What were the “revisions” made in the 2008 St Pauls New Community Bible that was withdrawn?
The 2008 St Pauls Society’s New Community Bible (NCB) was withdrawn following a crusade by this ministry and other Catholic individuals, including priests, and lay Catholic organisations like the Federation of Catholic Faithful in Chennai. We reached a few copies of the NCB to different dicasteries of the Holy See along with our July 14, 2008 critique and other follow-up reports.
We objected to the introduction, in the commentaries, of Hindu scriptures on the pretext of contextualization for the Indian reader; the drawing of parallels between Biblical figures and Hindu mythological figures and deities; bringing in Surya Namaskar and the Gayatri Mantra for no sound reason; apparently heretical explanations about the Annunciation (“[It] 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.“), the parting of the Sea of Reeds (“it is not a factual, historical account“), etc. all of which were defended by Bombay Auxiliary Bishop Agnelo Gracias in a rebuttal that was not communicated to us and condemned by a summa cum laude theologian and many others; the equation of yoga and prana (which are New Age) with Christian theological concepts… and much more.
We also objected to some of the twenty-four illustrations or line drawings or art work in the NCB.
What St Pauls and the Bishops called an “Indianized Bible” was variously described as a Hinduised bible, a heretical bible, a syncretized bible, a New Age bible, a hybrid bible, an interreligious book, etc. by various Catholic agencies and the secular media.
A “First Revised Edition” was quietly brought out at the end of the year 2011 and we learn that it was welcomed in Australia and Oceania as the “International Edition 2012” with the support of Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, see NCB report number 21. The front cover art work was changed completely and the price was kept low $34.95 Australian $11.00 to eliminate the competition from available popular Bible versions.
From information given to me over the ‘phone from Australia, I understand that the Australian edition was printed in China!
Right: The Australian “CATHOLIC EDITION” 2011; Left: The Indian “CATHOLIC EDITION (REVISED)”, 2011
The 2008 NCB cover is identical to the latter except for the word “REVISED”
The Indian edition states: St Pauls is an activity of the members of the Society of St Paul who proclaim the Gospel through the media of Social communication.
The Australian edition states: St Pauls is an activity of the priests and brothers of the Society of St Paul who place at the centre of their lives the mission of evangelisation through modern means.
It is otherwise identical to the First Revised Edition 2011 sold in India.
It would be difficult for the writer to do a page by page comparison of the Revised Edition with the 2008 edition, but we will try to make a fairly detailed record of the “revisions” that were made.
Bishop Agnelo Gracias‘ rebuttal — see NCB report number 22 — of most of the objections raised by us in our critique did not hold out much hope that there would be any real “revision”, but we find that while many errors persist, there have been around 50 revisions in the 2011 First Revised Edition, thus vindicating our campaign against the Hinduised, syncretized, heretical bible.
The titles and links of our 23 reports preceding the present one are at the end of this document.
Several points of Bishop Agnelo Gracias‘ “rebuttal” of our critique were once again refuted by the same theologians and others — see http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_22-BISHOP_AGNELO_GRACIAS_DEFENDS_IT_YET_IT_IS_PULLED_FOR_REVISION.doc — who had stood shoulder to shoulder with us during our 2008 crusade.
For the record, despite Bishop Agnelo Gracias‘ dismissal of our critique and his scholarly defense of the NCB from a liberal standpoint, it was pulled from the bookshops. And heavily revised!!!!!
So what’s different in the First Revised Edition 2011 vis-à-vis the 2008 edition?
1. The front cover says “The New Community Bible – Catholic Edition”.
2. The Nihil Obstat was given by Most Rev. Thomas Dabre, Bishop of Vasai, and Chairman, Doctrinal Commission, CBCI.
3. The Imprimatur was from Most Rev. Percival Fernandez, Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay, Former Secretary-General, CBCI.
4. The Imprimi Potest was given by Father Varghese Gnalian SSP, Provincial Superior, Society of Saint Paul.
FIRST REVISED EDITION 2011
1. The front cover says “The New Community Bible – Catholic Edition” (REVISED).
2. There is no Nihil Obstat.
3. There are five bishops who have given the Imprimatur and they are, in the following order:
Most Rev. Albert D’Souza – Secretary General C.B.C.I.
Most Rev. Joseph Kallarangatt – Chairman, Commission for Doctrine
Most Rev. George Punnakottil – Bishop of Kothamangalam
Most Rev. Abraham Mar Julios – Bishop of Muvattupuzha
Most Rev. Thomas Dabre – Bishop of Poona, Former Chairman, Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI
Imprimi Potest is given by Rev Fr. Varghese Gnalian SSP, Provincial Superior, Society of Saint Paul.
I have come across soft cover copies of the 2011 First Revised Edition with brown and with white imitation leather finish that look different from the 2008 hard bound edition mainly because the colour scheme of the art work on the cover has been modified.
With its reputation tarnished, the colour combination of the art work of the 2008 edition (and the first lot of the 2011 edition) which was on both front and rear outer covers has been subtly changed so that a potential buyer who is familiar with the 2008 NCB will not associate the 2011 edition that he is looking at, with the former. This was suggested to me by a Catholic stockist who had taken all the copies of the 2008 NCB off of his bookshelves. He is now selling the 2011 Revised Edition believing that it has been thoroughly revised as assured to him by St Pauls. St Pauls’ ruse, if indeed it was one, has worked!
The 2008 NCB on page viii states that it has “twenty-four delicate yet powerful line drawings”.
The 2011 First Revised Edition on page viii states that it has “twenty-two“.
Two illustrations have been removed. But Bishop Agnelo had defended them both in his “rebuttal” of my critique, in Section IIC, The Illustrations in the NCB, of his rebuttal.
One illustration which has been removed from the 2011 Revised Edition of the NCB was on page 2263, that of a bindi-wearing woman performing the arati with a coconut and a flame on a (thali) plate. One of the four persons who the Bishop had consulted for an opinion, a lady, had opined that “the woman with the bindi … had a Hindu connotation“. But two other line drawings of women with bindis, those on page 1557 and page 1645 – which is Mary, the mother of Jesus — have been retained.
The other one that was excised was a very contentious one that was on page 92 and was in conjunction with the one on page 93… AND A BOX ON PAGE 94.
The Bishop fails to mention in his “rebuttal” that page 94 was to be removed, most certainly on his instruction; it is missing from the 2011 Revised Edition.
Page 94 was an important — from their perspective — inclusion, being a preemptive justification of the line drawings on pages 92 and 93, that of describing the temple, the mosque and the gurdwara as “sacred” or “holy ground” as in the case of Moses in the presence of the Living God Yahweh in Exodus 3:5. Page 94 carried two excerpts from Vatican II Documents including Nostra Aetate #2 as well as one from Ecclesia in Asia. With the offensive illustration on page 92 pulled, there was no reason to still have the box on page 94!
Despite all the justification given by the Bishop, see our report 22, the illustrations of the larger temple and mosque with the diminutive church in the foreground which collectively the NCB regarded as “holy ground”, as well as of the woman with the bindi, have been removed from the First Revised Edition 2011.
In his rebuttal, in Section I, RESPONSE TO THE GENERAL REMARKS OF MR. MICHAEL PRABHU, Bishop Agnelo rejects all our concerns regarding the absence of a committed focus by the Indian church on evangelization (he maintains that it is “being carried out silently without much publicity“), and the omission of discussion of burning moral issues such as abortion in the commentaries.
In this section, he includes his very weak explanation against my objection to the mention of “prana” and Yoga in the commentaries, saying, “I do not enter into the question of the compatibility of Yoga with the Christian faith, nor the question of whether homeopathy, acupuncture etc. are “New Age” therapies. These are complicated issues which would need much more study than has been done till now. I realize that a study of these topics would need to be done but it goes beyond the scope of the present Response and, perhaps, that could be a task undertaken by the CBCI Doctrinal Commission to study and give guidelines to the Church in India.”
Seven years have elapsed since my critique (and even more since I first began sending my reports to the CBCI) and the Bishop’s rebuttal, and I ask him and his fellow Bishops when, if at all ever, is the Indian Church going to bring out a white paper on yoga, the New Age, etc.?
In Section II B, Explanations of certain passages, he adds, “Commenting on Gen. 2:7, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, NCB says: “God infused into the human body an immortal soul, the atman (derived from the root and meaning ‘to breathe’), the principle of life (prana) which vivifies and pervades the human being. Every person’s life is a gift from God”… Mr. Prabhu objects to this interpretation on the grounds that prana is a pagan concept, an essential component of yoga, the same as chi, qi, or ki in Taoism-Buddhism-Chinese-Japanese. As I mentioned above, I have no desire to enter into a controversy over Yoga or New Age.”
Obviously he wouldn’t. New Age and Yoga are pandemic and institutionalized in the Indian Church, especially in the Archdiocese of Bombay where it is propagated by religious orders and powerful, rich priests.
