"Saying Yes to the Bible, and No to Biblicism (in post-Christendom Christianity)"


#1

I just came across this (I’ll admit) quite thought-provoking blog post. What say you?

patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/12/saying-yes-to-the-bible-and-no-to-biblicism-in-post-christendom-christianity/#ixzz3QWZn3yIj


#2

I agree that Biblical fundamentalism is not just an Evangelical fundamentalist Protestant issue, to my surprises after converting to Catholicism I discovered some Catholics who took a very literal and anachronistic approach to interpreting the Bible. Some even went as far as to describe some of the best Catholic Biblical scholars of the 20th century like Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzymer as " liberals". Unbelievable!!


#3

simspt #2
Some even went as far as to describe some of the best Catholic Biblical scholars of the 20th century like Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzymer as " liberals". Unbelievable!!

Among the most confused and misleading biblical Catholic “scholars” were Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer.

The priority given to Mark is just one of Brown’s many errors. The Pontifical Biblical Commission in counseling exegetes and teachers of biblical studies states: “Let him always obey the Magisterium of the Church.” Hardly what Brown was about.


#4

:stuck_out_tongue:

I’m not a Brown or Fitzmyer fan. But – Marcan priority is not an error just because the logic used to arrive at that priority by Brown and Fitzmyer is flawed.
Mark was the disciple and scribe of Peter (my son mark, is how Peter refers to him) – so that the Gospel according to Mark is actually a recording of the Gospel according to Peter; the first Pope, and from whence comes the faith in it’s purest form.

So, it’s not surprising that the other Gospels would follow what Peter wrote through Mark, any more than cardinals pay attention even now (at least some do…) to what the Pope writes today through his secretaries.


#5

If you ask me, Frs. Brown and Fitzmyer are not exactly ‘liberal’. Maybe from a conservative perspective, they kinda lean toward the proverbial left a tad too much, but when compared to many scholars well within the ‘liberal’ side, they’re still kinda tame. I mean, just compare these two to real ‘left’ scholars: the likes of Ed Sanders and Geza Vermes, Rudolf Bultmann’s intellectual disciples such as John Dominic Crossan and Robert Funk, or beyond that, folks like Hugh Schonfield, Hyam Maccoby or James Tabor or even those sensationalist ‘scholars’ who appeared of late like Reza Aslan or Simcha Jacobovici.

In fact, Fr. Brown drew flak not only from conservatives who thought him to be too radical, but also from liberals who thought that he was trying to ‘play it safe’ by acquiescing to the Church too much (by not going too far as they would have liked). In other words, both sides considered him not too ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ enough. I’m hardly a Fr. Brown fan (as for Fr. Fitzmyer, I tend to associate him more with the Dead Sea Scrolls and the book of Tobit, and I think he did excellent work there), but I can’t help but pity the man for being caught in the middle. :stuck_out_tongue:

But c’mon folks, the priority of whatever gospel is not our main topic here! Refer back to the link in the OP. :smiley:


#6

Confused and misleading??? Brown was on the PBC twice! Fitzymer was president of the Catholic biblical association of America!
Not exactly a couple of liberal hacks…
Did the Magisterium get it wrong with appointing Brown to the PBC??
Brown would be the first to admit his scholarship was not error proof. I have listened to many of his lectures defending the Magisterium. As far as Markan priority, that’s an issue that has not been settled by the Church and probably won’t ever be. The majority of both Catholic and Protestant Biblical scholars would disagree that it is an erroneous hypothesis. It’s not a doctrinal issue however.
Sorry I don’t mean to get off topic from the post.


#7

Of course, some people will answer that Frs. Brown and Fitzmyer’s positions or titles don’t really mean anything. :shrug:

I’ll need to make a careful distinction here. When most people say ‘Markan priority’, it really means ‘two-source (Q) hypothesis’. But the thing is, Markan priority is not identical with or dependent on the two-source hypothesis, though it is a key ingredient. More recently, some scholars have proposed alternatives, as you may know. In America, the so-called Griesbach-Farmer-Orchard (aka two gospel) hypothesis (which posits Mark was written last and that Matthew was first) is the dominant competitor, while in England (specifically, in Oxford) the Farrer-Goulder theory (Markan priority without Q) or something similar is an alternative.

