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|Manuel Lacunza Diaz SJ|
|Born||July 19, 1731|
|Died||c. 18 June 1801|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2011)|
|Manuel Lacunza Diaz SJ|
|Born||July 19, 1731|
|Died||c. 18 June 1801|
Manuel Diaz Lacunza S.J. (born Santiago, Chile, 1731; died Imola, Italy around June 18, 1801) was a Jesuit priest who used the pen-name Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra for his main work on the interpretation of the prophecies of the Bible.
The son of Charles and Josefa Diaz, wealthy merchants engaged in colonial trade between Lima and Chile, Manuel entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1747. After the usual training in a seminary he took his full vows and was ordained priest in 1766 but began his service as a teacher of grammar in the Colegio Máximo de San Miguel in the Chilean capital, where he gained moderate fame as a pulpit orator.
In 1767 King Charles III of Spain expelled the Jesuits from Spain and its possessions, (including South America) and Lacunza was sent into exile, first in Cadiz and then in the Italian town of Imola, near Bologna in central Italy, where he found refuge with other Chilean Jesuits. Charles threatened to withdraw his subsidy of 100 piastres per annum if any Jesuit wrote in self-defence or in criticism of this move. Lacunza's life as a priest-in-exile was made more difficult when the next pope, Pope Clement XIV, issued the brief, Dominus ac Redemptor, which banned Jesuits from celebrating Mass or other sacraments. In addition, his family in Chile fell on hard times and the remittances on which Lacunza relied became increasingly scarce.
During this time Lacunza began an intensive programme of study, first of the Church Fathers and then of Biblical prophecies. He read all the commentaries available to him and after 1779 restricted his study solely to the Scriptures.
After five years communal living with the other exiled Jesuits, Lacunza retired to a house on the outskirts of Imola where he lived alone, apart from a mysterious person whom he calls in his letters, "my good mulatto". During this time some of his Jesuit colleagues described him as "a man whose retirement from the world, his parsimonious way of life, the neglect of his own person, even from the comforts necessary to human life, and his indefatigable application to study, earned him the respect and admiration of all".
In 1773 Lacunza received another blow when, by the bull "Dominus ac Redemptor", the pope dissolved the Jesuit order in return for territorial concessions by France and Spain who were threatening the Papal States, the so-called "Patrimony of St Peter". Thus, by decree, Lacunza was reduced to a secular status.
Combined with the theological and Biblical study he had undertaken, this personal trauma led Lacunza to adopt a millenarial view of the near future. His developing ideas were first published in a 22-page tract known as "The Anonymous Millennium" which was widely circulated in South America (there is evidence that Lacunza did not authorise this publication and was annoyed by it). The tract gave rise to heated public debate, particularly in Buenos Aires. Lacunza's opponents denounced him to the Inquisition, which banned the booklet.
In 1790 Lacunza completed the three volumes of his major work, "The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty" (La venida del Mesías en gloria y majestad). Recognising that royal patronage was the surest guarantee that his work would be published and that he would be protected against his enemies, he made repeated attempts to obtain approval by the Spanish court, but in this he was unsuccessful. However his book circulated in manuscript form in Spain and in the whole of South America.
The exact date of his death is uncertain because his body was found in a pit beside a road some distance from Imola. At the time it was assumed that the septuagenarian priest had died of natural causes while on one of his solitary walks.
Despite the prohibition of the Inquisition, "La venida del Mesías en gloria y majestad" was secretly printed in Cadiz in 1810 or 1811 under the Jewish pseudonym of Rabbi Juan Josaphat ben-Ezra. A second edition was printed in Spain in 1812 and a third, in Castilian and funded by the Argentine General Manuel Belgrano, was published in London in 1816. In the same year the book was denounced before the Spanish courts and on January 15, 1819 the Spanish Inquisition ordered that the book be removed from circulation. Further editions were printed in Mexico in 1821/1822, in Paris in 1825 and again in London in 1826.
In September 1824 Pope Leo XII placed it on the Index of Prohibited Books. Those who opposed the book expressed particular concern about the appeal Lacunza's ideas exerted among the more conservative and active clergy. A pamphlet denouncing Lacunza's book, published in Madrid in 1824, was subtitled, "Observations to Guard the Public against the Seduction the Work can Cause".
Following the book's publication in London, the Rev Edward Irving, founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church, came across Lacunza's work and was so impressed by it that he studied Castilian for the sole purpose of translating it into English. In 1827 his two-volume translation was published under the title "The Coming of the Messiah".
Lacunza's interpretation of Bible prophecies differed from that of William Miller and other prominent Protestants of the day who were focused on prophecy in that he espoused Futurism and his ideas had greater influence on British premillennialism, and his influence may be traced in premillennialism's drift into Futurist Dispensationalism.
Lacunza believed that he had made some "new discoveries, real, solid, undeniable, and of the greatest importance" for the discipline of theology.
The first of these "new discoveries" was that the end of the world would not be an instantaneous destruction of God's creation. He denied "that the world - that is, the material bodies or celestial globes that God has created (among which is the one on which we live) - has to have an end or return to chaos or nothingness ... This idea is not found often in Scripture before the opposite idea is stated and I agree with the best interpreters."
Secondly, Lacunza concluded that the Biblical expressions "end of the age" and "end of the world" refer to two different times. He understood the "end of the age" or "day of the Lord" as merely the end of a phase of human history that would be closed by the coming of Christ and the beginning of His kingdom on Earth. At this time the living would be judged and the Jews converted, after which a new society would be established for a thousand-year reign of justice and peace.
Lacunza believed - based on his reading of Bible prophecy - that during the period before the "day of the Lord" there would be a general apostasy of the Catholic Church which would make it part of the Antichrist. In this sense "the church" was not individuals, but "a moral body" composed of all the apostates and atheists. Naturally this view was especially controversial because it placed the official church on the wrong side in the final struggle between Good and Evil. It was this belief that finally brought about the Vatican's condemnation of his work.
On the other hand, the "end of the world" was marked by the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgement, which Lacunza understood involved a transmutation of the physical world to the plane of the eternal. This event would take place after the thousand years of Christ's earthly kingdom.
Lacunza's various works are valuable as a record of the experience of exile and intellectual persecution. His personal letters have come to be highly valued in his birthplace of Chile owing to its recent history of exile and persecution.
For example, he wrote of his fellow exiles: "We are like a tree that is perfectly dry and unable to revive, or like a dead body that is buried in oblivion. ... Meanwhile we are slowly dying off. We left Chile 352 in number; now just half are left and most of them are sick and can barely move - like a quack doctor's horse."
The longing of the exile for his homeland can be heard in his declaration, "No one can know Chile until he has lost it!"