In his rebuttal, in Section II A, Reference to Indian scriptures/practices, Bishop Agnelo broadly rejected all our objections concerning (see the first paragraph on page 1) “the introduction, in the commentaries, of Hindu scriptures on the pretext of contextualization for the Indian reader; the drawing of parallels between Biblical figures and Hindu mythological figures and deities; bringing in Surya Namaskar and the Gayatri Mantra for no valid reason; (and) the equation of yoga and prana (which are New Age) with Christian theological concepts.”
In his rebuttal, in Section II B, Explanations of certain passages, Bishop Agnelo commented, “To my mind, none of the objections of Mr. Prabhu on the NCB scriptural interpretations has any validity. It would be good, perhaps, if Mr. Prabhu were to enlighten himself a little more on the interpretation of Scripture.” These include what I mentioned in the first paragraph on page 1: “apparently heretical explanations about the Annunciation (“[It] 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.“), the parting of the Red Sea (“it is not a factual, historical account“), the Creation story of Genesis, the plagues narrative of Exodus, etc.” If the reader examines my reports on the NCB, s/he will find that conservative theologians have disputed these liberal theological arguments by citing passages from Church Documents.
In his rebuttal, in his Conclusion to Section A, Bishop Agnelo Gracias writes, “The root problem underlying Mr. Prabhu’s critique is that he regards
as an “error” and hence he is against inculturation which he regards as a “Hindu-isation” of the Church. Religious pluralism is not an “error” – it is a reality in this world. (Emphasis mine) The error lies in relativism, regarding all religions as equally good, all paths to the divine.”
Here, the Bishop is indulging in semantics to rebut me. I have all along accused the Indian Church of accommodating Religious Pluralism and warned against it, and been targeted for that by the dissident and liberal National Catholic Reporter, see http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/papabile-day-men-who-could-be-pope-19.
Religious pluralism is not an “error”? Technically, the Bishop is right (after all I am no theologian). Catholics indulging in it and promoting it is. I meant it as a danger to our Faith. I must guard my choice of words.
On Religious Pluralism, read these:
1. In 2001, Belgian India-based Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis signed a statement of doctrinal principles after the Vatican’s Doctrinal Congregation criticized ambiguities in his 1997 book ‘Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism‘.
The Vatican Document ‘Dominus Iesus’
released on 5 September 2000 emphasized the “exclusive, universal and absolute value” of Jesus Christ, taking aim at the notion that “one religion is as good as another“. The text criticized the tendency to… elevate other religions as pathways to salvation and to downplay Scripture. “The Old and New Testaments are the only such writings inspired by the Holy Spirit,“ it said. “The Church’s missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism.“ Source: The New Leader, October 1-15, 2000
is an essential feature of Hinduism,” in his book, Christian Openness to the World Religions…, 1988, Fr. Zacharias
Paranilam, page 131.
“The pressure of a
society, and the need to recognize pluralism
in religious education in schools means that some Christians seem to have accepted meekly that any and all religious approaches are equally valid” wrote Ajith Fernando in Jesus and the World Religions, Is Christianity Just another Religion? 1987, page 9.
5. “The kind of experiment Vandana Mataji [an RSCJ nun] has been undertaking needs to be recognized as opening a new chapter in religious pluralism,“
according to Fr. T. K. John SJ in Find Your Roots and Take Wing, Asian Trading, 1991, page xiii.
“We are at the close of the era of ‘religions‘… Now we stand at the threshold of an era of ‘spirituality‘,“
says the nun on page 108. That is New Age!
6. ““Our institutions are the face of the Church and we should inculcate religious pluralism in students,” Sister Pushpa, principal of Carmel Convent School in Faridabad said.“ Source: Nuns’ schools to read Quran for harmony
7. “Many theologians in Asia have a greater acceptance for religious pluralism, living as they do in a multi-religious society in which Christianity is usually a feeble minority. In this, they are different from their European or American colleagues, for whom the conciliar position is the final word.” Fr. Myron Pereira, Locking horns over ‘The Asian Jesus’
“India has acquired a reputation for some of the most adventurous theology in Catholicism today, especially in ‘religious pluralism.’“
John L. Allen Jr, http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/india-rising-catholic-power-too
“Present-day religious pluralism exactly as it is often conceived, indeed blurs the saving power of Christ. If one thinks that all religions save, then Christ is diminished. But to equate, when things are not equal, is an injustice and an error.” Fr. Galindo Rodrigo,
10. Cardinal Ivan Dias speaks of “today’s context of religious pluralism, indifferentism and relativism, which is prevalent even in some theological circles…” The Examiner, January 22, 2005
“An entire issue of the Jeevadhara theological journal from India … written by scholars from across Asia, dismissed Dominus Iesus for its incompatibility with the experience of Asian Catholics with religious pluralism.“
Edmund Chia, FSC, http://sedosmission.org/old/eng/chia_2.htm
“The New Age problems affecting mostly the local Churches in the West
are being projected by the (2003) document (on the New Age) as problems of the universal Church. However the heritage of religious pluralism and the struggles of the Asian Churches in encountering the local cultures are not respected in the document.”
Jeevadhara, May 2004. Fr. P.T. Mathew SJ is one of its editors. He is associated with Sameeksha, the ashram-theological centre of Fr. Sebastian Painadath SJ. He cannot perceive that the New Age is pandemic in the Indian Church largely because of the very same “heritage of religious pluralism” of the Asian churches.
Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Sebastian Athappilly
emphasized the need of proclaiming Jesus Christ as the unique and universal savior. He noted that some seemed to have watered down this “uniqueness of Jesus Christ” in the context of religious pluralism. http://www.ucanews.com/2011/01/26/indian-theologians-discuss-uniqueness-of-christ/
Fr. Athappilly, theologian, Graz, Austria is a supporter of this ministry.
“Some theology professors in India have described a Vatican cardinal’s comment that “Dominus Iesus” was directed against them as the Vatican’s failure to understand religious pluralism in Asia… Jesuit theologian Father Francis D’Sa
said Indian theologians live in “religious pluralism, not in academe like in the West”.” http://www.ucanews.com/2000/10/09/indian-theologians-regret-vatican-inability-to-understand-them/
“It must be noted that relativist explanations of religious pluralism, which state that the Christian faith is of no different value than any other belief, in fact empty Christianity of its defining Christological heart: faith alienated from our Lord Jesus, as the only Savior, is no longer Christian, no longer theological faith,” he said. “An even greater misrepresentation of our faith occurs when relativism leads to syncretism: an artificial ‘spiritual construct’ that manipulates and consequently distorts the essential, objective, revelatory nature of Christianity,” John Paul II added.
Hasn’t exactly that occurred in the commentaries of the NCB? Religious Pluralism is the bane of Asian theology. So, am I correct on Religious Pluralism, or is the Bishop?
I can similarly refute ALL of his erroneous defenses of the NCB with multiple evidences.
A comparison of the 2008 NCB with the 2011 First Revised Edition:
1. PREFACE, page v. The December 8, 2007 Preface to the NCB by Most Rev M. Soosa Pakiam, Chairman, Biblical Commission has been altered by the removal of one word in the 2011 edition:
This re-worked New Community Bible…
But it still retains the upper case S for “the Scriptures of other great Indian religions”.
This is despite Bishop Agnelo Gracias’ suggestion in his rebuttal to my critique, “I would suggest also that when referring to non-Christian sacred books, in keeping with the practice in Church documents, non-Christian scriptures be referred to with a small ‘s’ and not capitals“.
2. PRESENTATION, pages vii to ix.
Almost a full page of three paragraphs subtitled “Reference to the Scriptures of other faiths” has been deleted. The passages had used the upper case S for “Indian” Scriptures four times.
The Presentation is written by (Dr.) Fr. Augustine Kanachikuzhy SSP, General Editor of Saint Pauls.
In it, (in the retained portion), he thanks “Bishop Thomas Dabre for examining the references to Non-Christian Scriptures”. Please don’t miss the upper case used for “Non-Christian Scriptures”; we cannot afford to offend people of other faiths, can we?
At the time of the release of the NCB, Bishop Thomas Dabre was Chairman of the Doctrinal Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. He gave the Nihil Obstat for the 2008 Edition and is one of five bishops who gave the Imprimatur for the 2011 Revised Edition. Is he not to be held responsible for the scores of errors and wrong interpretations that the 2008 edition carried and which had to be removed at considerable financial burden to St Pauls in the Revised Edition 2011 thus conceding that they had been absolutely irresponsible and seriously deficient in communicating the pure, undiluted Catholic Faith to us?
The General Editor of St. Pauls included Bishop Dabre in the section titled “Our Collaborators”, page ix.
Does it also not expose the true theological positions of the 30 “Indian Bible Scholars” who collaborated on the commentaries as well as the calligrapher and artist Fr. Christopher Coelho OFM and of all the Bishops who assisted in the imposition of this syncretized bible on the Indian people?
At the time of the release of the Revised Edition, the Chairman of the Doctrinal Commission was Most Rev. Joseph Kallarangatt, the Bishop of Palai. He too is one of the five bishops who gave the Imprimatur for the Revised Edition and bears the responsibility for the erroneous inclusions that remain in the commentaries.
