Interpret a passage w/informed scholarship?
#1
We're taught that primacy of conscience is fine, as long as it does not go against the Magisterium. Kind of a Catch-22, but that's the rules of the Catholic game plan. So, we are told to turn to Scripture for reflection, guidance, and inspiration, under "supervision..."

What if, as I study a particular pericope (it happens to be in Matthew, but I'm not going to cite it as I am keeping my question general), I find that the Church has not elaborated on a point as fully and as intricately (taking into account linguistic expertise and biblical scholarship) as a scholar who parses the original Koine Greek, examines related Hebrew, and renders a phrase precisely? Such that it illuminates the terrain and offers the inquirer now a comprehensive explanation of what Jesus was teaching his first audience?

After all, somebody who has explored more of the sources may be first in offering a deeper understanding of a particular phrase of Scripture, using textual and critical tools.

The section does not express a specific doctrine that the Papacy has declared as infallible for faith or morals. The CCC talks about the germane topic in a more general way without citing Scripture. Comparing the KJV and D-R I find they translate the section as equivalent to the Greek, and so does the Vulgate and Msgr. Knox's rendering, and E. Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart's  Greek-literal NT. Whereas the Ignatius RSV and the NAB fall back--as do their Protestant equivalents habitually-- into a rote "Englishing" that does not capture the gist of the passage with the dead-on meaning of the earlier translations. Commentaries and what I can gather from "tradition" tend to repeat down the centuries the "conventional understanding" of the section as do the recent, looser translations, rather than the fully informed "original" context that expands under closer scrutiny.

The only one who's delved into this passage thoroughly, using what up-to-date scholars now assemble for comparison and contrast from all Greek texts extant, is a tenure-track Christian prof specializing in Ancient Hebrew + Early Christianity. Any advice to offer?
The deeds you do may be the only sermon some people may hear today (Francis of Assisi); Win an argument, lose a soul (Fulton Sheen)
Reply
#2
I'd avoid non-Catholic exegetes, because while they may be able to parse language and make connections, they lack the Faith, so can only provide reliable linguistic or stylistic helps, and often this will come along with their own warped theological notions, so it will be hard to separate out what is reliable and what is not. That is why generally such use of non-Catholic sources was restricted to Catholic exegetes who could reference non-Catholics, but also would have the benefit of their own training to detect errors.

As regards the process to go through to keep the sense of the Church, I recall that Fr Paul Robinson published an article by another priest on his book's blog site responding to a misinterpretation of a passage. While the article is long, in it you find a brief guide to looking for interpretations and understanding passages with the Church :


Quote:When a Catholic wants to understand the meaning of Scripture, he must not decide for himself what a passage means. He must rather have recourse to various steps first, before freedom to interpret is granted.

The first step is looking to see if the Magisterium has already provided some definitive interpretation, either direct or indirect. Perhaps the Church has clearly told us definitively that this passage means X, or that it does not mean Y. Perhaps it has defined something else which relates to this passage. If so, that interpretation will be binding on him as a member of the Church. The Church, for example, has clearly defined in the Council of Trent that St James in his Epistle (5:14ff.) refers to the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, not just some other anointing and prayers of a priest.[6] We must accept and profess this, or else we are heretics.

Often, however, the Church has not clearly defined anything regarding a passage. When this is the case, the Catholic consults the teaching of the Church Fathers. The Church Fathers, when they speak ex professo (with the aim of teaching doctrine), have a heavy influence on a Catholic, as these men were close to the Apostles and the earliest experts on Scripture and Tradition. When many Fathers are unanimous in their opinion on a passage, the Church demands that we must assert the truth of their interpretation and hold it to be infallible.

If there is no consensus among the Fathers, if few say anything, or if none speak ex professo, the Catholic then has recourse to orthodox commentators and scholars. These are men who are well trained in Biblical studies and Doctrinal Theology and can help suggest the most likely interpretation of a passage. Their comments often appear in the footnotes of a Bible; at other times, they are responsible for cross-references. Among these are great commentators like Cornelius a Lapide,[7] St Thomas Aquinas, Nicholas de Lyra, Cajetan, Calmet, Bossuet, and Fillion. These men do not, like the Fathers, propose necessarily infallible opinions, but we must have serious reasons to dissent from them.

