gentiles were ''Godfearers'' familiar with Judaism, and others were pagan intellectuals and their family members.

At this time in Church History, the conversion of Gentiles to ''the Way'' was still a controversial issue. The quesiton of whether or not they had to become Jewish first was fiercely debated. While the inclusion of Cornelius was largely accepted (who would argue with the Holy Spirit?), he was just one Gentile; the potential inclusion of thousands of Gentiles posed a very real difficulty for many Jewish Christians who treasured their doctrine and blood-lines. Rampant racial prejudice in this region also contributed to the problem.

The largest Gentile contingent in the early Church was in Antioch. Barnabas enlists Saul of Tarsus to help catechize this large number, which was in the thousands. For an entire year, these two men teach the people. Saul has been instructing people in ''the Way'' for a dozen years at this point, though this is his first ''class'' of Gentiles.
By this time, he is a profoundly spiritual man, a worker of miracles.

Paul's dynamic (at times ballistic) ministry style was a force to be reckoned with. The Judaizers, Peter, and many others were recipients of his straightforward arguing. His strategizing mind and spiritual heart are peerless among the saints. His ongoing conversion to Christ is the source of his great motivation.

By Paul's influence, Antioch becomes a major church and the missionary spirit take off in the early Church. His catechetical ministry was simply remarkable.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55am EDT

Biblical data on Paul's life in the first years after his conversion can be found only in Acts and Galatians. In the latter source, Paul affirms that the basis of his Gospel is Jesus Christ's personal revelation coupled with his rabbinical study. No individual, in Jerusalem or elsewhere, taught Paul the Christian way during these initial years. Parts of three years of his post-conversion life were spent in Arabia. Here he acquired some disciples, and taught the Gospel to all who were willing.

After returning from Arabia, he went up to Jerusalem to speak with Peter. The brethren quickly asked him to leave the city, considering him still to be a wanted man. Paul then returned to Silicia, the region of his birth for a lengthy period. By some reckonings, he may have spent eight or nine years in Silicia preaching a group of disciples and maturing. Though the Church has no specific knowledge of his activities during this period, one might consider this to be Paul's period of preparation for ministry.

Fourteen years after his conversion, he returned to Jerusalem. The motivation for his trip was likely to provide famine-relief from Antioch to Jerusalem. By this time, Paul had been preaching with Barnabas in Antioch for a year with wide acclaim. It is during this trip to Jerusalem that he finally received approval from the apostles to preach to the Gentiles.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:43pm EDT

In His Providence, God equipped Paul with many of the skills that he would need to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, long before he fell off his horse on the road to Damascus. Just a few of these skills included a great Jewish memory, proficiency in Greek, and training in philosophy.

Physically, this man of medium height and medium build had a thorn in the flesh that he thrice asked to be removed.

It is likely that Paul is in his late 20s or early 30s when he first appears in the Book of Acts. If Stephen died in A.D. 34, Paul would have to have been born sometime between A.D. 1-8.

His primary instructor, Gamaliel was a master of the Hillel school of Pharisaic Judaism. This tolerant and learned teacher of the Law would later remark that if the Christians continued to flourish, it is proof that they have Divine commission.

Paul was not nearly as tolerant as his old teacher, but a firebrand who was extremely zealous--to the point of violence. Phillippians 3:4-7 shows his extreme Pharisaic piety, yet he considers it rubbish when compared with the Gospel.

The Tarsus-born lad grew up in Jerusalem amidst a culture of religious extremism and fastidiousness. He learned from the Pharisees that Jesus was certainly a fraud that taught false doctrines. He considered those who followed ''the Way'' to be Jewish heretics whose errors needed to be vehemently opposed. He spent roughly a year rounding up Christians for the high-ranking Pharisees.

While on his way to round up Christians in Damascus he was struck down by a light brighter than the Palestinian mid-day sun. The three accounts of his conversion each provide key details. Taken together, they depict arguably the most dramatic conversion in the history of the Church. He fasts for three days in repentance, and is soon Baptized to wash away his sins. Immediately Paul begins proclaiming the Gospel, though he is too controversial to be employed by the Apostles in Jerusalem.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Andante, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: LifeofStPaul1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Analyzing the years during which Passover fell on a Friday, Christ died either in A.D. 30 or A.D. 33. David Higbee tends to lean towards the latter. One of his main reasons is that Pilate would have still had a Roman protector in A.D. 30, thus his capitulation to the Jewish leaders in crucifying Christ indicates that the later date is more likely.

