By Robert A. Sungenis, Ph.D.
In Catholic biblical hermeneutics, a turning point occurred during the reign of Pius XII. In his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, Pius believed it to be beneficial that Catholic biblical scholars be able to use the interpretive tools of what is known as “historical criticism.” In a word, it could be said that historical criticism seeks to apply scientific analysis to a written document. Is the document authentic? What is its date? Who wrote it? Did the author borrow from other sources? What type of literature is it? How much is the author influenced by his culture? Did the author fabricate, exaggerate, or embellish his story? These and many other questions the historical critic brings to his document. The document studied can be any piece of literature of historical worth – a sonnet by Shakespeare, a Greek tragedy by Homer, or even the United States Constitution. In a word, the historical critic tries to get to the real essence of the document so that he can find out the real truth of what occurred, or at least, what he thinks is the real truth.
Historical criticism is not bad in itself. When used properly it can be a great asset to studies in literature. Unfortunately, when good things come into the hands of bad men, bad things usually happen. Catholic liberals, who had been seething in the pot of dissent since the late 1800’s, took advantage of Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spiritu and eventually turned biblical scholarship into a three-headed monster – a creature so ghastly that it is safe to predict that Pius XII would have turned his head away in utter disgust were he alive today. It has gotten to the point in the higher echelons of Catholic scholarship that hardly anything the Bible says is taken as face value. Everything from the resurrection of Christ, to the Virgin Birth, to the function of the papacy and the priesthood is questioned today, or even rejected, based on the “historical critical” approach to Scripture.
Essentially, historical critics claim that Scripture is replete with enough historical errors, human biases, religious prejudices and fictional stories that little of it can be taken as factual, and what little is true is confined to “matters of salvation” (so they claim from their distorted reading of Vatican II’s Dei Verbum 11). But even that is no great concession, since liberal theology has already redefined “biblical” salvation to be little more than a human consensus of God’s existence from which God will save all mankind.
The importance of which approach to Scripture we employ can be understood if we see its impact on issues that are near and dear to our heart. For example, let’s apply the historical critics’ newfound view of Scripture to two hot-bed issues broiling in the Catholic Church today: women priests and homosexuality. Many liberal Catholics see no problem with allowing both. With statistics showing a large percentage of the Catholic priesthood being homosexual today, and of those, mostly all welcome the idea of women priests, it is no surprise to see liberal Catholic biblical scholars seeking to support these cultural upheavals by a reinterpretation of Scripture. If Scripture can either be neutralized of its authority of made to agree with the liberal consensus, the revolution is all but complete. The historical critic will try to convince us that, since Scripture contains “historical errors, human biases, religious prejudices and fictional stories,” and since Scripture is free from error only when it deals with “matters of salvation,” then in non-salvific matters (e.g., women priests and homosexuality), the Bible is nothing more than an expression of the religious preferences and cultural biases prevalent during the time of the biblical author’s writing. Since we in modern times have come of age, as it were, and know that such biases are “unecumenical and judgmental,” then it is high time we become “more educated” about Scripture and its proper interpretation. Historical criticism has been commandeered to do the job.
For example, if St. Paul commands in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 that “women are to keep silent in the churches...let them subject themselves...and if they have any questions, let them ask their husbands at home,” or tells the bishops in 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “let the women learn in quietness with all subjection...I do not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man,” the historical critic will have little problem in claiming that such injunctions are examples of the misogyny prevalent in Paul’s day, and they will simply dismiss any theological underpinning as to the reason Paul prohibited women from assuming authority in the churches. The liberal will claim that the “historical critical” approach to Scripture, approved, he studiously informs us, by none other than Pius XII, allows him to make such interpretations, especially since, as he reminds us, Scripture is prone to error in matters outside of soteriology. Similarly, if St. Paul condemns homosexuality, the liberal usually claims this is the result of his lack of sensitivity to alternate lifestyles. If Scripture is prone to error in matters of science, including psychology, biology, or any other modern discipline; and modern science tells us that homosexuality is caused by a genetic predisposition, then science trumps Scripture, since in regards to chromosomes and genes, Scripture is beyond its parameters of inerrancy. Thus, as good a man as he was, St. Paul, when he condemned homosexuality, was way beyond his expertise, for only when he spoke about salvation was he guided by inerrancy. Moreover, since Paul had no recourse to modern science and therefore he had no way of knowing about a genetic basis to homosexuality, he must be rejected all the more. This is what is being taught in our Catholic seminaries.
If there is one man in Catholic biblical scholarship who has been the exemplar or even the tour de force of these modernistic exegetical ideas it is Fr. Raymond E. Brown, a Sulpician priest who spent most of his distinguished career teaching at Union Theological seminary, one of the most liberal Protestant seminaries in the world. As one obituary stated: “His long partnership with J. L. Martyn at Union Theological Seminary in New York was perhaps the perfect expression of the rapprochement between Catholic and Protestant biblical scholars in America.” Up until his death in 1998, Fr. Brown was upheld by many as the premier Catholic biblical scholar. Unfortunately, despite his well-recognized scholarly erudition, he has probably done more to undue much that we have held sacred in biblical studies than any one single person in Catholic history. This is quite ironic, since Fr. Brown was appointed by John Paul II to the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1993 and served as its head until his death. That a man with such a liberal background and radical ideas could actually make it to the top of his field in Catholic biblical scholarship gives a good indication of the sad state of affairs both at the Vatican and Catholic academia.
As I stated earlier, “historical critics” will use their scholarly tools to reinterpret passages of Scripture to their own liking by claiming that the biblical author was unduly influenced by his own culture, or some other prominent idiosyncrasy. Concerning the issue of women priests, for example, Fr. Brown proves the point quite well. In his 1975 book “Biblical Reflections on Crises Facing the Church,” Fr. Brown states: (As I quote him, I will interject my comments in brackets).
“...This may displease some who think that the Christian answer to the problem of ordaining women lies in a text like 1 Cor 14:33-34...or perhaps farther back, in the creation story of Genesis. But here we enter the realm of hermeneutics [i.e., historical criticism]. Since the Bible contains the word of God in the words of men [i.e., God did not choose the words of Scripture, only men did, emphasis his], these texts reflect the sociology of God’s people respectively in the first century AD. [i.e., Paul had a cultural bias towards women] and the eleventh century B.C. [i.e., so did the Genesis author]. They cannot be repeated as normative today in a different sociology [viz., we moderns have been liberated from such archaic practices] without first investigating whether the change of social condition [i.e., they were quite barbaric and uneducated in Paul’s day] does not require a different expression of God’s will for His people [i.e., since many women today want to be priests, this forces us to accommodate them].
Fr. Brown goes on to prove my thesis in the next sentence:
“It is precisely this question of hermeneutics that I shall try to grapple with, faithful to my title ‘The Meaning of Modern New Testament Studies for the Ordination of Women,’ by showing how the acceptance or refusal of NT criticism [i.e., historical criticism] shapes one’s ecclesiology, and how one’s ecclesiology or view of the Church is often decisive as to whether one thinks that women can or should be ordained.”
In other words, Fr. Brown knows what the biblical text of 1 Cor. 14:33f actually says, but the question is whether we have to accept it as such. In an attached footnote he more or less proves that his intentions are to find some way to avoid Paul’s literal words. Brown writes in the footnote:
“It has been suggested that this text [1 Cor 14:33-34] is not genuinely Pauline but was added as a polemic against the Montanist movement where women prophets played an important role; if so, it would offset 11:5 which permits a woman to prophesy. The question needs more study.”
Obviously, Fr. Brown does not hesitate to entertain the proposition – brought to him by another historical critic – that St. Paul didn’t even write the passage in question! Hence, whatever way he can, whether it is by claiming that Paul’s “sociology” was primitive, or that Paul didn’t write the piece in question, Fr. Brown will find some way to neutralize the clear literal meaning of the words to accommodate the modern appetite for innovation, and this passes for sophisticated “biblical exegesis” in modern Catholic seminaries today
Usually absent from such re-interpretation of Scripture is a recognition of the safeguards St. Paul and the other New Testament writers built into their texts to ward off such “sociological” interpretations. These safeguards are especially prominent in the New Testament’s treatment of the role of women. For example, in 1 Cor. 14:34-38, there are about a half dozen such safeguards included in the text, none of which Fr. Brown, in all his verbosity on this topic, so much as mentions.
First, in verse 34, Paul makes it quite clear that the commands for women to keep silent in the churches is not a product of his culture or his own personal feelings, rather, it is “as the Law also says.” Immediately following in verse 36, he adds the phrase “the word of God” showing that “the Law” to which he makes reference is indeed God’s law, not man’s. As regards the “Law,” Paul could be referring to any number of references in the Old Testament, including Genesis 3:16’s injunctions against Eve, or Isaiah’s lament in Is 3:12: “O my people! Their oppressors are children, and women rule over them. O my people, those who guide you lead you astray and confuse the direction of your paths,” or just the general tenor of the Old Testament Levitical and Deuteronimic laws.
So as Paul reiterates these commands to the churches, obviously it is his intent to tie together the divine commands from the past with his inspired teaching in the present to show that the command for women to keep silent is an all-pervasive truth that does not change with time. To reinforce this teaching, Paul goes on to say in verse 37 “the things I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.” That is, somewhere along the way, whether it was information Paul gleaned from the Gospels himself or received directly from the Lord (e.g., 2Co 12:1-7), it is abundantly clear that the strictures regarding a women’s role in the churches is not a product of Paul’s “sociology,” rather, it is a divine mandate that will never change. In accord with his usual practice of giving us “two or three witnesses” to a solemn truth (2Co 13:1), here Paul has given us three witnesses, (1) the witness of “the Law,” (2) the witness of “the word of God” and (3) the witness of “the Lord,” to show that he had absolutely no intention of making his commands to women relative to the culture of the day.
We can also prove our point by observing how St. Paul includes the same safeguards into his teaching in 1 Timothy 2:11-14. As Paul commands women to be quiet and not to teach or have authority over men, he bases his words not on anything having to do with the culture in which he lived, rather, as he did in 1Co 14:34-35, he immediately goes back to the original divine mandates. In 1Tm 2:13, Paul’s first line of substantiation is the fact that: “...it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” In other words, the order in which the first humans were created set for all time who would be in authority and who would be in submission. It has nothing to do with Paul’s “sociology” or his personal views of women.
St. Paul has a few choice words for people like Fr. Brown, people who think they know better than Scripture or who think they can alter its words with their scientific theories. Immediately after Paul gives his command for women to keep silent in the churches, he then addresses those in the church who apparently had been ignoring the established rules regarding a women’s role. In verses 36-37 Paul writes: “Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.” Similarly, it is today’s “historical critics” who think only they have discovered the true meaning of Scripture, and that because of this talent only they are the truly “spiritual” among us, yet all the while failing to realize that the very things they propose are directly against “the Lord’s commandment.”
Fr. Brown was quite adept at claiming that only he and his “historical critical” colleagues had the right understanding of Scripture, and he wasted no verbiage castigating traditionally-minded exegetes as “fundamentalists,” “right wing vigilantes” or “ultra-conservatives,” while his cohort John Meier called them “Neanderthal know-nothing types.”
The Origins of Historical Criticism:
Now that we have had a small introduction to Fr. Brown and the problems he has caused in Catholic biblical exegesis, we need to do a little historical criticism of our own. We need to discover where this movement originated, for that will tell us a lot about where it is headed. Suffice it to say for now that, the above example of how Fr. Brown treats 1 Cor 14:34-35 and the issue of women priests is mild compared to what he does to the rest of Scripture.
By the time Pius XII released his encyclical in 1943, the influence of the sciences on society was very great. From the Copernican revolution, to the Enlightenment’s use of rationalism and reason, to the Darwinian tenets of evolution, to Freud’s teaching on the human psyche, to Einstein’s teaching on cosmogony, the arts and sciences were a virtual juggernaut of intellectual power that was sweeping through every area of life. Since the Church, the guardian of truth, could not appear as if she was against the very tools which claimed to uncover the “real” truth of life, there was little which could have stopped these scientific pursuits eventually becoming part of Catholic biblical studies.
At that time (the 1940s) most everyone was very enthusiastic about historical criticism. The feeling among the more liberal theologians of the Church (and there were many of them in that day) was that Catholicism was finally getting out of the ghetto or out of “stone age of medieval scholasticism” and into the modern age where one could discover the rational and scientific reason for everything that occurred in life. Their liberal Protestant counterparts had been using these scientific tools on the Bible for more than a century or two prior, and were way ahead of the game. Catholics needed to catch up. To make a long story short, the Catholics did indeed catch up, and, in fact, surpassed the Protestants, but it wasn’t in the way that had originally been anticipated by Pius XII. Something went wrong, terribly wrong. In fact, it went so wrong that I dare say that most of our present problems in the post-conciliar church are a direct result of the damage which occurred once the train of historical criticism went off the tracks.
In order to see this, we need to go back to the years immediately following Luther’s “Reformation.” As most know, the Reformation occurred around the same time as the Renaissance. The Renaissance is said to be an “intellectual awakening” of man’s consciousness of himself and of the world around him. To express this new-found feeling, men were creating art and architecture like never before. They were discovering all kinds of interesting things about the intricacies of nature. Nothing was taken for granted. Everything was “studied” to see what made it tick. Spanning over a few centuries, the Renaissance led to the High-Renaissance and to the Enlightenment.
As with anything in life, there were good and bad points to this “awakening.” Evil always seems to have a way of awakening whenever good awakens. Men can use their new-found intelligence for getting closer to God and for the betterment of mankind, or for the destruction of both. Unfortunately, there was as much destruction as their was progress, perhaps even more. By pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, as it were, many a man began to distance himself from God. Who needs God when you can explain everything naturally? Releasing oneself from the shackles of medievalism meant, among other things, that even religion was now free from the constraints of the past.
