Category: Biblical Theology

Chapters and Verses of the Bible

Holy Bible

Summary

Bible

Books Chapters Verses
Old Testament 46 1074 26949
New Testament 27 260 7941
Total 73 1334 34890

Old Testament

Sl No Book

Chapters

Verses
1 Genesis 50 1533
2 Exodus 40 1213
3 Leviticus 27 859
4 Numbers 36 1287
5 Deuteronomy 34 943
6 Joshua 24 658
7 Judges 21 617
8 Ruth 4 85
9 1 Samuel 31 809
10 2 Samuel 24 694
11 1 Kings 22 815
12 2 Kings 25 719
13 1 Chronicles 29 942
14 2 Chronicles 36 822
15 Ezra 10 280
16 Nehemiah 13 406
17 Tobit 14 242
18 Judith 16 340
19 Esther 16 271
20 1 Maccabees 16 924
21 2 Maccabees 15 555
22 Job 42 584
23 Psalms 150 2461
24 Proverbs 31 901
25 Ecclesiastes 12 220
26 Song of Songs 8 117
27 Wisdom 19 436
28 Sirach 51 1410
29 Isaiah 66 1292
30 Jeremiah 52 1364
31 Lamentations 5 154
32 Baruch 6 212
33 Ezekiel 48 1271
34 Daniel 14 463
35 Hosea 14 197
36 Joel 3 73
37 Amos 9 146
38 Obadiah 1 21
39 Jonah 4 48
40 Micah 7 105
41 Nahum 3 47
42 Habakkuk 3 56
43 Zephaniah 3 53
44 Haggai 2 38
45 Zechariah 14 211
46 Malachi 4 55

Total

1074 26949

New Testament

Sl No Books Chapters Verses
1 Matthew 28 1070
2 Mark 16 678
3 Luke 24 1149
4 John 21 879
5 Acts of the Apostles 28 1007
6 Romans 16 432
7 1 Corinthians 16 435
8 2 Corinthians 13 246
9 Galatians 6 149
10 Ephesians 6 155
11 Philippians 4 104
12 Colossians 4 95
13 1 Thessalonians 5 89
14 2 Thessalonians 3 47
15 1 Timothy 6 113
16 2 Timothy 4 83
17 Titus 3 46
18 Philemon 1 25
19 Hebrews 13 303
20 James 5 108
21 1 Peter 5 105
22 2 Peter 3 61
23 1 John 5 105
24 2 John 1 13
25 3 John 1 15
26 Jude 1 25
27 Revelation 22 404

Total

260 7941

Pope Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square, Rome, 2010
Papacy began 19 April 2005
Papacy ended Incumbent
Predecessor John Paul II
Orders
Ordination 29 June 1951
by Michael von Faulhaber
Consecration 28 May 1977
by Josef Stangl
Created Cardinal 27 June 1977
Personal details
Birth name Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger
Born 16 April 1927 (age 85)
Marktl, Bavaria, Germany
Nationality German (along with Vatican citizenship)
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents Joseph Ratzinger, Sr., Maria Peintner
Previous post
Motto cooperatores veritatis (cooperators of the truth)[1]
Signature {{{signature_alt}}}
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Other Popes named Benedict
Ordination History
Diaconal ordination
Ordained by Johannes Baptist Neuhäusler
Date of ordination 29 October 1950
Priestly ordination
Ordained by Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber
Date of ordination 29 June 1951
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecrator Josef Stangl
Co-consecrator Rudolf Graber
Co-consecrator Ernst Tewes
Date of consecration 28 May 1977
Bishops consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI as principal consecrator
Alberto Bovone 12 May 1984
Zygmunt Zimowski 25 May 2002
Josef Clemens 6 January 2004
Bruno Forte 8 September 2004
Mieczysław Mokrzycki 29 September 2007
Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro 29 September 2007
Gianfranco Ravasi 29 September 2007
Tommaso Caputo 29 September 2007
Sergio Pagano 29 September 2007
Vincenzo Di Mauro 29 September 2007
Gabriele Giordano Caccia 12 September 2009
Franco Coppola 12 September 2009
Pietro Parolin 12 September 2009
Raffaello Martinelli 12 September 2009
Giorgio Corbellini 12 September 2009

Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI; Italian: Benedetto XVI; Spanish: Benedicto XVI; German: Benedikt XVI.; born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger; 16 April 1927) is the 265th Pope,[2] a position in which he serves dual roles as Sovereign of the Vatican City State and leader of the Catholic Church. As Pope, he is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter the Apostle. Benedict XVI was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, on 7 May 2005. A native of Bavaria, Pope Benedict XVI has both German and Vatican citizenship. On 11 February 2013, Benedict XVI announced that he would resign the papacy, effective 28 February, due to age and ill health,[3] becoming the first pope to resign since 1415, and the first to do so voluntarily since 1294.[4][5]

Ordained as a priest in 1951, Ratzinger established himself as a highly regarded university theologian by the late 1950s and was appointed a full professor in 1958. After a long career as an academic, serving as a professor of theology at several German universities—the last being the University of Regensburg, where he served as Vice President of the university 1976–1977—he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising and cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1977, an unusual promotion for someone with little pastoral experience. In 1981, he settled in Rome when he became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia. From 2002 until his election as Pope, he was also Dean of the College of Cardinals, and as such the primus inter pares among the cardinals. Prior to becoming Pope, he was “a major figure on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century” as “one of the most respected, influential and controversial members of the College of Cardinals”; he had an influence “second to none when it came to setting church priorities and directions” as one of Pope John Paul II‘s closest confidants.[6]

Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI is theologically conservative in his teaching and his prolific[7] writings defend traditional Catholic doctrine and values. During his papacy, Benedict XVI has advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of many developed countries. He views relativism‘s denial of objective truth, and the denial of moral truths in particular, as the central problem of the 21st century. He teaches the importance of both the Catholic Church and an understanding of God’s redemptive love. He has reaffirmed the “importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work.”[8] Pope Benedict has also revived a number of traditions including elevating the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position.[9]

Contents

Overview

Pope Benedict XVI at a private audience on 20 January 2006

Benedict XVI was elected Pope at the age of 78. He is the oldest person to have been elected Pope since Pope Clement XII (1730–40). He had served longer as a cardinal than any Pope since Benedict XIII (1724–30). He is the ninth German Pope, the eighth having been the Dutch-German Pope Adrian VI (1522–23) from Utrecht. The last Pope named Benedict was Benedict XV, an Italian who reigned from 1914 to 1922, during World War I (1914–18).

Born in 1927 in Marktl, Bavaria, Germany, Ratzinger had a distinguished career as a university theologian before being appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising by Pope Paul VI (1963–78). Shortly afterwards, he was made a cardinal in the consistory of 27 June 1977. He was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and was also assigned the honorific title of the cardinal bishop of Velletri-Segni on 5 April 1993. In 1998, he was elected sub-dean of the College of Cardinals. On 30 November 2002, he was elected dean, taking, as is customary, the title of cardinal bishop of the suburbicarian diocese of Ostia. He was the first Dean of the College elected Pope since Paul IV (1555–59) and the first cardinal bishop elected Pope since Pius VIII (1829–30).

Even before becoming Pope, Ratzinger was one of the most influential men in the Roman Curia, and was a close associate of John Paul II. As Dean of the College of Cardinals, he presided over the funeral of John Paul II and over the Mass immediately preceding the 2005 conclave in which he was elected. During the service, he called on the assembled cardinals to hold fast to the doctrine of the faith. He was the public face of the church in the sede vacante period, although, technically, he ranked below the Camerlengo in administrative authority during that time. Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI affirms traditional Catholic doctrine.

In addition to his native German, Benedict speaks French and Italian fluently. He also has a very good command of Latin and speaks English and Spanish adequately. Furthermore, he has some knowledge of Portuguese. He can read Ancient Greek and biblical Hebrew.[10] He has stated that his first foreign language is French. He is a member of several scientific academies, such as the French Académie des sciences morales et politiques. He plays the piano and has a preference for Mozart and Bach.[11]

Early life: 1927–51

Marktl, the house where Ratzinger was born. The building still stands today.

Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born on 16 April, Holy Saturday, 1927, at Schulstraße 11, at 8:30 in the morning in his parents’ home in Marktl, Bavaria, Germany. He was baptised the same day. He was the third and youngest child of Joseph Ratzinger, Sr., a police officer, and Maria Ratzinger (née Peintner). His mother’s family was originally from South Tyrol (now in Italy).[citation needed] Pope Benedict XVI’s brother, Georg Ratzinger, a priest and former director of the Regensburger Domspatzen choir, is still alive. His sister, Maria Ratzinger, who never married, managed Cardinal Ratzinger’s household until her death in 1991. Their grand-uncle was the German politician Georg Ratzinger.

At the age of five, Ratzinger was in a group of children who welcomed the visiting Cardinal Archbishop of Munich with flowers. Struck by the cardinal’s distinctive garb, he later announced the very same day that he wanted to be a cardinal.

Ratzinger attended the elementary school in Aschau am Inn, which was renamed in his honour in 2009.[12]

Following his 14th birthday in 1941, Ratzinger was conscripted into the Hitler Youth—as membership was required by law for all 14-year-old German boys after December 1939[13]—but was an unenthusiastic member who refused to attend meetings, according to his brother.[14] In 1941, one of Ratzinger’s cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was taken away by the Nazi regime and murdered during the Action T4 campaign of Nazi eugenics.[15] In 1943, while still in seminary, he was drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps as Luftwaffenhelfer (air force child soldier).[14] Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry.[16] As the Allied front drew closer to his post in 1945, he deserted back to his family’s home in Traunstein after his unit had ceased to exist, just as American troops established their headquarters in the Ratzinger household.[17] As a German soldier, he was put in a POW camp but was released a few months later at the end of the war in the summer of 1945.[17] He reentered the seminary, along with his brother Georg, in November of that year.

Thus, following repatriation in 1945, the two brothers entered Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein, later studying at the Ducal Georgianum (Herzogliches Georgianum) of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. They were both ordained in Freising on 29 June 1951 by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Munich. Ratzinger recalled:

…at the moment the elderly Archbishop laid his hands on me, a little bird – perhaps a lark – flew up from the altar in the high cathedral and trilled a little joyful song.[18]

Ratzinger’s 1953 dissertation was on St. Augustine and was titled The People and the House of God in Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church. His Habilitation (which qualified him for a professorship) was on Bonaventure. It was completed in 1957 and he became a professor of Freising College in 1958.

Pre-papal career

Academic career: 1951–77

Ratzinger became a professor at the University of Bonn in 1959; his inaugural lecture was on “The God of Faith and the God of Philosophy”. In 1963, he moved to the University of Münster.

During this period, Ratzinger participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). Ratzinger served as a peritus (theological consultant) to Cardinal Frings of Cologne. He was viewed during the time of the Council as a reformer, cooperating with theologians like Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx. Ratzinger became an admirer of Karl Rahner, a well-known academic theologian of the Nouvelle Théologie and a proponent of church reform.

In 1966, Ratzinger was appointed to a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, where he was a colleague of Hans Küng. In his 1968 book Introduction to Christianity, he wrote that the pope has a duty to hear differing voices within the Church before making a decision, and he downplayed the centrality of the papacy. During this time, he distanced himself from the atmosphere of Tübingen and the Marxist leanings of the student movement of the 1960s that quickly radicalised, in the years 1967 and 1968, culminating in a series of disturbances and riots in April and May 1968. Ratzinger came increasingly to see these and associated developments (such as decreasing respect for authority among his students) as connected to a departure from traditional Catholic teachings.[19] Despite his reformist bent, his views increasingly came to contrast with the liberal ideas gaining currency in theological circles.[20]

Some voices, among them Hans Küng, deem this a turn towards conservatism, while Ratzinger himself said in a 1993 interview, “I see no break in my views as a theologian [over the years]”.[21] Ratzinger has continued to defend the work of the Second Vatican Council, including Nostra Aetate, the document on respect of other religions, ecumenism and the declaration of the right to freedom of religion. Later, as the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger most clearly spelled out the Catholic Church’s position on other religions in the 2000 document Dominus Iesus which also talks about the Roman Catholic way to engage in “ecumenical dialogue”.

During his years at Tübingen University, Ratzinger published articles in the reformist theological journal Concilium, though he increasingly chose less reformist themes than other contributors to the magazine such as Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx.

In 1969, he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg. He founded the theological journal Communio, with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper and others, in 1972. Communio, now published in seventeen languages, including German, English and Spanish, has become a prominent journal of contemporary Catholic theological thought. Until his election as Pope, he remained one of the journal’s most prolific contributors. In 1976, he suggested that the Augsburg Confession might possibly be recognised as a Catholic statement of faith.[22][23]

He served as Vice President of the University of Regensburg from 1976 to 1977.[24]

Archbishop of Munich and Freising: 1977–82

Palais Holnstein in Munich, the residence of Benedict as Archbishop of Munich and Freising

On 24 March 1977, Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising. He took as his episcopal motto Cooperatores Veritatis (Co-workers of the Truth) from 3 John 8, a choice he comments upon in his autobiographical work, Milestones. In the consistory of the following 27 June, he was named Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino by Pope Paul VI. By the time of the 2005 Conclave, he was one of only 14 remaining cardinals appointed by Paul VI, and one of only three of those under the age of 80. Of these, only he and William Wakefield Baum took part in the conclave.[25]

Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: 1981–2005

On 25 November 1981, Pope John Paul II named Ratzinger as the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the “Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office“, the historical Roman Inquisition. Consequently, he resigned his post at Munich in early 1982. He was promoted within the College of Cardinals to become Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993 and was made the college’s vice-dean in 1998 and dean in 2002. Just a year after its foundation in 1990 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger joined the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Salzburg/Austria in 1991.[26][27]

Ratzinger defended and reaffirmed Catholic doctrine, including teaching on topics such as birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue. The theologian Leonardo Boff, for example, was suspended, while others were censured. Other issues also prompted condemnations or revocations of rights to teach: for instance, some posthumous writings of Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello were the subject of a notification. Ratzinger and the congregation viewed many of them, particularly the later works, as having an element of religious indifferentism (i.e., Christ was “one master alongside others”). In particular, Dominus Iesus, published by the congregation in the jubilee year 2000, reaffirmed many recently “unpopular” ideas, including the Catholic Church’s position that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” The document angered many Protestant churches by claiming that they are not actually churches, but “ecclesial communities”.[28]

Ratzinger’s 2001 letter De delictis gravioribus clarified the confidentiality of internal church investigations, as defined in the 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis, into accusations made against priests of certain crimes, including sexual abuse. This became a target of controversy during the sex abuse scandal.[29] As a Cardinal, Raztinger had been for twenty years the man in charge of enforcing the document.[30] While bishops hold the secrecy pertained only internally, and did not preclude investigation by civil law enforcement, the letter was often seen as promoting a coverup.[31] Later, as Pope, he was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys in Texas, but sought and obtained diplomatic immunity from prosecution.[32]

On 12 March 1983, Ratzinger, as prefect, notified the lay faithful and the clergy that archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc had incurred excommunication latae sententiae for illicit episcopal consecrations without the apostolic mandate.

In 1997, when he turned 70, Ratzinger asked Pope John Paul II for permission to leave the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith and to become an archivist in the Vatican Secret Archives and a librarian in the Vatican Library, but the pope refused such permission.[33][34]

Papacy (2005-2013)

Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square, Rome

Election to the papacy

Main article: Papal conclave, 2005

On 2 January 2005, Time magazine quoted unnamed Vatican sources as saying that Ratzinger was a front runner to succeed John Paul II should the pope die or become too ill to continue as pope. On the death of John Paul II, the Financial Times gave the odds of Ratzinger becoming pope as 7–1, the lead position, but close to his rivals on the liberal wing of the church. In April 2005, before his election as pope, he was identified as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time. While Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger repeatedly stated he would like to retire to his house in the Bavarian village of Pentling near Regensburg and dedicate himself to writing books.

Though Ratzinger was increasingly considered the front runner by much of the international media, others maintained that his election was far from certain, since very few papal predictions in modern history had come true. The elections of both John Paul II and his predecessor, John Paul I had been rather unexpected. Despite being the favorite (or perhaps because he was the favorite), it was a surprise to many that he was actually elected, as traditionally the frontrunners are passed over by the conclave for someone else.

On 19 April 2005, Ratzinger was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on the second day of the papal conclave after four ballots. Ratzinger had hoped to retire peacefully and said that “At a certain point, I prayed to God ‘please don’t do this to me’…Evidently, this time He didn’t listen to me.”[35] Coincidentally, 19 April is the feast of St. Leo IX, the most important German pope of the Middle Ages, known for instituting major reforms during his pontificate.

Before his first appearance at the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica after becoming pope, he was announced by Jorge Medina Estévez, Cardinal Protodeacon of the Holy Roman Church. Cardinal Medina Estévez first addressed the massive crowd as “dear(est) brothers and sisters” in Italian, Spanish, French, German and English, with each language receiving cheers from the international crowd, before continuing with the traditional Habemus Papam announcement in Latin.

At the balcony, Benedict’s first words to the crowd, given in Italian before he gave the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing in Latin, were:

Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with insufficient instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help, let us move forward. The Lord will help us, and Mary, His Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.[36]

On 24 April, he celebrated the Papal Inauguration Mass in St. Peter’s Square, during which he was invested with the Pallium and the Ring of the Fisherman. Then, on 7 May, he took possession of his cathedral church, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

Choice of name

Ratzinger chose the pontifical name Benedict, which comes from the Latin word meaning “the blessed”, in honour of both Pope Benedict XV and Saint Benedict of Nursia. Pope Benedict XV was Pope during the First World War, during which time he passionately pursued peace between the warring nations. St. Benedict of Nursia was the founder of the Benedictine monasteries (most monasteries of the Middle Ages were of the Benedictine order) and the author of the Rule of Saint Benedict, which is still the most influential writing regarding the monastic life of Western Christianity.

The pope explained his choice of name during his first General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, on 27 April 2005:

Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples. Additionally, I recall Saint Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, whose life evokes the Christian roots of Europe. I ask him to help us all to hold firm to the centrality of Christ in our Christian life: May Christ always take first place in our thoughts and actions![37]

Tone of papacy

Pope Benedict XVI’s first trip in a Popemobile

During his inaugural Mass, the previous custom of every cardinal submitting to the Pope was replaced by having twelve people, including cardinals, clergy, religious, a married couple and their child, and newly confirmed people, greet him. (The cardinals had formally sworn their obedience upon his election.) He began using an open-topped papal car, saying that he wanted to be closer to the people. Pope Benedict has continued the tradition of his predecessor John Paul II and baptises several infants in the Sistine Chapel at the beginning of each year, in his pastoral role as Bishop of Rome.

Beatifications

On 9 May 2005, Benedict XVI began the beatification process for his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Normally, five years must pass after a person’s death before the beatification process can begin. However, in an audience with Pope Benedict, Camillo Ruini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome and the official responsible for promoting the cause for canonization of any person who dies within that diocese, cited “exceptional circumstances” which suggested that the waiting period could be waived. This happened before, when Pope Paul VI waived the five-year rule and announced beatification processes for his predecessors, Pope Pius XII and Pope John XXIII. Benedict XVI followed this precedent when he waived the five-year rule for John Paul II.[38] The decision was announced on 13 May 2005, the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima and the 24th anniversary of the attempt on John Paul II’s life.[39] John Paul II often credited Our Lady of Fátima for preserving him on that day. Cardinal Ruini inaugurated the diocesan phase of the cause for beatification in the Lateran Basilica on 28 June 2005.[40]

The first beatification under the new Pope was celebrated on 14 May 2005, by José Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The new Blesseds were Mother Marianne Cope and Mother Ascensión Nicol Goñi. Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen was beatified on 9 October 2005. Mariano de la Mata was beatified in November 2006 and Rosa Eluvathingal was beatified 3 December of that year, and Fr. Basil Moreau was beatified September 2007.[41] In October 2008 the following beatifications took place: Celestine of the Mother of God, Giuseppina Nicoli, Hendrina Stenmanns, Maria Rosa Flesch, Marta Anna Wiecka, Michael Sopocko, Petrus Kibe Kasui and 187 Companions, Susana Paz-Castillo Ramirez, Maria Isbael Salvat Romero, and John Henry Newman.

Unlike his predecessor, Benedict XVI delegated the beatification liturgical service to a Cardinal. On 29 September 2005, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued a communiqué announcing that henceforth beatifications would be celebrated by a representative of the Pope, usually the Prefect of that Congregation.[42]

Canonizations

Pope Benedict at the canonization of Frei Galvão

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his first canonizations on 23 October 2005 in St. Peter’s Square when he canonized Josef Bilczewski, Alberto Hurtado SJ, Zygmunt Gorazdowski, Gaetano Catanoso, and Felice da Nicosia. The canonizations were part of a Mass that marked the conclusion of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and the Year of the Eucharist.[43] Pope Benedict XVI canonized Bishop Rafael Guizar y Valencia, Mother Theodore Guerin, Filippo Smaldone, and Rosa Venerini on 15 October 2006.

During his visit to Brazil in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI presided over the canonization of Frei Galvão on 11 May, while George Preca, founder of the Malta based M.U.S.E.U.M., Szymon of Lipnica, Charles of Mount Argus, and Marie-Eugénie de Jésus were canonized in a ceremony held at the Vatican on 3 June 2007.[44] Preca is the first Maltese saint since the country’s conversion to Christianity in 60 A.D. when St. Paul converted the inhabitants.[45] In October 2008 the following canonizations took place: Saint Alphonsa of India,[46] Gaetano Errico, Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran, Maria Bernarda Bütler. In April 2009 he canonized Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno Álvares Pereira, Geltrude Comensoli, Caterina Volpicelli.[47] In October of the same year he canonized Jeanne Jugan, Jozef Damian de Veuster, Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Francisco Coll Guitart and Rafael Arnáiz Barón.[48][49]

On 17 October 2010, Pope Benedict XVI formally declared sainthood for Saint André Bessette, a French-Canadian; Stanislaw Soltys, a 15th-century Polish priest; Italian nuns Giulia Salzano and Camilla Battista da Varano; Spanish nun Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola and an Australian nun, Mother Mary MacKillop.[50]

On 23 October 2011, Pope Benedict XVI canonized three saints: a Spanish nun Bonifacia Rodriguez y Castro, Italian archbishop Guido Maria Conforti, and Italian priest Luigi Guanella.[51]

In December 2011, Pope Benedict formally recognized the validity of the miracles necessary to proceed with the canonizations of Kateri Tekakwitha, who will be the first Native American saint, Marianne Cope, a nun working with lepers in what is now the state of Hawaii, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian priest, Jacques Berthieu a French Jesuit priest and African martyr, Carmen Salles y Barangueras, a Spanish nun and founder of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Peter Calungsod, a lay catechist and martyr from the Philippines, and Anna Schaffer whose desire to be a missionary was unfulfilled on account of her illness.[52] They were canonized on 21 October 2012.[53]

Doctors of the Church

On 7 October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named Hildegard of Bingen and John of Avila Doctors of the Church, the 34th and 35th individuals so recognised in the history of Christianity. His predecessor had only named one Doctor of the Church during his papacy.[54]

Curia reform

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
the Holy See

Pope Benedict began downsizing the Roman Curia when he merged four existing pontifical councils into two in March 2006. The Pontifical Council for Migrants was merged with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace headed by Cardinal Martino. Likewise, Cardinal Poupard, who headed the Pontifical Council for Culture, now also oversees the operations of what had been the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, though both Councils maintained separate officials and staffs while their status and competencies continued unchanged. In May 2007 it was decided that Interreligious Dialogue would again become a separate body under a different President. In June 2010 Benedict created the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation. He appointed Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella as its first president.

Teachings

As Pope, one of Benedict XVI’s main roles is to teach about the Catholic faith and the solutions to the problems of discerning and living the faith,[55] a role that he can play well as a former head of the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The main points of emphasis of his teachings are stated in more detail in Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.

“Friendship with Jesus Christ”

At the conclusion of his first homily as Pope, Benedict referred to both Jesus Christ and John Paul II. Citing John Paul II’s well-known words, “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!”, Benedict XVI said:

Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?…And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation….When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.[56]

Benedict XVI: “The Eucharist is the enduring presence of Jesus’ self-oblation.” (Deus Caritas Est)

“Friendship with Jesus Christ” is a frequent theme of his preaching.[57][58] He stressed that on this intimate friendship, “everything depends.”[59] He has also said: “We are all called to open ourselves to this friendship with God… speaking to him as to a friend, the only One who can make the world both good and happy… That is all we have to do is put ourselves at his disposal…is an extremely important message. It is a message that helps to overcome what can be considered the great temptation of our time: the claim, that after the Big Bang, God withdrew from history.”[60] Thus, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, his main purpose was “to help foster [in the reader] the growth of a living relationship” with Jesus Christ.[59]

He took up this theme in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est. In his personal explanation and summary of the encyclical, he stated: “If friendship with God becomes for us something ever more important and decisive, then we will begin to love those whom God loves and who are in need of us. God wants us to be friends of his friends and we can be so, if we are interiorly close to them.”[61] Thus, he said that prayer is “urgently needed…It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work.”

“Dictatorship of Relativism”

Continuing what he said in the pre-conclave Mass about what he has often referred to as the “central problem of our faith today”,[62] on 6 June 2005 Pope Benedict also said:

Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of education is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognising nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego.[63]

He said that “a dictatorship of relativism”[64] was the core challenge facing the church and humanity. At the root of this problem, he said, is Kant‘s “self-limitation of reason”. This, he said, is contradictory to the modern acclamation of science whose excellence is based on the power of reason to know the truth. He said that this self-amputation of reason leads to pathologies of religion such as terrorism and pathologies of science such as ecological disasters.[65] Benedict traced the failed revolutions and violent ideologies of the 20th century to a conversion of partial points of view into absolute guides. He said “Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism.”[66]

In an address to a conference of the Diocese of Rome held at the basilica of St. John Lateran 6 June 2005, Benedict remarked on the issues of same sex marriage and abortion:

The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man…from here it becomes all the more clear how contrary it is to human love, to the profound vocation of man and woman, to systematically close their union to the gift of life, and even worse to suppress or tamper with the life that is born.[67]

Christianity as religion according to reason

In the discussion with secularism and rationalism, one of Benedict’s basic ideas can be found in his address on the “Crisis of Culture” in the West, a day before Pope John Paul II died, when he referred to Christianity as the Religion of the Logos (the Greek for “word”, “reason”, “meaning”, or “intelligence”). He said:

From the beginning, Christianity has understood itself as the religion of the Logos, as the religion according to reason…It has always defined men, all men without distinction, as creatures and images of God, proclaiming for them…the same dignity. In this connection, the Enlightenment is of Christian origin and it is no accident that it was born precisely and exclusively in the realm of the Christian faith….It was and is the merit of the Enlightenment to have again proposed these original values of Christianity and of having given back to reason its own voice… Today, this should be precisely [Christianity’s] philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not other than a ‘sub-product,’ on occasion even harmful of its development—or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal…In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the Logos, from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational.[68]

Benedict also emphasised that “Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way.”

Encyclicals

Pope Benedict has to date written three encyclicals: Deus Caritas Est (Latin for “God is Love”), Spe Salvi (“Saved by Hope”), and Caritas in Veritate (“Love in Truth”).

In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, he said that a human being, created in the image of God who is love, is able to practice love: to give himself to God and others (agape), by receiving and experiencing God’s love in contemplation. This life of love, according to him, is the life of the saints such as Teresa of Calcutta and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is the direction Christians take when they believe that God loves them in Jesus Christ.[69]

The encyclical contains almost 16,000 words in 42 paragraphs. The first half is said to have been written by Benedict in German, his mother tongue, in the summer of 2005; the second half is derived from uncompleted writings left by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.[70] The document was signed by Pope Benedict on Christmas Day, 25 December 2005.[71] The encyclical was promulgated a month later in Latin and was translated into English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish. It is the first encyclical to be published since the Vatican decided to assert copyright in the official writings of the Pope.[72]

Pope Benedict’s second encyclical titled Spe Salvi (“Saved by Hope”), about the virtue of hope, was released on 30 November 2007.[73][74]

Benedict’s third encyclical titled Caritas in Veritate (“Love in Truth” or “Charity in Truth”), was signed on 29 June 2009 (the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul) and released on 7 July 2009.[75] In it, the Pope continued the Church’s teachings on social justice. He condemned the prevalent economic system “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and called on people to rediscover ethics in business and economic relations.[75]

Post-synodal apostolic exhortation

Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity) signed 22 February 2007, released in Latin, Italian, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Polish. It was made available in various languages 13 March 2007 in Rome. The English edition from Libera Editrice Vaticana is 158 pages. This apostolic exhortation “seeks to take up the richness and variety of the reflections and proposals which emerged from the recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops…” which was held in 2006.[76]

Motu proprio on Tridentine Mass

A pre-1969 Latin Rite altar with reredos.
The high altar of a church was usually preceded by three steps, below which were said the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. Side altars usually had only one step.

On 7 July 2007, Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, declaring that upon “the request of the faithful”, celebration of Mass according to the Missal of 1962 (commonly known as the Tridentine Mass), was to be more easily permitted. Stable groups who previously had to petition their bishop to have a Tridentine Mass may now merely request permission from their local priest.[77] While Summorum Pontificum directs that pastors should provide the Tridentine Mass upon the requests of the faithful, it also allows for any qualified priest to offer private celebrations of the Tridentine Mass, to which the faithful may be admitted if they wish.[78] For regularly scheduled public celebrations of the Tridentine Mass, the permission of the priest in charge of the church is required.[79]

In an accompanying letter, the Pope outlined his position concerning questions about the new guidelines.[78] As there were fears that the move would entail a reversal of the Second Vatican Council,[80] Benedict emphasised that the Tridentine Mass would not detract from the Council, and that the Mass of Paul VI would still be the norm and priests were not permitted to refuse to say the Mass in that form. He pointed out that use of Tridentine Mass “was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.”[78] The letter also decried “deformations of the liturgy … because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal” as the Second Vatican Council was wrongly seen “as authorising or even requiring creativity”, mentioning his own experience.[78]

The Pope considered that allowing the Tridentine Mass to those who request it was a means to prevent or heal schism, stating that, on occasions in history, “not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity” and that this “imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.”[78] Many feel the decree aimed at ending the schism between the Holy See and traditionalist groups such as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, the president of the Pontifical Commission established for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of those associated with that Society,[81] stated that the decree “opened the door for their return”. Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, expressed “deep gratitude to the Sovereign Pontiff for this great spiritual benefit”.[77]

Unicity and salvific universality of the Catholic Church

Near the end of June 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document approved by Benedict XVI “because some contemporary theological interpretations of Vatican II‘s ecumenical intent had been ‘erroneous or ambiguous’ and had prompted confusion and doubt.”[82] The document has been seen as restating “key sections of a 2000 text the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, Dominus Iesus.”[82]

Consumerism

[icon] This section requires expansion. (June 2008)

Benedict XVI has condemned excessive consumerism, especially among youth. He stated in December 2007 that “[A]dolescents, youths and even children are easy victims of the corruption of love, deceived by unscrupulous adults who, lying to themselves and to them, draw them into the dead-end streets of consumerism.”[83]

In June 2009, he blamed outsourcing for greater availability of consumer goods which lead to downsizing of social security systems.[84]

Ecumenical efforts

Speaking at his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square on 7 June 2006, Pope Benedict asserted that Jesus himself had entrusted the leadership of the Church to his apostle Peter. “Peter’s responsibility thus consists of guaranteeing the communion with Christ,” said Pope Benedict. “Let us pray so that the primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, may always be exercised in this original sense desired by the Lord, so that it will be increasingly recognised in its true meaning by brothers who are still not in communion with us.”

Also in 2006, Benedict met with Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Communion. In their Common Declaration, they highlighted the previous 40 years of dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans while also acknowledging “serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress.”[85]

Benedict has also acknowledged the Lutheran church, saying that he has had friends in that organisation.

Dialogue with other religions

Pope Benedict is open to dialogue with other religious groups, and has sought to improve relations with them throughout his pontificate.[86][87] He has, however, generated certain controversies in doing so.

Judaism

When Benedict ascended to the Papacy his election was welcomed by the Anti-Defamation League who noted “his great sensitivity to Jewish history and the Holocaust“.[88] However, his election received a more reserved response from the United Kingdom’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who hoped that Benedict would “continue along the path of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II in working to enhance relations with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”[89] The Foreign Minister of Israel also offered more tentative praise, though the Minister believed that “this Pope, considering his historical experience, will be especially committed to an uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism.”[89]

Critics have accused Benedict’s papacy of insensitivity towards Judaism. The two most prominent instances were the expansion of the use of the Tridentine Mass and the lifting of the excommunication on four bishops from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). In the Good Friday service, the traditional Mass rubrics include a prayer that asks God to lift the veil so they [Jews] may be delivered from their darkness. This prayer has historically been contentious in Judaic-Catholic relations and several groups saw the restoration of the Tridentine Mass as problematic.[90][91][92][93][94] Among those whose excommunications were lifted was Bishop Richard Williamson, an outspoken historical revisionist sometimes interpreted as a Holocaust denier.[95][96][97][98] The lifting of his excommunication led critics to charge that the Pope was condoning his historical revisionist views.[99]

Islam

Pope Benedict’s relations with Islam have been strained at times. On 12 September 2006 Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture which touched on Islam at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The pope had previously served as professor of theology at the university, and his lecture was entitled “Faith, Reason and the University—Memories and Reflections”. The lecture received much attention from political and religious authorities. Many Islamic politicians and religious leaders registered their protest against what they said was an insulting mischaracterisation of Islam, although his focus was aimed towards the rationality of religious violence, and its effect on the religion.[100][101] Muslims were particularly offended by the following quotation from the Pope’s speech:

Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.[101]

The passage originally appeared in the Dialogue Held with a Certain Persian, the Worthy Mouterizes, in Anakara of Galatia[102][103] written in 1391 as an expression of the views of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, one of the last Christian rulers before the Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottoman Empire, on such issues as forced conversion, holy war, and the relationship between faith and reason. According to the German text, the Pope’s original comment was that the emperor “addresses his interlocutor in an astoundingly harsh—to us surprisingly harsh—way” (wendet er sich in erstaunlich schroffer, uns überraschend schroffer Form).[104] Pope Benedict apologised for any offence he had caused and made a point of visiting Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, and praying in its Blue Mosque.

Pope Benedict XVI planned on 5 March 2008, to meet with Muslim scholars and religious leaders autumn 2008 at a Catholic-Muslim seminar in Rome.[105] That meeting, the “First Meeting of the Catholic-Muslim Forum,” was held from 4–6 November 2008.[106]

On 9 May 2009 H.H. Pope Benedict XVI visited the King Hussein Mosque, Amman, Jordan where he was addressed by H.R.H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal.[86]

Tibetan Buddhism

The Dalai Lama congratulated Pope Benedict XVI upon his election,[107] and visited him in October 2006 in the Vatican City. In 2007 China was accused of using its political influence to stop a meeting between the Pope and the Dalai Lama.[108]

Indigenous American beliefs

While visiting Brazil in May 2007, “the pope sparked controversy by saying that native populations had been ‘silently longing’ for the Christian faith brought to South America by colonizers.”[109] The Pope continued, stating that “the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.”[109] President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez demanded an apology, and an indigenous organisation in Ecuador issued a response which stated that “representatives of the Catholic Church of those times, with honourable exceptions, were accomplices, deceivers and beneficiaries of one of the most horrific genocides of all humanity.”[109] Later, the pope, speaking Italian, said at a weekly audience that it was:

“not possible to forget the suffering and the injustices inflicted by colonizers against the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled.”[110]

International Society for Krishna Consciousness

While visiting the United States on 17 April 2008, Benedict met with International Society for Krishna Consciousness representative Radhika Ramana Dasa;[111] a notable Hindu scholar[112] and disciple of Hanumatpreshaka Swami.[113] On behalf of the Hindu American community, Radhika Ramana Dasa presented a gift of an Om symbol to Benedict.[114][115]

Apostolic ministry

Pope Benedict XVI in a Mercedes-Benz popemobile in São Paulo, Brazil

As Pontiff, Benedict XVI carries out numerous Apostolic activities including journeys across the world and in the Vatican.

Benedict travelled extensively during the first three years of his papacy. In addition to his travels within Italy, Pope Benedict XVI has made two visits to his homeland, Germany, one for World Youth Day and another to visit the towns of his childhood. He has also visited Poland and Spain, where he was enthusiastically received.[116] His visit to Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, was initially overshadowed by the controversy about a lecture he had given at Regensburg. His visit was met by nationalist and Islamic protesters[117] and was placed under unprecedented security measures.[118] However, the trip went ahead and Benedict made a joint declaration with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in an attempt to begin to heal the rift between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

In 2007, Pope Benedict visited Brazil in order to address the Bishops’ Conference there and canonize Friar Antônio Galvão, an 18th century Franciscan. In June 2007, Benedict made a personal pilgrimage and pastoral visit to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. In September, Benedict undertook a three-day visit to Austria,[119] during which he joined Vienna’s Chief Rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg, in a memorial to the 65,000 Viennese Jews who perished in Nazi death camps.[120] During his stay in Austria, he also celebrated Mass at the Marian shrine Mariazell and visited Heiligenkreuz Abbey.[121]

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his 81st birthday with U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura. The White House, Washington D.C.

In April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit to the United States since becoming pope.[122] He arrived in Washington, DC where he was formally received at the White House and met privately with U.S. President George W. Bush.[123] While in Washington, the pope addressed representatives of US Catholic universities, met with leaders of other world religions, and celebrated Mass at the Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium with 47,000 people.[124] The Pope also met privately with victims of sexual abuse by priests. The pope travelled to New York where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly.[125] Also while in New York, the pope celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, met with disabled children and their families, and attended an event for Catholic youth, where he addressed some 25,000 young people in attendance.[126] On the final day of the pope’s visit, he visited the World Trade Center site and later celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium.[127]

In July 2008, the Pope travelled to Australia to attend World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney. On 19 July, in St. Mary’s Cathedral, he made an apology for child sex abuse perpetrated by the clergy in Australia.[128][129] On 13 September 2008, at an outdoor Paris Mass attended by 250,000 people, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the modern materialism – the world’s love of power, possessions and money as a modern-day plague, comparing it to paganism.[130][131]

In 2009, he visited Africa (Cameroon and Angola) for the first time as a Pope. During his visit, he suggested that altering sexual behavior was the answer to Africa’s AIDS crisis, and urged Catholics to reach out and convert believers in sorcery.

He visited the Middle East (Jordan, Israel and Palestine) in May 2009.

Pope Benedict’s main arena for pastoral activity is the Vatican itself, his Christmas and Easter homilies and Urbi et Orbi are delivered from St Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican is also the only regular place where the Pope travels via motor without the protective bulletproof case common to most popemobiles. Despite the more secure setting Pope Benedict has been victim to security risks several times inside Vatican City. On Wednesday, 6 June 2007 during his General Audience a man leapt across a barrier, evaded guards and nearly mounted the Pope’s vehicle, although he was stopped and Benedict seemed to be unaware of the event. On Thursday, 24 December 2009, while Pope Benedict was proceeding to the altar to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass at St Peter’s Basilica, a woman later identified as 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo, who holds Italian and Swiss citizenships, jumped the barrier and grabbed the pope by his vestments and pulled him to the ground. The 82-year-old fell but was assisted to his feet and he continued to proceed towards the altar to celebrate Mass. Roger Etchegaray, 87, the vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, fell also and suffered a hip fracture. Italian police reported that the woman had previously attempted to accost the Pope at the previous Christmas Eve Mass, but was prevented from doing so.[132][133]

Pope Benedict XVI in Balzan, Malta.

In his homily, Pope Benedict forgave Susanna Maiolo[134] and urged the world to “wake up” from selfishness and petty affairs, and find time for God and spiritual matters.[132]

Between 17 and 18 April, Pope Benedict made an Apostolic Journey to the Republic of Malta. Following meetings with various dignitaries on his first day on the island, 50,000 people gathered in a drizzle for Papal Mass on the granaries in Floriana. The Pope also met with the Maltese youth at the Valletta Waterfront, where an estimated 10,000 young people turned up to greet him.[135] During his visit the Pope was moved to tears while expressing his shame at cases of abuse on the island during a 20-minute meeting with victims.[136]

Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church

Prior to 2001, the primary responsibility for investigating allegations of sexual abuse and disciplining perpetrators rested with the individual dioceses. In 2001, Ratzinger convinced John Paul II to put the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in charge of all investigations and policies surrounding sexual abuse in order to combat such abuse more efficiently.[137][138] According to John L. Allen, Jr., Ratzinger in the following years “acquired a familiarity with the contours of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic Church can claim” and “driven by that encounter with what he would later refer to as ‘filth’ in the Church, Ratzinger seems to have undergone something of a ‘conversion experience’ throughout 2003–04. From that point forward, he and his staff seemed driven by a convert’s zeal to clean up the mess”.[139] In his role as Head of the CFD, he “led important changes made in Church law: the inclusion in canon law of internet offences against children, the extension of child abuse offences to include the sexual abuse of all under 18, the case by case waiving of the statute of limitation and the establishment of a fast-track dismissal from the clerical state for offenders.”[140] As the Head of the CDF, Ratzinger developed a reputation for handling these cases. According to Charles J. Scicluna, a former prosecutor handling sexual abuse cases, “Cardinal Ratzinger displayed great wisdom and firmness in handling those cases, also demonstrating great courage in facing some of the most difficult and thorny cases, sine acceptione personarum (without exceptions)”.[139][141]

One of the cases Ratzinger pursued involved Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, a Mexican priest and founder of the Legion of Christ, who had been accused repeatedly of sexual abuse. Biographer Andrea Tornielli suggested that Cardinal Ratzinger had wanted to take action against Marcial Maciel Degollado, but that John Paul II and other high-ranking officials, including several cardinals and notably the pope’s influential secretary Stanisław Dziwisz, prevented him from doing so.[138][142] According to Jason Berry, Angelo Sodano “pressured” Cardinal Ratzinger, who was “operating on the assumption that the charges were not justified”, to halt the proceedings against Maciel in 1999[143] When Maciel was honored by the Pope in 2004, new accusers came forward[143] and Cardinal Ratzinger “took it on himself to authorize an investigation of Maciel”[138] After Ratzinger became pope he began proceedings against Maciel and the Legion of Christ that forced Maciel out of active service in the Church.[137] On 1 May 2010 the Vatican issued a statement denouncing Maciel’s “very serious and objectively immoral acts”, which were “confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies” and represent “true crimes and manifest a life without scruples or authentic religious sentiment.” Pope Benedict also said he would appoint a special commission to examine the Legionaries’ constitution and open an investigation into its lay affiliate Regnum Christi.[144] Cardinal Christoph Schönborn explained that Ratzinger “made entirely clear efforts not to cover things up but to tackle and investigate them. This was not always met with approval in the Vatican”.[137][145] According to Schönborn, Cardinal Ratzinger had pressed John Paul II to investigate Hans Hermann Groër, an Austrian cardinal and friend of John Paul accused of sexual abuse, resulting in Groër’s resignation.[142]

In March 2010, the Pope sent a Pastoral Letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland addressing cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to minors, expressing sorrow, and promising changes in the way accusations of abuse are dealt with.[146] Victim groups claim the letter failed to clarify if secular law enforcement has priority over canon law confidentiality pertaining to internal investigation of abuse allegations.[147][148][149][150] The Pope then promised to introduce measures that would ‘safeguard young people in the future’ and ‘bring to justice’ priests who were responsible for abuse.[136] In April, the Vatican issued guidelines on how existing Church law should be implemented. The guideline dictates that “Civil law concerning reporting of crimes… should always be followed.”[151] The guideline was intended to follow the norms established by U.S. bishops, but it does not require the reporting of “allegations” or crimes where reporting is not required by law.[152]

Pope Benedict XVI in choir dress with the red summer papal mozzetta, embroidered red stole, and the red papal shoes.

