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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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among the Jews, denotes every fiftieth year; being that following the revolution of seven weeks of years; at which time all the slaves were made free, and all lands reverted to their ancient owners. The jubilees were not regarded after the Babylonish captivity. The political design of the law of the jubilee was to prevent the too great oppression of the poor, as well as their being liable to perpetual slavery. By this means the rich were prevented from accumulating lands for perpetuity, and a kind of equality was preserved through all the families of Israel. The distinction of tribes was also preserved: in respect both to their families and possessions; that they might be able, when there was occasion, on the jubilee year, to prove their right to the inheritance of their ancestors. Thus, also, it would be known with certainty of what tribe or family the Messiah sprung. It served, also, like the Olympiads of the Greeks, and the Lustra of the Romans, for the readier computation of time. The jubilee has also been supposed to be typical of the Gospel state and dispensation, described by Isaiah 61:1-2 , in reference to this period, as "the acceptable year of the Lord."

The word jubilee, in a more modern sense, denotes a grand church solemnity or ceremony celebrated at Rome, in which the pope grants a plenary indulgence to all sinners; at least, to as many as visit the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome. The jubilee was first established by Boniface VII, in 1300, which was only to return every hundred years; but the first celebration brought in such store of wealth, that Clement VI, in 1343, reduced it to the period of fifty years. Urban VI, in 1389, appointed it to be held every thirty-five years, that being the age of our Saviour; and Paul II, and Sixtus IV, in 1475, brought it down to every twenty-five, that every person might have the benefit of it once in his life. Boniface IX granted the privilege of holding jubilees to several princes and monasteries; for instance, to the monks of Canterbury, who had a jubilee every fifty years; when people flocked from all parts to visit the tomb of Thomas a Becket. Afterward, jubilees became more frequent; there is generally one at the inauguration of a new pope; and he grants them as often as the church or himself have occasion for them. To be entitled to the privileges of the jubilee, the bull enjoins fasting, alms, and prayers. It gives the priests a full power to absolve in all cases even those otherwise reserved to the pope; to make commutations of vows, &c; in which it differs from a plenary indulgence. During the time of jubilee, all other indulgences are suspended.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Jubilee'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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