This article is Chapter 7 of Henry Wansbrough’s book “The Story of the Bible: how it came to us” published by Darton, Longman and Todd. It deals with arguments about whether there are two sources of revelation – scripture and tradition, inerrancy and the kind of truth the Bible teaches.
Sola Scriptura or Two Sources of Revelation?
The chapters in this book have discussed the Bible as a text, how the different books came to be considered ‘Bible’ and the hesitations about various components, some of which ended outside the collection, others inside the collection; how that text came from Greek and Hebrew into Latin, and then into English (with a glance at other modern languages); how the most widely diffused of all English texts, probably the most widely diffused of all Bibles, the King James Version, came into existence. The purpose of this final chapter is to see how the Bible, which has come down to us by such a varied path, actually communicates with us. Christians have been called ‘the people of the Book’; why is the Book so precious? We have left it till the end to discuss what the whole process is about.
A book does not exist on its own. Its author is wanting to say something, to communicate something. At the very least there is a sponsoring body, which owns the book. The saying quoted above may be reversed: as well as Christians being the people of the book, the book is the book of the people, Christians. Just as the book defines the people, so the people define the book. At the very beginning there was a sense that the oral tradition in the Church was more authoritative than the written tradition. In the centuries when decisions were being made about which books belonged to the Bible and which did not, there was an interplay between text and living tradition. The Bible was the book of the Church, and the Church authorities decided what was part of the Bible and what was not. We have records in some instances of bishops or Church councils making the decisions. More frequently the decisions just happened. That is, some books were considered fit for reading in church and others not. Formal decisions by Church councils confirmed, or merely expressed, common practice.
A decisive break occurred at the Reformation, when Luther rejected Church tradition and embraced the principle of sola scriptura. Luther insisted that scripture was sufficient of itself: ‘I want scripture alone to rule, and not to be interpreted according to my spirit or that of any other man, but to be understood in its own light’. (1) Again and again he maintains that scripture is clear and needs no interpretation: ‘The word of God does not need to I be forced in any way either by men or by angels. Rather, its plainest meanings are to be preserved, and the words are not to be understood apart from their proper and literal sense’. (2) Luther is fulminating against some abuses in ecclesiastical practice (the denial to the laity of communion under both kinds) and some theological developments (the Aristotelian/Thomist analysis of the presence of Christ in the eucharist in terms of ‘transsubstantiation’). The obvious difficulty in Luther’s principle as stated is that different readers understand the same written words in different senses. Luther’s principle fails because scripture read ‘in its own light’ means different things to different people. There is no denying that there were abuses in Church practice and that the
understanding of scripture was widely distorted at the end of the medieval period by all kinds of allegorical arabesques. But every thoughtful reader of a life-giving text will reflect on it and draw out its implications, not always in the same sense.
It is naive to claim that scripture always has a ‘plainest meaning’. The discussions and disagreements in the earliest centuries of the Church about the implications of ‘the word was made flesh’ leave no doubt about this. Does the Word made flesh have one nature or two? Is he wholly human? Did God die on the cross? Has he a human mind and will, and how are his human mind and will related to the divine mind and will? Has he a human personality? Decisions on such matters which go far beyond the ‘plainest meanings’ of scripture are enshrined in the decision of early councils, and were eventually accepted by the whole, or nearly the whole, of Christendom. There are still important bodies of Christians who are classed by the numerical majority of Christians as Nestorians or Monophysites. More serious, because more practical, different bodies of Christians understand in a different sense the ‘plainest meaning’ of the words at the Last Supper, ‘This is my body… this is my blood.’ Some hold that the eucharistic bread and wine become in some sense the body and blood of Christ; others that Christ is bodily received by the reception of the bread and wine, still others that the bread and wine are mere symbolic reminders of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples onthe eve of his Passion. Each of these understandings of scripture is held by its adherents to constitute the ‘plainest meaning’ of the words. The disagreements and fragmentation produced from the earliest years by the Lutheran appeal to the ‘plainest meaning’ of scripture become evident in the variety of understandings of the eucharist among the Reformers (3) in the differences about whether the prohibition of graven images in the Ten Commandments forbids all statuary and religious art, in the controversy whether it is possible to administer baptism to infants despite the fact that in the New Testament it is exclusively an adult expression of faith. (4)