Attire

Pope Benedict XVI has re-introduced several papal garments which had previously fallen into disuse. Pope Benedict XVI resumed the use of the traditional red papal shoes, which had not been used since early in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Contrary to the initial speculation of the press that the shoes had been made by the Italian fashion house Prada, the Vatican announced that the shoes were provided by the pope’s personal shoemaker.[153]

On 21 December 2005, the pope once only wore the camauro, the traditional red papal hat usually worn in the winter. It had not been seen since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII (1958–1963). On 6 September 2006 the pope began wearing the red cappello romano (also called a saturno), a wide-brimmed hat for outdoor use. Rarely used by John Paul II, it was more widely worn by his predecessors.

Health

Prior to his election as Pope in 2005, Ratzinger had hoped to retire—on account of age-related health problems, a long-held desire to have free time to write, and the retirement age for bishops (75)—and submitted his resignation as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith three times, but continued at his post in obedience to the wishes of Pope John Paul II. In September 1991, Ratzinger suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, which slightly impaired his eyesight temporarily but he recovered completely.[154] This was never affirmed – the official news was that Ratzinger fell and struck his head against a radiator – but an open secret known to the Conclave that elected him Pope.[155]

Since his election in April 2005 there have been several rumors about the Pope’s health but none of them have ever been confirmed. Early in his pontificate Pope Benedict XVI predicted a short reign which led to concerns about his health.[156] In May 2005, the Vatican announced that he had subsequently suffered another mild stroke. French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin further stated that since the first stroke, Ratzinger had been suffering from a heart condition as a result of his age, for which he is currently on medication. In late November 2006, Vatican insiders told the international press that the Pope had a routine examination of the heart.[155] A few days later an unconfirmed rumor emerged that Pope Benedict had undergone an operation in preparation for an eventual bypass operation but this rumor was only published by a small left-wing Italian newspaper and was never confirmed by any Vatican insider.[157]

On 17 July 2009, Benedict was hospitalized after falling and breaking his right wrist while on vacation in the Alps. His injuries were reported to be minor.[158]

Resignation

On 11 February 2013, the Vatican confirmed Pope Benedict would resign the papacy on 28 February 2013 as a result of his advanced age,[159] becoming the first pope to do so since Gregory XII in 1415.[160] The move was considered unexpected.[161] In modern times, all popes have stayed in office until death. Benedict will be the first Pope to have resigned voluntarily since Pope Celestine V in 1294, and the first to leave the Papal office while still alive since Pope Gregory XII in 1415. [5]

In a statement, Benedict cited his deteriorating strength and the physical and mental demands of the papacy.[162] He also declared that he would continue to serve the church “through a life dedicated to prayer”.[162]

The resignation annoucement comes as the Pope is apparently suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which could prevent him from fulfilling his duties.[163]

Benedict said, addressing his Cardinals in Latin:[164]

Dear Brothers,I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.

And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

Titles and styles

Papal styles of
Pope Benedict XVI
BXVI CoA like gfx PioM.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father

The official style of the Pope is His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI; in Latin, Benedictus XVI, Episcopus Romae.

However, his rarely used full title is: His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.

Before 1 March 2006, the list of titles also used to contain that of a “Patriarch of the West“, which traditionally appeared in that list of titles before “Primate of Italy”. The title of “Patriarch of the West” was first adopted in the year 642 by Pope Theodore I, but was rarely used since the East-West Schism of 1054. From the Orthodox perspective, authority in the Church could be traced to the five patriarchates of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. However, some Catholic theologians have argued that the term “Patriarch of the West” has no clear historical or theological basis and was introduced into the papal court in 1870 at the time of the First Vatican Council. Pope Benedict chose to remove the title at a time when discussions with the Orthodox churches have centered on the issue of papal primacy.

Arms

Arms of Pope Benedict XVI
Notes
The coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI was designed by then Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo (who later was created a Cardinal) soon after the papal election. Benedict’s coat of arms has omitted the papal tiara, which traditionally appears in the background to designate the Pope’s position as a worldly ruler like a king, replacing it with a simple mitre, emphasising his spiritual authority.[165]
BXVI CoA like gfx PioM.svg
Escutcheon
Gules, chape in or, with the scallop shell of the second; the dexter chape with a moor’s head in natural colour, crowned and collared of the first, the sinister chape a bear trippant in natural colour, carrying a pack gules belted sable
Symbolism
Scallop shell: The symbolism of the scallop shell is multiple; one reference is to Saint Augustine. While a doctoral candidate in 1953, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger wrote his dissertation on The People of God and the House of God in Augustine’s Teaching is always about the Church, and therefore has a personal connection with the thought of this great Doctor of the Church.
Moor of Freising: The Moor’s head is an heraldic charge associated with Freising, Germany.
Corbinian’s bear: A legend states that while travelling to Rome, Saint Corbinian’s pack horse was killed by a bear. He commanded the bear to carry the load. Once he arrived, he released it from his service, and it returned to Bavaria. The implication is that “Christianity tamed and domesticated the ferocity of paganism and thus laid the foundations for a great civilisation in the Duchy of Bavaria.” At the same time, Corbinian’s bear, as God’s beast of burden, symbolises the weight of office that Benedict now carries.

Positions on moral and political issues

Birth control and HIV/AIDS

In 2005, the Pope listed several ways to combat the spread of HIV, including chastity, fidelity in marriage and anti-poverty efforts; he also rejected the use of condoms.[166] The alleged Vatican investigation of whether there are any cases when married persons may use condoms to protect against the spread of infections surprised many Catholics in the wake of John Paul II’s consistent refusal to consider condom use in response to AIDS.[167] However, the Vatican has since stated that no such change in the Church’s teaching can occur.[168] TIME also reported in its 30 April 2006 edition that the Vatican’s position remains what it always has been with Vatican officials “flatly dismiss[ing] reports that the Vatican is about to release a document that will condone any condom use.”[168]

In March 2009, the Pope stated:

I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help, the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it. The solution must have two elements: firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving towards others, and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practise self-denial, to be alongside the suffering.[169]

In November 2010, in a book-length interview, the Pope, using the example of male prostitutes, stated that the use of condoms, with the intention of reducing the risk of HIV infection, may be an indication that the prostitute is intending to reduce the evil connected with his or her immoral activity.[170] In the same interview, the Pope also reiterated the traditional teaching of the Church that condoms are not seen as a “real or moral solution” to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Further, in December 2010, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith explained that the Pope’s statement did not constitute a legitimization of either prostitution or contraception, both of which remain gravely immoral.[170]

Homosexuality

During his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Benedict XVI made several efforts to tackle the issue of homosexuality within the Church and the wider world. In 1986 the CDF sent a letter to all bishops entitled: On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. The letter condemned a liberal interpretation of the earlier CDF document Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, which had led to a “benign” attitude “to the homosexual condition itself”. On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons clarified that the Church’s position on homosexuality was that “although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”[171] However the document also condemned homophobic attacks and violence, stating that “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”[171]

In 1992 he again approved CDF documents declaring that homosexual “inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder” and extended this principle to civil law. “Sexual orientation”, the document said, was not equivalent to race or ethnicity, and it declared that it was “not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account.”[172]

On 22 December 2008, the Pope gave an end of year message to the Roman Curia in which he talked about gender and the important distinction between men and women. The pope said that the church viewed the distinction as central to human nature, and “asks that this order, set down by creation, be respected”. He characterised gender roles which deviated from his view of what gender roles should be as “a violation of the natural order”. The church, he said, “should protect man from the destruction of himself”. He said a sort of ecology of man was needed, adding: “The tropical forests do deserve our protection; but man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.” He attacked what he described as gender theories which “lead towards the self-emancipation of man from creation and the creator”.[173][174]

LGBT groups such as the Italian Arcigay and German LSVD have announced that they found the Pope’s comments homophobic.[175] Aurelio Mancuso, head of Arcigay, saying “A divine programme for men and women is out of line with nature, where the roles are not so clear.”[173]

Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, claimed the Pope had not wished specifically to attack homosexuality, and had not mentioned gays or lesbians in his text. Father Lombardi insisted, however, that there had been an overreaction to the Pope’s remarks. “He was speaking more generally about gender theories which overlook the fundamental difference in creation between men and women and focus instead on cultural conditioning.” Nevertheless, the remarks were interpreted as a call to save mankind from homosexuals and transsexuals.[173]

Gay marriage

During a 2012 Christmas speech,[176] the Pope made remarks about the present-day interpretation of the notion of ‘gender‘. He stated that “sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves”, and “The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply”. Although he didn’t mention the topic, his words were interpreted by news media as denunciations of gay marriage,[177] with some sources adding that Benedict would have called it a threat to world peace similar to abortion and euthanasia.[178] In March 2012, he stated that straight marriage should be defended from “every possible misrepresentation of their true nature”.[179]

International relations

Migrants and refugees

In a message released 14 November 2006, during a Vatican press conference for the 2007 annual observance of World Day for Migrants and Refugees, the pope urged the ratification of international conventions and policies that defend all migrants, including refugees, exiles, evacuees, and internally displaced persons. “The church encourages the ratification of the international legal instruments that aim to defend the rights of migrants, refugees and their families,” the pope said. “Much is already being done for the integration of the families of immigrants, although much still remains to be done.”[180]

Benedict with then President of Russia Vladimir Putin on 13 March 2007

Pope Benedict has also promoted various UN events, such as World Refugee Day, on which he offered up special prayers for refugees and called for the international community to do more to secure refugees’ human rights. He also called on Catholic communities and organizations to offer them concrete help.[181]

China

In 2007 Benedict sent a letter at Easter to Catholics in China that could have wide-ranging implications for the church’s relationship with China’s leadership. The letter provides long-requested guidance to Chinese bishops on how to respond to illicitly ordained bishops, as well as how to strengthen ties with the Patriotic Association and the Communist government.[182]

Korea

On 13 November 2006, Benedict said the dispute over the North Korea nuclear weapons program should be resolved through negotiations, in his first public comment on the security issue, a news report said. “The Holy See encourages bilateral or multilateral negotiations, convinced that the solution must be sought through peaceful means and in respect for agreements taken by all sides to obtain the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” Benedict was talking to the new Japanese ambassador to the Vatican.[183]

Turkey

In a 2004 Le Figaro interview, Ratzinger said that Turkey, which is demographically Muslim but governmentally secular by virtue of its state constitution, should seek its future in an association of Muslim nations rather than the European Union, which Ratzinger has stated has Christian roots. He said Turkey had always been “in permanent contrast to Europe and that linking it to Europe would be a mistake.”[184]

Later visiting the country to “reiterate the solidarity between the cultures,” it was reported that he made a counter-statement backing Turkey’s bid to join the EU. Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said that the pope told him in their meeting that while the Vatican seeks to stay out of politics it desires Turkey’s membership in the EU.[185][186] However, the Common Declaration of Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople implied that support for Turkey’s membership in the European Union would be contingent on the establishment of religious freedom in Turkey:[187] “In every step towards unification, minorities must be protected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion.”[188] The Declaration also reiterates Pope Benedict XVI’s call for Europe to preserve its Christian roots.

Israel

In May 2009 he visited Israel.[189][190] This was the third Papal visit to the Holy Land, the previous ones being made by Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope John Paul II in 2000.

Vietnam

Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng met at the Vatican on 25 January 2007 in a “new and important step towards establishing diplomatic ties”.[191] The Pope met with President Nguyễn Minh Triết on 11 December 2009. Vatican officials called the meeting “a significant stage in the progress of bilateral relations with Vietnam.”[192]

Global economy

In 2009 the Pope intervened in global economic and political affairs with his third encyclical, Charity in Truth (Latin Caritas in Veritate), which can be viewed on the Vatican’s web site.[193] The document sets out the Pope’s position on the case for worldwide redistribution of wealth in considerable detail and goes on to discuss the environment, migration, terrorism, sexual tourism, bioethics, energy and population issues. The Financial Times has reported that the Pope’s advocacy for a fairer redistribution of wealth has helped set the agenda for the 2009 July G8 summit.[194][195]

Also included in Charity in Truth is advocacy for tax choice:

One possible approach to development aid would be to apply effectively what is known as fiscal subsidiarity, allowing citizens to decide how to allocate a portion of the taxes they pay to the State. Provided it does not degenerate into the promotion of special interests, this can help to stimulate forms of welfare solidarity from below, with obvious benefits in the area of solidarity for development as well.

Nuclear energy

Pope Benedict XVI has called for nuclear disarmament. At the same time, he has supported the peaceful use of nuclear energy as a tool for development and the fight against poverty. In his message for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he confirmed: “The Holy See, fully approving of the IAEA’s goal, has been a member from the organisation’s foundation and continues to support its activity.”[196]

Interests

Pope Benedict XVI after a musical concert offered to his honor. circa 2008.

Pope Benedict is known to be deeply interested in classical music,[11] and is an accomplished pianist.[197] He has a grand piano in his papal quarters. The Pontiff’s favorite composer is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, of whose music the Pope said: “His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence.”[198] Benedict also stated that Mozart’s music affected him greatly as a young man and “deeply penetrated his soul.”[198] Benedict’s favorite works of music are Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet.[199]

Pope Benedict has recorded an album of contemporary classical music in which Benedict sings and recites prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary.[200] The album was set for release on 30 November 2009.

Pope Benedict is also known to be fond of cats.[11] As Cardinal Ratzinger he was known (according to former neighbours) to look after stray cats in his neighbourhood. A book called Joseph and Chico: A Cat Recounts the Life of Pope Benedict XVI was published in 2007 which told the story of the Pope’s life from the feline Chico’s perspective. This story was inspired by an orange tabby Pentling cat, which belonged to the family next door.[201] During his trip to Australia for World Youth Day in 2008 the media reported that festival organizers lent the Pope a grey cat called Bella[202] in order to keep him company during his stay.[203]

In December 2012, the Vatican announced Benedict had joined social networking website Twitter, under the handle @Pontifex.[204] His first tweet was made on 12 December and was “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”[205]

Honours and awards

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Italian Wikipedia.

Pope Benedict is Grand Master of the following Orders: Supreme Order of Christ, Order of the Golden Spur, Order of Pius IX, Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great and the Order of St. Sylvester.

1977 Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit of the Republic of Ecuador
1977 Knight Grand Cross of the Bavarian Order of Merit
1985 Grand Merit Cross with Star and Sash of the Federal Republic of Germany
1985 Constitutional Medal of the Bavarian State Parliament in Gold
1989 Ordine della Minerva at the University of Chieti
1989 Augustin Bea Prize (Rome)
1989 Karl-Valentin-Orden (Munich)
1991 Leopold Kunschak Prize (Vienna)
1991 Georg von Hertling Medal of Kartellverband katholischer deutscher Studentenvereine
1992 Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash for Services to the Republic of Austria
1992 Literature Prize Capri S. Michele in Anacapri
1992 Premio Internazionale di Cultura Cattolica, Bassano del Grappa
1993 literary prize Premio Letterario Basilicata per la Letteratura e Poesia religiosa Spirituale in Potenza (Italy)
1996 Knight of the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art
1998 Commander of the Legion of Honour (Legion d’Honneur) (France)
1999 Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
2002 Liberal Trieste
2004 Literature Prize Capri S. Michele in Anacapri
Honorary doctorates
1984 College of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minnesota, USA; Honorary Doctor of Human Letters)
1986 Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (Pontifical Catholic University of Peru)
1987 Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
1988 Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski (Catholic University of Lublin, Poland)
1998 University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)
1999 Libera Università Maria SS Assunta Roma (Maria SS Assunta Free University, Rome) (honorary degree in law)
2000 Uniwersytet Wrocławski (University of Wroclaw, Poland; Honorary Doctor of Theology)
2005 Universatea Babes-Bolyai in Cluj-Napoca (Babeș-Bolyai University)
Honorary citizenships
1987 Pentling, near Regensburg, location of his main German residence
1997 Marktl, his birthplace
2005 Traunstein, location of the school and the study seminar he attended
2006 Altötting
2006 Regensburg, worked as a full, later as a visiting, professor
2006 Aschau am Inn, started school and received Mass for the first time
2007 Tittmoning, where he spent part of his childhood.
2008 Brixen, where he holidayed several times as a Cardinal and as Pope
2009 Mariazell, whose sanctuary he visited in 2007 as Pope
2009 Introd in the Aosta Valley, where he spent some of his summer holidays in 2005, 2006 and 2009
2010 Freising, where he studied, was ordained a priest in 1951, where he served from 1954–1957 lecturer at the Philosophical and Theological College and worked from 1977 to 1982 as archbishop of Munich and Freising
2011 Natz-Schabs in South Tyrol; Benedict’s grandmother Maria Tauber Peintner and his great-grandmother Elisabeth Maria Tauber both come from Natz-Schabs

The asteroid 8661 Ratzinger was dedicated to him, on the grounds of making accessible the Vatican archives and thus allow the historians to investigate miscarriages of justice against Galileo and other scientists in the Middle Ages.

Pope Benedict is an honorary citizen of Arconate, Romano Canavese

Writings

The following is a list of books written by Pope Benedict XVI arranged chronologically by English first edition. The original German first edition publication year is included in parentheses.

See also

Book icon

Notes

  1. ^ This book was originally published in German in four volumes: Die erste Sitzungsperiode des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils (1963), Das Konzil auf dem Weg (1964), Ergebnisse und Probleme der dritten Konzilsperiode (1965), and Die letzte Sitzungsperiode des Konzils (1966).

References

  1. ^ “Biography of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI”. Vatican.va. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  2. ^ The precise number of popes has been a matter for scholarly debate for centuries. John A. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary (1980) lists Pope John Paul II (1978–2005) as 264th Pope, making him the 265th.
  3. ^ Hern, Alex. “Why is the Pope resigning?”. New Statesman. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  4. ^ “Pope Benedict XVI in shock resignation”. BBC. 2013-02-11. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  5. ^ a b Jane Croft and Tom Burgis (2013-02-11). “Pope Benedict XVI to step down” ((registration required)). Financial Times. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  6. ^ Walsh, Mary Ann (2005). From Pope John Paul II to Benedict XVI: an inside look at the end of an era, the beginning of a new one, and the future of the church. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 135. ISBN 1-58051-202-X.
  7. ^ Owen, Richard (6 June 2008). “Vatican to publish entire work by bestselling author Pope Benedict XVI”. The Times (London). Retrieved 6 May 2009. WebCitation archive
  8. ^ Johnston, Jerry Earl (18 February 2006). “Benedict’s encyclical offers hope for world”. Deseret News. Retrieved 12 September 2010. WebCitation archive
  9. ^ Gledhill, Ruth “Pope set to bring back Latin Mass that divided the Church” The Times 11 October 2006 Retrieved 21 November 2010 WebCitation archive
  10. ^ “Pope Benedict XVI: Quick Facts”. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  11. ^ a b c Willey, David (13 May 2005). “Pope Benedict’s creature comforts”. BBC News. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  12. ^ Mrugala, Anette (10 July 2009). “”Papst-Schule” eingeweiht [“Pope school” opened]” (in German). Innsalzach24.de. Retrieved 17 September 2011. WebCitation archive
  13. ^ Evans, Richard J. (2005). The Third Reich in Power. Penguin Books. p. 272. ISBN 1-59420-074-2.
  14. ^ a b “New Pope Defied Nazis As Teen During WWII”. USA Today. Associated Press. 23 April 2005. Retrieved 10 July 2009. WebCitation archive
  15. ^ Allen, John (14 October 2005). “Anti-Nazi Prelate Beatified”. The Word from Rome (National Catholic Reporter). Retrieved 15 April 2008.
  16. ^ Pope Benedict XVI; Thornton, John F.; Varenne, Susan B. (2007). The Essential Pope Benedict XVI: His Central Writings and Speeches. HarperCollins. pp. xxxix and xl. ISBN 0-06-112883-X. “Chronology of the Life of Pope Benedict XVI” Online version available at Google Books Retrieved 26 January 2011
  17. ^ a b “Pope Recalls Being German POW” Fox News 19 April 2005 Retrieved 26 January 2011 WebCitation archive
  18. ^ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger; Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (translator) (1998) (in German). Milestones: Memoirs 1927–1977. Ignatius Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-89870-702-1.
  19. ^ Van Biema, David (24 April 2005). “The Turning Point”. Time. Retrieved 7 October 2011. WebCitation archive
  20. ^ Wakin, Daniel J.; Bernstein, Richard; Landler, Mark (24 April 2005). “Turbulence on Campus in 60’s Hardened Views of Future Pope”. The New York Times. Retrieved 8 June 2005. WebCitation archive
  21. ^ Ostling, Richard N.; Moody, John; Morris, Nomi (6 December 1993). “Keeper of the Straight and Narrow”. Time. Retrieved 10 July 2009. WebCitation archive
  22. ^ Dulles, s.j., Avery (October 1983). “The Catholicity of the Augsburg Confession”. The Journal of Religion 63 (4): 337–354. doi:10.1086/487060. JSTOR 1203403.
  23. ^ Fahlbusch, Erwin; Bromiley, Geoffrey William; Barrett, David B. (1999). “Evangelical Catholicity”. The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 90-04-11695-8.
  24. ^ http://www.georgiabulletin.org/local/2005/04/21/theologians/
  25. ^ Thavis, John; Wooden, Cindy (19 April 2005). “Cardinal Ratzinger, guardian of church doctrine, elected 265th pope”. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 17 July 2009. WebCitation archive
  26. ^ theology → Biography Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI → Mitgliedschaften → EuropAcad → 1991
  27. ^ Biography of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI → Mitgliedschaften → EuropAcad → 1991
  28. ^ Dominus Iesus The Vatican. 16 June 2000 Retrieved 8 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  29. ^ Doward, Jamie (24 April 2005). “Pope ‘obstructed’ sex abuse inquiry”. The Observer (London). Retrieved 14 July 2007. WebCitation archive
  30. ^ Sex Crimes and the Vatican (an October 2006 BBC documentary quotation:
    The man in charge of enforcing it for 20 years was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man made Pope last year. In 2001 he created the successor to the decree.
  31. ^ “UK Bishops Angered by BBC Attack on Pope”. EWTN. Catholic News Agency. 2 October 2006. Retrieved 14 April 2008. WebCitation archive
  32. ^ “Pope seeks immunity in Texas abuse case”, The Sydney Morning Herald 17 August 2005 Retrieved 8 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  33. ^ Caldwell, Simon “Pope Benedict wanted to be a librarian” The Daily Telegraph, 5 August 2010 Retrieved 21 August 2011 WebCitation archive
  34. ^ Cardinal Ratzinger asked to resign in 1997, become Vatican librarian, CatholicCulture.org, 5 August 2010 Retrieved 8 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  35. ^ Pizzey, Allen “Benedict: I Prayed Not To Be Pope” CBS News 11 February 2009 Retrieved 21 August 2011 WebCitation archive
  36. ^ Apostolic Blessing “Urbi et Orbi” The Vatican. 19 April 2005 Retrieved 8 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  37. ^ “Reflection on the name chosen: Benedict XVI” The Vatican. 27 April 2005 Retrieved 5 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  38. ^ “Response of His Holiness Benedict XVI for the examination of the cause for beatification and canonization of the Servant of God John Paul II”. Vatican.va. 9 May 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  39. ^ Drummer, Alexander (13 May 2005). “Waiting Period Waived for John Paul II”. Zenit News Agency. Retrieved 24 September 2011. WebCitation archive
  40. ^ Drummer, Alexander (28 June 2005). “John Paul II’s Cause for Beatification Opens”. Zenit News Agency. Retrieved 24 September 2011. WebCitation archive
  41. ^ “Our Founder”. Congregation of Holy Cross. 24 August 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.WebCitation archive
  42. ^ “Communiqué on beatification process”. Vatican.va. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  43. ^ “Canonization of the Blesseds”. Vatican.va. 23 October 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  44. ^ “Pope Schedules Five Canonizations for May–June”. EWTN. 23 February 2007. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  45. ^ “Malta to get its first saint”. CathNews. 2 March 2007. Retrieved 8 October 2011.WebCitation archive
  46. ^ “Pope Announces Canonisation of India’s First Native Woman Saint” Vatican Radio 1 March 2008 Retrieved 8 October 2011
  47. ^ “Holy Mass for the Canonization of Five New Saints – Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI” The Vatican. 26 April 2009 Retrieved 8 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  48. ^ “Pope canonises ‘lepers’ apostle’ and four others” Expatica 12 October 2009 Retrieved 26 January 2011 WebCitation archive
  49. ^ Eucharistic Celebration for the Canonization of Five New Saints – Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI The Vatican. 11 October 2009 Retrieved 8 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  50. ^ Winfield, Nicole “Pope Creates First Australian Saint, 5 Others” AOL News 17 October 2010 Retrieved 26 January 2011 WebCitation archive
  51. ^ Kerr, David “Pope Benedict canonizes three new saints” Catholic News Agency 23 October 2011 Retrieved 13 January 2012
  52. ^ Glatz, Carol “Pope advances sainthood causes of Kateri Tekakwitha, others” The Tidings Online 23 December 2011 Retrieved 13 January 2012
  53. ^ Donadio, Rachel “Pope Canonizes 7 Saints, Including 2 Women With New York Ties” The New York Times 21 October 2012 Retrieved 4 November 2012
  54. ^ “Pope names 2 church doctors: preacher St. John of Avila and mystic St. Hildegard of Bingen”. Fox News. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  55. ^ Beach, Kevin “What is the role of the Pope?” Catholic Mission Leaflets WebCitation archive
  56. ^ “Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI – Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI”. Vatican.va. 24 April 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  57. ^ “To the Clergy of Rome, with Response to Interventions by Roman Clergy”. EWTN. 13 May 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  58. ^ “For Electing the Supreme Pontiff”. EWTN. 18 April 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  59. ^ a b Drummer, Alexander (15 April 2007). “Benedict XVI’s Book a Pastoral Work”. Zenit News Agency. Retrieved 24 September 2011. WebCitation archive
  60. ^ “St. Josemaría Escrivá: God is very much at work in our world today” EWTN 9 October 2002 Retrieved 8 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  61. ^ Drummer, Alexander (7 February 2006). “The Secret of Love, According to Benedict XVI – Pope Explains Encyclical to Readers of Italian Magazine”. Zenit News Agency. Retrieved 8 October 2011. WebCitation archive
  62. ^ Ratzinger, Joseph “Relativism: The Central Problem for Faith Today” EWTN May 1996 Retrieved 8 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  63. ^ “Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome” 6 June 2005 Retrieved 8 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  64. ^ Allen, Jr., John L. (21 August 2005). “Coverage of World Youth Day exclusively by NCR Report #4: Do-it-yourself religion ‘cannot ultimately help us,’ pope tells youth”. National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  65. ^ Ratzinger, Joseph (2003). Truth And Tolerance: Christian Belief And World Religions. Ignatius Press. ISBN 1-58617-035-X.
  66. ^ “Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI” The Vatican. 20 August 2005 Retrieved 5 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  67. ^ “Pope Benedict XVI Condemns Same-Sex Unions”, NewsMax.com, 6 June 2005 Retrieved 18 September 2011 WebCitation archive
  68. ^ Drummer, Alexander (29 July 2005). “Cardinal Ratzinger on Europe’s Crisis of Culture (Part 4)”. Zenit News Agency. Retrieved 24 September 2011.WebCitation archive
  69. ^ Deus Caritas Est. Vatican.va. 25 December 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  70. ^ Fisher, Ian “Benedict’s First Encyclical Shuns Strictures of Orthodoxy” The New York Times 26 January 2006 Retrieved 5 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  71. ^ Thavis, John “The pope needs a theologian? Former papal adviser reveals why” Catholic News Service 30 December 2005 Retrieved 5 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  72. ^ McMahon, Barbara “Vatican invokes papal copyright” The Guardian 22 January 2006 Retrieved 5 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  73. ^ Thavis, John (30 November 2007). “People need God to have hope, pope in new encyclical”. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  74. ^ Spe Salvi The Vatican. 30 November 2007 Retrieved 5 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  75. ^ a b Donadio, Rachel (7 July 2009). “Pope Urges Forming New World Economic Order to Work for the ‘Common Good’”. The New York Times. Retrieved 7 July 2009. WebCitation archive
  76. ^ Sacramentum Caritatis The Vatican. 22 February 2007 Retrieved 4 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  77. ^ a b “Pope Allows Worldwide Use of Old Latin Mass”. Catholic Information Service for Africa. 10 July 2007.
  78. ^ a b c d e Pope Benedict XVI. “Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Bishops on the Occasion of the Publication of the Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Data Summorum Pontificum, On the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970″. WebCitation archive
  79. ^ Article 5 §4 of the motu proprio
  80. ^ Burke, Jason (9 July 2007). “Criticism over return of Latin Mass”. The Hindu. Retrieved 4 October 2011. WebCitation archive
  81. ^ “Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei””. Vatican.va. Retrieved 14 June 2010. WebCitation archive
  82. ^ a b Winfield, Nicole (10 July 2007). “Pope: Other Christians not true churches”. USAToday. Associated Press. Retrieved 18 September 2011.WebCitation archive
  83. ^ “Children in consumerist societies “risk losing hope,” says Pope Benedict”. Catholic News Agency. 10 December 2007. Retrieved 4 October 2011. WebCitation archive
  84. ^ Caritas in Veritate Encyclical Letter of 29 June 2009″. Vatican.va. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  85. ^ COMMON DECLARATION OF POPE BENEDICT XVI AND THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY HIS GRACE ROWAN WILLIAMS
  86. ^ a b Saleh, Fakhri “Arab Reactions to the Pope’s Visit Signs of Hope” Qantara.de 18 May 2009 Retrieved 3 February 2011 WebCitation archive
  87. ^ Allen, John L. “Making Sense of Benedict’s Jewish Policy” The Forward 20 January 2010 Retrieved 27 December 2010 WebCitation archive
  88. ^ “ADL Welcomes Election of Cardinal Ratzinger as New Pope”. The Anti-Defamation League 19 April 2005 Retrieved 30 December 2008. WebCitation archive
  89. ^ a b “In quotes: Reaction to Pope election”. BBC News. 20 April 2005. Retrieved 31 January 2009. WebCitation archive
  90. ^ “Vatican to release Benedict XVI’s letter on the use of the Tridentine Mass tomorrow” Catholic News Agency 6 July 2007 Retrieved 2 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  91. ^ “Mikulanis says ADL jumped gun, got its facts wrong” San Diego Jewish World. Vol. 1, Number 67. 6 July 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  92. ^ Paulson, Michael (24 February 2009). “O’Malley meets Jews over Holocaust flap”. The Boston Globe. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  93. ^ “What Is Not True About the Good Friday Prayer for Jews”. Zenit News Agency. 27 January 2009. Retrieved 20 June 2009. WebCitation archive
  94. ^ Cernera, Anthony J. and Eugene Korn (26 November 1986). “The Latin Liturgy and the Jews”. America. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  95. ^ “Seminary sacks ‘Holocaust bishop'” BBC News 9 February 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2009. WebCitation archive
  96. ^ Willan, Philip. “Pope readmits Holocaust-denying priest to the church” The Independent 25 January 2009 Retrieved 1 June 2009 WebCitation archive
  97. ^ Wensierski, Peter “Williamson’s Colleagues Under Fire: SSPX in Germany Criticized over Anti-Semitic Statements” Der Spiegel. 10 February 2009 Retrieved 29 May 2009. WebCitation archive

    “The latest issue of the SSPX’s newsletter for German-speaking countries … contains several anti-Semitic statements. ‘The Jewish people were once the chosen people. But the majority of the people denied the Messiah on his first coming,’ reads the February issue’s cover story …. According to the newsletter article, this is why the Bible’s Gospel of Matthew states, ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children,’ a phrase historically used by some Christians to justify anti-Semitism.”

  98. ^ “The Society of St. Pius X: Mired in Antisemitism” The Anti-Defamation League 26 January 2009 Retrieved 29 May 2009 “SSPX has promoted theological and conspiratorial anti-Semitism among its adherents.”
  99. ^ Liphshiz, Cnaan “Report: Vatican readmits society that propagates anti-Semitism” Haaretz 19 February 2009 Retrieved 2 October 2011 WebCitation archive “The [web]site from Germany … clarifies that ‘contemporary Jews are for sure guilty of the murder of God, as long as they don’t recognise Christ as God.'”
  100. ^ “In quotes: Muslim reaction to Pope”, BBC News, 16 September 2006. Retrieved 12 May 2008. WebCitation archive
  101. ^ a b “Pope sorry for offending Muslims”. BBC News. 17 September 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  102. ^ Thread:’Dialogue with a Persian’, by Manuel II Paleologus Monachos.net Orthodoxy through Patristic, Monastic & Liturgical Study 2 June 2008 Retrieved 20 November 2010 WebCitation archive
  103. ^ “The Pope, Jihad, and ‘Dialogue'” Bostom, Andrew G. American Thinker 17 September 2006 Retrieved 20 November 2010 WebCitation archive
  104. ^ “Glaube, Vernunft und Universität. Erinnerungen und Reflexionen.”, The Vatican. 12 September 2006 (German) WebCitation archive and “Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections”, The Vatican. 12 September 2006 (English language translation) WebCitation archive
  105. ^ “Pope to hold seminar with Muslims”, CNN, 5 March 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2008. WebCitation archive
  106. ^ “Final Statement of Catholic-Muslim Forum”. Zenit. 6 November 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2011. WebCitation archive
  107. ^ “His Holiness the Dalai Lama Greets New Pope”, Phayul.com, 20 April 2005 WebCitation archive
  108. ^ “Italy: China blamed for absence of Papal audience for Dalai Lama”, Adnkronos, 27 November 2007 Retrieved 19 June 2009
  109. ^ a b c Fisher, Ian (23 May 2007). “Pope Softens Remarks on Conversion of Natives”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2 October 2011. WebCitation archive
  110. ^ Fisher, Ian “Pope tries to quell anger over speech he gave in Brazil”, The New York Times, 23 May 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  111. ^ Smith, Peter “ISKCON Scholar To Meet With The Pope” ISKCON News 31 March 2008 Retrieved 2 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  112. ^ “Young Vaisnava Scholar to Bring a Gift to the Pope” ISKCON News 16 April 2008 Retrieved 2 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  113. ^ Faculty of Bhaktivedanta College Retrieved 2 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  114. ^ ISKCON Scholar Greets Pope on Behalf Of US Hindus ISKCON News 19 April 2008 Retrieved 2 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  115. ^ Alexander, David “Despite missteps, pope reaching out to other faiths” Reuters 15 April 2008 Retrieved 2 October 2011 WebCitation archive
  116. ^ Israely, Jeff “The Pope Squares Off With Spain’s Secular Champion” “No doubt Benedict was buoyed by the enthusiastic welcome he received in Valencia.” Time 9 July 2006 Retrieved 20 November 2010 WebCitation archive
  117. ^ Moore, Molly. “Turks Protest Pope’s Coming Visit”, The Washington Post, 27 November 2006. Retrieved 13 May 2008. WebCitation archive
  118. ^ “Massive security for Pope’s Turkey visit”, BreakingNews.ie, 28 November 2006. Retrieved 29 September 2011. WebCitation archive
  119. ^ Vatican Radio “Pope Benedict XVI Going to Vienna” 7 September 2007 Retrieved 26 January 2011 WebCitation archive
  120. ^ Pope honours Austrian Jewish dead, BBC News, 7 September 2007. Retrieved 13 May 2008. WebCitation archive
  121. ^ “Ansprache Seiner Heiligkeit Papst Benedikt XVI. am 9. September 2007 im Stift Heiligenkreuz” Stift Heiligenkreuz Retrieved 26 March 2009. WebCitation archive
  122. ^ “Pope Benedict XVI begins first U.S. tour”, CNN, 16 April 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2008. WebCitation archive
  123. ^ Associated Press “Bush, Thousands of Fans Welcome Pope at White House on His Birthday”, Fox News, 16 April 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2008. WebCitation archive
  124. ^ Nadine Elsibai (17 April 2008). “Pope Benedict Says Mass Before 47,000 in New Washington Stadium”. Bloomberg L.P.. WebCitation archive
  125. ^ United Nations General Assembly Verbotim Report meeting 95 session 62 page 3, Pope Benedict XVI Holy See on 18 April 2008 (retrieved 1 July 2008) WebCitation archive
  126. ^ Duin, Julia. “Youths revel in pope’s message”, The Washington Times, 20 April 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2008. WebCitation archive
  127. ^ Vitello, Paul Vitello, Paul (21 April 2008). “After Ground Zero Prayer, Pope Ministers to 60,000 in Stadium”. The New York Times. Retrieved 29 September 2011. WebCitation archive
  128. ^ “Pope apologises for ‘evil’ of child sex abuse”. AFP. Google. 18 July 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  129. ^ Pullella, Philip (19 July 2008). “Pope apologises for Church sex abuse”. Reuters. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  130. ^ “Pope Condemns Materialism as “Pagan””. Huliq.com. 14 September 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  131. ^ “Pope drinks water from Lourdes spring” USA Today 15 September 2008 Retrieved 26 January 2011 WebCitation archive
  132. ^ a b “Pope OK after woman knocks him down at Mass”. USA Today. 25 December 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  133. ^ Winfield, Nicole “Pope delivers Christmas blessing after fall” News & Record 25 December 2009 Retrieved 26 January 2011 WebCitation archive
  134. ^ Goldsmith, Samuel (25 December 2009). “Pope Benedict forgives Susanna Maiolo one day after she knocked him down during Christmas Eve Mass”. Daily News. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  135. ^ “Wrap-up: Pope Benedict’s historic Malta visit ends”. The Times of Malta. 18 April 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2010. WebCitation archive
  136. ^ a b Nick Pisa (20 April 2010). “Pope in tears after expressing his ‘shame’ to victims of priest paedophile during Malta visit”. Daily Mail. Retrieved 14 June 2010. WebCitation archive
  137. ^ a b c Pancevski, Bojan; Follain, John (4 April 2010). “John Paul ‘ignored abuse of 2,000 boys’”. The Times (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. WebCitation archive
  138. ^ a b c Berry, Jason (6 April 2010). “Money paved way for Maciel’s influence in the Vatican”. National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 14 June 2010. WebCitation archive
  139. ^ a b Allen, John L (17 March 2010). “Will Ratzinger’s past trump Benedict’s present?”. National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 12 September 2010. WebCitation archive
  140. ^ Nichols, Vincent (26 March 2010). “The Church is not trying to cover anything up”. The Times (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. WebCitation archive
  141. ^ “Promoter of Justice at Doctrine of Faith on Paedophilia”. Catholic News. 13 March 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2010. WebCitation archive
  142. ^ a b Owen, Richard (3 April 2010). “Vatican tries to shift blame for abuse on to John Paul”. Irish Independent. Retrieved 14 June 2010.WebCitation archive
  143. ^ a b Allen Jr., John L. (18 May 2006). “Vatican restricts ministry of Legionaries priest founder”. National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 14 June 2010. WebCitation archive
  144. ^ Donadio, Rachel “Pope Reins In Catholic Order Tied to Abuse”, The New York Times, 2 May 2010 WebCitation archive
  145. ^ “Pope John Paul ignored abuse of 2,000 boys: Report”. The Times of India. 4 April 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2010. WebCitation archive
  146. ^ “Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland”. Vatican.va. 19 March 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2010. WebCitation archive
  147. ^ “Pope’s letter fails to calm anger over abuse”. The Washington Times. 20 March 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2010. WebCitation archive
  148. ^ “Pope finalizes letter on abuse” CNN 19 March 2010 Retrieved 26 January 2011 WebCitation archive
  149. ^ “Activists disappointed by Pope mum on secrecy”. Press TV. 20 March 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2010. WebCitation archive
  150. ^ Moskowitz, Eric (21 March 2010). “Pope’s letter strikes a mixed chord”. The Boston Globe. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  151. ^ “Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations”. Vatican.va. Retrieved 23 April 2010. WebCitation archive
  152. ^ Winfield, Nicole (12 April 2010). “Vatican to bishops: Follow law, report sex abuse”. Newsday. Associated Press. Retrieved 18 September 2010. WebCitation archive
  153. ^ Meichtry, Stacy “Does the Pope Wear Prada?” The Wall Street Journal. 25 April 2006 Retrieved 19 January 2007. WebCitation archive
  154. ^ “Vor Jahren Ratzinger erlitt Hirnblutung” (in (German)). Focus Online. Retrieved 14 June 2010. WebCitation archive
  155. ^ a b “Wie gesund ist Papst Benedikt XVI.?” (in (German)). Op-online.de. 17 July 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2010. WebCitation archive
  156. ^ “Pope predicted ‘short reign’ in remarks just after election” The Baltimore Sun 21 April 2005 Retrieved 17 September 2011 WebCitation archive
  157. ^ “Vatican: Pope Benedict’s gaffes result of high tension”. Hürriyet. Retrieved 2 February 2010.WebCitation archive
  158. ^ “Pope Benedict XVI Leaves Hospital After Breaking Wrist in Fall”. Fox News. 17 July 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  159. ^ http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/02/11/uk-pope-confirm-idUKBRE91A0A320130211/
  160. ^ Messia, Hada (February 11, 2013). “Pope Benedict to resign at the end of the month, Vatican says”. CNN. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  161. ^ “Pope Benedict XVI in shock resignation”. BBC. February 11, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  162. ^ a b “Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation at end of month”. Vatican Radio. February 11, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  163. ^ “Pope Benedict XVI to Resign due to Parkinson’s Disease”. The Descrier. February 11, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  164. ^ Pope Benedict announces retirement, ABC News Online, 11 February 2013
  165. ^ Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Andrea Coat of Arms of His Holiness Benedict XVI The Vatican. WebCitation archive
  166. ^ Pope rejects condoms for Africa BBC News 10 June 2005 WebCitation archive
  167. ^ “Catholic Church to Ease Ban on Condom Use”. Deutsche Welle. 24 April 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2011. WebCitation archive
  168. ^ a b Israely, Jeff 30 April 2006 (30 April 2006). “Condom Fight: The Vatican Strikes Back”. TIME. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  169. ^ “Interview of the Holy Father Benedict XVI during the flight to Africa”. 17 March 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2009. WebCitation archive
  170. ^ a b Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “Note on the banalization of sexuality Regarding certain interpretations of ‘Light of the World'” WebCitation archive
  171. ^ a b Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” 1 October 1986 Retrieved 28 September 2011 WebCitation archive
  172. ^ Saletan, William (29 November 2005). “Gland Inquisitor: Pope Benedict’s antigay tendencies.”. Slate. Retrieved 30 December 2008. WebCitation archive
  173. ^ a b c Kington, Tom; Riazat Butt (24 December 2008). “Pope angers campaigners with speech seen as attack on homosexuality”. The Guardian (London). Retrieved 30 December 2008. WebCitation archive
  174. ^ Donadio, Rachel (22 December 2008). “The Vatican: In Speech, Pope Calls Homosexual Behavior a Violation”. The New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2008. WebCitation archive
  175. ^ “LSVD:Warum hetzt der Papst immer wieder gegen Homosexuelle?”. Lsvd.de. 22 June 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  176. ^ Address of his Holiness Benedict XVI on the occasion of Christmas greetings Vatican.va, 21 December 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2012
  177. ^ Pope denounces gay marriage as ‘people manipulating their God-given gender to suit sexual choices’ retrieved 21 December 2012
  178. ^ Pope makes new anti-gay marriage stance retrieved 21 December 2012
  179. ^ Pope: Straight marriage must be ‘defended from misrepresentation’ retrieved 21 December 2012
  180. ^ “Pope Benedict XVI message for 93rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees”. Catholic Online. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive page 1 and WebCitation archive page 2
  181. ^ Wooden, Cindy “Pope offers prayers to refugees for United Nations’ World Refugee Day”. Catholicnews.com. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  182. ^ “Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007”. Vatican.va. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  183. ^ “Pope urges talks to make Korean Peninsula nuclear free” YON – Yonhap News Agency of Korea 14 November 2006 Retrieved 26 January 2011 WebCitation archive
  184. ^ “Ratzinger on Turkey in EU, European secularism” Catholic Culture.org 11 August 2004 Retrieved 18 September 2011 WebCitation archive
  185. ^ Krause-Jackson, Flavia and Mark Bentley “Pope Benedict Backs Turkey’s European Union Bid”. Bloomberg. 28 November 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  186. ^ “Pope calls for religious exchange”. BBC News. 28 November 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2010. WebCitation archive
  187. ^ Donohue, William “Pope did not change stance on Turkey and EU”, Spero News, 30 November 2006 WebCitation archive
  188. ^ “Common Declaration by His Holiness Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I”, 30 November 2006 WebCitation archive
  189. ^ Cashman, Greer Fay (12 May 2009). “Grapevine: The eyes have it”. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 14 May 2009. WebCitation archive
  190. ^ “David D’Or and Dudu Fisher Sing for the Pope”. Consulate General of Israel in New York. 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
  191. ^ Vietnamese leader meets pontiff BBC News 25 January 2007 Retrieved 18 November 2010 WebCitation archive
  192. ^ Relations progress as Vietnamese president meets with Pope Catholic News Agency 11 December 2009 Retrieved 18 November 2010 WebCitation archive
  193. ^ Benedict XVI (7 July 2009). “Caritas in Veritate “Charity in Truth””. Vatican Publishing House. Retrieved 7 July 2009. WebCitation archive
  194. ^ Dinmore, Guy (7 July 2009). “Pope condemns capitalism’s ‘failures’”. The Financial Times. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  195. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (7 July 2009). “Pope Benedict XVI calls for new economic system based on love in G8 message”. The Times (London). Retrieved 7 July 2009. WebCitation archive page 1 and WebCitation archive page 2
  196. ^ “Pope calls for disarmament, backs nuke energy” Karpasha.com 31 July 2007 Retrieved 23 November 2010 WebCitation archive
  197. ^ “Benedict XVI”. Infoplease.com. Retrieved 14 June 2010. WebCitation archive
  198. ^ a b Allen, John L. (2006). “Mozart: Catholic, Master Mason, favorite of the pope, National Catholic Reporter. Findarticles.com. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
  199. ^ Freer, Mark Pope Benedict XVI, Mozart and the Quest of Beauty, Catholic Education Research Center. Retrieved 19 October 2010. WebCitation archive
  200. ^ “Pope rock: Benedict sings on new album” MSNBC 31 July 2009 Retrieved 3 February 2011 WebCitation archive
  201. ^ Simpson, Victor L. “Did the Aussies give the pope a cat for company?” The Seattle Times 15 July 2008 Retrieved 28 August 2011 WebCitation archive
  202. ^ Pope’s smitten with a kitten Angelqueen.org 14 July 2008 Retrieved 21 November 2010 WebCitation archive
  203. ^ “Pope rests with piano and cat ahead of World Youth Day”. Google. 13 July 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2009. WebCitation archive
  204. ^ “Pope Benedict XVI joins Twitter”. 3 News NZ. 4 December 2012.
  205. ^ “Pope tweets a blessing from his new personal account”. USA Today. Retrieved 12 December 2012.

