Morden Catholic Theology and Bible Criticism


I am interested in Catholic Theology and how Catholics critcally veiw the Bible today. I am pretty new to the subject.

I understand that there are liberal and conservitive veiws. I want to know the key issues of debate and what they disagree upon.

I saw a book by Geza-Verns and he is given a sort of thumbs up by the newspaper “Catholic Herald”. Is this a good place to start?


Geza Vermes is not a Catholic scholar, but a secular one. Being a 6th year biblical studies student and having read some of his stuff, I can say that he’s very solid when it comes to the dead sea scrolls. As a NT scholar he belongs to the school known as biblical minimalism which is your far left school amongst secular studies, which i dont agree entirely with as a catholic (maybe bits and pieces here and there but not much). I would suggest before you pick up any book by any scholar that you acquaint your self with the historical-critical method and things like the documentary hypothesis when it comes to OT scholarship. Look up the basic overview of biblical criticism and historical-critical method and any other baisc info you might want on wikipedia also involving NT studies. it can give you a good, general overview.

in catholic scholarship, we generally hold that the bible has both the word of god (what god reveals about himself) and the word of man. thus because it was written by humans, you get contradictions, different opinions and even debates on theology in the bible. there are historical innacuracies as well. this however does not diminish what the bible has to say about matters pertaining to faith. in spiritual matters, even if one book disagrees with the other (like say Job and Deuteronomy. deuteronomy teaches that if you do good good things will happen to you and if you do bad bad things will happen to you. job takes the completely opposite view and some scholars believe that job may have been written as a response to deuteronomy), the bible, as interpreted by the church, cannot err. it is priveleged set of writings that is to be held up and given a special place. another thing to point out is that in catholicism, the bible itself is not revelation. revelation is in fact god’s gift to us, what he has revealed to us about himself and it is most certainly not limited to the words in the bible. a way to look at it is this: the words in the bible are the words of man. what comes out of those words, what is revealed on spiritual matters about god, is the word of god. this is what the church has taught consistently. revelation of the word fo god may also come through tradition and the magisterium. it is not limited strictly to the physical words of scripture, thats a protestant notion.

understanding of the revelation of god can also develop and expand but it can’t contradict the original intention of the original writer. keep in mind though that in the OT, the hebrews did not have a complete picture and thus there interpretation of god as being wrathful, angry, violent and human like, a lot of which scares a good number of catholics no doubt, is very anthropamorphic. this comes from caanaite culture and religion. but as catholics and christians we believe that god fully revealed himself through the humanity of jesus, and at the same time jesus was fully divine. to see jesus is to see the complete understanding and revealtion of the father so far as we humans can grasp it.

as for good catholic scholars, i lean a little bit more to the left but i try to remain in the center between the minimalist and maximalist camps (the respective far left and far right of bible scholarship). thus i would reccomend to start with raymond e. brown for new testament studies, especially in regards to johannine (gospel of john and the 3 epistles of john) literature. for old testament studies, i am not sure he was catholic but he was educated partly at a catholic unviersaity and is very highly regarded, i reccomend mark s smith. he is a very good resource on caanaite religion and the OT. to understand OT religion you must first understand the religion it evolved out of.

one last note, secular scholars look at the bible as a piece of human literature, not divinely inspired. catholic scholars do both but when writing in the scholarly community, they try their best to present a position of neutrality amongst and for the benefit their fellow secularists. they can present their faith but they dont tend to push it on anyone and always try to balance it with their scholarship. brown as far as i know was vocal about his faith (how could he have not been being a priest?) but tends to keep a good balance between his scholarship and his faith. if anything ive said confuses you, just ask for clarification. im here to help. this after all my field of study, which i love.


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