Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jesus Freely Gives to Each of us What is Rightfully His.

If we haven’t actually experienced it ourselves, we have all probably heard of that phenomenon that occurs when we are faced with great peril, maybe even to the point of thinking that we may die as a result of whatever the threat is, and our life passes before our eyes in a flash, like when someone is drowning. Or maybe not in a flash, but in a relatively short period of time, like when an airplane encounters major mechanical problems, and begins to drop from 36,000 feet. And maybe even sometimes, it may take place over weeks or months, like an inmate on death row awaiting execution, or a prisoner of war who has no way of knowing what will happen, or when. In any event, there is an acknowledgement of all that has taken place to that point, and an acknowledgement of what is surely about to take place be it in an instant, or in a couple of hours or days, or a couple of months or years. Those who survive will tell you that the recall is vivid, detailed, and complete, and that the anticipation of what is coming, is somehow serene…although they can’t tell you how or why.

For Jesus, this process, or something like it, probably started after his rejection by the people of Nazareth, by those who had known him and whom he had known as he grew up in the home of Mary and Joseph. Their rejection was palpable; Matthew 13: 58 tells us “And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.”

Over the next twelve chapters in Matthew, Jesus moves towards Jerusalem. His face set like flint, he embraces the Father’s will. As he moves closer to Jerusalem, he acknowledges who he is, and what he must do. He shows the Apostles, disciples, followers, and even the curious through his exquisite teaching, his devotion to prayer, and his incredible miracles; who he is, and what he must do. And all the while, his relationship with his Father flashes before him; his Father’s love for him and for us all; his Father’s plan for our salvation. Jesus knows what lies ahead; he has already told his Apostles twice that he will suffer and die.

The first time, Peter rebuked him; the second time, they were all overcome with grief. Through it all, Jesus continued to heal, to teach, to forgive. He wanted us to know as much as we could absorb about his Father in the time he had left. Jesus isn’t drowning; his airplane hasn’t experienced mechanical failure and isn’t falling from the sky; but Jesus’ identity, and the love he shares with his Father, and his mission to die for our sake and rise from the dead to silence death forever are flashing before his eyes. And he explains it all to us in his parables, those pithy little stories about things we experience in everyday life that Jesus stands on their heads to make a point about Truth.

Jesus gives us the story of the landowner and the vineyard workers. It has been called “the workers in the vineyard”, or “the good employer”, or “the affirmative action employer”…even “the prodigal employer”. In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus wants us to know the depth and breadth, and the unconditional nature of the Father’s love. The prodigal employer helps us to understand the Father’s passion to give us his mercy, which we don’t deserve, balanced by his justice, which we need.

Certainly this landowner could have sent his steward to hire all of the help he needed at dawn; but instead, the landowner himself goes out repeatedly, pursuing in a sense, all of those in need of work. He offers the going rate to the first he hires, but those hired later, he assures them of “…what is just…” At the end of the day, all he had to do was pay them in the order in which he had hired them, which was the custom, to avoid any grumbling...but he did just the opposite. God knows us so well. Those who had worked an hour or less were ecstatic because of the landowner’s generosity and mercy; those he hired first, who in fact did work the full day, and bore the heat, at that point expected more than they deserved, and received what was promised. In the face of the grumbling, the landowner essentially tells them “…I am not cheating you…I paid you what we had agreed on, and it was fair…” and then the zinger, the Truth: “…or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?”

As Jesus walks for the last time towards Jerusalem; as his life, and his mission, and the love that exists between Jesus and his Father, and his life of miracles, healing, forgiving, and rejection flash before him…what he wants us to understand is that all of it…all of Jesus’ life…all of our lives…are his. And in his justice, and generosity; in his Mercy, and his Love…he has freely given to each and all of us what is rightfully his. He has shared his Life with us…and he asks us to share it with each other.
Post by Deacon Bill Whibbs.

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, Is 55: 6-9, Ps 145: 2-3, 8-9, 17-18, Phil 1: 20c-24, 27a, Mt 20: 1-16a

Not judge…to NOT judge…THAT can be the hardest part of all.

