PASCAL: Pensées [Numbers 607-610, 613, 619-620, 631, 640, 644, 673, 675, 684, 692-693, 737, 760, 768, 792-793]

Pensées by Pascal

607 – Jews and Christians

  • Carnal Jews believe that the Messiah would be a temporal prince. Carnal Christians believe that the Messiah gave us sacraments which will do everything without our help. These two sects are both mistaken. True Jews and true Christians believe that the Messiah makes them love God, and triumph over their enemies by their love of God.

608 – Heathens, Jews, and Christians

  • The heathens do not know God, and only the love the world. The Jews know the true God, but only love the world. The Christians know the true God, and do not love the world.

609 – Spiritual and Corporeal

  • There are two kinds of men in every religion – carnal and spiritual.

610 – True Religion

  • The one true religion consists only in making the believer love God. It does not consist in covenants, sacraments, temples, churches, etc.
  • True Jews and true Christians have the same religion.

613 – Perpetuity

  • The religion of believing that man has fallen from a state of grace and communion with God into a state of sorrow, but will be restored by a Messiah has always existed on earth.
  • The Greeks, Latins, and philosophers created thousands of Gods, ceremonies, rites, sects, etc. The people of Judea always were guided by men who foretold the coming of the Messiah who was known only to them.
  • This religion has been on the eve of its own destruction thousands of times, and every time it has been in this state, God has preserved it.

619 – Perpetuity

  • Christianity was founded upon the Jewish religion. Only the Jewish religion has held fast to its principles. Other moralities have changed, but the Jewish law was the first and best.

620 – Advantages of the Jewish People

  • The Jewish people are descended from one man; and thus they are one flesh and constitute a powerful state of one family. This is unique.
  • The Jews ought to be revered for their antiquity and endurance. They have withstood many attempts to destroy them.

In some of the preceding thoughts, Pascal uses the perseverance of the Jewish and Christian religions as evidence of its divine nature. In my opinion, this is not persuasive. While it is impressive that the main principle of the Jewish and Christian religions – i.e. there is one true God – has withstood many assaults, it does not necessarily mean that it is more true than a less antiquated belief system.

631 – Sincerity of the Jews

  • They preserve the book of Moses although it declares that they are ungrateful to God, and will be ungrateful to God in the future.

640 – Misery of the Jews

  • “It is a wonderful thing, and worthy of particular attention, to see this Jewish people existing so many years in perpetual misery, it being necessary as a proof of Jesus Christ both that they should exist to prove Him and that they should be miserable because they crucified Him; and though to be miserable and to exist are contradictory, they nevertheless still exist in spite of their misery.”

644 – Flood

  • Pascal claims that the biblical flood signifies God’s ability to save the world.

673 – Representation

  • The Jewish religion is only a representation of the truth. The truth is only revealed in Heaven.

675 – Miracles

  • The visible miracles of the Bible are assurances that God can perform the more important invisible miracle of eternal communion with God – i.e. eternal bliss.

684 – Contradiction

  • Only Jesus Christ can reconcile all the contradictions of human nature and the universe.

692 – Good and Evil

  • “Let those who believe that the good of man is in the flesh, and evil in what turns him away from sensual pleasures, satiate themselves with them, and die in them. But let those who seek God with all their heart, who are only troubled at not seeing Him, who desire only to possess Him and have as enemies only those who turn them away from Him, who are grieved at seeing themselves surrounded and overwhelmed with such enemies, take comfort. I proclaim to them happy news. There exists a Redeemer for them. I shall show Him to them. I shall show that there is a God for them. I shall not show Him to others. I shall make them see that a Messiah has been promised, who should deliver them from their enemies, and that One has come to free them from their iniquities, but not from their enemies.”
  • When the prophets foretell of a Messiah who will deliver the people from their enemies, the prophet intend ‘enemies’ to mean their own sins; for sins are enemies to the goodness of men.

This is an interesting passage. Pascal explains that the temporal interpretation of the prophecy of a Messiah who will deliver the chosen people from their physical enemies – e.g. warring factions, tyrants, murderers, etc. – are mistaken. ‘Enemies’ mean the people’s own sins. Sins, or vices, are the true enemies of the people. In order for a man to enter into the presence of God, he must be purified of sin. Only then can he be reconciled to God for eternity. This reconciliation is achieved through the act of Jesus.

693 – Fulfillment of Prophecies

  • The fulfillment of prophecies proves the validity of Christianity.

“When I see the blindness and the wretchedness of man, when I regard the whole silent universe and man without light, left to himself and, as it were, lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who has put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him at death, and incapable of all knowledge, I become terrified, like a man who should be carried in his sleep to a dreadful desert island and should awake without knowing where he is and without means of escape. And thereupon I wonder how people in a condition so wretched do not fall into despair. I see other persons around me of a like nature. I ask them if they are better informed than I am. They tell me that they are not. And thereupon these wretched and lost beings, having looked around them and seen some pleasing objects, have given and attached themselves to them. For my own part, I have not been able to attach myself to them, and, considering how strongly it appears that there is something else than what I see, I have examined whether this God has not left some sign of Himself.

‑‑I see many contradictory religions, and consequently all false save one. Each wants to be believed on its own authority, and threatens unbelievers. I do not therefore believe them. Every one can say this; every one can call himself a prophet.

‑‑ But I see that Christian religion wherein prophecies are fulfilled; and that is what every one cannot do.”

737 – Proofs of Jesus Christ

  • It is right that God should only reveal himself to those who are pure.
  • The assertion that man’s nature is corrupt, but that there will be a Redeemer is convincing.
  • An entire nation foretells of Jesus before his coming.

“I live with joy, whether in the prosperity which it pleases Him to bestow upon me, or in the adversity which He sends for my good, and which He has taught me to bear by His example.”

In this thought, Pascal expresses sentiments which are very similar to the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius. Pascal states that he lives in joy whether in prosperity or adversity. In the words of Marcus Aurelius, Pascal cheerfully accepts all that happens as according to nature/God.

760 – Why the Jews Reject Jesus

  • Some Jews eject Jesus because he was crucified. The Jews believed that the Messiah would defeat their temporal enemies, not be defeated and slain himself.

768 – Jesus and Joseph, son of Israel

  • Jesus and Joseph lived similar lives, but Joseph foretold freedom to the elect and condemnation for the sinful, while Jesus fulfills the prophecy.

792 – Renown

  • The Jews foretold the coming of Jesus, and the Gentiles worshipped Him after His coming. He is the center of all, and yet he never enjoyed this sense of renown. Of thirty three years, He lived thirty in obscurity. During the last three years of His life, He was rejected, betrayed, abandoned, and crucified.
  • His renown was only for us, to render us capable of recognizing Him. He enjoyed none of it.

793 – Aphorisms

  • As there is an infinite distance between body and mind, there is also an infinite distance between mind and charity; for charity is supernatural.
  • The glory of greatness has no appeal to people who are in seeking understanding.
  • The greatness of clever men is invisible to the great men of the world – kings, rich men, etc.
  • The greatness of wisdom, which is God, is invisible to the carnal people.

The greatness of geniuses is not seen with the eye, but with the mind. Geniuses have no need of earthly greatness. One ought not to take offense at Jesus’ lowliness. His greatness did not consist in earthly greatness.

Pensées by Pascal

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