Why does the USCCB promote atheism in its Bible scholarship?

This year I’ve followed the Coming Home network’s Bible&Catechism-in-a-year schedule (although I am now angry that its Bible schedule is not in chronological order, so I do not recommend it), and have found myself increasing skeptical and tempted to despair that the Church isn’t correct. I think a large part has to do with the secular scholarship the USCCB has chosen to include with their NABRE in both introduction and commentary. Why do they promote this skeptical scholarship?

For example, asserting later dates of composition, often after the fact regarding prophecies. Regarding Obadiah (since it’s the most recent example I’ve encountered):

[The unknown author’s] prophecy against Edom, a neighbor and rival of Israel, indicates a date of composition sometime after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., when the Edomites apparently took advantage of the helpless people of Judah and Jerusalem (v. 11; Ps 137:7).

But the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia contradicts them:

Many [scholars] among them (Keil, Orelli, Vigouroux, Trochon, Lesetre, etc.) assign its composition to about the reign of Joram (ninth century B.C.). Their main ground for this position is derived from Abdias’s reference (11-14) to a capture of Jerusalem which they identify with the sacking of the Holy City by the Philistines and the Arabians under Joram (II Paralip., xxi, 16, 17). The only other seizure of Jerusalem to which Abdias (11-14) could be understood to refer would be that which occurred during the lifetime of the prophet Jeremias and was effected by Nabuchodonosor (588-587 B.C.). But such reference to this latter capture of the Jewish capital is ruled out, we are told, by the fact that Jeremias’s description of this event (Jer., xlix, 7-22) is so worded as to betray its dependence on Abdias (11-14) as on an earlier writing. …]

Why has the USCCB chosen to disregard early 20th century scholarship – and apparently centuries of Church understanding (“wisdom”) – in favor of modern skepticism? Modern skepticism is the foundation for our time’s secular atheism: They are in effect promoting atheism, and are literally giving scandal to people trying to learn God’s Word.

Is there anything we can do apart from contact them in protest and pray?

I wonder if we should compile a list here of skeptical commentary.

e.g. regarding Obadiah verse 9

Mount Esau: whatever its geographic reference, the phrase is an effective representation of Edom’s arrogance.

regarding Sirach 42:

  • [42:9–14] Ben Sira considers a daughter to be a source of anxiety to her father, lest she fail to marry, or be defiled, or lest, marrying, she be childless, prove unfaithful, or find herself sterile (vv. 9–10). He is advised to keep a close watch on her and on her companions, lest he suffer on her account among the people (vv. 11–12). The exhortations, which take into account only a father’s concern, are quite unflattering to young women. The concluding statements (vv. 13–14) show the limitations of Ben Sira’s perspective in the male-oriented society of his day.

Umm… you read the whole article… right?

Other scholars, among whom may be mentioned Meyrick, Jahn, Ackerman, Allioli, etc., refer the composition of the book to about the time of the Babylonian Captivity, some three centuries after King Joram…

Others again, ascribe the present book of Abdias to a still later date. They agree with the defenders of the second opinion in interpreting Abdias (11-14) as referring to the capture of Jerusalem by Nabuchodonosor, but differ from them in holding that (20) does not really prove that the author of the book lived during the Babylonian exile…

Which does the author (Gigot) endorse? He doesn’t say. Rather, he’s merely providing a description of the leading theories of the day. In fact, in his conclusion, he states:

These, then, are the three leading forms of opinion which prevail at the present day regarding the date of composition of the book of Abdias, none of which conflicts with the prophetical import of the work concerning the utter ruin of Edom at a later date, and concerning the Messianic times.

So, I think it’s unfair to suggest that “the USCCB chosen to disregard early 20th century scholarship.” Apparently, “early 20th century scholarship” recognized that this was an open question.


p.s., BTW – neither the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia nor the writers of the NAB footnotes are the ones who define Catholic doctrine (or, as it were, are they infallible in their statements). Just sayin’… :wink:

My point was to show my latest encounter with their preference for later dating wherever possible. The foundation for my concern extends beyond Obadiah’s dating, of course. Gorgias, I must ask that you try to be less focused in a hyper-literal way on certain points and try to formulate an understanding based on all of my text (my entire argument, not only certain sentences in it).

