Synod stuff

Great wisdom still continues to flow forth abundantly from the Synod on Scripture and we are no doubt hanging on every word.

Apparently there are two camps.

A more spiritual approach to Scripture, embraced by men such as Card. Ouellet.

A more historical-critical approach, embraced by those like Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa OP, the Master of the Dominicans.

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26 Responses to Synod stuff

  1. Boko says:

    Great job, Dominicans! Aren’t you the same guys that got us into this mess a century ago? Maybe you should read Thomas on Scripture.

  2. Father Z,

    I’m very excited to be hear the good things coming out of this Synod…especially given the greatness of the Pope who is currently presiding over it.

    I am unfamiliar with Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa, OP. How would you characterize his approach? Is it more focused on historical and literary analysis and less on the “higher critical” almost prosecutorial posturing of the rationalistic biblical schools?

    Dr. Scott Hahn’s website has some of the texts from the Synods Lineamenta on his site:

    http://www.salvationhistory.com/library/liturgy/theology/synodwordlinea.cfm#relativism

    For those who are interested, there is also an excellent site from Jeff Cavins dedicated to the Synod:

    http://scripturesynod.com/base/home

    I believe that so much of the renewal of orthodoxy and orthopraxis hinges on a Biblical and Patristic renewal, especially through a liturgical reading of the Scriptures. Prayers for the Synods important work!

    In ICXC,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  3. Bill J. says:

    The Master of the Dominicans is trained as a canonist. I would expect that he is reading what experts he consulted wrote for him. They would actually be Jesuits or Jesuit trained as the Angelicum biblicists all have their degrees from there.

    For those postings attacks on him. I suggest that you do so only after reading what he actually said. Attacks on him and his order based on a one-sentence comment by Fr. Z. are clearly from ignorance and that does not speak well for their authors.

  4. Boko says:

    There are books detailing the work of the Dominicans at the Ecole Biblique in the early 20th century. Not one of which is written by Father Z and all of which are more than one sentence long. Nice job throwing the Jesuits under the bus while defending the honor of the Dominicans. It’s a common phenomenon, found in all religious orders, where family pride prevents a critical appraisal of theological schools or hypotheses. I wonder if that’s what is happening here. The Dominicans are proud of their role in introducing the historico-critical hermeneutic into the Catholic Church. Wouldnt surprise me if they do not go gently.

  5. Bill,

    Just for the record, I was not attacking the Master General (your use of “those” in the plural is a bit confusing). Mine was more of a general comment about the state of affairs for much of modern Catholic Biblical Scholarship.

    God bless,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  6. Bryan says:

    Cardinal Ouellet is quite aligned with the neo-patristic approach, which efforts are being advanced
    by the Roman Theological Form (www.rtforum.org) here in the states. The neo-patristic approach to
    the interpretation of Sacred Scripture is based upon the assumption that the text of Sacred Scripture
    has been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and is totally inerrant. The neo-patristic
    approach is structured in its mental frame of reference according to the division made by St.
    Thomas Aquinas into two concurrent senses, the literal sense and the spiritual sense, with the
    spiritual sense being subdivided into the allegorical, the tropological, and the anagogical senses.

    The historical-critial approach as embraced by ‘enlightened’ scholars, takes more of its direction
    from protestant theologians such as Herman Gunkel and Rudolf Bultmann (who attacked the historicity
    of the Synoptic Gospels) who, especially through his book “New Testament and Mythology” attempted to
    deny the reality of Heaven, Hell, miracles, or any intervention of God in our lives.

    There is an undercurrent in some of the papers I’ve seen before this synod, which actually take the
    position that the Bible is not inerrant or even divinely inspired, but is to be taken as an allegorical
    story meant to define an idealized relational process of dealing with the idea of a creator rather
    than admitting the existence of God and His Son as an historical and teological fact.

