Skip to comments.Wolf in Calfskin: The Rampant Liberalism of the NAB, (Part I) [Catholic Caucus]
Posted on 04/26/2009 5:00:34 PM PDT by Salvation
Wolf in Calfskin: The Rampant Liberalism of the NAB
How amazing is the profundity of your words! We are confronted with a superficial meaning that offers easy access to the unlettered; yet how amazing their profundity, O my God, how amazingly deep they are! To look into that depth makes me shudder, but it is the shudder of awe, the trembling of love. I regard with intense hatred all who attack the scriptures; if only you would slay them with your double-edged sword, that they might be enemies no longer! How dearly would I love them to be slain in that respect, that they might live to you!
(St. Augustine, The Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B. [New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1998] p. 282 [12:14:17])
SJNAB: Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible (New York, NY: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1992).
DeRev: Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, Ch. 2, De Revelatione (April 24, 1870).
PD: Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus (November 18, 1893).
LS: St. Pius X, Lamentabili Sane (July 3, 1907).
PDG: St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (September 8, 1907).
SP: Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus (September 15, 1920).
HG: Pius XII, Humani Generis (August 12, 1950).
HOT: Fr. George Leo Haydock, The Douay-Rheims Old Testament (Monrovia, CA: Catholic Treasures, 1992).
HNT: Fr. George Leo Haydock, The Douay-Rheims New Testament (Monrovia, CA: Catholic Treasures, 1991).
CCHS: Dom Bernard Orchard, O.S.B., ed., A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1953).
KD: C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 Vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006; Repr. 1866-1891).
ANF: Philip Shaff, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001).
NPNF: Philip Shaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (New York, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893).
Holy Mother Church understands that false doctrine is the more dangerous to the extent that it is presented under "a form of godliness" (cf. 2 Tim 3:5). This is why, for instance, every Pope who reigned during the 19th century condemned Protestant "biblical societies." The putative aim of these societies was to promote knowledge of the Word of God by publishing and circulating free copies of the Bible in the various vernacular languages: certainly, in itself, a noble cause. Yet, under the godly bound form of a volume of the Sacred Scriptures, they delivered to unsuspecting Catholics erroneous translations of the sacred page which might harm their Catholic faith. Leo XII warned, "There are good reasons for fear that (as has already happened in some of their commentaries and in other respects by a distorted interpretation of Christ's gospel) they will produce a gospel of men, or what is worse, a gospel of the devil!"1 Pius VIII said of these societies that, "They skillfully distort the meaning by their own interpretation... Furthermore, the Bibles are rarely without perverse little inserts to insure that the reader imbibes their lethal poison instead of the saving water of salvation."2 Gregory XVI, with perhaps more charity, stated, "In the many translations from the biblical societies, serious errors are easily inserted by the great number of translators, either through ignorance or deception."3 Bl. Pope Pius IX accused the societies of "perverse explanations."4 In their versions, the biblical text was "subverted and most daringly twisted to yield a vile meaning."5 Lastly, Leo XIII confirmed that the versions published by the biblical societies were dangerous and forbidden to Catholics.6
It is the thesis of this article that the above papal condemnations apply in spades to one particular biblical society, and one particular biblical version, which are flourishing in our day: namely, The Catholic Biblical Association of America and its New American Bible, or NAB.7 J'accuse: the NAB, in many places, daringly redacts, rearranges, or otherwise mistranslates the sacred text, and it does so in the service of the modernist critical hermeneutic which is revealed in its "perverse" introductions and commentary. These comments repeatedly contradict or call into question the Catholic dogma of the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of Sacred Scripture8 as also the Catholic dogmas of Christology and Mariology. The NAB refuses Scripture the submission which is due to it according to the Catholic saints: "Holy Scripture is in such sort the rule of the Christian faith that we are obliged by every kind of obligation to believe most exactly all that it contains, and not to believe anything which may be ever so little contrary to it."9 Indeed, it freely confesses that Scripture is wrong in places and freely disagrees. The NAB charges the Bible with contradiction, concerning which Oecumenius may be quoted as representative of the faith of the whole world: "For nothing could be contradictory in the mouth of the one and the same Spirit."10 Yet more, the NAB would have our Lord in ignorance and our Lady in doubt of her faith, which can only eventuate in Catholic readers doubting theirs. This Bible is a danger to the faith of Catholics; it is a near occasion for sin.11
And, tragically, the New American Bible is clothed in a form of godliness far more convincing than anything that a Protestant biblical society could ever hope to weave. Indeed, it possesses all the trappings of a faithfully Catholic Bible. It boasts three imprimaturs,12 an apostolic blessing from Pope Paul VI,13 and the approval of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The NAB is, in fact, the translation which must be used in all English language lectionaries in Catholic Churches in America (although there are differences between the printed NAB and the lectionary NAB). The NAB is hosted on the Vatican's website.14 And as icing on the cake, the St. Joseph Edition even contains a smattering of attractive and traditional Catholic art: David slaying Goliath, Elijah ascending into heaven, the fifteen original mysteries of the Holy Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, etc. For a cherry on top, it dutifully informs the reader he may earn a plenary indulgence by reading Sacred Scripture for one half hour.
In sum, every external appearance leads the reader, Catholic or non-Catholic, to assume that this Bible represents authentic Catholic teaching. This being the case, Catholics will give this Bible to their children, trusting that their Church guarantees that it is safe, and inquiring Protestants, Jews, and Atheists will take its commentary as representative of how the Catholic Church understands Sacred Scripture. How tragic, then, when the Catholic child loses his faith, when the Protestant discovers that the Catholic Church believes the Bible is full of errors, when the Jew realizes that the largest Christian denomination admits that the New Testament misrepresents the Old, when the Atheist is confirmed in his suspicion that scholarly Christians do not mean what they say when they call the Bible the Word of God, and when all of them reject the mystical body of Christ.
The purpose of this study is to prevent such loss of souls by exposing the wolf beneath the calfskin of the NAB, and by sounding the alarm against it.15 This Bible does not represent authentic Catholicism. It is not "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 1:3). It is poison. To Catholics I say, "do not trust this Bible"; to non-Catholics, "please do not reject the Catholic Church on its account"; to the bishops, "protect your flock from this thing."
With loving confidence in their intercession, I place this study under the patronage of St. Joseph, St. Paul, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Pius X, and Mary, Destroyer of Heresies.
The Catholic Books Publishing Company has added a guide entitled "How to Read your Bible" to the front matter of the St. Joseph Edition of the NAB. This guide, it is acknowledged,16 "has been adapted by John Kersten, S.V.D., from his book Understanding Hebrew Literature." While this guide is not part of the NAB proper, and hence not the object of any official episcopal approbation, it is nevertheless integrated seamlessly with such "official" front matter as the apostolic blessing of Paul VI and the Preface to the Old Testament, thus creating the appearance that all those imposing statements of ecclesiastical approbation to be found just inside the front cover apply in fact to it.17 For this reason, as well as its wide dissemination among the simple faithful and the sheer audacity with which it deconstructs the traditional Catholic doctrine of biblical inspiration, "How to Read Your Bible" merits to be vigorously refuted.
As with currency, so with doctrine: the best way to learn to recognize fraud is to familiarize oneself with the genuine article. As such, before proceeding to critique "How to Read Your Bible," it will be helpful to briefly review the Catholic doctrine of biblical inspiration as it is expounded in the authentic sources.
St. Paul declares in 1 Timothy 3:16 that "all Scripture is inspired by God," or, in Greek (partially), "all Scripture is theopneustos": literally, God-breathed. Scripture is the breath or speech of God in human form. Put another way, that which we read in Scripture is spoken to us by God (Matthew 22:31). This being the case, God's action in biblical inspiration is analogous to the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. "For as the substantial Word of God became like to men in all things, 'except sin' (Heb 4:15), so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error."18 Therefore, the First Vatican Council properly (and dogmatically) defines inspiration as divine "dictation."19 Leo XIII elaborates on the First Vatican Council's decree:
This supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, is contained both in unwritten Tradition, and in written Books, which are therefore called sacred and canonical because, "being written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author and as such have been delivered to the Church." This belief has been perpetually held and professed by the Church in regard to the Books of both Testaments; and there are well-known documents of the gravest kind, coming down to us from the earliest times, which proclaim that God, Who spoke first by the Prophets, then by His own mouth, and lastly by the Apostles, composed also the Canonical Scriptures, and that these are His own oracles and words - a Letter, written by our heavenly Father, and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race in its pilgrimage so far from its heavenly country... [S]uch and so great is the excellence and the dignity of the Scriptures, that God Himself has composed them.20
The Pope goes on to describe the mechanism of biblical inspiration, the process by which God caused the sacred authors to write His words:
[B]y supernatural power, [The Holy Ghost] so moved and impelled [the sacred authors] to write - He was so present to them - that the things which He ordered, and those only, they first rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. "Therefore," says St. Augustine, "since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His members executed what their Head dictated." And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: "Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things-we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution."21
Truly, Peter has spoken through Leo, for this is the same doctrine of biblical inspiration which is taught by St. Peter himself. "Men carried by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:21).
Needless to say, the doctrine expounded by Kersten in "How to Read Your Bible" is a far cry from this doctrine of the Church. Kersten relates inspiration to a process of mutual influence whereby cultural sensitivities "inspire" gifted members of that culture to create, who thereby render those cultural sensitivities more acute still. He draws an analogy from the production of jazz music: the Negro communities are especially sensitive to music and rhythm, leading them to produce such august figures as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Ray Charles, and these in turn have further heightened the musical and rhythmic sensitivities of the Negro community and indeed of the entire world. "More or less by this same process of mutual influence Hebrew literature came into being," Kersten declares.
We see in the Hebrew people a highly developed sensitivity for God's presence in their lives. From these pious Hebrew communities we see arise prophets, preachers, writers, who offered their (first spoken) reflections on that shared experience of God's presence with His people. In turn these prophets, preachers and writers heightened that religious sensitivity in their people.22
Operating under such a sub-Catholic definition of inspiration, Kersten has difficulty distinguishing the inspiration of Scripture from the inspiration of jazz.23 To be sure, he insists that Hebrew literature "is inspired (breathed upon) in a very special way by almighty God." But, before he can proceed to define what exactly is "special" about biblical inspiration as opposed to ordinary artistic inspiration, he must first insist at length upon what biblical inspiration is not:
This does not mean that God dictated His message as a businessman dictates a letter to a secretary. God takes the author as he is and leaves him free to choose his own means of communication. Isaiah was a great poet and composed beautiful poems to convey his message. Ezekiel was not well-versed in letters and his language is rather poor. Some authors chose existing folktales and even beast fables to bring out their point.24
It is true that God did not dictate His message to the sacred authors in the same manner that a businessman dictates a letter to a secretary. "God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted."25 Nevertheless, God's method of communication is properly described as dictation, as seen above. Anyway, Kersten finally gets around to positively defining his own position with the laconic statement, "Inspiration is guidance." He fleshes out this statement in the next section:
God Himself guided (inspired) the Hebrew genius in its searching out of the mysteries of the human condition... When this restless searching for truth and meaning culminates in unfolding one of God's mysteries, we speak of divine revelation. This means that God reveals some aspect of Himself or the human condition in and through man's endeavors to find out. Hence, "everything in the Bible is inspired, but not everything is revealed" (Pierre Benoit).26
So it seems that, for Kersten, that which distinguishes biblical inspiration from ordinary artistic inspiration (apart from subject matter) is simply the occasional tap on the shoulder or tug on the wrist from God. The composition of Scripture is, then, in this view, an essentially human activity, with God merely coaxing it along like a parent teaching a child to ride a bicycle.
This position is thoroughly unacceptable. In order to consistently maintain this view, one must deny that God is the primary author of any part of Scripture, and moreover must deny that God is in any sense the author of those parts of Scripture where the Hebrews got things quite wrong, as Kersten will soon assert they did (after all, if a parent is coaxing a child properly, he is not responsible when the child falls off the bicycle anyway). This in spite of the solemn insistence of both Vatican Councils that God is the primary author of the books of Scripture "in their entirety, with all their parts."27
Furthermore, this guide fails to recognize that much of revealed truth is wholly inaccessible to human searching, even searching which is performed in a spirit of prayer and in docility to the ordinary operations of grace. As such, human searching for truth and meaning can never "culminate in unfolding one of God's mysteries." God does not reveal supernatural truths "in and through man's endeavors to find out," if this is understood in the sense that God merely directs a properly human activity until this activity attains to revealed truth. This is a Pelagian and Rationalist conception of revelation. On the contrary, man receives revelation passively, ex auditu, that is, by hearing (cf. Rom 10:17).
Finally, while Kersten's definition may suffice to distinguish biblical inspiration from the inspiration of jazz, it fails to adequately distinguish between Sacred Scripture and any pious work of literature composed in a spirit of prayer and inquisitiveness. If "inspiration is guidance," as Kersten asserts, why is it then that Zephaniah is in the Bible whereas St. Thomas' Summa is not? Let's move on.