It was the late shift in the Emergency Room on a Saturday night …anybody who’s had to be treated in the E.R. on a Saturday night knows it can be a little crazy; anybody who’s had to work there on a Saturday night has to BE a little crazy. It’s pretty steady through the early evening, and then it’s like a bus arrives around 10 p.m., and it takes about 4 hours to clear it out…and then the 2 a.m. bus arrives…and it’s the 2 a.m. bus that really tests your skill; and your patience; and your kindness…yeah, your kindness…that special kindness that helps you to listen, to evaluate, to discern, to share, to counsel…and to not judge…to NOT judge…and THAT can be the hardest part of all.

It was three patients…back to back to back…that challenged…and taught…the young physician whose 24 hour shift would end at 6 a.m. the most valuable of lessons.

The first was a middle-aged slightly overweight but basically healthy guy at his 30th high school reunion who developed chest pain and some shortness of breath in the middle of a push-up contest with his former football teammates. “I can’t believe this! I used to be able to do a hundred push-ups without breaking a sweat…I guess I’m a little out of shape…” he said. While the doc was waiting for the lab results, the second patient arrived.

She was a thin girl brought in by a friend who was concerned. The girl was well-dressed and quite attractive…except for the two swollen black eyes, the nose that sort of laid over a little on her right cheek, and the busted lip. “I fell down the stairs…” she said. Her friend said “…he beat you up…again.” The girl cried and said “He’s a great guy…he only does this when he’s been drinking.” The young doc asked her, almost embarrassed, “How much does he drink?” She replied “A lot…all the time.” He asked her “Did he do anything else to you?” She simply turned towards the wall and sobbed. She was sent for x-rays, and the domestic abuse counselor was called.

By now the labs were back on the push-up champ, and he hadn’t had a heart attack. The doc sat down with him, looked him in the eye, and said, as kindly as he could “George, you have to start taking better care of yourself. You’re not 18 anymore; your blood pressure is up and so is your cholesterol. You need to change what you are doing…now. Eat better, lose some weight, get some regular, reasonable exercise…at the next reunion, you’ll leave them all in the dust!” Crest-fallen, the man agreed…he knew what he had to do, and was determined. “Thanks doc; I was really scared, ya’ know?”

The young girl’s x-rays showed a fracture of the nose, and as they were repairing her lip the doctor, the friend and the counselor all told her that she couldn’t go back to him; that this was going to happen over and over; that he needed help she couldn’t give him; and that there was a place she could live that was safe until he got some help. She said “I just can’t live like this anymore…” and she agreed to a safe house. And then, just as things were starting to settle down, the police arrived…two squad cars.

Two officers ran in and said “We’re gonna’ need some help.” The E.R. team grabbed a gurney and headed out the door. Two other officers were wrestling a man…a large, strong man…out of the back seat…the one with the bars and the thick metal mesh. He was homeless and had barged into an apartment at a housing complex, wild-eyed, and assaulted the occupants, claiming they were possessed. It took six people to get him secured on the gurney, and the whole time he was flailing, mumbling about the aliens and the weird electrical rays they were pumping into his head. In addition to four police officers and two squad cars, this one also required sedation, a drug counsellor, a psychiatric case worker, and the case worker on call for Catholic Charities. After a short stay in the detox unit, he had a place to stay and a plan for treatment.

Today’s Gospel outlines Jesus’ teaching, his rules of engagement, concerning our interaction with our brothers and sisters when they are in trouble…and their interaction with us when we are. In psychological terms, this is what is referred to as an intervention. You may have seen one or two on Dr. Phil, or one of the reality television programs…you may have also been a part of one for a family member. The secular versions are not pretty, but even those can be pretty effective. They just aren’t complete.

What happened in the E.R. on that Saturday night is at least a dim reflection of what can happen when we abandon ourselves…go out on that limb…for each other. It’s what can happen when we reach out and embrace each other’s woundedness and brokenness. The beauty in what Jesus teaches is that our interventions should always take place within a framework that includes an understanding of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and the Church family. Look, our Church family is just as dysfunctional as any of our nuclear and extended families are, and what we all have to understand is that Jesus suffered and died to save us from our dysfunctionality. The next time one of our brothers or sisters sins against us, take a moment to recall what Jesus did for us, and what he wants from us in return: that special kindness that helps us to listen, to evaluate, to discern, to share, to counsel…and to not judge…to NOT judge…and THAT can be the hardest part of all.
Post by Deacon Bill Whibbs.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 33: 7-9, Ps 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9, Rom 13: 8-10, Mt 18: 15-20

The Invisible God Made Visible by Love.

