Overcoming bad habits: Reuniting Scripture with theology and faith

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Oct 23, 2015

A funny thing happened when the Bible began to be studied according to the methods of modern scholarship: The role of Faith was forgotten. During the first half of the twentieth century, Biblical scholars too often focused their attention on the text as if it were any other ancient book. The contribution of scholarship was to figure out what the literal text must mean in the context of its time, and not in the context of Christ.

Unfortunately this led to a long period of time—much of the last century—in which Scripture was, in effect, practically withheld from theology. Up to mid-century, at least, too many theologians were busy working out elaborate logical systems while too many Biblical scholars were busy studying only the natural aspects of the text—again, as if the Bible were just another book.

On the part of theologians, this began to change with the “New Theology” or ressourcement movement among theologians such as de Lubac, Congar, von Balthasar and Ratzinger who insisted that theology must return to the sources of the faith in order to recapture its authentic spirit. But it took a long time for a similar change to spread among exegetes.

Pope Benedict XVI hoped to provide an example to modern exegetes in writing his trilogy Jesus of Nazareth. But he also tried to bring faith, Scripture study and theology together again by devoting the 2008 Synod of Bishops to “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church”. In 2010, following the Synod, the Pope issued an Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini. Here at last was the blueprint for a fresh, learned, and faith-filled approach to the Bible.

I do not usually recommend collections of academic essays, but I will make an exception for Verbum Domini and the Complementarity of Exegesis and Theology, edited by Fr. Scott Carl and published earlier this year by William B. Eerdmans. In addition to providing a new appreciation for the relationship between exegesis and theology in the first part of the book, the authors explore the Word of God in the formation of seminarians in a second part.

I suspect the value of the collection will be evident from a listing of the contents below.

Part I:

  1. Denis Farkasfalvy, O. Cist.: Inspiration and Incarnation
  2. Francis Martin: Spiritual Understanding of Scripture
  3. Brant Pitre: Verbum Domini and Historical-Critical Exegesis
  4. Pablo Gadenz: Overcoming the Hiatus between Exegesis and Theology: Guidance and Examples from Pope Benedict XVI
  5. Christian D. Washburn: The Catholic Use of the Scriptures in Ecumenical Dialogue

Part II:

  1. Peter S. Williamson: Preparing Seminarians for the Ministry of the Word in Light of Verbum Domini
  2. James Swetman, SJ: Searching for the Obvious: Toward a Catholic Hermeneutic of Scripture with Seminarians Especially in Mind
  3. Mary Healy: Verbum Domini and the Renewal of Biblical Preaching
  4. Stephen Ryan, OP: The Word of God and the Textual Pluriformity of the Old Testament
  5. Kelly Anderson: How the Liturgy of the Hours Provides an Effective Means for Teaching the Book of Psalms
  6. Michael Magee: Combining Synchronic and Diachronic Methodology in Teaching the Pentateuch

If you wish to more fully understand the issues involved in bringing theology, Scripture and even priestly ministry back together, this volume of essays is an excellent place to start.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.