Pope Urges Overcoming Exegesis-Theology Split

Encourages Synod Fathers to Allow for God in History

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI addressed the world Synod of Bishops to propose overcoming divisions between exegesis and theology that can lead to a reading of the Bible without faith.

The Pope encouraged this effort in an address today, drawing from his book of personal notes, and seated as normal at the center of the synod hall.

He spoke just after the break during the 14th general congregation, and explained that his talk was based on the work he is doing to complete the second volume of his book «Jesus of Nazareth.»

The Holy Father highlighted the criteria offered for the interpretation of Scripture by the Second Vatican Council in «Dei Verbum,» No. 12.

«[S]ince Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred spirit in which it was written,» the Council text says, «no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out. The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith.»

The Pontiff expresses his view that in general, exegetes take into account the first principle — the unity of Scripture. But, they often neglect the second — the living tradition of the whole Church.

According to Benedict XVI, the neglect of this principle has consequences, such as, for example, the Bible becoming merely a book from the past. «Exegesis,» he said, «becomes historiography.»

With such a perspective, he added, the presence of the divine in the historical disappears. The Pontiff offered the example of Germany, where certain exegetical currents deny the institution of the Eucharist or maintain that Jesus never left the tomb.

This interpretation, the Pope continued, creates a wall between exegesis and lectio divina, and causes confusion when it comes to preparing homilies.

With this perspective, Scripture cannot be «the soul of theology,» he contended, and theology ceases to be the interpretation of Scripture in the Church.

The life and mission of the Church demands overcoming such a dualism between exegesis and theology, the Holy Father affirmed. They are, rather, dimensions of the same reality.

Thus, the Bishop of Rome proposed introducing two suggestions for this synod of bishops on the word of God: developing not only historical exegesis, but also theological; and broadening the education of exegetes in this sense so as to broaden the vision of exegesis.

Benedict XVI’s address was given according to the same format as the interventions given by the other bishops and it was received with a round of applause.

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