Using A.D. 33 as a bench-mark for the crucifixion places the stoning of Stephen at A.D. 34-35. His martyrdom marks the entrance of Paul into the Scriptures. His career as a Christian persecutor would not have lasted more than four years after this death.

Higbee will attempt to illustrate the mind and heart of God's missionary instrument, Saul of Tarsus, though it will not be in the style of a modern biography. His hands-on approach to the apostolic work was never fully recreated. The author of at least a third of the New Testament, his mark on the Church is unparalleled. Because few have Jewish-Christian origins, most all Christians are indebted to Paul, the apostles to the Gentiles.

The most controversial figure in the New Testament (excepting Jesus) seems to have been a short feisty fellow from Asia Minor. At first he is a Rabbinical student in Jerusalem who is focused and dramatically hateful towards his enemies. On the road to Damascus, Christ profoundly calls Him to repentance and discipleship.

Before his conversion, he advanced in Judaism above and beyond his peers. Acts 14 shows that he is mistaken for Hermes/Mercury, a short, quick, talkative man. The apocryphal works the Acts of Paul and Thecla may also reveal something of his physical appearance.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Vivace, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: LifeofStPaul1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

Certain items stand out from a review of the Corinthian correspondences. So dynamic was Paul's pastoring of this dynamic and diverse community that in an initial eighteen-month mission and a four-year period of intercession and periodic communication that it has left a mark on Christianity forever.

He encourages Christians to separate themselves from the world and its uncleanness. He references the words of Isaiah 52:11, ''Depart, depart, go out thence, touch nothing unclean [...] you who bear the vessels of the Lord'' and reminds them of their identity as vessels of the Lord, temples of the Holy Spirit.

Fellowship among brethren, agape love, interaction between those who are married, and sexual morality are just a few of the other topics he aptly addresses. He also exhorts generosity for the sake of the Church and for the poor. Dispensation in the spiritual life and the experience of the Spirit in relation to the law appear with the attributes of a genuine apostolic ministry are key sections.

Paul shows it is necessary to uphold the standards of God in a congregation. He will not cover up sins within the Church and will not tolerate sub-standard missionaries. Even more powerfully, he rejects those who adulterate the Word of God. His instruction will be forever remembered and demands serious study.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Aria-Larghetto, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: 2Cor6b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:30pm EDT

The epistle provides a sort of living picture of an apostolic Church. In this particular letter Paul's passionate words rival only those in Galatians. After a summary of the early apostolic period, one can see that Paul suffered much before meeting the Corinthians.

A proper context for the Corinthian letter makes for a more comprehensive study. One will see that Paul's fiery ministry, the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church, and many other historical truths are significant factors into the problems that Paul addresses by his second epistle to the community.

He first enters Corinth during the Second Missionary journey, at a time when he was wishing to know only Christ and Him crucified. This city would perhaps seem an unlikely location for Christian mission. The city was renowned for its commerce, government, and sex-industry. Likely five times the population of Athens at this time, in this bawdy city that Paul meets Priscilla and Aquilla as well as a number of other leading members of the synagogue. Full of moxie, Paul sets up his ministerial center in the house next door to the synagogue, a move that loses him friends and alienates him from the Jewish population, to say the least. His ministry takes place over only 18 months.

Trouble with the Jews in Corinth lands Paul in court. Providentially, this shrewd proconsul of Achaia, Gallio, cuts the trial short and Paul escapes without harm. At that point he leaves Corinth and vows to arrive in Jerusalem by early the next year to celebrate the Passover. In April of A.D. 52, he fulfills his vow and then begins his Third Missionary journey, finally reaching Ephesus. It was at this time that Apollos enters the Corinthian Church, an eloquent man who only recently learned Christian doctrine of baptism.

While in Ephesus, Paul hears of the tumult within the Corinthian church, and writes his first letter to the Church. This letter is not to be confused with what we now refer to as the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and scholars continue to debate the exact content of this first letter.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 4 in D Minor - Aria-Affettuoso, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: 2Cor6a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:30pm EDT

Paul's argument in the 11th chapter of Second Corinthians is similar to the one he uses in Galatians against the Judaizers. He writes ''if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough.'' He then derides the so-called ''superlative apostles'' and boasts how he provided the gospel free-of-charge out of love for God. He juxtaposes his apostolic efforts with those who do not support themselves with their hands, but who claim to be apostles.

