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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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A public festivity.

Among the Jews it was held every 49th or 50th year. It was proclaimed with the sound of rams' horns: no servile work was done on it; the land lay untilled; what grew of itself belonged to the poor and needy; whatever debts the Hebrews owed to one another were wholly remitted; hired as well as bond-servants of the Hebrew race obtained their liberty; inheritances reverted to their original proprietors.

See 25th chap. Leviticus. Jubilee, in a more modern sense, denotes a grand church solemnity or ceremony, celebrated at Rome, wherein 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.

Afterwards jubilees became more frequent: there is generally one at the inauguration of a new pope; and the pope 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. One of our kings, viz. Edward III. caused his birth-day to be observed in the manner of a jubilee, when he became fifty years of age in 1362, but never before nor after. This he did by releasing prisoners, pardoning all offences, except treason, making good laws, and granting many privileges to the people. In 1640, the Jesuits celebrated a solemn jubilee at Rome, that being the centenary, or hundredth year from their institution; and the same ceremony was observed in all their houses throughout the world.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Jubilee'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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