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  • LT108 - Rationalism in the Historical-Criticism of Hermann Gunkel
    other view entirely impossible The legends of Genesis he says frequently relate extraordinary events that contradict our advanced knowledge and the tellers of these stories are not even aware of the great unlikeliness of what they recount And so we would actually be doing injustice to this naiveté if we were to incorporate it into sober reality 6 As a modern man he sees the outlandishness of such Genesis accounts as the Serpent speaking to Eve Noah bringing every species of animal into the ark and God walking in the Garden of Paradise and he feels that the representatives in his time of the Evangelical Church in Germany would therefore do well to give up their refusal to see the first book of the Bible as a collection of fictitious legends in order to make possible for them a historical understanding of Genesis 7 What Gunkel does not suspect is that his modern viewpoint is probably a mere construction of his own subjectivity that does not correspond to objective reality Many great thinkers of his time and of ours be they natural scientists historians philosophers technicians teachers statesmen or whatever have a modern viewpoint that accepts the fact of miracles in the Bible These thinkers are not wedded to Deism to Rationalism or to Modernism as a philosophy nor does reason require them to be so wedded for Modernism is not based upon chronological fact it s just an unsubstantiated belief of its own Modern non Modernist men of Gunkel s time and of our time have reason to accept that the fallen angel Satan could speak to a woman from the form of a serpent that Genesis is not saying that Noah took two of every species of animals on earth into the ark and that when Genesis says that God walked in the Garden of Paradise it is using an obvious anthropomorphism 11 Gunkel shows that he is a Deist where he says We believe God works in the world as the quiet hidden basis of all things But he never appears to us as an active agent alongside others but always as the ultimate cause of all 8 On what does he base this belief apart from his prior belief in himself as a modern man Where there is no belief in the role of divine Providence in divine interventions in divine revelation in divine inspiration there is from our viewpoint no Christian faith And there is always the great temptation to reject Christian faith wholly or in part in favor of the self satisfaction to be had from thinking of oneself as a modern man whose own superiority of view overrides any and every suggestion of the supernatural notwithstanding all evidence to the contrary 12 Gunkel sees in the primal legends of Genesis both the presence of weakened myths and a quiet aversion to mythology By a myth he means a story of the gods Israel s strong emphasis upon monotheism would tolerate only myths in which God acts alone as in the creation narrative or myths in which the story takes place between God and people 9 But these myths as so identified by Gunkel are obviously seen to be merely fictitious stories since the one true God is for Gunkel always and only the ultimate cause of all and never plays any role in human history or the history of the world In this description Gunkel may be retaining a residual belief in the existence of the one true God but as far as his interpretation of Genesis is concerned what comes out in the primal myths is the fictitious god of Israel who is depicted as acting either alone or with people In this interpretation there is no real connection between the god of Israel and the one true God of Christian belief Gunkel finds that Israel s notion of its one god was derived from various pagan sources He assumes a Babylonian influence for the primal legends which he also calls primal myths since for early Genesis Babel was the oldest city in the world and he surmises that these legends came first into Canaan and were from there passed to Israel at the time when it Israel was grafted into the Canaanite culture 10 13 Viewed in the objectivity of an adequate mental framework the writings of Hermann Gunkel and other historical critics provide a fertile source of material for the understanding of many texts of Sacred Scripture not because their historical critical conclusions are correct but because they challenge the traditional thinker to find correct solutions to the problems that they raise The works of Hermann Gunkel and other notable historical critics deserve to be studied carefully and methodically not according to their own method but in such a way as to formulate correctly the principles of historical method and to separate the facts from a mere fascination for false ideas It is important to have general observations about the reasoning and conclusions of historical criticism but it is necessary also to delve into the concrete expressions of its reasoning after first having identified its governing principles 14 We might begin in a general way by asking again whether Gunkel s modern historical world view is really modern or is only Modernist We might ask whether Gunkel s modern historical world view is really historical or is only pseudo historical In the third place we might ask whether Gunkel s modern historical world view is truly based on the observation of facts or is only a biased view based on Rationalist presuppositions that do not coincide with the historical facts These questions should always be in the mind of the critical reader Do what Gunkel calls the legends of Genesis really contradict our advanced knowledge To answer this question one needs to look carefully at what these legends are saying to us in a context of understanding that is in keeping with historical science properly defined and is therefore free of unproven presuppositions 15 According to Hermann Gunkel the patriarchal accounts of Genesis are legends that is they are poetic recastings of vague historical memories into which later popular elements and even whole other figures have been interwoven p xvi He sees these accounts as constructs fashioned from imaginary thinking such as from the idea that every different nation was descended exclusively from a different remote ancestor in such wise that two closely related nations would be imagined to have descended exclusively from brothers or from the same mother Thus the close relationship of the Israelites the Moabites and the Ammonites would be explained in the popular imagination by their having descended from the imaginary brothers Abraham and Lot How can Gunkel say that Abraham and Lot are mere figments of the imagination He contrasts two ways of thinking He says that mythical thinking sees all tribes and nations as having resulted through reproduction whereas we know in our modern historical thinking that peoples form in quite different ways perhaps through the incorporation of foreign clans or perhaps through fusion of immigrants and natives p xv He believes that the writers of Genesis couldn t have known anything about what Abraham Isaac and Jacob were like even if they had really existed because everyone who knows the history of legends is aware that at a distance of so many centuries the personal characters of these persons could not have been preserved p lxviii So in any case they remain mere literary figures p lxix 16 Gunkel s kind of modern historical thinking does not appear to be scientific thinking since scientific thinking depends upon facts and makes clear distinctions as it proceeds Perhaps the incorporation or perhaps the fusion of extraneous persons does not constitute a clear exclusion of blood descent and in fact the Genesis account makes explicit provision for and gives many examples of the incorporation of extraneous persons into the nation of Israel And it is clear from the entire Pentateuch that the Israelites lived under a severe prohibition of intermarriage with other peoples Gunkel undertakes to erase the patriarchs from historical reality not by means of historical evidence but by deduction from such unproved general principles as that accounts like those of Genesis are necessarily a product of mythical thinking Actually his conclusion is a product of unscientific thinking for he here simply assumes without any historical evidence that the accounts of Genesis could not have proceeded from actual historical observation and experience that orally narrated but real historical happenings could not have been preserved intact over centuries by human endeavor and by the help of divine Providence that the writers could not have been guided by divine inspiration These assumptions are unscientific in that historical science has as its object whatever happened and does not decide in advance what could or could not have happened 17 Gunkel observes in broad perspective that the primal legend the story of creation is essentially of Babylonian origin while the patriarchal legends are essentially of ancient Hebrew origin p liii Yet he also holds that these patriarchal accounts are not of Hebrew origin but pre existed elsewhere as stories that wander from people to people from land to land and from religion to religion p xlvii They are stories he says that originated somewhere as pure products of the imagination and were much later given new meaning on Israel s lips p xxiii What historical evidence is there that the stories of Abraham Isaac and Jacob were earlier floating around on the lips of other tribes and peoples None Gunkel is merely deducing from his idea of certain epic laws p xlii that he feels are common to all folk literature There are no such laws that would determine fictitious responses from individuals who we know were endowed with intelligence and free will nor laws that would exclude any divine inspiration and guidance Gunkel assumes a virtual absence of free will where he says In addition the imagination powerfully excited by these accounts continued to work almost involuntarily He readily admits that the narrators and hearers of these biblical stories believed that they were true but he maintains they didn t have the intellectual capacity to distinguish fact from fiction p xxvi And this is a gratuitous assertion The Israelites were practical people they were shrewd traders and realists They called a spade a spade a lie a lie and a miracle a miracle It is Hermann Gunkel who here seems to be laboring under a studied inability to distinguish the truth of Genesis from the fiction of the surrounding pagan literature 18 Gunkel acknowledges that the text of Genesis speaks always of one god the god of Israel but he also sees here