The Roman Catholic reply to Luther’s preference for the ‘plainest meaning’ of scripture was given, in characteristically stern language, at what was in fact the first full working session of the Council of Trent in April 1546:
The council further decrees, in order to control those of
unbalanced character, that no one shall dare to interpret the sacred scriptures either by twisting its text to his individual meaning in opposition to that which has been and is held by holy mother church, whose function it is to pass judgment on the true meaning and interpretation of the sacred scriptures, or by giving it meanings contrary to the unanimous consent of the fathers.5
The council’s statement can certainly be read to imply two separate sources of doctrine: ‘this truth and this discipline are contained in written books and in unwritten traditions which were received by the apostles from the lips of Christ himself’ (Tanner 1990, p. 664). Indeed over the course of time it became
common teaching that there were two independent sources of
revelation, one being scripture, the other being tradition, as though some sacred truths were contained in one of these sources, others in the other. So in 1950 Pius XII could write in his encyclical Humani generis:
Theologians must always return to the founts of revelation. It is their task to show how the teachings of the living magisterium are contained in Holy Writ and in sacred tradi
tion either explicitly or implicitly. In addition, that each of the two sources of divinely revealed doctrine contains so
. U~ ~. ~n’ ~. . U~ vun…….
many and such great treasures of truth that it can never be exhausted.6
In practice, however, it must be stressed that these two sources were not treated separately. For instance, in the definition of the Assumption of Mary, made by Pius XII four months later, the preamble runs: ‘All these arguments and considerations of the Fathers and of theologians rest on Holy Scripture as their basic foundation…’ before going on to discuss arguments from tradition from as early as the second century. Nevertheless, there remained an uneasy feeling in relationships between Roman Catholics and Protestants that Catholics had up their sleeves a whole collection of doctrines which were not contained in scripture, and could be substantiated only from more or less wellfounded traditions. So the situation remained until the decisive event of the Second Vatican Council.
Vatican II: the Background to the Council
In 1959 the aged but recently-elected Pope John XXII decided that he would hold a Council of the Church for the purpose of aggio,namento, bringing the Church up to date, into the world of
the present day (giorno is the Italian for ‘day’). Born of a peasant family in the foothills of the Italian Alps, Angelo Roncalli had wide experience of the Church in Europe and of its quarrels. As a
young priest he had travelled widely as secretary to the bishop of
Bergamo. Later he had had experience of Eastern Christianity as representative of the pope in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece during the Second World War. At the end of that war he was made papal nuncio or ambassador to France, replacing the ambassador whose co-operation with the pro-German Vichy Government made him no longer acceptable in post-war France. In Paris particularly Giuseppe Roncalli established a reputation for conciliation and warmth (as well as good cooking). After a brief period as archbishop of Venice he had been elected to the papacy in old age, as a harmless stopgap, never expecting to make the dramatic moves which were to come.
One of John XXII’s principal emphases, if not the principal emphasis, once he had declared that he would hold a council of the Church, and as the council approached, was Church unity.
From the beginning he changed the established Vatican language, eschewing the language of ‘re-union’, which automatically stressed the need for non-Catholics to ‘return to the fold’, and preferring to speak of separated brethren who should join in seeking the unity which Christ is preparing for us. Within months he formed the important Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, which was to check all the council documents. Building on his wartime experience of the Eastern Church, he sent an ambassador to Istanbul, Athens and Alexandria to invite representatives to attend the council, and in turn sent observers to the 1961 meeting of the World Council of Churches. Working with other Christians was clearly going to be an important part of letting in the new day, and this would have a decisive effect on the development of the council, the topics discussed and the way they were treated, including the discussion of scripture and revelation. At the heart
of many of the disagreements between Christians was the issue of authority and the access to Christian truth.
