Why Rome? That's the question Dr. Taylor Marshall focuses on in his newest book, titled The Eternal City: Rome & the Origins of Catholic Christianity (Saint John Press, 2012.)
Even to someone reading the New Testament for the first time, it's evident that most major events take place in Jerusalem. The city was home to the great Temple, the hub of Jewish life and worship. Jerusalem was also where Jesus died and rose from the dead, making it the holiest site for Christians.
So then why did Rome, not Jerusalem, quickly emerge as the center of Christianity? Was it simply a coincidence or is there some deeper significance? Did Christ intentionally choose Rome as the home-base for his Church?
Taylor recently sat down with me to discuss these questions and more, including whether Paul was a Catholic, why the Church fathers remain relevant, and his favorite books on the origins of Catholicism.
Watch or download our interview below:
1:16 - How is Judaism key to understanding Catholicism?
2:33 - What signs point you to St. Paul's Catholic identity?
4:57 - What clues show that St. Paul was a Catholic priest?
6:11 - Why is the city of Rome so important to Catholicism?
9:46 - What draws you to blog about the Church Fathers?
11:58 - What books would you recommend on the origins of Catholicism?
Q: What signs point you to St. Paul's Catholic identity?
I remember the first time I read the Canons of the Council of Trent [and saw] how often Paul was cited. I thought, it's so strange that the Protestants, Luther and Calvin, all claimed Paul as their own. And then here in the Council of Trent, the Fathers of the Council quote Paul back to them.
As a Protestant I studied a lot [of material] from a theologian named N.T. Wright and he was making arguments that the Protestant consensus was not exactly airtight when it comes to the Bible. He was showing passages where the righteousness of Christ wasn't just imputed, it was infused. Of course this sounds a lot like the Council of Trent and raised a lot of questions.
So I went on a quest where I went through almost every major Catholic topic and looked at what Paul says, not only [about] salvation, but the sacraments, the Eucharist, matrimony, holy orders, priestly celibacy, monasticism, and even sexual issues such as homosexuality, divorce, contraception, and abortion. And I showed that on every single point St. Paul agrees with the Catholic Church.
Taylor's Recommended Books
Here are the three books Taylor recommends at the end of our interview:
- The Apostolic Fathers (Baker Academic, 2007)
- Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words by Rod Bennett
- The Russian Church And The Papacy by Vladimir Soloviev (only $2 at Catholic.com!!)
Be sure to follow Taylor's blog, Canterbury Tales and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. And pick up a copy of Taylor's newest book, Dr. Taylor Marshall focuses on in his newest book, titled The Eternal City: Rome & the Origins of Catholic Christianity:
What are your favorite books on Church history?
This interview was originally posted at Ignitum Today:
Imagine telling Blessed John Henry Newman or Venerable (!!) Fulton Sheen that it was possible to carry the entire Summa Theologica, the writings of the Church Fathers, and hundreds of Church documents wherever they go, on a device that fits in their pocket. They would have been flabbergasted, jaws dropping to the floor. And if we know them at all, they would have immediately offered their right arms for such a technology.
Thankfully, us moderns don't have to sacrifice life or limb for this gift as thousands of foundational Catholic texts have been digitized and made available free online at NewAdvent.org.
Kevin Knight, webmaster at New Advent, is the man behind it all. In addition to his digital repository, Kevin also collects the most popular articles and news stories each day and shares them on his site. Over the past decade, he's grown New Advent into a one-stop shop for all things Catholic, whether you're looking for ancient texts or fresh new blog posts.
Kevin recently sat down with me to discuss his website, the intriguing digitization process, and the potential this work has for the rest of the Catholic world. Listen or read below!
Listen to interview with Kevin Knight (mp3) (8 minutes)
Brandon: Welcome to this special interview, where today I have the great pleasure of talking with Kevin Knight. Kevin runs the really popular Catholic website NewAdvent.org, and has joined me from Denver, Colorado to talk about his background, his work at New Advent, and how he got into this incredible field of digitizing Catholic texts. So Kevin, welcome; it’s a great joy to be talking with you!