    Historical-critical, based on my studies, is nothing more than the attempted justification of Modernist
    thought. I’m not using that as a strawman or hurling invectives, but trying to frame the reference
    in terms of where the philosophies would lie in the theological continuum.

    The term “historical criticism” is ambiguous in theological discussion, sicne it usually is taken
    to mean the “higher criticism” condemned as a “pseudoscience” by Pope Leo XIII in “Providentissimus
    Deus”. One only has to read our Holy Father’s “Jesus of Nazareth” (which should be required reading
    of every Catholic…) to

  7. A Random Friar says:

    BTW, the Dominicans at Ecole Biblique are working on an exciting new Biblical commentary (and uber-concordance, really), that will be in print and online. Check it out: http://ebaf.edu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=173&Itemid=52

    Here’s a brief synopsis:
    In brief, we aim at producing a study edition of the Catholic Bible targeting a scripturally educated public. It will present the texts themselves in their diversity, framed by an enriched annotation divided into three main registers.

    1. The first, ‘Text’, will include all the notes dealing with the linguistic and literary description of the text, from points in textual criticism to more literary remarks.

    2. ‘Contexts’ will group notes dealing with archaeology, history, geography, realia or texts of the ancient world and cultures, relevant to the production of a Biblical text.

    3. ‘Reception’ will be the largest zone of annotation; it is to comprise the most important readings of the text throughout history, starting from intertextual echoes in parallel texts (in the canonical Bible, in Jewish tradition, or in aprocryphal works), and continuing to some of the most important readings, including the Church Fathers, medieval Latin and Orthodox theologians, Syriac and other Oriental writers and Protestant Reformers.

    4. The top left corner of each page will present the reading proposed by the exegetes in charge of the book as a result of all preceding notes.

    My understanding is that #3 will even include art (visual), literature and movies. IOW, take the woman caught in adultery and Our Lord Jesus writing in the sand. You’d get word-by-word exegesis, how it is portrayed in art and media throughout history, the Church Fathers and Saints, more contemporary important Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant thinkers, and also what Jewish traditions would say about Our Lord’s actions (i.e., does writing in the sand have a certain cultural significance? How were stonings of adulteresses carried out, if ever in that time, etc).

    You’re thinking “Yeah, that book’s going to be ‘War and Peace’ just for the Third Epistle of St. John.” Online too! W00T! I’m hoping this is like the Biblia Clerus project on steroids.

  8. Tobias H says:

    There’s no reason to place oneself in either of the alleged “camps”, since the Church – with her sophisticated understanding of biblical interpretation – endorses a plurality of approaches to the written Word of God.

    The biblical text has both a literal sense – accessible through historical-critical exegesis – and a spiritual sense. Abp. Prendergast may be quite correct, though, that not enough attention is currently being paid to the spiritual sense.

    Recommended reading: the PBC’s “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” and P.S. Williamson’s excellent “Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture” (2001).

  9. Ohio Annie says:

    Bryan is correct about “higher criticism.” I was steeped in it as a Protestant. Fortunately, God intervened.

    Liberal Protestants only do the historical-critical method. And evangelicals do literalism. When I discovered the Catholic way what a breath of fresh air it was and is. I am still very ignorant though and hope some of you can suggest good reading on the way Catholics should read scripture?

  10. Chris says:

    Tobias, excellent post. Scripture is too big to be grasped by any one form of interpretation.

  11. Here is a great website on “Neo-Patristic exegesis” from the Roman theological forum. I’ve done the full study program personally. It is well worth studying, although sometimes the articles can be a bit repetitive. Nevertheless, it is very rich for interested students of the Bible!

    http://www.rtforum.org/study/index.html

    And of course, the writings of Henri de Lubac, especially his work on Origen and Exegesis, are excellent.

    God bless,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  12. Ohio Annie says:

    Thank you, Father Daniel. 8-)

  13. Bryan says:

    It’s where I go for the real deal.

