April 22, 2002
volume 13, no. 71

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The Biblical Commission on the Jews: Changes in Doctrine and New Anathemas    Part III

By Atila Sinke Guimarães

Translated and edited by Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D.

    Following is the THIRD INSTALLMENT of a seven-part treatise and critique of the Pontifical Biblical Commission's document The Hebrew People and its Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible. This is a comprehensive response by Atila Sinke Guimarães to the entire document. Atila reviewed the original Italian work by the PBC titled "Il populo ebraico e le sue Sacre Scritture nella Bibbia cristiana," Preface by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001, 213 pp. which we sent to him. He then wrote his review and translated the excerpts he used from Italian to Portuguese. Dr. Marian has worked closely with him in translating and editing his critique from Portuguese into English. Atila and Marian have graciously accepted our request to critique the book while all in the United States still wait for the English translation. The response is too important to delay because what is contained in the Vatican document will truly alarm you.
    For installments thus far, see Archive below

III. Imprecise Language and Suspicious Texts

    In part one of the work, entitled The Sacred Scriptures of the Hebrew People, A Fundamental Part of the Christian Bible, the PBC defends the thesis that the Old Testament revealed to the Jews makes up an essential part of the Bible. It divides the matter in the following titles:

  • The New Testament recognizes the authority of the sacred Scriptures of the Hebrew people;
  • The New Testament attests its harmony with the Scriptures of the Hebrew people;
  • Scripture and oral tradition in Judaism and Christianity;
  • The Jewish exegetical methods used in the New Testament.

    I will analyze the points that caught my attention.

    1. Imprecise terms - This part one, like the whole work, shocks the reader with its use of inappropriate and imprecise terms. From a Vatican Biblical Commission one would expect a careful precision in the vocabulary employed, since precise language is the basis for a sound exegesis. This is not, however, what one finds in the book The Hebrew People. I will cite some examples:

    A. Hebrew Bible and Sacred Scriptures of the Hebrew people - The PBC seems to have a veritable obsession with attributing to the present day Jews the "property" of the whole Old Testament. Hebrew Bible, Sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people, or equivalent expressions appear on every page and are used ad nauseam in the PBC text.

   However, this terminology is imprecise.

    Hebrew Bible - This expression can have various meanings. First, it can be understood as the Catholic Bible. If the PBC intends to say that the totality of the writings of the Old Testament accepted by the Holy Catholic Church is the same as the totality of Jewish writings in the same period, the expression Hebrew Bible is not precise. The Jews have innumerable writings like the Torah, Mishna, Tosefta, and Zohar, which also came from that period. The totality of Hebrew works originating from that epoch is not the same thing as the books accepted by the Church.

    Second, the expression Hebrew Bible can be understood in its linguistic sense. If the PBC wants to refer to the books that were written in Hebrew, even if one would exaggerate and broadly accept the various idioms of the same family of languages used in the Old Testament as being Hebrew, the expression Hebrew Bible cannot be applied, because the two books of Maccabees originally were written in Greek, and are accepted by the Jews.

    Third, if the expression Hebrew Bible is taken in its etymological sense, there is also imprecision. The Greek word byblos (which generated Biblia in Latin, Bible in English) means book and is not commonly used by the Jews to refer to the books of the Old Testament. Only two times in the books of the Maccabees is the word used to refer to the whole of Scripture. [17] The use of the word byblos became frequent only among the first Christians to refer to the whole of the revealed books, including those of the New Testament, which are not accepted by the Jews. The Hebrew word sefer means book and is equivalent to byblos. Sefer is the word more frequently used by the Jews to refer to their old books. Therefore, etymologically the use of expression Hebrew Bible is also imprecise.

[17. 1 Maccabees 12: 9; 2 Maccabees 8: 23, F. Vigouroux, Dictionaire de la Bible (Paris: Letouzey, 1926), entry Bible.]

    Sacred Scriptures of the Hebrew people - Similar considerations can be made with respect to this expression. As I have just noted, innumerable writings accepted by the Jews came from the historic period prior to Christ. Among them is the Zohar, the basic book of the Kabala [which means "tradition"]. It claims to record the oral tradition of Judaism from Moses to the 13th century, when it was published for the first time. The Zohar, despite its claims, actually is one of the foundation stones of Jewish occultism, from which proceed white and black magic.

    Now, does the PBC consider all the writings of the Jews that originated in the period prior to Jesus Christ as sacred and inspired by the Holy Ghost? Are the texts that gave rise to white and black magic also included in these divinely inspired works? This would be absurd. There is, therefore, a fundamental imprecision. Notwithstanding, it would seem that the PBC considers all of these writings referring to the Old Testament as sacred. Moreover, I could cite parts of the book The Hebrew People that even seem to consider the Jewish writings after Our Lord as sacred (pp. 28-30, 101-104).

