Dominus Jesus
Outreach to All Descendants of Adam and Eve

Anthony Zimmerman
Not published
August 7, 1995
Reproduced with Permission

The magnificent declaration Dominus Jesus joyfully intones the theme of the Church for the new millennium, resounding ancient truth anew with the authentic harmony of the swinging bells of St. Peters. Like Isaiah, it invites us to magnify our vision, to expand our zone of action, to think globally: "Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities" (54:2-3). Call now into the world, invite all peoples of all religions into the Church. For through Dominus Jesus, and none other, comes this call to religious unity. For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven ... and his presence is among us from ancient times even until now (cf. DJ No.1 and No.12).

If we dare say it, the new millennium bids us to mainstream the media, to skirt past dialogue, and to commune directly with the masses. For all peoples who cherish grace and revelation - though many know it not - are our Christian cousins, are graced members of our Christian global family, are under tutorship by Christ. As DJ proclaims, the supernatural truths of their beliefs are ours also, and even their books contain paragraphs from our books: "The sacred books of other religions, which in actual fact direct and nourish the existence of their followers, receive from the mystery of Christ the elements of goodness and grace which they contain" (DJ No. 8). Also, the "many elements (that) can be found of sanctification and truth ... derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church" (No. 16).

Whatsoever is of heavenly origin, then, is the rich heritage of the Church, whether located within her visible boundaries or still outside of them. "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there s anything worthy of praise" (Phil 4:8), all this wealth of the spirit is ours within the Church.

Not one iota, not one dot or tittle of the Original Revelation which Christ entrusted once and for all to our first parents in Paradise, was lost when Christ re-located and up-dated it in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Is it not from this durable Primeval Revelation containing "Ten Commandments of Eden" that bits and parts of "what is true and holy" survives in various religions of the world today? Shall we be surprised that we discover scattered around the globe a "manner of life and conduct, the precepts and teachings, which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men" (DJ No.2). The CCC reminds us that the Primeval Revelation continued to instruct mankind after the Fall:

54 "God, who creates and conserves all things by his Word, provides men with constant evidence of himself in created realities. And furthermore, wishing to open up the way to heavenly salvation, he manifested himself to our first parents from the very beginning." He invited them to intimate communion with himself and clothed them with resplendent grace and justice.

55 This revelation was not broken off by our first parent's sin. "After the fall, (God) buoyed them up with the hope of salvation by promising redemption; and he has never ceased to show his solicitude for the human race. For he wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing."

Divine adoption is contingent upon the Incarnation

Only because Christ became man did God find it appropriate to invite man to intimate communion with Himself, clothing him with resplendent grace and justice: "The Fathers have laid great stress on this soteriological dimension of the mystery of the Incarnation: it is only because the Son of God truly became man that man, in him and through him, can truly become God" (Novo Millenio Ineunte No. 23). We proclaim the Dominus Jesus who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of our salvation.

Irenaeus intuited that God did not deem it proper to raise humans to the state of grace and divine adoption unless the Son of God would first become one of us. "For this reason did the Word of God became man ... that man, mingled with the Word of God would receive adoption and become a son of God. For we could not otherwise have received imperishability and immortality unless we had been joined to imperishability and immortality. And how could we have been united with imperishability and immortality unless imperishability and immortality had first been made what we are, so that what was perishable might be absorbed by imperishability and what was mortal by immortality, and so receive the adoption of sons?" (Adversus Haereses,III, 19.1, trans. by author).

If, then, God would have been loathe to give His grace to any man, unless Christ had first assumed our nature, we can go one step farther and acknowledge that the creation of the cosmos itself, beginning with the big bang, would never have come about unless Dominus Jesus had come to pave the way for our adoption into Gods family. For without the possibility of our divine adoption, the cosmos would seem to be a mere plaything lacking in appropriateness for creative action by God. We look thankfully to Dominus Jesus, then, as the raison detre of the cosmos, as the key to our own personal creation and existence. Moreover, it is in Christ before He entered time, that God forged our individual personalities and prepared our good works; "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10).

