Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Commentary on Hebrews 6:1-4

Looking at my NAB recently for no other reason than just to do so, I opened it up and read this:

Hebrews 6:1-4 - NAB
1 Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God,
instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And we shall do this, if only God permits. For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the holy Spirit and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again, since they are recrucifying the Son of God for themselves and holding him up to contempt.

See, thats not so bad is it? The NAB isn't some horrific piece of heresy as some say. However, this is the commentary found at the bottom of the page specifically for the highlighted section: (my emphasis)

2 Enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift: this may refer to baptism and the Eucharist, respectively, but more probably means the neophytes' enlightenment by faith and their experience of salvation.

3 Tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come: the proclamation of the word of God was accompanied by signs of the Spirit's power.

I think I stayed inside the fair use clause... Now lets take a look over at the Douay-Rheims version and some commentary from it.

Heb. 6:1-4
1Wherefore leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to things more perfect, not laying again the foundation of penance from dead works, and of faith towards God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and imposition of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 Have moreover tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

1 "The word of the beginning"... The first rudiments of the Christian doctrine.

4 "It is impossible"... The meaning is, that it is impossible for such as have fallen after baptism, to be again baptized; and very hard for such as have apostatized from the faith, after having received many graces, to return again to the happy state from which they fell.

And from the Ronald Knox Translation Commentary, it says in part:

The enlightenment referred to in Verse 4 is almost certainly Baptism itself. The 'heavenly gift' may well mean the Holy Eucharist. What is meant by 'knowing' (literally, 'tasting') God's utterance has been much discussed...[etc..]

My Ignatius Catholic Study Bible has a long passage and basically says what is going on here is the Apostle is talking about the Sacraments. To a Catholic this text is rather explicit if by nothing else the first verse of Chapter 6. Both the Douay-Rheims and NAB use the term "tasted". In the context of the other two Sacraments explicitly mentioned, why (practically speaking) would the Apostle confuse the reader by changing his meaning from Sacraments to being merely "enlightened" in the next verse? Or perhaps there is another reason why the NAB footnoters, who were all scholars, can't see what is plain as day? I ask because it is OBVIOUS.

As a Catholic, what else can "tasting the heavenly gift" and "were made partakers of the Holy Ghost" mean? I think the NAB commentary has their priorities reversed. If you switch the comment around it is more fitting. This is what I mean by the NAB commentary is detrimental to the average reader. It should read:

Enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift: this may refer to the neophytes englightenment by faith and their experience of salvation, but more probably refers to baptism and the Eucharist.

The "experience of salvation" is also problematic. Is this not baptism? One could also look at that as being the point of death. Since our salvation is not complete until we die.

How could I forget Fr. Haydock?