With wit and sarcasm, Paul continues to establish the merits of his ministry versus the failures of these ''superlative apostles.'' His argument then takes on a frantic tone: ''Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.'' He describes the terrible sufferings and beatings he has endured for the mission. Throughout his toil, he also contends with the daily anxiety for the welfare of the churches.

In chapter 12, he reluctantly reveals some of his spiritual revelations he has received. He also gives an account of how ''to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.''' He then resumes his defense of his ministry through the 13th chapter, one that has the utmost credibility. He then closes the letter with exhortations to repentance and holiness.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 4 in D Minor - Gavotta, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: 2Cor5b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

A marked shift in topic and tone appears within the last four chapters of Second Corinthians. Regardless of whether or not these chapters were added to the epistle after its original composition, its apostolic authority is unquestioned.

These chapters are a reaction to the Corinthian situation: trouble making evangelists agitating the impressionable church. These missionaries establish themselves by targeting Paul's recent converts and casting doubt upon his credibility. Sarcastically calling them the "super apostles," these bold Christians preach a different gospel than his, one that has a rather Jewish bent. Although we undoubtedly know him as St. Paul, in his time, the apostle's authority was consistently doubted and ridden with turmoil.

The difficulties within the Corinthian church are expounded by the makeup of the congregation: a progressive, almost antinomian faction and a legalistic, Judaizing faction.

In the tenth chapter, he humbly asks, if not begs, the church to reflect on the genuineness and fruitfulness that has always accompanied his ministry. He hopes to reestablish order and will later single out those responsible for creating the troubles between these two groups. Paul will not be put to shame by those who criticize him and addresses their claims with bold strength. His speech was "not eloquent," but this does not necessarily mean he could not command an audience. In the rest of the chapter, he shows the failings of his foes and the strength of his own ministry.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Gigha, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: 2Cor5a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Returning from his quick diversion to stress that God's people must be consecrated to the holy and sacred (cf. 6:14-7:1), Paul writes, ''I have great confidence in you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed'' (7:4). He continues by accounting his troubles in Macedonia and how he received comfort from Titus and the Macedonian church. He recounts how he regreted, at the time, having to write his ''tearful letter'' to the Corinthians, but upon seeing how it moved them to repentance, he no longer has regrets (cf. v. 8). Paul masterfully illustrates how a healthy amount of grief which can lead to repentance, in contrast to the evil of worldly grief (cf. v. 9-11).

To get an insight into the mind of Paul, consider ''So although I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong, nor on account of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your zeal for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his mind has been set at rest by you all'' (v. 12-13). He used to boast to Titus of his own band's apostolic efforts, and now he boasts in the fruit of Titus' apostolate. He repeats a previous statement to conclude the seventh chapter, ''I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you'' (v. 16). His confidence in them, however, will not be nearly as apparent throughout the rest of the epistle.

In the eighth chapter, he addresses the collection to Jerusalem and how the poor Macedonian Christians gave abundantly for the needy within the City of David. He commends the Corinthians to likewise give alms with a number of arguments and illustrations (cf. v. 7 ff.). He then explains that Titus will be arriving shortly to assist with this collection and exhorts them to generosity by adding, ''So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift. The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.'' (9:5-8). Paul promises that this almsgiving will benefit the saints, the giver, and the glory of God. The abundant charity of the first Christians is a worthy of emulation by Christ's faithful in every age.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Minoetto I-III, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: 2Cor4b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:50am EDT

An intensely personal epistle, Second Corinthians has a great deal to say about the Christian life, its requisite hope, and its standards. By itself, the law can only lead to condemnation, as God's holiness is inaccessible. Yet, the law is always preceded by God's promise of instruction and grace. After the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Christians gained access to the Father and the Gospel; Paul's entire life was devoted to spreading this Gospel. How devoted are American Catholics to this mission?

In chapter six, Paul concludes his argument that he has remained available, open, and honest with the Corinthians and that his ministry has the integrity of God (v. 11-13). Shifting entirely, he then focuses on the need for Christians to remain separate from secular men. Chapter seven, verse two resumes the thread of 6:11-13 seamlessly, leading scholars to speculate whether Paul's exhortation to leading lives of holiness and separation was inserted within the epistle at a later date.

To expound on the ''separation'' section of 6:14-7:1, these verses are sufficiently Pauline. Being unequally yoked refers to a Christian marrying an unbeliever; this directly follows the Levitical prohibition on mixed-breeds or plowing with an unequal yoke. As plowing a field is hard work, so is a marriage; God deigns that Christians bear the labor of marriage with another believer rather than with one who does not follow God's will. Paul's words here are strong: ''For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Be'lial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?'' (v. 14-15). Because the average citizen has some involvement in immorality, Paul does not instruct every Christian to become a hermit, but rather to avoid unnecessary interactions with those who are immoral. His approach is somewhat Pharisaical, except he hates immorality, not Gentiles.

Since Christians are the temple of the living God, this requires an extreme holiness (which is entirely a gift from God) and, thus, a lack of any defilement. Not a static location like the Temple Mount, the Christian body is the movable temple--Christ inside man, a holy glory. Not only is Christ in each individual, but He is present wherever two or more are gathered. For all these reasons, tolerating immorality or nonessential association with immoral people must always be avoided. Making allusions to the Old Testament he writes, ''Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty'' (v. 17-18). Christ has fulfilled many prophesies by making sons of His followers. ''For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith'' (Gal 3:26). Therefore, it is not the nature of the Christian to touch or associate with anything unclean.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 4 in D Minor - Adagio, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois.
Direct download: 2Cor4a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

The all-holy glory of our Triune God is weighty and substantial, never ''fluffy.'' To illustrate this, one can look to Moses' veiled, radiant face after having seen God's glory. Paul takes up this image of veils and radiant glory in chapter three. He also contrasts the ''dispensation of death'' with the ''dispensation of the Spirit'' (v. 7-8). What is passing away contains an ephemeral glory, but what abides is situated in a glory that is eternal (cf. v. 11). In this, Paul does not wish to abolish the old covenant, but fulfill it with the Gospel of Christ.

He writes, ''Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor'' (v. 12) and ''Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom'' (v. 17). Powerfully, ''And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit'' (v. 18). He then explains that this ministry strives to be wholly centered on the glory of God, unveiled and holy.

As any faithful minister, Paul carries within his body the death of Jesus so that he might bring life to his flock.''For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison'' (v. 15). This invisible glory manifests itself in faith, hope and charity. Paul is impatient to move towards a more substantive epoch: eternity.

Music: Johann Gottfried Conradi's Prelude in D Minor, from the album Allemande, performed by Edward Martin.
Direct download: 2Cor3b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Paul discusses two main ideas in chapter three. First, he discusses the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Second, he explains the principle of living in the spirit.

The dynamic church of Corinth contains bona fide Christians with numerous spiritual gifts, however troublesome they may be for Paul. Analyzing his interaction with the community illuminates at least twelve items worthy of reflection:

A minister must be: sincere, faithful and holy as God is holy; a firm leader without being a tyrant; willing to serve sacrificially; ever see his parishioners as the children of God; one who cares and loves sincerely like a good parent loves his child; one who exhibits transparent sincerity in all respects; one who is able to be true to his word; one who speaks the truth in love; one who is willing to appropriately confront the difficulties with people; one who never gives up on the responsibilities of his divine orders; one who does not allow his integrity to be derided by gossip or dissenters; one who does not change or diminish the Word of God for any reason.

The vocation of a pastor is far more than a 9-5 job, but a holy order that demands no less than his entire life. Further, Christians who continue to accept weak or lazy leadership from their ministers are negligent, cheating themselves and the larger Church from receiving true pastors.
Chapter three begins with Paul explaining that he has no need to provide a letter of his credentials, for ''You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your [our] hearts, to be known and read by all men and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.'' (v. 2-3). One does well to confer this with the covenental prophesies of Jeremiah 31:31 and Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26. God's grace alone will enable one to keep a covenant.

Paul knows that he must minister as purely as Christ does and that it is only through grace that he can do this. His confidence in and reliance on the Spirit of the Living God is striking.

