I must that I was never all that enamored by the historical critical method of interpreting Scripture. I’ll say more of why in a moment. But some of you may be wondering what the historical critical method is. (If you want to skip my little lesson and some personal reflections of mine and go right to the Pope (instead of mere Msgr. Pope), the quote is at the bottom of the Page in bold italics).
The historical-critical method investigates the origins of a text and compares them to other texts written at the same time, before, or recently after the text in question. Did other ancient texts, whether biblical or non-biblical, adopt similar forms, use similar ingredients, story-lines, allegories, metaphors and the like. The Historical Critical method focuses on the sources of a document to determine who wrote it, when it was written, and where. What do we know of the author and his times? How was he influenced by them? What was his personal story? What other texts did he write and how do they compare what is before us? How does the writing we are studying compare to similar documents of the time? For example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are all very similar in terms of their basic content of what Jesus said and did. However they also have significant differences. How do we understand and explain the differences? Is one of the three “synoptic” (called this because of their similarity to each other) Gospels more historically reliable than the others as to detail? Why is the Gospel of John so different in tone and content that the other three and what are we to make of this? And so forth.
As such though, the historical critical method focuses primarily, almost exclusively, on the human origins of a text. Of itself this is not wrong, but it is incomplete. The Scriptures are a document of faith, more specifically of the believing community of the Church. They are inspired texts, with God the Holy Spirit as their ultimate author. Further, the role faith in the communities from which the biblical texts emerged is also a significant factor. Hence the biblical text is not merely understood as an historical utterance, but one that was understood and interpreted by those who believed and who also influenced the process of collecting the sacred writings and discerning what was of God. But this process was guided by the Holy Spirit.
The human dimension in all these things is important and essential and the historical critical method is right to explore this dimension, for God the Holy Spirit did not choose to act independently of the human personalities involved or of the believing community of the early Church. But neither was God wholly bound by these things or limited by them. Thus the historical critical method can only be one dimension of proper biblical understanding.
Regarding Sacred Scripture’s human dimension the Catechism has this to say:
In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression. (CCC # 110)
My own struggle – As I have already admitted, I have struggled to be enthusiastic about the historical-critical method. This begins for personal reasons. When I was in Seminary the method was insisted on by some, (not all), of my professors as the only real and valid method of Scripture study. They were zealots of a sort and any suggestion of a world outside this method was dismissed by them. They also isolated themselves historically, since this method is rather a new one. Hence, just about anything written on scripture prior to 1900 was not considered very tenable by them. I remember once turning in a paper wherein I quoted a scriptural commentary from the 1870s. The Teacher simply circled the date in red and had nothing further to say of the point.
I was also troubled by the strong tendency of the historical-critical method to doubt the existence of the miracles recorded in scripture. Not all scholars do this, but the more usual explanation of the miracles were that they were either literary devices, or just epic legends that were common of ancient near eastern and middle eastern texts. Further, claims that Jesus made of his divinity were somehow to be understood as later additions, not something Jesus actually said. Many adherents of the historical critical method were also dismissive of John’s Gospel and tended to sniff at most details there. They considered what they called “the fourth Gospel” to be more theological reflection than actual history, hence it had little offer that they were not quite skeptical of. It did little good to quote John’s Gospel to some of my professors.
De-mystified – Generally speaking then, my experience of the historical-critical method was that it de-mystified the scriptures and saw them only in human terms. The over-arching role of the Holy Spirit as the true and primary author was set aside and, thus, Mark’s gospel was favored over say, John’s and so forth. Since some of my professors were zealots for the method. Asking questions, even in good faith, was considered a veiled rejection of the method and was not usually received well.
And yet I also knew the human dimensions and historical context of the Scripture were important. But getting past the odious qualities of zealots, and the over-emphasis they placed on the human, made it harder for me to learn from them or the method they proposed.
I write all this to introduce the Pope’s reflections on the historical critical method. At heart he is a professor and is thus very careful to distinguish and to realize that the truth is often found in dialogue with various disciplines. He is able therefore to take what is good in the method and describe what is lacking or in need of balance and correction. He does this gently yet clearly. I find his distinctions helpful, especially due to my personal history. I trust the Pope and need someone I trust to say to me, “There is something good here and worthy of acceptance, and there are also some tendencies to avoid.”
This excerpt is from the Pope’s recent book Light of the World. It begins with a question by Peter Seewald which articulates many of the concerns I just expressed and then there is the Pope’s answer.
SEEWALD: The historical-critical method had its merits, but it also led fatefully to an erroneous development. Its attempt to “demythologize” the Bible produced a terrible superficiality and a blindness toward the deeper layers and profound message of Scripture. What is more, looking back, we realize that the alleged facts cited for the last two hundred years by the skeptics intent on relativizing pretty much every statement of the Bible were in many cases nothing more than mere hypotheses. Shouldn’t we be much clearer than we have been that the exegetes have to some extent been practicing a pseudo-science whose operative principle is not Christian, but an antiChristian animus, and that it has led millions of people astray?
POPE BENEDICT: I wouldn’t subscribe to so harsh a judgment. The application of the historical method to the Bible as a historical text was a path that had to be taken. If we believe that Christ is real history, and not myth, then the testimony concerning him has to be historically accessible as well. In this sense, the historical method has also given us many gifts. It has brought us back closer to the text and its originality, it has shown us more precisely how it grew, and much more besides. The historical-critical method will always remain one dimension of interpretation. Vatican II made this clear. On the one hand, it presents the essential elements of the historical method as a necessary part of access to the Bible. At the same time, though, it adds that the Bible has to be read in the same Spirit in which it was written. It has to be read in its wholeness, in its unity. And that can be done only when we approach it as a book of the People of God progressively advancing toward Christ. What is needed is not simply a break with the historical method, but a self-critique of the historical method; a self-critique of historical reason that takes cognizance of its limits and recognizes the compatibility of a type of knowledge that derives from faith; in short, we need a synthesis between an exegesis that operates with historical reason and an exegesis that is guided by faith. We have to bring the two things into a proper relationship to each other. That is also a requirement of the basic relationship between faith and reason.
Just a final word of thanks to the Holy Father for the encouragement he gives me here. His charism is to strengthen and unify us (cf Lk 22:31). His capacity to do this with clarity and gentleness is evident here. There are values to the historical critical method. And yet excesses must be avoided, distinctions made. I find this succinct answer, which he has elaborated in greater detail elsewhere, of immense help.
47 Replies to “The Pope’s View of the Historical-Critical Method of Biblical Interpretation”
Very interesting post. With religion, I am most curious when I can see all different views – real world, scripture, etc. Our Holy Father was quite right – the historical-critical method is ONE dimension of our faith. With any subject, faith has many dimensions. I took a class for my degree called the Psychology of Religion. It offered me a new perspective on religion, through the psych world, and many of my classmates were Catholic. I would highly recommend the class and/or the textbook for it.
Yes, it’s like the many facets of a diamond.
Thanks for sharing this quote. Despite my many disagreements with the Jesus Seminar and even faithful Catholic scholars who have employed the historical-critical method (e.g. Raymond Brown), I still get nervous when I see see people criticizing it. Too often, people look at some of the far-fetched and unwarranted conclusions that have been reached by historical-critical scholars and conclude that the whole attempt to read the bible historically is worthless. As the pope points out, for a religion that believes in the incarnation, we can’t run from historical questions. The truths we believe in are eternal, but their expression in our world has been historically conditioned. If we want to understand them, we are going to have to grapple with history.
