Sacramentum and Typos

Sacramentum and Typos April 27, 2018

Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) argues that the “Catholic concept” of sacrament arises from an understanding of the Bible, especially of the relation of the Old and New (Theology of the Liturgy, 177-8).

He writes, “the Catholic concept of sacramentum is based on the ‘typological’ interpretation of Scripture – an interpretation in terms of parallels to Christ. This concept loses its mainstay when this interpretation is completely lost.”

The connection is there, even if “Catholic” doesn’t mean “Roman Catholic.” A Christian understanding of sacraments depends on rightly relating old and new.

As it has in modern interpretation of the Bible. When typology is lost, then “the way in which the New Testament itself understands Scripture is abandoned also; for all that the New Testament says is by no means intended to produce a new Scripture; rather, it means to give directions on how to understand the Christic content of the Old Testament. Whoever thinks that this way of dealing with the Bible is not allowed may perhaps gain a literal understanding of the Old Testament, but he thereby radically rejects the New Testament and its understanding of the Old.”

Just to make that clear: Rejecting New Testament hermeneutics is a “radical” rejection of the New Testament itself, because one of the central concerns of the New Testament is to teach us to read the Old.

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