In newsletter 3, we looked at the link between the western Greeks in Italy, the birthplace and cradle of Greek philosophy, and the little horn of Daniel 8. The casting down of the heavenly sanctuary in Dan 8:11 is primarily a philosophical attack that destroys the role of the heavenly sanctuary in systematizing all of the doctrines contained in Scripture. Furthermore, in order to destroy its systematic role, the little horn must allegorize the meaning of the I AM and the sanctuary. This simply means that it destroys the plain sense in which one interprets the I AM of Exod 3:14-15, which in turn lays the groundwork for how the little horn views the sanctuary. In newsletters 4 and 5 we took a close look at the meaning of the I AM according to Scripture, and the links between the divine name, the nature of Scripture, and the sanctuary.
Catholicism Follows Jeroboam
In this newsletter we will examine how the Catholicism (the little horn) has largely followed Jeroboam’s view of Scripture, the sanctuary, and the divine presence (1 Kings 12:25-33). We will first begin with Catholicism’s view of the divine presence, meaning the I AM. As we get started, we need to be aware that this is a philosophical issue that we need to delve into so that we can have an idea of how the little horn’s view of the I AM lays the groundwork for destroying the systematic role of the heavenly sanctuary, and the nature and authority of Scripture.
The Greek Philosophical Roots of Transubstantiation
Here we go. Scholars describe the divine presence in the bread and wine as the real presence, as substance, and as essence. However, the most significant term that Catholics use to describe and interpret the divine presence in the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) is transubstantiation. This word signifies that a change has occurred at the level of the substance of the bread and wine. Allegedly, when the priest pronounces the words, “This is My Body,” the substance of the bread and wine becomes changed into the substance of the divine and human Son of God. According to Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), God and his existence is equated with his essence. As a result, God’s very substance becomes part of the substance of the bread and wine.
We now need to dive into the deep end of philosophy in order to explain what Aquinas means by substance and essence, which involves his interpretation of the I AM. So, at this point, in order to understand, you must place whatever ideas you may have about God or ultimate reality in a box and then you must step outside that box without trying to equate the Greek philosophical view of ultimate reality to the one that you assume comes from Scripture. The Western Greek philosopher Parmenides (540-470 B.C.) theorized that ultimate reality or Being Is. His view, however, of Being or the “Is” is that it is motionless meaning that there is no succession from past to present to future. Many refer to this understanding of Being as timeless. Parmenides’ other radical idea that flows from this thought is that there is an absolute qualitative distinction between Being and time, the latter of which includes the world of material objects. So then, Being is grasped by reason alone and the things in nature are grasped by the senses. Furthermore, when human reason connects with Being it produces true knowledge whereas the senses only produce opinion.
Plato (427-347 B.C.) assumed this foundational idea of Parmenides in his theory that all of reality is divided up into two worlds. The “heavenly” world consists of the Good, Beauty, Justice, Truth, Mathematics, and the Ideas and Forms that comprise the models from which all sensible things in the earthly world are patterned after. The “heavenly” world is the world of ultimate reality derived from Parmenides’ interpretation of Being. Plato considered the earthly world as a shadow or a duplication of the “heavenly.” Thus, like Parmenides, Plato asserted an unqualified chasm between eternity and time, immutability and change, and between reality and appearance.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) eliminated Plato’s “heavenly” world, however, he still assumed Parmenides’ view of Being in his philosophy. For instance, for Aristotle, all reality except God was made up of matter and form. The form of a table is timeless and immaterial and it determines the matter of the table, which is mutable and temporal. Aristotle’s form is thus as immutable as Plato’s Ideas. Aristotle referred to God as the Unmoved Mover who is the sum total of all perfection, and can be considered as pure Form with no matter and no potentiality. He is the cause of all movement, yet without experiencing motion himself. Thus, for Aristotle, all realities or substances except God are made up of matter (the material aspect) and form (the timeless and immaterial).
This brief outline ending with Aristotle forms the background for the distinction between the matter of the bread and wine, and the substance of the bread and wine that Catholics interpret from Parmenides. This dichotomy between matter and form made possible the theory of transubstantiation that links the divine presence with the substance of bread and wine.
