Sunday, March 06, 2011

Ratzinger’s self-admitted reliance on the “Liberal” “historical-critical” method of Biblical interpretation, Part 1

Turretinfan notes “at least one Roman apologist was giving my friend, John Bugay, some grief because Mr. Bugay was citing the work of Peter Lampe. It was alleged that Peter Lampe is a ‘liberal’ because he denies the inerrancy of Scripture on historical points. Whether or not that is true, I wonder if that Roman apologist would be willing to aim his ‘liberal’ label-maker at Joseph Ratzinger, who appears to deny the historical accuracy of the gospels, and in particular that of Matthew in this selection from his forth-coming book…”

First, I'd like to thank Turretinfan for picking up on this.

Second, Pope Ratzinger/Benedict actually gives a thorough explication of his treatment of Scripture in his 2007 work Jesus of Nazareth, which was actually published after he was elected pope. I’ll let him state his view of “inerrancy,” so to speak, and see if the Roman Catholic who then rejects Peter Lampe also rejects Ratzinger/Benedict’s view of the Scriptures:
“… in the 1950s … the gap between the “historical Jesus” and “the Christ of faith” grew wider and the two visibly fell apart.
This is clearly an allusion to Rudolph Bultmann and his influence. Bultmann, who is probably one of the ultimate “liberal” “historical-critical” exegetes, is known for having made this distinction. At some level, it has become incumbent on virtually every New Testament scholar to interact with Bultmann’s ideas and methods.
But what can faith in Jesus as the Christ possibly mean, in Jesus as the Son of the living God, if the man Jesus was so completely different from the picture that the Evangelists painted of him and that the Church, on the evidence of the Gospels, takes as the basis of her preaching?

As historical-critical scholarship advanced, it led to finer and finer distinctions between layers of tradition in the Gospels, beneath the real object of faith—the figure [Gestalt] of Jesus—became increasingly obscured and blurred. At the same time, though, the reconstructions of this Jesus (who could only be discovered by going behind the traditions and sources used by the Evangelists) became more and more incompatible with one another: at one end of the spectrum, Jesus was the anti-Roman revolutionary working—though finally failing—to overthrow the ruling powers; at the other end, he was the meek moral teacher who approves everything and unaccountably comes to grief. If you read a number of these reconstructions one after the other, you see at once that far from uncovering an icon that has become obscured over time, they are much more like photographs of their authors and the ideals they hold. All these attempts have produced a common result: the impression that we have very little certain knowledge of Jesus and that only at a later stage did faith in his divinity shape the image we have of him.
So, modern “liberal” scholarship had looked for ways to suggest that the notion of Christ’s “divinity” “somehow developed” within that first generation of the church. But in contrast to this, many times now, I’ve cited Craig Blomberg to the effect that, both conservatives and atheists now agree that “the Resurrection probably was reported in the same year that it happened” So what the Blomberg example shows is that this belief in the divinity of Christ did not “develop,” but that it was the very thing the Apostles preached from the beginning.

Not only is this type of agreement a one-time occurrence, but now, because of the way that conservative scholars now interact with “liberal” biblical exegesis, this type of agreement an inevitable result. Many more examples could be cited, but this is the very thing that Ratzinger/Benedict seems to be eager to assert: Christ’s divinity was known and assumed at the time of the resurrection. See also my series of posts on The Heresy of Orthodoxy”.

So far, Ratzinger and I are on the same page. Ratzinger now comes to the description of his own book.
Rudolf Schnackenburg was probably the most prominent Catholic exegete writing in German during the second half of the twentieth century. It is clear that toward the end of his life, this crisis surrounding the faith made a profound impression on him. In view of the inadequacy of all the portrayals of the “historical” Jesus offered by recent exegesis, he strove to produce one last great work: Jesus in the Gospels: A Biblical Christology. The book is intended to help believing Christians “who today have been made insecure by scientific research and critical discussion, so that they may hold fast to faith in the person of Jesus Christ as the bringer of salvation and Savior of the world” (p. x). At the end of the book, Schnackenburg sums up the result of a lifetime of scholarship: “a reliable view of the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth through scientific effort with historical-critical methods can only inadequately be achieved (p. 316); “the efforts of scientific exegesis to examine these traditions and trace them back to what is historically credible” draw us “into a continual discussion of tradition and redaction history that never comes to rest” (p. 318).

