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Archdiocese of Philadelphia Permanent Diaconate Program. Overview of Topics. Overview of the Bible Old Testament New Testament Ecclesial Guidelines for Biblical Interpretation Periods of Biblical Interpretation (Overview) Providentissimus Deus Divino Afflante Spiritu Sancta Mater Ecclesia

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Archdiocese of Philadelphia Permanent Diaconate Program

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overview of topics
Overview of Topics
  • Overview of the Bible
    • Old Testament
    • New Testament
  • Ecclesial Guidelines for Biblical Interpretation
    • Periods of Biblical Interpretation (Overview)
    • Providentissimus Deus
    • Divino Afflante Spiritu
    • Sancta Mater Ecclesia
    • Dei Verbum
    • Interpretation of the Bible in the Church
the old testament
The Old Testament
  • TaNaK
    • Torah - Law
    • Nebiim - Prophets
    • Ketubim - Writings
the law torah
The Law (Torah)
  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
the prophets
The Historical Books

The Deuteronomic History

Joshua, Judges, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings

The Chroniclers History

I & II Chronicles

Ezra, Nehemiah

Ruth, and Esther

Judith, Tobit, I and II Maccabees

Major Prophets







Minor Prophets













The Prophets
the writings
The Writings
  • The Wisdom Books
    • Proverbs
    • Job
    • Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth)
    • Ecclesiasticus
    • Wisdom of Solomon
    • Song of Songs
  • Psalms
the new testament
The New Testament
  • Gospels
    • Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • Acts
  • Letters
    • Pauline Corpus – Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Phillipians, Colosians, I Thesolonians, II Thesalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews
    • Catholic Letters – I Peter, II Peter, I John, II John, III John, James and Jude
  • Revelation
synoptic gospels
Synoptic Gospels
  • Synoptic – View Together
    • Matthew, Mark, Luke
  • An example of scholarly study – Compositional Theory
    • Two – Source Theory
      • Mark was written first
      • Matthew and Luke both used Mark independently (source 1)
      • Matthew and Luke both used an un-named sayings source which scholars refer to as “Q” (source 2)
      • Matthew and Luke had access to or composed additional material unique to each Gospel
major periods of interpretation
Major Periods of Interpretation
  • Israel and Infancy Church
  • Patristic Period
  • Scholastic Period
  • Renaissance and Humanism
  • Modern Period
  • Contemporary Period
israel and early church
Israel and Early Church
  • Writing, Editing, Distribution, Acceptance, Recognition, Collecting
  • Readings and Re-Readings
    • OT on OT: Deuteronomy and Chronicles
      • I Kings 1
      • I Chronicles 29:22b-25
    • NT on OT: Luke and Isaiah
      • Luke 4:16-19
      • Isaiah 61:1-2; 58:6
patristic period
Patristic Period
  • Alexandria
    • Clement, Origin, [Philo]

– Allegorical Interpretation

  • Antioch
    • Chrysostom

– Literal Interpretation

middle ages scholastic period
Middle Ages/Scholastic Period
  • Senses of Scripture
    • Multiple listings
    • Four – spiritual, literal, moral, anagogical
renaissance humanism
  • Re-discovery of the classics
  • Ancient Languages studied
  • Printing Press
  • Historical documents studied
  • Decartes and methodical doubt
  • Rise of skepticism coupled with humanism
  • Deism as a religious movement
  • Ancient Manuscripts discovered and investigated
  • Textual studies inaugerated
  • Archeological excavations and study begins
ecclesial pronouncements
Ecclesial Pronouncements
  • Provendentissimus Deus (1893) Leo XIII
  • Pontifical Biblical Commission Statements (1905-1915)
  • Divino Afflante Spiritu (1942) Pius XII
  • Sancta Mater Ecclesia (1964) PBC
  • Dei Verbum (1965) Vatican Council II
  • Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993) PBC
providentissimus deus
Providentissimus Deus
  • Textual studies developing
  • Studies of ancient Semitic languages and texts making advances
  • Rise of rationalism and decline of biblical authority
  • Consequences for Biblical Studies
    • Paulus’ Life of Jesus – angels are phosphorescense, miracle stories omit natural causes
    • Schliermacher’s Leben Jesu – resurection as recovery from lethargy and ascension genuine death
providentissimus deus20
Providentissimus Deus
  • Questions arise as to biblical inerrancy and inspiration
  • Some theories:
    • Parts inerrant
    • Inerrancy only in reference to faith and morals
    • Diderot attacks magisterial authority in interpretation
providentissimus deus21
Providentissimus Deus
  • Vatican I’s Dei Filius - 1870