Kevin: Thank you, Brandon! Happy to be here!
Brandon: Now, tell me a little bit about yourself. When I discovered all the work that you’ve done through New Advent, one question that has always piqued my interest is, how did you get into this field? How did you end up digitizing and collecting Catholic articles and content from across the web?
Kevin: Well I didn’t go to school for it, that’s for sure. I really fell backwards into it and it was a mixture of Providence and circumstances. I was going for a career in meteorology, in fact I was working as a research assistant at a research facility that had early access to the world wide web, right around the time that here in Denver the Holy Father came for World Youth Day. That was about 1993, and a combination of that call to a New Evangelization, the excitement for World Youth Day, and being exposed early to this kind of technology really came together. It was strongly on my heart for a couple years until I finally took the plunge and went right into it.
Brandon: At New Advent you’ve digitized hundreds and hundreds of texts, everything from St. Thomas’ entire Summa Theologica to the Catholic Encyclopedia, and even the complete writings of the Church Fathers. That’s a monumental task. What inspired you to specifically focus on these great, almost epic documents in Catholic tradition?
Kevin: Well my big inspiration was the fact that I didn’t have access to them myself, especially when I was coming back into the practice of my faith and reading my way back into the Church. I realized that for a significant portion of the population, [especially those who are] anonymously reading while [their] friends and others might not realize how interested [they] are in the faith, this kind of access could be revolutionary. So I wanted to make it available to others as well.
We went from an environment of having these [documents] collecting dust on a library shelf to being able, within ten years, to be on everybody’s desktop or laptop. I just thought it would be revolutionary if I could help in some small way to get these out there.
Brandon: Now you mentioned it took about ten years to get everything up there on the site. What is the digitization process like? Are you doing this yourself or do you have a team of others helping you out?
Kevin: Well, it’s evolving. I started out with a team—a large team—of volunteers [who] came forward. There were 400 people who helped in one way or another, and so much of that was manual work, especially because we were working with texts where the type setting was blurry and didn’t scan well.
Even to this day it doesn’t scan that well. There’s a lot of manual proofreading to get it right. But what’s exciting is the technology that’s just coming forth will allow us to really push forward on this. That combined with things that will gradually go out of copyright and into the public domain. There are so many diamonds buried out there just waiting to be discovered.
So we’re pushing forward with new scanners. I want to get the high-speed [scanning] to really get [these documents] out there so that we can build this small lake into an ocean of material.
Brandon: NewAdvent.org is not just known for this collection of Church documents. It’s also become one of the most popular destinations to find new and popular articles every single day. What’s the typical day look like in terms of collecting and posting? How do you do this? And, a question I’ve heard asked by a number of bloggers is, what kind of articles is Kevin looking for?
Kevin: The way I do it is first thing in the morning. Since I’m in the Mountain time zone, I’m at a disadvantage—a couple hours behind the East Coast when everyone’s waking up. So I have to get cracking right away to see what happened when I was sleeping. These were always things I was doing anyways (i.e. reading the news) so I just built some tools that would allow me to link to others and it evolved from there. As I go through the day, 90% of [the content I post] is stories I have pushed to me. I also have people giving me tips now from different sources.
One thing that does help is if there is a special post that a blogger or writer has, or if somebody sees something out there worth considering, I always welcome email to bring it to my attention (firstname.lastname@example.org). That’s probably one of the best ways to make sure a story is considered.
Brandon: You and I recently joined forces for the Africa eBook Project, and it’s been a tremendous success. You know this, I’ve told you, that I couldn’t have done it without you. You provided so much of the good content that we packed on these CDs that we’re now sending over to all the seminarians in Africa. So far we’ve raised enough to get a CD into the hands of every single seminarian in Cameroon, and the goal is to bring it to other seminarians throughout the [continent].