Preparation for the council limped unevenly. On the one hand the commission charged with the preparation sent round to 2,593 bishops – and all the bishops of the Universal (i.e. Catholic) Church were summoned to the council – questionnaires and discussion papers. On the other hand the papal bureaucracy or Curia (a word which suggests the royal court of an absolute monarch)
saw the council not as an instrument for radical change but as an anodyne synod for tidying up a few loose ends. Headed by the seventy-two-year-old Cardinal Ottaviani, the Congregation for Doctrine prepared five major schemata, or discussion documents, for presentation and approval by the bishops assembling for the council. It also ‘helpfully’ proposed a list of names of those who were to serve on the ten co-ordinating commissions, who would consider the amendments proposed in discussion in the council chamber. Each commission was to have 24 members, 16 elected by the members of the council and 8 nominated by the pope. If the council Fathers had behaved themselves and elected their representatives from these proposed lists, things would have gone smoothly for the curia.
On the opening day of discussion at the council, however, 13 October 1962, a radical revolt exploded. The council Fathers, led by a powerful group of European cardinals, including cardinals Lienart of Lille, Frings of Cologne and Alfrink of Utrecht,
refused to vote on the names proposed, explaining that they had just come together from all over the world and needed time to get to know one another and to discern the suitable experts in each field. This was the first evidence of a split which was to dominate at least the early sessions of the council, between the conservative
papal curia and more progressive elements. The bishop of Cuernavaca compared St Peter’s to a giant pressure-cooker which transformed the outlook of the bishops of the entire world; he might have added, ‘and often seemed in danger of exploding’.
One incident from the margins may serve as illustration: in the run-up to the council two professors at the Pontifical Biblical Insitute were dismissed on papal authority for ‘unorthodoxy’.7 The principal of the Institute resigned in sympathy. One of the two professors, Stanislaus Lyonnet, remarked to me the following year that his dismissal had been providential, for otherwise he would not have had time to lecture on biblical topics to the French bishops assembled in Rome. Two years later the new principal asked the pope (who seemed unaware of their dismissal) that they should be reinstated. The pope instructed him to proceed through Ottaviani, who felt obliged to concede. But as the principal left the room Ottaviani said to him (in Latin) ‘What you have to do, do quickly’ – the words of Jesus to Judas, as Judas left the room of the Last Supper to perpetrate his act of betrayal, a nicely barbed allusion.s This incident illustrates well the quiet internal struggles which were going on behind the scenes. One German adviser9 remarked to me, ‘The Holy Spirit is at work in the Council Chamber. Outside it, we manage things’.
The First Schema on the Bible
In November began consideration of the schema, or discussion document, on the. Bible. It was called De Fontibus Revelationis, by the use of the plural in the title itself accepting the two sources of revelation, namely scripture and tradition, as two separate sources of knowledge of God.
Discussion in the council chamber was, of course, still in Latin, with rare exceptions. Right from the beginning Maximos IV, Patriarch of Tyre, insisted on speaking French, pointing out that Latin was not the language of the Church, only the language of the Western Church. to The schema was presented by Cardinal
Ottaviani, as president of the Roman Congregation for Doctrine. (He had been absent from the council for two weeks, upset at having his microphone switched off when he had spoken for nearly double the maximum time allotted for speeches.) He was supported by two other Italian cardinals who were well known for their conservatism, Ruffini of Palermo and Siri of Genoa. When discussion started, the document was savaged. The Melkite (Greek) archbishop Neofito Edelby pointed out that the whole approach was dominated by the polemic of the Reformation in its opposition to Luther’s principle of sola scriptura. Bishop de Smedt of the Church Unity Commission denounced it for triumphalism, clericalism and legalism; it was backward-looking and defensive. Bishop Charrue of Namur compared it to the Church’s stance on Galileo for its refusal to accept the findings of modern science. Bishop Hakim of Akko (Acre in Palestine) attested that the division into two sources of tradition had never been accepted in the eastern Church. When these criticisms were reinforced by the big guns of Cardinals Lienart, Frings, Alfrink, Ritter (of St Louis, Missouri) and Bea (head of the Church Unity Commission, formerly head of the Roman Biblical Institute, so a noted biblical scholar), the schema was withdrawn, to be revised by a special commission jointly headed by Ottaviani and Bea. The head of the English Benedictines, Abbot Christopher Butler, also worked as a member of the panel.
