Monthly Archives: October 2009

Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Bible

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.

Medieval Theory v. Historical-Critical Method

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.

A Professor Claims that God Did Not Create

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

Responses from:
God Didn’t Say That
Ancient Hebrew Poetry (examines the Hebrew)
Chris Heard
Alternate Readings (examines the LXX evidence)
Claude Mariottini

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.

Introduction to Text Criticism Online Book

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).

Conflating Realities with “-ologies”

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.”