Tuesday, July 25, 2017

LOW CHRISTOLOGY AND A DESIRE FOR NOSTALGIA GONE BIZERK DAMAGED THE REVISED MASS BY THOSE WHO IMPLEMENTED WHAT SOME BISHOPS WANTED PRIOR TO VATICAN II!




In my previous post, I printed some comments of bishops throughout the world as to their desire for the liturgy prior to Vatican II actually convening.

One comment on the liturgy that really caught my eye and opened them to what I experienced in the 1970's seminary and in the first few years of my priesthood is this:

It should be allowed to celebrate Communion as the early Christians did, without all the extras – for example, an altar, fasting, altar cloths, candles, altar adornments, etc.

At St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, around the very early 1970's there was an actual "para-liturgy" (a term one no longer hears about today, praise God) where the high altar of the seminary chapel was stripped of its candles, tabernacle, altar clothes and other accoutrements and placed in a wheelbarrow that was then ceremoniously processed down the main aisle of the church and dumped somewhere.

Then a new free standing table was placed in front of the old altar with one candle and a corporal cloth for the celebrtion of the Lord's Supper.

When I was in the seminary in the late 70's we had small group Masses in priests' apartments where there was no altar, no vestments and the bare necessities needed (often these Masses were invalid).

I have been to Mass where there was no altar--simply a blanket spread on the ground. At the so-called consecration the bread was passed to all of us as the priest said the words of consecration and the same with the cup. There wasn't any species left for the rest of the made-up prayer.

In addition to this nostalgia for the early Church was the very early Church's low Christology prior to the last Gospel being written which has a very high Christology.

It was the use of the failed Protestant "critical-historical" method of studying Scripture developed by them during the Enlightenment which Pope Pius X eventually condemned as the Hersey of Modernism, that post Vatican II Scripture Scholars began to use hook, line and sinker coming up with some of the same heresies of the liberal Protestant movement which eventually led concerned Protestants to follow the Fundamentalist movement of the early 1920's in reaction to the heresies promoted by the liberal Protestant scholars.

Mark's Gospel, the most primitive would help us to get to the "real Jesus" just as stripped as our Liturgy had become. Jesus' prior to the high Christology of the other Gospels especially John's Gospel and subsequent organic development in doctrine and dogma developed by the Church over the course of centuries in an organic way and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit was seen as nought.

Will we ever recover from all of this stupidity? I am afraid not in our lifetime unless the SSPX is canonized by a future pope. Time will tell.

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It was the use of the failed Protestant "critical-historical" method of studying Scripture developed by them during the Enlightenment which Pope Pius X eventually condemned as the Hersey of Modernism, that post Vatican II Scripture Scholars began to use hook, line and sinker coming up with some of the same heresies of the liberal Protestant movement which eventually led concerned Protestants to follow the Fundamentalist movement of the early 1920's in reaction to the heresies promoted by the liberal Protestant scholars."

The historical-critical method was not "condemned as the Heresy of Modernism" by Pope Pius X - or any other pope for that matter.

Pope Benedict XVI: "I wouldn’t subscribe to so harsh a judgment [of the historical-critical method]. The application of the historical method to the Bible as a historical text was a path that had to be taken. If we believe that Christ is real history, and not myth, then the testimony concerning him has to be historically accessible as well. In this sense, the historical method has also given us many gifts. It has brought us back closer to the text and its originality, it has shown us more precisely how it grew, and much more besides. The historical-critical method will always remain one dimension of interpretation.":

Pontifical Biblical Commission, "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church" (April 23, 1993) approved by Pope John Paul II: "The historical-critical method is the indispensable method for the scientific study of the meaning of ancient texts. Holy Scripture, inasmuch as it is the "word of God in human language," ha s been composed by human authors in all its various parts and in all the sources that lie behind them. Because of this, its proper understanding not only admits the use of this method but actually requires it."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 110: "In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression." (In which the Catechism teaches the value of the H-C methodology.)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A tualy not the method. It the heretical conclusions of liberal Protestantism ere condemned as a part of modernism. Such conclusions were also reached my many Catholic exegis using the h/c method allowed by Pius II in 1942

Anonymous said...

Father, would things in that seminary now be as crazy as they were in the 70s?

In the seminary in our diocese the staff who in the 70s and 80s would promote the liturgy you described above, would doubt or not believe in the resurrection as a real historic event, would explain how profound was Luther's teaching on the real presence and in a mocking way explain if most parts of humanae vitae were presented in an assignment or essay by an undergraduate in a moral theology course it would not achieve a passing mark and so on.....and who by the late 90s and early 2000s were unhappy with and even insulted the more conservative and orthodox seminarians starting their studies calling them " the Taliban" etc....well, such priests and nuns have now either died, retired or are close to retirement and now being replaced to a large extent by people who mostly have no desire to go back to worst aspects of that silly, crazy 1970s version of Catholicism.

Anonymous said...

"It was the use of the failed Protestant "critical-historical" method of studying Scripture developed by them during the Enlightenment which Pope Pius X eventually condemned as the Hersey of Modernism,..."

It was the use...of the method...which P Pius X condemned...

No, this is incorrect.

The use of the historical-critical method was never condemned by any pope.

Fritz Bauerschmidt said...

The idea that the historical trajectory of Christology is from "low" to "high" is another relic of the 70s seminary education that can be jettisoned. Work in the last couple of decades by Hurtado, Bauckham et al. argues that Christology starts high and stays that way. If you read Mark's Gospel without the presumption that the Christology must be lower than John's because it is earlier, you discover that Mark's Jesus is, even more than John's, is like a visitor from an alien world, crashing into our world like a meteor. After all, it is John's Jesus who cries and who washes his disciples' feet; Mark's Jesus is a thoroughgoing enigma.