Sometimes inspired searching for meaning leads to conclusions which cannot be qualified as revelation from God. Think of the "holy wars" of total destruction, fought by the Hebrews when they invaded Palestine. The search for meaning in those wars centuries later was inspired, but the conclusions which attributed all those atrocities to the command of God were imperfect and provisional. See Judges 1:1-8.28
While I understand Kersten's "sensitivity," his solution to the difficulty of biblical violence is, like his definition of inspiration, thoroughly unacceptable. Not only does it stand condemned by the Magisterium, which has condemned the position that the Bible contains errors except as regards faith and morals,29 and thus has condemned a fortiori the position that the Bible contains errors even as regards faith and morals. Simply on a rational level, this position creates far more problems than it solves. Kersten would have us believe that the wars which the Bible plainly states were commanded by God were not in fact commanded by God, but rather were crimes against humanity perpetrated by Hebrew murderers. Then, centuries later, their descendants attempted to justify the crimes of their forefathers by ascribing said wars to the command of a deity. Perhaps it did not dawn on John Kersten, S.V.D., that justifying murder by ascribing it to the command of a deity is a moral abomination. Indeed, it is the moral equivalent of Nazi apologetics. This being the case, it is difficult to see how anyone could maintain that a holy God could have any part whatsoever in "inspiring" this activity. No, logic and conscience will not admit this possibility. It would be far more consistent and moral to simply deny biblical inspiration outright.
An additional difficulty with this position is that it opens the pandora's box of enabling men to distinguish within Scripture, on the one hand, divine revelation, and on the other hand, immoral human inventions. If this principle be admitted, what is to stop men from rejecting the Bible's condemnation of, say, homosexuality, as Luke Timothy Johnson does, for example?30 Indeed, once one relativizes the authority of Scripture in principle, one turns the Bible into a cafeteria from whose various offerings one is free to pick and choose, based on some subjective criterion, to believe or not to believe. Hence, one may accept that part of the Bible where it says that God is love and the nice story where Jesus forgives the woman at the well, but reject the biblical teachings that sodomy and fornication are sins and that wives must be obedient to their husbands. Immense numbers of souls have surely been lost because they have done exactly that. The Catholic doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy, on the other hand, is a firm foundation: it safeguards the totality of revelation from those who would like to do away with its less than popular teachings.
Finally, Catholic tradition has already (long since, in fact) supplied us with a simple and satisfying solution to the problem of biblical violence which obviates Kersten's attempted solution. Murder is the unjust slaying of a man. Not all killing, however, is unjust. A soldier may justly kill enemy soldiers in a just war, and a state may justly execute criminals, for example. Similarly, no one kills unjustly who kills at the explicit command of God, who is Justice itself.31 God is the sovereign Lord of life and death, Who ordains both the time and the means of death for every living man, good or evil. He inflicts His universal sentence of death by whatever means should suit His purposes; and indeed, as the Bible records, He has on occasion chosen the ministrations of His angels or the armies of His chosen people. As St. Thomas Aquinas taught, God "inflicts the punishment of death on all men, both godly and ungodly, on account of the sin of our first parent, and if a man be the executor of that sentence by Divine authority, he will be no murderer any more than God would be."32
Moving on, in the next section, Kersten offers us a piece of advice with which, in other contexts, I would wholeheartedly agree: "Therefore read the introductions to the Bible books and pay attention to the footnotes!"33 In the present context, however, this advice is suited only to knowledgeable Catholics who are unlikely to be scandalized and who intend a proportionate good.
Next, Kersten makes a number of highly objectionable statements concerning the story of the Garden of Eden. These insinuate, at best, that the narrative surrounding Adam and Eve is fictitious, and at worst, that Adam and Eve are fictitious themselves. To be sure, true to Modernist form he does not assert his position plainly; he conveys his meaning rather through the techniques of the English gentlewoman:
Lady Marchmain was not diffuse, but she took hold of her subject in a feminine, flirtatious way, circling, approaching, retreating, feinting; she hovered over it like a butterfly; she played 'grandmother's steps' with it, getting nearer the real point imperceptibly while one's back was turned, standing rooted when she was observed.34
Nevertheless, I think I have succeeded in catching his meaning. He states the following in the section of the guide on literary forms:
b) The Allegory: A figure story with a veiled meaning. Read Genesis 2, 3, 4:1-16, 6-8, 11, 19. For centuries these chapters have been misunderstood as inspired lessons in science. The Bible does not teach science; it teaches religious values. It uses these folktales to teach a lesson. Again, the point of the allegory (not the details) is God's message to you.35
Later, he adds:
Most scientists hold that the human species has developed somehow from lower kinds of life. This knowledge helped Christians to understand that Genesis 2 and 3 is not a lesson in Anthropology, but an allegory, teaching us the lesson that sin is the root of all evil... You may hear interpreters of the Bible who are literalists or fundamentalists. They explain the Bible according to the letter: Eve really ate from the apple...36
The mere fact that Kersten has identified the Garden of Eden as an allegory is cause for alarm. An allegory, in the technical sense, is a purely metaphorical narrative.37 This definition is conformable to Kersten's, if not coextensive, and it implies that the whole story of the Garden is fictional. Furthermore, the reason Kersten stresses the word "veiled" in his definition of allegory is because this is what distinguishes it from the first genre which he defines, namely, the parable, "A short fictitious narrative from which a moral or spiritual truth is drawn."38 If, then, a parable is a fictitious narrative from which a lesson is explicitly drawn, an allegory is a fictitious narrative which contains a lesson for the discerning reader.
Next, if, as Kersten says, Genesis 2 and 3 do not teach Anthropology, then they do not teach the origin of the first man and first woman. Thus the story is divested of one of its fundamental truths. And if the lesson of the story is merely that sin is the root of all evil, generically speaking, rather than that one specific, historical sin, is the root of all evil, then the story is further divested of the dogma of Original Sin. I submit therefore that Kersten's position stands condemned by the Council of Trent:
If anyone does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he transgressed the commandment of God in paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice in which he had been constituted, and through the offense of that prevarication incurred the wrath and indignation of god, and thus death with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam through that offense of prevarication was changed in body and soul for the worse, let him be anathema.39
Clearly, the Catholic dogma of Original Sin depends wholly and completely on the substantial historicity of the story of the Garden of Eden, and it was in terms of this story that the dogma was defined. If the Garden of Eden is a mere allegory then this dogma is a house built on sand.
Because of this, the Magisterium has, twice during the last century, solemnly reaffirmed that the Garden of Eden is historical. First, in 1909 the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which St. Pius X had invested with papal authority,40 decreed that it could not be taught that the first three chapters of Genesis were not true in the literal historical sense. Moreover, the Commission emphasized especially that the literal historical sense could not be impugned regarding Adam's transgression of the divine commandment "through the devil's persuasion under the guise of a serpent," their motivation for doing so being to protect the integrity of the dogma of Original Sin.41 Second, in 1950 Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical entitled Humani Generis which denounces the ideas that Adam and Eve were not real, individual people, that there has ever existed any true human who was not descended from them, and that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are not history in a true sense.42 He, likewise, saw the historicity of the Garden of Eden as being essential to the integrity of the dogma of Original Sin.
With that, let us return to Kersten. Does he confess that "Adam... transgressed the commandment of God in paradise"? At the very least, he does not confess that Eve ate from the apple, and he assigns the whole story to a fictitious literary genre. Because of this, I am under the impression that he does not.
In the next section, Kersten offers an ambiguous assertion which could easily be read as charging the Bible with scientific error. He states, "The ancient Hebrews saw the earth as a large plate with a huge vault over it. Above the vault is God's place. This outlook conditioned Genesis 1."43
If it were true that the Bible contains scientific errors, as Kersten here seems to intimate, and as the NAB will enunciate more clearly in the commentary proper, this would be destructive of the credibility of Christianity, and St. Augustine might as well have remained a Manichee. For St. Augustine knew that if an author claimed to speak with the voice of God, but was caught in error in testable assertions of fact, then his claim to divine inspiration would be invalidated, and hence one could never trust his untestable assertions about religion. Thus Augustine was ultimately able to see through the pretensions of Mani:
It was providential that this man talked so much about scientific subjects, and got it wrong, because this gave people who had truly studied them the chance to convict him of error; and then by implication his insight into other, more recondite matters could be clearly assessed. Mani was content with no modest evaluation: he tried to persuade his followers that the Holy Spirit... was with full authority present in him personally. It followed, therefore, that when he was caught out in untrue statements about the sky and the stars, or the changes in sun or moon, his presumption was plainly revealed as sacrilegious, because although these matters are not directly relevant to religious doctrine, he was... passing off his erroneous opinions as those of a divine person.44
Similarly, the Bible claims to be the speech of God in human language. It passes off its opinions as those of a divine person, or rather, three divine persons. Hence, if the Bible could be caught out in untrue statements about the sky and the stars, then we would have no grounds for trusting its assertions regarding more recondite matters such as the Trinity.
This is why the Catholic Church has never admitted that the Bible contains scientific error. It is one thing to say, with Pope Leo XIII, that the Bible was not written for the purpose of teaching science;45 it is entirely another to say that when it touches on issues of science it positively errs, as would be the case if in fact the Bible portrayed the world as a flat plate surmounted by a vault. Obviously, the former position is acceptable but the latter is not.46 For Catholic exegetes have been bound by Leo XIII to follow St. Augustine's rule: "Whatever [scientists] can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever they assert in their treatises which is contrary to these Scriptures of ours, that is to Catholic faith, we must either prove it as well as we can to be entirely false, or at all events we must, without the smallest hesitation, believe it to be so."47
It may be admitted that the sacred authors employed language and imagery derived from erroneous cosmologies, provided that they deliberately intended this language as metaphorical. On the other hand, it may not be admitted that they ever, in the course of writing Scripture, enunciated a single proposition concerning cosmology which they believed to be true but which in fact was false.48 In consequence of this, Catholic exegetes have two options with respect to Genesis 1: they may argue that it is metaphorical, and was intended as such, or they may search for a literal interpretation which harmonizes the Scripture with the findings of modern physics. Contrariwise, to claim that it attributes to God the creation of a fictitious concept of primitive cosmology is incompatible with the divine authorship of Scripture.
Kersten's conception of biblical cosmology is on shaky exegetical ground as well. However, I will reserve my comments on this topic for my critique of the NAB proper.
In section 8, "The Bible on God", Kersten informs us that "the Bible does not offer a philosophy on who the 'Ultimate Reality' is in Himself; it is mainly concerned about who God is for us."49 It is a gross exaggeration to claim that the Bible does not teach us of the immanent Trinity. Kersten adds, "Clouds, angels (blasting trumpets!), smoke, fire, earthquake, lightning, thunder, war, calamities, lies and persecution are biblical figures of speech to describe the awe-inspiring greatness of God."50 I doubt the angels appreciate being told they are "figures of speech." And on the odder side, how can "lies" be figures of speech to describe the greatness of God? This sentence is simply bizarre.
Kersten concludes the section: "As a Jew, who was addressing Jews, Jesus of Nazareth adapted Himself to this biblical way of speaking. Read Matthew 25."51 Are we to understand, then, that all that talk of weeping and gnashing of teeth and the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels is just figures of speech to describe the greatness of God? Or is it perhaps the talk of entering the joy of the Lord and inheriting a kingdom that is figurative? Or is it just the talk of Jesus sitting on a throne with all His angels? In any case, such confusing assertions have no place in a putative introduction to Scripture for the simple lay faithful.
Kersten moves on to the subject of biblical poetry:
[B]iblical poems in particular can easily be misunderstood. Read them as poems and not as scientific or historical reports, in which one tries to explain every detail as a revelation from God. See [the commentary on inspiration and revelation quoted above] and read Psalm 137: "Ballad of the Exiles," paying special attention to verses 8 and 9. The feeling, the thought, the total poem is inspired (guided) by God, though it is not necessarily revealed truth! Read some psalms!52
As demonstrated above, this definition of inspiration is utterly devoid both of merit and foundation. The Catholic Church teaches that God is the author of Sacred Scripture such that each and every word in it is written primarily by Him. Everything in the Bible is a revelation from God, including Psalm 137:8-9. As for how we deal with the difficulty presented by these verses, it is possible to read the Psalm as merely describing, but not approving, of the conduct of those who would conquer Babylon.53
In the next section, Kersten treats us to a naturalistic description of Israel's early prophets. "Like other nations in the Middle East, Israel had its nabis or prophets. These were groups of ecstatic persons, somehow related to a sanctuary. Music and dance heightened their exotic and vaguely religious activities."54 Groovy. Kersten goes on to provide a similarly naturalistic description of Hebrew philosophy:
Like all peoples, the Hebrews had their sages or philosophers. In the Bible we find their thoughts mainly in the Wisdom Books. This ancient wisdom is a remarkable mixture of philosophy and poetry. Read it as an inspired search for meaning in life. Do not expect too many ready-made answers. See this literature more as a challenge to a faithful searching for meaning in your own human condition!55
Here we continue to see the fruits of Kersten's view of biblical inspiration as an essentially human and fallible process whereby the ancient Hebrews searched for meaning in their own social and cultural contexts. Because the Hebrews were mere men and fallible, they were incapable of producing many "ready made answers," that is, eternally and universally valid truths which speak to the men of today as powerfully as they spoke to the men of ancient Israel. This being the case, we cannot read the Bible simply as teaching truth (its conclusions, recall, may be "imperfect and provisional"); we are rather to read it more as an exemplar of the sort of processes by which we ought to search for truth (which remains ever elusive).
