Theological Tidbits

July 3, 2022

Since the Sacred Scriptures teach the truth necessary for our salvation, the Bible does not purport to teach everything about everything. For example, the Bible is not a scientific treatise. It does not pretend to reveal the truths of natural science. In speaking about the world, the authors used the language and concepts of their own time. Hence, one should not accuse the Bible of error when one does not find modern scientific descriptions and theories in it.Many books of the Bible have a complex origin. Sometimes there was a long oral tradition that was later written and even later reshaped by an editor. In other cases, there were multiple authors. The entire process was guided by God. Every change and every nuance that contributed to the final form of each book—in the original language—were inspired. Inspiration extends, however, only to the original texts of the Scriptures: translations are not inspired. Thus, when we read the Bible in English, we are not reading the inspired text, but rather a translation of the inspired text. The accuracy of the translation of Scripture does not depend on God, but on the skill of the translator.

June 26, 2022

Many books of the Bible have a complex origin. Sometimes there was a long oral tradition that was later written and even later reshaped by an editor. In other cases, there were multiple authors. The entire process was guided by God. Every change and every nuance that contributed to the final form of each book—in the original language—were inspired. Inspiration extends, however, only to the original texts of the Scriptures: translations are not inspired. Thus, when we read the Bible in English, we are not reading the inspired text, but rather a translation of the inspired text. The accuracy of the translation of Scripture does not depend on God, but on the skill of the translator.

June 19, 2022

God is the author of the Scriptures, but the human authors also fully participated in the writings of the texts. Between God and the human authors of the sacred texts, there existed a profound communion of persons so that the latter’s wills were conformed to the divine will. As they wrote what God wished them to write, they did not suspend or violate their own minds and wills. Rather, through their own thoughts and choices, they wrote down what God wished them to write. Their minds and wills were in communion with God’s mind and will. Just as Christ did not  Father’s will, so the human authors of the sacred texts did not suspend or violate their human powers when they wrote their books. The grace of inspiration extended to the mind and the will of the author as well as to the other faculties necessary to the composition of the sacred text—e.g., memory. Most often, the grace of inspiration was probably not given through a miraculous event or a miraculous interior insight. If God had done this, the sacred authors surely would have been aware of it. However, generally, they do not seem to be aware of the grace of inspiration. Thus, the grace of inspiration was given to the authors in the midst of their own efforts. For example, ideas probably occurred to them as they did their research. Sometimes inspiration helped the authors plan the work necessary for their projected text. Of course, events, places, things, and people also served God as a means of inspiring the sacred authors. Further, since writing a book engages an author’s entire psychological outlook, God began to prepare the sacred authors for their tasks even in the womb. Thus, the graces flowed long before sacred texts were actually written. Of course, this grace did not violate the freedom of the individual authors. Standing, as it were, outside of time, God knew for all eternity that the sacred authors were inclined to respond to His invitation to write the sacred texts. Therefore, He gave them the necessary means to fulfill what they were inclined to do. As the grace of the Immaculate Conception did not violate Mary’s freedom, so the graces given to the sacred authors, beginning even before they were born, did not violate the freedom of the sacred authors.

June 12, 2022

 

When someone decides to write, they choose a subject matter as well as a literary form appropriate for their subject matter. If an author decides to write a fictional mystery, they might choose to write either a short story or a novel. One easily switches back and forth among literary forms used commonly in their society because they are familiar with them and their purposes. One does not read the front page of the daily newspaper in the same way that they read the comics because the front page contains news and the comic strip is intended to entertain. However, in reading works from a different culture, one is unable to comprehend properly what the subject matter is if they do
not recognize the literary forms and their purposes. Since the Bible was originally written in a completely different culture, an examination of the Bible’s literary forms and their purposes is necessary for us to understand the subject matter found in the Scriptures.

June 5, 2022

 

Public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, i.e., with the death of St. John the Evangelist, c. 100. In other words, public revelation ended with the last person to have seen and to have heard the Lord. Why does God not continue to reveal Himself in a public way? As the author of the letter to the Hebrews indicates, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.” In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself primarily through the prophets, but in Christ God spoke about Himself. God showed Himself in and through Christ. As Christ responded to Philip, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” What more could God do? He told about Himself, and He showed Himself. For example, if someone had never seen Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, a physical description of what they depicted, of the colors used, etc., would help him know about them. However, after he has seen them, he has little or no use for detailed physical descriptions of the frescoes. If public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, how is it possible for the Church to teach a “new” truth? This issue arose with the solemn teaching on the Immaculate Conception—defined in 1854, with the definition of papal infallibility—defined in 1870, and with Pope Pius XII’s solemn pronouncement on the assumption of Mary—1950. However, these were not “new” truths when they were defined. They were always contained in the revelation of Christ, but they were not clearly seen. The Church’s examination of revelation led to the discovery of these truths. Development might be compared to an artist’s viewing Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Even though he has seen them—content, he can discover new insights through commentaries on the artist’s work.