and there an earlier polytheism echoing through such as in the Let us of Gen 1 26 in the Come let us go down of Gen 11 7 in the appearance of the Lord to Abraham as three men in Gen 18 and in other places He concludes that all this cannot be based on one and the same God figure read god figure p xlix He maintains that a whole variety of god concepts was transmitted in the legend material and that Israel s Yahweh figure was subsequently imprinted upon them all thus elevating them to a monotheistic level p lviii According to an ancient viewpoint that Gunkel thinks he sees in the text Yahweh himself moves around during the time of the plagues in Egypt Exod 11 12 while in a later view his messenger does this 2 Kgs 19 35 In an earlier view Yahweh inspired the prophets while in a later view an angel did this In an earlier view Yahweh conducted the Israelites through the desert Exod 34 11 while in a later view an angel did this Exod 20 16 In an earlier version Yahweh appeared to Hagar at the well Gen 16 13 while in the later text it was the angel of the Lord Gen 16 7 But in an even earlier version it was the pagan god of the place that appeared to her and his name was el roi p 186 Thus by using his method of form criticism Gunkel thinks that he sees behind the text of Genesis a primitive mythology moving through many intermediate stages to a final belief in divine providence and in the one god of Israel p lix 19 It is interesting to note that all of the things that Gunkel thinks he sees behind the text of Genesis are only questionable detractions from what is already plainly written in the text of Genesis itself There is no independent documentation of earlier stages to back up his theory We know from the plain text of Sacred Scripture that Abraham s belief in the one true God replaced the belief of his ancestors in many false gods but Gunkel s conclusion that the interventions of the one true God described in the text of Genesis are fictional renditions of older stories about local pagan gods is not evident at all it seems to depend mainly upon his own Rationalist presupposition that there could have been no real interventions of the real God The stories of the patriarchs in the text of Genesis look very real to those who examine them without recourse to the Rationalist presuppositions of Gunkel s method There are those Catholic scholars who say that these Rationalist presuppositions do not necessarily govern the method and that Gunkel s form critical conclusions have merit in themselves They quote and recommend Rationalist books with a certain abandon I purchased a copy of the English edition of his Genesis as it was prominently displayed together with various Catholic commentaries in a large Catholic bookstore in Rome Is this book as innocuous as some Catholic scholars seem to think 20 The dangers of Rationalism have often been remarked in the teachings of the Popes Back in 1832 Pope Gregory XVI pointed out the harmful element of pride in the critical approach to Catholic faith where he said It is the proud or rather foolish men who examine the mysteries of faith which surpass all understanding with the faculties of the human mind and rely on human reason which by the condition of man s nature is weak and infirm 11 In this statement Pope Gregory XVI is not speaking against the use of human reason in studying the mysteries of faith and even more so in examining Sacred Scripture but he is rather warning against relying on human reason motivated by an attitude of pride which actually obscures the mind and closes it to the light of objective truth And this is the thinking of the Modernist who places himself and his mind over all that comes from the distant past on the ground that his modern mind is superior just because it is modern 21 In his encyclical letter Providentissimus Deus of November 18 1893 published at the very time that Hermann Gunkel and other members of the School of the History of Religions were refining the methods of historical criticism Pope Leo XIII called upon Catholic scholars to rise to the defense of the truth of the Sacred Scriptures and to oppose the Rationalist exegetes who trusting in their turn in their own way of thinking have rejected even the scraps and remnants of Christian belief which had been handed down to them 12 Pope Leo proceeded to summarize their Rationalist approach by pointing out that they deny that there is any such thing as revelation or inspiration or Holy Scripture at all they see instead only the forgeries and the falsehoods of men they set down the Scripture narratives as stupid fables and lying stories the prophecies and the oracles of God are to them either predictions made up after the event or forecasts formed by the light of nature the miracles and the wonders of God s power are not what they are said to be but the startling effects of natural law or else mere tricks and myths and the Apostolic Gospels and writings are not the work of the Apostles at all Then the Pope calls upon scholars and all true shepherds of souls to let their hearts be stirred up so that this Rationalist pseudo knowledge 1 Tim 6 20 may be opposed with the ancient and true knowledge which the Church through the Apostles has received from Christ and that Holy Scripture may find the champions that are needed in so momentous a battle 13 22 Leo XIII went on to characterize the method of historical criticism then known especially under the name of higher criticism as it was being proclaimed by Hermann Gunkel and his colleagues in the following words There has arisen to the great detriment of religion an inept method dignified by the name of higher criticism which pretends to judge of the origin integrity and authority of each Book from internal indications alone It is clear on the other hand that in historical questions such as the origin and handing down of writings the witness of history is of primary importance and that historical investigation should be made with the utmost care and that in this matter internal evidence is seldom of great value except in confirmation Otherwise this vaunted higher criticism will resolve itself into the reflection of the bias and the prejudice of the critics and seeing that most of them are tainted with false philosophy and Rationalism it must lead to the elimination from the sacred writings of all prophecy and miracle and of everything else that is outside the natural order 14 23 Well over a century has passed since Pope Leo XIII published his condemnation of the method of historical criticism and during the intervening time there have occurred among other things various documents and decisions of the original Pontifical Biblical Commission the condemnation of

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  • LT107 - The Morning of Jesus' Resurrection in the Light of Biblical Inerrancy / On the Historicity of the Events of Easter Morning
    case it is important that Matthew certainly does not affirm that the two women he names were the only two to visit the tomb Neither does any other Evangelist with respect to the woman women he mentions No single Evangelist mentions all four women 2 After at least three of the women reach the empty tomb and find the stone rolled away all of them except Mary Magdalene soon experience the apparition of the two angels perhaps in two separate moments who announce to them the Good News of the Lord s resurrection For her part Mary has not waited long enough at the tomb to see the angels and hear their message She has been so disturbed by the sight of the stone being rolled away that presuming a tomb robbery to have taken place she separates herself instantly from the other Mary and her other companions if any and hastens off to inform Peter and John Jn 20 1 2 3 Meanwhile the other women having heard in amazement and confusion the angelic message quickly leave the tomb with a mixture of fear and joy Mt 28 9 but do not at that moment go to tell the male disciples Mk 16 8 as the angel has instructed them to do This is because they are at first just too stunned and overwhelmed both by the unexpected and shocking emptiness of the tomb and by the supernatural vision of the angels with their stupendous message Probably they anticipate correctly as it turns out that Peter and the apostles being Jewish males burdened with typical prejudices against the credibility of mere women will in any case react with incredulity to their astonishing report So in all probability these other three or more women return to one of the houses of their Jerusalem friends or relatives from whence they had set out a little while earlier There they will regain their composure and think about what to do next 4 Now keeping in mind what we said about possible errors in the minds not in the written words of the human biblical authors it seems entirely probable that Matthew did not know of this initial response of silence and inaction which Mark tells us about and that he thought or presumed that the women went immediately to tell Peter and the Twelve what had happened at the tomb This is the impression one would naturally receive from Mt 28 8 which says literally And going out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy they ran to tell his disciples But note well that this passage does not state or strictly imply that the women s running to the disciples took place immediately after their hasty exit from the tomb area That seeming immediacy is quite literally just an impression we receive from the way Matthew words his account But even if in fact that idea which we know from Mark s clear affirmation to be mistaken was indeed in Matthew s mind the integral truth of what he actually wrote under divine inspiration remains intact provided only that a the women did in fact leave the tomb hastily with the emotions Matthew mentions and b after that but not necessarily immediately they did indeed run to tell the disciples of their experiences at the tomb Matthew has contracted or telescoped a sequence of events into a briefer account but without stating anything false 5 Probably at the same time that the three other women who had come to the tomb with Mary Magdalene are gathered not far away discussing what to do next see 3 above the latter returns to the tomb accompanied by Peter and John The incidents recorded in Jn 20 3 17 now take place Peter and John inspect the tomb and the latter believes v 8 they then return home Mary left alone weeping at the tomb sees for the first time the angels who have already been seen by the other women and finally she meets the Risen Jesus Himself This is in fact the first appearance of the