It cannot be stressed enough that this view of Scripture is utterly alien to the patrimony of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church receives revelation as from the mouth of God Himself; the teachings of Scripture are eternally and immutably true, reaching across temporal, social, cultural, and linguistic boundaries to pierce the souls (cf. Heb 4:12) of men of every age and nation. Scripture's answers to life's questions most certainly are definitive, even in our modern "human condition."
Next, Kersten proceeds to deconstruct the Gospels:
A remarkable fact is that for a long time Christians misunderstood the literary genre of the four Gospels. Until recently they thought that the Gospel writers wanted to present us with a biography of Jesus. After much research, Bible scholars agree that the Gospel writers wanted to write catechisms or digests of Christian teaching concerning the risen Lord Jesus... The writers took [oral traditions] and frequently even remolded and refashioned them to bring out the lesson they wanted to teach... In the conflict stories of the Gospels it is usually Jesus who is in conflict with His opponents... Was Jesus involved in these conversations? Did He answer exactly as related in the Bible? It is not certain... Bible scholars tell us that a horoscope of the expected Messiah circulated during the time of Jesus birth. Astrologers (wise men from the East) were watching the sky for the appearance of the Messiah's star. King Herod, superstitious and upset by these people, killing children of two years and under, is extremely probable... People leaving Bethlehem to escape the massacre, is equally probable. This would be the historical background to this tradition. The rest is interpretation... Since we do not possess a biography of Jesus, it is difficult to know whether the words or sayings attributed to him are written exactly as He spoke them. True, the Gospels are based on sound historical facts as related by eyewitnesses, but both deeds and words of Jesus are offered to us in the framework of theological interpretation... Can we discover at least some words of Jesus that have escaped such elaboration? Bible scholars point to the very short sayings of Jesus... Another question is: Did Jesus sit on a hill and recite this list of sayings on the kingdom of heaven? It is the same question as: Did Moses sit on Mount Sinai writing the law? This composition is figurative... [T]he New Testament writers chose theological interpretation to teach what the risen Lord means to believers. Jesus' death, His resurrection, His ascension and the communication of the Spirit are actually one Christ event, that of his glorification... Remember the golden rule: keep historical facts distinct from their theological interpretation.56
This section is so fraught with error that one hardly knows where to begin. Kersten finds it "remarkable" that Christians have misunderstood the literary genre of the four Gospels. Instead, I find it remarkable that he thinks he is right and all the Fathers and Doctors of the Church have been wrong.57 St. Jerome was a fundamentalist.58 St. Augustine was a fundamentalist.59 And so on. All the Fathers had it wrong and it was not until the glorious dawning of those mystical lights of Germany: Schmidt, Dibelius, Bultmann, that Christians finally understood that the Gospels are theological elaborations and not literal history. All praise and all thanksgiving be to that Promethean nation which has transferred us out of darkness and into the kingdom of blessed Reason.
Well, this caveman, for one, is content to stay in his cave. St. Luke expressly states at the beginning of his Gospel (vv 1:1-4) that he intends to write history in the scientific sense: he investigated everything carefully and interviewed eyewitnesses with the intention of producing an account of the life of Christ which teaches the exact truth of what happened. What is this if not a "biography" or a work of "scientific history"?60 Contrariwise, what compelling argument has Kersten presented us with which would convince us to abandon the literal-historical reading of the Gospels which is our patrimony?
Well, however many arguments Kersten possesses, he only presents us with one argument here: authority, specifically the authority of the ivory tower. He alleges a consensus of Bible scholars. But no such consensus exists. The field of Biblical scholarship is far from monolithic; Bible scholars span the entire theological spectrum and as such believe a myriad of contradictory ideas. Does Kersten include, within his supposed consensus of Bible scholars, Bauckham, Bruce, Carson, Metzger, Miguens, Wallace, or the Opus Dei scholars at Navarre?
Again, it is just baffling that Kersten refuses to see St. Matthew's infancy narrative as history. He here explains that the story is entirely plausible, even likely. Yet he still refers to the Gospel narrative as "theological interpretation" which he repeatedly contrasts with, and sets in opposition to, historical fact. Why? What grounds has he for doing so? How does reason make untenable reading this passage in the literal and obvious sense?61
Again, how can Kersten possibly know that "Jesus' death, His resurrection, His ascension and the communication of the Spirit," which the evangelists narrate as distinct historical events, are "actually one Christ event"? Is he an eyewitness? Does he possess superior testimony to the testimony of the evangelists themselves?
Finally, exactly how is one to distinguish theological interpretation from historical fact? According to Kersten the two are so woven together (the evangelists having concocted a great deal of their material on their own, and having drawn on traditions and sources whose authors had probably done the same), that they are practically impossible to pull apart.62 According to him we cannot even know whether Jesus actually said the things that the Gospels say that He said! Thus any attempt to distinguish the two is an exercise in futility. 2000 years removed from the events, we simply cannot know; at best we can only guess that some of the shorter sayings of Jesus which the Gospels attribute to Him are truly His. Of course, there is a perfect remedy for this sorry state of affairs: like Christians have always done, take the Gospels at face value. Reject the reprobated ideas of the modernists63 and fully embrace the teachings of the eternal Church. Yet, Kersten continues:
How does one know whether one deals with history or some form of figurative speech? To begin with, we should always be disposed to follow the teaching authority of the Church. We should also consult renowned Bible scholars who are experts in Hebrew literature... The signature of a bishop in your Bible assures you that opinions, expressed in footnotes and introductions, reflect what is generally accepted as sound doctrine in the Catholic tradition.64
Given everything that Kersten has said so far, this assertion is quite amazing. He actually has the chutzpah to claim that he is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church while simultaneously he directly dissents from Providentissimus Deus, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Lamentabili Sane, Spiritus Paraclitus, Divino Afflante Spiritu, Humani Generis, Trent, Vatican I, every magisterial decree ever produced by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and even Vatican II, properly interpreted. Liberal Scripture scholars are like little children who need to be reminded of their boundaries every day. A few years pass without a papal injunction in their activities and they take that as license to ignore all the previous. A few years pass without a papal reiteration of the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church on biblical inerrancy and they take that to mean that the perennial teaching has been rescinded. They seem to think that if the current Pope does not condemn their positions as heresy, that mitigates the fact that previous Popes, as recently as 50 years ago, have, and in no uncertain terms. The eternal Church truly is a fickle institution in their eyes!
Once again, it cannot be stressed enough that this view of Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church is utterly alien to Catholic Tradition. It accomplishes nothing save to drive souls away from Christ. It renders Catholicism indefensible vis-a-vis Protestant critiques.65 Indeed, this doctrine exhibits, not Newman's "chronic vigour,"66 but chronic sterility, as of a mutant or mongrel creature.
Kersten rounds out "How to Read Your Bible" by informing us that the first Christians mistakenly expected Christ's second coming during their lifetimes, and closes with some mumbo-jumbo about sharing an "existential understanding" with Moses because, in a way, we're captives too.
On February 27, 1934, the Pontifical Biblical Commission condemned a work entitled Die Einwanderung Israels in Kanaan, by the German Old Testament scholar R. D. Frederic Schmidtke. For Schmidtke, the Commission said, "in the volume mentioned above: in his treatment of the Pentateuch follows the opinions of rationalistic criticism to the complete neglect of the decree of the Pontifical Biblical Commission of June 27, 1906,"67 that is, the decree "On the Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch." In this decree, the Biblical Commission had confirmed what it described as "the constant tradition of the Church" that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.68 Because Schmidtke rejected this decree, among other reasons, the Commission concluded that "the aforesaid work deserves reprobation on various grounds and should be kept out of Catholic schools."69
The same could be said of the NAB. The NAB too is thoroughly imbued with the opinions of rationalistic criticism, to the neglect of the analogy of faith, the teaching of the Magisterium, and the testimony of tradition.
Its treatment of the Pentateuch, specifically, is thoroughly imbued with the Documentary Hypothesis, also known as the Graf-Wellhausen Theory (after its 19th century liberal German Protestant authors). This theory posits that the Pentateuch is composed of four principal sources, termed Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomic, and Priestly, which were written between the time of Israel's united monarchy and the end of the Babylonian exile. Supposedly, various anonymous redactors wove these disparate sources together and made their own editorial revisions to produce the document which has come down to us today. This process is said to have been completed around the sixth century B.C.
While it might be possible to embrace this theory without essentially compromising the Catholic dogmas of biblical inspiration and inerrancy, and to successfully resolve the obvious tension between them, I do not envy the man who tries. Typically, and naturally, this theory goes hand in hand with the belief that the Pentateuchal narratives contain inconsistencies and other sorts of errors. Certainly, they go hand in hand in the NAB. Time after time the NAB scholars charge the text with contradiction, ascribing this to discrepancies between the various sources. Time after time they claim that bits and pieces of text have been moved around, and that verse 20 really belongs after verse 24, etc. In fact, these scholars have so little reverence for the Sacred Scriptures, if they believe they can identify the work of a redactor at some stage of the Pentateuch's textual history, they will not hesitate to insert contradictions into the text which they reckon him to have edited out.70
The same rationalist principles lead the NAB to further unacceptable conclusions. Supposedly, when the Bible says "the Lord said to Moses" it does not actually mean that the Lord said to Moses whatever follows:
Even the later laws which have been added in P and D are presented as a Mosaic heritage. Moses is the lawgiver par excellence, and all later legislation is conceived in his spirit, and therefore attributed to him. Hence, the reader is not held to undeviating literalness in interpreting the words, "the Lord said to Moses."71
If this is the case, one wonders how many sayings the early church might have conceived in Jesus' spirit and then falsely attributed to Him. Though alas, my reductio ad absurdum will carry no weight with the scholars who produced the NAB, as they embrace the very absurdity that many of the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels were not said by Him at all.
A thorough critique of the Documentary Hypothesis and defense of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is beyond the scope of this present work. So, if the reader wishes to pursue this issue he may consult a number of fine treatments by conservative scholars.72 For my part, I will confine myself to a brief exposition of the Pontifical Biblical Commission's arguments in favor of Mosiac authorship and to answering the arguments against it which are specifically presented by the NAB.
In its decree referenced above, the PBC mentions three principal arguments in favor of the position that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. First, it mentions "the cumulative evidence of many passages of both Testaments." Such passages include 2 Kings 14:6, which reads, "But the sons of the slayers he did not put to death, according to what is written in the book of the Law of Moses, as the LORD commanded, saying, 'The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, nor the sons be put to death for the fathers; but each shall be put to death for his own sin.'" This passage quotes Deuteronomy 24:16, and attributes it to a document called "the Law of Moses." Similarly, Nehemiah 13:1-2 describes things which the Jews found written in the "book of Moses": things which we presently find written in Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Old Testament regularly references Moses as the author of the book of the Law, and contrariwise knows of no other individual or group of individuals who have edited it or added laws thereto.73 We have no reason to suppose that the book of Moses which is mentioned in the Old Testament is any different from the Pentateuch which we possess today.
Naturally, Our Lord is of the same mind as the Scriptures He inspired. In Matthew 8:4, He attributes to Moses the laws concerning sacrifice in Leviticus 14. In Mark 7:10 He quotes, as the words of Moses, the Fourth Commandment. In Mark 12:26 He asks the Sadducees if they have not read the passage about the burning bush (Ex 3:6) "in the book of Moses." In John 5:46-47 Our Lord speaks of Moses' "writings," probably referring thereby to the whole Pentateuch.74 St. Paul, likewise, in 1 Corinthians 9:9 quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4 as "the Law of Moses." In sum, every piece of evidence which the New Testament supplies indicates that its authors affirm the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.75
Second, the PBC mentions "the unbroken unanimity of the Jewish people, and ... the constant tradition of the Church." The Talmud may be quoted as representative of Jewish tradition on this issue. "Who wrote the Scriptures? Moses wrote his own book and the portion of Balaam and Job. Joshua wrote the book which bears his name and [the last] eight verses of the Pentateuch."76 Clearly, the Talmud maintains that Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch, save his obituary which Joshua appended to Deuteronomy. The only dissenting opinion it records is that Moses wrote even the obituary. Incidentally, the substance of the Talmudic position holds good even supposing that Moses handed the pen to Joshua earlier than nine verses from the end of Deuteronomy, perhaps at Deuteronomy 31:24.
