Friday, April 04, 2008

Holding Off for Research

Just an update on my thinking and research into the Historical Critical Method. I have decided to hold off while I take a step back and read (in some cases, re-read) some of the Church's documents on Sacred Scripture.

If you would like to join me in the effort, here is an overview of what I'll be delving into. For the encyclicals and Dei Verbum I have provided the opening paragraphs to give a sampling.

Divino Afflante Spiritu
On Holy Scripture
Pius XII - September 30th, 1943

Inspired by the Divine Spirit, the Sacred Writers composed those books, which God, in His paternal charity towards the human race, deigned to bestow on them in order "to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice: that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work."[1] This heaven-sent treasure Holy Church considers as the most precious source of doctrine on faith and morals. No wonder herefore that, as she received it intact from the hands of the Apostles, so she kept it with all care, defended it from every false and perverse interpretation and used it diligently as an instrument for securing the eternal salvation of souls, as almost countless documents in every age strikingly bear witness. In more recent times, however, since the divine origin and the correct interpretation of the Sacred Writings have been very specially called in question, the Church has with even greater zeal and care undertaken their defense and protection. The sacred Council of Trent ordained by solemn decree that "the entire books with all their parts, as they have been wont to be read in the Catholic Church and are contained in the old vulgate Latin edition, are to be held sacred and canonical."[2] In our own time the Vatican Council, with the object of condemning false doctrines regarding inspiration, declared that these same books were to be regarded by the Church as sacred and canonical "not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author, and as such were handed down to the Church herself."[3] When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the "entire books with all their parts" as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as "obiter dicta" and -- as they contended -- in no wise connected with faith, Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, published on November 18 in the year 1893, justly and rightly condemned these errors and safe-guarded the studies of the Divine Books by most wise precepts and rules.

Providentissimus Deus
On the Study of Holy Scripture
Pope Leo XIII - November 18th, 1893

The God of all Providence, Who in the adorable designs of His love at first elevated the human race to the participation of the Divine nature, and afterwards delivered it from universal guilt and ruin, restoring it to its primitive dignity, has in consequence bestowed upon man a splendid gift and safeguard -- making known to him, by supernatural means, the hidden mysteries of His Divinity, His wisdom and His mercy. For although in Divine revelation there are contained some things which are not beyond the reach of unassisted reason, and which are made the objects of such revelation in order "that all may come to know them with facility, certainty, and safety from error, yet not on this account can supernatural Revelation be said to be absolutely necessary; it is only necessary because God has ordinated man to a supernatural end."[1] This supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, is contained both in unwritten Tradition, and in written Books, which are therefore called sacred and canonical because, "being written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author and as such have been delivered to the Church."[2] This belief has been perpetually held and professed by the Church in regard to the Books of both Testaments; and there are well-known documents of the gravest kind, coming down to us from the earliest times, which proclaim that God, Who spoke first by the Prophets, then by His own mouth, and lastly by the Apostles, composed also the Canonical Scriptures,[3] and that these are His own oracles and words[4] -- a Letter, written by our heavenly Father, and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race in its pilgrimage so far from its heavenly country.[5] If, then, such and so great is the excellence and the dignity of the Scriptures, that God Himself has composed them, and that they treat of God's marvelous mysteries, counsels and works, it follows that the branch of sacred Theology which is concerned with the defense and elucidation of these divine Books must be excellent and useful in the highest degree.

Dei Verbum
Dogmatic Constitution on Holy Scripture
Second Vatican Council - November 18th, 1965

Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred synod takes its direction from these words of St. John: "We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:2-3). Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love. (1)

Inter Pracipuas
On Bible Societies
May 8th, 1844

Among the special schemes with which non-Catholics plot against the adherents of Catholic truth to turn their minds away from the faith, the biblical societies are prominent. They were first established in England and have spread far and wide so that We now see them as an army on the march, conspiring to publish in great numbers copies of the books of divine Scripture.These are translated into all kinds of vernacular languages for dissemination without discrimination among both Christians and infidels.Then the biblical societies invite everyone to read them unguided. Therefore it is just as Jerome complained in his day:[l] they make the art of understanding the Scriptures without a teacher"common to babbling old women and crazy old men and verbose sophists," and to anyone who can read, no matter what his status. Indeed, what is even more absurd and almost unheard of, they do not exclude the common people of the infidels from sharing this kind of a knowledge.

First Vatican Council on Sacred Scripture
Decrees of the Council of Trent

Church Fathers

Major Church Pronouncements on Sacred Scripture


Moonshadow said...

Please don't overlook this one:

"The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church"

when Cardinal Ratzinger was president.

Matt said...

You know, I did overlook it. But overlook it no more I shall! :-)

Moonshadow said...

The IBC is a heck of a lot easier to read than those other documents. I mean, please read all but you won't be sorry about the IBC.

Matt said...

Traditionalists are used to reading documents with hard to read English! ;-)

I read Inter Praecipuas earlier and it gave me chills. It was a re-read for me, but I do love the old stuff.

