Scripture and Tradition

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As I was just saying, in these four lectures, I'm really trying to focus each time, as far as it's possible to do that, on one aspect of what is a very complex subject, which must necessarily remain, I think, a permanent matter for reflection of every believing Christian. I shall hope to notice today how, in fact, we can gather some examples of how this complexity has been increasingly recognized by non-Catholic Christians, as you probably will know, even if you know very little church history, one of the basic reformation problems was the conviction of many people who eventually left the church that Scripture itself was an insufficient ground for their faith. Catholics, in any case, have, I think, a special obligation of conscience to be aware of the issues involved, particularly on account of the fact that at the very time when the modern world was, as it were, coming to birth, the Council of Trent felt compelled to make


a dogmatic statement on Scripture and tradition, which, whether interpreted in the sense the Council intended or not, has inevitably been influential in shaping theological views on this subject within the Catholic Church, at least until the Second Vatican Council, when, of course, the discussion on these matters was very widely reopened. The result of these discussions in the very early days of the Council led to a decision by a two-thirds majority to avoid speaking of two sources of revelation. And when the dogmatic majority, when the dogmatic constitution on divine revelation, Dei Verbum, was signed by Pope Paul VI on 18th of November 1965, it both avoided expressing any reserves on what Trent had said and succeeded, I think, in finding a rather new approach with formulas


which I believe opened the way to a larger, more defensible view of tradition within the life of the Church. Indeed, it seems to me entirely natural that Father Robert Mbelli, a priest who was young seminarian in Rome at the time when the Council opened, should, in an article in Commonweal on Vatican II twenty years later, particularly cite this document to illustrate his view that the major theological achievement of that Council was the recovery of tradition. I should be inclined to feel the same, but I shall deeply disappoint you if you are expecting me, either today or in any of these three lectures, to do something other than what Trent or Vatican II did, namely to define, in so many words, exactly what tradition is. For, as I shall hope slowly to show as we go on, I do not think this notion is susceptible to that kind of treatment. Like life, as opposed to death, it escapes the limitations of concepts which are nevertheless


useful in drawing our attention to a phenomenon that is really a fact of experience. If we are to get close to it together, we should all have to take care to rid our minds of too many preconceptions and be prepared to let in some fresh air. Today, I want us to begin to feel our way into the situation which necessarily arises, whether for the theologian or the ordinary thinking Christian, when asked to give an account of what the Scripture means to them and why. The more I wondered about the best vantage point from which to approach this question for us today, the more forcibly was I struck by the interest of the opening of Book 3 of the large second-century works and ironies against heresies. The need to answer for our faith is often the occasion for our deepening of our understanding of it, and the situation for ironies is suddenly by no means so remote from us as it might have seemed some fifty years ago. It is not, of course, necessary to be especially interested in the spiritual visions of reality


concocted in the Hellenistic empire of ironies his day, to be aware that, with the steady erosion of conventional Christian belief, similar visions and doctrines, compounded from the Christian Scriptures and other holy writings, are being worked out in the world around us, and may perhaps even prove to be tempting to those who would like to continue to call themselves Christians and even Catholics. In trying to disillusion people taken in by such things, Irenaeus, living at a time when there was still no quite final agreement about the Scriptures of the New Testament, found he was confronted by a two-fold problem. I think it's important to see there are two kinds of problems he's dealing with here. It's not enough for him to refute the schemes of these people on the basis of the writings he could recognize. He had also to be able to defend the authenticity of those writings, and the general lines of his explanations of them. It is the beginning of book three of the work Against Heresies that Irenaeus consciously


sets about his talks, and this is how he does it. The Lord of all things gave his apostles the power of the gospel. I translate quite literally what the Greek is, the power of the gospel. By them have we known the truth, that is to say the teaching of the Son of God. To them the Lord also said, He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me and him who sent me. For it is not by other people than those through whom the gospel came to us that we've learned of the plan of our salvation. This gospel they first preached, but afterwards by the will of God they gave it to us in writings that it might be a foundation and pillar of our faith. Notice incidentally the subject of the last phrase is it, the preaching of the gospel, and not the scriptures themselves, might be the foundation and pillar of our faith. Notice that it's primarily to the gospel as preached that Irenaeus appeals, and in fact