St. Augustine may be quoted as representative of the constant tradition of the Church. "Let me hear and understand how in the beginning Thou made the heaven and the earth. Moses wrote this."77
Third, the PBC mentions, as evidence for Mosaic authorship, "the internal indications furnished by the text itself." The Pentateuch testifies many times that Moses wrote down the things it describes in a book.78 Most explicitly, Deuteronomy 31:24 says that "Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete." This testimony is inconsistent with the position enunciated by the NAB, that Moses did not complete the Jewish law, but that the Priestly and Deuteronomist sources added many laws thereto centuries after his death.
"To this we may add," as internal evidence for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch,
the antiquated character of the style, which is common to all five books, and distinguishes them essentially from all the other writings of the Old Testament. This appears sometimes in the use of words, of forms, or of phrases, which subsequently disappeared from the spoken language, and which either do not occur again, or are only used here and there by the writers of the time of the captivity and afterwards, and then are taken from the Pentateuch itself; at other times, in the fact that words and phrases are employed in the books of Moses in simple prose, which were afterwards restricted to poetry alone; or else have entirely changed their meaning.79
Keil lists, as concrete examples, changes in the use of pronouns, the spelling of the demonstrative pronoun, the construction of infinitive verbs, the conjugation of third person plural verbs, and vocabulary.80 Most conclusively, Keil notes that the name "the Lord of hosts," Yahweh Sabaoth, is absent from the Pentateuch, even though it "was current as early as the time of Samuel and David, and so favourite a name with all the prophets."81 This datum is inconsistent with the supposition, required by the Documentary Hypothesis, that the Pentateuch was written concurrently with the prophets.
Those, briefly, are the grounds upon which the PBC affirmed the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Let us now move on to the NAB's reasons for adopting the contrary position.
In its introduction to the Pentateuch, the NAB presents the common argument that the Yahwist and Elohist authors can be distinguished by their respective preferences for the divine names Yahweh and Elohim. However, the two names have distinct shades of meaning and as such the Bible's variation between them can be explained as a function of the purposes of a single author, namely Moses. The Bible uses the name Yahweh when it describes God in His intimate and relational aspect and uses Elohim when it describes God in His transcendent aspect. So, the preponderance of one divine name in one passage of Scripture and another divine name in another is no proof that these two passages were written by different people. Reformed Evangelical scholar John Currid summarizes the refutation of this rationalist critical argument:
It is clear that [the use of divine names] is not a reliable criterion in ancient Near-Eastern studies for determining different sources. In regard to Egyptian literature, Redford has carried out a detailed study of divine names and he concludes that '... in the main the genre of literature to which a piece belongs controls the choice and use of divine names and epithets'. The same is certainly true for Hebrew literature. For example, the book of Deuteronomy almost exclusively uses the name Yahweh, and the reason is that the material deals primarily with the covenant relationship between the Deity and the people. Genesis 1, on the other hand, only employs the name Elohim because there God is pictured as powerfully creating the universe ex nihilo. In addition, that fact that the Higher Critical presupposition that divine names can be used for source analysis does not hold true throughout the rest of the Bible (not just the Pentateuch) is lethal for the theory.82
Moving on to the introduction to Genesis, the NAB posits that it was in fact the Priestly source (the last of the four principal sources to have been written) which added the legal institution of circumcision to the Pentateuch.83 Our Lord, for His part, had no problem attributing this to Moses (John 7:22). Next, the NAB opines that the Elohist source exhibits a "greater sensitivity toward the moral order" than the Yahwist.84 Are we given to understand, then, that the Yahwist is callous toward the moral order? Finally, the NAB asserts that the truths of Genesis 1-11 have been expressed through elements (presumably, historical and scientific elements) prevailing among the ancient Hebrews, which are clearly distinct from the truths themselves (and hence can be and frequently are erroneous in se).
To make the truths contained in [Genesis 1-11] intelligible to the Israelite people destined to preserve them, they needed to be expressed through elements prevailing among that people at that time. For this reason, the truths themselves must therefore be clearly distinguished from their literary garb.85
This assertion is worded almost identically to the modernist position condemned by St. Pius X.86 I will now document how the rationalistic principles which the NAB scholars endorse in these introductions play themselves out in their translation and in their commentary. I will, further, endeavor to vindicate the Church's traditional faith in the integrity, consistency, veracity, and Mosaic authorship of these books as against the NAB's claims. Indeed, I may, with slight interpolation, make my own the words of the Protestant scholar C. F. Keil:
For [the Pentateuch] cannot be shown to bear any traces of post-Mosaic times and circumstances; on the contrary, it has the evident stamp of Mosaic origin both in substance and in style. All that has been adduced in proof of the contrary by the so-called modern criticism is founded either upon misunderstanding and misinterpretation, or upon a misapprehension of the peculiarities of the Semitic style of historical writing, or lastly upon doctrinal prejudices, in other words, upon a repudiation of all the supernatural characteristics of divine revelation, whether in the form of miracle or prophecy. The evidence of this will be given in the [critique] itself, in the exposition of the passages which have been supposed [by the NAB] to contain either allusions to historical circumstances and institutions of a later age, or contradictions and repetitions that are irreconcilable with the Mosaic origin of the work.87
One need not delve deeply into the NAB's rendering of Genesis to catch it undermining the Catholic faith. In fact, to be exact, one has only to read four words: "In the beginning, when." "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, etc." (Gen 1:1-2, NAB). This is opposed to the traditional rendering, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, etc." (KJV).
The insertion of the one word "when" makes a critical difference. For in the traditional translation, it is clear that God creates the formless earth which is described at the beginning of the narrative. This supports the Catholic dogma that God created the world ex nihilo, that is, out of complete non-existence. On the other hand, in the NAB's rendition, the formless earth is not described as being the product of God's creative activity; rather, it is simply there when God begins to act upon it. This is consistent with the cosmogony of many of Israel's neighbors and of Plato's Timaeus, in which God creates the world by organizing pre-existent chaotic matter, that is, matter which He did not create Himself. Many scholars have attempted to attribute this view to the Bible.88 And the NAB scholars' commentary seems to confirm the suspicion aroused by their translation that this is precisely their intent. "This section introduces the whole Pentateuch. It shows how God brought an orderly universe out of primordial chaos."89 The next note only deepens our suspicions still further. Sadly, on this point, the heterodox exegete John Currid has expressed the true sense of the Scriptures more faithfully than these nominally Catholic ones:
In ancient Hebrew a variety of words expressed the idea of 'making' or 'forming'. These words may have either God or mankind as the subject (e.g., 3:21; Exod. 38:1-3). The subject of the verb bara, however, is only and always God; the word is never used of an action of mankind (in the active Qal stem, as it appears here). The reason for this is that man cannot create ex nihilo, but only out of a pre-existent matter. The verb bara was only used of God because only he could create that way (see Exod. 34:10; Isa. 65:17).90
The NAB's second footnote, together with its translation of raqiya (traditionally, "firmament") as "dome," and the accompanying illustration supplied by The Catholic Books Publishing Company, strikes another blow against Catholic faith. That is, according to the NAB, the creation narrative in Genesis enunciates a primitive and erroneous cosmology. In this cosmology, the sky is a solid dome. This dome supports a body of water above. Rain falls when the gates of this dome open and allow the water above to fall through, etc. Rev. Victor P. Warkulwiz rebuts such claims:
The Hebrew word [raqiya] emphasizes strength and fixity, but it does not imply solidity. The most accurate translation is probably "expanse." The idea of a solid dome surrounding the earth probably comes from exegetes interpreting the beliefs of the Hebrews in terms of the beliefs of the Greeks.91
It may be additionally noted that v. 17 says that the celestial bodies are located within the firmament (not underneath it, as the NAB portrays). As even a primitive Hebrew could look up in the sky and see that the celestial bodies move around, this implies that the author of Genesis 1 believed it to be possible to move around within the firmament. This further reduces the credibility of the claim that the firmament is a solid dome. Warkulwiz continues:
Job 26:11 is cited to show that the Hebrews believed that the firmament rested on pillars... The verse declares: "The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke." Obviously, it was not intended by the sacred author to be taken literally. How can pillars be "astounded"? Furthermore, nothing is mentioned about the pillars being mountains at the rim of the earth. Again, that's an embellishment. Besides, in Job 26:7, just a few verses earlier, it is written: "He stretches out the north over the void, and hangs the earth upon nothing." That doesnt sound like the earth resting on pillars! Next, Job 37:18, which is cited to show that the Hebrews believed the firmament is hard, is taken from a highly rhetorical passage that portrays the power of God. Elihu asks Job: "Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a molten mirror?" That hardly supports the idea that the Hebrews believed that the sky was hard. The hard mirror simile probably refers to the stability and reflective power of the sky. The "fine cloth or tent covering" is taken from similes in Psalms 104:2 and Isaiah 40:22 that are intended to convey the greatness of God and not the nature of the world.92
In summary, there is no conclusive evidence that the Bible endorses a cosmology which is demonstrably false. Let's move on.
footnote Genesis 1:26: "Man is here presented as the climax of God's creative activity; he resembles God primarily because of the dominion God gives him over the rest of creation."
f. 2:4b-25: "This section is chiefly concerned with the creation of man. It is much older than the narrative of Genesis 1:1-2:4a. Here God is depicted as creating man before the rest of his creatures, which are made for man's sake.
The documentary hypothesis strikes again. The disciples of Wellhausen who created the NAB insert a section title right in the middle of v. 2:4, thereby disrupting the clearly deliberate chiasmus by which Moses linked the preceding narrative to the succeeding. Ugly. For according to the JEDP theory, Genesis 1:1-2:4a belongs to the priestly source, and was created by Jews around the time of the Babylonian exile in attempts to convince themselves of the greatness of their God. Genesis 2:4b-25 is another story altogether, from a different tradition and a different age, which represents a different perspective in the Hebrews' quest for truth. Hence the NAB's disruption. Hence also the NAB scholars have no problem in charging the two narratives with a contradiction, namely that they present opposite orders of creation. In Gen 1, man is the last creature to be created, and in Gen 2 he is the first.
However, the two narratives may be brought into harmony. Regarding the allegation that the "second" story places the creation of plants after the creation of man: Genesis 1:11-12 and 2:5 are not dealing with the same categories of vegetation. Genesis 1:11-12 refers to "plants producing seed" and "fruit trees making fruit" whereas Genesis 2:5 refers to the "shrub of the field" and the "plant of the field" (Currid). I contend that "of the field" means "cultivated." Hence, as Genesis 1:11 records, plants existed before man; as Genesis 2:5 records, cultivated plants, i.e., crops, did not. The context of Gen 2:5 reinforces this contention. The statement "for there was no man to cultivate the ground" is a non sequitur if the shrubs and plants of the field here mentioned comprise all plants whatsoever (grass, bushes, trees, etc). Such plants do not need men to cultivate them! On the other hand, the statement is perfectly intelligible if we read it as, "no crops had yet sprouted... because there was no man to cultivate them." Thus are the two accounts harmonized.
The allegation that the "second" story places the creation of animals and birds after the creation of man may likewise be refuted. The word wayyiser, "formed," which is used in v. 2:19, is a Hebrew wayyiqtol construction (waw consecutive with imperfect), which we may, if the narrative logic so requires, understand as a pluperfect (so NIV, ESV, Currid; cf. Vulg, DRV). Thus v. 19 would read "And out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast, etc." In this case, Gen 2:19 does not narrate the creation of animals and birds subsequent to the creation of man, but instead refers back to God's having created them at some earlier time, i.e., in Gen 1:20-25.
Thus this reading resolves the second aspect of alleged contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2. The only question which now remains is why Moses would express a pluperfect meaning with a wayyiqtol construction instead of with a more straightforward and obvious method. C. John Collins ventures an answer:
Perhaps the simplest explanation comes from the fact that both accounts are strongly anthropocentric: they see man as the pinnacle of God's creative work, the one for whom the earth and its animals exist. Putting the animals' formation in 2:19 directly after 2:18, where God sets about making a helper suitable for the man, reinforces this point: even though physically the animals were made before man, yet conceptually their creation was in anticipation of their subservience to his governance, and therefore in God's mind the animals were a logical consequence of the making of man. Since Genesis 1 had established the physical order so that the audience would not mistake it, the author/editor was free to use this literary device to make this theological point.93
Modern readers like to see everything in chronological order, and thus are tempted to see two different stories in narratives such as Genesis 1-2, which do not fit into our literary paradigm. However, this type of writing is fairly common in ancient near-eastern literature. Quite often such narratives start out with a broad overview of events (Genesis 1) and then take a step chronologically backward, and fill in the details (Genesis 2). The two chapters stand as a unified whole.
f. 3:15: "He will strike... at his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer's words would be, "They will strike... at their heels." However, later theology saw in this passage more than unending hostility between snakes and men. The serpent was regarded as the devil (Wis 2:24; John 8:44; Rev 12:9; 20:2), whose eventual defeat seems implied in the contrast between head and heel. Because "the Son of God appeared that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8), the passage can be understood as the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind. The woman's offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ."