3. GENERAL INTRODUCTION by Dr. Fr. Augustine Mulloor, OCD
These six pages are a new addition in the Revised Edition. This new introduction with its subtitled sections such as “The Bible is a historical Book“, “The Bible needs scientific and pastoral interpretation” and “The Bible speaks to all Indians” seems to be an apology for, a defense of the many problems of the 2008 Edition that necessitated a revision. Remember that the objections of Catholics were NOT to the text/translation but to these very INTERPRETATIONS/commentaries.
In one of the subtitled sections, “Indian Christians need to read the Bible in their life situation“, Dr. Mulloor cites several lines from the Vatican II Document Nostra Aetate #2:
(Cited) The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.
(NOT cited) Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.
(Cited) The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.
This omission of the sentence affirming Jesus Christ as the unique and ultimate answer to the soteriological search of other faiths for the Truth is an indictment of the theological disposition of our priests and Bishops.
Whenever and wherever they cite Nostra Aetate #2, this sentence is DELIBERATELY OMITTED by them.
The lines preceding and succeeding it are otherwise always in their articles and speeches.
This particular case of calculated omission suffices to demonstrate that the NCB is not positioned as a vehicle for evangelization, for proclaiming the unicity of Christ, no matter the commentaries may say.
The closing statements of Fr. Mulloor reveal that the NCB is and has always been meant as a tool for interreligious dialogue which in my various reports including the recent INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE 01-POPE BENEDICT XVI http://ephesians-511.net/docs/INTERRELIGIOUS_DIALOGUE_01-POPE_BENEDICT_XVI.doc is an activity engaged in by the Church in which our Bishops and priests unashamedly accept all religions as paths to the Divine with no serious attempt to witness to Jesus Christ. We have Hinduised ourselves (“inculturated”) to appear no different than them in our rituals and practices.
According to Fr. Mulloor, “Bible reading must finally lead to the formation of authentic Christian and inter-religious communities. The New Community Bible is a valuable instrument for promoting this Biblical culture by facilitating the formation of authentic Christian communities and advancing the growth of inter-cultural and inter-religious harmony and communion.”
At all of these interreligious meetings, the religious texts of all faiths are given equal status by the Catholic Church in India. The reading from their scriptures is supplemented by readings from ours. That is all. Meanwhile, having adopted and adapted all that we could from the philosophies, symbols and rituals of the majority religion, Hindus, (in some cases their scriptures have replaced the Readings at Holy Mass), our clergy are bending over backwards to convince them that we are one of them and that they need not fear us as we do not intend to evangelize (we truly don’t!); after all, we accept their religions and their scriptures on par with our Christian faith and our Bible.
The statement “The New Community Bible is a valuable instrument for promoting this Biblical culture by facilitating the formation of authentic Christian communities and advancing the growth of inter-cultural and inter-religious harmony and communion” is cleverly worded and can be defended by these theologians, but knowledgeable Catholics can see that it is a smokescreen for the emergence of an autonomous Hinduised church. Dozens of reports at the web site of this ministry will attest to my statement.
This is a new inclusion in the Revised Edition, pages 2261 to 2278.
There are 6 pages with illustrations and maps in the 2008 NCB but there are 4 in the Revised Edition 2011.
6. THE COMMENTARIES
We will now examine the revisions made by comparing the two editions. The excised portions will be in red colour, retained portions in purple, and new inclusions in blue. My statements are as always in green colour.
1. and 2. Genesis 1/2 – The Priestly Account of Creation, page 8 (in the 2008 edition)
1. Even in the Upanishad, e.g. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.2.1; 1.4 ff., Aitareya Upanishad 1.1 ff., Tattiya Upanishad 2.7, some creation accounts open with the word agre, (that is, at the beginning).
It is replaced by “Even in
other religious traditions (for example in the Rig Veda)“.
2. …as in some Indian Scriptures is replaced by “as in some other religious scriptures“.
The upper case S which we had objected to is substituted by a lower case s.
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias had defended the inclusion stating, “This is a very apt reference to Hindu scriptures. In any Scripture commentary, the Biblical creation account is compared to the Babylonian and other myths. It is fitting that in a commentary meant for India, we ask whether there are any creation accounts in India. Very appropriately, the NCB commentary has drawn out the difference between the Biblical account of creation and its Hindu counterparts.” Yet, they were excised in the revision.
The Babylonian myths pertain to extinct religions that thrived in the region where Judaism later developed; referring to them is proper historical exegesis. The Hindu myths are of India’s majority religion. By constantly drawing Biblical parallels with them, aren’t we saying to them that we are not unique and no different, “Your religion is as good as mine”? I can argue at length on this.
The duplicity of our theologians is evident here. There is no such entity as “Indian Scriptures”. What they are citing are HINDU scriptures. Similarly, I maintain that their so-called “Indianisation” is really “Hinduisation”.
On the same page, there is a quote from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The revisers have removed all the major offending references that we had objected to but retained “minor” ones, e.g. pages 20, 1900, etc.
3. and 4. Genesis 1/2 – The Priestly Account of Creation, page 11 (in the 2008 edition)
1. The Bible does not hold with the Hindu thinking that the creation/creature is identical with or an emanation from the creator bimbapratibimba or atman is brahman.
2. Then: But the Bible holds that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26).
Now: Despite certain similarities, Christian anthropology is different from others.
5 and 6. Genesis 1/2 – The Priestly Account of Creation, page 12 (in the 2008 edition)
1. On God’s day of rest, One may perhaps compare it to the Indian samadhi which is the eighth and last stage of Yoga and denotes a state of peace, tranquility, equanimity, self-absorption, concentration, contemplation and emancipation. It can also mean completion, accomplishment and fulfilment.
Once again, there is no such thing as “Indian samadhi”. What they are describing is HINDU samadhi.
The crooked commentator Fr. Rui de Menezes contrived a yoga explanation for God’s day of “rest”!
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias had written, “The idea of rest as denoting a celebrative joy expressing a sense of fulfillment is a beautiful one. The comparison to the Indian Samadhi is in order, though few may understand it. (I leave aside Mr. Prabhu’s strong reservations with regard to Yoga).”
But the reference to Yoga and its eight stage samadhi was removed during the revision.
2. A few paragraphs ahead these words are removed: As the mystic Kabir says, “He is the ultimate rest unbounded.”
7. Genesis 2 – The Yahwist Account of Creation, page 13 (in the 2008 edition)
The concept of Adamah seems to be similar to that of the Indian Bhumidevi (goddess earth)… It is the basis of life and is considered a divine being (bhumidevi, prithvidevi) and occupies a special place among the gods.
It is replaced by “The earth is indeed an object of awe and veneration and not of domination and exploitation (Ref. Gaudium et Spes, 34).”
I note that my accusation of the commentaries’ citing of numerous Hindu religious texts but very few of Church documents has had an impact on the revisers.
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias had written, “I feel this is not a very appropriate reference to Indian scriptures, and may be open to an understanding that the earth is divine. The emphasis of Genesis is the opposite: to make the Earth and everything in it (sun, moon, etc.) creatures. This was affirmed already in the NCB commentary on p.8 when it says that the earth is not an emanation of God. But the comment here weakens that and I suggest it be eliminated.” It was.
8. and 9. Genesis 2 – The Yahwist Account of Creation, page 14 (in the 2008 edition)
1. Every person lives because he is linked to God. Kabir defines God as “the breath of all breath”.
2. On Eden, three words deleted: This mythical garden
Most unfortunately, the Hindu concept of “The principle of life (prana) which vivifies and pervades the human being“, equating it with the “breath of life” breathed into man by God (Gen. 2:7), is retained in the Revised Edition.
Since no Hindu text is cited to support the contention and since the Bishops have retained it, it means that they believe in the existence of this occult energy that is the essence of yoga and other esoteric disciplines.
10. Genesis 28 – Jacob’s Dream of Bethel, page 52 (in the 2008 edition)
Two Sanskrit terms, svarthata, prasada
11. Genesis 32 – Jacob wrestles with God, page 59 (in the 2008 edition)
Non-biblical folklore speak of such divine-human combats. The Mahabharata epic recounts the fight of Arjuna with god Shiva who has assume the form of a despised Kirata (III: I 63).
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias had written, “Not a very illuminating comparison, and though the NCB commentary points out that the fight between Arjuna and Shiva is “folklore” it may be misunderstood, I suggest omitting it. The theological significance of the encounter between Jacob and God is well explained in the NCB commentary and hence there is no need of referring to Arjuna and Krishna.” It was expunged.
12. Exodus 1 – The Hebrews oppressed, pages 88-89 (in the 2008 edition)
Mahatma Gandhi would term this satyagraha – soul-force or truth-force. The term satyagraha literally means “holding on to truth”. It consists in fighting for truth and justice through non-violent means. Truth and non-violence become the most powerful weapons in the hands of a satyagrahi, the one who clings to truth and uses it as a force to resist evil. “Satyam eva jayete” “Truth alone conquers” (Mandaka Upanishad 3.1.6).
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias had defended the inclusion, stating, “This seems to be an apt reference to Hindu scripture. The words “Satyam eva jayete” are well known – they form part of India’s National Emblem. (Many may not know that the words are from a Hindu scripture!)” Yet they were excised.
