The Father William Most Collection
They say the Greeks had a word for it. Not always. They had none for Hebrew hesed, the covenant bond. That lack has greatly obscured general understanding of the covenant. But to get a word for the present state of Scripture studies, we turn to the Germans. They would say: Durcheinander - a confused tangle, so that one thing sticks out from the middle of another thing.
That is remarkably true in Scripture study today. On the one hand, we find some who relentlessly - I am using Fuller's word criticizing R. Brown -- pursue Form Criticism. On the other hand, some of those who had been most eminent Form critics are now abandoning not only that discipline, but the entire historical critical method, some of them even calling it "bankrupt."
Specially prominent among those who have declared the historical critical method bankrupt is Reginald Fuller, one of the chief Form critics, who charged bankruptcy in St. Luke's Journal of Theology 23, 1980, p. 96. He said the study should be supplemented by input from the believing community! Now Vatican II in LG §12 did say that the universal belief of the whole Church is infallible. But that is quite different from what Fuller wants.
Others just quietly drop the historical critical method, and go instead into various other approaches - many go to Reader Response Criticism, a heavily subjective approach that tries to imagine who is the implied author, the implied reader, and the narratee. Still others turn to a sociological analysis - which in itself is good and useful - but one should not make it the core of exegetical method. And of course some like Semiotics.
We are not going to merely give a recital of horror stories, though that would not be difficult. It would be entertaining but not useful. Rather, we want to positively suggest what can be done in a scholarly way. Mostly we will focus on historical critical method, its abuses, and propose a remedy. For more profit is to be had in return to the maligned historical critical method, looking first at its excesses, then at its potential for sound use.
A leading cause of the condition of alleged bankruptcy is the work of Rudolf Bultmann who misapplied Form and Redaction criticism to the Gospels, and became the undisputed king of eisegesis, which is the opposite of exegesis. For after saying we cannot know much of anything about Christ in Himself, he said we must interpret the Gospels to mean the same as existentialist Martin Heidegger (in Kerygma and Myth, Harper. NY 2d ed. I. p. 27). So, for example, getting free of original sin means achieving authentic being - making the decision to go through with life even though this universe makes no sense and is absurd (ibid. 194). After that tour de force of eisegesis one would think all real exegetes would shun him. Instead many still worship at his shrine, in that they often quote him respectfully even if not on precisely the points we mentioned.
Bultmann insisted that certitude is impossible in any field (KM 195) - yet he himself was certain that if science cannot explain a cure, it would be superstition to call it a miracle - yet if science can explain, it would be all right to call it a miracle. (ibid. 197, 199) He also wondered how Jesus could work a miracle if He had emptied Himself, as Phil 2:7 says - did Bultmann think Jesus could stop being divine? Or did he not know that not just God but saints with God's power can work miracles.
Bultmann also said he wanted to go Luther one better (ibid. 210-11). Luther had taken away the security of merit from us, Bultmann would take away all foundation for our beliefs , it is even sinful to want a foundation (ibid. 211 & 19). Disciples of this aberration are still with us today. Thomas Hoffmann SJ of Creighton University in CBQ of July 1982 dismissed Scriptural inerrancy in just a footnote, and insisted Scripture is so full of errors that to try to answer all charges would be like putting patches on a sinking ship. However, following in the footsteps of Bultmann, Hoffmann said even though we know Scripture is so full of errors, we should still just have faith! A gigantic leap up onto Cloud Nine.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (p. 1169) even thinks Vatican II authorizes us to think there are errors of all kinds in Scripture: in science, history, and even in religion. Only those things needed for salvation are protected. The critics here lean on a clause in DV §11, which says we must say there is no error in "those things which God wanted entrusted to the Sacred Letters for our salvation." They claim the clause is restrictive, i.e., only things needed for salvation are inerrant. But they did not read well the footnotes by the Council itself, sending us to many earlier statements of the Magisterium especially one of Vatican I which says God is the chief Author of Scripture. Pius XII, in Divino afflante Spiritu of 1943 said that text was a solemn definition, even though found in a capitulum, not in a canon.