The Declaration Dominus Jesus highlights a link between all supernatural religion on the face of the earth and the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Although DJ does not deal explicitly with the Original Revelation in Eden, the logic of the document links it to Christ. (But if so inclined, a reader may see the activity of Christ as beginning only after the Fall of Adam). In either case, the heartwarming vision dawns upon us that Jesus has been in touch with humanity - with His own people - in various forms and guises, from the time of Adam and Eve down through the ages until today.

Saint Irenaeus identifies the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity as the one who walked with Adam and Eve in Paradise before the Fall, who also appeared in various divine apparitions recorded in the Old Testament:

And so fair and goodly was the Garden, the Word of God was constantly walking in it; He would walk around and talk with the man, prefiguring what was to come to pass in the future, how He would become mans fellow, and talk with him, and come among mankind teaching them justice" (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching,12, trans. Joseph F. Smith, S.J.).

St. Paul states, in harmony with this thought of Irenaeus, that Christ nourished the Israelites with spiritual food and drink during their sojourn in the desert: "All ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ" (1 Cor 10:4).

We lift our eyes, then, to contemplate the activities of Christ before His appearance in Bethlehem. Irenaeus writes to josh us for our insular mentality, and to open our eyes instead to the horizon-spanning scope of Christ's salvation: "For Christ did not come just for those who believed him from the times of Tiberius Caesar, nor did the Father exercise his providence just for the men who live now, but for all the men who from the beginning feared and loved God as they were able and lived in justice and piety toward their neighbors and desired to see Christ and hear his voice. Therefore at his second coming he will awaken all these and raise them up before the others, that is, before those who will be judged, and he will establish them in his kingdom (Adv. Haer. IV,22.2, trans. Robert Grant). Again: "`No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him (Mt 11:27). The word `reveal' does not have just a future meaning, as if the Word only began to manifest the Father when He was born of Mary; it has a general meaning and applies to the whole of time. From the beginning the Son has been present to His handiwork, and reveals the Father to all, to whom He wills, and when He wills, and as the Father wills" (IV, 6.7 trans. John Saward).

The very first one that Christ came to save was assuredly Adam who was to be His ancestor, continues Irenaeus. "Therefore, when the enemy was conquered in turn, Adam received life again. `For the last enemy to be destroyed is death' (1 Cor 15:26). That could not be written truthfully unless the man who was first overcome by death would be freed from it. His salvation, then, is the emptying of death" (III, 23,7, trans. Grant). Pope John Paul II notes also with approval that Christ "in Himself `recapitulates Adam, in whom all humanity can see itself, transforms him into a child of God and restores him to full communion with the Father" (Wednesday Audience, 14 February 2001). Recapitulation of Adam necessarily includes salvation of Adam.

Pope John Paul II does not hesitate today to call the original gift that God gave to Adam and Eve by the name of sanctifying grace:

When the Council of Trent teaches that the first Adam lost the holiness and righteousness in which he had been established ... this means that before sin, man possessed sanctifying grace with all the supernatural gifts that make man "righteous" before God. We may sum all this up by saying that, at the beginning, man was in friendship with God (Catechesis, 3 September 1986).

Adam and Eve, hunter-gatherers

We can assume from this saying of the Pope that when Adam and Eve converted after the Fall, Christ restored to them the gift of sanctifying grace, and that thereafter they lived holy lives. Sirach praises Adam lavishly: "Adam, above every living being in the creation." Irenaeus holds him up as a model for having learned by his mistake. Christ, with pride in His ancestors, spoke of their monogamous family life, superior even to the lifestyle that Moses allowed (Mt 19; Mk 10). We must suppose that they tried to remain faithful to the Covenant after their conversion, and to educate their children in it. Their lifestyle was likely hunting and gathering, the global pattern until various populations discovered and turned to herding and agriculture about 10,000 years ago (anachronisms in Genesis notwithstanding). The hunting and gathering lifestyle typically authenticated monogamous family life with its division of labor and intimacy with the children. It also tended to nurture a spirit of gratitude to the Creator for His plentiful gifts in field and forest. We, who are descendants of many generations of hunter-gatherers, have inherited not only their lifestyle of monogamous family life, but very likely also some of the authentic religious values which God first revealed to our first parents. Every generation must validate anew the heritage received, and fortunate are we whose parents and ancestors retained the faith. As generation after generation lived on and populated the whole world, tribes which preserved the discipline of the original commandments tended to survive while others went into extinction.