13. Exodus 3 – The Divine Name, page 91 (in the 2008 edition)
Then: The Indian sages named God – Brahma, Atman, Saccidananda, etc.
Now: The various religion traditions have tried to name God in their own way, e.g. Brahman, Isvara, Bhagavan, Kadavul, Allah, etc.
14. and 15. Exodus 3 – pages 92, 93, 94 (in the 2008 edition); two illustrations and a box
1. and 2. Removed: One illustration on page 92, and a full page explanatory box on page 94 against the illustrations on pages 92, 93.
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias had defended the inclusions, stating,
“To take the two illustrations objected to by Mr. Prabhu:
The first one is on pages 92-93 of NCB of Moses and the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:1-12): Mr. Prabhu states: “Though the steeple is in the foreground, one may just miss it at first glance, as we did. The mosque and the temple are more prominent, especially the temple which is fairly eye-catching“. This is reading too much in a picture. The fact that Mr. Prabhu almost missed the steeple is revealing – one sees what one is looking for!
Further, Mr. Prabhu objects to the commentary accompanying the picture:
94: In asking us to take off our sandals, Scripture is telling us that every place or manner in which God manifests himself is sacred and, therefore, every religion is deserving of our respect, even if we do not accept all of their cultural and social wrappings. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Respect for other religions helps us to understand our own religion better”.
On p.4 of his Critique, Mr. Prabhu states that this commentary is a “lie, a deliberate misinterpretation of the Word of God” spoken in a specific context, manipulating it “to apply to the Ashtoreths and Baals of Moses’ time.”
Is that so? Or is it a legitimate application of what God told Moses? Is not every place where God manifests himself sacred? Is not every religion deserving of our respect?”
“Sacred” and “deserving of our respect” are two very different things. A Gita or a Koran are definitely deserving of our respect but not necessarily sacred — as in how Catholics hold the Bible — to non-believers.
Despite all the defensive arguments of the Bishop, the illustration — that of the larger temple and mosque with the diminutive church in the foreground which collectively the commentators regarded as “holy ground”, — has been removed and is not included in the First Revised Edition 2011.
Page 94 is a defensive justification of the line drawing on pages 92, that of describing the temple, the mosque and the gurdwara as “sacred” or “holy ground” as of Moses, on page 93, in the presence of the Living God Yahweh in Exodus 3:5. Page 94 carried two excerpts from Vatican II Documents including Nostra Aetate #2 as well as one from Ecclesia in Asia. With the offensive illustration on page 92 pulled, there was no reason to still have the box on page 94. It, too, has gone.
16. Exodus 5 – Moses confronts Pharaoh, page 97 (in the 2008 edition)
The liberation-leader must himself undergo an inner liberation, and learn the art of complete surrender to God, to Truth. As Gandhiji says, “One has to appear before Him (God) in all one’s weakness, empty-handed and in a spirit of full surrender, and then He enables you to stand before the whole world and protects you from all harm.”
One of the most recurrent themes/words across the NCB commentaries is “liberation”. Please see my critique. The preaching and writing of today’s Indian theologian is all about liberation and social justice.
I do not expect Bishop Agnelo Gracias and his collaborators to appreciate my perspective.
In his rebuttal, he wrote, “Mr. Prabhu accuses the commentary of focusing too much on “liberation”.”
The Bishop uses an argument from the NCB commentary itself, pages 1861-1862, “For the Hindus, the human person is essentially a soul imprisoned in the body. The body is a sort of container for the soul, not essentially linked to it. Salvation consists in liberation from the body through a series of rebirths in which different bodies are assumed and discarded. In biblical thinking the human person is an animated body. Body and soul form an invisible whole. …Salvation does not consist in the liberation of the soul from the body, but in the liberation of the whole human person.”
The focus today is so much on a “gospel” of “liberation” purely through social action that evangelization is precluded. Jesus Christ is more a reformer than a Saviour and Redeemer.
In the NCB, even an exorcism narrative, page 1745, is converted into a platform to preach social justice and deftly avoid any mention of the Devil and his works.
One more thing; about 50% of the commentary content of pages 1861-1862, the very pages cited by the Bishop to defend his stand, has been excised from the Revised Edition!
17. Exodus 5 – Moses confronts Pharaoh, page 98 (in the 2008 edition)
Martin Luther King himself confessed that he was shocked and saddened by the indifference of the Blacks.
18. Exodus 7 – First Plague: Water turns into Blood, page 101 (in the 2008 edition)
Perhaps, one may compare the narrative with the Mahabharata epic: the Kauravas under the leadership of Duryodhana symbolize the forces of evil and the stubbornness of the evil-doer, leading to total defeat.
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias wrote, “As a comparison, it is OK, though it seems a bit far-fetched. I suggest omitting it.”
It now reads as: The struggle between the forces of evil and the powers of good is found in all religious traditions. Such struggles have a symbolic meaning. They all depict that the powers of good will ultimately prevail over the forces of evil and the wiles of the Devil.
Yes, the devil, Satan. He was particularly missing from the NCB commentaries whereas he is mentioned dozens of times in the Bible. The same with “hell” which appears 23 times in the New Testament alone.
19. Exodus 14 – Crossing the Sea of Reeds, pages 112-113 (in the 2008 edition)
The Parting of Waters: Motion pictures have used this narrative for box-office effect. This narrative, however, is not a factual, historical account. … The great Indian thinker Shankara in his Atmabodha (v.50) speaks of this crossing of the ocean of delusion (teertva moharnavam). The Sanskrit word for the incarnation of the gods, ava-tara, comes from the same root and denotes the crossing of the incarnated god down into our world for the purpose of salvation. Mukti or moksha which is the final emancipation or liberation is a state of supreme bliss and freedom from bondage. It is the highest goal of human life. … We have to leave behind our alienated lives, our fettered existence, and move over to a life of true awareness.
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias wrote, “I think this is an apt allusion to explain in the Indian context the idea of “crossing”. The words from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: “Lead me from the unreal….” were quoted by Pope Paul VI during his 1964 visit to Bombay on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress. The reference to ‘ava-tara’ may confuse people and does not add anything to the previous references and I suggest it be omitted.” And so about 30% of that Sea of Reeds commentary was dropped. This again was one of the objections that I had raised in my critique.
20. Exodus 16 – The Manna and the Quails, page 117 (in the 2008 edition)
The Taittiriya Upanishad (III.1) understands food as “a symbol of Brahman”.
21. and 22. Exodus 20 – The Ten Commandments, pages 121-122 (in the 2008 edition)
1. The Indian Scriptures speak of ten basic precepts (sila): ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), brahmacharya (chastity), asteya (non-stealing/honesty), aparigraha (voluntary destitution, poverty), saucham (purity), samthosha (contentment, tapas (austerity), swadhaya (study of the sacred texts), and Ishwarapranidhana (devotion to God) (cf. Yoga Sutra II, 30.32).
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias wrote, “The NCB’s commentary gives us this comparison by way of information. Though comparison may not help to enlighten very much the personal nature of the biblical 10 commandments, no open minded person could find fault with the comparison to the 10 basic precepts of Hinduism.”
The reviewers were so open-minded that the entire passage was eliminated from the Revised Edition!
As I said earlier, there is nothing such as “Indian Scriptures”. They are HINDU scriptures but the theologians and their Bishops obstinately refuse to recognize them as such. For what reason? By the same logic, the theologians’ and Bishops’ so-called “Indianisation” is really “Hinduisation”.
2. According to the Indian texts, the Ultimate Reality or Brahman is arupa, agrahya, adrsya, acintya, that is beyond all senses and imagination.
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias wrote, “Good – a good meeting point between classical Hinduism and Biblical thought.” Good, a good meeting point, but the sentence was lopped off.
23. Deuteronomy 1 – The First Discourse of Moses, page 260 (in the 2008 edition)
By contrast, ancient Indian law books (the Manusmriti, for instance) validate law by relating it to the inherent order or dharma of the universe.
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias wrote, “The recital of historical events stresses the experiential dimension (anubhava) of the call of Israel. By contrast, ancient Indian law books (the Manusmriti, for instance) validate law by relating it to the inherent order or dharma of the universe“. “Quite in order – in fact, the emphasis is on contrast between the Bible and the Manusmriti.” ‘Quite in order’ for the Bishop, yet the sentence was expunged.
24. Deuteronomy 10 – Love and Service of God, page 275 (in the 2008 edition)
The Bhagvata Purana (7.5.23) summarizes the religion of love in the following ten “limbs”: darshan (seeing), shravanam (listening), smaranam (remembering), kirtanam (praising), vandanam (prostration), padasevanam (worship), arcanam (cult), atmanivedanam (self-dedication), dasyam (slave service), and sakhyam (friendship).
In his rebuttal, the Bishop wrote, “The comparison to the Bhagvata Purana does not throw any light on Deuteronomy’s command of love and service. Seems out of place and I suggest it be dropped.” It was.
