Introduction to Holy Scripture: The Exodus of the People of God

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#ends-short; #item-set-178, TM says "in vigils we are reading", suggesting location is NCH.

"Structure these classes in a liturgical way."


Yeah, then there are all the paraphrases. Let's begin. I've started the tape so we can begin now. Yeah, I'll kind of summarize the question then before responding. Father, you said that the New English Bible and the Jerusalem Bible both have very practical quality, but how would you compare them? Oh, I wouldn't be able really to say because I don't know the New English Bible that much. I know that TS Eliot revised much of the New English Bible, which gives you an answer to the quality of it. But the Jerusalem Bible is also very good. I'd like to structure these classes almost in a liturgical way because this is something that I'm convinced of as far as the Bible is concerned, that its meaning comes to us


when we enter into it by way of the liturgy and by way of that kind of sacramental worldview which is implied in the liturgy and which we have largely lost. I say we, and this means Catholics, it means modern Western industrial society, technological, rationalistic, whatever you want to call it. I'm not using this in an anti-intellectualist sense because that's not very Catholic either. In other words, Catholicism is a religion that teaches us to use our brains and use them well. But it also, in its deepest reality, is the religion of the sacraments. And I say Catholicism meaning the great tradition and I'm including Orthodoxy. And in many ways, of course, but this is my particular tilt, in many ways our brothers who have lived in the tradition of the Eastern Fathers, our brothers and sisters who have


lived in that tradition, have kept more of that sacramental worldview, at least where they have been predominant and where the people live their Orthodoxy very deeply. They preserve more of a sacramental worldview than we in the West have because they have not been touched so much by non-Christian cultural movements in the West, not necessarily to be condemned, but simply facts of our history, namely the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and of course the Reformation, which is part of that, but not exactly. It's a schism within Western Christianity as well. But anyway, I'd like to kind of structure these like this, beginning with a reading. I'm just going to start reading the Exodus, the Book of Exodus, and kind of comment on that, but I'll be going back and forth.


In other words, I'm not just going to give you a running commentary on it, but to put the biblical text in the forefront, and not just as a letter printed on a page as black on white, but as a word that is brought to life by being read in community. And that will reveal to us, I think more than anything else, the nature of the Bible. Just to become aware of the fact that a reading in community of the Bible is a living communication of God to humanity, to his creatures, and also among us in our communication with our fathers in the faith and mothers in the faith, all the way back to Adam and Eve. So, begin with a reading, and then I'd like also just to conclude with a prayer, something


very spontaneous and brief. And just kind of say the beginning and end really should give the quality to what the talk, you know, so that it isn't just talk and it isn't just words, but it's also an entering into a life, an entering into God's mind, and allowing God's mind, God's Holy Spirit to transform our minds, and make our minds those, deaform, to use a Latinized word, to assume the form, the shape of God's way of thinking, which of course is identical with his nature, and I hope it is not. So Exodus begins like this. These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin. Dan and Naphtali.


Gad and Asher. All the offspring of Jacob were seventy persons. Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and all that generation. But the descendants of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly. They multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Now in vigils we've been reading the book of Genesis, and every so often we come across these genealogies and these lists of names, of who's the son of who, and how many sons so-and-so had, and how old he was when so-and-so was born, and so forth and so on. These lists of names can be a little boring, because it's not some information that really informs us. It's not something that gives us anything, helps us to know something we don't know,


because we can't fit these names into a context. So I think the best way to handle these lists of names, of course sometimes they can just be skipped if they're really long, you know, a whole column in your Bible of names, and so-and-so begot so-and-so begot so-and-so, maybe is not terribly useful in a community reading, but we can just let these names kind of vibrate within us, and realize that these are living, breathing people. These are persons. And if there's anything that should be emphasized, it is the personalism of the Bible. To understand the Bible, or to analyze the Bible, is just to realize, first of all, that there's blood coursing in its veins, you know, not ink, and it comes from a family tradition, a handing down from father to son, mother to daughter, a handing down of stories


and lore and wisdom, and so it was very much a living reality. And then there's the other aspect of this text. Well, you already know the story, and then just reading Genesis, of course, refreshes the whole background of Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery, and how he ends up in the household of Pharaoh, and ends up on the top of the whole situation, and then they come, and they don't recognize him, and he strings them along for a while, until he just can't take it anymore, and bursts out weeping, saying, I'm Joseph, your brother. It's one of the most moving pages of the Old Testament. Pope John XXIII was fond of throwing out that phrase, I am Joseph, your brother. It was his way of saying, look, I am the pope, but I'm reaching out to you, I'm opening up to you, and just open up to me as one of your own, and he would say this to Jewish


