Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pseudonymous thoughts

Jimmy Akin has a decent post up responding to a question about the supposedly pseudonymous writings of St. Paul. Let Paul be Paul.

I'm of the decidedly minority view that the evidence is slim, the argument circular and ultimately, the results a perspective inherently suspicious of the authority of Scripture. [I've said this often, that it seems the aim of some historical-criticla study is simply to demonstrate how incorreclty things have been interpreted so far ... ] Besides, so what if Paul didn't write it? It's in the canon as the canon has been developed and received by the Church.

Some good arguments are presented by Luke Johnson in his introduction to the New Testament ... more fully developed in an earlier commentary on the Pastorals (Knox Preaching Guides) and I suspect (though don't recall clearly) in his volume on 1 & 2 Timothy for the Anchor Bible series.

Perhaps the neatest thing in Jimmy Akin's post was a link to this article by C.S. Lewis highly critical of modern scholarship, the so-called "higher criticism" as exemplified by that tower of early 20th century scholars, Rudolf Bultmann. This essay is priceless!

Fern Seed and Elephants. Some select quotes:
All theology of the liberal type involves at some point - and often involves throughout - the claim that the real behavior and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by his followers, and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars.
And yet they would often sound - if you didn't know the truth - extremely convincing. Many reviewers suggested that the Ring in Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings was suggested by the atom bomb. What could be more plausible. Here is a book published when everyone was preoccupied by that sinister invention; here in the centre of the book is a weapon which is seems madness to throw away yet fatal to use. Yet in fact, the chronology of the book's composition make the theory impossible. Only the other week a reviewer said that a fairy-tale by my friend Roger Lancelyn Green was influenced by fairy-tales of mine. Nothing could be more probable. I have an imaginary country with a beneficent lion in it; Green, one with a beneficent tiger. Green and I can be proved to read one another's works; to be indeed in various ways closely associated. The case for an affiliation is far stronger than many which we accept as conclusive when dead authors are concerned. But it's all untrue nevertheless. I know the genesis of that Tiger and that Lion and they are quite independent.

Now this surely ought to give us pause. The reconstruction of the history of a text, when the text is ancient, sounds very convincing. But one is after all sailing by dead reckoning; the results cannot be checked by fact. In order to decide how reliable the method is, what more could you ask for than to be shown an instance where the same method is at work and we have facts to check it by? Well, that is what I have done. And we find, that when this check is available, the results are either always, or else nearly always, wrong. The 'assured results of modern scholarship' as to the was in which an old book was written, are 'assured', we may conclude, only because the men who know the facts are dead and can't blow the gaff.
You must, however, not paint the picture too black. We are not fundamentalists. We think that different elements in this sort of theology have different degrees of strength. The nearer it sticks to mere textual criticism, of the old sort, Lachmann's sort, the more we are disposed to believe in it. And of course, we agree that passages almost verbally identical cannot be independent. It is as we glide away from this into reconstructions of a subtler and more ambitious kind that our faith in the method waivers; and our faith in Christianity is proportionally corroborated. The sort of statement that arouses our deepest scepticism is the statement that something in a Gospel cannot be historical because it shows a theology or an ecclesiology too developed for so early a date. For this implies that we know, first of all, that there was any development in the matter, and secondly, how quickly it proceeded. It even implies an extraordinary homogeneity and continuity of development: implicitly denies that anyone could have greatly anticipated anyone else. This seems to involve knowing about a number of long dead people - for the early Christians were, after all, people - things of which I believe few of us could have given an accurate account if we had lived among them; all the forward and backward surge of discussion, preaching, and individual religious experience.
Such are the reactions of one bleating layman to Modern Theology. It is right that you should hear them. You will not perhaps hear them very often again. Your parishioners will not often speak to you quite frankly. Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the vicar; now he tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more.
Just wonderfully put!

Of course, the sad thing seems to be just how uncritically some of these aspects of "higher criticism" have been accepted in the Catholic world. For an alternative path, I'd suggest William Kurz and Luke Johnson's "Future of Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A constructive conversation" especially the introduction.

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