diagram griesbach hypothesisRecently I’ve been writing about the way that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are related to each other.

These three are known as the synoptic Gospels, and how they are related is known as the synoptic problem.

You can read what I’ve been writing here.

Today I would like to talk about the view that Mark based his Gospel on Matthew and Luke.


What This View Is Called

This view goes by a variety of names, but one of the most common is “the Griesbach hypothesis,” after Johann Jakob Griesbach, who proposed it in the late 1700s.

Today, some like to call it the “Two-Gospel hypothesis,” because Mark would have used two other Gospels in composing his own.

This name is problematic because it is not the only possibility: Luke could have used Mark and Matthew and Matthew could have used Mark and Luke. In each of these cases, one Gospel would have been based on the other two.

There is thus no reason why the first of these options should be called the “Two-Gospel” hypothesis, so we’ll call it the Griesbach hypothesis for the sake of clarity.


The View in History

Although Griesbach proposed this view, its advocates often claim that he was not the first to do so.

According to many translations, one early proponent may have been Clement of Alexandria, who wrote around A.D. 200 that the Gospels with the genealogies (Matthew and Luke) were written first, suggesting that Mark wrote later and presumably used them in writing his own.

(However, see here for an argument that this is not what Clement said.)

If Clement did propose the Griesbach hypothesis at this early date, it did not end up becoming the most common view, historically.

Instead, a view proposed by St. Augustine, which holds that the four Gospels were written in their modern canonical order, became the most common view for most of Church history.

I’ve written about that view here.

Today the most common view is the “Two-Source hypothesis,” which holds that Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke used both Mark and a second, hypothetical source that scholars have named “Q.”

I’ve written about my own skepticism that there was a “Q” source here.

The Griesbach hypothesis is, however, the second most popular view today.

In fact, the current popularity of the Griesback hypothesis is such that, if you are skeptical of the Two-Source hypothesis, many scholars will assume that you must be an advocate of Griesbach—which is a bit frustrating for those who hold alternative views.

The Griesbach hypothesis attracted a number of advocates in the mid-20th century, including—most notably—William R. Farmer.

William Farmer developed an argument for the Griesbach hypothesis which contains 16 “steps.” You can find a paraphrase of it online here. It is also found as chapter 4 in the book Rethinking the Synoptic Problem, edited by David Alan Black.

I’m not going to respond to Farmer’s argument in a point-by-point manner, because doing so would require too much space, but I would like to do a concise evaluation of the view.

(NOTE: I’ll be doing a separate piece looking at the variant of the Griesbach hypothesis proposed by Bernard Orchard, et al. It’s sufficiently different that it deserves its own treatment.)


A Thank You to the Advocates of Griesbach

Before that, I want to say how much I appreciate the work of Farmer and his colleagues, because prior to their efforts, the Two-Source hypothesis had become so dominant in 20th century New Testament scholarship that it was virtually unquestioned.

Because of their efforts, the world of scholarship was forced to confront the problems with the Two-Source hypothesis, and, even though it is still the most popular view, it is held more tentatively now than it was, and greater respect is shown to alternative views.

Thank you Farmer and colleagues!

Now, let’s look at the evidence concerning Griesbach . . .


The Patristic Evidence

Advocates of the view often point to Clement of Alexandria for support since he appears to say that Matthew and Luke were written before Mark.

This claim is significant not only because Clement wrote very early (c. A.D. 200) but because he was bishop of Alexandria, the see which reportedly had Mark as its first bishop. One would think that Clement would thus be in a good position to know the circumstances in which Mark’s Gospel was written.

However, there are several problems with this claim:

  • If Clement did make it, then he is very much alone in doing so. I can’t think of any other patristic source that makes the claim.
  • The most popular view in the later patristic age was the Augustinian hypothesis, which had Mark being written second rather than third. Clement’s contemporary Irenaeus of Lyons, seems to have advocated the Augustinian hypothesis. Clement’s student, Origen, also seems to have held the Augustinian hypothesis.
  • The earliest reference we have—from John the Presbyter—says that Mark wrote his Gospel based on Peter’s preaching, not based on Matthew and Luke. John the Presbyter may or may not have been John the Apostle, but he appears, in either event, to have been one of the authors of the New Testament, and thus was in an even better position than Clement to know about the composition of the Gospels.
  • It appears that the claim attributed to Clement may be based on a mistranslation. Stephen Carlson argues that the key Greek verb (progregraphthai) should be rendered “published openly” rather than “written first.” On this view, Clement was claiming that Matthew and Luke were published openly, while Mark was initially written for a group of private individuals, without Peter’s initial knowledge or authorization. This fits the context of what Clement says. See Carlson’s argument, here.

The patristic evidence thus does not provide significant support for the Griesbach hypothesis.


The Argument from Order

One of the major arguments used by advocates of the Griesbach hypothesis is based on the sequence in which the synoptic Gospels present their material.

It is pointed out that Mark’s sequence almost always agrees either with Matthew’s order or Luke’s order. He switches between these two orders in a zig-zag fashion.

Griesbach advocates have argued that this is best explained by the idea that Mark had both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels before him, and at any given point he had to choose which of their two orders he would follow, since he obviously couldn’t follow them both when they sequenced the same material differently.

The problem with the argument from order is that the proposed explanation is not the only one.

For example, suppose that Mark and Matthew wrote first and that Luke used the two of them. In this case, Luke would choose between the order found in Mark and the one found in Matthew. This would also explain why one of the synoptics seems to zig-zag between the orders found in the other two.

Or suppose that Mark and Luke wrote first and that Matthew used the two of them. In that case, Matthew would choose between the order found in Mark and that found in Luke. Again, this would explain why one of the synoptics seems to zig-zag between the orders found in the other two.

And there are other options, still.

For a detailed look at why the argument from order isn’t sufficient to settle the synoptic problem, see David Neville’s book, Mark’s Gospel–Prior or Posterior?: A Reappraisal of the Phenomenon of Order.


