How Catholics Understand the Bible

How Catholics Understand the Bible December 4, 2013

We’re talking about it over at Strange Notions.

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  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Excellent article, Mr. Shea. Thanks very much.
    One thing I hope you’ll get into in future installments: The apparent contradictory information in some passages of scripture. For example, the differing accounts of the death of Judas, or one Gospel writer having the trial of Jesus take place at night while another says in the day. I know that a great many of these are simply different authors granting different details. But when the details seem to contradict … what then?

    • Good question. Hope you don’t mind me taking a stab at it.
      The Church holds that every assertion made by sacred scripture is infallible and free from error. One must of course take care to determine the style and genre of a particular book. Keeping the fourfold sense of scripture (literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical) in mind can help to discern what God wishes to say through the sacred author.
      Since truth cannot contradict truth, the Bible cannot make contradictory factual assertions pertaining to the same subject in the same regard and in the same sense.
      When apparently conflicting accounts like the ones you cited give rise to tension, the consistent teaching of the Church has been to maintain sober faithfulness and suspend judgment pending additional evidence. New facts about biblical times are still coming to light through archaeology and textual research. Scott Hahn provides a convincing solution to apparent contradictions between Synoptic and Johannine Passover chronology based on better understanding of the Essene liturgical calendar. Excavations at Jericho have resolved tensions about the placement of the city’s gates, etc.

    • Dave P.

      Regarding the suicide of Judas: in his book The Day Christ Died, Jim Bishop found a way to reconcile the two accounts. Judas hanged himself close to a cliff or ravine (I can’t remember which, specifically), and the noose broke, causing him to fall.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        Thanks. I haven’t read the book. Does he have evidence for that explanation, or is he just speculating that it is a possible explanation to reconcile the differing accounts?

  • tteague

    Good article. I look forward to the next one.

    I do find the comments rather predictably funny & sad, at least those I was able to read until I had to stop. They go kinda like this: After you have pointed out that the Maher-esque skeptic tends to argue like “blah blah blah” the responder says something like, “Oh yeah you idiot! Well blah blah blah and blah blah blah blah blah”, then someone chimes in with “you’re missing the point” and then a reply follows with “blah blah blah.”

    For those who have ears to hear, I suppose.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      Mention the devil, trigger hyperventilation.

    • The Deuce

      I notice the whole thing instantly devolved into a monomaniacal fixation on the idea that the devil influences anything.

      I’m not sure if Mark mentioned the devil just to guarantee that his commentators would illustrate his point for him, but if he did it was brilliant.