The Father William Most Collection
Crisis in Scripture Studies
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
To be exact, we should speak of one crisis following on the heels of another. And even though we intend to focus primarily on events since Vatican II, yet the roots for these things go back farther, and cannot be ignored.
We go back briefly to the sixth century B.C. Xenophanes of Colophon was worried about the immoral effects of the myths about Zeus -- reasonably so, for those who believed in Zeus. A teenager debating with himself about having sex could turn to the example of Zeus, and decide to imitate the greatest and best of the gods! So, he proposed to reinterpret the stories allegorically. Others too, such as Plato, feared the same thing. So there was a tendency to allegorical interpretation of texts.
In passing we might note that just as the more intellectual Greeks around 400, began to disbelieve the myths about the gods, so also did the Romans, though later, around 100 B.C. Then arose Marcus Terentius Varro, who led what we might call the great renewal of pagan theology - change the content, keep the outward form. St. Augustine scathingly attacked him in books 6 & 7 of City of God.
Jewish writers took up the same allegory even before Christ, to make Jewish dietary laws seem reasonable to gentiles. A shining example is Philo.
It was into such a world that the first Christian writers, even St. Paul, moved. The sort of schools to which St. Paul went often would take a text whose words could carry the desired meaning, and cite them as proof texts. When St. Paul does this, the meaning he gives the words is always something correct in itself, even if not the original sense, e.g., a major text of Habakkuk 2:4: "The just man will live by faith."
The Alexandrian school, where these tendencies to allegorizing were strong even in pagan literature, was the center for early Christian interpretation of Scripture. Origen is of course a great example, who went so far as to say that everything has a spiritual sense, but not everything has a literal sense (De principiis. 4. 3. 5) .
St. Augustine, worried by the Manichean attacks on the great men of the Old Testament, was ripe for allegory, which he found fully in the sermons of St. Ambrose, who as Augustine tells us, cited 2 Cor 3:6: "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life," totally without regard to original context, and made it mean that a literal reading of some things in Scripture can be deadly, e.g., the story of the deception practiced by Jacob to get his Father's blessing. But, said Ambrose, the spiritual interpretation is life-giving.
This bore bitter fruit when Augustine turned to the imagery of the potter and his clay in Romans 9. He thought the gob of clay on the table was the whole human race, made into a massa damnata et damnabilis by original sin. God could throw the whole damned gob into hell without waiting for any individual sins. But He wanted to display mercy and justice, Augustine thought. To display mercy, He would rescue a small percent from the massa. The rest He would desert, to their eternal ruin. Only a small percent were to be picked for salvation, and blindly, without looking at their lives, to show everyone should have gone to hell. In such a system God would not love anyone at all, not even those whom He would rescue, for to love is to will good to another for the other's sake. God would will good to some, but not for their sake - He would pick them blindly, would not really care about anyone.
The school of Antioch tried to go back to what the author really meant to say, but did not have nearly so many adherents, especially after The Second Council of Constantinople in 533 condemned a great exponent of that school, Theodore of Mopsuestia. The Council called him "wicked". He had anticipated the "Last Temptation", saying Christ had disorderly emotions. His school wanted to make Jesus very human.
Even where a scholar tried to find what the inspired author really meant to say, there was commonly a neglect of the context. This helped drag out the debates De auxiliis from 1597 to 1607 -- both sides were misusing Scripture at practically every turn. This neglect of context was not to be avoided by many Catholic scholars until our own times. And even now it is not entirely dead. In 1980 at a CBA convention in Duluth, after discussing various things in Scripture with another exegete present, I brought up the case of Gal 3:28: "In Christ there is neither male nor female." It was and is being used to support women's ordination. I pointed out the context of Galatians was justification by faith. In seeking it, it makes no difference if one is male or female. We may not extrapolate the non-difference to everything else. My companion was so angered at my saying that that he walked away, would not any longer speak to me. It so happened that CBQ not long before had published a report of a sort of task force on women's ordination, which made that same unfortunate appeal to Gal 3:28.
