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Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 12: Divine Revelation (Part 2)

Posted on 04/27/2006 11:15:36 AM PDT by MILESJESU

Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier

Lesson 12: Divine Revelation (Part 2)

Picking up where we left off, one of the difficulties in translating Scripture is that the oldest-surviving complete Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament is from the 10th century AD. Those are known as the Masoretic manuscripts. Remember that some of the Old Testament works were first written in the 10th century BC, so we are talking about 20 centuries in between. That is a long time and a lot of copies, obviously.

When we are talking about the Old Testament, at least the Pentateuch, which is the first five books and would also be known as the Torah, we can be very certain about the veracity of what is being passed down in those books because the rabbis had actually counted all of the letters. They would look at them and count them, and if there was anything wrong they would burn it because it was the Word of God and they did not want to make a single mistake. At least we know that those have been passed down very carefully. But how many mistakes might be in some of the others is still a question. An incomplete set of the Old Testament Scriptures was found primarily in the 1940s and 1950s at a place called Qumran. Those are the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they date to the 1st century AD.

The oldest Greek manuscripts that exist today include seven of the books in the Old Testament, and the earliest copies of these will date from the 4th century AD. One interesting point is that with all the variation there is hardly a point of doctrine which is called into question.

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Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier

Lesson 12: Divine Revelation (Part 2)

Picking up where we left off, one of the difficulties in translating Scripture is that the oldest-surviving complete Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament is from the 10th century AD. Those are known as the Masoretic manuscripts. Remember that some of the Old Testament works were first written in the 10th century BC, so we are talking about 20 centuries in between. That is a long time and a lot of copies, obviously. When we are talking about the Old Testament, at least the Pentateuch, which is the first five books and would also be known as the Torah, we can be very certain about the veracity of what is being passed down in those books because the rabbis had actually counted all of the letters. They would look at them and count them, and if there was anything wrong they would burn it because it was the Word of God and they did not want to make a single mistake. At least we know that those have been passed down very carefully. But how many mistakes might be in some of the others is still a question. An incomplete set of the Old Testament Scriptures was found primarily in the 1940s and 1950s at a place called Qumran. Those are the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they date to the 1st century AD. The oldest Greek manuscripts that exist today include seven of the books in the Old Testament, and the earliest copies of these will date from the 4th century AD. One interesting point is that with all the variation there is hardly a point of doctrine which is called into question. Even though the process of copying is not part of inspiration, you can see that God obviously has protected and guided it.

We were talking earlier about the difficulties that the Scripture people have in trying to understand and translate. [Please refer to the handout for Lesson 12 available on the DesertVoice Catechism page.] What you see at the top of the handout for this lesson is the first couple of verses from the first chapter of Saint John’s Gospel written in Greek. At the time they were written, there were no spaces between the words and there was no punctuation. Papyrus scrolls were very expensive, so they did not waste any space on them. They had the letters, and when they got to the end of the line, they would just continue on. Everything was capital letters; they did not have small letters. Underneath that is what it would look like (to some degree, at least) if you bought the New Testament in Greek today. You see the breathing marks, all the punctuation that is in there, and the breaks in the words. There is a huge difference between the two. In English, it would say, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. We have all read that many times. Remember that the oral tradition preceded the written tradition, so people heard it first. They knew what it said because they had heard it, and then they could look at this and they would know. As the centuries go on, the problem is that you have lots of people who did not hear it, especially in the original language. Then they look at it and say, “What is it supposed to say?”