Further reading

Literature about him

  • Allen, John L.: Cardinal Ratzinger: the Vatican’s enforcer of the faith. – New York: Continuum, 2000
  • Benedetti, Amedeo: Il linguaggio di Benedetto XVI, al secolo Joseph Ratzinger. – Genova, Erga, 2012
  • Herrmann, Horst: Benedikt XVI. Der neue Papst aus Deutschland. – Berlin 2005
  • Nichols OP, Aidan: The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger: An Introductory Study. – Edinburgh; T&T Clark, 1988
  • Pater Prior Maximilian Heim: Joseph Ratzinger — Kirchliche Existenz und existenzielle Theologie unter dem Anspruch von Lumen gentium (diss.).
  • Twomey, D. Vincent, S.V.D.: Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait). – San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007
  • Wagner, Karl: Kardinal Ratzinger: der Erzbischof in München und Freising in Wort und Bild. – München : Pfeiffer, 1977

Biographies

  • Allen, John L. The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church. NY: Doubleday, 2005. ISBN 0-385-51320-8.
  • Allen, John L. Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005. ISBN 0-8264-1786-8. This is a reprint of Allen’s 2000 book Cardinal Ratzinger: the Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith.
  • Bardazzi, Marco. In the Vineyard of the Lord : The Life, Faith, and Teachings of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. New York: Rizzoli International, 2005. ISBN 0-8478-2801-8
  • Bunson, Matthew. We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 1-59276-180-1.
  • Campbell, Paul-Henri: Pope Benedikt XVI. Audio Book. Monarda Publishing House, 2012, ISBN 3-939513-80-6.
  • Pursell, Brennan, Benedict of Bavaria: An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and His Homeland (Circle Press, 2008). ISBN 1-933271-17-5.
  • Tobin, Greg. Holy Father : Pope Benedict XVI: Pontiff for a New Era. Sterling, 2005. ISBN 1-4027-3172-8.
  • Weigel, George. God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, Harper Collins, 2005. ISBN 0-06-621331-2.

Documentaries

Biblical Hermeneutics

 Biblical Hermeneutics

 Introduction

There are varieties of methods, criticisms, interpretations, approaches, and theologies in biblical and theological interpretations. It is very easy for anyone to get confused. The plurality of methods, approaches, interpretations, Biblical books are complex in their text, language, culture, and history. So a variety of competencies is needed to interpret them. All the methods, approaches, and theologies help us to better understand the deeper meaning of the biblical texts. It was in the search for the true meaning of these texts that theological hermeneutics developed. From the 17th century onwards we see the development of ‘Hermeneutics’ as an important and independent discipline in classical philology and interpretation in general. In contemporary philosophy and theology ‘Hermeneutics’ plays a vital role. This is mainly due to the influence of the works of Schleiermacher, Wilhelm Dilthey, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur.

 

There was a time when biblical interpretation was left entirely to theologians, historians, and philosophers. Now biblical interpretation is considered as an integral part of biblical studies. The Bible is not just an ancient text; it is the most translated of all books. It is sacred Scripture that was read in liturgical assemblies and was preached and commented upon for thousands of years by thousands of people. In our discussion we will look at these realities.

1 Why is biblical interpretation necessary?

Often people say: “Just read the Bible and do what it says!” The problem with this attitude is that different people, even though they read the same Bible, come to very different conclusions about what it actually says! Many people also tend to think of the Bible as “God’s little instruction book for life.” While this statement has a kernel of truth – the Bible certainly does contain much teaching on how to live – it is far more than just an instruction manual. It is the written record of God revealing in history who He is, what He is like, who we are, what we are like, and what He expects of us. This is the overall message of the Bible in a nutshell. The necessity and goal of Biblical interpretation are explained below:

v  The Bible was originally written to people who lived in a different place, in a very different culture, at a different time and period of history, and who spoke different languages. It also contains several different types of literature (called genres).

v  Because the Bible is God’s word in history revealed to people in history, each passage has n historical context – an particular author, audience, purpose and occasion. On the other hand, since the Bible is also the word of God, its contents are also eternally relevant.

v  The goal of interpretation is not to come up with the most unique interpretation (unique interpretations are usually wrong), but to discover the original intended meaning of a passage – the way the original audience understood it. The task of discovering the original intended meaning is called exegesis.

v  The key to doing good exegesis is reading the text very carefully, paying close attention to the details it describes, and asking the text the right questions. This is critical to finding the correct interpretation. Bad interpretation results directly from bad exegesis.

2.Terminology

The terminologies frequently used in Hermeneutics are explained in this section.

2.1 Hermeneutics

The term hermeneutics comes from the Greek verb hermeneuein, meaning ‘to interpret, translate, explain, declare’ and from nominal hermeneutike meaning [‘the art of’] interpretation’. Its Latin equivalent is the verb interpretari, from which comes the noun interpretation. Hence, hermeneutics reflects the Latin plural ‘hermeneutica’ meaning the science of interpretation.

 

The term “hermeneutics” is derived from the name of the god Hermes, who in Greek mythology acts as the messenger between the gods and human beings. In this process Hermes makes intelligible to human beings God’s message which otherwise is not intelligible to them. In Listra, Paul was taken for Hermes (Acts 14:12) for between the crippled man and Barnabas it was Paul who spoke.

In the broader sense hermeneutics is the quest for meaning. In this broader context, the word hermeneutic has three meanings:

 

a)      Interpretation by speech itself: Language expresses and interprets what is in one’s mind or even that which constitutes one’s identity, being and person. In biblical discussion we have to deal with the capacity of human language to express God’s mind, will, and person.

b)      Interpretation through the translation: The process of translation from one language to another is a process that goes beyond the mechanical equivalents of words. It is concerned with the transference from one culture and worldview to another. This can also be a translation from an unintelligible language to an intelligible one (hermeneia of tongues, in 1 Cor 12:10, is a charistmatic gift with a revelatory dimension).

c)      Interpretation by commentary and explanation: It is a more formal aspect. Here the interpreter gives systematic comments and explanations on the texts.

In the narrower sense, hermeneutics refers to the principles, method, and techniques used to interpret written texts. The biblical hermeneutical theory is in contact with the philosophical reflection on hermeneutics, it has, however, assumed its own itinerary due to the special nature of the biblical texts as an inspired normative book of faith.

 

The function of the interpreter consists in seeking for “that meaning which the sacred writer. in a determined situation and given the circumstance of his time and culture intended to express and did in fact express through the medium of contemporary literary form” (DV 12). Inasmuch as the intention of the author is found in the sense of the text, we must try to find the sense present in the text, because it is what the sacred writer intended and did express. What is important is what the text actually says and not that which the author may have thought but did not write.

2.2 Exegesis

The Greek verb Exegeomai means to draw out, to develop, to explain. Thus exegesis explains the text of the scripture drawing out its message and significance.

 

Until recently hermeneutics meant a theoretical reflection on meaning as distinct from exegesis, an art where the rules detected in hermenutics were applied practically. For us here, exegesis, refers to the analysis of a particular text of scripture to discover what the author wanted to say to his contemporaries, and hermeneutics refers to what the same text says to us today in a context different from the original one. Further, it is within the competence of hermeneutics to establish the principles, method, and techniques used to interpret written texts.

 

3. Text and the Process of Communication

3.1Biblical Text

The Bible contains texts almost 2950 years old, which were produced over a span of 1100 years. Even through the same methods and criteria used for the understanding of any ancient book are necessary and indispensable, for the Bible these are not sufficient. One must consider also the aspect of faith, as there are divinely inspired books of faith which are bequeathed to the Church as the norm and the nourishment of her life. So to understand the true significance that the Word of God is to have for us, we must also consider this added dimension in the interpretation of the biblical text.

 

Scripture reveals the will of God. Interpretation is essential in discerning this will. Morses, Prophets, Scribes, and many others have acted as interpreters of God’s will. Jesus himself is the supreme interpreter and revealer of God’s will. The NT writers interpreted the OT and the Christ Event. Even after the formation of the canon, the need for interpretation continued. Today, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church discerns the will of God as it is revealed in the Bible.

Phases of Biblical Interpretation

A discussion of biblical hermeneutics can be undertaken only against the background of a discussion of a general introduction to the Bible which includes a study of its inspiration, the unity of the Testaments, the Canon, the textual criticism, the manuscripts and the formation of the Bible, the history of biblical times, and the literary forms found in the Bible. Biblical interpretation follows from the understanding of the Bible as the Word of God expressed in the words of men. Therefore, our discussion must follow certain norms which account for this fact without overemphasizing or minimizing one or the other aspect.

3.1.1 Identification

Different literary genres (kinds of literature) are interpreted in different ways, so the first question to ask is: “To which category of literature does the text you are interpreting belong? Below are brief descriptions of the different genres found in the Bible:

Historical Narratives. These describe actual historical events from God’s perspective. They tell us what God is like (His character and nature), what God likes/dislikes, how He deals with people who obey and honour Him, and how he deals with those who disobey and hate Him. Narratives give us principles and lessons, not commands, patterns or laws. Historical Narratives are found in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. In the New Testament, they can be found in parts of the Gospels, and the book of Acts.

Poetry and Songs. These are expressions of emotion to God. They allow us to express to God our feelings of happiness, joy, trust, hope, security, as well as feelings of discouragement, guilt, suffering, fear, anger, despair and repentance. They also assist us in expressing our love and appreciation for God or our need for forgiveness. Poetry and Songs allow us to relate to God on our own level. They show us how to communicate with God and how to honour and worship Him. In the Old Testament, these writings are found primarily in the Psalms and Song of Songs.

Legal Writings. These writings indicate God’s high moral standard, His idea of justice, principles of common sense government, principles of common sense health and safety, and His pattern and order for acceptable worship. These laws are NOT directly applicable to Christians today i.e. they are not meant to be legalistic instructions and commands to Christians. Such legal writings can be found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Wisdom/Wise Sayings. These writings indicate God’s view of wisdom as opposed to man’s view of wisdom. They contain wise sayings, and practical advice on how to live life and avoid trouble and hardship. Wisdom literature can be found primarily in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job.

Prophecy. Prophecy is God’s message to a particular person, a particular group of people and sometimes to all humanity. It is not necessarily foretelling the future – in fact the vast majority of prophecy in the Bible speaks of the present. Prophecy is found primarily in the Old Testament, from Isaiah to Malachi.

Teachings of Jesus. These are direct statements of truth from Jesus concerning the nature and character of God the kingdom of God/Heaven, what God expects of us, principles of righteous living, and the ways in which Jesus fulfils the OT prophecies. They are not exhaustive ‘DOs and don’ts,’ but rather, serve as examples and paradigms (patterns) from which we can derive underlying principles to apply in other situations. These teachings are found in parts of the Gospels i.e. Matthew – John.

Parables. Parables are stories with a punch-line. Parables are not so much illustrative, but rather, provocative. They are designed to draw people in and hit them with something unexpected, in the same way a joke does. Most parables have only one message or central idea, and even if multiple messages are present, one of them will be the chief idea. Note also that they are not perfect analogies! Parables are also found in parts of the Gospels.

Letters. These are generally occasional documents i.e. they were written with a clear purpose to a well-identified audience. However, some letters (called epistles) were written to a larger people group. The letter/epistle writer presents arguments to correct, rebuke, defend, instruct, praise and encourage their readers. Letters/epistles form the vast majority of the New Testament from Romans to Jude.

Apocalypse. This includes the book of Revelation, and also large parts of Ezekiel and Daniel. Revelation is a vision of warning and encouragement to the early church as it was going through immense persecution.

3.1.2 Observation

The most important factor in exegesis is context. Understanding the context is the key to understanding what you are reading. Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart also point out “[t]he only proper control for hermeneutics is to be found in the original intent of the biblical text.”

There are two aspects of the context of a passage: the historical context and the literary context.

Historical Context. The Bible was written over a period of time dating from approximately 2000 BC (Job) to 95 AD (Revelation). It was set in a different country/continent and a vastly different culture and society from our own, therefore we must be careful not to make 20th century assumptions about the situation. Consult Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks in order to find out about the manners and customs of the various nations at that time in history. Use your imagination and try to put yourself in the shoes of the people involved. Make observations about who? what? when? where? and how?

Literary Context. This is the position of the text you are reading in relation to other texts. What verses come before? What verses come after? What situation, event, statement or argument led up to this passage? What situation, event, statement or argument followed or resulted from this passage? What book is the text in? Whereabouts in the book? What testament is it in? Why is the text in this position? Why is it in the Bible at all? What difference would it make if it was left out? Following are some suggestions on making observations depending on the genre of the passage you are interpreting:

Historical Narratives. Choose a complete narrative and read it in a single sitting. Make (mental) notes as you are reading, and ask: What is happening? To whom? When? Where? Why? (The most important question!) What can I learn about God? What can I learn about the other characters involved?

Poetry and Songs. Read a complete Psalm or Song in one sitting, taking (mental) notes as you are reading. What is being said about God? What is being said about humanity? Is the writer pleading for something? Are they pouring their heart out? If so, about what? Are they praising God? Are they angry with God? What mood does the writer seem to be in? Joyful? Happy? Angry? Fearful? Anxious? Distraught? Discouraged? Does the writer’s mood change?

Legal Writings. Read a collection of related rules/regulations in one sitting. What rules/regulations are being put in place? Why? What situations/circumstances do they cover? Are they for moral reasons or are they concerned with administration/ government and personal hygiene? Can you see any pattern being established? Is a feast, offering or ceremony being described? If so, what seems to be its purpose or significance? Never stop asking Why?

Wisdom. Read as much of Proverbs/Job/Ecclesiastes as you can in one go, taking (mental) notes as you read. Consider what you think the central message of the text is.
What advice is given? What warnings are given? What comparisons are made? Compare the proverb you are reading with other similar or related proverbs (similar or related proverbs could be anywhere in the book of Proverbs). If there are similar/related proverbs, how do the proverbs differ? Do they relate to slightly different situations? Do they address different aspects of a problem or situation? If two proverbs say the opposite thing (and there are several) why would this be? Do you think the statement made or the advice given is good? Why or why not? You must also remember that proverbs are not always globally applicable to every person and every situation. They are guidelines and “rules of thumb,” not absolute rules, statements of fact or direct promises.

Prophecy. Read a single prophecy (called an “oracle”) in one sitting. Try and establish the historical setting. What circumstances in history provoked this prophetic word from God? What does it say about God? Is the prophecy positive or negative? Is it a warning? About what? Is it a condemnation? For what? Is it an encouragement or a message of hope? About what? Is it a promise? To do what? Prophecy is some of the hardest literature to read. Knowing the historical context is essential to really to appreciate what is being said. It may be necessary to consult a commentary or Bible handbook if you are struggling.

Teachings of Jesus. Read a complete section of teaching (called a “pericope”) in a single sitting, taking (mental) notes about what is being taught. What message is He communicating? What subject is He talking about? What is He actually saying about it? Is it a command? Is it a warning? Is it an exhortation/encouragement? Is it a promise? Does it give us a better understanding of who God is? Does it give us a better understanding of what we are like?

Parables. Read a single parable and the surrounding dialogue in one sitting. Try to determine the central thought of the parable. What message is it communicating? Keep in mind the context. This is a big clue to identifying the central thought. What events prompted Jesus to tell this parable? How did the hearers react to it? Did they understand it? Focus on the central thought – don’t  focus on all the minute details – they are not meant to be important. Read ahead – some parables are interpreted for you by Christ later on in the gospel.

Letters. Read them like any other letter. Start at the beginning – stop at the end. If possible, read a letter right through in one sitting. Identify the major issues/arguments of the letter. Focus on one of the major issues/arguments. What is the point of each paragraph? What does each paragraph contribute to the current issue/argument? Why did the writer include a particular paragraph? What difference would it make if it were not included? Don’t pay too much attention to the chapter and verse divisions or the chapter headings – they’re not inspired! Words/phrases such as “Now about”, “Concerning” and “Finally” often indicate a change of argument/subject.

Apocalypse. Read the books of Daniel and Ezekiel first. Revelation uses lots of imagery from these books. Identify as much as possible, the use of imagery (by comparing Revelation with Daniel and Ezekiel). What is the imagery used to communicate in Revelation? What kind of message is being communicated? Hope? Encouragement? Warning? What does the text say about God and about Jesus Christ? What does it say about Satan? What does it say about the Church (New Jerusalem)? You will definitely want to consult some good commentaries in these matters. Revelation is the most difficult book in the Bible to read and understand.

3.1.3 Prayer, Meditation & Wrestling

Prayer, meditation and wresting are things the reader should do throughout the entire interpretive cycle, not just before you begin or when you are about to deliver your talk/sermon/speech.

Meditation does not mean emptying your head of everything – quite the opposite in fact. It means filling your mind with all the information required to make decisions about what the text says, how significant it is and how it should be applied today. When looking at a difficult passage, you may need to really pray about, and wrestle with, the various alternatives.

3.1.4 Determining Meaning

What do the particular key words or phrases mean? Pay attention to those elements that are repeated in the current passage or used elsewhere by the same author.

What is the significance of a particular key word, phrase or sentence? Does the element carry any special significance given the historical and social context? What does it contribute to the overall meaning of the text? How would the meaning of the text be effected if this particular element was left out?

5. Application

Is there a command to obey? Is there an error to avoid? Does the passage point out sinful behavior or attitudes that may be present in your own life? Is there an example to follow? Is there a promise to claim? Does the passage highlight an aspect of God’s nature and character which you had not seen before?

 

3.2 Presuppositions & Pre-understandings

No-one is ever completely unbiased. Every understanding presuppose pre-understanding or prejudice. In other words every process of understanding is gripped or conditioned by a prior structure of experiences. In hermeneutics, pre-understanding or prejudice is not something that is negative, but it is the necessary condition which makes understanding possible. In terms of hermeneutics, pre-understanding or prejudice may be described as a body of assumptions and attitudes which a person brings to the perception and interpretation of reality or any aspect of it. From this perspective it is very difficult to think of uniform understanding or knowledge, because understanding varies from person to person in accordance with his or her pre-understanding or prejudice.

Classical philosophers and theologians also acknowledge the role of pre-understanding. For example, Immanuel Kant admits some sort of pre-understanding in relation to perception. He insists in The Critique of Pure Reason that we have no certain knowledge of things in themselves but our mind give shape to them. According to Heidegger, understanding always touches on the whole constitution of being-in-the-world. He asserts further that the meaning does not lie in words; or in things, but in the remarkable structure of understanding itself. Rudolf Bultmann has rightly remarked that every interpretation incorporates a particular prior understanding. Now the question is “From where does the pre-understanding come?” or “How we possess a particular pre-understanding?” As we know generally pre-understanding comes from one’s own environment. Then, “what do we mean by environment?” Environment is a composite of several factors. It includes historical, psychological, economical, political, religious factors socio-familial relationships.

 

Another two questions that might be raised in relation to pre-understanding are the following (1) “Is pre-understanding common?” And (2) “Is pre-understanding static?” To the first question answer is both in affirmative and negative. On the one hand, pre-understanding is common in the sense that everybody has pre-understanding. On the other hand, pre-understanding is not common in the sense that the content of the pre-understanding differs from person to person. From the viewpoint of hermeneutics the second question can be answered only in negative. That is to say, pre-understanding is not static. Our pre-understanding is subjective and changes in every moment of our lives.

 

There are different types of pre-understandings. To have an overview of the different types of pre-understanding, a classification of the same would be appropriate. However, the divisions in this classification overlap each other, for we cannot compartmentalize them exhaustively. Actually what we do here is to approach the phenomenon of prejudice from different angles. Accordingly we have four types of pre-understandings.

 

  1.               I.      Informational Pre-understanding. It refers to the information that one already possesses about any given subject prior to approaching it. This is pre-understanding of the most basic kind. Terms such as prepossession and to a degree, preconception, prenotion, and predetermination are related to informational pre-understanding.
  2.            II.      Attitudinal Pre-understanding. This type of pre-understanding refers to the disposition with which one approaches something or the disposition that one brings to a given subject. The related terms are predisposition, prejudice, bias, life-hearing and life-relation.
  3.          III.      Ideological Pre-understanding. It indicates the ideological affiliation with which a person approaches something. For example a communist reading of the Bible will be different from the reading of a believer. This category would include both a general aspect and a particular aspect. The general aspect of the ideological pre-understanding points out the way one views the total complex of reality. And the particular aspect of the ideological pre-understanding shows the way one views a specific subject. The terms like worldview, life-attitude, life-posture, frame of reference, framework, horizon of understanding, etc. belong to the general aspect of the ideological pre-understanding and of view, viewpoint, perspective, stand point ,etc. belong to the particular aspect of the ideological pre-understanding.
  4.         IV.      Methodological Pre-understanding. This category refers to the actual approach which one takes in the explication of a given subject. For instance, a sociologist approaches something with a methodology proper to sociology a historian approaches an event with a methodology proper to history, and so on. In one sense, the methodological pre-understanding does function in the same way as any other type of pre-understanding and does influence the result of the interpretation. Yet in another sense, the methodological pre-understanding is considered as a tool that avoids the influences of other types of pre-understanding.

We shall conclude our pre-understanding or prejudice by listing how it influence our interpretation and understanding or how does it function in terms of interpretation and understanding.

 

(1)               Pre-understanding may function as either a negative or positive influence on interpretation. It negatively influences our interpretation by distorting or misleading our perception of things. It positively influences our interpretation, as it is the necessary precondition or frame of reference to understanding something.

(2)               Pre-understanding may influence our interpretation consciously, or unconsciously. When a person is aware of the pre-understanding that is at work in his or her interpretation, that pre-understanding is consciously influencing his or her interpretation. When the situation becomes just the contrary, the pre-understanding influences one’s interpretation unconsciously.

(3)               Pre-understanding may influence our interpretation rationally or irrationally. If a pre-understanding is formed out of the sound interaction with one’s own environment, it will influence his or her interpretation rationally. Whereas, if a pre-understanding is the outcome of some panic or neurotic reactions, it will influence our interpretation irrationally.

(4)               Finally, pre-understanding may be open-ended or closed. If a pre-understanding gives room for further correction and alteration, it is an open-ended pre-understanding. If a pre-understanding does not admit any correction or alternation, it is a closed pre-understanding.

Hermeneutics and Cyclic Communication

No understanding takes place in isolation. Understanding is not knowing the individual words in a sentence or in a text and their meanings separately, because individual words in a sentence or in a text cannot convey the fullness of its meaning. A text is a web, a well – knit frame in which different words are structured properly. Furthermore, understanding is a whole system of interrelated beliefs and practices. Hence understanding happens only when we realize the interconnections that exist between the words of a sentence or of a text. Then understanding is holistic.

 

If hermeneutics is taken in its wider sense, that is, not merely as formal rules controlling the practice of exegesis but as something concerned with the total process of understanding, then biblical hermeneutics can only be developed as part of an all encompassing theory of communication. In its most basic form, communication can be described as the interaction between sender, message and receiver. There are three contexts in which each text needs to be considered: a) the world that precedes the text; b) the world of the text itself; and c) the world that follows the text.

 

In the biblical texts, the message/medium is the written word. The text represents the solidification of a previous encounter between sender (Moses/Jesus) and receiver (Israel/Disciples). In the process of becoming a written text, the message may pass through various stages (oral tradition, pre-literary forms, etc.), but the text also represents the first stage in the process of reinterpretation. The reinterpretation has as its aim a new communication event this time between the texts and the contemporary receiver. In the case of biblical texts, the original sender is no longer present and interpretation necessarily comes out of the interaction between the text and receiver.

 

Today’s main hermeneutical problem arises from the knowledge that every human expression, whether literary or artistic, religious or philosophical, contains a set of meanings given to it by the author, and when this set of meanings moves into the world of another subject, it must be interpreted in such a way as to convey the original intention of the author.

 

In practice, the texts mediate between two events: the one which produced the text (the prophet, the audience, the scribes etc. come into the picture) and the one flowing from interaction with the text (the reader, the interpreter etc.). Certain considerations are to be made when dealing with the biblical material:

 

  1. The biblical texts are historical in a double sense: a) They are historical documents in their own right, with their own history of composition, tradition, and preservation b) They also refer to certain specific historical events (e.g. Monarchy, Exile)
  2. The present reader is not the first reader of the text. The text, enriched by the redactors, is the text for interpretation.
  3. Clarity concerning the purpose and the context in which the reading takes place is important. The kerygmatic or proclaiming nature of the text presupposes a new understanding as the ultimate goal of the reading. It is the interpretative community of believers who constitute the context of such a reading.
  4. Although the text is dependent on prior readings, the text itself functions as a separate entity within the interpretation process.
  5. As the original author is not present, the interpretative interaction takes place between the text and (present) reader. The present text is both the end of the process of text production and the beginning of the process of reinterpretation.
  6. Understanding the original speech event is the prerequisite for its appropriation in the contemporary situation.

  The process of reading and interpreting the Bible should be cyclic. A reader approaches a passage of scripture with presuppositions (e.g. the Bible is the inerrant word of God) and usually has a pre-understanding about what the particular passage can or cannot mean. These presuppositions and pre-understandings, along with the context, influence the reader’s understanding of the passage, and help them derive their interpretation. This interpretation then effects the reader’s presuppositions, and becomes part of their pre-understandings the next time they read this passage. If our exegetical information, reasoning and judgments are thought through again and reassessed each time we go through the cycle then the accuracy and correctness of our interpretation will improve.

Early Biblical Interpretation

Reinterpretation of the OT in the OT Itself

Israel had always re-interpreted Scripture in the light of new problems and new exigencies, and even the re-interpretations became part of the Scripture. The literary formation of many of the books shows that biblical literature has in fact developed through the contribution of such re-interpretations. For instance, the Yahwistic history of the patriarchs and Moses of the 10th cent. is taken up and re-narrated in the 6th cent. in the manner and according to the theology of the priestly (P) author.

 

In many aspects the Deuteronomic Code (Dt 12-26) is a re-interpretation, an actualization, and adaptation of the Elohistic ‘Code of the covenant’ (Ex 20:22-23:3), reflecting the changes in the economic and social aspects of the settled life of Israel in the land of Canaan. These changes were characterized by the divine rights upon the land and the people, the preference of the week, and the poor who have to be protected. It reflects the Deuteronomic theology. The book of Ben Sirach is often an existential reflection on the ancient texts: Sir 3 is a comment on the 4th commandment; Sir 15 is a comment on Gen 3; Sir 17:1-12, on creation (Gen 1); Sir 34;21-35:4 reviews the theme of cult and social justice.

 

In prophetic literature one can see the superimposition of the interpretation of the original oracles, for example, in the re-interpretation of the exodus (see Is 40:1-11; 17-20; Ps 78;105). In all these, one can detect the meaning sense of the Scriptures which reveals both their ancient and new character at the same time. The sense looked for is not exactly the one which was understood by the first readers; rather, what is looked for is that meaning the current reader can discover in view of  his contemporary problems and in the light of the revelation taking place in the time between the ancient writer and the present reader. What is treated is the actualization of the ancient books, which in Judaism took the form of midrash.

Judaism of Inter-testamental Period

The Synagogue and rabbinic school were the ambient wherein the biblical interpretation thrived in Judaism. This reading of the Torah, called darash, meaning investigation/research, is aimed at bringing the meaning of the text up-to-date. The homily and the paraphrasing translation (targum) of the text were the means of actualizing interpretation. The rabbinic schools tried to adapt the Law to the changed circumstance. Their authorized interpreters were the soferim ‘the doctors of the law’ – scribes (Sir 39:1-8) who many times appear in the NT passages (Mt 23; 13:52). They have also left traces in some of the biblical comments found in Qumran.

 

The interpretations of the Sadducees and Pharisees were different. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, both Qumran and the Sadducees declined in importance, while the pharisaic movement survived. In the interpretation of specific texts, the rabbis employed certain rules, which were authentic hermeneutical principles.

 

  1. Targumim: An Aramaic translation often interpretative of the Hebrew Scriptures. It was first oral and then written.
  2. Midrashim: commentary on scripture, often in homiletic form. The term ‘midrash’ comes from the term darash (= to seek) and we can distinguish a four-fold meaning: a) a literary form (genre) which uses the biblical text with great freedom (e.g.,the midrash of the book of  Wisdom on the book of Exodus); b) a literary form which treats biblical personalities with great liberty, presenting them as historical, although they are either mythological or fictional (e.g., the books of Tobias, Judith, Esther, Jonah and narrative section of the book of Job, etc); c) those Jewish literary works, called midrashim, which are homiletic or exegetical comments on different books of the Bible; d) Midrash a term which is also applied to the research method used, by the Jewish exegetes. Thus Midrashim includes the totality of principles, techniques, and procedures used by the Jews in the interpretation of Scripture. Midrash is both hermeneutical and theological in nature.

 

Midrash has two divisions: a) Halakah b) Haggadah

 

Halakah: Halakah is a commentary on scripture which deals with legal texts (plural halakot. halakah comes from halak, to walk), and therefore, ‘the rule of be having’ or ‘norm’. Usually translated as ‘law’, it denotes a specific ruling, a legal statement or discussion, the general category of legal material which provides rules for moral, juridical, and ritual conduct.

 

Haggadah: It is narrative commentary on Scripture which deals with morals, ethics and daily life. The term haggadah is derived from the Hebrew root ngd ‘to show, announce, tell, testify, declare, make known.’ Haggadah mainly explains the historical and prophetic sections of the OT, enriching them with legendary motifs with a moral scope. It deals with the non-legal text in rabbinic literature.

  1. Pesharim: It is a type of line-by-line interpretation often allegorical. In the Qumran, one read the ancient biblical text and applied it to the present, introducing the comment with the words: ‘its interpretation is,’ where the Hebrew word for interpretation is pesher (pesharim; ‘explanation’) and it occurs only once (Ecc 8:1) in the OT. Until the Qumran discoveries this was an unknown type of biblical interpretation. It is used in the sense of interpretation and realization. Now this word is used to signify: a) a Qumran biblical commentary written in pesher-like form; b) the formal term used to introduce the expository section of this kind of commentary; c) the literary genre of these commentaries; and d) the particular exegetical method of the Qumran commentaries.

 

Elements of the halakic and haggadic modes of interpretation can be seen in the NT. Jewish interpretation is especially helpful to understand the interpretation of the Hebrew text of the Bible. To these typically Jewish principles of interpretation we can also add the allegorical method. This method, which is of Greek origin, was used particularly by Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 BC-50 AD) to adapt the Hebrew Bible to the Hellenistic culture of his time. The Christian interpretation of the Alexandrian school followed the allegorical method.

New Testament Interpretation of the OT

Jesus is the true and definite exegesis of the Father: “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (Jn 1:18). The Gospels show Jesus as the interpreter: ‘Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Lk 24:27). He does not simply explain the Scriptures, but he reveals their sense because they speak of him (Jn 5:39,46). The Scriptures reach their fulfillment in him (Jn 19:28-30) and the newness of his teaching (Mk 1:27) and authority (Mk 1:22) are in tune with the fulfillment theme.

 

In interpreting the Scriptures, Jesus used the interpretation techniques and methods of his time. Discussing divorce, for instance, he bases himself on Gen 2:24 with a new halaka. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” Mt 19:6, thus declaring that the Mosaic Law and rabbinic tradition which tolerated it has ended. On the discussion of the resurrection (Mt 22:23-32) he appeals to Ex 3:6 (“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”) arguing in the haggadic manner that “He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” In his discussion with the scribes he uses the rabbinic style of argumentation (see Jn 10:34-36).

 

The NT authors also made use of the interpretation processes of the Jewish people of their time. The exegesis of the apostolic Church, especially St. Paul (see Gal 4:21-31-the two wives of Abraham), draws from the rabbinic and Alexandrian sources, halakah, haggada, pesher and allegory. In addition to the already existing elements of interpretation, the authority of the Word of God and its richness introduces something radically new: the fulfillment of the OT in Jesus. The NT interpretation of the OT has its basis in Jesus as the Messiah the Son of God.

 

The aim of the NT authors was not to present a chronicle of Jesus’ life. Rather, they presented the life of Jesus in such a way that it appealed to the faith of the people, and the Christ Event, with its culmination at Pentecost stood as the key to their interpretation. For them Christ is the New Adam, the New Moses, and the Church becomes the New Israel and the Christ Event is the New Exodus. The book of Hebrews uses typological midrash. Jesus is greater than Moses (Heb 4); Jesus is the great high priest (Heb 4-8); Earthly and heavenly sacrifice (Heb 9); Jewish law as a type (Heb 10:1) etc.

Hermeneutics in the Early Church

The early Church interpreted the OT by using the Christological key as she considered Christ to be the fulfillment and the point of arrival of the OT. Hence, while interpreting the OT, their primary intension was not to understand the original Hebrew text but to understand Christ. And their interpretations were not in Hebrew. There are various models of interpretation that the early church and the later Church fathers used for interpretation:

  • Typological Interpretation: Some reality or personage of the OT is seen as the type of Christ or of the Church (antitype). (See Rom 5:14;1 Cor 10:6-1 Pet 3:22).
  • Literal Interpretation: It looks for the explicit sense of the text.
  • Spiritual  Interpretation: Its aim is to understand the hidden meaning of the text. It has its roots in 2 Cor 3:15: “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed”. Here Paul never intended to contrast between the OT and the NT or between the literal sense and the spiritual sense, although by the 3rd century, it is in this way that this text was made; the spiritual sense came to include both prophetic and typological meanings.
  • Allegorical Interpretation: Allegorical interpretation seeks something other than the ‘surface’ (literal) meaning. This meaning is ‘deeper or hidden”. The letter to the Hebrews is a classical example of this type of interpretation.
  • Pedagogical Interpretation: It aims at interpreting every Law as intended to lead to Christ (Gal 3:24) – a task now completed.
  • Fulfillment Interpretation: Interprets that the OT promises and prophesies were fulfilled in Christ, especially the messianic and eschatological prophesies.
  • Historical-salvific Interpretation: This was used by Paul in Rom 9-11 to indicate that God has not changed his way of acting in calling the gentiles.
  • Apocalyptic Interpretation: This used the OT as a source of allusion to build a Christian apocalyptic vision with the Risen Christ at the centre.

 

The early church fathers, using quotes from the OT and NT, also added their own interpretations. These had a literal and allegorical sense, as well as polemical and apologetic motives.

Ancient Christian Schools of Interpretation

Theological School of Alexandria

In Alexandria, Philo had already made great use of Greek philosophy to interpret Sacred Scripture as the voice of the Divine Logos, and the Gospel as the fulfillment, or actualization of the law. For the Alexandrian school, the interpretation of the Bible proceeded on two levels: a) the immediate comprehension of the text; b) the hidden or more profound sense of the text, to discover this allegory is indispensable. The Alexandrians considered the historical narrations as pure allegory (e.g. the 30 stages of the exodus of the Israelites in Num 33 are for Origen the successive moments the Christian soul has to pass through from sin to God). Origen (182-254), the greatest exponent of this school, made hermeneutics a proper and true science.