Without the anchor of the Church’s authority and tradition, religion was basically up for grabs in Europe during this time. In addition, with the competition Christendom was now receiving from the arts and sciences, many a man’s religion was a mixture of his own likes and dislikes, guided by the latest scientific advances – advances which were on a direct course to take as much “religious superstition” out of human thinking as possible. Although Luther, Calvin and their immediate followers had strong religious convictions, nevertheless, when their brand of Christian individualism spread throughout Europe, it was only a matter of time before those who did not share the same spiritual ideals would begin to have their own revolt. Science was becoming the be-all and end-all. Faith was static. You either believed in God or your didn’t. If you did, you still found yourself trying to explain God and His workings in scientific terms. A good example of the product of these times was Deism, the religious belief of many of the founding fathers of America. Deism held that God indeed created the world, but after he did so, he went away and left it totally to man, never to appear again.
Inevitably, the Bible fell into this mixture, or shall we say, became a victim of it. In the Post-Reformation period, men began to use the sciences in order to study, or what may better be described as “dissect,” the Bible, the same way, perhaps, that they would dissect an insect under a microscope. Beginning with Protestant theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), who was heavily influenced by the philosopher Immanuel Kant (i.e., a philosophy of no absolutes outside of yourself; everything is in your head), Protestants of the intellectual variety (university types) proposed that religion is merely a natural activity of man, and is at best an intuitive grasp of the unknown, but is more an emotional response. This set the stage for reexamining the very thing that gave man religion – the Bible. Thomas Jefferson showed he was a man of his age by cutting out all the references to Jesus’ miracles from the New Testament since he believed they were mere fiction.
Following the groundwork laid by Schleiermacher, Ferdinand Baur, professor of theology at Tübingen in Germany from 1826-1860, came on the scene. This was, more or less, the birth of historical criticism. Baur, heavily influenced by the philosophy of Hegel, claimed the Bible was merely a product of a “thesis” (e.g., the philosophy of Jesus, which was geared toward Jews) meeting an “antithesis” (e.g., the philosophy of Paul, which was geared toward Gentiles), which resulted in the “synthesis” of first century Christianity (i.e., the multiethnic Church). Upon this Procrustean bed all the writings of the New Testament authors would be forced to lie.
The result? The historical criticism of the Tübingen school concluded the following new “insights”: (a) Paul wrote only four of the thirteen epistles attributed to him; (b) the other epistles, and the book of Acts, since they were “conciliatory” in tone, were judged as post-apostolic writings (i.e., not written by those apostles who claimed to write them), since by then the “synthesis” was rapidly unfolding; (c) Matthew was said to be the product of the earliest “Jewish” position, and thus close to Jesus’ view, but was, nevertheless, the result of several redactions of some unidentified source; (d) Luke was the best example of the pre-Pauline “antithesis” to Jesus; (e) Mark, however, was a great ecumenist, and thus combined elements of Matthew and Luke; (f) the gospel of John, since its material was judged to be synthetic, was said to be written by some Jewish scribe in the second century when harmony between Matthew and Luke had been accomplished. As a result, John was judged worthless in regards to “historical” value.
Baur further stipulated that in the writings of Clement, the apostle Paul was disguised as Simon Magnus who was in constant conflict with his arch rival, Peter, and the conflict between Paul and Peter had its own thesis-antithesis-synthesis of development. Since the book of the Apocalypse (which is traditionally understood to be written by John) was also hostile to Paul’s way of thinking, it was judged as primitive and thus the earliest and more “Jewish” of all New Testament books.
Outside of the New Testament, historical criticism also had a big impact. Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918), another German Protestant, was the heir-apparent to the historical critical school, but more in the direction of Old Testament studies. He proposed that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses (the traditional view) but by several unknown individuals and at various times in history. The effects of this theory are manifold. Wellhausen’s view, better known as the Documentary Hypothesis, proposed that Genesis 1 was written by a different person and at a different time than Genesis 2. Genesis 2 was said to be written very early in Israel’s history, while Genesis 1 was said to be written by the “Priestly” group of writers just after the Babylonian captivity (587-517 BC.). Why? Because in coming back to their homeland after being punished for 70 years in Babylon, the Jews needed a remembrance of how great God was, as well as a fresh start in life, and there was no better way to do this than to write a spectacular story of God’s power, especially since the Babylonian god Marduk, who had his own creation story, needed to be excised from the Jewish mind.
Incidentally, this view of Genesis 1 fit like a glove with the burgeoning field Darwinian evolution. If through “historical criticism” it could be shown that Genesis 1 was not a literal and detailed account of an actual creation, but merely a literary device designed for sixth century Jews in order to reestablish their roots, then there would be no recourse to use Genesis 1 as a historical document; and science, once again, would provide the “real” answer of how the world began. (The late Catholic theologian Fr. Stanley Jaki, who was an avowed evolutionist and served on the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, ascribed to this very idea, as do most of the other 80 or so members of the PAS, many of whom are not Catholic).
As one can see, the “science” of historical criticism leads in many and varied directions, most of which were diametrically opposed to the traditional teaching handed down in the Catholic Church. The appeal of this method, aside from the fact that it was “scientific” and devoid of relying on “superstition,” was the need of the investigator to get “behind the scenes.” One couldn’t just take things at face value. There always had to be an “underlying story” behind the apparent story. This was natural for science. Louis Pasteur found the “underlying story” behind why old milk made people sick. Antoine Lavoisier (1774) found the “underlying story” why things burned (because they combine with oxygen). John Dalton (1803) found the “underlying story” of what made up matter (tiny atoms). After the Renaissance and Enlightenment, life was full of finding out the “why” and “how” of everything, and men now had the tools to do the investigation. They were no longer bogged down by ignorance and superstition, at least so they thought.
One of the major planks of religious belief that was destined to be the victim of the new science of historical criticism was the supernatural. There was little room left, if any, for belief in what was disdainfully regarded as the “magical” world of Scripture. Those days were gone with alchemy. One of the ways the historical critical school introduced this new vision of Scripture to the world was through “The Quest for the Historical Jesus.” Using their critical tools, the plan was to strip away every vestige of the supernatural from the Gospels so that only the “real” Jesus of history would be left – the “real” man who had to deal with real life on an ordinary basis, just like we do. Underlying this “quest,” however, was the premise that the supernatural can be stripped away because, in fact, there was no supernatural. “Science” purported to have already proved that the supernatural did not exist.
According to the historical critical school, when the writers of the Gospels portrayed Jesus performing miracles, they were merely adding fictional embellishments so as to give an other-worldly appeal to their narratives. The Tübingen school boasted that Christianity would have been an utter failure without these embellishments, since the Christian sect was more or less forced to create them because their savior had failed. For example, Tübingen scholars David Strauss (1835) and H. E. Paulus (1828) claimed that when the Gospel writers said that Jesus walked on water, he was merely walking in a very shallow pool, or near the shore line. Similarly, when he fed the five thousand, the people had already brought food for themselves, but the writers made it appear as if Jesus had performed a miracle. Strauss convinced his students that historical criticism was necessary in order to find out the “real” story behind Jesus’ miracles, since they must take as a “given” that miracles, following the philosophy of David Hume (1711-1776) and the Enlightenment, simply did not occur, and that everything in life has a “natural” explanation.
The “quest for the historical Jesus” would lead Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976), with his extensive use of “form criticism,” to become so skeptical about the veracity of Scripture that he asserted we could know almost nothing about the “real” Jesus, or even the first century Church. Rather, he concluded that the New Testament was mythological. His most famous work, the 1941 book New Testament and Mythology, argued that Scripture contained what he called the “Kerygma” (the word of God) but we could never know the substance of that word, since there was always a difference in what the author meant as opposed to what he wrote. Here theology developed an acute schizophrenia wherein “religious truth” was now separate from historical truth, which soon resulted in the irrational leaps inherent in the existential theology of Søren Kierkegaard and his followers. Even Bultmann’s students knew there was something fishy about his theories. On the last day of class they gave him an appropriate present to register their dismay. They presented a beautifully bound book to him with the title “Kerygma” on the front cover, but inside were hundreds of pages of blank paper.
To answer controversial issues in the New Testament, Bultmann claimed, for example, that John chapter 6 was certainly speaking of the Eucharist as the real body and blood of Jesus Christ (as Catholics claimed), but John was merely redacting his information from another source – the infamous “Q” source introduced by Otto Ritschl – a source which mistakenly believed in such superstitious things as bread becoming divine. Thus, John’s writing could be taken at face value, but the person behind John, albeit unidentified, had simply made up the story.
Incidentally, the “Q” theory, or what is also known as the “two-source” theory, was proposed by historical critics in an effort to keep the Gospels from being understood as actual eyewitness accounts of what occurred in the life of Jesus, as they had been traditionally understood. “Q” was vitally important to the liberals, because if the Gospels can be fashioned into nothing more than second or third generation redactions of a first generation oral tradition, then the incidence of foreign elements (e.g., fiction) creeping into the narratives would be quite high, and thus make the final document historically unreliable. Accordingly, liberal critics teach that all the Gospels were written well after 70 AD, and most likely, well into the second century. Conversely, if they were to admit that the Gospels were written prior to 70 AD, then they would also have to admit their historic reliability, and thus have no escape from the truths contained therein.
Meanwhile, the two-source theory and the quest for the historical Jesus would lead Emil Brunner to say, “yes, the resurrection of Christ definitely occurred, but only in the hearts of the apostles” (i.e., if you had a TV camera at the tomb it would not have recorded anything except a dead body). It would lead Karl Barth, the premier Protestant theologian of the mid-twentieth century, to deny original sin (from which the notorious Hans Küng, by his own admission, obtained much of his theology). Barth claimed that man is now the way he always was, and that because of this divinely-imposed condition, it is God’s responsibility to save all mankind. It was from Barth’s introduction of universal salvation that many leading Catholic liberals, such as Rahner, Küng, Schillebeeckx, and a host of others, would begin promoting the idea of the “anonymous Christian.” Historical criticism would lead Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), the famous humanitarian doctor of Africa, to say that when Jesus uttered the words “My, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he finally realized that he was not God’s son, and died in failure.
Many years and much ink went into these labors of finding the “historical Jesus.” Books were produced by the dozens each year. But this quest eventually had a very rude awakening. The scholars found that no matter how hard they tried, the miraculous could not be separated from the Jesus of history. The history and the supernatural were so intertwined, and so meticulously detailed, interwoven and overlapped, that to subtract the miracles would be to erase the history. To their utter consternation, the Bible was written in such a way that if you eliminate the one you eliminate the other, and there was simply no escape from this reality. In short, the “quest” ended as a miserable failure. As one book put it: “The result is that N.T. scholarship now generally realizes that it is impossible to write a life of Jesus.” Similarly, after having surveyed all the attempts of the previous hundred years, Albert Schweitzer concluded in his book The Quest for the Historical Jesus:
The world had never seen before, and will never see again, a struggle for truth so full of pain and renunciation as that of which the Lives of Jesus of the last hundred years contain the cryptic record.
The only reality the scholars were forced to face was how real the Bible is. And sadly, the other reality they painfully discovered was that their brand of critical theology not only didn’t advance Christianity, it actually emptied Protestant churches all over the world, and split the remaining ones even more grossly than Reformers ever anticipated. Little did Luther and Calvin realize when they were promoting their cherished belief of Sola Scriptura that their most formidable foe would not be the Catholic Church, per se, but their great-grandchildren who would assert that God had little to do with the writing of Scripture.
The irony of this whole history is that the Protestants, after almost two centuries of using the historical-critical methodology, failed to produce a single verifiable truth from it. Time after time, they threw their hands up in frustration, realizing that, being quite finite in their intellect and very limited in their data, they simply could not determine with any accuracy what the “real” story was. Of course, in their pride they would never allow their failures to lead them into taking the biblical text at face value. Science had “proven” that you just couldn’t stoop to that level of acceptance. No matter how many failures they experienced to get “behind the scenes,” they would never admit that maybe, just maybe, God was really speaking to them through Scripture and that Scripture, because it was inerrant in all that it said, was meant to be interpreted precisely the way it was written.
By the 1940s, the Catholic liberal movement, which, having been spurred by the Protestants as early as the late 1800s, and which caused Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius X to issue strong warnings and condemnations against it, was nevertheless gaining steam. With the rise of Teilhard de Chardin, George Tyrell, Karl Rahner and a second phase with Hans Kung, Eduard Schillebeeckx, Maurice Blondel and a few others, Catholic liberal theology was just busting at the seams, rattling its confines like a caged animal. It was their claim that for 1943 years Catholicism had been bottled up in the shackles of primitive patristic and medieval thought and it was now time for new horizons. They were anxious to try what the liberal Protestants were doing with Scripture, and practically begged Pius XII to let them do so. Once Pius XII gave the go-ahead, the result was like an avalanche. By the 1950s and into the 1960s, liberal theology, with its new armament – Biblical Criticism – was well in place and in a short time had actually surpassed where the Protestants left off. The Catholic liberals accomplished in about 25 years what it took the Protestant liberals about 200 years to do. John Macquarrie of Union Theological Seminary (the leading liberal Protestant seminary and the professorial alma mater of Fr. Raymond Brown) stated: “...the leadership in theology, which even ten years ago lay with such Protestant giants as Barth, Brunner and Tillich, has now passed to Roman Catholic thinkers.”