The real beginning of the modern historical critical method appeared with a Catholic priest, Richard Simon (1638 - 1712) . His proposals suggested the direction of supposing the Pentateuch was made up of four documents. The worst extreme here was that of Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) . This tendency is by no means dead today. No less than John Paul II in his series of audiences on Genesis spoke of the JEPD theory with obvious favor, without however, meaning to impose it on the Church. (Cf. John Paul II, Original Unity of Man and Woman, Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, Boston, St. Paul Editions, 1981. It contains audiences from Sept 12, 1979 to Jan 2, 1980) .
Interestingly, many who are hardly conservative are now strongly rejecting the JEPD theory. Thus Joseph Blenkinsopp in his review of R. N. Whybray, The Making of the Pentateuch (JSOT Suppl. 5, Sheffield, 1987) wrote (CBQ, 1989, pp. 138-39) that the documentary hypothesis, "is in serious trouble, with no viable alternative yet in sight." Whybray has no difficulty in showing the fragility of many arguments used to support it the old theory. The criterion for telling one source from another "called for an unreasonable level of consistency within the sources... . the same consistency was not required of the redactors." A computer study done at the Technion Institute in Israel (Y. T. Radday and H. Shore, Genesis: An authorship Study in Computer-assisted Statistical Linguistics in Analecta Biblica 103, 1985) concluded there was only one author for all of Genesis.
Two currents that started early, and are still running are these: tendency to deny the supernatural, the tendency to fit everything into a mold suggested by Hegel.
A major influence in our time is still R. Bultmann - even though some scholars refuse to admit that influence. But J. Fitzmyer in his recent (1987) little book, Paul and His Theology, cites Bultmann about 15 times - not using the latter's errors, but still showing much respect to the king of eisegesis. Eisegesis is the opposite of exegesis. The latter tries to bring out what is really in the text - eisegesis reads things into the text. Bultmann, despairing of being able to know much for certain about Christ, said we had better make the Gospels mean the same as the foolish existentialism of M. Heidegger.
Strange to say, Bultmann had a pastoral purpose, and thought he was working against the wild excesses of Liberal exegesis. He proposed, inter alia, finding scientific criteria for discerning what was and was not genuine in the accounts about Jesus. So he proposed four criteria. Cardinal Ratzinger, in his 1988 lecture, "Biblical Interpretation in Crisis" (p. 8) said that while the form-critical work of Dibelius and Bultmann has been surpassed and even corrected, his "basic methodological approaches continue even today to determine the methods and procedures of modern exegesis."
An example of this sort of thing is found in a most influential work by John P. Meier, Professor of Scripture at C. U. A. The book is called A Marginal Jew - not much of a compliment for the Son of God! But the book has received most lavish interfaith praise, from Rabbis, Protestants, and Catholics. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, recently retired from CUA said that, "Meier asks all the right questions... and invariably comes out with the right answers." Rabbi Burton Visotzky said: "Careful, cautious and prudent, John Meier's work will for generations serve as the guide on the quest for the historical Jesus." Paul Achtemeier of Union Theological Seminary in Virginia said, "Meier has set a new standard against which all future studies of this kind will have to be measured."
Meier proposes first (p. 168) the, "criterion of embarrassment." It means that the Church would hardly have made up things that weakened its position. A "prime example is the baptism of the supposedly superior and sinless Jesus by his supposed inferior John the Baptist... ." Meier adds that the "radical" Fourth Evangelist... locked as he is in a struggle with latter-day disciples of the Baptist... takes the radical expedient of suppressing the baptism of Jesus... altogether."
We comment that John did not really "suppress" a loaded word - the baptism - he merely did not have occasion to use it.
Another example given by Meier (p. 170) is "the unedifying groan" of Jesus in saying, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" Which John replaces by a cry of triumph: "It is accomplished." To be fair, we add that in the next paragraph Meier says that form-critical studies of the Passion narratives show that the early form of these used OT Psalms.
Another criterion is that of discontinuity (p. 171) inherited directly from Bultmann. A thing may be true if it "cannot be derived either from Judaism at the time of Jesus or from the early Church after him." What a reduction! Jesus was a Jew, came fulfilling the OT prophecies, yet anything that is Jewish is open to suspicion! And again, if we believe He founded a Church, we must drop all that the early Church repeats.
Again, we give Meier credit for pointing out that if we used the same sort of criterion on Luther, little representative would be left.
Since we have scant data outside the Gospels, and since they are, "suffused with the Easter faith... and were written from forty to seventy years after the events," Meier thinks we cannot know much about Jesus. Actually, sources were abundant. We will outline them later.
But Meier continued: "... how can we tell what comes from Jesus or what was 'created' by the oral tradition of the early church." In at least 16 places Meier speaks of the "creativity" of the early community - no control by Apostles of course. And although Meier is so very demanding of proof for things in general, when he makes such repeated assertions of creativity, not once does he offer a shred of evidence for such creativity. We wonder: How creative would he think St. Ignatius of Antioch would be, who was eaten alive by the wild beasts in the arena about 107 A.D., after urging the Christians in Rome that in case they had influence, they should not get him off: he wanted to die for Christ. It would be good to take a copy of his letter to Rome to the zoo, and read it by the lions' den, and ask how creative a man can be in such a situation? This belief in creativity is inherited from the Form and Redaction critical work of Bultmann. Thus Bultmann had said that the "controversy dialogues" are,"creations of the Church" (History of the Synoptic Tradition 40, n. 2) . So again we need the criteria!
Did Jesus work miracles? Bultmann had said that one who has seen the electric light and the "wireless" can no longer believe in miracles (in Kerygma & Myth I. 5) . In fact, he said, if science cannot explain a cure, to consider it miraculous would be superstition - while if science can explain it, it would be all right to all it a miracle (in Kerygma & Myth I, 197, . 199) ! Meier is not outdone. He admits that the contemporaries of Jesus thought he worked miracles, but,"Whether what people thought happened actually did happen is obviously another question."
So, with scant sources, mostly late, and with a creative community, can we really know much about Jesus? Bultmann thought all we can be sure of it the dass. Meier is not far behind. We need to add that even though he does not go so far, yet Cardinal Ratzinger insists that it is impossible to escape subjectivity (p. 7) : "Pure objectivity is an absurd abstraction... interest itself is a requirement for the possibility of coming to know."- We notice the ambiguity of the word: "interest". For example, I have much interest in natural science, have had it for years, I read Science News weekly. But that interest does not make me biased about natural science.
All the reviewers that I have seen have said that Meier forgets we need faith. But to say that is to fall into the trap of fideism. Bultmann would be pleased. He wrote (KM 211) ."The man who wishes to believe... must realize that he has nothing in his hand on which to base his faith." He boasts that Luther had removed all security in the moral sphere, with his teaching on justification by faith - he, Bultmann, added that there is no basis for belief.
Not only Meier seems to favor such fideism. Thomas Hoffman, of Creighton University (in CBQ of July 1982, pp. 447-69) wrote that Scripture is so full of errors that to try to answer the charges is, "basically patching holes on a sinking ship." But on p. 467 Hoffman said if one has real faith he will not want such answers. That would be a search for security, "that is not only nonexistent but incompatible with total dependence upon the faith-covenant". For, he said, an inspired work is simply,"a writing in which they experience the power, truth, etc. of the spirit of Christ... ."
A major Protestant problem, which is genuine according to Meier's criterion of embarrassment, is the question of how to know which books really are inspired. In 1910 a Baptist professor, Gerald Birney Smith, gave a paper at the national Baptist convention, in which he reviewed all possible ways of determining which works are inspired. He rejected all of them, saying it could be done only if there were a providentially protected teaching body . Of course he denied that there is such a body. So poor Smith admitted, "Nothing is more noticeable than the gradual disappearance of that word 'infallible' from present-day theologies."
Incidentally, Smith reviewed and rejected the proposal of Calvin (Institutes 1. vii) :"The word will never gain credit in the hearts of men till it be confirmed by the internal testimony of the Spirit." The resemblance to Hoffman's proposal is obvious.