Let's explore for a moment the two ways of spelling the word "sacrament." One is with a lower case "s," that is, sacrament, and the other is with a capital "S," that is Sacrament.. I contend there are more "small-s sacraments" celebrated and capable of being celebrated in the world than the number of dollars in the hole represented by the United States' present bankruptcy bottom line of more than $17 trillion. Yes I maintain that there are at least 17 trillion (and perhaps even more) "small-s sacraments" in the world available to the earth's human beings.

Here's an example of what I mean by "small-s sacrament": A young couple, obviously very much in love, both wishing to get married, are taking a walk out in nature, holding hands, both wishing to get married. They rest for a moment on a majestic mountainside, gazing silently at the beautiful sunset. The vision essentially transfixes them. The young man presses his beloved's hand even firmer than when they were walking, looks into the young lady's eyes and says, as if he could wait no longer, "Darling, will you marry me?"

She responds with a glowing smile on her face. "Oh, yes, Sweetheart, please let's do. I am so sure of our love that I can wait no longer to begin to love you for the rest of my life." This episode is a "small-s sacramental" moment. With astonishing clarity and intensity, the two lovers are brought by the circumstances of the present moment to observe and admit the truth of their love for each other clearly and the truth of the commitment they choose to make a lifetime marriage. Why is this a "small-s sacrament"?

It is such a moment because the Catholic conviction is that if one sees clearly and unmistakably a great, God-given truth and yields to it, so as to make one's life more meaningful and the life of another happier and more rewarding, both parties will have been deeply graced. And grace is the Christ-given love that undergirds all that exists. The two lovers "love one another as Christ loves each of them respectively." Without necessarily realizing it or being "knocked over" by it in a dramatic fashion, the young couple beholds the omnipresence of grace in their agreement to marry and live together as lovers well and wisely.

The entire sacramental life, both "small-s," and "capital-S," is based on people being nurtured to become beholders of and to surrender to the grace that is based on Christ's love which fills the entire universe and is made abundantly available, especially in the "Capital-S Sacraments." But we need to say more about the "capital-S Sacramental life." That life is the conviction that if we truly see and fully appreciate what is there in the Church's divinely instituted seven Sacraments we will be encountering Christ's grace, stored up for us by him for centuries.

We will encounter his love as it undergirds all that exists, most powerfully in the Sacraments. Christ's love, when it can be fully perceived by the recipient of a Sacrament, awakens, enlivens, and expands the imagination, opens the vision, and enriches the sensitivity of the recipient toward an elevated love for Christ. (And even in infant Baptism godparents can "stand in" to nourish their godchild along to the age of understanding the amazing gift they received from Christ in the Sacrament of initiation.) Catholicism is shaped by the conviction that Christ's grace lies at the root of all reality. Dante, in the closing lines of his Divine Comedy, recognizes deeply "the love that moves the sun and other stars."

This is Dante's statement of the Sacramental principle: the universe, the sun and all the stars, are grounded and governed by love. The universe exists because of Christ's infinite self-gift. This enlivens the Catholic tradition at its best in the Sacramental life, where the recipient of a Sacrament receives Christ's infinite self-gift, not as the glory of all that is created in the universe, but in the heart of Christ's beloved who has received Christ's self-gift personally, intimately, person-to-person in the Sacraments.

This person-to-person communication between the loving Christ and his beloved who receives Christ through the Sacraments, there is something more profound than our two lovers' "s-sacramental" moment on the mountainside -- in fact something of more ultimate, infinite profoundness--namely the Catholic Sacramental Tradition. You will have noticed that the young couple above said nothing about God's presence either in their lives or in their upcoming marriage. In the Sacramental tradition, especially as it has been bequeathed to us by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), God is at the core of both Catholic theology and the practice of Catholics participating in the Sacramental life.. Here, Thomas makes one of his all-encompassing definitions in just a few words of an absolutely essential aspect of Catholic Sacramental theology:

"The Power of Christ's passion is joined to us through faith and through the Sacraments, yet in different ways; for the contact which is through faith takes place through the act of the soul, but the contact which is through the Sacraments takes place through the use of external things." [He speaks to the concrete manner in which everything that the Savior did and suffered in the flesh reaches us] "spiritually through faith and bodily through the Sacraments, for Christ's humanity is simultaneously spirit and body in order that we might be able to receive into ourselves--we who are spirit and body--the effect of the sanctification that comes to us through Christ."

