Jimmy Akin Podcast (general)

The Bible records a number of ancient civilizations. Perhaps the most famous of these is ancient Rome.

By the time of the New Testament, Rome was the major world power, and it was in control of the Holy Land during the entire earthly life of Jesus and during the lives of his immediate followers.

Jesus was born during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus. He was crucified during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius. The book of Acts records the Roman emperor Claudius by name. And both St. Peter and St. Paul were crucified at Rome by the Emperor Nero.

It is clear that the Romans were extraordinarily important to the world in which the New Testament was written.

All that makes it worth asking: Who were the Romans, and where did their civilization come from?

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The Legendary Founding

The answer is shrouded in the mists of time, and ancient legends get in the way of an exact knowledge of the facts.

According to the Romans’ own account, the city of Rome was founded in the wake of the famous Trojan War.

Specifically, it was founded on April 21st in 753 B.C. by two twins named Romulus and Remus.

These two twins were supposedly the grandsons of an earlier king—Numitor—but they were raised by a she-wolf, and so they were feral children.

When they founded the city of Rome they had a quarrel, and Romulus killed Remus. Romulus thus became the sole and original king of Rome.

The Roman Kingdom

This led to a period known as “the Roman kindom,” in which Rome was ruled by a series of kings.

This period is supposed to have lasted from the founding in 753 B.C. until about 509 B.C.

It is characterized by the fact that Rome was ruled by kings, just like other peoples were. During this time seven kings supposedly reigned over Rome, beginning with Romulus and ending with Tarquinius Superbus, or “Tarquin the Proud.”

Eventually, however, the people of Rome were fed up with their kings and overthrew them, leading to a new period in the history of Rome.

The Roman Republic

This led to the “Roman Republic,” a period in which Rome lacked a monarch.

The word “republic” comes from the Latin res publica, which means “public thing”—a reference to the fact that how the state was governed was now a public thing rather than a matter for just the kings.

To replace the kings, power was divided between two men, known as consuls, who were elected every year and had significant checks on their powers, including term limits. 

The Roman Republic lasted from the overthrow of the kings around 509 B.C. until the first century B.C.

The Roman Empire

The Romans found that their system of divided government, with power split up among the consuls and other government officials, was at times unwieldy. 

As a result, in times of crisis, they sometimes appointed dictators—men who could run the state as single individuals, but only for a limited period prescribed by law, to keep the dictator from turning into a tyrant.

Eventually this system broke down, when one particular dictator—Julius Caesar—engineered a situation in which he was proclaimed “dictator in perpetuity.”

That was too close to the idea of kingship, and the situation didn’t last long. He was quickly assassinated by a conspiracy in the Senate.

His heir was a man named Octavian, and he eventually accumulated as much power as Julius Caesar had possessed—and more.

Some wanted him to be given the title “king,” but Octavian knew that would be dangerous, so he allowed the Roman Senate to vote him different titles.

One title became the name he is known by today: Augustus.

The other was a military title that meant “commander.” In Latin this word is imperator, and from it we get the English word emperor.

Augustus this became the first of the Roman emperors, and the Roman empire was born.

Rome and the Life of Jesus

Rome had been accumulating power through conquest even since the time of the Roman kings, and by the reign of Augustus Caesar it had become the dominant power in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

They were in political control of the Holy Land at the time Jesus was born, and it was they who had appointed Herod as “king of the Jews.” It was also Augustus Caesar who called for the enrollment that led Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.

The impact of the Romans on the gospel story is thus apparent right from the beginning.

Their impact was still present at the time of Jesus’ adult ministry, when other members of the Herod family were ruling parts of his kingdom, and when the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, agreed to have Jesus crucified.

“We Have No King But Caesar”

It is ironic that, at the time of Jesus’ Passion, the crowds cried, “We have no king but Caesar!” 

The Roman ruler of the day was Augustus’s successor, Tiberius Caesar, and he did not technically have the title “king.” The Romans were too proud of having overthrown their kings for that. But the emperors were functioning as kings, and it was obvious to everyone.

The Empire Strikes Back

The power of the emperors continued to have an impact on the early Church. Just a few decades later it was the Emperor Nero who put St. Peter and St. Paul to death at Rome.

Later emperors launched the persecutions that martyred so many early Christians—and paradoxically caused the Church to grow, until the Roman empire itself was converted to Christ.

The Roman empire was something that the first Christians had to deal with constantly. It loomed over their lives and tried to destroy them and their faith.

It will help us all understand and appreciate our faith better if we know something about the Roman empire and the impact it had on the Bible and the early Church.

Learning More

The persecution by the Roman authorities is a big part of what the book of Revelation is about. 

If you’d like to learn more about that, I’d like to invite you to join my my Secret Information Club at www.SecretInfoClub.com.