Finally, after having consulted the authorities of the Church, if there is no interpretation which must be held or is most likely, a Catholic looks at the natural and literal sense of the text itself. Following the principles of St Augustine[8], he is always careful not to assert his interpretation as certain, if there are other possible interpretations, and is always ready to re-assess his opinion if new evidence, including naturally-known truths (such as scientific facts), come to light.


So basically if you want to get some more insight on a passage first look for definitions, then dogmatic sources and references (like the Denzinger), then look at the Fathers and Patristic indicies, then look to Catholic commentaries, then we take the literal meaning of the words as they would have been understood when written by the culture in which they were written, and then if that allows multiple interpretations you can take your own advice on this but trying to marry your opinions with other Catholic doctrines which relate to what the passage concerns.
[-] The following 2 users Like MagisterMusicae's post:
  • Fionnchu, gospel654
Reply
#3
Since the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, then the deeper understanding (not the literal) of Scripture has to be through His enlightenment. Knowing all the languages of the world, will not help a soul delve into the deeper meaning of Scripture (without the help of God). A saint that speaks only one language, will be enlightened to know the deeper meanings of Scripture, much more than a linguist that has no Faith.

If we all interpreted for ourselves, we will have confusion and division. We will not have one Faith. We will wind up having many sects believing different interpretations (as we see in Protestantism). That is the reason why, we have to rely on the Church for the right interpretation of Scripture.
Reply
#4
(01-18-2020, 04:28 AM)KIM.T Wrote: Since the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, then the deeper understanding (not the literal) of Scripture has to be through His enlightenment.

The literal sense of Scripture (at least what the Church means by "literal sense") is the sense intended to be communicated by the Holy Ghost.

That "literal sense" includes metaphor, parable, and many other figures of speech.

This is opposed to the Typical sense by which a action or person is meant to serve as a type or example for another. For instance the Ark is a type for the Church. This is also intended by God, but is not the direct meaning of the words. When Scripture says "Ark" in Genesis it means a boat. God also wants it to typify the Church, but "Ark" does not mean "Church" in this passage.

An "accomodated sense" also exists. This is where scholars, preachers, and even the Church can apply Scripture in other ways to persons, places or things. The Church, for instance, does this with Wisdom, which it often applies to Our Lady. That is not the intended meaning of the Scriptural passage, but it is an application of it. This could be inspired or simply an intelligent application, so may or may not be thanks to the Holy Ghost.

(01-18-2020, 04:28 AM)KIM.T Wrote: Knowing all the languages of the world, will not help a soul delve into the deeper meaning of Scripture (without the help of God). A saint that speaks only one language, will be enlightened to know the deeper meanings of Scripture, much more than a linguist that has no Faith.

If we all interpreted for ourselves, we will have confusion and division. We will not have one Faith. We will wind up having many sects believing different interpretations (as we see in Protestantism). That is the reason why, we have to rely on the Church for the right interpretation of Scripture.

The Church can define the meaning of certain passage, and can condemn false interpretations as well, but beyond the Church clearly stating the meaning of a passage, there are scholars who through linguistic analysis and other resources can provide possible interpretations of passages where the meaning is not obvious and the Church has not provided an interpretation.

In this both one's spiritual life, but also natural reason play a part, too.

The problem with Protestants is that they lack Supernatural Faith since they deny the Faith revealed by God. Instead they have a merely human Faith, since the motive for their "faith" is human trust in a human standard, and not trust in God's authority which has revealed something. They believe Scripture says one thing or another because they are convinced of it, or a pastor has told them, but not because the Church has authoritatively taught them.

This is why Protestant scholars of Scripture should be despised by most. Only well-trained Catholics who can sift through the errors might be able to take advantage of a Protestant's expertise in Greek, Hebrew or some other skill where these natural sciences might provide some assistance. It is also why Catholics are meant to avoid non-Catholic versions of Scripture, and are encouraged to read Catholic versions only along with a commentary so as to avoid private interpretation.
[-] The following 2 users Like MagisterMusicae's post:
  • Fionnchu, jovan66102
Reply
#5
(01-20-2020, 05:37 PM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: The literal sense of Scripture (at least what the Church means by "literal sense") is the sense intended to be communicated by the Holy Ghost.

That "literal sense" includes metaphor, parable, and many other figures of speech.

 
The literal sense of scripture means exactly that "literal" interpreting based on words only. The definition of literal is: "taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory".
 
The other meaning of scripture is the spiritual which is not easy to understand (the spiritual sense includes allegorical, moral, and anagogical).

