Historical Criticism

Ratzinger on the Relationship between the Magisterium and Exegetes

Just finished reading Ratzinger’s 2003 address ‘On the Relationship between the Magisterium and Exegetes’ which he presented on the 100th Anniversary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I’ve always enjoyed Ratzinger’s writing, and this piece is no different. I thought I’d just share a few gems:

‘The pilgrim people of God … knows … that it neither speaks nor acts by itself, but is indebted to the ne who makes them a people: the same living God who speaks to them through the authors of the individual books [of Scripture]’.

‘The mere objectivity of the historical method does not exist. It is simply impossible to ompletely exclude philosophy or hermeneutical foresight’.

‘A God who cannot intervene in history and reveal Himself in it is not he God of the Bible. In this way the reality of the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary, the effective institution of the Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper, his bodily resurrection from the dead – this is the meaning of the empty tomb – are elements of the faith as such, which it can and must defend against an only presumably superior historical knowledge. That Jesus – in all that is essential – was effectively who the Gospels reveal him to be to us is not mere historical conjecture, but a fact of faith. Objections which seek to convince us to the contrary are not the expression of an effective scientific knowledge, but are an arbitrary over-evaluation of the method. What we have learned in the meantime, moreover, is that many questions in their particulars must remain open-ended and be entrusted to a conscious interpretation of their responsibilities. This introduces the second level of the problem: it is not simply a question of making a list of historical elements indispensable to the faith. It is a question of seeing what reason can do, and why the faith can be reasonable and reason open to faith’.

‘Faith and science, Magisterium and exegesis, therefore, are no longer opposed as worlds closed in on themselves. Faith itself is a way of knowing. Wanting to set it aside does not produce pure objectivity, but comprises a point of view which excludes a particular perspective while not wanting to take into account the accompanying conditions of the chosen point of view’.

You can read the entire address here.

Nineteenth-Century Theology Group

Those with an interest in PT Forsyth (as all should have!) might be keen to know about The Nineteenth-Century Theology Group which meets at AAR. The Group is concerned to explore religious thought and theology from the French Revolution to World War I. Attention is given to issues or themes, to major figures, and to the relation of religious thought to its historical and cultural context. The Group selects two or three topics for each year’s program and invites papers on those topics. Papers are printed and distributed in advance. More information here and here and here.

On Gospel, Historical Criticism and Faith

‘It is the Gospel that must save the Church and its beliefs; it is not the Church that can ever save the Gospel. The historic Gospel saved everything at the Reformation; it saved the Church from itself, and it must go on doing so. We must not come to the Gospel with the permission of the critics, we come to criticism in the power of the Gospel. Faith does not wait upon criticism, but it is an essential condition of it. The complete critic is not a mere inquirer, but a believer. It was to believers, not critics, that the things appealed which are criticised most today. Critical energy is only just and true when it is in the hands of a Church whose heart is full of evangelical faith. The passion of an apostolic missionary faith is an essential condition to a sound criticism and a safe; and by “sound” I don’t merely mean sound to the Confessions, I mean sound to the mind; and by “safe” I do not merely mean safe for the Church, but safe for the soul. I mean that faith in the Gospel, evangelical faith, is essential for that full complete view of the case upon which sound results are based; it is essential in order to be fair to all the facts. It must enter in, not to decide whether we shall expect proved results, but to decide the results which we are to count as proved. Faith is not only an asset which criticism must include in its audit, but it is an organ that criticism must use. The eye cannot say to the ear, “I have no need of thee.”‘ PT Forsyth, ‘An Allegory of the Resurrection’, Christian World Pulpit 61 (14 May 1902): 314.