Victor said...

Your quote in red became a major issue of the liturgical reform, getting down to the essential bare bones olf the liturgy, to the authentic things that a resourcement, very popular at the time in various academic disciplines, would bring out, as if all that happened in the liturgy after the 2nd century, or at least the 7th, was irrelevant for space age. This thinking presented a clear mandate to the "experts" of the liturgical movement for a liturgical "reform" that finally led to what we have now; and it did not stop in 1970. I sometimes wonder if the demons rejoice when all that took hold, considering that about only 18% of Catholics regularly attend the liturgy today.

As for the bare bones idea of liturgy, that some things are essential and others not, Martin Mosebach in his Forward to Peter Kwasniewski's book "Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness", makes an excellent point that in the liturgical reforms instead of looking at the Mass, for instance, as an art form, it became dissected in order to look for what was essential and what was not, thereby destroying the unity of the art-form and thereby its beauty.

Gene said...

I agree with Fritz, above, that "low" and "high" Christology are a lot of 70's nonsense. I was there when all that was going on, as well. Mark has always been a favorite Gospel of mine because it is so stark and, yes, other-worldly. My NT prof said, "In Mark, Jesus strikes into the world as a historical tangent, completely alters human history, then is gone...leaving us an empty tomb, a promise, and and a million questions."

Fr Martin Fox said...

I want to associate myself entirely with what Fritz Bauerschmidt said. The notions that people have about Christology, "low to high," are as pernicious as they are unsupportable.

We've all seen the claims, most recently, perhaps, by Bart Ehrman: namely, that in the Gospels, Jesus isn't presented as divine. That's so far from the truth. The reason people can get away with it is because Jesus isn't quoted saying things like, "I am 100% God, down on your faces, creatures!"

But what people fail to notice is how the author of each Gospel clearly presents him as divine, both in how they describe his words and actions, and in the Old Testament passages they rely on -- and I don't just mean what they explicitly quote; it's also in how they allude to them. Just to cite one of hundreds of examples: when Jesus calms the waves in Mark, the author clearly alludes to a psalm -- I can't recall which just now -- where it's God Almighty who does such things.

Another point along that line. Back when I was in the seminary, writing a Master's thesis on this very topic, I found a book called God Crucified. And the author made the following very sensible point. Any sort of half-divinity for Jesus simply wouldn't do for the first believers, who were, of course, Jews. Sure, pagans could buy such a theory, because they already had gradations of divinity. But not Jews. For them, it's either creature, or Creator; even angels are very clearly on the creature side of that vast abyss.

Therefore, only the highest Christology will work. Yes, claiming a man is the "I AM" is pretty shocking; but it isn't less scandalous, but rather moreso, to say he is sort of half- or three-quarters there.

Fr Martin Fox said...

And speaking of the historical-critical method...

I'm not particularly a "fan," but I have no fundamental objection. There is nothing inherently offensive about the approach, including the supposition that some books of the Bible are the product of several hands, edited or "redacted" by yet another set of hands. And, contrary to what some enthusiasts for these theories would have you believe, it doesn't make you a fundamentalist or something of the sort if you take the view that the Pentateuch and Isaiah and other books are, after all, the work of one author.

As one of my seminary professors said: the reason someone theorizes that Genesis is an assemblage of several authors' works is because of apparent unevenness in the received text, and so they seek to explain that unevenness. But if you can interpret the text in such a way that there is no unevenness, then you no longer need to suppose multiple authors.

And my point is this: a multiple-author theory doesn't really explain anything. You start by deciding that there is some "unevenness" in the text, and then you say, oh, that means someone stitched several stories into one. But to my thinking, all you have done is replace a sloppy single author with a sloppy editor -- but you haven't explained the "sloppiness" or the unevenness. That is to say, why did either the single author, OR the editor, allow that unevenness in either case?

All that said, it's certainly possible multiple people gave us Isaiah. And if you want an example of fruitful application of historical-critical, look at Pope Benedict's works. It's not a bad tool, it's just that for too many priests, it is the only tool in their toolbox.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Deacon Fritz what I was taught at St. Mary's, Roland Park, by a protege of Fr. Raymond Brown, was that the reader of the Gospel of Mark has the insight of the true identity of Jesus, but that even this is a reading back into the life of Jesus and post-resurrection insight. However, the apostles are portrayed in Mark as extremely stupid and ignorant of Jesus' true identity. Thus, we were taught that the Appostles ignorance is a way to get back to the actual or real Jesus of history--thus leading to a low Christology. All high Christology is a later reading back into the life of Jesus--finding the real Jesus is the quest of liberal Protestantism using the history/critical method. I am not saying that the H/C method can't be used to a beneficial purpose, but for liberal Protestants and my seminary Scripture teachers is led to a low Christology and led to questions about the resurrection, Virgin conception and birth, etc.

On another level, we also explored these three aspects of a theology of Jesus: Jesus of culture, Jesus against the culture and Jesus above the Culture. Jesus of the culture is born of a low Christology and was preferred by the 1970's theology and apparently still endorsed by Pope Francis. I think, but can't remember, that these three aspects of Jesus and the culture was born of South American liberation theology.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin - The Divine Truth revealed in, for example, Genesis is "even" while the presentation is not.

That's one of the great advantages of the H-C method - that one can discern which are the merely human elements (J, E, D, P) and what is being taught through their unevenness for us to believe. The multiple author theory helps us understand what was "the sacred authors' intention" and what was is merely literary genre, a mode of expression, etc.