    B. Christian Bible - Throughout the work, the PBC never uses the expression Catholic Bible, as one would expect from a commission of the Holy See that teaches Catholics. If it were using Catholic Bible to refer to the books of the Old Testament, then it would be employing precise language, since it is clearly known which Sacred Books are approved by the Holy Church. However, the PBC does not do this. I never once noted the expression Catholic Bible in the 213 pages of the book The Hebrew People. Apparently following the ecumenical impulse of the present day Vatican, the PBC uses the expression Christian Bible, with the intent of including Protestants and Schismatics under the Christian title. Now, if heretics and schismatics are included under the name of Christian, then Christian Bible is an expression lacking precision, because the Protestant sects do not accept several of the books approved by the Catholic Church. For this reason, it is not clear what the PBC is referring to when it uses this expression.

    C. Judaism, Hebrew people - A basic thesis of the PBC is that the present day Jewish religion is the true heir of the divine promise of the Old Testament. For example, the PBC states, "Far from replacing Israel, the [Catholic] Church remains in solidarity with it" (p. 152). In order to favor this thesis, the PBC does not distinguish between what is religion and what is race in Judaism. Instead, it tries to make the Hebrew people, in the racial sense, coincide with the elect people, in the religious sense. Both concepts, Judaism and Hebrew people, are used in an imprecise way.

    In the Old Testament, the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were chosen because of their fidelity to the true Faith. The loss of this elect status was due to their rejection of the true Faith. The true heir of the Old Covenant is the Catholic Church. The majority of Jews denied the redemptive mission of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This threw them into apostasy, and later they persecuted the Holy Church.[18] The present day Jewish religion - the Synagogue - is the heir of these Jewish apostates. Therefore, Judaism as a religion is clearly contrary to the Catholic Church. Whereas Judaism as a people still retains some promise of God that points to its conversion to the true Faith at the end of time, according to the best Catholic tradition. [19]

[18. St. Pius V: "We know that this most perverse people has always been the cause and seed of almost all the heresies" (Brief of May 3, 1569, apud Laderchi, 1569, n. 187; Ludwig Pastor, Historia de los Papas, Barcelona: Gustavo Gil, 1912, vol. 17, p. 306).

19. In this sense, Cornelius a Lapide quotes, as samples "of all the Latin and Greek Fathers and commentators," the opinions of St. John Chrysostom, Theodoret, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Gregory Nazianzen, Cesarius, St. Ambrose, St. Hilary, Origen, St. Thomas, Cajetan, Soto, and St. Hippolytus (Commentaria in Scripturam Sanctam, Paris: Vivès, 1876, vol. 18, p. 194).]

    The PBC passes silently over these basic distinctions about the present day Jewish religion and the Hebrew people. One realizes, therefore, that the PBC most probably deliberately chose not to define with precision what was and what is Judaism as a religion and as a people. The two concepts are shuffled together in the PBC book. Hence, it is also vague about its implicit menace: the charge that whoever is against Judaism or the Hebrew People is in some way favorable to the racial crimes of the Nazis (p. 205).

    2. Suspicious Phrases - The first part includes more than just ambiguous expressions. It also has clearly suspicious statements.

    For instance, the tendency to indisputably favor the Jews shows itself when the PBC goes on to describe the other books of the Jewish religion: "Then Tradition gave rise to a 'Second Scripture' (the Mishna). No written text can suffice to express all the richness of a tradition. The sacred texts of the Bible left many questions open with regard to a full understanding of the faith of Israel and the conduct that should be adopted. In Pharisaic and Rabbinical Judaism this provoked a long process of producing written texts, from the Mishna ('second text') …. to the Tosefta ('supplement') to the Talmud …. Notwithstanding the authority of the latter, even this interpretation was not considered sufficient, so that further rabbinical explanations were later added to them. The same authority was not acknowledged to these explanations as to the Talmud …. The Mishna, the Tosefta, and the Talmud are considered material for study in the Synagogue, but are not read in the liturgy. In general, the merit of a tradition is judged by its conformity to the Torah. The reading of the latter occupies a privileged place in the liturgy of the synagogue" (pp. 29-30).

    All this is set forth by the PBC without any serious dogmatic restrictions. Now, it is known that the Jewish religion denies the dogma of the Most Holy Trinity, the divinity of Our Lord, His Redemption and the graces that come from it. It denies the legitimacy of the Catholic Church, the Sacraments, the Marian dogmas, etc. In view of this, one would expect the PBC to alert the faithful to the danger of falling into similar errors. It does not, however. In opposition to the multi-century teaching of the Popes, [20] the PBC takes a position of favoring the Jewish religion and thus makes itself responsible for the damage that could befall the integrity of the Catholic Faith on this subject.

[20. Many Popes have condemned the Talmud and other Jewish writings. Among them, Gregory IX (1227-1241), Innocent IV (1243-1254), Clement IV (1265-1268), Honorius IV (1285-1287), John XXII (1316-1334), Julius III (1550-1555), Paul IV (1555-1559), Pius IV (1560-1565), Clement VIII (1592-1605), Benedict XIV (1740-1758), Pius VI (1775-1799).]

    THURSDAY, April 25: Part Four Grave Errors and Tendentious Relativizations

List of Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission
Preface by Cardinal Ratzinger
Part One: Historical-Doctrinal Presuppositions
Part Two: An Extreme of Historicism

Monday, April 22, 2002
volume 13, no. 76
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