Risen Lord to anyone as is corroborated by Mark 16 9 6 At this point we need to consider another apparent contradiction John s account 20 12 13 makes it almost certain 1 that Mary Magdalene s first encounter with the angels occurs at this moment when she is alone for it is clear that she still as yet has no suspicion of the Lord s resurrection a fact which as we know from the other Gospels has already been announced by the angels to the other women But it might seem from Matthew 28 1 5 6 and Mark 16 1 5 6 that Mary Magdalene was in fact with those other women when they saw the angel s and that she heard together with her companions the stupendous news that the Lord had risen But once again we have here instances of impressions left by the biblical texts which might indeed reflect what was in their human authors minds but which are by no means affirmed or strictly implied by what they wrote Let us keep in mind two points here a We have noted in 1 above that Matthew nowhere affirms that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the only women who went to the sepulchre early that morning and b after mentioning those two in v 1 and in referring to the angel s appearance and words a few verses later Matthew simply says that this angelic message was addressed to the women vs 5 Now we would certainly have a problem on our hands if he had said the aforesaid women or the women already named or those two women For these expressions or other possible ones to the same effect would affirm or rigorously imply that Mary Magdalene was indeed one of those women who saw and heard the angel in that first moment But in view of a and b it cannot be said that Matthew s Gospel text whatever may or may not have been in his own mind teaches that Mary Magdalene was among the women who saw the angel s immediately on their first arrival at the empty tomb The inerrancy of Matthew s affirmations about the women remains intact provided that the other women who had by that time arrived at the tomb i e at least the other Mary Joanna and Salome did in fact see and hear the angelic manifestation v 5 make a hasty exit from the tomb v 8 and then a little later on in the morning run to tell the Apostles what had happened v 9 Similar observations can be applied to Mk 16 After having mentioned three women by name including Mary Magdalene in v 1 Mark goes on to use the word they in several subsequent verses including the statement that they saw a young man angel in the tomb who announced to them the resurrection vv 5 7 Mark may well have assumed that Mary Magdalene was still there with the other women at that point but what he says in writing using just a third person plural verb which comes out as a simple unemphatic they in English does not strictly affirm or imply this Mark does not say that all three of those women heard and saw the angel or words to that effect Nor does he mention Mary Magdalene by name again at this point or use any other form of expression that would make it undeniable that he specifically meant to include her among those who saw the angel and received his message Here we need to remember another accepted point in the orthodox Catholic theology of biblical inspiration and inerrancy namely that truth in Scripture as in ordinary human discourse does not always have to equate with precision or exactitude In other words just as in ordinary life we often take approximate expressions to count as true rather than erroneous in circumstances when precision in points of detail is not essential so too this principle can apply to the Bible which is after all a word which is truly human as well as divine In the case before us Mark s statements in 16 1 8 wherein after naming three women he goes on to say that they did certain things can fairly be considered approximately and sufficiently true provided that the majority of those women two out of three or three out of four if we take Luke s testimony into account really did what the Evangelist ascribes to them as a group 7 John 20 18 and Mark 16 10 both tell us that after she sees the Risen Lord Mary Magdalene goes to tell the disciples this stupendous news However they give us absolutely no further details for instance whether she does so immediately or after a certain interval or whether she goes alone or in the company of the other women Neither does Luke shed any further light on those specific questions when he simply records in 24 10 that Mary Magdalene is one of those women who inform the Apostles about the events at the empty tomb Nevertheless from the standpoint of defending the integral truth of the Gospel texts none of these different alternatives presents any great problem It is entirely possible that Mary wanted to share this glorious news of having seen and talked to the Risen Lord first of all with those who would be most likely to believe her her female companions There is no reason to suppose it would have been difficult for her to locate them at that moment the logical place to go would be their Jerusalem lodgings from whence the women had set out earlier that morning see 3 above If she had burst in on them there with her astonishing report that would explain very well why the whole group newly fired up by Mary Magdalene s joyous news would have set out running as Matthew tells us in 28 8 to tell the apostles about the sum total of all their experiences so far that morning In that scenario Mary would have been one of those women who then encountered the Risen Lord on their way to inform the disciples 28 9 10 as Matthew seems to have presumed she was If however she went independently to Peter and the Eleven before rejoining the other women so that their encounter with the Risen Jesus did not include her then the hermeneutical observations we have already made in the first paragraph of 6 above would apply equally here in order to defend the inerrancy of Matthew s text 8 Only one apologetic problem seems to remain in reconstructing the sequence of events on that Easter Sunday morning in a way that does justice to the inerrancy of all four Gospel accounts From what we have said so far it is clear cf Jn 20 that by the time Mary Magdalene and the other women have reached Peter and the apostles with the news of the angelic appearances and the apparitions of the Risen Lord Peter has already been to the tomb and seen for himself its emptiness except for the linen cloths However Luke mentions Peter s visit to the tomb in 24 12 after he has related the arrival of the women with their amazing and as yet more or less incredible report to the apostles 24 9 11 To solve this difficulty we simply need to recall the principles we have already appealed to in explaining other problem passages in these resurrection accounts It may or may not be the case that Luke thought or presumed that Peter s visit took place only after he had heard the reports of miraculous events from the group of women who came to him and the other apostles But what the Evangelist says in writing does not affirm nor strictly imply that sequence of events even though undeniably it leaves the reader with an impression to that effect Verse 12 does not include any unambiguous expressions placing Peter s visit to the tomb within a time sequence that would place it clearly either before or after he hears the report of the women Luke simply says here after telling us of the women s report and the apostles incredulity at it that Peter however arising ran to the sepulchre etc Note the absence here of any word indicating the time when Peter did so relative to the events mentioned in previous verses So the integral truth or inerrancy of Luke s text not necessarily of Luke s private thoughts or assumptions remains intact provided that Peter did indeed arise and run to inspect the sepulchre at some moment during the series of astonishing events that took place on the first Easter Sunday And we know from John s Gospel that Peter s visit together with that of the Beloved Disciple in fact took place at an earlier hour very soon after the group of women first arrived at the tomb around dawn This short essay has been an exercise in harmonizing different biblical accounts of the same series of events Unfortunately many exegetes of recent decades scoff at the very attempt to do this They claim that such concordism is no longer necessary for Catholics since Vatican Council II we are confidently assured recognizes that the Bible is not in any case guaranteed to be free from error in its historical and other supposedly non salvific affirmations Among various considerations demonstrating that this is a distortion of the Council s teaching are the various references in its own footnote 5 to DV 11 to Pope Leo XIII s foundational encyclical on biblical studies Providentissimus Deus 1893 In one of these passages of the encyclical referenced in this footnote as EB 127 this very procedure of careful study with a view to harmonizing apparent contradictions in Scripture is expressly recommended to biblical scholars For Leo XIII praises here the scholarship of those great Fathers and Doctors who labored with no less ingenuity than devotion to harmonize and reconcile those many passages which might seem to involve some contradiction or discrepancy Thus does Vatican Council II rightly understood exhort us to follow in their footsteps Endnotes 1 A well known Protestant defender of biblical inerrancy Dr Gleason L Archer hypothesizes that Mary Magdalene was still with the other women at the time of the initial appearance of the angels and their announcement of the Resurrection But why then does she not display even the slightest inkling of what the angel s told her when she later returns to the tomb after informing Peter and John of its emptiness Archer s attempted explanation is as follows She apparently had not yet taken in the full import of what the angel meant when he told her that the Lord had risen again and that He was alive In her confusion and amazement all she could think of was that the body was not there and she did not know what had become of it Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties Grand Rapids Michigan Zondervan 1982 pp 348 349 I find this very implausible but each reader can judge for himself One suspects that Archer has resorted to this explanation only because in not accepting the kinds of Catholic hermeneutical norms we are employing in this essay and thus setting the bar too high in his expectations regarding inerrancy he thinks that Matthew s Gospel will be in error unless Mary Magdalene was one of the women he mentions in 28 5 ON THE HISTORICITY OF THE EVENTS OF EASTER MORNING