The Revised Schema, Dei Verbum
A New Focus
When the new and revised schema came to be debated in September of the following year, 1964, it was found to have an altogether different focus. The focus was no longer on the biblical revelation of a package of intellectual truths, as though revelation was primarily a set of propositions about God. Revelation was no longer a matter of the unveiling of truths; it was a matter of the acceptance of a gift. Revelation is seen as a divine act of selfrevelation, God’s own self-disclosure, made not only to the mind but also to the heart. It is therefore God’s self-giving, for in biblical language to ‘know’ is used of a warm and personal relationship, often including sexual knowledge (when Adam ‘knew’
1 t1.r. ::> 1 VKr V1′ IHr. J:HtlLt:
Eve, Genesis 4: 1, 17,25, etc). ‘I love you’ is more than a statement of fact; it is a declaration. It involves a personal commitment. So the revelation in scripture is the offering or communication of a person, the self-giving of a person, demanding a response in faith. God ‘in his great love speaks to humankind as friends and enters into their life, so as to invite and receive them into relationship with himself’.
The first quotation from scripture, in the opening sentence, is about having fellowship with God (1 John 1:2-3), and the whole emphasis of the first chapter is on God speaking to humankind as friends, inviting them into a relationship with God. Revelation is a matter of life and hope, not of understanding truths, for from the beginning God ‘roused our first parents to hope for salvation by the promise of redemption’. The fullness of revelation is in Jesus, not only in his teaching but in the total reality of his presence, his symbolic acts and above all his death and resurrection. Again, it is getting to know a person rather than a set of facts. The human response is not assent to doctrines but acknowledging God and ‘free self-commitment to God’. The reception of revel ation is not an intellectual experience so much as a life-experience, an entering into a partnership or an ‘uninterrupted conversation’ with God.
Only after this general framework has been established is it possible to go on to discuss particular questions to which this framework provides a starting-point. How were specific books chosen, why were these four gospels chosen rather than the single expurgated gospel of Luke favoured by Marcion or the additional sayings of the Gospel of Thomas? Four criteria seem to have been in use in the earliest times, no single one of which was absolute:l1
. Apostolic, stemming from the earliest times. It was important that the author should be a vir apostolicus, though neither Mark nor Luke even claims to have been one of the Twelve. The Vatican II document considers this category of ‘apostolic men’ to be wider than the Twelve (no. 7), and perhaps deliberately does not define it more closely.
. Catholic (in the sense of , un ivers a!’), applicable to the Church as a whole, not necessarily written for the Christian commu
nity as a whole (which would exclude Paul’s letters), but of
universal relevance, rather than of particular relevaru:e for a particular group, such as monks or deaconnesses.
. Orthodox, that is, in accordance with the tradition, which sees ‘the two testaments like a mirror in which the Church during its pilgrimage on earth contemplates God, the source of all that it has received’ (no. 7).
. Traditional, that is, used from the earliest times.
The scripture is part of the total experience of God in Christ, and those books remained central and guaranteed by the Church which were felt to express what Christians saw as the expression of that relationship. To use the influential expression of Karl Rahner, ‘the writings of the New Testament originate as lifeprocesses of the Church; they are sediments of that which in her has been transmitted and preached as her faith’.12
Foundation Documents of the Church
In the process of the ‘sediment’ settling down, other documents fell away. Among these are those Infancy Gospels which show the young Jesus making clay pigeons, clapping his hands and watching them flyaway, 13 or withering up another child who spoils his game. One may deduce that these were just stories, and this was not the Christ who was judged to be the expression of the divine self-giving in revelation. This Jesus was not the Jesus whom the Christian Church knew, not part of the mirror in which the Church contemplates God; they are not elements in the lifeprocesses of the Church. The first instance of a reason given for excluding a gospel from the books to be read in church precisely corresponds to this: a Gospel of Peter was being read at Rhossus, but was excluded by Bishop Serapion in the late second century on the grounds that it was docetic,14 that is, it did not correspond to the Church’s view of Christ.