The two lines in the middle of the handout are an attempt to show in English what it would look like. I put it all in capital letters and ran it together in two lines so you could see what the problem is. How do you break it up? What does it mean? What does it say? If you simply start looking for the smallest possible word and break the letters up that way, you get something like “YOU RUN COVE RED IN VEST MEN…” When you get to the “TSO” it does not make any sense. Perhaps you make that into “vestments.” So you try: “You run cove red in vestments which are heavy. You may wish to consider an insurance policy. Might help if you have one.” You could break it up that way. Or you could also break it up into “You run covered in vestments of gold…” or “You run covered investments of gold….” You see how just one break in the word changes the entire meaning. Now you can change it a little bit more by putting in a couple of punctuation marks and the whole meaning changes. “Your uncovered investments of gold, which are heavy, you may wish to consider. An insurance policy might help if you have one.” When you look at it, you realize that there are four different possibilities of translating those two little lines. And we are talking about the whole New Testament. There are lots of ways you can translate it, and that is what the problem is. Sometimes when they are looking at the Greek and the Hebrew, it is not easy to tell which is the original and which is the best way to break it up. That is what they are faced with. It is nice to have the translations, but it is still a question of what God intended from the very beginning with these things.

With regard to the translations, the most important translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew text into Greek is a version which is called the Septuagint. Septuagint is a word which means “seventy.” The story behind that (whether there is any truth to this or not is to be debated) is that 70 rabbis around the city of Alexandria in northern Egypt in approximately the 2nd century BC took their scrolls and went to their own tents and started the work of translating the Hebrew into Greek. By a miracle, all 70 translations were identical when they were done. That is the story. Therefore, they suggest that perhaps the Septuagint is inspired because how else could 70 rabbis get the exact same translation. By the way, if they make references to the Septuagint, you will usually see it as LXX. That just means “70.” It is a lot easier to make the Roman numerals as opposed to writing out “Septuagint,” so in a footnote it will usually be LXX. This version contains seven books which are not included in the modern Hebrew text. Those seven books are included in the Catholic Bible, but they are not in the Protestant Bible, nor are they in the Jewish Bible at this point. Those seven books are Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Baruch, Wisdom, and 1st and 2nd Maccabees. There are also some additions to the books of Daniel and Esther that are contained in the Catholic Bible which are not contained in the Protestant Bible. The Septuagint is important for us because that is the book the apostles used in their preaching. There are approximately 400 Old Testament quotes contained in the New Testament, about 300 of them are from the Septuagint. The Septuagint, along with the New Testament books, was the “official” Bible, if you will, of the early Church. The apostles used the Septuagint, and that is why the Church adopted it, because if that is what the apostles were going to use in their preaching then that is what the Church was going to use.

We say that the Scriptures are divinely inspired. What does divine inspiration mean? Divine inspiration means that the Scriptures say what God wanted said. In doing this, however, God did not suspend the minds and the wills of the human authors, nor did He take away their personalities. All you have to do is read the prophets and you will see their personalities shining through all over the place. God clearly did not take that away. You will see some of these paintings, for instance, of the evangelists, the Gospel writers, and it will show them with a little bird sitting on their shoulder whispering into their ear. Well, it is true that the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, but He did not dictate the Scriptures in that way to the evangelists. Rather, through their own thoughts and choices, the authors wrote down what God wanted them to write. These human authors then received a specific and extraordinary gift from God. This gift, which is the grace of divine inspiration, is a movement of the Holy Spirit, which extended the minds and the wills of the authors, as well as the other faculties necessary in order to compose the sacred texts. Here is an easy way to think about that. Let us say you wanted to explain a point that you learned in this lesson. Unless you have this lesson text, you are not going to be able to explain it exactly word for word the way I did. But you can tell whomever you wish what you read in your own words. You take the same truth and present it in your own words. So what God did was to enlighten the minds and the hearts of these men to be able to understand the truth, then in their own words and with their own personality and style, they wrote it down. It says what God wanted to have said, but He just made use of these individuals to do it. It is all the truth, but it is in the way that God chose to have it presented.

All Scripture is inspired by God. That means every single word, not just certain words and phrases. That means every single word has God as its author and is inspired by Him – even the parts that you might not personally like. That is very important. We cannot gloss over things in the Bible and say, “I don’t go for that.” It is the Word of God, and if we are going to ignore the Word of God because we decide that we do not want it, we are going to find ourselves in a lot of hot water because we are saying that we know better than God. That is not a real smart thing to do.

