Monday, April 18, 2011

Mondays with Verbum Domini

The Bible and ecumenism

Conscious that the Church has her foundation in Christ, the incarnate Word of God, the Synod wished to emphasize the centrality of biblical studies within ecumenical dialogue aimed at the full expression of the unity of all believers in Christ. The Scriptures themselves contain Jesus’ moving prayer to the Father that his disciples might be one, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21). All this can only strengthen our conviction that by listening and meditating together on the Scriptures, we experience a real, albeit not yet full communion; “shared listening to the Scriptures thus spurs us on towards the dialogue of charity and enables growth in the dialogue of truth”. Listening together to the word of God, engaging in biblical lectio divina, letting ourselves be struck by the inexhaustible freshness of God’s word which never grows old, overcoming our deafness to those words that do not fit our own opinions or prejudices, listening and studying within the communion of the believers of every age: all these things represent a way of coming to unity in faith as a response to hearing the word of God. The words of the Second Vatican Council were clear in this regard: “in [ecumenical] dialogue itself, sacred Scripture is a precious instrument in the mighty hand of God for attaining to that unity which the Saviour holds out to all”. Consequently, there should be an increase in ecumenical study, discussion and celebrations of the word of God, with due respect for existing norms and the variety of traditions. These celebrations advance the cause of ecumenism and, when suitably carried out, they represent intense moments of authentic prayer asking God to hasten the day when we will all be able at last to sit at the one table and drink from the one cup. Nonetheless, while it is praiseworthy and right to promote such services, care must be taken that they are not proposed to the faithful as alternatives to the celebration of Holy Mass on Sundays or holydays of obligation.

In this work of study and prayer, we serenely acknowledge those aspects which still need to be explored more deeply and those on which we still differ, such as the understanding of the authoritative subject of interpretation in the Church and the decisive role of the magisterium.

Finally, I wish to emphasize the statements of the Synod Fathers about the ecumenical importance of translations of the Bible in the various languages. We know that translating a text is no mere mechanical task, but belongs in some sense to the work of interpretation. In this regard, the Venerable John Paul II observed that “anyone who recalls how heavily debates about Scripture influenced divisions, especially in the West, can appreciate the significant step forward which these common translations represent”.Promoting common translations of the Bible is part of the ecumenical enterprise. I would like to thank all those engaged in this important work, and I encourage them to persevere in their efforts.


Timothy said...

That last section, again, emphasizes the Church's commitment to ecumenical translations of the Bible. This is, of course, a very good thing, even though there are still some people who may be suspicious. I think the Church, particularly in the English speaking world, is enriched by the production of Bibles like the RSV and NRSV.

Theophrastus said...

Timothy, it is not just the NRSV and CEB and REB which are ecumenical -- it is important to remember that the NAB NT and the NABRE are also ecumenical.

Had Dei Verbum been in effect when the RSV translation had begun, I am certain there would have Catholic participation on the translation committee (note that there was Jewish participation.) As it was, the RSV-CE was produced as soon as Dei Verbum authorized ecumenical translations.

Sadly, ecumenical translations have been under attack in some places (for example, the Protestant EKD federation pulled out of the ecumenical Einheits├╝bersetzung translation in Germany in 2005.)

Fortunately, in the US, ecumenical translations remain strong, as does the production of commentary volumes and Study bibles with both Catholic and non-Catholic contributors. (Also, CBA membership has no religious requirement and prestigious Catholic research universities hire both Catholic and non-Catholic Bible scholars.)

Finally, it is sad that you skipped over paragraph 43 of Verbum Domini which expresses a somewhat similar sentiment towards joint Jewish-Christian study (the emphasis is in the official Vatican translation):

I wish to state once more how much the Church values her dialogue with the Jews. Wherever it seems appropriate, it would be good to create opportunities for encounter and exchange in public as well as in private, and thus to promote growth in reciprocal knowledge, in mutual esteem and cooperation, also in the study of the sacred Scriptures.

Timothy said...


Indeed! The NABRE (and NAB) does include translators from the other churches.

As for Verbum Domini, yeah, I did skip that section, though unintentionally. Nice to know someone noticed! But thanks for adding the quote from paragraph 43 to the discussion.

T. said...

AMEN! Regarding all ecumenism... we share and enrich ourselves with "reciprocal knowledge" and "mutual esteem" -- *love* those words!

These benefits are what lead to less violence and more love toward one another. In other words, they aid us in living in the Kingdom of God.