people, and he'd say this to other Christians, not of the Roman Catholic communion, or just simply men and women of good will, whom we always must believe are of good will, and even if it seems otherwise, just simply continue believing and hoping against hope. So this was something that Pope John XXIII understood very deeply, and lived out in his own life. Why is he so attractive? Why does Pope John represent a real turning point in the history of the contemporary Church? Why is he kind of the patron saint of about everything good that's happened to the Catholic Church, and a lot of good that's happened to the world in the past 30 years? Well, I think it's because he was able to enter into the Bible, and enter into this kind of family life of Zebulon, and Naphtali, and Gad, and Asher, and all of these funny


names, and see them as more than funny names, but really see them as his life, and so we must do, and enter into this Bible as something that is really our story. It's not history, it's not his story, or even her story, or someone else's story. It's our story. It's our story. Our life. And then as monks, of course, we know how important it is, so it's also obligatory to have the last chapter of the Rule of Saint Benedict, which is also the epilogue of the Rule, where he builds you up to chapter 72, and gives you the whole meaning of the monastic life, unfeigned and humble love, prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and so come altogether to everlasting life. And then, chapter 73, he puts this on the end, which is about the third most important


chapter, the first being the prologue, and the second most important being certainly chapter 72, the zeal of monks, and this is the third most important, because it cuts everything down to size, and places the Rule where it belongs, at the service of life, and not as something that is supposed to, not a kind of limitation of life, or mortification of life, but not, we might say, a kind of birth control, against the conception of new monastic experiences. But the encouragement of these, and the encouragement of going, for those who want to go beyond the Rule, and are called to go beyond just the Rule, that's why Saint Romuald could take this Rule and give no other Rule to his disciples, because this Rule presupposes being able to do more than the Rule, and it says, the reason we have written this Rule is that


by observing it in monasteries, we can show that we have some degree of virtue in the beginnings of monastic life. But for anyone hastening on to the perfection of monastic life, there are the teachings of the Holy Fathers, the observance of which will lead him to the very heights of perfection. Holy Fathers is written with a capital F, but Fathers should be understood in a very concrete way, as life-givers, as channels of life, and the life, of course, is from God, the Heavenly Father, from whom every family on earth receives its name, as Saint Paul says. What page, and here he gives us a definition, who are the Holy Fathers? What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life? So Holy Fathers, you know, doesn't only mean Ambrose and Chrysostom, it also means


Moses and Elijah and Abraham and Isaiah and so forth. What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life? Every single page. It's as if he was saying, you can take just any little piece of the Bible, even a list of names, even a genealogy, and if you know really how to enter into that, that will give you a norm for life. It will give you a guide to live. That's almost what he's saying. Naturally, I mean, he doesn't want you to just say, well, I'm just going to read the opening chapters of the book of Numbers and then that's going to be my nourishment for my whole spiritual life. Of course not. And then, of course, he says, after he's talked about the Old and New Testaments, then he simply goes on, without interrupting himself, without changing his subject, what book of the Holy Catholic Fathers? And here he uses fathers in a more restricted sense.


Does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator? And then to specify Holy Catholic Fathers. Then, besides the conference of the fathers, their institutes and their lives, so he's referring in part to Cassian and also to the other lives of the fathers, the Desert Fathers in Latin. And there is also the rule of our Holy Father Basil. So, St. Basil is our Holy Father. And, therefore, the rule of St. Benedict, as it were, is kind of saying, you could really, in a way, you know, just after you've read this rule and started with it, then go on which are Basil and the lives, the living and communicating of these monks. So, for the observant and obedient monks, all these are nothing less than tools for the cultivation of virtues. But for us, they make us blush for shame as being so slothful, so unobservant, so negligent.


So, he's using this kind of literary expression to express his own humility and his own desire to encourage his monks, especially those who are just starting out in the monastic life, encourage them not to stop at anything, not to say that I've got it all. And if that's true of the monastic life, I think, in a way, it must also be true of reading the Bible. The problem, the problem, perhaps, of the Bible is the problem of interpretation. And I just want to pick up what Patrick brought out at the end, or towards the end of our first meeting. And he asked me, are you going to give us your interpretation or are you going to give us the church's interpretation?


And that is a very good question. You know, it's a very good question. It's a challenge. I mean, it's a little provocative, but that's okay. That's okay. And it is a good introduction into what I feel that we need to do, you know, to examine the whole problem of interpretation, the whole problem of understanding the Bible as a living word. Just let me point out one thing. The contrast is not between what might be my interpretation and what might be the church's or the interpretation of the church, but between a kind of interpretation which is purely neutral and, as it were, excludes meanings, and a kind of interpretation that is living, that is personal and that enriches the meaning of the text


and enriches the meaning of our own lives and establishes a dialogue between us and the text. That is, at the same time, at one and the same time, when it's done right, you know, when it's done properly, it is the church's interpretation, and it is also my interpretation, and each one of us saying the word my, because the church's interpretation is not something that is impersonal. It's not something that's abstract. It's not something outside of my existence. That is the church's interpretation because I am in the church and the church lives in me. But then, of course, we know that there's another aspect, and we need to remind ourselves very much of this aspect, because we Americans are individualists. There's nothing you can do about it, and it's a fact, and this is a... I think it also is something that we have to work on in our spiritual life and in just our life of faith as Catholics, as Christians, as Catholics.