As my later quotation of their Sirach commentary shows, they sometimes openly criticize Sacred Scripture, in this case from the perspective of secular feminism: Their concern seems not to be discerning what the Holy Spirit has revealed over the millennia, but rather what is currently popular at American universities. The USCCB does not regard it as God’s Word, but rather as men’s words which God somehow uses for our benefit. It is scandalous to think that this profaning of the text is coming from our bishops – and with what money from Sunday donations?

Hold on a minute!

Catch a breath and explain how the later dating of Obadiah promotes atheism and causes scandal.

It would seem to me that proper scholarship and accurate dating with regard to all the books of the Old and New Testaments are the only way to NOT cause scandal and NOT promote atheism, precisely because errors, if not caught and fixed as soon as possible, will sooner or later become revealed as errors.

Earlier dating is not the preferred option where all books of the Bible are concerned - accurate dating is.

Given at least two threads you have created on this topic, both with a slanted view concerning the motives of the USCCB, the question might fairly be asked why you are working so hard to cause scandal with regard to the authority of the bishops in the United States and promoting skepticism with regard to their legitimate authority?

Although your premise is a little far-fetched, my understanding is that some priests-in-training have actually lost their faith after attending seminary. I do think that there has been an overly skeptical view of scripture from the mid-20th-century onward. Miraculous and supernatural events are viewed very skeptically and may be explained away as allegorical or symbolic or merely “spiritual”.

True, there are such things in the Bible- some things were clearly written symbolically or allegorically and not meant to convey actual events but spiritual truths. That said, our faith is based upon a supernatural truth and event, not merely symbolism or allegory. If Jesus Christ was not resurrected, then our faith is in vain and we are all fools.

The USCCB has a very mixed record. They continually push agendas that have little to nothing to do with the faith, while not making a big fuss about other genuinely important matters of faith, all while accepting a big paycheck from the Federal government. For example they pushed for Obamacare, but now lament the HHS mandate.

Furthermore, understand that it is mostly manned by non-bishops. Additionally, they don’t have any canonical authority. Each bishop is his own “Pope” in his diocese. I would say that Catholic Answers is more Catholic and more effective in actually promoting and teaching the faith than the USCCB.

I don’t see how what you described “promotes” atheism.
Being skeptical doesn’t promote atheism. Being skeptical promotes research, deep thought, contemplation.
If a person ends up not believing in any gods after that so be it.

But this is not *promoting *a disbelief in gods.


This post is beyond offensive and I am sure that this forum will assert their complete and total submission to the authority of their own diocesan bishop as well as the collective body of bishops of their country as well as to the offices of the conference of bishops.

Among the great gifts to the Church has been contemporary biblical scholarship and, indeed, contemporary scholarship in all facets of the theology as well as of liturgical studies.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has done, and continues to do, work of the highest calibre.

I would trust that those who oversee this forum would come in adamant support for the extraordinary work done by the bishops and by their conference and that they – above all the priests engaged here in this forum – would profess their absolute unanimity with the thoughts and the initiatives of the bishops and of their conference.

The work of the bishops and of their conference is absolutely deserving of the highest praise.

Thanks for your post.

Granted, the example I led with (the dating of Obadiah) was weak in establishing my point – hence I said it was merely the most recent I had encountered – but the example I followed up with from Sirach is more typical. Seriously, read through the NABRE and its commentary (as I have done over much of this year), and you will see repeatedly where the divine nature of prophecies are rejected in favor of supposing their being written after the fact; the wisdom of Sirach is repeatedly denounced as antiquated patriarchal sexism; instead of eyewitnesses recording their observations, e.g. Mark being St. Peter’s secretary, it’s “early Christian communities” writing to themselves; instead of Jesus actually saying something, it’s the “early Christian community” putting words in Jesus’ mouth “to respond to a problem they were facing”, etc.

In short, this commentary flatly contradicts the teaching of Catholic Answers, e.g. Steve Ray’s declaration that “the Bible is a love letter to us from God”. Rather, the NABRE’s commentary teaches that it’s man’s letter from an antiquated past.

I’m not working hard to discredit the USCCB: I’m working hard to keep my faith, because if the NABRE’s commentary is seriously the best scholarship we have to offer, then “God’s Word”, the only communication we have from God, is sorely lacking in evidence of actually being from God. Hence the USCCB is promoting atheism by hosting this commentary on their website – and of course I’m not saying they’re doing so deliberately: I’m asking why they’re doing it.