How did the Church know this, and what right had any particular group to judge this? One can only say that the experience of
Christ was passed on, for God ‘still maintains an uninterrupted conversation with the bride of his beloved Son’ (no. 8). Profoundly felt is the continuing tradition within the Church: ‘This tradition which comes from the apostles progresses in the Church under the assistance of the holy Spirit. There is a growth in understanding of what is handed on, both the words and the realities they
THE STORY OF THE BIBLE
signify’ (no. 8). The Bible remains the book of the Church, and there is a living co-relationship or conversation between tradition entrusted to the apostles by Christ and their successors, so that ‘both scripture and tradition are to be accepted and honoured with like devotion and reverence’ (no. 9).
A clear position had been taken on this matter by the original schema in its plural title, On the Sources of Revelation. In the very beginning of discussion this position was stigmatised as ‘dominated by Reformation polemic’, since it openly implies that there are two independent sources of revelation, scripture and tradition.ls So in the same vein, during the discussion of the revised schema in the following year, the conservative Cardinal Florit asked for the statement to be inserted, ‘Not every Catholic doctrine can be proved from scripture alone’. This would have left open the possible implication that proof from tradition without scriptural evidence suffices. It was not inserted, but a subtly different statement replaced it: ‘the Church does not derive through scripture alone her certitude about all that has been revealed’ (no. 9). The subject is now not proof but understanding. The full range of understanding is not derived merely from unaided poring over, ~elving into the scriptures, but ‘is a process to which tradition contributes’ .16 In a prolonged discussion of the matter, the council Fathers refused to make any statement about the proportionate contribution of scripture and tradition, holding that theological discussion had not progressed sufficiently far.
In the end the document (no. 10) indicates this refusal to make any exclusive decision,17 laying the stress inclusively on three factors: the teaching authority, a devoted attention to the scriptures and a single deposit of faith:
The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether in its written form or in that of tradition, has been entrusted only to those charged with the church’s ongoing teaching function, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching function is not above the word of God but stands at its service, teaching nothing but what is handed down, according as it devotedly listens, reverently preserves and faithfully transmits the word of God. All that it proposes for belief, as being divinely revealed, is drawn from the one deposit of faith.
The same eirenic approach18 was used for another topic of controversy, the inerrancy of the Bible. Can the Bible contain errors? Since the discoveries of science began to impinge on the reading of the Bible, the problem of inerrancy has spiralled. Galileo pointed out astronomical difficulties: how can the sun stand still Ooshua 10: 12)? Darwin pointed up terrestrial ones: how does the account of creation square with the facts of evolution? A great deal of ink was spilt and a great deal of heat generated in the attempt to formulate the way in which the Bible was without error. Was it without error only in matters of faith and morality? What were the limits of these, anyway? The early chapters of Genesis certainly do not teach about history, physics or biology. The gospels make mistakes about history (the census in Luke 2:2).
Jesus himself is historically wrong in ascribing the authorship of the psalms to David (Mark 12:37). This question too was left blandly open: ‘we must acknowledge that the books of scripture teach firmly, faithfully and without error such truth as God, for the sake of our salvation, wished the biblical text to contain’ (no. 11). Wisely, it does not list which these truths are! Nor, indeed, would this be consistent with the more general position that rrvelation is the self-gift of a person, drawing human beings into a personal relationship with God. Such a self-gift does not occur merely through communication of truths. To quote again Bishop Butler:
Is it not reasonable to make the notion of divine authorship as wide in its scope as that of human authorship? We know, in fact, that human authors are not always making assertions claimed to be ‘true’. They do not only affirm; they exhort, they exult or lament, they express in other words, not only truths but emotions, they ‘edify’ not only their reader’s intellect but his sensibility and his spirit’ .19
Yet again, this is a way in which Vatican II, instead of searching out points of doctrine on which there is disagreement among Christians, and condemning those who disagreed, sought to assert what is agreed among Christians, and to leave open to further
THE STORY OF THE BIBLE
investigation and discussion questions on which theologians of many traditions agree.
Use of the Bible
The final chapter of Dei Verbum can be seen as the most important of its six chaptersZO since it outlines how the teaching and attitudes of the previous chapters should form life in the Church, that is, How the Bible Comes to Us.
For Roman Catholics this was a novelty, for the Bible had been neglected in the recent life of the Church. It had become widely regarded as the preserve of Protestants, not exactly forbidden territory, but dangerous and probably barren as well. At the Reformation all the stress of the Reformers had been on the Bible as the single source of authority and teaching, sola scriptura, coupled with and resulting in a flight from other factors of Church life, such as tradition and liturgy, sometimes also – as in the Puritan movements and in much of Calvinism – from beauty of art, drama and architecture.