 

In particular this school tried to find the corporal (somatikos) sense (=literal sense) which could be adapted to the simple and uneducated reader, and the psychic or moral (psychikos) sense which was suited for those who were advancing in perfection, and the spiritual or mystical (pneumatikos) sense meant for the perfect. This system was applied above all to the OT, so that all the personalities and events of the OT were messianically interpreted.

 

In the allegorical interpretation we see a profound reverence for the Scripture and a desire to find its manifold depth. To this end they used the symbolic method, often disregarding the common significance of the words and resorting to all sorts of speculation. The most important contribution of the Alexandrian school was that of underlining the unity of both the testaments through the allegorical method. This method would reach its maximum influence in the medieval theory of the four senses.

 

Antiochean School of Syria

The Antiochean School had a hermeneutics much different from that of the Alexandrian school. The Antiocheans interpreted the texts principally using: a) literal sense and b) historical and grammatical sense. The true head and the most important figure of this school was Diodore of Tarsus (+ before 394). For him and for the Antiocheans the fundamental sense is the literal sense, but some events or personalities or realities can also have typical sense and prefigure the messianic gifts. The literal sense, which is unique, opens itself to a new and more profound reality, even though it is not independent of it. Perception of this typical sense was ‘theory’ or ‘vision’. JohnChrsostom (344-407), Theodore of Mopsuestia (350ca – 428), and Theodore of Cyr (+458) were representatives of this school. The great merit of this school is that it gave a scientific basis for biblical exegesis.

The Sense of the Bible

Augustine of Dacia (+1282) sums up the hermeneutical principles of the fathers, distinguishing the four sense as: littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria, moralis quid agas, quo tendas [quid speras] anagogia. (The literal sense teaches facts which you have to believe which you have to do and where you are headed). For example, the city of Jerusalem illustrates these principles, which in its literal sense is the historical city, allegorically, the church; morally, the soul; and analogically, the heavenly Jerusalem.

 

These four senses of the Bible can be classified into two: the literal (historical sense) and spiritual sense of the Bible. This distinction is also found in medieval exegesis as well: storia, allegoria, tropologia (moral), and anagogia. In the global context of Scripture the interpreter can discern a history, as a series of interventions in the history of salvation, and this history itself conceals the mystery of Christ (the spiritual sense of the fathers). This spiritual sense has three levels: allegorical (symbolic, Christological-the truth revealed, ‘that which you have to believe’), tropological (moral – the way of life commended, ‘that which you must do’), and anagogical (eschatological-the final goal to be achieved, ‘where you are headed’).

According to St. Thomas “all the sense are based on one, namely the literal, from which alone an argument can be drawn, and not from those which are said by way of allegory…. Yet nothing is lost to sacred Scripture because of this, because nothing necessary for faith is contained in the spiritual sense, which Scripture does not clearly pass on elsewhere by the literal sense.”

Literal Sense

In the middle Ages literal sense was understood as the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture, as distinct from the spiritual sense (sensus spiritualis) contained in the Scripture. In modern literary discussion, ‘literal’ refers to the sense perceived in reading, as meaning flows from the dialogue between the text and the reader. We use literal sense as ‘the sense’ which the human author directly intended and which the written words conveyed. The adverb ‘directly’ would distinguish it from those meaning by which the author’s words may have been understood later (in the larger context of the Bible or when read in later times) but of which he was unaware.

Concerning the books which had a long history of editing and redaction of earlier written works (e.g., Isaiah-its composition took 200 years, with new sections being added to the original, some of which modified the meaning of the original text), the search for the literal sense includes both the sense of the original before editing and its sense after the editing. Moreover, the concept of ‘Author’ in this description of the literal sense must be understood rightly. Many of the books are anonymous or pseudonymous; Most of them are the product of complex growth and collective contribution. None of the canonical Gospel writers identified themselves by name.

Despite this, the reference to that author’s intention affirms that those who produced the biblical books had a message for the readers of their times. It is important for us to have this message in mind when we read texts and to ask what they now mean for us. What the text now means may well be more abundant, but it should have some relationship to what it meant to the first readers.

 

Written words conveyed:- Priority must be given to the text. The author’s intension does not become a sense of the Scripture until it is effectively conveyed in writing. Jesus did not write a Gospel, but the evangelists did. Most often we do not know the context in which Jesus actually spoke his words. The literal sense of a Gospel passage is the meaning attributed to Jesus words by the individual evangelist, with the result that the same words can have different meanings according to the different contexts in which each evangelist set them.

 

The literal sense of the Bible is that which has been expressed directly by the inspired human. As the Bible is the fruit of inspiration, what is expressed in the text is also intended by God, the principal author. Efforts are necessary to know the literal sense. The authors of the Bible used forms of literature typical of their times and hence their literal sense is not as obvious as it is in the works of our own time. Therefore one must make realistic efforts to grasp what the authors of Sacred Scripture is trying to communicate. The principal task of the exegete is to analyse the material, making use of all the resources of literary and historical research, with a view of defining the literal sense with the greatest possible accuracy. There is the need to acquire professional knowledge of biblical geography, archaeology, culture and of the way in which the texts were transmitted.

 

Even though there usually exists only one literal sense, one must still know that the human author can refer to more than one level of reality at the same time, especially in the case of poetry. Biblical inspiration does not exclude this capacity of human psychology and language. For instance: Jn 19:28 (‘I thirst’- bodily and spiritual level); Jn 19:30 (‘delivered his spirit’- lit. ‘Jesus died’ and the implicit allusion would be ‘He gave the Spirit to the Church’. Giving of the Spirit to the Church is the literal sense in Jn 20:22).

 

Even when a human utterance appears to have only one meaning, divine inspiration can use the expression in such a way as to create more than one meaning. This is true in the saying of Caiaphas “It is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (Jn 11:50; see also vv. 51-52). Caiaphas meant that the nation could thereby avoid many troubles on the part of the Romans (political reason), whereas John meant “to gather into one the dispersed children of God” (religious reason). Either way, this passage of John belongs to the literal sense, as is made clear from the context itself.

 

In the attempt to find the literal sense one has to take into account the dynamic aspect of many texts. For example, the meaning of ‘royal psalms’ (e.g., Ps 2;72; 101;110;132) should not be limited to the historical circumstance of their being written. When speaking of the king, the psalmist at one and the same time evokes both the kingship as it actually existed and the idealized vision of kingship as God intended it to be. The text carries the reader well beyond the institution of kingship its historical, actual manifestation. Ps 110:1 “The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” (quoted in Mk 12:35-37). This messianic (prophetic) sentence can be applied to every king of Israel (son of David), but can be applied in a perfect way only to Jesus.

 

Historical-critical exegesis has too often tended to limit the meaning of texts by binding it too rigidly to precise historical circumstance whereas modern hermeneutics know that human speech gains an altogether fresh status when put into writing. Written text has the capacity to be placed in new circumstances, which will illuminate it in different ways, adding new meaning to the original sense. This is especially operative in the Bible as the word of God. All this does not, however, mean that we can attribute to a biblical text whatever meaning we like, interpreting it in a wholly subjective way. One must reject every interpretation as unauthentic which is alien to the meaning expressed by the human authors in their written text.

4.1.1    Important Auxiliaries to Get to the Literal Sense

v  Knowledge of the history of the biblical era: This history of the people of God must be integrated into the history of the Near East. We cannot divorce God’s action from that of history because God acts only in concrete times and circumstances. This history must also include sociological aspects-not only information on royal courts, international politics and wars – the very structure of the social life of the people involved in the biblical story must be analyzed so as to understand the biblical era in all its ramifications (aspects).

v  Knowledge of biblical languages and literary styles: Some familiarity with the structure and thought pattern of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic is essential. Knowledge of Hebrew tenses, with their undefined time designations and lack of temporal precision opens the prophecies to the present and to the present fulfillment. For instance, words such as hesed (covenantal kindness mercy) and aletheia (truth) receive only a part of their connotation in translation.

v  Reading the Scripture should involve an understanding of what the original author meant, since his message for his times was certainly part of God’s inspired communication. The primary duty of the human author was to be intelligible in his era. What he writes communicates meaning to us today, but he did not envision our circumstances and he did not write for our times. Hence, in the effort to draw a message from his text for our circumstances, we must ask whether we achieve true communication or only an illusion in which we impose on the text what we want to find (eisegesis).

v  In the quest for the literal sense of any writing, it is important to determine the literary form the author was employing. The Bible is a library with all the diversity all the diversity we would expect spanning a period of more than 1100 years. Hence it is necessary to classify the books according to the type of literature they represent-this is what is meant by determining the literary form.

 

The first question we must ask when we open any book is : “What type of literature do we have before us?” (This method of determining the literary form, in fact, existed even in ancient times-the Jewish divisions as Pentateuch, Prophets, and Sapiential literature testify to this). In the Bible there are also many varieties of poetry: a) epic poetry-some narratives of Pentateuch and Joshua; b) didactic poetry-Prov, Sir, Wis) Iyric poetry-Pass, Cant. There are also many forms of history: a) factual analysis, seemingly by can eye-witness (the court history of David-2 Sam 11-2 Kg 2); b) court records (Kg and Chr); c) romanticized and simplified epic history of the national saga (in Exodus); d) tales of tribal heroes (in Judges); e) tales of great men and woman of ancient times (in the patriarchal accounts of Genesis); f) prehistory. This is seen in the Genesis narratives regarding the origin of humanity and of evil which borrow from the lore of other nations, making them vehicles of monotheistic theology. In the prophetic books we meet prophecy and apocalyptic. Apart from these, there are tales, parables, allegories proverbs, maxims, love stories, etc.

 

Once the reader has determined the literary form of any biblical book or passage, that standard applicable to the form helps to clarify the literal sense (that which the author meant). For instance, if Jonah is understood as a parable, the reader would know that the author is not presenting a history of relationship between Israel and Assyria, nor the story of a prophet in the belly of the whale; rather, it is a prophetic book which communicates the profound truth of God’s love for the Gentile nations. Similarly, if Josh 10:13 is part of a victory song, readers will judge it not according to rules of strict history nor give it the same historical credence allotted to the history of David’s court.

 

In the past, the failure to recognize the diversity of literary forms of the biblical books, and the tendency to misinterpret Bible as scientific historical pieces etc. created great problems in Hermeneutics. There are factual history, mythology, fiction, and almost all the intermediary types in the Bible. This should not be seen as destroying the historicity of Bible. One need not think that this would weaken or challenge its inspiration. DAS (Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1943) says: “God could inspire any type of literature that was not unworthy or deceitful, i.e., ‘not contrary to his holiness and truth.’

More than Literal Sense 

By ‘more than literal sense’ we mean the scriptural meaning that goes beyond the literal sense, a sense that is not confined to what the human author directly intended and conveyed in the written words. This ‘more than literal sense’ is especially pertinent to the Bible. It is because a) Bible is a collection of books by many authors and b) it is the Word of God.

a)      The books of individual authors were joined together into a collection called the Bible centuries after they were written. This was a new arrangement, which could have scarcely been foreseen by the original author (Luke thought of his Gospel and Acts as a unified work, but it was divided in the canonical process. There exists no evidence that the author of John with his claim of unique witness would have thought that his work would be placed alongside and on the same level with the other works called Gospels). The juxtaposition of the books provides connections in the Bible that no single author would have made, thus enlarging the meaning originally intended.

b)      The Bible is God’s word to audiences of all times. This continuing biblical engagement of readers/hearers with the Word of God uncovers meaning beyond those which were envisioned by the human author in his local and limited circumstances. The quest for the dynamic aspect of the word should not deviate from exegesis to eisegesis (the imposition of a meaning to a text that is alien to it).

 

Both in pre-Christian Judaism and post-Christian rabbinic circles the quest for a ‘more-than-literal-exegesis’ was just as common as in Christian circles. In the early Christian writings of the 2nd cent., we find evidence of a very free spiritual exegesis. Exegetes such as Tertullian and Justin searched the OT for proof texts referring to Christ, and they interpreted these passages in a way that went far beyond the literal sense. Origen did not disregard the literal sense but was interested in a sense that could make Christians see the OT as their book. His allegorical interpretation was based on the thought that the OT was Christological in many passages.

Spiritual (Christological) Sense

Spiritual sense, as understood by Christian faith, is the meaning expressed by the biblical texts when read, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the context of the paschal mystery and of the new life which flows from it. The paschal event has established a radically new historical context, which sheds fresh light upon the ancient texts and causes them to undergo a change in meaning. The spiritual (Christological) sense does not change the literal sense, but rather makes it explicit or fulfils it. We cannot exclude from the Bible, especially from the OT, this Christological sense, the possibility of a higher fulfillment:

Gen 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”. This is the first promise of a redeemer (and of his mother).

2 Sam 7: 12-13: “…I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”

This text must be now taken literally, because Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Rom 6:9). Exegetes who have a narrow, ‘historical’ view of the literal sense, will judge this as an interpretation alien to the original. Those who are open to the ‘dynamic’ aspect of a text, instead will recognize here a profound element of continuity as well as an element of discontinuity: Christ rules for ever, but not on the earthly throne of David. It is therefore quite acceptable to reread the Bible in the light of the Christ Event. See also Is 52:13-53:12; cf. suffering servant in Acts 8.32.

 

While there is a distinction between the two senses, the spiritual sense cannot be stripped of its connection to the literal sense; the latter remains the indispensable foundation. Otherwise one could not speak of the fulfillment of the Scripture. In order for fulfillment to be accomplished, a relationship of continuity and conformity is essential. It is also necessary that there be a transition to a higher level of reality. The paschal lamb of Ex 12:46 (Ps 34:20) and Jn 19:36 are examples of such a transition.

 

Spiritual sense is not to be confused with subjective interpretation stemming from imagination or intellectual speculation. The spiritual sense results from setting a text in relation to real facts which are not alien to it: e.g., the paschal mystery, in all its inexhaustible richness, which constitutes the summit of the divine intervention in the history of Israel, to the benefit of all mankind.

Typological Sense

It is “the deeper meaning of the things written about in the Bible when they are seen to have foreshadowed future things in God’s work of salvation.” The typological sense usually belongs not to the Scripture as such, but to the realities (persons, places and events) expressed by the Scripture. The reality which foreshadows is called ‘type’ and the future realty that is foreshadowed is called ‘antitype’. Type and antitype are on two levels of time and only when the antitype appears the typological sense becomes apparent. Type is imperfect and the foreshadowing is related to God’s plan of salvation. E.g., Adam (type) is the figure of Christ (cf. Rom 5:14); the flood (type) is the figure of baptism (1 Pt 3:20-21).

Actually the connection involved in typology is based on the way in which Scripture describes the ancient reality (cf. the voice of Abel: Gen 4:10; Heb 11:4; 12:24) and not simply on the reality itself. Consequently, in such a case one can speak of a meaning which is truly Scriptural. 1Cor 15:45 (Jesus as the new Adam); Rev 12:1-5 (Mary as the new Eve); Manna of Ex 16:4,15; Ps 78:24 and Eucharist in Jn 6:31-32; Rev 2:17 etc. are not equal realities. E.g., though the manna was miraculous nourishment, it was not the bread coming down from heaven as is the Eucharist.

 

Bronze serpent on the pole (Num 21:9) and the lifted Son of Man (Jn 3:14) is another pair of example. Here one must know that it was not the bronze serpent on the pole that gave salvation, but a vision (act) of faith.

 

Fuller Sense

Sense plenior is the deeper meaning of the text, intended by God, but not clearly expressed (intended- R.E. Brown) by the human author. This is known as one studies a text in the light of other biblical passages which utilize it or in its relationship to the internal development of revelation: Unlike the typical sense, but like the literal sense, sensus plenior is primarily concerned with the words of scripture rather than with ‘things’. This concept was first employed by Andre’s Fernandes in 1925. It is used to refer to the idea of the fulfillment of the OT in the NT.

 

The catholic understanding of biblical inspiration distinguishes between God as primary author and the inspired human author as the secondary author. Such an understanding helps one to see how God could have moved a human writer to formulate an idea, the sensus plenior which would only becomes apparent in the light of subsequent use of such a formulation and of which the original human author would have had no inkling.

 

Sensus plenior is then a question of:

 

a)      The meaning a subsequent biblical author attributes to an earlier biblical text, using it in a context which confers upon it a new literal sense.

E.g., Mt 1:22-23 “All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us”. The prophecy quoted here is Is 7:14. In the Issaianic text the prophet does not in fact speak of a ‘virgin’. The Hebrew word used is alemah (=young/ adolescent woman, a girl just married), which was the wife of Achaz, who bore Hezekiah. To speak of a virgin Hebrew has another word at its disposal, I betulah (Is 23:4, 12; 37:22). The Hebrew original alemah was translated in LXX with parthenos which really means ‘virgin’. By using the LXX translation, the evangelist gives a fuller prophetic sense to Is 7:14.

 

b)      The meaning that an authentic doctrinal tradition or a conciliar definition gives to a biblical text.

E.g., Rom 5:12-21: the definition of the doctrine of original sin by Trent provided the fuller sense of Paul’s teaching about the consequences of the sin of Adam for humanity.

 

When the control by an explicit biblical text or by an authentic doctrinal tradition is lacking, recourse to a claimed fuller sense could lead to subjective interpretation deprived of any validity. In effect, sensus plenior is only a modern way of expressing a certain kind of spiritual sense in given instance where the spiritual sense is distinct from the literal sense. It has its foundation in the fact that the Holy Spirit, the principal author of the Bible, can guide human authors in the choice of language so that it will

Express a truth, the fullest depth of which the authors themselves did not perceive. This deeper truth will be revealed in the course of time: a) through further divine interventions which clarify the meaning of the texts-Jn 19:37 clarifies Zec 12:10; Rev 1:7; b) through the insertion of the texts into the canon of the Scripture. In these cases a new contexts is created, which brings out fresh possibilities of meaning that had lain hidden in the original context.

 

The Book of Psalms

Psalms

1. What is a Psalm?

Psalms are poetic compositions, usually presented in established literary patterns with liturgical and ritual allusions. This is poetic because they are tightly woven with balanced word structure, and poetic styles such as rhythm, parallelism, refrains, chiasm, word plays etc…

The Book of Psalms

The Hebrew OT consists three divisions namely, Torah, Nebim, Ketubim and the book of Psalms belongs to the third section. Torah (Law) is the basic text of Hebrews, Nebim (Prophets) is the prophetic interpretation of Torah and Ketubim (Psalms and Wisdom books) is the meditative reflections on Torah. The book of Psalms constitutes the inspired book within the inspired books of the Bible. The book of Psalms could be said as the compendium of the whole OT theology, because it produces macroscopic picture of the OT themes like, the marvellous works of God in Creation, Judgment, Salvation, Israel’s History, the Holy City and the Presence of God in it, the once and future Davidic Messiah, Warning against the wickedness, exhortation to righteousness, the majesty and tragedy of the human condition, the present and future kingdom of God. Through Psalms man learns to communicate in God’s own language. It is the personal encounter between God and man. Psalms are education in prayer. The book of Psalms is one of the most quoted OT book in the NT. It is also the most used OT book in the Jewish synagogues and Christian churches.

Different names

The designation ‘Psalm’ is derived from the Greek usage in Septuagint (LXX) and its later references in the NT (Luke 20,42; 24,44; Acts 1,20; 13,33). In Septuagint the word ψalmoV is used which means ‘hymn of praise’ and the title that is given in Codex Vaticanus is bibloV ψalmoi (Book of Praises). Codex Alexandrianus gives a different title to the book as ψalterion which means ‘a stringed instrument’ and it is from this word another title ‘Psalter’ is achieved to the book of psalms. The Hebrew word for Greek ψalmoi is Hebrew rAmðz>mi (mizmôr) (song) which is found in the titles of 57 psalms. Actually, the title of Psalms in Hebrew canon is known as rp,se ~yLihiT. (t®hillim s¢per) i.e., the Book of Praises. In the Hebrew text we see also another name for Psalms called hL’piT. (t®pillâ) which means ‘Prayer’ (Ps 72,20).

 

5. The Division and The authorship of the Psalms

Traditionally the book of Psalms is divided into five books. It is said in Midrash, “As Moses gave five books of Law, David gave the Pentateuch of Psalms”. According to this division each section ends with a concluding doxology, “praise be to the God of Israel” (Ps 41,14; 72,19; 89,52; 106,48; 150,6).

1st Book         1-41

2nd Book        42-72

3rd Book         73-89

4th Book         90-106

5th Book         107-150.

The authorship of Psalms is mainly ascribed to the tradition of King David (1Sam 16,18-23; 2Sam 6,5; 2Sam 1,19-27). There are other groups of collection called the ‘the collection of David’ (Ps 1-41), ‘the collection of sons of Korah’ (Ps 42-49), ‘Prayers of David’ (Ps 51-72), ‘the collection of Asaph’ (Ps 50,73-83), Psalms of Solomon (72, 127); Heman the Ezrahite (88); Ethan the Ezrahite (89).

6. The origin of the Psalms

1. Liturgical Origin

The first and important explanation of the origin of the psalms is that they are collected for the various liturgical and cultic purposes. Most of the psalms have characteristic motifs of temple entry, praises, prayers and thanksgiving related to sacrifices and celebrations. There are frequent mention of God’s house and the Psalmist’s physical attitudes like ‘bow down before God’, (5,7; 138,2), ‘kneel before the Lord’ (95,6), ‘I lift up my hands up to the holy temple’ (28,2), ‘washing hands and going around the alter (26,6), clap hands (47,1), ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills’(121,1). Because of this cultic nature, it could be said that Priests and Choirs would have special role in writing them for the various liturgical purposes and might have been originated in the temple sites especially of the Jerusalem temple. There are indications that the Priests and Singers are obliged to write and read (1Chr 9,33; 15,16-17; 2Chr 20, 21-22; 23,13; 29,25-16; Neh 12,28-29; Deut 31,19).

2. Individual origin of the Psalm. Psalms also could be the product of individual piety and devotion. For eg., the song of Debora (Deut 31,22; Jud 5). The individual devotion could be evolved later into a public liturgy.

3. Some psalms could be originated in connection with various feasts related with the king and kingdom. For eg., the anniversary of king’s enthronement, his birthday, the victory in the battles etc….

4. There are also indications of the adaptations of many prayers and psalms of the neighbouring Canaanite, Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian temple cults.   

The Date

The Psalms are the collection and sub-collection spanning many centuries. It may have taken some 1000 years up to 300 BC when the book of Psalm came to be finalized. It is certain that many Psalms have an oral tradition before reaching up to a written tradition.

There are certain principles to determine the time of various Psalms

1)     Psalms refer Canaanite culture: The scholars opine that the dates of Psalms 18, 29, perhaps of 12-11 BC.

2)     The historical elements of Patriarchs, the Exodus and the Sinai events, the entrance to the Promised Land may be also hints for a pre-exilic dating (Ps 66, 68, 78, 105, 106, 114, 136).

3)     The liturgical songs related to the King David and Jerusalem, especially the event of bringing of the Ark of the Covenant (Ps 132), God selecting Zion (Ps 46, 48, 76, 78, 68, 69) as his mountain of residence would be pointing to the Pre-exilic existence.

4)     Those Psalms that portrait the individual prayers and lamenting may be mostly of exilic period.

5)     Wisdom style, Pietism towards the Law, strong influence of the language of Aramaic would be of post-exilic.

The Canonicity

The first book to accept as the inspired text in Hebrew canon is the book of Psalms. There are three reasons for its canonicity, 1) this is the shortest form of the history of Israel 2) this is the sum of the Jewish spirituality 3) this is the liturgical and meditative reflection of Yahweh’ s saving actions.

The Versions

The earliest complete Hebrew text of the book of Psalms, available today is dated to the 10th cent AD (The Leningrad Codex (1008)/ Biblia Hebraica Stuttgertenzia). The Greek original is dated of the 4th and 5th cent BC (LXX). The Syriac version is dated on 4th and 5th cent AD. In 2nd century AD other Greek translations of Aquila, Theodatian and Simmachus were appeared which could be considered as the later editions of LXX. There are versions of the book of Psalms in old Latin and later St. Jerome translated a new one in 392, which is called today the Latin Vulgate.

Psalms contain 150 psalms. In some manuscripts we see 151 psalms. The number of psalms is varied in Hebrew Masoretic text, Greek Septuagint, Latin Vulgate and Peshitha. There are some psalms, which were divided into two in the later periods (42 and 43). There are also Psalms that are repeated (14=53; Ps 18=2Sam 22; 40,13-17=70,1-5; 57,7-11=108,1-5; 60,5-12=108,6-13; 96=1Chr 16,23-33; 105,1-15=1Chr16,8-22; 106,1=1Chr16,34; 106,47-48=1Chr16,35-36; 115,4-8 = 135,15-18). There are also some psalms, which do not belong to the proper book of Psalms namely, Ex 15, 1-8; Deut 32,1-43; Judg 5,2-31; 1Sam 2,1-10; 2Sam 22; Is 38,10-20; Jonah 2,2-9; Hab 3,2-19; Tob 8, 5-6.15-17; 13, 1-18

Titles

The titles are not integral part of the Psalms. Many psalms contain a title. Though they are not theologically significant, the Massoretic text gives it often as the first verse. Mostly, it is very difficult to understand the meaning of these titles. They could be divided into various groups

1) Literary nature:

rAmz>mi (mizmôr) psalm, hymn (57 times); ryvi (shîr) song (30 times); lyKif.m; (m´kil) poem (13 times) a didactic psalm or artistic psalm; ~T’k.mi (mikt¹m) hidden or golden song, song of ‘atonement’ or ‘engraved’ song (?) (16, 56-60); hL’piT. (t®pillâ) prayer (17, 86, 90, 102, 142);  Hanna’s thanksgiving and Habakkuk’s song are both described as prayers (1Sam 2,1; Hab 3,1); !AyG”vi (shigaon) (Ps 7) lamentation or complaint song; hL’hiT. (t®hillâ) praise (145).

2) Musical annotations:

hl’s, (selâ) occurs 71 times in 39 psalms. It denotes ‘to raise voice’, ‘to raise eyes’, musical notes etc.… There are seven major musical tunes: ~yqixor>â ~l,aeä tn:Ayí-l[; (±al yônât °¢lem r¹µœqim) (the dove of far-off) (Ps 56). rx;V;ªh; tl,Y<ïa;-l[; (±al °ayyelet hashaµar) (the deer of the dawn) (Ps 22) ~yNIv;voâ-l[; (±al shoshannim) (flowers of Lilies) (Ps 45; 69). txev.T;â-la;  (°al tashµ¢t) (do not destroy) (Ps 57; 58; 59; 75) tyTiªGIh;-l[;( (±al hagtit) (Gittite music) (Ps 8; 81; 84), !Beªl; tWmïl.[; (±al mût lb¢n) (death of the son) (Ps 9), tAmïl'[]-l[;( (±al ±almot) (to the virgins) (Ps 46).

3) Liturgical

 x;Ceîn:m.l; (lamm®naƒƒ¢aµ) comes as the title for 50 psalms but the meaning is not clear. It may mean ‘to the leader of choir’. In 1Chr 15,21, the same word is used in reference to the direction of the singing. tAlï[]M;ñh;( ryviª(shîr hmma±alot) (Ps 120-134) are called songs of ascension. They are sung as the pilgrim music going to Jerusalem for feasts. !WtªWdy>-l[;( (±l y®d¥tûn) (confession) (Ps 39; 62; 77). tB'(V;h; ~Ayæl. (lyôm hash¹bat) (to the day of Sabbath) (Ps 92), ryKi(z>h;l. (lhaz®kir) (to remember) (Ps 38,70) hd”_Atl. (ltôdâ) (to thank) (Ps 100), tAN=[;l. (l®±annôt) (to repent) (Ps 88) dMe(l;l. (ll¹mad) (to teach) (Ps 60)

4. Historical

They contain historical events related to the life of David, like ‘when David fled from Absalom (Ps 3), David sang to the Lord concerning Cush a Benjaminate (Ps 7), When Nathan the prophet came to David, after he had gone to Bathsheba (51). Other Psalms of various historical indications seen in title are 13; 34; 52; 56; 57; 59; 60; 63; 142.

 The Studies of the Book of Psalms

The modern studies focused fundamentally on its form-critical studies. Attention was given to the type and character of each psalms and makes clues for the various exegetical interpretations. The basic schema is set forth by H. Gunkel and J. Begrich (H. Gunkel- J. Begrich, Einleitung in die Psalmen, (Göttingen, 1933) = The Psalms, (Philadelphia, 1960). H. Gunkel is the first one who successfully classified the Psalms into various literary types (Gattung). He classified them according to the contents. According him one could see the life situation (Sitz im Leben) of the author through the literary symbols, emotions, and ideas. So one should analyse various literary genres of the Psalms. According to H. Gunkel, there are mainly five different literary forms, 1) Hymns, 2) Communal complaint songs 3) Individual complaint songs 4) Individual thanksgiving songs, 5) Royal Psalms. Besides these, he also found many different small-genres like ‘Pilgrimage song’, ‘Tora songs’, ‘Sayings of Blessing and curse’ and ‘Victory Song’ etc…. The work of S. Movinckal has influenced many of the studies of the Psalms. His main work appeared in 1921-1924 (S. Mowinckel, Psalmen-Studien I-IV = The Psalms in Israel’s Worship I-II, Oxford, 1962). S. Movinckal also followed H. Gunkel but he gave importance to the cultic aspect of the Psalms and thus he denied primarily the personal dimension of the Psalms. It is his view that great majority of the Psalms do not simply derive, as a matter of form-history or literary-history, but from ancient cult poetry. They are ‘real cult psalms’ composed for and used in the actual service of the temple. Though S. Movinckal advocated the liturgical background of the Psalms, he also detected the presence of some ‘cult-free Psalms’ namely ‘Instruction Psalms’. Most important and comprehensive treatment after this perhaps would be of Clause Westermann[1]. He has argued as ‘Praise’ and ‘Lament’ as the two poles of human address to God and thus they are considered as the dominant categories in the Psalms.

There has been a number of criticisms and opinions with regard to the various literary types and genres of the psalms. Several published studies tend to multiply the literary categories of Psalms. For the study purpose, the literary structure followed in this work is of H.-J. Kraus[2] and L. Sabourin[3].

The literary forms of Psalms (Gattung)

The important literary forms of the Psalms are explained as follows:

1. Praising or Hymns

There are three types of praising:

a)     Praising or hymns Proper (8, 19, 29, 33, 100, 103, 104, 111, 113, 114, 117, 135, 136, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150).

b)     Yahweh-the King Praising (47, 93, 96, 97, 98, 99).

c)     The Praising of Zion (46, 48, 76, 84, 87, 122). 

2. Lamentation

It contains complaints against God. It speaks about the wicked and the enemies and the necessity of God’s defence.

a. laments of the Individual (5; 6; 7; 13; 17; 22; 25; 26; 28; 31; 35; 36; 38; 39; 42; 43; 51; 54; 55; 56; 57; 59; 61; 63; 64; 69; 70; 71; 86; 88; 102; 109; 120; 130; 140; 141; 142; 143).

b. Laments of the Community (12; 44; 58; 60; 74; 77; 79; 80; 82; 83; 85; 90; 94; 106; 108; 123; 126; 137)

3. Psalms of the Confidence

  1. Confidence of the Individual (3, 4, 11, 16, 23, 27, 62, 121, 131)
  2. Confidence of the Community (115, 125, 129)

4. Psalms of Thanksgivings

        They are called in Hebrew Todah. They confess God’s unlimited goodness and mercy.

a)     Thanksgiving of the Individual (Ps 9, 10, 30, 32, 34, 40, 2-12, 41, 92, 107, 116, 138)

b)     Thanksgiving the Community (Ps 65, 66, 67, 68, 118, 124)

 5. Royal-Messianic Psalms

These Psalms may be written as the praises of kings but they are later interpreted with the Messianic ideals. (Ps 2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101; 110; 132; 144)

6. Didactic Psalms

a. Wisdom Psalms (Ps 1; 37; 49; 73; 91; 112; 119; 127; 128; 133; 139).

b. Historical Songs (Ps 78; 105).

c. Prophetic Psalms (Ps 14; 50; 52; 53; 75; 81; 95).

d. Liturgies (15, 24; 134).

7. Groups of Psalms under different headings

a. Imprecatory Psalms (35; 58; 69; 109; 137; 129; 140).

b. Psalms of Blessing (121; 91; 67; 115, 9-15).

c. Pilgrim Psalms (120-134).

d. Victory Psalms (46; 48; 66; 76; 118; 149).

e. Penitential Psalms (6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143).

f. Acrostic Psalms (9-10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; 119; 145).

g. Creation Psalms (8, 19; 104; 139; 148).

f. Entrance Psalms (15,24).

g. Hallelujah Psalms (111-118; 135; 136; 146-150).

——————————-

Psalms of Praising

The psalms of praising are the announcement and proclamation of joy and wonder over the glory, omnipotence and the saving actions of Yahweh in the history of Israel. Praising can be understood more than a literary style. It is the basic attitude of prayer for the people of Israel. The emotions such as happiness, wonder, fear, and respect are predominantly seen in praising. The language of praise is with attributes, gracious words and exclamatory statements. The psalmist will praise seven times a day (119,164), he will praise at the midnight (119,62). The psalmist will praise not only with the words but also with the whole body, (by raising hands 29,2; 95,6; 96,9; 99,5.9; 138,2), by clapping hands 47,2; 98,8), dancing (26,6; 118,27),  kneeling, prostration (95,6).

The important life situation (sitz im Leben) would be the annual agricultural feasts, national feasts of victories or the yearly temple feasts. Thousands of devotes reach Jerusalem, with shouting of joy  and the praising songs of Yahweh. They participate in the dances, processions (42,5; 87,7; 149,3; 150,4) and in the solemn temple entry etc…

Structure

 I. Introduction: The introductory part is mostly an invitation. This part explains the intention of praising God. It is an invitation addressed to the musicians and singers (33,2), to the servants (135,2) and to all nations (117,1) and to every living being (150,6) or even to all creatures (148). Some  primitive nucleus of the hymn could have consisted of simple cultic exclamations like ‘halleluiah’, ‘praise the Lord’ etc…

There are three types of invitations

1) Imperative  (Second Person)

a) give thanks (33,2; 105,1)

b) Sing a new song (33,3; 96,1)

c)     Rejoice, bless, give thanks (47,2; 66,1)

II Jussive (third person)

a) let them rejoice (5,12; 35,27)

            b) Let them be glad (40, 17; 67,5)

            c) Let them praise (67,4; 99,3)

III Cohertative (first person)    

a) Let us exult (95,1-2)

b) Let us rejoice (95,1)

c) Let us bow down (95,2)

II. Body: It is either reason or expansion of the introduction. Why one should praise Yahweh? The reasons derive from Yahweh’s great deeds (creation, providence, redemption, legislation) or refer to God’s attributes of power, wisdom, fidelity and mercy. In hymns especially God is praised both what He has done and what He is. Yahweh is to be praised not only because he is good but also because his works of salvation to be known by the nations

The common body movements in these psalms are a) clapping hands (47,2), b) raising hands (134,2), c) Falling down before Yahweh (29,2), d) using musical instruments (57,9), e) dancing (63,5) etc….

III. Conclusion: The part contains partial or total repetition of the introduction. It is the recapitulation of motives (105,42-45), blessing formulas (29,11; 66,20, 135, 21), requests or wishes (19,13). It can be sometimes the expression of the sentiments of trust in the Lord or it can be a simple ‘hallelujah’ (148,4).

Praising Psalms can be divided into three sections 1) Hymns Proper 2) Yahweh-the King Praising, 3) The Praising of Zion. 

1) Hymns Proper (8, 18, 19, 29, 33, 100, 103, 104, 111, 113, 114, 117, 135, 136, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150).

These are the psalms of descriptive or narrative praise. This is done both by the individual or the community. These psalms praises Yahweh’s mighty deeds of creation and the salvific plan. Mostly these psalms have the liturgical background when the community gather together to worship Yahweh. God is praised for his lordship and majesty as creator and the Lord of history.

Psalm 8

This is a classical example of hymns proper. Both majesty of God and the dignity of man are praised here. This Psalm beautifully presents the relationship among God, man and nature. There is a poetic technique of inclusion in v.2 and v. 10, because of the ‘introductory and concluding phrase ‘how majestic is your name’.

Structure

The psalm forms a concentric structure.

*V. 1-2 Praising

*Vv 3-5 Nature

*V. 6 Central theme: Man and his position

*Vv. 7-9 Nature

*V. 10 Praising

Content

Vv. 1-2 The aim of these verses to praise the God’s name. OT concept is that the name is identical with the person. God’s name is majestic. The statement that the whole world is full of God’s glory (Kabod) means that he is present all over the world. He establishes his mighty power through the mouths of babes. Those who are week are appropriate to establish God’s power.

3-5 The heavens, moon and the stars are the work of God. This imagery may indicate that this psalm denotes evening or night prayer (Ps 130,6; 134,1). God is so powerful and at the same time he is concerned about the simple creature-man. The contrast of man’s position and God’s glory is pictured here.  Man is created little less than angels (LXX). Instead of ‘than angels’ can be read ‘than of gods’ since the reference is probably to the members of the heavenly court of God (relation to the Canaanite mythology). Man is crowned with glory and honour, which are the qualities of God himself.

v. 6 deals with the special relationship with God and man. It is a kingly role, but according to the manner of God himself. The dominion is special. It is based on the power of God, who establishes his power through babes and the week. Man should exercise his power through reverence to God.

Vv. 7-9 once again the Psalmist praises the nature and God’s imminent presence.

V. 10 Concluding praising. Human life is a gift from God.

The Praising of Zion (46, 48, 76, 84, 87,122, 132, 137)

These poems extol Zion, God’s ‘holy mountain’ (48,2), Jerusalem is chosen mountain (76,3), the city of God (46,5; 48,2), the city of Yahweh zebayoth (48,9; 84,2), and  the holy dwelling of the Most high (46,5). Non-Israelites also can find refuge there, because Zion is a mother to all (87,5). Zion was selected as the seat of eternal king and thus it has played the centre to the political, cultural and religious life of Israel. The importance of the city became historical event on the transferring of the sacred Ark from Shiloh to Jerusalem. According to G. von Rad: “The songs of Zion were based on the fact of Yahweh’s past choice of Zion, and the royal psalms on Yahweh’s past choice of David as its king.”[4]   

Psalm 46

This is the first Zion psalm in the Psalter. Jebusites were the inhabitants when David took hold of Jerusalem. Jebusites strongly believed that there God was staying with them in the city of Jerusalem. David conquered the city and he brought the arch of the covenant, the presence of Yahweh into Jerusalem. He made Jerusalem city as the dwelling place of Yahweh. Is 2,2-4 and Mica 4,1-4 describe the Zion traditions. In those prophesies there are mainly six elements

a) exaltation of Zion

b) pilgrimage of nations and peoples to Zion

c) Teaching of the ways of God

            d) Torah comes from Zion

e) Yahweh judge the world nations

f) Yahweh establishes the peace.

 Almost this tradition is seen in the ‘praising of Zion Psalms’. ‘Faith in God’ is the key note in these psalms and its particular object is expressed in the refrain ‘the Lord of the hosts is with us, our stronghold is the God of Jacob’.

Structure

I. Vv 2-4 God is our refuge and strength

II. Vv 5-8 the city of God

III. Vv 9-12 the admonition to the nations.

Content

Vv 2-4 at the very outset, the communal perspective is stressed: lanu (for us) would show that God has been/is/will be for us refuge and strength. The terms ‘refuge’, ‘help’, which are language of individual prayer, are now applied to the community. Therefore, the upheaval of rebellious powers cannot produce fear, although the rebellion is of the cosmic dimensions. Refuge is repeated three times 1.7.11.

Vv. 5-8 the river functions as the water supply of God’s city, which is the ‘holy habitation of the most high’. That means not only the temple, but also the city, as a whole is holy by the presence of God. It is the vision of God’s city in almost paradaisical state. The streams evoke the paradaisic streams in Gen 2 although they are channels (peleg), which provide water supply within an irrigation system. The city seems to have neither walls nor a temple (at least there is no mention). The cosmic uproar is a constant threat to the city. The nations and kingdoms mentioned in this Psalm represent chaos. Because of the delivering God, who is ready to rescue his city once and over again, the cosmic uproar will not achieve its purpose, namely the reign of terror performed by demonic powers. The holy city is built up in the proper name Yahweh Zebayoth (God of hosts), now interpreted as Elohai yakov (God of Jacob) a title very rare and came to use not before pre-exilic time in the Psalter. These two titles thus bring together the God of salvation history in the Pentateuch and God of the Psalter. They are the basis of the confidence of the threatened community. Due to the presence of his name the city survives all attacks. Hence, nations are admonished to have appropriate knowledge of such God. City of God a holy habitation and the enemy cannot overcome it.

Vv. 9-12 this section has double intention. The first admonition to the nations is to acknowledge the only one God who alone is entitled to bring desolation on earth. It means that one should reject all other powers pretending divine competence. The second affirmation is God’s presence in the city.  Exaltation of God. It is from Jerusalem the peace comes. When there is peace in Jerusalem the whole universe enjoys peace.

Yahweh-the King Praising (47, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99).  

This is a special kind of classification and is also called as ‘enthronement psalms’. It describes ‘the festival of the kingship of God’. The title melek (king) would closely be related to Yahweh zebayoth (The Lord of hosts). The eschatological character of these psalms cannot be denied where the Israel celebrates the enthronement of Yahweh as the universal ruler and judge. 

There are two functions with regard to the enthronement celebration: a) The ruler is anointed on a holy site by the hand of a priest and is adorned with crown, b) he ascends in a celebrative parade and seats himself on the royal throne (1Kg 1,34; 2Kg 11,12). The great personalities of the nations gather together with the king like, the ministers, head of the soldiers. The whole nations praise king’s mighty deeds, his justice and righteousness.  Yahweh is the king of the world (47,3,8; 98,6; 99,4) and His kingdom is the kingdom of peace (99,4), justice, and grace (98,2).

