A French theologian denounces some errors in the NCB Commentaries

NEW WEBSITE: www.ephesians-511.net FEBRUARY 24, 2009

 

A French theologian denounces some errors in the NCB Commentaries

 

Dear Michael,

I am sure you are absolutely right on focusing your mind and your criticism on the denial of the apparition of the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary. That is not a small issue.

You can use my small contribution if it helps you for informing the bishops.

If you have any further remark regarding this text don’t hesitate to tell me.

I have included some of your observations.

I conclude by encouraging you for all your endeavors and good works for the refutation of deceitful material that can endanger the Faith of the readers of such commentaries, and for your efforts in favor of the sound doctrine and teaching of Mother Church.

Let us remember the fight between David and Goliath. It is not the number of the so-called educated people, not the audience, not the financial support for the cause of the NCB that will eventually make the difference. It is the polite but persisting remarks of simple and devoted people like you and the soundness of the argumentation that will open the eyes of the Pastors for helping them to make the necessary corrections.

On our side we shall try to do our best at the appropriate level in order to help you.

 

Some remarks about the errors in the New Community Bible [NCB] narration of Jesus’ Infancy in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew

by Father Francois Dupré osb

I read attentively the commentaries of St Matthew 1: 18-25, pp. 1642-1643 of the New Community Bible, and also the commentary of St Luke 1: 26 – 2: 52, pp. 1795-1797; both commentaries are written by the Jesuit Fr. George Soares Prabhu. They are absolutely unacceptable from the Catholic point of view.

They sound very much like neo-liberalist Protestant interpretation, making a distinction and even sometimes an opposition between the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history about whom they claim we don’t know much. From their view, the four Gospels are describing the Jesus of faith, which doesn’t help much in order to understand the historical Jesus.

But, for us Catholics, there is no difference between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of Faith. He is the same and one Person, the Word of God incarnated.

For example, the NCB on Matthew’s Gospel, p. 1642 says:

The reading of the genealogy will have warned us not to take this and the following stories of Matthew’s infancy narrative as
historical reports about what really happened at Jesus’ birth. They are popular stories about the infancy of Jesus, current in early Christian circles, which
may have been based on historical events but which have been greatly touched up by the storytellers’ imagination. They are told in a style common among the Jews of the time in which historical fact is so embellished with creative interpretation, that it is no longer possible to separate the two… for the purpose of these stories is not to satisfy our curiosity by giving us information about the infancy of Jesus, but to nourish our faith by telling us who Jesus is. The stories of the infancy are not biographical but theological in purpose and content, and must be read as such.”

So, the commentator insists again, because the purpose of the infancy narrative is theological and not historical,
the reader must not ask historical questions (Where did the magi come from? What did Mary feel when the Angel spoke to her?) but [only] theological ones (What does the story of Jesus tell us about who Jesus is?)… p. 1642

It is clear that according to the notes of NCB (p. 1642), “Matthew’s story of the birth of Jesus
does not read at all like a report.

Regarding the dreams of St Joseph, the commentator (p. 1643) does not believe in the historical authenticity of these dreams, when he says:

“The whole narrative is a skillfully constructed piece of theological writing through which Matthew wishes to communicate two truths:..

 

 

 

 

The commentator of the NCB considers the narratives of the Gospel of Matthew and those of the Gospel of Luke as non- historical reports, only stories cooked by the imagination of the early Christian circles. It is no longer historical fact as such but embellishment and creative interpretation.

According to him, the narratives of the Gospel are no longer authentic (historically speaking).

 

This doctrine has been condemned so many times by the teaching authorities of the Church.

– Let us quote Dei Verbum 19, Vatican Council II:

§ 19. Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on
what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught
for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1).

 

Indeed, after the Ascension of the Lord the Apostles handed on to their hearers what He had said and done. This they did with that clearer understanding which they enjoyed after they had been instructed by the glorious events of Christ’s life and taught by the light of the Spirit of truth. The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus (vera et sincera).
For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who “themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word” we might know “the truth” concerning those matters about which we have been instructed (see Luke 1: 2-4).

 

– Cf. also the Instruction of the Biblical Commission “Sancta Mater Ecclediae” (21st April, 1964) about the historical truth of the Gospels.

