I came across something rather interesting in a book about the Fatima apparitions by Cardinal Bertone. In it, Bertone presents the notes of Albino Luciani who met with Sr. Lucia, one of the Fatima visionaries, on July 11, 1997. Of course, Luciani soon became Pope John Paul I. The quote I am extracting from the notes deals with Sr. Lucia’s advice to theologians. Here it is:
- “We should pray the holy Rosary. Naaman, the great Syrian general, disdained the simple bath in the Jordan suggested to him by Elisha. Some people act like Naaman: ‘I am a great theologian, a mature Christian, who breathes the Bible with both lungs and sweats liturgy from every pore–and they tell me to pray the Rosary?’ And yet the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary are biblical; the Pater, the Ave Maria, and the Gloria are Bible passages transformed into prayer, and they are good for the soul. Bible study solely for the sake of scholarship could puff up the soul and leave it in a state of sterile aridity. Bible scholars who have lost their faith are hardly are rare breed.”
-Luciani Albino, [notes], quoted in Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, The Last Secret of Fatima (New York: Doubleday, 2008) 60.
I suppose we Bible students should take these words to heart. It does seem that many lose zeal for their faith after many years of studying it intensely. I think over-studying the Faith is similar to over-studying music or butterflies or something. One can easily lose the joy of discovery, the sense of wonder when he thinks he knows something.
I am not exactly sure why this happens. I mean, why should studying give way to pride, puffing up and lack of faith? But these symptoms do seem very common. It seems to me that they derive from the basic functions of human pride. After many years of gaining knowledge through study, a person may think that he knows something–that is, that he knows more than others or is less naive than the regular Joe. Then his mind makes this false leap: “If I know about something I must have conquered it in some way.” So he forgets the fact that he must pray, do good, give alms, serve the poor and live out the basics of the Christian life. Knowledge thus leads to pride and pride leads to apathy and apathy leads to aridity.
Oddly, this process contradicts the way that knowledge should function. A person with a deeper knowledge of poetry, literature and acting should be able to put on a much more convincing performance of Shakespeare than a hormone-ridden teenager. Yet hormone-ridden teenagers often outperform aged literature professors on stage. A serious student of the Bible (or of theology in general) ought to live a more convinced and convincing spiritual life than a person who has not had the luxury of study.
You may know from viewing the persons in my blog’s sidebar that I am a fan of the Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure. You may not know that his complete works (his opera omnia, if you will) has been scanned by Google and placed online in Google books and on the new Hathi Trust Digital Library where you can download PDF’s of the full non-critical
Quaracchi Latin edition of his works. These books are very expensive and hard to find and it is an absolute joy to me that they are now online and freely available to all. Of course, if you don’t read Latin, you’ll still have to buy a translation, but perhaps, Google translate will come out with a Latin-English function. 🙂 We can all hope.
Bonaventure published several commentaries on Scripture. Recently, the very diligent friars at
St. Bonaventure College in Pennsylvania, the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University have been translating Bonaventure’s scripture commentaries and his other works into English. They are up to 14 volumes now!
I was amused by Ratzinger’s comment on classical music and I thought you would be too:
- “Modern so-called ‘classical music’ has maneuvered itself, with some exceptions, into an elitist ghetto, which only specialists may enter–and even they do so with what may sometimes be mixed feelings.”
-Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000) 147.
If you have ever sat through an entire performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or a Bartok String Quartet (as I have) or even the ridiculous “composition” 4’33 by John Cage, you know exactly what he’s talking about.
I came across an interesting thought from Ernst Käsemann in my reading today:
- “To undertake to preserve independence over against God is the root sin…”
Ernst Käsemann, “‘The Righteousness of God’ in Paul” in New Testament Questions of Today (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969) 180.
Pope Benedict XVI is expected to turn out a post-syndol apostolic exhortation on the Bible at some point in the next few months. Last time that he had an October Synod (2005), the exhortation came out in February 2007, about a year and half later. The Bible Synod took place last October 5-26, 2008. Cardinal Marc Oullet, archbishop of Quebec, requested that Pope Benedict write an encyclical on the Bible and biblical interpretation at the Synod last fall (see Zenit). While I do not think it likely for the Pope to produce both an apostolic exhortation and an encyclical on the Bible in a relatively short period of time, it is possible. We can expect he will be spending extra effort on the exhortation in order to sum up the synod and clearly re-state the Church’s views on the Bible. If Benedict remains with us for several years after the exhortation, it is possible he could produce an encyclical as well. However, I bet he will invest the exhortation, which he is obligated to provide, with a great deal of thought and energy. It should make for good reading. I imagine it will re-affirm what Catholics believe about the Bible and provide a good synthesis of post-Vatican II teaching.