The interpretation of the church and the living, personalistic interpretation of Holy Scripture is also, and above all, a communal, communitarian, communicative interpretation. It is an interpretation which gains meaning in interrelationship and in a common existence, a common receiving, a receiving together, that we all may come together to eternal life, which is the goal of the next one. That we may all arrive at the same goal, and one and the same, and find that our divergent differences and diversities and even divergence here on this earth have only been serving one end, and that end is to be together in God's glory, in God's kingdom. And the Bible is, on this path and in this walk of faith and this walk of the church,


is a great unifying force, and it is a creator of communion. The Bible is a kind of a magnet that draws together the scattered fragments of our own existence and of our own mentalities and of our own cultures. We are drawn into a oneness through the Bible, and it is effective, it effectively does this, and in doing this, there we have, we arrive at the meaning which is the Catholic meaning, that is, a meaning which is universal, a meaning which is ecclesial. There is a very, very important parallelism between the Bible and the Eucharist. It's not very easy to explain, but it's better simply to use the very traditional symbolism


which was taken up by the Imitation of Christ, which is good for everyone to read. It's not the maximum work of Christian spirituality, but it's a good book to know about and to read through. And there's a chapter there on the two tables in God's church, the table of the Word, Holy Scripture, and the table of the Eucharist. The same expression, which did not originate with the author of the Imitation of Christ, the following of Christ is another chapter, we have translated, Imitatio Christi. This same expression, which is found in various of the Fathers, is also used in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially the document on divine revelation, Dei Verum, which is also a document to which we shall and should refer. So we have in the church these two tables that nourish us, these two banquets,


and we must enjoy the food, and we must avidly desire to nourish ourselves with food. As we enter into the Holy Eucharist, the deep sense of love and reverence and presence, so we must also enter into the listening to the Word in community, at our own meditation department, by ourselves, enter into it with a great deal of reverence and love and a worshipful feeling, a worshipful attitude. And then the result being that when we do this, then we will come out with my interpretation, the interpretation that gives meaning to my life and that relates my life to the meaning that comes forth from that text, that my interpretation will be a church interpretation. The Bible is the church's book, and that has now two meanings.


One of the meanings is that it is the Bible, the book for all the members of the church. Everyone has the right and the duty to know Holy Scripture. In a more simple society, agrarian society, where there's very low level of literacy, it's quite understandable that many very good and very holy people will have nourished their lives as we're receiving, and not being able, of course, to read directly the Bible and enter into it in a highly intensive way or in a highly cultured way, but they arrive, of course, at the meaning of the Bible, because God's Spirit is working in them. But we do not have this excuse. It is inexcusable for someone who has what we all have, you know, secondary education and more, to not enter into Holy Scripture and not to bring our knowledge of Scripture and our study of Scripture


up to the same level that we have in whatever other field we might have studied. That should be really a very definite principle in formation. It's on the books. I mean, it's something that the church wants. But especially in religious life, especially in the priestly life, there can be no excuse for knowing the Bible less than some kind of other science or field of study that we might have been engaged in. This is not to say, of course, that once we have gotten into history, historical criticism and textual criticism and all sorts of, all of the details of biblical scholarship, that's all there is to it. No, of course not. Because, as I'm trying to say and trying to explain, the Bible is a living Word and should come to life, spring to life in us and in our own relationship with it.


Is there any question at this point? Yes. The etymology of the word Bible. Okay. Good. That's a good question. It's just right to the point. The Bible ultimately comes from a Semitic word, the name of a town called Byblos, which is somewhere up in Lebanon, modern-day Lebanon, up in that part of the country, where writing as we know it was invented. And so the writing of books, the system of making the letters of the alphabet and all of that, came from there. The Phoenicians were a great seafaring people and their great activity was commerce.


They were a mercantile type of society. And they found it very useful to have a way of writing down, putting down on paper, a lot of different languages. One possibility is to use what they call ideograms, little pictures of the ideas, so you don't know how the word is pronounced. But they also wanted to know how the word was pronounced in all these different languages. So they have one system of writing which gives you some 20 sounds, especially the consonants. Everything from B to Z without A, E, I, O, U, those are consonants. Everything but A, E, I, O, U and Y and W sometimes. So it gives you these basic sounds so that you could maybe more or less write down names and places and different orders. Someone wants so many sheepskins, okay, so you write that down.


They say it in their language, you write it down in their language, you get someone to translate it right down in Phoenician. So then you got the order, you go back and it's time to bring the hundred sheepskins or whatever, fleeces or whatever. So they had a very practical origin and then of course it began to be picked up all over the world. And the Phoenician writing influenced the writing in India. And India of course was one of the first countries to pounce on writing, which was very important because of the difficulty of maintaining their vast literature by purely mnemonic, that is memory, culture. Although mnemonic culture is very accurate in preserving texts, this is in parenthesis, you're less likely to garble a text by memorizing it and then passing it on from mouth to ear, teaching your student to memorize it also. You're less likely to mess up the text than you are by copying it out, even if you have the original in front of your eyes and you copy it out.


