A good study of exegesis by Dr. Arthur Just, Jr., a Lutheran. A quote: "At the center of our hermeneutical task is the understanding that exegesis is always kerygmatic and therefore homiletical, and that to interpret Scriptures rightly requires a proper hermeneutical method that reflects a Biblical theology of preaching. As a result, to confess our preaching as Viva vox Jesu is to also speak of the Christocentricity of the Holy Scripture." (.pdf files, requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader.)
An overview of Origen's approach to Scripture.
A statement that is not often cited, but remains relevant. Written in 1987 by a committee of U.S. bishops, it stresses the liturgical context in which the Church gives us the Word of God. Especially important is the document's conclusion: "We need a pastoral plan for the word of God that will place the Sacred Scriptures at the heart of the parish and individual life. Pastoral creativity can develop approaches such as weekly Bible study groups and yearly Bible schools in every parish. We need to have the introduction to each Bible reading prepared and presented by the lector in a way that shows familiarity with and love for the sacred text....We need a familiar quoting of the Bible by every catechist, lector, and minister...We need to educate - to re-educate - our people knowingly in the Bible..."
The Holy Father calls that biblical interpretation a "heartfelt concern," and adds: "The interpretation of Sacred Scripture is of capital importance for the Christian faith and the Church's life." A remarkable, and largely overlooked statement. See especially the Pope's vigorous critique of fundamentalism (no. 8) and this definition of the task of exegesis - "First and foremost, it must help the Christian people more dearly perceive the word of God in these texts so that they can better accept them in order to live in full communion with God" (no. 9). Repays a careful reading.
An interesting overview of the history of the term and its use in the Bible and the writings of the Fathers.
Good selections from the master commentator. By the Augustinians of Villonova University.
Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Tod
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's famous Erasmus Lecture of Jan. 27, 1988. His conclusions remain as important today as ever: "Finally, the exegete must realize that he, does not stand in some neutral area, above or outside history and the Church. Such a presumed immediacy regarding the purely historical can only lead to dead ends. The first presupposition of all exegesis is that it accepts the Bible as a book. In so doing, it has already chosen a place for itself which does not simply follow from the study of literature. It has identified this particular literature as the product of a coherent history, and this history as the proper space for coming to understanding. If it wishes to be theology, it must take a further step. It must recognize that the faith of the Church is that form of "sympathia" without which the Bible remains a closed book. It must come to acknowledge this faith as a hermeneutic, the space for understanding, which does not do dogmatic violence to the Bible, but precisely allows the solitary possibility for the Bible to be itself."
An interesting meditation by an evangelical student.
A detailed summary by Peter Williamson of his comprehensive study Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture: A Study of the Pontifical Biblical Commission's "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church," published in 2001. An indispensable aid to understanding the IBC document.
A key interview with Father Albert Vanhoye, former head of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on key issues in Catholic interpretation of Scripture. Originally published in the journal First Things.
Decrees Concerning the Canon and Use of Scripture from the Church Council of 1546. In Latin and English.
A critique of the excesses of "historical-criticism" that along the way provides a neat overview of the history of biblical interpretation. By Father William Most. See also, by the Roman Theological Forum: - Catholic Bishops of the 1980s: Attitudes to Scripture and Theology
An important reflection by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. See especially the long section on the Catechism's treatment of Scripture. This is must-reading.
An excellent summary of the Church's teachings on the Bible by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., which concludes with practical suggestions for lay people about reading, studying and praying with the Bible. Highly recommended.
"The Catholic Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" is a goldmine of early Church insights into the interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. Highly recommended. Kudos to the invaluable Bombaxo.com for making this rare translation available.
Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. The "magna carta" of the Church's teaching on Scripture.
Vatican I's definition of the truth of Revelation, and Scripture and Tradition as the sources of Revelation.
A good selection that demonstrates conclusively that Christian concern with unborn life started in the very beginning. From Byzantines.net.
- *The Proof of the Gospel (Argues in detail that the coming of Christ marked the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises.)
Translated by Cassian DelCogliano, OCSO, of St. Joseph's Abbey.