by John F McCarthy In his article The Morning of Jesus Resurrection in the Light of Biblical Inerrancy Brian Harrison gives an interesting presentation of some principles of interpretation for the solving of apparent contradictions between the texts of the four Evangelists in narrating the angelic appearances to the holy women on the first Easter morning And he makes a realistic and thought provoking reconstruction of the events that took place As a new technique he suggests that sometimes to resolve an apparent contradiction it becomes necessary to consider that while what the human author affirms is always to be taken as historically true the integral divine authorship of Sacred Scripture does not however require us to hold that everything the human author thought about the events he relates was necessarily true above page 1 For instance in reconciling the affirmations of Matthew 28 2ff and Mark 16 5ff that an angel appeared to the holy women with the affirmations of Luke 24 4 and John 20 12 that there were two angels we are inclined to assume that Matthew and Mark mistakenly thought even though they did not write that only one angel had in fact appeared above page 2 Father Harrison is certainly right in pointing out that the inerrancy of the biblical text pertains to what was actually written and not to what the inspired writer may or may not have thought about what he was writing but this recourse to what the writer may have erroneously thought in order to defend the historicity of the text looks a bit like a last resort In difficulties of this kind the Fathers and Doctors of the Church strove to find other solutions realizing that the seeming contradictions presenting themselves over the ages to the minds of interpreters of the sacred text could be rooted in their own unawareness of explanations that are waiting there to be found or in ignorance of certain facts or circumstances pertaining to the events narrated or in the presence of deeper meanings underlying the sacred text indicated by the choice of certain elements and the omission of others and by the very selection and arrangement of the words In the case of the appearance

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  • LT106 - Creative Imagination in the Old Testament Reading of Walter Brueggemann
    accounts in Genesis could not be regarded in any scientific way as history nos 2 and 4 above What is history in the modern sense of the term and what does it mean to regard history in a scientific way In order to answer these questions it is necessary to have in mind adequate definitions of science and history 10 One seldom sees an adequate definition of science Many of the definitions given of science do not express the essence of science but are merely descriptive or they define only part but not all of science Thus to take one example W H Walsh defines a science as a body of knowledge acquired as the result of an attempt to study a certain subject matter in a methodical way following a determinate set of guiding principles This is a rather good definition of technical science but it does not distinguish between true science and pseudoscience since pseudoscience is also an attempt to study a certain subject matter in a methodical way while following a determinate set of guiding principles 11 Science in its broadest denotation is the knowledge of reality as such 1 Scientific reasoning begins from a studied awareness of the notion of reality and from a consistent separation of the real from all elements of the unreal The first great distinction between sciences is the distinction between common science usually referred to as common sense and technical science Both of these levels of science act from a studied awareness of what is real and this notion of reality is the beginning and essential condition of all science The difference between these two levels of science is that the notion of reality in technical science has added to it certain proven rules of method and a precise definition of terms that are lacking to mere common sense The use of common sense alone may thus lead to errors that can be corrected by technical science However technical science is based upon the same notion of reality as is common sense 2 12 History in its broadest denotation is the knowledge of the past as such 3 The first great distinction between kinds of history is that between real history and fiction that is between knowledge of what really took place in the past and knowledge of what is fictitiously said to have happened in the past Historical science has to do with what really took place in the past and which therefore fits within the limits of the notion of reality in the mind of the historian 4 Hermann Gunkel was using the notion of reality when he excluded the writings of Genesis from the real past but his reason for this exclusion was based upon the false methods of historical criticism Thus in his criticism of Genesis Gunkel constructed a pseudoscientific interpretation of the Book of Genesis Brueggemann follows suit to a certain extent in that he also uncritically excludes the writings of Genesis and of much of the Old Testament from the realm of the real past but he falls entirely away from science where he denies any clear notion of reality in his framework of thought as is evident from what he says about theology and about God 13 Theology is about God and true biblical theology is about the one true God the real objective living God Brueggemann makes a big mistake in reducing the one true God of Hebrew and Christian faith to the level of an allegedly imaginary god of the Hebrews On the one hand he says the Israelite notion of its god came from pagan mythologies and therefore even if purified of pagan dressings remains merely the lower case god of the Hebrews Thus the god of the Hebrews is a fictitious god even though he is their chosen god Does Brueggemann believe in the real existence of the one true God and if so how does he relate the one true God to his notion of the god of the Hebrews Brueggemann affirms that the Old Testament provides the categories of faith and interpretation through which the New Testament is to be understood and without which the New Testament cannot be faithfully and intelligently read p 3 One of these Old Testament categories according to what Brueggemann tells us is myth and another is the dream world of faith We ask Walter Brueggemann Are the objects also of Christian faith mere elements of a religious dream world of what he calls a world beyond the common sense p 9 as Rudolf Bultmann and other historical critics of the New Testament try to tell us Again we ask Is what traditional believers call the one true God merely the mythological god of an allegedly mythological Christian faith We are talking from reality as the rest of us understand that word to mean and we think that Brueggemann is subtlely taking the objects of Christian faith out of the realm of reality as we know reality to be What Brueggemann says about the God of Hebrew and Christian faith he has not passed through the fundamental mental operation of separating the real from the unreal He expressly blurs the notion of reality where he quotes Amos Wilder 5 in the following words We lose our place in the story if we stop to ask what this feature means or refers to outside it More important these students of language will ask us what we mean by real world There is no world for us until we have named and languaged and storied whatever is What we take to be the nature of things has been shaped by calling it so This therefore is also a story world Here again we cannot move behind the story to what may be more real Our language worlds are the only worlds we know Brueggemann p xiii 14 Hence for Brueggemann one cannot even reasonably ask whether the God of the Hebrews the God of Christian faith is real or not and this kind of reasoning about reality is totally contrary to Christian faith as well as to all levels of scientific thinking Both technical science and common sense constantly distinguish whether an object of thought is real or not They gather and organize real objects of thought from those which are merely erroneous imaginary artistic fictitious illusionary lying or deceiving Authentic Christian faith constantly affirms the reality of the true objects of faith while excluding proposed objects that are not real When we ask Walter Brueggemann whether he believes that the God of Christian faith is real we are also asking him whether in his own act of faith he affirms the reality of God and of every essential object of Christian faith and whether he affirms that the God of Christian faith is a reality the supreme reality within the one continuum of reality that excludes anything fictitious or imaginary For true Christian faith is an affirmation that the objects of faith are real Science is certified knowledge and true Christian faith is a form of science because it is certified knowledge It is called faith only because its conviction is based not upon one s own experience but upon the testimony of God and of those who have seen the acts of God And the testimony of God is trustworthy Hence we are correct in saying that simple Christian faith is a branch of common science and truly reasoned Christian theology is a branch of technical science But Brueggemann s theology of the Old Testament is not scientific because he uses terms like faith and theology without having first identified them in a reality based mental framework of his own 15 This is to say that Brueggemann does not expound his interpretation from an adequate mental frame of reference Not only is the fundamental notion of reality missing but he accepts uncritically the fallacious reasonings of Hermann Gunkel and his followers in their analysis of the historical accounts in the Old Testament Brueggemann uses various terms like historical and scientific without defining them properly The idea that the literary genres of myth legend saga fable and novella are categories of faith embedded in the Old Testament is a misconception common to historical critics while the idea that these genres of fiction provide the categories of faith and interpretation through which the New Testament is to be understood Brueggemann p 3 is a fatal methodological error into which Brueggemann has fallen The truth of the matter is that all historical understanding comes from the knowledge of how earlier historical events turned out 6 Therefore historical understanding of the Old Testament comes from the knowledge of how the events of the Old Testament turned into the reality of the New Testament And