Remember that inspiration extends only to the original text, and not to translations of the text. When we read the English, we are reading a translation of the inspired text, not the inspired text itself. There is some possibility that the Septuagint was inspired, but other than that, none of the others would be. The original texts in the Hebrew and Greek were inspired, not what we are currently reading. To pick up a Bible and say, “This is the inspired Word of God,” is not quite true. It is a translation into English of the inspired Word of God. That is why it helps to be able to know the original languages. However, I will tell you that both of the original languages are a real pain to learn. It is a good thing to learn, but they are not easy and they are not fun. If you really want a good Lenten penance for the next number of years, pick up Hebrew and Greek. That will keep you busy and suffering for a long time to come.

Through inspiration, God is the author of the sacred text. And since there is only one author, Scripture must be taken as a whole, not just as a random collection of various books from different ages. This means that particular verses must be seen in the view of the whole of Sacred Scripture. Also, all Scripture must be seen in the light of the Church because the Church is Christ and He is the interpreter of Sacred Scripture. That means it is improper to quote a passage out of context; first, out of context of its own book; then, out of context of the whole Scripture; finally, out of context of the Church. The thing to understand is that you can make Scripture say anything you want it to say. Anything. For instance, Scripture says that there is no God. If you drop off what precedes it – “The fool says in his heart…” – you can make it say, “There is no God.” One of the most tragic quotations of Scripture is at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When you pull up, they have a Scripture quote right above the front gate. Parents think they are sending their kids to a good Christian place because there is Scripture right there from the Book of Genesis, chapter 3. You know what it says? “You will be like God.” It is a quote from Satan. That is what he told Eve: “When you eat this, you will be like God.” So you need to be very careful.

One of my favorite stories that I always tell is of the little Italian woman on the bus. If you have ever been on an Italian bus, you will understand this. They have about six chairs and everybody else stands. They get very crowded and it is quite an interesting ride. Anyway, this little old lady gets on a bus and she looks around. All the chairs are taken and she is there with her cane. She walks over to this young man, who is sitting in one of the seats, and stands there. Of course, the kid was probably an American, so he did not have the courtesy to stand up. The woman looks at the kid and says, “Excuse me, young man. Aren’t you going to offer me your seat?” He says, “No.” So she asks, “Are you a Christian?” “Yes.” “Then you believe in Scripture, right?” “Oh, yes.” “Well, it says in Scripture that Judas went out and hung himself. And then it says in Ecclesiastes: ‘Go, my son, and do the same.”

Once again, you can make Scripture say whatever you want it to say, just pick and choose. It is wrong to do. Make sure you are quoting it within the context of the book, within the context of the whole of Scripture, and within the context of the Church. That, by the way, is an important thing to keep in mind when you are reading Saint Paul. Saint Paul quotes the Old Testament all over the place, but he never quotes a passage out of context. When you read the one little sentence that he quotes, you need to go back to where he quoted it from and read what surrounds it because he never quotes it out of context. Saint Paul, remember, was the ultimate Pharisee. He was the valedictorian of the greatest rabbi to ever have lived, Rabbi Gamaliel. Saint Paul tells us himself that he surpassed all of his fellows in what he was doing in his zeal for the traditions of his ancestors. He knew the Scriptures upside down and inside out, and he never once quotes one of these passages out of context. It is well worth the effort when he takes one little line out of Scripture to go back and look at the context so you can understand what he is doing. The funny part is that in so many of them he is writing to Gentiles – and they did not know the Old Testament. So here Saint Paul is quoting these Old Testament passages and quoting them in context to people who did not know them. But it is part of God’s Providence because even though they did not know them, God knew that one day the rest of us were going to be reading these things and how important they would be to us.

When we see all these various things, it would seem that Scripture study is something reserved for scholars. Well, Scripture is for everyone and it can be understood by anyone who reads it with faith and under the guidance of the Church. Pick up your Bible and read it and pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind and your heart to understand. You do not necessarily need to know Greek and Hebrew and all the ins and outs; just read it. Even though it is a translation, it is the Word of God.