But that’s kind of just a drop in the bucket in terms of what this digitization of texts enables us to do around the world. You sell your own CDs through New Advent, through which people can buy the material and access it offline. I think that has tremendous potential for Catholics all over the world. Why is this so important? What kind of potential does this digitization have for the global Church?
Kevin: I think we can hardly imagine the impact this would have because, as the journalist John Allen has pointed out, we are living through a historic period in which the Church really has boomed like never before, especially in Africa. The growth there is tremendous. They’re in a position where they’re already sending missionaries to the rest of the world to bring the sacraments to countries that really don’t have that.
What they need most, though, are formation aids. It’s expensive to build the kind of libraries that we’ve spent decades building here in North America and Europe, or centuries even. But to be able to get a head start on that, to take all of these materials and get them in a compact, offline format and into countries that really have very poor connectivity and otherwise would be left out of the loop, that’s just going to bear fruit for the next one or two centuries and beyond. It’s just astounding what you’ve been able to do with this, Brandon.
Brandon: Likewise, Kevin. Your whole site is astounding and all Catholics who have seen it online I think would agree. Thank you so much for all that you do, now and over the years, and thank you for joining me for this interview.
Kevin: Thank you, Brandon!
The same day I post my interview with Kevin, Sarah Reinhard had her own excellent discussion with him over at CatholicMom.com. Check it out!
Be sure to check out NewAdvent.org and follow Kevin on Twitter.
What do you like best about New Advent?
I've mentioned before that I think Dr. Peter Kreeft is the closest thing we have to C.S. Lewis since C.S. Lewis himself. He's wise, imaginative, clever, whimsical, prolific, and one of the few sensible philosophers out there. And if G.K. Chesterton was the Apostle of Common Sense, Kreeft must be an apostolic successor.
He's also one of the most famous converts from Reformed Protestantism to Catholicism (and was very influential in my own conversion). Kreeft's dad was an elder in the Reformed community and he himself went to Calvin College. But it was there in the heart of Reformed life that he discovered the Catholic Church.
Today, Dr. Kreeft shares his entire conversion story over at the Coming Home Network:
"Then in a church history class at Calvin a professor gave me a way to investigate the claims of the Catholic Church on my own. The essential claim is historical: that Christ founded the Catholic Church, that there is historical continuity. If that were true, I would have to be a Catholic out of obedience to my one absolute, the will of my Lord. The teacher explained the Protestant belief. He said that Catholics accuse we who are Protestants of going back only to Luther and Calvin; but this is not true; we go back to Christ.
Christ had never intended a Catholic-style Church, but a Protestant-style one. The Catholic additions to the simple, Protestant-style New Testament church had grown up gradually in the Middle Ages like barnacles on the hull of a ship, and the Protestant Reformers had merely scraped off the barnacles, the alien, pagan accretions. The Catholics, on the other hand, believed that Christ established the Church Catholic from the start, and that the doctrines and practices that Protestants saw as barnacles were, in fact, the very living and inseparable parts of the planks and beams of the ship.
I thought this made the Catholic claim empirically testable, and I wanted to test it because I was worried by this time about my dangerous interest in things Catholic. Half of me wanted to discover it was the true Church (that was the more adventurous half); the other half wanted to prove it false (that was the comfortable half).
My adventurous half rejoiced when I discovered in the early Church such Catholic elements as the centrality of the Eucharist, the Real Presence, prayers to saints, devotion to Mary, an insistence on visible unity, and apostolic succession. Furthermore, the Church Fathers just “smelled” more Catholic than Protestant, especially St. Augustine, my personal favorite and a hero to most Protestants too. It seemed very obvious that if Augustine or Jerome or Ignatius of Antioch or Anthony of the Desert, or Justin Martyr, or Clement of Alexandria, or Athanasius were alive today they would be Catholics, not Protestants."