But let the Catholic exegete always be disposed to obey the magisterium of the Church, and not forget that the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the good news, and that the Gospels were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who preserved their authors from all error.

“Now we have not learned of the plan of our salvation from any others than those through whom the gospel has come to us. Indeed, what they once preached they later passed on to us in the Scriptures by the will of God, as the ground and pillar of our faith. It is not right to say that they preached before they had acquired perfect knowledge, as some would venture to say who boast of being correctors of the apostles. In fact, after our Lord rose from the dead and they were invested with power from on high, as the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were filled with all (His gifts) and had perfect knowledge. They went forth to the ends of the earth, one and all with God’s gospel, announcing the news of God’s bounty to us and proclaiming heavenly peace to men.”(St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 3, 1, 1).”

 

– Cf. also Condemnation by Pope St Pius X in the decree Lamentabili (1907) of the following [heretical or next to heresy] propositions,
propositions that are very related to or even same as the assertions of our Commentator:

DS 3414. In many narratives the Evangelists related not so much what is true, as what they thought to be more profitable for the reader, although false.

DS 3415. The Gospels up to the time of the defining and establishment of the canon have been augmented continually by additions and corrections; hence, there has remained in them only a slight and uncertain trace of the doctrine of Christ.

DS 3421. Revelation, constituting the object of Catholic Faith, was not completed with the Apostles.

DS 3429. It may be conceded that the Christ whom history presents, is far inferior to the Christ who is the object of faith.

The encyclical Pascendi Domini gregis (1907) of Pope St Pius X unmasks the process used by the Modernists in order to distinguish and even to separate the historical person of Christ from the divine person transfigured by faith:

DS 3480. In the person of Christ, say the Modernists, science and history encounter nothing except the human. Therefore by virtue of the first law deduced from agnosticism whatever is redolent to the divine must be deleted from His history. Further more, by virtue of the second principle the historical person of Christ was transfigured by faith; therefore whatever raises it above historical conditions must be removed from it. Finally, by virtue of the third law the
same person of Christ is disfigured by faith; therefore, words and deeds must be removed from it
, whatever, in a word, does not in the least correspond with His character, state, and education, and with the place and time in which He lived. A wonderful method of reasoning indeed!

 

 

 

 

 

DS 3485. For although these things are classified with phenomena, yet, insofar as they are imbued with the life of faith, and in the manner already mentioned have been transfigured and disfigured by faith, they have been snatched away from the sensible world and transferred into material for the divine. Therefore, to him who asks further whether Christ performed true miracles and really divined the future; whether He truly rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, agnostic science will give a denial, faith an affirmation; yet as a result of this there will be no conflict between the two. For one, addressing philosophers, namely, contemplating Christ only according historical reality, will deny; the other, speaking as a believer with believers, viewing the life of Christ as it is lived again by the faith and in the faith, will affirm.

DS 3495. Therefore, just as God, so any divine intervention in human affairs must be relegated to faith, as belonging to it alone. Thus if anything occurs consisting of a double element, divine and human, such are Christ, the Church, the Sacraments, and many others of this kind, there will have to be a division, a separation, so that what was human may be assigned to history, and what was divine to faith. Thus the
distinction common among the Modernists between the Christ of history and the Christ of faith

 

DS 3496. Next we find that the human element itself, which the historian has to work on, as it appears in the documents, has been by faith
transfigured
, that is to say raised above its historical conditions. It becomes necessary, therefore, to eliminate also the accretions which faith has added, to assign them to faith itself and to the history of faith: thus, when treating of Christ, the historian must set aside all that surpasses man in his natural condition, either according to the psychological conception of him, or according to the place and period of his existence…

 

Pope Benedict XVI wrote his book Jesus of Nazareth in order to describe the true and historical Jesus who is in no way different of the Jesus of the Faith or of the theological conception of the Catholic Faith.

Here are some excerpts of the preface of his book:

I have come to the book on Jesus, the first part of which I now present, following a long interior journey. In the period of my youth – the thirties and forties – a series of fascinating books were published on Jesus.

I remember the name of some of the authors: Karl Adam, Romano Guardini, Franz Michel Willam, Giovanni Papini, Jean Daniel-Rops. In all these books, the image of Jesus Christ was delineated from the Gospels: how he lived on earth and how, despite his being fully man, at the same time he led men to God, with whom, as Son, he was but one. Thus, through the man Jesus, God was made visible and from God the image of the just man could be seen.