The critics will reply: But that is the a priori approach -we should use the a posteriori approach, that is: look at all the errors we see in Scripture. It really is full of errors. In fact, a favorite spot is Job 14:13, in which, it is alleged, Job considers the possibility of an afterlife, but then rejects it. To try to answer that claim is said to be "unmitigated disaster." Pardon me for committing an unmitigated disaster. Really, Job, which is mostly in high flown poetry, is indulging a fancy, as the Anchor Bible commentary on this passage notes. He wishes he could hide in Sheol until God's anger would pass. But Job knows that cannot be done, and so no one finally stands up against God.
As to the approach of saying that since God is the author there can be no error: we cannot escape the fact that God is the Author of all Scripture by merely saying that such an assertion is a priori. Of course: God is simply not the author of any error. The critics are too dull to notice that DV says we must consider everything asserted by the human author as asserted by the Holy Spirit. So, within the framework of genre approach, not everything is asserted, just as in a modern historical novel, the author asserts only that the main line is history, but not the fictional fill-ins provided for vividness and enjoyment.
The tendency to give up on Scripture got impetus also from the strange fact that some scholars who knew the new techniques that let us answer previously insoluble difficulties, insist on saying so many things are insoluble, even though the answers have been know long, even before the development of our new resources. Thus in regard to the three accounts of Paul's conversion in Acts, Joseph Fitzmyer points out that one account says his companions did not hear the voice, and another says they did. But he misses the elementary fact that Greek, akouein , like so many ancient words, has a broad spectrum of meaning - indeed even English hear or listen is broad. Listen can mean: Hear the sound; or from Mother to child it can mean: Do as I say. So it can mean to know there was a sound, or can add understanding of the sound.
Even stranger is the claim of contradiction because one account says Paul's companions fall to the ground; the other says they stood amazed. Not even elementary Greek is needed here, just try to picture yourself in the situation. On such a marvel from the sky, a man could be literally knocked off his feet. But quickly he would scramble to his feet and stand there looking amazed.
Again, one prominent critic insists Jesus and Paul superstitiously believed devils inhabited desert places or the upper air (R. Brown, in St. Anthony's Messenger May 1971, 47-48, referring to Mt 12:43-45 and Eph 2:2). Now any good exegete knows about literary genre, and so should see Jesus was using a sort of parable, as we can tell from the final line: "So also it will be with this wicked generation". And Paul was merely using the language of his odd opponents to counter them.
That is a case of blindness we regret to say. Another case of strange blindness is found in the approach to messianic prophecies in the OT, which are said to be so obscure one can get something out of them only by hindsight, by seeing them fulfilled in Christ. Now the NJBC has a rather good essay on targums near the end of the volume. These, of course, are ancient Aramaic versions of the OT, mostly rather free, but letting us see how the Jews understood the prophecies without hindsight - for they hated Christ. If time permitted I could offer double evidence of the early date of these Targums. But yet, after explaining fairly well what Targums are, the NJBC, in the body of the commentary, when it takes up individual messianic prophecies, seems at a loss on how to take many of them. For example, they think Gen 3:15 says women dislike snakes. And Gen 49. 10, the prophecy of the dying Jacob that there would always be a ruler from Judah until the time of the Messiah -- this was fulfilled most dramatically, because historically there was always some sort of leader from Judah until 41 BC, when Rome imposed Herod on them as Tetrarch, and soon after as King. Herod was not of the tribe of Judah, by birth he was half Idumean and half Arab.
We said the NJBC does not seem to know what to do with Gen 49:10. But one of the greatest of modern Jewish scholars, Jacob Neusner, in Messiah in Context , cites that text and adds: What else could it be but a prophecy of the Messiah? So, even Jews see more than many Catholic scholars!
A problem is raised about the dullness of the Apostles in not understanding the command to teach all nations. The Apostles were dull all right. But it is no solution to say that probably Jesus spoke no words after His resurrection, just used interior locutions, so that the Apostles at first did not understand what the locution meant. How contrary to sound theology this is! St. Teresa of Avila, who had much experience with such locutions, tells us that when God speaks this way, we have to understand, since the all-Powerful makes us understand. Later certitude may fade. So the picture is precisely the opposite of what some critics propose.