I should point out that the best translation into English right now is the Revised Standard Version. The Revised Standard Version is actually a Protestant translation. There is a Catholic edition of it which has all of the books, but also, there are several words that are changed. If you read, for instance, in the Protestant edition of the Revised Standard Version in Isaiah 7:14 where it says, “A virgin will be with child,” they translated that as “A young woman will be with child.” The reason they did that is because the Hebrew word that is there is almah. Almah normally means “a young woman.” But when they translated that into Greek, they did not use the word neaneas, which would mean a young woman, but instead they used the word parthenos, which means “a virgin,” which is why Saint Matthew makes very clear that that passage is fulfilled: A virgin shall be with child and will bear a son and name him Emmanuel. In the Catholic edition, that word is changed from young woman to virgin. There are little changes like that. There is a new Revised Standard Version that is out, and there are some things in there that are better, but a lot of things that are worse. The Revised Standard Version actually was from the early 1950s, so some of the newer scholarship is worked into the new RSV version, but they also added some inclusive language, watered a few things down, and did a few other things that are not so good. The translation that we use at Mass is the Revised New American Version. The one that had been used at Mass up until just a few years ago was the New American Version, which is a very poor translation. The Revised New American Version is a little bit better, but still has all kinds of problems. One that most of the fundamentalists and evangelical Protestants used was the King James Version. The King James Version of the Bible is a very good translation of the text they were using at that time. However, the text they were using had approximately 5,000 errors in it, and they translated the errors right in. So it has lots of problems and is not one that is highly suggested.

If you read French and want the best footnotes, they claim that the best translation of the Bible into any language is the Jerusalem Bible in French. If you get the Jerusalem Bible in English, that is a double translation. They translated the Greek and Hebrew into French, then from French into English, and it does not work. Then they went back and retranslated from the Greek and Hebrew, and that is the New Jerusalem Bible. The New Jerusalem Bible has the best footnotes and the best cross-references of any of the Bibles available right now. However, the text is not a literal translation. The thing I like about the Revised Standard Version is that it tries to be a literal translation, but that means it is sometimes difficult to understand. The New Jerusalem is trying to be faithful to the meaning of the text without necessarily being literal with regard to the words. If you sit down with the New Jerusalem and the Revised Standard Version, when you look at the Revised Standard Version and you question what something means, you can look at the New Jerusalem and get the meaning of it. You can see what the words are and you can see what the meaning is if you line the two of them up, and you will have good footnotes and references. Currently, the Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version has no notes in it. If you decide to purchase the New Jerusalem Bible, make sure you get the whole thing. If you get the reader’s edition, there are not any notes in there either, so get the full thing if you are going to get it. There are notes that are presently being prepared for the Revised Standard Version. They have the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles out. I think they have a couple of other books available in the New Testament, but they are continuing to work on them. You can get those one at a time, as they put them out. Eventually, which will still take a number of years, you will be able to get the Revised Standard Version with all the notes worked into it. Now you have to get it separately. It is a little bit of a hassle that way, but the translation is definitely the best.

What about inerrancy? On would think that with God as its author, Scripture would contain no errors. But there are things in Scripture that would appear to be errors. For instance, there appear to be contradictions in Scripture. One place says that the Flood lasted 40 days, and another place says it lasted 150 days. It actually rained for 40 days and then it was 150 days before the waters completely subsided. Then there are scientific errors. For instance, we know now that there is not firmament separating the waters above from the waters below, and so on. There are little errors like that. The Bible was not written to be a science book; it was written to be a book about faith. Nonetheless, the truth is what is there. We can ask ourselves: Why would God allow certain errors? He did not force the human authors against their will with regard to natural truths that they would not have understood at the time. God works through ordinary means. The authors at that time thought the earth was on pillars in the water, and that the water was holding it up. We know that is not quite the case, but they did not know that. And God was not going to do something to force them to understand something they could not have understood at the time, so He did not. He simply allowed them to show the truth. What is important is that God created everything, the other information was not the point.

