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October 18, 1996     The Message
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October 18, 1996

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14 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Way media reports on Bible seen limiting public unq By TRACY EARLY Catholic News Service NEW YORK (CNS) -- Public understanding of the Bible is hampered by a media tendency to convey either fundamentalist teachings or skeptical views such as those of" the Jesus Sem- inar, according to a leading New Testament scholar. Sulpician Father Raymond E. Brown, retired professor at the interdenominational Union Sem- inary in New York, said biblical scholars at institutions such as Union and other major academ- ic centers do not fall into either camp, but do not attract media attention• The power of the media in American life today makes that a problem in getting a balanced view of the Bible across to the Catholic laity and other mem- bers of the general public, he said. "What they hear on a talk show is more important than what they hear on Sunday." Father Brown, who was on the Pontifical Biblical Commis- sion from 1972 to 1978 and was appointed this year to another six-year term, spoke Oct. 10 on "The Catholic Church and the Bible." He delivered the annual Merton Lecture at Columbia University in New York. Father Brown said he found the media "entranced" by the Jesus Seminar, a group of schol- ars who have gained publicity by announcing their decision that many incidents reported in the Gospels did not happen and that Jesus did not make many of the statements attributed to him. Their pronouncements are often presented as what "scholars" say, as though they constituted the total scholarly community, f and the only alternative many people hear is fundamentalist teaching, Father Brown said. He said Catholic biblical scholarship was saved from fun- damentalism by Pope Plus XII's 1943 encyclical on biblical stud- ies, "Divino Afflante Spiritu." He wrote that the Bible contains material of various literary forms, and not all of it has to be interpreted as literal history. This new outlook provided the basis of teaching that the future Pope John Paul II received in Rome in the late 1940s, and it is € critical statements about "the Jews." The New Testament should not be used to support anti-Semitism, but changing the text gives readers a wrong view of what the author was trying to convey, he said. Such changes do not respect the teaching of Pope Plus XII that the Bible should be read according to the original intent of the authors, Father Brown said. The New Testament shows a development of thO tradition that originated with Jesus, but the Christian faith has to stay connected with the message preached by the apostles, he said. Father Brown also identified problems within the Catholic Church that blocked biblical education of the laity. In calling for basing biblical translation and study on the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts, Pope Plus XII served to "professionalize" biblical teach- ing, he said. Previously, many officials in charge of seminaries had assumed that any priest, nun or brother could and people would the task in "ha without reference to al training, he Today, Father shortage of priests ficult for bishops an religious orders to many for 1: He also said sionalh were relucta college background the tary instruction reflected in his subsequent writ- ings, hesaid. National observance of child Father Brown said the encyclical also advanced biblical study by encouraging transla- tion from the original languages, rather than requiring that translations be based on the Latin as in the past. However, Pope Plus XII could not have imagined the new dis- agreements introduced into translation work by the emer- gence of "inclusive language" and "political correctness," Father Brown said. "People today say the Bible should respect my sensitivities." He said use of inclusive lan- guage where the original bibli- cal text used "men" to mean all people was innocuous. But the biblical term "Son of Man" car- ries a significance that is not represented by translations that change the term into "the human one," he said. And he said Jesus used "father" with a special meaning in reference to God. "I think we have to respect that," he added. Father Brown said he had also seen a translation that changed the meaning of some New Testament passages by giv- ing alternative renderings to FAIRVI[EW MAUSOLEUM COMPLEX- PHASE I[I tl i t t Bartley Street, Jasper Tel: (812) 481-2068 SAVE by purchasing now, prior to construction, at low, pre- construction prices. Extended payment plans are available on pre-need purchases. PROTECT your loved ones from having to make cemetery arrangements at the time of death. 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