Rorate Caeli

Pope: Scripture interpretation must embrace the "global meaning that has constituted Tradition"

I am pleased to welcome you at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly. I thank the President, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, for his greeting and summary of the topic that has been the subject of careful consideration in the course of your work. You have gathered again to study a very important topic: the inspiration and truth of the Bible. It is a matter that affects not only the individual believer, but the whole Church, for the life and mission of the Church is founded on the Word of God, which is the soul of theology and the inspiration of all Christian life .

As we know, the Holy Scriptures are the testimony in written form of God's Word, the canonical memorial that attests to the event of Revelation. The Word of God, therefore, precedes and exceeds the Bible. It is for this reason that the center of our faith is not only a book, but a history of salvation and especially a Person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh. Precisely because the Word of God embraces and extends beyond Scripture, to understand it properly we need the constant presence of the Holy Spirit who "guides [us] to all truth" (Jn 16:13). It should be inserted within the current of the great Tradition which, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Magisterium, recognized the canonical writings as the Word addressed by God to His people who have never ceased to meditate and discover its inexhaustible riches. The Second Vatican Council has reiterated this with great clarity in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum: "For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God" (n. 12).

As the aforementioned conciliar Constitution reminds us, there is an unbreakable unity between Scripture and Tradition, as both come from the same source: "There exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred Tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence" (ibid., 9).

It follows, therefore, that the exegete must be careful to perceive the Word of God present in the biblical texts by placing them within the faith of the Church. The interpretation of the Holy Scriptures cannot be only an individual scientific effort, but must always confront itself with, be inserted within and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church. This norm is essential to specify the correct relationship between exegesis and the Magisterium of the Church. The texts inspired by God were entrusted to the Community of believers, the Church of Christ, to nourish the faith and guide the life of charity. Respect for this profound nature of Scripture conditions the very validity and effectiveness of biblical hermeneutics. This results in the insufficiency of any interpretation that is either subjective or simply limited to an analysis incapable of embracing the global meaning that has constituted the Tradition of the entire People of God over the centuries, which “in credendo falli nequit" (Conc. Ecum. Vatican II Dogmatic Cost. Lumen Gentium, 12).

Dear Brothers, I wish to conclude my talk by expressing my thanks to all of you and encouraging you in your important work. May the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, the Divine Teacher who opened the minds and hearts of his disciples to understand the Scriptures (cf. Lk 24:45), guide and support you always in your endeavors. May the Virgin Mary, model of docility and obedience to the Word of God, teach you to accept fully the inexhaustible riches of Sacred Scripture not only through intellectual pursuits, but in prayer and throughout your life of believers, especially in this Year of the Faith, so that your work will help to shine the light of Sacred Scripture in the hearts of the faithful. Wishing you a fruitful continuation of your activities, I invoke the light of the Holy Spirit and impart my Apostolic Blessing upon you all.
Franciscus
April 12, 2013

[Trans. Radio Vaticana]


Previous posts on this subject:







"Sacred Scripture, inspiration and truth"

". . . the unity of the divine history . . . ."

"The supreme rule of her faith and power of life"

PBC study on "Inspiration and Truth of the Bible" to be completed

36 comments:

O Resistente said...

I'm as positively impressed by His Holiness words as I'm negatively impacted by his liturgical approach.

Dan Hunter said...

Beautifully and wonderfully said by His Holiness!

Anonymous said...

O Resistante I too am equally conflicted with the approach of the holy father. His liturgical outlook is frankly primitive and shallow, however his sermons strike me as being wonderfully practical and simple and clear.
Scott

The Maestro said...

This strikes me as quite un-modernist. Most encouraging.

David Werling said...

Once again it must be asked, what is "living tradition", and is it different from Tradition?

The Maestro said...

@David Werling, true, the use of the term "living tradition" does cause some ambiguity. But I think he's partly redeemed by his stressing the invalidity of mere subjective biblical interpretation, unguided by the Church.

New Catholic said...

Living Tradition is a complex term. On the other hand, it is our very reality in the Traditional Latin Mass (and in the Traditional liturgies of Weastern and Eastern Rites): Living Tradition. It's what we are living!

NC

cosmin farcas said...

Off topic, I am shocked: Christoff Schonborn from this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67Lom28KSlg to this http://sancrucensis.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/ordinations/# . The Holy Spirit is working. All that remains is the man to cooperate.