It’s a service I operate by email which is absolutely free. I send out information on a variety of fascinating topics connected with the Catholic faith.

The very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is an “interview” I did with Pope Benedict on the book of Revelation. What I did was compose questions about the book of Revelation and take the answers from his writings.

He has a lot of interesting things to say!

If you’d like to find out what they are, just sign up at www.SecretInfoClub.com. Thank you!

Direct download: 044final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:48pm PDT

One of the distinctive Protestant principles is expressed in the slogan sola scriptura, which is Latin for “by Scripture only.” The idea is that every teaching on faith or morals must be directly or indirectly based on the Scriptures. 

That leads to the common question, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

It’s an important question. In fact, it’s a question that needs to be asked about the doctrine of sola scriptura itself. Because if every teaching on faith or morals has to be based on the Bible then sola scriptura must be based on the Bible. 

If it’s not, then it is a self-refuting claim and is false.

So what passages do Protestant Christians appeal to in support of sola scriptura?

One that is sometimes cited is Acts 17, which deals with an incident that happened when St. Paul preached in the Jewish synagogue in the Greek city of Berea.

St. Luke writes:

[11] Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Many in the Protestant community have found this an inspiring story, and some have even named their ministries after the Berean Jews. If you go online you can find all kinds of Berean churches, schools, ministries, and bookstores.

The idea is that we should imitate the Berean Jews and take a skeptical attitude of theological ideas we are presented with. Instead of just accepting them, we should search the Scriptures daily to see if what we are being told is true or not. If it’s not, then we should not accept it.

If that’s what the passage means—if it is commending the Bereans for their skeptical attitude and refusal to believe a teaching unless it can be found in Scripture—then this would be good evidence for sola scriptura.

But that’s not what it means, and it’s easy to show that.

You’ll notice that Acts 17:11 says that the Berean Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, which raises an immediate question: “What were the Thessalonian Jews like?”

If they are less noble in contrast to the skeptical Bereans, presumably they were credulous individuals who accepted what they were told without Scriptural proof.

That’s not what they were like at all. To see this, let’s back up to the beginning of the chapter, where we read:

Acts 17

[1] Now when [Paul and his companions] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.

[2] And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, 

[3] explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." 

[4] And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 

[5] But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. 

[6] And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 

[7] and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." 

[8] And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard this. 

[9] And when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 

[10] The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea; and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.

It’s in that context that we now return to the verse where we started:

 [11] Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

So the contrast isn’t between the skeptical Bereans, who insisted on Scriptural proof of what Paul was saying, and the credulous Thessalonians, who accepted it without question.

Instead, the contrast is between the open-minded Bereans, who were willing and eager to examine the Scriptures and see if what Paul was saying was true, versus the hostile Thessalonians, who started a riot and got Paul in trouble with the authorities, even though he had proved from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

This understanding is confirmed by the following verses, where we read:

[12] Many of [the Bereans] therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 

[13] But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Beroea also, they came there too, stirring up and inciting the crowds. 

[14] Then the brethren immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there.

So the Thessalonians forced Paul to flee Berea, just as they had forced him to flee from their own town.

Thus it wasn’t the Bereans who were skeptical. It was the Thessalonians.

There is also another reason why this passage isn’t a good proof text for sola scriptura, which is this: The Christian faith contains doctrines that aren’t found in the Old Testament.

What’s why even those who favor doing theology “by Scripture alone” don’t favor doing it “by the Old Testament alone.”

While the Old Testament does contain prophecies that point forward to Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, it doesn’t contain the whole of the Christian faith.

What the Berean Jews were willing to do, therefore, was to open-mindedly look at the Old Testament Scriptures, see if they confirmed Paul’s preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, and then go on to accept the new, Christian revelation that Paul also imparted.

And he imparted it by preaching, because the books of the New Testament were not all written yet.

If we were to follow the example of the Bereans, we would look at whether the Scriptures we do have support a particular message and, if they do, then be willing to accept further revelation not found in those Scriptures.

We would, ironically, embrace the attitude of those at Thessalonica who did accept the Christian faith, for in 2 Thessalonians 2, St. Paul told them:

2 Thessialonians 2

[15] So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

In other words, we would recognize the authority of all of the traditions passed on from Christ and the apostles, whether they were written or not.

And this is what the Catholic Church says we should do.

If you’d like to learn more about these and other matters, I’d like to invite you to join my Secret Information Club at www.SecretInfoClub.com.

It’s a service I operate by email which is absolutely free. I send out fascinating information on a variety of topics connected with the Catholic faith.

The very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is an “interview” I did with Pope Benedict on the book of Revelation. What I did was compose questions about the book of Revelation and take the answers from his writings.

He has a lot of interesting things to say!

If you’d like to find out what they are, just sign up at www.SecretInfoClub.com. Thank you!

