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?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.
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.
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).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.”
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….
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.I’ll pause here because there’s much more to come from Ratzinger. But I’d like to point out a couple of things.
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).
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.