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HISTORICAL CRITICAL METHOD
"At that time Jesus said in reply, "I give praise to
you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for
although you have hidden these things from the
wise and the learned you have revealed them to
the childlike."
Matthew 11:25  
There are many in The Catholic Church today who, mistakenly, think they are
enlightened. They call foolish anyone who thinks that "certain", miracles in The Bible
really happened. They compare the "old way" of thinking to that of the belief that
"the world is flat"! I ask; "Is this a fair analysis"?

I think not! Please, let me explain further.

Much of the, so-called, "new thinking" came from the misuse of what we now call "The
Historical Critical Method" [HCM] of interpreting The Bible. I will show you here through the
writings of the Popes what the Catholic Church says about this method of exegesis.

First; let me state now that I am, like The Catholic Church, not against the use of this
"Method". The Historical Critical Method can be used, as many Popes have suggested, in a
limited capacity, with grave caution, when the [HCM] teaching compares well with what we
know already about a Biblical passage. In other words, when the [HCM] gives us a "deeper"
understanding of what The Catholic Church has taught on a particular passage for two
thousand years. Not, as many would have us believe, when the [HCM] gives us a
completely "new" understanding. I will back this statement up with writings from the popes.
   
Let me list
an example of what comes from the [HCM].
1)   
The "'Story', not the 'Miracle' of Jonah and The Whale".

What The Popes Say About The Historical Critical Method.

The following statements are in favor of the [HCM]. I "gleaned" them from Dr. Scott Hahn's
web site,
www.SalvationHistory.com.

DIVINO AFFLANTE SPIRITU
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XII
ON PROMOTING BIBLICAL STUDIES
37. Nevertheless no one, who has a correct idea of biblical inspiration, will be surprised to
find, even in the Sacred Writers, as in other ancient authors, certain fixed ways of
expounding and narrating, certain definite idioms, especially of a kind peculiar to the
Semitic tongues, so-called approximations, and certain hyperbolical modes of expression,
nay, at times, even paradoxical, which even help to impress the ideas more deeply on the
mind. For of the modes of expression which, among ancient peoples, and especially those
of the East, human language used to express its thought, none is excluded from the
Sacred Books, provided the way of speaking adopted in no wise contradicts the holiness
and truth of God, as, with his customary wisdom, the Angelic Doctor already observed in
these words: "In Scripture divine things are presented to us in the manner which is in
common use amongst men."[30] For as the substantial Word of God became like to men in
all things, "except sin,"[31] so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made
like to human speech in every respect, except error. In this consists that "condescension"
of the God of providence, which St. John Chrysostom extolled with the highest praise and
repeatedly declared to be found in the Sacred Books.[32]

ALSO

DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION
ON DIVINE REVELATION
DEI VERBUM
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED
BY HIS HOLINESS
POPE PAUL VI
12. However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the
interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to
us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what
God wanted to manifest by means of their words.

The following is an example of the correct use of the [HCM].
Dr. Hahn's teaching on The Gospel of John, chapter 2, verses 3-4.
John 2:3  When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
4  (And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not
yet come."
"My hour has not yet come." The phrase is a scandal to some. Because they, mistakenly,
think it means disrespect. It is actually a Hebrew idiom. That is, a manner of speaking that
is natural to native speakers of a language. It has to be studied in order to understand its
true meaning.

It could be compared, reasonably, to modern day "slang".
For example, I once had a priest at The Cardinal Spellman Retreat House in The Bronx,
New York use the following as an example of understanding what the original authors in
The Bible meant as compared to a "plain translation" of the text.
Fr. Eugene Bonacci gave an example of a man asking a woman for money to get on the
subway in the early '70s'. In this scene, there is also a man translating to another man what
is being said. The two men are from different countries. One man is from Russia and the
other from here in America. The scene is near the subway station, three men, one woman
all from America except the Russian man.
One man, who wants to ride the subway asks the woman for money to get on the train. He
says; "Hey man, give me some bread so that I can get on the train". The two remaining
men are one American and one Russian. The American is translating to the Russian what
is being said, without any explanation. He translates; "Hey man, give me some bread so
that I can get on the train". Now the Russian is thinking that the first American can't tell a
man from a woman and he further thinks that Americans use the bartering system to travel
on the subway. We use "bread" to purchase our passage on the train!
But, you and I know that this is a misunderstanding. And so it would be if The Bible was just
"translated" without knowing the "literary forms" being used.

Now, armed with this information, we can get back to The Gospel of John 2:3-4.
In The New Testament this phrase is used elsewhere. Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:6-7 and
Luke 8:26-39,  we have the story of the Gerasene demoniac. He lived among the tombs,
was bound with chains and ran around naked. Jesus cast the demons out of him into the
herd of swine that drowned.

The demons arguing from inside the demoniac use the same expression.
They say Luke 8:28, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God?"
Make the comparison; "Woman, how does your concern affect me?"