Beginning in the fifties, the situation changed.
The split between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of faith” became ever greater: One was rapidly removed from the other
. However, what meaning could faith in Jesus Christ have, in Jesus the Son of the living God, if the man Jesus was so different from the way he was presented by the evangelists and the way he is proclaimed by the Church from the Gospels? Progress in historical-critical research led to ever more subtle distinctions between the different strata of tradition. In the wake of this research, the figure of Jesus, on which faith leans, became ever more uncertain, it took on increasingly less defined features.

At the same time, reconstructions of this Jesus, who should be sought after the traditions of the evangelists and their sources, became ever more contradictory: from the revolutionary enemy of the Romans who opposed the established power and naturally failed, to the gentle moralist who allowed everything and inexplicably ended up by causing his own ruin.

Whoever reads a few of these reconstructions can see immediately that they are more photographs of the authors and their ideals than a real questioning of an image that has become confused. Meanwhile, mistrust was growing toward these images of Jesus, and the figure itself of Jesus was ever more removed from us.

All these attempts have left in their wake, as common denominator,
the impression that we know very little about Jesus, and that only later faith in his divinity has formed his image.
Meanwhile, this image has been penetrating profoundly in the common consciousness of Christianity. Such a situation is tragic for the faith
, because it makes its authentic point of reference uncertain: intimate friendship with Jesus, from whom everything depends, is debated and runs the risk of becoming useless. […]

I have felt the need to give readers these indications of a methodological character so that they can determine the path of my interpretation of the figure of Jesus in the New Testament. With reference to my interpretation of Jesus, this means first of all that I trust the Gospels. Of course I take as a given all that the Council and modern exegesis say about the literary genres, the intention of their affirmations, on the communal context of the Gospels and its words in this living context. Accepting all this in the measure that was possible to me,
I wished to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the true Jesus, as the “historical Jesus” in the true sense of the expression
.

 

 

 

 

I am convinced, and I hope the reader will also realize, that this figure is far more logical and, from the historical point of view, also more comprehensible than the reconstructions we have had to deal with in the last decades.

I believe, in fact, that this Jesus – the one of the Gospels – is a historically honest and convincing figure. The Crucifixion and its efficacy can only be explained if something extraordinary happened, if Jesus’ figure and words radically exceeded all the hopes and expectations of the age.

Approximately twenty years after Jesus’ death, we find fully displayed in the great hymn to Christ that is the Letter to the Philippians (2: 6-8) a Christology which says that Jesus was equal to God but that he stripped himself, became man, humbled himself unto death on the cross and that to him is owed the homage of creation, the adoration that in the prophet Isaiah (45: 23) God proclaimed is owed only to Him.

With good judgment, critical research asks the question: What happened in the twenty years after Jesus’ Crucifixion? How was this Christology arrived at?

The action of anonymous community formations, of which attempts are made to find exponents, in fact does not explain anything. How would it be possible for groups of unknowns to be so creative, so convincing to the point of imposing themselves in this way? Is it not more logical, also from the historical point of view, that greatness be found in the origin and that the figure of Jesus break all available categories and thus be understood only from the mystery of God?

 

Of course, to believe that though being man He “was” God and to make this known shrouding it in parables and in an ever-clearer way, goes beyond the possibilities of the historical method. On the contrary, if from this conviction of faith the texts are read with the historical method and the opening is greater, the texts open to reveal a path and a figure that are worthy of faith. Also clarified then is the struggle at other levels present in the writings of the New Testament around the figure of Jesus and despite all the differences, one comes to profound agreement with these writings.

 

Regarding the passage of Mt 1: 23 explaining the prophecy of Is 7: 14, the commentator of the NCB says:

The OT passages quoted [for example, Isaiah 7:14] did not in their original meaning refer to Jesus nor have the meaning which Matthew
gives them. Matthew re-interprets and sometimes rewrites the texts he quotes in the light of Jesus, believing that in Jesus the Scriptures have been fulfilled.

The commentary in Matthew in effect indicates that the above words of Isaiah are not really a prophecy of the virginal birth of Jesus. Thus it seems that Matthew is no longer inspired by the Holy Spirit when he quotes the prophecy of Isaiah as being fulfilled! The Holy Spirit who inspired Isaiah didn’t intend at all what is affirmed through Matthew!

Is Matthew an illusionist?

 

But let us now read the Commentary of St Jerome
on Isaiah 7:14:

Since it is introduced in the Prophet by the words “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign,” it ought to be something new and wonderful. But if it be, as the Jews will have it, a young woman, or a girl shall bring forth, and not a virgin, what wonder is this, since these are words signifying age and not purity?

Indeed the Hebrew word signifying “Virgin” (Bethula) is not used in this place, but instead the word, ‘alma,’ which except the Septuagint (Greek) all render ‘girl.’ But the word, ‘alma,’ has a twofold meaning; it signifies both ‘girl,’ and ‘hidden’; therefore ‘alma’ denotes not only ‘maiden’ or ‘virgin,’ but ‘hidden’, ‘secret’; that is, one never exposed to the gaze of men, but kept under close custody by her parents.

In the Punic tongue also, which is said to be derived from Hebrew sources, a virgin is properly called ‘alma.’ In our tongue also ‘alma’ means holy; and the Hebrews use words of nearly all languages; and as far as my memory will serve me, I do not think I ever met with alma used of a married woman, but of her that is a virgin, and such that she be not merely a virgin, but in the age of youth; for it is possible for an old woman to be a maid. But this was a virgin in years of youth, or at least a virgin, and not a child too young for marriage.

 

In his work against Jovianian, St Jerome repeats his remarks regarding this oracle of Isaiah:

“Isaiah tells of the mystery of our faith and hope: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”

 

 

 

 

I know that the Jews are accustomed to meet us with the objection that in Hebrew the word Almah does not mean a virgin, but a young woman. And, to speak truth, a virgin is properly called Bethulah, but a young woman, or a girl, is not Almah, but Naarah! What then is the meaning of Almah? A hidden virgin, that is, not merely virgin, but a virgin and something more, because not every virgin is hidden, shut off from the occasional sight of men. Then again, Rebecca, on account of her extreme purity, and because she was a type of the Church which she represented in her own virginity, is described in Genesis as Almah, not Bethulah, as may clearly be proved from the words of Abraham’s servant, spoken by him in Mesopotamia: “And he said, O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go: behold I stand by the fountain of water; and let it come to pass, that the maiden which cometh forth to draw, to whom I shall say, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of this pitcher to drink; and she shall say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed for my master’s son.” Where he speaks of the maiden coming forth to draw water, the Hebrew word is Almah, that is, a virgin secluded, and guarded by her parents with extreme care.”

 

Regarding St Ireneus of Lyon, in his work adversus haereses,
we have another clear defense of the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14:

1. God, then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us, giving us the token of the Virgin. But not as some allege, among those now presuming to expound the Scripture, [thus:]

 

“Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bring forth a son,” as Theodotion the Ephesian has interpreted, and Aquila of Pontus, both Jewish proselytes. The Ebionites, following these, assert that He was begotten by Joseph; thus destroying, as far as in them lies, such a marvellous dispensation of God, and setting aside the testimony of the prophets which proceeded from God. For truly this prediction was uttered before the removal of the people to Babylon; that is, anterior to the supremacy acquired by the Medes and Persians.
But it was interpreted into Greek by the Jews themselves, much before the period of our Lord’s advent, that there might remain no suspicion that perchance the Jews, complying with our humour, did put this interpretation upon these words. They indeed, had they been cognizant of our future existence, and that we should use these proofs from the Scriptures, would themselves never have hesitated to burn their own Scriptures, which do declare that all other nations partake of [eternal] life, and show that they who boast themselves as being the house of Jacob and the people of Israel, am disinherited from the grace of God.

 

Regarding the commentary on the Gospel of Luke (1: 26 – 2: 52), the same remarks could be made: Relativisation of the historical aspect.

The commentaries of the NCB on pages 1795 to 1797 are very significant of a spirit infected by the heresy of Modernism, which was condemned by Pope St Pius X.

For example: “Like Matthew, Luke gives us a series of stories about the birth and infancy of Jesus which are not to be read as exact reports of what happened, but as ‘theological’ stories which may be based on some fact but have been crafted (often in the language of the Old Testament) to tell us something about the significance of Jesus… The story is thus much more than
an artistic
account of how Jesus came to be born. It is an unusually rich theological statement
to show that Jesus is Saviour and Lord…” (p. 1796)

Then follows the account of the story of the Annunciation that is not to be read as literal report:

The story of the annunciation is not to be read as a literal report of what happened, but as a dramatization of the inner experience of Mary’s call to be the mother of the Messiah.” (p. 1796).

For the commentator,
the angel Gabriel did not appear to Mary. It was not a real, historical, external event. The Annunciation
is just a story explaining how Mary experienced internally the call of God and responded to it.

Luke is not reporting factual details but is communicating a religious experience and message through existing biblical pattern.

It is how the commentator explains the dialogue between Mary and the Archangel Gabriel.

It is just a “commissioning story” (p. 1796, 1797), that is to say, an arrangement of question and answers according to some OT patterns for explaining an interior experience!

 

 

 

 

 

Besides that, the commentator affirms against the tradition of the Church (Fathers of the Church) that Mary has not made a vow of virginity:

“It is this ‘yes’ of Mary, her perfect submission to God’s will, that is the essence of her virginity.” (p. 1796)

The commentator on Luke 1: 34: “How can this be since I am a virgin?”

Coming from a young girl just engaged to be married, the question appears odd. Several scholars explain it by assuming that Mary had made a vow of virginity to God. But such a vow of virginity is hard to reconcile with the fact of Mary’s betrothal and even more with the Jewish culture. Virginity was not commonly considered a value in Judaism, and there is no mention of vows of virginity anywhere in Jewish literature. So scholars, even Roman Catholic scholars, increasingly reject this explanation. Rather, Mary’s question is part of the literary device of commission stories… (p. 1797)

So, the scholars who practice theology and write the commentaries with little faith in the historical aspects of the Bible accounts, truthfully admit that the trend among them is to “increasingly reject the explanations” that have been part of Tradition for two thousand years.

                 * * * * *

Fr Francois Dupré osb teaches Theology in various Catholic Institutes in Europe and abroad. He is a
Doctor in Theology from the Pontifical University of Sancta Croce in Rome. The above was also approved by another Benedictine scholar who teaches at the Biblicum in Rome -Michael

 

From:
Fr Francois Dupré
To:
Michael Prabhu (E-mail)
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 3:20 AM

Dear Michael, Please find enclosed the text I promised you! Please take care of your health.
Thank you for what you are doing for defending the faith! with love and prayer Fr Francois Dupré osb

 

“INTERPRETATIONS ARE PROPOSED THAT DENY THE REAL PRESENCE OF GOD IN HISTORY” http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/208710?eng=y
Sandro Magister

The complete transcript of the popes address to the synod of bishops on “The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church,” on the morning of Tuesday, October 14, 2008
by Benedict XVI

Dear brothers and sisters, working on my book about Jesus has provided ample opportunity to see all of the good that comes to us from modern exegesis, but also to recognize its problems and risks.
The [conciliar constitution] “Dei Verbum,” section 12, offers two methodological guidelines for adequate exegetical work. In the first place, it confirms the necessity of using the historical-critical method, and briefly describes the essential elements of this. This necessity is the consequence of the Christian principle formulated in John 1:14: “Verbum caro factum est.” The historical fact is an essential dimension of the Christian faith. The history of salvation is not a myth, but real history, and for this reason it must be studied with the methods of serious historical research.
Nevertheless, this history has another dimension, that of divine action. In consequence, “Dei Verbum” speaks of a second methodological level necessary for proper interpretation of the words, which are at the same time human words and the divine Word. Following a fundamental rule for the interpretation of any literary text, the council says that Scripture is to be interpreted according to the same spirit in which it was written, and consequently indicates three methodological elements fundamental for the purpose of taking into account the divine, pneumatological dimension of the Bible. What this means is that one must: 1) interpret the text while taking into account the unity of all of Scripture; today, this is called canonical exegesis; at the time of the council, this term had not yet been created, but the council says the same thing: the unity of all of Scripture must be taken into account; 2) one must also keep in mind the living tradition of the entire Church, and finally 3) one must observe the harmony that exists between elements of the faith.
It is only where these two methodological levels are observed, historical-critical and theological, that one can speak of theological exegesis, an exegesis suitable for this Book. While current academic exegesis works at an extremely high standard with regard to the first level, the same cannot be said of the second. Often this second level, the level constituted by the three theological elements indicated by “Dei Verbum,” seems almost completely absent. And this has rather serious consequences.
The first consequence of the absence of this second methodological level is that the Bible becomes a book only about the past. Moral consequences can be drawn from it, history can be learned from it, but the Book as such speaks only of the past, and exegesis is no longer truly theological, but becomes pure historiography,
the history of literature. This is the first consequence: the Bible remains in the past, it speaks only of the past.

The second consequence is even more serious: where the hermeneutics of faith indicated by “Dei Verbum” disappears, another kind of hermeneutics seems to be necessary, a secularized, positivist hermeneutics, the fundamental principle of which is the conviction that the Divine does not appear in human history.

 

 

 

 

 

According to this hermeneutics, when it seems that there is a divine element, it must be explained where this impression comes from, and everything must be reduced to the human element.

In consequence, interpretations are proposed that deny the historicity of the divine elements. Today the so-called “mainstream” of exegesis in Germany denies, for example, that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist, and says that the body of Jesus remained in the tomb. The Resurrection is no longer seen as an historical event, but as a theological view. This takes place because of hermeneutics of faith is missing: a profane, philosophical hermeneutics is therefore asserted, denying the possibility of the entry and real presence of the Divine within history.
The consequence of the absence of the second methodological level is the creation of a profound gulf between scientific exegesis and “lectio divina.”
It is precisely from this that there sometimes arises confusion over the preparation of homilies.
Where exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology, and vice versa, where theology is not essentially the interpretation of Scripture within the Church, this theology no longer has any foundation.
For this reason, for the sake of the life and mission of the Church, for the future of the faith, it is absolutely necessary to overcome this dualism between exegesis and theology. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of a single reality, which we call theology.
In consequence, it seems desirable to me that one of the proposals [of the synod] should speak of the need for exegesis to include the two methodological levels indicated by “Dei Verbum” 12, which speaks of the need to develop
an exegesis that is not only historical, but also theological
. It will therefore be necessary to broaden the formation of future exegetes in this sense, in order to truly open the treasures of Scripture to today’s world, and to all of us.

The documentation of the synod, on the Vatican website:
> Synod of Bishops – Bulletin

English translation by
Matthew Sherry, Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. 19.10.2008

 

Pope addresses Synod
October 15, 2008 http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=9462

In a rare step, Pope Benedict took the floor at the Bible Synod yesterday to recommend that the bishops adopt a proposition on how exegetes and theologians can better inform each other’s work.

National Catholic Reporter’s, John L. Allen Jr reports the recommendation was delivered viva voce, as Pope Benedict took the microphone at the synod for the first time. 

Immediately after the customary 10.30 am coffee break after Archbishop Nikola Eterovich, secretary of the synod, informed the group that they would have to interrupt their normal program “because our president wishes to address us.”

In a brief report, the official Vatican bulletin noted that “starting from the consideration of the work for his book Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Father dwelt upon the fundamental criteria of Biblical exegesis, upon the dangers of a secularised and positivistic approach to the Scriptures and upon the need for a closer relationship between exegesis and theology.”

Synod sources told Allen the Pope spoke for a little less than ten minutes, drawing upon notes that he had apparently made in a small notebook. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the pope’s talk echoed the 1993 document, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church,” issued by the Pontifical Biblical Commission which was headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope, CNS adds. That document commented on the strengths and potential weaknesses of a variety of approaches currently found in biblical scholarship. The pope said the historical-critical method of interpretation of Scriptures has helped people understand that sacred texts are not myths, but true history, and the method helps scholars understand the “deep unity of all of Scripture,” the newspaper said.

However, an exegesis that exclusively uses a historical-critical method carries with it great risks, he said. L’Osservatore Romano reported the pope said such an interpretation could lead people to believe the Bible is only a book about the past. The Pope said that if the hermeneutics of faith disappears and is replaced by a positivistic or secular hermeneutics, then the divine does not appear in history and, as is happening in the work of some biblical scholars in Germany, the resurrection of Christ is refuted. “As part of his reflection, Benedict reportedly suggested to the bishops that a proposition on the relationship between exegesis and theology would be helpful, making it all but a foregone conclusion that at least one such proposition will be offered,” John L. Allen noted.

 

READ THE NCB REPORT AT

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