Psalm 47

 
Content

I) v.1 title

II) vv. 1-5 shouts of joy to God, the king

III) vv. 6-9 Praises to God, the universal ruler

1-5. It is possible that the historical context of the psalm was  a victory in war, which they attributed to Yahweh. The Israelites had the tradition that Yahweh fought their battles for them as they were liberated and brought from Egypt and led to the land of Canaan. It was natural to give glory to Yahweh on a military victory. The psalmist invites all people to shout songs of joy in honor of Yahweh, the most high.

6-9 It is almost symmetrical repetition of the first strophe, inviting people to sing praises to God, who is the universal ruler of the world. Just as they celebrate the enthronement of their earthly king, they celebrate Yahweh’s coronation as the king of all the nations and the world.   Firstly, he is the king of Israel and secondly he is the universal king.

Psalms of Lamentation

It contains complaints against God. The basic emotion is aguish, pain and sadness. The main phrases are ‘How long’ and ‘how many days’ (12, 44, 58, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 90, 94, 108, 123, 129) etc…. This is a cry for the liberation from sufferings, persecutions and persecutors. It has also the dimension of confessing sins and asking the forgiveness.

The General Structure

I) Introduction: This is generally an invocation of the name (Yahweh or Elohim), which is followed by a cry for help (51,3; 57,2; 86,3). The common way of addressing God is also reflected in the frequent use of anthropomorphisms: ‘Listen to me’, ‘open your ear’, ‘look’, ‘wake up’, ‘hurry’, ‘answer me’, ‘save me’, ‘return’ etc…

II) Main section: There are four major contents are seen in this section.

                        a) complaints. The main motive of complaint is to move God to act. This explains the distress of man in first place. The danger of death, disease, distress are always involved.  

b) supplication, request for urgent help the main words are listen, open your ear, look down, raise yourself, wake up

c) This part also explains the nature of the supplicants. He may be materially poor, the afflicted, the accused, or the persecuted in various levels.

d) expression of trust the motive of confidence.

It includes complaints, supplications, suppliants and trust in God’s saving act. The danger of death is always involved. The reason of the complaint is to move God to action. This section also speaks of the person who is asking for the help. The suppliant here is ‘poor’ (‘ani), ‘afflicted’.

III) Conclusion: It does not have a particular pattern. It will generally end with a blessing, or a renewed expression of trust, or with a thanksgiving or with prayer for God’s help.

 

Who is the afflicted in these psalms?

There are primarily three types of suffering and the sufferers in these psalms.

1. Suffering of sickness (Ps 6, 31, 38, 39, 41, 88, 102). This is one of the important situation where psalmist finds himself in suffering. It is not clear to what type of sickness that the individual is undergoing. His bones are weak (38,3), his wounds grow foul (38,5), his loins are filled with burning (38,7), his light of the eyes is gone (38,10), he is not able to eat (102,4), his health is weak (32,3). All these imageries would lead to different types of suffering, through sickness, old age or accidents etc… Rather than physical illness, the psalmist is suffering from mental anguish, he is lonely (38,11), sad (13,3; 33,3), restless (22,3; 77,5), sleeplessness (56,9), torturing memories (88,16). Moreover he is suffering from the spiritual sickness. He is in exile. He is out of Zion. He lost his land, his temple and the presence of Yahweh in it. He is in strong spiritual insecurity that Yahweh is hiding His face towards him.

2. The suffering from a common enemy (Ps 3, 7, 13, 14, 22, 25, 27, 28, 35, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 63, 64, 69, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89, 102, 109, 120, 130, 140, 141, 142, 143). Psalmist is an innocent oppressed who tries to defend the truth from the oppressor. The psalmist is standing amidst the people of false witness, idol worshipers and the wicked. The prayer of the psalmist is to get the proper justice punishing the wicked (7; 27; 35). C) suffering of the innocent (Ps 5, 17, 26, 139).

3. The prisoner: The psalmist is in the prison (88; 107 118) with or without a genuine cause. The psalmist pray for the freedom. He calls God’s urgent for immediate establishment of the truth and justice.  

 

There are two types of lamentation, i.e.,

a)     the lamentation of the individual.

b)     the lamentation of the people.

a) the Lamentation of the Individual (5, 6, 7, 13, 17, (22), 25, 26, 28, 31, 35, (36), 38, 39, 42, 43, 51, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, (63), 64, 69, 70, 71, 86, 88, 102, 109, 120, 130, 140, 141, 142, 143).

The laments of the individual deals particularly with the personal suffering and pain. It contains the pain of disease, attack of the enemies, fear of death and the depression from various life situations. Some scholars consider that they have cultic background because of four elements, found commonly in them, i.e., a) Prayer (5,7; 28,2), b) indications of sacrifice (5,3; 141,2), c) an oracle (5,4; 86,17), d) allusions to some cultic actions like washing of the hands and purifications (51,4, 96). Hence these psalms could be related to the particular liturgical functions in the temple. At the same time, there are also strong opinions of the non-cultic background of many individual lament psalms.

Psalm 22

This is an extraordinary psalm that takes us to the extremes. It develops from an individual in the dust of death (v. 15) to universal acknowledgement of the kingdom of God. In the lament we read “all who see me mock me” (v. 7) and all my bones are out of joint (v. 14), but in the praise sections we hear, “All your descendants of Jacob, honour him” (v. 23), “all the end of the earth will… turn to the Lord” (v. 27) and it even appears that all the dead will worship (v. 29).

Gattung- Mischung (Mixed form)

It is a mixture of Individual lament (1-21), an individual thanksgiving (22-26) and praising of the Yahweh-the king (27-31).

Structure
  1. Lamentation (vv. 1-21)
  2. Thanksgiving (vv. 22-26)
  3. Praising Yahweh-the king (vv. 27-31)

 

Content

1-2 These words are most familiar to the Christians and remind the salvation made possible through the Cross. Unlike most prayer psalms, this one opens with a lament pointed at God himself. Three fundamental issues are raised here. 1) God’s abandoning (ynIT”+b.z:[) (±¹zavtani = abandon me), 2) remoteness of God (qAxïr”) (r¹µœq = far away), 3) God does not respond (hn<+[]t; al{å) (lœ° ta‘¹nâ = you do not answer). These themes are developed in 3-10.

3-5 These verses sound like a praise but they serve to heighten the anomaly of God’s silence. God has always saved and delivered the fathers who put trust in God but why at this moment he is silent. The phrase ‘enthroned on the praises of Israel’ and the reference of the ‘trust of the Fathers’ would denote the tradition of the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.  

6-8 The contrast with preceding story of ‘our fathers’ is striking. The speaker acknowledges his wretched situation, ‘I am a worm and no man’. More than the physical pain the mental anguish of a sufferer is highlighted here. The painful situation is the mocking of the people.

9-10 These verses are the confession of trust in Yahweh. They serve as evidence that Yahweh has in fact, ‘delighted in him’, because he had trusted in Yahweh. So Yahweh should ‘answer’ to the cry of the faithful. These verses are not verses of consolation rather they are the arguments presented before Yahweh.  

11-21 In this section, the petitions addressing the problem of God’s remoteness enclose a lament of the deepest way ‘do not be far from me, for the trouble is near (v. 11 and 19). Concerning the foes, the animals’ descriptions like ‘strong bulls’, ‘lions’ and ‘dogs’ would be the mythical or demonic figures. In v. 16b, the imagery shifts to humans encircling the speaker either at his deathbed or execution. This lament shares the extreme situation of a man among his enemies.

22-26 It is a typical vow of praise, surrounded by thanksgiving. God is praised in the congregation. It is striking that the command is issued to ‘all you sons of Israel’. By claiming God ‘has listened to his cry for help’ in effect withdraws the allusion that God had been far from the cry for help’.

27-31 These verses have the affinity to the Yahweh-kingship, where ‘all the families of the nations’ ‘bow down’ before Yahweh and ‘all the ends of earth’ acknowledge that he ‘rules over the nations’ (v. 27). In Psalm 22, Yahweh’s worship takes on vast, universal proportions with respect to both geography and time. Remarkably, Ps 22 goes beyond any other psalm. The praising will extend across the entire globe, future generations. The phrase ‘all who go down to the dust will kneel before him’ in v. 29 should be understood as those who ‘sleep’ and not the dead because the psalms elsewhere states, ‘it is not the dead who praise the Lord (115,17; 30, 9; 88,10-12).

Psalm 22 could be an Individual lament or a national lament and a praising for the restoration from captivity. With our post-Easter vision, the psalm foreshadows both the resurrection of an individual (Christ) and of a nation (Church). 

B) Laments of the Community ((12), 44, (58), 60, 74, (77), 79, 80, (82), (83), 85, 90, (94), (106), (108), 123, (126), 137).

The literary structure of this family of psalms are similar to those of the corresponding category related to the Individual. But here the distress, trust and thanksgiving are expressed by the community. The criteria are more or less the same as that of an individual lament. Instead of ‘I’, we have ‘We’ and corresponding personal pronouns. When in an individual lament, there is an indifference to refer to the historical events, communal lament do refer them. It is to be supposed that communal laments were in use during the whole history of Israel. The individual laments are vitally interested in leading God to stand up to defend the miserable situation of the individual considering His eternal promises in the history. The topics of Israel’s official theology, namely the theology of the temple Jerusalem, the theology of Davidic dynasty, the theology of creation are clearly focused in the communal laments.

Sitz im Leben of these Psalms

The psalms of the communal lament are concerned with the days of humiliation arising from national sufferings like war, plagues, draught, pestilence, famine, flood and exile etc… The important social background for these psalms are the annual or occasional gatherings of the people of Israel to lament, to pray and to fast. The whole community is called to repentance and prayer. There are three types of ingathering for community lament.

1) lament festivals happened in every year

2) funeral banquet gatherings.

3) the days of fasting, convoked by the king or high priest on special occasion of the national catastrophes.

In all these occasions, the people come together and pray for God’s urgent help. The third occasion of gathering is most important and solemn one. In these days of fasting the whole people including gentiles and animals are to be involved. Such gatherings were organized at court yards, other common places or worshiping centers (Jud 20,23; 21,2; 1Sam 7,6; 1Kings 8,33.35). The people should cry on the roads and public places (Is 15,3; Am 5,16; Jer 14,2). The people should fast (1Kings 21,9), the people should abstain from common works and sexual relationships (Is 58,3), the people should tear the cloth (Is 32,11), they should wear sack cloth (Is 15,2; 22,12; Mic 1,16), they should spread sand and ashes on the head (Neh 9,1; Judith 4,11), they should shave the head (Is 15,2; Mic 1,16), they should prostrate and should stay on knees (Jud Is 29,4; 2 Mac 3,21). The priests should wear sack cloth (Joel 1,13), cry at the alter and at the temple premises (Joel 2,17). These activities on the days of fasting and prayer are the cry and lament towards Yahweh for his immediate and saving action in the time of misery.

The pain and anguish towards the moral decay in the society, the spreading of the lies and idols, denial of the rights of the poor and the widows, the increasing of the wicked and the murders, the flowing of the blood like waters are also the subject of these psalms. 

Psalm 74

This is a lament over national calamity, most probably the destruction or desecration of the temple is intended here. The destruction of the temple happened in exile (587), when Babylonians demolished the temple. The desecration happened to the second temple by Antiochus Epiphanes IV (175-164 BC)) who burned the doors of the temple and desecrated the holy of holies and the sanctuary.

Structure

It has a clear structure with three parts.

vv. 1-11 Complaints toward God concerning the destruction of the temple.

vv. 12-17 The Lord as ‘the king’ eternally.

vv. 18-23 Urgent pleas to God considering the present state of affaires

Content

1-11 The mood of this section is full of bitterness. The complaint against God is very harsh. At the beginning (v. 1) and at the end (v. 11) there are the why questions (Ps 22). The style is characterised by direct address that invokes the necessity of God’s intervention. God is urgently requested to perceive that his own affairs are seriously touched by the actions of the enemy. Under the cover of being concerned about God’s state of affairs an attack against God is launched who obviously neglects his duties towards his own people that calls himself with honourable names: “sheep of your pasture” (v. 1), ‘your congregation’ (v. 2), ‘tribe of your heritage’ (v. 2). God shall direct his steps to the eternal ruins (v. 3). The ‘notion of eternity’ as the characteristic for God and his temple is now perverted.

12-17 There is shift of mood from accusation to hymn. Israel proclaims what has been the basis of faith. The sequence is very interesting: God as my king, performing powerful deeds of salvation on earth (not heaven). This is typical for the theology of the temple in Jerusalem. The people of Israel proclaim God as the victor over the powers of chaos stabilizing the order of the world. They establish God’s glory. The aim of this passage: Israel would be happy, if her faith to God, who acted once in such a wonderful manner, could be re-emanated. Yahweh calls the divine saving actions. Crossing of the see of reeds is depicted here. This is not only the defeat of the Egyptians but the defeat of the cosmic enemy living in waters. By dividing it into two God shows his power over waters. This also shows the creative power because in the beginning God made heaven and order through creating. V. 13 speaks of the water dragon and leviathan (Ps 104,6; Is 27,1). This are the Canaanite mythical figure to express God’s supreme power.

18-23 This section is marked by a new sequence of urgent requests, alternating between requests and demands. Israel’s self-designations highlight the disastrous situation of the people: poor, downtrodden and needy (v. 21). God’s intervention should happen immediately as in early times. Otherwise the uproar of the adversaries continues to go up (Yoleh tamid). The phrase Yoleh tamid (continuous going up) is used commonly for offerings. The ‘uproar of God’s adversaries’ has replaced ‘the offerings’ for the psalmist. This is the climatic complaint at the end in full correspondence with the harsh questions at the beginning

 

Psalms of the Confidence of the individual (3,4,11,16,23, (27), (62), (121) 131).

They are in reality the ‘motives of confidence’ developed from the corpus of lamentation into independent psalms. Most of the factors that constitute the lament are also found in these psalms, but the confidence motive is predominant. The idea of security (4,9; 16,8; 27,1-5) and of peace, specially during sleep (3,6; 4,5.9; 16,7), is frequently mentioned. The joy which this confidence provides (4,8-9; 16,6-8; 9.11; 23,6) is often associated with the temple, where God is likely to reveal himself (11,7; 16,11) and grant the prayers of his faithful (3,5; 11,4; 23,6; 27,4).

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is a favourite fro many, largely because it unveils an intensely intimate relationship with the Lord wherein he provides protection and providence. The striking images are shepherd and host while the heart of the poem is atta immadi, (you are with me).  

Structure

1-4 the Lord is shepherd

5-6 the Lord is host.

Content

1-4 For a Semite, the image ‘shepherd’ is important since it is strictly related to their occupation. It is not a simple leading of a folk to one place to other but the shepherd is perfectly aware of the places and geography where there is grass and water to the flock. At the same time the shepherd avoids all kinds of dangers. He accompanies the sheep and his timetable, his risks, his hunger, and his thirst etc… are solely depends on the sheep. This is a privileged symbol in the OT to speak of God and king (Is 44,28; Jer 3,15; 6,3; 12,10; Ez 34; Ps 78,21).

The Hebrew word for ‘still waters’ is menuhot. Its singular nuh can mean temple. It evokes the association of the contrary mithumot, which is a place of chaotic powers. The phrase ‘he restores my soul’ is Shuv nepesh and means not simple refreshment but restoration of life. The phrase ‘the paths of righteousness’ could also be read as the right path. The rod (weapon) and staff (help stick) are the instruments of protection and symbols of authority.   

5-6 The second nucleus of the poem is ‘hospitality’. God is presented as the one who takes care in small detail of a person. God is drawn as a person who is fully aware of the Oriental hospitality, perfume the head of the invited, offer a cup of vine of friendship, prepare a table (shulhan) of good food, and protect from the enemies. The table has its place in a house. God’s table is his alter. Naturally the background of the psalm could speak of a temple and a sacrificial meal in the temple. At this point the person is filled with joy of God’s presence both spiritually and materially. So he could pray as in Ps 27,4 “One thing, I have asked the Lord…that I may dwell in the house the Lord”. The temple is the secret topic of the Psalm. Ps 23 evokes the deep dimension of human existence. Human existence is dialectical between the threatening chaotic powers and the protecting love and goodness of God.  We can mark out four levels of interpretation in these psalm. a) Literally =shepherd and host, b) Allegorically = security and prosperity with the Lord, c) Symbolically = temple and eucharist c) Eschatologically = heavenly bliss and heavenly banquet.

Psalms of the Confidence of the Community ((115), 125, (129)

The confidence motive is collective where the psalmist is a member of the congregation and the favor expected for the benefit of the community. The confidence motives expressed collectively in these psalms. The biblical confidence relies only on God. This firm trust in the Lord is expressed both in urgent need and normal situation of human life. The above three psalms have almost the same pattern a) invitation to set fully trust in God (115,9; 12,1), b) Yahweh is the rock of security (125,1), c) source of blessing and peace (115,15; 129,8; 125,15).

Psalm 125

This is also one of the pilgrimage psalms and confidence psalms.

Structure

vv. 1-3 Stability to those who trust in the Lord

vv. 4-5 Prayer for reward and retribution

Content

1-3 The psalmist affirms stability of the blessings to those who trust in the Lord. Three imageries are seen there. a) Those who trust in the Lord are stable like Mount Zion. b) Just like Zion, surrounded and protected by other  mountains, the people of Israel is protected by the Lord. c) The faith of the just is exposed to great temptations like ‘the sceptre of the wicked’ (foreign dominion). But the just will reign over the land. Mount Zion is rooted on earth. Three graces and securities are given to the one who trusts in Yahweh like mount Zion a) stability, b) eternity, c) holiness.

4-5   This is a prayer. The psalmist appeal that the innocent and good heart may find peace, hope and confidence in Yahweh. At the same time pray that the wicked may be expelled from the land. The wicked will be punished and the innocent will be rewarded.

3. Psalms of Thankfulness

        They are also called in Hebrew Todah hymns. These psalms concentrates in giving thanks to God for his general favours. They confess God’s unlimited goodness and mercy. They celebrate his saving intervention on behalf of Israel or the just. According to G. Pidoux the hymns celebrate Yahweh’s interventions in Israel’s early history, while the collective thanksgiving are concerned rather with recent deeds of deliverance. It is possible that thanksgiving festivals constituted the original setting of these psalms. The votive offering of a sacrifice (65,2; 116,18) often accompanies the prayer of the thanksgiving.

The thanksgiving comes as the final act in the drama of human prayer. The prayer and petition cannot be gone unanswered. The psalmist’s request has been granted or at least help is assured. Thanksgiving is an acknowledgement that it is God who has acted and that the psalmist is entirely dependant on him. The psalmist is giving thanks because his prayer is heard. His trust has become fruitful. The request is granted. His help is assured.

There are difference between hymn and thanksgiving psalms

1)                           Hymn is a song of God’s great and majestic works. It praises the greatness of Yahweh as  creator While thanksgiving psalms concentrates on idea that Yahweh as the sole saviour.

2)                           Thanksgiving is also one way of praising God. That means every praising need not be thanksgiving but every thanksgiving is a praising.

 

The structure of the thanksgiving psalms consists normally of the following elements.

 I. Introduction: Psalmist’s intention to thank God (9,2; 138,2). This is done in vast assembly (40,10) in the assembly of elders (107,32), in the gates of the daughters of Zion (9,15), at your holy temple (138,2). The places where thanksgiving takes place are: in the vast assembly, in the assembly of the people 8107,2), in the gates of Zion (9,15), in the presence of angels (138,1), and at the holy temple (138,2).

II. Main section: It consists essentially in describing the peril from which the psalmist has been wonderfully delivered (30,12). It describes the peril which the psalmist was undergoing and how he was miraculously delivered. Psalmist narrates his experience of Yahweh’s saving love in two ways: 1) Yahweh has forgiven his sins 2) The psalmist is healed.

There are two types of acknowledgement of God’s help: One is personal. Here the psalmist is thankful because he is healed from his own sins. He was suffering from the punishment of God and God showed the mercy and the punishment is taken away. Second is social. Here psalmist is thankful for the deliverance from the misfortune happened because of the sins and wickedness of his fellow brothers. The psalmist is delivered from such perils and he is thanking Yahweh acknowledging his saving mercy. This is  negative acknowledgement.  Here he defends his innocence and he exults the justice of Yahweh. Here the psalmist is saved either by a miraculous liberation from the evil power or by destroying the wicked by the power of Yahweh.

III. Conclusion is seen for a few psalms. It is an invitation to praise or resolution to lead a thankful life.

Thanksgiving psalms principally maintain two important thoughts. First is to express joy in the favours and interventions of Yahweh. Thus basic emotion of these psalms is happiness. Second is to confess that Yahweh is the sole saviour of the nations. This is witnessing and proclamation that Yahweh is the only God in whom all people should take refuge. “Then I will thank thee in the great congregation” (35,18), “Let them extol him in the congregation of the people and praise him in the assembly of the elders (107, 32).  

Thanksgiving of the Individual (Ps 9, 10, 18, 30, 41, 92, 116, 138)

Psalm 30

This is an individual thanksgiving. The title speaks of the dedication of the temple. With regard to the background of the psalm there are various opinions.

a) It would be the dedication of the Jerusalem temple and sanctuary to Yahweh by the king Solomon (900BC).

b) It may be the dedication of the second temple in around 515 BC by Ezra and Nehemiah after the return from the exile.

c) It may be the rededication by Judas Macabeus in 164 BC after the desecration of the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes

 

Structure

I)       deliverance from the mouth of death (1-3)

II)    call to praise (4-5)

III)  account of God’s act of deliverance (6-11)

IV) Thanks and praise to God (12)

I) deliverance from the mouth of death (1-3)

He is suffering from either of the physical suffering or from the spiritual suffering because he might have sinned. In whatever the psalmist is understanding that he is in a situation of death. It is at this moment that he experiences the saving hands of Yahweh. He is healed now. The psalmist recovered from illness which had almost taken him to grave.

 

II) call to praise (4-5)

This portion recalls God’s favor. He compares and contrasts God’s wrath with his favour. In the experience of the psalmist God’s anger is for correction and once the objective is achieved, God’s anger turns into grace and that grace is for the whole life.

 

III) Account of God’s act of deliverance (6-11)

The psalmist makes a retrospection into his life. In the time of material prosperity, he thought to himself that he was firmly established for the rest of his life. But the moment God hid his face from him, he began to shake and fall. He was in the grip of mortal illness.

 

IV) Thanks and praise to God (12)

Thanksgiving of the community (Ps 65, 66, 67, 107, 118, 124)

This is the collective thanksgiving. It has all the literary features of the thanksgiving of the individual. Here psalmist is the representative of the community. The background will be national thanksgiving gatherings or feasts. There are indications of votive offering of the sacrifice in these psalms. They are a) thanksgiving liturgy b) entry into the temple c) exclamation of the faithful d) thanksgiving proper, and e) response of the choir

Psalm 67

This is a thanksgiving after harvest. The psalmist is thanking that he has received good rain, climate and good harvest. This called the psalm of Harvest. The psalmist is thanking and blessing Yahweh. So this psalm is  called the psalm of Blessing.

 

Structure

I Priestly blessing (1-3)

II praise to God (4-7)

 

I) Priestly blessing (1-3)

 It remembers the Aronic blessing Numb 6,24. There are six elements this blessing. 1) The LORD bless you, 2) and keep you, 3) The LORD make his face to shine upon you, 4) be gracious to you, 5) The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, 6) give you peace. These motives are present in these verses.

II) praise to God (4-7)

All nations be glad, God has blessed the earth, because it has yielded food in proper times. Theo-centric vision of the universe is seen in this psalm. God is the sole agent of salvation and the centre of this psalm is not the gift but the giver.

4. Royal Psalms (2, (18), 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, 144)

The king is the representative of the community. S. Mowinkel asserts the significance of Davidic kingship, “The covenant between Yahweh and Israel and between Yahweh and David is one and the same”. The king “is the charismatic officer, the successor of the judges… To the king is attributed superhuman strength and wisdom and the possession of the spirit of Yahweh… He is the incorporation of his people and in him are recapitulated the covenant of Israel and the promises and obligations which flow from the covenant” (J. De. Fraine). The king is the delegate of Yahweh, the eternal king (Ex 15,18; Num 23,21, Jud 8,23, 1Sm 8,7; 12,12; 1King 22,19; s 6,5).

There are six different background to these psalms.

a)     Royal enthronement (2,72,101,110)

b)     Royal wedding (18, 20, 21)

c)     Royal lament (89)

d)     Founding of the Royal house and royal sanctuary. The commemoration of the bringing the arch of the covenant to Jerusalem by the king David.

e)     The victory of the king in the battle.

f)      Royal sanctuary on Mount Zion

 

These psalms contain important themes like, ‘the messages to the kings’ (Ps 2,72, 110); ‘prayers for the king’ (Ps 20, 21,45,132), ‘the prayer of the king’ (Ps 18, 101, 144), praises of the princes majesty, oracles of prosperity, presentation of the righteousness and piety of the king, stability of Davidic throne, divine adoption etc…

These Psalms are later interpreted with the Messianic ideals. Because the successor of David was considered later especially in the exilic and post exilic period as a new sign of the national hope of a Historical or an eschatological future on whom the blessing of Yahweh rested upon (J.L. McKenzie). Often in these psalms we meet a royal figure and this figure was later interpreted as a personification of the people of Israel.

Psalm 2

Like Ps 1, but unlike almost every psalm of book I (Ps 1-41) this has no superscription. Ps 1 opens with a blessing and Ps 2 ends with a blessing, which may indicate that this pair is meant to be read together as an introduction to the first book.

Structure
  1. vv. 1-3 Rebellion of nations against God and his anointed
  2. vv. 4-6 God’s counter attack-installation of his king on Zion
  3. vv. 7-9 King’s dominion under God’s direction
  4. vv. 10-12 Warning against the rebellious
Gattung

It is considered as Royal Psalm and because of that it may also have a messianic nature.  

Content

vv. 1-3 The nations’ conspiracy of rebellion is not merely described but the logical sense of it is questioned greatly. It is useless to gather and conspire against the Lord’s anointed one. It speaks of the Davidic enthronement. Like Ps 110 it can also refer to Yahweh’s installation of the king (Messiah) on Zion.

Vv. 4-6 take us to a heavenly vision. V. 6 leads to a divine oracle. It has a prophetic tone. The nations plot rebellion simply against Jerusalem’s king but actually they are doing against the Lord and his Anointed. The central point is that the enthronement of Jerusalem’s king (the anointed) is not stemmed from earthly military power but by the power of a heavenly king. The divine oracle cuts two ways: it serves as a warning to the nation’s kings and it is a reminder to Jerusalem’s king. God guarantees the perpetuation of the dynasty.   

Vv. 7-9 Jerusalem’s king is Yahweh’s agent. The king himself now speaks publishing God’s decree, “you are my son and today I have begotten you”. This shows some kind of genetic relationship. It deals with the installation of a king on Zion. This ceremony reminds one of the Egyptian coronation rituals. The Pharaoh is called son of God-Amun. The king, in Egyptian ritual, tells that God asked him to wish something. He must ask certain things. This motive is incorporated in Ps. 2. Another meaning is that it recalls Davidic covenant, “I will become to him a father and he will become my son” (2Sam 7,14). Yahweh simply demands a wish. There are no conditions to this offer. In Ps 72,8 also we see similar kind of promises of worldwide dominion. Israelite king has al role to play as a mediator of the covenant. The king on his throne was accepting the covenant of Yahweh, which had as its visible sing the decree which he was declaring. In proclaiming the decree of Yahweh the king on his enthronement was accepting the Covenant of Yahweh. According to the ancient enthronement ritual the king has to read out the ritual decree of the kingship. The decree of the edict is in a way a confirmation of the covenant with David. Divine adoption is one of the features of ancient coronation rites. This is also seen in 87,27. Nathan’s prophecy is also declared: I will be a father to him and he a son to me (2Sm 7,14; 1Chr 22,10; 28,6).The result of the divine adoption is the entitlement of the universal dominion. The role of the Isralite king then reflects in a way as the universal dominion of the Lord over the nations.

Vv. 10-12 The psalm as whole is a warning, containing both threats and promises. If the king does not serve (‘bd) Yahweh, they will be destroyed (’bd). Kissing of king’s feet is considered as an act of homage, which is a custom well known in Babylonian and Egyptian culture. To survive and to obtain God’s blessing, these kings must change their attitude and should take refuge under the appointed Messiah. In this stanza, the Israelite king is out of place. All rulers of the earth acknowledge with awe and serve with fear God as the universal Lord of the earthly kingdoms. There is a new dimension of the eschatological one. Davidic kingship is prototype of the expected messianic kingship at the end of times. The new testament has applied to the messiah-ship and the divine son-ship of Jesus the statements (Acts 4,25; 13,33; Heb 1,5; 5,5).  

In the last stanza, the Israelite king is out of the picture and the real intent of the psalm is explained that all rulers of the earth acknowledge with awe and serve with fear God as the universal Lord of the earthly kingdoms. This is quoted in NT Acts 4,15; 13,33; Heb 1,5; 5,5)

Liturgical Psalms (15,  24, 134)

Liturgical fragments can be found scattered throughout the Psalter. It contains the elements of solemn procession and entry into the temple and sanctuary, a priestly blessing and an invitation to praise the Lord.

These are the hymns that insist on the priestly duties and its cultic administration. The main characteristics of psalms of liturgies are 1) promulgation of torah, 2) pronouncement of Oracle, 3) singing with alternative voices.

The structure of these psalms could be generally

1) Introductory petition for the right attitude for the celebration

2) salvation oracle that promises Yahweh’s hearing and help

3) concluding petition.

The historical context of these psalms would be various liturgical occasions like the liturgy performed before the king of Judah who went for battle, recurring festivals in which the holy ark was the centre etc….   

Psalm 24

This Psalm is particularly popular among the first Christians. They were singing this psalm in order to enter solemnly to their community meetings. It is symbolically understood as the victorious entrance of Christ to ‘Sheol’ defeating death.

Structure

1-2 The Lord is the creator of the world.

3-6 Pre-requisites to enter the temple of Yahweh

7-10 Solemn entrance

Content

1-2 The poem employs the ancient Near eastern motif of the divine warrior who becomes king by virtue of his victory over the chaotic waters. This background helps us to understand the claim ‘he founded it upon the waters and established upon the rivers’. The earth belongs to Yahweh and not to the Chaos. The stress is not on the possession but on the one who possess it. Yahweh’s kingship is not a static statue but a dynamic victory. This is the way God’s creation is understood in the Psalms. It is more a conserving act (creation continua) than a constitutive act (prima creatio). The idea of prima creatio is formulated in v. 2. God has formed the earth like a building (temple). The creation of the world is conceived as a huge temple founded on seas and rivers. Yamim and Nuhrot are allusions to Canaanite myth known from Ugarit. The kingship among the gods is the central topic of the myth. Yam is god of the chaotic waters. Tpt nhr (judge river) is the epithet of Yam. Baal, the god of weather and fertility, Yam and Mot (gods of the underworld) are struggling for kingship. 

3-6 Here we have quite different scenery. From the world as a huge temple, the psalm moves to the temple proper, presumably the Jerusalem temple. God is present in the abundance of the earth due to his presence in the temple. All can experience the presence of God in the world, but to experience the abiding presence of Yahweh in the temple one demands certain requirements. The victory of Yahweh should be worshiped but only by those who are morally fit. The worshipers are expected to have certain religious and moral integrity. Clean hands, pure heart, good tongue represent ‘acting’, ‘thinking’ and ‘speaking’ respectively. These verses explain the character of Yahweh’s kingship and the society over which he is the king. More than a material victory or kingship, it is a spiritual victory, a victory over death and decay, a victory over chaos and corruption. The people of moral rectitude will be blessed and saved.

7-10 This section has the structure of a ritual. Ps 24,7-10 was sung by two choirs when the ark entered the temple. The scene plays out before the closed gates. Outside the priest and choir waits with the ark upon which Yahweh is invisibly enthroned. Inside other choir stands in the courtyard. It makes sense in the light of a procession. The doors of the temple are requested to lift up their heads as a gesture of reverence. It could be translated as ‘ancient doors’ (Jerusalem temple) or ‘eternal doors’ (heaven). The procession issues the command for the gates to open that the king of glory may come in. The repetition of the request and the question is the dramatic presentation of the royal sovereignty of Yahweh. One of the most common names of God is melek haKavod (the king of Glory). Kavod (glory) originally combined with the Canaanite supreme God El, is assumed here as Yahweh. This name includes everything, which has been said in the Psalm concerning the being and acting of Israel’s God. Knowing this proper name means knowing the name by which this God can be praised, evoking everything he has done and goes on doing.

Wisdom Psalms (1; 37; 49; 73; 91; 112; 119; 127; 128; 133; 139)

Wisdom psalms specially include the characteristics of wisdom traditions. The important characteristics are two

  1. anthropocentrism. A) Wisdom tradition gives particular attention to the life situations of man, his happiness, love, anxiety, fear and problems. It is man and not God who is the centre of narration. B) Wisdom tradition is least bothered about the cultic and liturgical aspects of Israel. So wisdom literature is primarily non-cultic. C) It does not give importance to the history of the people of Israel and its special traditions. The sages are
  2. Torah Pietism: Torah has become an ideal and absolute entity. Ten commandments has been changed from the principles to be practised but ideals to be adored and worshiped.

Wisdom’s subject is human life. It also has a universalistic aspect that deals with humanity. These psalms are originated mostly above cult-friendly piety. It contains beatitudes to the righteous, admonitions to confession, advices for insights.. The content f the teaching would be fear of God. Introductions and conclusions do not have a clear structure. There are positive admonitions to do good, to avid sins, to fear God and negative warnings. Against idol worshipers, wealthy godless, trusting in wealth and material prosperity.  

 

Psalm 1

Psalm 1 has clear structure. It is divided into three parts:

  1. 1-2 the path to be avoided and the way to be followed. The way of the wicked is the most popular theme of wisdom literature.
  2. 3-4 two images to illustrate the theme of the righteous and the wicked
  3. 5-6 two fundamental theological statements regarding the future and present of the two types.

1-2 happy is the man is directed not to God but to man. Ashre haish (makarios), which is usually rendered happy is the man, blissful man. One is made happy because he has made a fundamental option fro the Lord and his torah. It is the decision that constitutes one’s life. The theme of torah is not very common in the Psalter. The psalms are response of man to God and Torah is God’s will for man. However there are late texts that deal with torah to bind the psalms with torah. The torah motive in the psalms gives a programmatic idea how to use the psalms. Though they originated as prayer, now they are instruction. The decision for torah is designated as a decision of love. Hepez is a language of love. Since it is a matter of love to meditate day and night means unceasingly.

3-4 The theological decision is further elaborated in v. 3. The tree is planted in a fertile place. The passive shathul indicates that there is somebody who looks after it. The channels of water are constructed so the tree has very conducive conditions to grow steadily. The result is given at due times. On the contrary the life of the wicked is short. They are like chaff, unsteady and light.

5-6 it speaks of the final judgement. God knows the way of the righteous and the wicked. The wicked will not prosper. If you have decided to opt for torah one is welcome to the life.

The psalms speaks of two types of people; two types of way of life; two types of comparison of prosperity; two types of judgement.

 

Prophetical Psalms (14; 50; 52; 53; 75; 81; 95)

These are the psalms which contain the elements and characteristics of the prophetical literature. Prophetical literature is characterised by a linguistic style of oracles of threats and promises. It speaks of Yahweh’s punishment to those who deny the commandments of Yahweh and follow the pagan gods and the idol worships. It has the prophetical style of exposition

Like the prophets the psalmist is also convinced that the time is near. (85,10) or more strongly the hour has already come (75,3; 102,14). The prophetical elements are mostly seen in eschatological psalms (98,149), in eschatological Zion songs (46; 48; 76) and in eschatological enthronement psalms (47; 93). The phrase, “Yahweh says ,now I will raise” (12,6; 43,19) means that it is the time that Yahweh should act or intervene (119,126). This is the time when God will liberate the prisoners and gather Israel’s scattered ones from all over the world.

Anther aspect is the over-through of the rule of the nations. God has scattered the sceptre of the proud. God’s battle against the roaring ocean is combined with Yahweh’s victory over the attacking nations as in the prophetical motives. With the unconquerable faith, the psalmist affirms that all of these terrible deeds will not horrify Zion becasue Yahweh has selected the city of Jerusalem as his abode. Prophets often present the appearance of Yahweh in dazzling images. He comes with the earthquakes and with laud noise, in thunderstorm and fire. Mountains melt like wax. Ps 97 utilizes these imageries eschatologically. Terrifying wrath of Yahweh dominates them over. All these passages treat Yahweh as the one to act.

The prophets and psalmist frequently depict how the world rule rise against Yahweh. The enemies are the idol worshipers and proud-hearted who deny God.

The word of rebuke often seen in these psalms. The rebuke is closely related with the idea of threat. It mocks foreign gods (115, 3; 135,15). The cultic demands are less or even sometimes there are anti-sacrificial utterances. Instead of them moral demands are raised.  

 

Psalm 52

It is one of the prophetical psalms. It has strong words of words of curse to the wicked.

The person who is spoken is proud wealthy. He looks contemptuously the psalmists and the community.  Actually this person is the one who recited once Yahweh’s great love and the one who lived in the house of the Lord. He was one of the members of the worshiping community. But now he has a tongue of cheating and fraud. This person has fallen into idol worship. The psalmist in contrary is a person who does the activities of justice. He finds satisfaction in the house the Lord.

 

Structure

It can be divided into three units.

I) 1-4 The activity of the wicked

II) 5-7 the fall of the wicked

III) 8-9 the response of the pious

 

1-4 The wicked never depends on God. He is proud. This is seen in thought, plans and activities. These are against the graces of God. ‘you love all words that devour’ means the influence of the idol worship.

5-7 The person who does not depend on God will be cut of the from the assembly of worshipers. ‘Tent’ means a) temple=presence of Yahweh, b) security= protection of Yahweh. It also means that he will be expelled form the elected community. ‘The land of the living’ means the great presence of Yahweh. He will be going to sheol. At the same time the righteous will have happy life  as a reward.

8-9  This is the personal witness. The righteous depends on God. The house of God is Zeon. The righteous is the green Olive tree in the house of the Lord. Olive leaves are the fresh plants to decorate the alter. The psalmist is thanking and praising Yahweh for all his favours      

 

Historical Psalms (78; 105)

These psalms give historical facts of the life of the people of Israel. More than the liturgical dimension it conveys more the historical one. It is the praising of Yahweh proclaiming the past activities  and the saving interventions of Yahweh.

 

7. Groups of Psalms under different headings

1. Imprecatory Psalms

‘Blessing’ and ‘curse’ are the two prevalent themes of the Old Testament which is closely related to the idea of covenant. The intermediary of blessing and curses could be priest, prophet or kings. There are a number of psalms that contain the elements of blessing. “His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed”(112,2). “Yea, thou dost make him most blessed for ever; thou dost make him glad with the joy of thy presence” (21,6). “Let them curse, but do thou bless Let my assailants be put to shame; may thy servant be glad!” (109,28). “The LORD has been mindful of us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron” (115,12).

It is easy to understand the words of blessing but it is difficult to understand the words of curse. Actually, this curse could be understood as the development of the prophetic threat of the divine wrath or its actual visitation. There are a number of occurrences of curses in the psalms  especially 1) against wicked (5,10; 31, 17; 58,6, 139,19; 59,5), 2) against enemies of the Psalmist (4,5; 35,5; 59,13), and 3) against the enemies of Israel (83,13; 79,12; 69,23; 109). There is no 100% imprecatory psalm. It could be noted that Ps 109 contains comparatively rich elements of curse words.

“Appoint a wicked man against him….and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!” (109, 6-14).Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (137,9). 

We have to understand the religious and historical background of these psalms.

  1. The psalmist is speaking on the bitter and terrible experiences of God’s abandoning and of social alienations.
  2. Many formulas are in optative tense, it is a wish or command or prophetic prediction. The curse, “May their camp be a desolation, let no one dwell in their tents” (69,25) is perfected in the life Judas (Acts 1,20).
  3. It is marked with God’s love and national fervour.
  4. All imprecatory psalm are with the aim that the wicked should tern their heart and convert to the true God. The psalmist proclaims his own conviction of the true God and at the same time he strongly insists the wicked to turn their wicked life in harsh words. 
  5. No personal data of the wicked or enemies are given in the psalms. What is stressed is the treacherous and malicious activities of the wicked. The imprecation is not basically against the sinner but against the sin and wickedness.
  6. Psalmists consider the adversary as the wicked as the enemies of Yahweh. These psalms expresses the strong conviction of the Psalmist on the justice (Mishapath) of God. God’s basic nature is that he is a Just God. He wants that the divine justice should be implemented and will win over the wicked. That is why these psalms are also called ‘the psalms of divine Justice’.

2. Penitential Psalms

The psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143 are considered to be the seven psalms of repentance in the church traditions. Penitential rites of various kinds would accompany the national prayer for deliverance. These calls to repentance and prayer were specially intended to temper God’s wrath aroused by grievous sins, to atone for them, to remove impurity from the midst of Israel or to move God to intervene for his people.

Psalm 51

Structure

It contains 20 forms that are imperative and thereby it has got a lot of pleas.

Vv. 1-2 Thirst for conversion

Vv. 3-6 man’s sin and confession

Vv. 7-14 Renewed life

Vv. 15-18 Proclamation

V 19 Sacrifice.

Content

In addition to the usual title (v. 1) there is a biographical allusion in v. 2 to the fundamental sin of David (2Sam 11-12). The function of this allusion as heading is to invite persons not only of the venial sins but also of grave sins. The heading converges with two fundamental aspects of the Psalm (1) the burden of sin and (2) the abundance of God’s faithful love and mercy.

1-2 there are three terms for sin, (hatha, avon and pesha) and side by side there are three terms for God mercy (rahmim, hesed and hannan). From the very outset of the psalm, man’s sin in devastating measure is only conceivable in the light of God’s mercy that is to be invoked. The essential theological insight is that one cannot realize human guilt appropriately apart from God’s self-determination towards grace.

