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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Benedict XVI on Secular Biblical Studies

The following paragraphs are taken from an APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION VERBUM DOMINI[1] by Benedict XVI. This citation is taken directly from page 35 "The danger of dualism and a secularized hermeneutic" which can be found on the Vatican website under the heading" The Interpretation Of Sacred Scripture In The Church.

The danger of dualism and a secularized hermeneutic

In this regard we should mention the serious risk nowadays of a dualistic approach to sacred Scripture. To distinguish two levels of approach to the Bible does not in any way mean to separate or oppose them, nor simply to juxtapose them. They exist only in reciprocity. Unfortunately, a sterile separation sometimes creates a barrier between exegesis and theology, and this “occurs even at the highest academic levels”.[109] Here I would mention the most troubling consequences, which are to be avoided.

•    First and foremost, if the work of exegesis is restricted to the first level alone, Scripture ends up being a text belonging only to the past: “One can draw moral consequences from it, one can learn history, but the Book as such speaks only of the past, and exegesis is no longer truly theological, but becomes pure historiography, history of literature”.[110] Clearly, such a reductive approach can never make it possible to comprehend the event of God’s revelation through his word, which is handed down to us in the living Tradition and in Scripture.  
   •    The lack of a hermeneutic of faith with regard to Scripture entails more than a simple absence; in its place there inevitably enters another hermeneutic, a positivistic and secularized hermeneutic ultimately based on the conviction that the Divine does not intervene in human history. According to this hermeneutic, whenever a divine element seems present, it has to be explained in some other way, reducing everything to the human element. This leads to interpretations that deny the historicity of the divine elements.[111]    
•    Such a position can only prove harmful to the life of the Church, casting doubt over fundamental mysteries of Christianity and their historicity – as, for example, the institution of the Eucharist and the resurrection of Christ. A philosophical hermeneutic is thus imposed, one which denies the possibility that the Divine can enter and be present within history. The adoption of this hermeneutic within theological studies inevitably introduces a sharp dichotomy between an exegesis limited solely to the first level and a theology tending towards a spiritualization of the meaning of the Scriptures, one which would fail to respect the historical character of revelation.
All this is also bound to have a negative impact on the spiritual life and on pastoral activity; “as a consequence of the absence of the second methodological level, a profound gulf is opened up between scientific exegesis and lectio divina. This can give rise to a lack of clarity in the preparation of homilies”.[112] It must also be said that this dichotomy can create confusion and a lack of stability in the intellectual formation of candidates for ecclesial ministries.[113] In a word, “where exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology, and conversely, where theology is not essentially the interpretation of the Church’s Scripture, such a theology no longer has a foundation”.[114] Hence we need to take a more careful look at the indications provided by the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum in this regard.

:end of citation

Pope Benedict XVI has delivered a wise word to those persons of faith and members of the Church of Jesus Christ who would make it their calling to do biblical studies and participate in the secular academic domain where a hermeneutic of skepticism dominates the field of biblical studies.



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