So, while it is necessary to believe that sin/suffering entered creation through the free choice of Adam/Eve, it is not necessary to believe that Eve had a conversation with a chatty serpent in a idyllic setting near a particular tree.

Another thing to keep in mind as one employs the HC methodology is that what we, today, might consider "sloppy editing" was seen as entirely appropriate and sensible. Hence, two creation accounts with significant differences.

Joseph Johnson said...

My understanding of the distinction between creature and Creator has always been a fundamental part of my Catholic faith. I do not have any background in theology or philosophy.

Does anyone care to explain how the late Fr. Teilhard de Chardin's self-admitted theory of "superior pantheism" figures into all this? My pastor favorably referenced him in last week's homily and it appears that Fr. Teilhard is a favorite of many "progressive" Catholics. Any comments?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Frmjk, how in the name of God does your example of the H/C Method assist any person of Faith or no Faith to come to faith , hope, love, belief and salvation? You describe an academic endeavor that is thrilled simply with the academic pursuit. It speaks nothing of ordinary folks and their desire for Gos, spirituality or devotion.

Gene said...

Teilhard was a bad joke when I was in seminary and grad school. He is a worse joke now.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Fr Kavanaugh:

But you haven't dealt with my challenge. If, as you say, the sloppiness was not a problem for the redactor, then why do you assume it was a problem for a single author? And if it wasn't, then you have just eliminated anything needing to be "explained" in the first place! If there is no actual problem, then there is nothing needing a solution, right?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin - Sloppiness is relative. What we, today, would consider sloppy editing was not thought to be such in the times the biblical stories were being redacted and rearranged.

Sure, an original, solitary author could have written the Genesis using different collections of vocabulary, using religious terminology drawn from different places, different times, and significantly different religious perspectives.

Heck, the entire Pentateuch was probably written by Moses to, and including, the description of his death and burial and the years that followed.

However, these things are not, shall we say, likely.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Joseph - People who know little or nothing about Pere Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, like to take potshots at him.

People in a better position to comment, such as Pope Benedict XVI, have praised Teilhard's vision. "And so we can now say that the goal of worship and the goal of creation as a whole are one and the same—divinization, a world of freedom and love. But this means that the historical makes its appearance in the cosmic. The cosmos is not a kind of closed building, a stationary container in which history may by chance take place. It is itself movement, from its one beginning to its one end. In a sense, creation is history. Against the background of the modern evolutionary world view, Teilhard de Chardin depicted the cosmos as a process of ascent, a series of unions. From very simple beginnings the path leads to ever greater and more complex unities, in which multiplicity is not abolished but merged into a growing synthesis, leading to the “Noosphere”, in which spirit and its understanding embrace the whole and are blended into a kind of living organism. Invoking the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, Teilhard looks on Christ as the energy that strives toward the Noosphere and finally incorporates everything in its “fullness’. From here Teilhard went on to give a new meaning to Christian worship: the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the christological “fullness”. In his view, the Eucharist provides the movement of the cosmos with its direction; it anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on.” (Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal; Pope Benedict XVI (2009-06-11). The Spirit of the Liturgy (Kindle Locations 260-270). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.)

John Nolan said...

To be fair, one commentator at PTB pointed out that 'S.Communionem ministrare' is not the same as 'S. Missam celebrare'.

I have never believed that one can draw a distinction between the Council itself and a 'false hermeneutic' which only emerged afterwards. I was only 11 in 1962 but can remember an almost febrile atmosphere - the 'winds of change' were definitely blowing, and for many it was an exciting prospect.

However, there is a law of unintended consequences, and Vatican II was a turning point, and as it turned out, a rupture. Liberals have no problem with this; as far as they are concerned the counter-revolutionaries have held sway for too long and the grand project is far from completion (even if it admits of completion - there are those who embrace the Maoist concept of permanent revolution).

The twice-repeated words of Our Lord in last Sunday's Gospel - Igitur ex fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos - can be applied to the Council. My reading of the evidence does not incline me to positivity or optimism, although others may disagree.

But it was an historical event and needs to be evaluated as such, bearing in mind that an historical appreciation of causation cannot be ruled out on purely ideological grounds.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Allan, with St Jerome I believe that Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ.

A reasonable corollary would, it seems to me, be, Deeper knowledge of Scripture is deeper knowledge of Christ.

Historical-critical analysis, textual criticism, source criticism, etc., can give us, clergy and laity, including the people you call "ordinary folks," a deeper knowledge of the meaning of the Scriptures.

"Wherefore my bowels shall sound like a harp for Moab, and my inward parts for the brick wall." (Is 16:11) Ancient idioms are not always readily understood by us, including the "ordinary folk." It takes a bit of study to acquire a workable understanding of such idioms. And having that understanding ushers the reader into 1) deeper knowledge of Scripture and, hence, 2) deeper knowledge of Christ.

"Thus saith the Lord God: Strike with thy hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say: Alas, for all the abominations of the evils of the house of Israel: for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine and by the pestilence." (Ezekiel 6:11) Now, without a bit of knowledge, some of that historical-critical-textual-redactional stuff, you know, we clergy and the people you refer to as "ordinary folk" might be left wondering, "Strike...Stamp...What's going on here?"

"Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God made. And he said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?" Now, without a little exploration, we and the "ordinary folks" might be inclined to believe that God was teaching us that a chatty reptilian interloper actually had a conversation with a naked woman in a garden. And this sort of misunderstanding leads to all sorts of problems, not the least of which is a rejection of Darwinian Evolution and a substantial mistrust of science in general.

Ignorance is dangerous.

Gene said...