Ver. 4. &c. For it is impossible,[1] &c. This is an obscure place, differently expounded, which shows how rash it is for the ignorant to pretend to understand the holy Scriptures. [Preach it, Father] Many understand these words, it is impossible, &c. of the sacrament of penance, or of returning to God by a profitable repentance, especially after such heinous sins as an apostacy from the true faith. But then we must take the word impossible, to imply no more than a thing that is very hard to be done, or that seldom happens, as when it is said, (Matt. xix. 26.) that it is impossible of rich men to be saved: and (Luke xvii. 1.) it is impossible that scandals should not come. For it is certain that it is never impossible for the greatest sinners to repent by the assistance which God offers them, who has also left the power to his ministers to forgive in his name the greatest sins. But others (whose interpretation seems preferable) expound this of baptism, which can only be given once. The words here in the text very much favour this exposition, when it is said, who were once enlightened. For baptism in the first ages was called the sacrament of illumination. [NAB Commentators ignored this fact.] See S. Denis de cælesti Hierar. c. iv. S. Greg. Naz. &c. The following words also agree with baptism, when they are said to have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost; to have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; all which signify the interior graces, the miraculous gifts, and power of working miracles, which they who were baptized frequently received in those days. — They cannot be renewed again unto penance. That is, they cannot be renewed again by baptism, which is also called a renovation. Tit. iii. 5. Their sins may indeed the forgiven them in the sacrament of penance, but this is not a renovation like that in baptism, in which both the guilt, and all pain due to past sins, in remitted; whereas in the sacrament of penance, though the guilt, and the eternal punishments due to sins be remitted, yet many times, temporal punishments, to be undergone either in this world or the next, still remain due to such as have been great sinners, to them who by relapsing into the same sins, have crucified again to themselves the Son of God, making a mockery of him; i.e. who, insensible of the favours received, have ungratefully renewed sin; to take away which Christ suffered, was mocked, crucified, &c. Wi. — Macknight observes that Beza, without any authority from ancient MSS. hath inserted in his version Si, If they shall fall away, that this text might not appear to contradict the Calvinistic doctrine of the assurance of salvation. The English translators have followed Beza, The biblical student will be glad to find Dr. Wells, in his elegant edition of the New Testament, frequently restoring and preferring those readings which agree with the Latin Vulgate. The same just tribute is paid to the Vulgate by Walton, Mills, Gerard, Griesbach, Harwood, and others. Indeed the Vulgate has been declared authentic in a general council, and probably expresses more of the true reading of the original or autograph, than any Greek edition that is now to be found, and certainly much more than modern versions, which are stained more or less by the preconceived sentiments of the translators. [Interesting place to tie this comment in...] — For the earth that drinketh in the rain, &c. He bringeth this comparison, to give them a horror of abusing God's graces and favours, and of making themselves guilty of hell fire.

I really gotta get me one of those Haydock Bibles... My point in posting this isn't to put down the NAB as much as it is to show example of how the editors opted to favor ecumenical opinion over Catholic Doctrine. Consider this point the next time you purchase an "Official Catholic Bible" for a friend of relative.


Moonshadow said...

You must have a Ronald Knox translation, then.

I remember when I was starting the Denver Catholic Bible Study program after missing the first semester because I had a newborn to care for, a homework question suggested referencing Knox's translation of Lamentations 4.

Since I couldn't find it online, I went to my alma mater's library and made copies for everyone in the Bible study. It's a really amazing translation. If not for the push to work from original language manuscripts, I would think that Knox's translation - which is largely based on the Vulgate - would be better known today than it is.

I suppose I should get a copy of it myself.

(I'm still trying to make sense of your postings here ... please give me some time)

Matt said...

Yup, I bought a Knox Bible on ebay some time ago. But Baronius Press is coming out with a new edition. I will probably donate mine to the adoration chapel once that one comes out in favor of one that will hold up better. Mine is 40+ years old.

The Knox translation is very vibrant. It "opens up" the Vulgate is seems kind of like how the Amplified Bible does for the Greek text. Perhaps that is a bad example. The Douay version also has this element in it though i think less so than Msgr. Knox.

Last night I saw on EWTN Fr. Rutler give credit to Msgr. Knox for his works. He said every priest living today owes a debt of gratitude to him. I believe he was speaking about his preaching ability. But it is true he did a ton of writing as well.

I hope I wasn't too confusing when I wrote this post.

Moonshadow said...

Wiki mentioned the forthcoming edition from Baronius Press ... and I figured I would get that one (wow, based on your endorsement of their books! Gee.)

I am actually praising God yesterday and still today that the audio on EWTN came back after months of no sound. EWTN (and TBN at night) was the only station with a problem and I was back-n-forth with the cable company, as much as I had time for, you know. I hope the sound stays. 'Though I watch only The Journey Home.

Matt said...

They are also going to publish St. Thomas' Cantena Aurea...

Isn't the Journey Home fantastic? When I was taking my catechism classes I went to EWTN's 25th anniversary (I have a post on that somewhere here...) and I met Marcus Grodi and Scott Hahn. Marcus signed my program with a big "WELCOME HOME!" and Hahn signed my Rome Sweet Home with Romans 8:28. Nice eh?

Moonshadow said...