No wonder that Martin Hengel of Tübingen, fountainhead of so many far out errors in Scripture, pointed to a great source of trouble when he commented on Catholic aberrations (Time, Aug. 15, 1988, p. 42): "Sometimes I ask my Catholic counter-parts why they must make all the same mistakes in 20 years when we Protestant theologians needed over 200 years."
If we go back to the early years of this century, Scripture scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, were aware of very many problems, seeming errors or contradictions in Scripture. They could answer some of the problems, not nearly all. But they were men of faith. They said: Even if we cannot solve the problems, we know there is an answer. And indeed there is. Today, thanks to the great progress in exegesis, through the approach via genres and by Form an Redaction Criticism, we can readily solve problems that once seemed hopeless. Yet the very scholars who know the new techniques are the ones who insist strongly there is no solution. That really is an unmitigated disaster.
For a really unmitigated disaster we take note that some very recent writings do tempt one to think the historical critical method is really bankrupt: three writers are reported on in Time of Jan 10, 1994: Dominic Crossan of De Paul University, in Jesus: a Revolutionary Figure, and Burton Mark, The Lost Gospel; and the "Jesus Seminar" in The Five Gospels. Time reports that these three think Jesus may have been a carpenter, but if so he was probably illiterate, or of a low caste, did not preach salvation through sacrifice, probably never delivered the Sermon on the Mount, never cured any diseases. Crossan and the Seminar think He was crucified all right, but, according to Time they think He was not buried in a rich man's tomb, His body was probably left to be consumed by wild dogs. Then, the Apostles put faith in such an abject failure, gave their lives for such empty faith and even deified such a failure, with no evidence at all in His favor, with so much against Him!
But Mack seems confident that the lost Gospel is Q, a mere collection of sayings, no doings. Since it does not report His crucifixion, Mack doubts even that. Of course Q is the imaginary second source in the Two Source theory which holds that Mark wrote first, Matthew and Luke copied much from Mark. But then Matthew and Luke run together on many things which Mark does not have. These added things came from the imaginary Q. Even though all three Evangelists report on the death and resurrection of Jesus, yet since Q does not mention these things, therefore they are probably false. But we ask: Not only how does one prove the existence of a Q, but also: Since all three Synoptics do agree on reports of the death of Jesus, these three had no need to draw on a Q document if indeed it ever existed, for data on His death and resurrection. The fact that they agreed among themselves, and therefore did not find it in Q, shows that the reports of the death and resurrection by all three are faked! We say: Even if there was a Q , Matthew and Luke simply had no need to use it for the accounts of the death an resurrection of Jesus. So the lack of these things in the imaginary Q proves nothing at all.
We could fill the rest of our time explaining such strange lapses by prominent scholars. But our conclusion will not be that the method is bankrupt, just that one needs to show judgment in using it.
We get a good start by looking at a strong example of misuse of historical critical method by John P. Meier of Catholic University, in his book, A Marginal Jew. Meier can find few things true about Jesus, so few and so scanty that Jesus is left a poor marginal Jew. Yet in spite of himself, Meier will serve us as a starting point for providing positive help. We wish to explore chiefly how to answer his central claim that we cannot get the facts on Jesus. For that we will see how to construct a bypass around his endless quibbles asking how can we be sure a given item in the Gospels is real or not. Then we will pay special attention to his repeated insistence in arguing against Our Lady's perpetual virginity. (We will not, as some reviewers have done, just say: "Have faith". That is begging the question. We must build an apologetics base before we invoke faith. Otherwise it is just a leap up onto Cloud 9).
We mentioned above that Fuller today says the historical critical method is bankrupt. Some years back Fuller began to move in that direction, when in a review of R. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah (CBQ 40, 1978, p. 120): he wrote: "It is ironic that just at the time when the limitations of the historical critical method are being discovered in Protestantism, Roman Catholic scholars should be bent on pursuing it so relentlessly."