What Is Mark’s Gospel Supposed to Be?

A fundamental question that the Griesbach hypothesis needs to answer is what Mark’s Gospel is supposed to be.

On the Griesbach hypothesis, Mark would have had to draw a significant amount of material from both Mark and Luke. Yet Mark is also shorter than either Matthew or Luke.

Mark would thus appear to be a conflation and epitome of the other two synoptic Gospels.

It’s a conflation (a fusion) since it includes material from both, and it’s an epitome (an abridgment) since it is shorter.

How well does this hypothesis stand up to examination?


Not A Plausible Epitome

I’ve written before about the question of whether Mark is a plausible epitome of Matthew, and the conclusion was that it is not.

The same considerations apply to Mark being an epitome of Matthew and Luke.

A combination of Matthew and Luke would be somewhat longer than Matthew alone. Matthew is around 18,000 words in the Greek New Testament, and an edition of Matthew that had been expanded by the 7,000 or so words in the unique passages of Luke would be around 25,000 words long.

This fused work would have fit on one scroll and could be read in about two and a half hours. It is thus not nearly long enough to require an epitome.

Epitomes were popular in the ancient world because they allowed people to get the gist of long works in a short amount of time. For example, 2 Maccabees is an epitome that condensed a five-scroll history by Jason of Cyrene into a single scroll.

That’s the kind of space savings that ancient readers expected in an epitome, and that’s not what we find in Mark. At a little more than 11,000 words long, it would only be about half the size of a combined Matthew and Luke, and it would only reduce the reading time by a bit more than an hour.

There is also the fact that Mark typically uses more words to tell an individual story than Matthew or Luke, which is the opposite of what ancient epitomists did. They typically told a story in fewer words and thus saved space. This was, in fact, one of the two principle tools used by epitomists.

The fact that Mark uses more words than the other two synoptic evangelists makes it look like Matthew and Luke were epitomizing individual stories from Mark so that they could fit supplement them with material not found in Mark and still keep their Gospels a reasonable length.

Besides telling a story in fewer words, the other major technique used by ancient epitomists was to simply omit material, which in this case would mean whole stories about or sayings of Jesus.

Naturally, epitomists would omit what they considered to be the less important material and retain what they considered to be the more important material. They might even include some new material if they thought it was particularly important.

When we look at Mark through the lens of the editorial choices he would have made in composing his Gospel from Matthew and Luke, we confront a baffling situation. In making an epitome of the two, Mark would have ejected large amounts of very valuable data, including:

  • The Genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38)
  • The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold (Luke 1:5-25)
  • The Birth of Jesus Foretold (Luke 1:26-38)
  • The Visitation (Luke 1:39-56)
  • The Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57-80)
  • The Birth of Jesus (Matt. 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-20)
  • The Circumcision and Presentation of Jesus (Luke 2:21-40)
  • The Slaughter of the Innocents (Matt. 2:1-23)
  • The Finding in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)
  • Jesus Preaches the Gospel in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30)
  • The Beatitudes (Matt. 4:23-5:12, Luke 6:17-26)
  • The Value of the Law (Matt. 5:17-20, Luke 16:16-17)
  • Teaching About Killing and Anger (Matt. 5:21-24)
  • Make Peace with Your Accuser (Matt. 5:25-26, Luke 12:57-59)
  • Teaching on Adultery and Lust (Matt. 5:27-30)
  • Teaching on Divorce and Adultery (Matt. 5:31-32)
  • Teaching on Swearing (Matt. 5:33-37)
  • “Love Your Enemies” (Matt. 5:38-48, Luke 6:27-36)
  • Piety Before Men and Alms (Matt. 6:1-4)
  • Piety Before Men and Prayer (Matt. 6:5-8)
  • The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-15, Luke 11:1-4)
  • Piety Before Men and Fasting (Matt. 6:16-18)
  • “Treasure in Heaven” (Matt. 6:19-21, Luke 12:33-34)
  • “The Lamp of Your Body” (Matt. 6:22-23, Luke 11:33-36)
  • “You Cannot Serve God and Mammon” (Matt. 6:24, Luke 16:9-15)
  • “Do Not Be Anxious About Your Life” (Matt. 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-32)
  • “Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged” (Matt. 7:1-5, Luke 6:37-42)
  • Pearls Before Swine (Matt. 7:06)
  • “Ask, Seek, Knock” (Matt. 7:7-11, Luke 11:9-13)
  • The Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12)
  • The Narrow Gate (Matt. 7:13-14, Luke 13:22-30)
  • “No Good Tree Bears Bad Fruit” (Matt. 7:15-20, Luke 6:43-45)
  • Putting Jesus’ Teaching into Action (Matt. 7:21-27, Luke 6:46-49)
  • The Centurion’s Servant (Matt. 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10)
  • The Widow of Nain’s Son (Luke 7:11-17)
  • Jesus’ Travelling Companions (Luke 8:1-3)
  • Rebuffed in Samaria (Luke 9:51-56)
  • Excuses for Not Following Jesus (Matt. 8:18-22, Luke 9:57-62)
  • Healing Two Blind Men (Matt. 9:27-31)
  • Exorcizing a Mute Demoniac (Matt. 9:32-34)
  • Sending the Seventy (Luke 10:01)
  • “The Harvest is Plentiful” (Matt. 9:35-38, Luke 10:02)
  • Basic Instructions to the Seventy (Luke 10:3-11)
  • The Seventy Return (Luke 10:17-20)
  • Fear and Comfort (Matt. 10:26-33, Luke 12:2-12)
  • Jesus Brings Division (Matt. 10:34-36, Luke 12:49-53)
  • The Cost of Discipleship (Matt. 10:37-11:1, Luke 14:25-27)
  • A Question from John the Baptist (Matt. 11:2-19, Luke 7:18-35)
  • Woe to Unrepentant Cities (Matt. 11:20-24, Luke 10:12-16)
  • Hidden from the Wise (Matt. 11:25-30, Luke 10:21-24)
  • The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37)
  • “Mary has chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:38-42)
  • “By Your Words You Will be Justified” (Matt. 12:33-37)
  • The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-8)
  • “Blessed Is the Womb that Bore You!” (Luke 11:27-28)
  • “The Sign of Jonah” (Matt. 12:38-42, Luke 11:29-32)
  • The Unclean Spirit Returns (Matt. 12:43-45, Luke 11:24-26)
  • The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Matt. 13:24-30)
  • The Parable of the Weeds Explained (Matt. 13:34-43)
  • The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)
  • Repent or Perish (Luke 13:1-9)
  • Healing a Crippled Woman (Luke 13:10-17)
  • The Parable of the Leaven (Matt. 13:33, Luke 13:20-21)
  • Jesus Warned That Herod Wants to Kill Him (Luke 13:31-33)
  • Dinner with a Ruler of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1-15)
  • Counting the Cost (Luke 14:28-33)
  • The Parable of the Treasure in the Field (Matt. 13:44)
  • The Parable of the Precious Pearl (Matt. 13:45-46)
  • The Parable of the Net Thrown into the Sea (Matt. 13:47-52)
  • Does Jesus Pay the Tax? (Matt. 17:24-27)
  • The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matt. 18:12-14, Luke 15:1-7)
  • The Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10)
  • The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)
  • The Parable of the Shrewd Steward (Luke 16:1-8)
  • Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31)
  • Forgiving the Brother Who Sins (Matt. 18:15-22, Luke 17:3-4)
  • “We Are Unworthy Servants” (Luke 17:7-10)
  • Ten Lepers Cleansed (Luke 17:11-19)
  • The Coming of the Kingdom (Luke 17:20-37)
  • The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8)
  • The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)
  • The Parable of Unforgiving Debtor (Matt. 18:23-35)
  • The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16)
  • Jesus in the Temple (Matt. 21:14-17)
  • The Parable of the Banquet (Matt. 22:1-14, Luke 14:16-24)
  • Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:1-36)
  • “Your House Is Forsaken” (Matt. 23:37-39, Luke 13:34-35)
  • “The Son of Man Is Coming at an Unexpected Hour (Matt. 24:42-51, Luke 12:35-48)
  • The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13)
  • Dinner with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)
  • The Parable of the Talents/Pounds (Matt. 25:14-30, Luke 19:11-27)
  • The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25:31-46)
  • Jesus’ Daily Schedule (Luke 21:37-38)
  • Who Is the Greatest? (Luke 22:24-32)
  • Preparations for the Future (Luke 22:35-38)
  • Jesus Before Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6-12)
  • Securing the Tomb (Matt. 27:62-66)
  • Explaining the Empty Tomb (Matt. 28:11-15)

Mark would have had to have judged all of that material not worth including in comparison to the following tiny handful of passages, which are unique to his Gospel and which he therefore chose to include:

  • Jesus Teaches by the Sea (Mark 2:13)
  • Jesus’ Family Hears (Mark 3:20-21)
  • The Kingdom Like Seed (Mark 4:26-29)
  • Healing a Deaf Man (Mark 7:32-37)
  • Healing a Blind Man (Mark 8:22-26)

Such an editorial choice seems inexplicable, given the high value of much of the material Mark would have chosen to omit and the low value of the additional passages he would have chosen to include.

Much more explicable would be editorial choices by Matthew and Luke to omit the handful of passages that are unique to Mark, which are of low value and which would allow them to include more of the valuable material that is found in their Gospels and that is not found in Mark.


Not a Plausible Conflation

There are also problems with the idea that Mark is a fusion of Matthew and Luke, and a particularly important one occurs on the level of the individual stories that Mark records about Jesus.

It has long been noted that, if Mark used the other two synoptic Gospels, he didn’t just switch between the two in their overall sequence of material about Jesus. Instead, he switched between the two within the course of a single story.

In other words, if you read through the Greek text of Mark, even within a single story, you’ll run into a short stretch of material that Mark would have taken from Matthew and later a short stretch of material he would have taken from Luke. This material might be a single word, a phrase, etc., but not the whole story.

Mark thus would have assembled his individual accounts of the things that Jesus did by piecing together material from Matthew and Luke like a puzzle.

How easy it is to do that kind of fusion of texts depends on the kind of writing techniques that are in use at the time.

Today, it is easier than it has ever been. Given the availability of word processors, a modern author can have two source documents open before him on his screen, and he can cut and paste fragments of text from the two into a third document that he is composing. When done on the level of words and phrases, the procedure is clunky, but it’s possible.

Before the advent of word processors, the process would have been more difficult. A hundred years ago, an author attempting this feat would likely have had his two source documents open in front of him on his writing desk, and he would have glanced back and forth between them, flipping pages when he needed to move forward in the text, and stitching together the phrases he was encountering to form a new, third document, which he would also have kept on the desk.

This would not have been nearly as easy as cutting and pasting in a word processor, but it would have been possible, and advocates of the Griesbach hypothesis have proposed that this was how Mark worked.

But there are problems with this image.


Working with Scrolls

The first problem is that it is not clear Mark would have been flipping pages. The codex—or modern form of a book that has pages attached to a spine so that they can be flipped—was not common in the ancient world, and it was only beginning to become popular in the first century.

As a result, it is quite likely that Mark would have been working with the form of book which was common in antiquity—the scroll. It is not as easy to advance the text in a scroll, which has to be rolled forward and back to consult different passages.

It’s nowhere near as easy as flipping pages, and the problem would become particularly acute if Mark were trying to fuse phrases from a story that occurs at one point in Matthew’s sequence and at a different point in Luke’s sequence. It would involve lots of manual scrolling to find the right place.

There is also the fact that, if a scroll is opened to a passage near the beginning or the end, it will have a tendency to curl itself up and obscure the text unless you hold it open with your hands or with a paperweight. (This tendency is lessened in the middle of the scroll, since you may have a sizeable roll on both sides, helping to keep the book open and the passage you want visible.)

Also, scrolls can tear in two if they aren’t properly supported—at least if they are made of papyrus, which many were (papyrus was cheaper than parchment, which was made from animal skin). When opened, the weight of one side of the scroll can be such that, if you lose your grip, it can twist the scroll and cause the papyrus to rip.

These problems could be overcome if you had paperweights and a writing desk, but that leads to a second problem . . .


No Writing Desks

Surprising as it may seem, they didn’t use writing desks in the first century, and all those classic paintings of the New Testament authors using them as they composed their works are historically anachronistic.

Instead, as revealed by illustrations from the ancient world—as well as by statements from the period—the ancients wrote without desks, either sitting on a stool or standing, holding the writing material in front of them or placing them on a knee.

This means that any sources they were consulting as they wrote were not within inches of their face as they sat at a desk.

The sources may have been laid on the floor or on another object, but they weren’t as conveniently displayed as they could be on a writing desk, and—given the distance and the tiny size that the hand printing often used (to save money on writing materials)—they would have been harder for an author to read, making him less likely to switch between them on a word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase basis.

Alternately, the sources an author was using could have been read out loud to him, and this method seems to have been used when scribes were making multiple copies of a single work, but it also would have made it very laborious to take individual words or phrases from each source and knit them together.


Ancient Conflation Practices

Because of the limitations of ancient writing methods, people in this period did not combine works in the way Mark is claimed to have done.

Instead, as studies of ancient literature show, the difficulty of borrowing tiny bits from two works and merging them together into a new work prevented this from being a normal practice.

What they would do is base a passage on one source and use its wording and then switch to another source for a new passage.

If the two sources had parallel versions of a single passage they wanted to use, they would stick with the wording used by one of the sources, not attempt to merge the wording of the two in an alternating manner.

(For more on this, and on ancient writing methods in general, see Robert A. Derrenbacker’s Ancient Compositional Practices and the Synoptic Problem, online in pdf here.)

The only notable exception to this is a work composed in the second century known as the Diatesseron. This was a harmony of the Gospels written by a Syrian named Tatian.

He actually did undertake the task of going through the Gospels line by line and trying to merge everything, retaining every small detail that he could.

The result was a work that, in English translation, is 62,440 words long (compared to 86,320 for the four Gospels), meaning that the Diatesseron is 72% as long as the Gospels combined (source).

Tatian’s example shows that it was possible to stich more than one source together in a low-level manner, but it was rare because of how difficult it was.

This raises the question of motive.


Tatian vs. Mark

Tatian was writing in the second century, after the four Gospels had come to be regarded as sufficiently sacred and inviolable that, although he wanted to create a new text by merging them, he also wanted to preserve virtually every detail contained in them. (He omits only 1.8% of their content, or 0.7% if you set the genealogies aside; source.)

As a result, the Diatesseron does not have the literary artistry of any of the Gospels. It is clunky and repetitious, as Tatian tries to jam everything in together.

Mark’s situation is entirely different.

On the Griesbach hypothesis, he clearly does not think that he has to retain all of the details found in Matthew and Luke. Indeed, he would have had to throw out huge chunks of the two Gospels, including many of their most valuable parts!

If that was his attitude toward his source material then it is inexplicable why he would feel so strongly about the phrasing of the two that he would undertake the physically laborious process of regularly merging their individual phrases.

Instead, he would have followed the ancient practice of someone combining two sources and used the wording of whichever source he had before him at the moment.



We thus find that—contrary to the Griesbach hypothesis—Mark’s Gospel does not work either like ancient epitomes or like ancient conflations, making it unlikely that it is a conflation and epitome of Matthew and Luke.

More plausibly, Matthew and Luke abridged material from Mark (both by omitting whole passages and by tightening up the wording of those they retained) and then expanded it with additional material they wished to include.

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 25 March 2015 to 21 April 2015.

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 29 March 2015 to 14 April 2015.

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Easter is the most important day of the Christian calendar, even more important than Christmas. Here are 9 things you need to know.

The great day is finally here: Easter, the most important day of the Christian calendar. More important even than Christmas.

What happened on this day?

Was Jesus’ resurrection a real, historical event?

How does the Church celebrate this day?

Is Easter a pagan holiday?

Here are 8 things you need to know.


1. What happened on Easter?

Among other things:

  • The women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body.
  • They saw angels, who told them he wasn’t there.
  • They went to tell the apostles, who initially didn’t believe them.
  • Peter and the beloved disciple rushed to see the tomb and found it empty.
  • Mary Magdalen, in particular, had an encounter with the risen Christ.
  • So did the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
  • So did Peter.
  • So did all the apostles except Thomas (who would have one later).
  • Jesus had risen from the dead!

To read about the events in the New Testament, you can use these links:


2. Was Jesus’ Resurrection a real, historical event or something else?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

 639 The mystery of Christ’s resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness.

In about A.D. 56 St. Paul could already write to the Corinthians:

“I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. . .”

The Apostle speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the gates of Damascus.


3. What is the significance of the empty tomb?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

 640 . . . The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.

Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection.

This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter.  The disciple “whom Jesus loved” affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered “the linen cloths lying there”, “he saw and believed”.

This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb’s condition that the absence of Jesus’ body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.


4. What significance to the post-Resurrection appearances of Christ have?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

641 Mary Magdalene and the holy women who came to finish anointing the body of Jesus, which had been buried in haste because the Sabbath began on the evening of Good Friday, were the first to encounter the Risen One.

Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ’s Resurrection for the apostles themselves. . . .

642 Everything that happened during those Paschal days involves each of the apostles – and Peter in particular – in the building of the new era begun on Easter morning.

As witnesses of the Risen One, they remain the foundation stones of his Church. the faith of the first community of believers is based on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them.

Peter and the Twelve are the primary “witnesses to his Resurrection”, but they are not the only ones – Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James and of all the apostles.

643 Given all these testimonies, Christ’s Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact.


5. What significance does Christ’s Resurrection have for us?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

651 “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

The Resurrection above all constitutes the confirmation of all Christ’s works and teachings.

All truths, even those most inaccessible to human reason, find their justification if Christ by his Resurrection has given the definitive proof of his divine authority, which he had promised.

 658 Christ, “the first-born from the dead” ( Col 1:18), is the principle of our own resurrection, even now by the justification of our souls (cf Rom 6:4), and one day by the new life he will impart to our bodies (cf Rom 8:11).


6. How do we commemorate this day?

The big celebration of Easter was on the evening of Holy Saturday. It was the Easter Vigil Mass. Consequently, Easter Sunday celebrations–at least as far as the Church is concerned (as opposed to all the egg hunts and baby ducks and marshmallow peeps)–is more restrained.

According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschalis Solemnitatis:

97. Mass is to be celebrated on Easter Day with great solemnity.

It is appropriate that the penitential rite on this day take the form of a sprinkling with water blessed at the Vigil, during which the antiphon Vidi aquam, or some other song of baptismal character should be sung.

The fonts at the entrance to the church should also be filled with the same water.


7. What is the role of the “Paschal [i.e., Easter] candle”?

Paschales Solemnitatis explains:

99. The paschal candle has its proper place either by the ambo or by the altar and should be lit at least in all the more solemn liturgical celebrations of the season until Pentecost Sunday, whether at Mass, or at Morning and Evening Prayer.

After the Easter season the candle should be kept with honor in the baptistry, so that in the celebration of Baptism the candles of the baptized may be lit from them.

In the celebration of funerals, the paschal candle should be placed near the coffin to indicate that the death of a Christian is his own passover.

The paschal candle should not otherwise be lit nor placed in the sanctuary outside the Easter season.


8. Is Easter a pagan holiday?

Absolutely not!

Here’s a video I did on precisely that subject:


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On Holy Saturday the earth waits in stillness for the Resurrection of the Lord. Here are 9 things you need to know about it. On Holy Saturday the earth waits in stillness for the Resurrection of the Lord. Here are 9 things you need to know about it.

Everytime we say the creed, we note that Jesus “descended into hell.”

Holy Saturday is the day that commemorates this event.

What happened on this day, and how do we celebrate it?

Here are 12 things you need to know.


1. What happened on the first Holy Saturday?

Here on earth, Jesus’ disciples mourned his death and, since it was a sabbath day, they rested.

Luke notes that the women returned home “and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).

At the tomb, the guards that had been stationed there kept watch over the place to make sure that the disciples did not steal Jesus’ body.

Meanwhile . . .


2. What happened to Jesus while he was dead?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.

Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:

“It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Saviour in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”

Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

634 “The gospel was preached even to the dead.” The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment.

This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.


3. How do we commemorate this day?

According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:

73. On Holy Saturday the Church is, as it were, at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his passion and death, and on his descent into hell, and awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting.

It is highly recommended that on this day the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer be celebrated with the participation of the people (cf. n. 40).

Where this cannot be done, there should be some celebration of the Word of God, or some act of devotion suited to the mystery celebrated this day.

74. The image of Christ crucified or lying in the tomb, or the descent into hell, which mystery Holy Saturday recalls, as also an image of the sorrowful Virgin Mary can be placed in the church for the veneration of the faithful.

Fasting is also encouraged, but not required, on this day.


4. Are the sacraments celebrated?

For the most part, no. Paschales Solemnitatis explains:

75. On this day the Church abstains strictly from the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Holy Communion may only be given in the form of Viaticum.

The celebration of marriages is forbidden, as also the celebration of other sacraments, except those of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.

The prohibition on saying Mass applies to the part of the day before the Easter Vigil Mass (see below).

Baptism in danger of death is also permitted.


5. What is the Easter Vigil?

A vigil is the liturgical commemoration of a notable feast, held on the evening preceding the feast.

The term comes from the Latin word vigilia, which means “wakefulness,” and which came to be used when the faithful stayed awake to pray and do devotional exercises in anticipation of the feast.

Easter Vigil is the vigil held on the evening before Easter.

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

80. From the very outset the Church has celebrated that annual Pasch, which is the solemnity of solemnities, above all by means of a night vigil.

For the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope, and through Baptism and Confirmation we are inserted into the Paschal Mystery of Christ, dying, buried, and raised with him, and with him we shall also reign.

The full meaning of Vigil is a waiting for the coming of the Lord.


6. When should Easter Vigil be celebrated?

Paschales Solemnitatis explains:

 78. “The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday.”

This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. Reprehensible are those abuses and practices which have crept into many places in violation of this ruling, whereby the Easter Vigil is celebrated at the time of day that it is customary to celebrate anticipated Sunday Masses.

Those reasons which have been advanced in some quarters for the anticipation of the Easter Vigil, such as lack of public order, are not put forward in connection with Christmas night, nor other gatherings of various kinds.


7. What happens at the Easter Vigil?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

81. The order for the Easter Vigil is arranged so that

  • after the service of light and the Easter Proclamation (which is the first part of the Vigil),
  • Holy Church meditates on the wonderful works which the Lord God wrought for his people from the earliest times (the second part or Liturgy of the Word),
  • to the moment when, together with those new members reborn in Baptism (third part),
  • she is called to the table prepared by the Lord for his Church—the commemoration of his death and resurrection—until he comes (fourth part).


8. What happens during the service of light?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

82. . . . In so far as possible, a suitable place should be prepared outside the church for the blessing of the new fire, whose flames should be such that they genuinely dispel the darkness and light up the night.

The paschal candle should be prepared, which for effective symbolism must be made of wax, never be artificial, be renewed each year, be only one in number, and be of sufficiently large size so that it may evoke the truth that Christ is the light of the world. It is blessed with the signs and words prescribed in the Missal or by the Conference of Bishops.

83. The procession, by which the people enter the church, should be led by the light of the paschal candle alone. Just as the children of Israel were guided at night by a pillar of fire, so similarly, Christians follow the risen Christ. There is no reason why to each response “Thanks be to God” there should not be added some acclamation in honor of Christ.

The light from the paschal candle should be gradually passed to the candles which it is fitting that all present should hold in their hands, the electric lighting being switched off.


9. What happens during the Easter Proclamation?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

 84. The deacon makes the Easter Proclamation which tells, by means of a great poetic text, the whole Easter mystery placed in the context of the economy of salvation.

In case of necessity, where there is no deacon, and the celebrating priest is unable to sing it, a cantor may do so.

The Bishops’ Conferences may adapt this proclamation by inserting into it acclamations from the people.


10. What happens during the Scripture readings?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

85. The readings from Sacred Scripture constitute the second part of the Vigil. They give an account of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation, which the faithful are helped to meditate calmly upon by the singing of the responsorial psalm, by a silent pause and by the celebrant’s prayer.

The restored Order for the Vigil has seven readings from the Old Testament chosen from the Law and the Prophets, which are in use everywhere according to the most ancient tradition of East and West, and two readings from the New Testament, namely from the Apostle and from the Gospel.

Thus the Church, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” explains Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

Consequently wherever this is possible, all the readings should be read so that the character of the Easter Vigil, which demands that it be somewhat prolonged, be respected at all costs.

Where, however, pastoral conditions require that the number of readings be reduced, there should be at least three readings from the Old Testament, taken from the Law and the Prophets; the reading from Exodus chapter 14 with its canticle must never be omitted.

87. After the readings from the Old Testament, the hymn “Gloria in excelsis” is sung, the bells are rung in accordance with local custom, the collect is recited, and the celebration moves on to the readings from the New Testament. An exhortation from the Apostle on Baptism as an insertion into Christ’s Paschal Mystery is read.

Then all stand and the priest intones the “Alleluia” three times, each time raising the pitch. The people repeat it after him.

If it is necessary, the psalmist or cantor may sing the “Alleluia,” which the people then take up as an acclamation to be interspersed between the verses of Psalm 117, so often cited by the Apostles in their Easter preaching.

Finally, the resurrection of the Lord is proclaimed from the Gospel as the high point of the whole Liturgy of the Word.

After the Gospel a homily is to be given, no matter how brief.


11. What happens during the baptismal liturgy?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

88. The third part of the Vigil is the baptismal liturgy. Christ’s passover and ours is now celebrated.

This is given full expression in those churches which have a baptismal font, and more so when the Christian initiation of adults is held, or at least the Baptism of infants.

Even if there are no candidates for Baptism, the blessing of baptismal water should still take place in parish churches. If this blessing does not take place at the baptismal font, but in the sanctuary, baptismal water should be carried afterwards to the baptistry there to be kept throughout the whole of paschal time.

Where there are neither candidates for Baptism nor any need to bless the font, Baptism should be commemorated by the blessing of water destined for sprinkling upon the people.

89. Next follows the renewal of baptismal promises, introduced by some words on the part of the celebrating priest.

The faithful reply to the questions put to them, standing and holding lighted candles in their hands. They are then sprinkled with water: in this way the gestures and words remind them of the Baptism they have received.

The celebrating priest sprinkles the people by passing through the main part of the church while all sing the antiphon “Vidi aquam” or another suitable song of a baptismal character.


12. What happens during the Eucharistic liturgy?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

90. The celebration of the Eucharist forms the fourth part of the Vigil and marks its high point, for it is in the fullest sense the Easter Sacrament, that is to say, the commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross and the presence of the risen Christ, the completion of Christian initiation, and the foretaste of the eternal pasch.

92. It is fitting that in the Communion of the Easter Vigil full expression be given to the symbolism of the Eucharist, namely by consuming the Eucharist under the species of both bread and wine. The local Ordinaries will consider the appropriateness of such a concession and its ramifications.

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If Jesus died on the cross in A.D. 33 and made forgiveness possible, how does that apply to people who lived before or after this event? (Like us!)

Good Friday is the most somber day of the Christian year.

It is the day our Savior died for us.

It is the day we were redeemed from our sins by the voluntary death of God Himself at the hands of man.

Here are 9 things you need to know.


1. Why is this day called “Good Friday”

It’s not for the reason you might think.

Despite the fact that “good” is a common English word, tempting us to say the name is based on the fact that something very good (our redemption) happened on this day, that’s not where the name comes from.

Precisely where it does come from is disputed. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains:

The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from “God’s Friday” (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not speciallyEnglish.

It is also argued that the name is based on a Medieval use of the word good where it meant “holy.” Thus “Good Friday” would have come from “Holy Friday,” the same way we have Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday.


2. What happened on the first Good Friday?

Quite a number of things. During the night, Jesus had been arrested and taken before the high priests Annas and Caiaphas. It was during this time that Peter denied him.

According to the gospels, Jesus:

  • Was taken before Pilate in the morning
  • Sent to Herod
  • Returned to Pilate
  • Was mocked and beaten
  • Saw Barabbas released in his stead
  • Was crowned with thorns
  • Was condemned to death
  • Carried the crushing burden of his cross
  • Told the weeping women what would happen in the future
  • Was crucified between two thieves
  • Forgave those who crucified him
  • Entrusted the Virgin Mary to the beloved disciple
  • Assured the good thief of his salvation
  • Said his famous seven last words
  • Cried out and died

In addition:

  • There was darkness over the land
  • There was an earthquake
  • The veil of the temple was torn in two
  • Many saints of the Old Testament period were raised
  • A soldier pierced Christ’s side and blood and water flowed out
  • Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body
  • He was buried in Joseph’s own tomb
  • A guard was set over the tomb
  • All Jesus’ friends and family grieved at his death

If you’d like to read the gospel accounts themselves, you can use these links:


3. How do we celebrate Good Friday today?

According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:

58. On this day, when “Christ our passover was sacrificed,” the Church:

  • meditates on the passion of her Lord and Spouse,
  • adores the cross,
  • commemorates her origin from the side of Christ asleep on the cross,
  • and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world.


4. Are fast and abstinence required on Good Friday?

Yes. Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

60. Good Friday is a day of penance to be observed as of obligation in the whole Church, and indeed through abstinence and fasting.

For more information on the requirement of fast and abstinence, you should click here.


5. Are the sacraments celebrated on Good Friday?

For the most part, no. Good Friday is the only day of the year on which the celebration of Mass is forbidden.

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

59. On this day, in accordance with ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist.

Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion alone, though it may be brought at any time of the day to the sick who cannot take part in the celebration.

61. All celebration of the sacraments on this day is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick.

Funerals are to be celebrated without singing, music, or the tolling of bells.

Baptism in danger of death is also permitted.


6. What liturgical celebrations occur on this day?

The principal one is known as the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. It includes:

  • A liturgy of the word
  • The adoration of the cross
  • A Communion service using hosts already consecrated.

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

63. The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion is to take place in the afternoon, at about three o’clock.

The time will be chosen which seems most appropriate for pastoral reasons in order to allow the people to assemble more easily, for example shortly after midday, or in the late evening, however not later than nine o’clock.


7. How is the cross venerated?

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

68. For veneration of the cross, let a cross be used that is of appropriate size and beauty, and let one of the forms for this rite as found in the Roman Missal be followed.

The rite should be carried out with the splendor worthy of the mystery of our salvation: both the invitation pronounced at the unveiling of the cross, and the people’s response should be made in song, and a period of respectful silence is to be observed after each act of veneration—the celebrant standing and holding the raised cross.

69. The cross is to be presented to each of the faithful individually for their adoration since the personal adoration of the cross is a most important feature in this celebration; only when necessitated by the large numbers of faithful present should the rite of veneration be made simultaneously by all present.

Only one cross should be used for the veneration, as this contributes to the full symbolism of the rite.

During the veneration of the cross the antiphons, “Reproaches,” and hymns should be sung, so that the history of salvation be commemorated through song. Other appropriate songs may also be sung (cf. n. 42).


8. What happens after the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion?

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

71. After the celebration, the altar is stripped; the cross remains however, with four candles.

An appropriate place (for example, the chapel of repose used for reservation of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday) can be prepared within the church, and there the Lord’s cross is placed so that the faithful may venerate and kiss it, and spend some time in meditation.


9. Are other devotions appropriate to Good Friday?

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

72. Devotions such as the “Way of the Cross,” processions of the passion, and commemorations of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not, for pastoral reasons, to be neglected.

The texts and songs used, however, should be adapted to the spirit of the Liturgy of this day.

Such devotions should be assigned to a time of day that makes it quite clear that the Liturgical celebration by its very nature far surpasses them in importance.

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 12 March 2015 to 31 March 2015.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences




Papal Tweets

  • “The laity are called to become a leaven of Christian living within society.” @Pontifex 26 March 2015
  • “Life is a precious gift, but we realize this only when we give it to others.” @Pontifex 27 March 2015
  • “As disciples of Christ, how can we not be concerned for the good of the weakest?” @Pontifex 28 March 2015
  • “Holy Week is a privileged time when we are called to draw near to Jesus: friendship with him is shown in times of difficulty.” @Pontifex 30 March 2015
  • “Confession is the sacrament of the tenderness of God, his way of embracing us.” @Pontifex 31 March 2015

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Tent or Temple?

by Jimmy Akin

in Bible

tabernacle-jewishIt is often pointed out that the author of the letter to the Hebrews speaks of the Jerusalem temple as if it is still standing.

Repeatedly. He refers to it as still standing multiple times.

This suggests that the book of Hebrews was written before the Romans destroyed the temple in A.D. 70.

The thing is, the author of Hebrews doesn’t refer to it as the temple. Instead, he refers to it as the “tent.”

This is a reference to the “tent of meeting” or “tabernacle” that the Hebrews built under Moses, before the temple was first constructed by Solomon.

Some have thought that this reference means he wasn’t referring to the temple, which might or might not have been destroyed by the time the letter was written.

They also propose various other arguments to cast doubt on whether the references to the still-functioning temple/tent reveal a pre-A.D. 70 date, but let’s set those aside. Here I want to focus on the one based on the references to the temple as if it were the tent of meeting.

This could simply be a literary way of referring to the temple, based on its pre-history as the tent of meeting.

Is there evidence that this view is correct?

I think there is. In Hebrews 9:6-9, we read:

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people.

By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age).

Got that?

The author regards the “outer tent” as “still standing,” and this “is symbolic for the present age.”

If the successor to the temple, the temple, had already been destroyed then it is very hard to imagine how he could conceive of the “outer tent” as “still standing.”

It would have–rather obviously–have fallen and thus not be symbolic of the present age.

How could he expect his readers in a post-70 environment to see the outward manifestation of the tent as still standing and symbolizing the present age?

It thus seems far more likely that he was simply using the language of the “tent” as a literary way of describing the temple–before it fell.

Why would he do that?

Perhaps because–precisely because–the tabernacle was a temporary structure that gave way to the temple.

By referring to the temple itself in this way, he suggests that the temple itself is a temporary, outward, manifestation of the true, spiritual reality to which access will be granted when the temple falls.

In other words, it was precisely because the temple had not yet fallen that he refers to it as the tent.

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triumphal-entry-medium2bPalm Sunday–or is it Passion Sunday?–marks the beginning of Holy Week.

This day commemorates not one but two very significant events in the life of Christ.

Here are 9 things you need to know.


1. What is this day called?

The day is called both “Palm Sunday” and “Passion Sunday.”

The first name comes from the fact that it commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the crowd had palm branches (John 12:13).

The second name comes from the fact that the narrative of the Passion is read on this Sunday (it otherwise wouldn’t be read on a Sunday, since the next Sunday is about the Resurrection).

According to the main document on the celebration of the feasts connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:

Holy Week begins on “Passion (or Palm) Sunday” which joins the foretelling of Christ’s regal triumph and the proclamation of the passion. The connection between both aspects of the Paschal Mystery should be shown and explained in the celebration and catechesis of this day.


2. One of the notable features of this day is a procession before Mass. Why do we do this and how is it supposed to work?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

The commemoration of the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem has, according to ancient custom, been celebrated with a solemn procession, in which the faithful in song and gesture imitate the Hebrew children who went to meet the Lord singing “Hosanna.”

The procession may take place only once, before the Mass which has the largest attendance, even if this should be in the evening either of Saturday or Sunday. The congregation should assemble in a secondary church or chapel or in some other suitable place distinct from the church to which the procession will move. . . .

The palms or branches are blessed so that they can be carried in the procession. The palms should be taken home where they will serve as a reminder of the victory of Christ be given which they celebrated in the procession.


3. Are we only supposed to use palms? What if you don’t have palms where you live?

It is not necessary that palm branches be used in the procession. Other forms of greenery can also be used.

According to the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy:

The procession, commemorating Christ’s messianic entry into Jerusalem, is joyous and popular in character. The faithful usually keep palm or olive branches, or other greenery which have been blessed on Palm Sunday in their homes or in their work places.


4. Should any instruction be given to the faithful?

According to the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy:

The faithful, however, should be instructed as to the meaning of this celebration so that they might grasp its significance.

They should be opportunely reminded that the important thing is participation at the procession and not only the obtaining of palm or olive branches.

Palms or olive branches should not be kept as amulets, or for therapeutic or magical reasons to dispel evil spirits or to prevent the damage these cause in the fields or in the homes, all of which can assume a certain superstitious guise.

Palms and olive branches are kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the messianic king, and in his Paschal Victory.


5. What was Jesus doing at the Triumphal Entry?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains:

Jesus claims the right of kings, known throughout antiquity, to requisition modes of transport.

The use of an animal on which no one had yet sat is a further pointer to the right of kings. Most striking, though, are the Old Testament allusions that give a deeper meaning to the whole episode. . . .

For now let us note this: Jesus is indeed making a royal claim. He wants his path and his action to be understood in terms of Old Testament promises that are fulfilled in his person. . . .

At the same time, through this anchoring of the text in Zechariah 9:9, a “Zealot” exegesis of the kingdom is excluded: Jesus is not building on violence; he is not instigating a military revolt against Rome. His power is of another kind: it is in God’s poverty, God’s peace, that he identifies the only power that can redeem [Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 2].


6. What does the reaction of the crowd show?

It shows that they recognized him as their messianic king.

Benedict XVI notes:

The spreading out of garments likewise belongs to the tradition of Israelite kingship (cf. 2 Kings 9:13). What the disciples do is a gesture of enthronement in the tradition of the Davidic kingship, and it points to the Messianic hope that grew out of the Davidic tradition.

The pilgrims who came to Jerusalem with Jesus are caught up in the disciples’ enthusiasm. They now spread their garments on the street along which Jesus passes.

They pluck branches from the trees and cry out verses from Psalm 118, words of blessing from Israel’s pilgrim liturgy, which on their lips become a Messianic proclamation: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9–10; cf. Ps 118:26).

7. What does the word “Hosanna” mean?

Benedict XVI explains:

Originally this was a word of urgent supplication, meaning something like: Come to our aid! The priests would repeat it in a monotone on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, while processing seven times around the altar of sacrifice, as an urgent prayer for rain.

But as the Feast of Tabernacles gradually changed from a feast of petition into one of praise, so too the cry for help turned more and more into a shout of jubilation.

By the time of Jesus, the word had also acquired Messianic overtones. In the Hosanna acclamation, then, we find an expression of the complex emotions of the pilgrims accompanying Jesus and of his disciples: joyful praise of God at the moment of the processional entry, hope that the hour of the Messiah had arrived, and at the same time a prayer that the Davidic kingship and hence God’s kingship over Israel would be reestablished.


8. Is the same crowd that cheered Jesus’ arrival the one that demanded his crucifixion just a few days later?

Benedict XVI argues that it was not:

All three Synoptic Gospels, as well as Saint John, make it very clear that the scene of Messianic homage to Jesus was played out on his entry into the city and that those taking part were not the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but the crowds who accompanied Jesus and entered the Holy City with him.

This point is made most clearly in Matthew’s account through the passage immediately following the Hosanna to Jesus, Son of David: “When he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying: Who is this? And the crowds said: This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee” (Mt 21:10–11). . . .

People had heard of the prophet from Nazareth, but he did not appear to have any importance for Jerusalem, and the people there did not know him.

The crowd that paid homage to Jesus at the gateway to the city was not the same crowd that later demanded his crucifixion.


9. This brings us to the Passion Narrative recorded in the Gospel. How is this to be read at Mass?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

33. The passion narrative occupies a special place. It should be sung or read in the traditional way, that is, by three persons who take the parts of Christ, the narrator and the people. The passion is proclaimed by deacons or priests, or by lay readers. In the latter case, the part of Christ should be reserved to the priest.

The proclamation of the passion should be without candles and incense, the greeting and the signs of the cross are omitted; only a deacon asks for the blessing, as he does before the Gospel.

For the spiritual good of the faithful the passion should be proclaimed in its entirety, and the readings which precede it should not be omitted.


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