It's fantastic how many mistakes you make. Our own father David, he writes books by hand. And he says, you know, his own experience, he makes all the mistakes that you learn about in biblical studies, you know, how the ancient scribes, all the kinds of mistakes they make, you know. They're just mechanisms of the brain and the eye and the hand and so forth. But there was a real practical need for writing and a kind of writing that could be adapted in a lot of different languages. So, for instance, all of our modern alphabets that we use here in the West, in Europe and America, come from the original Phoenician script with variations. So the three main writings of the European culture, the Roman alphabet, which we use in English, the Greek alphabet, which is used in Greek, and the Cyrillic, the so-called Cyrillic script, which is used in Russian, Bulgarian, and some of the other Slavic languages.


But they are interrelated. Of course, as you well know, a lot of the letters are similar and some are different. Anyway, but they all derive from this. Now, Biblos, the name of a town. So, they started calling anything written, they gave it the name of the town that it came from. It's a written, something written. And that's a book. And so, in Greek, it's το βιβλίον, το βιβλίον, βιβλίον. And then, βιβλίον. And then the plural is τα βιβλία. That's plural, τα βιβλία, the books. And then they took this plural for a feminine singular, and in Latin, it's βιβλία. Βιβλία, feminine, singular. But really, the origins of it is a plural. So, this is something that's important also to remember. The Bible is a book, but it's also books.


It is one, and yet it is many. And this has a theological dimension to it. Theological dimension. It is one because one is the God who inspired it. All of these books of the Bible are inspired by the same God who created the universe. And who has, and had from all eternity, a plan of salvation for the human race. A plan of glorification and deification for our poor humanity. So, it is one book, and one story, and one teaching, and one word. And yet at the same time, it's many, many books. And even within a single book of the Bible, you know, you have a multitude often of expressions, and even of authors. The pluralism of the Bible, the multiplicity of what we have in the Bible, is important. Very important for us.


Because you can never understand the Bible unless you take into consideration what is going on on this particular page, or in this particular chapter, or in this particular book. And what was the author really aiming at? That particular man, or those particular people who received that inspiration to write that book of the Bible, that part of the Bible. And also remember that authorship in ancient times was not as individualistic as it was, as it is in our own time. You know, like someone, let's say an author, a novelist, or Kurt Vonnegut, or someone, you know, writes a novel. And it's his novel, and no one better, you know, better use a page from his novel in another book, without putting a footnote there, or giving acknowledgments before and forward, or something like that. You know, because it's his, it's all his. Whereas no one had that idea in ancient times.


It was a much more communitarian concept of writing and authorship. And it would very often be in a back and forth type of exchange, you know, that wisdom would be developed, and that the word would come forth and then achieve its form. And inspiration thus followed this whole pattern, you know. The inspiration of the inspired writers, inspired authors of Holy Scripture, was not some kind of mysterious force that moved the pen across the parchment, but that moved the hearts and the minds and the thoughts and the voices of many, many people who would sing their story and hand down this great story of God's love for humankind throughout history,


this great family story, which is the story of God's familiarity with our human situation. And another thing, the Bible is a book, it's many books, but it's not a book. What does the expression, to throw the book at someone, mean? Everyone has seen some episode of Kojak, maybe, or some other police type of TV show. Yeah, it means, and Kojak, you know, he's got this suspect in his office and calls him on his subordinates, lock him up and throw the book at him, committed all the crime, just throw the whole book at him, you know. That's one thing you don't do with the Bible. God did not throw the book at us. Also because the Bible is not legalistic law in this sense,


even though there's laws and there's rules and regulations, but it never had this type of characteristic that the book, that is, the penal code in a modern society, America, the state of California, whatever, you know. So you can't throw this book at people, and you can't, and God did not throw it at us. There is a certain sense, and St. Paul plays on this, in which the Bible is also a kind of an accusation, almost a kind of a threat sometimes. This is a reflection upon our fallen state, you know. This is the way we react to it and the way we receive, but not the way God gives, and his intention in giving us this word. But even more, the Bible is not a book in the sense of words, either on a page or in somebody's mouth.


The Bible is a song. If you want really to boil it down to one pithy statement, the Bible is a song. And in fact, much of the Bible, I mean almost all of the Bible, was meant to be sung, music, you know, singing, the bard, you know, with his harp, and that sort of thing, King David and all. The Bible is, for the most part, a collection of liturgical texts, for the old covenant and also for the new. This is true even to a great extent of, for instance, the letters of St. Paul. They weren't letters, you know, the way we write to our mothers or someone, you know, just write a letter and say, I'm fine, how are you, you know, or other things like that. And this is what happened yesterday. But they are meant to be proclaimed and they are telling, they're also answering questions and they're also down to earth and they can be very concrete and even very occasional, like the letter of Paul to Philemon, just for one little itsy-bitsy problem, you know,


that there was this slave, a ran away slave, you know, he ended up with Paul, now he's got to go back. And so that Philemon doesn't whip him, you know, when he gets back there, that Paul sends this letter along and says, he's become a Christian, so you treat him nice. So it's, you know, just a very direct and very in particular type of thing. But even so, even those that were not so liturgical in their literary form, almost immediately became a liturgical text, something that was proclaimed. Ancient people did not have our way of speaking and the spoken voice, this kind of atonal moan, you know, which comes out of our modern mouths. And because we're such a brainy concept, rationalistic culture, was not the way they would pronounce their language.