Fortunately, the Catholic Church was not without critics of historical criticism. Fr. George Montague of the Catholic Biblical Association opined that historical critics were “more interested in defending their own scholarship than in comprehending the truth of the New Testament.” Jesuit Dennis McCarthy of the Biblicum stated: “...the scholar finds his historical ground constantly shifting as he tires to use it as a platform for affirmation beyond the historical. He never knows what is historical.” Martin Hengel, professor of New Testament from none other than Tübingen, stated that New Testament facts “are accessible to us only in a very limited way,” and he opted for what he called the “unhistorica-uncritical method,” i.e., take Scripture at face value since you cannot be sure of any other value. Walter Wink asserted that today’s historical critical theories are “bankrupt,” elaborating that “the historical critic’s scientific determinism [i.e., we can dissect this and put it back together] results in more denial about the contents of the Bible than affirmations.”
But the war goes on. The product and facilitator of Union Theological Seminary was Catholic priest Fr. Raymond Brown, the one man, after Karl Rahner, responsible for more unbridled liberal methodology being applied to Catholic Scripture-study than any other single figure in Catholic history. Brown, knowing that he was in a virtual war against his conservative counterparts, boasted that his enemies were not the Protestants since upon them he cut his theological teeth. No, even as Hans Küng felt a closer kinship with Protestant Karl Barth than he did with traditional Catholics, so Brown felt that his closest allies were the liberal Protestants from Union Theological Seminary and like-minded institutions, of which Protestantism, and now liberal Catholicism, was rife with adherents. Showing his comradery, Brown stated in the Jesuit magazine America (which by this time had become the mouthpiece for dissenting Catholic liberals) that he “heaved a sigh of relief” when in 1976 Hans Küng was not charged with heresy, Brown later advising Rome to “stop the heresy hunt.” Not surprisingly, this is where most of the “ecumenical” activity takes place today – between the liberals of both Catholic and Protestant camps who have broken down their historical barriers by a mutual dilution of Scripture through historical criticism. The only other “ecumenical” activity of any significance is between the charismatics of both groups, since they share a desire for miraculous gifts (e.g., tongue-speaking) and are, more or less, anti-theological. The real enemy, says Brown, is the “Catholic far-right,” the “right-wing vigilantes,” “arch-conservatives,” “fundamentalists,” and “those whose opinions have little or no scholarly respectability.” He, of course, is referring to those who understand themselves as “traditionalists,” and some “conservatives,” of the Catholic Church. Ironically, since the rebellion of Luther we have come full circle, since Fr. Brown and his entourage of liberal theologians seem to have much more in common with Protestantism than they do with the historic Catholic faith.
Although Catholic liberals were having a love-affair with Protestants of all shapes and sizes, there was one thing vastly different in the Catholic Church that was not true of most Protestant denominations. The Catholic Church put limits on just how far it was going to allow historical criticism to advance. Ironically, what Pius XII gave to the liberals in the 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, he wisely took back in large measure in the 1950 encyclical Humani Generis. In that encyclical, for example, he stated, regardless of how a scholar might interpret the finer details of the creation account, he had to maintain that an actual man and woman were the first human pair, and that they both sinned against God, which resulted in the curse of Original Sin being forced upon the whole human race. This was a direct assault on Protestant Karl Barth’s attempt to poison Catholic waters with his denial of Original Sin, as well as a flat negation of Teilhard de Chardin’s and Karl Rahner’s quest for a polygenistic origin to the human race. So whereas the mainline Protestants allowed historical criticism to penetrate the bedrock of salvation doctrine, the Vatican hierarchy was clear that those areas of dogma were definitely off-limits to modern hermeneutical science.
Hence, after 1950, Catholic modernists were more or less corralled by the Church, at least to a respectable degree. They were permitted to write about their speculations concerning Scripture, but they simply could not alter Catholic doctrine from its traditional moorings. But the liberals had a clever trick up their collective sleeves. Instead of being dogmatic about their heterodox beliefs, they began to put their reservations about Catholic dogma in the form of interrogatives. In this way, they couldn’t be accused of rejecting Catholic teaching, but they could certainly put doubt in the minds of people by asking a lot of leading and provocative questions. They were hoping for a ground swell of popular support as they disseminated their historical-critical ideas in all the universities and seminaries of the world. Unfortunately, due to the unrest in the 1960s and 1970s, many in the Catholic Church were ripe to hear their message of dissent.
This brings us back to Fr. Raymond Brown. Brown had an uncanny way of forging his dissent by the use of interrogatives, all under the guise that Scripture was prone to error in its historical record. In one of his most famous and controversial works, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, Brown, as did his Protestant counterparts Bultmann, Barth and Tillich before him, questioned whether the resurrection of Christ actually took place with these words: “Are we thereby perpetually committed to the notion held in times past of the biological how of that exaltation, namely a bodily resurrection?” He also questioned papal infallibility with this provocative question: “If biblical criticism has qualified the notion of the inerrancy of the Bible, does modern historical study imply that the Roman Catholic notion of the infallibility of Church teaching also has to be qualified?” Brown even questioned the legitimacy of the papacy itself, which he based on his “historical critical” conclusion that Matthew 16’s narrative of the events at Caesarea Philippi never actually took place. In the same and other works he questioned the function and identity of apostles, bishops and priests; apostolic succession; the barring of women from ordination; the Eucharist as a sacrifice; the value and authority of Tradition, and Mary’s perpetual virginity, all, of course, based on his “historical-critical” approach to Scripture. Much of Brown’s interrogation originated from his resolve that Scripture was prone to error. He writes:
In the last hundred years we have moved from an understanding wherein inspiration guaranteed that the Bible was totally inerrant to an understanding wherein inerrancy is limited to the Bible’s teaching of “that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writing for the sake of our salvation.”
Brown further documented his belief in an errant Scripture in his book Biblical Exegesis and Church Doctrine, and later summed them up in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, stating in the latter: “Scriptural teaching is truth without error to the extent that it conforms to the salvific purpose of God.” In other words, if Scripture isn’t speaking specifically about salvation, it indeed may, and most likely does, contain errors. The Pontifical Biblical Commission, which fortunately was divested of its authority in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, became populated by the same modernistic mind-set as Brown and thus helped spread these new-fangled ideas far and wide.
Vatican II and Biblical Inerrancy:
Where did Fr. Raymond Brown get the notion that Scripture could err on matters outside of salvation? He and his modernist colleagues claim that the teaching originated from Vatican II’s document Dei Verbum, ch 3, no. 11, which reads.
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 for the sake of salvation.
To the casual reader, this paragraph may not seem problematic, but it has been interpreted in two diametrically opposed ways since Vatican II closed its doors in 1965. The traditional way to read the passage is to understand that: (a) Scripture is without error in all that it says, and (b) all that it says is put there for the sake of our salvation. The modernists, however, read it quite differently. They claim it teaches: (a) not all Scripture is without error, since (b) only things in Scripture written for the sake of our salvation are without error. The material that is not dealing with salvation, so says the modernist, can indeed contain error, things such as history, culture, science, mathematics, chronologies, genealogies or even religious ideas.
Seizing on what appeared to be an ambiguity in Dei Verbum 11, Brown and the modernists have made considerable inroads into Catholic academia in the last 40 years, practically rewriting the Catholic teaching on biblical inerrancy, and all with little concern or admonishment from the Vatican hierarchy. To see how Fr. Brown and his liberal colleagues arrived at their interpretation we should take a peak behind the scenes at Vatican II.
There were actually three versions or “schemas” of Dei Verbum’s paragraph which now contains the clause “without error...for the sake of salvation” prior to the one finally decided upon. The original version stated quite plainly
“...it follows directly and necessarily that the whole Bible is absolutely immune from error...by its very nature, necessarily prevents and excludes every error in any subject-matter whatever, religious or profane.”
Franz König, a liberal cardinal from Vienna, objected to this wording and led a majority of bishops to reject it. A second version stated that the Bible was “completely immune from all error,” and relegated the issue of “subject-matter, whether religious or profane” to a footnote. Countering the König party, the conservative bishops objected to schema #2, since it tended to limit biblical inerrancy to faith and morals. A third version was produced which, by including a footnote to paragraph 124 from Pope Leo’s Providentissimus Deus, restored the fact that Scripture was inerrant even in statements beyond faith and morals.
Cardinal Meyer of Chicago then made what at first appeared to be a neutral recommendation. He suggested that the final draft should include a positive statement about Scripture’s purpose to effectuate our salvation. To satisfy this dimension, a quote from 2 Timothy 3:16 was added to the wording (and still remains in the final version). But Meyer’s suggestion unfortunately opened up a new controversy. Prior to the quote from 2 Timothy, the words “salvific truth” were added in regards to the material in Scripture that was inerrant, which once again implied that Scripture was inerrant only in regards to truths about salvation. Interestingly enough, the record of deliberations reveals that “salvific truth” was finally rejected precisely due to its heterodox implications. Note the words of Archbishop Paul Philippe, a consultor to the Holy Office, who spoke to the council Fathers:
Therefore it should not be said that the sacred books ‘teach’ salvific truth without error, because this insinuates a distinction among the scriptural affirmations themselves, as if some of them taught without error truths pertaining to salvation, while others had no such content and were thus not necessarily immune from error...I request that we restore the expression ‘without any error,’ as in the previous draft, since the documents of the Magisterium...always express themselves in such a way as to exclude completely from the sacred Scriptures error of every kind.
The decision to excise “salvific truth” came as follows. Pope Paul VI was approached on this matter in October 1965, just a few months before the council came to a close. After studying the issue, the pope wrote a letter to Cardinal Ottaviani, head of the theological commission. The Pope specified that he was “deeply hesitant” about the meaning engendered by the words “salvific truth.” The pope warned that such wording is highly controversial, thus it would be “premature” for the council to make a declaration on “such a doubtful question.” He finally stated: “...the Fathers might not perhaps be able to form an adequate judgment as to the gravity of this matter, nor as to the abusive interpretations which may arise from it.”
At the request of the Pope, the commission reconvened. Seventeen of twenty-eight members voted to follow his advice to omit the words “salvific truth.” Since the vote did not reach a two-thirds majority, a group of Fathers suggested they use the phrase “for the sake of our salvation” (Latin: nostrae salutis causa), which led to a two-thirds vote of 19 to 9, and the vote was approved by the pope.
These series of events tell us clearly Paul VI had an acute sensitivity to the issue of biblical inerrancy, and did not wish the doctrine to be altered by wording suggesting Scripture was only inerrant on matters of salvation. Indeed, in 1970, Paul VI reiterated his resolve in the words of his July 1 allocution: “For the Church, Sacred Scripture is the Word of God, inspired by Him and therefore guaranteed by divine inerrancy in its own authentic meaning.” Never, at any time, did Paul VI hint that inerrancy was in any way limited to matters of salvation, and neither did the popes before him nor the two popes after him.
True to form, the modernists were not about to give up that easy. Cardinal König and the German bishops now sought to excise the words “without error” from the text, claiming that literary genres of Scripture “demonstrate that the Bible’s references to matters of history and natural science sometimes fall short of the truth.” Based on what he called “current oriental studies,” König gave three examples of “errors” in Scripture: (a) in Mark 2:26, Jesus says “in the time of Abiathar the High Priest,” but 1Sm 21:1 says that Ahimelech was the high priest at that time; (b) in Mt 27:9, Matthew assigns Jeremiah to a prophecy spoken by Zechariah (Zc 11:12-13); (c) Daniel 1:1’s statement that Nebuchadnezzer besieged Jerusalem in the “third year” of Jehoiakim should be the sixth year of Jehoiakim. To make a long story short, the council rejected König’s allegations of Scriptural errors, since there was no definitive and irrefutable evidence to prove his case.
In actuality, these and many other alleged Scriptural errors were well-known among the church’s Fathers and medieval theologians, and each anomaly was given a plausible solution. At the least, it can be safely said that no reputable Catholic in the history of the church had ever suggested that internal anomalies within Scripture proved that Scripture was in error.
The interesting thing about König’s examples of error is that each of them has a simple explanation – at least an explanation worthy enough to forestall accusations of error. For example, in the case of Jesus saying that Abiathar was the high priest instead of Ahimelech, the particular way in which Mark worded the statement eliminates any possible way of proving that either he or Jesus erred. The Greek genitive ejpi; Abiaqa;r ajrcierevwV means “at the time of Abiathar the high priest.” This fits the Old Testament timing very well, since after Saul had Ahimelech murdered, Abiathar, his son, fled to David and served as his priest, and was appointed high priest when David actually became king. Under these circumstances, it would be perfectly legitimate for Jesus to refer to Abiathar as the high priest.
As for Matthew referring to Jeremiah instead of Zechariah, the fact is that Mt 27:9 is a combination of both prophets’ words (cf. Jr 18:2; 19:2, 11; 32:6-9; Zc 11:12-13), since no single passage contains all the details found in Matthew’s quotation. Moreover, the mere fact that Jeremiah is the more prominent prophet, and was always at the top of the list when the Jews catalogued the prophets (as appears in the Babba Bartha), it would not be out of place to refer to him over Zechariah. The same kind of preference is noted in Mark’s choice of Isaiah over Malachi in Mark 1:2-3 (cf. Mal 3:1; Is 40:3).
As for Daniel using the “third year” as opposed to the “sixth year” of Jehoiakim, this is due merely to the differing methods of calculation between Jewish and Babylonian calendars. Daniel, since he was in captivity for seventy years in Babylon, followed the Babylonian calendar, which had a three-year discrepancy with the Jewish calendar that Jeremiah used, a calendar which was further complicated by the fact that it was based on the differences between the regnal and accession years of Judah’s kings.
It is not hard to see that, with a little work and imagination the alleged errors of Scripture can be explained. In fact, König’s examples of biblical error were unproblematic, to say the least. There are others that are more difficult, and some might not even be answerable since we don’t have all the necessary information to make a firm decision. But noticing apparent contradictions in Scripture is nothing new. Cornelius Lapide, a late middle age Catholic theologian catalogued hundreds of supposed “errors” in Scripture, along with hundreds of explanations he gathered from various patristic and medieval exegetes. What is “new” are those in the Catholic church today who claim that these apparent contradictions are irrefutable evidence of Scripture’s errancy. Modern exegetes have become so conditioned to expect errors in Scripture that they hardly even bother trying to find explanations; rather, they immediately boast and advertise them as proof of the merits of the historical-critical theory. Monsignor John McCarthy has joked that they should be called “the one minute scholars.” That is, if they can’t figure out a solution to the apparent contradiction within one minute, they resign themselves to call it an error.