3-6 only in the light of God’s grace, a radical realization of a man’s guilt is possible. V. 6 is crucial, ‘against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in thy sight so that thou are justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgement’. God’s grace and mercy lead man to realize the full extent of his sin and fairness of Gods judgement. God alone is righteous but righteousness of the judging God is at the same time the manifestation of his mercy. Thus, Psalm 51 presents a radical insight in the relation between God’s benevolent love (grace) and man’s sin in the OT.

7-14 the realization of sin does not lead into depression but into a way of life, which expects everything of praying and receiving. The psalmist is praying for a clean heart and steadfast spirit. He uses the word bara (to create) (v. 12), the most significant term for God’s act. Only God can be the subject of this verb. What the psalmist is praying for is ‘creation’ or ‘recreation’. Only God can create a new heart out of this sinful man. ‘Deliverance’ for man is ‘recreation’ in Ps.51. The notion of v. 12 is combined with God’s bestowal of the Holy Spirit (very seldom in the OT) that he has never revoked.

15-18 The recreated Psalmist concludes the prayer with a vow and a plea. The vow (v. 15): he will be a teacher of the sinners i.e., he will help them to realize what already has come to know man’s sinful existence in the light of the judging and merciful God. The plea in v. 17 is even God’s praises depend upon God himself. He must open man’s lips, so that he can sing aloud of God’s righteousness (v. 16), which is nothing else than his fair judgement in inseparable unity with his abundant mercy. His delivered existence rests on God. Even the praises of God come as a result of plea. Ps 51 provides a fundamental perception that human existence is a ‘praying existence’.

v.19. It shows a life that is centred on sacrifice.

The Ps 51 as a penitential psalm stresses what man has to do to be capable of receiving God’s deliverance.  

4. Hallelujah Psalms (111-118; 135-136; 146-150).

They are called Hallelujah psalms because most of them begin or end with the expression ‘Hallelujah’ (Praise the Lord). Pass 113-118 were considered as hallel songs and were sung for the three great pilgrimage feasts of Passover, Pentecost and of Booths. Ps 136 is the ‘great hallel’ for Sabbath services.

5. Pilgrim Psalms or Psalms of going-up or Psalms of the Ascent (120-134)

From antiquity, pilgrimages to the holy site were among the worship obligations for the Israelites. Every male Israelite was commanded to go three times a year to the great festival to look upon Yahweh’s countenance. If this is not possible because of the distance at least once in an year. Many were again difficult to go to Jerusalem every year because of the distance and many other reasons. So such less frequently pious individual would be carrying the burning desire to visit the holy site. He would have felt fortunate when his desire to see Yahweh sanctuary was fulfilled (H. Gunkel). One sang these pilgrimage songs at the beginning of the pilgrimage when fellow travelers had gathered (122,1b), at the journey’s destination after they entered the city of their common desire (122,2).

Strictly speaking 122 is considered as the pilgrimage psalm. The first two verses of this psalm speak of the departure and arrival of the pilgrims. Verses 3-5 are an expanded salutation directed at the holy city, which at the same time justify the pilgrimage. Verses 6-9 greet the city in the form of a wish that Zion may be blessed. When Christians recite this psalm, they recall Jesus pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Lk 2,29; 9,51; 19,41).

6. Acrostic Psalms (9-10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; 119; 145).

The word ‘acrostic’ means a series of lines are started with the letters of the alphabet in an orderly manner. We have only four completely acrostic psalm having all the Hebrew alphabets (37;11;112; 119). Pss 9 and 10 form a single acrostic psalm. So they can be considered as one Psalm. Ps 9 is a thanksgiving psalm. While 10 is a an individual lament.

7. Entrance psalms

Psalm 24 and 15 are main entrance Psalms. These psalms give importance to solemn entrance into the sanctuary and reception of the blessings.

 

8. Halleluiah Psalsm (11-18; 135-136; 145-150)

They begin with the expression Halleluiah which means ‘Yahweh be Praised’. The major part of the fifth book is psalms of ascent and Halleluiah Psalms.113-118 are called Egyptian Hallels and were sung for the three great pilgrimage feasts of Passover, Pentecost and the feast of booths. 136 is called Great Hallel for Sabbath services and it has the refrain hesed.

9. Creation Psalms (8, 19; 104; 139; 148).

           An elaboration of the motif of ‘praise Yahweh the creator’. Psalmist recalls the marvellous works in creation and the creative activity that continues even in present.

 

The God of Israel In the Psalter

It is in the Psalms the nature of God is most colourfully expressed. It could be seen in the names and adjectives used for God.

1. God’s names

 The psalms praise and pray to the God whose name is primarily Yahweh (adonai=my Lord). It is used 615 times in the Psalms. Yahweh is the God of Israel (41,13; 59,5; 68,8; 106,48). He is the God of Abraham (47,9), Jacob (20,1; 24,6; 46,7; 75,9; 76,6; 81,1; 84,8).

Secondly, Yahweh is called Yahweh Zebayoth (God of Hosts) because Israel always believed that He is their mighty warrior who fought for them against enemies (59,5). The presence of Yahweh in the Ark of the Covenant led Israel into many victories (132,8). He is seated on the Kerubs (Ps 80). The name Yahweh Zebayoth provides the basic conviction that God is the guard, protector and saviour.

Thirdly, God is called as hshem (the name) Psalmist uses no special title but uses simply ‘name’. By ‘the name’ the psalms point to the God of Israel and the rest of the Old Testament. Name is always related to the identity of a person in the Old Testament. In the psalms, God is never just god, but always one whose identity is as particular as that of an individual. It shows not only that God is an Individual person but also a person who acts perfectly according to the identity of ‘the name’. That is why the people of Israel always prayed ‘for thy name’s sake” (25,11; 31,3; 79,9; 109,21; 143,11). This ‘name is to be praised (7,17), exulted (5,11), majestic (8,1), holy (105,3), fearful (86,11; 111,9) and eternal (45,17; 135,13).

Fourthly, God is titles as El, Eloha and Elohim. All these are titles of the Canaanite supreme God applied many times to the God of Israel. They appear more than 400 times. The usage of this title shows that the people of Israel is not a separate entity of clearly separated cultural heritage but a community, which positively inculturated with the neighbouring peoples and nations. 

Fifthly, God is called as Elijon (Most high). This word is seen 19 times in the Psalms. This title is antique and has the non-Israelite cultural background like the title El (Gen 14,18). The Non-Israelites commonly had their places of worship upon the high hills and mountains (2Kg 15,35). . The prime meaning is that Yahweh is the God of all gods and highest to all other gods. The Semites believed of God’s dwelling in the heaven, which is located high above in the shy. These associations of God’s abode perhaps inspired the people to call Yahweh as ‘Most High’Elijon is the king of the whole earth (47,2) and his dwelling is in Zion (46,4; 87,5) and heaven (18,13).

Fifthly, God is called as Melek (King). It is considered that calling God, as the king is a typical Israelite tradition. The God of Israel is ‘the great King’ (48,2), ‘the king of glory’ (24,7), ‘the king forever’ (29,10), ‘great king above all gods’ (95,3; 96,4; 97,9), great king over all earth (47,2). This mighty king is enthroned upon the cherubim (80,1; 99,1), on the flood (29,10), on the praises of Israel (22,3), and in the heavens (103,19; 123,1).

In short there are a number of particular expression to the Israel’s God such as, ‘salvation’ (17,7; 18,2, 106,21; 140,7), ‘rock’ (18,2; 31,46; 19,24; 28,1), ‘fortress’ (18,2; 31,2; 71,3; 91,2; 144,2), ‘strength’ (24,8; 28,7; 59,9), ‘refuge’ (2,12; 5,11, 7,1; 11,1; 14,6), ‘shield’ (3,3; 7,10; 18,2, 28,7).

2. God’s attributes 

Kadosh (holy) is one of the prime attributes to God in the Psalter (22,3; 71,22; 78,41; 89,18). This is also used as the synonym to God and His name (33,21; 103,1; 111,9; 145,21). It denotes the perfection of Israel’s God. Kadosh also denotes ‘purity’. The holiness is attributed to ‘the words of God’ (105,42), ‘hand’ (98,1), way (77,13), ‘Zion’ (2,6; 3,4), ‘temple’ (5,7; 11,4).

Another attribute is that he is kabod (glory). This has almost the same connotation of Kadosh. The glory of God is filled in the universe (19,1; 57,5).

Zedeck (just) is considered as the fundamental attribute of God. This is the basic requirement to them who enter in a covenantal relationship. Yahweh is the one who loves justice (11,7; 33,5), establishes the righteous (7,9), and he is just in all his ways (145,17). Along with this attribute there is also another attribute mishpath (judgment). Yahweh shows zedeck to his people through saving actions in the course of history but he also the God who judges (shapath) his people on the basis of the covenantal agreements.             

  Another important attribute is hesed. Out of the 245 occurrences of this word, 127 times are used in the Psalms. It has the wide range of meanings. It is the ‘goodness’, ‘grace’, ‘mercy’ and ‘love’. This is the emotional attachment of a believer who receives the infinite mercy of God. This terminology also has the connotations of the covenantal relationship. God’s infinite mercy is given to one who enters into a relationship with God. Most often in the psalms, the initiative is taken from the part of Yahweh himself. God’s mercy is saving, helping and healing.

Close to hesed there is also another attribute that he is emeth (truth). Mostly this word is used in relation with hesed. In 69,13 it has synonymously used. Yahweh is God of truth (31,5), His words and actions are full of truth (19,9), and it is because of his truthfulness the people find hope in Him. Those who believe in torah (law) and those who walk in the truth will be shown Yahweh’s loving kindness (25,5; 26,3; 86,11). Those who go after the false gods and words are the wicked in the psalms (7,14; 27,12; 31,18; 109,2).

 


[1] C. Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms, (Atlanda, 1981).

[2] H.-J. Kraus, Psalms 1-59, A Commentary, (Mineapolis, Augsburg 1988).

[3] L. Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin and Meaning, (Banglore 1971). Other useful bibliographies, Briggs, C.A., & E.G. Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms I-II, (ICC; Edinburgh 1906-1907); Kraus, H.-J., Theology of Psalms, (Minneapolis 1986); Allen, L.C., Psalms 101-150, (WBC 21; Waco 1983); Craigie, P.C., Psalms 1-50, (WBC 19; Waco 1983); Tate, M.E., Psalms 51-100, (WBC 20; Waco 1990); Pezhumkattil, A., Sankirthanangal Padavum Vyakianaum, (Palarivattam 1991); Broyles, C.C., Psalms, (Peabody, 1999).

 

[4] G. Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, II, 175.

Biblical Hermeneutics

Introduction

There are varieties of methods, criticisms, interpretations, approaches, and theologies in biblical and theological interpretations. It is very easy for anyone to get confused. The plurality of methods, approaches, interpretations, Biblical books are complex in their text, language, culture, and history. So a variety of competencies is needed to interpret them. All the methods, approaches, and theologies help us to better understand the deeper meaning of the biblical texts. It was in the search for the true meaning of these texts that theological hermeneutics developed. From the 17th century onwards we see the development of ‘Hermeneutics’ as an important and independent discipline in classical philology and interpretation in general. In contemporary philosophy and theology ‘Hermeneutics’ plays a vital role. This is mainly due to the influence of the works of Schleiermacher, Wilhelm Dilthey, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur.

There was a time when biblical interpretation was left entirely to theologians, historians, and philosophers. Now biblical interpretation is considered as an integral part of biblical studies. The Bible is not just an ancient text; it is the most translated of all books. It is sacred Scripture that was read in liturgical assemblies and was preached and commented upon for thousands of years by thousands of people. In our discussion we will look at these realities.

1 Why is biblical interpretation necessary?

Often people say: “Just read the Bible and do what it says!” The problem with this attitude is that different people, even though they read the same Bible, come to very different conclusions about what it actually says! Many people also tend to think of the Bible as “God’s little instruction book for life.” While this statement has a kernel of truth – the Bible certainly does contain much teaching on how to live – it is far more than just an instruction manual. It is the written record of God revealing in history who He is, what He is like, who we are, what we are like, and what He expects of us. This is the overall message of the Bible in a nutshell. The necessity and goal of Biblical interpretation are explained below:

v  The Bible was originally written to people who lived in a different place, in a very different culture, at a different time and period of history, and who spoke different languages. It also contains several different types of literature (called genres).

v  Because the Bible is God’s word in history revealed to people in history, each passage has n historical context – an particular author, audience, purpose and occasion. On the other hand, since the Bible is also the word of God, its contents are also eternally relevant.

v  The goal of interpretation is not to come up with the most unique interpretation (unique interpretations are usually wrong), but to discover the original intended meaning of a passage – the way the original audience understood it. The task of discovering the original intended meaning is called exegesis.

v  The key to doing good exegesis is reading the text very carefully, paying close attention to the details it describes, and asking the text the right questions. This is critical to finding the correct interpretation. Bad interpretation results directly from bad exegesis.

2.Terminology

The terminologies frequently used in Hermeneutics are explained in this section.

2.1 Hermeneutics

The term hermeneutics comes from the Greek verb hermeneuein, meaning ‘to interpret, translate, explain, declare’ and from nominal hermeneutike meaning [‘the art of’] interpretation’. Its Latin equivalent is the verb interpretari, from which comes the noun interpretation. Hence, hermeneutics reflects the Latin plural ‘hermeneutica’ meaning the science of interpretation.

The term “hermeneutics” is derived from the name of the god Hermes, who in Greek mythology acts as the messenger between the gods and human beings. In this process Hermes makes intelligible to human beings God’s message which otherwise is not intelligible to them. In Listra, Paul was taken for Hermes (Acts 14:12) for between the crippled man and Barnabas it was Paul who spoke.

In the broader sense hermeneutics is the quest for meaning. In this broader context, the word hermeneutic has three meanings:

a)      Interpretation by speech itself: Language expresses and interprets what is in one’s mind or even that which constitutes one’s identity, being and person. In biblical discussion we have to deal with the capacity of human language to express God’s mind, will, and person.

b)      Interpretation through the translation: The process of translation from one language to another is a process that goes beyond the mechanical equivalents of words. It is concerned with the transference from one culture and worldview to another. This can also be a translation from an unintelligible language to an intelligible one (hermeneia of tongues, in 1 Cor 12:10, is a charistmatic gift with a revelatory dimension).

c)      Interpretation by commentary and explanation: It is a more formal aspect. Here the interpreter gives systematic comments and explanations on the texts.

In the narrower sense, hermeneutics refers to the principles, method, and techniques used to interpret written texts. The biblical hermeneutical theory is in contact with the philosophical reflection on hermeneutics, it has, however, assumed its own itinerary due to the special nature of the biblical texts as an inspired normative book of faith.

The function of the interpreter consists in seeking for “that meaning which the sacred writer. in a determined situation and given the circumstance of his time and culture intended to express and did in fact express through the medium of contemporary literary form” (DV 12). Inasmuch as the intention of the author is found in the sense of the text, we must try to find the sense present in the text, because it is what the sacred writer intended and did express. What is important is what the text actually says and not that which the author may have thought but did not write.

2.2 Exegesis

The Greek verb Exegeomai means to draw out, to develop, to explain. Thus exegesis explains the text of the scripture drawing out its message and significance.

Until recently hermeneutics meant a theoretical reflection on meaning as distinct from exegesis, an art where the rules detected in hermenutics were applied practically. For us here, exegesis, refers to the analysis of a particular text of scripture to discover what the author wanted to say to his contemporaries, and hermeneutics refers to what the same text says to us today in a context different from the original one. Further, it is within the competence of hermeneutics to establish the principles, method, and techniques used to interpret written texts.

3. Text and the Process of Communication

3.1Biblical Text

The Bible contains texts almost 2950 years old, which were produced over a span of 1100 years. Even through the same methods and criteria used for the understanding of any ancient book are necessary and indispensable, for the Bible these are not sufficient. One must consider also the aspect of faith, as there are divinely inspired books of faith which are bequeathed to the Church as the norm and the nourishment of her life. So to understand the true significance that the Word of God is to have for us, we must also consider this added dimension in the interpretation of the biblical text.

Scripture reveals the will of God. Interpretation is essential in discerning this will. Morses, Prophets, Scribes, and many others have acted as interpreters of God’s will. Jesus himself is the supreme interpreter and revealer of God’s will. The NT writers interpreted the OT and the Christ Event. Even after the formation of the canon, the need for interpretation continued. Today, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church discerns the will of God as it is revealed in the Bible.

Phases of Biblical Interpretation

A discussion of biblical hermeneutics can be undertaken only against the background of a discussion of a general introduction to the Bible which includes a study of its inspiration, the unity of the Testaments, the Canon, the textual criticism, the manuscripts and the formation of the Bible, the history of biblical times, and the literary forms found in the Bible. Biblical interpretation follows from the understanding of the Bible as the Word of God expressed in the words of men. Therefore, our discussion must follow certain norms which account for this fact without overemphasizing or minimizing one or the other aspect.

3.1.1 Identification

Different literary genres (kinds of literature) are interpreted in different ways, so the first question to ask is: “To which category of literature does the text you are interpreting belong? Below are brief descriptions of the different genres found in the Bible:

Historical Narratives. These describe actual historical events from God’s perspective. They tell us what God is like (His character and nature), what God likes/dislikes, how He deals with people who obey and honour Him, and how he deals with those who disobey and hate Him. Narratives give us principles and lessons, not commands, patterns or laws. Historical Narratives are found in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. In the New Testament, they can be found in parts of the Gospels, and the book of Acts.

Poetry and Songs. These are expressions of emotion to God. They allow us to express to God our feelings of happiness, joy, trust, hope, security, as well as feelings of discouragement, guilt, suffering, fear, anger, despair and repentance. They also assist us in expressing our love and appreciation for God or our need for forgiveness. Poetry and Songs allow us to relate to God on our own level. They show us how to communicate with God and how to honour and worship Him. In the Old Testament, these writings are found primarily in the Psalms and Song of Songs.

Legal Writings. These writings indicate God’s high moral standard, His idea of justice, principles of common sense government, principles of common sense health and safety, and His pattern and order for acceptable worship. These laws are NOT directly applicable to Christians today i.e. they are not meant to be legalistic instructions and commands to Christians. Such legal writings can be found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Wisdom/Wise Sayings. These writings indicate God’s view of wisdom as opposed to man’s view of wisdom. They contain wise sayings, and practical advice on how to live life and avoid trouble and hardship. Wisdom literature can be found primarily in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job.

Prophecy. Prophecy is God’s message to a particular person, a particular group of people and sometimes to all humanity. It is not necessarily foretelling the future – in fact the vast majority of prophecy in the Bible speaks of the present. Prophecy is found primarily in the Old Testament, from Isaiah to Malachi.

Teachings of Jesus. These are direct statements of truth from Jesus concerning the nature and character of God the kingdom of God/Heaven, what God expects of us, principles of righteous living, and the ways in which Jesus fulfils the OT prophecies. They are not exhaustive ‘DOs and don’ts,’ but rather, serve as examples and paradigms (patterns) from which we can derive underlying principles to apply in other situations. These teachings are found in parts of the Gospels i.e. Matthew – John.

Parables. Parables are stories with a punch-line. Parables are not so much illustrative, but rather, provocative. They are designed to draw people in and hit them with something unexpected, in the same way a joke does. Most parables have only one message or central idea, and even if multiple messages are present, one of them will be the chief idea. Note also that they are not perfect analogies! Parables are also found in parts of the Gospels.

Letters. These are generally occasional documents i.e. they were written with a clear purpose to a well-identified audience. However, some letters (called epistles) were written to a larger people group. The letter/epistle writer presents arguments to correct, rebuke, defend, instruct, praise and encourage their readers. Letters/epistles form the vast majority of the New Testament from Romans to Jude.

Apocalypse. This includes the book of Revelation, and also large parts of Ezekiel and Daniel. Revelation is a vision of warning and encouragement to the early church as it was going through immense persecution.

3.1.2 Observation

The most important factor in exegesis is context. Understanding the context is the key to understanding what you are reading. Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart also point out “[t]he only proper control for hermeneutics is to be found in the original intent of the biblical text.”

There are two aspects of the context of a passage: the historical context and the literary context.

Historical Context. The Bible was written over a period of time dating from approximately 2000 BC (Job) to 95 AD (Revelation). It was set in a different country/continent and a vastly different culture and society from our own, therefore we must be careful not to make 20th century assumptions about the situation. Consult Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks in order to find out about the manners and customs of the various nations at that time in history. Use your imagination and try to put yourself in the shoes of the people involved. Make observations about who? what? when? where? and how?

Literary Context. This is the position of the text you are reading in relation to other texts. What verses come before? What verses come after? What situation, event, statement or argument led up to this passage? What situation, event, statement or argument followed or resulted from this passage? What book is the text in? Whereabouts in the book? What testament is it in? Why is the text in this position? Why is it in the Bible at all? What difference would it make if it was left out? Following are some suggestions on making observations depending on the genre of the passage you are interpreting:

Historical Narratives. Choose a complete narrative and read it in a single sitting. Make (mental) notes as you are reading, and ask: What is happening? To whom? When? Where? Why? (The most important question!) What can I learn about God? What can I learn about the other characters involved?

Poetry and Songs. Read a complete Psalm or Song in one sitting, taking (mental) notes as you are reading. What is being said about God? What is being said about humanity? Is the writer pleading for something? Are they pouring their heart out? If so, about what? Are they praising God? Are they angry with God? What mood does the writer seem to be in? Joyful? Happy? Angry? Fearful? Anxious? Distraught? Discouraged? Does the writer’s mood change?

Legal Writings. Read a collection of related rules/regulations in one sitting. What rules/regulations are being put in place? Why? What situations/circumstances do they cover? Are they for moral reasons or are they concerned with administration/ government and personal hygiene? Can you see any pattern being established? Is a feast, offering or ceremony being described? If so, what seems to be its purpose or significance? Never stop asking Why?

Wisdom. Read as much of Proverbs/Job/Ecclesiastes as you can in one go, taking (mental) notes as you read. Consider what you think the central message of the text is.
What advice is given? What warnings are given? What comparisons are made? Compare the proverb you are reading with other similar or related proverbs (similar or related proverbs could be anywhere in the book of Proverbs). If there are similar/related proverbs, how do the proverbs differ? Do they relate to slightly different situations? Do they address different aspects of a problem or situation? If two proverbs say the opposite thing (and there are several) why would this be? Do you think the statement made or the advice given is good? Why or why not? You must also remember that proverbs are not always globally applicable to every person and every situation. They are guidelines and “rules of thumb,” not absolute rules, statements of fact or direct promises.

Prophecy. Read a single prophecy (called an “oracle”) in one sitting. Try and establish the historical setting. What circumstances in history provoked this prophetic word from God? What does it say about God? Is the prophecy positive or negative? Is it a warning? About what? Is it a condemnation? For what? Is it an encouragement or a message of hope? About what? Is it a promise? To do what? Prophecy is some of the hardest literature to read. Knowing the historical context is essential to really to appreciate what is being said. It may be necessary to consult a commentary or Bible handbook if you are struggling.

Teachings of Jesus. Read a complete section of teaching (called a “pericope”) in a single sitting, taking (mental) notes about what is being taught. What message is He communicating? What subject is He talking about? What is He actually saying about it? Is it a command? Is it a warning? Is it an exhortation/encouragement? Is it a promise? Does it give us a better understanding of who God is? Does it give us a better understanding of what we are like?

Parables. Read a single parable and the surrounding dialogue in one sitting. Try to determine the central thought of the parable. What message is it communicating? Keep in mind the context. This is a big clue to identifying the central thought. What events prompted Jesus to tell this parable? How did the hearers react to it? Did they understand it? Focus on the central thought – don’t  focus on all the minute details – they are not meant to be important. Read ahead – some parables are interpreted for you by Christ later on in the gospel.

Letters. Read them like any other letter. Start at the beginning – stop at the end. If possible, read a letter right through in one sitting. Identify the major issues/arguments of the letter. Focus on one of the major issues/arguments. What is the point of each paragraph? What does each paragraph contribute to the current issue/argument? Why did the writer include a particular paragraph? What difference would it make if it were not included? Don’t pay too much attention to the chapter and verse divisions or the chapter headings – they’re not inspired! Words/phrases such as “Now about”, “Concerning” and “Finally” often indicate a change of argument/subject.

Apocalypse. Read the books of Daniel and Ezekiel first. Revelation uses lots of imagery from these books. Identify as much as possible, the use of imagery (by comparing Revelation with Daniel and Ezekiel). What is the imagery used to communicate in Revelation? What kind of message is being communicated? Hope? Encouragement? Warning? What does the text say about God and about Jesus Christ? What does it say about Satan? What does it say about the Church (New Jerusalem)? You will definitely want to consult some good commentaries in these matters. Revelation is the most difficult book in the Bible to read and understand.

3.1.3 Prayer, Meditation & Wresting

Prayer, meditation and wresting are things the reader should do throughout the entire interpretive cycle, not just before you begin or when you are about to deliver your talk/sermon/speech.

Meditation does not mean emptying your head of everything – quite the opposite in fact. It means filling your mind with all the information required to make decisions about what the text says, how significant it is and how it should be applied today. When looking at a difficult passage, you may need to really pray about, and wrestle with, the various alternatives.

3.1.4 Determining Meaning

What do the particular key words or phrases mean? Pay attention to those elements that are repeated in the current passage or used elsewhere by the same author.

What is the significance of a particular key word, phrase or sentence? Does the element carry any special significance given the historical and social context? What does it contribute to the overall meaning of the text? How would the meaning of the text be effected if this particular element was left out?

5. Application

Is there a command to obey? Is there an error to avoid? Does the passage point out sinful behavior or attitudes that may be present in your own life? Is there an example to follow? Is there a promise to claim? Does the passage highlight an aspect of God’s nature and character which you had not seen before?

3.2 Presuppositions & Pre-understandings

No-one is ever completely unbiased. Every understanding presuppose pre-understanding or prejudice. In other words every process of understanding is gripped or conditioned by a prior structure of experiences. In hermeneutics, pre-understanding or prejudice is not something that is negative, but it is the necessary condition which makes understanding possible. In terms of hermeneutics, pre-understanding or prejudice may be described as a body of assumptions and attitudes which a person brings to the perception and interpretation of reality or any aspect of it. From this perspective it is very difficult to think of uniform understanding or knowledge, because understanding varies from person to person in accordance with his or her pre-understanding or prejudice.

Classical philosophers and theologians also acknowledge the role of pre-understanding. For example, Immanuel Kant admits some sort of pre-understanding in relation to perception. He insists in The Critique of Pure Reason that we have no certain knowledge of things in themselves but our mind give shape to them. According to Heidegger, understanding always touches on the whole constitution of being-in-the-world. He asserts further that the meaning does not lie in words; or in things, but in the remarkable structure of understanding itself Rudolf Bultmann a renowned theologian has rightly remarked that every interpretation incorporates a particular prior understanding.

Now the question is “From where does the pre-understanding come?” or “How we possess a particular pre-understanding?”. As we know generally pre-understanding comes from one’s own environment. Then, “what do we mean by environment?”. Environment is a composite of several factors. It includes historical factors, psychological factors, economical factors, political factors, religious factors, social and family relationships, affiliation to group and associations, vocational status, educational

Another two questions that might be raised in relation to pre-understanding are the following (1) “Is pre-understanding common?” And (2) “Is pre-understanding static?”. To the first question answer is both in affirmative and negative. On the one hand, pre-understanding is common in the sense that everybody has pre-understanding. On the other hand, pre-understanding is not common in the sense that the content of the pre-understanding differs from person to person. From the viewpoint of hermeneutics the second question can be answered only in negative. That is to say, pre-understanding is not static. Our pre-understanding is subject to change in every moment of our lives. As our environmental conditions change our pre-understanding also undergo change or transformation.

There are different types of pre-understandings. To have an overview of the different types of pre-understanding, a classification of the same would be appropriate. However, the divisions in this classification overlap each other, for we cannot compartmentalize them exhaustively. Actually what we do here is this, we approach the phenomenon of prejudice from different angles. Accordingly we have four types of pre-understandings.

i)                    Informational Pre-understanding. It refers to the information that one already possesses about any given subject prior to approaching it. This is pre-understanding of the most basic kind. Terms such as prepossession and to a degree, preconception, prenotion, and predetermination are related to informational pre-understanding.

ii)                  Attitudinal Pre-understanding. This type of pre-understanding refers to the disposition with which one approaches something or the disposition that one brings to a given subject. The related terms are predisposition, prejudice, bias, life-hearing and life-relation.

iii)                Ideological Pre-understanding. It indicates the ideological affiliation with which a person approaches something. This category would include both a general aspect and a particular aspect. The general aspect of the ideological pre-understanding points out the way one views the total complex of reality. And the particular aspect of the ideological pre-understanding shows the way one views a specific subject. The terms like worldview, life-attitude, life-posture, frame of reference, framework, horizon of understanding, etc. belong to the general aspect of the ideological pre-understanding and of view, viewpoint, perspective, stand point ,etc. belong to the particular aspect of the ideological pre-understanding.

iv)                Methodological Pre-understanding. This category refers to the actual approach which one takes in the explication of a given subject. For instance, a sociologist approaches something with a methodology proper to sociology a historian approaches an event with a methodology proper to history, and so on. In one sense, the methodological pre-understanding does function in the same way as any other type of pre-understanding and does influence the result of the interpretation. Yet in another sense, the methodological pre-understanding is considered as a tool that avoids the influences of other types of pre-understanding.

We shall conclude our pre-understanding or prejudice by listing how it influence our interpretation and understanding or how does it function in terms of interpretation and understanding.

(1)               Pre-understanding may function as either a negative or positive influence on interpretation. It negatively influences our interpretation by distorting or misleading our perception of things. It positively influences our interpretation, as it is the necessary precondition or frame of reference to understanding something.

(2)               Pre-understanding may influence our interpretation either in a comprehensive or in a limited manner. A pre-understanding comprehensively influence one’s interpretation when it influences the way one views the total sphere of reality and a pre-understanding influences one’s interpretation in a limited manner when it influences the way one views fragments of it.

(3)               Pre-understanding may influence our interpretation either depently or independently. A pre-understanding may influence on one’s interpretation when he or she has one comprehensive pre-understanding that contains within it a number of more limited presuppositions. A pre-understanding functions as an indenpend influence on one’s interpretation when a person is having limited pre-understanding on different subjects.

(4)               Pre-understanding may influence our interpretation consistently or inconsistently. If a pre-understanding functions in a similar manner without fail in all the instances of a specific domain, it influences our interpretation inconsistently.

(5)               Pre-understanding may influence our interpretation consciously, or unconsciously. When a person is aware of the pre-understanding that is at work in his or her interpretation, that pre-understanding is consciously influencing his or her interpretation. When the situation becomes just the contrary, the pre-understanding influences one’s interpretation unconsciously.

(6)               Pre-understanding may function as either a major or a minor influence on our interpretation. If a pre-understanding exerts a major influence on our interpretation. When a pre-understanding determines the conclusions drawn by a person only on a small scale, that pre-understanding is having only minor influence on our interpretation.

(7)               Pre-understanding may influence our interpretation rationally or irrationally. If a pre-understanding is formed out of the sound interaction with one’s own environment, it will influence his or her interpretation rationally. Whereas, if a pre-understanding is the outcome of some panic or neurotic reactions, it will influence our interpretation irrationally.

(8)               Finally, pre-understanding may be open-ended or closed. If a pre-understanding gives room for further correction and alteration, it is an open-ended pre-understanding. If a pre-understanding does not admit any correction or alternation, it is a closed pre-understanding.

No understanding takes place in isolation. Understanding is not knowing the individual words in a sentence or in a text and their meanings separately, because individual words in a sentence or in a text cannot convey the fullness of its meaning. A text is a web, a well –knit frame in which different words are structured properly. Furthermore, understanding is a whole system of interrelated beliefs and practices. Hence understanding happens only when we realize the interconnections that exist  between the words of a sentence or of a text. Then understanding is holistic.

If hermeneutics is taken in its wider sense, that is, not merely as formal rules controlling the practice of exegesis but as something concerned with the total process of understanding, then biblical hermeneutics can only be developed as part of an all encompassing theory of communication. In its most basic form, communication can be described as the interaction between sender, message and receiver.

There are three contexts in which each text needs to be considered: a)  the world that precedes the text; b)  the world of the text itself ; and c)  the world that follows the text.

In the biblical texts, the message/medium is the written word. The text represents the solidification of a previous encounter between sender (Moses/Jesus) and receiver (Israel/Disciples). In the process of becoming a written text, the message may pass through various stages (oral tradition, pre-literary forms, etc.), but the text also represents the first stage in the process of reinterpretation. The reinterpretation has as its aim a new communication event this time between the texts and the contemporary receiver. In the case of biblical texts, the original sender is no longer present and interpretation necessarily comes out of the interaction between the text and receiver.

Today’s main hermeneutical problem arises from the knowledge that every human expression, whether literary or artistic, religious or philosophical, contains a set of meanings given to it by the author, and when this set of meanings moves into the world of another subject, it must be interpreted in such a way as to convey the original intention of the author.

In practice, the texts mediate between two events: the one which produced the text (the prophet, the audience, the scribes etc. come into the picture) and the one flowing from interaction with the text (the reader, the interpreter etc.). Certain considerations are to be made when dealing with the biblical material:

  1. The biblical texts are historical in a double sense: a) They are historical documents in their own right, with their own history of composition, tradition, and preservation b) They also refer to certain specific historical events (e.g. Monarchy, Exile)
  2. The present reader is not the first reader of the text. The text, enriched by the redactors, is the text for interpretation.
  3. Clarity concerning the purpose and the context in which the reading takes place is important. The kerygmatic or proclaiming nature of the text presupposes a new understanding as the ultimate goal of the reading. It is the interpretative community of believers who constitute the context of such a reading.
  4. Although the text is dependent on prior readings, the text itself functions as a separate entity within the interpretation process.
  5. As the original author is not present, the interpretative interaction takes place between the text and (present) reader. The present text is both the end of the process of text production and the beginning of the process of reinterpretation.
  6. Understanding the original speech event is the prerequisite for its appropriation in the contemporary situation.

  The process of reading and interpreting the Bible should be cyclic. A reader approaches a passage of scripture with presuppositions (e.g. the Bible is the inerrant word of God) and usually has a pre-understanding about what the particular passage can or cannot mean. These presuppositions and pre-understandings, along with the context, influence the reader’s understanding of the passage, and help them derive their interpretation. This interpretation then effects the reader’s presuppositions, and becomes part of their pre-understandings the next time they read this passage. If our exegetical information, reasoning and judgments are thought through again and reassessed each time we go through the cycle then the accuracy and correctness of our interpretation will improve.

Early Biblical Interpretation

Reinterpretation of the OT in the OT Itself

Israel has always re-interpreted Scripture in the light of new problems and new exigencies, and even the re-interpretations became part of the Scripture. The literary formation of many of the books shows that biblical literature has in fact developed through the contribution of such re-interpretations. For instance, the Yahwistic history of the patriarchs and Moses of the 10th cent. is taken up and re-narrated in the 6th cent. in the manner and according to the theology of the priestly (P) author.

In many aspects the Deuteronomic Code (Deut 12-26) is a re-interpretation, an actualization, and adaptation of the Elohistic ‘Code of the covenant’ (Ex 20:22-23:3), reflecting the changes in the economic and social aspects of the settled life of Israel in the land of Canaan. These changes were characterized by the divine rights upon the land and the people, the preference of the week, and the poor who have to be protected. It reflects the Deuteronomic theology.

The book of Ben Sirach is often an existential reflection on the ancient texts: Sir 3 is a comment on the 4th commandment; Sir 15 is a comment on Gen 3; Sir 17:1-12, on creation (Gen 1); Sir 34;21-35:4 reviews the theme of cult and social justice.

In prophetic literature one can see the superimposition of the interpretation of the original oracles, for example, in the re-interpretation of the exodus (see Is 40:1-11; 17-20; Ps 78;105). In all these, one can detect the meaning sense of the Scriptures which reveals both their ancient and new character at the same time. The sense looked for is not exactly the one which was understood by the first readers; rather, what is looked for is that meaning the current reader can discover in view of  his contemporary problems and in the light of the revelation taking place in the time between the ancient writer and the present reader. What is treated is the actualization of the ancient books, which in Judaism took the form of midrash.

Judaism of Inter-testamental Period

The Synagogue and rabbinic  school were the ambient wherein the biblical interpretation thrived in Judaism. This reading of the Torah, called darash, meaning investigation/research, is aimed at bringing the meaning of the text up-to-date. The homily and the paraphrasing translation (targum) of the text were the means of actualizing interpretation. The rabbinic schools tried to adapt the Law to the changed circumstance. Their authorized interpreters were the soferim ‘the doctors of the law’ – scribes (Sir 39:1-8) who many times appear in the NT passages (Mt 23; 13:52). They have also left traces in some of the biblical comments found in Qumran.

The interpretations of the Sadducees and Pharisees were different. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, both Qumran and the Sadducees declined in importance, while the pharisaic movement survived. In the interpretation of specific texts, the rabbis employed certain rules, which were authentic hermeneutical principles.

  1. Targumim: an Aramaic translation often interpretative of the Hebrew Scriptures. It was first oral and then written.
  2. Midrashim: commentary on scripture, often in homeiletic form. The term ‘midrash’ comes from the term darash (= to seek) and we can distinguish a four-fold meaning: a) a literary form (genre) which uses the biblical text with great freedom (e.g.,the midrash of the book of  Wisdom on the book of Exodus); b) a literary form which treats biblical personalities with great liberty, presenting them as historical, although they are either mythological or fictional (e.g., the books of Tobias, Judith, Esther, Jonah and narrative section of the book of Job, etc); c) those Jewish literary works, called midrashim. Which are homiletic or exegetical comments on different books of the Bible; d) Midrash a term which is also applied to the research method used, by the Jewish exegetes. Thus Midrashim includes the totality of principles, techniques, and procedures used by the Jews in the interpretation of Scripture. Midrash is both hermeneutical and theological in nature.
Midrash has two divisions: a) Halakah b) Haggadah

Halakah: Halakah is a commentary on scripture which deals with legal texts (plural halakot. halakah comes from halak, to walk), and therefore, ‘the rule of be having’ or ‘norm’. Usually translated as ‘law’, it denotes a specific ruling, a legal statement or discussion, the general category of legal material which provides rules for moral, juridical, and ritual conduct.

Haggadah: It is narrative commentary on Scripture which deals with morals, ethics, and daily life. The term haggadah is derived from the Hebrew root ngd ‘to show, announce, tell, testify, declare, make known’. Haggadah mainly explains the historical and prophetic sections of the OT, enriching them with legendary motifs with a moral scope. It deals with the non-legal text in rabbinic literature.

  1. Pesharim: It is a type of line-by-line interpretation often allegorical. In the Qumran, one read the ancient biblical text and applied it to the present, introducing the comment with the words: ‘its interpretation is.’, where the Hebrew word for interpretation is pesher (pesharim; ‘explanation’) and it occurs only once (Ecc 8:1) in the OT. Until the Qumran discoveries this was an unknown type of biblical interpretation. It is used in the sense of interpretation and realization. Now this word is used to signify: a) a Qumran biblical commentary written in pesher-like form; b) the formal term used to introduce the expository section of this kind of commentary; c) the literary genre of these commentaries; and d) the particular exegetical method of the Qumran commentaries.

All these were attempts at actualization of the biblical texts. Elements of the halakic and haggadic modes of interpretation can be seen in the NT. For us Jewish interpretation is especially helpful to understand the interpretation of the Hebrew text of the Bible. To these typically Jewish principles of interpretation we can also add the allegorical method. This method, which is of Greek origin, was used particularly by Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 BC-50 AD) to adapt the Hebrew Bible to the Hellenistic culture of his time. The Christian interpretation of the Alexandrian school followed the allegorical method.

New Testament Interpretation of the OT

Jesus is the true and definite exegesis of the Father: “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (Jn 1:18). The Gospels show Jesus as the interprets: ‘Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Lk 24:27). He does not simply explain the Scriptures, but he reveals their sense because they speak of him (Jn 5:39,46). The Scriptures reach their fulfillment in him (Jn 19:28-30) and the newness of his teaching (Mk 1:27) and authority (Mk 1:22) are in tune with the fulfillment theme.

The exegesis of the apostolic Church, especially St. Paul (see Gal 4:21-31-the two wives of Abraham), draws from the rabbinic and Alexandrian sources, halakah, haggada, pesher and allegory.

In interpreting the Scriptures, Jesus used the interpretation techniques and methods of his time. Discussing divorce, for instance, he bases himself on Gen 2:24 with a new halaka. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” Mt 19:6, thus declaring that the Mosaic law and rabbinic tradition which tolerated it has ended. On the discussion of the resurrection (Mt 22:23-32) he appeals to Ex 3:6 (“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”) arguing in the haggadic manner that “He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” In his discussion with the scribes he uses the rabbinic style of argumentation (see Jn 10:34-36).

The NT authors also made use of the interpretation processes of the Jewish people of their time. In addition to the already existing elements of interpretation, the authority of the Word of God and its richness, they introduced something radically new: the fulfillment of the OT in Jesus. The NT interpretation of the OT has its basis in Jesus as the Messiah the Son of God.

The aim of the NT authors was not to present a chronicle of Jesus’ life. Rather, they presented the life of Jesus in such a way that it appealed to the faith of the people, and the Christ Event, with its culmination at Pentecost. Stood as the key to their interpretation. For them Christ is the New Adam, the New Moses, and the Church becomes the New Israel and the Christ Event is the New Exodus. The book of Hebrews uses typological midrash. Jesus is greater than Moses (Heb 4); Jesus is the great high priest (Heb 4-8); Earthly and heavenly sacrifice (Heb 9); Jewish law as a type (Heb 10:1)

Early Church

The early Church interpreted the OT by using the Christological key as she considered Christ to be the fulfillment and the point of arrival of the OT. Hence, while interpreting the OT, their primary intension was not to understand the original Hebrew text but to understand Christ. And their interpretations were not in Hebrew. There are various models of interpretation that the early church and the later Church fathers used for interpretation:

Typological Interpretation: Some reality or personage of the OT is seen as the type of Christ or of the Church (antitype). (See Rom 5:14;1 Cor 10:6-1 Pet 3:22).

