The November 11th edition of America magazine included an article written by New American Bible Revised Edition translator and Biblical scholar Richard J. Clifford. It takes a look at the areas of growth and places of challenge in Scriptural literacy for Catholic since the Second Vatican Council and the document Dei Verbum. The article is entitled The Gift of the Word and here are a few notable excerpts:
"Dei Verbum” sees itself in continuity with two earlier councils that dealt with the Bible: Trent (1545-63) and the First Vatican Council (1869-70), and like them devotes considerable space to the broad context of the Bible—God’s initiative in relating to humanity. God’s desire for a personal relationship with human beings on earth accounts for the self-revelation of God recorded in the Bible. That self-revelation invites a human response (“the obedience of faith”) and results in the formation of an elect people bound to God and to each other.
Trent also dealt with translations of the Bible, for the age of printing had dawned, flooding Europe with translations. Trent forbade only anonymous translations, passing over in silence other translations, including Protestant ones. It declared the Latin Vulgate “authentic,” a declaration that was later widely misunderstood as making the Vulgate the official version of the Bible for the Catholic Church. As Pope Pius XII’s encyclical “Divino Afflante Spiritu” (1943) taught, and John W. O’Malley, S.J., explains in more detail in , the word at the Council of Trent meant only that among the welter of Bible translations of that era, the Vulgate was a reliable text for preaching and teaching, to be revered because of its long usage in the Latin church. The council fathers were well aware of the errors that had accrued to the Vulgate over the centuries, and decreed that the Vulgate not be printed again until it was thoroughly corrected. Like Trent, “Dei Verbum” acknowledges the venerable nature of the Vulgate, but reaffirms the teaching of “Divino Afflante Spiritu,” which urged biblical scholars to use the original Hebrew and Greek texts for translations. In recent years, there have been attempts to impose the Vulgate as a standard for translation, but such attempts run counter to the directives of “Dei Verbum.”
“Dei Verbum” encouraged Bible reading among Catholics and has been a major factor in unseating the neo-scholastic theology that dominated Catholic and even Protestant thought up to the mid-20th century. But if we look at the final practical chapter of “Dei Verbum,” which enthusiastically encourages Bible reading among all Catholics, we are reminded all too clearly of the task that lies ahead. First, it challenges Catholics to read the Bible regularly and hear it attentively when proclaimed in the liturgy. .......An unsettling reminder of how important Bible reading is to the flourishing of the Catholic Church comes from the Pew Research Religious Landscape Survey of 2008, which points out the Catholic Church in recent years has lost a third of its membership. Half of those leaving the Catholic Church have become unaffiliated, and half have joined Protestant churches. Of the half that joined Protestant churches, the most cited reason (71 percent) for leaving the Catholic Church was their “spiritual needs were not being met,” in particular their need for meaningful worship and nourishing Bible reading........To be fair, today there are excellent Catholic Bible resources like the Little Rock Scripture Study, the Paulist Bible Study Program, the Collegeville Bible Commentary Series, Now You Know Media, Bible-oriented homily services and the lectures and digital resources of many Catholic colleges and universities. And there are good study Bibles, including (Oxford University Press). There were harldly any resources like these before Vatican II. The problem, therefore, may not be a lack of resources, but a lack of resolve, planning and imagination.
A second challenge of “Dei Verbum” is to develop a theology that allows the Old Testament greater importance in the Bible.
A third challenge to the constitution’s exhortation that all Catholics read the Bible in the context of the church comes from fundamentalism......Many Catholics, apparently unaware of anti-Catholic fundamentalist writing, regard fundamentalist approaches to the Bible as the only correct and traditional way of reading the Bible. How can we persuade such Catholics to adopt the truly traditional and correct way of “Dei Verbum”? Some do’s: read the Bible yourself and be willing to say simply what you have found nourishing in the Bible; witness rather than argue. Encourage your pastor to preach on the Bible and your fellow parishioners to engage in Bible study. Some don’ts: don’t argue with fundamentalists or use ridicule, but take fundamentalism seriously. It is an important part of American culture.