What we need is not a whole sale rejection of the historical critical method, but rather an evaluation and reform of that method. The scholar who I think best embodies this is N. T. Wright. In the first volume of his ongoing magnum opus, Christian Origins and the Question of God, Wright distinguishes the critical realist approach that he uses from the historical approaches that emerged form the Enlightenment. One of the hallmark features of his approach is his insistence on trying to find the historical theories that “get the evidence in.” Rather than using historical criticism to shave away bits and pieces of the biblical stories until we get down to some minimal historical core that we feel confident actually happened, he turns the question around and tries to find a plausible historical theory that could account for as much of the biblical material as possible as it stands. The results of this approach are exciting, as anyone who has read one of his books will tell you. He is able to affirm traditional Christian teaching while still shedding new light on the scriptures that allow us to see significant new things in them. (For anyone looking for one of his shorter, more readable books I would recommend “The Challenge of Jesus”. There are also lots of his talks that you can watch or listen to for free linked at his webpage.) Wright very much embodies the kind of faith + history approach that the pope recommends here. I think that is one of the reasons that so many Christians have found his work such a breath of fresh air, and also one of the reasons he was invited as an observer to the recent Synod of Bishops on the Word of God.
Well said and thanks for the recommendation. I will look into it.
“the whole attempt to read the bible historically”
Is it true that the “historical-critical method” is the whole and only attempt to read the bible historically? I don’t buy that, as if you are saying no one prior to the 1900’s referenced historical sources to understand scripture. I’ll keep the “historical part,” you can keep the “critical” part.
That’s one of the things that annoys me about The New American Bible, that its commentary and footnotes often place more importance on “Q” rather than on Jesus, or on Yahwist vs. Elohist vs. Priestly sources rather than on what God actually wants to reveal to us. They mistake the vehicle for the journey, all while totally ignoring the destination.
Amen, I think that is the kind of correction that the Pope insists is also necessary for the HC method. It must see outside itself to a greater degree and realize that faith and the Holy Spirit are key compentents of the text that cannot be minimized. The destination is Christ. I am mindful of the first conclusion of John’s Gospel: THere are many other things that Jesus did…..But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (jn 20)
Verbum Domini is a good compliment to the Pope’s new book. It sheds some light on his words.
Here it is: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini_en.pdf
Also, here is some excerpts from VD in the form of responses to the main atheist arguments against the Bible:
THanks for these links. I too have been excerpting Verbum Domini here. It is a great resource as well.
I am currently reading Scott Hahn’s “Communion & Covenant~~The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.” And in the meantime, of course, the Holy Father himself has given us his Apostolic Exhortation “Verbum Domini.” These types of resources (esp. “Verbum Domini,” as Pope Benedict’s writing is very accessible) seem invaluable in the wake of this veritable stripping of divinity that has occurred in Biblical criticism of late. I also love how you write about his charism. I’ve never thought of the Pope as having a charism but yes, you are right! So thankful for our Holy Father!
Yes, these are great resources. May God be praised!
I remain profoundly skeptical of what is called “the historical-critical method”. Of course the historical setting and language of the day must be taken into account to understand at least part of the meaning of Scripture, but too often it is just a way of smuggling in the preconceptions of academics. For example, there is an assumption that where there are noticeable changes in the style or use of language in a work, they indicate that different authors are speaking. Even for works of merely human origin I find this assertion doubtful, and I see no reason whatsoever to believe it about divinely inspired works. Above all, I see such speculations providing no help whatsoever to answering the question, “What is the Holy Spirit telling us here?” Instead, the point more often seems to be to disregard the Holy Spirit and to deny or at least question the truthfulness of Sacred Scripture, and when that happens
“Heretics all, whoever you may be,
In Tarbes or Nimes, or over the sea,
You never shall have good words from me.
Caritas non conturbat me.”
I do understand your difficulty. However in stating Of course the historical setting and language of the day must be taken into account to understand at least part of the meaning of Scripture I think you and the Pope are ultimately on common ground. He is probably a little less negative in his overall assessment but does insist on limits and a slef-criticism of the HC method.
Whenever I read your posts, Msgr. Pope, I hear a voice from my long-ago childhood saying, “Correct as usual, King Friday.” Thanks for your priesthood — and especially for this expression of it!
Thanks for your encouragement.
It endlessly fascinates me that anything written by or regarding John, the only disciple left at the foot of the Cross standing next to the Mother of God and our Church, at the pinnacle of our Savior Jesus Christ’s life and mission on earth could be dismissed or minimized?