The New Testament is the Word of God, but Paul knows that ''the written code [by itself] kills, but the Spirit gives life'' (v. 6) because knowledge of God is not sufficient to save unless it is lived through love, worship, and witness. The content of the Law combined with the sacraments of Jesus Christ is the abundant channel of grace offered to the modern Christians, far more abundant than those who lived only under the Old Covenant.

Lest one think that Paul is an antinomian, he says ''the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good'' (Rom 7:12). Inasmuch as the law explicates God, it is worthwhile, but it is not strong enough to carry one to salvation unless it is accompanied by a life in the Holy Spirit.

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Melodie printaniere, from the album Dry Fig Trees.

Note: When this episode was posted there was a problem with duplicate audio.  If your file is 61 minutes long instead of the proper 51 minute length, either skip to 9:39 to begin or re-download the corrected file.
Direct download: 2Cor3a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Paul transitions from the first to the second chapter of Second Corinthians by finalizing his account of the pastoral role he has as an apostle. Masterfully illustrated by his actions, the Godly pastor is one who ever acts with the mind, heart and soul of Christ Himself. Even while conducting administrative endeavors like payroll and paperwork, a pastor of God keeps the divine purpose of his life in mind. True pastors neither lord their power over a flock nor negligently allow their flock to go astray. One does well to be mindful of the many tears and toils Paul endured for his beloved congregations, but also bear in mind his words "If anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure--not to put it too severely--to you all" (v. 5).

The way Paul addresses pastoral issues seems wholly superior to the modern approach seen in many Catholic parishes: the former is the highest outpouring of earnest love and patient instruction, while the latter tends to be predominantly bureaucratic and lacking a personal touch. After dealing with a pastoral problem, Paul goes further to completely eradicates the source so that Satan may not have a foothold.

He writes, ''For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life'' (v. 15-16). Paul then contrasts himself with those whom he calls ''peddlers'' or ''swindlers'' of God's word. Never watering down or altering the message of the Gospel, his words indict all types of unworthy ministry and those who participate in it. Truly, any religious minister who does not tremble before the Word of God is a sham and will suffer harshly under the judgment of God.

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Serenade, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Cor2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Though the constitution of the Church cannot change, the Corinthian church is extraordinarily different than the average American parish. An community of converts founded by Paul himself, the factionalism among those Christians in this multicultural trade hub presented the apostle, Timothy, and Titus with a series of daunting pastoral challenges.

The first chapter of Second Corinthians contains many doctrinal nuggets amidst Paul's response to chaotic situations. One should note contextually that Paul wrote a total of four letters to the Corinthian Church. Additionally, one must bear in mind that Paul traveled north to the Troas in order to determine the outcome of Titus' mission to Corinth.

Paul's religious language is not rhetoric, it is the truth expressed through tough love. He explains his reason for the delay in coming to the Corinthian church by way of Macedonia. Seeking to establish his credibility through precise, direct language that is neither flowery nor verbose (at least not for one with a rabbinical education). Although heresy, wild immorality and revolt are almost certainly not the issues Paul addresses here, he is nonetheless a father addressing important issues within his family. He addresses them with a clear conscience, reminding them that he is proud of them and never toiled among them for selfish reasons, perhaps in response to criticisms laid against him.

Paul did not change his mind and postpone his visit to Corinth for any selfish or mixed motives. He knows that the promises of God are absolute and that he who serves Him must have the same integrity. Never one to vacillate on ‘’yes and no,’’ his ‘’yes’’ holds the full weight of an ‘’Amen’’ before God Himself.

Finalizing his argument of his apostolic credibility, he states, ‘’But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. But I call God to witness against me--it was to spare you that I refrained from coming to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith’’ (v. 21-24).

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Berceuse, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Cor2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Paul establishes both his apostolic leadership and the Church's universality in the first verse of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians. What he writes to Corinth will be read not only in that city, but also in the various churches throughout Achaia.

The second item within the epistle is a prayer of thanksgiving and an exposition of physical suffering, the comforts Christ provides, and the comfort and compassion present among Christians. Genuine Christian life is one of plentiful crosses and frequent tribulations, for these sufferings are a requisite for entrance into the Kingdom (cf. Mark 8:35, Acts 14:22, 1 Pt 5:9). Suffering conforms one to the life of Christ more than any other spiritual exercise and deepens the bonds of true fellowship within the Church.