I am alarmed to see some clamor for this thread to be locked or deleted, but I suppose I should not be surprised. I would encourage you to have more confidence in your church and in your intellects: We should be able to have this discussion, if this is a place of learning.

The scholarship in the NABRE has helped me understand the word of God. I’ve seen people here on CAF make claims that the scholarship in the NABRE is not exegesis and may lead people away from their faith. While the introductions and notes may, technically, not be exegesis, IMO, historical scholarship and exegesis are inseparable.

New discoveries that are made in archeology, such as discovering ancient cities or the dead sea scrolls or the unproven lead codices, can help to shed new light on past events. This isn’t modernism. I see it as part of our growth.

“These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers.” CCC n. 283

I’m not sure the bishops have really adopted the notes and introductions as their own. I think they may have provided them for us to be aware of the dominant scholarly opinions in the current time. Not sure, but that’s my guess.

Also, lots of the scholarship is really very good. The NAB notes on Revelation are one of the best I’ve read.

Having read through this thread I think it’s important to point out a few things.

  1. The notes that you seem to want to take issue with are not atheistic. They may not agree with thinking by other scholars, but so what. There is always differences and controversy in scholarship in most fields yet that does not mean that none of them believe in the field that they are speaking to.

  2. Notes in any Bible are never considered inspired any more than the verse numbering and the chapter divisions are. All introduced by men and may or may not be of much help.:shrug: As with these notes they are convenience and nothing more.

Frankly, I rarely even look at the notes in any of my Bibles. Most don’t tell me anything that helps enough to make them worth my time.

Alleging that the USCCB promotes atheism is kinda disingenuous of you though since that is patently not the case. If you don’t like 'em then don’t read 'em. The text itself is far more important than all this stuff. Get a Bible that doesn’t have any if you want, but regardless, agree or disagree with the notes, but don’t make allegations that are really not true. Honest commentary is just that and all such needs a measure of salt to make use of them.

The historical critical method may be scholarly, and of much use to many, but I would like to see the USCCB put out a Bible with good Christological/theological/catechismal commentary for the faithful.

We have some good, affordable New Testaments in English with such commentary, from the Navarre to the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. Not so much for for the Old Testament, yet. The Didache Bible is good, whole Bible, and the commentary is based on the Catechism. I feel like I want something with more, though. I’ve also heard good things from Catholics about the Orthodox Study Bible, which uses the Church fathers for commentary, but I can’t endorse it personally yet.

Given how some think the NABRE gives good commentary, it seems even more important to compile its contradiction to prior scholarship and the historical Christian faith (see underlined portion). Here is another example of their arbitrary preference for later dating. It appears to me they favor later dating precisely because it contradicts the historical understanding of the Catholic Church (hence they feel smart because they’re doing something new, as if they were scientists).

First, quoting the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia:

DATE OF THE PROPHECY OF JOEL.—The most difficult problem in the investigation of Joel is the date, and the many hypotheses have not led to any convincing result. The first verse of the book does not convey, as other prophetic books do, a definite date, nor do the discourses contain any references to the events of the period, which might form a basis for the chronology of the Prophet. General history took no notice of plagues of locusts which were of frequent occurrence, and it is an arbitrary supposition to interpret the swarm of locusts as the Scythian horde, which, according to Herodotus (I, 103 sqq.; IV, i), devastated the countries of Western Asia from Mesopotamia to Egypt between the years 630-620 B.C. The Book of Joel has been variously ascribed to nearly all the centuries of the prophetic era. Rothstein even goes so far as to assign the discourses to various dates, an attempt which must fail on account of the close connection between the four addresses. The early commentators, in agreement with Jerome, placed the era of composition in the eighth century B.C.; they took Joel, therefore, as a contemporary of Osee and Amos. In justification of this date they pointed out that Joel is placed among the twelve Minor Prophets between Osee and Amos; further, that among the enemies of Juda the book does not mention the Assyrians, who were anathematized by each Prophet from the time they appeared as a power in Asia. However, in a book of three chapters not much weight can be attached to an argument from silence. Those also who agree in placing the book before the Exile do not agree in identifying the king in whose reign Joel lived.