“Many adherents of the historical critical method were also dismissive of John’s Gospel and tended to sniff at most details there. They considered what they called “the fourth Gospel” to be more theological reflection than actual history, hence it had little offer that they were not quite skeptical of. It did little good to quote John’s Gospel to some of my professors.”
I wonder if this couldn’t be a root, partially responsible for the many problems and crises witnessed in our Church today?
Msgr Pope – The glimpse into your struggles as a seminarian are profound. This insight makes clearer to me why your scripture reflections never fail to resonate such deeper truth and meaning.as never before.
May we always be led by you and continue to find you at the foot of the Cross standing along side John, the beloved disciple and Mary, the mother of God.
It is plausible, though not certain, that the Gospel of John was not written by the apostle who stood at the foot of the cross. This is often the reason for dismissing John (the text) as unhistorical.
Of course, this is not a good reason to suppose that John (the text) is not substantially the testimony of John the person, even if delivered by his disciples. But it is a good reason to question its historicity. I’m not saying it’s enough on its own, but it is consistent with a fair historical-critical method.
I personally think it immaterial whether John himself or John’s disciples wrote John the text. It is consistent with the milieu in which the faith described in it arose.
The historical-critical approach, which accepts the problem of authorship, also vindicates the theological, moral, ecclesiological, and other aspects of John’s Gospel.
Indeed, the inclusion of historicity regarding John’s Gospel, or any inspired work, as our Holy Father has pointed out, is a necessary aspect of interpretation. However, I find it interesting that fallen away Catholics, or even faithful Catholics for that matter, are often heard grieved by a perceived experience of the loss of the transcendent in our liturgy and Church today? I often wonder if an overly emphatic historical-critical approach isn’t responsible? … endlessly fascinating!
I feel like I have a vested professional interest in this topic. I apologize in advance if I sound jargony.
“It has brought us back closer to the text and its originality.” -Benedict
This has until the revolution, present in many parts of society, in academia in the 70s and since, been the modus operandi of classical Greek and Latin philology, and continues to be the scheme according to which philologists make scientific progress toward understanding the propositions, and their corollaries, of the world and texts of antiquity.
These are the propositions which the philologist has traditionally exposed to view.
They must continue to inform any understanding of the reality with which we are presented, which is phenomenological, together with our attempt to understand the differently phenomenological propositions of an ecstatic faith.
Without historical-critical scholarship, we must surrender to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
Without historical-critical scholarship, we abdicate the authority by which we claim that the Church created the Bible, not the Bible the Church.
Without historical-critical scholarship, we surrender the accumulated traditional understanding of divine worship.
Without historical-critical scholarship, though we needn’t deny it, we may not assert the primacy of the Pope.
Without historical-critical scholarship, the Church as an institution must be defined by popular assent.
I am commenting on a blog, not writing a paper for publication. I considered it better to make claims I felt I could substantiate than to leave them unsaid, especially as I felt they would be considered important to Msgr. Pope’s readers.
I should have been happy to explain one or more of them if someone indicated to me that he was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt and that he was earnestly seeking the truth, rather than gleefully and sarcastically undermining what I said by innuendo when he could have addressed specific problems in a collegial way that invited discourse.
Have a splendid evening sir!
But you do make a good point, in that my conciseness leaves the door open for willful misinterpretation and misrepresentation of what I think, if not ignorant misunderstanding (I take you for the former, in my own attempt to remain collegial).
Succinct. Thanks. Faith sounds a certain way sometimes. Right on.