Really Greek, as it must have been spoken in ancient times, would almost have that kind of sing-songy quality, even not to a great extent, sing-songy quality which sounds so weird to us in Chinese, where the musical tone is essential to the meaning. Because you can say one word and depending on what tone you give it, you know, whether it's going up or going down or going over, it will have very, very different meanings. And something that can be perfectly appropriate can be obscene if you use it on the wrong tone, the wrong note. Greek is not so much like that. But all of the language of humanity up until, you know, things started to get much more rationalistic in the West, the language of humanity always tended to immediately move out into musicality. And so any kind of public proclamation, any reading of a text,


would almost, first of all, naturally go into a kind of a musical tone, a kind of a psalm tone type of thing, you know, a chant, just because of the nature of the way they dealt with language and also because of the need to... the fact they didn't have microphones and amplifiers and loudspeakers to make the voice carry more. The singing voice carries more than what we call the speaking voice or this kind of unnaturally depressed voice. Especially we, who are speakers of American English, tend to force the tone of our speaking voice lower than would be natural for our vocal cords. That's something that's thought about sometimes. But anyway, I don't know why. So that's another thing that can maybe help us to relate to the Bible in a rather different way than would normally be if we were just, you know, picking up a book and reading it.


And to help us to understand how very different it is from what we usually call a book. One other thing. You know what Muhammad called us, the Quran called us, and the Jews, and the Zoroastrians also to a certain extent. He calls us people of the book. And he says, treat them nice. They don't have the true word, but they're people of the book. So you've got to go easy on them. And in fact, at least in the early centuries of Islam, when it invaded the Christian territories, they were very tolerant of Jews and of Christians many times. Sometimes they were totally opposite, just killed a lot of Christians. But, I mean, as a matter of at least expressed policy,


they're supposed to be tolerant of the people of the book. But that's wrong. We are not a people of the book. Even if the Jews might be considered a people of the book, although there again I wouldn't consider them so, at least not the people of the Old Testament. And many modern Jews would reject that. Some of them would accept it and say, yes, we are the people of the book. This is our book, what we call in the Old Testament, the Hebrew canon. This is our book, and we are the people of this book, which means people of this history and of this family story. But anyway, we are not the people of the book, which is not to say that we do not need this book very much. There's a whole dialectic going on here. It's something that you can theologize about a great deal without really coming down to a necessarily clear answer to it. And this is one of those areas in which the Church deliberately


leaves a considerable leeway in the theological understanding. The relationship between the Bible, what we call the Bible, the book, these books, you know, and Catholic doctrine. Is it all there, or is it not all there? Is what we call tradition, that is everything outside the Bible, which is not really a good way of speaking, because tradition is not outside the Bible, and the Bible is not outside tradition. They're inseparable, but just let us say that as if outside. Does this mean some is in the Bible, and then there are other things, very specific doctrines which are contained in the Bible, and very specific doctrines contained outside the Bible. And the Church does not give us any answer on that. So, unless you're going into the theological problem and developing the whole question in great detail, just accept the fact that you're not going to get any answer


if you ask me, if you ask the Pope, you know. One expression which I like very much, which was used by Pope Paul VI, the subject came up during the Second Vatican Council, and said, well, let's define this, and let's make a dogma out of this. And so the real gung-ho said, well, we've got to define here. No, let's not define. And many of the bishops, of course, most of the bishops, a great majority of them, were against making any kind of definition here. And Pope Paul VI stated, you know, use this expression, the Holy Scriptures are the source of our doctrine, but they do not give us the full certitude of what we believe. This is, in a way, kind of a little hazy as a phrase, you know. What exactly does it mean? And it's purposely so. But he's just trying to make us relax about the question and not worry too much about it. So it's perfectly Catholic to say it is all here.


And some of it is explicit, and some of it's implicit. And this is also something that is kind of hard for us to get into, but it can be related in a very, very rough way to what we call the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. This is a kind of a comparison which I like to use. I've not read it elsewhere, but it's kind of helpful, I think, to shed some light because we don't know what explicit and implicit really means in a theological sense. So look at it this way. The whole meaning of my existence as a person is not only what I have on top of my brain, what I think consciously, what I say, but also all of the unconscious reactions, the repressed memories, a lot of feelings which do not come out of... And my dreams. My dreams. And dreams are a very important part of human existence.


