Friday, December 28, 2012

I Want the Best Help Available When Interpreting Scripture

As I continue working my way through the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), I am aware of walking through minefields. Every issue, every paragraph could easily be the subject of protracted debate, and probably has been at one time or another. What do I know?

For example, paragraphs 109–119 on the interpretation and the senses of Scripture—What Protestant, to say nothing of atheist, wouldn’t have a field day debating these items point by bloody point?

The Compendium of the CCC provides a simple summary of these paragraphs:

19. How is Sacred Scripture to be read?
Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church according to three criteria: 1) it must be read with attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture; 2) it must be read within the living Tradition of the Church; 3) it must be read with attention to the analogy of faith, that is, the inner harmony which exists among the truths of the faith themselves.

But once you start digging into terms like Magisterium, content and unity, or living Tradition, you encounter incalculable depths. Like, for instance, just try Googling the phrase analogy of faith (par. 114) and see what a war of words has already been fought between Catholic teaching and the Babel of competing Protestant opinions!

So here’s one place where I choose to leave the main body of the text and scan the footnotes. Here my eye comes across the names Origen (pictured), Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Augustine of Dacia. The CCC cites all of them as authorities underlying these paragraphs. From the late second century to the late thirteenth, these saints span thirteen hundred years of Church history. And they have all weighed in—and agreed—on the interpretation of Scripture.

Why would I want any other authority? Why in studying for a bar exam would I not want the help of the greatest justices in the history of the Supreme Court? Why when learning to hit would I not want batting lessons from Williams, Mays, Clemente, and Carew?

As so often before, the saints are my convincer. Anyone who throws them out and resets Christian history to zero with the arrival of Martin Luther is, well, incomprehensible to me. And that’s all I’ll say about that. 

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