As one who finds comfort and strength for faith in the scriptures I love 2Timothy ch3 v14 to 17 (knox)
Understanding and knowledge adds to the wonder of God’s love
The principle nexus of this classic debate lies with the nature of faith itself, or about that which we have complete confidence and by which we will our actions, with our affections of feelings following. The material world is so palpable to humankind by the immediacy of sense perception, and therefore so facile to have faith in and to feel right about consequently. It’s not so easy with the supernatural which so often lies beyond our sense perceptions. (cf. Jn 20:29 of course) Therein lies the rub, and the Cross, the consequence of this beauiful though fallen world or nature in which we live. It lacks immediacy, and no doubt requires God’s initiative, or his Grace. By God’s Grace, we are left with but the power to persevere or co-operate with His stirrings, which again comes down to faith in something not very palpable to sense experience. Unless of course, one is graced perceptibly by the Divine punching through the veil of reality. Seems one really must have faith in that supernatural state of being, which is known as Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8b)?
Whats wrong with sola scriptura? Its the only book i know of that has gods words in it
The problem is “sola” for the Bible is not alone but emerged from the Church and is in need of the Church to interpret it. Beware of all the “solas” of classical Protestantism. Faith is not alone (sola fide) but is received from God through the community and lived in community. Sola Fide (Faith alone) is an abstraction for faith gives evdience of itself in its works. “Sola” anything immediately signals that we are dealing dealing with over-simplification.
Thank you so much for sharing your own struggle with reading the Sacred Texts. I think our Holy Father has quite a gift with words. But so do you … God bless you both.
As a very, very neophyte Catholic, I would say that knowing some history and customs of the times helps to understand the text a little bit better. Even the children’s Bible we have (by DK) has sidebars explaining these things and it is helpful. But in the end, it is the Holy Spirit that guides the person to write, no? I’m reading all these Words that were written by prophets and after a short intro many begin with: Thus says the Lord …
I find that understanding the social, political and economic context under which the authors and their intended audience operated adds depth and meaning to scripture that many miss.
As an example, understanding the “Keys to the kingdom” in terms of how kings appointed prime ministers brings to light the absolute truth in the primacy of Peter. Understanding that this event would have been viewed by the authorities as the establishment of a kingdom in the political sense and that all Roman subjects were required to swear an oath to the emperor which they broke only under the penalty of death helps us understand why Jesus, after having told Peter that he would get the keys to the kingdom, strictly forbade them to tell anyone he was the Messiah.
For me, this understanding does not diminish the spiritual message about Jesus creating a kingdom on earth with authority to interpret scripture and teach on matters of faith and morals but helps me to understand the absolute truth that the Catholic Church with the pope at it’s head is everything that it claims to be. It puts me in awe of every Mass and every priest.
To me, historical knowledge of biblical times always augmented my understanding. Until I read this post, I never y knew that there was a controversy over it
Well, the controversy isn’t knowing the historical but tending to reduce it only to that. On account of of overly strict notions of what history is, much was excluded and by focusing on only the human and the historical we risk missing the Divine and the trans-historical/meta-historical.
Acknowledged and understood.
Perhaps I am a little naive but I would have never thought that Catholic scholars or professors in seminary would use the historical-critical method to the exclusion of anything divine or spiritual ie., that miracles in Scripture were simple literary devices. Even as you put it, “…the tendancy toward…” leaves me shaking my head.
Faith is not only a theological virtue but truly a gift…. as is your blog.
“The human dimension in all these things is important and essential and the historical critical method is right to explore this dimension, for God the Holy Spirit did not choose to act independently of the human personalities involved or of the believing community of the early Church. But neither was God wholly bound by these things or limited by them. Thus the historical critical method can only be one dimension of proper biblical understanding.”
I’m afraid I completely disagree with you. If you think about it, God is wholly bound and limited by these things. The analogy for sacred scripture is the incarnation itself.
Thank you, Monsignor! Eagerly looking forward to your next post related to “Light of the World”. God bless and Happy Fourth Advent!
The presupposition of many of the academics who apply the historical-critical method is that miracles do not exist, therefore narratives mentioning or describing miracles have some other explanation.
A strong counter-weight to this would be First Corinthians, ch. 15, esp. verses 14-19. “If our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we ar the most pitiable of men.”
IMO Paul is writing sincerely [about what he believes] as factual, not metaphorical.
What is “the other explanation” for Paul’s statements about Jesus having risen from the dead?