25. Joshua 1 – The Lord Commands Joshua, page 317 (in the 2008 edition)
Similarly in the Gita although the deity is shown to control all things, yet Krishna orders Arjuna to fight the battle of righteousness – yudhyasva bharata (Bhagavad Gita 2:18).
In his rebuttal of my critique, Bishop Agnelo Gracias wrote, “The reflection on blending the spiritual with the social dimension of life is a good one – but the reference to Krishna’s advice to Arjuna hardly seems to be in place. It gives the impression of being a bit far-fetched and could be dropped.” It was.
26. Joshua 10 – The Sun Stood Still, page 329 (in the 2008 edition)
Here, the modernist commentary has been carefully re-worded in the Revised Edition which indicates that someone was unhappy with the original arrangement. It is pointless for me to reproduce them here.
27. 1 Samuel 2 – Hannah’s Magnificat, page 397-398 (in the 2008 edition)
who is daridranarayan,
the Lord of the poor,
and dainyapriyatvat, the lover of the lowly
– to borrow the vocabulary of Hindu Bhakti literature (Narada Bhakti Sutras, 27) – will never tolerate such a situation.
In the opinion of Bishop Agnelo Gracias, “An apt reference to the Lord of the poor, the lover of the lowly.”
Why then was the Hindu portions (red colour above) of the “apt reference” dropped in the revision?
28. 1 Samuel 18 – David and Jonathan, page 421 (in the 2008 edition)
It reminds us of the most famous friendship in Indian literature – that between Ram and Lakshman.
“Indian literature” indeed! Ram and Lakshman are characters from HINDU literature. Is the bishop not aware of the Ram mandir (temple) controversy, the Ram Lila festival, that Hindus greet each other with “Ram, Ram” and that Gandhi died to an assassin’s bullet invoking his deity with “He Ram”?
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias was confident that the sentence was “A good comparison which even children will be familiar with since it forms part of what they learn in school.” But the defended sentence was excised from the Revised Edition.
29. 2 Samuel 12 – Nathan condemns David, page 456 (in the 2008 edition)
As the Narada Bhakti Sutra says, one of the characteristics of true devotion is deep sorrow over one’s forgetfulness of the Lord.
Bishop Agnelo Gracias wanted to know, “Could any sensible person find fault with this reference to the Narada Bhakti Sutra?” Someone most certainly did, because the reference has gone missing in the revision.
30. 2 Samuel 16 – Shimei curses David, page 462 (in the 2008 edition)
Then: The way David bears with these curses astonishes us. We may find in him (David) the traits of samatva, i.e., being even-tempered in pleasure or suffering, in success or failure before friend or foe (Gita, chapters 2 and 12).
Bishop Agnelo Gracias opines, “This is a passing reference to the Bhagavad Gita – in fact, it is really a reference to the word ‘samatva’. Hardly anyone could find fault with this!” Well someone did. It now reads:
Now: David did not react to the curses of Shimei. He put his trust totally in Yahweh, and refused to defend himself or take revenge (vv. 10-12).
31. Tobit – The Good Example of Tobit, page 693 (in the 2008 edition)
Then: Tobit walked in dharma and practiced samabhavana (relating well to all), even if at times with righteous anger (dharmarosha) (cf. Tobit 2: 11-14). The word dharma has a rich variety of meanings such as righteousness, virtue, integrity, justice, equity, piety, morality and ethics. It comes from the root dhr which means “to uphold, support, nourish”. It is dharma that upholds and supports the whole universe. Dharma vishvasya jagata pratishtah (Dharma is the foundation of the whole world).
Now: Tobit walked in righteousness (dharma) and was friendly with everyone. (But righteousness is NOT dharma!)
32. 1 Maccabees 3 – In Praise of Judas Maccabeus, pages 755-756 (in the 2008 edition)
Then: One may qualify their warfare as darmayuddha (a battle to establish righteousness). The Maccabean resistance and warfare has a parallel in the great war of the Mahabharata Epic. Krishna, the incarnate god, who motivated a dejected and despondent Arjuna to fight a just war describes his (Krishna’s) mission as the establishment of righteousness (dharma samsthapanartham) by protecting the good and by destroying the wicked (cf. Bhagavad Gita IV, 7).
Now: One may qualify their warfare as a battle to establish righteousness.
Bishop Agnelo Gracias recommended, “The war may be described as ‘darmayuddha’ but the comparison to Arjuna and Krishna does not seem to be at all an apt comparison. I would suggest it be dropped.”
33. Job 42 – Epilogue, pages 868-869 (in the 2008 edition)
Then: But somebody came into the editorial process, and spilt the whole poetic drama as it had unravelled up to now. Like in modern TV soap operas and box-office films from Bollywood, “God” re-enters in the form of a “deus ex machina” who, with a word and a magic wand, restores everything…
Now: In the prose epilogue, God re-enters and restores everything…
34. Psalm 5 – Prayer at Daybreak, pages 876-877 (in the 2008 edition)
Then: Early morning is considered a favourable time to meet God in various religious traditions: Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, etc. In Hinduism, the dawn is personified as a deity by the name Ushas. The traditional morning prayer of a Hindu consists in the reciting of the famous Gayatri-mantra (Rig Veda 3.62.10) at daybreak facing the rising Sun, Om bhur bhuvgah svah/…
Bhargo devasya dhimani / Dhiyo yo nah pracodayat. (May we meditate on the most excellent lustre of the sun-god that he may illumine our intellect). During the day we have to find the straight path of the Lord amidst the crookedness and temptation of life (v.9)
Now: In various religious traditions, early morning is considered a favourable time to meet God.
Bishop Agnelo Gracias had defended the commentator’s bringing the Gayatri Mantra into the NCB: “The NCB commentary refers to the morning prayer of thousands, perhaps millions, of Hindus; but contrary to what Mr. Prabhu claims, it does not in any way oblige us to read the Gayatri Mantra. One is made aware of the traditional prayer of the Hindu if one chooses to read the NCB commentary.
It is unfortunate that the commentary has capitalized the word ‘sun’, though it did not do so when it referred to the ‘sun god’. The capital in ‘Sun’, apparently a typing error, should be dropped.” And it was.
35. Isaiah 50 – The Obedience of the Servant, page 1301 (in the 2008 edition)
Retained in the Revised Edition 2011: Listening is shravana which comes from the Sanskrit root shru which means “to hear, listen”. It is the attentive and devout hearing of the Word in the Scriptures as well as that of the words of a teacher (guru). The liberative knowledge of the spirit (atman) is to be attained through “seeing, listening, reflecting and meditating” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5.6).
Bishop Agnelo Gracias’ argument: “I think this is a good example of explaining something in Indian categories and terms.” So it was retained.
New inclusion: In the Christian tradition, we have the Lectio Divina method of reading the Scriptures with contemplative listening. It comprises four steps in sacred reading: lectio (a slow thoughtful reading); oratio (quiet prayer inspired by it); meditatio (application to concrete life); dilectio (a blissful silent resting in the word).
In vv. 4 and 5, the servant of the Lord speaks of the Lord opening the servant’s ear to listen to Him. These verses emphasize the Lord’s initiative and the disciple’s submissive listening.
36. Daniel 2 – Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream, pages 1508-1509 (in the 2008 edition)
Excised portions: Isabhakti paramjnanam: the love of God is the highest wisdom… brahmavidya sarva-vidyapratishthah
Bishop Agnelo Gracias’ argument: “An apt allusion to Indian scripture – fits in well with the comment on the dream.” But the Sanskrit terms were removed. And, for God’s sake, Bishop Agnelo Gracias, the Upanishads are not INDIAN scriptures, they are HINDU scriptures!
37. Daniel 6 – Daniel in the Lion’s Den, page 1520-1521 (in the 2008 edition)
Then: Gandhiji spoke of Daniel as the ultimate satyagrahi.
Now: Referring to the story of Daniel, Gandhiji said, “When Daniel disregarded the laws of Medes and Persians which offended his conscience and meekly suffered the punishment for his disobedience, he offered satyagraha in its purest form… (Young India, 5 November 1919).
38, 39, 40. Matthew 1 – The Birth of Jesus, page 1642-1643 (in the 2008 edition)
1. Deleted portion: 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 by the storytellers’ imagination. …
Now reads as: (Matthew’s narrative) is based on popular accounts about the infancy of Jesus, current in early Christian circles, which have a historical core around which the narrative has been constructed.
2. Deleted portion: Matthew’s story of the birth of Jesus does not read at all like a report.
Now reads as: Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus does not give us all the details.
3. Deleted portion: They introduce to us a typically Christian way of reading the OT, for the OT passages quoted did not in their original meaning necessarily refer to Jesus nor have the meaning which Matthew gives them.
Now reads as: They introduce to us a typically Christian way of reading the OT which the OT writers themselves naturally could not have envisaged.
In the 2008 edition, the commentator has given a liberal and modernist twist to the correct interpretation.
The writer of this commentary is Fr. George Soares Prabhu SJ who also wrote the commentary to the Gospel of St. Luke which has an even more serious problem than what we just encountered as we shall see shortly.
When that comes up, I will use an orthodox Catholic theologian’s rebuttal of these distorted interpretations.
See page 13 of this report.