This is no place to enter into apologetics for either side. Suffice to say that there were, in the sixteenth century, as in every other century, plenty of abuses:
. allegorical interpretations which detracted from the direct message of the scripture. Luther’s example is Origen’s treating the trees of the Garden of Eden as allegories, ‘since hence it might be inferred that trees were not created by God’ (On the Babylonish Captivi~y of the Church, p. 312).
. traditional practices and ceremonies which had acquired an independent importance out of all proportion to their value. An excellent example of this is the preference for canon law above scripture, leading to the attitude which so riled William Tyndale (p. 75).
. liturgical arabesques which had lost their meaning and obscured the essentials of the liturgy. Local rites of eucharistic practice had developed, in which the essentials were obscured by a blanket of ceremony (in England, the Sarum Rite). Reception of the sacrament had become rare, and the chalice was – one of Luther’s strong objectionsZ1 – denied to the laity.
. a tradition of wall-painting and other illustration – one of the
most important means of instruction for the illiterate – which concentrated on the lurid, especially the Last Judgement and
the fires of Hell, to the extent of distorting the orientation of the message.
. elaborate dramatic processions (particularly at Shrovetide and Holy Week), more popular and drawing much more attention than more sober liturgies; Mystery Plays inspired more by legend and apocryphal stories than by the canonical scripture.
Many of these florid traditional developments were pruned away both by the Protestant Reformers on the one side and the
Catholic Counter-Reformation on the other. Nevertheless, one of the results of the Reformation was a parting of the ways in which Catholics took refuge in the sacraments to the neglect of the scripture no less than Protestants took refuge in scripture to the neglect of sacramental life, both sides rather priding themselves on the neglect of the other element.
A second factor which had led to neglect of the Bible in the Roman Catholic Church was a suspicion resulting from the Catholic Modernist Movement in the first decade of the twentieth century. As a result of the interpretation put upon the archaeological and literary studies of the nineteenth century by some Catholic scholars/2 notably Alfred Loisy, a vigorous movement to check excesses in Catholic biblical studies was spearheaded by the Pontifical Biblical Commission in a series of repressive measures from 1905 till 1918. Every diocese was instructed to set up an anti-Modernist Commission. Every priest ordained, every
student receiving a theological degree, every Catholic teacher of theology had repeatedly to swear the anti-Modernist oath.23 It was only in 1943, with the papal encyclical Divino Affiante Spiritu, that cautious progress could again be resumed, only in 1948 that a letter to Cardinal Suhard of Paris allowed the opinion that Adam and Eve were not real, historical persons, and only in 1955 that the repressive decrees of the Pontifical Biblical Commission were withdrawn. There was an atmosphere of caution and fear which did not encourage too much use of the Bible. Clergy and theologians trained in the first quarter, or even half, of the twentieth century regarded biblical studies, and particularly study of the Old Testament, as a minefield into which it was better not to stray. Typical was the comment made to a student by an English bishop
in the first year of the Vatican II, ‘You are studying the Bible? I suppose that means you don’t believe in it?’24
Thi~ was a far cry from the statement of Dei Verbum, no. 21:
There is such force and power in the word of God that it stands as the church’s support and strength, affording her children sturdiness in faith, food for the soul and a pure and unfailing fount of spiritual life.
Or from the statement of no. 23 that theologians should take all appropriate means to study the bible:
So that ministers of the word may be able, as widely as possible, to nourish God’s people with the food of the scriptures, and so produce the effect of enlightening minds, strengthening wills and firing hearts with the love of God.
The decree Dei Verbum put an end to the negative attitudes to the scriptures. It was no longer possible to maintain the strife between scripture and tradition, and the scripture was seen to be one part of the ongoing life of the Church, an integral element in
every activity ~ every direction. Just two direct consequences of this renewal may be outlined:
. Dei Verbum 22 directly encouraged ecumenical collaboration over the Bible: ‘If the opportunity arises, and church authority approves, such versions [translations] may be prepared in collaboration with Christians of other denominations; all Christians will then be able to use them.’ Such co-operation on editions of the Bible has issued in significant translations, such as the NRSV. More significant still, it has removed wider suspicions between churches, leading to wider co-operation and mutual understanding.
