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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Verbum Domini

During my Master's studies, our professors, especially our scripture professors, spoke of the Synod taking place regarding Holy Scripture. We studied the various methods of study, critiqued them, used them and learned from them, although, of course, we learned primarily from God Himself.

Our texts regarding Sacred Scripture came to us primarily through Dei Verbum (Vatican II), The Pontifical Biblical Commission, and Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger). We couldn't help but fall in love with our dear Papa's scriptural tutelage, and greatly lamented the state of scriptural "scholarship" which has been dominated by either near or outright heresy for the last 40 years or so.  Jesus of Nazareth was a breath of fresh air, a rock to cling to in an ocean of "scholarship" seeking to deny the divinity of Christ, or to at least separate His divinity from his humanity.

Although we did not study these dominant academic dissidents in our program, all of us had been exposed to them, and a few of my classmates had been trained under them and inflicted with their disassemble-ship of Christ through the scriptures.  They were sincerely traumatized and confused, having to see the study of the Bible through entirely different eyes. They were eyes they desired, but their confusion arose from the twisted "scholarship" that has so lead people astray and destroyed their faith (quite literally) for a very long time.

In scriptural studies, Redaction criticism may have a place, but not a dominant place. Historical-critical methods have a place, but not if used in isolation. As our Holy Father pointed out in Jesus of Nazareth, and now, again, more feverently in the Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, the methods of scriptural interpretation and research need to be taken in proper context of the WHOLE of scripture and Divine Revelation.

As I read the first section of Verbum Domini, I realized it was nearly a complete synthesis of my Master's program. I considered writing to ask Pope Benedict XVI if he had patterned our education after this introduction, but rather, I see it as the work of the Holy Spirit: it reveals that those who taught me were well within the mind, heart, and soul of the Church and formed us accordingly.

As I began the second section, I found myself deep within Ecclesiology and through all of it, deeply entrenched in our Catholic Theological Tradition.  Pope Benedict XVI operates through the hermeneutic of continuity, finding the foundation for us all and bringing it to light through the Church Fathers (Patristics). He knows he cannot speak of scriptural interpretation apart from St. Jerome.

Although I have not completed my study of the Exhortation, one of the passages that has affected me most deeply came from Pope Benedict XVI himself, and I hope it is a passage that fuels your own prayer as well.  I pray most deeply that you will read it and decide to enter into this Apostolic Exhortation. By definition this document is a re-presentation of known Catholic Doctrine, "exhorting" the faithful to follow what the Church in her wisdom has ALWAYS taught as Truth.  Take this document to heart, let it enter your soul, and let it draw you ever closer to Our Lord.

As the cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by his silence. The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word. Hanging from the wood of the cross, he lamented the suffering caused by that silence: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46). Advancing in obedience to his very last breath, in the obscurity of death, Jesus called upon the Father. He commended himself to him a the moment of passage, through death, to eternal life: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Lk 23:46). 

 This experience of Jesus reflects the situation of all those who, having heard and acknowledged God's word, must also confront his silence. This has been the experience of countless saints and mystics, and even today is part of the journey of many believers.  God's silence prolongues his earlier words. In these moments of darkness, he speaks through the mystery of his silence. Hence, in the dynamic of Christian revelation, silence appears as an important expression of the word of God. 




Mark said...

It's a wonderfully Patristic document.

As you say, Jerome is always there in the background.

As regards the state of scriptural scholarship, a new generation of young Catholic scholars who are both orthodox and fully trained in all the relevant academic disciplines is beginning to emerge.

I suspect that many of them have read Scott Hahn's strictly academic work and come to the shocking realization that, yes, you can be a proper (in the academic sense) New Testament theologian AND an orthodox Catholic at the same time.

Against this background Pope Benedict has produced his zeitgeist-changing "Jesus of Nazareth" book (with more volumes to come) and now Verbum Domini.

Bloggers who are interested primarily in liturgy haven't fully picked up on this, but what Benedict is doing in terms of reinvigorating the Church's understanding of Scripture is absolutely massive.

Adoro said...

Mark ~ Actually, there's an entire generation of Catholic scholars that has been ignored by academia, and they pre-date Scott Hahn! I'm thinking of scholars we studied, such as Feullet, Miguens, Farkasfalvy and others. Although Hahn is an influence on some, I really don't think he has had much at all to do with Catholic biblical scholarship outside of the popular apologetics arena. Of course, I like him but we did not even look at his stuff in our scripture courses. Part of the reason is this: the scholars I named often took on the "giants" such as Fitzmyer, Brown, Bultmann, outright revealing the shoddy work those guys did in the name of "scholarship".

Mark said...

"an entire generation of Catholic scholars that has been ignored by academia"...

While studying for a degree in Theology at a (very eminent) secular university, I never heard any of the names you list so much as mentioned.

Even Fitzmyer and Brown were regarded as a bit marginal. There was almost a sense in some circles that only German Lutherans could be taken seriously.

Protestant scholarship set the agenda. Catholics accepted it - they had to accept it if they wanted to be taken seriously by their peers in academia.

Adoro said...

That's exactly it. I do encourage you to look up the names I mentioned. They've got incredible stuff!

And sadly, the protestant scholars are much more Catholic in their scholarship than are those who claim to be Catholic.

Even today, even in CATHOLIC institutions (at least in the US), the university publishers won't tolerate any criticism of Luther. It's outright scandalous. Try to refute what Luther said, even using his own words, and the publishers will refuse to put it to print!

(One of our professors was going through that problem because of what he said in the intro of some works he translated.)