Moonshadow said...

I'm glad you referenced that one, Inter Pracipuas, because I was unfamiliar with it and am interested in it ...

Matt said...

I referenced it mainly because I wanted to highlight and look into a historical period in the Church with regards to Scripture Study.

However I believe it still bears some application today, albeit differently, since it has now become a "Papal Blue Law".

bilbannon said...

You've picked a good topic but one with tears ahead for you because the most prominent Catholic modern biblical expert was Fr. Raymond Brown and he was a mix of a blessing and a curse. In his "Birth of the Messiah" on and around page 349, he takes the position that Mary never said the Magnificat and that Luke stuck it in the gospel to make it look more official and Old Testament-like because other women in the OT gave such poetic speeches on setting out on a mission of God...(more properly redactional criticism in this exact case). But his little book "The Community of the Beloved Disciple" using the same modern techniques was actually good and explained certain problems in John's gospel: A) why are all the complimentary and flattering John promoting passages only in John and not in the other gospels? B) why does John put the cleansing of the temple in the beginning of the gospel and in the beginning of the ministry while Matthew puts it at the end? Brown's theory that John began the gospel but died during the writing of it explains a lot since a redactor would have had to finish it at a time in their history when the schismatics from that community were disparaging John so as to lead people to themselves as leaders (see epistles... "those who left us were not of us").
Ergo the redactor put in true but John promoting passages and terms ..."beloved"...first to the tomb as he and Peter ran to it....middleman between Peter and maid at Caiphas' house...leaning on Christ at last supper....all of which the other gospels don't mention but John does or rather his redactor did in order to fight the disparagements of the schismatics. (Here then the historico-critical method joined to redaction criticism).

So Fr. Raymond Brown could be a good author to read: "Community of the Beloved Disciple" (redactor told truths that John would not have told due to humility...and redactor misplaced cleansing of temple since John had died and could not be consulted as to when it happened) and Fr. Raymond Brown could be less than good as an author to read: "Birth of the Messiah" in the Magnificat case where the motive for Luke-(were Brown correct)- is really lying salesmanship as promoting gospel....through making the NT incident look like the OT artificially.

Brown and the modern biblical techniques are thus a mixed bag but some of such authors like Brown were so knowledgeable about Biblical minutiae and languages, that no one including Popes felt capable of contradicting them and thus Brown was appointed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission under both Paul VI and John Paul II even though some Catholic clergy raised questions about them which you can probably google.
Here is one link:

Matt said...

Hi Bilbannon,

Actually I don't think I'm in for tears. Ever since I became a Catholic, my faith in the Bible has changed to be more along the lines of St. Augustine's famous quote (paraphrased here: "I wouldn't believe a word of Scripture if the Catholic Church did not tell me it was true.")

Somewhere along my conversion road I came the conclusion all by my lonesome of this fact, that the reason scripture is scripture is because the Catholic Church says so.

As I study these docs, (almost done with Prov. Deus now and started IBC - its slow going!) I am coming to a better appreciation of the Scriptures.

I should post an update on my progress through this and I think I'll do that in a little bit here. Thing is, I want to do this right which is why I am not blathering all over the screen and making an idiot of myself.

bilbannon said...

Check the link at the bottom of my first post though. It will show that there are differences within Catholicism. Catholicism is safe within the infallibly treated scriptures. But Catholicism can have its dramas outside that realm and the link will show you that such happens and gives a good synopsis of some of the people involved in ths one.

Moonshadow said...

In his "Birth of the Messiah" on and around page 349, [Brown] takes the position that Mary never said the Magnificat and that Luke stuck it in the gospel to make it look more official ...

This isn't a defense of Fr. Brown because he doesn't need me to do that ...

There's considerable politics in bilbannon's link. Is CUA more prestigious than St. John's? Maybe some alum will weigh in. But still, it's just politics.

In reading Brown, be aware that his research and writing represents ongoing dialogue with the usual antagonist of his day, liberal Protestant scriptural scholarship. In so far as these liberal scholars made their argument, Brown had to acknowledge it ... for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which, it kept him in the dialogue, exercising a Catholic influence over the conversation.

The real genius of Brown is how, after acknowledging something that, by rights, ought to undermine the very fabric of Scriptural authority in the life of the Church, Brown is able to turn the tables, turn the apparent defect or weakness of Scripture to the Church's (and, consequently his own) advantage.

Granted, there's a degree of hyperbole in what I've just said - seems only fair in light of the charges: Brown's human and imperfect. But, and I can't find my copy of Birth (or maybe I have Death), I wonder whether something hasn't been taken out of context.

That is to say, this doesn't sound like the Fr. Brown I know who, reportedly, Pope Benedict (wiki) thinks the Church could use more of. This is off-topic and I'm not picking a fight. Just sharing what I know.

Incidentally, bilbannon got his negative link from this same wiki page.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton