Wednesday 20th August 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:

The present, future, and quality of Catholic online education

An interview with Patrick Carmack, President of the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program, about Catholic online education, technology, and Great Books August 15, 2014 07:48 EST Patrick S. J. Carmack, J.D. is the President of the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program, and the founder…Continue Reading

Pope makes silent anti-abortion statement in South Korea

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Pope Francis has generally avoided hot-button “culture war” issues like abortion, arguing that the church’s doctrine on the sanctity of life is well-known and that he’d rather emphasize other aspects of church teaching. But he made a strong,…Continue Reading

Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue Slams Islamic Caliphate Crimes And Barbarism

Caliphate militants are responsible for inhumane actions like public executions, humiliation of women, and terror towards Christians, Yezidis and members of other religions. The Vatican body calls on Islamic religious leaders and governments to condemn these crimes and prosecute their…Continue Reading

Incoming Roman Catholic Springfield bishop on gay marriage: ‘God made us male and female’

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, will be installed as the ninth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, on Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s Cathedral, with a public reception at…Continue Reading

Liberia: Nun dies of Ebola virus, two missionaries ill

A nun working in Liberia has died of the Ebola virus. Sister Chantal Pascaline worked with the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God. She died in Monrovia on Saturday. Two colleagues from the same order, Spanish priest Father Miguel…Continue Reading

Kurtz: New Catholic Teachers Shouldn’t Be Afraid

A group of about 750 Catholic school teachers, principals and Jefferson County school officials crammed into pews and chairs at St. Gabriel Parish in Fern Creek Friday morning for a mass service to ready the staff for the coming year.…Continue Reading

Send An Email Or Write A Letter To The Mayor Of Oklahoma City To Protest Black Satanic Mass At Civic Auditorium

Here is a copy of an email sent to the Mayor of Oklahoma City.  I think this man did a great job and we can use it as an example of what we can send.  Thank you to all of…Continue Reading

ISIS Closes In On Christians in Dramatic Overnight Development

Pope, Iraq’s Chaldean patriarch issue emergency appeals. ISIS, the radical Islamist group that forced Christians out of Mosul with the threat of death, has taken control of most of the villages of the Nineveh Plain, the northern area where Iraqi…Continue Reading

The IRS’s God Complex

The tax agency signs a secret pact with atheists, promising it will investigate 99 churches. Is the Internal Revenue Service a threat to religious liberty? As the IRS continues to come under well-aimed fire for harassing conservative groups, on Friday…Continue Reading

Archbishop Kurtz: Synod can be “a catalyst” for renewal

August 04, 2014 USCCB president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz will represent the US at the upcoming Synod of Bishops. The urgent challenges facing families—and how the Church can serve families better—will be the synod’s top priorities, he says. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz,…Continue Reading

Vatican: The Sign Of Peace Isn’t A Liturgical “Good Morning”

Today the Vatican confirmed the authenticity of a letter on the “sign of peace” that was released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and appeared on the website of the Spanish bishops’ conference. Catholic News Service reportedly…Continue Reading

UK bishop warns of ‘inhuman ideology’ behind euthanasia on WWI anniversary

A Catholic bishop in the UK has compared the popular support for Lord Falconer’s assisted suicide bill with the widespread support for the First World War in the summer of 1914. Bishop Mark Davies of the northwestern diocese of Shrewsbury,…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 Holds Press Conference On Flight Back From Korea

pope508

2014-08-18 Vatican Radio (Vatican Radio) From the possibility of the unification of the Koreas to the idea of “just war”, from the situation of persecuted minorities in Iraq to the Pope’s upcoming journey to Albania: on the flight back from Korea to Rome, Pope Francis answered questions put to him by journalists travelling with him aboard the papal plane. In…Continue Reading

">

Christians In The Mideast… Experience A Modern Calvary

By JOHN J. METZLER PARIS — The headlines seem from another era, if not century: that of Christian persecution by militant Islamists in the Middle East. Yet the modern political responses to this age-old conflict appear ambivalent about what’s emerged as an organized attempt by the militant Islamic State to impose a caliphate both on…Continue Reading

America’s Question: Cut Or Crash?

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY On the last day of July, with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives serving as copilot, President Barack Obama flew the United States past a dubious fiscal landmark on our way toward what increasingly looks like a crash landing. That day, the federal debt hit $17,687,136,723,410.59 — an increase of roughly $7…Continue Reading

A Book Review… The Loss Of Non-Negotiable Truths

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture, by Sheila Liaugminas (Ignatius Press, San Francisco: 2014), 158 pp., $17.95. Available through www.ignatius.com. To make sense of the moral chaos, divisive political issues, and culture wars precipitated by the sexual revolution of the 1960s, it is essential to begin at the…Continue Reading

Jesus And Jeremiah Speak To Our Times

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. The commentary below is reprinted with permission from…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic . . . Needed: A New Kind Of Politics For An Age Of Cultural Meltdown

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s “Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic” column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly] in Crisis. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World… How Catholics End Up As Practical Protestants

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The Church is in the business of making Catholics, of proclaiming and calling all to the fullness of saving truth in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our mission to those who doubt or refuse some of our teachings is to call them to that fullness, whether Catholics already in our pews or Protestant brothers and sisters…Continue Reading

Is Mary The Mother Of God… Or Only The Mother Of Jesus?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 Responding to a common misconception among separated brethren and ill-informed Catholics: What did the Early Christians believe about the Catholic doctrine on the divine Motherhood? Those men, women, and children who sacrificed everything for the true faith in Jesus — even their very own lives? They were imprisoned, tortured, murdered. Some were burned…Continue Reading

I Believe — We Believe

By DON FIER Over the past three weeks of this series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), we have been reflectively examining the characteristics of the indescribably wonderful gift of faith that Almighty God has so generously availed mankind. As so adeptly summarized in the Compendium of the CCC, we know that faith is “the supernatural virtue which…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Over the years, we have tried to correct columns in the Boston Herald by Margery Eagan because they have greatly distorted Catholic teaching. Now we learn that the longtime Herald columnist has joined the anti-Catholic Boston Globe as a writer for its new Catholicism website, Crux. According to the press release from the Globe, Eagan will focus on…Continue Reading

Jesus Is The Wisdom Of God

BY FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-First Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 22:19-23 Romans 11:33-36 Matt. 16:3-20 Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! These words begin the second reading today as St. Paul marvels at the way God works. As we know, God’s ways are not our ways. Those who seek…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . Pope St. Pius X

By CAROLE BRESLIN This month the Catholic Church celebrates the 100th anniversary of the death of Pope St. Pius X who had so many things in common with the last few Popes. Like Pope Francis, he had a special affinity for the poor — especially since he came from a poor family. Like Pope John Paul II, who updated the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Maximilian Kolbe

By CAROLE BRESLIN During the Final Discourse, our Lord speaks to His disciples at the Last Supper about union with Christ, union with the Father, and the coming of the Holy Spirit with the theme of love woven throughout the night’s sharing. “Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).…Continue Reading

What to Do If Your Boyfriend Wants You to Get an Abortion?

by Krisi Burton Brown | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/20/14 4:00 PM Washington, DC (LiveActionNews) — Note: This article is for any girl or woman who is feeling pressured into having an abortion. If you are a guy who is trying to find out how to stop an abortion, please see this article written for dads. 1.  Stand your…Continue Reading

It’s Time to Build Schools, from the Ground Up

February 13, 2014 by Anthony Esolen   It might have been worth repairing, if it had once been noble and beautiful, or at least conceived in an orderly way, for ordinary human purposes. But it wasn’t. It was constructed upon false principles. Its walls looked like those of a bad factory. It smelled like a warehouse. It could be terribly…Continue Reading

Why I am Pro-Life

February 4, 2014   Pro-Lifers   By Therese Recinella   Editor’s note. This tribute was posted on Therese Recinella’s Facebook account. She is graciously allowing us to reprint it in NRL News Today.   There are many things that I could say about my Dad, but what I want people to know is this: My parents faithfully raised 8 children…Continue Reading

Fathers . . . The Essential Role of the Father

Posted on February 10, 2014 by The Catholic Gentleman 13 Comments   Divorce rates skyrocketing; adultery rampant; non-married cohabitating couples; children abandoned by their fathers or mothers; “same-sex unions” adopting children and calling this the “modern family”; pornography invading homes, leading to powerful addictions and total alienation from other members of the family: all of this is a bird’s eye view…Continue Reading

How Much is One Billion Dollars?

This article appeared in the March 20, 1941 issue of The Wanderer. (Well, 70 years later we can add 15 trillion into the example.) Here’s a simple and homely illustration of what one billion dollars amounts to: Suppose we take an imaginary boy, aged 15 years, and assign to him the task of counting one billion dollars in one-dollar bills.…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood

This article appeared in The Wanderer, April 3, 1941.  (WOW, Look what we have 70 years later.) A group which calls itself the National Committee for Planned Parenthood has begun a nationwide campaign to have the promotion of birth control included in State and national health programs. The committee—which, according to propaganda sheets reaching our desk has a branch in…Continue Reading

Questions of Non-Catholics . . . Answered by Father Richard Felix, O.S.B.

Reprinted from The Wanderer April 10, 1941 Why Does God allow us to be tempted? God allows us to be tempted so that we may prove our attachment to him and merit a higher place in heaven. Temptations are the lot of all men; they are the battle ground upon which heaven is won or lost. “The kingdom of heaven…Continue Reading