What interests me is how the HC method was used as a Trojan horse for dragging in ahistorical assumptions, particularly about oral tradition and its role in the development of the New Testament. Too many liberal/secularist critics operate under the false parallel of oral tradition to the parlor game of “Telephone”, which bears as much resemblance to it as an Estes rocket does to the Space Shuttle. Moreover, the ministry of Christ and the beginning of the Church took place within a culture that was remarkably literate in comparison with its neighbors, when Jesus could ask his opponents and questioners what they read in the scriptures in the confidence that they had indeed read them and not just learned them by rote, when Paul in speaking to the Athenians could quote Epimenides and Aratus. Too often it’s been assumed that the first Christians were unlettered rubes, and that none were educated enough to write anything down until at least a half-century passed.
In Those Terrible Middle Ages! Debunking the Myths, French medieval scholar Régine Pernoud argues that much of our ignorance and misconceptions of the Middle Ages is due to the post-Reformation adoption of neo-classicism, which viewed the Greco-Roman period as the acme of civilization and the following millennium as a descent into savage barbarism, as the preferred interpretation of Western history. Theologians Scott Hahn, Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt have noted how much atheism and humanism are indebted to classic materialist reductionism, especially as articulated by Epicurus. I wonder now how much Biblical scholarship has been similarly poisoned by viewing first-century Judea through the lens of neo-classicism.
I doubt Jesus based His teachings soley on historical reasonof the prophets when preparing his followers for the experience of a transcendent experience such as following the will of the Father in one’s life, dying and salvation. I agree with Pope Benedict’s logic but the zealot approach of your professors to historical reason being the acid test for scriptural interpretation seems to remove the mystical experience of the Holy Spirit intervention through grace. Of course I wasn’t there and perhapse I misunderstood but those who hold to such a ridged historic reasoning standard obviously lack spiritual experience in Christ.
Dear Msgr. Pope,
Haven’t said anything in a while but this was a wonderful input of yours.
We are really blessed with Pope Benedict, and that he is such a help to you and many of us.
Loved the Tu es Petrus video.
And a most blessed Christmas to you.
God Bless Pope Benedict…never have I heard such wisdom, compassion, love, involvement in political problems, worldwide. I am not saying that all our popes have not been, holy men…but Pope Benedict, I marvel at your simplistic explanations of deep religious concerns, instruction, and guidance. You are a gem…my relligious diamond and have given me new faith in my CATHOLIC journey. I am proud to be a CATHOLIC and love sitting at your feet, as in the text of Mary and Martha. For readers, I am not idolizing the Holy See, but he is a powerful influence on the world…and that makes me proud. No other religious-heads are stepping up to the plate-defending the faith- in this ungodly world. Thank you Pope Benedict. I pray God gives you years to chart our religious course over the rough seas of political, media, and individualized persecution, verbally and physically in some sections of the world.
Truth is both analyitic and synthetic, Aristotelian and Platnoic, sense awareness and awareness of the self. You could say that you can learn much from the Mona Lisa by studying its colors, etc. But it is an awesome painting because it fuels our sense of awe. It has been said that God is in the detail and also in the awesomeness of creation and ours. But to paraphrase the poet, ” to pluck thee from the crannied wall and to know thee all in all.” Is this not what is meant in “seek and ye shall find?”
Thank you for your most stimulating reflections and I stumbled on it in the internet..”the unasked for gift from Heaven.”
Another plus for the historical-critical method: a sidelight.
The so-called “cutting edge” historians (so-called by the talking heads of television comment) argue that the gnostic texts we now have should be considered pretty equally with the biblical texts as historical records of the “real” Jesus. Without a strong sense of the value of the chronologies involved (which push them much closer to the time of Irenaeus than to Jesus’ time), how could this Jesus Seminar rejection of historical common sense be held up to ridicule? Without that strong sense of the genuine value of historical method conservative scholars would be left with Faith and the Authority of the Church for arguments in this secular age. As it stands, if the Crossan types are serious about rejecting established historical method the argument will soon lose what TV news execs would call sexiness and the Jesus Seminar will be mired in a convoluted argument they cannot win on TV. Another possible plus: a return to common sense about the limitatations of the historical-critical method. Q is a hypothesis, not a manuscript with a history to investigate. The overstatements of the historical-critical method by professorial solipsists who see nothing else, at least professionally do damage. They lend mistaken credibility to an effort to reach back to an Ur-text of say, the Gospel of Thomas, when simple chronological criticism will make Irenaeus and what he has to say about the nature of gnostic private revelations relevant to the question as an arguable source of primary value. Voila! Historical method could be valuable for apologetic purposes.