The fact that the above cited portions of Fr. Prabhu’s commentary had to be written is evidence of the deplorable state of Indian theology and our seminaries.
It is important to note that Fr. George Soares Prabhu SJ did not make the changes for the Revised Edition. He died prior to the release of the NCB in 2008. The re-writing was done by someone else.
The most references to Hindu religious texts in the commentaries are in those on the first two books of the Bible (Genesis and Exodus) and in that of the Gospel according to St Matthew.
Matthew 2 – The Return from Egypt, page 1647 (in the 2008 edition)
In Matthew, Fr. Prabhu commented that “(Jesus’) miracles are eruptions of charismatic power, not the result of yogic techniques. All that he said and did fits in well with the picture not of a yogi but of a Jewish Galilean teacher in pre-seventy Palestine.” Sadly, these lines are retained in the Revised Edition 2011. It is anybody’s guess as to why the Jesuit priest would, in a Bible commentary, even think of comparing or contrasting Jesus with a yogi and His Divine miracles with the occult phenomena that sometimes accompany the use of yogic techniques.
41. Matthew 5 – The Sermon on the Mount, page 1651 (in the 2008 edition)
(Mahatma Gandhi’s disciple) Vinoba Bhave, presented it as “the essence of Christianity”.
Matthew 5 – The Beatitudes, page 1652 (in the 2008 edition)
Retained: Such happiness is not to be confused with ‘contentment’. For where contentment is often the outcome of mere sense gratification (pleasure) and material achievement, the happiness promised by the beatitudes is the joy and satisfaction that come from true human fulfillment. As the Upanishads say: the good is not to be identified with the pleasant (Kathopanishad 2:1).
Bishop Agnelo Gracias said, “A good reference to the Upanishad!“
42. Matthew 6 – The Lord’s Prayer, page 1660 (in the 2008 edition)
Then: …as the Hindu Scriptures say.
Now: …as the Hindu scriptures say. The upper case S is reduce to a lower case s as called for in our critique.
43. Matthew 13 – The Parables, page 1681 (in the 2008 edition)
…like the stories frequently used by religious teachers like Sri Ramakrishna.
44. Matthew 25 – The Last Judgement, pages 1718, 1719, 1720 (in the 2008 edition)
Some scholars have identified these ‘least of my brothers and sisters’ with members of the Christian community… ..Such interpretation would turn Jesus into a narrow sectarian preacher. ….This would be far inferior to the generous ‘mission command’ of the Buddha who sends his disciples ‘for the profit of many, for the happiness of many, out of compassion of the world, for the good and profit and happiness of gods and men’ (Samyutta Nikaya 1:105); or to the marvelous ideal of the Bhagvad Gita, in which the person who has attained enlightenment is one who has ‘a passionate desire for the welfare of all beings (sarva bhuta hite ratah) (BG 5:25) or for ‘the integral well- being of the people’ (lokasamgraham) (BG 3:20)
From Bishop Agnelo Gracias’ rebuttal, “To my mind, a good comparison bringing out the true significance of Jesus’ teaching.” Despite that, the sentences have been removed.
45, 46, 47. Luke 1 – Announcement of the Birth of Jesus, pages 1796, 1797, 1798 (in the 2008 edition)
Bishop Agnelo Gracias, in his apparently first-time detailed examination of the NCB commentaries and lengthy rebuttal of my critique, (he flippantly described my critique as “long, 9-page, closely-typed”), appears not to have noticed a MAJOR problem with the commentary by Fr. George Soares Prabhu on the Annunciation narrative. He did not say a single word about it in his rebuttal.
It is not one of the issues included in my critique. Had it been, my critique would have been even longer!
The Annunciation controversy was communicated by me to the Bishops only in February and March 2009, by email and through my NCB reports nos. 3 and 5, seven months following my July 2008 critique, after a French theologian brought them to my notice. (I was not looking for and never in the least expected a heretical twist to the traditional understanding of a historical event like the Annunciation.)
I have now come across a few more problems in the (revised) NCB that will necessitate further reports.
On the previous page, I had said that I would use an orthodox Catholic theologian’s rebuttal of the distorted interpretations such as the one on the infancy narrative of Matthew 1, the parting of the waters in Exodus 14, etc. where certain Biblical events are regarded by some Indian theologians as “not historical”, as “not factual” or as not having really occurred in history. While taking pains to state that certain Biblical accounts were mythical (some of them were excised or modified during the revision), these same commentators include completely mythical accounts from Hindu religious texts as if they had occurred in historical time.
The commentary on the Annunciation required a major makeover by the revisers as we will now see.
1. Then: The use of these patterns shows that the story of the annunciation (Note the lower case a for a major Biblical event and Church feast) 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. The story interprets this experience as a call to a special mission in salvation history.
Now: Behind this account is Mary’s experience of a divine call to a special mission in salvation history.
2. Then: Rather, Mary’s question is part of the literary device of commissioning stories where the person being commissioned raises an objection to which the messenger responds by giving a sign (cf. Exodus 3: 11-12; 4: 10-12; Jeremiah 1:6). Luke is not reporting factual details but is communicating a religious experience and message through existing Biblical patterns.
Now: Rather, Mary’s question is part of the literary device of call narratives where the person being called raises an objection to which the messenger responds by giving a sign (cf. Exodus 3: 11-12; 4: 10-12; Jeremiah 1:6).
Luke is keen on communicating a religious experience and message through existing Biblical patterns.
3. Then: Just this much. Catholic tradition has always affirmed the perpetual virginity of Mary even after the birth of Jesus, but it is impossible to trace this to any particular text in Scripture.
Now: At the outset of the Gospel Jesus is introduced in his identity as Son of David, fulfillment of the Messianic promises, and Son of God in unique relationship with the Father. Catholics have always believed in the continued virginity of Mary, even after the birth of Jesus.
I am reproducing here a portion of the French summa cum laude theologian’s analysis of the above problem in Luke 1 and that of Matthew 1 on page 12 above. He also deals with another problematic commentary, that on Isaiah 7:14, NCB page 1239, which is point no. 15 of my critique (colour emphases mine):
Some remarks about the errors in the New Community Bible narration of Jesus’ Infancy in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew
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 Ecclesiae” (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. Furthermore, 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 William, 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 Irenaeus 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
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.
* * * * *
The writer teaches Theology in various Catholic Institutes in Europe and beyond. 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
I can produce much more evidence against the erroneous historical-critical exegetical approach of the NCB commentators, but for this report, the above should suffice.
Before we proceed to examining the remaining books of the NCB for revisions implemented in their commentaries, we must read what Bishop Agnelo Gracias had to say about Isaiah 7:14 in his rebuttal:
Page 1239: “The virgin is with child and will bear a son and will name him Immanuel (v.14): this version of the text is based on the Greek translation of the OT. However, in Hebrew the word used is almah, which simply means the young woman. What Isaiah actually says to Ahaz is that the young woman (his wife, the queen) will bear another son, and before he reaches the age of puberty (the meaning of v.16) the land of the two kings will be destroyed, …This prophecy in its primary meaning has reference to Isaiah’s time, and the child was offered as a sign at that time. He was Hezekiah who succeeded to his father’s throne in 715, and was a God-fearing king whose counselor Isaiah became. For, God is still with his people: He is Immanuel.
Of course, the prophecy has a fuller sense in addition to its primary meaning. It is an expression of the royal messianism. The Greek version, by using the word “virgin”, is indicative of an early Jewish interpretation and expectation about the coming Davidic Messiah. And when speaking of the Virgin-birth of Jesus, Matthew quotes the Greek text to proclaim that Jesus is the fulfillment of these messianic hopes. He is our Immanuel – the living sign that God will never abandon us. (cf. Mt. 1:23)”
Mr. Prabhu remarks: “To understand how the NCB commentaries include what is irrelevant to our faith, explain what need not be explained, and do not say what must be said, one must read the CCB (Philippine Christian Community Bible) commentaries, in this case of Isaiah 7 (their pages 532, 533) and note the differences.” I have made a photostat of the CCB. Any reader can see how much clearer and closer to Catholic teaching the NCB is. It explains so clearly the original and the fuller sense of the passage, as the Catholic Church has always held.
In the light of the orthodox Catholic teaching presented by the French theologian, no further refutal of Bishop Agnelo Gracias’ sorry attempt at defense needs to be made. For the record, the Bishop and his theologians did not deem it necessary to revise the NCB commentary by “T.A. Joseph SG” on Isaiah 7:14.
48 and 49. Luke 20 – The Resurrection of the Dead, pages 1861-1862 (in the 2008 edition)
1. A person remains bound within the cycle of rebirth till one has completely worked out all the consequences of one’s actions and freed oneself from all attachment. Only then does a person achieve final liberation (moksha).
This is a powerful theory and seemingly a consistent explanation for the problem of evil. But it may lead to a diminished sense of the seriousness of life – since one who believes that there are other lives after death will (in theory) be less likely to be as serious about the quality of life he or she leads than one who knows that this is the only chance available. However the desire to diminish one’s karma and the thirst for moksha is also a strong element in Hindu life and can undergird a sense of moral responsibility.
2. Unfortunately, because of the contamination from the Greek understanding of the human person (which is quite similar to that of the Hindus), much popular Christian thinking still focuses on the soul as if the body were unimportant, and even dangerous, and to be treated with harshness and contempt. This is completely opposed to biblical thinking which places its ultimate hope not in the salvation of the soul alone, but in the resurrection of the body as well.
Bishop Agnelo Gracias’ remarks in his rebuttal: ““Belief in the resurrection contrasts with the Hindu understanding of transmigration, according to which the soul after death is re-born to a new life whose condition is determined by the karma (merit or demerit) one has accumulated during one’s life. A person remains bound within the cycle of rebirth till one has completely worked out all the consequences of one’s actions and freed oneself from all attachment. Only then does a person achieve final liberation (moksha).
This is a powerful theory and seemingly a consistent explanation for the problem of evil. But it may lead to a diminished sense of the seriousness of life – since one who believes there are other lives after death will (in theory) be less likely to be as serious about the quality of the life he or she leads than the one who knows that this is the only chance available. However, the desire to diminish one’s karma and the thirst for moksha is also a strong element in Hindu life and can undergird a sense of moral responsibility.
Ultimately the difference between transmigration and resurrection is rooted in the difference between two different understandings of the human person. For the Hindus, the human person is essentially a soul imprisoned in the body. The body is a sort of container for the soul, not essentially linked to it. Salvation consists in liberation from the body through a series of rebirths in which different bodies are assumed and discarded.
In biblical thinking the human person is an animated body. Body and soul form an invisible whole. …Salvation does not consist in the liberation of the soul from the body, but in the liberation of the whole human person”
A good comparison between the Hindu and Christian concept of salvation, highlighting the difference between the two.”
If the comparison was so good, why did a major portion of it have to be expunged in the Revised Edition?
I wish to point out that for once, a commentator (maybe he slipped up?) was honest and used the correct term Hindu (not once but twice) instead of the euphemistic “Indian” to obfuscate their true identity.
John 6 – The Words of Eternal Life, page 1900 (in the 2008 edition)
It seems that Jesus instituted the Eucharist also as a testing stone of our faith and discipleship. Here we come across the divine Lord who demands total self-surrender and a single-minded devotion to him through a life of faith. Similarly, we read in the Bhagavad Gita: “Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, adore Me and made obeisance to Me; thus uniting yourself to Me and entirely depending on me, you shall come to Me” (IX: 34)
Bishop Agnelo Gracias’ verdict, “A somewhat far-fetched comparison of the words of Jesus in the Eucharistic discourse to that of Krishna in a totally different context – should be dropped.”
But the odious comparison was NOT dropped. It remains to haunt the Bishop in his 2011 Revised Edition.
50. Revelation 22, page 2263 (in the 2008 edition)
The arati-performing woman wearing a bindi has been removed from page 2263 of the First Revised Edition 2011 of the NCB.
In his rebuttal, Bishop Agnelo Gracias wrote “The second illustration which Mr. Prabhu objects too (sic) is towards the end of NCB, p.2263. Mr. Prabhu on p.7 of his Critique states: “Traditionalists will reject the NCB on the basis of just the one drawing of an Indian woman wearing a bindi (tilak) in the centre of her forehead while preparing to do arati (aarti) or puja with a flame, flowers and a coconut on a plate”… these traditionalists … are out of sync with what the Church allows. “Traditionalists” rejecting the NCB is not surprising. For that matter, we have the “traditionalist” followers of Lefebvre who reject Vatican II!”
However, the illustration of a bindi-wearing woman on page 1557, as well as that of the Mother of God with a Hindu bindi affixed on her forehead on page 1645 of the 2008 NCB, is retained in the Revised Edition
SOME CLOSING POINTS
Religious Pluralism, see pages 3 and 4
Under “The Law of One Sanctuary”, the commentary on Deuteronomy 12 (pages 277, 278 of the 2008 edition) says that “the significance of the plurality of religions had not yet been discovered” in those times, seven centuries before Christ, because all worship was centralized in the Temple at Jerusalem (One Sanctuary). The prevailing religious system had a “separatist mentality”. But the “world scene has changed very much since then.”
So, the commentator, Jesuit Fr. Rui de Menezes, then takes us to the next level, citing select sections of Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi and Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate to justify his — and his fellow theologians’ and commentators’ – appreciation of religious pluralism. They gravitate from the unicity of Jesus (John 14: 6, which portion of Nostra Aetate #2 they unfailingly skip when citing) and His Living Word to joining the “searching for God, a quest which is incomplete” among the “seeds… that can constitute a preparation for the Gospel.” (Quotes are from the NCB commentary, pages 277, 278)
I reproduce here the section on Religious Pluralism from pages 4 and 5 of my critique:
The box commentary [on page 94 reads], “This concept is perfectly in keeping with the mind of the Church. A few of the pronouncements of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent teachings of the popes are given below to help in the meditation of the devout Catholic.”
a. The first is, not unexpectedly, an excerpt from Nostra Aetate #2: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing what is true and holy in [other] religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a
ray of that truth which enlightens all men.” This is the favourite and inevitable quotation of the inculturationists.
They interpret it as a mandate for the Hindu-isation of the Church. The Document says absolutely NOTHING about our being obliged to assimilate, adapt, adopt or incorporate their “ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings” into our faith, rituals and way of life. It only says that we do not reject but we respect what is true and holy for them.
It also says that they only contain “a ray of that truth which enlightens all men“. Key words: ‘a ray’, ‘that truth’.
Christianity is that “truth which enlightens all men”. The Word of God [Scripture plus tradition] is the fullness of that revealed truth. But Catholic scholars and theologians would still prefer to chase “a ray of that truth“. They play with the mirror, struggling to grasp intangible reflections while ignoring the blazing light that is their treasured possession.
The Indian bishops have not ever clarified, in black and white, exactly what is “true and holy in other religions” in the Indian context, thus making equally clearly for the simple faithful, what is not.
b. The second is taken from article 53 of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelisation of the Modern World“.
This is Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, and it should read as “On Evangelization in the Modern World“.
‘Of’ and ‘In’. A minor error. But it’s not a typo, and it’s there in the NCB. Does it show up our scholars’ unfamiliarity with Church documents? From our experience, they mostly always quote for all occasions the very same few articles that might give them a bit of credibility or leverage in their quest for inculturation, as we shall see them confirm shortly.
The excerpt: “The non-Christian religions carry within them the echo of thousands of years of searchings for God, a quest which is incomplete… They are impregnated with innumerable ‘seeds of the Word’ and can constitute a true ‘preparation for the Gospel’.” What can be clearer than that? Echoes, searchings, seeds, preparation.
c. The third is from article 26 of Dialogue and Mission, 1984. The key phrases, all quotes from Vatican II Documents: “elements which are true and good” (Lumen Gentium 16); “elements of truth and grace”, “seeds of the Word”; “seeds of contemplation”; (Ad Gentes 9, 11 &15, 18). Elements, seeds. Will this NCB nurture non-Christians with the Gospel or does it direct Catholics to explore and experiment with the seeds, elements and rays of other religions?
d. The fourth excerpt is from Pope John Paul II’s 1999 Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia #15, and it simply says good things about the Asian peoples and their tolerance, harmony, non-violence, etc.
We wonder why there is no Documentary citation anywhere of the main mission of the Church: evangelization.
We mentioned earlier that there are no references to any Vatican Documents in the NCB commentaries.
Let us make a correction. We found them in the most unlikely of places [contrived?] — in “The Law of One Sanctuary“, Deuteronomy 12:1-12 (277, 278). Why are we not surprised to find repeated there the very same excerpts from Nostra Aetate and Evangelii Nuntiandi that we noted above [see a. and b.]? Because, in all the Conciliar and post-Conciliar literature, there is not anything else that they can find to quote.
And why were they in the commentary on “The Law of One Sanctuary“? To emphasize religious pluralism.
We will report the gist of it, quoting wherever necessary. Earlier, there was worship in Israelite homes. This “led to aberrations. To correct this situation, all worship was centralized in the Temple at Jerusalem, and a general cleansing of local sanctuaries was ordered. The command to destroy all pagan places of worship was a means in that primitive society to preserve unity of faith and worship. The significance of the plurality of religions had not yet been discovered.” The commentator then explains that in the closed groups of society that then existed, “the religious system of these groups was also controlled by this separatist mentality.” But, “[T]he world scene has changed very much since then […] Even the Christian Churches have come to view other religions in a new light.”
To justify the last lines, the commentator says, “Pope Paul VI stated this very succinctly…” and proceeds to quote Evangelii Nuntiandi, followed by Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate.
To promote the error of religious pluralism, the commentator strings along two Vatican Documents immediately after his commentary. Now, if one would read the Catholic Community Bible or CCB [see further below] on which the NCB is reportedly “based”, one will find a commentary that is quite different, and non-problematic. The Filipino scholar asks, “Why did God want only one Temple?”, and answers, “Because first Israel and then the Church must be a sign of unity in the world… that one people alone serve him in his only House, his Church.”
The two commentaries are as different as the theological leanings of the two scholars, and no prizes for guessing who of the two is orthodox. This alone demonstrates the potential and hidden dangers in the commentaries of the NCB.
Pope John Paul II in his “Ad Limina” address to the Bishops of India on their visit, 3 July 2003 said this, “It must be noted that relativist explanations of religious pluralism, which state that the Christian faith is of no different value than any other belief, in fact empty Christianity of its defining Christological heart: faith alienated from our Lord Jesus, as the only Saviour, is no longer Christian, no longer theological faith.”
‘Religious pluralism poses for Christianity a greater threat and grounds for greater anxiety than for all other religions. For no other religion, not even Islam, proclaims itself so absolutely as the religion; Christianity is the one and only valid revelation of the one living God’: Karl Rahner, 1962
The commentary on “The Origin of the Samaritans” [2 Kings 17] is one that we appreciate, and must be read here:
“For us, believers of the New Covenant, who often live in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society, it will be necessary to exercise the utmost honesty, discernment and discipline to
preserve the purity of our beliefs and practices.”(555)
2. Social Justice and Liberation
It is probably the most dominant/recurrent theme in the commentaries of the contextualized NCB, especially now in the 2011 Revised Edition after the excising of the majority of references to/citations of Hindu religious texts.
In my July 2008 critique, I had written:
Too many priests are proponents of this gospel of social justice and liberation, ignoring the reality of sin that is the root cause for all injustice and bondage, so they promote a Jesus who is a social reformer, not the Redeemer from sin.
They treat the symptoms, not the disease. They see in the Scriptures what they want to see and ignore the rest.
PRIESTS ARE NOT SOCIAL WORKERS, POPE SAYS
March 12, 2010
A Catholic priest cannot be reduced to a “social worker,” Pope Benedict XVI told a group of priests in Rome on March 12. Adopting that model of priestly ministry, he said, runs “the risk of betraying the very priesthood of Christ.” Speaking to participants in a theological conference organized by the Congregation for Clergy, the Holy Father said that clerics must not “surrender to the temptation of reducing [the priesthood] to predominant cultural models.” In today’s world, “widespread secularization” has cut into appreciation for the priest in his pastoral and ministerial role, and accentuated his public activities, he said. Today, the Pope said, “There is great need for priests who speak of God to the world and who present the world to God; men not subject to ephemeral cultural fashions, but capable of authentically living the freedom that only the certainty of belonging to God can give.” He stressed the importance of imitating Christ’s priesthood and speaking in a prophetic voice. “And the prophecy most necessary today is that of faithfulness,” the Pope said.
“The vocation of priests is an exalted one, and remains a great mystery,” the Pontiff continued. “The lay faithful will be able to meet their human needs in many other people, but only in the priest will they find that Word of God which must always be on his lips, the Mercy of the Father abundantly and gratuitously distributed.”
It’s nice to hear the Holy Father’s guidance on this, as very many priests of Council, believed and still believe, that there true vocation is to help people survive in this world, and not concern themselves with the next. This is particular true in North America, where many priests busy themselves with making sure that people rent is paid, that their immigration papers & status is correct, etc., instead of preparing them for salvation. What a waste. Posted by MC
I agree! There’s a mistaken notion that the mercy and forgiveness of God saves everyone.
If everyone’s saved already, then all we have to do is feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but we don’t need to preach the gospel, both in season and out of season, and to offer easy access to sacraments, confession and Mass.
So priests become social workers and often short-shrift their sacramental work, the only work the laity just can’t do, to accomplish temporal work! Posted by Gregory
I humbly request the Holy Father to send a copy of this statement to every priest and bishop in the United States. Not that they all are in need of this counsel, but that action would ensure all who do need this reminder gets it!! Posted by Ken
Bishop Agnelo Gracias had probably never examined the commentaries of the NCB prior to or after its release, or prior to his having to do so to rebut my critique.
If he had, he would surely have pointed out to his superiors the many areas that he did not approve of and suggested to be dropped, as he did in his rebuttal to my critique.
I doubt that many of his fellow bishops did either. That is what I could learn from my correspondence and telephone conversations with some of them. I have recorded this in my earlier reports.
It is hard to believe that the hierarchy of the Indian Church had foisted such a “bible” on their unsuspecting faithful, and were obliged to withdraw it and revise its commentaries after it became a source of scandal and confusion.
Why was the 2008 NCB pulled for revision?
I do not kid myself that it was because of my crusade alone, even conceding that I had received support from laity and priests worldwide.
Neither do I believe that the Bishops were convinced by my poor lay man’s arguments or moved by the protests of Catholics and even Hindus in the secular media (the Catholic media was deafeningly silent).
And I definitely do not imagine that Bishop Agnelo Gracias or any other Bishop in the CBCI initiated a revision out of conviction of the presence of error in the NCB or out of love for Catholic orthodoxy.
My take is that someone in Rome took the stick to them, leaving them with no other alternative but to do so.
For this, I (and all Indian Catholics) have to thank a few priests in India — Neo Catechumenal Way Fr. Victor Borde of Pune was my leading co-crusader — and overseas who reached a few copies of the NCB to several dicasteries at the Vatican.
In his rebuttal, in response to my charges that the commentaries side-stepped treatment of certain moral issues, etc. Bishop Agnelo Gracias asked if I “was expecting a Scripture commentary to be a compendium of Moral Theology”.
No, I wasn’t; but neither was I expecting it to be an instruction on Hindu scriptures and Hindu mythology.
If the commentators could contrive repeatedly (“similarly we read…”, “similarly we have…”) to find parallels to Biblical events in them, then surely they could also utilize the opportunity, in a Bible for Indians, to address certain moral issues that are confronting 21st century India and insert them in the same commentaries.
Would I now recommend the Revised Edition 2011 to Catholics?
No? But Why?
I will give the reader the reasons as to why I still will not accept the revised edition in the NCB report number 25 that follows.
Other reports in the series:
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 01-A CRITIQUE JULY 14, 2008
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 02-THE PAPAL SEMINARY, PUNE, INDIAN THEOLOGIANS, AND THE CATHOLIC ASHRAMS 18 SEPTEMBER 2008/SEPTEMBER 2009/APRIL 2012
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 03-A FRENCH THEOLOGIAN DENOUNCES ERRORS IN THE COMMENTARIES FEBRUARY 24, 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 04-THE ONGOING ROBBERY OF FAITH FEBRUARY 24, 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 05-THE ANGEL GABRIEL DID NOT APPEAR TO THE VIRGIN MARY MARCH 15, 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 06-PRESS REPORTS AND READERS’ CRITICISMS MARCH 22, 2009/DECEMBER 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 07-UNPUBLISHED LETTERS AGAINST ITS ERRONEOUS COMMENTARIES-THE EXAMINER MAY 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 08-LETTERS CALLING FOR ITS WITHDRAWAL 31 DECEMBER 2008/DECEMBER 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 09-LETTER TO THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH APRIL-MAY 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 10-CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE SECULAR MEDIA, AND WITH PRIEST-CRITICS OF OUR CRUSADE AGAINST ITS ERRORS MAY 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 11-VATICAN HELD RESPONSIBLE, BRAHMIN LEADERS DEMAND ITS WITHDRAWAL JUNE 25, 2009/DECEMBER 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 12-LETTERS TO ROME JUNE 2009/AUGUST 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 13-RESPONSES FROM THE BISHOPS AND THEIR EXECUTIVE COMMISSIONS AUGUST 2009
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 14-UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX GREEK CATHOLIC BISHOPS CALL IT A NEW AGE BIBLE, “EXCOMMUNICATE” INDIAN BISHOPS
MARCH 2010/APRIL 2012
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 15-DEMAND FOR ORDINATION OF WOMEN PRIESTS-FR SUBHASH ANAND AND OTHERS
APRIL 2010/JULY 2010/APRIL 2012/17 MARCH/10 APRIL 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 16-CRITIQUE BY DERRICK D’COSTA
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 17-EXTOLLED BY CAMALDOLI BENEDICTINE OBLATE 1/5/10 MAY 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 18-REVISED EDITION COMING, ST PAULS IN DENIAL JULY 2010/DECEMBER 2011
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 19-REVISED EDITION PUBLISHED A YEAR AFTER DENIAL JULY 2010/DECEMBER 2011
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 20-HALF-TRUTHS FROM CARDINAL OSWALD GRACIAS 28 JUNE 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 21-INDIAN CHURCH’S SYNCRETIZED BIBLE EXPORTED 7 MARCH/6/9/24/30 MAY/5 JUNE, 2013
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 22-BISHOP AGNELO GRACIAS DEFENDS IT YET IT IS PULLED FOR REVISION FEBRUARY 2015
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 23-EDDIE RUSSELL CALLS IT A HINDUISED HERETICAL BIBLE FEBRUARY 2015
NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 25-REVISED EDITION NOT RECOMMENDED FOR CATHOLICS FEBRUARY 2015
HINDU RELIGIOUS MARK ON THE FOREHEAD 22-THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE
Categories: Hinduisation of the Catholic Church in India