But this isn’t the issue of this thread.


#8

The gravity of the doubts sown by Raymond Brown in fantasying with the historical-critical method
Excerpts:

“Fr. Brown could not prove on historical grounds, he said, that Christ instituted the priesthood or episcopacy as such; that those who presided at the Eucharist were really priests; that a separate priesthood began with Christ; that the early Christians looked upon the Eucharist as a sacrifice; that presbyter-bishops are traceable in any way to the Apostles; that Peter in his lifetime would be looked upon as the Bishop of Rome; that bishops were successors of the Apostles, even though Vatican II made the same claim.

“Cardinal Cooke mailed a copy of Raymond E. Brown’s *Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections *to every New York priest free of charge. My copy of the book lay unread on a table for many months, until a troubled journalist visited me to say that Priest and Bishop had shaken his convictions about the truth of Catholicity. Halfway through the book, I understood the journalist’s concern.

“A dozen years or so went by before Cardinal Ratzinger chastised those historical critics who read Scripture “outside” the Church. But nuanced or not, those early re-readings disturbed more than a well-educated Catholic journalist.

“Priest and Bishop was troubling for another reason. Many bishops besides Cardinal Cooke were giving free copies of the book to their priests. Who was underwriting this largesse of Paulist Press? When an advance copy of the book reached one prominent archbishop (the carload arrived later), he turned it over to his staff for analysis. The subsequent line-by-line critique of Priest and Bishop was sent to Baltimore’s Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, Brown’s bishop. In due course, it was Cardinal Shehan who challenged the Sulpician’s biblical readings both on the episcopacy and the priesthood.” A Wayward Turn in Biblical Theory, Msgr George A Kelly
catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8154

Well do I remember some 18 years ago, the priest who, on the occasion of the Mass of the feast of the Transfiguration said that he “didn’t buy the story of the Transfiguration” but he would read the Gospel anyway. Thus have many priests been victimised by the formation given using the doubts and quagmire established by the misuse of method by Raymond Brown and the like.


#9

For sure the historical critical method has been misused by some scholars (liberal Protestants come to mind which is why the Magisterium was very slow to accept the use of the Historical critiacl method in the beginning of the 20th century) and Brown himself pointed out many times that it is the Church that preaches the Gospel according to her Tradition and guides the faithful and not any group of scholars. In Priest and Bishop he says nothing that most Catholic scholars would not agree with today that there was development with Church structure especially during the first century into the second. Kelly is flat out wrong and Pope Benedict never chastised Brown for reading Scripture “outside” the Church .Rather than quote critics with laundry lists its better to address each topic at length. But again, this is the topic for another post. I brought up these 2 scholars for their outstanding work against Biblical fundamentalism not to mention their excellent Biblical commentaries. (Both have been acknowledged by Popes for their extraordinary works) .


#10

This is the part of the snippet that struck me most:

[The Reformers’] creed has been described as a return to the Gospel in the spirit of the Koran.

The Very Rev. W. R. Inge,
The Platonic Tradition in English Religious Thought, 1926

When interpreted like any other book, by the same rules of evidence and the same canons of criticism, the Bible will still remain unlike any other book; its beauty will be freshly seen, as of a picture which is restored after many ages to its original state; it will create a new interest and make for itself a new kind of authority by the life which is in it.
It will be a spirit and not a letter; as it was in the beginning, having an influence like that of the spoken word, or the book newly found.

Benjamin Jowett, “On the Interpretation of Scripture,” 1860

Whether or not one sees Dean Inge’s remark above, regarding the biblicism of the Protestant Reformers, as a fair appraisal of their adherence to the doctrine of sola scriptura, it does highlight a problem that faces us still, one that should particularly concern Christians as we pitch our pilgrims’ tents in the post-Christendom epoch.