Could the demons be disrespectful to our Lord?
The answer is, of course, NO! Neither is our Lord being disrespectful to The Blessed
mother. He is not even ignoring her. Actually as we shall see, in a moment, our Lord is
telling His mother that whatever she asks He is bound to do. Quite the opposite of what we,
as Americans, in our modern society, think is going on!
It does not mean, "Get Lost"! It, also, doesn't mean, "Mom leave me alone"! It means, as
we know the demons would have to respect and address Jesus - God; "You and I know our
relationship. and, You know further, that whatever You ask of me I am going to do."
This "idea" is made more clear in Mark 5:6-7; 6  Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,
he ran up and prostrated himself before him, 7  crying out in a loud voice, "What have you
to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!"
Here we have the demons using the "idiom" in an expression of "worship"! As to the
suggestion that the "expression" is a "rebuff", it is actually an admission that "whatever you
ask of me I must do".

Actually, rather than "conflict" this "phrase" implies "agreement".  

Let us know take a closer look at how the [HCM] gives us a deeper understanding of the
traditional teaching of The Catholic Church on the Wedding Feast of Cana, The First
Miracle of Jesus, accomplished at the bequest of His Mother Mary, in The Gospel of John
2:3-4;
John 2:3  When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
4  (And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not
yet come."
Jesus, as we know, turned water into wine. I will not be giving an in depth teaching here.
Let it suffice to say that traditionally The Church has pointed to these verses as showing
Jesus' First Miracle at the, as stated earlier, bequest of His Mother. He did this out of love
for her showing that we can go to His Mother for, among other things, help in obtaining a
favorable response from her son The King of Kings. Over the centuries that idea has
somehow gotten lost. There are some who would say that Jesus performing this miracle
had nothing to do with the request of His mother because He obviously treated her with
disdain and contempt. But, this is where the [HCM] comes neatly to the rescue. The [HCM]
clarifies the traditional teaching of The Church rather than offering a radically "new"
teaching, such as is the case in the "Feeding of The Five Thousand".   

WILL YOU ALSO GO AWAY?
By JACK TAYLOR
"The traditional Christian belief about these Gospel events has always been that Jesus fed
the crowds by the miracle of multiplying a few loaves of bread and a few fish into enough
food for all. The new interpretation tells us now that Christ did not really feed the crowds,
but rather created circumstances wherein they fed themselves."  

If you read the article you can clearly see how the "new" teaching is taking away from the
"real" miracle. Sure, it is nice to think that everybody "shared" because Jesus inspired
them, but the truth is made clear in Scripture that Jesus knew they "have nothing to eat".
Matthew 15:32  Jesus summoned his disciples and said, "My heart is moved with pity for
the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not
want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way."
The traditional teaching is that Jesus fed the Five Thousand, through His Apostles and that
the Feeding can be compared to Christ Feeding His Church through His Priests to this very
day with The Bread of Everlasting Life!

Now on to the writings of the Popes on caution concerning The Historical Critical Method.

