I believe that as Catholics dedicated to honesty in our faith, we need to be honest with ourselves and others about science and study of all types. In recent decades, there have been a relatively large number of new finds in Biblical archaeology, textual analysis, and other historical methods, including biology. Some of these findings confirm some of our long-held positions about the Bible, while others seem to simply add more information to our picture of the ancient world, and some cast "doubt" on them (not the Bible books or verses in question, but the way we view them).
Examples of scholarship that seem to confirm our traditional interpretations of the Bible include:
*]The discovery of a large stone structure that some scholars believe to be King David's Palace in Jerusalem.
*]The discovery of names inscribed on a synagogue in Aphrodisias that confirm the Book of Acts' description of Gentile "God fearers" or "God worshipers" at Jewish synagogues throughout the Mediterranean.
*]The discovery of first-century and second-century papyrus fragments of some Biblical books (e.g., Mark from the first-century) that confirm that no new readings of scripture can be made compared to older translations, despite scribal errors over time.
There are other new finds that improve our understanding of the world in which Jesus and the first Christians lived. For example:
*]The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, which tell us of the radical anti-Temple separatist sect, the Essenes, who went to war against Rome and disappeared forever.
*]The discovery of the first-century Galilean city of Sepphoris about 3 miles outside Jerusalem. It was a cosmopolitan city, in which many scholars now think Jesus may have worked as a carpenter before his ministry.
*]The discovery at Nag Hammadi of a large cache of Gnostic literature, which sheds light on the heretical movements against which many early Christians, including St. Irenaeus and Tertullian, struggled.
Lastly, there are new discoveries that seem to cast doubt on some of what we have traditionally believed about the Bible. For example:
*]Most scholars now believe that Paul did not write the Bible's "Pastoral Letters" (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus). Instead, most scholars view them as "pseudoepigrapha," works falsely attributed to Paul. (This is documented in footnotes and introductory material to the USCCB's New American Bible). These conclusions have been based on close reading and text-critical methods.
*]According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Pentateuch is unlikely to have been the first written books of the Old Testament, instead dating to a time around the Babylonian exile.
*]Genomic statistics reveal that there is too much variation within the human genome worldwide for the genealogy in the Luke's Gospel (e.g., from Adam to Jesus) to be literally true.
So given this range of support for our traditional beliefs, from upholding to undermining, how should we incorporate this kind of information into our understanding of the Faith? My list isn't intended to say that "the book is closed" on these questions -- science is always moving forward.
Personally, I believe that two truths cannot contradict one another. I also think that if we're going to be open to reason, we need to be open to the totality of what science and historical analysis have to say. Scientific information and spiritual truth are complementary, not contradictory. I believe that science can help purge incorrect beliefs from the faith (for example, geocentrism has proven to be an unnecessary component of Christian faith and a form of idolatry built on reactionary conservatism). I think this way of thinking is consonant with Lumen Gentium's statement that "many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its [the Catholic Church's] visible structure" and Dei Verbum's statement:
"This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her."