That problem is biblical fundamentalism or literalism. It is a mistake to think that “biblicism” (the term I will be using here for biblical fundamentalism) is just a Protestant phenomenon. We find it cropping up here and there throughout Christian history. We can come across it today among Catholics and Orthodox (especially, though not exclusively, in the United States). But the Bible, as Dean Inge was trying to get across, is not supposed to be received by Jews or Christians in the same way that Muslims receive their Koran. The Koran, according to Muslim faith, is simply and literally “the word of God.” Thus, every individual word of it is holy — “sacramental,” if you will — directly communicated by Allah. A truly faithful Muslim is supposed to learn Arabic, in fact, because the text should really be read as it was given, in the very language in which it was given. That’s what Inge meant by the phrase “the spirit of the Koran.” And, regarding the fundamentalist strand in Christianity, he was correct to make the comparison and the contrast.

The Bible is not the Koran, and Christians (and Jews) are not Muslims. We do not read the Bible as “a book,” for example, but as a collection of books. The Bible is better described as a library. Nor do Christians receive the Bible as the Word of God. That may come as a surprise to some, especially since we are often referred to — wrongly — as “people of the book.” But, we are not; and the Word of God is not a book. For us, the Word of God is God himself. We call him, in theological language, “the Son of God” and “the Second Person of the Trinity.” We say of him that he “became flesh and dwelt among us.” In other words, for Christians, the Word of God is Jesus. He alone “defines” for us fully the character of God; he is the divine writ small, in fleshly, human terms we can see, “read,” understand, and follow in our lives. We could not know the divine in its uncreated being, but we could know it in Christ.

**When we refer to Scripture as “the word of God,” we mean it in a different sense. We mean that, in these books of the Bible, we find a collective testimony to God’s existence and interaction with a specific historical people, leading us finally to the one, who, from among that people, we receive as God made man. The Bible is the word of God in the sense that it brings us the word about God; but it isn’t to be worshiped or venerated as more than a collection of books that give us an outline and a direction for our faith.

It isn’t an end in itself, nor is it an authority in itself. It is, like dogma in the last chapter, an indicator and a signpost for what lies beyond its pages.** It is “inspired,” we believe; that is to say, it is “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16; theopneustos), but not dictated word-for-word. One memorable line in 2 Peter puts it like this: “Men moved by [or “carried along by”] the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (1:21). For Scripture to be “God-breathed” means that writers were swept up and borne along, if you will, by a compelling insight, which they expressed in words according to their best abilities and lights. It is, taken as a whole, a grand, epical testimony to a historical community — in fact, two historical communities — evolving in an unfolding understanding of God. That evolution is, for the Christian, brought to its fullness with Jesus and the kingdom of God. Christ is the culminating revelation who sheds light on the adequacies and inadequacies of all that came before him in the scriptural record.


#11

(Continued)

One way to describe “biblicism,” in contrast to “Bible,” is to say that what the former does, in effect, is flatten all the biblical books. It makes the rough places plain, certainly — just as plain as a checkerboard. But what happens in the process is that the mountains and valleys of the Bible disappear entirely, the variety of its landscapes goes unperceived, and we are left with the wholly mistaken notion that the Bible is a single book by a single author (God), in which every passage is to be received as of equal value and understood literally. In other words, a Biblicist reading of the Bible could conceivably require one to regard, for example, a passage in Leviticus (let’s say one that gives instructions about the high priest’s undergarments) as of equal worth as the Sermon on the Mount. Both are, it is believed, “God’s word,” and therefore must be treated with equal seriousness.

Another difficulty, one frequently raised by friends and foes alike of biblical religion, is how we can line up the violence and bloodshed of the Old Testament, sanctioned supposedly by God himself, with the message of Jesus, who preaches non-violence and love of one’s enemies, in the New Testament. A fundamentalist will have many unconvincing ways to hold such things together, never admitting that they simply can’t be held together in any rational fashion (and, if pushed, a thoroughgoing fundamentalist may go so far as to deny the value of “human reason” itself in this matter).