So now we know that the Sacraments are essentially connected to faith, that they involve the use of "external things," and that they are instruments of saving grace. Putting all this together we find a concise definition of the Sacraments in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "The Sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the Sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each Sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions."(CCC 1131).

The Sacraments are not simply ceremonies. They are efficacious, which means that they DO SOMETHING. And what they do is what they signify. They actually do what they point to. So, for example, Baptism, which is a sign of washing, actually washes us, i.e., it washes us clean of sin. Why do the Sacraments have this power to DO SOMETHING?

The Catechism gives the answer: They are efficacious, i.e., they do something because in them Christ himself is at work. For example, in Baptism, it is Christ who baptizes, and further it is he who acts in his Sacraments as a whole in order to communicate the grace that each Sacrament signifies. At the moment of reception, Christ is thinking of the recipient, turning his redemptive love upon him, and reaching out to sanctify him. This is consistent with the theology of Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection. As Jesus experienced these mysteries he could see all people of all time.
Jesus was thinking of you and me as he suffered and died for us, and in the same vein he was mindful of every Sacrament we would ever receive throughout our lives. More powerfully, Jesus was inviting us in each Sacrament that we receive now to be united with him in the mystery of his sacrifice back then.

The Sacraments, then, have the same miraculous quality to them that Jesus' saving of us through his
death on the cross has. He saw all of us in those terrible three hours of incredible suffering on the cross, where he poured out infinitely his saving love for us. The salvific effect of his crucifixion and death for us had the same effect back then as it has now in the Sacraments.

We can distinguish clusters of the Sacraments: Three of the Sacraments are Sacraments of Christian initiation, namely, Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation. Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace, as through the anointing with oil in Confirmation those who are baptized share more completely in the mission of Jesus. The Holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been baptized and confirmed participate with the whole community in the Lord's own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.
 Post by Tony Gilles

Sunday, September 7, 2014


The Path to the Bible Let's start with a foundational principle by stating the following: The Bible developed within and came to us from the Roman Catholic Church. The Church's shaping, writing and interpretation of the Bible began shortly after Jesus died and has continued into the Catholic Bibles we have today. In America of course, the Bible has come down to us in English, and we will see later what various approved modern English "versions" are and how they came to us through the Church's supervision and approval. But let us not overlook this fundamental truth: "The Bible is the Church’s Book."

The reverse is not the case, that is, the Bible did not "give us" the Church. Various good Christian Protestant groups believe this latter principle, i.e., they believe in good faith that the Bible is something like a blueprint for the church. With respect for Protestants who hold this position, twenty-one centuries of history and scholarship demonstrate conclusively that the path to today’s Bible travels through Catholicism all the way from the early church Fathers to today's English versions of the Bible.

However, this principle does not mean that the Church's dogma is somehow superior to the Bible, or that the Church can hold doctrines that contradict what is said in the Bible. Rather, the Church has always remained faithful to the Bible as the word of God, and scrupulously follows the Bible as it has been translated and interpreted within the magisterium of the Church for the Church's teaching and liturgy. The Catholic Church believes in the truth of the Holy Spirit's ongoing revelation to the Church, and sees this revelation as based on a twofold source -- the Bible and Tradition. Neither source can contradict the other. The truths of the Bible exist within the Church's Tradition, and the Church's Tradition must be, and always has been, completely faithful to the Bible.

That is why we can say that the Bible is the Church's book. The Bible and the Church's Tradition are twin pillars of revelation, with each pillar upholding and supporting the other. Hence the Holy Spirit's ongoing teaching to and guiding of the Church (i.e., the Spirit's revelation to the Church) is fulfilled through adherence, both to the Bible and to Tradition, namely: the doctrinal positions and dogma that the Church's magisterium has developed always with its eye on the Bible. We can see how each of the components of the Holy Spirit's revelation works -- through Scripture and Tradition -- by looking at Jesus' use of Scripture during his earthly ministry. Jesus gave us the Church, and through the Holy Spirit he used the Church's inspired authors of sacred Scripture to form, plant and grow that Church.