Literal Interpretation: It looks for the explicit sense of the text.

Spiritual  Interpretation: Its aim is to understand the hidden meaning of the text. It has its roots in 2 Cor 3:15: “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed”. Here Paul never intended to contrast between the OT and the NT or between the literal sense and the spiritual sense, although by the 3rd century, it is in this way that this text was made, the spiritual sense came to include both prophetic and typological meanings.

Allegorical Interpretation: Allegorical interpretation seeks something other than the ‘surface’ (literal) meaning. This meaning is ‘deeper or hidden”. The letter to the Hebrews is a classical example of this type of interpreration.

Pedagogical Interpretation: The Law was intended to lead to Christ (Gal 3:24) – a task now completed.

Fulfillment Interpretation: The OT promises and prophesies were fulfilled in Christ, especially the messianic and eschatological prophesies.

Historical-salvific Interpretation: This was used by paul in Rom 9-11 to indicate that God has not changed his way of acting in calling the gentiles.

Apocalyptic Interpretation: This used the OT as a source of allusion to build a Christian apocalyptic vision with the Risen Christ at the centre.

The early church fathers, using quotes from the OT and NT, also added their own interpretations. These had a literal and allegorical sense, as well as polemical and apologetic motives.

Ancient Christian Schools of Interpretation

Theological School of Alexandria

In Alexandria, Philo had already made great use of Greek philosophy to interpret Sacred Scripture as the voice of the Divine Logos, and the Gospel as the fulfillment, or actualization of the law. For the Alexandrian school, the interpretation of the Bible proceeded on two levels: a) the immediate comprehension of the text; b) the hidden or more profound sense of the text, to discover this allegory is indispensable. The Alexandrians considered the historical narrations as pure allegory (e.g. the 30 stages of the exodus of the Israelites in Num 33 are for Origen the successive moments the Christian soul has to pass through from sin to God). Origen (182-254), the greatest exponent of this school, made hermeneutics a proper and true science.

In particular this school tried to find the corporal (somatikos) sense (=literal sense) which could be adapted to the simple and uneducated reader, and the psychic or moral (psychikos) sense which was suited for those who were advancing in perfection, and the spiritual or mystical (pneumatikos) sense meant for the perfect. This system was applied above all to the OT, so that all the personalities and events of the OT were messianically interpreted.

In the allegorical interpretation we see a profound reverence for the Scripture and a desire to find its manifold depth. To this end they used the symbolic method, often disregarding the common significance of the words and resorting to all sorts of speculation. The most important contribution of the Alexandrian school was that of underlining the unity of both the testaments through the allegorical method. This method would reach its maximum influence in the medieval theory of the four senses.

Antiochean School of Syria

The Antiochean School had a hermeneutics much different from that of the Alexandrian school. The Antiocheans interpreted the texts principally using: a) literal sense and b) historical and grammatical sense. The true head and the most important figure of this school was Diodore of Tarsus (+ before 394). For him and for the Antiocheans the fundamental sense is the literal sense, but some events or personalities or realities can also have typical sense and prefigure the messianic gifts. The literal sense, which is unique, opens itself to a new and more profound reality, even though it is not independent of it. Perception of this typical sense was ‘theory’ or ‘vision’. JohnChrsostom (344-407), Theodore of Mopsuestia (350ca – 428), and Theodore of Cyr (+458) were representatives of this school. The great merit of this school is that it gave a scientific basis for biblical exegesis.

The Sense of the Bible

Augustine of Dacia (+1282) sums up the hermeneutical principles of the fathers, distinguishing the four sense as: littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria, moralis quid agas, quo tendas [quid speras] anagogia. (The literal sense teaches facts which you have to belive which you have to do and where you are headed). Jerusalem illustrates these principles, which in its literal sense is the historical city, allegorically, the church; morally, the soul; and analogically, the heavenly Jerusalem.

These four senses of the Bible can be classified into two: the literal (historical sense) and spiritual sense of the Bible. This distinction is also found in medieval exegesis as well: storia, allegoria, tropologia (moral), and anagogia. In the global context of Scripture the interpreter can discern a history, as a series of interventions in the history of salvation, and this history itself conceals the mystery of Christ (the spiritual sense of the fathers). This spiritual sense has three levels: allegorical (symbolic, Christological-the truth revealed, ‘that which you have to believe’), tropological (moral – the way of life commended, ‘that which you have must do’), and anagogical (eschatological-the final goal to be achieved, ‘where you are headed’).

According to St. Thomas “all the sense are based on one, namely the literal, from which alone an argument can be drawn, and not from those which are said by way of allegory…. Yet nothing is lost to sacred Scripture because of this, because nothing necessary for faith is contained in the spiritual sense, which Scripture does not clearly pass on elsewhere by the literal sense”.

In the middle Ages sense literals was understood as the meaning conveyed by the words (literate, verba) of Scripture, as distinct from the spiritual sense (sense spiritualis) contained in the Scripture. In modern literary discussion, ‘literal’ refers to the sense perceived in reading, as meaning flows from the dialogue between the text and the reader. We use literal sense as ‘the sense’ which the human author directly intended and which the written words conveyed.

Concerning the books which had a long history of editing and redaction of earlier written works (eg., Isaiah-its composition took 200 years, with new sections being added to the original, some of which modified the meaning of the original text), the search for the literal sense includes both the sense of the original before editing and its sense after the editing.

‘Author’ in this description of the literal sense must be understood  rightly. Many of the books are anonymous or pseudonymous; Most of them are the product of complex growth and collective contribution. None of the canonical Gospel writers identified themselves by name.

Despite this, the reference to that author’s intention affirms that those who produced the biblical books had a message for the readers of their times. It is important for us to have this message in mind when we read texts and to ask what they now mean for us. What the text now means may well be more abundant, but it should have some relationship to what it meant to the first readers.

The adverb ‘directly’ when it occurs in the literal sense would distinguish it from those meaning by which the author’s words may have been understood later (in the larger context of the Bible or when read in later times) but of which he was unaware.

Written words conveyed:- Priority must be given to the text. The author’s intension does not become a sense of the Scripture until it is effectively conveyed in writing. Jesus did not write a Gospel, but the evangelists did. Most often we do not know the context in which Jesus actually spoke his words. The literal sense of a Gospel passage is the meaning attributed to Jesus words by the individual evangelist, with the result that the same words can have different meanings according to the different contexts in which each evangelist set them.

The literal sense of the Bible is that which has been expressed directly by the inspired human. As the Bible is the fruit of inspiration, what is expressed in the text is also intended by God, the principal author. Efforts are necessary to know the literal sense. The authors of the Bible used forms of literature typical of their times and hence their literal sense is not as obvious as it is in the works of our own time. Therefore one must make realistic efforts to grasp what the authors of Sacred Scripture is trying to communicate. The principal task of the exegete is to analyse the material, making use of all the resources of literary and historical research, with a view of defining the literal sense with the greatest possible accuracy. There is the need to acquire professional knowledge of biblical geography, archaeology, culture and of the way in which the texts were transmitted.

Even though there usually exists only one literal sense, one must still know that the human author can refer to more than one level of reality at the same time, especially in the case of poetry. Biblical inspiration does not exclude this capacity of human psychology and language. For instance: Jn 19:28 (‘I thirst’- bodily and spiritual level); Jn 19:30 (‘delivered his spirit’- lit. ‘Jesus died’ and the implicit allusion would be ‘He gave the Spirit to the Church’. Giving of the Spirit to the Church is the literal sense in Jn 20:22).

Even when a human utterance appears to have only one meaning, divine inspiration can use the expression in such a way as to create more than one meaning. This is true in the saying of Caiaphas “It is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (John 11:50; see also vv. 51-52). Caiaphas meant that the nation could thereby avoid many troubles on the part of the Romans (political reason), whereas John meant “to gather into one the dispersed children of God” (religious reason). Either way, this passage of John belongs to the literal sense, as is made clear from the context itself.

In the attempt to find the literal sense one has to take into account the dynamic aspect of many texts. For example, the meaning of ‘royal psalms’ (e.g., Ps 2;72; 101;110;132) should not be limited to the historical circumstance of their being written. When speaking of the king, the psalmist at one and the same time evokes both the kingship as it actually existed and the idealized vision of kingship as God intended it to be. The text carries the reader well beyond the institution of kingship its historical, actual manifestation.

Ps 110:1 “The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”’ (quoted in Mk 12:35-37). This messianic (prophetic) sentence can be applied to every king of Israel (son of David), but can be applied in a perfect way only to Jesus.

Historical-critical exegesis has too often tended to limit the meaning of texts by tying it too rigidly to precise historical circumstance whereas modern hermeneutics know that human speech gains an altogether fresh status when put into writing. Written text has the capacity to be placed in new circumstances, which will illuminate it in different ways, adding new meaning to the original sense. This is especially operative in the Bible as the word of God. All this does not, however, mean that we can attribute to a biblical text whatever meaning we like, interpreting it in a wholly subjective way. One must reject every interpretation as unauthentic which is alien to the meaning expressed by the human authors in their written text.

4.1.1    Important Auxiliaries to Get to the Literal Sense

a) Knowledge of the history of the biblical era: This history of the people of God must be integrated into the history of the Near East. We cannot divorce God’s action from that of history because God acts only in concrete times and circumstances. This history must also include sociological aspects-not only information on royal courts, international politics and wars – the very structure of the social life of the people involved in the biblical story must be analyzed so as to understand the biblical era in all its ramifications (aspects).

b) Knowledge of biblical languages and literary styles: Some familiarity with the structure and thought pattern of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic is essential. Knowledge of Hebrew tenses, with their undefined time designations and lack of temporal precision opens the prophecies to the present and to the present fulfillment. For instance, words such as hesed (covenantal kindness mercy) and aletheia (truth) receive only a part of their connotation in translation.

Reading the Scripture should involve an understanding of what the original author meant, since his message for his times was certainly part of God’s inspired communication. The primary duty of the human author was to be intelligible in his era. What he writes communicates meaning to us today, but he did not envision our circumstances and he did not write for our times. Hence, in the effort to draw a message from his text for our circumstances, we must ask whether we achieve true communication or only an illusion in which we impose on the text what we want to find (eisegesis).

In the quest for the literal sense of any writing, it is important to determine the literary form the author was employing. The Bible is a library with all the diversity all the diversity we would expect spanning a period of more than 1100 years. Hence it is necessary to classify the books according to the type of literature they represent-this is what is meant by determining the literary form.

The first question we must ask when we open any book is : “What type of literature do we have before us?” (This method of determining the literary form, in fact, existed even in ancient times-the Jewish divisions as Pentateuch, Prophets, and Sapiential literature testify to this).

In the Bible there are also many varieties of poetry: a) epic poetry-some narratives of Pentateuch and Joshua; b) didactic poetry-Prov, Sir, Wis) Iyric poetry-Pass, Cant.

In the prophetic books we meet prophecy and apocalyptic.

There are also many forms of history: a) factual analysis, seemingly by can eye-witness (the court history of David-2 Sam 11-2 Kgs 2); b) court records (Kgs and Chr); c) romanticized and simplified epic history of the national saga (in Exodus); d) tales of tribal heroes (in Judges); e) tales of great men and woman of ancient times (in the patriarchal accounts of Genesis); f) prehistory. This is seen in the Genesis narratives regarding the origin of humanity and of evil which borrow from the lore of other nations, making them vehicles of monotheistic theology.

Apart from these, there are tales, parables, allegories proverbs, maxims, love stories, etc.

Once the reader has determined the literary form of any biblical book or passage, that standard applicable to the form helps to clarify the literal sense (that which the author meant). For instance, if Jonah is understood as a parable, the reader would know that the author is not presenting a history of relationship between Israel and Assyria, nor the story of a prophet in the belly of the whale; rather, it is a prophetic book which communicates the profound truth of God’s love for the Gentile nations; if Josh 10:13 is part of a victory song, readers will judge it not according to rules of strict history nor give it the same historical credence allotted to the history of David’s court.

In the past, for biblical interpretation, the failure to recognize the diversity of literary forms of the biblical books, and the tendency to misinterpret as scientific history pieces of the Bible that are not really historical, or are historical in a more popular sense, created great problems.

The need for determining the type of literature can lead to misconceptions: Some may think that it is dangerous to apply the theory of literary forms to the more sacred sections of the Bible. The fact is the these are classified as belonging to one type of literature or another. There is factual history, mythology, fiction, and almost all the intermediary types in the Bible. If the correctly classifies a certain part of the Bible as belonging to a particular type of writing one is simply recognizing the author’s intension in writing that section. This should not be seen as destroying the historicity. One need not think that this would weaken or challenge its inspiration. DAS (Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1943) says: “God could inspire any type of literature that was not unworthy or deceitful, i.e., ‘not contrary to his holiness and truth’.

More than Literal Sense 

By ‘more than literal sense’ we mean the scriptural meaning that goes beyond the literal sense, a sense that is not confined to what the human author directly intended and conveyed in the written words. This ‘more than literal sense’ is especially pertinent to the Bible. It is because a) Bible is a collection of books by many authors and b) it is the Word of God.

a)      The books of individual authors were joined together into a collection called the Bible centuries after they were written. This was a new arrangement, which could have scarcely been foreseen by the original author (Luke thought of his Gospel and Acts as a unified work, but it was divided in the canonical process. There exists no evidence that the author of John with his claim of unique witness would have thought that his work would be placed alongside and on the same level with the other works called Gospels). The juxtaposition of the books provides connections in the Bible that no single author would have made, thus enlarging the meaning originally intended.

b)      The Bible is God’s word to audiences of all times. This continuing biblical engagement of readers/hearers with the Word of God uncovers meaning beyond those which were envisioned by the human author in his local and limited circumstances. The quest for the dynamic aspect of the word should not deviate from exegesis so that it becomes eisegesis (the imposition of a meaning to a text that is alien to it). Exegesis is the meaning that arises from the text.

Both in pre-Christian Judaism and post-Christian rabbinic circles the quest for a ‘more-than-literal-exegesis’ was just as common as in Christian circles. In the early Christian writings of the 2nd cent., we find evidence of a very free spiritual exegesis. Exegetes such as Tertullian and Justin searched the OT for proof texts referring to Christ, and they interpreted these passages in a way that went far beyond the literal sense. Origen did not disregard the literal sense but was interested in a sense that could make Christians see the OT as their book. His allegorical interpretation was based on the thought that the OT was Christological in many passages.

Spiritual (Christological) Sense

Spiritual sense, as understood by Christian faith, is the meaning expressed by the biblical texts when read, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the context of the paschal mystery and of the new life which flows from it. The paschal event has established a radically new historical context, which sheds fresh light upon the ancient texts and causes them to undergo a change in meaning. The spiritual (Christological) sense does not change the literal sense, but rather makes it explicit or fulfils it. We cannot exclude from the Bible, especially from the OT, this Christological sense, the possibility of a higher fulfillment.

Gen 3,15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”. This is the first promise of a redeemer (and of his mother).

2 Sam 7, 12-13: “…I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”

This text must be now taken literally, because Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Rom 6:9). Exegetes who have a narrow, ‘historical’ view of the literal sense, will judge this as an interpretation alien to the original. Those who are open to the ‘dynamic’ aspect of a text, instead will recognize here a profound element of continuity as well as an element of discontinuity: Christ rules for ever, but not on the earthly throne of David. It is therefore quite acceptable to reread the Bible in the light of the Christ Event. See also Is 52:13-53:12; cf. suffering servant Acts 8.32.

While there is a distinction between the two sense, the spiritual sense cannot be stripped of its connection to the literal sense; the latter remains the indispensable foundation. Otherwise one could not speak of the fulfillment of the Scripture. In order for fulfillment to be accomplished, a relationship of continuity and conformity is essential. It is also necessary that there be a transition to a higher level of reality. The paschal lamb of Ex 12:46,(Ps 34:20) and Jn 19:36 are examples of such a transition.

Spiritual sense is not to be confused with subjective interpretation stemming from imagination or intellectual speculation. The spiritual sense results from setting a text in relation to real facts which are not alien to it: e.g., the paschal mystery, in all its inexhaustible richness, which constitutes the summit of the divine intervention in the history of Israel, to the benefit of all mankind.

Typological Sense

It is “the deeper meaning of the things written about in the Bible when they are seen to have foreshadowed future things in God’s work of salvation”. The typological sense usually belongs not to the Scripture as such, but to the realities (persons, places and events) expressed by the Scripture. The reality which foreshadows is called ‘type’ and the future realty that is foreshadowed is called ‘antitype’. Type and antitype are on two levels of time and only when the antitype appears does the typological sense becomes apparent. Type is imperfect and the foreshadowing is related to God’s plan of salvation.

-Adam (type) as the figure of Christ (cf. Rom 5:14); the flood (type) as the figure of baptism (1 pet 3:20-21)

Actually the connection involved in typology is based on the way in which Scripture describes the ancient reality (cf. the voice of Abel: Gen 4:10; Heb 11:4; 12:24) and not simply on the reality itself. Consequently, in such a case one can speak of a meaning which is truly Scriptural.

1Cor 15:45 (Jesus as the new Adam); Rev 12:1-5 (Mary as the new Eve); Ex 16:4, 15; Ps 78:24 (manna and Eucharist Jn 6:31-32; Rev 2:17). The manna, however, was a miraculous nourishment, but not bread coming down from heaven as is the Eucharist.

-Num 21:9 (bronze serpent on the pole) and the lifted son of man (Jn 3:14). Here one must, however, know that it was not the bronze serpent on the pole that gave salvation, but a vision (act) of faith.

Fuller Sense

Sense plenior is the deeper meaning of the text, intended by God, but not clearly expressed (intended- R.E. Brown) by the human author. This is known as one studies a text in the light of other biblical passages which utilize it or in its relationship to the internal development of revelation: Unlike the typical sense, but like the literal sense, sensus plenior is primarily concerned with the words of scripture rather than with ‘things’. This concept was first employed by Andre’s Fernandes in 1925. It is used to refer to the idea of the fulfillment of the OT in the NT.

The catholic understanding of biblical inspiration distinguishes between God as primary author and the inspired human author as the secondary author. Such an understanding helps one to see how God could have moved a human writer to formulate an idea, the sensus plenior which would only becomes apparent in the light of subsequent use of such a formulation and of which the original human author would have had no inkling.

Sensus plenior is then a question of:

a)      The meaning a subsequent biblical author attributes to an earlier biblical text, using it in a context which confers upon it a new literal sense.

E.g., Mt 1:22-23 “All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us”. The prophecy quoted here is Is 7:14. In the Issaianic text the prophet does not in fact speak of a ‘virgin’. The Hebrew word used is alemah (=young/ adolescent woman, a girl just married), which was the wife of Achaz, who bore Hezekiah. To speak of a virgin Hebrew has another word at its disposal, I betulah (Is 23:4, 12; 37:22). The Hebrew original alemah was translated in LXX with parthenos which really means ‘virgin’. By using the LXX translation, the evangelist gives a fuller prophetic sense to Is 7:14.

b)      The meaning that an authentic doctrinal tradition or a conciliar definition gives to a biblical text.

E.g., Rom 5:12-21: the definition of the doctrine of original sin by Trent provided the fuller sense of Paul’s teaching about the consequences of the sin of Adam for humanity.

When the control by an explicit biblical text or by an authentic doctrinal tradition is lacking, recourse to a claimed fuller sense could lead to subjective interpretation deprived of any validity. In effect, sensus plenior is only a modern way of expressing a certain kind of spiritual sense in given instance where the spiritual sense is distinct from the literal sense. It has its foundation in the fact that the Holy Spirit, the principal author of the Bible, can guide human authors in the choice of language so that it will

Express a truth, the fullest depth of which the authors themselves did not perceive. This deeper truth will be revealed in the course of time: a) through further divine interventions which clarify the meaning of the texts-Jn 19:37 clarifies Zec 12:10; Rev 1:7; b) through the insertion of the texts into the canon of the Scripture. In these cases a new contexts is created, which brings out fresh possibilities of meaning that had lain hidden in the original context.

Philosophical and Theological Hermeneutics

The Reformation led by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli (16th c.) considered Scripture as the sole foundation of faith (sola scriptura). This was in line with the earlier thinking of John Wyclif (14th c.). The reformers differed from the overwhelming majority of ancient exegesis in their instance on the right of SS, as literally interpreted, to stand alone. Catholic exegesis relied strongly on the authority of the fathers and the authority of the tradition of the church in interpretation.

Until the 17th century the difference in hermeneutics thoughts were limited to : a) preference for the literal and the allegorical sense; b) acceptance or the non-acceptance of the ecclesial tradition; and c) the ways of interpreting inspiration. But both the Catholics and protestants accepted: a) the existence of a transcendent creator God; b) the datum of revelation; c) the possibility and the fact of miracles; d) SS as a sacred and inspired book to be interpreted according to particular canons/rules; e) a dichotomy between natural and supernatural.

In the 17th and 18th centuries we find a radical change in these: In the philosophical field this was due to rationalism, empiricism, and the enlightenment movement; in the literary field, the discovery of new manuscripts and critical methods; in the scientific field, the progress of positive sciences called into question the old beliefs; in the historical field, the new methods of research and new discoveries made the difference. At this time we find the word ‘hermeneutic’ appearing more frequently as a general science even though the theories of interpretation were used from very ancient times. Now Hermeneutics became a general science of understanding as well as a way of explaining a text.

In the biblical field outside the catholic world, this ideological revolution shook centuries-old axioms and it also opened the doors to a deeper scientific study of the Bible. It was at this period that Scripture began to be considered as a historical document and exegetes became interested in understanding the mind of the authors and their historical context. It is at this time that we find commentators searching for the ipsissima verba of the biblical writers and for the historical Jesus.

The post-reformation interpretation of the Bible gave rise to ‘Protestant Liberalism’ resulting in many negative interpretations of the Bible known as “the accommodation theory’, ‘the naturalist interpretation’ the theory of dialectical development of dogma, and ‘the mythical theory’. J.S Semler (1725-’91) in his accommodation theory claimed that Scripture teachings regarding miracles, vicarious and expiatory sacrifice, the resurrection, eternal judgment, and the existence of angels and demons are to be regarded as accommodation of the superstitious notions, prejudices and ignorance of the times. The supernatural was set aside and the doctrine of divine inspiration of the Scriptures was rejected. This questioned the very nature of SS.

H.E.G Paulus, a rationalist contemporary of Schleiermacher, proposed the Naturalistic Interpretation. He rejected all supernatural activities in human affairs and explained the miracles of Jesus either as acts of kindness or exhibitions of medical skill, or illustrations of personal sagacity and tact, recorded in a manner peculiar to the age and opinions of the different writers. F.C.Baur (1792-1860) under the influence of Hegel’s theory of history believed in the dialectical development of dogma. He argued that the history of early Christianity was to be interpreted in the light of thesis (Judaizers=Jewish) antithesis (Paul and his followers=Gentiles), and the synthesis (the gospels and epistles were a synthesis of both these elements). Baur’s disciple, D.F.Strauss (1808-1874), proposed the mythical theory. He considered the Christ of the Gospel’s as the mythical creation of the early church. At present no serious scholar will subscribe to any these negative interpretations.

Biblical interpretation needs appropriate intellectual tools in order to work with the biblical text. It is the competence of philosophy to provide concepts and tools to guide biblical interpretation. Through the works of Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heideggar, Barth, Bultmann, Gadamer, Ricoeur, etc. ‘hermeneutics’ became a systematic discipline in the contemporary philosophy and theology. In this respect we have different ways of understanding Hermeneutics. a) as a theory of biblical exegesis-whether it is ancient, medieval or modern. b) as a general method, but exclusively linguistic, according to the theories of the new philological sciences of the 18th cent; c) as the ‘science’ of every type of linguistic comprehension as proposed by Schleiermacher; d) as the methodical foundation of the Geistenwissenschaften (sciences of the spirit) understood by W.Dilthey; e) as the phenomenology of existence and existential comprehension (‘philosophy’ of the interpretation) according to Martin Heideggar, Rudolf Bultmann, and Hans-Georg Gadamer; f) as ‘theological exegesis’ as proposed by Karl Barth; and g) as a system of interpretation concerning the meaning of myths and symbols as proposed by Paul Ricoeur.

Schleiermacher (1768-1834)

Schleiermacher is called ‘the fatherof modern hermeneutics’ for the widened the scope of hermeneutics from its being a set of principles governing interpretation of Bible and classical philology into a rigorous science of interpretation. He made a sharp distinction between principles of general hermeneutics and the concerns of a particular hermeneutics, such as biblical hermeneutics and hermeneutics. In this context he understood general hermeneutics, such as biblical hermeneutics. In this context he understood general hermeneutics as the art of understanding any written text and biblical hermeneutics should not contradict these principles of general hermenutics.

There are two major influences on Scheiermacher’s hermeneutics: a) Kant, who gave primacy to epistemology over ontology and positivism; b) Romanticism, which holds that the unconscious human mind is the source of creating ideas and meaning. Under these two influences, Schleiermacher was searching for a living relation between the process of the creation of ideas (Romantic) and of universally valid rules of understanding (Kuntian).

Schleiermacher’s hermeneutics stressed the two principles involved in the act of understanding the text and the author: a) Grammatical principles: The knowledge of grammar helps the reader to reach only the exeriority of the written text. The meaning of the text can be understood only from the author’s idea, context, and the first audience to whom the text is originally addressed. Similarly the part and the whole of an author’s text can be understood only in relationship to each other; b) Technical/Psychological principle: According to this principle, through an act of sympathetic intuitive comprehension, a divinatory comprehension, the interpreter should try to enter into the author’s mind, so as to gain an immediate grasp of the author as an individual in order to understand him. Understanding, for Schleiermacher, is primarily understanding the author.

Kant saw the mind impersonal whereas under the influence of Romantic philosophy Schleiermacher saw the mind as the creative unconscious at work in gifted individuals. Thus his Kantian background gave a critical thrust to his hermeneutics and the romantic philosophy gave a psychological approach. According to Schleiermacher, the task of hermeneutics is to avoid misunderstanding. Misunderstanding, which is casued by the individuality of the writer and the reader, necessitates a universal or a general hermeneutical theory (theory of understanding). He sought to work out a general hermeneutics as the foundation for all kind of text interpretations. He considered hermeneutics as the art of comprehending a text.

Wihelm Dilthey (1833-1911)

W. Dilthey was a philiosopher of history. His hermeneutical theories were influenced by his teacher Schleiermacher and the theories of Kant and Hegel. Kant tried to develop a rigorous theory of the knowing process. But Hegel considered Kant’s philosophy too abstract. Dilthey tried to complement Kant’s critical philosophy with Hegel’s historical interest.

Dilthey distinguishes between Naturwissenschaften (natural science) and Geistenwissenschaften (science of the Spirit/human science). He sought to make hermeneutics the foundational displine of all human science. According to Dilthey, understanding life is different from knowing objects through explanations in natural sciences. He sought to make hermeneutics the foundational discipline of all human science. Man expresses his life through signs, symbols, and works. History is a record of such objectifications. It is only through these objectifications of life that one can understand life. Hence, for Dilthey, understanding is historical and the task of hermeneutics is to understand life from these expressions of life as recorded in history.

According to Dilthey understanding has to do not only with linguistic communication, but also with historical consciousness. Understanding require a conscious effort to overcome historical distance. The interpreter must transport himself out of the present time frame to that of the past. Understanding is conceived as Nacherleben (re-experience) of the original experience (Erlebnis). Nacherleben is not identical with the original; it is co-determined by the interpeter’s own historical horizon.

For Schleiermacher the focus is the individual and the problems related to interpersonal communication. Dilthey goes further and introduce the epistemological perspective and includes history and tradition as part of his reflection in an effort to explore the hermeneutical dimensions of historical consciousness. Both men sought to underline that the interpreter had to rise above his own historical context or situation and place himself in the perpective of the author. For them understanding is the understanding of the author from his text. They conceived hermeneutics primarily as a technique, a methodological and epistemological enterprise.

Karl Barth (1886-1968)

Being a pastor, Barth’s hermeneutical problem was how to proclaim the Word of God so that it would become alive and meaningful for his time. His concept of ‘theological exegesis’ tries to bridge the division between scientific and practical exegesis and to regain the unity of biblical interpretation. From the perspective of incarnation Barth understands the Bible as the unity of the word of God and man. Hence historical exegesis is unavoidable, but it should serve the better understanding of the real subject matter of the text, Jesus Christ. Barth maintains that a completely objective exegesis is impossible and that real understanding requires the exegete’s personal input. For him the guiding principles of biblical interpretation are obedience to the word of God and subordination of human concepts to Divine Revelation.

Rudolof Bultmann (1884-1976)

Bultmann is influenced by Heidegger and hence one can find in him an existential interpretation of the SS.His concern is to unite the question of human existence found in the SS and the questions of human existence found in the situation of the modern interpreter. In interpretation what is important is its content. For him, God’s word is hidden in the SS just as God’s action is hidden in the universe. So the task of hermeneutic is to bring out the hidden word of God from the SS.

Bultmann agrees with Barth that an exegesis without presupposition is an illusion. He considers the biblical text as the result of an existential encounter between God and man, and the subsequent interpretation is aimed at making a similar encounter possible in the present. Bultmann’s whole hermeneutical programme is motivated by the need to communicate the kerygma, the existential message of the NT, to a modern audience. The written text represents only an incomplete rendering of the kerygma because the existential encounter inherent in the kerygma cannot be objectified in any full sense of the word. For Bultmann this opens the possibility to apply the full range of historical-critical operations to the text without endangering its essential kerygma. The latter rests on the text are those in which the very existence of the reader is put on the line. Only in this way can the self- understanding (Selbstverstdandnis) of the reader be challenged.

Bultmann’s hermeneutical method is called demythologizing according to which the NT language is mythological. But the kerygma, the basic message of the NT, is important. This message can be retrieved from the mythological language of the text by the process called demythologizing. For many scholars, demythologizations is an impossibility.

Edmund Husserl (1859-1938)

Phenomenology of Edmund Husseri (1859-1938) had great impact on the hermeneutical thinkers that followed him; namely, Heidegger, Gadamer, Ricoeur and others. Husserl tried to free philosophical thinking from the imposition of all kinds of system, speculation and dogmatism and propagated a return in philosophy to the things themselves. In his philosophy, he inquires how knowledge is acquired by paying attention to the essence of a thing that comes to mind-he called it phenomenon – that  one comes to know things. His attempt was to provide a foundational theory for all science, whether empirical or scientific. His attention to consciousness, for the study of the formation of knowledge, influenced later hermeneutical thinkers.

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

In Martin Heidegger we see a shift from hermeneutics as epistemology (how a subject can know an object) to hermeneutics of being (the very nature of being itself). The question is not ‘how do we understand?’ but the mode of his being (Dasein) which exists only by comprehending (knowing). For Heidegger, knowing is a constitutive element of human existence itself, an existential element, so that to be a human being signifies to know. To exist as a man is to live knowing. Man is essentially a ‘being-in-the-word’, existing in particular culture, history, community, and cosmos. Understanding is closely bound up with Dasein’s possibilities of existence. Thus, understanding does not involve leaving one’s historical context.

According to Heidegger, there are two stages in our process of understanding: a) pre-understanding or presupposition which is the initial pre-understanding or pre-supposition is not a prejudice for Heidegger; rather, it is the very structure that makes understanding possible. Every interpretation which contributes to comprehension must have pre-comprehended that which it interprets. Interpretation is a process. The pre-understanding is challenged when new possibilities for existence are exposed through the event of understanding which leads to modification or revision of the interpreter’s self-understanding. This modified understanding itself can become the new pre-understanding in the next phase of the process.

Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-1986)

Gadamer stresses the historical distance between the text and its interpreter. His hermeneutical circle is: ‘I believe in order to understand. I understand in order to believe’ (credo ut intellegam, intelligo ut credam) and ‘from faith to the text, and from the text to faith’.

A disciple of Heidegger, Gadamer thinks that man is not only projected to the future possibility (as maintained by Heidegger), he is also born of a past. He not only goes towards… but also comes from… Due to his origin the pre-comprehension is nourished by a tradition. Every comprehension presupposes a subject and every subject a historical context. Through man’s participation in history he is related to tradition. He cannot therefore overcome tradition altogether in his life. Hence valid tradition and legitimate authority have a special value for Gadamer. He is of the opinion that tradition and authority are not against reason.

Hermeneutics cannot be only a question of method striving for objectively secured knowledge. It must open up a dialogical process through which possibilities for existence are acknowledged. A dialogue unfolds between the present and the past, between text and interpreter, each with its own horizon. The goal of interpretation is the fusion of the horizons of the text and that of the interpreter (reader), and thus it is a participation in the stream of history, Further, the dialogue is between the interpreter and the text and not with the author. The text is much more than the author, for the text may have accumulated more meaning in the successive interpretations in its history than that which might have explicitly been intended by the author. Therefore Gadamer speaks of the autonomy of the text from the author.

According to Gadamer, comprehension is a lively insertion in a process of historical transmission, in which the past and the present continually come together. Time, which separates the past from the present, is not an abyss that has to be overcome or climbed over because it separates and distance; instead it has to be seen as the basic carrier, in which the present has its roots with the continuity of transmission of the tradition.

Lanuage effects the synthesis of the horizon of the past (of the text and of the tradition that carries it) and the horizon of the present (that of the interpreter and of his pre-comprehension). Language is related to dialogue and consequently of the dialectic of question and answer. The text speaks to us, answers our questions as well as puts questions to us. In Gadamer there is a shift from understanding ‘being’ to understanding ‘language’.

For Gadamer, understanding is complete only by its application or appropriation, making one’s own what one knows. In biblical terms, the encounter with the text can and should lead to metanoia, a change of mentality, a new and better knowledge of oneself and a new communion of experience with Him and with that which is behind the text.

 

Paul Ricoeur (1913)

According to Ricoeur, a believing contemporary French philosopher of Protestant faith, man expresses himself through signs and symbols, and the creation of text is an important means of this expression. In his view, once a discourse has been written down and takes the form of a book there takes place distancing of two types: a) first, between the text and the author. Once written ,the texts takes on an autonomy of its own, it de-contextualizes with respect to the author and his ambient; b) then, between the text and the successive readers who have to respect the world of the text in its otherness. So the text can be understood only through interpretation.

For Paul Richoeur hermeneutics is a de-condification or discovery of the meaning hidden in an apparent sense. The act of reading consists in connecting the world of the text and that of the reader, establishing a new contextualization (which Gadamer would call a fusion of horizons). Hermeneutics consists not so much in knowing what is behind the text, rather, what is in front of it..

Human existence, in the movement of auto realization, objectifies itself in signs, works, representations and institutions- in culture. Therefore to think means to decipher these signs and understand the human reality in them. The simplest and the most profound form of  this objectifying is the symbol which gives origin to myth. At this elementary level, language assumes a symbolic dimension. Ricoeur says that le symbole donne a penser, ‘the symbol promotes thought’. It gives the richness of sense deposited in it. The direct, primary and literal sense indicates an indirect, secondary and figurative sense which cannot be had except through the first. Every symbol has a face turned to the past, towards its own origin, and another one truned to the future of the subject, towards the possibilities which awaits it.

In this the demythologization or demystification has its role but not in the sense of simply recongnizing the myth to renounce it (Bultmann), but to recognize it as myth in order to liberate the symbolic kernel. In the context of faith this demystification is seen in the service of faith. It uncovers all that in faith has not still arrived at maturation and which remains on the level of pseudo-religious affectivity.

The present Need of Biblical Interpretation and the Problems

The scientific of the Scriptures has been facilited especially since the early part of 19th century due to the following factors: a) the growth of related disciplines such as the comparative study of religions and the extra-biblical literature of Akkadia, Egypt, Canaan, Assyria and Babylon; b) renewed interest in the archaeology of the land of Palestine; c) growth in the philological studies of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages and their borrowing from other cultures; d) the beginning of the studies in the social science which allowed one to build a broad framework by which the Bible could be investigated historically and thereby some of the enigmas of the past could be solved.

Problems

Mythical Language

Due to the modern understanding of history and to the use of the historical method, there is a danger of recreating biblical history in man’s own image. The ancient people expressed themselves in mythical categories. Istael lived in immediate proximity with this ambient and even borrowed much of the mythical material from her neighbours. One is reminded of these ideas: God presiding over a heavenly council with other deities (Ps 82); God being a heavenly warrior fighting a battle from heaven above for his people below (Ps 94); God dwelling on a holy mountain called Zion (Ps 46;48); God fighting and slaying the sea-monster typifying the chaos (Ps 74;89).

Many of the Psalms and the prophets who adopted liturgical material for their own purposes have to be seen at times as communicating truths on a mythical rather than on a historical level. Myth was an important vehicle to convey spiritual truths for the ancient mind. However, we must know that even though myth was was certainly used in the biblical accounts, not everything can be described by them. A pan-mythical view can become as false as an estimation of the world-view of the biblical writers as can a pan-historical view. The positive consequence of this realization has been a proper caution in judging the value of mythical language with our modern-day mind set.

Contradictions and Repetitions in Biblical Accounts:

i)                    In Gen 1:1-1:2:4a (P) and 2:4b-25 (J) we have two different orders of creation. They speak quite clearly of the different ways in which man and woman were created. In Gen 1 man is created as the pinnacle of creation in the image of God, after the creation of the natural order and the animal world; in Gen 2 man is created first out of the earth, to be followed by the animal kingdom, and then out of his rib woman is created.

ii)                  In the floor stories (Gen 6-9), on the one hand, we read of 7 pairs of clean animals and a pair of unclean animals being taken into the ark (7:1-10), and the flood lasting for 40 days (7:12;8:6) before receding after two periods of 7 days; on the other hand, a few verses later we read that Noah took only two pair of each animal (7:8-9,15), and that the flood lasted 150 days (7:24), receding in another 150 days (8:3).

iii)                We also find doublets and repetitions on several different occasions: the Joseph story (Gen 37:28,36) narrates that he was sold first to the Ishmaelites and then to the Medianites and so was taken in different ways into slavery in Egypt.

iv)                There is a double version of the Decalogue: the Code of Alliance (Ex 20:1-17) and the Deuternomical code (Dt 5:1-22).

v)                  The Exodus narratives (Ex 14-15;Ps 78;105) show different versions.

vi)                The accounts of the people entering the land are different: Joshua 1-12 speaks of a sudden conquest while Judg 1:1-2:5, of a diffcult and protracted settlement.

vii)              The Judean kings, such as Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah, are presented in different lights in 2 Kgs 18-23 and in 2 Chr 29-35.

viii)            A typical interpretation of Jer 25:11-14 (Babylon: 70 years) is made by Daniel 9, which becomes the origin of the famous prophecy of the 70 weeks.

In the NT we also see different accounts of miracles, different records of parables, and different emphases (and often variant chronologies) of the events in the life of Jesus. Most significant ones are the different accounts of the resurrection appearances.

These examples show the existence of different traditions and also the attempts to interpret the tradition in new situations. The word of God is dynamic and is not fully exhausted in its proclamation by the prophet or its writing by the sacred author.

The Problem of Religious Language

The new understanding of the nature of religious language invites us to a cautious view regarding the one-sided historical research of the biblical accounts. In so far as it is trying to mediate not only earthly realities but also a transcendental reality, religious language has reference points beyond this language with particular instensity (e.g., in the apocalyptic imageries used in the Gospels and in Revelation) into a category which goes well beyond history. Much of Scripture is couched in different types of religious language, and the recognition of the type which is being used (descriptive or prescriptive) can often suggest whether or not the material in which it occurs is to be understood historically.

The primary dimensions of language are literal, physical or material. To describe a reality or truth which is non-literal, spiritual and transcendental metaphor may be employed. Metaphors point to a reality that is beyond the literal/historical. Such a reading would provide us with the theological meaning (e.g., Christ as Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace, the Living Water, the Alpha and Omega, the King of Kings, and the Wisdom of God-obviously metaphorical language used to convey religious, spiritual insight beyond that which is literal).

There are Obscure and Difficult Passages in the Bible:

Dan 9:2: Reading the prophecies of Jeremiah, Daniel pondered long over what they meant; Acts 8:26-35: The Ethiopian did not understand the passage of Is 53:7-8 and saw the need of an interpreter; 2 Pet 1:20-21: “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation…”; 2 Pet 3:16: Letters of Paul are difficult to understand (“There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures”).

Catholic Interpretation of S. Scripture

In the catholic hermeneutics we see three important elements: Scripture, Church and Tradition. After the Reformation and the Council of Trent (1545-1563) the Catholic Church affirmed the role of tradition and the authority of the church over free and unrestricted interpretation of the Scripture. The Catholic hermeneutics received a breathing space in Leo XIII’s encyclical Providentissimus Deus (1893) although it gave only a critical view of the various approaches of that time. It is from the time of Pius XII’s encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) that in the Catholic Church a positive encouragement was given to scientific study and interpretation of the Bible.

6.1                Vatican II

Vatican Council II (1962-’65) encouraged biblical interpretation. This is evident from the Dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum on “Divine Revelation” (1965). DV 12 speaks of: a) the need for biblical interpretation; b) the use of various methods of interpretation; and c) the priniciples of wholistic interpretation. The following are the catholic principles of biblical interpretation.

i)                    The Bible is the word of God couched in human language and it is to be read and ionterpreted with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

ii)                  The Bible is an inspired book having authority for the people of Christian faith.

iii)                The Bible represents a restricted canon of authoritative texts and the interpretation must take into account the unity of the whole Scripture.

iv)                It is given by God to his people for their edification and salvation.

v)                  The Spirit who inspired the human author also guides the community of interpreters and believers (the Church) to understand its text.

vi)                Through the Bible, God continues tp speak to the readers of every generation.

vii)              The Bible is properly expounded only in relation to the living tradition of the church from which it has evolved.