Bob F. said...

Pope Francis seems to me to be like numerous priests that I have encountered over the years who are about his age. They strike me as good and holy men, theologically orthodox, but they just don't quite get liturgical tradition.

The latin mass is to them something that the novus ordo replaced and they just haven't thought too much about why people would be attracted to the TLM.

Dan Hunter said...

Living Tradition is Tradition.

It is not "dead'" Tradition,

otherwise there would be no Church.

But yes, I do not understand the need for anyone to qualify "Tradition".

Jordanes551 said...

Our Holy Father's address here is perfectly in line with the things Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said on this subject. Indeed, it could have been written by him.

I note that these addresses to the PBC are edifying and encouraging -- but they do not speak to the question of full vs. limited biblical inerrancy, which the PBC has been studying. The Holy Father does not want to preempt their findings, but is awaiting the final draft of their study.

The Maestro said...

Looking at the links at the bottom of the above post, I found that a lot of what Pope Francis is saying here is almost exactly word for word what Pope Benedict said here: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2009/04/pope-addresses-pbc-on-divine.html

?

Hieronymus in Canada said...

Jordanes 551,

I am somewhat more optimistic in my interpretation. The emphasis on the necessity of conforming to the understanding of the people of God extending through time doesn't leave any room for qualified inerrancy. I think the message is that if the PBC produces anything that goes against the broad Catholic Biblical tradition, it won't be going anywhere other than the back of a file cabinet.

It also will work very well coupled with Verbum Domini 35 and a few lines of Paul VI addressed to the PBC in 1974, which were highly critical of one-sided modern methods of research. I doubt that Pope Francis will be issuing many statements of equal magisterial authority on Sacred Scripture, and I am grateful that this one contains a good club. In some ways, the more he is perceived as a liberal in other areas, the more effective this club will be.
----
Living Tradition, while capable of various interpretations, finds its best Biblical home in the phrase living waters, which are waters that are still connected to the source from which they spring.

Peccator said...

Insofar as Scripture alone is concerned, these words are encouraging enough. But I am disheartened by the usual misrepresentation of Sacred Tradition. Like Bendedict XVI in Verbum Domini, the Holy Father only reiterates Dei Verbum:

Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred Tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known.(Dei Verbum 9)

This is a reduction of Sacred Tradition to sacred transmission, not the full Catholic understanding of Sacred Tradition, clearly articulated at Trent and Vatican I:

Supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, as declared by the sacred Council of Trent, is contained in written books and unwritten traditions, which were received by the apostles from the lips of Christ himself, or came to the apostles by the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and were passed on as it were from hand to hand until they reached us. (Vatican I, session 3, Dogmatic Constitution on Catholic Faith, ch. 2, n. 5; cf. Trent, session 4, first decree.)

Tradition and Scripture differ in content, not just in mode. Until we reiterate this, we will not escape the postconciliar haze.

MRyan said...

Pope Francis: "The interpretation of the Holy Scriptures cannot be only an individual scientific effort, but must always confront itself with, be inserted within and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church. This norm is essential to specify the correct relationship between exegesis and the Magisterium of the Church.

Pope Leo XIII: "Wherefore, as appears from what has been said, Christ instituted in the Church a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium, which by His own power He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should be received as if they were His own." (Satis Cognitum, 1896)

Jason C. said...

I share Bob F.'s experience, and I don't believe the Holy Father's liturgical practice comes from a malicious place: Pope Francis seems to me to be like numerous priests that I have encountered over the years who are about his age. They strike me as good and holy men, theologically orthodox, but they just don't quite get liturgical tradition. The latin mass is to them something that the novus ordo replaced and they just haven't thought too much about why people would be attracted to the TLM.

O Resistente said...

Maestro,

Methinks you're right. Pope Francis address is nearly identical to Benedict's. I wonder...

LeonG said...

My Roman Catholic mind demands to know of what avail is Sacred Scripture with authoritative interpretation, if it is not accompanied by Sacred Liturgical Tradition?

In the absense of the full liturgical Roman Rite of The Ages how can our Faith be truly embodied in the scriptural context in order that we may believe without any doubt what The Church has consistently taught throughout the Christian Catholic era?