Smith's article appeared in The Biblical World 37, 1911, pp. 19-29. More recently, in 1937, the Lutheran Concordia publishing house presented Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical Critical Method, ." in which we find (on pp. 61 and 63) "Only scripture itself can say in a binding way what authority it claims and has." So inspired Scripture is inspired because inspired Scripture says inspired Scripture is inspired!
Raymond E. Brown in many places, such as NJBC (p. 1169) , insists that Vatican II allows us to say that there are all kinds of errors in Scripture, in science, history and even in religion - only things needed for salvation are protected by inspiration. Hence he insists that Job 14. 13 ff raises the possibility of an after life, and then denies it. Brown said that if anyone tries to differ from this position of his, it is an "unmitigated disaster". He claims to found his view on a line in Vatican II, DV §11: "since all that the inspired authors or sacred writers assert should be regarded as asserted by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully and without error teach the truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to be confided to Sacred Scripture." Brown insists the underlined passage is restrictive, not descriptive, i.e., that it means to say only such things are inerrant. Brown points to the "prevoting debates", i.e., the day when Cardinal Koenig arose and gave a list of errors in Scripture. Sadly, a large number of bishops chimed in with him. Yet the Holy Spirit was at hand, and no trace of this idea is found in the final text of Vatican II. Most importantly, Brown ignores the fact that the Council itself gave several notes on the very passage, sending us to earlier pronouncements of the Church, including the statement of Vatican I that God Himself is the chief author of Scripture. Of course, Brown thinks he can get around it. He says there are two ways to look at Scripture. One is a priori, in which we say God is the author, and so error is possible. But there is also, he asserts, the a posteriori way:look at the text, see all the errors, decide there are errors.
The incredible thing is that today, now that we have new techniques for studying Scripture, not possessed by earlier scholars, even at the beginning of the 20th century, we have the means of answering countless claims of error, which earlier exegetes could not answer. Yet at this very point, those, like Brown, who are supposed to know these techniques, insist on saying the problems cannot be solved, that to try, e.g., to solve the problem of Job 14:23 - which is really easy -- is an "unmitigated disaster"!
As if for our consolation, if we do not know much, neither did Jesus, really a "marginal Jew". Brown (Jesus God and Man) accumulates NT text after text to show ignorance in Jesus. Yet, twice, on pp. 42 and 68) Brown admits that all his evidence is inconclusive. Why then not just believe the Church? Brown is not even sure Jesus knew much about the afterlife ( p. 56) : "We cannot assume that Jesus shared our own sophistication on some of these questions... how can we be sure that he knew it [heaven] was not above the clouds?" Jesus even had at least one superstition (St. Anthony's Messenger, May , 1971, pp. 47-48) in supposing demons inhabited desert places, while Paul thought they lived in the upper air." Care for the genre of the passages referred to ( Mt 12:43-45, where Jesus is giving a sort of parable, and Eph 2:2 in which Paul is using the language of his opponents to counter them) should show that there is no real problem, or at least, a consideration of the context. Again, we note: How odd that those who know so well the modern tools of research should leave them unused at times! Really, the use of the approach via literary genres, plus form and redaction criticism can solve a host of previously unsolvable problems about freedom from error in Scripture.
For good measure, we add that Meier spends page after page trying to show Jesus had four blood brothers, and at least 2 Sisters -- and yet asked an outsider, John, to take care of His Mother. Also Meier tells us that rabbinic tradition, starting with Philo, held that Moses after his first encounter with God, no longer had sex with his wife. What about Our Lady and Joseph!
(Other arguments of Meier can be met as easily) .
We have given a good sampling of some, not nearly all, of the worst results of the historical-critical method. Now we had better add that many Scripture scholars are abandoning that method for various other things. Thus Reginald H. Fuller, one of the leading form critics, today has said that the whole method is "bankrupt."
But enough of this chamber of horrors. Is there any way out? any salvation? We are so bold as to say loudly: yes, there is.