Direct download: 043final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:46pm PDT

The book of Revelation contains a passage in which St. John sees a great sign in the sky. He wrote:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne [Rev. 12:1, 5]. 


Who is this mysterious Woman clothed in the sun?

Note that she gives birth to a male child who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron. That’s a reference to the Messianic prophecy in Psalm 2, where we read:

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron [Ps. 2:8-9].

Jesus fulfilled this Messianic prophecy. 

The fact that the male child is caught up to the throne of God is a reference to Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, so we have another confirmation that the male child is Jesus.

And since the Woman who gives birth to him is his Mother, we could infer that the Woman here is Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary.

But there is more to the story.

The symbolism connected with the Woman is drawn from the book of Genesis, where the patriarch Joseph has a dream involving the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Then he dreamed another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, "Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me." 


But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” [Gen. 37:9-10].

The symbolism of the sun, moon, and twelve stars comes from Genesis, where it refers to the family of Jacob and the twelve patriarchs, who headed the twelve tribes of Israel.

That has led some to say that the Woman in Revelation 12 is Israel. 

You could go further and note that the Church is the spiritual Israel. So some have suggested that the Woman as the Church.

Which view is true?

Is Woman Mary?

Is Woman Israel?

Is Woman the Church?

You could try to solve this problem by making some of the symbols primary and some secondary.

For example, you could make the Woman’s role as the mother of Jesus primary, so she’s his literal mother, Mary, and the sun, moon, and stars imagery only means that Mary was a Jewish woman.

Or you could make the sun, moon, and stars imagery primary and say that she’s Israel, and the fact that Mary was the particular Jewish woman who gave birth to Jesus is secondary.

We don’t have to make that choice, because if you study the way symbolism is used in the book of Revelation,  it often uses a single symbol points to more than one thing.

For example, Revelation 17 tells us what the seven heads of the beast represents

This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the [Whore of Babylon] is seated; they are also seven kings (Rev. 17:9-10).

If the seven heads can be seven mountains and seven kings then the Woman clothed with the sun might be the Virgin Mary and Israel and the Church.

That’s what Pope Benedict suggests. In his book Jesus of Nazareth, volume 2, he writes:

When the Book of Revelation speaks of the great sign of a Woman appearing in heaven, she is understood to represent all Israel, indeed, the whole Church. . . . 

On the basis of the “corporate personality” model—in keeping with biblical thought—the early Church had no difficulty recognizing in the Woman, on the one hand, Mary herself and, on the other hand, transcending time, the Church, bride and mother, in which the mystery of Mary spreads out into history [Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth 2:222].

On another occasion, Pope Benedict said:

This Woman represents Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, but at the same time she also represents the whole Church, the People of God of all times, the Church which in all ages, with great suffering, brings forth Christ ever anew [General Audience, Aug. 23, 2006].

As Pope Benedict shows us, we don’t have to make a forced choice between the possible meanings of what the Woman represents.

In keeping with the richness of the way Revelation uses symbolism, to use Pope Benedict’s phrases, she can be Mary and “all Israel” and “the whole Church” in different ways.

If you’d like to learn more about what Pope Benedict says about the book of Revelation, I’d like to invite you to join my Secret Information Club at www.SecretInfoClub.com.

The very first thing you’ll get is a free “interview” with Pope Benedict where I composed the questions and took the answers from his writings.

He has lots of interesting things to say!

You’ll also get lots of additional information on fascinating topics, absolutely FREE, so you should join now at www.SecretInfoClub.com.

Direct download: 042final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:05am PDT

Jimmy explains about his recent struggle with cataracts and his eye surgery.

Yolanda from Washington state asks about spiritual warfare.

Cheryl from Singapore asks about prayers to the hungry ghosts being performed on Catholic school property.

Direct download: 041final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:40pm PDT

Scientists are abuzz with word that the long-sought "God particle" (aka the Higgs boson) may have finally been discovered.

While most scientists don't like the nickname "God particle" (and while many religious people might not neither), it's certainly generated a lot of coverage in the media.

Because of the God-based nickname the particle has been given, the discovery of the Higgs has attracted a lot of press attention, and I've received quite a number of requests to comment on it.

In this episode, I take a look at these and similar questions to give you the basics of the new discovery and what to make of it from a religious perspective.

Before we get to the video, though, here's a Higgs-related joke (adapted from one I read on the Internet):

<p style="padding-left: 30px;">A Higgs boson walks into a church. The priest, offended by its nickname of the "God particle," immediately orders it out.</p>

<p style="padding-left: 30px;">The Higgs shrugs and turns to leave. "Okay," it says. "But without me, you can't have Mass."</p>

<em>Groan!</em>

At least if you know the basics of what the Higgs boson is supposed to do.

If not, listen the episode and find out!

