Friday, September 11, 2009

For your Free Reading List, The Church and the Bible, Three Encyclicals

I am afflicted with the Catholic Disease of not having much knowledge of the Bible, of not having read much of it other than the four Gospels, Genesis and Exodus, and of not knowing much about what I have read.

I just discovered a blog by three orthodox college professors that would be worth adding to your blog reading list. They are from the John Paul the Great Seminary in San Diego, Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and Franciscan University of Steubenville. And don't just wait for new posts. It has been around for a while so check out what they have already posted.

What attracted me to The Sacred Page was their current post listing three papal encyclicals on the Bible, all of which, like most important Church documents, are available at no cost on Vatican's wonderful web site.

1. Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter On the Study of Sacred Scripture, Providentissimus Deus, 1893 [The God of all Providence]

2. Pope Benedict XV, Encyclical Letter Commemorating the Fifteenth Centenary of the Death of St. Jerome, Spiritus Paraclitus, 1920 [The Holy Spirit, the Comforter]

3. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Promoting Biblical Studies, Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1943 [Inspired by the Holy Spirit]

As [the blog post author,] reading through these encyclicals again, [was] struck by what a treasure trove of teaching they are on a whole host of issues: inspiration, inerrancy, interpretation, the literal and spiritual senses of Scripture, the role of the Scripture in the spiritual life and mission of the Church, and on and on.

But [he was] also struck as [he looked] around in secondary literature, both Catholic and Protestant, that no one seems to be actually reading these encyclicals and engaging them. This is an odd situation, one that seems to be peculiar to biblical studies. At least in Catholic circles, no moral theologian worth his or her salt would ever presume to speak about, say, the Church's teaching on contraception without reference to Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Of Human Life, Humanae Vitae (1968). Likewise, Catholic philosophers regularly make their students study John Paul II's Encyclical Letter On the Relationship between Faith and Reason, Fides et Ratio (1998), in close detail.

By contrast, when it comes to introductions to the Bible, including Catholic ones, authors often precede blissfully along as if no detailed papal teachings on Scripture have ever been penned. Why?

So, here's [his questions for you]:

If you are a Catholic, have you read any of the papal encyclicals on the Bible?
Why or why not?

And if you are not Catholic--in particular, if you are a Protestant biblical scholar--have you ever read the papal encyclicals on the Bible? If not, why not?

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