he goes on to insist that as the result of the gift of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, it was this gospel in its fullness that each of the apostles possessed, alike and individually possessing the gospel of God. It's a very broad concept, I think we should find ourselves coming back to it again and again as we're thinking about these things in these four lectures. It's never, I believe, superfluous to repeat these things, bound as we often are by texts, although it's quite clear that Irenaeus is careful and concerned about texts, both his own and those of others. He's interested in what they say, but he realizes that this cannot always be conclusive. And he realizes this partly because of what the heretics themselves say, for as he says, when they are refuted out of the scriptures, they are driven to criticism of the scriptures themselves, as though they had not got things right or had any authority. And because their language is ambiguous, and on that basis the truth cannot be discovered


by those who do not know the tradition. Am I talking too fast for anybody? Good. On that word, the word paradosis in Greek, the tradition, traditio ignatiae, meaning the hand on of something or handing over of it, and hence something transmitted. With this we come, I think, to an important watershed between Irenaeus and the heretics. For they claim that it is not by writings that the truth is transmitted, but by word of mouth, and they even appeal to that wisdom of which Paul speaks in his first letter to the Corinthians. And so, as Irenaeus says, each of them says he's found this wisdom for himself. This is of course the essence of the case for every man his own pope, every man his own exegete. And it goes on being so. But when in turn we appeal to that tradition, and which is Irenaeus again, when in turn


we appeal to that tradition which comes from the apostles and is kept by the succession of presbyters in the churches, they oppose this tradition, saying that they have not only wiser presbyters, but even apostles who have found the genuine truth. And we shall not miss the last bit of this phrase, for the apostles have mixed up the requirements of the law with the words of the saviour. I think these passages not only take us back to a period when the word gospel calls up first and foremost the good news which is preached and handed on, although Irenaeus, in a passage I didn't quote, speaks of the four written gospels, which will definitively come to be regarded as canonical. But the first thought is of the gospel as preached as one thing. This is not only do they force us to remember this, which must be brought in our minds I think all the time, they also invite us to go one step further back into the time before


the written gospels, for on the serious evidence as we have it, and particularly as we see it in what comes to be accepted as the canonical New Testament, there can't be any serious doubt that an appeal to what the Irenaeus' heretics knew, as being referred to as law, namely the Old Testament, was certainly a feature and not a contamination of the apostolic teaching. It is of course what scripture meant to the very first generation of Christians, for there was no other scripture as yet, which could conceivably have been put, as Irenaeus would clearly need to put it, on the same level as the Old Testament. So in fact I suppose what the heretics were saying was, in fact were pointing to a situation was inevitably the Christian situation to begin with, there was only the Old Testament.


The problems of which we are speaking are not of course private to scholars. I cannot have been the only child, in fact I distinctly remember there were others, to be impressed by the fact that the written gospels appeared to say that Jesus did certain things at certain points to fulfil the scriptures, which did seem a bit of a puzzle, exactly as though his memory were constantly being jogged by some kind of heavenly reference book, you know, like saying it says so and so and I must do this, or that and the other thing. I'm sure lots of children still think that when they hear the gospel read. If challenged, I should probably have said that most of these remarks came from the gospel of Matthew. I suppose because, until the origin of the lecture in any rate, Matthew was decidedly the preferred gospel for liturgical use, and one that we heard in public most often. In point of fact, I find that remarks of this kind are just a head more common in the gospel of John. But to examine all these for our present purposes would evidently, I think, take us very much


too far afield. We should have to have much more time. It's in Paul's important first letter to the Corinthians, which is certainly to be dated earlier than any of the written gospels, perhaps about the year 55 or 56, which will focus our attention more closely on, I think, all these scattered details. At the beginning of chapter 15 of the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preach to you the gospel which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast, unless you believed in vain. Here then is again one gospel, and it's not written. And Paul hands it on to those who receive it. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised


on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Notice here, Paul depicts himself as the recipient and the agent of the tradition, or handing over of the gospel. And before any of the written accounts of the gospel were set down, he insists on one of the distinctive features of this tradition, namely his concern to show how it fulfills certain things in the Jewish Scriptures, which ones, in this particular case, Paul doesn't mention. The Acts of the Apostles at a much later date, perhaps I suppose in 70 or something like that later, will depict Paul as trying to convince his heroes about Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, that's chapter 28, verse 23 of the Acts of the Apostles. It would, I'm certain, be a mistake to think that this was simply and solely that our Lord had been a Jew, and that Christianity was born in a Jewish setting. And that therefore its first debates had to be held with Jews.