As one commenter has pointed out there is already a development in academia that the Pope is advocating – although most of this movement is by Protestants (sad fact) – N.T. Wright being a prime example as noted. I also highly recommend Richard Bauckham – especially “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”. Another good example is Larry Hurtado – I would reocmmend either “Lord Jesus Christ” or his shorter book (don’t remember the name) in which he analyzes the development of Christology. A much overlooked Catholic scholar (ahead of his time in a way) was William Most. His “The Consciousness of Christ” is a very interesting book and has chapters and appendices addressing HC; form criticism, and source criticism. He also indicates how these could have been used in a more helpful way (and he is also devasting in his criticism – the harshness probably didn’t help him in the world of scholarship).
Since someone mentioned Raymond Brown, my assessment he is a good “centrist” scholar although overdependent on the HC methodology (or rather its weaknesses). I found he “evolved” and his writing after the 1970’s was increasingly less prone to the HC weaknesses.
Yes, the Bible is one book with one with one principal author, the Holy Spirit, It has one subject, Jesus the Christ as seen twice in Luke 24 and again in John 1. It is a spiritual book and must be read spiritually as in 1 Cor.
Over the years I have found books looking at the Bible from the historical-critical perspective usually dry as sawdust, dull, frequently filled with the author’s individualistic ego, or written to make one’s academic reputation (which these days seems to always mean tearing things apart to get a new “WOW” reaction).
However, I have found very many writings of the Church Fathers and saints full of life, verve, enthusiasm, deep faith, humility, orthodox teaching etc.
I only wish that we had spent more time in our training as deacons reading and studying the writings of the great pillars of our Catholic Faith instead of virtually all our time on works “hot off the presses” with the latest of doctrinal iconoclasm designed to make our faith “modern.” I can still remember being ordered to read, study, digest, and absorb all the works of modern writers (like the constantly sneering Hans Kung) and make them an integral part of our faith.
I am deeply struggling with my class in Christology on the section of miracles. I have teacher who is saying that pertaining to the raising of Lazarus from the dead that he was really not dead. In a book that I am reading it states he was just in a coma.
I am not quite sure how one can say that. For if it was true than we can not rightfully say that it was a miracle.
In a textbook that I am reading for the class, “Who do you say that I am?, An Introduction to Christology'”. by Gerard Luttenberger, he states that,” Jesus therefore, in raising persons from the dead does not call them back to life. Rather he revives them.”
I just don’t understand this at all.
He also states that the Gospel accounts offer clear indications that the Church had embellished if not created these narratives out of its post-resurrection experience of Jesus.
Again, it seems that he is accusing the Church of creating things up. I find this very disheartening
It’s very interesting what you wrote about your professors, Father, and their disbelief in miracles and St. John’s gospel. This is precisely what St. Pius X associates with Modernist exegesis of the Bible condemned in his encyclical “Pascendi” (1907).
The wise words of the Holy Father bring peace to my soul. As with all things in this world, extremism is a vice, temperance is a virtue. All things must be done in moderation, and the big picture must be kept in mind. God bless the Holy Father Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and God bless the Holy Father Pope Francis. Thank you Lord Jesus for the wise Popes you have given us in the 21st century so far. St. Pope John Paul the Great, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, three absolutely wonderful, brilliant, saintly Popes to kick off the 21st century.
Higher Criticism is the greatest threat today to conservative Christianity. If not stamped out, it will decimate the Christian Faith.
Comments are closed.