I don’t often like to lift another blog’s post whole and entire– after all, my original blathering is why you pay me so handsomely– but this is one that merits it. Rorate Caeli posted on the Pope’s recent remarks to the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the subject that scripture is actually true.
The Holy Father’s words are, as usual, quite good. What struck me equally, though, is the absolute mess the Church is in when the Pope has to come out and defend such a proposition. We’ve come a long way from Pascendi and the Syllabus of Errors, haven’t we? And slope is downward.
Pope addresses PBC on the Divine Inspiration and Truth of Scripture
Vatican Information Service has reported that Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday morning delivered an address to 30 members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission upon the completion of teir plenary assembly, which was dedicated to the theme of “Inspiration and Truth in the Bible.”The complete Italian-language text of the papal allocution may be read here. I do not yet have access to an English translation, so for now here is the summary of the Pope’s address as reported by VIS, with emphasis added:
Benedict XVI began by underlining the importance of the chosen theme, which “concerns not only believers, but the Church herself, because the Church’s life and mission necessarily rest upon the Word of God, which is the soul of theology and, at the same time, the inspiration of all of Christian life”. Moreover, “the interpretation of Sacred Scripture is of vital importance for Christian faith and for the life of the Church.”
“From a correct approach to the concept of divine inspiration and truth in Sacred Scripture derive certain norms that directly concern its interpretation”, said the Pope. “The Constitution ‘Dei Verbum’, having affirmed that God is the author of the Bible, reminds us that in Sacred Scripture God speaks to mankind in a human manner. For a correct interpretation of Scripture we must, then, carefully examine what the hagiographers really sought to say and what God was pleased to reveal with their words.”
The Pope then recalled how Vatican Council II had identified “three perennially-valid criteria for interpreting Sacred Scripture in accordance with the Spirit that inspired it. In the first place, great attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture. Indeed, however different the books it contains may be, Sacred Scripture is one by virtue of the unity of God’s plan, of which Jesus Christ is the centre and the heart.
“In the second place”, he added, “Scripture must be read in the context of the living Tradition of the entire Church. . . . In her Tradition the Church carries the living memory of the Word of God, and it is the Holy Spirit Who provides her with the interpretation thereof in accordance with its spiritual meaning. The third criterion concerns the need to pay attention to the analogy of the faith; that is, to the cohesion of the individual truths of faith, both with one another and with the overall plan of Revelation and the fullness of the divine economy enclosed in that plan.”
The task of scholars, the Holy Father went on, “is to contribute, following the above-mentioned principles, to a more profound interpretation and exposition of the meaning of Sacred Scripture. The academic study of the sacred texts is not by itself sufficient. In order to respect the coherence of the Church’s faith, Catholic exegetes must be careful to perceive the Word of God in these texts, within the faith of the Church.”
“The interpretation of Sacred Scriptures cannot be a merely an individual academic undertaking, but must always be compared with, inserted into, and authenticated by the living Tradition of the Church. This norm is essential in order to ensure a correct and reciprocal exchange between exegesis and Church Magisterium. Catholic exegetes do not nourish the individualistic illusion that biblical texts can be better understood outside the community of believers. The opposite is true, because these texts were not given to individual scholars ‘to satisfy their curiosity or to provide them with material for study and research’. The texts inspired by God were entrusted to the community of believers, to the Church of Christ, to nourish the faith and to guide the life of charity.”
“Sacred Scripture is the Word of God in that it is written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Tradition, on the other hand, integrally transmits the Word of God as entrusted by Christ the Lord and by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and their successors so that they, illuminated by the Spirit of truth, could faithfully conserve, explain and spread it through their preaching.”
“Only within the ecclesial context can Sacred Scripture be understood as the authentic Word of God which is guide, norm and rule for the life of the Church and the spiritual development of believers. This means rejecting all interpretations that are subjective or limited to mere analysis [and hence] incapable of accepting the global meaning which, over the course of the centuries, has guided the Tradition of the entire people of God.”
In truth, the VIS quotes from the Holy Father do not say anything that Benedict XVI has not said on this subject before. It is noteworthy that in portions of his allocution not quoted by VIS, he refers to Leo XIII’s Providentissimus Deus and Pius XII’s Divino afflante Spiritu, which, though they are neglected or ignored by modern Catholic exegetes (as the Pope seems to hint at), provide the key for a proper understanding of Dei Verbum 11…