The more we look at this kind of text in the New Testament, the clearer it becomes that more is being claimed, and that they answer the objections of the Jews. In what is, to my mind, a fascinating and well-considered book, According to the Scriptures, which is a revision of St. Eccles' Ego of Princeton Theological Seminary in 1952, C.H. Dodd examines some of the Old Testament texts that are habitually cited in the New Testament. He gives his book the subtitle, The Substructure of the New Testament Theology. In stating the problem he's studying, he says that, in its most summary form, the preaching of the Gospel consists of the announcement of certain historical events. The events in question are those of the appearance of Jesus in history. The significance of these events is mainly indicated by references to the Old Testament. And as he goes on to say, it's these texts which give us the substance of what the apostolic preaching is about.


He has, in fact, another book called The Apostolic Preaching, which does study the same problem from a slightly different angle. I'd in particular like to emphasize Dodd's conclusions, which point to the fact that what the apostolic preaching did was to evolve a certain method of biblical study. He made profound reflections on whole passages of what seemed to be regarded as the Jewish Old Testament, to which it was possible to refer by a very few characteristic verses or phrases. In other words, I think, when we're reading on the surface of the New Testament, citation of these verses, we very often got to be prepared to see that what has been referred to is the whole argument as a base, the whole argument of the passage. In fact, I think his analysis, which is very long and very careful in the book, which I can't carry you through, does show this very convincingly. He picks out these texts and shows how, if you fit them into the context, you can really understand very much better what's really going on.


I like particularly Dodd's emphasis on the fact that Paul never made his conversion experience the basis for doctrine, but explicitly based his theology on the proclamation of the gospel as illuminated by the prophecies of the Old Testament. I suppose we should go on to say that there's something more than controversy which is to be found in this New Testament use of the Old Testament, is that the New Testament writers and preachers regard the Old Testament as inspired by God and themselves, at least in certain matters, as having the key to the meaning of these scriptures. This is, to me, an inescapable conclusion which, if we comply it with proper restraint, will continue to be of importance for the understanding of the relation between scripture and tradition as a church understanding. We may not always like the way the Old Testament is used in the New Testament, we may bring the way to provide a scholarship to bear on it, but it always deserves our respect, not only because Luke tells us in the final chapter of his gospel, written perhaps about A.D. 70,


that after his resurrection our Lord, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself, but also because the conviction of this kind can be found in the authentic writings of Paul at a very much earlier date. In other words, these writings are not colluding, they are simply parallel representations of what is a common situation. Thus, in chapter 4 of the Letter to the Romans, talking about the faith of Abraham being reckoned to him as righteousness, Paul will say that the words it was reckoned to him were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. And of course you'll also, lots of you will remember just how in chapter 10 of the First Letter to the Corinthians, when he's talking about the Old Testament experience of Exodus and the rock from which the water was struck, Paul says the rock was Christ, which of course is making a kind of leap which is rather startling until you've taken it in. In other words, the apostolic tradition, insofar as we can find its clear traces,


would appear to assert the continuity of the understanding of divine revelation into New Testament times. It's in this sense that the Old Testament becomes the Church's book, and that even the decision of the Church about what is part of the canon of the Old Testament is different from that of the Jews. For we should, of course, be mistaken in thinking that the Old Testament exists precisely as a settled book at the dates of which we've been speaking in the last few minutes, any more, of course, than the New Testament itself really was. What we're really saying is this, that through Christian eyes the Old Testament does necessarily look a rather different book from the way it looks for the Jews. I'm not, of course, making this a universal proposition, but it clearly is evidently so about a certain bit of major things. I do not think we can suggest a very exact date for the writing of the works which come to be accepted as the canonical books of the New Testament, though perhaps they all have to be regarded as being complete by about the first quarter of the 2nd century.