A good study of the inspiration and authority of Scripture from an evangelical perspective. By James Packer, a leading evangelical scholar. Another good piece from a Protestant perspective is: - Origins of Modern Attacks on Biblical Authority
A good appraisal by St. Paul Center fellow, Michael Waldstein of the International Theological Institute.
A fine testimony by Irish bishop Bishop Donald Herlihy of Ferns (d. 1983), who argues that we do not love Scripture enough because we do not know enough about it: "It is with a certain degree of hesitancy that we proclaim our love for Holy Writ. We hesitate because our knowledge of Sacred Scripture is limited and love is always proportioned to knowledge. We know all too little about the Bible. We know all too little about the part it plays in the life and prayer of the Church."
A good defense of Scripture and its authority and inspiration by N.T. Wright, top Scripture scholar and Anglican bishop of Durham, England. See also Bishop Wright's: - The Bible for the Post-Modern World - Resurrection Faith, History and Belief
A thoughtful piece by a Protestant scholar. A quote: "It is not coincidence that the Old and New Testaments are bound in one volume. The God who reveals himself in the Old Testament is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament recounts the fulfilment of promises made centuries beforehand. So the two Testaments form one historical and theological work, in which each event and word can only be understood fully when interpreted in the context of the whole; and the whole can only be rightly interpreted in the light of its central event and Word, Jesus Christ."
A good critical look at the development and directions of Catholic biblical scholarship in the years before Vatican II. By Msgr. John McCarthy of the Roman Theological Forum. Also instructive is his series on the "incomplete" Catholic response to the "de-mythologizing" movement started by the liberal Protestant exegete, Rudolph Bultmann in the 1940s and 1950s: - Part 1: Leopold Malevez and Heinrich Fries - Part 2: Rene Marle and Joseph Cahill - Part 3: Xavier Leon-Dufour and John McKenzie - Part 4: Anton Vogtle and Ugo Lattanzi
A good introduction to Ricoeur's thought and its promise - and limitations - for Christian study of the Bible. By a Reformed pastor, Rev. Michael J. Pahls. (pdf files, requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader.)
An ambitious effort to sketch a new synthesis between historical and theological methods in the interpretation of Scripture. By Msgr. John McCarthy of the Roman Theological Forum. Includes: - The State of the Question - A Neo-Patristic Reply to the Historical-Critical Question
An interesting piece that looks especially at the Fathers' importance for understanding the Scriptures. By Father Thomas McGovern.
A 1995 statement by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Pope Pius XII's 1943 encyclical letter on promoting biblical studies. The first two lines of the document are a striking confession of the Church's faith in the Bible as a "heaven-sent treasure" that the Church has used "diligently as an instrument for securing the eternal salvation of souls."
This 1920 encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XV on the legacy of St. Jerome includes a wealth of patristic quotes on the sacred Scriptures as well as a pointed observation on how Christ, in his preaching, "took his points and arguments from the Bible." For background on the encyclical and its continued relevance: - The Encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus in its Historical Context and Part 2 (by the Roman Theological Forum)
Pope Leo XIII's 1893 encyclical letter.
Since 1971, the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) is no longer an official organ of the Catholic Church. It is a consultative body of scholars whose conclusions are looked to with great respect by the Church. For a survey, see:
A good look at the approach of Pope Paul, whose teachings on Scripture are often neglected. An adaptation of a doctoral dissertation defended by Father Brian Harrison at the Pontifical Atheneum of the Holy Cross in Rome.
- Homilies on the Nativity (Classics of biblical theology.) - Nativity II - Nativity III - Nativity IV - Nativity VI - Nativity VII - Nativity VIII - Homilies on the Epiphany ("A necessary sequel to the Nativity" sermons, says Leo. See: - Epiphany III - Epiphany IV - Epiphany VI - Homilies on Lent, Easter and Pentecost (The climax of salvation history, as preached by one of the great biblical interpreters in Church history.) - Lent II - Lent IV - Lent VII - Lent XI - The Transfiguration - On the Passion of the Lord III - Passion IV - Passion VII - Passion VIII - Passion XI - Passion XII - Passion XVI - Passion XVII - Holy Saturday - On the Resurrection - On the Ascension - Ascension II - On Pentecost - Pentecost II - Pentecost III - Feast of the Apostles Ss. Peter and Paul.
