Friday, January 20, 2023

Writing of the Bible - I, Theological Principle

Writing of the Bible - I, Theological Principle · Papal Divisions · Galileo Revisited

Who actually wrote the Bible?
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 19 Jan. 2023

2:13 Is it coherent in all ways with Trent Session IV?

One part in the "yes" column would be § 3 which implies Young Earth Creationism. A certain English translation has "from the start" whereas Latin has "ab initio" - meaning God started revealing himself to Adam and Eve from the beginning of overall creation of heaven and earth. That paragraph is unproblematic - for a Catholic, that is.

3:58 I hope you are misquoting or misciting Dei Verbum.

General revelation in creation is not gradually unfolding.

Special revelation is so, up to its fullness in Jesus Christ, who also provided the Apostles and some other disciples with a complete OT exegesis as to the sensus allegoricus.

The special revelation is also not available to all men all of the time between Abraham and the Great Commission it was basically limited to Hebrews.

Ah, yes, the general revelation is creation is not gradually unfolding, but enduring, first sentence of § 3.

"God, who through the Word creates all things (see John 1:3) and keeps them in existence, gives men an enduring witness to Himself in created realities (see Rom. 1:19-20)."

Enduring and gradually unfolding are not the same.

The rest of § 3 and § 4 is about the gradual unfolding of special revelation, up to and including its summit, Christ.

Please also note that the passages on special revelation in § 3 with some remarks in § 7 actually necessitate a timeline from Adam to Abraham, roughly speaking as short as the Bible says in Genesis 5 and 11 (depending on text versions of each this would vary between 1599 and 3434 years, but could absolutely not extend to tens of thousands of years).


"Then after their fall His promise of redemption aroused in them the hope of being saved (see Gen. 3:15) and from that time on He ceaselessly kept the human race in His care," (§ 3) "In His gracious goodness, God has seen to it that what He had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all generations." (§ 7)

If there had been tens of thousands of years between Adam and Abraham, God would have revealed lots of things that were later lost. Or taken a break between revelations. Impossible. Salvation history starts out as mankind's history, narrows to Hebrew history and with Christ again becomes mankind's history. This means that up to Abraham, all of mankinds history in its essentials and essential timeline needs to be correctly represented in the Bible, via, obviously, the traditions that Abraham wrote down.

5:52 "everything was not immediately written down"

This is ambiguous.

Not everything (but perhaps some) was immediately written down - correct.
Nothing was immediately written down, everything was instead ... whatever you are coming to - incorrect.

5:56 Passed down orally from one generation to the next is definitely how Haydock sees the way from Genesis 3 all the way to Moses, and it is at least how one must see how it and other stories older than Abraham were handed down from Sarug to Abraham.

This does not mean everything was first handed down orally. And I don't think Dei Verbum says so.

For instance, from chapter 12 of Genesis, chapters become longer, stories more detailed - this tends to give me a hunch, and I hope it gives you one too, that:

  • humanly observed parts of Genesis 1 - 11 were orally handed down, maximally all the way from Adam to Abraham, minimally from Sarug to Abraham, if Sarug was deprived of access to possible books he had used to learn things;
  • they were then written down by Abraham after his vocation or on seeing proto-writing of hieroglyphic type in Egypt;
  • and Abraham through Joseph and even Ephraim and Manasseh continue to write down the material of Genesis
  • which Moses then collects, adding as his own contribution the six day account revealed to him on Sinai.

6:15 "took several centuries in the case of the ancient Israelites"

Meaning after Exodus event? No, not really.

For that matter, "a few decades" is a bit too much between events and the Gospel of St. Matthew which may have been written as early as the 30's.

It is also false to say, as I mentioned earlier, that oral tradition (between generations) was a sine qua non before writing down could take place.

6:45 I think by the medieval paintings you mean St. John.

For the bulk of his Gospel, he could rely on personal memory.

He could have written as quickly as if wielding two pens and writing as the thoughts came - and perhaps did.

But for making theological points, there was very certainly some listening to God. Which means the Holy Spirit does whisper in his ear.

No "dictation machine" involved, though the inspiration is actually compared to God dictating and the human author acting secretary.

This mode of inspiration was not non-extant, it was arguably the one for prophecy, including but not limited to Moses' legislative chapters starting with "and God spoke to Moses and said" ..

7:11 It seems that when Dei Verbum uses the word "true authors" the footnote 4 refers to Providentissimus Deus, which actually does not say this.

Here is a quote from Providentissimus Deus:

"Hence, because the Holy Ghost employed men as His instruments, we cannot therefore say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have fallen into error, and not the primary author. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write-He was so present to them-that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth."