The historical/critical method was largely a product of nineteenth century protestant theology. That Kavanaugh is so in love with it is ironic, no? Anyway, the H/C premises are philosophical and anthropological and have nothing to do with the Christ of faith or revealed truth. For the H/C, the Bible is a piece of literature, its writers mere products of their primitive time, and Jesus is the bastard son of a delusional girl named Mary and his bones are still mouldering somewhere in a Palestinian desert. The first to find them will immediately accede to the presidency of Harvard University Divinity School and win the Nobel Prize, Kavanaugh will be vindicated and he can quit pretending, and the Catholic Church can then meld, unashamedly, with Greenpeace, Planned Parenthood, and the Democratic Party.

When I was in graduate school in theology (in Chicago, of all places), one of my professors had this to say about the H/C method: "Christians look at the mysteries of Holy Scripture in awe and ask, as did the Wisemen, 'how can this be?' Your H/C cabal look at them and say, 'This cannot be." And that, ladies and gentlemen, establishes the premises upon which each faction works."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Frmjk, I am not opposed to the h/c method but rather the conclusions it can create and did within liberal Protestantism of the Enlightenment and modern Catholic biblical scholars who went far beyond what Pope Pius XII's 1942's allowance of limited use of this scholarly method.

Catholics are not required to accept scientific theories such as Darwins nor are they allowed to dogmatize these theories under the terms you promote as being anti-science, a crass manipulation and put-down of the faith of many people Catholic or not and extremely poor pastoral judgment in using this manipulation against those you perceive to be stupid.

Fr Martin Fox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fr Martin Fox said...

Fr. Kavanaugh said:

Martin - Sloppiness is relative. What we, today, would consider sloppy editing was not thought to be such in the times the biblical stories were being redacted and rearranged.

I would pay real money to know exactly how you, in AD 2017, know what standards of editing people had 3-4,000 years ago. What price will I have to pay for you to back up your claim to know this?

Heck, the entire Pentateuch was probably written by Moses to, and including, the description of his death and burial and the years that followed.

Who said anything about Moses writing it? I said nothing of the sort. When you have to drag in someone else's argument as a straw man you can knock down, that doesn't bode well for the strength of your argument.

Sure, an original, solitary author could have written the Genesis using different collections of vocabulary...

Well, how many "collections of vocabulary" do you suppose there to be in Genesis? How do you actually decide that it's three, four, ten or 50? See, what you're doing here is assuming that which is actually in contention: is there one, or multiple, authors behind Genesis? If there is one author, there is one vocabulary; if there are several, then several.

...using religious terminology drawn from different places, different times...

Why, sure; what is so hard to fathom about that? You think a single author can't have diverse experiences and diverse sources to draw on? You think a single author can't gather information? Why do you find this so hard to believe?

...significantly different religious perspectives.

What does this even mean? Are you suggesting that some parts of Genesis are polytheistic, others dualistic, and others, monotheistic? I think the Bible as a whole has a remarkable harmony of "religious perspective," and certainly Genesis does.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Allan - Credulity or fundamentalism regarding Scripture can cause just as many problems as the use of the H-C method. "It might be misused" is a very weak argument.

Your comments regarding Darwin and science reveal a significant lack of understanding of the scientific method and how scientists operate under that standard methodology.

Just as many - probably more - people of "faith" ignorantly put down science and scientists in an attempt to manipulate.

Disagreeing with someone - I disagree with those who maintain that evolution and Christian faith and not reconcilable - is not a put-down as you suggest. Nor do I think those who are ignorant of science and the scientific method, as you seem to be, are "stupid."

Ignorance and stupidity are not the same thing.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene says, "Anyway, the H/C premises are philosophical and anthropological and have nothing to do with the Christ of faith or revealed truth."

He's wrong, as usual.

Jesus was fully human as well as being fully divine. Hence, an anthropological approach to understanding Him does have much to do with understanding Him.

The human authors of Scripture were fully human. Hence, an approach to understanding them, their times, their cultures, and the influences their times and cultures had on their writings which employs an anthropological hermeneutic does have much to do with understanding the Scriptures.

The people who have written commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures are also fully human. Hence, an approach to understanding them and their writings that employs as one filter anthropological criteria does have much to do with understanding them.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of stupidity, or rose-colored glasses, the Episcopal Church (or "ecclesial community") has done it again...they just can't get liberal enough I guess and stop there. What now? Well, the Texas Senate has passed a "bathroom bill" (requiring transgenders to use the bathroom of the sex on their birth certificate), and the presiding bishop is threatening to pull their convention out of the state next year (the House has not acted on the measure). He equates it to the 1950s when they pulled out of Houston over segregation---so he compares blacks denied housing rights with transgenders. This is the same bishop who supports same-sex unions and can't seem to condemn abortion on demand. You would think after losing half their membership since the 1960s, they would try a more conservative route, but no.....

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin - Do we know how other ancient authors wrote at the time the Scriptures were being written? We do. Do we know how styles of writing have changed and evolved over the last 4000 years? We do. Can we make comparisons between and among the styles of ancient times? We can. That's how we know about the styles in use 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 years ago were like. Literary criticism really isn't that difficult to understand..

No charge.

A couple of the bibles I have indicate the Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. "The Books of Moses" appears at the top of the title page of each book. Moses' authorship of the Pentateuch was presumed - wrongly - for centuries. As we gained knowledge and understanding of the process by which the Scriptures were written and redacted, we came to realize that Moses was not the author. Much as we have come to understand that the hand of the redactors is evident in the texts.

No charge.

Differing vocabularies, including differing names for the same person or place, indicate different authors or, at least, different redactors. Unless one believes that God inspired the human authors to use a variety of words.

No charge.