The assignment to the period of King Josias is supported by the fact that Joel takes for his theme the day of the Lord, as does the contemporary Prophet Sophonias; to this may be added that the anathema upon the Egyptians may be influenced by the battle of Mageddo (608 B.C.). Later commentators assign the book to the period after the Exile, both because chapter iii assumes the dispersal of the Jews among other nations, and because the eschatology of Joel presupposes the later period of Jewish theology. It is, however, impossible for Joel to have been a contemporary of the Prophet Malachias, because of the manner in which the former looks upon the priests of his period as perfect leaders and mediators for the nation. None of the chronological hypotheses concerning Joel can claim to possess convincing proof.

Regarding Joel, the USCCB via NABRE declares:

Although the superscription, or title (1:1), does not place Joel’s preaching or the book’s composition in a specific historical context, internal evidence favors a postexilic date for its composition, probably 450–400 B.C. This evidence includes: Joel’s reliance on an established, possibly written, prophetic tradition; the existence of an organized temple liturgy; the dominance of priests and the absence of a king; and vocabulary characteristic of later material like Chronicles and Zechariah.

Notice how they deny that Joel was a prophet, instead declaring that he “relied on an established prophetic tradition”, and then use this assumption to justify their later dating. I wonder how this even qualifies as scholarship.

Regarding Joel 3:

In Acts 2:17–21 the author has Peter cite Joel’s words to suggest that the newly constituted Christian community, filled with divine life and power, inaugurates the Lord’s Day, understood as salvation for all who believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.

Notice how doubt is introduced that Peter actually said what is written in Acts. Instead doubt is introduced and the assumption is made that “the author has Peter say” things, as if we cannot trust the author to know if Peter actually said what this historical document claims he said. You see here how they are teaching the reader it is man’s word, not God’s Word, and inculcating the secular philosophy to regard the Bible as a collection of “religious documents” as opposed to historical documents.

Regarding the second half of Sirach 42:

[42:15–43:33] These verses comprise another hymn; cf. 16:24–18:14. In them Ben Sira contemplates God’s power, beauty, and goodness as manifested in the mighty work of creating and preserving the universe (42:15–17, 22–25; 43:1–26), his omniscience (42:18–20), perfect wisdom and eternity (42:21). The conclusion is a fervent hymn of praise (43:27–31).

The passage is attributed to him, not to God; It’s his contemplation, not God’s message for us. It’s important to note context: This commentary does not explain any unclear passage. Its sole point is to attribute the text to Ben Sira rather than to God. They further this point by declaring parts of it were hymns in use by the Jewish community, as if the Jewish community wrote it for their own liturgy, rather than God writing it for us.

(to be continued…)

Regarding Revelation 17, and the entire book, the commentary interprets it as purely an antiquated condemnation of the Roman Empire and addressed to the early Christian community of Nero’s era, with no prophetic content for us today. There’s even an egregious point where they accuse John of superstition, implying the revelation was not from God!

[quote=“verse 8”]The beast that you saw existed once but now exists no longer. It will come up from the abyss and is headed for destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world shall be amazed when they see the beast, because it existed once but exists no longer, and yet it will come again.

They declare:

Allusion to the belief that the dead Nero would return to power (Rev 17:11); see note on Rev 13:3.

This is God’s messenger (i.e. God) speaking to John, yet they have the audacity to directly contradict the text by declaring it to be John superstitiously repeating a pagan rumor about a Roman emperor.

Why is the USCCB hosting such blasphemous content?

Introduction to Amos:

The book is an anthology of his oracles and was compiled either by the prophet or by some of his disciples.

What is the justification for introducing doubt about the authorship? The 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia:

Apart from a few recent critics, all scholars maintain the correctness of the traditional view which refers the book of Amos to the Judean prophet of that name.

Amos’s message stands as one of the most powerful voices ever to challenge hypocrisy and injustice. He boldly indicts kings, priests, and leaders (6:1; 7:9, 16–17). He stresses the importance and the divine origin of the prophetic word (3:3–8);

Rather than speak on behalf of God, they say that Amos is giving his own message.

Religion without justice is an affront to the God of Israel and, far from appeasing God, can only provoke divine wrath (5:21–27; 8:4–10). …]

This summary is written from the perspective of a non-believer (i.e. disbeliever): Rather than identify as a member of Amos’s community and the people of Israel, the author is presenting a summary as if speaking at a conference. My point here is that the intended audience here does not appear to be Christians, but rather a secular academic community studying the Bible as curious literature. The paragraph continues to speak from Amos’s point of view, again promoting the idea that it’s not God’s word through Amos, but rather Amos’s word about God.

