Bible studies

The major biblical issues in 2000 years of faith

That the Bible should be revered as the Word of the people of God, rather than the Word of God in the present day, was the idea advanced by Te Kupenga – Dr Sarah Hart, professor of Bible studies at the Catholic Theological College, in a conference given at the Sainte-Thérèse church in Mangere. on April 27, entitled “Revisiting Ut Unum Sint after 25 years – a biblical perspective”.

Dr. Hart analyzed three major Bible-related issues in 2000 years of Christianity. The first question was about what the scriptures did or didn’t do to fit into the Bible as we have it today, that is, the canon. Jerome’s Vulgate, or Latin translation of the Greek and Hebrew texts, became the Roman Bible from the fourth century until Vatican II in the mid-nineteenth century.

The second major problem was the Reformation in the 16th century. Sola Scriptura, or the Reformers’ concept of the Bible alone, challenged the custom of the Roman Church to read the Bible in synergy with the Traditions of the Church.

From the Middle Ages and with the advent of the printing press, the words of the biblical text began to be considered immutable. “When the layers of meaning in texts are unpacked, the words of the Bible are not static or fixed, as they may initially seem,” she said. Contrary to this development, the third question sees a change since Vatican II in the way the Bible can be viewed – as the Word of the people of God, rather than the Word of God alone.

Dr. Hart explained how modern biblical research has highlighted the multifaceted and multilayered nature of many biblical texts. Biblical texts emerged from what can be called a five-step process involving oral, written, and publishing traditions, before becoming part of the canon of Scripture.

Dr. Hart mentioned the varied composition of early communities. First there were those who experienced Jesus, then there were the followers of Christ in a wide variety of communities where they experienced Jesus. Some communities were more Judeo-Christian, others with a larger number of Gentile-Christians. We, in “our parishes today, continue the lineage of the first Christian communities. We come to know Jesus in our communities through the biblical texts and through the customs and practices of our Tradition”.

Dr Hart referred to the thinking of Australian biblical scholars Tony Campbell, with his colleague Mark O’Brien, who suggest that short narrative passages in the Pentateuch, and by extension in the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke), can be used as “current text” to “contrast what might be considered the past or final text of a printed Bible”.

What is needed in this “text as the basis for the user” approach is “someone to tell the story and develop it, a live audience and a listening context”. It helps to illuminate God’s involvement in the current context.

Dr. Hart gave an example of a story told in each of the synoptic gospels – the Transfiguration. There are many similarities in the texts, as well as some subtle differences. But none of the texts explains what Jesus was talking about with Moses and Elijah.

“We don’t know, but there is a gap in the text that a storyteller can fill. Information from the Old Testament texts about Elijah and Moses helps us discover God’s involvement in the scene.

Among this information was that Elijah had respect for the poor and had a sense of social justice. He healed the Gentiles. He straddles this world and the next. Like Jesus, Moses suffered resistance from his own people. He did not live to enter the promised land, just as Jesus did not experience the fulfillment of the kingdom of God during his lifetime.

This, and many other commonalities, means that it is likely that Jesus shared his struggles during his mission with these two great Jewish ancestors who also struggled.

“Through the references to Elijah and Moses, we heard about God’s involvement in the people of Israel and in the life of Jesus. . . . The Old Testament texts informed Jesus’ mind and thought. If we want to be close to Jesus, we must know the texts that formed him,” said Dr. Hart. From these living texts we can also learn something about God’s involvement with people in the present.

“As we all continue to read, pray and study these texts, the words come to life, take flesh within us as the Word of the people of God.”

As an introduction to his overview of the three major biblical questions in two thousand years of Christianity, Dr. Hart referred to the encyclical of Saint John Paul II Ut Unum Sint (Let them be one) on the desire for Christian unity.

Ut Unum Sint acknowledges that debates over Scripture have led to past divisions between Christian communities, especially in the West. But he also notes that modern translations of the Scriptures, which are the fruit of ecumenical cooperation, “generally offer a solid basis for the prayer and pastoral activity of all the disciples of Christ” (US44).

“This quote applies to all Christians,” Dr. Hart said, “may the Bible be a source of nourishment for prayer and affirmative action.”