Recall that inspiration pertains to the original language and not to what we find in translations. A perfect example of that would be the word Jehovah. In Hebrew, they would never ever pronounce the holy name of God because of the Second Commandment. Would that we had that same attitude today! But because they never wanted to use the Lord’s name with the slightest possible irreverence, they would never even begin to pronounce His name. To this day, the Jewish people will call God’s name the tetragrammaton: “YHWH.” We would simply refer to it as Yahweh. But in Hebrew, there are no vowels, only consonants. So the tetragrammaton is the four letters. In the ancient scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures, whenever it came to the holy name of God, they would put that into a different color and basically italicize it so that you knew what it was going to say and you did not even begin to say it and then catch up short and try to change. It looked different so the reader could be sure that he never used God’s name. What they did was to use the word Adonai. Adonai simply means “Lord.” In some of the English translations of the Old Testament, what you will find is that they will put LORD. Whenever that happens, it means the word is Yahweh, but out of reverence and respect for the Jewish people, they will not put the word Yahweh in. Instead, they just put LORD. Because they always pronounced the word Adonai, when it came time to put the vowel markings in, what they did was to take the vowels from Adonai and put it into Yahweh. What they wound up with was Jehovah. That is how the word Jehovah came about. The word Jehovah is no place in Sacred Scripture, but because they mistranslated what the word was, they made a new word which did not exist by putting in the vowels from Adonai into the consonants for Yahweh. So when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking at your door, you have a little argument for them. They are believing in somebody that does not exist.

You need to look at the literary forms that were used, as well as the intention of the human author, when reading the Scriptures. You must also recall that inerrancy as a fruit of inspiration pertains to the Bible as a whole. What the Church teaches with regard to inerrancy is not that there are no errors in Scripture (there are spelling errors and grammatical errors and things like that) but rather that those truths necessary for our salvation were protected from all possibility of error.

What about the Canon of Scripture? That is, the books that are contained within the Scriptures? The Canon includes all of the books that the Church accepts as being part of the Bible. For Catholics, that means 46 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. The Protestant Bible has 39 books in the Old Testament, and the same 27 in the New Testament. With regard to the seven books that are in the Septuagint that are not in the present-day Hebrew Scriptures, again, the Church adopted these as Her own in the canon of the Septuagint. You must understand that the Jewish people did not have a set canon until after the Church determined which books were in the Bible. It was right around the beginning of the 5th century AD when the Jewish people determined which books would be considered their Bible. If the Jewish people had determined that in the year 100 BC, the Church would have said, “Fine, these people had the infallible say.” But by the 5th century AD, the Church was the infallible teacher. Therefore, when the Jewish people said, “No, we are not going to accept those seven books,” the Church had already determined that those seven books belonged in Scripture. It is also interesting that these were never seriously questioned until the time of the Reformation. Martin Luther threw them out because they were not present in Hebrew, and said, “If the Old Testament wasn’t written in Hebrew, then it can’t be inspired by God.” The problem was that after the Jewish people determined those seven books were not going to be in the Hebrew Bible, they stopped putting them into Hebrew. Those seven books were not written in Hebrew from the 5th century AD until the 16th century AD (when Martin Luther lived), and so for 1,100 years those books were not present in Hebrew. Then in the 16th century, Luther was looking at this saying, “We don’t have these seven books in Hebrew, and so they must not be part of the Old Testament.” Well, God provides and modern day archaeology has unearthed all seven of those books, at least parts of them, in Hebrew. Luther’s argument falls apart rather quickly because we have all of them. What he was saying at the time about not having them in Hebrew was true because the Jewish people did not put them into Hebrew for 1,100 years, but, nonetheless, his argument does not stand today.

The books of the Bible were determined at the Council of Carthage in the year 397. Carthage is in northern Africa. The bishops of the Church gathered at Carthage to determine which books were going to be in Sacred Scripture. I should also point out that it was at the Council of Trent, which was in the 16th century, that it was infallibly defined that there are 46 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. That is absolute dogma at this point. And how is the canonicity of a particular book decided? Basically, what the Church did was to determine the canon of Scripture based on the usage of the books. In other words, if a book was used in the liturgies and cited by the Fathers and was universal then it was considered canonical. If it was not consistently and universally used then it obviously did not reflect the faith of the Church, and therefore was not accepted. For the New Testament, apostolic origin was important. It either had to have been written by one of the apostles or someone close to them.