Regarding Amos 2:

Thus says the LORD:
For three crimes of Moab, and now four—
I will not take it back—
Because he burned to ashes*
the bones of Edom’s king,

He burned to ashes: to the peoples of the Near East, burning the bones of the dead was a particularly heinous crime, as it was believed to cause the spirits of these dead to wander without any hope of interment in their graves, where they could rest in peace.

They directly imply this is not the Word of God, that Amos is attributing to God common beliefs of his day.

Son and father sleep with the same girl: the crime condemned here may be the misuse of power by the rich who take unfair advantage of young women from the ranks of the poor and force themselves on them, thus adding oppression to the sin of impurity.

Instead of understanding this text literally to address the sexual morality clearly spelled out in Leviticus and elsewhere, they reinterpret this passage to mean economic injustice or rape.

Let’s unpack what you’re saying, here. You assert that:
[list]*]NAB commentaries ‘contradict’ prior scholarship
*]"contradict’ historical Christian faith
*]set late dates ‘arbitrarily’
*]desire to undermine the historical understanding of the Church
*]are attempting to make themselves look ‘smart’

You can see, can’t you, that the latter two assertions are completely without attribution – you’re just saying these things ‘arbitrarily’, in the way that you’re claiming that the commentary writers are doing? Umm… pot, meet kettle… :wink:

To your first assertion, do you think it’s uncommon for later scholarship to update earlier scholarship? Do you think it’s unfair to do so?

Your second assertion seems to be baseless. If their conclusions were ‘arbitrary’, they would be without reasons. In all of the quotes you’ve provided, we see the reasons these scholars chose. Therefore, they are explicitly not arbitrary. Now… you might not agree with their conclusions, but to dismiss them as arbitrary – especially when the ‘counter-examples’ you’ve provided from the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia likewise admit that these viewpoints exist, and discuss their rationale – is unfair.

First, quoting the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia:

Regarding Joel, the USCCB via NABRE declares

OK… so, is it unreasonable to suggest that scholarly opinion could change, between the beginning of the 20th century and its end? Would the changed opinions be invalid a priori, just because they changed? To ask these same questions from a different perspective: do these opinions contradict Catholic dogma or doctrine?

: Notice how they deny that Joel was a prophet, instead declaring that he “relied on an established prophetic tradition”, and then use this assumption to justify their later dating. I wonder how this even qualifies as scholarship.

I think you’re being overly sensitive here. To say that he “relied on an established prophetic tradition” doesn’t mean that they’re denying that he himself is a prophet; rather, it means that he’s using forms that were well-established as being prophetic utterances. Rather than trying to cast doubt on Joel’s identity as prophet, this statement is buttressing it: it’s telling us not only that Joel is self-identifying as a prophet, but that his style would have been recognized by the people of his day as prophetic speech.

Regarding Joel 3: Notice how doubt is introduced that Peter actually said what is written in Acts. Instead doubt is introduced and the assumption is made that “the author has Peter say” things, as if we cannot trust the author to know if Peter actually said what this historical document claims he said. You see here how they are teaching the reader it is man’s word, not God’s Word

Sooo… ask yourself: “who is the author of the Bible, anyway?” If you don’t answer “God”, then you need to rethink your approach to the Bible. (And, if you do answer God, then why is it blasphemous to think that “in the Bible, God has Peter saying”…?) :wink:

, and inculcating the secular philosophy to regard the Bible as a collection of “religious documents” as opposed to historical documents.

The Church herself doesn’t claim 100% historicity of all the things written in the Bible.

Regarding the second half of Sirach 42: The passage is attributed to him, not to God; It’s his contemplation, not God’s message for us.

I would assert that this is true for any passage in the Bible: God inspired the human author to put down in writing what He wished to be written. So, it would be tedious (and a waste of print) to have to write down – in each instance that a human author is discussed in a footnote commentary! – “inspired by God to put into writing what He wished, the human author here writes…”.

Rather, we already know that this is the case.

My advice to you is to just ignore the commentary. You already have a chip on your shoulder about it; it’s not going to be of any benefit to you to attempt to read it. Just let it go, man… :thumbsup:

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