An Historical Witness of the Savior We Don’t Usually Hear About

To learn extra from Daniel, go to his weblog: Sic Et Non.

I’m typically assured by critics of Christianity and of the Restoration that historic folks believed within the resurrection of Jesus solely as a result of they didn’t know Science.  We moderns, against this, know that, while you’re useless, you’re useless.

This has all the time appeared a really odd objection to me.  Scientific coaching isn’t required to learn about demise.  And it’s not as if historic folks have been unaware of it. 

“If a man die,” asks the Old Testament’s Job 14:14, “shall he live again?”

Men and ladies had already been dying earlier than Copernicus, Newton, and Kepler.  In truth, given our trendy propensity to die in sanitized hospitals and to show the care of the our bodies of the deceased over to skilled morticians and to the personnel at manicured cemeteries, we’re arguably much less immediately linked with the useless than our historic ancestors have been.  In antiquity, demise generally occurred at dwelling, the place households themselves sometimes managed the ultimate preparations for his or her family members.  Sometimes, it occurred at shut quarters, in battle.  Not within the method of a pc sport, via drones and cruise missiles, or by way of munitions dropped from the sky.

When Jesus rose from the useless, even his personal apostles—to whom, in accordance with the New Testament the Savior himself had given a number of prophecies about his impending resurrection—didn’t merely reply “Well, of course!  Didn’t everybody see this coming?”  Quite the opposite:  When, within the gospel of Luke, the ladies bore the in the end joyous information of Christ’s empty tomb to the surviving apostles, “their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not” (24:11).  And this information was on the very coronary heart of the message borne by early Christian missionaries, not as a result of it was ho-hum and routine, however as a result of it was so spectacularly and hopefully new.  “O death, where is thy sting?” exulted the apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 15:55.  “O grave, where is thy victory?”

In this context, I level to what’s typically known as the pseudo-Clementine literature, which in all probability dates (at the very least, within the type that now we have it) to the primary half of the 300s AD.  It survives in two very carefully associated types, the “Clementine Recognitions” and the “Clementine Homilies.”  They are attributed—falsely—to St. Clement of Rome, who lived within the late first century and whose story they purport to inform.  (According to custom, this Clement ultimately turns into the second or third particular person to succeed the apostle Peter because the bishop of Rome, and he’s acknowledged amongst Catholics due to this fact as Pope Clement I.)

The “Recognitions” and the “Homilies”—a “homily” is a type of sermon—characterize a type of non secular romance or novel, telling the story of how Clement got here to be Peter’s touring companion and containing massive chunks of what purport to be the apostle’s sermons and teachings.  (Actually, they’re tracts advocating a specific type of Jewish Christianity or Ebionitism.  Notwithstanding that truth, although, they supply an interesting window right into a sure pressure of Christian attitudes and considering within the early fourth century.)

Clement—I’ll name him that, as a result of it’s how he’s recognized within the paperwork, though, strictly talking, he needs to be known as “Pseudo-Clement”—identifies himself as having been born in Rome.  However, he says, from an early age “the bent of my mind held me bound as with chains of anxiety and sorrow.”  It “constantly led me to think of my condition of mortality, and to discuss such questions as these:  Whether there be for me any life after death, or whether I am to be wholly annihilated: whether I did not exist before I was born, and whether there shall be no remembrance of this life after death, and so the boundlessness of time shall consign all things to oblivion and silence; so that not only we shall cease to be, but there shall be no remembrance that we have ever been.” 

It’s not tough at this level to be reminded of the 1964 Latter-day Saint movie “Man’s Search for Happiness,” which poses the basic questions “Who am I? How did I come to be? Time. Where does it take me? Towards death? And then what? Where did I come from?”  Such points are genuinely timeless.  In the early twentieth century, the Spanish tutorial, essayist, and thinker Miguel de Unamuno wrote eloquently, passionately, and typically agonizingly concerning the query of demise in his traditional 1912 work “Del sentimiento trágico de la vida” (“The Tragic Sense of Life”).

Clement “was pining away wonderfully through excess of grief.”  “Becoming pale, I wasted away.”  Later in his life, he may really feel gratitude for this deep nervousness as a result of it led him to the reality of Christianity.  At the time, although, it was agonizing.  And he desperately sought a option to escape his psychic ache.

So, he begins to frequent the colleges of the philosophers, hoping to search out persuasive arguments that may allay his concern about demise.  But he’s shortly upset.  “Nought else did I see than the setting up and the knocking down of doctrines, and strifes, and seeking for victory, and the arts of syllogisms, and the skill of assumptions; and sometimes one opinion prevailed,—as, for example, that the soul is immortal, and sometimes that it is mortal.  If, therefore, at any time the doctrine prevailed that it is immortal, I was glad; and when the doctrine prevailed that it is mortal, I was grieved.  And again, I was the more disheartened because I could not establish either doctrine to my satisfaction.”  “This only I understood, that opinions and definitions of things were accounted true or false, not in accordance with their nature and the truth of the arguments, but in proportion to the talents of those who supported them.”  “Wherefore I groaned from the depth of my soul.  For neither was I able to establish anything, nor could I shake off the consideration of such things, though . . . I wished it.”