9:09 One can see how § 12 can be abused.

Some modernists now claim "myth" is a convention of writing or a genre. One characteristic of it is, so to speak, the truth need not be communicated in literally factual statements about the past, and hence, any part less convenient for harmonising with the other oracle of these men, "Science RTM" can be assigned to the supposed "genre" of "myth" and the problem can be resolved by imagining the ages in Genesis 5 or 11 have some deep symbolic meaning, and need not be taken as factual information.

This all breaks down by the fact that "mythos" is simply the Greek word for "story" or "tale" and was more usually used, either of a heroic story with pretty good likelihood it was in fact historic, though the pagans would have made errors of analysis, or of divine stories, which we as Christians know to be false, Earth did not give birth to Heaven, but which arguably Hesiod thought of as true. It is also used in Aristotle's Poetics for Synopsis, and in some plays no one denies that the Synopsis is a particular historic event, like Persai. I have no problem extending this to other stories, with least likely for Hercules raising Alcestis, that probably based off Elijah raising the widow's boy.

Which means that non-factuality in Greek myths, when such, as in Alcestis, or Hercules descending to Hades or voyaging to the edge of the world, is a regrettable accident, not the essence of the genre, and can therefore not be used as basis for inventing a genre "myth" codistinguished from "history" ... "myth" is the most general word Greeks had for history, and "history" is a word implying research - like in someone comparing different traditions.

9:59 The words you refer to do in fact not state this as two different investigations.

"in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words."

It cannot be shown to mean anything other than what Renaissance Humanists meant ... and which Protestants abused "St. Paul spoke in a day when Ekklesia was a Democratic Parliament in Athens" - well, it was also a very non-Democratic one in Sparta ... either way, the point need not go further than the one I make against the Protestants who abuse Matthew 6:7 against the Rosary by pointing to Hindoos. Romans didn't pray mystically in mantras, but practically in transactions with their gods, and with some "making sure" they didn't miss the right divinity or the right title of the right divinity ... which makes their prayers (see Velleius Paterculus, last chapter) like speeches that start over and over again, like stuttering, the actual word Our Lord uses.

In other words, we cannot from § 12 safely conclude "we first see what Moses intended, then we go on from there and see what God intends to communicate to us, which need not be the same" ... that approach would be erroneous.

Those who held, historically, that Moses communicated x, y and z that was not available to his audience would have taken this as Moses knowing more than he told. This is obvious for Christological content in Genesis, like Isaac carrying firewood for a burnt offering, on a Via Dolorosa ... but also applicable if discoveries in science or technology prompt me to take Tower of Babel as an intended rocket (with no takeoff prior to 4500 years later) or water above the firmament to refer to water and hydrogen molecules in space.

Not as Moses sharing the limitations, these not being offset by prophecy, and then God using Moses to communicate what Moses didn't understand he was communicating.

10:54 For Luke and Mark, there was oral transmission between facts and their writing.

For Matthew and John, eyewitnesses themselves wrote down, one very early, one very late. So, no, for these two, no intermediate stage of oral tradition.

10:59 CCC 126 seems to be based on DV 19 ... which specifically denies that all four Gospels had an intermediate form in tradition:

"For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who "themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word" we might know "the truth" concerning those matters about which we have been instructed (see Luke 1:2-4)."

The part "from their own memory and recollections" obviously refers to Matthew and John.

When CCC 126 states:

"We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels"

This is an overanalysis of the parallel sentences in DV 19 ...

[the sentences parallel to the three supposed "stages"]

11:39 I would consider it very much more probable they memorised His words each day.

Like in oral dictation, also in registering an oral text as much as a written one, secretaries can very easily, if properly trained, take turns in the recording of someone's words to get it complete.

After Jesus had started the sermon on the Mount, it is highly probable that the twelve took turns in memorising the words. Like this:

Peter - Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Andrew - Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
James - Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
John - Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Philip - Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Bartholomew - Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Thomas - Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.
Matthew - Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
James - Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake:
Thaddaeus - Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.
Simon - For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.
Judas - You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?
Peter - It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.
Andrew - You are the light of the world.
James - A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid.
John - Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.
Philip - So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Bartholomew - Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets.
Thomas - I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
Matthew - For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.
James - He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.
Thaddaeus - But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Simon - For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, ...
Judas - ... you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

You do an experiment on how many times Peter had time to repeat "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," before he had to move on to "It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men." ... arguably sufficient to actually memorise it, and same with this next one.