. Dei Verbum 25 insists: ‘Let it never be forgotten that prayer should accompany the reading of holy scripture, so that it becomes a dialogue between God and the human reader; for “when we pray, we talk to him: when we read the divine word, we listen to him” [Ambrose, De Officiis Ministrorum, 1.20.88].’ This has led to a revaluation of the reading of scripture as part of prayer, for example, at the beginning of any Christian meet
ing. It has made possible a biblically-based service of public prayer where the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible or inappropriate, enabling a meeting and dialogue with God where previously none would have been possible.
In conclusion the conclusion of the document may be quoted: ‘Just as faithful and frequent reception of the eucharistic mystery makes the church’s life grow, so we may hope that its spiritual life
will receive a new impulse from increased devotion to the word of God, which “abides for ever”‘.
Chapter 7; The Bible and Vatican II
I. Commentary on Galatians.
2. On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, in Dillenberger 1961, p. 266. 3. MacCulloch 2003, p. 144.
4. MacCulloch 2003, p. 149.
5. Tanner 1990, p. 664.
6. Denzinger 1957, p. 707.
7. In fact it is arguable that they were simply taking seriously the principles of
modern biblical scholarship.
Related to me by the Principal, R.A.F. MacKenzie, in 1963.
Fritz-Leo Lentzen-Deis, SJ.
In the same vein, when he came to speak to us students at Jerusalem, he was addressed as ‘Your Eminence’ (the correct address to a cardinal). ‘No, thank you,’ he replied amusingly, ”’Your Beatitude” [the address to a Patriarch] is quite enough’. Incidentally, nowadays discussion at international meetings in Rome (such as the Biblical Commission) range over the widely-understood modern languages, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Harry Y. Gamble in ABD, article on New Testament Canon. Rahner 1961, p. 49.
Gospel of Thomas, II.4, in James 1924, p. 49.
Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 6.12.
It is both interesting and important to note Karl Rahner’s position (writing before the council): ‘The Two Sources Theory (to coin a phrase) is but a possible interpretation of the Council [of Trent] which is not supported by the unanimous opinion either of the Fathers, or of the medieval theologians. Moreover, it could never claim general consent in the postTridentine period, but remained only an opinion.’ (Inspiration in the Bible [Herder, 1961], p. 36). This suggests that, like so much else at Trent, the Two-Sources approach was a knee-jerk reaction against the Reformers.
16. Butler 1967, p. 38.
11. 12. 13. 14. 15.
17. This is noted by L. Visscher, an observer from the World Council of Churches, in a letter quoted by Hanjo Sauer in Sauer 2003, p. 208: ‘The scheme is an expression of this unresolved theological situation. Not only does it open the way to a new discussion of the problem of scripture and tradition, but in addition it is a solemn proof of the fact that uncertainty can exist regarding questions that seemed decided once and for all.’
18. It has been neatly characterized by Robert Murray (in Hastings 1991, p. 76)
as ‘learned ignorance’. 19. Butler 1967, p. 49. 20. In 1974, a decade after the council, at a conference at Hawkstone Hall,
Bishop Butler (as Abbot Christopher Butler had become) said that he considered Dei Verbum to be the most important document of Vatican II; it
would have the most far-reaching effect on the life of the Church.
21. E.g. On the Babylonish Captivity of the Church, the early pages.
22. A superb example of the puzzled distress felt by a loyal son of the Church
is provided by the reflections ofPere Lagrange on his first visit to Sinai (on camels) in 1893: ‘On the other hand, is the Pentateuch the historical account of facts? How was it possible to move the millions of people referred to in the text around, not a limitless desert as flat as a sheet of paper, but those steep waterless valleys? Was it not necessary to conclude that perfectly historical facts had been idealized in order to become
symbolic of God’s people?’ (Lagrange 1985, p. 39).
23. Denzinger 1957, no. 2145-2147.
24. At l.iffiCh in the English College, Rome, September 1963.