    Also am good friends with one of the priests of Oblates of Holy Wisdom…who is acting as my spiritual director. No wishy-washy theology
    there…strict Catholicism down the line.

  14. James the Less says:

    Is this in essence a debate over the Preface to the Holy Father’s
    Jesus of Nazareth?

  15. Londiniensis says:

    I went to the website on “Neo-Patristic exegesis” from the Roman theological forum, and note that of twenty-eight study sessions, three are given over to comprehensicely rubbishing the theory/theories of evolution, with a link given to the Discovery Institute (a conservative public policy U.S. think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of intelligent design and its Teach the Controversy campaign to teach creationist anti-evolution beliefs in United States public high school science courses – quote from Wiki).

    To a theological neophyte like me, the link between a neo-patristic exegesis of scripture and the rejection of modern scientific discovery is not immediately apparent.

  16. Jordanes says:

    Londiniensis said: To a theological neophyte like me, the link between a neo-patristic exegesis of scripture and the rejection of modern scientific discovery is not immediately apparent.

    Who says skepticism about various evolutionary speculations is rejection of modern scientific discovery?

  17. Londiniensis says:

    Jordanes, There is an unbridgeable chasm between “scepticism about various evolutionary speculations” and a root and branch rejection of evolutionary theory in favour of some concocted “God of the gaps” mechanism.

    I understand that the Church slapped down fideism and radical traditionalism quite hard in the mid nineteenth century – and authoritatively endorsed the role of Reason in the First Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius – but then it is so much simpler to bury one’s head in the biblical sand and pretend that the modern world is not happening and that scientific paradigms are “various speculations”.

  18. Jordanes says:

    Londiniensis said: Jordanes, There is an unbridgeable chasm between “scepticism about various evolutionary speculations” and a root and branch rejection of evolutionary theory in favour of some concocted “God of the gaps” mechanism.

    Maybe so, but what that, or any of your comment for that matter, has to do with the papers found at the website of the Roman Theological Forum, or with anything I said, is not at all apparent. Your comment is a string of mocking caricatures, straw men and red herrings. And it’s hardly the fault of the priests at the RTF that every single theory of evolution that has been proposed so far has proven to not quite agree, or even not at all agree, with the deposit of faith or what modern science has discovered.

    Anyway this is rapidly going off on a tangent away from the subject at hand, so I’d better desist. It is interesting, though, that you mentioned fideism. Some years back I reached the conclusion that, for example, the exegesis of the late Father Raymond Brown yields a practical fideism.

  19. Warren says:

    The idea that “Scripture is too big to be grasped by any one form of interpretation” is one of those phrases that states the obvious but permits little nuance. Of course Scripture transcends human methodology – duh. If all methods are then inadequate to the task, why then bother studying the texts at all? A nuanced appreciation of study understands that some methods are better than others and some methods are wholly inappropriate.

    The direction of analysis set by the primary (dis)orientation of a methodology can substantially skew results.

    The historical-critical method (HCM) begins with an attitude or orientation of distrust toward primary sources. The HCM agenda is really the brain(less) child of a generation of authority hating pseudo-intellectuals with a mission to discredit anything held as permanent, or trustworthy or authoritative. HCM is a tool of protest swung wildly by protestors. The outcome of analysis produced by the HCM is commonly skewed. No wonder a tool working from a perspective of mistrust only produces agnosticism and shallow conviction.

    The historical method, by contrast, accepts the accuracy of the Canon of Scripture and embraces the various books as reliable accounts by eye witnesses and reliable transmissions of the action of God among men. The historical method employs tools and means like those used by a detective. The historical method accepts that reasonable people can differ on recollection (4 Gospels, 4 eye witness accounts), and yet the accounts given do not amount to contradictions but rather complementary accounts which complete each other.

    Methodologies that fail to take into account the canonical sense of Scripture are surely as impotent as the historical-critical method.