Everyone can understand the literal meaning of a sentence like "they crossed the red sea" but the spiritual sense, that this represents Christian baptism is not easily reached. So the Holy Spirit does not reveal the same thing to everyone reading the Bible. I have seen Moslems interpreting the parable of the  Bridegroom and the 5 wise virgins in a strictly literal manner. They came to the conclusion that polygamy is allowed in Christianity, since here is a Bridegroom with 5 virgins going in and closing the door on themselves.  
 

The Holy Spirit, does not enlighten the minds of every Christian reading the Bible, in the same way. If I read the Bible, I will not get out of it the spiritual sense, that someone like St John of the Cross would get. If you read his writings, you will see that he gave some Biblical verses meanings that would never occur to most people. Since he was going to be a Doctor on mysticism, the Holy Spirit enlightened him to see the spiritual sense, in what pertains to the mystical life. 

“From earliest times it has been understood that the same Holy Spirit, who moved the authors of the New Testament to put in writing the message of salvation (Dei Verbum, 7; 18), likewise provided the Church with continual assistance for the interpretation of its inspired writings (cf Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., 3.24.1; cf 3.1.1; 4.33.8; Origen, De Princ., 2.7.2; Tertullian, De Praescr., 22).”
Pontifical Biblical Commission III., Characteristics of Catholic Interpretation
 

I agree with what you said about Protestant interpretations.
I always go to the Fathers of the Church for interpretations. I also go to the writings of popes and saints. That is more than enough for 10 lifetimes.   

I also agree that the Church is the sole guide to interpretation of the Scripture. St Augustine said "But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me." 
Without the Church I would be completely lost.

 

 
Reply
#6
Kim,

It'd be good to leave to those who have studied the subject at a graduate level and teach Scripture classes to high school students the explanation of things here. Waxing eloquent about something you obviously do not know beyond a basic level, and so stating incorrect things, especially flying onto the forum as a greenhorn is somewhat rude and also a disservice to the board.

Straight from the classical traditional seminary manual A Companion to Scripture Studies by Fr John Steinmüller (Vol 1, p. 226): 


Quote:The Bible has two kinds of senses"the literal  and the typical. ... The literal sense sense is expressed immediately and directly by the words of the sacred writer, is that which the actual words directly convey; the typical sense is had when a thing, even, or person is used to express something else or to foreshadow some greater truth.

The basis for this distinction is found in the Bible itself (cf John 3.14; Matt. 12.39 f.; Gal. 4.22 ff.; Co 2.17), and the Fathers of the Church, especially those of the Antiochian school, admit this twofold meaning.

...The literal sense is sub-divided into two varieties: (a) the proper literal sense, or the precise literal meaning, which is expressed by words taken in their etymological, or grammatical, or obvious, ordinary meaning (cf. Gen. 1.1; Isa. 7.145; Deut. 6.5); (b) the improper literal or metaphorical sense, which is expressed by the words taken in their transferred, derived or figurative meaning.

Steinmüller then lists the various literary devices that exist within the literal sense : synecdoche, metonomy, metaphor, emphasis, hyperbole, ellipsis, allegory, fable, riddle, and symbolism. All of these are part of the literal sense.

The "typical sense" is also sometimes called the "spiritual sense" but you falsely identify the improper literal sense as the "spiritual sense" here.

Steinmüller then goes on to describe a third "sense" (p. 231):

Quote:Besides the literal and typical meanings, which are intended by the sacred writer, there is a third kind called the accommodated sense, and this is given to the text by the interpreter. It is a sort of extension that is applied to the mind of the sacred writer, and is neither directly nor indirectly intended by the Holy Spirit. Hence, it cannot be used as a theological proof.

It may, however, be used for purposes of edification, and in this sense the writers of the New Testatment, the Fathers of the Church, and even the Church herself in her liturgy sometimes cites the Scriptures.

The use of the accommodation has its limitations. It must never be intimated that the accommodated sense is the true meaning of a passage.



To address your actual words :

(01-21-2020, 07:05 AM)KIM.T Wrote: The literal sense of scripture means exactly that "literal" interpreting based on words only. The definition of literal is: "taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory".

Incorrect, as noted above. Metaphor and allegory are part of the literal sense.

 
(01-21-2020, 07:05 AM)KIM.T Wrote: The other meaning of scripture is the spiritual which is not easy to understand (the spiritual sense includes allegorical, moral, and anagogical).