Jesus' Use of Scripture

Jesus was well versed in the Hebrew Bible, or what came to be called the "Old Testament." Of course he could not have known anything about the New Testament, as that part of the Bible was not written until after Jesus' death. But the New Testament conclusively shows Jesus' knowledge of and respect for the Old Testament.

For example, consider the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 4, verses 1 through 10, (cited in shorthand as "Mt.4:1-10"), which are concerned with Jesus' temptation in the desert after he had fasted for forty days and forty nights. (By his use of ’’forty" Matthew is recalling the Israelites' forty years in the desert after they had escaped from Egypt. (See the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy chapter 8, verse 2, or in shorthand, "Dt." 8:2)

In Mt.4:3-4 the devil urges Jesus to turn stones into loaves of bread. Jesus refuses, prefacing his remarks with the words, " [I] t is written. . . (Mt .4:4) , One does not live by bread alone..." Next, Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and dares Jesus to throw himself down, as Satan himself quotes Scripture, saying, "It is written..." God "will command his angels" save you from harm. Jesus answers, "Again it is written...Mt.4:7, ’You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test,'" with Matthew again referring to the Old Testament (this time to Dt. 6:16).

Satan tries one last time to get Jesus to succumb to temptation by promising Jesus, from a high mountain, to give him "all the kingdoms of the world," if Jesus will worship Satan. Jesus, for the third time answers, again using Scripture, saying with finality to Satan in Mt.4:10, "Get away Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve." Here Matthew quotes Deuteronomy (Dt. 6:13)as Jesus' final rebuke of Satan.

Jesus in Mt.4:l-10 above shows his respect for ancient Scripture by quoting passages from the Old Testament (he introduces these passages by "It is written," three times) to rebuke Satan and get rid of him. Jesus1 use of Scripture to get rid of the devil was not necessary. He could have snapped his fingers and kicked Satan back to hell simply by his divine authority over both heaven and earth. But Jesus looked both back and ahead in all he did in his earthly ministry.

He looked back in that he wanted to show the future church that he himself, the church’s founder, had in his life and teaching, based himself on "It is written," (i.e., on the sacred Scrptures written in the past). And he looked ahead to the church's life, by showing future exponents of church doctrine and teaching that these sacred Scriptures were the foundation of the upcoming centuries of the church's dogma. In other words Jesus himself was the founder of the use of both Scripture and Tradition for the church that he was establishing through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ quotation from the Hebrew Bible was nothing like quotation from a "book" as we know Bibles today. Rather, Jesus and all Jews of his day, when quoting from the Old Testament, were quoting from written scrolls. The best examples of Jesus' use of these scrolls in synagogue worship, just as all the Jews of his day likewise used them, is found in Luke’s Gospel, 4:16-21, where Jesus was handed a scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth. He stood up to read it and then unequivocally referred to the scroll as containing a "scripture passage" from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus’ thoughts and speech were based on Scripture, and he wanted his church to emulate him in that respect.

The Hebrew Bible (Our "Old Testament")

Shortly after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, and into the 2nd Century, The Hebrew scrolls containing sacred Scriptures came to be known collectively as the Hebrew Bible (from the Greek byblos, "book") in the year 100 A.D. Until then the Jews relied on scrolls scattered around in various synagogues in various cities and towns in Palestine, but with no one particular Jewish elder or synagogue having access to all of the Old Testament scrolls at the same time.

What happened, then, in the year 100 A.D. to change this picture? In that year the most respected Jewish elders from Palestinian Israel, Alexandria in Egypt and more far­away locales like Antioch, Babylon, Ephesus and perhaps even Rome, met at a sea-coast town named Jamnia in Philistia. Their mission was to assemble and collect into one document as many as possible of the haphazardly scattered Hebrew scrolls that the most trusted and erudite Jewish elders argued were collections of the Jewish sacred texts of Scripture. Hence at Jamnia in 100 A.D., the agenda was an agreement upon and collection of one official set of written scrolls from around the Near and Middle East that were to be formally considered the Hebrew scriptures, or, taken all together, their unified ’’Byblos’1 or "Bible.”