Knowledge of God customarily propagated through sound liturgical praxis has been gravely damaged by liberalised liturgical forms. Holy Scripture is of little avail in such circumstances. Liturgical individualism encourages individualised interpetations of Scripture. lack of ecclesiastical discipline is such today that many of the faithful have become semi-literate and less where The Faith is concerned.

FrancisP said...

Peccator wrote: Tradition and Scripture differ in content, not just in mode.

I think it depends on what you mean by "content." If you mean the "Gospel" or "Divine Revelation" (which is how Dei Verbum and Verbum Domini [and St. Irenaeus] spoke in this matter), then no, they do not have different "content" - they both pass on, through different modes, the one Deposit of Faith - i.e. the "Gospel" or "Divine Revelation".

However, if you mean the specific teachings and doctrines, there can be seen differences. For example, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not directly recounted in Sacred Scripture (although it is alluded to and hinted at), yet is is firmly part of our Sacred Tradition. So in that sense Scripture and Tradition do differ in content. Yet even in that case I would hesitate to separate the two too severely, for there is one Deposit of Faith which is completely integrated. The Assumption, for example, is not "outside" Scripture, it is the fulfillment of what we see in its pages.

LeonG said...

"Living Tradition is a complex term."

New Catholic

This is to understate it. The term is couched in characteristic liberal ambiguity as it affords an intellectual device for justifying post-conciliar pastoral and liturgical developments as much as some claims made by modern scriptural interpretations. Charismatic priests are adept at it.

Jasper Jones said...

He is trying to use "word of God" in a broad sense so that he can put "tradition" on par with the bible, which it certainly is not. Nevertheless, with both these "words of God" side by side who arbitrates the disputes and defines the outcome? That would be these religious folks with all the fancy titles, of course.

So who really is in charge? That's easy - the one who has final say - the judges. Therefore neither the Bible nor tradition is authority: the men who run the Vatican are the ultimate bosses because their word is the final word.

New Catholic said...

Not "the men in the Vatican", the Hierarchical Church. The Church (particularly the Hierarchy, Peter and the Apostles, and their successors) gave us the Bible, of course the Church is its supreme interpreter.

Mary said...

Living Tradition is like a living constitution, it changes.

Lynda said...

Well said!

Cardinal Wuerl's Butler said...

Jasper Jones:

Actually, he is not the only one referring to the "word of God" in a broader sense.

1 Thessalonians 2:13:

"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe."

It certainly does sound like the bible, not just the Pope, has a "broader" view of what the word of God is...of course we could cite other passages too...

What does the bible teach about who has the final say to arbitrate disputes?

Matthew 18:17: "If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

Or Hebrews 13:17: "Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account."

Which authority does a Protestant submit to in order to fulfill this scripture? One established by men, or the one established by Jesus (the successor of Peter)?

In short, Catholic theology is eons ahead, and far more biblical than protestant theology.

adulescens said...

These are sad days we live in when the orthodoxy of a Holy Father's remarks surprise you.

The emphasis on universal Tradition, especially as it extends back through time, in an address on how the Sacred Scriptures ought to be approached - was very welcome to me.

And I do not think the adjective "living" should be taken to imply that tradition changes. I like New Catholic's earlier comment. Living tradition means tradition still in effect now.

One of the main things that drew me to the Catholic Church was the overpowering sense in the architecture and atmosphere of churches and cathedrals I had been in that it is the ancient present. That is what living tradition is.

Respondeo dicendum said...

It's worth noting that the Compendium of Theology of R. P. Thomas ex Charmes, written in the middle of the 18th century, says, "Divinae traditiones non sunt additiones humanae ad verbum Dei, cum sint ipsummet verbum Dei, licet non scriptum." (De Prolegomenis).

As for "living" Tradition, this is a helpful and necessary antidote to the Eastern Orthodox approach of accepting only the first seven councils and nothing later as definitive.

Barbara said...

Adulescens said:
"These are sad days we live in when the orthodoxy of a Holy Father's remarks surprise you."

True. True. But worse is the anxiety of the laity studying a Pope's actions and words for orthodoxy and even not wanting to know what he is doing for fear of ...... - as is my case - against my best desires . This is not correct. What an upside down time in the Church.

I'll keep praying , thinking of the connection of the Pope to Fatima...as I understand very little of the contradictions we are faced with in this Papacy on the one hand orthodox on the other liberal (the not good type) - let's see - but it shouldn't be like this..in my humble opinion...

thewhitelilyblog said...