Next you will be telling us that modern authors have got it all wrong when they suggest Isaiah was not written by one author over 600 years or that Luke and Acts have different authors.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Father Kavanaugh:

Congratulations on your mastery of sarcasm and condescension. They are a poor substitute for actual argumentation.

Do we know how other ancient authors wrote at the time the Scriptures were being written? We do. Do we know how styles of writing have changed and evolved over the last 4000 years? We do. Can we make comparisons between and among the styles of ancient times? We can. That's how we know about the styles in use 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 years ago were like.

A filibuster is not an answer. You have utterly failed actually to answer my question, which was to substantiate your claim to know "what standards of editing people had 3-4,000 years ago." And to make it easier for you: I did not ask what other people may know; I asked about what you, Father Kavanaugh, claim to know.

When you completely bypassed answering this question, was that deliberate, or did you fail to notice?

Literary criticism really isn't that difficult to understand..(sic)

No it's not. So I'm puzzled why you're having such difficulties with my questions.

Since you have repeatedly asserted there are multiple vocabularies in Genesis. Please identify the number of vocabularies, and how you know that it is X, rather than X + 1, or X + 11, etc. I deny that you can do this.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Father Kavanaugh said:

Next you will be telling us that modern authors have got it all wrong when they suggest Isaiah was not written by one author over 600 years or that Luke and Acts have different authors.

You may not have noticed, but "modern authors" get things wrong all the time. Haven't you noticed?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin - When it comes to the intricacies of the highly technical matter of literary criticism of ancient Near Eastern Texts, I have no choice but to rely on the expertise of those who have the training and capacity to explain it to me. If your training gives you that ability, praise God.

I believe that these men and women offer us their best analysis of the ancient texts, both sacred and secular. Since my recapitulation of their scholarly work isn't sufficient for you, I would encourage you to take up the work of the best modern and contemporary authors and continue the discussion with them.

As for modern authors getting things wrong regarding the literary, textual, redaction, etc., criticism of Sacred Scripture, no, I have not noticed that. If you believe that they have, could you direct me to the published articles you have authored in which you give evidence that they have erred?

Fr Martin Fox said...

Father Kavanaugh said:

When it comes to the intricacies of the highly technical matter of literary criticism of ancient Near Eastern Texts, I have no choice but to rely on the expertise of those who have the training and capacity to explain it to me.

In other words, when you said,

Sloppiness is relative. What we, today, would consider sloppy editing was not thought to be such in the times the biblical stories were being redacted and rearranged

you really had nothing to go on, there. I didn't think so, so I appreciate you admitting as much. It's something you kinda think you read somewhere, but you really don't know. OK.

I would encourage you to take up the work of the best modern and contemporary authors...

I have; that is to say, I've read quite a bit on these subjects, and reached the conclusions I have.

By the way, I notice you have completely given up any attempt to explain your insistence on multiple vocabularies in Genesis -- and, to be precise, just how you know.

As for modern authors getting things wrong regarding the literary, textual, redaction, etc., criticism of Sacred Scripture, no, I have not noticed that. If you believe that they have, could you direct me to the published articles you have authored in which you give evidence that they have erred?

I never claimed to author any articles, nor need I to make this point competently. Are you actually unaware of the debate over just how many Isaiah's there were? It was two for awhile, then it was three. (Perhaps the number is up to four?) Someone has to be wrong there -- or would you maintain that there can be, simultaneously, two and three authors of Isaiah? That's quite a trick!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin says, "In other words, when you said, Sloppiness is relative. What we, today, would consider sloppy editing was not thought to be such in the times the biblical stories were being redacted and rearranged you really had nothing to go on, there. I didn't think so, so I appreciate you admitting as much. It's something you kinda think you read somewhere, but you really don't know. OK."

No, Martin, I can't cite the precise source that these ideas come from. If your memory is such that you can recall every author's work, every idea, and cite the page number (with footnotes) then Praise God.

The suggestion that these ideas have no basis in biblical scholarship you know to be false.

I have also read quite a bit on these subjects. As you, I base my conclusions on the work of men and women with far greater ability and training than I have.

No, I haven't given up on the vocabulary question, Martin. I've simply decided that there's not much value in discussing the topic with a person who will, while demanding source citing and offering none, will simply disagree.

I am aware of the Isaiah debate - otherwise, why would I have brought it up. To have brought it up without being aware of it would have been "quite a trick," don't you agree.

Gene said...

RE: Kavanaugh's post at 11:44 am: I honestly do not believe that Kavanaugh has ever read a theology book.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Fr. Kavanaugh:


I am aware of the Isaiah debate - otherwise, why would I have brought it up.

Well then, your statement here was deliberately false:


As for modern authors getting things wrong regarding the literary, textual, redaction, etc., criticism of Sacred Scripture, no, I have not noticed that.

Because between those modern scripture scholars who argue for two Isaiahs, and those who argue for three, one camp at least has to be wrong.

But my most favorite pairing of your comments is this:

Literary criticism really isn't that difficult to understand.

And:

When it comes to the intricacies of the highly technical matter of literary criticism of ancient Near Eastern Texts, I have no choice but to rely on the expertise of those who have the training and capacity to explain it to me.

Comedy gold!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"I am aware of the Isaiah debate - otherwise, why would I have brought it up?"
Well then, your statement here was deliberately false:..

If this is the statement to which you refer: "Next you will be telling us that modern authors have got it all wrong when they suggest Isaiah was not written by one author over 600 years or that Luke and Acts have different authors." then, no, nothing I have said is "deliberately false." Obviously one author did not write Isaiah over 600 years. There must be multiple authors. How do I know this? No one lives 600 years. That there is disagreement among scholars is not shocking, nor is it an indication that textual/literary criticism is invalid or of little value.