That word "relentlessly" really applies to John P. Meier. He opens with imagining that a Catholic, a Jew, and an agnostic, and perhaps a few varied others were locked in the bowels of the Harvard Divinity Library until they could agree about a statement on Jesus." He says there are four steps to descend in studying the data on Jesus. First, he says that the "total reality" of a person "is in principle unknowable." He means all that the person ever thought, felt, experienced, did and said. Of course we do not have that information on anyone, not even on modern figures. In fact, the French are right in saying: "What a solitude is the heart of man." And the ancient oracle of Delphi advised: Gnothi sauton: get to know yourself.
Descending to a less demanding picture he said that for many modern persons the abundance of empirical data makes it possible to get a "reasonably complete" picture. Then he adds, thirdly, that for some a few great ancient figures, such as Cicero and Caesar, we might get that reasonably complete portrait. But the fourth level is that in which we lack sufficient sources to make even a reasonably complete portrait. He gives as examples of those for whom this is not possible Thales or Apollonius of Tyana, and says our knowledge of Jesus belongs on this same fourth very low level.
The comparison is very bad. First, we know hardly anything about Thales, the earliest of the Ionian philosophers who sought to know the world stuff. Thales, according to reports from Aristotle (Meta 1. 3. 5) thought the world stuff was water. Herodotus added that Thales proposed a federation of all Ionian states, with capital at Teos. So, our knowledge of Thales is scant indeed. Yet, even though the quote from Thales is obtainable only through another person, Aristotle, we have no reason to doubt its basic accuracy. Aristotle was a careful scholar.
What about Apollonius of Tyana? He is a favorite with irresponsible critics. Randel Helms - not a Scripture scholar but an English professor-- in his book, Gospel Fictions (Prometheus Books) says the genre of the Gospels is fiction, and after giving us a description of a person who at first seems to be the same as Jesus, springs his surprise: That is Apollonius, not Jesus. The conclusion is that Jesus is not at all special.
Helm's work is shoddy to put it mildly. For Apollonius we have only one source, Philostratus, writing around 210 AD, while Apollonius died -- if indeed he died, for the accounts are confused -- about 97 AD. If one really reads Philostratus, the similarities vanish into thin air. Apollonius is only a Pythagorean philosopher, not one who said he was sent by God to bring eternal salvation by His suffering. Proteus appeared to the pregnant mother of Apollonius, making it seem Apollonius is a reincarnation of Proteus. The matter in the account is often fatuous. There is a discussion on the intelligence and breeds of elephants. In India, Apollonius saw dragons about 60 feet long, whose eyes contained mystic gems, which if hollowed out would hold enough drink for four men. He also saw robot tripods that served meals. He sought the source of the Nile, and found it in a place of giant geysers, and feared permanent deafness from the roar - so far is Apollonius from having supernatural power. He never works a miracle in a framework which has a connection between the wonder and a claim of Apollonius. And his miracles are not impressive. He found a satyr who was annoying women, quieted the satyr with wine - not with a command of power. He met a woman whose son was possessed by the ghost of a man who fell in battle. The man had been attached to his wife, so that he became angry when she married three days after his death. Then he became disgusted with women, and, after his own death, turned homosexual over the 16 year old boy he was possessing. Again, Apollonius did not by supernatural power expel the demon. He just gave the woman a letter with threats to the ghost.
No one who has really read Philostratus would confuse Apollonius with Jesus. Only an irresponsible scholar - if that name is proper for him - would make such a claim.
So Meier is playing foul when he says our knowledge of Jesus is on so low a level.
But we need to explore in detail, for Meier's relentless work will give us a key to what we are searching for.
First of all, we should not just give up in the search for the truth about Jesus, and say that "Pure objectivity is an absurd abstraction" as did Cardinal Ratzinger in 1988 and that it will take a whole generation to find out how to do Scripture study so as to mesh with dogmatic teachings. We can do better than that, and right now.
Nor do we need to know everything Jesus thought, felt experienced did and said to accomplish our goal, namely to show the teaching commission of the Church. We will see much less is required for that basic fact.