In the matter of Genesis 3:15 the NAB scholars are not even consistent with their own principles. They heavily imply in this footnote that all the author of Genesis 3:15 intended to communicate was the origin of the "unending hostility between snakes and men." The messianic prophecy which "later theology" read into this passage which was not originally there. Well, do not the NAB scholars understand the duty of the translator to be to faithfully render into English what the original author actually said? Why then do they obscure the original meaning of Genesis 3:15 with an admittedly less than exact rendering, which reflects the eisegesis of later theology rather than the text itself?
God knows. In any case, I feel compelled to defend the NAB's translation of Genesis 3:15 from the NAB's charge of inaccuracy. The pronoun in question is the Hebrew hu, a singular pronoun which is quite ambiguous and can mean either he, she, or it (or in rare instances they, cf. Ex 1:10). So, in order to determine the correct rendering we must examine the preceding sentence or clause to find the antecedent noun to which the pronoun refers. In this particular context, there are only two nouns that might be the antecedent to hu, namely the woman (ha-isha) and the offspring/seed (zar'ah).
The NAB translators overstate their case when they claim that zar'ah bears a plural sense in this passage and refers to all the descendants of the woman. While zar'ah usually refers to plural descendants (cf. Gen 16:10; 22:17; 24:60), it can also refer to an individual (cf. Gen 4:25; 21:13). Moreover, if it bore a plural sense in this passage we would expect it to be accompanied by plural pronouns and verbs, as in Gen 15:13-14. Unless hu refers to the woman, however, the seed is accompanied by singular pronouns and verbs. In which case, the singular sense is more likely.
The primary weakness of the position that hu refers to the woman is that the verb "shall crush" (yeshufcha) is masculine, and verbs normally agree with their subject in gender. Yet, it is possible for a feminine subject to take a masculine verb.
So, the three contenders for the antecedent to hu, namely the woman, the seed understood in a singular sense, and the seed understood in the plural sense, each bear some linguistic difficulty. In my limited judgment, the difficulty seems least if we take hu to refer to seed in the singular sense, in which case we would render the passage, "he shall crush your head." On the other hand, the testimony of tradition, which cannot be neglected, favors the rendering "she." But regardless of whether the most accurate rendering is "he" or "she," the ecclesiastical writers are vindicated who
taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold: That his most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both against the evil one was significantly expressed.94
Contrariwise, if, as the NAB claims, "they" is the most accurate representation of what the sacred writer actually intended to say, then Gen 3:15 is not a clear prophecy of the Redeemer. Indeed, according to the NAB, it is merely a pedestrian just-so story about the origin of the "unending hostility between snakes and men" into which later theology eisegeted redemption.
f. 4:17-22: "In Genesis 4:12-16 Cain was presented as the archetype of nomadic peoples. The sacred author in this section follows another ancient tradition that makes Cain the prototype of sedentary peoples with higher material culture."
Once again the documentary hypothesis bears its rotten fruit: the translators charge Scripture with another contradiction. In one tradition, Cain is a nomad, cursed to be a vagabond and a wanderer on the earth (4:12), and in another, he is a man of civilization, building the world's first city (4:17). Perhaps it did not occur to the NAB translators that Cain built his city in opposition to the divine command recorded in v. 4:12. Indeed, according to Josephus, Cain procured the wealth of his city by robbery.95
f. 4:25f: "...At the time... name: men began to call God by his personal name, Yahweh, rendered as "the LORD" in this version of the Bible. The ancient, so-called Yahwist source used here employs the name Yahweh long before the time of Moses. Another ancient source, the Elohist (from its use of the term Elohim, "God," instead of Yahweh, "Lord," for the pre-Mosaic period), makes Moses the first to use Yahweh as the proper name of Israel's God, previously known by other names as well; cf Exodus 3:13-15."
This alleged contradiction could easily be harmonized by simply positing that the name YHWH fell out of use during the time the children of Israel spent in Egypt, and that it was at the burning bush that the use of God's personal Name was restored. Sadly, in the NAB, historical criticism trumps faith every time.
f. 6:1-4: "This is apparently a fragment of an old legend that had borrowed much from ancient mythology..."
That which is apparent to the NAB is by no means apparent to Catholic tradition, which regards as an error the proposition that the Old Testament contains mythical inventions.96 On the contrary, upon application of the analogy of faith, it is not difficult to understand this passage, not as an adventitious fragment, but as an integral part of the consistent and factual Genesis narrative. The "sons of God" mentioned here are the men of the godly lineage of Seth, whereas the "daughters of men" are the daughters of Cain.97 This interpretation is consistent with biblical usage which describes the people of God as sons of God (cf. Deut 32:5; Ps 73:15; 80:17; Hos 1:10), and situates this passage squarely within the general thrust of the Genesis narrative, which is the parallel development of, in St. Augustine's terms, the city of God and the city of man. Furthermore, the sons of God cannot be celestial beings because no being except a man can join a woman in marriage (cf. v. 6:2).
f. 9:18-27: "This story seems to be a composite of two earlier accounts; in the one, Ham was guilty, whereas, in the other, it was Canaan. One purpose of the story is to justify the Israelites' enslavement of the Canaanites because of certain indecent sexual practices in the Canaanite religion..."
It is also possible that Noah punished Ham vicariously by cursing his son Canaan. This would make perfect sense in the context. Ham, the youngest son, had dishonored his father Noah, so Noah decreed that Ham's youngest son would dishonor him.
Note as well, that the NAB here, like Kersten in the introduction, accuses Scripture of the moral abomination of spinning tales in order to justify Hebrew war crimes.
f. 10:1-32: "...This chapter is a composite from the Yahwist source (Genesis 10:8-19, 21, 24-30) of about the ninth century B.C., and the Priestly source (Genesis 10:1-7, 20, 22-23, 31-32) of a few centuries later. That is why certain tribes of Arabia are listed under both Ham (Genesis 10:7) and Shem (Genesis 10:26-28)..."
The documentary hypothesis rears its ugly head once again. The translators see two names repeated within a few chapters, and they immediately think contradiction. According to the Priestly source, Sheba and Havilah are descendents of Ham, but according to the Yahwist, they are descendents of Shem. But is it really that unlikely that there were two people named Sheba and two people named Havilah? The NAB is second only to the Skeptic's Annotated Bible in its relentless search for contradictions which are simply not there.
f. 11:10-26: "...Although the ages of the patriarchs in this list are much lower than those of the antediluvian patriarchs, they are still artificial and devoid of historical value..."
Given that the NAB dismisses the biblical data on this subject without argument, or at least without argument they see fit to share, one wonders on what basis they do so.
f. 12:3: "Shall find blessing in you: the sense of the Hebrew expression is probably reflexive, "shall bless themselves through you" (i.e., in giving a blessing they shall say, "May you be as blessed as Abraham"), rather than passive, "shall be blessed in you." Since the term is understood in a passive sense in the New Testament (Acts 3:25; Gal 3:8), it is rendered here by a neutral expression that admits of both meanings..."
To assert that the Old Testament "probably" means one thing, rather than what the inspired Apostles Peter and Paul taught that it means,98 while understandable on the lips of a Jew or a secularist, is, on the lips of an ostensibly believing Christian, simply arrogance of gargantuan proportions. It is equivalent to claiming that one "probably" understands Scripture better than Scripture. Contrast the authentically Christian humility of St. Augustine, who, when he determined that his exegesis of the Old Testament was out of conformity with apostolic exegesis, promptly conformed it.99
f. 12:16: "Camels: domesticated camels probably did not come into common use in the ancient Near East until the end of the 2nd millennium B.C. Thus the mention of camels at the time of the patriarchs... is seemingly an anachronism."
Witness once again the perfidy of the NAB: the Bible says that Abraham had domesticated camels in Egypt; the Bible is probably wrong. Once again a faithful Catholic will do much better to turn to a Protestant author than to the NAB for commentary consistent with Catholic doctrine:
The reference in the passage to camels is not anachronistic. Recent studies indicate an early date for the domestication of camels in the Middle East. It appears by around 2700 B.C. in the Persian Gulf region and by 2600 / 2500 B.C. in the Iranian Plateau. Although domestication and herding of camels may have not been common for all peoples of the Near East, it certainly was for the elite, or upper classes of society.100
Obviously, seven hundred years is more than enough time for the domestication of camels to have spread from the Persian Gulf to Egypt.
f. 14:13: "Abram the Hebrew: elsewhere in the Old Testament, until the last pre-Christian centuries, the term "Hebrew" is used only by non-Israelites, or by Israelites in speaking to foreigners, since it evidently had a disparaging connotation--something like "immigrant." The account in this chapter may, therefore, have been taken originally from a non-Israelite source, in which Abraham, a warlike sheik of Palestine, appears as a truly historical figure of profane history."
Contrary to the NAB's assertion, the term "Hebrew" is used by the biblical narrator to refer to the Israelite nation in contrast with foreigners (cf. Gen 43:32; Ex 2:11), not solely when speaking to foreigners. Its appearance in Genesis 14:13 is consistent with this usage. Furthermore, there is no need to suppose that the term is pejorative. It simply means descendants of Eber (cf. Gen 10:21; 11:14,16).101
Note also how little is left of the biblical Abraham after the demythologizing of the NAB. Considered as a "truly historical" figure he is merely a "warlike sheik of Palestine." The NAB posits a radical disparity between the Abram of history and the Abraham of faith.
This is part and parcel of the disparity which the NAB posits between sacred history and profane history in general. It is only profane history which is "truly historical." Sacred history has a more or less loose relationship therewith. This is opposed, of course, to how Catholic Tradition understands the term sacred history, namely that part of actual history which is recorded by the Bible.102
f. 21:14: "Placing the child on her back: the phrase is translated from an emended form of the Hebrew text. In the current faulty Hebrew text, Abraham put the bread and the waterskin on Hagar's back, while her son apparently walked beside her. This reading seems to be a scribal attempt at harmonizing the present passage with the data of the Priestly source, in which Ishmael would have been at least fourteen years old when Isaac was born; compare Gn 16, 16 with 21, 5; cf 17, 25. But in the present Elohist story Ishmael is obviously a little boy, not much older than Isaac; cf vv 15, 18."
Here the NAB does what Bart Ehrman does best: engage in tendentious textual criticism whose tendency is opposite Christian orthodoxy. Christian orthodoxy affirms the internal coherence of the biblical narratives. The NAB denies. As such, orthodox Christians will naturally favor the reading of Gen 21:14 in the Hebrew and Latin Bibles, in which this text coheres with the data of Gen 16:16; 21:5, whereas the NAB favors the reading of the Septuagint, in which it does not. Thus is the NAB distinguished from an orthodox Christian Bible.
The NAB supports its textual decision by claiming that it is obvious from vv. 15, 18 that Ishmael is only a little boy in the present story (as opposed to the adolescent he ought to be based on Gen 16:16; 21:5). Not so. Verse 15 says that Sara left Ishmael under a bush. This is perfectly consistent with Ishmael being a teenage boy who is dying of dehydration. It is perhaps surprising that Ishmael should succumb to dehydration sooner than his mother, but not entirely implausible. Perhaps Ishmael was chivalrous and insisted that his mother drink more water than he. Next, in verse 18, the Angel of God urges Hagar to lift Ishmael up and hold him by the hand. This, again, is perfectly consistent with his being fifteen.
f. 26:6-11: "The Yahwist's version of the wife-sister episode at Gerar; the Elohist's version (Genesis 20:1-18) is connected with Abraham and Sarah."
It seems to be an entrenched dogma of those who adhere to the JEDP theory that whenever Genesis contains two similar stories, they must really be two different versions of the same story, written by different authors and then redundantly concatenated in the canonical text. They claim the same thing about the two stories of the wells at Beer-Sheba. Does history never repeat itself?
f. 36:31: "Before any king reigned over the Israelites: obviously this statement was written after the time of Saul, Israel's first king."
On the contrary, Moses write this, aware of the promise that God had made to Abraham and Jacob (cf. Gen 17:16; 35:11) that kings would come from their loins. Moses knew that Israel would be reigned over by kings (cf. Deut 17:14-15). Moreover, given that God had also promised that the descendants of Esau would serve the descendants of Jacob (cf. Gen 25:23), it was quite natural that Moses would find it remarkable that Edom had become a kingdom and had been ruled by a succession of kings while Israel was still without a homeland.
f. 37:21-36: "The chapter thus far is from the Yahwist source, as are also Genesis 37:25-28a. But Genesis 37:21-24 and Genesis 37:28b-36 are from the Elohist source. In the latter, Reuben tries to rescue Joseph, who is taken in Reuben's absence by certain Midianites; in the Yahwist source, it is Judah who saves Joseph's life by having him sold to certain Ishmaelites..."
f. 37:28: "They sold Joseph... silver: in the Hebrew text, these words occur between out of the cistern and (they) took him to Egypt at the end of the verse."