First of all, Vatican II is not at all responsible for the chaos. Quote the opposite. If its principles had been followed, these things would not have happened. However, before we can cite Vatican II, we must, logically, show that the Church does have a divine authority to teach. Sadly, the reviewers I have seen of Meier's book have merely said that we need faith. But that is like jumping up onto Cloud 9, with no basis for faith. Meier had proposed this situation: Let us lock up in a good library a group of Catholics, Protestants, and people of other denominations. They cannot get out until they can agree on some things about Jesus. What he offers is what he thinks they would come up with. They were not supposed to appeal to faith at all. And so we cannot do that either until we have shown by reason that faith is reasonable and even demanded.
Faith does have a place, but only after one has first, without the use of faith, shown that the Church does have a teaching commission from Christ. Can this be done? Emphatically yes, but we make so bold as to say that we need a somewhat different method of apologetics to do it. We will sketch it presently. ,
But first, we said there was one crisis on top of another. It is this: as we said, many major scholars are now saying the whole historical-critical method, which has reigned for two centuries, must be dropped. We mentioned specially Reginald. H. Fuller, one of the most prominent form critics, who says, as we reported, the method is "bankrupt" and should be supplemented with feedback from the believing community. Not a few others have joined him.
Really, the essential features of the historical critical method are not wrong, if only excesses are avoided - we will take that up shortly. But the practitioners were guilty of bad judgment long ago in not seeing the limitations of the method. Instead they built one house of cards on top of another, and in shocking cockiness called it "the assured results of science." Now they see the flimsiness, and overreact.
Not all scholars are giving up. But many are, and many are doing it more quietly. Some abandon historical-critical method by just shifting to other methods. Hence we can speak of a crisis on top of a crisis.
For a time there was a flurry with Semiotic studies - with meager results, sometimes skewed by a priori notions. Others are turning to psychological analysis or sociological analysis. These can be useful, but only as supplements, not as the whole method. Some are using it for the whole work now.
There is a considerable vogue now for Narrative Criticism, which involves much subjectivity. In this, one speaks not of the real author, e.g., Luke, but of the implied author, who is not a flesh and blood person, but just a literary entity to be found in the text. For example, if we read a sonnet of the real Shakespeare we do not understood the full person, Shakespeare, but just the feelings, values, concerns etc. that are expressed in the text. So one and the same real author might write a wide variety of different works, each having its own different implied author. Similarly we are not concerned with the actual readers of Luke but of the implied reader. Here is more subjectivity: the role of the implied reader may vary from one actual reader to another, since the reader and the text are indeterminate. Now when people become implied readers, to the extent that they fulfill the role the text presupposes, to that extent the actual reader makes a strong commitment to the act of reading and so comes to know himself more deeply: the act of reading may transform one's life. Reader-response critics say if one does not become as it were a slave of the ideology involved in the text and share it, one simply cannot read it. But only a believer can take the role of the implied reader of a given biblical text.
But further, in a narrative, such as Luke's Gospel, there is a narrator - who is the one who tells the story, which of course need not be Luke. The person and activity of the narrator may be the key to understanding the true nature and purpose of a particular implied text. There is also the narratee, the one to whom the narrator tells the story . Again, this narratee is different from the real reader and even from the implied reader.
Some narratees, in this view, are supposed to know nothing, to be almost idiots.
And there is more, but let this suffice for an example of the sort of thing that now develops if one has stopped trying to use the historical critical method.
What can we do positively to prove that the Catholic church has teaching authority from God? There will be two phases to our work:
We need a source for the truth about Jesus. What kind of a source? We must take care to avoid a vicious circle -- that would come if we said: Believe the Gospels because the Church says so; believe the Church because the Gospels say so."
But it is easy to avoid that vicious circle. We will start with the Gospels, but for some time we not look on them as inspired or sacred - that needs to be proved later. We will look on them as simply ancient documents.
What do we need then:
a) We need to see that the Gospels intend to give us the truth about Jesus, not just some imaginations. This is obvious, for the first Christians, as well as we, believe that their eternal fate depends on the truth about Jesus.