That's to say, of course, a full generation before the most probable date for the birth of Irenaeus, which might be about 140 or a little bit later, to whom we must, I think, return for just a very few minutes. Though as we do so, as someone who's spent so much time on the study of Scripture, as I have since I was about 16, I think I can honestly say, I'd like to apologise for making as brief a summary as I have of what I believe to be the New Testament situation. I think if any of you read a wider treatment of these things, you will find basically it's almost impossible to deny that the general lines of it are correct, that somehow or other this conception of the Old Testament as being the first Scripture, the one in terms of which this Gospel is founded, is steady there. At least the expression I begin giving you posits no unknown documents which Clever accounts that he's attempted to do. In fact, of course, one of the things Dodd was wanting to do in his book, According to Scriptures, was in fact to state a case much more moderate than that of Randall Harris,


as one of the first people who then began to think, perhaps we ought to view the apostles went round with long lists of suitable texts to quote, which they got written down, which is extremely unlikely, of course, and we have never found any evidence that this was the case. But blocks of information were certainly known as reference points and were being used consistently, not just by one or two, but by all of them. And I think this is one of the matters in which you must be aware, even if you're not trying to follow the broad spectrum of what is going on in biblical scholarship, this is one of the ways in which I think there's a growing convergence of view among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. We've seen a little earlier that Aurelius, as we shall see later in other lectures, for other writers of the earliest times in the early Church, the entire history of the Church, the mark of the authentic faith is its conformity to the faith as preached by the apostles and as subsequently transmitted in written gospels,


of which, incidentally, the passages I've just quoted from the beginning of book three, Against the Hephaestus, these things reveal that Aurelius is aware that the authors are not necessarily themselves apostles. In other words, when he's talking about the appeal of something which is apostolic, he doesn't think he's got to go as far as to claim that the written gospels are actually written by apostles. He thinks that they have to represent and contain what the apostles taught. In other words, there's always the appeal to what the Church knows, and the rejection of the notion that a really contrary view can validly be arrived at by personal reflection and secret insight. I hope that point is clear enough. I think Aurelius is really saying that you can't really know unless you appeal to the experience and the knowledge of the Church, to which, after all, the apostles belong. This is partly because, hand in hand with Aurelius' conviction of the incestive and accredited apostolic tradition


for the right interpretation of the scriptures, is his belief that the New Testament writers are themselves inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is roundly declared by Aurelius in Against the Hephaestus, book three, twenty-one and four. He says, It is one and the same Spirit of God who foretold the coming of the Lord, what and whose coming it could be, and it's also he who, in or through the apostles, declared the arrival of the fullness of time of adoption. Thus, I think we can see in Aurelius, do we have a sense of what the gospel is, which appears, incidentally, to be shared by the New Testament writers, a sense of what the scriptures are, starting, initially, from a standpoint like that of the apostolic preaching itself, and a sense of the connection of these, for their validation when it comes to understanding, with the institutional Church. Not, of course, that this amounts to anything like a purely legal formulation,


as these points could easily be made to sound. A really lapidary statement of this theology, we might well take from Against the Hephaestus, book four, thirty-three, eight, which says, here, of course, I'm always offering you my own translations, I look very carefully at the Latin and the Greek. True spiritual understanding, of course, in Greek, the Latin word is going to be gnosis, inner knowledge. True spiritual understanding is the doctrine of the apostles, the ancient organization of the churches throughout the entire world, the distinctive mark of the body of Christ being the succession of bishops to whom the local church is committed, the keeping of the scriptures that have come down to us without guile, their full study involving neither addition nor subtraction, the reading of them without falsification, legitimate exposition according to the scriptures, careful, without danger or blasphemy, and above all, the gift of love,