Meier starts with the Gospels, after saying that is hardly any information about Jesus elsewhere. He says he will start with Mark, which he considers the earliest Gospel. But here Meier is too loose. The consensus that Mark wrote first is being shaken considerably today. H. F. D. Sparks, in a study on the Semitisms of Luke (JST 44, 1943, p. 130 says Luke is noted for "continual rephrasing of St. Mark to add Semitisms". Zerwick (Graecitas Biblica, Rome 1960) has shown that Luke often uses an Aramaic pattern, the verb to be plus participle instead of an imperfect indicative. Luke has 50% of all instances of this in the NT. And where Mark does have this structure, Luke normally does not have it, but does have it in parallel passages where Mark does not have it. My own research (JSNT July 1982) on apodotic kai shows that this strongly Semitic structure is special to Luke, not found in the parallels of Mark.
We too will start with the Gospels, but it is important to notice that we will not look on them as sacred or inspired: that is still to be proved later on. So, we can avoid a vicious circle on this point.
Meier next goes on to imply that since Jesus died in 30 and Mark wrote 40 years later, how could Mark get at the facts? Still more hopeless would be Matthew and Luke, who wrote later in the century, probably between 80 and 90, according to many leftist critics, even though they cannot explain how Matthew, with his penchant for showing fulfillment of prophecies, would pass up pointing at the fulfillment of the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem. And it is equally foolish to say Luke must have written after 70 AD, on the grounds that he writes so vividly as to report that Jesus foretold that an army would surround Jerusalem. In ancient sieges armies always surrounded the besieged city.
But even if we were to grant Meier's unproved late dates, we can still show where the Evangelists could get the facts about Jesus. First of all, Pope St. Clement I, who was probably elected about 88 or 92, wrote to Corinth around 95 AD. In this letter he says that Peter and Paul were of his own generation. Now if we recall that Peter and Paul died about 66 or 67, we see the gap between that and the letter of Clement is so small that most likely Clement heard Peter and Paul preach in person. Or at least, there would be many in Rome who had heard them at Clement's time.
Or we think of St. Ignatius the lionburger. He was shipped to Rome to be eaten alive by the animals. He was, around 107-110 AD. He was Bishop of Antioch not long after Peter. Data on Christ would be plentiful in Antioch. And Paul returned there after nearly every expedition. We have seven letters of Ignatius written on the way to Rome, filled with data on Christianity. In the one to the Romans, he tells them that in case some of them might have influence with the authorities, and could get him off, he asks them not to do it. He wants to die for Christ. Now Meier insists at least 16 times that the first Christian community was "creative" as he called it. Though Meier is meticulous in demanding tight proof about almost everything else, on this point he offers not one shred of proof any of the 16 times. Suppose we take a copy of that letter of Ignatius to the zoo, and read it by the lions' cage, and ask how much such a man is apt to just make up out of nothing.
Or how about Quadratus, the first Greek apologist, writing around 123. He tells us that in his day, there were still persons alive who had been cured by Christ, or raised from the dead by Him. We need not push that time as late as 123, but it surely would mean such persons were alive in the period 80-90, when Matthew and Luke are supposed to have written. And if a man is repaired by His Maker, he should last quite a while!
And even if we had none of these, we should not forget that teenagers at the time of the death of Jesus would be 65 by 80 AD, when Matthew and Luke began to write. Yes, not so many lived to age 60 then as now, but enough did, for example Zachary and Elizabeth or Simeon and Anna.
So there were ready sources for the Evangelists to use.
What about the claim that it is absurd to hope for objectivity? It is true that very often we do have a good bit of subjectivity. But not always. When a leper stood before Jesus asking to be healed, and Jesus said: "I will it. Be healed". The structure of the event is so simple there is really no room for subjectivity to enter into the telling of it. So if we could build our case for the teaching commission of the Church on incidents of that type -- and we can -- we will have a solid means of proving that Jesus, who according to charges lacked our sophistication and was only marginal, really did found a church and did commission it to teach.
Before going ahead, we pause to notice that we really do not have to know the names of the Evangelists. It is enough to know three things: they were concerned to get the facts about Jesus. That is evident, for they knew their eternity depended on the truth about Him. Secondly, they had many a source, even if none of the Evangelists might be an eyewitness, as is claimed. And finally, they could report at least some things without subjective distortion.