His own account of the figure of Jesus suffers from a certain unresolved tension because of the constraints of the method he feels bound to use, despite its inadequacies. Schnackenburg shows us the Gospels’ image of Christ, but he considers it to be the product of manifold layers of tradition, through which the “real” Jesus can only be glimpsed from afar. He writes: “The historical ground is presupposed but is superseded in the faith-view of the evangelists” (p. 321). Now, no one doubts that; what remains unclear is how far the “historical ground” actually extends. That said, Schnackenburg does clearly throw into relief the decisive point, which he regards as a genuinely historical insight: Jesus’ relatedness to God and his closeness to God (p. 322). “Without anchoring in God, the person of Jesus remains shadowy, unreal, and unexplainable” (p. 322).

This is also the point around which I will construct my own book….
Keep in mind that the writer that Ratzinger is not only citing, but “constructing his own book around,” a person who is “THE leading Catholic exegete” writing in German. Schnackenburg’s doubts are not the doubts of some off-in-the-woods kind of scholar. He was THE LEADING CATHOLIC EXEGETE” of his time. So thus we see, in his own words, Ratzinger who as he writes, is a pope, describe his own work on “Jesus of Nazareth” as being constructed on a point at which he must consciously “anchor in God” the person of Jesus, lest he become “shadowy, unreal, and unexplainable.”

To digress here, where is the former Roman Catholic certainty, the certainty of, say, a Pius XII, who wrote not of a “shadowy, unreal, and unexplainable” Mary, but of a Mary whose [mythical] “Assumption” was the firmest of all anchor-points of the Roman Catholic faith – the mere “calling into doubt” of which would not only indicate that a person has “fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith,” but which would also “incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul”.

But I digress. Oh, and by the way, keep in mind the liberal axiom of “the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” as you continue to read Ratzinger/Benedict’s words here.
[My book] sees Jesus in light of his communion with the Father, which is the true center of his personality; without it, we cannot understand him at all, and it is from this center that he makes himself present to us still today.

To be sure, in the particular contours of my own presentation of Jesus I make a determined effort to go beyond Schnackenburg. The problem with Schnackenburg’s account of the relationship between New Testament traditions and historical events stands out very clearly for me when he writes that the Gospels “want, as it were, to clothe with flesh the mysterious son of God who appeared on earth” (p. 322). I would like to say in response that they did not need to “clothe him with flesh,” because he had already truly taken flesh. Of course, the question remains: can this flesh be accessed through the dense jungle of traditions?

Schnackenburg tells us in the foreword to his book that he feels indebted to the historical-critical method, which had been in use in Catholic theology ever since the door was opened for it by the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943 (p. ix). This encyclical was an important milestone for Catholic exegesis. Since then, though, the debate about method has moved on, both inside and outside the Catholic Church. There have been significant new methodological discoveries—both in terms of strictly historical work and in terms of the interplay between theology and historical method in scriptural interpretation. Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, made a decisive step forward. In addition, two documents of the Pontifical Biblical Commission communicate important insights that have matured in the course of debates among exegetes: The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (Vatican City, 1993) and The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible (Vatican City, 2001).
I’ll pause here because there’s much more to come from Ratzinger. But I’d like to point out a couple of things.

Those Roman Catholics who want to accuse me of “inconsistency” and even “denying the inerrancy of Scripture” have got their heads in the sand when it comes, not only to the world of “biblical exegesis,” but especially what Roman Catholics are doing in this area. Those who want to deny that Raymond Brown, for example, had any legitimacy [in their minds, at least] have no idea of the role that he played, and the central role that his method played in shaping what their own Pope Ratzinger is saying right here.

Brown’s conclusions: that the “sacerdotal” priesthood was a development of the second century; that the monoepiscopacy was an uneven development throughout the second century (around 110 in the east, 150 in Rome); that the papacy itself was a fourth-century development—these conclusions are the only possible conclusions that come near to Roman Catholic teaching. (And I would largely agree with much of this).