Why do we sleep so long? Well, some people say, and some doctors and some scientists say, the real purpose of sleeping is in order to dream. It's not because we need the rest so much. We need to dream. This would connect very much with the biblical concept of man. Man is a dreamer. Joseph, in the book of Genesis, he is that dreamer, used in a pejorative sense by his brothers. So you might say that the Bible says a lot of things and dreams some of them in Catholic doctrine. And then the Church gives us the full certitude of all of our doctrine. But the Church does not come out and say, this particular doctrine does not contain Holy Scripture. It may be there. And certainly we get our global total faith, and that's what we always need to be looking for.


This total global sense of the faith, without fragmenting it too much. Try to grasp this total cohesiveness of God's plan of love for humanity. To build this, and this is our formation really, to build this global, total, all-embracing comprehension. The details may not be terribly clear to you, but you have this general grasp of it. Same with Scripture. So you can continue just going deeper and deeper and deeper into Scripture. But what you need always is this overview. The same Bible history and the Old Testament. Any other questions? I think it's significant in this connection that in the liturgy, we never say, for example, the gospel of St. Mark, we always say the gospel according to Mark. Because really there's only one gospel.


That's the whole good news about the Lord is our salvation. Good. That's a good example. And it teaches us two things. Why did the Church keep these four different stories about Jesus? And they really don't fit together all that well. There are some problems there. Intellectual difficulties. A million of them doesn't make one single doubt. But to be honest, there are difficulties which are raised by the differences of what is said in one gospel in comparison to what is said in another. About Jesus, about the very words of Jesus, they're not identical from one to the other. And you just can't fall back in saying that, well, he said it that way one time, said it the other way another time. No, it's not the answer. It's not the Catholic answer, because it's not an intelligent answer. It doesn't respond to the facts. Why did the Church keep these? I mean, it could very well have been done this way, you know. The pope or someone, you know, the bishop got together in a council or something and say, well, we've got to pull the loose ends together. There will be one gospel, one story from start to finish.


These are the words of Jesus, period. No. And that is a sign to us. It is a teaching of the things. Just the fact there is one, two, three, four, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. This very plurality of the four. But it's according to the facts. According to the facts. Book of Exodus, chapter 1, verses 8 to 22. Now there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply. And if war befall us, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.


Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. And they built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom, Ramses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied. And the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they made the people of Israel serve with rigor and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they made them serve with rigor. Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Huah. When you serve as midwives to the Hebrew women and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him. But if it is a daughter, she shall live. But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them,


but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, Why have you done this and let the male children live? The midwives said to Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and are delivered before the midwife comes to them. So God dealt well with the midwives and the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live. So this brings us to the end of chapter one. Now, last time was just kind of a general introduction to Holy Scripture


and a number of different questions. A lot of it was elementary and for some of you it was most likely not really terribly necessary, but just a repetition of something you've already read or heard of or were taught. And we'll also touch on some basic points today because we simply need to have all things tied up before we actually get into commenting on the book of Exodus. Now, the thing that I'm insisting on, what I'm underlining here, and I've kind of given a kind of title to this whole thing, The Exodus of the People of God, the idea is this, that the Exodus is a constant reality in the life of the people of God. It's real on one level and the Old Testament goes right through the whole Old Testament.


Even when it's not referred to and not even thought of a great deal, especially in the wisdom literature, it still gives the real key to understanding the whole thrust of Israel's religious life. And then it takes on a new meaning for us through Jesus. So, the Exodus is still a reality, but it's not the old Exodus anymore. It's something new, something entirely new. And yet something that is impossible to understand unless we are connected with that old Exodus. Because it's the same God who operated in these two moments of history, operated the before and the after, which means he's still going on, and the Exodus is still going on. So that it's something that happens to the people of God. And that, of course, we know is virtually the whole of humanity. The New Covenant is the promise that this is to include all of humanity,


virtually all of humanity. Whether statistically is another question, but God did not reveal statistics. He revealed his holy saving will and the universality of his message. So, we have a theme that can enable us to tie together the whole Bible. Now, it's not really we who are tying together the whole Bible. It's a process that can be seen even in the composition of the book of Exodus. Because the book of Exodus actually ties together many different strands. And the whole first part of the Old Testament, what is usually called the Pentateuch, plus the other historical books, all of this is a kind of a tapestry woven from separate strands, which can be kind of analyzed, in which biblical scholars and critical scholars do analyze, and they try to indicate the provenance of these various sources.