Belief in the Supreme Being among hunter-gatherers

Information on hunter-gatherer life is massively available in the twelve tomes of anthropologist Father Wilhelm Schmidt, SVD (1868-1954) titled Der Ursprung der Gottes Idee,and from its documented sources. We pause to savor the words and practices of some of them as reported by anthropologists. Ernest Brandewie, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Indiana University, provides us with a translation of great passages from Schmidt in his book Wilhelm Schmidt and the Origin of the Idea of God, (University Press of America, 1983); see also my books Evolution and the Sin in Eden, and The Primeval Revelation, University Press of America, now posted on the site: . Some of these hunter-gatherers amaze us with their faith in God, their zeal for His commandments, and their hope for heaven:

The time that the great Supreme Being spent on earth living intimately with man shortly after He, the Boundless Good, had filled His creation with goodness until it overflowed (cf. p. 404) was considered to be the best of all times on this earth, according to the beliefs common to this oldest era. People looked back to this time as to a lost island of bliss with painful longing, a longing they now believe will be satisfied when the souls of the good will live in heaven; life in heaven, not on this earth, will reestablish that golden age. We find glowing descriptions of this coming heavenly paradise among the Maidu, the Lenape-Delaware, the Salis, the Wiradyuri and the Kamilaroi...They give us an idea about the rapture under which the earliest men viewed the heavenly sojourn which the blessed deserve and spend with their Creator and Judge (Schmidt Vol. V, p. 472, Brandewie p. 272).

Older members of the Ona Indians of Tierra del Fuego, for example, described the Supreme Being as follows: Temaukl has always been alone, and has no wife nor children. He is a Spirit, a Kaspi, like human beings after they die. He neither eats nor drinks; no one can explain how He keeps Himself alive. He never feels tired, does not sleep. He lives above the firmament beyond the stars. He never comes down to earth, but He sees and knows all that goes on here. No one can hide from Him, because He sees everyone and everything. He hears exactly what everyone says, knows even what one thinks and intends. Temaukl is the originator of all the prescriptions and regulations by which the lives of individuals are arranged, and by which relations with others are ordained.

At the time of death the soul of a person, the Kaspi, is called by Temaukl, and goes up to heaven where Temaukl lives. But the Ona Indians know nothing about conditions in heaven, whether they associate with Temaukl, or with each other. They know only that the souls do not return to this earth, so they have no fear of them. It is only the souls of sorcerers who do not go to heaven; these stay on earth to roam about until they enter another sorcerer.

To live peacefully with Temaukl it is necessary to observe all His commandments exactly. Then Temaukl protects the person, who can be very confident. (Summarized by the author from Schmidt II, 892-7; pages 34-35 of the authors The Primeval Revelation.)

How the Lenape Indians worship the Supreme Being

The Lenape tribes who inhabited far-flung areas of the Delaware River Basin made a pact with William Penn, Governor of Pennsylvania in 1682. Their celebration of twelve days of thanksgiving in autumn is well documented. A sample of a thanksgiving prayer to the Creator is this passage as recited by Chief Elkhaar:

Man has a spirit, and the body seems to be a coat for that spirit. That is why people should take care of their spirits, so as to reach Heaven and be admitted to the Creator's dwelling. We are given some length of time to live on earth, and then our spirits must go. When anyone's time comes to leave this earth, he should go to Gicelemu'kaong feeling good on the way. We ought to pray to Him, to prepare ourselves for days to come so that we can be with Him after leaving the earth...

When we reach that place, we shall not have to do anything or worry about anything, only live a happy life. We know there are many of our fathers who have left this earth and are now in this happy place in the Land of the Spirits. When we arrive we shall see our fathers, mothers, children, and sisters there, and when we have prepared ourselves so that we can go to where our parents and children are, we feel happy. Everything looks more beautiful there than here; everything looks new, and the waters and fruits and everything are lovely.