Using testimony from his apostolic travels, he reveals the comfort of Christ in the midst of extreme trial by stating, ''For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.'' (v. 8-9). Possibly the riot in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:24 ff.), Paul's response to the event here mentioned is instructive for every reader.

Second Corinthians is an exceedingly noteworthy epistle that is often overlooked or merely skimmed. If the spiritual implications of this letter do not challenge the Christian, it is likely he is not reading the text with any proper, prayerful depth.

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Elegie, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Cor1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:37am EDT

In order to properly understand Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthian Church, one must bear in mind a number of items. Chronologically, it is likely that the Second epistle was written just months after the First. An exceedingly intriguing epistle, it showcases Paul's life and personality in a way unparalleled among his other works.

One can only imagine the rapped attention with which the Corinthian Church listened to Paul's second letter. He divides his message into three parts after a brief introduction: he covers a myriad of points in the first, the topic of collections for the widows and orphans of Jerusalem in the second, and the presence of false Apostles in the third.

Some scholars question whether or not Paul composed this epistle as a united document, or if it is a composite of two separate epistles. Their suppositions are in response to the marked differences in tone that exists between the first nine and the last four chapters, although these arguments may not be as strong as some contemporary Biblical scholarship would have one believe.

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees.
Direct download: 2Cor1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians contains a number of key themes that a reader might overlook.

The fact that so few lay Catholics in America deliberately choose celibacy is a sign of a worldly church. Marriage was, is, and will always be a wonderful vocation, but many early lay Christians chose celibacy as an alternative to marriage, rather than simply a preparation for it. Too frequently the consecrated life is seen as a calling reserved for clergy and religious.

Paul exhorts the Corinthians not to associate with immoral men who claim to be Christian. He knows that Christians ought to judge the bad that is among their community (Cf. 5:13). American contemporary Catholicism is so far removed from Paul's pastoral spirit that those who seek significant reforms must be excruciatingly prudent in their judgments and actions. The duty of a Christian is to be his brother's keeper, but never a busybody.

Charismatic gifts are prevalent within Acts and First Corinthians. These gifts are always at God's disposal and proper spiritual discernment is always a requisite. One must never forget that the greatest of gifts is love.

One must not contextually dismiss Paul's views on women and sexuality as irrelevant to this age. He ever seeks to have men and women compliment one another properly and avoid unnecessary contesting of leadership. One must never forget Paul's exhortation in the Epistle to the Ephesians, ''Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ'' (5:21). It is a tragedy of our age that self-assertion is the new golden rule.

Music: Moritz Moszkowski's 4 Moments Musicaux Op. 84 - Maestoso, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff.
Direct download: 1Cor9b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Paul's great pastoral epistle is especially instructive for the Church in modern America.

Written to a Church often beset by infighting, immorality, and individualism, the timeless messages of forbearance, freedom from sin, and fellowship are a much-needed salve.

These final inquiries into First Corinthians revisit the issues of how bad the Corinthian Church really was, whether our time is any worse than other times in history, and the Church's current practice on women's veils.

Music: Moritz Moszkowski's 4 Moments Musicaux Op. 84 - Moderato e grazioso, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff.
Direct download: 1Cor9a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:06am EDT

In chapter one, Paul introduces himself as an encouraging father. Chapter two shows a more corrective side, outlining the immaturity of the Corinthian community. He highlights their faults even more centrally throughout chapter three. By the end of the letter, he establishes himself as an honorable father who will ever speak honestly to his children, correcting faults when necessary.

In chapter 16, he says, ''I urge you to be subject to such men and to every fellow worker and laborer'' (v. 16). He cites Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus as examples of holiness and leadership within the Church.

He closes the letter with, ''I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love will be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen'' (v. 21-24). When Paul says ''If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed,'' he instructs the Church not to tolerate immorality and godlessness.

Ever present throughout this letter is the mind and personality of St. Paul. The letter contains vivid and notable snapshots of the Church that hosted the great missionary-pastor for 18 months, and one can never reach the bottom of its depths. The letter's contents compel the reader to spiritual progress as well as discipleship, service and love. It also demands the resolution of interpersonal disputes and the establishment of the highest standards of sexual morality. The role of women, spiritual gifts and the nature of the Eucharist all have profound places in this letter. Although the letter's chapters build into a sort of crescendo of pastoral correction, Paul always writes with great and genuine love.

