TWO M1ILLIONF !WORDS
Michael de la Bedoyere
SOME 10 years ago the Catholic Biblical Association decided to prepare a onevolume Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, and an editorial committee to carry through the project was appointed. It consisted of Dom Bernard Orchard, O.S.B., Fr. Sutcliffe, S.J., Dr. Fuller and Dom Ralph Russell as secretati and treasurer.
The work took nine years, over 40 writers from colleges and seminaries in English-speaking countries and Rome having been enlisted to undertake the different sections. Now the book, A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (Nelson,, 4 gns.), is published, and it contains two million words on 1,300 pages, each with two closely set columns of print. At four guineas for the stoutly and handsomely bound volume it is hardly within the means of every would-be purchaser, but those who can find the money will certainly get their money's worth, and others will doubtless have access to the work through libraries.
The plan of the work is as follows. After some 100 pages of general introductory articles on texts, criticism, his tor y and archeology, and four articles on the Old Testament (three of which are by Fr. Sutcliffe), the textual commentaries on the Old Testament begin, and occupy over 400 pages. The same plan of preliminary articles and their commentaries is followed for the New Testament.
NAMES of contributors that "L‘ strike the eye include, besides the late Hugh Pope and E. C. Messenger, C. Lattey, S. Bullough, H. Willmering, C. C. Martindale, A. Graham, T. Corbishley, J. M. T. Barton, B. C. Butler, D. J. Leahy and E. Power.
But the general reader will perhaps feel that his greatest debt of gratitude is due to Kenneth C. Thompson, who has been responsible for the near 300 columns of index—an index that is bound to be the open sesame to the contents of this immense work for the great majority of readers.
This index, which we have already used and tested a good deal, serves almost as a concordance but with the immensely increased advantage of taking you at once to what is, after all, the unique value of the book, namely, the latest expert elaboration of the doctrinal and spiritual significance, intrinsic meaning, textual criticism
and often reference to other authorities, concerning the passage or topic to which the index so surely guides you.
This means that the great work, so far from being a repository of inaccessible erudition, can be a desk companion (if the desk be large enough) for the preacher, the writer and the intelligent Catholic in his reading and his prayer.
CONSULTING this book sent 11-1 the writer reminiscing about his own Catholic upbringing. Despite the fact that he had had very exceptional opportunities of what might be called high-level Catholic training, never was anything done to stimulate him to read the New Testament, let alone the Old. Much of the Old has in fact remained virtually a closed book to hini to this day, while the reading and study of the New (apart from passages read in church) has depended on his own initiative and efforts in middle age.
Cardinal Griffin in his Foreword quotes the words of the Holy Father in Divino A Ifiante which encourage the Catholic reading of the Scriptures that they may, as the Apostle says, "instruct to salvation by the Faith which is in Christ Jesus" and "that the man of God may be perfect furnished to every good work." But it is permissible to ask how far in home, in school and in church anything in fact is done to make the Bible or even the New Tettanient the regular reading of the faithful.
We know to what extent the Bible is still used in other Communions and sects, and many of us probably have friends or relations who tell us of the immensely deep spiritual impression created by Bible stories and Bible reading in their Protestant youth. Now even this is disappearing. Surely it is up to us Catholics to compensate for this loss by making the Bible
THERE are difficulties. The
non-Catholic feels he can read the Bible very much as he reads any other book, putting his own interpretation on what he reads. The Catholic knows that this is absurd. The written word, even God's written word, is subject to every variety of human interpretation and ingenuity. Only if God established an authority representative of Himself and under His inspiration could there be any guarantee of the right interpretation of His written word. This authority has been established in the prolongation of Christ in the Church, which is His mystical Body under the protection of the Holy Spirit.
That authority is therefore prior to the authority of the Scriptures in that through it atone can we he certain of rightly understanding the Scriptures. Even so as the editors of this book state in their preface, "there is no 'official' view on any but a minute handful of biblical texts, and there is ample room for diversity of interpretations within the bounds of orthodoxy."
The excuse therefore that it is not worth reading the Bible because we have the Church is not a very good one. The Church lays down What is doctrinally vital in the Bible and guarantees that you need never go far wrong with it, but it still leaves us to deepen more and more our insight into God's ways and to purify our worship, love and service of God through the loving study of His word.
P till now another excuse
might have been found for our neglect of this duty, namely that the Bible is anyway difficult to understand.
This is by no means true of large parts of the Bible, which have proved an inspiration to the simplest and most unlettered people.
And if it is true of other parts,
also in just taking advantage of the Pope's understanding of the conditions of our times instead of remaining determined to stick to our old habits and spiritual reflexes. In the same article the regulations for Evening Mass were not discussed at length on the ground that these are rare at present in this country. But they are by means rare in some other countries, and it seems to me to be jumping to conclusions to suppose that they are now going to be rare here. On holydays of obligation, for example, it is indubitable that Evening M'asses in or near our large industrial cities would enable many, many thousands to go to Holy Communion, and even Mass itself, who at present cannot.
LOOKING through a "Catechism Leof Christian Doctrine." by Fr. William Moran. RD_ which has just come in for review, I find that the answer to the most important question: "Why did God make you?" (here changed to "create you"-was though a child would understand the Latin "create" better than the AngloSaxon "make") is given as follows: "God created me to love and obey Him here on earth...... ." Where is the advantage here over the perfect choice "know, love and serve"? You cannot love anyone without knowing him, and in the case of God, getting to know God is especially the means to getting to love Him. And why the hard, disciplinary, moral word "obey" in place of the beautiful word "serve," which combines obedience with loyalty and common relationship and love? There is much controversy about the catechism these days, and have heard gruesome tales of what a mess children make of doctrine in inaccurate parrot repetition of catechism lessons. but is there any need to drop the traditional magnificent answers lo the really important questions in favour of new-fangled ones?
Prayer for the Queen
HE (;)ergs' Review, dealing with the pras.er for the Queen after the principal Sunday Mass, holds that it k correct to insert "cum principe consorte" (with the Prince Consort) before "prole regia," on the ground that "the Duke of Edinburgh is a prince in the wide sense of the word at least. and the appellation was popularly used of Queen Victoria's consort before it was officially sanctioned." In any case. I suppose, "consorte" in the context really means "husband" rather than the official title of "consort," which has not as yet been sanctioned.
The Cries of London
OVERHEARD near the Temple Station in London as, to the usual cries of London. "Star, News or .Standard,' was added the fourth, -CaTuoirc HERALD" : "Of course, you have to admit that these R.Cs take a lot of beating."
then in the commentaries provided in this book all the clues that are necessary are made readily available. And if the price of the book and the necessarily condensed and technical language of the commentary limit its direct usefulness to many, one n.,ay surely hope that its study will encourage preachers and writers to help the faithful back to the Bible, and, of course, chiefly the New Testament.
It is not really enough to refute the accusation that Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible with the retort that they are allowed and encouraged to do so. The refutation will only be effective when Catholics do read and love the Bible and shoW the fact in the habit of their minds, the turn of their language and, above all, in that inner appreciation of doctrine and the .spiritual life which grows best when fed on the Bible.
aNE feels, especially in these 'days when religion as an experience rather than as an abstract doctrine and a moral code moves men, that the Bible precisely provides that record of living experience which can vitalise our own religion and attract others. The amazing story of God's chosen people with all that it foreshadows of the New Law; the Gospels themselves, read as a whole rather than in snippets; the great Epistles, where the essence and meaning of the Church is explained in terms never since surpassed—here is a record of lived and experienced religion, of spiritual yearning and fulfilment, of the stupendous love of God and His nearness to us. which gives flesh and blood, as it were to our faith.
The publication of this great Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture in our own language and by our own Catholic scholars can, if we will it, begin a new era of Biblical interest and love which can give the Catholic crown and fulfilment to a taste so deeply rooted in our British tradition.
And a word in conclusion should be said to thank the publishers (non-Catholic) for the printing and get-up of this critically important book.