No sun shines there, but a light much brighter than the sun; the Creator makes it brighter by His power. All people who die here, young and old, will be of the same age there; and those who are injured, crippled, or made blind will look as good as the rest of them. It is nothing but the flesh that is injured; the spirit is as good as ever. That is the reason people are told to help always the cripples or the blind. Whatever you do for them will surely bring us reward. Whatever you do for anybody will bring you credit hereafter. Whenever we think the thoughts that Gicelemu'kaong has given us it will do us good. (M. R. Harrington, Religion and Ceremonies of the Lenape, in Indian Notes and Monographs,New York, Heye Foundation, 1921, 87-93).

Surely not all hunter-gatherers were fervent monotheists until a modern lifestyle began 10,000 years ago, but anthropological records indicate that worship of a Supreme Being was widespread or even predominant throughout the hunter-gatherer populations for uncounted generations.

Vatican document on Traditional Religions

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a seminal document on Traditional Religions on November 21, 1993, which highlights the widespread recognition of the Supreme Being on local levels. By Traditional Religions the document refers to folk religions which have survived in their original socio-cultural environment. Traditional in this sense means preserved in the localized cultural matrix. The document states that these Traditional Religions embody "a clear belief in One God, in a Supreme Being who goes by such names as Great Spirit, Creator, the Great One, the Mighty Spirit, the Divine, the Transcendent, the One who lives above, Heaven, etc." (No. 3).

A parallel "clear belief" in a Supreme Being likewise blossoms in the hearts of many individual members of the great world religions, whether this belief is associated with the cults or overlaid by them superficially.

Common origin of supernatural faith in the primeval revelation

The widespread existence in society of these traits of Traditional Religions suggests derivation from a common revealed and supernatural source in the remote past. The supernatural elements indicate a divine origin, not a religion made merely by human ingenuity. Despite foreign and inauthentic accretions, distortions, cultural colorings, beliefs are basically anchored in a Supreme Being, who is absolute truth, and whose moral commands are intrinsically good, universal, and unchanging. This common and world-wide awareness of the Supreme Being continues to nourish goodness in the human family today as it did for so long in hunter-gatherer days. It is open to further development and perfection through acceptance of the Gospel. We are probably not wrong if we view the indicated world religions as essentially rooted in the ancient Primeval Revelation, which different cultures and subsequent human founders then built upon or modified in various ways.

We know that Christ lives in the souls of those who believe in what is a supernatural revelation about the Supreme Being, and who follow the commandments they know with the help of His grace. Many of them, by reason of culture and history, are ignorant of Christ and oft-times hostile to Christianity for political and cultural reasons. But Christ is patient, is kind, is charitable and continues to work in individuals with His Spirit for their eternal salvation. He awaits that we help them to come to the Church now, with its full-bodied revelation and means of grace.

But if Christ is already the Savior of these people outside the boundaries of His visible Church, why does He nevertheless give the command to evangelize the world? For He speaks to us still: "Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Assuredly His reasons are authentic, are wise, are loving.

Christ has "compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt 9:36). In the Church He draws close to His people, and they to Him. He authenticates there, through Peter, the Liturgy, the doctrine, the Sacraments, the commandments. He makes present again in their midst His love for them on the cross, his joy in the Resurrection. "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" (Lk 22:15). He rejoices during Mass through human companionship with believers, as with the Apostles at the Last Supper. He calls those who are idle to also work in the vineyard. He builds up with them the world-Catholic community of love, and rejoices in the mutual bonds of intimacy, of home-life: "How good it is and how pleasant, when brothers live in unity!" Christ loves this people whom He created: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Mt:23:37). Christ speaks to missionaries: "Speak and do not be silent; for I am with you ... I have many people in this city" (Acts: 18:9-10).

We pray: May the darkness of ignorance and the night of original sin vanish before the light of the Word and the Spirit of grace. And may Dominus Jesus live in the hearts of men.