In the face of all this is the constant and abiding teaching in Catholic history that Scripture contains no errors, for it is the voice of God who cannot lie. Obviously, to say that a certain part of Scripture is in error, and at the same time hold that the Holy Spirit inspired that Scripture, is tantamount to saying that God lies. This was the bottom line for the Fathers, Doctors, Saints, Popes and Councils who spoke on the issue of biblical inerrancy – God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
The same arguments that are used by Fr. Brown and his modernists colleagues today were some of the same used by a few “historical critics” outside the early church. In fact, one of St. Augustine’s opponents, Faustus the Manichean, has an uncanny resemblance to the arguments of Fr. Brown. We could easily replace Faustus’ name with Fr. Brown in Augustine’s following letter. He writes:
But Faustus [Fr. Brown] finds contradictions in the Gospels. Say, rather, that Faustus [Fr. Brown] reads the Gospels in a wrong spirit, that he is too foolish to understand, and too blind to see. If you were animated with piety instead of being misled by party spirit [liberal theology from Vatican II], you might easily, by examining these passages, discover a wonderful and most instructive harmony among the writers....Who, in reading two narratives of the same event, would think of charging one or both of the authors with error or falsehood, because one omits what the other mentions, or one tells concisely, but with substantial agreement, what the other relates in detail, so as to indicate not only what was done, but also how it was done? This is what Faustus [Fr. Brown] has done in his attempt to impeach the truth of the Gospels; as if Luke’s omitting some saying of Christ recorded in Matthew implied a denial on the part of Luke of Matthew’s statement.
Augustine maintains that God willed the apparent contradictions in Scripture, to test man’s faithfulness and make him seek God in humility:
Be not wanton to accuse either the obscurity or seeming contradiction of Scripture. There is nothing in it contradictory: somewhat there is which is obscure, not in order that it may be denied you, but that it may exercise him that shall afterward receive it. When then it is obscure, that is the Physician’s doing, that you may knock. He willed that you should be exercised in knocking; He willed it, that He might open to you when you knock.
Of course, no lesson on biblical inerrancy would be complete without Augustine’s famous letter to Jerome, written after many years of personal Bible study. He writes:
I have learned to hold those books alone of the Scriptures that are now called canonical in such reverence and honor that I do most firmly believe that none of their authors has erred in anything that he has written therein. If I find anything in those writings which seems to be contrary to the truth, I presume that either the code is inaccurate [faulty manuscripts], or the translator has not followed what was said [wrong sense], or I have not properly understood it [misunderstanding on the part of the reader]… I think that you, dear brother [Jerome], must feel the same way. And I say, moreover, that I do not think that you would want your books to be read as if they were the books of Prophets or Apostles, about whose writings, free of all error, it is not lawful to doubt.
The other Fathers were just as adamant as Augustine about the total inerrancy of Scripture. Here is just a small relative sampling of some of the major Fathers:
Clement of Rome: “You have studied the Holy Scriptures, which are true and of the Holy Spirit. You know well that nothing unjust or fraudulent is written in them.”
Irenaeus: “If, however, we are not able to find explanations for all those passages of Scripture which are investigated, we ought not on that account seek for another God besides Him who exists....Things of that kind we must leave to God...knowing full well that the Scriptures are certainly perfect....The true knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles...and the very complete tradition of the Scriptures, which have come down to us by being guarded against falsification, and are received without addition or deletion; and reading without falsification...”
Justin Martyr: “If a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind be brought forward, and there be a pretext for regarding it as contradictory, since I am totally convinced that no Scripture is contradictory to another, I shall admit instead that I do not understand what is spoken of...”
Athanasius: “Now it is the opinion of some, that the Scriptures do not agree together...but there is no disagreement whatever, far from it, neither can the Father, who is truth, lie; ‘for it is impossible that God should lie,’ as Paul affirms.”
Gregory Nanzianzus: “We who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to every letter and serif will never admit, for it is impious to do so, that even the smallest matters were recorded in a careless and hasty manner by those who wrote them down.”
Chrysostom: “‘But the contrary,’ it is said, ‘has come to pass, for in many places they are found to disagree with each other.’ Yet, this very thing is a great proof of their truthfulness. For if they had agreed exactly in all respects, even as to time and place and to the using of the same words, none of our enemies would believe that they had not met together and had not written what they wrote in accord with some human compact....But as it is, the discord which seems to be present in little matters shields them from every suspicion and clearly vindicates the character of the writers.”
Jerome: “I am not, I say it again, so ignorant as to suppose that any of the Lord’s words are either in need of correction or not divinely inspired. But the Latin codices are proved to be faulty by the discrepancies which they all exhibit among themselves; and it was my desire to restore them to the form of the Greek original, from which my detractors do not deny that they have been translated.”
The Popes and Councils continued the tradition of the Fathers, without hesitation. Here are some of the more pertinent papal and conciliar statements:
Pope Leo XIII: Providentissimus Deus, “It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Sacred Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred;”
Pope Pius X: Lamentabili Sani: Condemns the following notion: “Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error;”
Pope Benedict XV: Spiritus Paraclitus: “...the divine inspiration extends to all parts of Scripture without distinction, and that no error could occur in the inspired text;”
Pope Pius XII: Divino Afflante Spiritu, repeats Pope Leo XIII’s decree: “It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Sacred Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred;”
Pius XII: Humani Generis: Condemns the following notion: “...immunity from error extends only to those parts of the Bible that treat of God or of moral and religious matters”;
Pope Pius IX: Syllabus of Errors: Condemns the following notion: “The prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets, and the mysteries of the Christian faith the result of philosophical investigations. In the books of the Old and the New Testament there are contained mythical inventions.”
Even the Pontifical Biblical Commission, an authoritative arm of the Church in 1964, reiterated the historic teaching of the popes and councils, stating: “...that the gospels were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who preserved their authors from every error,” restoring the very word “every” that Vatican II had compromised. (See below).
The Church was so adamant against the idea that the human authors of Scripture could allow an error to slip into Scripture that they spoke of Scripture being “dictated by the Holy Spirit.”
Vatican Council 1: “Further, this supernatural revelation...is contained in the written books...from the apostles themselves by the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and have been transmitted as it were from hand to hand” (Denz. 3006).
Pope Leo XIII: Providentissimus Deus (I, B, 2, b): “For the Sacred Scripture is not like other books. Dictated by the Holy Spirit, it contains things of the deepest importance, which, in many instances, are most difficult and obscure....For all the books in their entirety...with all their parts, have been written under the dictation of the Holy Spirit” (Denz. 3292).
Vatican I and Pope Leo had even more to say on Scripture’s veracity:
“But the Church holds these books as sacred and canonical, not because, having been put together by human industry alone, they were then approved by its authority; nor because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and, as such, they have been handed down to the Church itself....God inspired the human authors of the sacred books...it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever He wanted written, and no more.” (Denz 1787).
Pope Leo XIII, Providentisimus Deus: “It is futile to argue that the Holy Spirit took human beings as his instruments in writing, implying that some error could slip in....For by his supernatural power he so stimulated and moved them to write, and so assisted them while they were writing, that they properly conceived in their minds, wished to write down faithfully, and expressed aptly with infallible truth all those things, and only those things, which he himself ordered; otherwise he could not himself be the author of the whole of Sacred Scripture” (Denz 3293).
As regards Vatican II’s Dei Verbum 11, because of all these witnesses, many of which Vatican II included as footnotes attached to Dei Verbum 11, König’s examples of Scriptural error were rejected. The only thing the bishops agreed to do was take the word “any” out of “without any error,” but with the stipulation that “without error” meant the same thing as “without any error.”
To help show the continuity with previous papal and conciliar statements, Vatican II’s Fathers made six major citations in the footnote (#5) which comes at the end of Dei Verbum 11’s sentence affirming Scripture’s freedom from error. Two of the citations are from Augustine, whom, as we have seen earlier in his disputes with Faustus, was one of the staunchest defenders of a totally inerrant Scripture. Interestingly enough, the first citation is from The Literal Interpretation of Genesis. Here Augustine teaches about the harmony between science and Scripture, showing, in turn, that Vatican II’s respect of Scripture’s inerrancy extended to its affirmations about the physical creation, even though the Bible is not considered a scientific textbook. This clearly shot down König’s objection that the original drafts of Dei Verbum 11 did not allow “scientific freedom.” The second citation from Augustine (Epistle 82, 3) is the quote from the letter to Jerome we cited earlier, which affirmed total biblical inerrancy and attributed contradictions to manuscript variations and human frailties when engaging in biblical interpretation.
Another of Vatican II’s citations is from Trent’s The Canon of Scripture, which, interestingly enough, speaks of the salvific purpose of Scripture. Referring to both Scripture and Tradition, Trent states that they are “the source of all saving truth” (Denz 1501), which is very similar to Vatican II’s statement “for the sake of our salvation,” yet, as everyone knows, Trent never entertained the notion that Scripture contained errors in matters outside of salvation.
The most important addition to footnote #5 was the teaching of Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus stating that, since the sacred writers wrote only what the Holy Spirit wanted them to write, everything which they assert has Him for its author, and is therefore necessarily true. This coincides with the commission’s previous conclusion that the word “salvific” in Dei Verbum 11 did not imply a “material limitation” of the truth of Scripture. Since the quote from Providentissimus Deus includes Leo’s words concerning the Fathers and Doctors who “labored with no less ingenuity than devotion to harmonize and reconcile those many passage which might seem to involve some contradiction or discrepancy,” with little doubt this indicates that Vatican II agreed that steadfastness to preserve the inerrancy of Scripture should be constantly maintained in the Church.
Could the attempted hijacking of Vatican II’s teaching have been avoided? The answer would have to be yes, and it starts with Vatican II itself. Although no one could rightly accuse Dei Verbum 11 of being in error, nevertheless, its suggestive language and essay format may have lent itself to being misinterpreted, especially by the modernists whose agenda we know very well. The European Alliance, which was composed of a huge German-Scandinavian-French-Dutch-Belgian-Austrian bloc of liberal prelates, tried every way possible to steer the council in their direction, and they were well quite successful because they were well organized. The Alliance presented position papers and slates of candidates for the all-important commissions that would eventually control almost every crucial decision the council would make. For example, of 109 candidates presented by the alliance, 79 were elected (72%), and which represented 49% of all elected seats. They constituted 50% of all elected members of the Theological Commission, and 78% on the Liturgical Commission. We’ve already seen what the European Alliance, headed by Cardinal König, had done to the first schema of Dei Verbum 11 – they had it excised from the debate. It was a beautifully worded schema that left no wiggle room for the liberals. Once again it read: “...it follows directly and necessarily that the whole Bible is absolutely immune from error...by its very nature, necessarily prevents and excludes every error in any subject-matter whatever, religious or profane.”
In fact, the liberals even had the title of the general document changed based on the Protestant sensitivities they were trying to inculcate into the council. The original title was “On the Two Sources of Revelation,” which, as any Catholic knows, refers to Scripture and Tradition as two but separate sources of divine revelation. Since Protestant don’t believe Tradition holds such authority, the title was changed to what we have now, Dei Verbum, that is, “On Divine Revelation.” Of course, there is no error in choosing such a title, but in these cases, once we know the history of why the change was made we begin to realize that there is a significant difference between error-free and agenda-free.
Having substituted anemic wording into Dei Verbum 11, these liberals knew precisely what they were going to do with Vatican II’s language. If they couldn’t get the Fathers to state that Scripture contained errors, they would do the next best thing – use their clout to pack it with as much leading language as possible so that when they finally began to teach in their seminaries and universities they could convince the unsuspecting that they were seeing black when in fact it was white.
That this kind of subterfuge was precisely their plan was made quite obvious right at the council. For example, when the Fathers were debating the issue of collegiality, the European Alliance used their clout to steer the voting in a particular direction. When the final vote was presented to Paul VI he was appalled at the council’s lack of wisdom. In his book The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, Father Ralph Wiltgren, S.V.D., reports that:
...the Pope called in one of the theologians from this group and asked him how more than two-thirds of the Fathers could have approved so flawed a document. Did not, Paul asked, the Fathers give the matter deep thought and prayer? The cardinal apologized in advance, then answered: They could not have. Shocked, deeply disturbed, the Pope ended the interview and withdrew to reflect and pray.
Then occurred what may well have been the most significant moment of the Council. It was a moment either of incredible good fortune for traditionalists or of providential intervention by the Almighty. For suddenly, completely unexpectedly, a document, written by a Council theologian, appeared to do exactly what conservatives warned that radicals might do. The event has received little notice and has been practically ignored and unreported in most accounts of the Council. Wiltgren tersely recounts the event:
Then one of the extreme liberals made the mistake of referring, in writing, to some of the ambiguous passages, and indicating how they would be interpreted after the Council. This paper fell into the hands of the aforesaid group of cardinals and Superiors General, whose representative took it to the Pope. Pope Paul, realizing finally that he had been deceived, broke down and wept.
Whoever the author was who brought the article, when Paul VI read the article he seems to have immediately sensed the kind of dissent that would shortly be unleashed against the Church, that is, dissent, to a large extent, based on misinterpretations of Council documents. In fact, so mistrustful was Paul VI of the Council’s machinations, he removed several controversial topics off the table, one of them being the issue of contraception, which he himself had to deal with alone in the 1969 encyclical Humanae Vitae. Just prior to his decision condemning artificial birth control, Paul VI invited 68 of his most prominent cardinals and bishops to discuss and vote on the matter. All but four of them turned out to be pro-contraception. As history reveals, however, Paul VI sided with the four who were anti-contraception.