In other words, where they come from, what kind of situation they grew out of, and what questions they are trying to answer. So, this process was involved in the writing of the book of Exodus itself. So, before this book of Exodus became a book, became a scroll, became a self-contained unit, a literary unit, there's a whole process of converging strands. And at the same time, we have also a kind of a parallel movement, which continues throughout the Old Testament, of re-reading and re-interpreting the Exodus theme, the Exodus event, and the book of Exodus itself, the literary text we have before us. And this is something we want to learn. We want to get into the Bible


by getting into this dynamic of re-interpretation, of re-reading, of retelling the same story in different ways. So, the book of Exodus is already a retelling of a story well-known, and recounted in different ways. And then from the book of Exodus, alongside and after it, and especially as we draw near to the New Testament, we find continual re-interpretations of the book of Exodus. And then in the New Testament, the Exodus theme emerges, and is restated in the light of what happened in Jesus Christ. And that is seen as the reality of which the whole Old Testament story was a foreshadowing. So you have the passage from shadows to reality. That's the title of a book by Jean Danielou, which can be useful reading for anyone who wants to read it.


And then this continues on through the Church. So you have the whole patristic tradition of interpreting and re-reading the Holy Scriptures. It is impossible to read the Holy Scriptures without re-reading them. The Scriptures are the book of the Church, and one of the things that this means is that it must be brought into actuality, and it must be interpreted and re-interpreted according to different moments of God's Savior's history. Or to put it more precisely, using the language of the Fathers, there can be no understanding of Scripture without the understanding of its spiritual meaning. And this, of course, does not eliminate the need of the scientific study of Scripture. Exegesis. This does not eliminate the need,


which is a need we all have in varying degrees according to our gifts, our intellectual gifts, and according to what we're going to be doing with our knowledge of the Bible. But on the one hand, we cannot eliminate the historical and what they call the literal meaning, although this is perhaps a little deceiving, because there's no... What would you say is the literal meaning of a poem, in other words? Because we're dealing with something that is poetic and something that is even musical in many respects. Even the drier parts, like lists of names and that sort of thing, there's something poetical about it, and therefore we're not dealing with something that can be understood with simply a literal meaning, because that's not the way it was written in the first place. It was written to communicate different levels of meanings and to transmit a vaster world of meaning through what is being said there explicitly.


So we're not doing anything funny with the Bible when we are rereading it in the course of salvation history, because that's what the Bible did, that's what St. Paul did with the Old Testament, with the Gospels and the Apocalypse and all, and the Fathers simply continue this on. St. Gregory the Great has a few passages, a few sayings, where he's really very radical about it and says that the New Testament is not finished. This doesn't mean we're going to add other books to the New Testament, but it means that the meaning of the New Testament, its content and our understanding of it, is continually growing. It's growing personally and it's growing on a community level. And that's one of the ways in which we understand that the Bible is the book of the Church. And remember what I said the last time, the Church is not the people of the book.


That's what the Moslems think about it. But that's an incorrect assessment of Christianity. It's not a religion of the book. It's a religion of life, they call it. The New Testament itself is called the Way or the Life. And that, of course, is concretized by St. John in the reply of Jesus to Thomas in Isaiah, the Way, the Truth and the Life. So Christianity, before anything else, is a sacramental religion. And over and beyond that, or behind that and under that, and the whole basis for that is, of course, the sacrament of God's encounter with humanity, which is, who is, Jesus Christ. So the personal incarnation of the Word is the real content of Christianity.


And, of course, the revelation of the Holy Trinity is the reality that comes from that. And this same reality is communicated to us in a whole sacramental process of communication. And that's where our problem is, because we have a non-sacramental worldview, all of us, in our brains, in our minds. And it will take a great deal of struggle for us. What part of the asceticism of the spiritual life, I believe, is simply this mental asceticism, this purification of our mind, of the excessive rationalization and conceptualization and the insistence on the empirical, what the senses tell us and what we can reason out from all of this. We have to be purified from this. And this is painful in many ways, because we are being taken out of what is our culture and what we have all been growing up with and what is taught us in school.


And we have to get back to a sacramental worldview if we're going to understand the Bible or understand really Christianity. A simpler person with less intellectual pretensions is better off in this case, because basically such a person would tend to be more malleable to the influence of God's grace and the Holy Spirit and therefore kind of instinctively reach through the problem of the kind of rationalistic and technical and technological culture which is ours and arrive at, by way of groping or instinctively, to a comprehension which then, you know, if there's this personal cooperation with God's grace, of course, is translated as a lack of holiness. So it's not that there's a real barrier there, but this is one of the things which we must consciously work with, because we're trying to illumine our lives


with a deeper understanding of Scripture as monks and as part of our vocation. And hopefully also, by getting into this and penetrating into this worldview, then we'll be able, this sacramental worldview, which is the worldview of the Bible and the Fathers, we will be able to communicate that in some way to others, each of us according to the variety of gifts and charisms, certainly as a community, as a monastic presence. This is communicated in so many ways, non-verbal and subliminal ways, that one of the helps, I'm getting a little off the track, but just in parentheses, this is something that I might be coming back to, one of the helps in this passage from a rationalistic, conceptualistic, mechanistic, technical worldview to the sacramental worldview,