I stand by the following statements: "Literary criticism really isn't that difficult to understand." and "When it comes to the intricacies of the highly technical matter of literary criticism of ancient Near Eastern Texts, I have no choice but to rely on the expertise of those who have the training and capacity to explain it to me

They are not contradictory as you assume they are.

I understand how a sculptor produces a portrait in marble. However, I do not possess the training or ability to do what the sculptor does. I understand, as do you, how literary criticism is done. Maybe you have the training and ability to read the ancient texts, compare them, and analyze them, but I do not.

So, yes, I can understand how literary criticism works (and why it is valuable) without having the ability to do it myself.

Reality gold.




Fr Martin Fox said...

Father Kavanaugh:

Nice dodge.

Some "modern authors" have argued that there are two Isaiahs. Some have argued there are three.

You said:

As for modern authors getting things wrong regarding the literary, textual, redaction, etc., criticism of Sacred Scripture, no, I have not noticed that.

So according to you, then, the two-Isaiah scholars and the three-Isaiah scholars are both right! They have to be, because you said you "have not noticed" anyone being wrong.

And, by the way, you really need to expand your imagination. This statement is kind of sad:

Obviously one author did not write Isaiah over 600 years. There must be multiple authors. How do I know this? No one lives 600 years.

Hmm, can we think of another possibility? How about...the author of Isaiah (if there was only one) actually wrote everything in a normal lifespan? Perhaps he lived at the time of Ahaz and Hezekiah, as indicated in the early chapters? What, exactly, is impossible about that?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin - No dodge, just inattention. Yes, there is uncertainty among the scholars, but that is largely immaterial.

It matters little if there were 2 or 3 or 71 authors of Isaiah.

And we may never know just how many there were. We may well have to live with the possibility of there having been 2 or 3 or 71.

And, again, this matters little.

One person did not write a fist hand account of a book that spans centuries. One need not have an expanded imagination to believe that. One must suspend disbelief.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Fr. Kavanaugh writes:

One person did not write a fist hand account of a book that spans centuries. One need not have an expanded imagination to believe that. One must suspend disbelief.

Yes, but as far as I can see, very little of the content of Isaiah claims to be "first hand." That makes sense regarding the portions with Ahaz and Hezekiah. Where is there "first hand" observation included that requires someone to have lived, as you say, "centuries." It's not there.

Feel free to cite something -- from Isaiah -- to the contrary.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Yes, there is uncertainty among the scholars, but that is largely immaterial.

I agree it's immaterial. I wasn't the one who was so put off about the possibility of "modern authors" being wrong, that I demanded someone produce articles I had published showing scholars had gotten something wrong. That was you.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin, you were demanding citations from me. That was you.

As with the "Five Books of Moses," whether you ever thought that or not, the traditional belief was incorrect. As was the traditional belief that Isaiah was written by one very, very old man.

These advances in understanding came through various forms of "modern" criticism. That's one of the reasons why the Church approves and encourages such study.

TJM said...

Kavanaugh - it is my opinion, thus it is a fact. Father Fox, don't throw your pearls to swine

Fr Martin Fox said...

Father Kavanaugh:

No, my friend, this quote was your words, not mine:

As for modern authors getting things wrong regarding the literary, textual, redaction, etc., criticism of Sacred Scripture, no, I have not noticed that. If you believe that they have, could you direct me to the published articles you have authored in which you give evidence that they have erred?

What I asked of you was to explain your own statements. No one made you assert that there are multiple vocabularies in Genesis. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to claim that if there was a single author of Isaiah, he had to be an eyewitness to events over 600 years. But when you did, I asked you to explain exactly what that meant. It's not my fault you made claims that you, yourself, really couldn't explain in simple terms.

I am fascinated by the working of your mind, as on display here. You seem to view "citations" as a kind of totem; that the only argument that has merit, is one that rests on citations. Thus you complained that I didn't provide any.

But there's something else God gave us: logic and the use of reason.

Ergo, I find nothing illogical or unreasonable about supposing that Isaiah lived around the year 750-700 BC, give or take, meaning he was an eyewitness to the events described around the time of Sennacherib's attack on Jerusalem. I see nothing in chapters 40-66 that requires him to have lived anything other than a normal lifespan.

And I've asked you, several times, to explain just why -- if there is but one Isaiah -- it must mean someone lived 600 years! No reply, just crickets.

One of us is a fundamentalist on this subject. One of us cannot consider any alternatives to a single point of view, and when challenged, shifts the subject or refuses to respond.

That fundamentalist is you, dear Father; because it is apparent that you simply cannot even grasp the possibility that some of the hoary theories of modern Biblical criticism might be wrong. Here's a thought to consider: both they, and the "traditional view," can be wrong.

I have said over and over again that I have no particular issue with the tools of historical-critical method; but I am not reluctant to apply my God-given reasoning powers to their conclusions in a critical way. Hence the questions I posed here, which you have labored mightily to refute and dismiss, with insults and condescension, but finally complaining that, in the end, you just rely on those experts to be right, even if you can't really explain why you believe it. Multiple vocabs? Multiple Isaiahs? Must be, must be!

Nay; could be, indeed, but no must be.

John Nolan said...

Fr Fox,

It's a waste of time trying to pin Fr Kavanaugh down. He will wriggle off any hook you try to catch him with. In a perverse way, I grudgingly admire his perseverance in defending an impossible position, although one must be aware that he is not averse to posting ad hominem comments (for which read unsubstantiated and impertinent comments on what he perceives to be your views) using a nom de plume.

The stylistic concordance is quite obvious, however.

Fr Martin Fox said...

John Nolan:

Thanks for the kind words. But, if you will forgive me, I do not consider it to have been a waste of time overall.