Previously we noted that as anemic as the language of Dei Verbum 11 was, still, the conservative Fathers succeeded in packing the footnotes with all sorts of traditional references, from Augustine, Aquinas, the Council of Trent and Leo XIII. As good as these footnotes were, however, everyone knows that footnotes do not have the impact that the main text possesses. Even if someone read the footnotes, he wouldn’t know what they were saying unless he looked up the references, since Vatican II did not provide them. Prior to that, he might think Augustine and Aquinas supported the idea that Scripture was inerrant only in matters of salvation.
Despite the addition of the footnotes in Dei Verbum 11 which supported total biblical inerrancy, the modernists would insist otherwise. Steadily gaining ascendancy in academic circles, Fr. Brown finally let the other shoe drop in his New Jerome Biblical Commentary. He refers to the aforementioned inerrancy discussions at Vatican II, saying, “...but pre-voting debates show an awareness of errors in the Bible.” This makes it sound as if the Fathers of Vatican II were bent on stigmatizing Scripture with errors, and thus it is no surprise to see Brown conclude that precise sentiment in his next statement: “Thus, it is proper to take the clause as specifying: Scriptural teaching is truth without error to the extent that it conforms to the salvific purpose of God.” In Fr. Brown’s view, Scripture is only inerrant when it speaks about salvation, and he is trying to make it appear as if Vatican II accepted and propagated that particular view.
The “pre-voting” that Fr. Brown cites refers to the events cited earlier regarding the bishops’ ballots on the three previous schemas of Dei Verbum 11’s wording. Cleverly, Fr. Brown does not reveal to the reader that the “pre-voting” eventually rejected the view that Scripture contained errors, nor reveal that Paul VI was quite active in making sure that such action was facilitated. Instead, Fr. Brown shades the truth and makes it appear as if the “pre-voting” had some clout in and of itself. Even though the votes opting for Scriptural errors were from the minority opinion, nevertheless, Fr. Brown decides that he and his followers will use that slim evidence and grant themselves a license to teach it as Catholic doctrine. With such bias as his motivator, it is not surprising that the Nihil Obstat for Brown’s New Jerome Biblical Commentary was granted by himself and his two co-editors, Joseph Fitzmyer and Roland Murphy.
Incidentally, it should be noted that the 1993 Pontifical Biblical Commission, of which Brown was a member until his death in 1998, produced a detailed document on Biblical Interpretation that cites, in one place, Dei Verbum’s clause “for the sake of our salvation,” but it does not mention, let alone endorse, Brown’s liberal interpretation of it. In fact, although the document takes a shot at the excesses of “fundamentalism,” it also warns against the excesses of historical criticism, stating, “the historico-critical method cannot lay claim to enjoying a monopoly...it must be conscious of its limits, as well as to the dangers to which it is exposed...” But this is only one highlight in a virtual flood of opposing views. As one group of bishops put it:
There is a widespread feeling that Roman documents of varying authority have for some years been systematically reinterpreting the Vatican II documents to present the minority positions at the Council as the true meaning of the Council.
As we have noted, the notion that the Bible contains errors was certainly a “minority position” at the council, but modernists have been trying to hide that fact by playing a shell game with Vatican II for the last fifty years. Unfortunately their views still dominate most of our major Catholic seminaries and universities throughout the world, and even secondary schools are permeated with it. From time to time we hear about their victories and adherents. One recent surfacing occurred in 1998 when Archbishop George Pell of Australia made headlines around the world with his statement that: “The Scriptures are certainly inspired by the Holy Spirit...But they are human creations, which also contain historical and scientific errors and misunderstandings.” As Pell’s assertion stirred quite a bit of controversy, he was supported by no less of an icon than Jesuit priest Fr. Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press. Using Fr. Brown’s interpretation, Fr. Fessio cited Dei Verbum’s phrase “for the sake of our salvation” as the basis for his defense of Pell. Although Fessio conceded to a future magisterial decision on the issue, nevertheless, he concluded: “In the meantime, I’m on the side of Archbishop Pell for the simple reason that, even if he is an archbishop, I think he’s right.” When priests known for their conservative stances on most other issues have succumbed so easily to the modernist view of Scripture, it shows how deeply modernism and Fr. Brown’s teaching has penetrated Catholic thinking. For example, regarding Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, several Catholic prelates tried to neutralize the film’s value by stating that the Gospels were not accurate accounts of what actually took place during the passion. Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose led the list of faithless clerics in this category, declaring in the San Jose Mercury News on February 1 that:
While the primary source material of the film is attributed to the four gospels, these sacred books are not historical accounts of the historical events that they narrate. They are theological reflections upon the events that form the core of Christian faith and belief.
McGrath and Fessio are not alone in this, of course. They are receiving their marching orders from higher places. For example, in 1986 the Vatican released the document Notes on the Correct Way to Present Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis of the Roman Catholic Church. The document strongly suggests that the Gospels’ accounts of the animosity between Christ and the Jews may not be accurate; rather, they are the result of the writer’s inadvertent bias due to hostility that arose between Christians and Jews many years after Christ’s death. It states:
The Gospels are the outcome of long and complicated editorial work....Hence it cannot be ruled out that some references hostile or less than favorable to the Jews have their historic context in conflicts between the nascent Church and the Jewish community. Certain controversies reflect Christian-Jewish relations long after the time of Jesus (n. 29).
This is one of the best examples of the dangers of historical criticism. By the words, “it cannot be ruled out,” a liberal hierarch at the Vatican is trying to persuade the world that the Gospels cannot be automatically assumed as historically accurate. If it is true that the Gospels have been “edited,” then obviously they will contain distorted ideas regarding not only the hostility between Our Lord and the Jews, but many other issues and ideas as well.
Four years later, the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ document God’s Mercy Endures Forever followed the Vatican’s lead in questioning the accuracy of the Gospels. It reads: “The bitterness toward synagogue Judaism seen in John’s gospel most likely reflects the bitterness felt by John’s own community after its ‘parting of the ways’ with the Jewish community.” When the USCCB says “John’s own community” they are intimating that John did not write the Gospel that bears his name; rather, it was written by a group of unidentified people in the late first century who were followers of John’s Christian posterity. In essence, the Vatican and the USCCB seem all too willing to put traditional teaching about Scripture on the altar of sacrifice in order to further their ecumenical agenda and appease their overly scrupulous consciences. All this, of course, has resulted in the utter heresy which maintains that today’s Jews have their own covenant with God and do not need to convert to Christianity for salvation.
These same views are often found on popular television channels. Ex-priest and liberal icon John Dominic Crossan, professor emeritus of DePaul University and frequent guest on ABC, NBC and The Discovery Channel whenever the need arises for the directors to deny the historicity of the Gospels, holds to the same theory as Fr. Brown, that is, that the Gospels were not written by the four evangelists but were a product of disgruntled Christians far removed from the events of Christ’s life. In a recent airing of ABC’s The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Crossan and all the well-known liberals of biblical scholarship are interviewed. Crossan is asked by Stone Phillips: “Who killed Christ” to which Crossan responds: “Not the Jews....the Romans killed Christ...but we don’t have any anti-Italianism today...” Crossan tries to prove that the Gospels have a bias against the Jews by claiming that Mark, which he says is the earliest Gospel, refers to the number of Jews who shouted for Jesus’ crucifixion as a “crowd,” but Matthew and Luke, which are written later, refer to them as a “the crowds,” and by the time we get to John (whom Crossan envisions as written last and well into the second century) the “crowds” are now referred to as “the Jews.” To Crossan, this is clear evidence of a strong anti-semitism growing in the Christian community, and thus the Gospels are anti-semitic. Suffice it to say, there is not an ounce of truth in Crossan’s claims. Mark, Matthew and Luke use the same Greek word for “crowd,” and whereas Mark uses the singular ochlon, Matthew uses the plural ochlous (Mt 27:20) but then switches back to the singular ochlon just four verses later (Mt 27:24), thus showing how the Greek words can be interchanged without any change in meaning. If Crossan had really done his homework, he would have discovered that Mark had a particular idiosyncrasy of never using the plural for “crowd” in his Gospel, even when there are large multitudes of people present. The only exception is Mk 10:1. Although John uses the word “Jew” seven times during the death and resurrection (19:7, 12, 21, 31, 38, 40; 20:19), Matthew uses the same phrase (Mt 28:15), not to mention the fact that Mark has Pilate saying that the crowd knows Jesus as “the King of the Jews”(Mk 15:12), not to mention the fact that the “crowd” is actually composed of Jews. To Crossan, even stating that fact is “anti-semitic.”
Who can you thank for all of this? Fr. Brown and the historical-critical exegetes coming out of the Vatican II era. Today’s Catholic clerics know little else when it comes to biblical exegesis. The idea that the Gospels were written and edited by some remote scribes of the late first century is taken as an apriori assumption among historical critics. To support this view, in his book, Biblical Reflections on Crises Facing the Church, Fr. Brown calls as his sole witness the 1964 Pontifical Biblical Commission (which was then an authoritative arm of the Church). He consistently asserts that the 1964 PBC taught that the Gospels were redacted and edited, and thus were not literal accounts of Jesus’ words. He writes:
However, as we all know, an enormous change began in Catholic circles with the papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) [which I cited earlier in my article] and culminated in the Instruction of the Pontifical Biblical Commission The Historical Truth of the Gospels (1964). In the latter document Catholics are told that the Gospels are the product of a three-stage development that involved many changes and that, therefore, the Gospels are not literal accounts of the words of Jesus.
In reality, Fr. Brown’s above statement is one of the more egregious falsehoods ever perpetrated on unsuspecting Catholics. Fr. Brown is doing the same thing with the 1964 PBC that we saw him do with Dei Verbum 11 when he, without citing the actual outcome of the decisions, concluded that Vatican II taught Scripture is inerrant only in matters of salvation. As most liberals do, Fr. Brown shades the truth to suit his own liberal agenda. If one reads the 1964 PBC honestly and without Brown’s bias, it neither teaches that the Gospels were “developed” nor “are not literal accounts of the words of Jesus.” Brown elaborates on his assertions regarding the 1964 PBC in an appendix. He writes:
...Stage Two recognizes that the christology of the early Church was post-resurrectional in origin and was read back into the accounts of the ministry. It allows for development within the pre-Gospel stage of the Jesus tradition, and is a stage of formation close to what scholars isolate by form-critical analysis. Stage Three acknowledges considerable freedom of authorship by the evangelists. It is a stage of formation close to what scholars isolate by redaction criticism. Note that the Roman Catholic Church has gone on record stating that the Gospels are not literal or chronological accounts of the words and deeds of Jesus.
Notice that, in commandeering the name “Roman Catholic Church,” Fr. Brown wants us to believe that his interpretations of the PBC are one and the same with the Church’s official teaching on Scripture. So let’s see what the 1964 PBC really teaches. Suffice it to say, it never makes the conclusions that Fr. Brown made. I will underline the places Fr. Brown emphasized, since he thought that these sentences supported his view that the Gospels were written by unidentified scribes and thus were not the literal words of Jesus:
Stage Two: The Preaching of the Apostles
VIII. The apostles proclaimed above all the death and resurrection of the Lord, as they bore witness to Jesus. They faithfully explained his life and words, while taking into account in their method of preaching the circumstances in which their listeners found themselves. After Jesus rose from the dead and his divinity was clearly perceived, faith, far from destroying the memory of what had transpired, rather confirmed it, because their faith rested on the things which Jesus did and taught. Nor was he changed into a ‘mythical’ person and his teaching deformed in consequence of the worship which the disciples from that time on paid Jesus as the Lord and the Son of God. On the other hand, there is no reason to deny that the apostles passed on to their listeners what was really said and done by the Lord with that fuller understanding which they enjoyed, having been instructed by the glorious events of the Christ and taught by the light of the Spirit of Truth. So, just as Jesus himself after his resurrection ‘interpreted to them’ the words of the Old Testament as well as his own, they too interpreted his words and deeds according to the needs of their listeners. ‘Devoting themselves to the ministry of the word,’ they preached and made use of various modes of speaking which were suited to their own purpose and the mentality of their listeners. For they were debtors ‘to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and the foolish.’ But these modes of speaking with which the preachers proclaimed Christ must be distinguished and (properly) assessed: catechesis, stories, testimonia, hymns, doxologies, prayers – and other literary forms of this sort which were in Sacred Scripture and were accustomed to be used by men of that time.
Stage Three: The Writing by the Evangelists
IX. This primitive instruction, which was at first passed on by word of mouth and then in writing – for it soon happened that many tried ‘to compile a narrative of the things’ which concerned the Lord Jesus – was committed to writing by the sacred authors in four Gospels for the benefit of the churches, with a method suited to the peculiar purpose which each (author) set for himself. From the many things handed down they selected some things, reduced other to a synthesis, (still) others they explicated as they kept in mind the situation of the churches. With every (possible) means they sought that their readers might become aware of the reliability of those words by which they had been instructed. Indeed, from what they had received the sacred writers above all selected the things which were suited to the various situations of the faithful and to the purpose which they had in mind, and adapted their narration of them to the same situations and purpose. Since the meaning of a statement also depends on the sequence, the Evangelists, in passing on the words and deeds of our Saviour, explained these now in one context, now in another, depending on (their) usefulness to the readers. Consequently, let the exegete seek out the meaning intended by the Evangelist in narrating a saying or a deed in a certain way or in placing it in a certain context. For the truth of the story is not at all affected by the fact that the Evangelists relate the words and deeds of the Lord in a different order, and express his sayings not literally but differently, while preserving (their) sense. For, as St. Augustine says, ‘It is quite probable that each Evangelist believed it to have been his duty to recount what he had to in that order in which it pleased God to suggest it to his memory – in those things at least in which the order, whether it be this or that, detracts in nothing from the truth and authority of the Gospel. But why the Holy Spirit, who apportions individually to each one as He wills, and who therefore undoubtedly also governed and ruled the minds of the holy (writers) in recalling what they were to write because of the pre-eminent authority which the books were to enjoy, permitted one to compile his narrative in this way, and another in that, anyone with pious diligence may seek the reason and with divine aid will be able to find it.”