How did this come about? You have these bishops getting together to determine which books belong in the New Testament. They had accepted the Old Testament from the Septuagint wholesale because, as I mentioned earlier, that was the book the apostles used. They said, “If it’s good enough for the apostles, it’s good enough for us.” So they accepted the 46 books in the Septuagint. And what about the New Testament? What they did was to look at all those books and all the different categories and criteria they were looking at. They had determined that there were 110 books possible. From those 110 books that they had, they determined which ones in fact were inspired by God and which were not. They picked 27 of them. They did not start out with the idea that there were 27, and they did not come up with 27 because it is 3 cubed and therefore some kind of mystical number or something like that. They just started to pray and asked the Holy Spirit to show them, and they determined which books were inspired.

Now you have to understand the implications of this for us. If the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church are infallible when they meet in council, then this is the Word of God. If they are not infallible, then you are not so sure that this is the Word of God. What if there were supposed to be 50 books in the New Testament and they only picked 27? What if there were only supposed to be 15 and they picked 27? What if there were supposed to be 27, but they got the wrong ones? How do you know? You read this on faith – on faith that the Holy Spirit was going to inspire the Fathers of the Council of Carthage to determine which books were correct. Just think about this for a second. Which one of us, assuming we have all read the Bible, would have voted for Philemon? Philemon is a one-page letter of Saint Paul telling a man to take back his runaway slave. I probably would not have voted for Philemon. But I would have voted for Saint Paul’s Letter to the Laodiceans because right in his Letter to the Colossians, Saint Paul says, “Read the letter that I wrote to the Laodiceans.” Well, Colossians is divinely inspired; therefore, I would have said, “Laodiceans must be too.” The bishops said, “No, it isn’t. But Philemon is.” So that is what is in the Bible, and they were correct. I would have been wrong. Thanks be to God I was not there and they were because they are the ones who got it right. So you see the process. You also see how easy it is for our humanness to get in the way and how important, therefore, it is that the Holy Spirit would lead them into the truth. Every Protestant believes in those 27 books, and the only reason they can believe in those 27 books is because the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church gave those to them. Again, you have to look at that and take it into consideration. If you are talking to one of your Protestant friends, just point that out to them. Of course, I had a fundamentalist tell me once, “Well, God can even use Satan to bring about good. In this case, He just used the Catholic Church to bring it about.” That is cute, but it is not the reality.

Anyway, it is a matter of being able to understand the implications of that. If the bishops are not infallible when they meet in council, then you do not know that you are reading the divinely inspired Word of God. And if they are infallible, then it is the divinely inspired Word of God. Again, this has very important implications for our Protestant brothers and sisters because if the bishops were infallible about the New Testament, then they were infallible about the Old Testament as well. And if they were not infallible about the Old Testament, then they are not infallible about the New Testament either. The Protestants are saying that the Catholic Church blew it with regard to the Old Testament – “They put seven books in there that didn’t belong there!” – yet they think the bishops were right about the New Testament. How do you know? If you were wrong on one, chances are you are probably wrong on the other. So you see the importance of how the authority of the Church impacts us. Otherwise, all you are dealing with is the opinion of a group of men who gathered in northern Africa back in 397, and ever since then every Christian that has ever lived has believed what they determined: their opinion. Why would we believe it if it is just their opinion? Why do we not go back and read through the rest of the books and determine for ourselves which ones are divinely inspired and which ones are not?

There was one Protestant guy who was attacking the Catholic Church, and he was pointing out how he could tell that those seven books of the Old Testament that Catholics believe in clearly were not inspired. And how did he know? Because when he read them, he did not have a “feeling.” Give me a break. You see the asininity of this nonsense: “It is my opinion based on my feeling as to whether this is divinely inspired or not.” No, it is not. We have to have an objective truth and we have to have an objective source that we can check our own understanding of the truth against. That is what the Church is there for, so that we can make sure we are not getting off track by getting caught up in our own opinions about things.

We need to talk a little bit about Tradition. There are two senses of tradition that are signified by two different Latin words (in English, we just have one), one is tradita and the other is traditio. Tradita is a word that simply means “to hand over.” Jesus uses the word at the Last Supper when He says, I tell you, one of you is about to hand Me over. But traditio is “a living tradition.” In English, we would oftentimes say Tradition (from traditio) or tradition (from tradita). Traditio is a living tradition that is more than just a custom. We all have our family traditions, what we do every year at Christmas, how we celebrate Thanksgiving, etc. That is tradita. It is something handed on from generation to generation. When we are talking about traditio, we are talking about the living Tradition that is part of what God has inspired. As I mentioned, the Bible is part of the Tradition of the Church. As we just saw, the Church was around for 397 years before we had the New Testament. The Bible came out of the Church; the Church did not come out of the Bible. In fact, if there is any question about it, it says very clearly in the Bible that the Church is the pillar and the bulwark of truth – not the Bible. It makes very clear that not everything is in the Bible. Saint John says at the very end of his Gospel that all the books in the world could not contain everything Jesus said and did. Saint Paul says to the Thessalonians, Hold fast to the traditions that you have received from us, whether in writing or by word of mouth. There is a written Tradition and there is an oral Tradition. What the apostles preached and did not write down is part of Tradition.

We have seen that Tradition includes all of the Sacred Scriptures and all of the reflections and developments thereon. This would include things that may have been passed on by the apostles that were not explicitly written down, and, of course, none of that can ever contradict what is contained in Scripture. If there is ever a contradiction, it obviously is not part of what God would teach.

The Church teaches officially, and following is a long quote from the document Dei Verbum from the Second Vatican Council, that is, the document on The Word of God. So it is on divine revelation – Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. It says: Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture then are bound closely together and communicate one with the other, for both of them flowing from the same divine wellspring come together in some fashion to form one thing and move toward the same goal. Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit, and Tradition transmits in its entirely the Word of God, which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Tradition transmits the entirety of the Word of God, whereas Scripture is the Word of God put down in writing. Tradition, then, is a vital and living reality which is constantly growing through restatements of the Gospel. The content of Tradition is fixed, that is, it is what is in the Scriptures, but the way it is expressed will change in every age. The Church teaches that the apostles handed on through their preaching and example and institution what they themselves had received from Christ. This was passed on to their successors, the bishops, and it is transmitted through the prophetic office (or the teaching office) of the Church.

What we see then is that without Tradition very much would go to the wayside, and we would still be stuck in the 1st century. One of the things that we do typically as human beings is to say, “That’s old, let’s get rid of it.” Well, we cannot do that. We are an apostolic Church; we go back to the apostles. Yet, at the same time, the Church is a living person. One of the things that I always find humorous is that so many of these little groups break away from the Church and they all want to go back to the 1st century; they want to live like the apostles did. You cannot. That would be like saying that we as adults ought to go back and put on diapers and sleep in a crib because we want to go back to when we were one year old. The Church is 2,000 years old; we cannot go back to when She was one year old. We have to be able to live with the maturity of the Church. We are the same person who used to be in the crib, we have grown and developed, and the lessons that we learned back then we still have today. Those of you who have kids, you teach your children some of the most important lessons which are the foundation of their lives in the first couple of years of their lives, and they remember all those things. You teach them the ABCs, you teach them simple things, and those are there forever. They are the foundation upon which everything else is built. So, too, with the Church. The foundation is right there. None of that goes away. The superfluous stuff, that can all fall to the wayside, but the Church has to determine which things are important and which things are not, which things can go to the wayside and which things are critical for us to hold onto. Through Tradition, we remain rooted in the 1st century teaching, and yet through Tradition we are continuing to grow. It is both-and as it stands. We cannot be stuck in the 1st century; neither can we throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to be able to have the fullness of the truth and we need to continue to be a living, growing reality, a living, growing person.

There are a number of non-Scriptural magisterial sources of Tradition that are not given equal weight by any means, but things that the Church would look at as things that go into the idea of Tradition. Those would include creeds (there are various creeds that have been written throughout the centuries), statements from ecumenical councils, papal documents and addresses, writings of the ancient Church Fathers, homilies of the saints, statements of local and national and provincial councils, episcopal addresses and documents, liturgical books, studies of theologians faithful to the Church, the writings of the saints, and so on. There are lots of sources the Church will look at. When you are dealing with formal creeds that have been put forth by councils, or statements of councils or papal documents, those are obviously going to have the greatest weight. When you are talking about the homily of a saint someplace, well, it is just a homily. It is carrying forth truth, but it does not have anywhere near the weight of an official Church document. So the Church has to look at all these things carefully, but it all becomes part of the content of what is passed on and the manner in which it is passed on.

Through the prophetic office of Christ, the Church knows and transmits divine revelation. The Magisterium, the teaching office exercised by the bishops and the Pope, has responsibility for teaching revelation to the baptized. The Church teaches that Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church, as well as the supernatural sense of the faith of the entire people of God, form this one life giving process in which divine revelation is transmitted to succeeding generations. That point of the supernatural sense of the faithful, you will see as the sensus fidelium. The Church is infallible, as we saw earlier, and the Pope can speak infallibly, but the people of God also are infallible when the supernatural sense of the faithful is exercised when all of the faithful are in agreement about the truth. That is one of the things the Church will look at. Are the people of God in agreement with this? If the people throughout the world are all saying, “Yes, this is the truth,” then clearly that is the Holy Spirit at work.

There was a priest who was challenged by one of these fundamentalists about something. At one point in the debate, he looked at the fundamentalist and said, “What would you call it if people from every nation on the face of the earth speaking every language of the world got together in one place and they all voted and came to an agreement about a particular truth?” The fundamentalist said, “Well, I would call that clearly the working of the Holy Spirit. It would be a miracle!” And the priest said, “We call it an ecumenical council.” When the bishops of the world get together and they vote and determine the truth, that is what the Lord has given to us. We see that in the first council known as the Council of Jerusalem. It is in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. And there are councils throughout history right up to the Second Vatican Council back in the 1960s. These are parts of the way that the Church will continue to hand on the fullness of the truth.

In the next lesson we will discuss grace. That is one of those absolute mysteries, so it is not an easy topic, but very important.

The Lord be with you. May the blessing of Almighty God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with you forever. Amen.

[End of Lesson 12]

1 posted on 04/27/2006 11:15:39 AM PDT by MILESJESU
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To: Canticle_of_Deborah; sandyeggo; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; NYer; Pyro7480; livius; ...

Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier
Lesson 12: Divine Revelation (Part 2)PING!


2 posted on 04/27/2006 11:18:54 AM PDT by MILESJESU (JESUS CHRIST, I TRUST IN YOU.)
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To: All
1)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 1: The Unity of God

2)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 2: The Most Holy Trinity

3)Lesson 3: God’s Creation of the World

4)Lesson 4: Creation of the Human Person and Original Sin

5)Lesson 5: Jesus Christ – God and Man (Part 1)BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER

6)Lesson 6: Jesus Christ – God and Man (Part 2) BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER

7)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 7: Mary (Part 1)

8)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 8: Mary (Part 2)

9)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 9: The Church (Part 1)

10)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 10: The Church (Part 2)

11)Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 11: Divine Revelation(Part 1

3 posted on 04/27/2006 11:31:27 AM PDT by MILESJESU (JESUS CHRIST, I TRUST IN YOU.)
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Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 12: Divine Revelation (Part 2) BUMP

4 posted on 04/27/2006 11:33:39 AM PDT by MILESJESU (JESUS CHRIST, I TRUST IN YOU.)
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Lesson 12:Divine Revelation (Part 2) BUMP

5 posted on 04/28/2006 7:12:22 AM PDT by MILESJESU (JESUS CHRIST, I TRUST IN YOU.)
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