For one, it helps me sharpen my own thoughts. For another, I hope to be able to help others sharpen theirs. And, third, I think this was an enlightening discussion for the benefit of all who read it.

To say it again, I have no blanket objection to historical-critical methods; but it seems entirely reasonable to subject them, themselves, to critical analysis -- and entirely wrong to treat them as dogma beyond question. I've had discussions like this over the years, and remarkably, it so often goes the same way, with folks who stoutly defending historical-critical -- often with some defensiveness and harshness, as a substitute for actually engaging with criticism of some of the conclusions that are produced (i.e., multiple authors of various books).

I'm only somewhat smart; so I really believe that someone a lot smarter should be able to give better responses to my observations than I've seen so far.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin, I don't treat the work of any scripture scholar or any methodology as "dogma beyond question." I have never said or suggested that I did. You want to read that into my comments, drawing conclusions that are not supported by what I have posted.

There are multiple vocabularies in Genesis which reasonable scholars say suggests multiple authors. You studied these ideas in seminary as I did. This isn't something that pops up without foundation in my own mind; rather, these are the conclusions of some of the best scholars, people whose training and ability is exceptional. Why do I believe that these various vocabularies are found in Genesis? Because people smarter than I have told me that that is their conclusion. Could they be wrong? Sure. But I can't spend my energy doubting that which makes sense and that which makes the meaning of the Scriptures clearer.

You said the workings of my mind fascinate you. Well, when someone with far greater expertise and experience tells me something, I generally find that info trustworthy. I suspect you operate in much the same way. I hope that most of the industrialized world does as well, or we end up living in a culture in which perpetual doubt gives way to crippling paranoia. (Bugnini, that evil Masonic so-and-so plotted with the communists planted in the Vatican to destroy the Church by destroying the liturgy! Or, They fluoridate the water in order to poison the population and take over the world!)

Could one author, Moses, say, have cleverly employed multiple vocabularies? Sure, it's possible. Could one author have written the entire book of Isaiah? Sure, it's possible. But is it likely? Based on what I have read, I don't think so. But if one concludes that it is likely, what evidence (citations) can one offer?

John, I am pleased that you are a True Believer in the value of literary/textual criticism.

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

Isn't the concept of 'authorship' rather a modern one? It conjures up the idea of Moses, circa 1400 BC, sharpening his quill and sitting down to write the first five books of the OT.

We have the Iliad and the Odyssey, yet there is no evidence that Homer even existed, let alone authored them.

Who wrote the epistle to the Hebrews has been disputed since the third century, yet its acceptance into the canon of Scripture did not depend on its being written by St Paul; it was enough that it dated from apostolic times and was sound in its Christology.

I think we are still required to believe that the Bible is inspired, in which case quibbling over who put pen to paper is surely irrelevant.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Well, Father Kavanaugh, the reason I suggest that you are treating this subject as an off-limits dogma is the defensiveness with which you have responded to my questions.

Again and again, you insist that my questions only have merit if I can cite some authority. And you continually try to reduce my approach to the authorship question regarding Genesis (and the Pentateuch) to defending Mosaic authorship. I've stated repeatedly that that is not my contention, but this seems to be a tic for you; you simply cannot help but return to that.

Meanwhile, I asked you repeated questions for which you either have no answer -- you cannot even offer a similitude of an answer -- or else you said you refuse to offer one, again, because you fault me for not citing any scholarly sources, which so far seems entirely unnecessary.

I fully expect you to ignore this next question, but I'm going to restate it, if only to illustrate what I infer as your refusal to answer, or else your inability even to grasp the question. And it has to do with this claim of "multiple vocabularies." How does one ascertain exactly how many vocabularies exist in a given literary work? How does one establish that it's, say, three, not four; or two rather than three? How does one establish in a clear-cut way that it's not simply one vocabulary?

First, I don't accept the premise you work from, which is that only those with expertise are qualified to ask such questions. You've made it clear you have no idea how to answer this question, so let's treat this as a rhetorical question on my part, and move on.

I dispute that one can certainly demonstrate there are, actually, "multiple [discrete] vocabularies" in Genesis. That is to say, anyone can suppose anything; but showing it in a way that the process of falsification fails? No, I do not believe anyone has done that. Yes, I've seen the arguments. They fail to persuade (not just me; people with lots of letters after their names, as you well know).

It's rather like the theory of a "Q" document behind the Gospels. In both cases, it is a construct, offered to explain phenomena. Could the supposition of multiple vocabs be true? Certainly; but I contend that the "multiple vocabularies" is not established, certainly, apart from, and actually prior to, the determination of there being multiple sources; but rather, it follows from it.

I contend that when you cite the so-called "multiple vocabularies" as proof of multiple sources, you are actually arguing in a circle. The argument amounts to: There must be multiple authors (subsequently "redacted"), because there are multiple vocabularies -- and we know there are multiple vocabularies, because there are multiple sources!

And I've challenged this "multiple vocabularies" claim repeatedly, and you cannot offer even the slightest articulation of a defense. All you manage to do is say is that someone else, somewhere, can do it. But what defense of it that you've read has so poorly penetrated your mind that you cannot give it the slightest reproduction. That is very telling. (Continued...)

Fr Martin Fox said...

How do I know that the claim of multiple vocabularies can't be ascertained independently? Two ways: first, because it is simply absurd to claim -- as you are, right now, claiming -- that a single author (let's call him "Sylvester," not Moses!) is not reasonably capable of having a vocabulary that embraces, say Elohim and YHWH both.

