The One Author

Once one acknowledges the divine author of all of Scripture and of each of its individual books, faith and theological thinking have to supplement more conventional historical, linguistic, and grammatical approaches toward understanding the words and meanings of the biblical text. Acknowledgement of God as the Bible’s primary author moves Catholic and other religiously motivated biblical scholars beyond the criteria and interpretive practices of their fellow biblical practitioners in academic guilds, meetings, and educational institutions, even in seminaries and schools of theology. Academic interpretation and exegesis tends to focus almost exclusively on individual human biblical authors and writings, or often even on stages within biblical writings.

That focus considers almost exclusively the diversity within the many books of Scripture and is unable to articulate what unity there might be among the numerous authors and writings in the Bible. Historical criticism routinely and a priori excludes consideration of God as biblical author. Doing so also prevents recognition of Scripture as God’s word and revelation. If Scripture is not regarded as the word and revelation of God, its primary author, ascertaining the Bible’s unity becomes almost impossible. Meaningful unity of Scripture can be recognized only if one believes that the Bible has one ultimate divine author revealing his word and message of salvation. Without reflection on the one divine author, it is hard to demonstrate any significant sense of biblical unity.

Fr William S. Kurz, SJ. Reading the Bible as God’s Own Story: A Catholic Approach for Bringing Scripture to Life. The Word Among Us Press, 2007. page 39.

Fr Kurz touches on a subject that I’ve covered in several posts on this blog, that of the failure of historical criticism and other modern exegetical frameworks alone to adequately comprehend the Bible. Without the recognition that God exists and has taken a hand in guiding history, including the writing of this Book of Books, one is neither going to gain nor appreciate the worldview that accomplished the prophetic authoring of its individual elements and the collection of these documents into the Bible, a collection that belies not just a recognition of mere compatibility, but indeed the recognition of a particular unity between these books which seem so disparate and even incompatible according to various modern misguided interpretive frameworks. This is not even remotely to be considerd a rejection of the realia of various fields like history, philology, textual criticism, archaeology, and other fields which contribute to our understanding of the Bible as the product of particular times and places. While not precisely objective in theory, such fields need not be in their conclusions subjective to the point of idiosyncrasy, as they often have been in the past. This is to emphasize the missing dimension, the recognition of the “God Who acts” as G. Ernest Wright put it so long ago. In this respect, I disagree with the order of influence discussed by Kurz, above, that “faith and theological thinking have to supplement more conventional historical, linguistic, and grammatical approaches.” It is rather the case that a solid theological and faithful understanding and reading should be supplemented by history, philology, textual criticism, archaeology, etc. Long before any of those fields existed, the faithful approach to Scripture, sharing its worldview, produced both saints and scholars in abundance. That’s more than enough reason to work toward initiating and implementing a new approach to the Bible which avoids the pitfalls present in both pre-critical and critical approaches to Scripture.

2 Replies to “The One Author”

  1. I like very much your approach here. The question is one of epistemology. Kant, and those after him, were concerned that religion be confined, epistemologically, to the realm of reason.

    That did not worked out very well. Religion suffered, and so did reason.

    Nicholas Wolterstorff, who now teaches at Yale, wrote a persuasive pamphlet in response to Kant. Wolterstorff entitled it: “Reason within the Bounds of Religion.”

    However, the question remains: can religion allow itself to be subjected to a critique from an external source? I think it can, actually. If so, that means reason may serve religion both from within and without.

    Religion, insofar its object truly is supreme being and supreme goodness, is in a position to accept the critique of reason and appropriate it for ends of its own.

  2. That’s still too much of a separation, I think. We need to stop thinking of a religious-secular or religious-rational dichotomy altogether. Such didn’t exist for the ancients. In their amazingly pragmatic realism they recognized their world was one piece, and we should recognize that ours is as well, unless we want to claim that this is truly a different world, that our rationalistic fulminations have changed it, rather than that we have allowed ourselves to grow blind to the numinous. Miracles still happen, mysterious oddities still happen, demons still posess, angels still save: the supernatural is truly only natural. We can sideshow these, quirkify them, dismiss them, even schizoidally reject them as unreal, but they’re all still there, as is the daunting, frightening, overpowering encounter with That Stll, Small Voice.

    And yet, in every Divine Liturgy I participate in “this rational and bloodless sacrifice” (την λογικην ταυτην και αναιμακτον λατρειαν), which shows the place of true reason: in the worship of God. Recognition of the Divine is the first sign of rationality, in this sense. All else is irrational. There can be no compromise or admixture. And that particular irrationality, lout-touted as rationality, can have nothing to do with reality, as it insists on divorcing itself from the true Basis of reality, the Everliving God. The Tetragrammaton says to us “He is” and yet many would turn this Name, a sentence in itself as recognizable as “I am,” simply into a sound, avoiding this piece of Self-revelation and the eternity inherent in its simple statement in order to label the only God as though there were others He needs to be distinguished from. Wonders will never cease, but wonderlessness will.

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