which is that of the Bible and the Fathers, is often through what is sometimes called the earth culture, but let us say in general, sensitivity to nature, and that's part of the monastic ethos, and that's an element which is present also in American culture, you know, you go back to Thoreau, but even in our own day. And this can help us, it is not the thing, in other words you cannot identify the sacramental worldview with this awareness of nature, awareness of the earth, awareness of the whole cosmos, and that sort of thing, but this can help us, because it's closer to that. Yes, you had a question. Would you suggest that it would be a good idea besides the Christian literature, to turn to a new medium, a new kind of form of Jewish literature,


and understand what the world is like, what made it a very hard thing for the Pope to do? Yes, although I would suggest that there is already a whole current of Jewish literature in the Old Testament. In fact, I'm going to suggest something about this this morning. I'll just show you a few examples of what happens here, already in the Old Testament, and then there's the whole Jewish tradition, oral tradition, the rabbinic tradition, which precedes the New Testament and goes alongside of it, and continues afterwards, and has many connections with the New Testament itself, and also with the traditions of the fathers. The fathers are often surprisingly in touch with Jewish tradition, even after the New Testament.


So, yes, it can be useful, although, yes, that's very good. Right, right. In other words, here you can follow your own leanings, because everyone is going to have slightly different leanings. It's important also to utilize introductions and commentaries and things which are written from the modern science of Scripture scholarship. Because that's also another way of mediation between what is our worldview, Western scientific, technological, rational worldview, and the worldview of the Bible. In other words, what they're doing, they're operating with the tools given us by our culture, which are not to be cast away, and they're moving into the biblical culture with these. And, of course, believers, Catholics, and committed, more orthodox Protestants,


do this with a great deal of delicacy and respect, so as not to violate the mystery of inspired Scripture. In other words, with the faith in divine inspiration. So, Buber, and other Jewish literature, Rabbi Heckel is another one, and this can help you enter into the Jewish mentality, but also, you know, not only. As far as comments or introductions are concerned, I'm supposing you all have access, or can gain access, to the Jerusalem Bible, the full edition, which has introductions to the Pentateuch, and which has introductions to Exodus, and the other books of the Bible. No, not really.


Not really, because they're basic materials. So, the Jerusalem Bible, it goes back to the late 50s, so you're at a plateau of scholarship, which has really not been, you know, they have not gone much beyond this. Well, no, they were already into that, when the Jerusalem Bible commentaries and introductions were written, so they take that into consideration. One thing that is coming out just now are the discoveries around Ebla, which is a totally, hardly known prehistoric culture, which throws a lot of amazing lights on the Old Testament already, you know. But this is going to take, you know, a couple of decades, just to gather together and sift through the enormous mass of material. They found a whole library. The tablets.


It's an incredible discovery. It was made by an Italian scholar. Well, it's in the Mesopotamian area. Don't ask me more in detail, but, you know, Tigris and Euphrates in modern Iraq. So, oh, that goes back to around 4000 BC, something like that. Way, way, way, way back, you know. 2000 years before Abraham. And there are a lot of things that suggest, you know, points of contact with the origins of the biblical stories that come out in Genesis. For instance, there's a guy there, a zoologist in Ebla, who made a catalog of all of the animals. And guess what his name was? Adam. So, you get the story about Adam naming the animals, you know. So, I mean, this is not to... I hope I'm not shattering someone's fond concepts of the Bible.


This is natural. It helps us understand the way the biblical people composed stories. Because they took something they knew, and they projected this back in the dawn time. Because, at least for Hebrews, they believed the same God, you know, was operating then, as now. The same God that was in more recent history, was already operating at the dawn of history. And in the creation, indeed. So, the creation story, and Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, and so forth, and even Abraham. All of this comes from the subsequent experience that is then projected upon very vague reminiscences, and these are developed, and so forth. There's a whole process of composition, and it's very complicated to go into. So, there are modern discoveries which are continually amplifying our understanding of the Bible.


And they always... You see, now that we've come to terms with this careful distinction between what natural science can tell us about the process of formation of the earth, and of the species of animals, and the human race, and so forth. That's one truth, and one aspect of truth, and the biblical truth. Since we've come to an understanding, we know that the biblical authors were not dealing with the concerns of modern science. Therefore, we can quite freely absorb these new insights. And in this understanding of the real intentions of the biblical authors, we find continually, I mean, these discoveries continually corroborate and confirm the basic biblical story. Every new discovery seems to give us a firmer basis for the biblical story, and often in surprising details.


In other words, the fact that there was a guy named Adam back in Ebla, so he wasn't the father of the human race, he wasn't. But this idea of someone who names all the animals is an enlightening thing that tells us something about humanity as such, about God's mediation of his lordship over creation through man. And therefore this, being the intention of the biblical author to teach this, projected it back to the dawn of the human race. To affirm that God is Lord of his creatures, and this lordship is mediated through the mind of man. This great mind that God gave to his human creature, which raises the human creature then to another level, above the other beings.


Let's see now. David, I think you had a question there. Have I gone beyond it, or did you forget it? I don't know. You told me about your first experience of a carpet house. He was very impressed with it. He made a distinction between that and what he came from. He made a distinction between that and what he came from.


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