Food for thought:
“The medieval theory of levels of meaning in the biblical text, with all its undoubted defects, flourished because it is true, while the modem theory of a single meaning with all its demonstrable virtues, is false. Until the historical-critical method becomes critical of its own theoretical foundations and develops a hermeneutical theory adequate to the nature of the text which it is interpreting it will remain restricted—as it deserves to be—to the guild and the academy, where the question of truth can endlessly be deferred.”
-David Steinmetz, “The superiority of pre-critical exegesis,” Ex auditu 1 (1985): 82.
You may have seen this story swirling through the Bible news internet blogoplex. Ellen van Wolde, a professor at Radbound University in the Netherlands has claimed that the Hebrew word br’ in Genesis 1:1 means “separated” not “created” thus making God a divine manipulator of things already existing, not a creator ex nihilo. Well, as you can imagine, there have been many responses.
The original article in Trouw (in Dutch)
A report from the UK Telegraph
God Didn’t Say That
Ancient Hebrew Poetry (examines the Hebrew)
Alternate Readings (examines the LXX evidence)
This debate is is important because of the central idea of creatio ex nihilo in Catholic thought. The Catholic Catechism addresses the doctrine of creation in CCC282-301, especially 296-298. The Catechism cites Lateran Council IV which states that the Trinity is “the one principle of the universe, the creator of all things, visible and invisible, spiritual and corporeal, who by this almighty power from the beginning of time made at once out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly, and then the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body” (Neuner-Dupuis 19; DS 800; emphasis mine).
However, I don’t think very many people will take Prof. Wolde’s theory very seriously.
I just found a great resource for anyone who wants a brief introduction to text criticism of the Bible. Apparently, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts by Sir Frederic Kenyon used to be a common textbook for textual criticism. I found it to be a very helpful summary of the important points. It can help you make sense of the text-critical apparatus in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament or Rahlfs’ Septuagint, even the Hebrew Bible–but the book was published in 1939, seven years before the discovery of the caves at Qumran. Hence the reason it is no longer a standard.
Kenyon’s book has been superceded by a few other books: Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the New Testament (2005) and his Text of the New Testament (co-authored with Bart Ehrman, 2005), Kurt and Barbara Aland’s Text of the New Testament (1995)and Emmanuel Tov’s Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (2001).
So often, too often, scholars are seduced by the similarity between the studied and the student, the researched and the researcher that they make the unforgivable mistake of combining, conflating and confusing the reality of the thing studied with the discipline that studies it. Thus, certain problems between people become “sociological” rather than “societal” or people engage in building “high ethnological walls” rather than high “ethnic” walls.
This phenomenon is an abuse of language. So next time you encounter conflicting neighborhoods or some addiction that afflicts human society, refer to the “social” or “societal” problem you are observing. In this manner, you will be engaging in an act of “sociological” study. Likewise, if you see someone building high walls between ethnic groups, remember that they are “ethnic” walls and that you have just made an “ethnological” observation.
All you Greek scholars out there (and anyone who has ever taken a biology class) know that the “-ology” at the end of a word comes from the Greek word logos, “word, knowledge.” So “biology” is “the study of bios” or “the study of life.”
Well, I’ve been using various instant messaging programs for a few years, but I just realized something I never thought of: We have no Christian instant messaging greetings. At least, there are no standard, traditional ones that go back a long ways because well, instant messaging has only been out there for very short time.
Perhaps however, a few traditional Christian greetings can be modified for the IM world. I mean, we like to say things like “God bless you!” or “Godspeed!” (archaic, I know) or even “He is risen!” In writing letters and now emails, Christians often use a complimentary close like “Yours in Christ,” or even “Faithfully Yours.”
But how are you supposed to convey God’s blessing to a fellow Christian through instant messaging of all things? Perhaps there is a way. If you figure it out, let me know.
I suppose we could borrow from speech and letter writing, but it seems a little odd to end an IM session with “Faithfully Yours.”