In this instance the NAB scholars' emendation is pure conjecture. Without support from the Hebrew, the Septuagint, the Syriac, or the Vulgate, they have changed the text of Scripture in order to reinforce their perceived contradiction. This emendation qualifies as a perversion.
Essentially, they see two conflicting stories weaved together in Genesis 39. In the Yahwist story, Judah convinces his brothers to sell Joseph to some Ishmaelite traders instead of killing him. In the Elohist story, on the other hand, Reuben convinces his brothers to throw Joseph into a cistern, intending to return and rescue him at a later time. However, before he can do so Joseph is kidnapped by Midianites. Because the NAB scholars believe they can detect elements of incoherence between these two disparate stories, they believe they are justified in sharpening that incoherence by reversing what they perceive as a clumsy editorial attempt to blend the two stories into a consistent whole.
So, my task is to demonstrate that the Hebrew textus receptus contains absolutely no elements of incoherence, and thus that there is no need to suppose two conflicting source stories and no justification for a conjectural emendation. In that vein, the first part of the NAB's allegation of contradiction, namely that in the "two" stories it is a different one of Joseph's brothers who tries to save his life, is inane. It is not inconceivable that two of Joseph's brothers could have balked at the prospect of murdering him, and conceived independent plans to save his life.
The second part, namely that in one story Joseph is sold to the Ishmaelites whereas in the other he is kidnapped by Midianites, is a bit more difficult, especially if one relies solely on the NAB. This is where the translators change the Scripture to reinforce their views. They rearrange the verse into two neat, contradictory parts. The first part says that Joseph's brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. The second says that some Midianite traders passed by, pulled Joseph out of the cistern, and took him to Egypt. However, the NASB translates the verse literally: "Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they [Joseph's brothers] pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt." Obviously this is quite a different statement. It becomes clear that Moses is simply using the names Ishmaelite and Midianite interchangeably, to refer to the same group of people. The Bible also uses these names interchangeably in Judges 8:22-24.103
f. 42:27-28: "These two verses are from the Yahwist source, whereas the rest of the chapter is from the Elohist source, in which the men find the money in their sacks (not "bags"--a different Hebrew word) only when they arrive home (v 35); cf Gen 43:21."
While sacks and bags are indeed two different Hebrew words, their semantic domains surely overlap, just as the English words sack and bag, and as such can be used interchangeably, as they are here.
There is a legitimate difficulty in this passage. If, as Gen 43:21 says, all the brothers found their money in their sacks on the journey home, why do they express surprise at finding their money in their sacks when they arrive? Currid thinks the brothers staged this event in order to impress upon their father the gravity of the situation.104 This seems a reasonable supposition to me.
f. 45:9-15: "In these verses, as in Genesis 46:31-47:5a, all from the Yahwist source, Joseph in his own name invites his father and brothers to come to Egypt. Only after their arrival is Pharaoh informed of the fact. On the other hand, in Genesis 45:16-20, from the Elohist source, it is Pharaoh himself who invites Joseph's kinsmen to migrate to his domain."
The NAB reads Genesis 46:31-47:5a as an account of Pharaoh being informed of unexpected guests in his kingdom. It could also be read as an account of Pharaoh being informed that his instructions had been executed - the guests whom he had invited had arrived - and inquiring for additional information about them. Similarly, the NAB reads Genesis 45:16-20 as an account of Pharaoh conceiving, independently of Joseph, the plan to invite Joseph's kinsmen to Egypt. It could also be read as an account of Pharaoh confirming and adding detail to Joseph's plan.
The second book of the Pentateuch is called Exodus (Greek, departure), because it tells the story of the exodus of the Hebrews from the land of Egypt. Under the leadership of Moses, the sons of Israel are freed from slavery to Pharaoh and experience God's providential care as they journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
One of the salient features of this book, which we believe on the testimony of Tradition to have been written by Moses,105 is the miraculous way in which God provides for His people. He parts the Red Sea so they can cross over on dry land; He provides them meat for their journey; He sends them miraculous bread from heaven to sustain them; He supplies miraculous water from the rock to quench their thirst.
The NAB commentary, ever skeptical, repeatedly casts doubt on the reality of these miracles. Rather than simply affirming that God intervened in the order of nature, the NAB instead suggests natural explanations for these phenomena which seem to obviate such intervention. Granted, the NAB does not forthrightly assert that the "miracles" of Exodus are mere natural phenomena, as Schmidtke did, and was rebuked for doing.106 But the NAB leaves the reader with that impression nonetheless.
f. 7:14: "Most of the ten plagues of Egypt seem to be similar to certain natural phenomena of that country; but they are represented as supernatural at least in their greater intensity and in their occurring exactly according to Moses' commands."
Modernists frequently refuse to be dogmatic. Rather than take a firm stance one way or the other, they prefer to hint and suggest, to dance around their true position. They state that the ten plagues are "represented" as supernatural by the author of Exodus. But is his representation accurate? Or is he exaggerating? Recall that according to the NAB, the Bible is frequently inaccurate in its representation of things.
f. 10:19: "The Red Sea: according to the traditional translation, but the Hebrew is literally, "the Reed Sea"; hence the Red Sea of Exodus was probably a body of shallow water somewhat to the north of the present deep Red Sea."
So the Jews merely crossed a "body of shallow water" on their escape from Egypt. How shallow? Shallow enough to wade through? So much for the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea, if that is the NAB's meaning. Of course, this simply raises the question of how Pharaoh's armies managed to drown themselves in this "shallow water," which would seem to be a greater miracle than the parting of the Red Sea itself.
Whatever the NAB's meaning, there is generous exegetical support for the traditional identification of the biblical Yam Suf with the body of water presently known as the Red Sea. First, we read in Exodus 10:14 the Lord made locusts swarm over the whole land of Egypt and settle down on every part of it. Then, in v. 19 we read that the Lord sent a strong west wind which cast the locusts into the Yam Suf. If the Yam Suf were a lake situated to the north of the Gulf of Suez, then a west wind would not drive locusts from all over Egypt into it. Rather, a west wind would drive the locusts primarily into the Red Sea. Second, 1 Kings 9:26 and Numbers 21:4 both indicate that the Yam Suf includes the present day Gulf of Aqaba. This indicates that the ancient Hebrews identified the Yam Suf as the entire body of water which surrounds the Sinai Peninsula to the south, i.e., the Red Sea. Third, Numbers 33:8-10 records that, after passing through the midst of the sea, the Jews traveled three days' journey to Marah, then traveled to Elim, then traveled again and camped by the Yam Suf. No body of water in the vicinity, besides the Red Sea, is sufficiently large that the Jews would still be on its coast after so much traveling. Finally, while suf can mean "reed" it may also mean "seaweed." This is consistent with the proposition that the Yam Suf refers to the Red Sea.
f. 10:21: "Darkness: at times a storm from the south, called the khamsin, blackens the sky of Egypt with sand from the Sahara; the dust in the air is then so thick that the darkness can, in a sense, 'be felt.'"
Once again the NAB appears to suggest that what Scripture portrays as a supernatural event might only have been a natural phenomenon. When Exodus informs us that God caused darkness to overshadow the land - a pitch-black darkness at that - the NAB seems to imply that it might have only been "a storm from the south" that darkened the sky "with sand from the Sahara," which is no great miracle at all. Of course, this is the polar opposite of how Scripture itself understands this passage, as Wisdom of Solomon ch. 17 describes this event in the most vivid and explicitly supernatural terms. The darkness is said to come from the pits of hell itself, while the Egyptians are tormented by demonic apparitions.
f. 16:4: "Bread from heaven: as a gift from God, the manna is said to come down from the sky. Cf Psalm 78:25; Wisdom 16:20. Perhaps it was similar to a natural substance that is still found in small quantities on the Sinai peninsula, but here it is, at least in part, clearly miraculous..."
Did the manna really fall, in a miraculous fashion, from the heavens? The NAB concedes that it "is said to come down from the sky." But is the saying true? The NAB further concedes that "here it is, at least in part, clearly miraculous," yet given its consistent attacks on the veracity of the biblical narratives I am still left with the suspicion that by "here" the NAB means, "in this narration, which does not necessarily correspond to historical reality."
f. 22:1-2: "If a thief is caught: this seems to be a fragment of what was once a longer law on housebreaking, which has been inserted here into the middle of a law on stealing animals... He must make full restitution: this stood originally immediately after Exodus 21:37."
The NAB commentators seem to be incapable of making it through one book of the Bible without suggesting once or twice that it was written, compiled, and edited by several people over an extended period of time. Moreover, as usual, they make no attempt to justify their assertion.
f. 29:27-30: "These verses are a parenthetical interruption of the ordination ritual; Exodus 29:31 belongs logically immediately after Exodus 29:26."
f. 29:38-42: "A parenthesis inserted into the rubrics for consecrating the altar; Exodus 29:43 belongs directly after Exodus 29:37."
This is yet more unwarranted commentary on the purely human editing process that shaped the book of Exodus. One need only read the passages in question to realize that the NAB commentators are unjustified in their breezy certainty regarding where these verses originally went or where they "logically" belong. Well did St. Pius X say of them:
"The traces of [the redaction process], [the modernists] tell us, are so visible in the books that one might almost write a history of them. Indeed this history they do actually write, and with such an easy security that one might believe them to have with their own eyes seen the writers at work through the ages amplifying the Sacred Books. To aid them in this they call to their assistance that branch of criticism which they call textual, and labour to show that such a fact or such a phrase is not in its right place, and adducing other arguments of the same kind. They seem, in fact, to have constructed for themselves certain types of narration and discourses, upon which they base their decision as to whether a thing is out of place or not. Judge if you can how men with such a system are fitted for practicing this kind of criticism"107
The sacred text is perfectly coherent as it stands.
February 5, Anno Domini MMIX
This article is long, but a good read. Very thought provoking.
 Leo XII, Ubi Primum (May 5, 1824), 17, in Claudia Carlen, IHM, ed., The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. I (Ann Arbor, MI: The Pierian Press, 1990) pp. 199-203.
 Pius VIII, Traditi Humilitati (May 24, 1829), 5, in Carlen, op. cit., pp. 221-224.
 Gregory XVI, Inter Praecipuas (May 8, 1844), 2, in Carlen, op. cit., pp. 267-271. In this encyclical, Gregory also references letters of Pope Pius VII to the archbishops of Gniezno (June 1, 1816) and Mohilev (September 4, 1816)
 Bl. Pius IX, Qui Pluribus (November 9, 1846), 14, in Carlen, op. cit., pp. 277-284.
 Bl. Pius IX, Nostis et Nobiscum (December 8, 1849), 14, in Carlen, op. cit., pp. 295-303.
 Leo XIII, Officiorum ac Munerum (January 25, 1897), III, 7-8, in The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII (New York, NY: Benziger Brothers, 1903) pp. 407-421.
 All quotations in this article, unless otherwise indicated, will be from the Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible (New York, NY: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1992), hereafter, The St. Joseph NAB.
 Cf. DeRev; PD, 20-21; LS, 11; SP, 13, 19, 21; Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, 3; HG, 22. St. Irenaeus beautifully sums up the faith of the Church when he states, simply, "the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit" (Against Heresies, Book II, Ch. 28, Par. 2, in ANF, Vol. I, p. 399).
 St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, trans. Henry Benedict Mackey, O.S.B. (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1989) p. 88.
 Oecumenius, Commentary on the Apocalypse, trans. John H. Suggit [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006] p. 108.
 As Leo XIII warned, "[T]he young, if they lose their reverence for the Holy Scripture on one or more points, are easily led to give up believing in it altogether" (PD, 18).
 The NAB boasts one imprimatur for the original translation of the whole Bible (1970), one for the revised New Testament (1986), and one for the revised Psalms (1991).
 It must be noted that Paul VI's blessing applies only to the original version of the NAB, not to the revised New Testament and Psalms, which were completed after his death. Furthermore, it is unclear to what extent Pope Paul VI personally examined the text and commentary of the NAB before granting it his blessing. English was not his strongest language. Paul VI himself taught the orthodox, Catholic doctrine of Scripture. Cf. Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., The Teaching of Pope Paul VI on Sacred Scripture (Rome: Pontificium Athenaeum Sanctae Crucis, 1997).
 "The New American Bible," http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM, 11/11/2002.
 Cf. St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1994) p. 208.
 SJNAB, p. . The SJNAB, for some reason, paginates the front matter with numbers in brackets, rather than with the standard Roman numerals. This author is tempted to speculate that the cause is to be traced to the anti-Roman attitude.
 The SJNAB has given prominent Muslim apologist Shabir Ally this false impression ("Confessions of the New American Bible," http://www3.sympatico.ca/shabir.ally/new_page_19.htm). Ally, as is his custom, seizes upon this product of liberal "Christian" scholarship in order to attack the Bible.
 Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, 37. This analogy is particularly useful because it contains within itself the refutation of all attempts to limit or circumscribe Scripture's inerrancy. Some, for instance, will argue that Scripture is only inerrant when it treats of certain subject matters such as faith or morals; others will argue that Scripture is only inerrant as regards its overall salvific purpose, not as regards particular details; still others will argue that Scripture is only inerrant in what it asserts, i.e., in what it says with deliberate reflection and with explicit intention to teach, as opposed to what it merely states, casually, carelessly, and in passing (obiter dicta). I pose the following questions to proponents of these theories. Is Christ only sinless with respect to certain categories of sin? Is Christ only sinless as regards His overall purpose to redeem the human race, as opposed to being free of all particular sins? Is Christ only sinless when He acts with full knowledge and deliberate consent, such that it is possible to impute to Him involuntary, venial faults? I submit that each proposition described above is equally heretical.
 DeRev, Par. 5. The description of biblical inspiration as divine "dictation" is well attested in the patristic, conciliar, and papal sources. Cf. St. Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels, Book I, Ch. 35; St. Gregory the Great, Moralia, or Commentary on the Book of Blessed Job, Preface, 2; The Council of Trent, Session 4, Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures; PD, 5, 20; Benedict XV, In Praeclara Summorum, 5; SP, 8; Pius XII, Menti Nostrae, 42.
 PD, 1.
 Ibid., 20. Benedict XV says much the same thing in SP, 8-9: "You will not find a page in [St. Jerome's] writings which does not show clearly that he, in common with the whole Catholic Church, firmly and consistently held that the Sacred Books - written as they were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - have God for their Author, and as such were delivered to the Church. Thus he asserts that the Books of the Bible were composed at the inspiration, or suggestion, or even at the dictation of the Holy Spirit; even that they were written and edited by Him. If we ask how we are to explain this power and action of God, the principal cause, on the sacred writers we shall find that St. Jerome in no wise differs from the common teaching of the Catholic Church. For he holds that God, through His grace, illumines the writer's mind regarding the particular truth which, 'in the person of God,' he is to set before men; he holds, moreover, that God moves the writer's will - nay, even impels it - to write; finally, that God abides with him unceasingly, in unique fashion, until his task is accomplished." St. Pius X condemns the contrary proposition in LS, 9: "They display excessive simplicity or ignorance who believe that God is really the author of the Sacred Scriptures."
 SJNAB, p. .
 Cf. PDG, 22.
 SJNAB, p. .
 Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum (On Divine Revelation), Ch. 3, Par. 11.
 SJNAB, p. .
 DeRev, Pars. 6-7; Dei Verbum, Ch. 3, Par. 11.
 SJNAB, p. .
 HG, 22. Cf. SP, 19: "For while conceding that inspiration extends to every phrase - and, indeed, to every single word of Scripture - yet, by endeavoring to distinguish between what they [the modernists] style the primary or religious and the secondary or profane element in the Bible, they claim that the effect of inspiration - namely, absolute truth and immunity from error - are to be restricted to that primary or religious element. Their notion is that only what concerns religion is intended and taught by God in Scripture, and that all the rest - things concerning profane knowledge, the garments in which Divine truth is presented - God merely permits, and even leaves to the individual author's greater or less knowledge. Small wonder, then, that in their view a considerable number of things occur in the Bible touching physical science, history and the like, which cannot be reconciled with modern progress in science!"
 Cf. Luke Timothy Johnson, "The Bible's Authority for and in the Church" in William P. Brown, ed., Engaging Biblical Authority (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007) pp. 62-72.
 Since God is simple, His attributes are identical with His essence. Therefore the statements "God is justice" and "God is love" (1 John 4:8) are equally true.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 100, Art. 8, ad 3 (New York, NY: Benziger Brothers, Inc.: 1947). For a helpful, if incomplete, explanation of God's purposes in ordering the Jews to destroy the pagan nations of Canaan, see Roy Schoeman, Salvation is from the Jews (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2003) pp. 46-51. See also Bishop Richard Challoner's comment on 1 Samuel 15:3, cited infra, footnote 114.
 SJNAB, p. .
 Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (New York, NY: Knopf, 1993) pp. 122-123.
 SJNAB, p. .
 Ibid., p. . Cf. LS, condemned proposition 64: "Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted." Emphasis mine.
 Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is a famous example of this genre.
 SJNAB, p. .
 Council of Trent, Sess. V, Canon 1.
 St. Pius X, Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae (Acta Sanctae Sedis  724ff; Enchiridion Biblicum 278f; Denzinger 2113f): "We now declare and expressly enjoin that all without exception are bound by an obligation of conscience to submit to the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, whether already issued or to be issued hereafter, exactly as to the decrees of the Sacred Congregations which are on matters of doctrine and approved by the Pope; nor can anyone who by word or writing attacks the said decrees avoid the note both of disobedience and of rashness or be therefore without grave fault" (in CCHS, p. 67).
 Decree "Concerning the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis" (Acta Sanctae Sedis 1  567ff; Enchiridion Biblicum 332ff; Denzinger 2121ff): "II: Notwithstanding the historical character and form of Genesis, the special connection of the first three chapters with one another and with the following chapters, the manifold testimonies of the Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testaments, the almost unanimous opinion of the holy Fathers and the traditional view which the people of Israel also has handed on and the Church has always held, may it be taught that: the aforesaid three chapters of Genesis Contain not accounts of actual events, accounts, that is, which correspond to objective reality and historical truth, but, either fables derived from the mythologies and cosmogonies of ancient peoples and accommodated by the sacred writer to monotheistic doctrine after the expurgation of any polytheistic error; or allegories and symbols without any foundation in objective reality proposed under the form of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or finally legends in part historical and in part fictitious freely composed with a view to instruction and edification? Answer: In the negative to both parts. III: In particular may the literal historical sense be called in doubt in the case of facts narrated in the same chapters which touch the foundations of the Christian religion: as are, among others, the creation of all things by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the unity of the human race; the original felicity of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given by God to man to test his obedience; the transgression of the divine command at the instigation of the devil under the form of a serpent; the degradation of our first parents from that primeval state of innocence; and the promise of a future Redeemer? Answer: In the negative" (in CCHS, pp. 68-69).
 "When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own... [T]he first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters... in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents" (HG, 37-38).
 SJNAB, p. .
 St. Augustine, The Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B. (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1998) p. 80.
 PD, 18.
 St. Pius X, in PDG 36, condemned the following modernist error: "In the Sacred Books there are many passages referring to science or history where manifest errors are to be found. But the subject of these books is not science or history but religion and morals. In them history and science serve only as a species of covering to enable the religious and moral experiences wrapped up in them to penetrate more readily among the masses. The masses understood science and history as they are expressed in these books, and it is clear that had science and history been expressed in a more perfect form this would have proved rather a hindrance than a help." He had this to say about the modernist position: "We, Venerable Brethren, for whom there is but one and only truth, and who hold that the Sacred Books, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, have God for their author (Conc. Vat., De Revel., c. 2) declare that this is equivalent to attributing to God Himself the lie of utility or officious lie, and We say with St. Augustine: In an authority so high, admit but one officious lie, and there will not remain a single passage of those apparently difficult to practice or to believe, which on the same most pernicious rule may not be explained as a lie uttered by the author willfully and to serve a purpose (Epist. 28)" (ibid., 37, italics his; cf. SP, 19).
 The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book I, Ch. 21, Par. 41, quoted in PD, 18.
 Some have attempted to distinguish between the sacred authors' "assertions" and their mere "statements", such that the former are guaranteed to be immune from all error, whereas the latter are not. Such persons argue that the author of Genesis 1 made a number of erroneous statements about cosmology in passing, which he assumed were true but which he did not explicitly intend to teach. Thus, he stated, but did not assert, that God created the earth in six days, for example.
This is a fatuous distinction. There is no sound, objective criterion by which one might determine which statements the Biblical authors truly "affirmed," and as such this distinction leads to exegetical anarchy. Furthermore, in addition to being unworkable, this distinction is theologically impossible as well. Humans may enunciate careless obiter dicta which, upon reflection, we realize that we do not stand behind; God, however, does not, and He is the author of the entire Scripture. Finally, Holy Mother Church has rejected this distinction, and when she did so, she certainly did intend to teach. According to "the Catholic dogma of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Sacred Scriptures... everything affirmed, stated, or implied by the sacred writers must be held as affirmed, stated or implied by the Holy Spirit" [...dogmate item catholico de inspiratione et inerrantia sacrarum Scripturarum, quo omne id, quod hagiographus asserit, enuntiat, insinuat, retineri debet assertum, enuntiatum, insinuatum a Spiritu Sancto]. Vatican II's Constitution Dei Verbum, in its first footnote to Article 11, cites two documents which make this statement: Biblical Commission, Decree of June 18, 1915: Denzinger 2180 (3629): EB [Enchiridion Biblicum] 420; Holy Office, Epistle of Dec. 22, 1923: EB 499. The translation quoted above is from Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., "The Truth and Salvific Purpose of Sacred Scripture according to Dei Verbum, Article 11," Living Tradition, No. 59 (1995).
St. Gregory of Nazianzus likewise refutes the contention that Scripture contains unaffirmed obiter dicta when he states, "We however, who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to the merest stroke and tittle, will never admit the impious assertion that even the smallest matters were dealt with haphazard by those who have recorded them" ("Oration II," par. 105, in NPNF, Ser. II, Vol. VII, p. 225).
 SJNAB, p. .
 "The Psalmist contrasts the felicity of the conqueror, with the misery of the citizens, without approving of his conduct" (W. F. Berthier, in HOT, p. 794).
 SJNAB, p. .
 SJNAB, p. .
 SJNAB, pp. -.
 "To hear [the modernists] talk about their works on the Sacred Books, in which they have been able to discover so much that is defective, one would imagine that before them nobody ever even glanced through the pages of Scripture, whereas the truth is that a whole multitude of Doctors, infinitely superior to them in genius, in erudition, in sanctity, have sifted the Sacred Books in every way, and so far from finding imperfections in them, have thanked God more and more the deeper they have gone into them, for His divine bounty in having vouchsafed to speak thus to men. Unfortunately, these great Doctors did not enjoy the same aids to study that are possessed by the Modernists for their guide and rule, - a philosophy borrowed from the negation of God, and a criterion which consists of themselves" (PDG, 34).
 "Jerome maintains that belief in the Biblical narrative is as necessary to salvation as is belief in the doctrines of the faith; thus in his Commentary on the Epistle to Philemon he says: What I mean is this: Does any man believe in God the Creator? He cannot do so unless he first believe that the things written of God's Saints are true. He then gives examples from the Old Testament, and adds: Now unless a man believes all these and other things too which are written of the Saints he cannot believe in the God of the Saints (S. Jerome, In Philem., 4)" (SP, 24).
 "As to Enoch and Elias and Moses, our belief is determined not by Faustus suppositions, but by the declarations of Scripture, resting as they do on foundations of the strongest and surest evidence... To give you in a word, without argument, the true reason of our faith, as regards Elias having been caught up to heaven from the earth, though only a man, and as regards Christ being truly born of a virgin, and truly dying on the cross, our belief in both cases is grounded on the declaration of Holy Scripture, which it is piety to believe, and impiety to disbelieve... The reason of our believing Him to have been born of the Virgin Mary, is not that He could not otherwise have appeared among men in a true body, but because it is so written in the Scripture, which we must believe in order to be Christians, or to be saved" (St. Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XXVI, Pars. 3, 6, and 7, in NPNF, Ser. I, Vol. IV, pp. 321, 323).
 Greek historians often introduced their works with a brief note on their methodology and intentions, much like Luke 1:1-4. One wonders if Arrian intended to write a catechism of Alexander the Great, or Thucydides a catechism of the Peloponnesian War (cf. The Campaigns of Alexander, 1:1; History of the Peloponnesian War, 1:22).
 This is the only possible justification for departing from a literal hermeneutic, according to the rule laid down by St. Augustine and confirmed by Leo XIII in PD, 15.
 "What can we say of men who in expounding the very Gospels so whittle away the human trust we should repose in it as to overturn Divine faith in it? They refuse to allow that the things which Christ said or did have come down to us unchanged and entire through witnesses who carefully committed to writing what they themselves had seen or heard. They maintain - and particularly in their treatment of the Fourth Gospel - that much is due of course to the Evangelists - who, however, added much from their own imaginations; but much, too, is due to narratives compiled by the faithful at other periods, the result, of course, being that the twin streams now flowing in the same channel cannot be distinguished from one another" (SP, 27).
 St. Pius X, in LS, condemned the following propositions: "13. The Evangelists themselves, as well as the Christians of the second and third generation, artificially arranged the evangelical parables. In such a way they explained the scanty fruit of the preaching of Christ among the Jews. 14. In many narrations the Evangelists recorded, not so much things that are true, as things which, even though false, they judged to be more profitable for their readers. 15. Until the time the canon was defined and constituted, the Gospels were increased by additions and corrections. Therefore there remained in them only a faint and uncertain trace of the doctrine of Christ." In PDG, 34, he directly attacked the notion of the Gospels having been created by transfiguring actual history with theological interpretation: "The result of this dismembering of the Sacred Books and this partition of them throughout the centuries is naturally that the Scriptures can no longer be attributed to the authors whose names they bear. The Modernists have no hesitation in affirming commonly that these books, and especially the Pentateuch and the first three Gospels, have been gradually formed by additions to a primitive brief narration - by interpolations of theological or allegorical interpretation, by transitions, by joining different passages together."