X. Unless the exegete pays attention to all these things which pertain to the origin and composition of the Gospels and makes proper use of all the laudable achievements of recent research, he will not fulfill his task of probing into what the sacred writers intended and what they really said. From the results of the new investigations it is apparent that the doctrine and the life of Jesus were not simply reported for the sole purpose of being remembered, but were ‘preached’ so as to offer the Church a basis of faith and of morals. The interpreter (then), by tirelessly scrutinizing the testimony of the Evangelists, will be able to illustrate more profoundly the perennial theological value of the Gospels and bring out clearly how necessary and important the Church’s interpretation is.
Now, let’s place all the underlined sentences side-by-side since they are the ones Fr. Brown used to support his position that the Gospels were written by someone other than the four Evangelists and do not contain the literal words of Jesus:
“After Jesus rose from the dead and his divinity was clearly perceived”
“...the apostles passed on to their listeners what was really said and done by the Lord with that fuller understanding which they enjoyed”
Here Fr. Brown is implying that the apostles did not write the Gospels but “passed on to their listeners” the Lord’s words, and these “listeners” then passed it on to others and eventually one group of listeners put in writing what they heard. But Fr. Brown is simply reading into the text, since the PBC is saying nothing more than the fact that Jesus promised divine help directly to the Apostles in order that they could understand more clearly the truths of the faith, and naturally, they would write about these new insights after they received them (John 14:17-18; 15:26; 16:13; Acts 2:1-24).
“...they too interpreted his words and deeds according to the needs of their listeners...”
“From the many things handed down they selected some things, reduced other to a synthesis, (still) others they explicated as they kept in mind the situation of the churches”
These don’t prove anything for Fr. Brown, since the PBC’s sentence makes no indication that the Apostles themselves did not make the selections and synthesis for their hearers. In fact, the only non-apostle to write a Gospel, Luke, makes it clear that he received his information directly from eyewitnesses, which he then selected and synthesized (Luke 1:1-4). We know from the Pauline epistles that Luke lived in the same generation as the eyewitnesses (cf. Cl 4:14; 2Tm 4:11; Pm 1:24). Of course, we must realize that Fr. Brown also impugns the integrity of the epistles, since he believed St. Paul wrote only seven of the thirteen epistles ascribed to him. In fact, Fr. Brown assigns to Paul only three epistles more than the liberal Protestant Ferdinand Baur – the originator of the historical-critical method from the Tübingen school in Germany in the late 1800s.
Here is the next selection Fr. Brown makes from the PBC:
“For the truth of the story is not at all affected by the fact that the Evangelists relate the words and deeds of the Lord in a different order, and express his sayings not literally but differently.”
Again, this provides nothing for Fr. Brown’s case. As far as the 1964 PBC is concerned, the “Evangelists” to which it refers are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, since it gives no indication it wishes to identify, or even suggest, some other group of Gospel writers.
Second, the PBC makes no suggestion that the accounts do not contain the exact truth of what occurred. The only emphasis the PBC makes is that each Evangelist decided on the particular “order” he wanted to record the Lord’s words and deeds. The PBC then quotes from St. Augustine and thus makes abundantly clear their precise intent in referring to “order.” St. Augustine mentions twice that the Gospel writers have differences in the “order” they express things, but he makes no suggestion that any of the Evangelists wrote inaccurately or that the Gospels contain historical errors. Surely the PBC wouldn’t have quoted from Augustine if they did not fully intend to embrace his view of full biblical inerrancy, which admitted to no errors in Scripture, including historical errors.
Hence, when the PBC says “and express his sayings not literally but differently” it is not saying that there are historical errors in the Gospels, or that someone other than the four Evangelists wrote the Gospels, or that the actual words of Jesus are not recorded, since, by the PBC’s own admission, “differently” refers to “order,” “selection” and/or “synthesis,” not error. For example, one Evangelist says that Jesus cured one blind man on his way out of Jericho (Mk 10:46), while another Evangelist says he cured two blind men on the way out of Jericho (Mt 20:29), and still a third says He cured one blind man while going into Jericho (Lk 18:35). Here the Evangelists are, what the PBC terms, “selecting” or “synthesizing.” This results in each of them giving a different “order” to the events, but there is no error, since no one Evangelist gives us all the events that transpired in their proper sequence. If we were to give the proper sequence of all the events, it would go something like this: The two blind men call out to Jesus as he leaves Jericho. Here Lk 19:1f inserts the meeting of Jesus and Zaccheus while Jesus “passed through” Jericho. It is late in the day. Jesus tells Zaccheus that He must “stay at his house” that night. Thus Jesus returns to Jericho where Zaccheus lived. On his return to Jericho, the two blind men are cured. Make and Luke ignore the second blind man since only one of the blind men speaks to Jesus.
Unfortunately, when liberal exegetes like Fr. Brown see a loaded phrase such as “not literally but differently” in the 1964 PBC document, they do the same thing to it that they did to the phrase “for the sake of our salvation” in Dei Verbum 11 – use the ambiguity to change the meaning to accord with their hermeneutical agenda. By this insidious approach to Scripture, Fr. Brown has poisoned a whole generation of biblical scholars.
Not surprisingly, there is one particular passage Fr. Brown did not highlight from the 1964 PBC – the one stating that historical accuracy was of the utmost importance to the Gospel writers. It reads: “With every means they sought that their readers might become aware of the reliability of those words by which they had been instructed.” How convenient that Fr. Brown just skips over this without comment.
Lastly, Fr. Brown selects this PBC statement:
“that the doctrine and the life of Jesus were not simply reported for the sole purpose of being remembered, but were ‘preached’ so as to offer the Church a basis of faith and of morals.”
Once again, this provides no help for Fr. Brown, since the PBC says nothing that would indicate the Apostles did not preach their own message before or after they wrote it.
Now that we have exhausted Fr. Brown’s appeals to the 1964 PBC, let’s observe another classic case of how he shades the truth to suit his own agenda. Note the difference between what the 1964 PBC says regarding “forms” as opposed to what Fr. Brown says:
1964 PBC: “But these modes of speaking with which the preachers proclaimed Christ must be distinguished and assessed: catechesis, stories, testimonia, hymns, doxologies, prayers – and other literary forms of this sort which were in Sacred Scripture and were accustomed to be used by men of that time.”
Fr. Brown: “In the Bible there are passages of poetry, song, fiction, and fable where the matter of inerrancy does not even arise.”
The 1964 PBC neither includes the word “fiction” in its list of literary forms nor does it suggest that there are places in Scripture “where the matter of inerrancy does not even arise,” but somehow Fr. Brown insists that both are there. From this manufactured assistance, Fr. Brown’s New Jerome Biblical Commentary, a main-stay for Catholic seminaries and universities, claims about a dozen times that Scripture contains “fiction,” without one honest note to the reader that the Church has never once issued such a teaching. Parables, of course, are the “stories” to which the PBC is referring, and we know they are of such a genre because Scripture painstakingly introduces their literary form by indicating the account is a “parable” (cf. Mt 13:18; Mk 4:2; Jn 10:6; Ez 17:2). But Fr. Brown does not limit “fiction” to parables; rather, he ascribes it to any historical narrative in Scripture of his own choosing. Brown usually makes such determinations based on whether he agrees or disagrees with what is being portrayed in the narrative. If he disagrees, the narrative is assigned to the world of make-believe. Narratives such as the creation of the world, the Noachic flood, the ten plagues of Egypt, Jonah swallowed by a great fish, etc. are relegated to the category of fiction. Fr. Brown, however, does not one official Catholic teaching that says historical narratives can be regarded as fiction, so his only recourse is to the 1964 PBC, but as we have seen above, his conclusions about the PBC are totally baseless.
Hence, we wonder why, on the one hand, Cardinal Ratzinger once said of Fr. Brown: “I wish I had a hundred bible scholars just like him,” yet Fr. Kenneth Baker, editor of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, recently concluded:
...according to Fr. Brown, most of the books in the NT were not written by those whose names are on them...The implication throughout is that Jesus did not say and do what the Gospels attribute to them...I do not doubt the Catholic faith of Fr. Brown, but his rationalistic scholarship, in my opinion, is a recipe for skepticism. Vatican II (Revelation #12) and the new Catechism (#111-114) say that Catholics should be attentive “to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture”; the should read the Bible within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”; and they should be attentive to the “analogy of faith”....All three are missing in this book. Therefore, if it is consulted, it should be done so with great caution.
As we complete this exposé the hermeneutics of Fr. Raymond Brown and the demise of Catholic biblical scholarship we will examine two other works that Brown authored and co-authored, respectively: Biblical Reflections on Crises Facing the Church (1988) and The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990). Crises Facing the Church can be considered the synopsis of Brown’s entire approach to Scripture. It contains a litany of statements highlighting his modernist methodology; his love of Protestant biblical scholarship; and his disdain for “conservative” Catholicism. Fr. Brown makes no apologies for his dependence on Protestant scholarship. He writes:
...in recent years I have had the grace of teaching Protestant student for the ministry as well as Catholic candidates for the priesthood. The Roman Catholic Church could not have made its advance in biblical criticism without Protestant aid. If the first third of the century the torch of biblical criticism was kept lighted by Protestant scholars; and when after 1943 Catholic lit their candles from it, they profited from the burnt fingers as well as the glowing insights of their Protestant confreres. It is no accident that Protestant and Catholic biblical scholars have been coming closer together ever since, to the point now of producing common studies of divisive problems....along with the presence of Protestant teachers in many Catholic institutions, brings new knowledge into the Catholic perspective.
On the one hand, we must agree with Fr. Brown. It is precisely because of the incursion of Protestant theology into Catholic academia that liberal Catholics such as Fr. Brown owe much of their present occupation. For example, the ideas that Scripture contains historical errors; that the Gospels are not literal accounts of the events that transpired in Jesus’ day and were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and that St. Paul wrote only four, possibly seven, of the thirteen epistles attributed to him, are all products from the speculations and unproven theories of liberal Protestants stemming from the 1700-1900s, and which Fr. Brown and his entourage of Catholic modernists were only too happy to engorge themselves, like flies to dung.
Along with his dependence on Protestants, Brown has a pernicious way of turning the silence of the Church, or the offhand remarks of a Vatican cleric, into definitive evidence favoring his view of Scripture. Here’s how he puts it:
By that time [1950s] the pursuit of the scientific method had led Catholic exegetes to abandon almost all the positions on biblical authorship and composition taken by Rome at the beginning of the century. No longer did they hold that Moses was the substantial author of the Pentateuch, that the first chapters of Genesis were really historical, that Isaiah was one book, that Matthew was the first Gospel written by an eyewitness, that Luke and Acts were written in the 60’s, that Paul wrote Hebrews, etc. This dramatic change of position was tacitly acknowledged in 1955 by the secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission who stated that now Catholic scholars had “complete freedom” with regard to those decrees of 1905-1915 except where they touched on faith and morals (and very few of them did).
Notice, as he did with the 1964 PBC, Fr. Brown does the same here. He has no official ecclesiastical statements on which to stake his claim, so he resorts to “tacitly acknowledged” appeals to the “secretary” of the 1955 PBC, as if these are binding dictates from the pope himself. Fr. Brown was an expert at making it appear as if he had the formal backing of the magisterium when, in fact, the Church said very little, if anything, in official support of his exegesis of Scripture. Despite Fr. Brown’s rhetoric, the Church has made no official reversal of the teachings of the1905-1915 PBC. Consequently, Catholics can continue believing that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (save his obituary); that the first chapters, and all of Genesis, are historical and literally accurate; and that the Gospels were written by the Evangelists and give an accurate rendering of Jesus’ life, because Fr. Brown has nothing but his biased opinion to claim that these beliefs have been changed.
We see the same distorting of reality in Brown’s comment on the 1972 PBC. He writes:
And as a further sign of the Church’s commitment to biblical criticism, in 1972 Pope Paul VI restructured the Pontifical Biblical Commission so that scholars, instead of being merely consultors, now constituted the Commission itself.
Those who know the truth are probably in consternation at Fr. Brown’s attempt at obfuscating the events of 1972. When Paul VI “restructured” the Pontifical Biblical Commission it was then that he took away their official status as an authoritative arm of the Church. As a result, the PBC became, and is to this present day, merely an advisory board of scholars that have absolutely no authority over what Catholics are required to believe, which was not the case in 1905-1915. Instead of telling his reader the truth, Fr. Brown gives the impression that the present PBC is not only authoritative, but that liberal scholars like himself constitute that authority. Not only did Scripture receive the assault of Fr. Brown’s wayward methodology, but Catholic dogma was likewise attacked. He writes:
While doctrinal formulations of the past capture an aspect of revealed truth, they do not exhaust it; they represent the limited insight of one period of Church history when can be modified in another period of Church history as Christians approach the truth from different direction or with new tools of investigation.
What does Fr. Brown see as “modified” dogma? We have given evidence of a good portion of his views already. Nevertheless, we can allow Fr. Brown to speak for himself:
By way of example, the physical sciences have traced patterns of human evolution; biblical criticism has given a better understanding of the type of literature represented by the early chapters of Genesis; and so together the physical sciences and biblical criticism have helped Catholics to see that in the ancient doctrine of God’s creation of man it is no longer necessary to maintain that man’s body was directly created by God from the earth, or that woman’s body was directly created from man’s.
