Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Study Continues...

I haven't forgotten my promised scripture post on Historical-Critical criticism. I have pondered writing it up several times but for one I haven't had time to do it justice and for two the more I read the more my opinion develops. Last week I checked out of my parish library "Where we got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church", published by TAN Books to see if I could glean any more insights from it. Since it has to go back, the clock is ticking on that one.

Tick tick tick...

But perhaps I should give you where I stand at the moment eh? Here goes, I'm going to keep it short so I don't make a fool out of myself later down the line by having to retract something...:-)

Matt's opinion as of 5/28/2008:

The Bible was not written to be picked apart by the Historical Critical Method. That's why it ultimately falls short and can never fulfill its goal. The Holy Father is right to say that its use is therefore limited. To the extent that it can be used, it is very valuable. I probably dismiss 50% of the NAB commentary immediately when I read it. Many of the notes are pure speculation and offer zero (yes, zero) benefit to the reader. However, people who completely dispose of the Historical Critical Method due to things like the rancid NAB commentary are also in error as much as those who take it too far.


Moonshadow said...

Elena at My Domestic Church used Graham's book to refute the postings of another blogger last summer. Here's a link to the most recent post and, from there, you can work backwards to the first post (the chronological idiosyncrasies of blogging).

How did you come across Graham's book?

My experience with the historical-critical methodology is a growing recognition that some questions of source and authorship, etc., will never be answered with certainty. The arguments on all sides have been well-documented and very little new ideas are appearing. Therefore, a commentator generally refers the interested reader elsewhere for a discussion of those open questions and then proceeds to treat the text as a given, as a whole, perhaps making assumptions about authorship, date & time of comp., etc.

So, no, it's no good leaving the text all pulled apart. The faithful commentator will synthesize the text by the end.

The NAB's footnotes are ... footnotes. They aren't a substitute for a commentary.

Matt said...

I came across Graham's book because I had time between Mass and Choir practice last Friday evening and found it in the parish library collection. Almost all of the books in our library are pre-Conciliar. A few, like ones from Ignatius Press, are also on the shelves.

Typically if you mention there is a new book out to someone the first reaction is one of caution, then suspicion, and then perhaps rejection or acceptance. But I digress...

I'm glad you made the distinction between footnotes and commentary. Do you think most laymen would realize the difference? I don't. Not to mention when a book uses footnotes they are typically seen as more authoritative than mere commentary. These footnotes are certainly not authoritative.

Graham's book is, by his own admission, not a scholarly one but one for popular reading. I'm pretty well into it now and it is more of an overview of the subject than anything else. This style however lends itself to educating the reader without overburdening them with too many details.

For instance his explanation of the compilation of Jerome's Vulgate is really thin. So is the mention of its use today with regards to the Council of Trent. But for most people the details only crowd what matters and he does a good job balancing the need for details with keeping the interest of the reader.

Moonshadow said...

OK, now I'm going to browse my parish library in order to ascertain whether the preponderance of our collection is pre-conciliar or post!

Yes, it's good to know sound publishers, 'though shifts have happened: my Calvinist friend was up in arms when WJK Press published a 9/11 conspiracy theory book. I assured her there's always P&R!

Do you think most laymen would realize the difference?

I'm a laymen ...

Maybe I'm fighting the NAB being added to some unofficial forbidden books index because I can just imagine the non-Catholic reaction: whoa, Catholics banned the Bible ... the version they read at Mass!

I hope that all sounds ridiculous to you.

These footnotes are certainly not authoritative.

No, strictly-speaking that's correct. But, like the commentary in my Sunday missal, the notes tend to be taken from learned sources.

For instance his explanation of the compilation of Jerome's Vulgate is really thin.

Would you describe what you expected of his explanation? I mean, what's missing?

All this reminds me, that Graham's book is available online. D'uh, that was my point in directing you to Elena's site ... and I forgot to mention it! So, no tick-tock. And, if you want to reply with chapters, I can reference them.

Matt said...

I haven't forgotten to respond. I am contemplating how I want to. I would describe to you what I mean about his explanation of the Vulgate to be thin but it would be easier just to go and read the Vulgate entry over at Wikipedia. So I'll direct everyone there.

As for putting the NAB on the unofficial forbidden books like, I don't really want to get rid of it like that. I personally own two copies and use them all the time. I personally believe the footnotes/commentary is harmful to most readers even if they don't lose faith by them. I'm not a scholar as you know and so my opinion of its use at Mass is limited to just my experiences. I'm sort of neutral in this regard.

Yes, if the USCCB got rid of the NAB it would be a source of scandal. The NAB isn't all bad. In fact you kind of inspired me to write a positive post on it...maybe I'll do that next.

But first I'm going to write a negative one on its commentary... :-)

Moonshadow said...

For instance his explanation of the compilation of Jerome's Vulgate is really thin.

I see what you are saying.

Isn't it possible that Graham wrote as much of the history as he knew? As much information as his research turned up?

Sad that Wiki can outdo him less than 100 yrs later? What blessed times.

Still, it's a fascinating history! Even glorious. But I smirk at anyone who thinks they possess a book that passed from Jerome's 4th century hand to their own. Lots of hands working along the way (that's catholicity, in the spirit of Chesterton).

I looked over my parish library and found lots of TAN, Ignatius (how's that work for traditionalists who despise the Jesuits? Just asking) but also Image (forerunner of Doubleday) and Paulist Press. A very old one, unfamiliar: Hawthorne Books.

I have two copies of Triumph ... I could donate one. Or both! :-)

I'm laughing right now, actually, because I'm trying to convince someone else that Fr. Raymond Brown "ain't so bad." Whew, this is hard work.

My argument hangs on the authority of the episcopal signatures that Brown's books carry. That authority is meaningless to traditionalists in an unexpected way.

Then, it seems to me that neither liberals nor traditionalists trust our Catholic bishops. I don't get that. How can both sides feel that way?

And what's wrong with me that I should think a book with a nihil obstat / imprimatur is OK to read? Golly.

I really would appreciate your opinion on how this works, I'm not being rhetorical here. I really am concerned about how a Catholic decides which books are OK to read.

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