which is dearer than understanding, more glorious than prophecy, and far above every other character. This is why, on account of the love it has for God, the church at all times sends a multitude of martyrs ahead of the Father. I know that's a rather long phrase to take in, but you can see all the points he's gathering together here. He's saying that true spiritual understanding, if you're going to claim this, you must be able to show that this is the doctrine of the apostles, that it involves the transmission of this doctrine through the church, through the succession of bishops. He means a deep respect for the scriptures. We're going to see another text later on, before we finish, in which he's talking actually much more about the interpretation of scripture, where he says there can be all kinds of legitimate texts, specifically the word legitimate. At least it must be guileless, it must be something based on real study,


involving neither addition nor subtraction, and should then, of course, be cemented, as it were, by the gift of love. I hope in what we've said up to this point, we have a view of some of the factors which point to the root of the problem of scripture and tradition, namely, that without something written, we could scarcely know what the apostolic tradition was, at least in the verbal formulation, and yet, even within that written tradition, there's the unmistakable conviction that the something which is handed on is not just in the writing, but can only be known when it's lived in communion with a specific way of life. I do not believe that St. Irenaeus or any other father of the church willfully invented this problem. It lies, I think, implicit in the very nature of inspired scripture in itself, and in this matter, also, the collection of this into an accredited canon.


And this is why both the Council of Trent and the Second Vatican Council had to take the problem into account. I make no apology at this point for saying nothing in this lecture about the medieval apprehension of these things. But I think it's more helpful to move straight on to the Council of Trent at this particular moment. I'll try to fill in a little bit of the medieval background as we go on in other lectures. I suppose it's important to remind ourselves that although the upsurge of Protestantism in the late 15th and early 16th centuries made it urgent for the church to think again about a number of things, and perhaps all especially about the matters we are considering today, this was not the only reason why they would have been thought about anyway. A renewed humanistic study of the text of scripture and the fathers for which Erasmus, who was born in 1466, is a characteristic representative, was bound to produce some effect.


Erasmus, who of course remained a Catholic all his life, was in fact the first to edit the Greek New Testament. But of course he was not by any means alone in Europe in these concerns. In England, of course, two of his friends were Thomas More and Archbishop Fisher, and Collet. As Owen Chadwick says in his agreeable little Penguin volume on the Reformation, there was a true sense in which the fight against Protestantism encouraged the reform movement within the Roman Catholic Church, but it didn't create it. When it comes to the Council of Trent, which took so long to meet, owing to the prorogations of both the papacy and the emperor, he is able to quote among the few bishops at the earlier sessions, there were only about 60 of them, it took a very long time, they started with just 20 in 1545, and then slowly more and more came. Chadwick is able to mention Nicianti of Chiochia, who even believed that all things necessary to salvation are contained in scripture,


and protested his right to continue to believe this until the council decided otherwise. So there always had been some people like this within the church. It looks as though the council did try to formulate, in as nuanced a way as possible at the time, its reserves about any position so extreme as to put Holy Scripture as it were on its own. Its decree of 8th April 1546 begins by saying that the council intends that the purity of the gospel itself should be preserved in the church. If I were able to pause, I could point out what a very complex this thing has been, and still continues to be into our own day, of course, what is the purity of the gospel. But the council goes on by saying, seeing that this truth and discipline is contained in written books and unwritten traditions, which received by the apostles from the mouth of Christ himself,


or come down to us as though handed on by the apostles under the dictation of the Holy Spirit, all the books of the Old and New Testaments, as God is their author, and no less the traditions themselves, pertaining both to faith and morals, as coming either from the mouth of Christ or dictated by the Holy Spirit, are continuously kept in the Catholic Church and to be received as dictated by the Holy Spirit. With equal affection and reverence. You will, I hope, notice the number of reserves, which makes it so difficult to read it, of course, and subordinate clauses in this very complicated phrase. And I don't think it's because it was just due to the way it was formulated. We now know, as Owen Chadwick points out, in fact it's really only in our own century this has been properly known, when we have at last got printed reports of what people said during this council, there was considerable divergent view among the bishops of what they ought to say.


It's significant that although the council listed the books of canonical scripture, it refused to list in any way what the traditions of which the priest speaks might be, although some bishops wanted to try to do this. But it obviously intended to insist that whatever these traditions were, they must at least be of apostolic origin. This was the real turning point of the debate, I think, and the real thing would be that those who stuck for saying this, and also refusing to specify what particularly they were, insisted upon because they had somehow or other, although in spite of the complexity of the medieval inheritance, they were perfectly aware what the initial tradition had been. I think that their confusion at this particular point in time is quite understandable. Perhaps we'll say a bit more about it some other time, but it is quite understandable, I think, under the circumstances. They were themselves on the way for a new way of looking at things, a new amount of information and so on, and they were aware of the things they had to be careful about before plunging too far,


and so they were rather confused. For once we could perhaps write to say they couldn't see the wood for the trees. I think we can safely say they could see an awful lot of traditions, but they couldn't see tradition. As Hubert Yedin, the German scholar whose life's work has been devoted to this council, and who is credited with the article on Trent in the New Catholic Encyclopedia says, there is scarcely any doubt that the majority of the council fathers were thinking in terms of material supplement to the sacred scriptures when they proposed the principle of tradition. That's page 272 in the New Catholic Encyclopedia article by Yedin. I see unfortunately we seem to have only got one volume of the two volumes in the work of Yedin on the council of Trent. Somebody perhaps has gone away with the second volume, which is the more interesting. We could, I think, perhaps comment on this remark of Yedin's by saying that if they were doing that under the circumstances of the time, it was partly because, as I've just said, they were thinking about traditions


and had not yet got as far as the principle of tradition in the singular. Though, doubtless, through it all, that was what really concerned them. In other words, I think Yedin doesn't quite formulate as well as it could be formulated. I think really they had in front of their minds the terrible worry, look, we've got all these things that people have been doing for a long, long time. Do they matter? Some of them, of course, some of them did. They were very afraid, some of them would, they might throw out something which was very, very important. But the idea that they should think about what the tradition itself was, is another thing. It is, I think, relevant to note, at this point, how positive writers of our time have been steadily moving away from the scripture-alone view of revelation. I shall give just two examples, one of which I collect for myself from a book on sale in the bookshop here. The introduction to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Creation, Creation and Fall, originally written in 1937, quite a long time ago. Here Bonhoeffer says, the creation story, listen to this,


the creation story should be read in church in the first place only from Christ, and not until then as leading to Christ. We can read towards Christ only if we know that Christ is the beginning, the new and the end of the world. Theological interpretation accepts the Bible as the book of the church and interprets it as such. Its method is this assumption. It continually refers back from the text, which has to be ascertained with methods of theological and historical research, to this supposition. That is the objectivity of the method of theological interpretation. And this objectivity alone is substantiated, it's claimed to be scientific method. Is this really Lutheran writing? At least that bit is entirely acceptable, I think, to a Catholic. I think not quite the opening bit is. Have a look at it all, but it's very, very interesting because no Lutheran in the 16th century would have said anything even remotely like it. And here's another example from several collected by Pierre Conguy


in his book Tradition et la Ville des Lys, which has just been reissued in French, I'm afraid. I think an English translation was made at one point, but it doesn't seem to be available anymore. I've tried to get it and can't seem to find it. He has quoted several people, and one of them, Max Turian of the Protestant Monastery of Taizé, writing in 1961, not so long before the Council, saying, Tradition, then, is a universal and ecumenical reading of Scripture by the Church under the light of the Holy Spirit. Only this ecclesial lecture will lead us into the fullness of the Word of God. True, a theologian, an exegete, an historian may have their individual lights on the interpretation of the text. But these lights are only efficacious if they are situated in the comprehension of the whole Church which the Holy Spirit leads. This implies a necessary insertion of exegesis and theology in tradition. I think to assert this principle,


it was exactly what was really the concern of the Fathers of Trent. They just didn't find a way to do it, I think, to do it satisfactorily, but they were concerned about just making this very point. And perhaps had God rather been more explicitly aware of a text like this, he wouldn't have tried so hard to move in the direction of the definition of Scripture alone, in theory, which is to say, which would be acceptable to a Catholic. In a lecture he delivered in February 1963, now reprinted in Theological Investigations, Volume 6, it's, I think, not a very satisfactory essay. Part of it was in order to make the definition of Scripture alone satisfactory to a Catholic. You've got to drag in so many things, you can hardly hold them all in your head. On the other hand, his hope expressed at the beginning of this talk that the question of Scripture and tradition would be left more open by the Vatican Council, as being still too theologically imprecise, was, of course, in the event fulfilled by the Council.