Similar to Teilhard de Chardin and the liberals of the 1940s and 50s, all the way up to today’s theistic evolutionists such as Stanley Jaki, evolution is the calling-card of the modern generation of Catholic exegetes. If, besides the fact that they believe Scripture can err, we needed one other common denominator among all of them to understand the driving force of their entire hermeneutic, it is the theory and concept of evolution – the very aberration about which Pope Pius X warned in his encyclicals against modernism. “To evolution,” thinks Fr. Brown, “everything must bow,” including Scripture. Without a shred of scientific proof to its claims, evolution is elevated to the status of a demigod. Fr. Brown and the liberals have cast their lot with the religion of “Scientism” and bow to it just as the Israelites bowed to a wooden image instead of the One who created the world in six days (Is 45:16-18). Fr. Brown even shows how he carved his icon. In his New Jerome Biblical Commentary he included an entire appendix to a chronology of the earth that stretches back to the so-called “Paleolithic” period of 1.6 million years ago.
But those who have studied the true science (not that pseudo-science of such secular icons as Stephen Gould of Harvard and Niles Eldredge of the Natural History Museum) have seen in the last 50 years such overwhelming evidence against evolution – evidence that is consistently denied and suppressed by the secular establishment – it is rather easy to come to the conclusion that scientists who still believe in that childish nonsense are nothing but stubborn fools, and the theistic evolutionists who follow them, such as Brown, Jaki, Vawter, Johnston, et al, are the bastard children of such foolishness. As Sir William Gilbert, writing in the 16th century, recognized very early in the game: “Science has done its utmost to prevent whatever science has done.”
As he usually does, Fr. Brown twists and turns the papal statements on this issue to make it sound as if they are on his side. For example, he gives the impression that, even after Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis, it is still acceptable for Catholic exegetes to believe in polygenism (that the human race descended from more than one set of parents). Let’s see what Pius XII actually said.
When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.
Now, notice how Fr. Brown distorts this very paragraph to his own advantage (Brown quotes from Humani Generis and then adds a comment in brackets):
As for polygenism, “It is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled” with what has been taught on original sin, viz., that it proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam. [Note, however, that the pope does not absolutely condemn the theory of polygenism].
As one can see, Fr. Brown has extracted one sentence from Pius’ paragraph and avoided all the rest. Fr. Brown focuses on the word “apparent” and gives the reader the impression that Pius XII was not being firm and resolute on his refusal to accept polygenism. Fr. Brown does not tell the reader that, in the sentence prior, Pius said “...the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion...” As he usually does, Fr. Brown leaves out whatever disagrees with his preconceived notion of truth. This is the kind of subterfuge that is all over his writings. In all my 35 years of study, I have yet to see a Catholic twist and distort words and sentences to his own favor as much as Fr. Raymond Brown does. We can easily see why Fr. Brown states:
“...it is no longer necessary to maintain that man’s body was directly created by God from the earth, or that woman’s body was directly created from man’s,” or “the bishops have spoken of God’s creation of the world, but there is not a word against evolution and no indication that the Genesis account of creation must be taken literally.”
To Brown, those who don’t accept evolution are “pseudo-scientific antievolutionists.” Not surprisingly, Fr. Brown claims that in Humani Generis “there is virtually no chastisement of biblical scholars. Seemingly to his death Pius XII remained firm in his faith in modern criticism.” But those of us who have carefully studied Humani Generis know why Fr. Brown used the qualifiers “virtually” and “seemingly.” If one reads the encyclical without Fr. Brown’s bias, the “chastisement” of modern biblical scholars is very apparent. For example, in paragraph 23 Pius writes:
Further, according to their fictitious opinions, the literal sense of Holy Scripture and its explanation, carefully worked out under the Church’s vigilance by so many great exegetes, should yield now to a new exegesis, which they are pleased to call symbolic or spiritual...By this method, they say, all difficulties vanish, difficulties which hinder only those who adhere to the literal meaning of the Scriptures.
This is a stinging indictment against Fr. Brown and his colleagues, for it is precisely their hermeneutic which says that the literal details of Scripture are incidental, unimportant and unreliable, and that the “spiritual meaning” is the only thing the author “intended.”
In paragraph 38 Pius takes a clear shot at the Wellhausen theory that many Catholic biblicists were using to interpret the Old Testament:
This Letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis...do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense...If, however, the sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations...it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.
In paragraphs 25-26, Pius XII shows the damage this new hermeneutic has done:
It is not surprising that novelties of this kind have already borne their deadly fruit in almost all branches of theology....Some also question whether angels are personal beings. Disregarding the Council of Trent, some pervert the very concept of original sin, along with the concept of sin in general as an offense against God, as well as the idea of satisfaction performed for us by Christ. Some even say that the doctrine of transubstantiation, based on an antiquated philosophic notion of substances, should be also modified...
Notice that Pius XII warned about those who “pervert the very concept of original sin.” What was Fr. Brown’s goal? It is something you will not hear from his admirers and which is not well known among his detractors. Fr. Brown’s goal was to eliminate the Catholic notion that Original Sin began with a man named Adam who disobeyed God. Fr. Brown, as all liberals have tried to do, was trying to establish that man’s condition (i.e., a condition that is hampered by imperfection and a proclivity to evil) was merely the way he “evolved” into being. Man’s hominid ancestors were savages and thus modern man is said to have retained some of those negative traits. In other words, man is today the way God allowed him to evolve, not the condition into which God placed man when he sinned in our first parent, Adam. Consequently, the onus is put on God, not man, for man’s present condition. This is precisely what is behind the carefully chosen words Fr. Brown uses to describe his desire to reinterpret original sin:
But we should stress that the Genesis story is only a vehicle for the doctrine of original sin and not the substance of the teaching. Moreover, in loyalty to modern biblical scholarship, we should point out that the Genesis story is not an exact historical account of the origins of man. Thereby we prepare students for the possibility that, under the impact of theological reflection, the Church may not always phrase the doctrine of original sin in terms of a sin committed by Adam and Eve as sole parent of the human race...to keep abreast of modern theological discussion, so that the limitations of past understandings of those doctrines are not imposed on the students as if they had to be believed.
This attempt to reorient the doctrine of original sin goes hand-in-hand with Brown’s continual praise of the Protestant liberal theologian, Karl Barth, who, having a wide influence on Catholic theologians (especially Hans Küng) believed and taught that “original sin” is merely a way of describing that man is today the way he always was. God allowed him to evolve that way. There was no “fall” of man. Not surprisingly, since Barth put the onus on God for man’s condition, then, of course, it is God’s responsibility to save all men from the state with which He hampered them, which then led to Barth’s teaching of universal salvation. Very simply, God did it, and thus God is responsible for undoing it. Conservative Protestants are very aware of Barth’s theology. Historical theologian Francis A. Schaeffer writes that Barth, without any public repudiation, believed and wrote in his books that Scripture contained historical errors and that man did not have a “space-time Fall” and that he emphasized “the place of universalism in the new theology.”
It is easy to see where the idea of universal salvation originated that we see so prevalent in Catholic theologians and clerics today. Fortunately for us, Fr. Brown makes his acceptance of Karl Barth quite clear so that we don’t have to guess what his theological motivations are for advancing polygenism. In fact, in his clever way, Fr. Brown tries to pass off Barth as a spokesman against “liberalism” when he writes: “The reaction against liberalism found eloquent spokesmen in Karl Barth in the area of systematic theology and Rudolf Butlmann in the area of biblical study.” Bultmann, along with the other liberal Protestants such as Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Deitrich Bonhoffer, Emil Bruner, et al, all embraced Barth’s elimination of original sin and advancement of universal salvation, and they systematically infected Catholic liberals such as Karl Rahner, Hans Kung, Henri de Lubac, Anthony de Mello, Edward Schillebeeckx, Gabriel Moran, et al, some of the very theologians who were invited as periti at Vatican II. Not surprisingly, many of these theologians lived immoral lives. If you believe that God made you the way you are and that it was His responsibility to save you, what will motivate you from curtailing your innate immorality and savagery? You can simply blame it on God, or chalk it up to the fact that you haven’t “evolved” to the point of overcoming such tendencies. Of course, this is the same reason many of today’s bishops and priests advocate, protect and practice the homosexual lifestyle. As we can see, the whole world has been turned upside down by the hermeneutic practiced by Fr. Brown and company.
In the hermeneutic of Fr. Brown, one of his favorite ways of promoting the historical-critical method was to keep drumming into his student’s heads that Scripture contains “fiction.” The vehicle he used to support this idea was that it was never the biblical author’s “intent” to write accurate history. You will see the word “intent” over and over again in liberal literature on Scripture. Even though he has no proof, the liberal critic gives the impression that he knows the precise intent of the biblical author and can therefore construct his conclusions accordingly. Here is a sample of how this plays out in everyday life. In the Good News Bible for Catholics, the liberal editor weaves in the author’s “intent” with the view that Scripture is only inerrant when it speaks of salvation. After giving a few examples of Scriptural “error,” the editor of the Good News Bible writes:
All of this means only that the Bible must be understood in the sense in which it was intended by God and by the biblical authors. And their purpose was not to write a history book in the modern Western sense of that term, but to set forth the history of God’s salvation. The Second Vatican Council in its document on Revelation (Dei Verbum, #11) recognized this when it declared that the Holy Spirit through these writings teaches us “that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation” (italics added).
Here, the unsuspecting Catholic who reads this biased and distorted preface will now be primed to read the Bible’s narratives as if they were fiction. One will often see appeals to “history in the Western sense of that term” in the liberal literature, and which will immediately be used to claim that the biblical authors neither knew how to write nor even intended to write true and accurate history. The liberals think they have the license to teach these things because, according to their distorted interpretation of Dei Verbum 11, real biblical truth only applies to matters of salvation. This is one of the biggest falsehoods ever perpetrated on mankind, and its home is right in the heart of liberal Catholicism. As we have seen, the true Church, the official Church, has never taught such things. She has said precisely the opposite in every one of her official statements on Scripture. Nevertheless, Fr. Brown and his cohorts claim that,
From the very first time the story of Gen 1-3 is told to kindergarten children, they should be taught to think of it as a popular story and not as history, even though the teacher may not wish at that level to raise formally the question of historicity.
As with all attempts at indoctrination, the primary candidates for propagating one’s views are children. Many of the baby-boomers who went through Catholic grade schools of the 60s and 70s know this to be the case, since by that time the liberal hermeneutic had seeped far and wide into Catholic academia. We were taught that the Creation story was a poetic myth, that Adam and Eve were not real, that Moses didn’t write the Old Testament and that Jonah was never swallowed by a great fish. Why? If you didn’t know it then, you know it now – because it was not the biblical author’s “intent” to write history, so we are told. Fr. Brown knows that the “intent” of the biblical author is the crux of the issue. He writes:
On the other hand, church writers interpreted the literal sense of the Bible with great latitude, for they did not have to justify a correspondence between the meaning they found in the text and the author’s original intent. The latter outlook has echoes in the sophisticated reaction of some modern literary critics against the historical-critical quest for the author’s intent, which they regard as unknowable.
Notice that Fr. Brown feels no compulsion to match the words one reads in Scripture with the biblical author’s original intent. They are totally divorced from one another. Why? Because if a person such as Fr. Brown reads words in Scripture which claim, for example, that the world was created in six days, or that Goliath was a nine-foot giant whom David knocked out with a single stone, but he finds them too fanciful and hard to believe, then he can simply dismiss them as being non-factual accounts similar to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and claim that the author never intended otherwise. Fr. Brown cleverly tries to pass off “fiction” as one of the options available to biblical exegetes by comparing Scripture to other human writing. Thus he writes:
In the quest for the literal sense of any writing, it is important to determine the literary form the author was employing. In a modern library, books are classified according to the type of literature: fiction, poetry, history, biography, drama, etc...A history and a novel may treat the same person or event, but we expect different degrees of fact and fiction from them, whereas in regard to poetry the issue of fact and fiction is irrelevant....Factual history is a type of literature; fiction is another; both exist in the Bible...If one correctly classifies a certain part of the Bible as fiction, one is not destroying the historicity of that section, for it never was history; one is simply recognizing the author’s intention in writing that section.
If one does not have his antenna on alert, Fr. Brown’s above words might appear innocuous to the average Catholic. But Fr. Brown did something very tricky. He does not speak of the literal meaning but of the literal sense. What is the literal sense? Obviously, it cannot be the literal meaning, or Fr. Brown would be a conservative who takes the Bible at face value, and he assures us he is not. In Fr. Brown’s world, “literal sense” is equivalent to fiction. Here Fr. Brown stretches the meaning of words to the absolute breaking point. The divergence of what we normally understand between the symbolic and the literal, Fr. Brown now bridges by claiming that it was the author’s literal intent to use fiction. In other words, the literal meaning of the text is no longer what we use to judge its meaning; rather, we judge the meaning based on whether the author intended to write fiction. If he intended to write fiction, then writing fiction was what he “literally” intended, and thus fiction becomes the “literal sense” of his words. You have to hand it to Fr. Brown. This is an ingenious way of twisting the issue to get it to go where you want it to go.
But who is to decide when the biblical writer “intended” to write fiction? Well, Fr. Brown and the historical-critical exegetes, of course. With what criterion will they judge whether it is fiction? On their “scientific” opinions regarding what they believe are the established “facts” of life (e.g., all life evolved over billions of years; men are not swallowed by whales; snakes don’t talk; donkeys don’t talk; giants like Goliath never existed; strongmen like Samson are a myth; their wasn’t enough rain to create Noah’s flood; there was not enough room for Noah to put two of every animal on the ark; the angel of death did not kill all the firstborn of Egypt; the Gospel are not historical biographies of Jesus’ life; etc.).
