Monday, June 8, 2015

Dei Verbum at 50 (Paragraph 12)

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, I will be posting twice a month, on Mondays, a paragraph from this important document.  There are a total of 26 paragraphs, so this will take us through to the Fall when we reach the anniversary of its promulgation by Pope Paul VI on November 18, 1965.  I look forward to our discussion.  May I suggest a helpful book by Fr. Ronald D. Witherup called The Word of God at Vatican II: Exploring Dei Verbum published by Liturgical Press.

12. However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.

To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to "literary forms." For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture.  For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another. 

But, since Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred spirit in which it was written, no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out. The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith. It is the task of exegetes to work according to these rules toward a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture, so that through preparatory study the judgment of the Church may mature. For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God. 


Unknown said...

This makes a lot of sense. There were times when I was struggling with the Catholic Faith and thought that maybe the Protestants had it right...the Bible alone. That really wasn't the easier, or simpler, route. Reading a Bible without at least introductions to the books was like losing a safety net. How do I know I'm reading this right? Who can I trust to guide me? Which denomination has the correct interpretation? Now, I don't mean to put down our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, but I don't know how they do it. Seems like a lot of hard work, stress, and confusion if there isn't one authority to teach and hand down the fullness of God's Word. I'm also thankful for all of those who work in the sciences to give us a fuller picture of the culture and manner of speaking at the time these books of the Bible were written. It really helps clarify a lot of things most of us have no idea about in 21st century America.

Anonymous said...

Re Ed Rio's comments,as one of your separated brothers, I must say that you are quite right - it takes a lot of hard work, stress and confusion.Hence the absolute scandal of the number of protestant denominations.If there is one thing I admire about the Catholic Church (actually there are several) it's
your oneness.There are differences I know but all under one umbrella.Oh that we protestants could emulate you in that respect.

Unknown said...

Re: Anonymous,
I wish that more of us Catholics had the love of the Bible that many Protestants have. Also the sharing and discussing of it. This blog and the Coffee and Canticles one are where I discuss it most with fellow Catholics. Off the internet... usually with non-Catholics.

Anonymous said...

Catholics, in general, are more expressive when it comes to the Faith. But it must be remembered that one of the foundations of the Faith is the Scriptures itself.

About the oneness of the Church, we are thankful that Jesus himself gave St. Peter to lead His earthly community of faithful upon His Ascension and while waiting for the Second Coming.