Direct download: 040final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:23pm PDT

In this episode of Catholic Answers Live, Jimmy Akin answers:

What is the history of chapel veils? Why did women stop wearing them?

What is the best resource for helping Catholics understand Scripture?

If I have a lot of debt, should I still tithe 10%? How do we know when to stop tithing and start paying our debts?

Do you think the laity’s attitude toward the priest is still that he is a member of the community, or do people just go to him for the sacraments and then ignore him?

What must I do to be saved?

In The Passion of the Christ, Satan asks, “How can one man bear the full burden of sin?” -- how do Catholics address this question?

Where can I find proof that the Bible comes from the Catholic Church?

What can I do to help my daughter who is dating a Muslim stay strong in her faith?

How long does the sacrament of the anointing of the sick last? Can you receive it more than once? 

What resource do you recommend for information about the permanent diaconate?

Is it disrespectful to refrain from bowing during the Nicene Creed and from striking your breast during the Penitential Rite?

My 24-year-old son always talks about the Vatican’s “corrupt” police force -- can you tell me anything about this?

If I enter into the Catholic Church with a lot of spiritual “baggage,” will that be taken care of before I join, or do I bring it to confession after I become Catholic?

Direct download: ca120712b.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am PDT

If you read some older English translations of the Bible, like the Catholic Douay-Rheims (pub. 1609) or the Protestant King James (pub. 1611) you come across some passages that seem a bit mysterious. For example in the Douay-Rheims, in Psalms 91:11 we read:

"But my horn shall be exalted like that of the unicorn."

In the equivalent verse in the King James (Ps. 92:10) we read:

"But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn."

In reading such passages, you might think, what on earth does that mean? In these cases, the horn is being used as a symbol of strength or vigor. The Psalmist is saying that thanks to God, I'm going to be given a lot of strength and vigor, so praise God.

Fine, but what's this stuff about unicorns? I, mean does this mean unicorns are real?

In this episode we go to the heart of the matter and reveals the startling truth about what the Bible might be referring to in these passages.

We also look at how the word "unicorn" got into these passages in the first place and what ancient but real creature the translators may have been referring to. (Unless you've heard this before, it can come as a real surprise.

Direct download: 039final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:43am PDT

There is a common argument used against the idea of purgatory in some circles which goes like this: "St. Paul says that 'to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord' (2 Cor. 5:8). It's that simple: If you're a Christian and you aren't in your body then you are with Jesus in heaven. There is no room for purgatory in St. Paul's view. Purgatory is just a Catholic fable--a 'man made tradition.'"

Is this true?

It turns out that if you examine what St. Paul really said, the whole argument is based on a misquotation. St. Paul said nothing of the kind.

Furthermore, if you look elsewhere in St. Paul's writings--to the very same church he was addressing in his "absent from the body" passage--you find strong evidence for purgatory.

Far from being a Catholic fable, purgatory is rooted in the thought of the Apostle Paul himself--as I show in this episode.

Direct download: 038final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:59pm PDT

In this episode of the program I answer two questions regarding apostolic succession and whether, in fact, we have an unbroken chain going back to the apostles.

The first question comes from Marci in Mexico, who wonders about the effect that various practices have on the liceity (lawfulness) and validity of episcopal consecrations.

The second question comes from a gentleman who asks about a particular figure from the 1500s--Cardinal Scipione Rebiba--who has a very unusual property: 91% of all modern Catholic bishops trace their episcopal lineage back to him, and we're not entirely sure who ordained Rebiba.

What are the implications of that for apostolic succession.

In the process of answering this, I invite Dr. Andrew Jones of Logos Bible Software on the show. Dr. Jones has a doctorate in medieval history, so this is right up his alley.

In the second half of the show I keep Dr. Jones on the line to update us about current Logos Bible Software projects, including the newly-released Catechism of the Catholic Church set (which you may already have--free of charge) and their forthcoming translations of certain key works by St. Thomas Aquinas that have never been translated into English before. (I'm excited about getting my hands on those!)

Direct download: 037final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:30pm PDT

At some point in their lives, virtually everyone has wondered whether they can be forgiven for what they've done. The good news is, they can!

But sometimes the doubts linger, particularly for people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and particularly in connection with certain passages in the Bible, such as some in the book of Hebrews that deal with the subject of apostasy--the complete rejection of the Christian faith.

Can an apostate be forgiven? If you've ever knowingly and deliberately rejected Christ, will he take you back? And what is the real meaning of those passages in Hebrews?

In this episode Jimmy responds to a gentleman who is struggling with these very issues.

He demonstrates that the Hebrews passages do not mean what the gentleman fears and reveals the infinite mercy of God.

The good news is: No matter what you've done, if you are willing to come back to God, God is eager to take you back. He loves you, and your sins are not greater than his love.

Direct download: 036final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:50pm PDT