Thanks to a commentor on this blog, I found this sweet repository of Catholic resources on the Bible. It is a collection of electronic texts to be used with e-Sword (the best free Bible software in the world). You can find this collection of Catholic Bible resources here. It truly is an amazing amount of material: the old Catholic Encyclopedia, the Vulgate, the Summa, the Early Church Fathers, the Catechism, The Peshitta, the Baltimore Catechism, the New Jerusalem Bible, early liturgical texts, Haydock’s Bible, a Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, a Greek-English interlinear and a Hebrew-English interlinear. The list goes on and on! So go download e-Sword here and then download all these Catholic e-Sword goodies here.
If you want to dig into the oldest and most important manuscripts we have of the biblical text, look no further than the Catholic Bible Student sidebar. I just added a link to a facsimile edition of the Aleppo Codex, one of the most ancient and authoritative Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament. The website has very sleek functionality and high-resolution zoom. Unfortunately, the other most important Hebrew manuscript, the Leningrad Codex, is not available online yet. At least, not in facsimile form. But you can find a link to its text at this amazing website from Tyndale House. They’ve done a wonderful job pulling together the best Bible resources on the web and are making them freely available. You can find links to the most important manuscripts, papyri and critical editions, tons of English versions, help with original languages. It’s a gold mine!
“Your work is not limited…to explaining old texts, reporting facts in a critical way or going back to the early and original form of a text or sacred page. It is the prime duty of the exegete to present to the people of God the message of salvation, to set forth the meaning of the word of God in itself and in relation to men today.”
Pope Paul VI, Address to the Pontifical Biblical Commission
March 14, 1974
I’ve been reading a lot of commentaries on the Minor Prophets. Most of them focus rather myopically on source critical questions. While I think source/redaction criticism is generally valid and can be useful in certain situations, its fundamental philosophical basis is flawed. (Source criticism is the process of determining the sources, editions, redactions or layers of a particular biblical book.)
First, source criticism of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, relies entirely upon internal evidence. Now internal evidence is not invalid, it just cannot be substantiated by hard data like manuscripts, archaeology, etc. I suppose some source-criticism bases itself on interpretations of archaeology, but rarely.
Second, what is the purpose of source-criticism? Does it really help you read a book better when you know who the supposed editors were and how they differed from the “original” author? Sometimes it seems comparable to reading the Constitution by trying figure which lines were proposed or rejected by various members of the Constitutional Convention. And while flipping through the early drafts of the Constitution may be interesting from a historical perspective, it doesn’t really shed that much light on what the Constitution actually says. Why? Because the Constitution was a compromise document. So the important part is the consensus, the written page, not the intentions, motivations or even the individuals involved.
So when it comes to the Bible and getting the general reader interested in picking up the Good Book, it seems source-criticism really isn’t going to give them that much. The general reader needs to pay attention to the “consensus” or the “compromise document.” What do I mean by that? The regular reader should not be concerned with the redaction history of Amos or Zechariah, but should focus on what the text says as it stands, what it means in its present context, what God is saying through the Sacred Word. Picking apart the various layers of development has a limited usefulness even for the expert. Because what matters is not the development, but the end-product. Likewise, the end-product of the Constitutional Convention is what matters. It is the law of the land, not the notes and scribbles of Jefferson or Madison or whomever. So with the Bible, the canon is what counts, not the theories and re-workings of the scholarly class.
On January 28, 1948 Bertrand Russell, the famous Welsh logician and Fr. Frederick Copleston, a Jesuit priest-philosopher held a debate on the existence of God on BBC Radio. Apparently, the original debate was widely listened to in England and stirred up a considerable amount of excitement. I took a particular interest in this debate because I have great respect for Fr. Copleston, having read much of his History of Philosophy. I also have much respect for Bertrand Russell’s intellect and his important essay, “Why I am not a Christian.” Additionally, Ravi Zacharias is fond of quoting this debate because of the dramatic clash of worldviews it put on display long before many other philosophical fissures developed in our general Western society. Even if you don’t enjoy the meat of the debate, their accents are really worth hearing!
I put up the audio on Internet Archive myself today:
Audio: Debate on the Existence of God, Bertrand Russell and Fr. Frederick Copleston SJ
You can also get the text of the debate here.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'” Zech 8:23 ESV
As I read this passage, I was struck by the image. I mean, can you imagine ten men of the nations clinging to the robe of every Christian saying “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you”? And yet, this is how evangelization is supposed to work. Our lives should so resemble the life of Christ, be so filled with the Holy Spirit and the existential reality of faith that everyone around us should have same phrase on their lips because they notice that “God is with us.” So often, our experience fails to measure up to what Watchman Nee liked to call the Normal Christian Life. But I do think that if we truly walk in the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of the Gospel, our lives will be noticeably different. And the difference won’t only be that we don’t accept society’s hedonistic mores or don’t use contraception–the difference will be shown by our comportment, our joy, our hope, our Christ-like-ness. Then people will notice that God is with us and they will ask to “go with us” to his kingdom.