Yes, Pope Francis' use of 'living tradition' is like Benedict's. And Benedict's is the same as Vatican II's, and those who wish to think otherwise of Benedict don't understand the other face of the coin, that some can 'get' liturgy and not 'get' the problem of doctrine. In this case, to use terminology that suggests that the Church is free to change the content of teaching as long as the 'subject' remains the same (Benedict's interpretation and the one that smashed up side of Fellay's poor head) is a conciliar usage and the nut of the problem.

CPK said...

The term "living tradition" highlights the contrast with the Protestant view of revelation as consisting solely in a static written record.

JM said...

CPK, you are quite wrong, and do not 'get' Protestantism. It is quite wearying to see bigoted Cathoics perjur Protestants for believing what Rome believed until some 50 years ago. It, along with traditional Catholicism, posited that God's word abides in a unique and inspired form in Scripture. Whatever "living" tradition is, it is something that no one had ever heard of until Vatican II apologists got to work explaining away developments that were contradictions. The Roman faithful, so sure the church can do not wrong, went along even though the law of non-contradiction was being flouted. David Wells old book, "Revolution in Rome" (IVP, nailed it when it noticed what any non-biased observer would notice: at Vatican II Rome blinked, pastorally, so it could not be challenged confessionally , but nonetheless in full fashion. The fact that Catholic traditionalists STILL do not get the significance of the waffling on revelation as "not merely" words stuns me. If revelation is called into question, does anyone really expect a Church bureaucracy run by middling 21st century peacemakers to decisively interpret? The SSPX at least has the sanity to judge a situation as it clearly is. Popes rattling on about "global tradition" when no one has any earthly idea what they are talking about, and Commissions that will blithely ignore such papal consels anyway, undermining faith in the text they are charged with protecting, do nothing but worsen the already existing crisis. People who find in a Pope's oblique assurances about Scripture encouraging signs are rather discouraging. IYAM.

JM said...

cosmin farcas:

BALLOONS. The perfect symbol for the current Church, no? I hope the sing "99 Luftballons" at Mass!

elfrancoloco said...

@JM: Global meaning sounds like a bad translation, doesn't it? As a professional translator (albeit not from Italian) I would never take a translation of the Pope's words at face value.

Remember the phrase "pathetic NGO"m which was parroted around the globe? That's not what Pope Francis said in Italian either -- and the official Italian transcript of those remarks does not match the audio. So be circumspect.

The phrase "global meaning" did occur in the English translation of Pope Francis' remarks to the PBC. However, the address was given in Italian:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/speeches/2013/april/documents/papa-francesco_20130412_commissione-biblica_it.html

The translator was naive and went straight for the cognate English word, "global". It happens. Translation is hard. But according for example to the Collins Italian Dictionary, the primary English senses of the Italian term "globale" are: overall, inclusive, and global. According to context, the word clearly means "overall".

Thus the phrase in English would be "overall meaning". That's pretty clear, so there's no basis for saying that nobody knows what he was talking about. If you can't follow what was said, just check it, or ask your friends here.

New Catholic said...

Global also means comprehensive, i.e. overall. It does not appear to us at all to be a mistranslation by Vatican Radio.

JM said...

elfran....

Thank you. I hope so (that I am mistaken in my apprehension, that is)! It simply wearies me, personally, to have the Popes have to be lecturing their very own Biblical Commissions to remember the text is, after all, inspired. I also hope the words hit home.

CPK said...

@JM:

You are quite wrong, and do not 'get' my previous posting. Protestants do not consider a living magisterium, i.e. a magisterium composed partially of living people, to be part of the apparatus of revelation. Catholics do.

What you write about the development of doctrine is theologically illiterate. It had been going on for a long time before the second vatican council and a long time before Newman, who first attempted to characterize it. One of the aspects of authentic doctrinal development is that it does not constitute a logical inconsistency with what went before.

However, it is always possible for those who employ a shallow hermeneutic to "discern" a contradiction where none truly exists, and this has been frequent throughout the history of the Church. (In the good old days it typically arose when things got translated from Greek to Latin and back again, and provoked a good deal of odium theologicum. Recent philosophy has provided a firm base from which to assess these clashes of conceptual systems, but...)