This is usually called the "typical sense", but you are correct. While it is called the "allegorical sense" sometimes, that is because a large section of text is taken as a spiritual allegory beyond its literal sense. As Steimüller writes (p. 229): "[T]he type differs from metaphors, allegories, or parables, which are mere images without any historical foundation. If some authors call the tpical sense also the allegorical sense, this must not be confused with the improper literal sense of allegory."

So, allegory belongs to the literal sense, not to the "spiritual" sense.

(01-21-2020, 07:05 AM)KIM.T Wrote: Everyone can understand the literal meaning of a sentence like "they crossed the red sea" but the spiritual sense, that this represents Christian baptism is not easily reached.

The proper literal sense of those words is very clear, and since this is not a metaphor nor any of the other improper literal devices, the literal meaning is clear, as you suggest. The Hebrews crossed the sea.

The Fathers and Church agree that this is a type for Baptism, so the typical sense is Baptism.

Your interpretation of the difficulty of Baptism would be an accommodated sense. No Father uses this passage to claim that Baptism is "not easily reached" because Baptism is relatively easy to reach, especially for children. So you are accommodating this passage in that part of your interpretation. This is not the spiritual or typical sense, but the accommodated "sense".

(01-21-2020, 07:05 AM)KIM.T Wrote: So the Holy Spirit does not reveal the same thing to everyone reading the Bible. I have seen Moslems interpreting the parable of the  Bridegroom and the 5 wise virgins in a strictly literal manner. They came to the conclusion that polygamy is allowed in Christianity, since here is a Bridegroom with 5 virgins going in and closing the door on themselves.  

I don't see what that has to do with any sense of Scripture. This is just sacrilegious bias.

In my long experience in Apologetics I have never found that Muslims are at all familiar with the Bible, usually because it is a capital crime in Muslim countries to read one. Since polygamy is allowed in Islam, with child brides as well, I fail to see why a Muslim would be interested in making this kind of point.

Either way, clearly that's not the work of the Holy Ghost here. It's the work of the devil and warped minds, so really has very little to do with this topic.

(01-21-2020, 07:05 AM)KIM.T Wrote: The Holy Spirit, does not enlighten the minds of every Christian reading the Bible, in the same way. If I read the Bible, I will not get out of it the spiritual sense, that someone like St John of the Cross would get.

He may get a fuller understanding of the spiritual sense, but there are not multiple spiritual senses, so you might not understand the depth of the typical sense of a passage, that a contemplative would, but you could not be understanding some different typical sense.

What you could be doing is adding your own interpretation through accommodation, but as we've noted above from Steimüller, that's not the meaning intended by God.

I might also add that quoting the modern Pontifical Biblical Commission is probably a very bad idea. It is not a doctrinal authority. It used to be under St Pius X and up until John XXIII. It was reconstituted as merely an advisory group by Paul VI. It most recently tried to reinterpret the story of Lot and Sodom as being the sin of "inhospitality" suggesting that homosexual relations are not the reason Sodom was punish, nor are they condemned in Scripture. So, clearly the PBC of today strays far from orthodoxy into near heresy, if not outright heresy and cannot be relied upon.
Reply
#7
MagisterMusicae,
I follow and pass on what the Church teaches, since it is infallible.  I do not follow a professor here or there, because in modern times, many write what is heretical and against the Church. Having a PhD does not equal having infallibility. Many historically known heretics were highly educated (who would listen to an uneducated heretic?). So why waste my time reading their writings, when I have treasures at my disposal?
It would be a great idea to quote Church encyclicals, Council Canons, CCC, Fathers of the Church, Thomas Aquinas etc...…

What I wrote about the literal and spiritual sense of Scripture, is based on the CCC, and not on a fallible professor.  
The CCC is a higher authority than any school professor.  It is written and audited by the crème de la crème of faithful followers of the Church, was approved by the Pope and the Magisterium.  

Here is its explanation of the literal and the spiritual sense of the Scripture, from the CCC:


"The senses of Scripture

115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between
two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided
into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses. The profound
concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living
reading of Scripture in the Church.

116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture
and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: 
"All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."

117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God's plan, not only the
text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can
be signs.
1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound
understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the
crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ's victory and also of
Christian Baptism.

2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead
us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written "for our instruction."

3. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, "leading"). We can view
realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward
our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem."
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Reply
#8
MagisterMusicae
I would appreciate it if in the process of correcting me, that you use approved Church sources (eg defined dogmas, canon law, dogmatic parts of encyclicals, , CCC, saints etc...….). Why quote the fallible when we can quote the infallible?
I would be very thankful if you added to my knowledge using such solid sources. This would aid me and others, who want to be faithful to Christ and His Church.

In cases where the Church did not pass a judgment, there would be no need for correction, since it is legitimate to have two opposing opinion (as long as no heresy is inserted, of course).
Reply
#9
(01-21-2020, 05:17 PM)KIM.T Wrote: MagisterMusicae,
I follow and pass on what the Church teaches, since it is infallible.

The CCC is not infallible. It is not a magisterial document, nor was it intended to be, so quoting it is not quoting an infallible source.

The proof of this is that recently Pope Francis infamously changed no. 2267. If it can be changed, it cannot be infallible.

The real problem with the change, as many conservative folks pointed out, not merely the crazy radical traditionalist folks, is that the change introduces at least a theological error, and more probably an heretical statement to the CCC. It now condemns capital punishment as intrinsically evil. If the CCC contains error, or heresy it certainly cannot be part of the authentic magisterium.

It's condemnation of capital punishment goes flatly against the words of Christ Himself, Holy Scripture, the Council of Trent, the Roman Catechism, St Thomas Aquinas and every moral theologian before 1962.

It also is contrary to John Paul II's teaching on capital punishment as well. John Paul II was firmly against capital punishment in most cases, but taught that there were some cases where it might be permitted. He said that this was in continuity with Tradition, because with the development of the justice systems today and the ability to hold prisoners and offer them better treatment, it was almost unnecessary. It's a false argument, because it neglects the other purposes for the punishment, but even still, it shows that the CCC cannot be infallible, nor can it be magisterial, because if it were magisterial, then while a deeper understanding could develop, it could never be that it change such that it contradicted what came before.

So, to be clear, the CCC now contains a probable heretical statement, so it cannot be an infallible, magisterial source

And besides this, it was designed to repeat errors from Vatican II, including the absolutely false no. 841 : "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

Muslims worship a false God, not the Trinity.

So while I appreciate your concerns, your source is not what you claim it to be.

Meanwhile you dismiss one of the traditional manuals of Scripture used for decades in seminaries before Vatican II. The edition I've quoted from, for instance is the Second Edition from 1941.

KIM.T Wrote:I would appreciate it if in the process of correcting me, that you use approved Church sources.

I did.

Msgr. John E Steinmüller, S.T.D. S.Scr.L, Professor of Sacred Scripture and Hebrew at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, Long Island, NY. A Companion to Scripture Studies. 1941. Second ed.

Nihil Obstat : Rev. Joseph J. Tenant, S.T.D. S.S.L, Censor Deputatus

Imprimatur: + Most Rev. Thomas E. Molloy, S.T.D., Episcopus Brooklyniensis, Feast of the Nativity B.V.M., 1941.

That is a source which was approved by the Church through an Imprimatur given by a bishop whose orthodoxy could not be questioned. It was one of the standard Scripture manuals used by seminarians and priests in English-speaking countries before Vatican II.

KIM.T Wrote:In cases where the Church did not pass a judgment, there would be no need for correction, since it is legitimate to have two opposing opinion (as long as no heresy is inserted, of course).

The Church does not need to pass judgement on something for it to be false. A false opinion or statement which is at varience witis still false and ought to be corrected.

The Church defines only a very few things. Not everything which She does not define is open to opinion.

She has never said 2+2=4, but 2+2=5 is false, nonetheless.
[-] The following 2 users Like MagisterMusicae's post:
  • Fionnchu, jovan66102
Reply
#10
MagisterMusicae,


Books you quoted are certainly not infallible even if they have imprimaturs.

The CCC is infallible in any definitive teaching (doctrines) that has been promulgated by the Ordinary Magisterium throughout the ages. St JPII told us this:

"..and confirms its purpose of being presented as a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life...…...he Church now has at her disposal this new, authoritative exposition of the one and perennial apostolic faith, and it will serve as a "valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" and as a "sure norm for teaching the faith," as well as a "sure and authentic reference text" for preparing local catechisms "
https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/a...osletr.htm

We have to agree to disagree- because we have different outlooks on basic theological issues. We cannot be going back and forth for ever.
Reply




Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)