In other places, too, spaces appear in odd places. For example, in one passage there is a space in the the middle of a date, followed in the next sentence by one in the middle of a word:
We take the clearest example: Theobold’s critical analysis of them in 198 7.46 The title already speaks volumes: “The Autonomy of His torical Criticism, Expression of Incredulity or Theological Necessity.”
I also saw something I haven’t seen before. In the middle of the preface, a shaded box telling us about one of the editors suddenly and mysteriously appears in the middle of the text. I’ve never been a fan of sidebars and boxes in books, but in a Kindle edition they are particularly bizarre.
Now, on to the content. To enjoy this book, you’ll need to be somewhat familiar with the history of modern Biblical studies. In the nineteenth century, a “higher criticism” developed, which consisted of reading the Bible with a view to determining the history of its composition and redaction, rather than its meaning for the Christian life. This movement accelerated in the twentieth century. Particular mention should be made of Rudolf Bultmann, who explicitly sought to remove from consideration elements he saw as mythological. Protestants were at first at the forefront of this movement, but in 1943 the papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu gave Catholics the green light to join in.
The theme of the talks and papers collected in this book is that the historical-critical method in Biblical studies has run into problems. Despite the subtitle, only the first and last are by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (as he then was). The intervening essays are by other European scholars.
Among the criticisms of the historical-method are that it produces a never-ending maze of speculation and hypotheses; it ignores senses other than the purely historical; in its examination of minute parts of the Bible it ignores the whole; and that it rests on unquestioned philosophical presuppositions.
The task now, then, is to move forward, yet to do so in a way that incorporates rather than dismisses the findings of textual criticism. Thus one can ask, why are we reading the Bible anyway, and is there a larger sense to it than the purely historical meaning of small passages? This is a question that affects Protestants as much as Catholics, though for the Catholic Church there is the special problem of the relationship between the magisterium and textual scholars.
The contributions in the book are interesting as careful and thoughtful pieces of intellectual history, and no doubt the discussion will go on — Ratzinger thinks it might take a whole generation to come to fruition. How much impact all this will have on the average churchgoer is less certain.
Jose Granados, Carlos Granados, and Luis Sanchez-Navarro, editors. Opening up the Scriptures: Joseph Ratzinger and the Foundations of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2008. Kindle edition. ASIN B001GINV4C. $14.75.