Saturday 22nd November 2014

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Written Word Of God

December 26, 2013 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By DON FIER

In previous installments of this series, it was established that “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred Deposit of the Word of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 97), and that “the task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church” (CCC, n. 100).
Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that these three elements (as italicized above) depend one upon the other and, in fact, are inseparable if God’s Revelation is to be truthfully and accurately made manifest to mankind. This installment will focus in particular on the written word of God, that is, Sacred Scripture, and its faithful interpretation. For, as we are candidly told by fifth-century Father and Doctor of the Church St. Jerome, in a famous excerpt from the prologue of his Commentary on Isaiah: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
The Catechism gives immediate emphasis to the divinely revealed truth that it is God Himself who “is the Author of Sacred Scripture” (CCC, n. 105). St. Paul exhorts us in his Letter to the Thessalonians to accept Scripture “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).
While it is true that the biblical texts consist of human words written by human hands, the Fathers of Vatican Council II, in Dei Verbum (DV), teach with no ambiguity: “Written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, [the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments] have God as their Author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself” (DV, n. 11). It is through the words of Sacred Scripture that “the Father in Heaven comes lovingly to meet His children, and talks with them” (DV, n. 21). In fact, the Catechism goes so far as to tell us that “‘the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body’ (DV, n. 21): both nourish and govern the whole Christian life” (CCC, n. 141).
So we know that “God inspired the human authors of the sacred books . . . [and] the inspired books teach the truth” (CCC, nn. 106-107). In fact, Dei Verbum explicitly teaches: “Since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully, and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation” (DV, n. 11). However, one must be cautious. As St. Peter tells us, “There are some things in [the books of Sacred Scripture that are] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).
In other words, as was emphasized in last week’s installment, one must exercise great care in interpreting the sacred books. Taken out of context or “twisted or spun” improperly to suit one’s own personal whims or perhaps disordered inclinations, many scriptural verses can be construed to say something totally alien and unfaithful to their intended meaning. It is only the teaching office of the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which has been given the charism to authoritatively and accurately interpret Sacred Scripture. And, as the Catechism explains, “Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, ‘open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures’ (cf. Luke 24:25)” (CCC, n. 108).
The Catechism goes on to tell us that “God speaks to man in a human way” (CCC, n. 109) through the words of Sacred Scripture. Recalling an expression used in previous installments, our Creator uses human words to impart the testimony of divine speech as part of His “divine condescension.” A principle thus comes to light which includes two elements, both essential for correct interpretation of God’s written word, namely, that the reader must be attentive to what the human author wants to affirm and to what God wants to reveal to us by the human author’s words (cf. DV, n. 12 § 2).
Each Old and New Testament writer lived within a certain period of history with its associated customs and culture. Therefore, to obtain an accurate rendering of the sacred author’s intended meaning, it is important that biblical texts be traced back to their historical origin and be interpreted in light of their historical context. Depending on the text being examined, the meaning may often be contingent upon then-contemporary literary forms, local customs, and even particular circumstances that existed at the time of composition.
For example, let’s consider the Old Testament Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. To understand its meaning, it is imperative to uncover what Jeremiah was actually saying and to whom. Yet, although “the conditions of [the human author’s] time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current” (CCC, n. 110) must be taken into account and understood, there is another principle of critical importance that must be observed: “Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by Whom it was written” (DV, n. 12 § 3); otherwise, Scripture would remain a “dead letter.” So, without delving deeper so as to understand what the Holy Spirit is seeking to convey, questions such as: “How does what Jeremiah had to say fit into the whole scheme of biblical Revelation? How is it completed in Christ? What does it have to say to us today?” wouldn’t be able to be answered.
To address this apparent quandary, the Catechism calls our attention to the fact that the Second Vatican Council has specified three criteria that must be part and parcel of an authentic interpretative approach toward the written word of God: 1) attentiveness to “the content and unity of the whole Scripture”; 2) a reading of Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”; and 3) attentiveness to the “analogy of faith” (cf. CCC, nn. 112-114). Both the “literal sense” and the “spiritual senses” of Scripture, a topic that will be taken up in next week’s installment, must be examined for an authentic interpretation.
With regard to the first of these criteria, Dei Verbum tells us that “serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out” (DV, n. 12 § 4). The Catechism highlights a beautiful quotation by Victor of St. Hugo to make clear that “all Sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ, ‘because all Divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all Divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ’” (CCC, n. 134).
As Pope Benedict XVI points out in his 2010 apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (VD), even though the Bible is “a collection of literary texts composed over the course of a thousand years or more, and its individual books are not easily seen to possess an interior unity, . . . the person of Christ gives unity to all the ‘Scriptures’ in relation to the one ‘Word’” (VD, n. 39). Indeed, there is a divinely planned unity between the Old and New Testaments: “God, the inspirer and author of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New” (DV, n. 16) with their central figure being our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Before closing, it would be remiss to not include at least brief mention of the second and third norms, as listed above, for interpreting the Bible as divinely inspired. In the words of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, we must “read the Bible in light of the Church’s entire Tradition,” and “be attentive to the ‘analogy of faith,’ which means the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and in the context of the whole of Revelation” (The Faith, p. 32). More will be said on each in future installments of this series.

