Expert Answer Forum
Pope Vigilius Question 2 QUESTION from Nicholas Yarberough August 23, 2000 Thank you so much for responding to my first question dealing with Pope Vigilius. Your insight was quite helpful.
I have a two-part question that I hope you can answer. I've been having a dialogue with a person who has beliefs very similar to Seventh Day Adventists. He holds that the Daniel 12:11 prophecy began in 538a.d., which of course I completely disagree with. There are two historical events that his theory hangs on, and no matter how hard I have tried to dig into Church history, I have not been able to unearth a single source on them - and that's why I've come to you. Can you give me any information on these two points..?
1.) He says that Pope Vigilius was 'seated' in Rome in June, 538a.d. I know that he was officially declared Pope on March 29, 537a.d. So the first part of my question is; was there any kind of 'seating' which took place in June of 538a.d. and what was the significance of it?
2.) This is the next part of my question; The man I'm discussing with says that there was a 'commemoration feast' held in June of 538a.d. because of the Pope's 'seating'. So was there a commemoration feast held in June 538a.d., and what was it's significance?
I'd really appreciate your help in this.
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on August 25, 2000 Dear Nick
I am unaware of any kind of seating that took place in 538 A.D.. Whenever your friend makes a historical claim, ask him to back it up with evidence from modern non-Adventist historians. If there was a major event in that year, you can be certain that SOME historian wrote on the matter.
It is can be safely concluded that Vigilius became pope in 537 AD for the simple reason that his predecessor, Pope St. Silverius, was arrested on false charges of treason in March of 537. He was exiled to Lycia. Pope Vigilius was then elected pope in Silverius' absence. The Emperor Justinian received evidence of Silverius' innocence. The latter was allowed to return to Italy. However, Pope Vigilius, with the aid and approval of Empress Theodora, arranged to have Pope Silverius forcibly confined to the island of Palmaria in the Tyrrhenian Sea, near Italy. He died shortly after his arrival. All this occurred in a short space of time. If your Adventist friend has evidence against this, ask him to present a quote from a modern historian who is widely acknowledged as being an expert by fellow historians. This would include university professors and historians whose works are widely quoted by their peers in academic journals and books. Mind you, this will not confound your friend, because he is so certain of his case. But, if your conversation is taking place in a public forum, such as on a message board or a chat, it will certainly give participants and lurkers pause for thought. The point in these discussions is not necessarily to convince the other person. Chances are, you won't, and we as Catholics must develop the humility to accept that sometimes God does not make us the particular instrument of a particular individual's conversion. However, the important thing is to be able to plant a seed; a seed of doubt, or of conviction, whichever leads to the Faith.
Whenever you are faced with an issue that is historically difficult, try to find the angle you can work with. To argue from a historical angle requires a lot of knowledge of facts and interpretations, and sometimes even historiography. If you are going to argue from that angle, make absolutely certain that you know more than your opponent, and that you are sufficiently well versed in the subject. If you get caught up in the historical discussion without knowing the facts or the circumstances behind them, you are falling into the trap that your opponent is setting. If there are so many anti-Catholics in the world, it's because there are so many gullible and ignorant individuals willing to buy their so-called history. If you appear to be just as ignorant as they are, or worse, then you're not making the Catholic case look good to those who may be lurking in on your discussion. Try to find the angle that you can work with. The theological angle is the easiest for most people, especially the Scriptural perspective, because most people have access to the Bible and know something about it. Some people are better with reason. Some people are better at poking holes in people's theories.
But should the discussion turn to history, always remember this: people never look at it objectively, that is, in the secular sense of the word (i.e. without value judgements). There are always value judgments to be made with respect to historical interpretation. What makes Catholic interpretation unique, among other things, is that we claim to know philosophical principles that are objectively true, and that, when history is perceived through these values, you get the most objective interpretation possible. This idea is anathema in secular universities-- interpretations are always assumed to be entirely subjective, or close. And while this does not mean that we will know precisely what occurred, nor that debates on interpretation will end, it means that we will avoid unfounded interpretations.
Thank you for your question.
God Bless, Suzanne
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