He begins to marvel what the purpose of torturing himself is, if, at demise, we stop to exist.  Why attempt to be good if all the things ends in nothingness?  Why self-discipline both the soul or the physique?  Shouldn’t we merely indulge ourselves freely?  But if life continues after we die, would possibly we not then threat divine displeasure and judgment?

Maybe, he thinks, he ought to go to Egypt and seek the advice of there with somebody who claims to have the ability to summon the useless.  He will fake that he has a particular sensible query to ask, however his actual function will probably be to search out out whether or not the useless survive in any respect.  If the spirit of a useless particular person can really be made to seem earlier than him, he’ll know for sure:  “Seeing it with my very eyes, I may have a self-sufficient and fit assurance, from the very fact of its appearing, that it exists; and never again shall the uncertain words of hearing be able to overturn the things which the eyes have made their own.”

Confiding his plan to a thinker pal of his, although, he’s persuaded to not resort to spiritualism.  Many religions take into account such necromancy a sin, and what in the event that they’re proper?  Will he not offend God by participating in such wickedness?

However, simply when he’s about to give up to hopeless despair, he begins to listen to a couple of outstanding trainer within the distant Roman province of Judea, who (we quickly notice) isn’t any aside from Jesus of Nazareth.  In truth, a short time later, he’s instructed a couple of preacher of the doctrines of this Jesus, who seems, in truth, to be an apostle:  “There is one here who not only is acquainted with Him, but is also of that country, a Hebrew, by name Barnabas, who says that he himself is one of His disciples.”

Upon listening to Barnabas, Clement is straight away impressed.  Not just because the apostle speaks “simply and without preparation” and doesn’t resort to the sophistical and complicated arguments of the philosophers with whom Clement is all too nicely acquainted.  What actually impresses Clement is that Barnabas speaks as a witness.  And he appeals to different witnesses for help:  “Truly I perceived that there was nothing of dialectic artifice in the man, but that he expounded with simplicity, and without any craft of speech, such things as he had heard from the Son of God, or had seen.  For he did not confirm his assertions by the force of arguments, but produced, from the people who stood round about him, many witnesses of the sayings and marvels which he related.” 

To Clement’s disgust and indignation, although, “those who thought themselves learned or philosophic began to laugh at the man, and to flout him, and to throw out for him the grappling-hooks of syllogisms, like strong arms.”  In mockery, they put irrelevant inquiries to him, hoping to distract him, embarrass him, and journey him up.  For instance, one supposedly intelligent fellow calls for to know why a tiny gnat has wings and 6 ft, whereas an enormous elephant has no wings and solely 4 ft.  But Barnabas proceeds, ignoring the derision and the makes an attempt to interrupt him, and “boldly pursue(s) the subject which he had set before him.”  “We have it in charge,” he tells his viewers, “to declare to you the words and the wondrous works of Him who hath sent us, and to confirm the truth of what we speak, not by artfully devised arguments, but by witnesses produced from amongst yourselves.  For I recognise many standing in the midst of you whom I remember to have heard along with us the things which we have heard, and to have seen what we have seen.”  “We have a commission only to tell you the words and the wondrous doings of Him who sent us; and instead of logical demonstration, we present to you many witnesses from amongst yourselves who stand by, whose faces I remember. . . . .  These sufficient testimonies it is left to your choice to submit to, or to disbelieve.”

The apostle’s reply infuriates the gang who had gathered to ridicule him.  “When he had thus spoken, all, as with one consent, with rude voice raised a shout of derision, to put him to shame, and to silence him, crying out that he was a barbarian and a madman.”  He was, they stated, a foreigner, and he spoke their language poorly.

Some who’ve served Latter-day Saint missions could recall avenue conferences that went equally, in addition to, maybe, imperfectly mastered missionary languages.

Seeing such mockery, Clement is seized with what he himself phrases “righteous indignation.”

“When I saw matters going on in this way, being filled, I know not whence, with a certain zeal, and inflamed with religious enthusiasm, I could not keep silence, but cried out with all boldness.”  God is hiding his will from you, he instructed them, since you’re unworthy of the reality.  “For when you see that preachers of the will of God have come amongst you, because their speech makes no show of knowledge of the grammatical art, but in simple and unpolished language they set before you the divine commands, so that all who hear may be able to follow and to understand the things that are spoken, you deride the ministers and messengers of your salvation, not knowing that it is the condemnation of you who think yourselves skillful and eloquent, that rustic and barbarous men have the knowledge of the truth; whereas, when it has come to you, it is not even received as a guest, while, if your intemperance and lust did not oppose, it ought to have been a citizen and a native.  Thus you are convicted of not being friends of truth and philosophers, but followers of boasting and vain speakers.”

At this Easter season, our religion is sustained not by intelligent arguments, however by witnesses, historic and trendy, who testify to the resurrection of the Son of God.  Not least amongst them are Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!  For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”  (Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-24)

“All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection,” testified the Prophet Joseph, “provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it.”

Truly, “O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?”

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