“ The church holds (the biblical texts) to be sacred and canonical, not because, having been carefully composed by mere human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation with no admixture of error, but because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author and have been delivered as such to the Church”

providentissimus deus22
Providentissimus Deus
  • Leo’s Pontificate
    • 1878 – encourages the study of history and archeology
    • 1879 – encourages the study of scholastic philosophy
    • 1892 – authorizes the foundation of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem (Pere Lagrange)
    • 1893 – Providentissimus Deus
providentissimus deus23
Providentissimus Deus
  • Polemic Against Rationalism
    • Presuppositions questioned
  • Inspiration – Inerrancy – Authorship
    • God is author through inspiration so no error can be taxed to the text
  • Book of the Spirit and Book of the Church
    • Understanding will only come with the Holy Spirit since it is through the Spirit that the text was written
  • Scripture Study in the Church
    • Language studies, texual criticisim and manuscript studies encouraged/demanded
providentissimus deus24
Providentissimus Deus

“There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, "not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known."(51) …. To understand how just is the rule here formulated we must remember, first, that the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately, the Holy Ghost "Who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things (that is to say, the essential nature of the things of the visible universe), things in no way profitable unto salvation."(53) Hence they did not seek to penetrate the secrets of nature, but rather described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and somewhat in the same way the sacred writers-as the Angelic Doctor also reminds us - `went by what sensibly appeared,"(54) or put down what God, speaking to men, signified, in the way men could understand and were accustomed to.” (§17)

between pd and das
Between PD and DAS
  • PBC established in 1902
  • Lagrange and Loisy
  • Lamentabili and the defense against modernism
  • 1905-1915 PBC decrees
  • 1909 – PBI established by St. Pius X
  • 1920 Spiritus Paraclitus – historical events explained in similar way as scientific phenomena
divino afflante spiritu 1942
Divino Afflante Spiritu 1942
  • Scientific studies of the biblical texts increase among Protestant scholars
  • Source theory (Documentary Hypothesis – Two Source Theory) gaining much acceptance
  • Traditional authorship comes into question
  • Catholic scholars using critical methods in limited manner
divino afflante spiritu
Divino Afflante Spiritu
  • Rise of fundamentalism in United States spreads to Europe (1900 -)
  • Reaction to Liberal Protestant Theology
  • Literalistic tendencies
  • Letter to the Bishops of Italy A Most Grave Danger for the Church and for Souls. The Critical-scientific System of Studying and Interpreting the Holy Scripture
divino afflante spiritu28
Divino Afflante Spiritu
  • Inspiration- Inerrancy-Authorship
    • Affirms divine role in the scriptures
    • Elaborates on the role of the human author

Human author described as a “living and reasonable instrument of the Holy Spirit” who “uses his faculties and powers, (so) that from the book composed by him all may easily infer “the special character of each one and, as it were, his personal traits.” (§

divino afflante spiritu29
Divino Afflante Spiritu

Nevertheless no one, who has a correct idea of biblical inspiration, will be surprised to find, even in the Sacred Writers, as in other ancient authors, certain fixed ways of expounding and narrating, certain definite idioms, especially of a kind peculiar to the Semitic tongues, so-called approximations, and certain hyperbolical modes of expression, nay, at times, even paradoxical, which even help to impress the ideas more deeply on the mind. For of the modes of expression which, among ancient peoples, and especially those of the East, human language used to express its thought, none is excluded from the Sacred Books, provided the way of speaking adopted in no wise contradicts the holiness and truth of God, as, with his customary wisdom, the Angelic Doctor already observed in these words: "In Scripture divine things are presented to us in the manner which is in common use amongst men."[30] For as the substantial Word of God became like to men in all things, "except sin,"[31] so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error. (§37)

divino afflante spiritu30
Divino Afflante Spiritu
  • Hermeneutical Principles
    • Literal Sense – author’s intention
    • Spiritual Sense
  • Importance of the Literal Sense stressed
    • Need to understand the historical settings, literary styles, symbolic meanings, idiom, historical events, etc. so that the literal sense can be identified
divino afflante spiritu31
Divino Afflante Spiritu

Being thoroughly prepared by the knowledge of the ancient languages and by the aids afforded by the art of criticism, let the Catholic exegete undertake the task, of all those imposed on him the greatest, that namely of discovering and expounding the genuine meaning of the Sacred Books. In the performance of this task let the interpreters bear in mind that their foremost and greatest endeavor should be to discern and define clearly that sense of the biblical words which is called literal. Aided by the context and by comparison with similar passages, let them therefore by means of their knowledge of languages search out with all diligence the literal meaning of the words; all these helps indeed are wont to be pressed into service in the explanation also of profane writers, so that the mind of the author may be made abundantly clear. §23

between das and 1962
Between DAS and 1962
  • Catholic scholars investigate texts with newer methods
  • Theories and interpretations come into questions
  • Bitter disputes among scholars, theologians and ecclesial leaders
  • 1959 St. Paul’s Outside the Walls
vatican ii
  • Process – solicitations of items for discussion (Ordinaries, Religious Superiors, Catholic Universities/Colleges)
  • Description of Faith an issue
  • Approaches to biblical study and interpretation an issue
  • Biblical question tied to the document de fontibus revelationis
vatican ii34
  • De fontibus revelationis and biblical studies
    • Inspiration in univocal sense
      • Heavy emphasis on the divine author
      • Final redactor seen as the inspired author
    • Inerrancy expressed in absolute terms
    • OT seen as proof for NT
    • Gospels reproduce historical words and deeds of Jesus
    • Vulgate is the authentic version
vatican ii35
  • De fontibus rejected at First Session through intervention of the Holy Father
    • 62% voted to end discussion, 66% was needed
    • John XXIII has document removed
  • Five drafts later the new document is titled Dei Verbum
sancta mater ecclesia 1964
Sancta Mater Ecclesia 1964
  • Historicity of the Gospels
  • Three Stages of Gospel Transmission
    • Age of Jesus
    • Age of the Apostles
    • Age of the Evangelist
dei verbum 1965
Dei Verbum 1965
  • Divine Revelation
  • Transmission of Divine Revelation
  • Sacred Scripture: Inspiration and Interpretation
  • The Old Testament
  • The New Testament
  • Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church
dei verbum
Dei Verbum
  • Divine Revelation

In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1;15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14-15) and lives among them (see Bar. 3:38), so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself. This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having in inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation. (2)

Transmission of Divine Revelation

It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

dei verbum40
Dei Verbum
  • Interpretation

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

dei verbum41
Dei Verbum

12. However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.

dei verbum42
Dei Verbum
  • To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to "literary forms." For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture. (7) For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another. (8)
dei verbum43
Dei Verbum
  • But, since Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred spirit in which it was written, (9) no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out. The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith. It is the task of exegetes to work according to these rules toward a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture, so that through preparatory study the judgment of the Church may mature. For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God. (10)
dei verbum44
Dei Verbum
  • Old Testament

16. God, the inspirer and author of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New. (2) For, though Christ established the new covenant in His blood (see Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25), still the books of the Old Testament with all their parts, caught up into the proclamation of the Gospel, (3) acquire and show forth their full meaning in the New Testament (see Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27; Rom. 16:25-26; 2 Cor. 14:16) and in turn shed light on it and explain it.

dei verbum45
Dei Verbum
  • New Testament

The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus.(4) For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who "themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word" we might know "the truth" concerning those matters about which we have been instructed (see Luke 1:2-4).

dei verbum46
Dei Verbum
  • Scripture
  • Tradition
  • Magisterium
Methods and Approaches for Interpretation

Hermeneutical Questions

Characteristics of Catholic Interpretation

Interpretation of the Bible in the Life of the Church

methods of interpretation
Methods of Interpretation
  • Disputes – Crisis in Biblical Interpreation
  • No one method is sufficient
  • HCM is indispensible
  • Critiques offered: positive and negative
hermeneutical questions
Hermeneutical Questions
  • Senses of Scripture
    • Literal “It is not only legitimate, it is also absolutely necessary to seek to define the precise meaning of texts as produced by their authors – what is called the literal meaning” – “that which is expressed by the human authors”
    • Spiritual – texts understood when read under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the context of the Paschal Mystery of Christ and of the new life which flows from it. – flows from the literal sense
    • Sensus Plenior – deemed useless if the other two senses are understood properly
characteristic of catholic interpretation
Characteristic of Catholic Interpretation
  • Attention to the “Common Tradition” in which the scriptures developed
    • Re-readings
    • Unity of the Testaments
  • Tradition of the Church
  • Patristic Interpretation
interpretation of the bible in the life of the church
Interpretation of the Bible in the Life of the Church
  • Actualization
    • Hear the Word from within one’s own situation
    • Identify aspects of the present situation highligted in the text
    • Draw from the fullness of meaning in the text those elements capable of advancing the present situation in a way that is consonant with the saving will of God in Christ
  • Inculturization
  • Liturgical Worship