This view of the I AM not only radically departs from Scripture’s view of the I AM, it also lays the groundwork for allegorizing Scripture and the heavenly sanctuary. The Greek philosophical view of the I AM alleges that God cannot actually interact or speak in time and space. Consequently, the I AM passage in Exodus is Moses’ culturally conditioned view of his non-historical encounter with God at the burning bush. In other words, the encounter between God and Moses was real yet the encounter itself is non-historical. This means that the historical details in Scripture constitute Moses’ attempt to describe in human language an encounter in which no historical information was transmitted by God because the divine presence can only communicate “truths” that are non-historical. Since God cannot interact in time and space the way in which humans do, one cannot read Exod 3:14-15 in its literal and plain sense. Instead, one must spiritualize and allegorize the I AM, which then leads to reinterpreting the spatio-temporal realities that constitute the sanctuary since the I AM dwells therein. An allegorized I AM also leads to a reinterpretation of human nature that includes an immortal timeless soul that is a prerequisite for communicating with the divine presence.
Philo of Alexandria (40/30 B.C.-A.D. 40/50) asserts that since God cannot dwell in a spatio-temporal tent as described in the OT, the sanctuary then is the whole universe, and that God dwells in the world when the immaterial timeless soul has an intellectual glimpse of his intellectual manifestations. In other words, the only way that God can dwell here is in a non-historical way, which means that he interacts with us through the non-historical and immaterial part of our being which is our immortal soul. Thus, one must interpret the I AM of Exod 3:14-15 in an allegorical, mystical, and non-historical way, which then lays the groundwork for interpreting human nature, and the sanctuary in the same manner.
Roman Catholic Theologians on the Divine Presence
Following in the same footsteps, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) states that since God is timeless, He cannot dwell in the sanctuary as Exod 25:8 clearly states. Thus, the Biblical texts that place God in a heavenly sanctuary must be read metaphorically.
Contemporary Catholics employ Aristotle’s matter and form philosophy to explain that God was actually infused in the very stones of the Israelite temple, and that it was this realization that led the Israelites to worship at the temple. In this description, the Catholics have simply transferred the divine substance of the bread for the divine substance of the temple; all under the underlying influence of Greek philosophy.
After Vatican II, Jean Cardinal Daniélou explores how all of creation and indeed the universe constitute a Temple “where we are at home with God in the cool of the evening, where man comes forward, silent and composed, absorbed in his task of perpetual liturgy, attentive to that presence which fills him with awe and tenderness.”
Dependence on Greek Philosophy Leads to Fragmentation
Roman Catholicism has depended on philosophy in order to define the I AM, which has produced two contradictory interpretations of the I AM. The one prior to Vatican II is that of a static concept of God in which the divine presence is completely unaffected by history, and indeed cannot act in history. God is timeless, eternal, immutable, and impassible, meaning He cannot act upon or be acted upon by His creation. The second view of the I AM since Vatican II assumes the evolutionary view of God and the world in which God develops and comes to an awareness of himself through the evolutionary process. God is thus timeless and temporal, eternal and in motion, immutable and changeable, impassible and passible. These are two contradictory views of God that reveal the fundamental weakness of processing the I AM through Greek philosophy instead of allowing Scripture to explain the nature of the I AM. Catholics have claimed for a long time that the Protestant use of Sola Scriptura has only produced fragmentation, which is something we will deal with in these ongoing newsletters. However, fifty years after Vatican II, the Roman Catholic dependence upon Greek philosophy has led to irreconcilable views of the divine presence revealing the fragmentation that exists all throughout their theological system. This brief exploration on the presence of God is but one example of the theological fragmentation in Catholicism.
Jeroboam is Alive and Well
Thus, Jeroboam’s rejection of Scripture in favor of the tradition and philosophy of his day that the author of kings articulates by the phrase he “took counsel” and made two calves of gold (1 Kings 12:28); his view of the divine presence as embedded in nature via the golden calves (1 Kings 12:28) thus blending the divine presence and the sanctuary with nature; his allegorization of the I AM; and his rejection of the sanctuary where God actually dwells in the literal temple in Jerusalem is alive and well in Catholicism’s dependence upon Greek philosophy.
Fernando Canale, “Philosophical Foundations and the Biblical Sanctuary,” AUSS 36, no. 2 (Autumn 1998): 190.
Scott Hahn, Temple and Contemplation: God’s Presence in the Cosmos, Church, and Human Heart, ed. Scott W. Hahn, Letter and Spirit (Steubenville, OH: St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, 2008), 8-9.
Jean Daniélou, “The Sign of the Temple: A Meditation,” in Temple and Contemplation: God’s Presence in the Cosmos, Church, and Human Heart, ed. Scott W. Hahn (Steubenville, OH: St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, 2008), 258-259.