All this adds up to the conclusion that we can get from the Gospels, looked on as merely ancient documents, a few facts of such simple structure that there is no room for subjectivity in retelling them.
Now we need, and will find, just six things of very simple structure. First, there was a man named Jesus. Even the first class pagan historian Tacitus testifies that Jesus was executed by Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. Second, He claimed He was sent from God. We do not use the word prophet, for that word in Scripture has more than one meaning, is complex. But someone sent -that is intelligible in any culture. Third, He did enough to prove He was sent, by miracles. But not just any miracle. It needs to be one with a tie between the miracle and the claim, such as in the case of the paralytic let down through the roof. Jesus says: Sins are forgiven. Scribes growl interiorly. He calls them on it: What is easier to say? Sins are forgiven, or take your bed and go? He clearly means: If I say sins are forgiven, you cannot check that. But you can see if he takes up his bed and goes. So He did one to prove He did the other. At this point if those of a rationalistic bent deny all miracles, we can quote some current ongoing cases, such as the host of Lanciano, or the tilma of Guadalupe or Lourdes. In many of the miracles of Lourdes, such as the cure of organic blindness in Madame Biré in 1908 happened precisely when the Blessed Sacrament passed. If there is no Real Presence in it, how could it cure? -- incidentally, the Church has approved only a bit over 60 out of the thousands reported there.
Crossan, Mack and the Jesus Seminar seem to think Jesus worked no miracles. But in His own day, even His enemies admitted He did work them: they merely attributed them to the devil or to magic. Further, if Jesus did no miracles, of course Paul and the other Apostles did none. How then could Paul and the others convert even sophisticated Greeks to a demanding and difficult doctrine, with no support at all other than his own empty word. To do that would be a sort of miracle indeed! And how could the Apostles have been converted to give their lives for an illiterate man who did no miracles, died in disgrace, and never rose?
The NJBC foolishly claims, on p. 1371 that Jesus consistently refused to work a miracle to support His claims. Then they give a list of 5 passages. If one reads them, the picture is incredible. He refused to work a miracle to amuse Herod, refused to come down from the cross. On the contrary He so often did appeal to miracles: e.g., Mk 5:21-43; Mt 8:5-13; Mt 9:27-29; John 10:38.
The fourth and fifth items are just what anyone would expect, namely, in the crowds, He had a smaller group to whom He spoke more, and told them to continue His teaching. Finally, once we know from the foregoing what sort of personage He is, with such a commission from God, and such powers, it is hardly surprising if both the Gospels and those whom He sent to teach tell us He also said: "He who hears you hears me". Actually He said basically the same more than once.
Should we listen to Protestants (e.g., Expositor's Bible Commentary, Zondervan) who say this mean merely that all Christians, not just the authorities, should go and preach justification by faith, and that will be hearing Christ, and will forgive sins? The folly is incredible. First, Luther's notion was intellectually bankrupt. He did not know what justification means, thought it was merely extrinsic, a declaration of not guilty, leaving he soul totally corrupt - even though 2 Pet 1. 4 says we share in the divine nature, and 1 Cor 3:16 and 6:19 say we are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is not apt to dwell in total corruption. Much worse was his mistake on the word faith, not knowing it includes obedience (Rom 5) he said if we have faith we can disobey all commandments.
What do we have once we have worked our way to this point? We see before us a group, or a church, commissioned to teach by a messenger sent from God, and promised protection on their teaching. Then we have a bypass around the criteria of John P. Meier, Bultmann and others, as well as Crossan, Mack and the Jesus Seminar.
We need only these 6 very simple things, all of them obvious, to show the teaching commission of the Church. We can then ask the Church: "What about the ancient documents we used. Are they inspired? Yes. Is the messenger divine? Yes -- this is easier than fighting our way through numerous NT texts, as they did in the days of Arianism, with little result for nearly 75 years. We can ask too: Is there a Pope? Yes. What power does he have? They can tell us.
So we can then, logically follow the principles given us by Dei Verbum §§ 11-12. In §11: "Holy Mother Church holds as sacred and canonical the complete books of Old and New Testament, with all their parts, because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and as such have been handed on to the Church... . Since, then, everything that the inspired authors assert is asserted by the Holy Spirit, for this reason, the Scriptures are to be confessed as teaching firmly, faithfully, and without error that truth which God for our salvation willed to have consigned to the sacred writings."