Christian theological understanding comes from seeing the Old Testament in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ 16 The proposal that the understanding of the New Testament is to be had in the supposed light of the Old Testament is but one element of a false method of interpretation that has grown up in some intellectual circles since the rise of Protestantism With the outbreak of Protestantism in the sixteenth century there arose on the part of many a belief in the absolute separation of faith and reason This distinction made the world of faith an alternate world to the real world of sense experience and common sense Liberal Protestants seized upon this separation to extol the role of reason and belittle the role of faith Out of this came the school of rationalist criticism of Sacred Scripture working from a so called higher viewpoint and it was from within the rationalist school of liberal Protestants that historical criticism has grown and flourished over three centuries down to the present day Rationalists assume without good reason that the supernatural does not exist and they therefore exclude a priori the possibility of divine inspiration of divine revelation of miracles and of any other action of God in the real world known to physical science and common sense What does Brueggemann say about divine inspiration He tells his readers If we recall the mention of artistic imagination we may for starters say that the biblical text is inspired in the way that every gifted artistic accomplishment is inspired To say this much is to say a great deal that the singers and story tellers and poets who constituted the Old Testament did indeed reach beyond themselves in an extraordinary way p 10 Note that this description of inspiration is purely natural and does not include any action on the part of a really existing God And so Brueggemann makes the text of the Old Testament a merely human accomplishment 17 Brueggemann sees as outstanding in this merely human accomplishment of the Old Testament composers that the world is articulated with YHWH Yahweh as the defining character p 9 This he sees as daring artistic sensibility p 9 But what is so special about this Brueggemann tells us that the primordial myths of the various ancient Near Eastern cultures were all great founding events in which the gods are the key actors p 29 That is to say that each separate culture or city tended to make its god or gods the protagonists of history and of the world and so what was so special or daring about the supposed fact that the Hebrews made their fictitious god do the same Isn t this an attempt to attribute greatness where greatness is lacking The truth as we see it is that what makes the actions of God in the Old Testament so defining is that they were really done by the one true God in that continuum of physical and historical reality that is known and recognized by reason and common sense to be the real world 18 Rudolf Bultmann the most famous historical critic of the twentieth century in a celebrated article published in 1943 7 proclaimed the need for the demythologizing of the New Testament which he claimed to be a mere product of religious fantasy As a rationalist and thoroughgoing modernist he ruled out the three story world of the Bible heaven earth and hell the depiction of angels and demons the narration of miracles and prophecies 8 And he declared that any affirmation of an action of God in this world is mythological because it is an illogical passage from the other side to this side We might ask From the other side of what Undoubtedly from the other side of reality that is from a fictitious and imaginary world to the real world He was denying that the Christian God is within the continuum of reality of whose existence we know first from our sense experience Now this may seem to be a logical position for Protestants who accept an absolute separation of faith and reason but it is logically unacceptable to those for whom Christian faith is an affirmation of the real existence of God and of what God has revealed Whoever ceases to affirm the real existence and real interventions of God in this world does not have Catholic faith Hence for a Catholic Brueggemann s alternate world of faith is a pure figment of his imagination 19 The liberal and rationalist school of Protestant biblical interpretation with its historical critical method has been opposed over the last three centuries or so by other Protestant interpreters especially those of the evangelical communities They published telling critiques of historical critical works but with a certain lack of completeness due to their own incomplete framework of thought They did not have all of the methodological tools needed for the job Thus they could not decisively defeat the historical critics on their own turf of technical historical research and analysis What has been especially lacking for this task have been adequate theories of science and scientific method on the one hand and of history and historical method on the other And this lack reaches down even to the level of simple faith and common sense Thus unprepared believers have had great difficulty in formulating and refuting the fallacies in historical critical method even though the conclusions of this method are often to them obviously false 20 Brueggemann maintains that the fictitious presentations of the Pentateuch had a positive social result in the chosen people in that it gave them an object of hope amidst the desperate conditions of the Babylonian Exile Thus the Torah served as a normative resource for the sustaining of this Jewish faith community In his words The narrative conditioning process propelled by great theological intentionality was able through great imaginative maneuvers to fashion widely variegated and diffuse memories into a more or less coherent statement upon which this otherwise resourceless community could stake its life pp 22 23 Brueggemann in other words is saying that a naive belief in the fictitious presentations of the first five books of the Old Testament served the theological purpose of keeping alive the hopes of the captive Jewish people Two things are wrong with this position The first is that the presentations of the Pentateuch are fictitious only to those who have uncritically accepted the conclusions of historical criticism The other is that the intent to motivate a people by the use of fictitious stories is basically dishonest and can in no way be called theological in the true sense of the word We understand Christian theology to be the science of revealed reality as such Hence there is no true theology of unreality 21 The conclusions of historical criticism tend to be deductions from a set of false principles Thus for instance the principle of rationalism excludes as unhistorical any affirmation that supposes an intervention of God in human history any true divine providence any true nature miracle any real prophecy regarding the future any supernatural enlightenment of the biblical writers etc And this rationalist principle is contrary to true historical method because it is the task of the scientific historian to determine what has taken place in the past strictly in terms of the evidence for it and not in terms of an a priori exclusion of the evidence Again the arguments of historical criticism are unscientific inasmuch as they tend to conclude what they have already assumed by constructing arguments in a circle And again the arguments of historical criticism are unscientific in that they are usually built on mere plausibility which is then taken as proof in subsequent arguments Rationalist historical critics are satisfied with strings of plausibility because it gives them an excuse for not believing the historical truth of the Scriptures They tend to treasure the biases of their method 22 Hermann Gunkel in his form critical historical criticism of the Old Testament does use a reality based mental framework of research inasmuch as after he has excluded the accounts of Genesis from the continuum of reality by categorizing them as basically literary creations he studies their origin in the reality of the minds of the story tellers and tries to determine what occasioned the idea of each story and how the story developed over a period of time We could make a modern comparison with the story of Alice in Wonderland In a reality based framework it would not be reasonable to ask where the potion came from that enabled Alice to become ten inches tall or where the cake came from that enabled her to become nine feet tall because these things have no causes in reality But it would be reasonable to ask who Lewis Carroll really was and how his earlier story telling to a family of small girls later became this children s classic And that is what the form criticism of Sacred Scripture purports to do However the form criticism of Sacred Scripture starts from the supposed but unproved assumption that the accounts in the Bible are mere literary

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  • LT105 - Episcopal Attitudes To Liturgical Change On The Eve Of Vatican II (Part II)
