VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here are translations of the synodal propositions 26-30, which were submitted to Benedict XVI at the end of the world Synod of Bishops on the “Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,” held in October at the Vatican.
ZENIT will publish a translation of the remaining propositions in subsequent services.
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To enlarge the perspective of today’s exegetical study
The positive fruit contributed by the use of modern historical-critical research is undeniable; at the same time, however, it is necessary to look at the state of present-day exegetical studies by looking also at the difficulties. While current academic exegesis, including the Catholic, works at a very high level as regards the historical-critical methodology, including its happy and most recent integrations (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church”), the same cannot be said about the study of the theological dimension of the biblical texts. Sadly, the theological level indicated by the three elements of “Dei Verbum,” 12 very often is almost absent.
The first consequence of such absence is that the Bible becomes for present-day readers a mere book of the past, incapable of speaking to our time. In these conditions, biblical exegesis runs the risk of becoming pure historiography and history of literature.
The second consequence, perhaps even graver, is the disappearance of the hermeneutics of the faith pointed out in “Dei Verbum.” Instead of believing hermeneutics, what is then insinuated in fact is a positivist and secular hermeneutics that denies the possibility of the presence and access of the divine in the history of man.
The synodal fathers, while sincerely thanking the many exegetes and theologians that have given and give essential help in the profound discovery of the Scriptures, request from all a growing commitment in order to reach with greater force and clarity the theological level of biblical interpretation. To truly arrive at a growing love for the Scriptures, hoped for by the Council, greater care must be taken to apply the principles that Dei Verbum itself pointed out with thoroughness and clarity.
To overcome the dualism between exegesis and theology
For the life and mission of the Church, and for the future of the faith within contemporary cultures, it is necessary to overcome the dualism between exegesis and theology. Sadly, not infrequently an unproductive separation between exegesis and theology occurs even at the highest academic levels.
A worrying consequence is uncertainty and scarce solidity in the intellectual formative path including that of some future candidates to ecclesial ministries. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of that unique reality that we call theology.
The synodal fathers, therefore, with esteem address an appeal, both to theologians as well as exegetes, so that, with a clearer and more harmonious collaboration, they will not fail to give contemporary theology the force of the Scriptures, and not reduce the study of the Scriptures to the historiographic dimension of the inspired texts.
“When exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology and, vice-versa, when theology is not essentially interpretation of Scripture in the Church, such theology loses its foundation” (Benedict XVI, Oct. 14, 2008).
Dialogue between exegetes, theologians and pastors
Episcopal conferences are requested to favor regularly meetings between pastors, theologians and exegetes to promote greater communion in service to the Word of God.
We hope that exegetes and theologians will be able to share ever better the fruits of their science for the enhancement of the faith and the edification of the People of God, always keeping in mind the characteristic dimensions of the Catholic interpretation of the Bible (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church,” III).
Difficulty in the reading of the Old Testament
At times difficulties arise in reading the Old Testament because of texts that contain elements of violence, injustice, immorality and scarce exemplarity, even in important biblical figures.
Consequently, an adequate preparation of the faithful is required for reading these passages and a formation that teaches them to read the texts in their historical and literary context, so that a Christian reading is favored. The latter has as central hermeneutical key the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ fulfilled in the paschal mystery. Hence, it is recommended that the reading of the Old Testament not be neglected, which, despite some difficulties, is essential to fully understand the history of salvation (cf. “Dei Verbum,” 15).
Biblical pastoral ministry
“Dei Verbum” exhorts that the Word of God not only be made the soul of theology but also the soul of the whole of pastoral care, of life and of the mission of the Church (cf. “Dei Verbum,” 24). Bishops must be the first promoters of this dynamic in their dioceses. To be a herald and a credible herald, the bishop must first nourish himself with the Word of God, so that he can sustain and make ever more fruitful his own episcopal ministry. The synod recommends increasing “biblical pastoral ministry” not in juxtaposition to other forms of pastoral care but as biblical animation of the whole of pastoral care.
Under the guidance of pastors, all the baptized participate in the mission of the Church. The synodal fathers wish to express their most profound esteem and gratitude, as well as to encourage the service of evangelization that so many lay people, especially women, offer with generosity and commitment in communities spread throughout the world, following the example of Mary Magdalene, first witness of paschal joy.[Translation by ZENIT]