We comment: First, the NJBC is shockingly wrong. It looks at the clause we have underlined, and insists it is a restrictive clause, so that only things needed for salvation are free of error.
But the council itself added five footnotes to DV §11 referring us back to earlier documents of the Magisterium especially to the statement of Vatican I that the Scriptures have God as their Author. Pius XII, In Divino afflante Spiritu (EB 538), said that that text of Vatican I was a solemn definition. Could we then suppose Vatican II contradicted a solemn definition? And did it precisely while referring us back to that definition! And in fact, DV §11 actually quoted that text of Vatican I, and in the note identified it as from Vatican I.
We note too that whatever is asserted by the inspired author is asserted by the Holy Spirit. We recognize that word, of course. Not everything in a text is asserted by the author, e. g, in a modern historical novel the writer asserts the main line is historical and also the background descriptions. He does not assert that some fictional fill-ins, such as long conversations between Lincoln and Grant, are historical. So if we hold to the line given us by the Council, we will easily solve numerous difficulties, which some ignorant scholars call errors.
The leftists love to point out that Cardinal Koenig, on Oct 2, 1964, rose in the Council and announced there were many errors in Scripture, and read off a list of some of them. Of course he was wrong. Any competent Scripture scholar could easily answer his objections. Yet the leftists prefer to believe him, though they know well enough what techniques are needed to answer such folly. I answered all of them in my book, Free From All Error.
In DV §12 we read: " But since Scripture is to be read and interpreted by the same Spirit by which it was written, to understand rightly one must look not less diligently to the content and unity of all of Scripture, considering the living Tradition of the whole Church and the analogy of faith."
So we may and even should note the differences in scope and slant of each Evangelist. But we must not at all suppose one Evangelist contradicts another. God Himself is the Author of all parts of Scripture. So we cannot do what Wilfred Harrington did, in his commentary on Mark published by Glazier. In studying the passage of Mk3:20-35 he concluded that Our Lady was "outside the sphere of salvation." That is, on the road to hell. Really, it would be better to suppose someone else is outside the sphere of salvation, for refusing to obey the divine words: "He who hears you, hears me". Luke presents her as the first believer. Hence LG §56 says that already at the annunciation, she, "held back by no sin, totally dedicated herself to the person and work of her Son." Without that there would have been no sphere of salvation to be outside of. Form and Redaction criticism show us that often a pericope is made up of more than one originally separate units , so the three units in Mk 3:20-35 may be such. And even if Our Lady was included in the first segment, she could have gone along not out of disbelief, of course, but to try to hold down those faithless ones! Even ordinary mothers often stand up for sons who are clearly guilty. Harrington would make her less than an ordinary mother, as well as on the road to damnation!
Martin Luther, and Calvin, archheretics, believed in the perpetual virginity of Our Lady. Yet many today, including Meier, argue against it. A chief argument of theirs comes from the use of the word " brother" in the NT for brothers of Jesus. They admit that in Hebrew the word ah can be very broad, since Hebrew lacked most words for kinds of relationships. But then they add: "However the NT is written in Greek. Greek does have words for cousins etc. So when we meet adelphos in the NT it must mean blood brother". But they forget something. The speech habits from one's native language may be very persistent even in a second language. Thus St. Paul in 1 Cor 1:17 says: "Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach." Should we ask: "Why did he then disobey by baptizing?" No, for Hebrew and Aramaic both lack the degrees of comparison. We would say more for the one than for the other. But instead Hebrew and Aramaic say it as Paul did. Another example: Paul always uses Greek polloi, as a noun, to mean "all", even though in normal Greek it means only "many". Behind it is the Hebrew rabbim , a strange word, first attested in Isaiah 53. It means the all who are many. If we did not recognize this, we might think that Romans 5:19 means original sin comes only to many, not to all. Again, Paul often uses the work "know" in the sense of Hebrew yada, not in the English sense. And "holy" has not the English sense, but the sense of Hebrew qadosh.