AFTER the sermon, they would arguably then stand in a circle and repeat what they had learned by heart, and this until everyone knew the whole Sermon by heart, which might take a few days.

The other sermon, the one given in Luke, would have been taken down by other disciples.

13:18 When it comes to giving words, a recalling ad sensus was deemed sufficient in the conventions of historians of the time.

Biographers of Caesar have given his words to Brutus as "thou too, son" and as "thou too, Brutus" and also differ on whether he spoke in Greek or Latin. But as the meaning is the same, none of them is inaccurate.

13:25 I am not sure there is any actual discrepancy about the order.

For the cleansing of the temple, it is arguable Jesus did it twice - making him in the eyes of the Priests a "repeat offender" who had had "his chance" and not taken it.

The feeding of the 4000 and the feeding of the 5000 were different events.

15:01 This leaves it perfectly plausible that Matthew was far more accurate in chronological order, and that St. Luke was at least somewhat more so.

16:13 The lack of chronological order in Mark cannot be extrapolated to involve the other three in chronological inaccuracies.

The basing of a Gospel on oral and written traditions by Luke cannot extrapolate to make Matthew and John depend on oral tradition rather than personal memory.

16:34 But two of the Evangelists had a fifth role, eyewitnesses.

16:54 Your way of describing the process so much echoes the stages "inventio, dispositio, expolitio" ... they had not studied Quintilian, let alone Erasmus, and may not have followed that order.

Felix Just SJ
Hans-Georg: Thanks for listening to my program so carefully and engaging with it in such detail.

If we had had a conversation about these topics in advance, I might have modified my text slightly in some spots, in order to be even clearer. But many of the issues you raise are debatable, with your comments defending more traditional interpretations and my statements representing more contemporary understandings, but ones that are also compatible with the official teachings of the Catholic Church.

For example, you describe Matthew and John as "eyewitnesses." Yes, of course, as two of the first 12 apostles, these two historical individuals were obviously eyewitnesses of the life and actions (and teachings) of Jesus. However, if one takes seriously the fact that our Gospels are entitled "Gospel ACCORDING TO..." - rather than "Gospel OF..." - then it is a debatable question whether these early disciples (Matthew and John) themselves wrote ALL the words in the "final" GREEK versions of the Gospels as we now have them, or whether these named individuals only wrote earlier/shorter versions of a "Gospel," which were then expanded by other (second-generation) disciples into the longer/full versions that we now have.

I don't have time to enter into detailed debates about all the other points you raised, but again thank you for engaging with this program in such detail. God bless you!

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Felix Just SJ "Yes, of course, as two of the first 12 apostles,"

According to Father Jean Colson, the Beloved Disciple, the Gospeller, was not one of the Twelve. But a lesser disciple and a Cohen.

"However, if one takes seriously the fact that our Gospels are entitled "Gospel ACCORDING TO..." - rather than "Gospel OF...""

If one takes seriously into account that the four Gospels were considered facets of one Gospel, it makes sense with full traditional author attribution (for John that means going whereever the Beloved Disciple goes, not necessarily the son of Zebedee, as Father Colson disagreed).

"then it is a debatable question whether these early disciples (Matthew and John) themselves wrote ALL the words in the "final" GREEK versions of the Gospels as we now have them,"

Not very much.

Matthew as a tax collector was certainly in sufficient contact with Romans to know Greek. Also, as a Levite (Scribe, not Temple Servant) he was likely to know Greek.

If John was a Cohen, he is also likely to have known Greek very well.

"or whether these named individuals only wrote earlier/shorter versions of a "Gospel," which were then expanded by other (second-generation) disciples into the longer/full versions that we now have."

No trace whatsoever in tradition of such a distinction (presuming "logia" in Papias can be taken as metonymy for "logia kai erga", and even that only applies to Matthew).

Felix Just SJ
@Hans-Georg Lundahl It might be best if we agree to disagree on these and similar issues.
You seem very certain about having clear (and simple?) answers to these very complex and much-debated questions.
But I hope you are at least aware that there are MANY different theories that try to answer such questions, not just the opinions of Fr. Colson (or any other individual).

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Felix Just SJ I would say Fr. Colson's theory on St. John the Beloved being a disciple but not one of the twelve is the limit, on the right side of it, since there is at least marginal support in tradition, and then thre are things that contradict all of tradition, like Markan priority.

I suspect quite a lot of these theories and it seemed a week ago when hearing you that your theories (as said, it was a week ago) are heretical. Just found 26.VI.1912 decision on Mark and Luke ... it took a strong language against Markan priority.

And especially also against bypassing the traditional authorships.

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