Marcus signed my program with a big "WELCOME HOME!" and Hahn signed my Rome Sweet Home with Romans 8:28. Nice eh?

Ah, now this is great!

And I refrained from saying that Fr. Fitzmyer signed my copy of the NJBC when I took a class with him! When he saw that neither of the other two editors had signed it, he couldn't resist observing that, with them both dead, I would never round out the signatures! When I asked Fr. Fitzmyer to recommend a (presumably English) concordance, he recommended this! Of course I bought it ... and I've even used it! :-) I don't know what I expected him to recommend.

JH: I've always liked conversion stories, from Paul to Augustine to Jean Valjean to Wayne Weible. And I'm always amazed - and happy - when people decide to become Catholic. Hey, did you know that the Internet Monk's wife intends to join the Catholic Church? He's out of his mind with fury and indignation (bad childhood memories, he says) ... except he's spending this week at St. Meinrad's, as he's done for years! "Do as I say, not as I do?"

Moonshadow said...

OK, I've read and pondered.

I first want to say how ironic that anti-Catholics - yes, ardent anti-Catholics - so often cite passages from Hebrews against Catholicism when the Sacraments as we know them are so plainly a part of early Christian practice. Anyway ...

So, the problem with the NAB footnote on Heb. 6:2 is that it gives the traditional Catholic interpretation followed by a "faith alone," sans sacramental efficacy interpretation. Isn't it appropriate to lead off with your best material, as the footnote does? (John 2:10).

This part is confusing: why (practically speaking) would the Apostle confuse the reader by changing his meaning from Sacraments to being merely "enlightened" in the next verse? Or perhaps there is another reason why the NAB footnoters, who were all scholars, can't see what is plain as day? I ask because it is OBVIOUS.

There's a preference for "illumination" over "enlightenment" in the older translations, except the KJV. One can see "light" in the Greek photizo. Does the former suggest greater intensity to you? I'll admit one of my favorite lines from Indiana Jones is during the opening scene as his father is writing an icon, his simple prayer: May he who illuminated this, illuminate me. Amen. But "enlightenment" works equally well for me.

And the NAB doesn't delve into the sacrament of penance or the Church's ban on re-baptism. These things, while true, are beyond the scope of the text, wouldn't you say? The sacred text speaks for itself in the NAB without a commentator's heavy-handed interpretation.

We've talked about the authenticity of the Vulgate translation before but an authentic translation into Latin of faulty Greek manuscripts guarantees only that and nothing more.

"certainly much more than modern versions, which are stained more or less by the preconceived sentiments of the translators."

I will say that, when reading the Old Testament, I prefer the Jewish Publication Society's translation because it isn't plagued with those preconceived sentiments of Christian translators. So, I agree that many modern English bibles reflect the theology of their translation team.

Please point out where I have misunderstood.

Matt said...

"This part is confusing: why (practically speaking) would the Apostle confuse the reader by changing his meaning from Sacraments to being merely "enlightened" in the next verse? Or perhaps there is another reason why the NAB footnoters, who were all scholars, can't see what is plain as day? I ask because it is OBVIOUS."

I meant to say that at the beginning of the chapter there was obvious mention of the sacraments. Then the NAB notes indicate a verse or two later that we are no longer dealing with sacraments. Its odd.

"The sacred text speaks for itself in the NAB without a commentator's heavy-handed interpretation."

Well, ok, I guess you can look at it that way. But I think that's being generous to say they have let sacred scripture speak for itself when there are footnotes on practically every verse in the Bible. I also think it is important that a Bible (commentary, footnotes) with helps meant for Catholic lay-folk should favor Catholic doctrine, not downplay it. I don't mean they should change words in the sacred text to fit doctrine, I speak to the commentary.

"...but an authentic translation into Latin of faulty Greek manuscripts guarantees only that and nothing more."

Ouch. You outrank me 100 fold on the issue of manuscripts, and I'm not even going to pretend you don't. :-) But (and bear with me here) I'm not so sure the Clementine Vulgate, after all its revisions etc, used necessarily faulty Greek manuscripts. I'm just not that learned. As Trent says "...that the purity of the Gospel may be preserved in the Church after the errors have been removed."