Still further, on the cross Jesus asked John to take care of His Mother. How strange, if he had 4 younger brothers (He was firstborn) plus at least two sisters!. We know at least one of them James, called the "brother of the Lord" was alive at the council of Jerusalem in 49 AD. Again, a strong rabbinic tradition, beginning with Philo, said Moses, after his first encounter with God, never again had sex with his wife: What of Our Lady, with a 9 months encounter! Or Joseph, who knew Jesus was conceived virginally - for he himself had not done it!
Finally, we should not be afraid of the new techniques, not even of Form and Redaction criticism. Too many today seem to consider them something arcane, which only a few specialists can understand. We have seen too many cases already of dullness on the part of the same specialists. But here is a fine present we can have from Form and Redaction Criticism. As we know, it says rightly that the Gospels originated in three stages: 1)the words and acts of Jesus, with words adapted to the current audience; 2)The way the Apostles and others of their time reported what Jesus did and said. Again, we must realize that they too, quite properly, at times would adapt the wording to the current audience; 3)some individuals in the Church, under inspiration, wrote down some part of this basic teaching. That became the Gospels. So if we understand this, we see that the Church has something more basic than the Gospels, namely, her own ongoing teaching. Of course, Meier and others like him seldom if ever mention the Apostles in stage 2, and instead say the primitive community was creative, just made things up. We answered that above, and saw how vain it is, especially with the help of the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch read by the lions' den.
So we can and should trust that ongoing teaching, from the body commissioned to teach by a one sent from God, and with a promise of God's protection. If then we take into account the living Tradition of the Church as DV § 12 says, and the analogy of faith, we shall stay within the field of salvation, and draw endless nourishment from the inspired writings.
Appendix: Confusion of Later Prophets with Jesus?
Objection: Bultmann (HST, 127 ff) argued: "The Church drew no distinction between such utterances by Christian prophets... and the sayings of Jesus in the tradition... ."
Support for that objection comes from:1) There were prophets in the early community. 2) History of Religions shows I sayings where the I was the Lord of the cult. Cf. Od. Sol. 42:6. 3) Relative lack of interest in the earthly life of Jesus in the kerygma in Acts and in Paul. 4) Some texts are cited as Scripture texts we cannot find in any known OT texts. 5) Mt 18:20: "Where two or three are gathered together, there I am in the midst of them."
Reply: The most basic and sufficient reply is this: There is no room for such enthusiastic prophets as the source of the 6 points we have used in apologetics.
1) Wherever we look we find the distinctive character of prophecies are noted as words of a prophet. In the OT no book names God as the author: if there were no human author named, it would not be accepted.
2) Wherever Luke quotes a prophetic utterance he always names the prophets: 11:27; 13:1ff; 21:9ff.
3) On Apoc 1:1 we have "the revelation of Jesus to his servant John". So a distinction was kept. And the revelations said to be from the exalted Christ are clearly kept distinct from those of the earthly Christ.
4) Paul in 1 Cor 7:10, 25, 40 distinguishes what comes from Jesus' tradition and his own views even though he considers his own opinion as inspired: 7:40.
5) When the Gnostic Gospels claim Jesus as author of a saying it is clearly attributed to the exalted Jesus, not to the earthly Jesus.
6)In Judaism there was great care taken to pass on authoritative tradition and to identify the source, a human Rabbi.
7) At Qumran there was keen awareness that a false spirit could be present: 1 QS 3:18-4:26; CD 8:1ff. The spirit of a member of the community was to be checked not only on entrance, but every year: 1QS 5:20-24.
8) Mt 7:15 ff warns against false prophets. Acts 13:6 tells of a false prophet Elymas in Cyprus and Acts 8 has Simon Magus.
9) 1 Cor 14:29 gives rules for judging prophets in the community. Also 1 Ths 5:19-22 tells them to check every spirit and keep only what is good.
10) 1 John 4:1 tells them to not believe every spirit.
11) The Didache gives detailed rules for judging prophets in 11:7;12:1.
12) Hermas in Mandate 11:7 and 11:16 is warned about false prophets.
13) Gal 1:8 says even if an angel came down with a different Gospel, the angel is to be cursed.