 SJNAB, pp. -.
 Protestants have often alleged that (a) the teachings of the Catholic Church cannot be infallible because they are not consistent over time, and (b) the Church's claim to be under the authority of the Word of God is disingenuous. If Kersten's description of Catholicism were accurate, both of these criticisms would be true, for in his view, (a) the Church's teaching on Scripture has changed, and (b) the Church can correct what is erroneous in Scripture.
 John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (London: Basil Montagu Pickering, 1878) pp. 203ff.
 AAS 26  130f, in CCHS, p. 74.
 On the Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch (ASS 39 [1906-07] 377f; EB 174ff; Dz 1997ff): "I: Are the arguments gathered by critics to impugn the Mosaic authorship of the sacred books designated by the name of the Pentateuch of such weight in spite of the cumulative evidence of many passages of both Testaments, the unbroken unanimity of the Jewish people, and furthermore of the constant tradition of the Church besides the internal indications furnished by the text itself, as to justify the statement that these books are not of Mosaic authorship but were put together from sources mostly of post-Mosaic date? Answer: In the negative" (in CCHS, p. 68).
 AAS 26  130f, in CCHS, p. 74.
 E.g., at Gen 37:28. Contrast the authentic Scriptural piety of St. Augustine: "For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it" (St. Augustine, Letter 82:3). St. Augustine saw apparent inconsistency as evidence of textual corruption. The NAB scholars see apparent harmonization as evidence of textual corruption.
 SJNAB, p. 1.
 Cf. Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis (Jerusalem, Israel: Shalem Press, 2006); Duane Garrett, Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991); Gleason Archer, A Survery of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1996).
 Cf. Josh 1:78; 8:3234; Judg 3:4; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 21:8; 2 Chron 25:4; Ezra 6:18; Neh 8:1; Dan 9:1113.
 Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St. John, Vol. 2 (New York, NY: The Seabury Press, 1980) p. 129.
 Cf. also Matt 19:78; Luke 24:27, 44; John 1:17; 7:19; Acts 6:14; 13:39; 15:5; 2 Cor 3:15; Heb 10:28.
 Baba Bathra 14b, Soncino edition. "The portion of Balaam" refers to Balaam's oracles in Numbers 23-24.
 Confessions, Book XI, Ch. 3.
 Cf. Ex 17:14; 24:47; 34:27; Num 33:2; Deut 31:9, 22, 24.
 KD, Vol. 1, p. 11.
 Ibid., pp. 11-12.
 Ibid., pp. 10.
 John D. Currid, A Study Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1 (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2003) pp. 29-30.
 Ibid., p. 3.
 Cf. supra, footnote 45.
 KD, Vol. 1, p. 9.
 Cf. Jon D. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1988).
 SJNAB, p. 4.
 Currid, op. cit., p. 59.
 Rev. Victor P. Warkulwiz, M.S.S., The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11 (New York, NY: iUniverse, 2007) p. 42.
 Ibid., p. 43.
 C. John Collins, "The Wayyiqtol as 'Pluperfect': When and Why," Tyndale Bulletin 46.1 (1995) 117-140.
 Bl. Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus.
 Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. I, Ch. 2, Par. 2.
 Bl. Pope Pius IX, The Syllabus of Errors, 7.
 "The sons of God. The descendants of Seth and Enos are here called Sons of God from their religion and piety: whereas the ungodly race of Cain, who by their carnal affections lay groveling upon the earth, are called the children of men. The unhappy consequence of the former marrying with the latter, ought to be a warning to Christians to be very circumspect in their marriages; and not to suffer themselves to be determined in their choice by their carnal passion, to the prejudice of virtue or religion." (Bishop Richard Challoner, in HOT, p. 20)
 It would of course be perfectly legitimate to assert that the Old Testament means something in addition to what the inspired Apostles taught that it means. However, to assert that it means one thing rather than what the Apostles taught implies that the Apostles found a meaning there which was not there in fact, and hence interpreted incorrectly.
 Retractationes, 1:9:3.
 Currid, op. cit., p. 262. Currid cites P. Wapnish, 'Camel Caravans and Camel Pastoralists at Tell Jemmeh', Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Studies 13 (1981): 101-21.
 Ibid., p. 280.
 For example Sulpicius Severus, in Sacred History, takes it for granted that sacred history is just as rooted in fact as the profane variety: "I address myself to give a condensed account of those things which are set forth in the sacred Scriptures from the beginning of the world and to tell of them, with distinction of dates and according to their importance, down to period within our own remembrance. Many who were anxious to become acquainted with divine things by means of a compendious treatise, have eagerly entreated me to undertake this work. I, seeking to carry out their wish, have not spared my labor, and have thus succeeded in comprising in two short books things which elsewhere filled many volumes. At the same time, in studying brevity, I have omitted hardly any of the facts... I will not shrink from confessing that, wherever reason required, I have made use of profane historians to fix dates and preserve the series of events unbroken, and have taken out of these what was wanting to a complete knowledge of the facts, that I might both instruct the ignorant and carry conviction to the learned" (Sacred History, 1:1). Cf. SP, 22: "Those, too, who hold that the historical portions of Scripture do not rest on the absolute truth of the facts but merely upon what they are pleased to term their relative truth, namely, what people then commonly thought, are - no less than are the aforementioned critics - out of harmony with the Church's teaching, which is endorsed by the testimony of Jerome and other Fathers."
 Midian was Abraham's son by his wife Keturah, and Ishmael his son by Hagar, so Midianites are not Ishmaelites technically. However, it is possible that Ishmaelite became a generic term for all tribes descended from Abraham besides Israel, and is used in this sense here. Another possibility, which the NAB itself entertains in its footnote to Judges 8:24, is that Ishmaelite can denote nomads, in addition to its more specific ethnic specification.
 John D. Currid, A Study Commentary on Genesis, Volume 2 (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2003) pp. 291-292.
 Cf. supra, "Prolegomena to Genesis."
 This was among the reasons cited by the Pontifical Biblical Commission for its decision to reprobate Die Einwanderung Israels in Kanaan. The Commission stated: "doing violence to the sacred texts, [Schmidtke] explains many miracles of the Old Testament as purely natural events" (AAS 26  130f, in CCHS, p. 74).
 PDG, 34.
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Well, but one would also expect a translation produced by the Church and offered as a translation into English would contain actual English. This translation fails on that count as well.
When one serves a lector and has to pick his way through the Yoda-speak they offer for the psalms, well, to paraphrase far better folk than I, when I die I'll go to heaven, 'cause I've served my time in linguistic hell.
**Well, but one would also expect a translation produced by the Church and offered as a translation into English would contain actual English. This translation fails on that count as well.
When one serves a lector and has to pick his way through the Yoda-speak they offer for the psalms, well, to paraphrase far better folk than I, when I die I’ll go to heaven, ‘cause I’ve served my time in linguistic hell.**
Agree with both your posts. I hate what the NAB does to the Psalms, and our more modern music director even sings more corrupted texts.
I have learned just to bow my head and pray.
(And thank God that I found a 1966 Jerusalem Bible in a second hand book store!)
One reason that I post three translations of each day’s readings at the top of the thread — is the messed up NAB.
In addition to the initial NAB, the posted translations are from the RSV and the Jerusalem Bible
And then annalex posts two other translations further down, Vulgate and Douay Rheims.
So at the end of each day’s readings you really have five choices of translations. I know it seems weird at times, but I believe it is necessary.
Congregations are perhaps best served by the happy accident that the words of the NAB so utterly lack music that they tend to pass in one ear and out the other and leave no trace on the memory.
I’m partial to the RSV 2nd Catholic Edition myself, but I wish the Vatican would just choose or have prepared a scholarly accurate translation with good English idiom and elegant language and just impose it as standard for liturgy in the whole English speaking world.
**I wish the Vatican would just choose or have prepared a scholarly accurate translation with good English idiom and elegant language and just impose it as standard for liturgy in the whole English speaking world.**
I’ll gladly second that motion. AND, it may just come to that!
“And thank God that I found a 1966 Jerusalem Bible in a second hand book store!”
Is that on line, do you know?
The NAB is awful. When I lived in NY, the pastor of my church was one of the scholars who had worked on this. He began every homily with “it is commonly misunderstood” and went on to describe how every miracle or even teaching was simply a translation error by prior translators.
The poor man. It had destroyed his faith, and he ruined a lot of souls, too, no doubt. But I think that years before he had gotten into Biblical criticism, from what I knew about his history, he had actually believed and even when I knew him, I think he would occasionally have flashes where he wanted to believe. He was an arrogant, stubborn man in a lot of ways, and hated Cardinal O’Connor and Catholic moral teaching. He did love good liturgy and music, however, but he was mentally and spiritually more of an Episcopalian than anything else. Liturgy was aesthetically attractive but devoid of any doctrinal content and I doubt that he thought anything really happened at the Consecration. And I attribute it all to Higher Biblical Criticism.
I think one can learn a lot that's useful from modern "criticism" and all the various bullsgeschichtes they offer.
But, and it's, you should excuse the expression, a Big But, if you waver for an instant from thinking that God directed, guided, chivvied along, the process from the first story told around a campfire in Padanaram to the closing of the canon at Trent, then you start coming up with your own, new and improved, mo' better version of Scripture. And you rapidly go barking crazy.
I would look at some passage, and my looking would be assisted or encumbered -- hard to tell which -- by all the stuff I learned in Seminary. But I always ended up with, "This here before my eyes is what God, through the Church, gave me as Sacred Scripture. This here, in the context of the Church (as I then understood Church) is where I must look for the Truth, and where I must hope the Truth will show Himself to me and give me what He wants me to preach to His people."
I see now that my thinking that when I was an Episcopalian was one of the hooks God used to lead me finally to think that as a Catholic.
So I would say of your pastor, may God have mercy on Him, that what threatens his soul is not scholarship and criticism but pride, and maybe a little desire to be accepted by the gang he runs with, the gang of scholars. The so-called Higher Criticism provided the tinder, but the fire was lit by the spark of prideful disobedience.
Wow! Just another way God saved my arrogant butt! Alleluia!
I certainly have nothing against scholarship and there is much interesting and illuminating Biblical criticism. But the fundamental view of that particular school, Higher Biblical Criticism and its offshoots (originally a Protestant invention, btw), was that the Scriptures were rather quaint documents that had been systematically either linguistically misunderstood or twisted over the centuries and were really only significant as cultural/historical artifacts. Much of this was actually aimed specifically at cutting apart the Church and the Scriptures, since Protestants had a vested interest in undermining the claims of the Church as the authoritative interpreter of Scripture and, furthermore, in rejecting historical interpretations that showed the Scriptures and the Church as inextricably entwined.
The practical impact of dynamic equivalency in translation, furthermore, was essentially to put even the literal text at the mercy of the “scholars,” many of them with an agenda, who then decided exactly what the “equivalent” (but actually different) text was going to be, based on subjective and even political concerns.
Why this approach became so popular among Catholics in the 60’s is probably related to Vatican II, or at any rate to some of the unfortunate Protestantizing, secularizing “Spirit of Vatican II.” Vatican II itself was the product of certain intellectual currents that were not bad in themselves, but were easily manipulated when the authority of the Church was rejected. And the “Spirit of Vatican II” was all about rejecting the authority of the Church, in every area ranging from doctrine to liturgy to Biblical scholarship.
My sister and I, both converts, noticed this in the reading of the Passion.
I wasn't sure whether it came from the translation used or if the publishers of the missalette our parish had been using were offering their own creative interpretation.
IHS was crucified between two other noble freedom fighters who made the tactical error of speaking truth to power with swords instead of the internet and were vegetarians and pro-choice and drove Priuses ("Prii" in the Vulgate) and voted for Geraldine Ferraro.Just sayin'.
I noticed that too. I wonder who they were revolting against.
The New American Bible formerly was full of all manners of wicked hereies and apostasies. The translation was only mediocre, not horible... a half-step better than the New International Version (NIV), which is so popular among liberal and moderate Protestants. As a translation to be heard at mass (which it is), it is not tragically heretical, just shallow and common.
But the notes at the bottom of the page, Christ have mercy on us!!! They consisted of outrage after outrage. Later editions greatly cleaned up the mess, although it still frequently reads like the schools of German historical criticism, with talk of “oral traditions,” and such.
Maybe we should classify it as “a revoltin’ development.”
What I post is on line at universalis. com
but I don’t think it is the 1966 version. I just wish I had an OLD Jerusalem Study Bible. I keep looking at the used book stores, and someday I will find it.
I’ll check on universalis and see if there is a date.
The peasants are revolting!!
Yeah, they stink on ice!!
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