A excellent, well-organized collection of short selections from patristic sources. Be sure to see Maximus the Confessor on "Beyond the Literal Sense to the Deeper Meaning of Scripture." A quote: "The sacred Scripture, taken as a whole, is like a human being. The Old Testament is the body and the New is the soul, the meaning it contains, the spirit." (Editor's Note: This excellent site is hosted by an ecumenical group, and while we highly recommend the readings from the Fathers included, we would advise caution in reading other commentaries found on this site). Also on this site, meditations by the Fathers on: - Advent: Awaiting the Messiah - The Wonder of the Incarnation - The Cross of Jesus Christ - The Forty Days of Lent - News of the Resurrection! - The Promise of the Holy Spirit - The Fatherhood of God
A pastoral letter by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, written in 1993.
A remarkable essay by Pope John Paul II. A quote: "In fulfilling the plan of redemption, God wanted to ask mankind's collaboration. Sacred Scripture narrates the history of salvation as a history of vocations, in which the Lord's initiative and people's response have become intertwined. In fact, every vocation is born from the meeting of two freedoms: the divine and the human. Having been personally invited by the Word of God, the one called places himself or herself at his service."
The first address on Scripture in the pontificate of Benedict XVI commemorates the 40th anniversary of Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum.
A 1985 document that looks at the relationship between biblical interpretation and theology.
- De Doctrina Christiana ("On Christian Doctrine" includes groundbreaking sections on biblical interpretation. See especially: Book I: Chapters 1-3; Book II: Chapters 1-26. Books III and IV explore these issues in detail.) - Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount - Harmony of the Gospels - Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament. - Tractates on the Gospel of John - Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John - Commentary on the Psalms.
A good beginners' introduction to reading the "spiritual sense" of Scripture. From our friend Mark Shea's book, Making Senses Out of Scripture.
By Father Benedict Ashley, O.P. A quote: "Thus the abyss today opening between the Bible and theology, must be overcome by a type of exegesis that does not stop with historical and literary criticism but interprets the biblical text precisely as the Word of God redeeming our theological systems, not as re-written to conform to them. We must be instructed by God not instruct him."
A good study from Westminster Theological Journal.
An impressive array of quotations from the Fathers of the Church and early Church Councils and manuals.
An important instruction, published in 1964, when the Commission was still an official organ of the Church. Hence it is regarded as reflecting official Catholic teaching.
A very interesting study by Dr. Christine Schirrmacher. A quote: "The aim of this paper is to trace the development of a new Muslim view of Christianity in the 19th century, which still has an enormous impact on today's Muslim apologetical works. The composition of anti-Christian books has changed in character due to the achievement of a different view of Christian dogmas and Christianity itself in the 19th century."
Published in 1993, this is a significant summary of the currents and tensions in Biblical interpretation. A must-read for understanding the state of exegesis in the Church today. For an excellent overview of this important document: - Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture
This 2001 document is valuable for its summary of "shared themes" of the Old and New Testaments, among them: the revelation of God, the covenant and the law, the election of Israel and the cult of the Temple at Jerusalem.
Interesting study of the Cappadocian Fathers
Good review of the Catechism's treatment of the Bible, by Father Thomas McGovern. See too his examination of Vatican II's (and the Catechism's) directive that Scripture should be "the soul of theology": - Magisterium, Scripture and Catholic Exegetes
An Address by Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1997.
By Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. A talk delivered to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the commision's establishment.
Thorough discussion by Barry Smith of Atlanta Baptist University. See also Smith's: - Interpretation of Scripture
A short statement that brings together the main threads of Catholic understanding of Scripture. By the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy. Another useful reflection by the Congregation: - The Church and the Ministry of the Word of God.
A good consideration of the Greek Patristic discussion by a Lutheran, Dr. William Weinrich. (pdf files, requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader.)
A useful overview of the various wings of Protestant thought on this key issue of biblical interpretation.
A 1991 document that examines biblical teaching on "the relationship between local Churches, or between particular groups, and the universality of the one people of God."