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August 8, 2017
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The Bible is not Revelation

Fr Adolph Bueno, Prelature of Opus Dei

It is an inspired testimony of Revelation. A book on geography of America does not contain America. It should not, therefore, come as a surprise the discovery of Joseph Ratzinger when, in the 50s, he was studying the understanding of Revelation in the theology of the thirteenth century: “I collided with an unexpected fact: nobody in that period ever thought to call the Bible ‘Revelation,’ nor was it called ‘source’” (Sources and transmission of the faith, in Communio, 1983 Spring).

Often a book is substituted for reality. When used in teaching, the method is intended to reproduce in the disciple the views of the author of the book. However, a book consists of signs or symbols. Extreme logicism tends to introduce, at least with an “imperfect being”, things in the mind, in the “objective concepts” as they call them, or − what is equivalent − turns certain “objective concepts” into copies of things.

Therefore, given that the book evokes intellections (“objective concepts”), the book tends to “replace” or play the role of reality, of source of Revelation. Thus, reality−which in Theology includes the supernatural−is replaced by sacred texts or documents, i.e. by testimonies of Revelation.

Along these lines, the first draft of the current Constitution Dei Verbum (Vatican II) spoke about De Fontibus Revelationis, referring to Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, namely to word symbols. According to this way of expression, Revelation is contained in or proceeds from books, from human sources!

However, Revelation is an act of God: God-revealing. We would then have an act of God − God himself − contained in a book, or in the “objective concepts” that arise from reading the book! In which case, since theology studies God, it could be developed focusing on the book − which contains the full theophany.

As a corollary, the highest theological authority would be the interpreter of the “sources of Revelation”− of the documents identifiable with God-revealing. Consequently, the exegete would be above the bishops, the apostolic succession, the saints, and the Pope.

Fortunately, not all were ignorant logicists at the Vatican Council, and far less under the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

Invited by Pope John XXIII, Henri de Lubac was there. He explained that Revelation “is not, essentially, a book but a Person.” And quoting Ratzinger: “The Source par excellence is God acting in Christ.” He continued: “I would like to remember here . . . the most beautiful speech heard in Saint Peter apropos the schema on the sources of revelation, that of Monsignor (later Cardinal) Paul Zoungrana, Archbishop of Ouagadougou (Burkina), speaking on behalf of sixty-seven African bishops. ‘Fundamentally, he said, Christ is Himself the Revelation that He brings.’

He supported his opinion on texts in the liturgy and in a famous passage from St John of the Cross in The Ascent of Mount Carmel. ‘The truths we must believe and the duties we must fulfill−he concluded−should be considered above all in their relationship with a living person. Tell the world that Christ is the divine revelation. It is necessary that the beautiful face of Christ shine better in the Church. Thus you will renew the wonders of love and fidelity that glowed in the early Church.’” (Diálogo sobre el Vaticano II, 55-57).

Theology is unique

The original title of the Constitution, proposed by the Holy Office, “Sources of Revelation,” definitely vanished. The new document, Dei Verbum, would deal with De divina revelatione, and it clarifies: “Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end (9).”

Thus the Council started rescuing the most basic epistemology, heritage of previous centuries: neither Scripture nor Tradition is Revelation. And the only and ultimate source is God−God-revealing: “In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4)” (DV 2).

If Christ is the fullness of Revelation, how is that Revelation transmitted, how do we connect with Him? This is the subject matter of the Dei Verbum. Consequently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls Chapter Two of Part One “God Comes to Meet Man” whose article 2 is entitled: “The Transmission of Divine Revelation”.

Hence, the word ‘Revelation’ is applied on the one hand “only to an act, which was never expressible in human words and by which God made Himself known to his creature and, on the other, to the reception by which the divine condescendence became perceptible to man under the form of Revelation. [The reception involves the elevation of man to grasp the divine light].

Everything that must be fixed in words, thus Scripture itself, testifies to the Revelation without being that Revelation in the strict sense of the word. Only Revelation itself is properly speaking ‘source,’ the source from which Scripture itself also draws” (Ratzinger, “Sources,” 27).

In various ways Theology is unique. It exists because
1. there is a divine Revelation,
2. there are testimonies of that Revelation (the so-called “Word of God”−Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition),
3. God enables men to grasp in varying degrees−through the gift of faith−some meaning in those testimonies,
4. God uses those same testimonies or formulations to transmit the faith.
Obviously no other science considers previous findings as an incontestable plenitude but as an improvable starting point.

Needless to say, no science has a method similar to that of Sacred Theology. There is no sacred deposit of physics or medicine−to look for answers. Other sciences do not look back in order to research and make progress. Previous formulations never constitute an immutable source or paradigm.

This article is based on A. J. Bueno’s The Logicist Tribulation of Sophia, Book Three, 3-6.





 

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