Once they had pulled together and agreed upon the scrolls that infallibly made up their new Bible, then their more difficult task began. That task was to undertake the intellectually vexing projects of: (1) copying and translating their one agreed-upon collection of their most reliable ancient scrolls into a new single body collection (later called their "Canon” of Scripture) (2) and then disseminating as many volumes of their new Hebrew Bible as possible throughout the Jewish world.

Translation of the Hebrew Canon Into Greek Because of the movement to and settlement of a large population of Jews in Alexandria, Egypt, a city of Greek language and culture, the work of translating and copying the Jewish sacred books into Greek began on a large scale. The name of this Greek translation in Alexandria, which was to have such a large effect on assisting both Jews and Christians in harmonizing and gathering together their eventual and respective canons of Scripture, was the Septuagint, or, in Latin, the "Seventy."

The name was said to mean that a number of Jewish translators, said to be 72 in number, or 6 men from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, gathered in Alexandria and translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. This facilitated the spread of the Old Testament writings far beyond the linguistic boundary imposed by limiting the Jewish sacred writings to the Hebrew language.

Furthermore, since many of the writers of the eventual •Christian Old Testament were fluent in Greek and wrote in Greek, they were able to use the Greek Septuagint for developing their compilation of the Christian Old Testament. Further, Christian writers who used Greek to write the New Testament, by referring to the Septuagint, could more easily understand the themes that would be essential to making the transition from Old Testament thought into the New Testament and other Christian writings.

In short, the Septuagint was a vital gift to Christians. It made the weaving together of Old and New Testament religious thought possible. It likewise assisted some Jews to look toward becoming Christians, as Christianity was shown to be sympathetic to and congruent with Septuagint Judaism. From St. Jerome’s "Vulgate" to the English Bible Beginning in 389 A.D. one of the ancient world’s greatest linguistic scholars (not just a "Catholic" scholar), St. Jerome (342-420), took on the task of translating into Latin both the ancient Hebrew version of the Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. Jerome's translation took into account that in the Roman Empire of his day Latin had become the popular conversational tongue, or vernacular. Hence his translation came to be called "The Vulgate" (meaning "common," "popular" or "usual"), but the name Vulgate was not used by Jerome himself.

The name Vulgate was not attached to his translation until well after Jerome finished his translation, i.e., in 405 A.D. The Vulgate became the basic Latin Bible during the Middle Ages and was used exclusively as the authoritative Catholic Bible in monasteries, schools of theology for seminarians and by scholars when universities came on the scene. Then, too, the Vulgate was used as the basic Catholic liturgical Bible. Yet it is doubtful how many chruch goers could understand anything read to them from it, since Latin, ironically once the vernacular for all Christians, was now solely the church's language. Church Latin was overwhelmed by many new tongues, and users of these new languages had to rely on the church's liturgical use of Latin and its translations essentially "on faith."

The Church irrevocably fixed the name "Vulgate" to Jerome's translation only at the Council of Trent in 1546, after that Council had supervised and corrected several poor copies of Jerome’s translation. From 1546 on, the Vulgate was said by the Church to be the ’’authentic text” of the Bible to be used by the Catholic Church. However the authenticity assigned to the Vulgate was intended to mean that the Vulgate was free of error in faith and morals, not that there were no errors in copies, translations, punctuation, grammar and the like.

England, English Bibles, and ’’Versions”

Discussing the Vulgate moves us, as we have seen, past the Council of Trent, and from there onward into later centuries. Since there was no existing English language into which Jerome could translate his Vulgate, his Latin Bible was the principle authoritative Catholic Bible until the coming of the Protestant Reformation. The English Reformation began in the reign of King Henry VIII (1491-1547). At one point, ironically, Henry had written a treatise highly critical of Martin Luther, earning for him the title "Defender of the Faith" from Pope Leo X in 1521.

However, Henry had marriage difficulties, and could not talk Pope Clement VII into letting him divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon. Catherine seemed unable to produce a male heir for Henry, and thus, despite the pope's refusal to grant Henry a divorce, he sought to marry Anne Boleyn for whom he had great passionate interests. He did marry her, and she was crowned Queen on June 1, 1533. From that point on, Henry belligerently established the Church of England as under his control and authority. He now encouraged translations of the Bible into English. Previously Henry, in his Catholic persona, had banned English translations, but English translations now came fully out into the open under Henry's Protestant self.