+    +    +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. Fier is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

TOP CATHOLIC BISHOPS AIDE ON EXECUTIVE AMNESTY: OBAMA’S ‘LAST CHANCE TO MAKE GOOD ON PROMISE’

In a statement last Friday in the New York Times, the top aide on immigration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said that executive amnesty is President Barack Obama’s “last chance to make good on his promise…Continue Reading

Catholics Want To Learn More About Their Faith, Bishops Report

BALTIMORE – For three and a half years, members of several U.S. bishops’ committees have been trying to pinpoint what Catholics in the pew are thinking and why they accept or reject church teachings. To this end, they have conducted…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal: Catholic charity ‘is not only giving food … but giving God’

The Vatican cardinal who oversees the Church’s charitable initiatives has emphasized again that Catholic charities cannot be satisfied with meeting the material needs of those they serve. “Charity is very linked with the proclamation of the Gospel, and doing charity…Continue Reading

Prof at Catholic university tries to justify same-sex ‘marriage’ acceptance from Scripture

Professor Gerald Schlabach of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota recently published a piece for The Christian Century utilizing the writing of St. Paul to create an argument legitimizing acceptance of same-sex marriage. In light of Schlabach’s article, The Cardinal Newman Society…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Group: “We Will Not Obey the Obamacare HHS Mandate, Not Today, Not Ever”

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Court Says Obama Admin Can Force Pro-Life Group to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Where Are Our Young People Going?

During the 10:30 Mass in my parish a couple of Sundays ago 32 boys and girls stood in front of the altar, faced the congregation, and formally affirmed their desire to be confirmed. It was part of the preparation for…Continue Reading

US Bishops Elect New Secretary, Discuss Health Care Ethics Guide

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2014 / 08:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Tuesday on several committee leadership positions, also considering several liturgical proposals and moving forward with a New York canonization cause. At their fall…Continue Reading

Fidelity to Bishop of Rome crucial to evangelization, US bishops say

Baltimore, Md., Nov 10, 2014 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to Pope Francis on Monday, the U.S. bishops vowed fidelity to the Holy See and voiced hope that Pope Francis will attend the World Meeting of Families…Continue Reading

Nation’s Catholic bishops gather in Baltimore Monday

Nearly 300 bishops from across the nation will determine the coming year’s agenda for the American Roman Catholic church when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops begins its annual fall meeting Monday in Baltimore. The bishops will spend four days…Continue Reading

Pope names new ‘foreign minister,’ prefect of Apostolic Signatura; Cardinal Burke given new position

The Holy See Press Office announced on November 8 that Pope Francis has named Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, as the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Archbishop Mamberti replaces Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has served…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Church Risks Serious Tensions in Months Ahead

Cardinal Raymond Burke has said he is at the service of Pope Francis, has no personal animosity towards him, and those who claim the American cardinal is an opponent of the Pontiff are trying to discredit him. The head of…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope Francis Pays Tribute To Blessed Paul VI’s Devotion To Mary

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis paid tribute on Thursday to Blessed Pope Paul the 6th and his great love for the Mother of God, saying he always turned to Mary at crucial and difficult moments for the Church and humanity. The Pope’s words came during a message which was read on his behalf by the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin…Continue Reading