Those who try to teach, as the Called to Communion folks, that Christ made Peter the first “pope,” that there was, from the beginning, a “succession” of “bishops,” and that there was a sacerdotal priesthood in place from the beginning, are merely living in a world of make believe.

11 comments:

natamllc said...

John,

a very good start! I don't know what is in your mind as to how many more parts you have to go, but I am chomping at the bit! Geddie up now! :)

Bultmann:

All these attempts have produced a common result: the impression that we have very little certain knowledge of Jesus and that only at a later stage did faith in his divinity shape the image we have of him.

All Bultmann's reasoning shows me is he doesn't have a clue how Jesus works in every generation.

Jesus Christ:

Joh 17:25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
Joh 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."


The "strength" of those words of Our Beloved Lord becomes self evident with these words by the Apostle Paul as he went out in them:

Eph 5:31 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
Eph 5:32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

...

Php 1:9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
Php 1:10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
Php 1:11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

...

Php 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

...

Col 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Col 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Col 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

PeaceByJesus said...

Meanwhile, many statements have been made by popes which condemn the norm today in RC scholarship (the commentary in the NAB being one example: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2657209/posts?page=2190#2190):

In Humani Generis, Pius XII: For some go so far as to pervert the sense of the Vatican Council's definition that God is the author of Holy Scripture, and they put forward again the opinion, already often condemned, which asserts that immunity from error extends only to those parts of the Bible that treat of God or of moral and religious matters....

In interpreting Scripture, they will take no account of the analogy of faith and the Tradition of the Church. Thus they judge the doctrine of the Fathers and of the Teaching Church by the norm of Holy Scripture, interpreted by the purely human reason of exegetes, instead of explaining Holy Scripture according to the mind of the Church which Christ Our Lord has appointed guardian and interpreter of the whole deposit of divinely revealed truth. - http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

LAMENTABILI SANE Pius X July 3, 1907 ERRORS OF THE MODERNISTS CONDEMNED:
11. Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error. - http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10lamen.htm

"Holy Scripture is in such sort the rule of the Christian faith that we are obliged by every kind of obligation to believe most exactly all that it contains, and not to believe anything which may be ever so little contrary to it. St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, trans. Henry Benedict Mackey, O.S.B. (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1989) p. 88.

POPE LEO XIII , PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS: For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.

And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor only because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author. - http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13provi.htm

Pope Leo XIII Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae: "We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep. God thus, in His most far-reaching foresight, decreed that this husband and wife should be the natural beginning of the human race, from whom it might be propagated, and preserved by an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time." http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt73.html

Dei Verbum: 11. Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation.” (Second Vatican Council "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation," No. 11). - http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

PeaceByJesus said...

And then such as this:

The Gift of Scripture A teaching document of the Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales, and of Scotland:
It is important to note this teaching of the Second Vatican Council that the truth of Scripture is to be found in all that is written down ‘for the sake of our salvation’. We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters. We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision. - http://www.catholicchurch.org.uk/content/download/3999/27399/file/Gift%20of%20Scripture%20text.pdf

R. Sungenis: Yes, “fundamentalism” certainly has its problems but they are minor compared to the outright heresies coming from the liberals and modernists in most of Catholic biblical scholarship today.-

John Bugay said...

Hi Natamllc, I'm glad that you're excited about this :-)

John Bugay said...

Hi PBJ, I believe the Roman Church is very confused about what to do with the Scriptures. But the inclination still seems to be, "we don't know what to do with the Scriptures, but we're still the boss of them."

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Those Roman Catholics who want to accuse me of “inconsistency” and even “denying the inerrancy of Scripture” have got their heads in the sand when it comes, not only to the world of “biblical exegesis,” but especially what Roman Catholics are doing in this area."

Nick!

PeaceByJesus said...

Well, when you declare that you are infallible whenever you speak (write) according to your infallible formula, which renders your own declaration of infallibility to be infallible - even if the arguments behind them are not necessarily so, while the definitions themselves require some interpretation, and actually define only a few verses of the Bible - then demonstrative sound Scriptural warrant and conflation, and relying upon "manifestation of the truth" (2Cor. 4:2) in order to persuade soulsis not that paramount. Rather, if the IM says that is is scriptural so it is.

Likewise it sees no real problem with it's claimed and required "unanimous consent" when it has something quite other than that. Thus we have no less a RC figure as Manning stating,

"It was the charge of the Reformers that the Catholic doctrines were not primitive, and their pretension was to revert to antiquity. But the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine. How can we know what antiquity was except through the Church? No individual, no number of individuals can go back through eighteen hundred years to reach the doctrines of antiquity. We may say with the woman of Samaria, ‘Sir, the well is deep, and thou hast nothing to draw with.’ No individual mind now has contact with the revelation of the Pentecost, except through the Church. Historical evidence and biblical criticism are human after all, and amount to no more than opinion, probability, human judgment, human tradition." - Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892)

And statements such as,

“He willingly submits his judgment on questions the most momentous that can occupy the mind of man-----questions of religion-----to an authority located in Rome.”

“Absolute, immediate, and unfaltering submission to the teaching of God's Church on matters of faith and morals-----this is what all must give..”

“The Vicar of Christ is the Vicar of God; to us the voice of the Pope is the voice of God. This, too, is why Catholics would never dream of calling in question the utterance of a priest in expounding Christian doctrine according to the teaching of the Church;”

“He is as sure of a truth when declared by the Catholic Church as he would be if he saw Jesus Christ standing before him and heard Him declaring it with His Own Divine lips.” — Henry G. Graham, "What Faith Really Means", (Nihil Obstat:C. SCHUT, S. T.D., Censor Deputatus, Imprimatur: EDM. CANONICUS SURMONT, D.D.,Vicarius Generalis. WESTMONASTERII, Die 30 Septembris, 1914 )

"The intolerance of the Church toward error, the natural position of one who is the custodian of truth, her only reasonable attitude makes her forbid her children to read or to listen to heretical controversy, or to endeavor to discover religious truths by examining both sides of the question." - John H. Stapleton, Explanation of Catholic Morals, Chapter xxiii. the consistent believer (1904); Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor Librorum. Imprimatur, John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

Daniel1212 said...

Cntd:

It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock.. So distinct are these categories that...the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors. - VEHEMENTER NOS, an Encyclical of Pope Pius X promulgated on February 11, 1906. (Occasioned by the French law of 1905 providing for the separation of church and state, it denounced the proposition that the state should be separated from the Church as "a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error.")

"Obey blindly , that is, without asking reasons. Be careful, then, never to examine the directions of your confessor....In a word, keep before your eyes this great rule, that in obeying your confessor you obey God. Force yourself then, to obey him in spite of all fears. And be persuaded that if you are not obedient to him it will be impossible for you to go on well; but if you obey him you are secure. But you say, if I am damned in consequence of obeying my confessor, who will rescue me from hell? What you say is impossible." St. Alphonsus De Liguori, True Spouse of Christ, p 352, Benziger Brothers, NY

Daniel1212 said...

Looks like my first post of quotes got lost in cyber space. Perhaps it is now like that ethereal essence called Tradition.

Daniel1212 said...

Firefox saved it back a few pages:



Well, when you declare that you are infallible whenever you speak (write) according to your infallible formula, which renders your own declaration of infallibility to be infallible - even if the arguments behind them are not necessarily so, while the definitions themselves require some interpretation, and actually define only a few verses of the Bible - then demonstrative sound Scriptural warrant and conflation, and relying upon "manifestation of the truth" (2Cor. 4:2) in order to persuade soulsis not that paramount. Rather, if the IM says that is is scriptural so it is.

Likewise it sees no real problem with it's claimed and required "unanimous consent" when it has something quite other than that. Thus we have no less a RC figure as Manning stating,

"It was the charge of the Reformers that the Catholic doctrines were not primitive, and their pretension was to revert to antiquity. But the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine. How can we know what antiquity was except through the Church? No individual, no number of individuals can go back through eighteen hundred years to reach the doctrines of antiquity. We may say with the woman of Samaria, ‘Sir, the well is deep, and thou hast nothing to draw with.’ No individual mind now has contact with the revelation of the Pentecost, except through the Church. Historical evidence and biblical criticism are human after all, and amount to no more than opinion, probability, human judgment, human tradition." - Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892)

And statements such as,

“He willingly submits his judgment on questions the most momentous that can occupy the mind of man-----questions of religion-----to an authority located in Rome.”

“Absolute, immediate, and unfaltering submission to the teaching of God's Church on matters of faith and morals-----this is what all must give..”

“The Vicar of Christ is the Vicar of God; to us the voice of the Pope is the voice of God. This, too, is why Catholics would never dream of calling in question the utterance of a priest in expounding Christian doctrine according to the teaching of the Church;”

“He is as sure of a truth when declared by the Catholic Church as he would be if he saw Jesus Christ standing before him and heard Him declaring it with His Own Divine lips.” — Henry G. Graham, "What Faith Really Means", (Nihil Obstat:C. SCHUT, S. T.D., Censor Deputatus, Imprimatur: EDM. CANONICUS SURMONT, D.D.,Vicarius Generalis. WESTMONASTERII, Die 30 Septembris, 1914 )

"The intolerance of the Church toward error, the natural position of one who is the custodian of truth, her only reasonable attitude makes her forbid her children to read or to listen to heretical controversy, or to endeavor to discover religious truths by examining both sides of the question." - John H. Stapleton, Explanation of Catholic Morals, Chapter xxiii. the consistent believer (1904); Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor Librorum. Imprimatur, John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

John Bugay said...

"Peace by Jesus" (who also posted as Daniel 1212) and whose comment was lost in the spam filter wrote:

Well, when you declare that you are infallible whenever you speak (write) according to your infallible formula, which renders your own declaration of infallibility to be infallible - even if the arguments behind them are not necessarily so, while the definitions themselves require some interpretation, and actually define only a few verses of the Bible - then demonstrative sound Scriptural warrant and conflation, and relying upon "manifestation of the truth" (2Cor. 4:2) in order to persuade soulsis not that paramount. Rather, if the IM says that is is scriptural so it is.

Likewise it sees no real problem with it's claimed and required "unanimous consent" when it has something quite other than that. Thus we have no less a RC figure as Manning stating,

"It was the charge of the Reformers that the Catholic doctrines were not primitive, and their pretension was to revert to antiquity. But the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine. How can we know what antiquity was except through the Church? No individual, no number of individuals can go back through eighteen hundred years to reach the doctrines of antiquity. We may say with the woman of Samaria, ‘Sir, the well is deep, and thou hast nothing to draw with.’ No individual mind now has contact with the revelation of the Pentecost, except through the Church. Historical evidence and biblical criticism are human after all, and amount to no more than opinion, probability, human judgment, human tradition." - Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892)

And statements such as,

“He willingly submits his judgment on questions the most momentous that can occupy the mind of man-----questions of religion-----to an authority located in Rome.”

“Absolute, immediate, and unfaltering submission to the teaching of God's Church on matters of faith and morals-----this is what all must give..”

“The Vicar of Christ is the Vicar of God; to us the voice of the Pope is the voice of God. This, too, is why Catholics would never dream of calling in question the utterance of a priest in expounding Christian doctrine according to the teaching of the Church;”

“He is as sure of a truth when declared by the Catholic Church as he would be if he saw Jesus Christ standing before him and heard Him declaring it with His Own Divine lips.” — Henry G. Graham, "What Faith Really Means", (Nihil Obstat:C. SCHUT, S. T.D., Censor Deputatus, Imprimatur: EDM. CANONICUS SURMONT, D.D.,Vicarius Generalis. WESTMONASTERII, Die 30 Septembris, 1914 )

"The intolerance of the Church toward error, the natural position of one who is the custodian of truth, her only reasonable attitude makes her forbid her children to read or to listen to heretical controversy, or to endeavor to discover religious truths by examining both sides of the question." - John H. Stapleton, Explanation of Catholic Morals, Chapter xxiii. the consistent believer (1904); Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor Librorum. Imprimatur, John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York