Takeout Food

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Here’s a theological poser: What happens to cannibals on Judgment Day? If I eat you and assimilate your flesh, how can we both be resurrected?

“It is not possible for two men to be resurrected with the same flesh at the same time, and nor is it possible for the same limb to have two different masters,” writes Athenagoras of Athens. “How can two bodies, which have successively been in possession of the same substance, appear in their entirety, without lacking a large part of themselves? In the end, either the disputed parts will be returned to their original owners, leaving a gap in the later owners, or they shall be fixed in the latter, leaving in this case an irreparable loss in the former.”

Augustine answers, “The flesh in question shall be restored to the man in whom it first became human flesh; for it is to be considered as borrowed of the other man, and, like borrowed money, to be returned to him from whom it was taken.”

I guess we’ll find out.

Lonely Words

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What is gopher wood? Noah used it to build his ark, but there’s no other reference to it in the Bible.

Similarly, no one’s quite sure what a kankedort is. It appears in one passage in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde:

Was Troilus nought in a kankedort,
That lay, and myghte whisprynge of hem here,
And thoughte, “O Lord, right now renneth my sort
Fully to deye, or han anon comfort!”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines it helplessly as an awkward situation or affair and says it’s “of unascertained etymology.”

See Hapax Legomenon.

Got That?

There is no Pope John XX. In numbering its pontiffs, the church skipped directly from Pope John XIX to Pope John XXI because confusion in the records led Pope John XX to believe that Pope John XIV had been succeeded by a second Pope John XIV, but that Pope John XV to Pope John XIX had overlooked his existence. So Pope John XX ordered his designation changed to Pope John XXI so that Pope John XV to Pope John XIX could be renumbered Pope John XVI to Pope John XX. But there was no second Pope John XIV, so Pope John XV to Pope John XIX were correctly numbered and the new Pope John XXI should have remained Pope John XX.

Worse, Pope John XVI was a disputed claimant whose number should have been reused, moving all subsequent Popes John back a notch. That hasn’t happened either.

The bottom line is that there’s still time for you to be Pope John XX if you want to. You just need to be elected by the College of Cardinals.

The Sedgwick Pie

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Most graves in Massachusetts’ Stockbridge Cemetery are oriented with the feet facing east, so that on Resurrection Day the dead will rise facing Jerusalem.

Not so the Sedgwick family — patriarch Theodore Sedgwick ordered that his family’s graves form a circle with their feet toward the center. This way, on Judgment Day, Sedgwicks will see only other Sedgwicks.

It’s been called “the laughingstock of the entire Eastern seaboard.”

Felix Culpa

It can be argued that, by falling from Eden, Adam brought great good to humanity — if he’d stayed, he would not have occasioned the redemption story and the coming of the New Jerusalem.

Without man’s failure the world would not be saved.

But see Kangaroo Court.

Failure Theory

Can God make a stone so big that he can’t lift it?

This seems to cast doubt on God’s omnipotence.

But suppose he can create such a stone but simply hasn’t. Does that solve the difficulty?

The Paradox of Omnipresence and Timelessness

It’s an essential attribute of God that he’s omnipresent, and Thomas Aquinas held that he also stands somehow outside of time and is not bound by temporal considerations. But, Richard La Croix argues,

if God is indeed omnipresent then it would appear that he must have been in the United Nations building yesterday as well as the day before yesterday. And if God was in the United Nations building both yesterday and the day before, then it would appear that he is in time and that temporal predicates do apply to him. So, it would appear that God is not a timeless being if he is omnipresent and that two doctrines crucial to the theology of Thomas Aquinas are logically incompatible.

Omniscience poses further problems: If God knows all things, then he knows what both man and he himself will do. So how is free will possible?

Kangaroo Court

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Before eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve either knew that disobeying God was evil or they didn’t.

If they didn’t, then they can’t be blamed for disobeying him.

If they did, then they already possessed the knowledge that God had forbidden.

Either way, God could not justly banish them from Eden.

(Adduced by Richard R. La Croix.)

Right and Wrong

Brother Jacques Percher, “a very excellent man of the old time,” had a painting made for his chapel showing that good is the very opposite of evil. At one side was a picture of an angel, with the words “Read the right side and you will be saved.” Under that was this inscription:

Delicias fuge, ne frangaris crimine, verum
Coelica tu quaeras, ne male dispereas,
Respicias tua, non cujusvis quaerito gesta
Carpere, sed laudes, nec preme veridicos.
Judicio fore te praesentem conspice toto
Tempore, nec Christum, te rogo, despicias:
Salvificum pete, nec secteris daemonia; Christum
Dilige, nequaquam tu mala concupito.

Shun pleasures of the flesh, lest you be broken by crime; seek the things of heaven, lest your end be an evil one; consider your own deeds, and do not seek to slander someone else’s, but praise them, and do not suppress those who speak the truth; always realize that you must stand before a judgment; I beg you, do not despise Christ, seek him who gives salvation, and do not follow the devil; love Christ, and do not lust at all after evil.

At the other side was a picture of the devil with the words “Read the wrong side and you will be damned.” Here the first inscription was reversed word for word, producing an entirely different meaning:

Concupito mala tu, nequaquam dilige Christum,
Daemonia secteris, nec pete salvificum;
Despicias, rogo te, Christum, nec tempore toto
Conspice praesentem te fore judicio:
Veridicos preme, nec laudes, sed carpere gesta
Quaerito cujusvis, non tua respicias,
Dispereas male, nec quaeras tu coelica; verum
Crimine frangaris, ne fuge delicias.

Lust after evil, and do not at all love Christ; you follow the devil, do not seek him who gives salvation; despise Christ, I beg you, and realize that never will you stand before a judgment; suppress those who speak the truth, and do not praise the deeds of anyone, but seek to slander them; do not consider your own; let your end be an evil one, do not seek the things of heaven; let yourself be broken by crime, do not shun pleasures of the flesh.

“It must have taken the brother a long time to compose this,” writes George Wakeman, “but he probably did it with a holy purpose, and as a recreation from more onerous duties.”

See also A Bilingual Palindrome.