It then goes on to endorse the Latin Vulgate. Now individual words notwithstanding the Vulgate has been declared authentic in all its parts with all its books. Here is the quote:

"If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema."

There are many ways to interpret that paragraph, granted. But not being a scholar, if I logic this out, it comes as a matter of faith naturally to use the Vulgate as a check for other translations. What do I mean by that...hrm...I mean this:

St. Augustine said he wouldn't believe a word of Scripture if the Catholic Church did not declare it to be so. The Council of Carthage told us what books were in the Bible. Now, the same Church though 1200 years later declares under anathema that the Vulgate translation is authentic. Which means to me that if I want a Bible edition I can trust 100% with zero doubt it will lead me personally into error, that I need the best edition I can from a Vulgate source. Pius X was by the way, preparing a revision of the Vulgate during his Pontificate. Revisions of the Vulgate are one thing, its wholesale disuse and abandonment are another.

But then the Church also now wants us to use translations from Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Great I say! But the Vulgate is still the check as a matter of Faith.

On a side note, I was in our local Catholic bookstore today and I was SOOO close to buying a Fr. Raymond Brown book as per your high kudos for him. It was a retreat with St. John or something. Small book. It looked mostly devotional in nature. Not knowing the balance on my debit card was the factor against buying it. Not a antipathy for his criticism.

As with all this, I'm open for personal growth. I absolutely love this topic, and thats why I'm reading so much on it. All the encyclicals, texts, books...

Moonshadow said...

I was SOOO close to buying

St. Anthony Messenger, come on?! It looks wonderful. The editorial reviews at Amazon from our favorite periodicals:

Commonweal: The merit of this little work is how seamlessly Brown interweaves historical-critical scholarship into a deeply felt spirituality.

America: Father Brown illustrates the pastoral potential of sound biblical scholarship.



Wait, wait, let me try again ...

for Catholic lay-folk should favor Catholic doctrine, not downplay it.

One can chose a Navarre Commentary rather.

I think that's being generous ... when there are footnotes on practically every verse

You are right ... and I was bluffing (poorly). I'm sorry for being hasty.

I remember when the ESV came out in '01 with textual notes only. Crossway had no intention of producing a study Bible. One of my Bible study leaders, a Protestant, encouraged everyone to get an ESV and read the Bible without interpretative footnotes.

I knew how dangerous this was because I know how Catholic the Bible is ... on its own. Well, it didn't take her long, reading the Bible without footnotes, before she was touting an ESV study Bible ... with Reformed notes and articles and references to the Westminster Standards in the appendix!

A shame, really. I wish she'd kept reading and turned Catholic. Sola Scriptura. shrug

Fr. Haydock says: "the Vulgate ... probably expresses more of the true reading of the original or autograph, than any Greek edition that is now to be found"

Perhaps this was true in his day.

The heart of Divino Afflante Spiritu begins in paragraph 15.

Paragraph 16 says: "In like manner therefore ought we to explain the original text which, having been written by the inspired author himself, has more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern ...

Also read 17-2, especially [20], "Nor should anyone think that this use of the original texts, in accordance with the methods of criticism, in any way derogates from those decrees so wisely enacted by the Council of Trent concerning the Latin Vulgate."

and [21]: "And if the Tridentine Synod wished 'that all should use as authentic' the Vulgate Latin version ... does it [not], doubtless, in any way diminish the authority and value of the original texts. For there was no question then of these texts, but of the Latin versions, which were in circulation at that time, and of these the same Council rightly declared to be preferable that which 'had been approved by its long-continued use for so many centuries in the Church.' Hence this special authority or as they say, authenticity of the Vulgate was not affirmed by the Council particularly for critical reasons, but rather because of its legitimate use in the Churches throughout so many centuries; by which use indeed the same is shown, in the sense in which the Church has understood and understands it, to be free from any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals; so that, as the Church herself testifies and affirms, it may be quoted safely and without fear of error in disputations, in lectures and in preaching; and so its authenticity is not specified primarily as critical, but rather as juridical."