I got home from the CatholiCon Expo last night and was giddy to find these three books waiting for me:
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- Great Books Reader (edited by John Mark Reynolds) - An introduction to the Great Books of the Western World from a uniquely Christian perspective. It includes excerpts from dozens of classics with commentary from experts in the field. Catholics will especially love Peter Kreeft's thoughts on St. Augustine's Confessions, St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologia, and Blaise Pascal's Pensees. Anthony Esolen also discusses Dante's Divine Comedy while Dale Ahlquist comments on G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. Look for an in-depth review of this book soon.
- Revelation (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture) - Have you ever wondered what the Church Fathers thought about a particular verse of Scripture? The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) gives you the answer. Moving line-by-line through each book of the Bible, the series collects the extraordinary insights of these earliest exegetes. It's a phenomenal resource and my go-to Biblical commentary, especially when preparing talks. It is a little pricey, but I found an almost-complete set of the NT in a used bookstore--Revelation was one of the few missing volumes.
(By the way, you can usually see the ACCS in the background of most of Fr. Barron's YouTube vignettes. Here the whole set sits over his right shoulder. Good enough for Fr. Barron, good enough for me--that's my general motto for life.)
- Catholicism (Fr. Robert Barron) - What else can I say about this book? I read an advanced galley copy and raved about here. But the hardback is even more beautiful with the Sainte-Chapelle illuminating the cover. I received an extra copy of the book, too, so expect a giveaway next Friday after the book launches on September 6.
Since I have a large collection of duplicate books and resources, every week I give away a book--sometimes more than one! Through used bookstores, unsolicited review copies, and generous publishers, the collection keeps growing. Below is a photo of the current assemblage, a tantalizing preview of what I'll be given away in the coming weeks:
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Finally, here's a look at some books I've recently dived into. To the right of the cross are the books I'm currently reading--my Dismas collection, I suppose. And to the left are the ones I've recently finished--the Gestas assembly. I'll be talking more about each of these soon.
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- Ablaze (Colleen Swaim)- Swaim looks at seven young saints who were filled with zeal for the Lord. I never get tired of the saints and a number of these were unfamiliar to me. It's the perfect saint book for teens and young people, but people of all ages will find it rich.
- Infinite Bandwidth (Dr. Eugene Gan)- Here a communications professor at Franciscan University looks at the Church's teachings on social communications and deduces seven key principles. Great stuff so far.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)- I've read the first three, yet this fourth volume is so far my favorite.
- The Bible Made Impossible (Christian Smith) - This is actually Brent Stubb's copy who already wrote an insightful review of the book. The issue of Biblical authority, which conduces to ecclesiastical authority, is what ultimate divides Catholics and Protestants. Because of that, this is a very important subject--and a very important book.
- The Illiad (Homer) - I haven't made much progress on this--it's been on my to-read shelf for months--but maybe the Great Books Reader I mentioned above will give me new vigor.
- Story Engineering (Larry Brooks) *Kindle* - I downloaded this for free and have been only mildly pleased. It's fluffy, could have been written in half as many pages, and is more geared toward narrative fiction, but as someone desperate to improve his writing, I'll take whatever I can get.
- The Socratic Dialogues (Plato) *Kindle* - Socrates was brilliant and probing and interesting but some of his dialogues put me to sleep. I like Peter Kreeft's Socratic dialogues better but reading the originals have revealed Socrates' admirable hunt for truth and his unique philosophical style. There really is no classical philosopher in the same mold.
- On the Passion of Christ (Thomas A'Kempis)
- Starting Your Marriage Right (Dennis Rainey)
- How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (Thomas Woods)
- The Next Story (Tim Challies)
- Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist (Dr. Brant Pitre)
- Surprised by Joy (C.S. Lewis)
- Fatima for Today (Fr. Andrew Apostoli)
- The Face of God (Paul Badde)
- The Priority of Christ (Fr. Robert Barron)
What are you reading right now?
Post a picture on your blog or website, then leave a comment and I'll link to it here.