DIVINO AFFLANTE SPIRITU
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XII
27. Let Catholic exegetes then disclose and expound this spiritual significance, intended
and ordained by God, with that care which the dignity of the divine word demands; but let
them scrupulously refrain from proposing as the genuine meaning of Sacred Scripture
other figurative senses. It may indeed be useful, especially in preaching, to illustrate, and
present the matters of faith and morals by a broader use of the Sacred Text in the
figurative sense, provided this be done with moderation and restraint; it should, however,
never be forgotten that this use of the Sacred Scripture is, as it were, extrinsic to it and
accidental, and that, especially in these days, it is not free from danger, since the faithful,
in particular those who are well-informed in the sciences sacred and profane, wish to know
what God has told us in the Sacred Letters rather than what an ingenious orator or writer
may suggest by a clever use of the words of Scripture. Nor does "the word of God, living
and effectual and more piercing than any two-edged sword and reaching unto the division
of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts
and intents of the heart"[27] need artificial devices and human adaptation to move and
impress souls; for the Sacred Pages, written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, are
of themselves rich in original meaning; endowed with a divine power, they have their own
value; adorned with heavenly beauty, they radiate of themselves light and splendor,
provided they are so fully and accurately explained by the interpreter, that all the treasures
of wisdom and prudence, therein contained are brought to light.
24. The commentators of the Sacred Letters, mindful of the fact that here there is question
of a divinely inspired text, the care and interpretation of which have been confided to the
Church by God Himself, should no less diligently take into account the explanations and
declarations of the teaching authority of the Church, as likewise the interpretation given by
the Holy Fathers, and even "the analogy of faith" as Leo XIII most wisely observed in the
Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus.[26] With special zeal should they apply
themselves, not only to expounding exclusively these matters which belong to the
historical, archaeological, philological and other auxiliary sciences - as, to Our regret, is
done in certain commentaries - but, having duly referred to these, in so far as they may aid
the exegesis, they should set forth in particular the theological doctrine in faith and morals
of the individual books or texts so that their exposition may not only aid the professors of
theology in their explanations and proofs of the dogmas of faith, but may also be of
assistance to priests in their presentation of Christian doctrine to the people, and in fine
may help all the faithful to lead a life that is holy and worthy of a Christian.
25. By making such an exposition, which is above all, as We have said, theological, they
will efficaciously reduce to silence those who, affirming that they scarcely ever find
anything in biblical commentaries to raise their hearts to God, to nourish their souls or
promote their interior life, repeatedly urge that we should have recourse to a certain
spiritual and, as they say, mystical interpretation. With what little reason they thus speak is
shown by the experience of many, who, assiduously considering and meditating the word
of God, advanced in perfection and were moved to an intense love for God; and this same
truth is clearly proved by the constant tradition of the Church and the precepts of the
greatest Doctors. Doubtless all spiritual sense is not excluded from the Sacred Scripture.
26. For what was said and done in the Old Testament was ordained and disposed by God
with such consummate wisdom, that things past prefigured in a spiritual way those that
were to come under the new dispensation of grace. Wherefore the exegete, just as he
must search out and expound the literal meaning of the words, intended and expressed by
the sacred writer, so also must he do likewise for the spiritual sense, provided it is clearly
intended by God. For God alone could have known this spiritual meaning and have
revealed it to us. Now Our Divine Savior Himself points out to us and teaches us this same
sense in the Holy Gospel; the Apostles also, following the example of the Master, profess it
in their spoken and written words; the unchanging tradition of the Church approves it; and
finally the most ancient usage of the liturgy proclaims it, wherever may be rightly applied
the well-known principle: "The rule of prayer is the rule of faith."
27. Let Catholic exegetes then disclose and expound this spiritual significance, intended
and ordained by God, with that care which the dignity of the divine word demands; but let
them scrupulously refrain from proposing as the genuine meaning of Sacred Scripture
other figurative senses. It may indeed be useful, especially in preaching, to illustrate, and
present the matters of faith and morals by a broader use of the Sacred Text in the
figurative sense, provided this be done with moderation and restraint; it should, however,
never be forgotten that this use of the Sacred Scripture is, as it were, extrinsic to it and
accidental, and that, especially in these days, it is not free from danger, since the faithful,
in particular those who are well-informed in the sciences sacred and profane, wish to know
what God has told us in the Sacred Letters rather than what an ingenious orator or writer
may suggest by a clever use of the words of Scripture. Nor does "the word of God, living
and effectual and more piercing than any two-edged sword and reaching unto the division
of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts
and intents of the heart"[27] need artificial devices and human adaptation to move and
impress souls; for the Sacred Pages, written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, are
of themselves rich in original meaning; endowed with a divine power, they have their own
value; adorned with heavenly beauty, they radiate of themselves light and splendor,
provided they are so fully and accurately explained by the interpreter, that all the treasures
of wisdom and prudence, therein contained are brought to light.
28. In the accomplishment of this task the Catholic exegete will find invaluable help in an
assiduous study of those works, in which the Holy Fathers, the Doctors of the Church and
the renowned interpreters of past ages have explained the Sacred Books. [...]

PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII
ON THE STUDY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
13.
But in this matter we need hardly say that the greatest prudence is required, for the "office
of a commentator," as St. Jerome says, "is to set forth not what he himself would prefer, but
what his author says."(31) The question of "readings" having been, when necessary,
carefully discussed, the next thing is to investigate and expound the meaning. And the first
counsel to be given is this: That the more our adversaries contend to the contrary, so
much the more solicitously should we adhere to the received and approved canons of
interpretation. Hence, whilst weighing the meanings of words, the connection of ideas, the
parallelism of passages, and the like, we should by all means make use of such
illustrations as can be drawn from apposite erudition of an external sort; but this should be
done with caution, so as not to bestow on questions of this kind more labour and time than
are spent on the Sacred Books themselves, and not to overload the minds of the students
with a mass of information that will be rather a hindrance than a help.
15. But he must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to
push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully
observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine-not to depart from the literal and
obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires;(40) a
rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for
novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and
proximate.

17.
There has arisen, to the great detriment of religion, an inept method, dignified by the name
of the "higher criticism," which pretends to judge of the origin, integrity and authority of
each Book from internal indications alone. It is clear, on the other hand, that in historical
questions, such as the origin and the handing down of writings, the witness of history is of
primary importance, and that historical investigation should be made with the utmost care;
and that in this matter internal evidence is seldom of great value, except as confirmation.
To look upon it in any other light will be to open the door to many evil consequences. It will
make the enemies of religion much more bold and confident in attacking and mangling the
Sacred Books; and this vaunted "higher criticism" will resolve itself into the reflection of the
bias and the prejudice of the critics. It will not throw on the Scripture the light which is
sought, or prove of any advantage to doctrine; it will only give rise to disagreement and
dissension, those sure notes of error, which the critics in question so plentifully exhibit in
their own persons; and seeing that most of them are tainted with false philosophy and
rationalism, it must lead to the elimination from the sacred writings of all prophecy and
miracle, and of everything else that is outside the natural order.

The links to the complete documents are given so that you can read the whole document,
if you choose, when you have the time. But, also, that you may check that I am not taking
the words of the Popes out of context.

More on the [HCM]
An article by Dr. Scott Hahn,
The Politicized Bible

New Advent: Historical Critical
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