and [22]: "Wherefore this authority of the Vulgate in matters of doctrine by no means prevents - nay rather today it almost demands - either the corroboration and confirmation of this same doctrine by the original texts or the having recourse on any and every occasion to the aid of these same texts, by which the correct meaning of the Sacred Letters is everywhere daily made more clear and evident. Nor is it forbidden by the decree of the Council of Trent to make translations into the vulgar tongue, even directly from the original texts themselves, for the use and benefit of the faithful and for the better understanding of the divine word, as We know to have been already done in a laudable manner in many countries with the approval of the Ecclesiastical authority."

So, everything you said about the Vulgate from Trent holds up but the original texts are today given a place that Fr. Haydock would seem to deny them. No? There's no pitting the original against the Vulgate or vice versa. If I've done that, and I think I have in reaction to Fr. Haydock, I apologize. I shouldn't do that.

Matt said...

You mention the ESV...do you think its worth me having a copy? I keep seeing is and wondering if I should pick one up for reference. I've already got the other standards (NIV, KJV, RSV, DRBO, GN, Confraternity)

As for Fr. Haydock saying the Vulgate was the best for his day, you may be right, and he may be too. When we look at Divino Afflantu Spiritu it amazes me to see the wisdom of our Church through the ages. Leave it to us to rectify two seemingly out of line positions, bring them together and declare them equally beneficial.

As I read the passages you quote from the encyclical I see the point I was trying to make originally. The Vulgate Authenticity speaks to faith and doctrine not to a critical examination of the text itself. And so I think it is prudent, as guided by the Church to do so, we use the Vulgate and faithful translations of as a check on the others in these matters.

One great example of this is Luke 1:28 (we all know that one!) Mary in the Vulgate is "gratia plena" which is "Full of Grace". We understand this as a matter of doctrine. Is "highly favored" wrong? Not necessarily but the Church has deferred to the Vulgate translation for its liturgical as well as doctrinal use even to this day. The NAB for liturgy was changed to fit the traditional Catholic rendering, as it should be. Mary is Full of Grace.

I think we are agreeing here... :-)

Moonshadow said...

Yes, you make all excellent points. I'm glad we can agree ... and I'm glad that I can still learn a thing or two.

Yes, I appreciate how the Church manages to bring out of its storeroom both old and new. (Matt. 13:52).

Thank you for reading those parts of DAS ... until last night, I had never read it with an eye towards what it says about the Vulgate. So I was glad to see your position articulated there.

And take someone like Brown who knows how the critical text of Lk. 1:28 reads ... at the same time, he's able to accept the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption and everything Marian in between. Because we hold both old and new.

Re: the ESV: it will replace NIV as pew Bible in evangelical churches. Already, evangelical authors cite it in their popular writings. It is the revision of the King James that the NRSV was not. You notice it in bookstores because Crossway has poured a substantial amount into promoting and advertising the translation.

I like the ESV better than the NIV (for its literalness) but less than the NAB (ESV plays down sacraments: "washings" for "baptisms" in Hebrews 6:2). And you might like it less than the RSV but it stands in the same translation tradition:

"The words and phrases themselves grow out of the Tyndale-King James legacy, and most recently out of the RSV, with the 1971 RSV text providing the starting point for our work."

"The currently renewed respect among Old Testament scholars for the Masoretic text is reflected in the ESV’s attempt, wherever possible, to translate difficult Hebrew passages as they stand in the Masoretic text rather than resorting to emendations or to finding an alternative reading in the ancient versions."
(the NAB OT resorts to emendations or alternatives ... my single criticism of the NAB and my reason for looking forward to the NAB revised OT due out next year!)

Source of quote - ESV.org

I adopted the ESV early because Crossway had promised a translation of the deuterocanonical books. They have since declined to produce such an edition and there was talk of another group providing it ... but I doubt now that it will happen. :-(

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