    vernacular in a great part of the Mass Alfrink called for more active participation on the part of the laity a simplification and clarification of the rites the faculty of concelebration at large gatherings of priests Communion under both kinds for the laity on special occasions such as nuptial Masses and a reduction of the Eucharistic fast to two hours before receiving Holy Communion 7 Cardinal Döpfner as well as asking for much of the above offered a detailed program for simplifying and rationalizing the Ordinary of the Mass and suggested in addition such developments as offertory processions more Prefaces more varied Scripture readings the sign of peace and for some of the hitherto silently recited prayers to be said out loud 8 All of these changes were in due course introduced But it is worth noting that not even the Church s two most prodigiously progressive prelates Döpfner and Alfrink were calling for certain more radical changes which have since become routine throughout the Western Church and whose cumulative effect has been not so much a true reform of the old Roman rite but its de facto replacement by a sweepingly different rite I refer to such changes as Mass facing the people new and shorter Eucharistic Prayers resulting in the near extinction of the Roman Canon the practical disappearance of Gregorian chant and polyphony the elimination of Offertory prayers stressing the sacrificial character of the Mass Communion in the hand Mass with few if any moments of silence Mass with no Latin at all the tearing out of altar rails and the abolition of kneeling to receive the Lord s Body What inferences can be drawn from the episcopal submissions we have surveyed It would be going beyond the evidence to infer that in 1960 there was much downright opposition among the bishops to the prospect of changing even slightly the existing rites For even the declared opposition of a few of these prelates to having any vernacular in the Mass does not necessarily imply the same attitude toward other possible reforms in the rites It must be remembered that within little more than three years of submitting these generally very conservative recommendations for the Vatican II agenda nearly all of these same bishops were destined to vote in favour of that liturgy Constitution by which the Council mandated much more significant changes in the rite of Mass changes which corresponded closely to those requested by that prelate whose ideas placed him at the extreme liturgical left of the Catholic episcopate just before Vatican II the Primate of Holland Archbishop Alfrink It would probably be more accurate then to describe the prevailing sentiment of these bishops as a feeling that the much talked about designs of liturgical specialists for updating the rite of Mass were really rather irrelevant to the real needs of God s people Such proposals were widely seen not so much as a threatening prospect as a low priority issue which did not even merit discussion at the forthcoming Council What would have been the key factor in modifying this 1960 apathy toward the project of reforming the Roman Missal Was it perhaps the bishops experience of actually living through the Council during 1962 and 1963 In those heady days terms such as renewal dynamism openness to the world and aggiornamento were still new and exciting charging the ecclesial air in Rome with that renowned spirit of Vatican II which seems to have won over many hitherto staid prelates to the cause of far reaching change Whatever may be the reason s for the change of outlook that led the bishops to approve almost unanimously the substantial reforms spelt out in Sacrosanctum Concilium the evidence of their previous proposals for this pastoral Council of the universal Church suggests strongly that their rank and file constituencies that is most ordinary laity priests and religious were by no means clamouring for changes in the celebration of Mass as a condition of its continuing relevance or meaningfulness in the modern world It seems significant in the light of post conciliar developments that two future Popes whose individual submissions to Rome I noted independently of my country by country survey were part of the quite small minority 29 of bishops in our survey who wanted the Council to introduce more extensive changes to the Mass than just the use of the vernacular The young auxiliary bishop of Cracow Karol Wojtyla saw a need for more active participation on the part of the laity a simplification of the pontifical rite of Mass and a prudent use of the vernacular without however a complete nationalization of the rites 9 Cardinal G B Montini of Milan destined to ascend the Chair of Peter as Paul VI within three or four years made similar observations regarding active participation on the part of the faithful and asked for the Council to authorize the use of the vernacular in the Mass of the Catechumens what we now call the Liturgy of the Word 10 Such proposals were actually fairly typical among this progressive minority But although this minority group might reasonably be labelled as being the liturgical liberals or progressives of 1960 what needs to be stressed is the fact that with very few exceptions the innovations they contemplated would have to be considered cautious or conservative in comparison to what Vatican II actually called for three years later in Sacrosanctum Concilium and ultra conservative in comparison to the still more sweeping changes which were then subsequently introduced by Paul VI himself in the name of the Council Indeed one has the impression on reading these preconciliar submissions that if Catholic bishops round the world in 1960 had been granted a crystal ball preview of the way they themselves would be celebrating the Eucharist only a decade in the future the overwhelming majority would have been left astonished at the drastic extent of these imminent changes to the ancient Roman rite One of the most

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  • LT104 - Episcopal Attitudes To Liturgical Change On The Eve Of Vatican II
    the United States and New Zealand with those from the European Continent we find that the latter were far more interested in changes in the Mass than the former While only 28 of the English speaking bishops in the sample suggested changes of some sort to the liturgical status quo no less than 60 of their colleagues on the Continent did so more than twice as many proportionally The contrast is even more marked if we exclude from the ranks of would be reformers those bishops who wanted nothing more than a limited use of the vernacular or a reduction of the Eucharistic fast those who recommended more extensive changes than these to the traditional rites and texts of the Mass made up only 17 of the English speaking sector but 46 of the European sector that is the prelates from Austria Belgium Denmark France Germany and Holland And it must be kept in mind for the reasons we have already noted that when statistics become available from the episcopal submissions originating in those very large sectors of the universal Church located in southern Europe and Latin America we will almost certainly find that these results approximate much more closely to the conservatism of English speaking Catholicism than to the more reformist outlook of northern Europe In short here in 1959 1960 we can see clearly taking shape in its liturgical aspect the broad outline of that great regional contrast of episcopal hearts and minds which was soon to become so prominent at Vatican Council II A small minority of Fathers coming from northern Europe took the initiative in spearheading a highly intellectual articulate well organized and persuasively presented thrust for far reaching mutations in Catholic life worship and theology mutations which the vast mass of bishops from other parts of the globe had scarcely dreamt of right up until the Council itself The astonishing success of this thrust for change is what led one of the best English speaking historians of the Council Father Ralph Wiltgen S V D to entitle his book very aptly The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber 4 In the following pages I will present some more detailed information about the liturgical suggestions submitted by different national hierarchies beginning with that of my own country of origin 1 AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND It is clear that indifference to the idea of liturgical reform was very much the dominant attitude in 1959 1960 among the Church s pastors Down Under First however a brief trip from Australia itself across the Tasman Sea where we find a surprising contrast in the attitudes of the New Zealand prelates who responded to the Vatican inquiry All three of them seemed quite keen for liturgical change of one sort or another Bishop Edward Joyce of Christchurch was the most radical calling for the vernacular to be used throughout the celebration of Mass and all other sacraments with the sole exception of the words of the sacramental form in each case which he thought should be kept in Latin 5 Bishop John Kavanagh of Dunedin asked for the omission of the Psalm Iudica me at the foot of the altar and the Last Gospel and for the addition of a thanksgiving prayer to be recited after Communion He also suggested that the Eucharistic fast be reduced to one hour before the beginning of Mass 6 Finally the Archbishop of Wellington Peter McKeefry also called in very general terms for the revision of the existing Missal and other liturgical books although he specified that the vernacular in his opinion should be introduced only into the Roman Ritual keeping the whole celebration of Mass in Latin 7 On returning to Australia s shores we find that exactly the opposite position prevailed among leading Catholic Churchmen on the eve of Vatican II Indeed the Australian prelates showed themselves to be less interested in changing the traditional Tridentine rite of Mass than any other national hierarchy whose submissions I have studied so far Of the 30 prelates in Australia who responded to Rome s inquiry 24 bishops and 6 archbishops including the then Apostolic Delegate Archbishop Romolo Carboni only five 17 suggested any reform whatever of the existing rites Interestingly four of those five either were already or were soon to become archbishops the Apostolic Delegate Archbishop Gilford Young of Hobart Bishop Thomas Vincent Cahill of Cairns soon to become Archbishop of Canberra Goulburn and Bishop Lancelot Goody of Bunbury who was soon to preside over the Archdiocese of Perth Does this more marked presence of reforming ideas among the younger generation of leading prelates perhaps indicate a tendency on the part of the Holy See already in the early 1960s to be on the look out for men considered to be rather progressive or forward looking for promotion to the major Australian sees This hypothesis would seem to be supported by the fact that the papal representative responsible for making such recommendations Archbishop Carboni himself submitted proposals for changes in liturgy and in many other areas of Church life which were more detailed and more far reaching than those of any of the Australians whose interests he thought he was representing to the Holy See In his long 11 page submission to the Roman commission preparing for Vatican II Carboni suggested what he called a number of innovations designed to make the liturgy better adapted to the local mentality 8 He called for the vernacular to be used not only for the Scripture readings but also for the Kyrie Gloria Credo Sanctus Pater Noster Agnus Dei and Domine non sum dignus He added however that while the people recited or sang those parts in English the priest should still recite them quietly in Latin Carboni also called for a wider selection of biblical readings in the Mass and for the deletion of extra prayers of commemoration from Sunday Masses so as to leave more time for preaching 9 In clear contrast to the Apostolic

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  • LT103 - Is Natural Family Planning a 'Heresy'?
