Pope's last book includes biblical scholarship views
By Richard N. Ostling
Along the way the newly issued "Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium" (Rizzoli) offers glimpses of the late pope's attitudes toward modern biblical scholarship, leaning left on the Old Testament and leaning right on the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, Chapter 2 of Genesis is "the work of the Jahwist redactor," the pope wrote. ("Redactor" is a fancy word for editor.)
He thus approved biblical critics' central theory that the Bible's first five books were compiled long after Moses' time from four strands of material, one of which was known as "Jahwist."
That view rejected the 1906 declaration from the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Commission . . . .
. . . . Since 1906, the Pontifical Biblical Commission has moved markedly leftward.
The 1993 decree on Bible interpretation it presented to John Paul was less worried about liberal theories than the "fundamentalist approach" to the Bible.
It warned that the latter is "dangerous," that it can "deceive" people, offers "illusory" interpretations, expresses "false certitude" and that it confuses the "divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations."
Fundamentalism "invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide," the papal advisers charged . . . .
. . . . He treated everything in Luke and Matthew as historical: the angel's announcement of pregnancy, the Bethlehem visit, the inn without any room, the stable, the visiting shepherds and Magi, and the flight into Egypt.
He wrote: "All this was faithfully recorded in Mary's memory and we may reasonably conclude that she passed it on to St. Luke, who was particularly close to her."
Regarding not only Jesus' birth but his life and death, "we may presume that Mary preserved all these events carved indelibly in her memory," the pope asserted . . . .