Music: Sergei Rachmaninoff's 6 Moments Musicaux Op. 16 - Andantino, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff.
Direct download: 1Cor8b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

This chapter describes a wide-spread collection of funds for the Church in Jerusalem. Giving sacrificially for Christ - who gave Himself for the human race - was ever on the mind of these early Christians who always gave well beyond the 10% tithing requirement. Tithe money never paid for ecclesial luxuries, but for pressing needs like furthering effective missionary activity and sustaining widows and orphans. The offering described in this chapter is a sort of precursor to what we now know as Peter's Pence; Paul and many young men from the various churches throughout Christendom would later carry their offerings to Jerusalem to lay them at the feet of the apostles. Paul also presents the Gentile Christians to the Lord in the Temple, an act which fulfills a prophesy from Isaiah 60 but incites a riot and leaves him imprisoned.

Paul cannot leave his post in Ephesus until Pentecost, but hopes to return to the Corinthians after passing through Macedonia (cf. v. 5-9). He urges the church to ''Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love'' (13-14).

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians is not a manual of Christian doctrine or rubrics but a personal letter to a specific church with particular predicaments.

Extremely personal, the letter is a riveting apostolic work that arises from love and compels the properly disposed reader to recollect and repent. Although one may not be privy to all the details of the particular Corinthian situation, studying this letter is always profitable. Although focused study is necessary to undermine the full weight of this letter, one's study must never remain purely intellectual but must penetrate to one's spirituality and daily life.

Music: Sergei Rachmaninoff's 6 Moments Musicaux Op. 16 - Andantino, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff.
Direct download: 1Cor8a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:25am EDT

Out study continues with the great Resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, verse 23. Christ is the Messiah whose reign must continue until he has triumphed, when eternity begins (cf. v. 23-27). The Father is the font of divinity without having any chronological or hierarchical priority over Jesus Christ. A close reading of this chapter will reveal that there was no "generic God-substance" that created Christ, but rather the one God, a personal moral being who is all-powerful and who eternally begets the Son.

Note that verse 29 does not speak to the common Mormon practice of Baptizing the Dead, and is the only reference of any such a baptismal practice in the Bible.

Paul knows that one is ruined by the bad company he keeps (v. 33), and he mentions it within this chapter for the good of the Church. He chastises them by saying "Come to your right mind and sin no more" (v. 34).

He answers a number of the Corinthians' questions on the resurrection of the dead in verses 35-44. He writes, "Just as we have born the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (v. 49-50). In this, he states that all who are raised to heaven will be changed, a change that occurs in the blink of an eye. He concludes the chapter by stating "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (v. 58).

One must never forget that the goal of the Christian life is to remain with the Lord in heaven. With this perspective, one has a life-changing motivation.

Music: Sergei Rachmaninoff's 6 Moments Musicaux Op. 16 - Andante cantabile, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff.
Direct download: 1Cor7b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Sometimes termed "the great Resurrection chapter," 1 Corinthians 15 accounts just that and more. Certain members of the Corinthian Church, perhaps because of a Greek heritage that often disparages the flesh, take issue with Jesus' resurrection. From the initial verse, Paul affirms that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel.

He expresses that Christ died for our sins and rose to give us eternal life, appearing to many (v 2-6). Note that Cephas [Peter] is mentioned specifically as well as being included in those "twelve" apostles who witnessed Him (v 5). Paul uses the terms "the twelve" and "the apostles" as two separate categories (v 7). These precise groupings of witnesses serve help establish facts, adding credibility to Paul's argument.

It was only the resurrected Christ who dramatically changed Paul from the Church's greatest persecutor into one of its chief workers. Paul reminds them that a Christian's resurrection will be one of both the spirit and the body, urging them to never overlook the resurrection of the body on the last day. He writes in response to those who question the resurrection of the body, "If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (v 16-17).

Christ has trampled upon death through the resurrection and lifts believers from the dead and from sin. By thinking deeply about heaven and the resurrection of the dead, Christians remain focused on their final end throughout the battle against sin.

Music: Moritz Moszkowski's 3 Moments Musicaux Op. 7 - Allegramente, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff.
Direct download: 1Cor7a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT