October 16, 2009
volume 20, no. 289
Editor's Note: Stephen hails from across the pond in England and has agreed to provide interesting articles that should stir the sensibilities of those who continue to elude the inevitability that a true pope would never and could never do what the conciliar leaders in Rome have done for the past 50 years. Steve continues a multi-part series on proving the basis for a sede vacante stance based on holy Scripture itself. Thus the title of his columns, "Our Scriptural Roots", all based on the divine Word; the same Word Who was made flesh, suffered and died for us, all prophesied in the Old Testament. With the Cross, Christ fulfilled all that was necessary for the Old Covenant and established the New Covenant with the ultimate Sacrifice on Calvary leading to His Resurrection and Ascension, leaving us His Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity to guide us with the Word and Tradition of the only Church Christ established on earth. St. Paul was filled with the Spirit and conveyed the truths of Christ and His Church in his epistles, specifically to the Hellenic regions where the root of his words are in Greek. Thus, in getting to the root of the meaning, Steve applies the application of both the Greek and Latin etimology to see what the Apostle of the Gentiles truly meant.
THESIS: The lawless one is going to appear at some future point. There's only one thing holding him back: the restrainer (withholder) (katechwn) [ κατέχων], who, at some future point, will presumably stop restraining, and at which point the lawless one will appear. With this in mind we shall eventually see that it refers to the Papacy.
In part one, we examined the meaning of what witholds (restrains) [το κατέχον] and who now witholds (restrains) [ κατέχων ] and in further segments we will discover more on this. However, today we will delve further into a few of the other words in 2 Thessalonians 2: 6-7, specifically "until he be taken out of the way" as we explore the essence of 'out of the midst.'
2. TRANSLATION OF THE TEXT
Before we can understand the full meaning of any text, it goes without saying, we must be sure we have the most accurate translation possible. We have an immediate problem when it comes to translating, still less understanding, the clause "until he is taken out of the way".
The DRV has: For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way.'
The GREEK original reads: "until he comes to-be out of the middle' or 'out of the midst' (έκ μέσου - ek mesoo):
It can be seen that there is a wide discrepancy between 'until he is taken out of the way' (or 'removed'), as practically all versions, Catholic and Protestant translate, and 'until he comes-to be (or 'be-comes') out of the middle.'
How does St. Jerome translate it in his Vulgate?
'qui tenet nunc donec de medio fiat'* 'he who now holds (will do so) until he be out of the midst/middle.' (Cf. "venit Iesus et stetit in medio et dicit eis pax vobis", Jesus came and stood in the midst (μέσου - mesoo), and said to them: Peace be to you. [John 20:19, Luke 24:36]).
As can be seen, St. Jerome has kept close to the original Greek. Translators mention, in passing, the accurate rendition 'out of the middle' (or 'midst') but then proceed to translate it as 'taken out of the way' without any explanation. And we must be left wondering why.
True, at first sight this is very obscure. Until he's out of the middle of what? If we don't have the answer to that, then the translation 'out of the way' could be justified. (But 'taken out of the way' isn't, we shall see why presently).
(1) 'OUT OF THE MIDDLE/ MIDST'
Where is the Katechon usually situated? Answer: the μέσου
) : the middle/ midst.
Well, what does that mean?
Just precedent, the Apostle had mentioned the Son of Perdition 'sitting in the temple'. This cannot refer (in the first instance) to the then standing but shortly to be demolished Jerusalem temple. Neither can it refer to some future, restored temple in Jerusalem (as the Dispensationalists teach) since even if such a monstrous thing were ever be built (God forbid!) it could never be referred to as 'the temple of God.' Neither do Catholics customarily refer to churches as 'temples' though we might think of St. Peter's in Rome (and we cannot avoid the eerie and sinister image of Montini, Paul V1, sitting in the Vatican 'temple' signing away the title deeds to the Catholic Church in the midst of all his bishops… But I don't think St. Paul meant precisely that here).
On the other hand, the then-standing Jerusalem temple did indeed serve as a continuing pattern or type which would retain significance for Believers. Using Temple imagery, along with St. Peter and St.John, St. Paul uses the noun "ναός" [naos], 'temple or sanctuary," as a symbol for the Church. Now, the Jerusalem Temple was basically structured thus:
1. The Sanctuary (containing the Holy of Holies)
2. The Court of the Priests
3. The Court of Israel - which included the laity
Note: The Court of the Gentiles was not a part of the Temple proper. The Temple itself was for Jews only and could be entered only through the main entrance 'The Beautiful Gate.' By translating the Court of the Gentiles as 'the outer court' and not 'the court outside', the NIV and others make it seem as though Gentiles were admitted to the Temple. But they were not: "Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, "Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2 "Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations;"
If we take the number '2' to be the mean between '1' and '3', or the letter 'B' to be between 'A' and 'C', then we have 'the middle of the Temple'. The Temple is the only thing mentioned from which there could be a possible exit or absence. The 'middle/midst' therefore can only refer to the 'Court of the Priests.'
OBJECTION: Only Jews would be aware of the division of the Temple into three parts. St. Paul's predominantly Gentile audience could not have understood that 'out of the middle' was a reference to the hierarchical planning of the Temple.
REPLY: Acts 17 describes the hostile reception Sts. Paul and Silas received from the Jews in Thessalonica but they managed to convert a few. So there were former Jews in the congregation who would have known the lay-out plan very well, first-hand.
However, even if no former Jews were present, the objection displays a secular modern mindset that presumes the Gentile Christians of that time to have been in similar mode. But that world was intensely sacral. The Gentiles were steeped in (pagan) temple symbolism and its accompanying 'mythos'. It was very real to them. Gentile converts, coming from this world would, as a matter of course it seems to me, have compared their former temples and 'temple mythos' with the Jerusalem Temple since their new Living Temple Church was said to be modelled after it.
'The world of the New Testament was the world of the Temple…. the Temple was the matrix of Christianity'. (Margaret Barker, Belonging in the Temple, University of Kent at Canterbury 2007)
There is no reason to suppose that the Thessalonians would have been unaware of the threefold division of the Temple. There is every reason to suppose that they were.
OBJECTION: How can you say that the Church also has a threefold division? And, again, would the Thessalonians have been aware of it?
'Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are.' 1 Cor. 3:16.
The Thessalonians knew that they were the Temple of God, the Church, and that this spiritual Temple was the legitimate heir of the old stone Temple.
The threefold structure of the new Living Temple which is the Church is this:
1. Christ Jesus: Sanctuary
2. Ministerial Hierarchy: The Court of Priests
3. The Faithful: The Court of Israel
This structure is fundamental to the Apostolic Tradition. To suppose that the Thessalonians were not aware of it is to demonstrate faithlessness. We are merely crediting them with our own ignorance.
CONCLUSION: The Apostle foretells that at some future date the 'Restrainer' will no longer be in the 'middle of the Church' (the Priestly court) but out of it.
(2)'TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY'? 'REMOVED'?
The question now is: How is it that the Restrainer, who is in the Middle of the Church (apparently the chief or 'high' priest) , comes to be 'out of it'? Is he removed?
The Vulgate does not employ the verb 'to take' or its passive form 'be taken' but keeps close to the Greek: 'qui tenet nunc donec de medio fiat'* 'he who now holds (will do so) until he be out of the midst/middle.'
The Greek verb form we have to deal with here is γένηται (genatai). It is the present indicative middle form of the verb, γινομαι (ginomai) meaning, basically, 'to cause to be' or 'to make' (as in 'generate'), that is, reflexively (source needed). Being the present indicative form of the verb it expresses a fact and denotes action. The verb is used with great latitude (literal, figurative, intensive, etc.) and can be difficult to translate: so much depends on the context.
Strong's Concordance has 709 instances of verses containing ginomai. "Out of these 709 instances, the word is translated as "taken away" only once by the King James translators, and that's in our study verse, 2 Thessalonians 2:7.' (Ed Tarkowski).
Here are just a few ways it has been translated:
1) to become, or come-to-be (i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being)
2) to be-come, or come-to-be (i.e. to come to pass, to happen)
3) to arise, appear in history, come upon the stage
4) to be made, finished
5) be found
6) be fulfilled
The passive verb form 'to be taken away' or 'to be removed' is not listed. The idea, or even implication, of something/ someone being "taken away" or "removed" is not present in the text as it stands.
The reader can follow a scholarly debate (between J. Webb Mealy and Carl W. Conrad) on the issue below if he types in: '[B-Greek] 2 Thess. 2:6-7--two proposals' into his browser. I give a very abridged précis here.
The subject, then, is how to accurately translate the verb γινομαι ginomai.
"... ginomai [γινομαι] is strictly an intransitive verb. It never EVER takes an object. If a verb can't take an object, you can't turn it into a passive. In English, for example, the verb "to be" doesn't take an object. There is no passive voice for the verb "to be", or for any strictly intransitive verb. So in 2 Thess. 2:7, whatever genatai means, it can't mean that something else acts on the subject of the verb. Whatever action there is, is carried out by the subject. arti hews ek mesou genatai [αρτι ηεωσ εκ μέσου γένηται] can't possibly mean "until he is taken out of the way" (pace KJV, NASB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, TEV).
…Unless there was absolutely no other way the sentence could make sense, I can't see a reason to express ginomai ek mesou [γινομαι εκ μέσου] as something beyond (1) "gets out of the way" or (2) "gets [under his own power] out of the situation". And I think each of those readings makes good sense in and of itself in 2 Thess. 2:7. For example, looking at option (1):The lawless one is going to appear at some future point. There's only one thing holding him back: the restrainer (o katechwn) [ό κατέχων], who, at some future point, will presumably stop restraining, and at which point the lawless one will appear.
…(the) idea of "to stop restraining" can be expressed equally well as "to get out of the way" (ginomai ek mesou) [γινομαι εκ μέσου] … Particularly in view of the fact that the writer personalizes the restrainer by calling him o katechwn [ό κατέχων], not just to katecon [το κατέχον], the presumption is that this personal force has the option of restraining so long, and then stopping.
…I think that in the context hews ek mesou genatai [ηεωσ εκ μέσου γένηται] does mean -- in the Greek, "until he gets out of the center of things."
… "Perhaps "leaves the scene" might do, but that phrase and "gets out of the way" both suggest very strongly that o katechwn arti [ό κατέχων αρτι] "leaves the scene" or "gets out of the way" voluntarily, and I think that is probably not intended.
…Is your sense that o katechwn arti [ό κατέχων αρτι] does not stop restraining "voluntarily" based on the context and/or wider interpretive principles, or on the basis of the grammar and vocabulary of the phrase hews ek mesou genatai [ηεωσ εκ μέσου γένηται] itself? I guess that if Paul hadn't made the restrainer personal, and I had read that the impersonal restraining force will restrain hews ek mesou genatai [ηεωσ εκ μέσου γένηται], I'd read that as "until it's out of the way". But since it is personalized, the assumption that I bring to reading the sentence is that the restrainer can and will restrain as long as he (sic) wishes to do so, and then he will stop restraining. Unless something specific in the context informs me differently, I'm going to assume that he's going to "voluntarily" get out of the way.
… Somebody's now holding somebody back, and unless something tells me otherwise, I'm going to continue to assume that he's going to do so until he decides to stop holding that somebody back.
…The most "neutral" expression still seems to me 'until he's out of the way'."
NOTE: it had previously been stated 'I think that in the context hews ek mesou genatai [ηεωσ εκ μέσου γένηται] does mean -- in the Greek, "until he gets out of the center of things."'
My conclusion is that there is no sense of the restrainer being taken (away) or removed by some agent, some exterior force using any kind of compulsion. On the contrary, the Restrainer's 'absence' has all the characteristics of either active acquiescence or passive voluntariness on the part of the Restrainer himself.
The text reads, literally:
'until he comes to be out of the middle' or 'until he be-comes out of the middle.'
That is, until he displaces himself from the middle, finds himself to be out of it. I would further suggest the following implications or interpretations:
until he steps aside from the middle,
- until he absents himself from the middle
- until he vacates the middle
- until he abdicates the middle
- until he resigns the middle
- until he lays aside the middle.
- until he gives up the middle,
- until he abandons the middle,
- until he goes out from the middle,
- until he retires from the middle
Of course, these suggestions are not translations but interpretations. But, we do, after all, need to interpret what 'he be-comes out of the middle' means; and I am suggesting the sense or 'flavour' of what this means. And these interpretations are allowed by the Vulgate's 'de medio fiat' (until he be out of the middle'). But, whatever it means, the main import is that, at some future point, the Restrainer is absent: he no longer functions as an effective agent, and his ministry as 'Restrainer' is redundant in the Church (and in the world).
Since the 'one who is holding down' is not there, the characteristic in the Church of 'holding fast' disappears fast (except among the faithful remnant who continue to 'hold fast', who have been soundly catechised).
The real implication (imperative) of voluntary absence may receive additional Scriptural confirmation if we consider the Prophet Malachi (particularly Ch.2) where, also writing of the wholesale apostasy of the Temple, he writes:
'But you (priests) have departed out of the way, and have caused many to stumble at the law: you have made void the covenant of Levi, (NB: the Priestly covenant with Aaron) saith the Lord of hosts' (Mal. 2:8).
Perhaps it was with reference to this text that the Douay-Rheims translators gave 'out of the way' instead of 'out of the middle'?
I think it can safely be said that such an interpretation does no violence to the original Greek, and that the original lends itself in fact to just such interpretations (unless proven otherwise).
Next: Part Three: Identity of the Restrainer/Withholder
Our Scriptural Roots