This is a clever and effective way for liberals to deny the content of Scripture and at the same time dress up their views in intellectual garb so that it can have the appearance of studied research. In reality, it is only Fr. Brown’s subjective opinion on the meaning of Scripture. I wonder what Fr. Brown would have done if we interpreted his New Jerome Biblical Commentary in the same way he interprets Scripture – by what we think his “intent” is? We could posit all kinds of sinister motives for Fr. Brown’s teachings, none of which he would like (e.g., that he is demonically possessed and is bent on destroying the Catholic faith). He would be the first to claim that we could never know his true intent, since we don’t know the inner recesses of his heart. Fr. Brown goes on:
Literary criticism, however, does not view the text as a “window” onto a historical world...but as a “mirror” reflecting a world into which the reader is invited. In other words, the referent of the text as such is not the “real world” of history (e.g., exodus or crucifixion) but the literary world signified by the text. In the case of the biblical texts, the literary world is generated by the theological interpretation of the reality (e.g., escape from Egypt as divine liberation for covenant life; the death of Jesus as salvific paschal mystery)...”
This is quite ironic. For all the descriptions of a primitive-thinking and cretinous culture that Fr. Brown and the historical-critical exegetes foist on the mentality of the biblical writers, they nevertheless allow the same writers to be quite ingenious in dressing up historical events so that the history is minimized and the “literary world” radiantly blooms before our eyes. It seems odd that such primitive-thinking individuals possessed such ease in assenting to this higher dimension of literature. According to Fr. Brown, the biblical writers have little ability to “write history in the Western sense of the term” and are hampered with a “naive prescientific outlook,” but they have no problem flowering their writing as if they were like William Shakespeare, indulging their prose with highfalutin literary genres (e.g., “fiction, poetry, drama, biography”). Imagine how much intellectual and literary acumen it requires to alter the historical reality of an event and replace it with deep and penetrating philosophical or theological messages. Some of our best university students find this difficult to do, but they usually have little problem in stating the bare facts of an event. To Fr. Brown the biblical writers are so good at producing the world of make-believe one might think that they would have to be educated at Harvard or Yale in order to be so convincing, but none of the biblical writers’ lack of such tutelage seems to hamper Fr. Brown and his theory. He can make the biblical writers adept or inept whenever he chooses, that is, whatever he can use to support his higher-critical theories. As usual, Fr. Brown then has the audacity to seek support from the Catholic magisterium for his flagrant illogic:
...the reference to the author’s intention in the definition affirms that those who produced the biblical books had in their times a message to convey to their readers and that it is important for us to have this message in mind when we read the texts and ask what they now mean for us...The quest implied in the definition matches Pius XII’s statement in DAS (EB 550): “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...so that the mind of the author may be made clear.”
What did Fr. Brown just do? By now you ought to be able to see it for yourself. Once again, he twisted Pius XII’s words. Before he extracted Pius XII’s quote, Fr. Brown asserts that the literal words we read in Scripture may have nothing to do with the intent of the biblical author. But is that what Pius XII said? No, in fact, Pius XII said just the opposite. Pius said that in order to know the “mind of the author” we “discern and define” the “literal” sense of his biblical words. That is, we can only know the author’s intent by understanding the literal meaning of his words. Pius XII neither puts adjectives on his use of “literal” (e.g., it is not the “literal sense”), nor mentions anything about seeing “fiction” in Scripture, nor about having some precognition of the author’s intent apart from the author’s literal words. Yet Fr. Brown pulls the magician’s cape over Pius XII’s words and utters his historical-critical abracadabra, and presto! Pius XII now agrees with Fr. Brown.
Of course, Fr. Brown’s emphasis on “intent” eventually reveals its own insidious intent (pun intended) because it results in Fr. Brown’s ultimate desire to limit biblical inerrancy to “matters of salvation.” He writes: “The distinction between the author’s thought world and the message he conveys in writing is important in discussing the limits of biblical inerrancy.” A literal reading of Fr. Brown’s words shows that his intent in focusing on the “intent” is so that he can say that the biblical author made mistakes in his historical accounting and did not intend to give literal truth. Be that as it may, by referring to “matters of salvation” we might think that Fr. Brown has at least salvaged some truth from the Bible. However, being curious about what they really meant by this phrase, I once asked one of his astute admirers how one defines “matters of salvation.” His reply was: “Whatever is in the Nicene Creed, that’s all.” Anything else in Scripture is up for grabs, and that is precisely why Catholic biblical scholarship has met its demise.
Finally, Fr. Brown’s most vociferous critics included Cardinal Lawrence Shehan and Father Richard W. Gilsdorf, who described Brown’s work as “a major contribution to the befogged wasteland of an ‘American Church’ progressively alienated from its divinely constituted center.” St. John's University professor emeritus Msgr. Kelly in his The Church's Problem With Biblical Scholars declares that when Fr. Brown questions the doctrine of the virginal conception, “and says what he earlier called infallible, is really fallible, after all,” Brown leaves his audience, if not himself, “in a squirrel cage running round and round in a circle always returning to the same place, doubt.” Msgr. Kelly stated that the new modernist proposals are often only theories which contradict understandings from the earliest Christian days. Scripture scholar Fr. Gilsdorf, whose excellent two-part series in The Wanderer some years ago commenting on Fr. Brown’s book, 101 Questions on the Bible, debunked many of Brown's theories, including his concept of “an ignorant Jesus,” urges that before reading Fr. Brown, Catholics should forearm themselves by an open-minded reading of orthodox critics of Brown. “Begin with Msgr. Kelly, then Cardinal Shehan, Fr. Miguens, Fr. Most, and Fr. Laurentin,” Fr. Gilsdorf says. Concerning Fr. Brown, Fr. Gilsdorf asked these telling questions: “Is Fr. Brown right? How much can we rely on his teaching? Are his claims to orthodoxy valid? Is he a safe guide, or, as I would judge, a major contribution to the befogged wasteland of an 'American Church,' progressively alienated from its divinely constituted center?”
 Please note here that Fr. Brown believes, in line with the theories of “historical criticism,” that Genesis was not written by Moses (even though the Pentateuch states he was the author over a dozen times), and neither was it written during the time of Moses, but rather, was an “eleventh century B.C.” document, which historical critics base on its affinity to the Mesopotamian legend about the Babylonian god Marduk. As Fr. Richard Clifford, S. J., states in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, (edited by Fr. Raymond Brown): “In Mesopotamian culture, evidently the model for most of the stories in Genesis 1-11, scribes explored beginnings through stories and cosmogonies, not through abstract reasoning....Genesis 1-11 then is a single story, an unusually sustained ‘philosophical’ and ‘theological’ explanation of the human race....The biblical writers have produced a version of a common Mesopotamian story of the origins of the populated world, exploring major questions about God and humanity through narrative” (pp. 8-9).
 The complete quote from Meier reveals the insidiousness of the entire “historical critical” school in Catholicism. Meier writes: “Ray Brown still takes all kinds of vicious attacks – not from learned conservatives but from the sort of Neanderthal know-nothing types...If they ever knew what some of the rest of us are doing, they’d have a heart attack...Ray has become the lightening rod. One might say he has taken our scholarship upon himself and has born the weight of us all” (National Catholic Reporter, February 22, 1980, p. 20. Cited from The New Biblical Theorists: Raymond Brown and Beyond, by Monsignor George A. Kelly (Servant Books, 1983), pp. 7-8.
 “Polygenism” is the belief that the human race was produced by multiple numbers of first parents who each descended at various times from non-human ancestors. This ruling by Pius XII was, of course, a fatal blow to the infiltration of evolution theory into Catholic thinking, although, to this day, its proponents have a difficult time admitting it.
 The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, p. 12. Although Fr. Brown follows this with “it will become apparent that I am not inclined in that direction,” we must point out two things: (1) Fr. Brown has no justification for introducing the topic of Christ’s bodily resurrection by means of an interrogative, since, if Brown believes the resurrection occurred, there is simply no reason to question it; (2) the fact remains that Brown does not explicitly say that he rejects the historical-critical view that there was no bodily resurrection of Christ, but only that he is “not inclined” to their view. Rather than calling it “heresy,” Fr. Brown leaves us with the impression that in the future he has the option of being inclined toward their view.
 For example, Fr. Brown stated in a conversation with Gerry Matatics that he did not believe the events of Caesarea Philippi recorded in Matthew 16:13-20 actually took place, and that Jesus did not say: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” This is the type of “fiction” that Fr. Brown sees all over Scripture.
 The Austin Flannery edition has a slightly different syntax, which for English readers, lessens the force of the Fr. Brown’s argument. Flannery puts the clause “for the sake of our salvation” immediately after “God,” thus attempting to indicate God’s motivation for giving us Scripture, that is, so that we can be saved. It reads: “...we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures.” In the Abbott edition, “for the sake of our salvation” is put at the end of the sentence and thus might lead someone to regard it as modifying “truth” rather than “God.”
 Latin: “directe et necessario sequitur immunitas absoluta abl errore totius Sacræ Scripturæ...cum divina Inspiratio per se ipsam tam necessario excludat, et respuat errorem omnem in qualibet re religiosa vel profana...”
 Ibid. Paul VI did the same in his Apostolic Exhortation Quinque iam anni in December 1970 as he said: “Even the divine authority of Scripture itself is called in question by a radical application of what is commonly called ‘demythologization.’”
 Against Faustus the Manichean, 33.7; A.D. 400. It is interesting to note that in his books Fr. Brown uses the apparent contradictions between Matthew and Luke to cast much doubt on the reliability of the infancy narratives.
 The references are: (1) Augustine, Gen. Ad Litt., 2, 9, 20; PL 34, 270-271; (2) Epistles 82, 3: PL 33, 227; CSEL 34, 2, p. 354; (3) St. Thomas, De Veritate q. 12, a. 2, C.; (4) Council of Trent, Ses. IV, de canonicis Scripturis: Denz. 127; (5) Leo XIII, Encycl. Providentissimus: EB 121, 124, 126-127; (6) Pius XII, Encycl. Divino Afflante: EB 539. See Flannery edition, page 757.
 The liberals of Vatican II did the same thing in the social documents. For example, over five hundred Fathers petitioned to have communism condemned. But the Vatican had already made a secret deal with Russian diplomats not to condemn either Russia or communism in all its Vatican II documents. This agreement is known as the Pact of Metz, coinciding with the place it was signed in France in 1962.
 The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1990), p. 1169. It is rather interesting that the Nihil Obstat given to the commentary was issued by the three editors, namely, Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer and Roland Murphy, which are listed as its “censores deputati” (Emphasis mine). NB: Although Joseph Fitmyer and Roland Murphy are not subjects of my present critique, the reader should be aware that they, and all the contributors to the NJBC, are of the same opinion about Scripture as Fr. Brown. For example, Jospeh Fitzmyer makes it clear in his book A Christological Catechism that he firmly believes there are errors in Scripture (NY: Paulist Press, 1982), pp. 8, 10, 15, 19, 22, et al.
 John Paul II has endorsed this document, although it is not known whether he specifically endorses the historical-critical theory that the Gospels were written by authors other than the four Evangelists.
 NB: I am not condoning the Church’s reaction to Brown. They should have clamped down harder on his excesses, but since there is a crisis in Church discipline, men like Brown think they have free reign.
 In a recent article from Scientific American, December 2010, titled “Blood from Stone,” field scientist Mary H. Schweitzer reports of finding soft tissue, red blood cells and collagen in the remnants of a T-Rex dinosaur purported to be 70 million years old. As Ms. Schweitzer presented her evidence to Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the museum and one of the world’s foremost dinosaur authorities, she writes: “Brows furrowed, he gazed through the microscope for what seemed like hours without saying a word. Then, looking up at me with a frown, he aside, ‘What do you think they are?’ I replied that I did not know, but they were the right size, shape and color to be blood cells, and they were in the right place, too. He grunted, ‘So prove to me they aren’t.’ It was an irresistible challenge, and one that has helped frame how I ask my research questions, even now.”
 Crises Facing the Church, pp. 12, 16. Pope Leo XIII’s 1881 encyclical Arcanum Divinae Sapientae flatly denies Brown’s assertion regarding Eve, stating clearly that she was formed only when taken from the rib of Adam.
 The editor, Eugene H. Maly, S.T.D., S.S.D. (deceased), Dean of Theology, Professor of Scripture, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West, Cincinnati, Ohio, writes: “Again, according to Daniel 5:31 Babylon was conquered by ‘Darius the Mede.’ Actually, it was captured by the Persians who had already conquered the Medes...But this does not affect the truth of the story that all these kingdoms would one day give way to the messianic kingdom” (The Good News Bible, p. xi, emphasis theirs). Liberal exegetes desire the “Persian” answer because it allows them to say Persia was one of Daniel’s “four kingdoms” (Daniel 2:36-40), which would make the fourth kingdom Greece, and thus limit the extent of Daniel’s prophecy to the time of 165 BC, well below the time of the Roman empire or to the end of time. To the liberals, Daniel was written by a Greek in the second century BC who already knew the events which took place in the past and wrote the book of Daniel as if Daniel were “prophesying” the events. The reality, however, is that the editor of the GNB has his history eschew. Darius did not come before Cyrus. There were two different men, with the name “Darius.” One was Darius the Mede, the other was Darius I, a Persian, but they had nothing to do with one another. Darius I was Persian by birth, and a cousin of king Cyrus. He was not a Mede. Darius the Mede did not precede Cyrus as king of Babylon, rather, he began his reign seven years after the death of Cyrus.
 Good News Bible with Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha, Today’s English Version, Second Edition (Catholic Bible Press, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, et al. 1993) with imprimatur from “Most Reverend William H. Keeler, D.D., President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.