Pontifical Biblical Commissin: the Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993)

This document was published in 1993 celebrating a double anniversary, the first centenary of the Encyclical Providentissimus Deus of Leo XIII and the 50th anniversary of the Divino Afflante Spiritu of Pius XII which were devoted to biblical studies.

Without claiming any particular method of interpretation as its own, the Church recognizes the Bible as the work of human authors, who employed both their own capacities for expression and the means which their age and social context put at their disposal. Catholic interpretation freely makes use of the scientific methods and approaches which allow a better grasp of the meaning of the texts in their linguistic, literary, socio-cultural, religious and historical contexts.

Catholic interpretation deliberately places itself within the living tradition of the Church, whose first concern is fidelity to the revelation set forth in the Bible. Modern hermeneutics has shown that it is impossible to interpret any text without a pre-understanding of one type or another. Catholic exegetes approach the Bible with the pre-understanding which holds together modern scientific culture and the religious tradition emanating from Israel and the early Christian community. This interpretation stands in direct continuity with a dynamic pattern of interpretation found within the Bible itself and which continues in the life of the Church. Thus it corresponds to the requirement that there be a living affinity between the interpreter and the text.

Theology, Faith, Scripture, Tradition and Revelation

Today there is a growing awareness that all knowledge is interpretative. This is all the more so in the case of theology, which is an onogoing interpretation of the Christian faith in the light of the present day human existence. There are various factors involved in the process of interpretation of the Christian faith such as Scripture, tradition, magisterium, revelation, inspiration, dogma, the theologians and the church community as a whole. Theology as interpretation is the result of a dynamic interaction of these components.

Scripture is the soul of theology. So it must be given prime importance in theology. If the faith of the church is the starting point of theology, it should be based on the narrative witness of the Scripture, the revelation in the Scripture. Revelation is primarily an event of God’s self-communication. Revelation cannot be identified with Scripture or dogma/tradition although there is a temptation to do so. Scripture is a witness to revelation, a testimony in writing, an interpretation of a primary event.

Scripture is the primary witness to revelation. So it has a pre-eminence in theology. This pre-eminence of the Scripture in theology was not always recognized by the church. Instead, tradition, dogma and the authority of the magisterium have often been overemphasized. However, after the second Vatican Council, the unity of Scripture and tradition as a single deposit of the Word of God, the derived character of dogma and the magisterium’s role as a functional one of service have all been stressed.

Theology is an ongoing interpretation of Scripture, and dogma is the authoritative interpretation of it at different times. The church interprets Scripture; but at the same time it must allow itself to be interpreted by the Scripture.

Exegetical Methods and Approaches

An exegetical method is a group of scientific procedures employed in order to explain texts; this can be: a) The Historical-critical (diachronic) Method: b) New Methods of Literary (Synchronic) Analysis such as Narrative Analysis, Semiotic/Structuralist Analysis, and Rhetorical Analysis.

That the origins and development of a phenomenon contain the key to its understanding is the generic principle behind the various method of historical criticism. The historical critical method is attentive to principle behind the various methods of historical criticism. The historical critical method is attentive to the historical development of texts or traditions across the passage of time, that is , summed up in the term diachronic. In other words, it studies the genesis of the text in its vertical movement. Synchronic understanding of the texts has to do with their language, composition, narrative structure and capacity for peruasion.

An exegetical approach means an enquiry proceeding from  a particular point of view. This can be : a) an approach based on Tradition; b) an approach that uses Human Sciences; c) a Contextual Approach; d) a Fundamenralist Interpretation.

Biblical criticism, the study and investigation of biblical writings that seeks to make discerning and discriminating judgments about these writings. The term ‘criticism’ is derived from the Greek word kri,nw, which means ‘to judge,’ ‘to discern,’ or to be discriminating in making an evaluation or forming a judgment. It has come to refer to a form of inquiry whose purpose is to make discriminating judgments about literary and artistic productions. Thus, we speak of literary criticism, art criticism, music criticism, or film criticism as disciplines or fields of inquiry whose purpose is to review productions in their respective areas in order to discuss and appraise their significant features and judge their lasting worth.

Historical-Critical (Diachronic) Method

 The Biblical is the ‘word of God in human language’ composed by human authors in all its parts and in all its sources from which it takes shape. The goal of the historical-critical method is to determine, particularly in a diachronic manner, the meaning expressed by the biblical authors and editors. Along with other methods and approaches, the historical-critical method opens up to the modern reader a path to the meaning of the biblical text such as we have it today.

H.Gunkel was concerned with the texture of the different elements of the biblical text and sought to define the genre of each piece (legend, hymn etc.), and its original setting in the life of the community (Sitz im Leben) such as its legal setting, liturgical setting etc. Formgeschichte, the study of forms, was introduced by Dibelius and Bultmann in the interpretation of the Synoptic Gospels. The latter combined form critical studies with biblical hermeneutics using the existentialist philosophy of M.Heidegger. These efforts have shown that the tradition recorded in the NT had its origin and its basic shape within the Christian community, or early Church, passing from the preaching of Jesus himself to that which proclaimed Jesus as the Christ. Formgeschichte was supplemented by Redakionsgeschichte, the critical study of the process of editing, which sought to shed light upon the personal contribution of each evangelist and to uncover the theological tendencies which shaped his editorial work.

i)                    The Diachronic method is a historical method applied to ancient texts and studies their significance from a historical point of view. It seeks above all to shed light on the historical processes which gave rise to the biblical text: complex diachronic processes that often involved a long period of time.

ii)                  The Diachronic method is a critical method because in each step it operates with the help of scientific criteria that seek to be as objective as possible, and it tries to make accessible to the modern reader the meaning of biblical texts that are often very diffcult to comprehend.

Even though as an analytical method the diachronic method studies the biblical text in the same fashion as it would study any other ancient text and comments upon it as an expression of human discourse, in the area of redaction criticism above all, it does allow the exegete to gain a better grasp of the content of divine revelation. The steps followed in the diachronic method are as follows:

Textual Criticism

Textual Criticism is a specialized and technical discipline aimed at restoring the presumed original form of the text as accurately as possible. We see the diversity of copies of the text, sometimes not agreeing one with the other. On the basis of the oldest and the best mss, as well as papyri, ancient versions, and patristic texts, textual criticism seeks to establish, according to fixed rules, a biblical text as close to the original as possible.

Linguistic and Semantic Analysis

Linguistic analysis is conducted on the philogocal, morphological, and syntactical levels. All are intended to attain elementary grammatical and linguistic function of each single component and their inter-relationships in the micro-stucture of the text. Semantic investigation is concerned with meaning.

In textual meaning one looks at the sense of the words and phrases in themselves, as can be found with the help of a dictionary or lexicon.

In the contextual meaning one is concerned with the sense of words and phrases derived from the context in which they are found, whether in a paragraph or a unit, of a text.

Relational meaning tries to find the sense of the text in the work as a whole or in a corpus of writings originating from the same author.

The first words of the Bible begin: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth”. According to the Hebrew construction of the sentence the placing of an element other than the verb at the beginning of the sentence may suggest emphasis. Thus ‘in the beginning’ (bereshit) may indicate the absolute beginning when there existed absolutely nothing other than God. It is Elohim, the subject of the sentence, who created everything when there was nothing. The Hebrew verb bara used for making/producing is used only with God as subject. It suggests the exceptional nature of this whole divine action (of creation). The heavens and the earth (the totality of the universe) are the direct objects (grammatically as well as in reality) of God’s and are separate from him.

Jesus as logos is found not only is found not only in Jn 1:1-18, but also in 1 Jn 1:1-4; Rev 19:13. Flesh, in Jn 1:14 is used to mean ‘incarnation’ and in 6:51-56, to mean ‘Eucharist’

Literary Criticism

Literary criticism determines the beginning and end of textual units, large and small; it seeks to establish the liternal coherence of the text. In this stage of critical analysis one is also concerned with the existence of the doublets, irregularities, and irreconcilable differences. This inquiry is important because they can be seen as indicators or clues to the composite nature of certain texts.

Literary criticism shows that, once written, any text assumes a life of its own and may convey meaning beyond the original author’s intention.

Historical Criticism

The detection of what the author meant to say is one aspect of historical criticism. Many times the literal sense is relatively easy to discern; at other times it requires a good knowledge of the ancient languages, grammar, idioms, customs, etc. When the text studied belongs to a historical literary genre or is related to events in history, historical criticism completes literary criticism, so as determine the historical significance of the text, in the modern sense of this expression.

Historical Criticism and Presuppositions

The Bible is an historical book. It records the history of Israel, the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the history of the early church (Krentz 1975, p. 1) in the words of humans who were inspired by God (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 76). Because the Bible is an historical work, it is subject to historical investigation and the results of historical research (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 73-74).

The overall purpose of historical-critical methods is to investigate what actually happened in the events described or alluded to (Marshall 1985, p. 126). Krentz (1975, p. 35-36) gives the following goals of historical investigation:

  1. Present a body of facts that show what actually happened and why.
  2. Illuminate the past, creating a comprehensive picture of a culture’s own record of history.
  3. Understand the significance of events and interpret them.
  4. Understand motives as well as actions.

Marshall (1985, p. 128-130) points out that reading Biblical accounts raises the following historical problems or questions:

  1. Discrepancies with parallel Biblical accounts.
  2. Discrepancies with non-Biblical material.
  3. Historical improbabilities.
  4. Supernatural occurrences.
  5. Creation/Modification by the early church
  6. Literary genre.
  7. Insufficient evidence.

These problems and questions may only be resolved by historical study (Marshall 1985, p. 131). Using critical methods it is possible to determine all relevant sources of historical data, the accuracy and credibility of these sources and the development of the material in these sources. Using this information it is possible to determine what is historically probable and form an historical hypothesis which successfully accounts for what the sources say and build a coherent picture of what probably happened (Marshall 1985, p. 127). It is not always possible to arrive at certainty. Complex events are difficult to record in detail and often the sources are missing or incomplete. History is limited – historians only produce a limited or reduced representation of the past (Krentz 1975, p. 37). There may be several possibilities available each of which is equally probable, so reasoned assessments and conjectures are often called for. However, this results in a problem with presuppositions because they will determine what may or may not be possible and probable (Marshall 1985, p. 127).

This is where historical criticism has been abused. Many practitioners take a “purely scientific” view which excludes any possibility of the supernatural and results in a purely naturalistic interpretation of Biblical events and people. Because of these presuppositions, this view is prevented from saying anything at all about God or the miracles and supernatural works of Jesus Christ (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 74). These scholars hold that all supernatural events described in the Bible are inventions of the early church. Therefore they attempt to get behind this mythology and get at the “real” historical Jesus. Schaeffer (1985, v. 1 p. 52) highlights the problem with this approach: “Naturalistic theology has ….. begun by accepting the presupposition of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system. Thus they rejected everything miraculous and supernatural including …. the life of Jesus Christ. …. they still hoped to find an historical Jesus in a rational, objective, scholarly way by separating the supernatural aspects of Jesus’ life from the ‘true history’. But they failed ….. Their search for the historical Jesus was doomed to failure. The supernatural was so intertwined with the rest that if they ripped out all the supernatural, there was no Jesus left!”

Many liberal theologians have used critical methods to show the Bible is not historically accurate. The authors were primarily theologians not historians so the “Jesus of history” is nothing like the Jesus of the Bible. This means that if there is a discrepancy between the Bible and other historical material, it is the Bible that is most probably in error. A Biblical account must be ‘proved’ historically accurate rather than accepted as so (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 82). But this scepticism is unwarranted since the Bible has shown itself time and again to be historically accurate. Historical criticism should pursue without restriction the explanation that best explains the phenomena in question. This includes supernatural explanations (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 89).

Source Criticism

Source Criticism studies the relationship between individual texts in a wider literary contexts and their dependence on source. Here the approach is diachronic which treats language as a historical material. Its most important proponent, Wellhausen, argued that four sources may be found in the Laws of Moses from Genesis to Deuteronomy. This takes the emphasis away from Moses as the author and places new emphasis on the compiler of the sources/documents (this term is used to underline that this is already a written account). Repetitions and double accounts. Narratives of the creation, flood, beginning of the Joseph story, the stories of Abraham (Gen 12-25), Moses and the plagues (Ex 1-11), origins of Passover and crossing of the red sea (Ex 12-15), and God’s appearance on Sinai (Ex 19-24) will be seen as indictors for the existence of different sources.

The first source, which mainly used the name Yahweh for God, was called J (Jahwist) and the second using the name Elohim is known as E (Elohist); the source which is particularly interested in the obedience to the covenant is identified as D (Deuteronomist – less evident in Genesis but more in Exodus); the final source, with a repetitive liturgical style and an  interest in priestly matters, is called P (Priestly); Wellhausen labeled them as JEDP (the documentary-hypothesis). Pentateuch was a combination of all four sources, developing from as early as the time of Solomon (J) to as late as the time of the restoration of the people after the Babyloniam exile (P)

Regarding the Synoptics, source enquiries have demonstrated the existence of at least two sources in their composition, i.e., Q (Quelle = source) and Mark as the basic traditions (the two source theory) of the other two Synoptic Gospels of Mathew and Luke.

2.2.1 Explanation of Source Criticism

The author of Luke states that “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” (Luke 1:1-2, NIV) This implies that in the early church period there were many different sources of material concerning the life of Christ. Luke also states that he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” (v. 3), so it is reasonable to assume that Luke knew about these sources, read them and used them to compose his own account (v. 3). It is also reasonable to assume that the other gospel writers did the same (Marshall 1985, p. 139). Also, internal evidence such as the similarity/dissimilarity of wording (for the same events), content and order suggests the gospel writers had common sources (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 139). To assume that the synoptic gospels were written completely independently is not a sensible option – there is just too much internal evidence indicating otherwise (Fee & Stuart 1993, p. 122).

The search for sources is much easier and less speculative when there are several parallel accounts, like those found in the synoptic gospels. By examining parallel accounts and noting the agreements and disagreements in wording, ordering of material, omissions, style, ideas and theology and taking into account statements made by church fathers, it is possible to derive hypothetical sources of the synoptic gospels (Marshall 1985, p. 140-144). If a story is unique to a particular gospel then searching for breaks and dislocations in narrative sequence, stylistic inconsistency, theological inconsistency and historical inconsistency may also be helpful in determining possible sources (Marshall 1985, p. 144-145).

It will not always be possible to identify the written or oral sources of a particular account. This does not mean that the account should not be trusted (Marshall 1985, p. 146). In any case, several gospel writers (Matthew, John and perhaps Mark) were actual eye-witnesses.

The Two-Source or Oxford hypothesis is the one accepted by the vast majority of scholars (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 144). This hypothesis states that Mark and a hypothetical document called Q, were the basis for Matthew and Luke. It is suggested that Q contains the verses common to Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark. Matthew and Luke were composed using a combination of Mark, Q and possibly other sources (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 143-144).

2.2.2 Evaluation of Source Criticism

If the sources of an account can be identified, it is possible to learn a great deal. The fact that Matthew and Luke usually agree with Mark on the actual words of Jesus indicates they both wanted to preserve Mark’s tradition rather than just make up there own. Source criticism can reveal something about the author’s method of writing and particular interests and ideas (Stein 1988, p. 144). For example, Matthew seems to focus on the Jews but to be sure of this we need to know what his sources were. If his source was Mark, then this is a reasonable conclusion but if it was the traditions of the Jerusalem church, then this Jewish focus would be inherent in the source rather than Matthew’s interest (Marshall 1985, p. 147).

Hermeneutical insights may also be gained. If the earliest text form of an event can be recovered, then it will be possible to see how each gospel writer interpreted that event and how they modified it to emphasise that interpretation (Stein 1988, p. 151).

Many critics have viewed source modifications as corruptions or errors but these changes were made under the inspiration of the Spirit and are still authorative. It should also be noted that the canonical text form is inspired. A hypothetical reconstruction of the text is not. It is unwise to make hypothetical sources the basis for theology.

The Two-Source hypothesis makes some questionable affirmations in regard to Q material and material unique to Matthew or Luke. Q is a purely hypothetical document and it is highly unlikely that it was a single written source. It is far more probable that it was a collection of documents. However, the possibility of the existence of Q-like documents is beyond doubt since the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas (Stein 1988, p. 109). Also, material that is unique to either Matthew or Luke is assumed to come from another source other than Mark or Q. But this may not be the case. It is possible that Matthew included a saying from Q that Luke did not and vice versa.

Form (Genre) Criticism

Form criticism assumes an oral tradition behind the written text and is interested in its transition from the pre-literary form to the literary form. Here we study the various literary genres or forms.

At this stage an attempt is made to classify the material into particular genres so that one could propose a common life setting for each genre. Even though this is related to source criticism, here the emphasis is mainly on trying to understand the particular life setting (Sitz im Leben or the vital context) of particular ideas. The analysis of different forms used by the writers takes us down much smaller units of material (unlike in the analysis of the sources). For the OT, Gunkel, and for the NT, his disciples Dibelius and Bultmann made important contributions in this regard.

The Scandinavian School considered the basic units as myths, hymns, blessings, curses, laments, proverbs, oracles, and love songs in the OT to have been transmitted in oral form. This school proposes a liturgical setting (Sitz im Leben) as the means through which these forms were preserved.

For German and English scholars, literal forms (written forms) were important-myths, codes, short stories, letters, archival records, genealogies, legends, parables etc. They consider that the prophets, priests, and scribes were the groups which preserved these.

In the NT, the Epistles were written compositions from the beginning, whereas the Gospels were more dependent upon a long oral tradition. Even though shorter forms – parables, sayings, discourses, short stories, miracles and riddles may be detected, the basic kerygmatic form probably lay behind the formation of the Gospels; smaller forms were preached in various communities, and they were adapted and expanded over a period of time.

2.4.1 Explanation of Form Criticism

Form criticism seeks to get behind the written sources by studying and analysing the “form” of individual gospel traditions. It describes the characteristics of the various forms and how they emerged in the period of oral transmission in the church (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 176).

The basic axioms of form criticism are as follows:

  1. The gospels are “popular” or “folk” literature and are not the work of just one person but belong to a community. These communities shaped the stories they contain (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 178). Therefore the gospel authors were not authors in the true sense but collectors and editors (Marshall 1985, p. 153).
  2. Most of the material circulated orally and as individual units for at least 20 years (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 178).
  3. Units of tradition were used as the occasion required. Only useful traditions were retained. Only rarely are they recorded in chronological order (Marshall 1985, p. 154).
  4. As units were used they took on a particular form according to their function in the community. The form reflects the thoughts of the early church (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 176). Therefore it is possible to deduce a unit’s “life-setting” (German: Sitz im Leben) from its form. (Marshall 1985, p. 154). Life-setting denotes an area of church life such as worship, teaching and evangelism and only rarely does it indicate the actual historical situation that gave rise to the tradition (Marshall 1985, p. 154).
  5. Form criticism assumes the results of source criticism and tradition criticism (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 179).

Rudolf Bultman and Martin Dibelius have identified the following forms:

  1. Paradigms/Pronouncement Stories: These are brief stories which culminate in an authorative saying of Jesus or a saying about the reaction of on-lookers (Marshall 1985, p. 155).
  2. Legends/Stories about Jesus: These are stories told to exalt a great figure and present a person as an example to follow. The term legend does not necessarily mean they are unhistorical although this is often the assumption (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 184).
  3. Tales/Miracle Stories: These are self-contained highly descriptive stories that show pleasure in giving details (Marshall 1985, p. 156).
  4. Sayings/Exhortations: This is independent teaching material such as wisdom sayings, prophetic sayings, legal sayings and “I” sayings (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 184).
  5. Myths: These are narratives showing interactions between mythological characters and humans. The supernatural breaks into human domain (Marshall 1985, p. 157).

Form criticism has exegetical implications in passages like Mark 2:18-20. Mark 2:18-19a is a pronouncement story but vv. 19b-20 do not fit this form. Therefore they must be an addition by the early church (Marshall 1985, p. 159).

2.4.2 Evaluation of Form Criticism

One of the problems with form criticism is the form categories are often based on content rather than actual form. Although form and content do influence each other, some categories are simply stylistic descriptions. Also, many sayings and stories have no “common” form and many have “mixed” form. Some may even fall into multiple categories (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 187). If forms have no or little distinction then they couldn’t have been created and shaped by the early church, as claimed by many form critics (Marshall 1985, p. 158-159).

For Mark 2:18-20, it all depends on the definition of “pronouncement story”. What if the definition is too rigid. Form critics talk about “law of tradition” as if they are well proven scientific laws of development of oral traditions. This is not the case. Except for Luke, the gospel writers were Jews and therefore it is reasonable to assume transmission of traditions would have occurred in a similar fashion to Rabbinic teachings. Rabbis were concerned with accurate transmission and so would the early church (Stein 1988, p. 187-192). The probability of eyewitnesses keeping checks on the integrity of the traditions is also disregarded by many form critics (Stein 1988, p. 193-203).

Form criticism does have some positive insights. It does help in understanding the period between AD 30 and AD 50. Searching for the Sitz im Leben aids exegesis because knowing how the tradition functioned in the early church indicates how it should speak today. However, this is not always possible. The early church preserved traditions because they were useful. This helps to understand that the gospels are practical references not just biographies of Jesus. Understanding the form is also very important for accurate exegesis (Marshall 1985, p. 161).

The descriptive features of form criticism provide the greatest aid to interpretation. They help to focus on the author’s style and structure of argument (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 192).

The emphasis of form critics is on the community as the great preserver and inspirer of tradition.

Tradition Criticism

Traditional Criticism is interested in the context in which an idea is expressed in a particular book of the Bible. It deals with the theological influences on the writers themselves. Tradition criticism presupposes that the writer has absorbed his ideas from the through-word and from the key religious ideas prevalent in his day. These theological traditions could have been either in oral form or (already) in literary works. In the OT, the traditions of creation and of exodus recur very often in different books (in Psalms, proverbs, Wisdom, and Sirach). The tradition of creation itself is expressed in many ways (e.g. to express God’s greatness in his bringing the whole cosmos into being, or to express his love and kindness in his bringing  each human life into being). The tradition of Zion is concerned with God’s defence of the city and his dwelling in the temple there in order to protect his people in times of distress and need. The tradition of the king David – recalling God’s promise to be always with his people through an anointed figure who would lead the people in Justice and mercy on his behalf – is also an important theological idea. A tradition need not necessarily be an overreaching theological theme, but may simply be a theological statement in a phrase such as ‘God reings’.

In the NT, the larger tradition thems may be found mainly in the Gospels, espeoially in Mathew and in Luke. This would include the birth and the passion narratives, the accounts of resurrection, the reference to the prophecy being fulfilled (seen especially in Mt), the references to the kingdom of God breaking into history (for example in Lk 17:18), the hope for the future culmination of history (as in Lk 24), and allusions to God’s intimate care for his created order (Mt 6:25-34). All of these suggest the effect of the received tradition on the mind of the author rather than on the importance of the tradition in the mind of the community.

Tradition criticism is concerned with the influence of the various theological beliefs on the mind of the writer. In this sense the point of emphasis is the substance of the message rather than the form taken by the message (as was the case in the preceding step[s]). It is also interested in finding the influence of any of the traditions upon the development of the text at various stages in the history of its transmission and also on the role of the community in shaping the tradition itself. Thus, it is interested mainly in the theological development of the text.

2.3.1 Explanation of Tradition Criticism

Tradition criticism is used to determine the development of traditions from Jesus through the early church to the gospel writer and forms the basis for form and redaction criticism. It is an attempt to trace the evolution of the form and/or meaning of concepts, words or sayings. For example, tradition criticism is interested in how a parable developed into 2 or 3 different versions (Marshall 1985, p. 165-166). The basic axioms behind tradition criticism force the critic to be highly sceptical about the authenticity or historicity of the traditions as they are recorded in the gospels. The burden of proof lies with those who wish to take the traditions as historical (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 204).

The 3 basic axioms for determining authentic traditions, rather than those created and modified by the early church are listed in Black & Dockery (1991, p. 205) and are as follows:

  1. Dissimilarity: they are not parallels of Jewish traditions and not reflections of the faith and practices of the early church.
  2. Multiple attestation: whether or not a saying occurs in more than one gospel.
  3. Coherence: if the saying in question has the same form of another saying that has already been shown to be authentic (using the above criteria), then this saying should also be regarded as authentic.

Tradition criticism may be applied to Peter’s confession in Mark 8:29 and parallels. Luke adds the words “of God”, Matthew adds “the Son of the Living God” and John has “the holy One of God”. Therefore, since these 4 parallels each say something different, it is highly unlikely (or so it is claimed) that this saying is actually historical (Marshall 1985, p. 167).

Using tradition criticism some critics have shown that Matthew 18:17 is not authentic, because it goes against the parable of Wheat and Tares and the Dragnet (Matthew 13:47f). It also presupposes a Jewish audience which excludes Gentiles and tax collectors. This is unlike the “historical Jesus” who embraced such people, therefore it must be a later development of the church (Marshall 1985, p. 168).

2.3.2 Evaluation of Tradition Criticism

Tradition criticism has done much to undermine the integrity of the gospel accounts. It is far too sceptical and its conclusions are often devoid of supporting evidence. The axioms for determining authenticity leave much to be desired. The criteria of dissimilarity is far too narrow and therefore only identifies the unique Jesus. It is ridiculous to expect Jesus’ teaching would not have overlapped with Jewish teaching, especially since both were rooted in the Old Testament. It is even more ridiculous to expect Jesus’ teaching to have contributed nothing to the early church. Responding to the message of Jesus is the very essence of Christianity (Marshall 1985, p. 174). The criteria of multiple attestation ignores the purpose and inspired overall theological agenda of the gospel author (Marshall 1985, p. 176).

For Matthew 18:17, it seems that this verse has not been correctly understood. This verse is not a put-down of gentiles and tax collectors but simply stating that we should treat unrepentant Christians the same way we would treat non-Christians. How should we treat non-Christians? The same way Christ did (cf. Matthew 9:10-12, Matthew 15:22-28).

There are 4 gospels that do not oppose one another. Therefore it is best to assume everything is authentic unless there is concrete evidence to the contrary. Although the gospels may not record Jesus’ actual words (he spoke in Aramaic and the New Testament was written in Greek) or forms, they do record His essential message for humanity. Any modification of traditions by the gospel authors were done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Redaction Criticism/Editorial Criticism

This proceeds from the assumption that the individual authors of the biblical books had a strong influence on their eventual form and on the analyses of the composition of these texts from the prespective of the final redactor.

The whole emphasis of the historical-critical (diachronic) inquiry up to this stage (i.e. the preceding 7 stages) has been to explain the text through the study of its origin and development within a diachromc perspective. At this last stage, however, the exegete proceeds on the synchronic level and tries to explain the text as it now stands on the basis of the mutual relationship between its diverse elements, not forgetting the scope of the original author to communicate a message to his contemporaries.

Redaction analysis is the most clear and obvious of the methods of historical reading. Redaction criticism studies the modifications that the texts have undergone before being fixed in their final state. It also analyzes this final stage, trying as far as possible, to identify the tendencies particularly characteristic of this concluding process. Its concern is the present state of the text with what the final editors of the texts actually believed. His is the ultimate voice within the text.

For instance, in Isaiah one is interested in knowing the theological intentions of the editor who sewed together’ the three major prophetic works (Is 1-39; 40-55; 56-66). In the NT the main area of interest has been the Synoptic Gospels and in identifying the overall theological tendencies of the writers of the Gospels. At this level the exegete tries to discover the Gospel writer’s or editor’s distinctive personal contribution within the complex mass of inherited material. Sometimes this influence is traced back to the material which the include the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), or the sevenfold group of parables about the kingdom (Mt 13), or the collection of woes against the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23).

Whether we assume this to be about the personal contribution of the actual Gospel-writers or of the editors and compilers of the Gospels in a later generation, the major significance of redaction criticism is that its emphasis is very much on the contributions of individuals rather than of great communities.

2.5.1 Explanation of Redaction Criticism

Redaction criticism builds on the results of source and tradition criticism. It treasures and examines the editorial work of gospel authors in order to see their emphases and purposes (Stein 1988, p. 238). It seeks to uncover the theology and setting of the author by studying the way they modified traditions, arranged them and stitched them together. It asks why the author included, excluded or modified a particular tradition and tries to identify distinctive patterns, interests and theological ideas (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 199-200).

Redaction Criticism involves analysing individual traditions comparing it with parallels, in order to identify common and unique phrases and words. It also involves analysing the whole gospel in comparison with other gospels. The seams (introductions and conclusions) link traditions together, provide setting and often theological emphasis. Summaries and traditions structure give clues to major theological overtones. Unique elements indicate which way the story is going and repeated phrases show emphasis and special interests. As the gospel unfolds individual traditions interact to produce the intended message (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 208-211). Considering an author’s vocabulary and style is also helpful (Marshall 1985, p. 185).

2.5.2 Evaluation of Redaction Criticism

Results of redaction criticism are highly subjective and should not be accepted uncritically. The huge variation in results shows this clearly (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 213). There is no doubt that gospel authors shaped and modified traditions to fit their gospel’s purpose but presuppositions about the nature of traditions, their transmission and modification are suspect. “Redaction” does not mean unhistorical “theologising” (Marshall 1985, p. 187-188). Many critics are highly sceptical and assume every redaction is a creation and therefore unhistorical. However, omission and addition are not criteria for historicity but for style, emphasis and purpose. Not every jot and tittle carries theological weight (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 213). It should also be noted that meaning is found in the overall pericope not the redactions (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 215).

History and theology are not mutually exclusive. There is no reason why an author can not emphasise a theological concept using an historical event. Gospel authors were interpreters but there is no reason to assume they were misinterpreters.

Redaction criticism is still an important tool. It shows how inspiration took place when authors selected, arranged and highlighted various traditions in order to communicate a special message to their readers (Black & Dockery 1991, p. 216). This gives the gospels their individual character and is why we have four of them (Marshall 1985, p. 191).

Canonical Criticism

Canonical criticism is considered as an extension of the interest in the final product evident in redaction criticism. Canonical criticism examines each passage in the light of the whole Bible, wherin other books, passages offer insights.

6.1.1           Evaluation: Diachronic Study

i)                    Historical criticism has shown that the Bible, which as a collection of writings is not the creation of a single author especially in the case of the OT, has had a long pre-history.

ii)                  One should know that the historical-critical method restricts itself to a search for the meaning of a biblical text within the historical circumstance that gave rise to it. It is not concerned with other possibilities of meaning which have been revealed at later stages of the biblical revelation and history of the Church.

iii)                In its desire to establish the chronology of the biblical texts the critical study was mostly restricted, especially at the initial stage, to the task of dissecting and dismantling the text in order to identify the various sources without paying much attention to the final form of the text and to the message  which it conveyed, or to the state in which it actually exists (the contribution of the editors was not held in high regard).

iv)                The influence of comparative study of the history of religions and certain philosophical ideas sometimes have cast some doubts and shadows on the application of historical-critical method.

v)                  There have been attempts in the past to give greater insistence to the form of the text, with less attention paid to the content, which, however, has been rectified in recent decades through the study of the text from the point of view of action and life.

vi)                Diachronic study remains indispensable for making known the historical dynamism which animates Sacred Scripture and for shedding light upon its rich complexity.

Modern Methods of Literary (Synchronic) Analysis

First we must know the specific nature of literary analysis which somehow distinguishes it from diachronic methods.

i)                    Historical criticism, often known as diachronic method, looks through the different layers of the text and the process of editing which have brought the text to its present form, whereas literary criticism, also known as synchronic method (syn ‘together with’ or ‘along side’), is concentrated on the present form of the text.

ii)                  Historical criticism the dialogue is within the text throughout its past history; literary criticism, rather asks questions about the shape of the text in the here and now.

iii)                In historical criticism the dialogue is within the text throughout its past history whereas in literary criticism, the dialogue is with the text with the present concerns of the reader foremost in mind.

iv)                Historical criticism is interested in the meaning of the text understood through the concerns of the ancient author; in literary criticism the meaning is sought in the language and style and within the text itself, understood through the concerns of the present-day reader.

v)                  With the help of source criticism, form criticism (genre criticism), and tradition critical method scholars try to see how the text was brought together. Under the categories of priest and structure criticism, literary analysists investigate how the text works for the readers (and not for the writers).

vi)                In historical-critical method the interest of those who formed the text in its final stages is demonstrated through redaction criticism (and in canon criticism). In literary criticism the interest shown by the readers in giving new meanings to the text, albeit after its final form, is the point of emphasis.

In literary studies, especially in the ‘reader-response theories’, rhetorical criticism and narrative analysis the reader enters into a discourse with the text, asking questions about its assumptions and its ideologies. From this one asks questions also about the intended audience (the ancient one) and the actual audience (the contemporary one). The reader will be further led to ask questions regarding the theological meaning of the text today.

Narrative Analysis

On the whole the Bible is the story of salvation. It narrates the story of God’s dealing with man. The OT may be seen as a recital of God’s story with Israel through her profession of faith, Liturgy, and catechesis (Ps 78:3-4; Ex 12:24-27; Deut 6:20-25; 26:5-11). In the NT the Christian kerygma recounts the story of the ministry , death, and resurrection of Jesus (see the passion narratives in the Gospels). In Acts 2:23-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 10:34-43 we see this history of salvation in a nutshell.

Narrative analysis offers a method for understanding and communicating the biblical message which corresponds to the form of story and personal witness. It is particularly attentive to those elements in the text which have to do with plot, characterization, and the point of view of the narrator. It studies how a text tells a story so as to engage the reader in its ‘narrative world’ and the system of values contained therein.

The characteristic feature of this type of analysis is that it looks at the whole unit. The doublets repetitions, contradictions, gaps, and inconsisitencies in the translated text are included in the whole. They enable us to understand the variety and balance in the text and they enrich our knowledge of the text as a whole. One can thus create a theology which can unite the text as a whole. This theology is created by the text and not by the author. The emphasis is on the whole story and there is no concern here for the smaller parts which may have made up the whole.

To understand how narrative analysis can be helpful in biblical studies one must know the following distinctions:

i)                    Real author and implied author: The real reader is any person who actually composed the story. The implied author is the figure of the author which the text progressively creates in the mind of the reader in the course of reading (with his culture, character, inclinations, faith, etc.).

ii)                  Real reader and implied reader: The real reader is any person who has access to the text. The implied reader is the reader whom the text presupposes and in effect creates, the one who is capable of performing the mental and affective operations necessary for entering into the narrative world of the text and responding to it in the way envisaged by the real author through the instrumentality of the implied author.

The influence of the text depends on the extent to which the real reader is capable of identifying himself/herself with the implied reader. The main task of exegesis consists in effecting and facilitating this process of identification with the implied reader.

iii)                Text as Window and Mirror: Narrative analysis is concerned with the way a text works. Historical-critical analysis views the text as a window which gives access to one or another period (of the situation of the community for whom the story is old). Narrative analysis views the text as a mirror, in the sense that it projects a certain image, the narrative world, which in turn, influences the perception of the reader in such a way as to cause him to adopt certain values rather than others.

Theological Reflection: This literary type of inquiry in the narrative analysis of the biblical text also contains a certain type of theological reflection. The implications of the story character of Scripture involve the consent of faith and one derives from this a hermeneutics of a more practical and pastoral character. Narrative analysis can help biblical interpretation as it permits adapting the biblical modes of communicating and conveying meaning in the actual historical context of the readers, and thereby it can help to open up more effectively the saving power of the biblical texts to the reader.

Narrative analysis has a twofold function as far as it is applied to the biblical text; it underlines the need of telling the story of salvation (informative dimension) in a way that the reader is capable of understanding it. This very telling of the story is oriented to salvation (of the reader). This is the performative dimension of recounting the story. This very mode of presenting the message of salvation thus functions as an existential appeal addressed to the reader.

Evaluation: The application of the narrative analysis in explaining the biblical story of salvation can facilitate the transition from the meaning of the text in its historical context (which is the prime interest of historical-critical studies) to its significance for the reader of today. However, one must also know that when it is employed in reading the biblical texts, a rigid application of pre-established models cannot do justice to the specific character of these texts as the inspired word. It must also be supplemented by diachronic studies. Moreover caution must be observed because a one-sided narrative analysis may tend to exclude any doctrinal elaboration of the content of the biblical narratives and thereby it can be out of step with the authentic biblical tradition itself.

Structuralist (semiotic) Analysis

This is concerned with the message itself, understood as an autonomous and self-contained entity, without taking into consideration the relation with sender and receiver. The structure that is detected is not the outline that meets the eye, for the deepest structures are not apparent on the surface but help to generate the text. These structures must be brought to light in order that the text can be perceived as a coherent whole.

In the interpretation of the biblical texts, several basic concepts of the structural approach are of special significance:

v)                  The autonomy of the texts. A text contains a self- contained unit, and its different parts should be explained in terms of their relation to each other and not in terms of some external cause or authority.

vi)                The emphasis is on synchronic rather than diachronic relations. It is not the history of the text which holds the key to its meaning but the relations of the textual elements as they stand. Hence the need is for a “text-immanent” exegesis which takes the text seriously as a network of relations.

vii)              The structure of the text and the techniques of its analysis become an important consideration.         Different types can be distinguished: linguistic, literary, narrative, discursive, rhetorical, or thematic structures, each requiring its own form analysis.

Modern Contextual Interpretations

The present day contextual interpretations such as Liberation interpretation, Feminist interpretation, Indian interpretation, or Black interpretation stem from contextual approaches to biblical and theological interpretations. These interpretations argue that without engaging in concrete historical praxis no genuine interpretations of the day as the result of ideological speculation, presuppositions, illusions, and systematic distortions.

The various modern contextual interpretations make effective use of the biblical text for interpretation. That way they contribute to the richness of biblical interpretation by making present the biblical text in the contemporary context but often they disregard or destroy the original writer’s intension and the context. Here interpretations become unauthentic and relative.

 

Bibliography

Adler, M. J.              How to Read a Book (Rev Ed) Simon & Schuster, 1972.

Black D. A. & Dockery D. S. (Eds), New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1991.

Bromiley G. W. (ed.),              International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995.

Carson, D. A; D. J. Moo & L. Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1992.

Fee, G. D. & D. Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth (2nd Ed), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1993.

Freedman, D. N. (ed.), Anchor Bible Dictionary, Doubleday, 1992.

Freeman, J. M.         Manners and Customs of the Bible, Whitaker House, Springdale, PA, 1996.

G. R. Osborne,         The Hermeneutical Spiral, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1991.

Klein W. M., Blomberg C. L. & Hubbard R. L. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Word Publishing, Dallas, 1993.

Klein, W. M.; C. L. Blomberg & R. L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Word, Dallas, 1993.

Krentz E.                                 Biblical Studies Today: A Guide to Current Issues and Trends. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 1966.

Krentz E.                                 The Historical-Critical Method. Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1975.

Kuske, D.                                Biblical Interpretation: The Only Right Way, Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1995.

LaSor, W. S.; D. A. Hubbard & F. W. Bush, Old Testament Survey (2nd Ed), Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1996.

Marshall I. H. (ed.), New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and Methods. Paternoster Press, Carlisle, 1992.

Marshall, I. H.; A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman (editors), New Bible Dictionary (3rd Ed), InterVarsity Press, Downers                       Grove, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1996.

Schaeffer F. A.         Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer (5 vols.), Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1985.

Stein R. H.               Gospels and Tradition: Studies on Redaction Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels, Baker Book House, Grand            Rapids, Michigan, 1991.

Stein R. H.               The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction, Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, 1988.

The Lion Handbook to the Bible (2nd Ed), Tring, Hertfordshire, 1983.

Reader-response criticism:

The systematic examination of the aspects of the text that arouse, shape, and guide a reader’s response. According to reader-response criticism, the reader is a producer rather than a consumer of meanings. In this sense, a reader is a hypothetical construct of norms and expectations that can be derived or projected or extrapolated from the work and may even be said to inhere in the work. Because expectations may be violated or fulfilled, satisfied or frustrated, and because reading is a temporal process involving memory, perception, and anticipation, the charting of reader-response is extremely difficult and perpetually subject to construction and reconstruction, vision and revision.

Reader-response criticism, however, does not denote any specific theory. It can range from the phenomenological theories of Wolfgang Iser and Roman Ingarden — both of whom argue that although the reader fills in the gaps, the author’s intentional acts impose restrictions and conditions — to the relativistic analysis of Stanley Fish, who argues that the interpretive strategy of the reader creates the text, there being no text except that which a reader or an interpretive community of readers creates.

Implied author

The implied author is a concept of literary criticism developed in the twentieth century. It is distinct from the real author and the narrator. The distinction from the real author lies in that the implied author consists solely of what can be deduced from the work. The implications of the work may paint a rather different picture of the author than might be deduced from their real life. The distinction from the narrator is most clear in ironic works such as “A Modest Proposal”, where the narrator cheerfully offers his proposal, but the implied author is as aware as the reader of the horror of what is proposed. it is important in a wide variety of literary criticism, including structuralism, deconstructionism, and rhetoric-based criticism such as that of Wayne C. Booth.

Impluied Reader – A term used by Wolfgang Iser to describe a hypothetical reader of a text. The implied reader “embodies all those predispositions necessary for a literary work to exercise its effect — predispositions laid down, not by an empirical outside reality, but by the text itself. Consequently, the implied reader as a concept has his roots firmly planted in the structure of the text; he is a construct and in no way to be identified with any real reader.”

The next step is to become more conscious of the whole reading-writing dichotomy. Every text is produced by an actual writer (a real person), who in the act of writing automatically places in the text a version of him/herself, the implied writer (a persona or role played by the real person writing). What may not be so obvious at first is that the implied writer automatically creates a mirror image of another persona, the implied reader, which the actual reader reading the text in question is implicitly asked to play (along with). This complex interaction between real persons playing roles both in the act of writing and in the act of reading should get a special lift in our understanding as we reflect on the fact that the Latin origin of the modern English word “person” is persona, meaning “mask,” originally a hand-held mask that actors on the classical stage used to cover their faces with while playing their roles. Both writing and reading are, in fact, acts – that is, roles that writers and readers voluntarily take on.