But there is an objection. Norman Perrin, famous Professor at University of Chicago, in Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus (N. Y. 1967. , p. 26) wrote: "No ancient texts reflect the attitudes characteristic of the modern western world."- We wonder if Perrin ever actually read the ancient texts. Herodotus, earliest Greek historian, said in 7. 152: "... my duty is to report all that is said, but I am not obliged to believe it all alike - a remark which may be understood to apply to my whole History." He knew that the remote periods were very foggy, but did try with great care to get the facts on things of his own time. Thucydides in 1. 22: "I have not ventured to speak from any chance information... . I have described nothing but what I either saw myself, or learned from others from whom I made the most careful and specific inquiry." Polybius, another Greek historian, in 3. 59 said the historian is obliged, "To give his own first allegiance to the truth... and nothing but the truth." Livy, great Roman historian, on the problem of how the Lacus Curtius got its name (7. 6. 6) : "I would make every effort to find out the truth if there were a path that would lead me to it..." Modern historians say that the Roman Tacitus, around 100 A.D. should get an A for facts - they think he may have been hostile to some persons, e.g., Tiberius, but we can tell who.
The Gospel writers write in this current, and have much more reason to get at the truth. As we said, they knew their eternal fate depended on the truth about Jesus.
b) Could the Gospel writers get at the truth? Yes, in spite of the sloppy claims of Meier and others. Here are some of the sources for them: (1) Clement I was elected in 88 or 92. In his letter to Corinth, c. 95, he said that Peter and Paul were of his own generation. Peter and Paul died around 66 or 67. So Clement must have heard them preach in Rome. (2) St. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch, where not long before Peter himself had been the bishop. And Paul had made Antioch his base of operations. So the facts would be well known there. Ignatius was eaten by animals in Rome c. 107. He wrote to the Roman Christians saying that if some had the influence to get him off, they should not use it. He wanted to die for Christ. Again, let those who charge creativity take his letter to the lion's den in the zoo, and read it there, asking: Did this man just make things up? (3) Quadratus, writing an apology c. 123, said in his day some were still alive who had been cured by Christ or raised by Him. That would easily cover 80-90, the period where the critics want to put Matthew and Luke. (4) Imagine a teenager at the time of the death of Christ, c. 30. Fifty years later he would be 65, and it would be 80 AD, when Mt. and Lk should have written. Not so many lived to 65 then, but many did.
c) It is said, "There is no such a thing as an uninterpreted report." Even Cardinal Ratzinger (p. 6) , said: "Pure objectivity is an absurd abstraction." We answered him above. Now we add: Yes, in so many things reports are interpreted by subjectivity. But there are some things of such simple structure that there is simply no room for subjective distortion, e.g., when the leper stood before Jesus asking to be healed, and He said: "I will it, be healed." Anyone present could report it, with no room for subjectivity.
Second Phase: Six points:
Here the sequence is of vital importance. Some apologists try to prove the divinity of Christ before proving the commission of the Church. The Arian experience shows how terribly difficult it is to work from Scripture alone on this.
We should notice too as we go along that these six points are all of such simple structure that they are not affected by the fear of subjectivity we have just answered.
(1) There was a man named Jesus. This is evident all over the Gospels. Besides, Tacitus, whom modern scholars consider highly accurate on facts (cf. Sir Ronald Syme, Tacitus, 2 vols. who has checked everything possible in Tacitus) wrote in Annals 15:44:
"The author of the name, Christ, was executed in the reign of Tiberius, by the procurator Pontius Pilate."
(2) He claimed he was sent by God as a sort of messenger. This is obvious all over the Gospels. He claimed authority over the sacred law (Mt 5:21-44) , said He was greater than Jonah and Solomon (Mt 12:42-43) , claimed He could forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12 and parallels) .
(3) He did enough to prove He was such, by means of miracles worked in contexts where there was a tie between the miracle and the claim. For example he cured the paralytic in Mk 2:1-12 to prove He had forgiven the man's sins. He often made such a connection, e.g., Mk 5:21-43; Mt 8: 5-13 and 9:27-29.
Foolishly, the New Jerome Biblical Commentary claims He never made such a claim (p. 1371) . It cites Mt 4:5-7 (refuses to work a miracle at suggestion of devil) ; Luke 23:6-12 (refused a miracle to please curiosity of Herod) ; Mk 8:11-13 (refuses the bad faith of Pharisees asking a sign, when they had seen so many) ; Mk 15:31-32 (enemies challenge Him to come down off the cross) . These claims are unworthy of any scholar.