Henry authorized publication of the first complete English Bible, both Old and New Testaments, to be published in England. The Bible's translations into English became numerous and popular. The first complete English translation of the Bible was produced by Miles Coverdale in 1537, backed up by the royal license from Henry. We need not plunge into Henry's marital acrobatics and his execution of Catholics. The point we are trying to pursue is the coming and going of the Bible in English. The rash of publications of Protestant English Bibles led to the beginning of a new term for biblical translations, namely, "versions." There were approximately 14 versions (i.e., 14 different translations, with more on the horizon) of the new Protestant English Bible. As politics in England vacillated between Catholic and Protestant successors of Henry VIII, things ended up with leading Catholic biblical scholars practicing their faith underground, but ultimately deciding to translate the Vulgate into English. Henry’s daughter by Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I, a staunch Protestant and murderous opponent of Catholics, absolutely forbade the slightest glimmer of any sort of Catholic Bible.

As a result of the proliferation of Protestant English versions, English Catholic scholars at the college of Douay in England began a new Catholic English translation, the first ever undertaken in England. Owing to increasing hostility of Queen Elizabeth to their work, Catholics moved the college at Douay to a safer location, Rheims, in France. (Rheims in French is pronounced "Reance".) The Catholic translators in Rheims published their Catholic English New Testament in 1582 — the first such version ever achieved. The work on the Catholic English Old Testament had finished before the college at Douay moved to Rheims, but because of a lack of funds it was not published until 1610 -- at Douay. Because of the split in locations of the English Catholic publication of the Old and New Testaments, respectively, the final combined Catholic Bible, when published as a whole, acquired the name of "The Rheims-Douay Version," or "RD" version.

As for a single Protestant English translation, a new monarch, King James I, called for this to be done. It was started in 1607 and relied heavily on the RD Version for its New Testament translation. The Protestant Version was published in 1611 under the title, "The King James Version," or eventually, "The Authorized Version." This was essentially the only English Bible used by both English and American Protestants until 1953 when the publication of the Revised Standard Version appeared.

As for the Catholic RD version, it too underwent revisions, being changed several times, most importantly and with finality in 1943 with the papal encyclical issued by Pope Pius XII, entitled Divino Afflante Spiritu. In this encyclical, Pius XII revolutionized the research standards by Catholic Scripture scholars in making translations of the Bible that would be accepted by the Catholic Church. Pius did not simply authorize use of the ancient languages for Catholic translations, but insisted on them.

So much for the Vulgate, which had from the first and through many later revisions over 19 centuries, relied only on St. Jerome's Latin translation. The pope also promoted the "historical critical method" to be used by Catholic biblical scholars. This meant that scholars were to make their translations from the ancient sources only by first of all understanding the cultural, literary, linguistic, political and religious history of the lands from which the ancient languages came.

Both Protestants and Catholics have the exact same Books of the New Testament in their respective Bibles, although these two versions differed in their translations until well into the 20th Century. It was then that scholars on both sides realized that any translation of the Bible had to rely on the ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin versions if they were to be reliable. So, these two groups of biblical scholars said, "Let's rely on the ancient texts when making modern translations instead of trying to sway our translations toward our particular denomination's dogma."

In other words, biblical scholarship became more scientific and open-minded instead of being rooted in the respective doctrines of Protestants and Catholics. Nowadays, thanks to Pope Pius XII, Catholic biblical scholars have moved toward translations based strictly on the ancient languages and away from the five-centuries-old Douay-Rheims Catholic Doctrinal translation. And Protestants started doing much the same thing.

However, while Protestant and Catholic New Testaments have the exact same books in them, there is a major difference between Catholic and Protestant versions of the Old Testament. Catholic Old Testaments have seven more books in them than are found in Protestant Old Testaments, and in addition Catholic Old Testaments have added language in them that is missing in the same Protestant books of their Old Testaments.

Pius XII*s upgrading of the standards for Catholic biblical research was replicated at Vatican II in The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum). In referring to what we considered at the start of this article on Scripture and Tradition, the Council in Dei Verbum, said:

Sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them flowing out from the same divine wellspring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Del Verbum 9. 

Authored by: Tony Gilles

(All published with the Church's Imprimatur)