Lecture Notes: Dei Verbum Archbishop Emeritus James Keleher March 19, 2013 DEI VERBUM. Historical background on Dei Verbum:

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1 DEI VERBUM Historical background on Dei Verbum: In 1943, Pope Pius XII wrote the Encyclical called: DIVINO AFFLANTE SPIRITU. It approved of modern exegetical methods for delving into Holy Scripture. It was acclaimed by Biblical Scholars as was the rich discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Both of these factors were an impetus especially to our Catholic Scholars. It is good to recall on the other hand that Biblical Science should never be seen as a substitute for Faith. Protestant Exegetes spent a many many years earlier trying to get to the real Jesus the Historical Jesus but never got there. Modern Biblical science is praiseworthy in what it can do but it is no substitute for Faith in the Word of God. As Pope Benedict points out our personal study and reflection on Holy Scripture such as in Lectio Divina is a spiritual treasure for all Christians and it is how God can speak to us in every age. In preparation for the Vatican II Council preliminary commissions appointed by the Holy See prepared documents related to topics that were seen as items to be discussed by the 2500 plus bishops at the Council. In the first of the four drafts sent to the bishops was entitled On the Sources of Revelation. In this draft it was suggested that there were two totally separate sources from which revelation flowed. When the bishops gathered in assembly early in 1962 and perused the document they were not HAPPY. In fact, a majority of them sent it back with the notation that it should be withdrawn for good. Happily since it was not a 2/3 vote it could not be done away with. In his wisdom John XXIII enlarged the commission charged with it preparation and appointed two co-presidents. They were the famous conservative Cardinal Otaviani and the Biblical authority, Cardinal Bea. It was the beginning of a truly wonderful document which would go through three more major changes until presented and affirmed by the Pope and Body of Bishops on December 7, 1965 as the bishops were beginning to get ready to return to their dioceses in many parts of the world. The bishops did not like the concept of two distinct sources of revelation; they insisted on highlighting the theme of the WORD and the action of the HOLY SPIRIT in the gift of REVELATION.

2 #2 it was God Who chose that we were to have full access to Him through His Son the Eternal Son of God and who in human history became the WORD MADE FLESH. The economy of revelation (the plan) was realized by His Words and Deeds the full and intimate Truth of Revelation shine forth in Christ who is the MEDIATOR AND SUM TOTAL OF REVELATION. For a moment let us reflect on St. John s use of the WORD ESPECIALLY IN THE PROLOGUE OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL. I believe when John refers to Christ in this manner he reminds us the He is the Word and what significance did John see in this term? When we understand that a Word is meant to be a reflection of the Speaker and this is very helpful. In this case from all eternity The Father has begotten His Son who is the perfect ICON, REFELCTION, IMAGE of HIMSELF and so St. John refers to this eternal Son of God as the Word of the Father, who has always been with the Father; is equally God with the Father and in a wonderful moment of time this WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US. Before you can think of the Divine Word think of the human word. How important words are for us to be able to explain the truth about ourselves, to communicate with one another; to support and show love for another; or to hurt each another by a harsh word of condemnation. Our words are powerful in so many ways; but then imagine the power of the Word of God in the flesh. Oh the beauty of the Incarnation the beauty of the Word of God in Holy Scripture the beauty of the Word of God in the Eucharist. It is a MYSTERY OF LOVE, TO BE SURE. St. Luke puts it this way, Those who were eye witnesses from the beginning and ministers of the Word have handed it down to us. Luke is speaking of not only of His beautiful Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles but of all the writings of the Apostolic Age. All present day MINISTERS OF THE WORD should often reflect on the dignity and responsibility that is theirs as they carry it out in every Eucharist and Scripture Service. #3 As we begin to delve into the Word of God and the Gift of Revelation we should recognize the fact that both Vatican I as well as Vatican II insist that created realities (the stars, the moon, the modern marvels of computer science, the breadth of the Ocean, the glorious mountain ranges with their gushing streams make the existence of God eminently evident even if there are so many sophisticated persons of science and professors at our Universities who have closed their eyes to the obvious.

3 In His love for us the Heavenly Father sent to us the words of the Prophets of old and at a moment in history spoke the most beautiful Word that one can contemplate, His Son and our Brother, Jesus Christ. #4 it would be He Who would complete and perfect the revelation of the Old Testament. Our Lord did so by His Own words (confer the third luminous mystery) by His works, signs and miracles and, above all, by His Paschal Mystery. Because Revelation is complete the Council reminds us that no new revelation is to be expected. However, while there will be no new PUBLIC REVELATIONS the Church happily accepts the possibility of PRIVATE REVELATIONS and has confirmed the validity of numerous such realities. They are not, however, matters of Catholic Faith. #6 The Council explains the importance of Divine Revelation in these words: Because of Revelation we are able to access the Truth with ease, with firm certainty and without the contamination of error and much more surely than by the natural light of reason. But to do so one must be blessed with the gift of Faith. St. Luke asks a question in his Gospel that is unsettling to say the least. Do you think the Son of Man will find faith on the face of the earth when He returns??? Faith is that gift from God which open us up to a loving, life long relationship with Jesus including an openness of mind and heart and will to His Revelation. I think in my earlier days I used to think of Faith mostly what I believed, i.e. what we called the deposit of Faith. Pope Benedict repeatedly insists that Faith is what relates me to Christ and because of my Faith in Him I accept what He has revealed to me. This I think is very important to understand and appreciate it is the most important relationship of our lives. #7 Jesus commands the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel which is the Source of all SAVING TRUTH AND MORAL DISCIPLINE. As one leaves the beautiful Main Chapel at the Seminary one sees high on the balcony these words, EUNTES DOCETE which of course is Jesus final message before His Ascension. We might call it our commission to evangelize!!! The Apostles indeed handed on the Good News by their preaching much of whose content was taken from the Savior s own lips, or from His way of Life and His works, or learned by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. All this happened through their proclamation of the Gospel or by their close associates (The Evangelists) who by the same Spirit committed their message to writing. But first of all it was proclaimed before it was put to pen and paper. It is critical to recognize that the Apostles left the bishops as their legitimate successors with the same teaching authority. Accordingly, the Apostolic Preaching of the Twelve

4 was first articulated in the Tradition (their proclamation) and only then in a special way was preserved in the inspired books which are an integral part of the Tradition. May I repeat that it is very important to recognize that the Apostles left the bishops as their legitimate successors with the same teaching authority. #8 The APOSTOLIC PREACHING which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books was to be preserved by a continuous line of succession until the end of time. But note that the Apostolic Tradition MAKES PROGRESS with the help of the Holy Spirit in many ways through the teaching of the episcopate as was obvious in the work of the Council; there is also development through the study of the Scriptures by theologians and laity. It happens by contemplation and personal reflection, through the sayings of the Fathers of the Church and, of course, through her many saints there is deeper and richer understanding of the content of the Scripture. #9 The Council teaches that Tradition and Sacred Scripture then are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. They flow from the same divine wellspring to form one thing Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it was put down in writing and Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God entrusted to the Apostles. #10 Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up A SINGLE SACRED DEPOSIT OF THE WORD OF GOD ENTRUSTED TO THE CHURCH THE AUTHENTIC INTERPRETATION OF THE WORD OF GOD HAS BEEN ENTRUSTED TO THE LIVING TEACHING OFFICE OF THE CHURCH ALONE YET THIS MAGISTERIUM IS NOT SUPERIOR TO THE WORD OF GOD, BUT ITS SERVANT It teaches only what has been handed on to it #11 The Church relying on the faith of the Apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the New and Old Testaments on the grounds that they were handed on to the Church as inspired by the Holy Spirit. Though the writers were true authors yet they consigned to writing whatever God wanted written and no more. The Church teaches that the Books of Scripture FIRMLY, FAITHFULLY AND WITHOUT ERROR TEACH THAT TRUTH WHICH GOD FOR THE SAKE OF OUR SALVATION WISHED TO SEE CONSIGNED TO THEM. Of course it is up to experts to carefully search out the meaning that the writers had in mind; it is also important to distinguish between books that are historical or prophetical or poetical. As helpful as such research can be it is not necessary that we be experts in such sciences but look upon Holy Scripture as God s way to speak to all of us with meaning for our lives today.

5 Regarding the Old Testament it should be noted that the Council suggests that the Old Testament was deliberately so orientated that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ. It is also interesting to note that these books attain and show forth their full meaning in the New Testament and in their turn shed light on it and explain it A great example is to study the Passover meal of the Old Testament and the Last Supper of the Lord. #18 The Gospels have a special place of dignity because they are our PRINCIPAL SOURCE OF THE LIFE AND TEACHING OF THE INCARNATE WORD, OUR SAVIOR. #19 Our Church insists unhesitatingly upon the HISTORICITY OF THE FOUR GOSPELS WHICH FAITHFULLY HAND ON WHAT JESUS, THE SON OF GOD, WHILE HE LIVED AMONG MEN, REALLY DID AND TAUGHT FOR THEIR ETERNAL SALVATION. They have told us THE HONEST TRUTH ABOUT JESUS. #21 The Church has venerated the Scriptures like she does the Body of the Lord as she offers it to the faithful FROM ONE TABLE OF THE WORD OF GOD AND THE BODY OF CHRIST. She continues to regard the Scriptures, taken together with Sacred Tradition, as the supreme rule of her faith. The Scriptures are UNIQUE in that THEY ARE INSPIRED BY GOD AND PRESENT GOD S OWN WORD IN AN UNALTERABLE FORM. Access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful She wants the Word of God readily available with suitable and correct translations. Here we might discuss the controversy re FORMAL AND DYNAMIC TRANSLATIONS. #24 Sacred Theology relies on the written Word of God, taken together with Tradition as on a permanent foundation. In this way Theology is firmly strengthened and rejuvenated as it searches out THE FULL TRUTH STORED UP IN THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST. We might discuss what is meant by the Mystery of Christ and do so by using the explanation offered by St. John of the Cross.

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