Equally foolish is the claim that many, such as Apollonius of Tyana, were much the same. The slander comes from Hierocles governor of Bithynia in 307, who tried to make such a claim. But the differences are immense and obvious. He had a discussion on the breeds and intelligence of elephants (2:11-16) . In India he saw dragons about 60 feet long (3:7) , whose eyes contained mystic gems, so large if hollowed out they would hold enough drink for four men. He saw robot tripods that served meals (3:27) . He found source of Nile, where demons gathered: he was afraid of them and of the roar. Miracles were never done with a tie to the claim. In 6:27 he found a satyr annoying women, and quieted the satyr with wine. He met a woman who had a possessed son - the demon was the ghost of man who fell in battle. When his wife married in 3 days he was disgusted with women, became homosexual (after death!) over a 16 year old boy and possessed him. Met a woman who suffered in labor 7 times, told her husband whenever his wife was about to bring forth he must go to the room with a live rabbit, walk around her once, then release the rabbit and drive it out of the room - otherwise the womb would be expelled with the child: 3:39. Philostratus (8:29) said, "About the manner of his death, if he really did die, there are many stories." On alleged other parallels, cf. Laurence J. McGinley, "Hellenic Analogies and the typical Healing Narrative" in Theological Studies 4 (1943) 385-419.
Even the non-conservative NJBC on pp. 1320-21, admits that even in His own day, enemies did not deny His cures and exorcisms - might attribute them to devil or magic.
For those who deny possibility of any miracles, we point to scientifically checked cases: the miraculous host of Lanciano, which has had three checks by teams of Doctors and biologists, was found to be part of human heart, containing type AB blood, no preservative, while the clots of blood from the chalice are of same type, and are true human blood; the tilma of Guadalupe, with its picture unexplained by science, fresh after 450 years; the cures of Lourdes, e.g., the cure of Madame Biré, in 1908, who had atrophy of the papilla, was able to see even before the nerve recovered, after Blessed Sacrament passed in procession (this really implies the abiding Real Presence too, which no other church holds for) .
We add: since God's power is ultimate agent in miracles, He will not supply power to prove a lie.
(4) In the crowds, He had a smaller group to whom He spoke more, the Twelve. Really, this is just what we would expect. Nor did He intend His work to be for just one generation. That would be foolish. Many parables spoke of Him as the final judge, and He promised to be with them all days.
(5) He sent them out to preach, and told them to continue His work. This is only what we would expect.
(6) He told them that God would protect their teaching. Really, we would expect a messenger sent by God with so great a mission to provide for this. So He told them (Lk 10:16) :"He who hears you hears me; and he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me." Similar statements come in Mt 18:17-18, plus Mt 16:19 and Mt 18:18, Mt 18;16-19, Jn 13:20.
Protestants object: He merely identified with the apostles as He did with the poor. We reply: Yes, but notice under what aspect: identifies with the poor as poor, with His teachers as His teachers.
Conclusion to the six points: What have we before us now? A group or church, commissioned to teach by one sent by God, and promised God's protection. Then we not only may, intellectually, but intellectually should believe what they tell us, and that in spite of the character of later recipients of the commission.
We can then ask this group many things: Are the ancient documents inspired? Yes. Is the messenger divine? Yes. Is there a Pope? Yes, and they will tell us what authority the Pope has. In this way we have no need to struggle against all the objections in Mt 16.
And we have also by this means a bypass around the worries of Meier and others. We need only the 6 simple facts for that. Then this group or Church can tell us whatever else we need to know about Jesus in the Gospels.
This may seem long and complex, but it is really very simple. As preliminary we notice that we can use the Gospels as merely ancient documents, we know the writers - we need not know their names - were intent on the truth about Jesus, for eternity depends on it. We know they had many sources to get at the facts, if they were not eyewitness themselves. We know that there are some thing so simple in structure that subjectivity cannot be injected. We then sought and found 6 points: There was a man Jesus who claimed He was sent by God, did enough to prove that by miracles in cases with a tie between the claim and the miracle. In the crowds He had a smaller circle, spoke more, told them to continue His work, promised God's protection.