    since they were never even published in the English language version of Denzinger a key source of pre Vatican II doctrine for laymen such as Mr Ibranyi who has publicly admitted his own ignorance of Latin these decisions have apparently remained unknown to those Catholics who denounce NFP as a recent modernist aberration or heresy At least I have never seen any of those decisions cited or even referred to in traditionalist attacks on the use of periodic continence The first time Rome spoke on the matter was as long ago as 1853 when the Sacred Penitentiary answered a dubium a formal request for an official clarification submitted by the Bishop of Amiens France He asked Should those spouses be reprehended who make use of marriage only on those days when in the opinion of some doctors conception is impossible The Vatican reply was After mature examination we have decided that such spouses should not be disturbed or disquieted provided they do nothing that impedes generation 6 By the expression impedes generation it is obvious the Vatican meant the use of onanism 7 or coitus interruptus now popularly called withdrawal condoms etc For otherwise the reply would be self contradictory and make no sense The next time the issue was raised was in 1880 when the Sacred Penitentiary on June 16 of that year issued a more general response i e not directed just to an individual bishop This time the Vatican goes further not only does it instruct confessors not to disquiet or disturb married couples who are already practising periodic continence it even authorizes the confessor to take the initiative in positively suggesting that method with due caution to couples who may not yet be aware of it and who in his prudent judgment are otherwise likely to keep on practising the detestable crime of onanism One could not ask for a more obvious and explicit proof that already more than eighty years before Vatican II the Holy See saw a great moral difference between NFP as we now call it and contraceptive methods which Catholic moralists then referred to globally as onanism of different types The precise question posed was this Whether it is licit to make use of marriage only on those days when it is more difficult for conception to occur The response is Spouses using the aforesaid method are not to be disturbed and a confessor may with due caution suggest this proposal to spouses if his other attempts to lead them away from the detestable crime of onanism have proved fruitless 8 The editorial notes in Denzinger indicate that this decision was made public the following year 1881 in the respected French journal Nouvelle Revue Théologique and in Rome itself in 1883 in the Vatican approved series Analecta Iuris Pontificii Now this was the doctrine and pastoral practice that all priests well formed in moral theology learned in seminary from the mid 19 th century onward So before Pius XI was elected Blessed Pius IX Leo XIII St Pius X and Benedict XV all clearly approved of this status quo established by their own Sacred Penitentiary and never showed the slightest inclination to reverse its decisions of 1853 and 1880 The future Pius XI himself was not born until 1857 four years after the initial Vatican permission was given for periodic continence So like all other obedient and studious priests of his era Fr Achille Ratti would have learned and accepted this authentic Vatican approved teaching which allowed NFP as a means of avoiding offspring Hence it is seems most unlikely a priori that after being elected Pope he would have had any intention of condemning that practice It is well known that the main thing prompting him to speak out about contraception at all was the fact that the 1930 Lambeth Conference of the Anglicans had scandalized all morally upright folks by teaching for the first time ever in the history of those claiming the name Christian that unnatural practices i e onanism could be morally acceptable Periodic continence simply was not the issue in 1930 and in fact Pius XI did not choose to address that issue in Casti Connubii The clearest proof that Richard Ibranyi s interpretation of CC namely that it condemns NFP as just another form of contraception is incorrect is the fact that Pius XI himself very obviously did not interpret his own encyclical that way Only a year and a half after it was promulgated the Sacred Penitentiary yet again issued a statement on periodic continence dated July 20 1932 Quite possibly this was because someone somewhere was trying to give an Ibranyi style rigorist interpretation to CC This time the ruling which simply referred back to the same dicastery s previous and positive response of half a century earlier was eventually made public in the Roman documentary journal Texta et Documenta series theologica vol 25 1942 p 95 The decision reads as follows my translation Regarding the Exclusive Use of the Infertile Period Qu Whether the practice is licit in itself by which spouses who for just and grave causes wish to avoid offspring in a morally upright way abstain from the use of marriage by mutual consent and with upright motives except on those days which according to certain recent medical theories conception is impossible for natural reasons Resp Provided for by the Response of the Sacred Penitentiary of June 16 1880 9 Now it would clearly be preposterous to plead that perhaps Pius XI never knew about this 1932 decision right up to his death seven years later In all probability he was the first to know about it Certainly it was made right under his own nose in the Vatican and would have been mailed out promptly to the bishops of the world for the benefit of their moral theologians teaching future priests in their seminaries How could the only Catholic bishop in the world not to know of this heretical distortion

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  • LT102 - The Navarre Bible Commentary: The Synoptic Gospels
    is still suffering from that historic oversight The University of Navarre Commentators with competent insight point out that while the Gospel writers wrote with the purpose of strengthening the faith of their readers that did not lead them to falsify events or neglect historical accuracy p 38 Implied here is the important distinction between the finis operis purpose of the work and the finis operantis purpose of the worker In the case of the Gospels the purpose of the work is to report events that really took place while the purpose of the workers the Evangelists is also to strengthen the faith of their readers Historical critics are typically unaware of this distinction and tend systematically to exclude the likelihood of historical accuracy wherever they perceive or suspect an extrinsic purpose of the sacred writers such as the desire to strengthen the faith of their readers or to defend the faith or to convey the deeper significance of an event The Navarre Commentators go so far as to claim that There are no grounds therefore for thinking that the Gospel story was the product of the fertile hyper imagination of the first generation of Christians p 39 It s true there are no real grounds but try to tell that to the many disciples of Rudolf Bultmann the most celebrated Scripture scholar of the twentieth century who meticulously in his History of the Synoptic Tradition tore the Synoptic Gospels to pieces and claimed to have definitively shown that practically all of the events recounted therein are the product of the fertile imagination of the first two or three generations of Christians Sadly no Catholic Scripture scholar has ever seriously taken up Bultmann s challenge by analyzing Bultmann s work line by line and showing it to be a mass of false conclusions In implicit opposition to the conclusions of Bultmann Dibelius Raymond Brown and many others the Commentators claim that we know that the Four Gospels are the writings of Saints Matthew Mark Luke and John and that with regard to their authorship critical analysis supports the unanimous precise testimony of Tradition p 29 They are speaking of sound historical analysis and not the fallacious analysis of the historical critical school In the course of their remarks the Commentators take a definite stand in favor of the historicity of the cures and other miracles of Jesus that are recounted in the Gospels Thus they say with reference to Matt 8 9 that Jesus is shown as endowed with divine power over disease death the elements and evil spirits and that these miracles worked by Jesus Christ accredit the divine authority of his teaching p 100 I understand these affirmations to mean not just that the sacred