So you have accepted the notion that one author tends to call God "Elohim," and the other tends to call God "YHWH" -- but somehow, we rule out as highly improbable that the same person could have both words in his vocabulary. And, yes, I realize it's more than two words. Let us suppose it is 200 words. It remains absurd. It would be absurd if you were talking about almost anyone who, in AD 2017, might take pen in hand to tell a story of God's marvelous works; and it would be just as absurd if we spoke of someone not in our time, but, say, 3-5,000 years ago in the Levant.

There are not so many words in Genesis that there is anything unreasonable about supposing that it's all one vocabulary, rather than two, three, four, or more.

So why might a single author tend to use "vocabulary A" in this section, only to shift to "vocabulary B" when s/he moves on to the next section? I can think of a very simple explanation. You can't? That is a lack of imagination.

You want a citation? I'll give you one. In the Catholic Study Bible, copyright 1990, in the notes on Matthew 15:32-39, we read the following:

Most probably this story is a doublet of that of the feeding of the five thousand (14, 13-21). It differs from it notably only in that Jesus takes the initiative, not the disciples (32), and in the numbers: the crowd has been with Jesus three days (32), seven loaves are multiplied (36), seven baskets of fragments remain after the feeding (37), and four thousand men are fed (38).

So what precisely does this mean, saying it's a "doublet"? Let's go to the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, notes on Mark 8:1-10 -- to which you will be referred if you consult the notes on Matthew 15:32-39. Here's what you read here:

Despite these differences, there are so many similarities that the feeding stories are usually taken as two accounts of the same incident.

So, boil it down: Donald Senor (the editor of the Catholic Study Bible), along with the contributors to the NJBC sections on Matthew and Mark, all believe that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all repeat a story told twice of the same event. That's their scholarly theory.

And I'm here -- without any string of letters after my name -- to say that this explanation is bosh. Same problem as with the vocabulary in Genesis: it is a lack of imagination. This is the Emperor exposing himself in new clothes that exist only in his imagination. These are the high priests of first-class, Catholic historical-critical studies, and this is the best they can do? It is embarrassing. And if you cannot see how embarrassing it is, then you haven't given it enough thought. This purported "explanation" is a house of cards.

Such is the quality of these suppositions. Back to Genesis and the "multiple vocabularies." You say it's "clever. There's nothing particularly "clever" about it. (Continued...)

Fr Martin Fox said...

You will have to take on faith that all the words attributed to me -- Rev. Martin E. Fox -- are, in fact, the work of a single person. I have not redacted others' works, and as far as I know, no redactor somewhere is presenting himself as me.

So what you would experience, were you to you read a wide swath of my writings -- including my comments here, and elsewhere, as well as things I've written over, say, 40 years, in many different contexts -- I have written extensively over the years about politics, history, theology, Scripture, business and other subjects -- could seem to be multiple vocabularies. And in a sense, it would be, because of the many topics on which I really have written. And yet, if you supposed all this demonstrated that Martin E. Fox is, in fact, four different people, such a seemingly impressive theory would have but one small flaw. It would be utterly false.

Another reason I am confident? Because this is not hypothetical. The techniques used to conclude that some letters of Paul aren't really written by Paul (because of an allegedly different vocabulary), have been applied to modern works, such as Mark Twain and others; and guess what? It turns out Samuel Clemens didn't actually write everything he himself claimed to write! Well, it turns out he really did -- but thus are the perils of this sort of analysis. It reaches conclusions based far less on the actual evidence, and far more on presuppositions.

Such as your presupposition that if there is a single author of Isaiah, then it is necessary that that single author must have lived 600 years! Really? I've asked repeatedly for you to explain the rationale for that; but again, either you refuse to answer, or you are incapable of doing so.

This is a good time to recall someone else I assume you studied, and that is William Occam, and his famous "razor": namely, his principle that all other things being equal, the simpler explanation is to be preferred. And all I am really doing in this is applying Occam's razor. When one is presented with a theory that involves multiple hands, and one that involves fewer, but the multiple hands theory actually doesn't explain more than the single-set-of-hands theory, then per Occam, the simpler explanation is to be preferred.

How do I know the "multiple-hands" theory fails to explain? Well, I told you right off the bat. The whole reason why people insist there must be multiple authors, is because of the perception of unevenness or "seams" or whatever you call it, in the text. (Here I point out as an aside the one datum that historical-critical theories ignore or dismiss: and it is that while the four-author theory is a construct, a supposition, the single text is a cold, hard fact. Isaiah might well be 66 authors, but it comes to us as a single text. A single extraordinarily large scroll, in fact [in the case of Qumran]) Scholars notice that some seeming discrepancy in the first three chapters of Genesis, and say, ah, there are two different accounts of Creation, so that means there must be two authors! Well, could be; but let's notice something. Genesis actually comes to us as a single unit. If it can be read as a unity -- if the discrepancies can be explained, not as seams where two (or more) sources are stitched together -- then there is simply no need for any multiple source explanation. Occam's Razor.

Oh, I could go on, but you don't care. But others reading here might, so...perhaps they are edified. You cling to your comfortable historical-critical dogmas. Sleep well.

John Nolan said...

I get the impression that Fr K is more than a little selective when it comes to deferring to expert opinion. For example the importance and value of liturgical Latin is backed by a hefty weight of scholarly opinion (from Christine Mohrmann to influential modern liturgists such as Alcuin Reid, Nicola Bux and Uwe Lang, to name but three) as well as by four recent popes (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI), not to mention the most recent Ecumenical Council.

Yet Fr K blandly states that Latin is 'a foreign language' and is of no use!

Anonymous said...

Father Kavanaugh usually likes to have the last word. I'm getting the popcorn ready...

Gene said...

Kavanaugh, are you aware that Father Fox is eating your lunch...dessert, as well?