Now the Church does not directly teach Scriptural method, except indirectly inasmuch as a wrong method would be harmful to faith. It does teach that God is the chief Author, and therefore there can be no error or clash between one part of Scripture and another (DV §12) : "Since Sacred Scripture is to be read and interpreted by the same Spirit by which it was written, to rightly draw out the sense of the sacred texts, we must look not less diligently to the content and unity of all of Scripture, taking into account the living Tradition of the whole Church and the analogy of faith." Therefore an interpretation that might be proposed which would clash even by implication with the teaching of other books, with the Tradition of the Church and basic teachings of the Church, is to be rejected out of hand.
Hence the proposal to see in Job 14:13 a denial of afterlife must be rejected, and it is not "unmitigated disaster" to reject it even if one would not know the how of explaining the fact. Again, even though we may note that one Evangelist has a different scope and method of presentation than another, this does not allow us to propose a clash, as Wilfrid Harrington did, who said that in Mk 3:20-35 Our Lady is surely part of the group mentioned in the first part, and so she did not believe in her Son, and therefore was (Mark, Glazier, 1979, pp. 47=-48) ,"outside the sphere of salvation." For Luke, and the Church, insist she already at the annunciation, (DV §56) ."embracing the will of God with full heart, held back by no sin, dedicated herself totally as the handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son."
Pius XII in Divino afflante Spiritu, in 1943 positively encouraged the approach via literary genres. That approach was not forbidden before, as some charge. Rather, on June 23, 1905 the Biblical Commission was asked if we could hold that some books that seem historical are really something else. The reply was: yes, provided we have proof, and stay with the Church. Pius XII as we said positively encouraged this approach. But that is not teaching or legislation, it is pointing out what in the nature of things is needed. Vatican II, in DV § 12 pointed out that the truth can be expressed in various ways in various literary patterns or genres. For example, in a modern historical novel we find a mixture of history and fiction. The key word is assert. So DV §11 said: "Since everything which the inspired authors... assert should be considered as asserted by the Holy Spirit, hence the books of Scripture are to be professed as teaching firmly, faithfully, and without error the truth which God wanted entrusted to the Sacred Letters for the sake of our salvation."
There were other early decisions by the Commission, most of them having to do with authorship - which does not pertain to faith. We mention specially the decision that there was only one Isaiah. Really, the arguments given for three Isaiahs were never really convincing. Stylistic arguments are never conclusive. And the pattern of threats of punishment, exile, promise of restoration - this is merely the well-know Deuteronomic pattern. Why could not Isaiah use it?
Really it would not be faithful to the sacred text to read it as if written by a modern American. That would be to impose our ideas on the text. Rather, we must try to find what the sacred writer meant to say, what he asserted. If we do this, we find the answers to a whole host of problems of seeming errors which could not be answered without this help.
The Biblical Commission in 1964 spoke of Form and Redaction Criticism. It warned that in practice scholars often inject rationalism into it, denying the possibility of any real revelation, prophecy or miracle. But it said that if we avoid these things, we can find the method profitable. And indeed we can. We mention just one thing which the critics have overlooked. If we drop their totally unfounded claim that the early community was creative, we get the following three stages for the development of the Gospels: 1) The words and actions of Jesus, who would adapt His language to the current audience; 2) the way the Apostles and others preached these things, again, with adaptation to the current audience. So they might change the wording, but would be diligent to keep the sense; 3) Some individuals within the Church, moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote down some part of this basic preaching. This was the Gospels. Therefore the Church has something more basic than the Gospels, its own ongoing teaching. There are other services this method can give to the truth, as long as we work with care. Then we will not find it bankrupt.
So we need not wait a generation to learn sound Scriptural method. We already know. We see we can prove teaching authority of Church without a fideism that just jumps onto Cloud 9. Then we can let the Church settle points Meier and others worry over. And we can and should use approach via genres, plus at times Form & Redaction criticism, without going into the excesses of which the Church warned. So now we can really do solid work.