writer is trying to accredit the divine authority of Jesus by depicting Him as having divine power but that the Commentators themselves as historians are attributing to Jesus this divine power and thus that the Navarre Commentators have advanced beyond the merely literary analysis of historical criticism to actual historical analysis integrated into the general picture of world history And in this they are consistent elsewhere in their commentary on the Synoptic Gospels cf their remarks on Matt 9 18 26 and Matt 17 14 21 At Mark 7 3 5 the Commentators quote the Second Vatican Council Dei Verbum 25 regarding the need of translations of the sacred texts which are equipped with necessary and really adequate explanations Well this University of Navarre Commentary goes a long way toward providing an adequate explanation of the Synoptic Gospels but for the English edition it is regrettable that they have had to use the Revised Standard Version of the King James Bible rather than a suitable English translation of the New Vulgate which Catholic biblical scholars have not undertaken to produce And the New American Bible is in my opinion no worthy alternative At Mark 16 17 18 listing kinds of miracles that would accompany those who would believe in the name of Jesus after he had ascended into Heaven the Navarre Commentators take a further step in favor of the reality of miracles where they say that in the early days of the Church public miracles of this kind happened frequently They thus give real historical accreditation to the reporting of miracles in the text of Sacred Scripture In their Introduction to the Gospel according to St Luke the Commentators quote a decision of the Pontifical Biblical Commission dated June 26 1912 to the effect that it is not lawful to doubt the inspiration and canonicity of Luke s accounts of the infancy of Christ p 328 This recourse to a decision of the original Pontifical Biblical Commission shows a respect for the exegetical tradition of the Church and makes the Commentary more trustworthy The Commentators implicitly uphold the recording of true prophecy in the Gospels where they say that St Luke s Gospel could have been written as early as 62 A D p 330 and therefore long before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A D Among the eyewitnesses that St Luke could have consulted the Navarre Commentators list the Blessed Virgin Mary the Apostles the holy women of Jerusalem and some others p 339 This reference to our Lady as a possible source represents one of the best insights of our day as more and more thought is being given to the role of Mary in the composition of the infancy narratives both of St Mathew and of St Luke At Lk 5 ff in a remarkably insightful statement the Navarre Commentators recommend that we should take the canticles of Mary and of Zechariah in the infancy narrative of St Luke as being recorded exactly as they were spoken p 340 The Commentators also shed light on some issues of contemporary Christology where they affirm at Lk 2 50 that Jesus knew in detail the whole course his earthly life would take from his conception onwards This fact rules out a

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  • LT101 - On the Prophet Jonah
    also in error in supposing that certain men had repented at Jonah s preaching and would rise again but neither of these things can be said If on the other hand He was aware of the falsity of the idea used and the multitude was not then in saying that the men of Nineveh who had repented at Jonah s preaching would indeed rise again when they could not because they had never existed He would have been confirming them in their wrong opinion and teaching them something false which again is entirely impossible On the other hand it could be argued that one of the ideas of the time was that the book of Jonah was not an account of real events that it was universally recognised to be not only a popular narrative but also a fictional one imaginative not only in style or genre but also in content Although the witness of Josephus tells against this view Antiquities IX 10 2 one can at least consider how well it fits with the passages of the Gospels just quoted Here one may want to distinguish the references to the sign of Jonah from the references to the resurrection of the Ninevites In the first case whilst the several analogies between Jonah and our Lord would in a sense hold good whether or not Jonah had done or suffered in reality that which is related of him yet it can easily be seen how much the solemnity of the Lord s words would be prejudiced if he had not To take an analogy of which the absurdity will be unavoidable imagine that a great popular preacher of repentance a Savanarola or a St Vincent Ferrer had been asked for a sign to justify the apparent novelty of their declarations and had replied that just as Robin Hood had been persecuted by the wealthy for defending the poor so would he be It would seem frivolous futile and odd Yet if Jonah is to be placed on the same level as Robin Hood the fictional hero of picturesque adventures it is with such an answer that one would apparently have to place the answers given to the scribes Pharisees and Sadducees according to which the sign validating the Lord s mission is the similarity to it of the life of Jonah In the second case however that of the resurrection of the Ninevites Christ s words would be simply impossible on the hypothesis that no one supposed the story of Jonah to be true For here there is not simply a comparison of two items but a statement that two groups of people will exist together the men of Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah and this generation which cannot be true if the men of Nineveh had never existed Nor is it possible to say that this is a literary allusion as a preacher to day might make an allusion in his homily to say Lady Macbeth It would be quite possible for a preacher to use Lady Macbeth as an example of how sin may lead to despair What would be wholly morally impossible would be for him to say for example It is not only active crimes that are punished but inner ones as well On Judgement Day you will see Judas Iscariot punished not only for treason but also for despair You will see Lady Macbeth punished not only for killing King Duncan but also for despair Yet if this sounds ridiculous it is how the passage quoted from St Luke would have sounded where after the Queen of the South s resurrection the resurrection of the men of Nineveh is foretold by way of climax if the story of Jonah had been generally believed in the 1 st century A D to be fiction Patristic Witness Since it is the Fathers who are par excellence the exegetes of Holy Scripture and since it does not seem that those doctors who succeeded them differed from them in regard to our question I should like in considering the witness of tradition to limit myself to some patristic evidence concerning the historicity of the book of Jonah Perhaps the first patristic commentary on the book of Jonah was Origen s This commentary known to St Jerome is to day entirely lost Yet before Origen we have a text of St Irenaeus Adversus Haereses III 20 1 which discusses the prophet s life and adventures St Irenaeus does not raise the question of the historicity of the events of the book which he no doubt takes for granted He notes rather that the story of Jonah is an example of the divine longanimity and that the prophet s being swallowed up by the monster represents the original swallowing up of mankind by the ancient serpent St Cyril of Jerusalem refers to the story of Jonah in his 14 th Catechetical Instruction about 347 A D He is defending the doctrine of the Resurrection of Christ and with Jewish objections particularly in mind also makes allusion to this most famous of incidents the ingorging of the prophet by the great fish St Cyril says To me both alike are worthy of credence I believe that Jonah was preserved for all things are possible to God I believe that Christ also was raised from the dead It is to St Jerome that we owe the earliest full and extant commentary on the book of Jonah The saint composed it towards the end of the 4th century in Bethlehem He has no doubt but that Jonah a type of Christ is also a real person indeed in his preface he asks that the prophet may bestow on him a renewed fervour so that he may write as he ought In several passages of the book he notes certain characteristics of the historical Jonah for example his magnanimity in wanting to die so that the crew of the ship should be

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