Reading these ancient texts literally, a fundamentalist will anachronistically insist on the scientific and historical accuracy of even the most transparently poetic and mythological portions. By any standard, of course, the Bible can be a confusing mixture of genres: fable, legend, history, parables, sayings, prophecies, letters, hymns, and so forth. Shockingly (for some), it includes irreverence (Ecclesiastes, Job), humor (Jonah), and even a dash of eroticism (the Song of Songs). In one unexpected instance, for example, it tells an intentionally hilarious tale about a “wise man” scolded by his talking donkey, right in the middle of a book of law and sacred history (Numbers 22). In another, even more familiar story, all the woes of human history are traced back to another talking beast, the serpent in the Garden; and — at the other end of the Bible — the end of the world is depicted in a dizzying display of apocalyptic images. One thing the Bible most clearly is not: it is not a single, flat book with a single, flat picture of God.

**The Bible, as already said above, is really a collection of many books written and edited over a span of centuries. In Christianity the “canon” is made up of two canons, that of the Old Covenant (the Hebrew Bible) and that of the New. The word “canon” literally means “measuring reed,” which is a standard of measurement like a yardstick. In this instance, the canon of Scripture provides the dimensions of a revelation as it evolved over time, so that those who carry on its legacy into their own times may do so faithfully. The Bible isn’t the entirety of the revelation. It is a standard that sizes up the authenticity of the life and tradition of a community of Christian disciples. **The two canons within the overall biblical canon define the identity of the communities that gathered, preserved, edited, and published them in the forms we have received. This is a vital feature to which we shall return. For Christians, both canons taken together provide the essential conceptual context for understanding Jesus and his message. For us, then, Jesus is the key to unlocking the Scriptures, and the Scriptures — in all their variety and occasional contrariness — lead us to a more lucid interpretation of his teachings.


#12

pretty much what the “Instruction Concerning the Historical Truth of the Gospels” says. BTY it was written by Fitzmyer :stuck_out_tongue:

Pontifical Biblical Commission (April 21, 1964)
catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/PBC_HistTruthFitzmyer.htm#FitzArticle


#13

:o:p

Hi Patrick, long time no read.

I agree, It’s a mildly provocative piece. But it seems to be overly focused toward sensitivity over the muslim issues and mindset rather than to a unique ‘ism’ intrinsic to our country, besides the well known fundamentalism.

I get the feeling that the author holds some partial equlity in their mind between muslim=fundamentalist, or perhaps fundamentalist=muslim; or perhaps, fundamentalists might easily convert to Islam?

It’s only the last case that really makes sense to me, as conversion is happening at a somewhat surprising rate…at least if the media is accurate… but, I have gotten the impression that Muslims also follow an Imam, or perhaps a Sheik, with what appears to me to be a rather devoted (perhaps even somewhat blind) obedience to ‘their’ leader’s interpretation; so I’m not really sure how traditional Islam plays out in a free country, like the USA.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that in a world full of massively disagreeing fundamentalist sects – that the restricted sectarian nature of Islam with very few allowed beliefs (maybe two major ones?) can really be really construed as having anything more than a superficial relationship.


#14

I was just thinking the same about you. :stuck_out_tongue:

But it seems to be overly focused toward sensitivity over the muslim issues and mindset rather than to a unique ‘ism’ intrinsic to our country, besides the well known fundamentalism.

I suspect that he bases that on Islam and Muslim being variants on an Arabic root for submission. The attitude of submitting one’s own views to the Received Wisdom are fairly similar in any ideological system.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that in a world full of massively disagreeing fundamentalist sects – that the restricted sectarian nature of Islam with very few allowed beliefs (maybe two major ones?) can really be really construed as having anything more than a superficial relationship.

Shi’a and Sunni are branches, but those branches have many twigs. Sometimes, I think that it resembles a fractal design, with more detail of branching the closer you look.


#15

Hi! :wave:

To be honest, I don’t know where you got this from. Islam is only referred to by comparison in the snippet, and really only at its beginning. It’s not that fundamentalists themselves are equated to Muslims or vice versa, nor is there even any implication within the snippet that fundamentalists might easily convert to Islam. Instead, all the author says is that the so-called ‘biblicism’ that characterizes the Reformers and modern fundamentalism (whether Protestant or no) is comparable to Muslim reception of the Qur’an. Which the author argues is not the correct way to receive the Scriptures.

Let me quote again:

[T]he Bible, as Dean Inge was trying to get across, is not supposed to be received by Jews or Christians in the same way that Muslims receive their Koran. The Koran, according to Muslim faith, is simply and literally “the word of God.” Thus, every individual word of it is holy — “sacramental,” if you will — directly communicated by Allah. A truly faithful Muslim is supposed to learn Arabic, in fact, because the text should really be read as it was given, in the very language in which it was given. That’s what Inge meant by the phrase “the spirit of the Koran.” …]

The Bible is not the Koran, and Christians (and Jews) are not Muslims. We do not read the Bible as “a book,” for example, but as a collection of books. The Bible is better described as a library. Nor do Christians receive the Bible as the Word of God. That may come as a surprise to some, especially since we are often referred to — wrongly — as “people of the book.” But, we are not; and the Word of God is not a book. For us, the Word of God is God himself. We call him, in theological language, “the Son of God” and “the Second Person of the Trinity.” We say of him that he “became flesh and dwelt among us.” In other words, for Christians, the Word of God is Jesus. He alone “defines” for us fully the character of God; he is the divine writ small, in fleshly, human terms we can see, “read,” understand, and follow in our lives. We could not know the divine in its uncreated being, but we could know it in Christ.

When we refer to Scripture as “the word of God,” we mean it in a different sense. We mean that, in these books of the Bible, we find a collective testimony to God’s existence and interaction with a specific historical people, leading us finally to the one, who, from among that people, we receive as God made man. The Bible is the word of God in the sense that it brings us the word about God; but it isn’t to be worshiped or venerated as more than a collection of books that give us an outline and a direction for our faith.

It isn’t an end in itself, nor is it an authority in itself. It is …] an indicator and a signpost for what lies beyond its pages. …]


#16

Thanks for the post, Patrick. I found the link to be a clear presentation of how the bible should be read. I think there will be controversy over the boundaries of literary genres, historical contexts, etc. But I think the controversies lead to discussion that ultimately (under the guidance of the magisterium) lead to a inspired understanding of the bible. Or, to borrow Pope Pius XII’s wording, to better understand the “mind of the author.”


#17

:thumbsup:


#18

As a matter of proper reasoning, If the logic is flawed, the conclusion cannot be presumed to be without flaw. A formal fallacy is a pattern of reasoning which is rendered invalid due to a flaw in its logical structure. That is the very definition of a Logical Fallacy.


#19

Yes, but people often do reason to a correct result using a fallacy. And I didn’t presume the result to be correct – I was noticing that the correct reasoning leads to the same result as a particular chain of wrong reasoning.

For example, the bandwagon fallacy: Just because “everyone” does or believes something does not mean it is correct thing to do or believe. None the less; very often something that large groups of people do or believe is in fact the correct thing to do or believe, eg: the correct convention or interpretation of law, etc.

Not all mistakes are fatal to the final outcome… although mistakes and fallacies do make the chain of reasoning untrustworthy and uncertain in and of themselves.


#20

I said it’s a feeling which, I’ll now notice is a partially subconscious activity of the brain…
So, neither I nor you really know where the analysis came from – but it is in fact how I reacted to the piece, and the feeling directly influenced the kinds of thoughts I had about the piece. I thought that was within scope of your OP question of what I thought about the piece…
:slight_smile:


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