Pope Benedict: Bible Cannot Be Taken Literally
(11-19-2010, 03:38 PM)SaintRafael Wrote:
(11-19-2010, 07:51 AM)Grasshopper Wrote: "He wrote of me" is much more generic and vague than "he wrote every word of the Torah". It doesn't prove anything. Believe what you like, but I'm not convinced. My faith does not depend on Genesis being literal -- in fact, quite the opposite is true. If Genesis is literal truth, I'm laughing all the way back to atheism. It is preposterous if taken as literal truth.

What other writings of Moses were there? Everyone at the time of Jesus, all the Jews, and Jesus himself understood that the Torah was written by Moses. This is fact. Everyone understood "he wrote of me" to mean the Torah because that was the belief held by all. It wasn't disputed for centuries until the dawn of modern Biblical scholarship of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Ordinary Magisterium has always held that Genesis is literal history. Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis upheld that Genesis was genuine history with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were real people and all humanity descended from them.

If you deny the literal history of Adam and Eve, you might as well go to Atheism because the whole Catholic faith falls apart without Adam and Eve. If Genesis is not literal, then there is no original sin. No original sin means no need for Christ or the Catholic faith. The entire Bible is the word of God. If Genesis is not literal and the word of God, I don't see how you can take the Gospels as literal and the word of God either.

Your point about Adam and Eve is taken. As you claim, Catholic theology is heavily dependent on the concept of original sin, and that falls apart without Adam and Eve. And this is explicit in the Catechism (even the new post-Vatican II Catechism) -- I don't have the text here to quote from, but it basically affirms that mankind is descended from one man and one woman, and that this ties in with the teaching on original sin. So I won't argue that point.

However, it's a big leap from that to saying that all of Genesis must be literal truth, and the Church no longer requires that leap. And I'm not sure that it ever did. As I mentioned in a different post, Origen and St. Augustine are both on record as warning against an overly literal interpretation of Genesis, and the current Catechism also warns that you must read the books of the Bible with the understanding that they include many different literary forms, and that they were written in a different time, and for a variety of audiences. It's not all straight factual history, and even when it is, it wasn't written to modern standards of scientific and historical accuracy. The Bible can be "inerrant" without being literally factual. A good example of this is the parables of Jesus. No-one would claim that the events in those parables actually happened, yet they contain truth.

As for atheism, I used to be an atheist (after being born and raised Catholic), and one of the things that drove me to that was a realization of how preposterous much of the Bible is if taken literally. Genesis is one of the best examples of this. Aside from the many contradictions with the findings of science (and this goes way beyond biology and evolution), it is also full of internal contradictions and things that just don't make sense. I could not then, and cannot now, accept Genesis as literal truth unless I check my brain at the door, and I'm not willing to do that. One of the things that helped me come back to the Catholic Church is that they no longer require that kind of belief. If they did, I simply wouldn't be here. As I said in my previous post, I don't think that a refusal to take the Bible literally necessarily leads one to atheism. For me, it's the only thing that keeps me from atheism.

As for the Gospels, they are on much more solid ground than Genesis, but I can't accept everything in them either. I believe that Jesus existed, that He was who He claimed to be, and that he did and said most of what is recorded in the Gospels. But there are things in there that strain credibility, especially in the early parts of Matthew and Luke. The two Nativity narratives are difficult to harmonize, and the two genealogies of Jesus might as well be for two different people, as almost nothing in them matches. They can't even agree on who Joseph's father was!

Getting back to Moses -- well, there's the Torah (the first 5 books of the OT), and there's the torah (the law). I think just about all Jews and Christians, then and now, would agree that Moses was the lawgiver -- that he received "the law" from God and passed it on the the Israelites. But I wonder how many people still believe that he wrote the 5 books of the Torah all by himself. I certainly don't believe it. There is ample textual evidence that there were at least 3 or 4 different authors with different writing styles, and that those writings were later compiled into what we have now. If you read the books carefully, this isn't difficult to believe. There are two different creation stories in Genesis, and two different flood narratives, and in both cases, some of the details differ. You can see the seams where the stories are joined if you look for them. And there are numerous other places in those 5 books where the same story is told more than once, or different stories that are suspiciously similar to each other (was it really that common for people to pass their wives off as sisters?).

None of this shakes my faith. The Bible is the word of God, but He had to use men as the conduit, and men are imperfect. Therefore the books are imperfect. You don't have to accept that if you don't want to, but I do. If I don't accept it, then I can't accept that it's the word of God, either. There are just too many things wrong with it.

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Re: Pope Benedict: Bible Cannot Be Taken Literally - by Grasshopper - 11-19-2010, 06:36 PM

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