Since it's my hope that anyone following these talks will read for themselves the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of November 1965, my few comments on it just before we close will necessarily be very selective. Naturally, it's preferable to read the document in Latin, if you can, for that, as most of you will remember, is the text to which we, as Catholics, are bound. And in my experience of the translation of Walter Abbott, it's not being good. It's, I think, more than a personal prejudice, it was suggested to us the translation of the volume by a friend of the Theological Contemporary, Austin Flannery. It is very much better than the other one. And we have got at least one volume, the first volume of it, in the library, in paperback. I'm afraid the volume is in my drawer at the moment, because I shall need it while I'm talking to you, just to help me to see what I'm doing, though I have Latin at my side. The prologue to Vatican II's document on the Divine Word says that for the purpose of the Council,


recalling Trent and Vatican I, to set forth the true doctrine on Divine Revelation and its transmission. I think anyone pondering the whole document would like to think that, in fact, especially Chapter 2 on the transmission of Divine Revelation that marks a real step forward in these matters. We shall, I think, not be imagining if we think that Spiritus and Ironies broods over this document, though he's only quoted, in fact, three times, more than anybody else, specifically, in the course of this document. And all cases, as far as I can see, from Book 3, which I've used here today. I may say, when I chose to use Book 3, I hadn't really looked at that aspect of the document. It is, in fact, Book 3 that's been chiefly used by the Council. To begin with, the Fathers have in mind what Ironies says in 3.3.1, about the transmission of the apostolic tradition


through the bishops, and in that context, in a sense that I've not previously quoted, Ironies does take the occasion to hit rather hard at the heretical, gnostic idea of lots of secrets whispered in corners. For Ironies says that those bishops have not taught and known the sort of things these people rave about. Though, of course, he has. If the Apostle wanted to do anything like that, he would have done it to the bishops. That's Ironies. Speaking, then, of this same episcopal tradition, the Council document says that this sacred tradition, then, and this sacred scripture of both Testaments are like a mirror in which the Church, during its pyrrhic journey here on Earth, contemplates God. Then, in the middle of paragraph 8, it says, the tradition that comes from the Apostles makes progress in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There's a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. It's, of course, something we should note


that tradition is concerned with things and not just with words. What we translate here as realities is a raise. Then, a little further on, we find these important sentences. The sayings of the Holy Fathers are witnesses to the living presence of this tradition, showing how its witness is borne out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer. By means of the same tradition, the full canon of the sacred books is known to the Church and the holy scriptures are more thoroughly understood and constantly actualized in the Church. I suppose the importance of these words can hardly be exaggerated, insofar as they speak of how we get a canon of scripture at all and how we understand when we've got it. That's to say, by means of this same tradition,


the full canon of the sacred books is known to the Church and the holy scriptures are more thoroughly understood and constantly actualized in the Church. And this is the tradition to which the Holy Fathers witness. I think we're not then surprised that it continues in nine. Sacred tradition and sacred scriptures are bound closely together and communicate with one another. And then in ten comes what I personally think was the most important sentence of the whole document, insofar as you get behind, I think, the worries of Trent by affirming the real thing that is solid about their content, when it says, sacred tradition and sacred scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church. By it, the entire people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.


I see I've just taken 45 minutes. As you read this document, you will not, I hope, be surprised that the other three lectures in this series, closing with our conclusions, will be sacred scripture, tradition and the Fathers, sacred scripture and the liturgy, sacred scripture and preaching. May the Lord defend us all from all errors in doctrine and life. Well, do please take just a few minutes. Don't necessarily go out if you don't want to, just a few minutes. But come back if you'd like to ask me anything which you want me to say more about.