    The HCM to which liberal protestantism has clung to for so many decades has led many communities into serious error. The HCM invariably weakens faith and results in a lack of identity which makes communities look like social clubs more than religious bodies.

    I’m with Cardinal Ouellet.

  20. Tobias H says:

    Warren: “The historical-critical method (HCM) begins with an attitude or orientation of distrust toward primary sources. The HCM agenda is really the brain(less) child of a generation of authority hating pseudo-intellectuals with a mission to discredit anything held as permanent, or trustworthy or authoritative. HCM is a tool of protest swung wildly by protestors. The outcome of analysis produced by the HCM is commonly skewed. No wonder a tool working from a perspective of mistrust only produces agnosticism and shallow conviction.”

    Thank you for submitting your opinion about the historical-critical approach to Sacred Scripture.

    In case you or anyone else should be interested in a somewhat different – and, if I may so say, slightly more nuanced – assessment of this approach, I once again recommend reading the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s document. And yes, btw, the preface of that document was authored by someone who most of us revere and love very much.

    Pax!

  21. Tobias,

    I think you are referring to the document, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church”?

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PBCINTER.htm

    It truly is excellent and should be read in continuity with the previous PBC decisions from the late 19th to the early 20th century while it was still an arm of the magisterial teaching ministry of the Church. (It no longer is so.)

    Higher critical methods (so called “scientific”) have some limited value. The problem has not been their legitimate use, but rather their almost limitless abuse.

    I would also recommend reading Peter Williamson’s excellent commentary on IBC:

    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=kooFtFGQsfsC&dq=interpretation+of+the+bible+in+the+church,+peter+williamson&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=5dq0qrifKC&sig=6zVK_YOFV__ThGhZ7nzujiNNK7I&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

    While I cannot say that I agree with every single minor point, the major conclusions drawn here are excellent. Here is a great summary of his main points:

    http://www.salvationhistory.com/library/scripture/churchandbible/magisterial/principlesinterp.cfm

    I would also highly recommend Pope Benedict’s latest (he had quite the hand in the IBC document while acting as head of the CDF):

    http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Word-Scripture-Tradition-Office/dp/1586171798/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1223727068&sr=1-3

    This includes his speech on biblical interpretation which shook Fr. Raymond Brown’s world….

    God bless!

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  22. Boko says:

    Let’s not be afraid to admit that the IBC doc was rather a disappointment, an embarrassment really. Page after page on the dangers of the “fundamentalism” bogeyman and a paragraph on Bultmann. It’s not that it’s wrong, but the emphases are so embarrassingly PC.

  23. Ohio Annie says:

    Is Breen’s old book General Introduction to Holy Scripture useful at all?

  24. Ohio Annie says:

    Also, please help me, is Raymond Brown considered to be unfaithful to the magisterial teachings of the Church? The priest who (poorly) catechized me was all enthusiastic about Brown but I read some of his work and it seemed like the liberal Protestant (Methodist, MeTheScO) Bible studies I was trying to leave behind.

    I am now sitting in on RCIA in my Dominican parish, whew, what a breath of fresh air.

    And Londin… I hear you. The anti-evolution stuff was one minor reason for my leaving the Protestant camp.

  25. TerryC says:

    Not a biblical scholar myself, but I believe that most of Fr. Brown’s work received nihil obstat and the imprimatur which would indicate that at least some bishops believe that his work was faithful to the magisterial teachings of the Church. I’m also not sure of how much of his work was meant for theological discussion verses teaching of the faithful. Theologians have a wider latitude in discussing some subjects in a professional forum, among other academics, than they do in a classroom or from a pulpit.

  26. Ohio Annie says:

    TerryC, Thank you. I hadn’t thought about that. I am a convert and not very knowledgeable (yet). I studied hard as a Protestant, even seminary courses, but of course now I have taken a different approach. I continue to throw baggage off the train (hope I don’t hit anybody).