Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How to read the Bible ...

... according to Pope Benedict. The following were off-the-cuff remarks he made to a group of young pilgrims before Palm Sunday. This is from Sandro Magister's wonderful blog. Apparently, Benedict loves this stuff. Definitely go read the whole thing, including his comments on mathematics!

Hard to believe that it's exactly a year since he was elected! Happy Anniversary, dear Papa Bene! Ad multos annos!

First of all, it must be said that Holy Scripture cannot be read like just any historical book, as we read, for example, Homer, Ovid, or Horace. We must read it as truly the Word of God, placing ourselves in conversation with God. We must pray first, and talk to the Lord: “Open the door for me.” St. Augustine says this frequently in his homilies: “I knocked at the door of the Word in order to find at last what the Lord wanted to say to me.” [...]

A second point is this: Sacred Scripture brings us into communion with the family of God. So we cannot read Sacred Scripture on our own. Of course, it is always important to read the Bible in a very personal way, in a personal conversation with God, but at the same time it is important to read it in the company of persons who are on the journey with us. We must let ourselves be aided by the great masters of “lectio divina.” We have, for example, many wonderful books by cardinal Martini, a true master of “lectio divina,” which help us to enter into the living world of Sacred Scripture. [...]

A third point: if it is important to read Sacred Scripture with the help of teachers and in the company of our friends, our companions on the way, it is particularly important to read it in the great company of the pilgrim People of God, the Church. Sacred Scripture has two subjects. In the first place, there is the divine subject: it is God who is speaking. But God wanted to involve man in his Word. While the Muslims are convinced that the Qur’an was inspired by God word for word, we believe that one of the characteristics of Sacred Scripture – as the theologians put it – is “synergy,” God’s collaboration with man. He involves his People in his word, and thus the second subject – as I have said, God is the first subject – is human. The authors are individual, but there is the continuity of a permanent subject: the People of God that walks with the Word of God and is in conversation with God. In listening to God, one learns to listen to the Word of God, and also to interpret it. And thus the Word of God becomes present, because individual persons die, but the vital subject, the People of God, is always alive, and remains the same down through the ages: it is always the same living subject in which the Word lives.

This also explains many of the structures in Sacred Scripture, especially the so-called “rereading.” An ancient text is represented in another book, let’s say a hundred years later, and then there is a profound understanding of what had previously been inscrutable, even though it had been contained in the earlier text. Then it is reread again some time later, and new aspects are understood, other dimensions of the Word. And so, in this ongoing rereading and rewriting in the context of a profound continuity, while the time of expectation wore on, Sacred Scripture grew. Finally, with the coming of Christ and the experience of the apostles the Word was made definitive, so that there can be no more rewritings, although our understanding always must be deepened. The Lord has said: “The Holy Spirit will bring you into depths that you cannot bear now.” [...]

I think that we must learn these three elements: reading in personal conversation with the Lord; reading in the company of instructors who have the experience of the faith; reading in the great company of the Church, in whose liturgy these events continuously become present anew, such that we gradually enter more and more into Sacred Scripture, in which God really speaks to us today.
[Note the contrast with the Islamic understanding of the Quran. And appreciating the human authorship would imply an approbation, albeit a limited one, of the historical-critical method. But note too, just how that is not the only thing one does when it comes to reading Scripture! Especially not with the spirit of debunking that animates so much secular biblical scholarship! [This reminded me of an article I read a while back, from the Christian Century, by the (Protestant) Biblical scholar Dr. Richard Hays of Duke: Salvation by trust? Reading the Bible faithfully. That article, along with Luke Johnson's wonderful little book "The Real Jesus" were what really helped me put this whole "higher criticism" thinkg in a better context.]

1 comment:

It's a Nicky said...

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God Bless