Pope At Santa Marta: Jesus Weeps

pope667

(Vatican Radio) Jesus weeps today when the doors of our hearts, those of the pastors of the Church, are closed to His surprises not recognizing the One who brings peace said Pope Francis at Mass Friday morning in Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the Gospel of the Day, Pope Francis said Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because its people did not…Continue Reading

Pope At Audience: The Universal Call To Holiness

(Vatican Radio) “Every state of life leads to holiness, always”, but only if we are open to the grace of God’s gift, said Pope Francis Wednesday speaking of the universal call to holiness of all baptized at his general audience. Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis: Dear brothers and sisters, good morning. A great gift of…Continue Reading

Pope Francis . . . Children Have The Right To Grow Up In A Family With A Mother And A Father

pope665

(Vatican Radio) On Monday, Pope Francis addressed a Colloquium being held on the theme “The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” The Holy Father began his address by dwelling on the word “complementarity”: “a precious word, with multiple meanings.” Although complementarity can refer “situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other”…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Detailed Studies Of Galileo

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Finocchiaro, Maurice. The Trial of Galileo: Essential Documents, translated and edited by Maurice A. Finocchiaro. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 2014. Pp. xii+160. This book draws upon Finocchiaro’s previously published works, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (1989) and Retrying Galileo: 1633-1992 (2005), at once making those masterful works more readily accessible,…Continue Reading

Reconnecting With Mary . . . The Apparitions At L’Ile Bouchard

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Part 1 This is first of two articles about the Marian apparitions at L’Ile Bouchard, in northwestern France, near Tours, which took place from December 8-14, 1947. The situation in postwar France was very serious, and there was a real threat from Communism, and even of civil war, but, unknown to…Continue Reading

Applying Just War Theory

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK The conditions that must be present before military force can be justified, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are as follows: “1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; “2. all other means of putting an end…Continue Reading

A Parody From Hell

By DONALD DeMARCO “My symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state” — C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. + + + Screwtape: I am proposing a new method for promoting hatred. Wormwood: There is already a great deal of hatred in the world. Shouldn’t we set our targets on something…Continue Reading

“The Birth Control Pill: Unintended Consequences”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For a CD containing hundreds of patient information pamphlets showing that the most common methods of birth control are abortifacient in their actions, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + One of the…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. We recently celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Why does the Church celebrate a church building in Rome? — P.R., Massachusetts. A. Because the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest church in Christendom and is the church of the Pope, not St. Peter’s Basilica. The Lateran Basilica was built in the fourth century…Continue Reading

Be Watchful And Alert

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER First Sunday Of Advent (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7 1 Cor. 1:3-9 Mark 13:33-17 In the first reading today we hear of the conflict that has tormented humanity from the very beginning. The problem is that we blame God for everything. Isaiah cries out to God in a lament, “Why do you let us…Continue Reading

In The Footsteps Of St. Paul… Bishop Conley’s Pilgrimage Teaches About Evangelizing Culture

(Editor’s Note: Below is the latest column by Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., for the Southern Nebraska Register. Bishop Conley, in conjunction with Spirit Catholic Radio and others, went on an October 31 to November 9 St. Paul Mediterranean Pilgrimage Cruise. (ZENIT News Agency provided the text. All rights reserved.) + + + The ancient Christian writer and theologian…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Social Kingship Of Christ And Religious Freedom

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.” The first reading…Continue Reading

Is The Rosary A Prayer Of “Vain Repetitions”?

By Raymond de Souza, KM Part 2 Last week I told the story of the visit of two Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW for short) to my house, and I showed to them that Jesus was in favor of repetitive prayer, because He gave us a prayer to repeat, the Our Father. I left a question unanswered. The younger JW had asked…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes… St. Cecilia

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church has thousands of saints. For the last two millennia, people of great holiness, exemplifying heroic virtue, have been honored as saints, members of the Church Triumphant in Heaven giving honor and glory to God. Some have been formally declared saints by the Church, while others have been so honored from the beginnings of the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

By CAROLE BRESLIN Since the United States is a relatively new country compared to the rest of the world, we do not have as many canonized saints as do France, Italy, or Spain. Elizabeth Ann Seton (died 1821) was the first person born in the United States to be canonized, although she lived many years after Kateri Tekakwitha (died 1680)…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading