Approaches to the Study of Sacred Scriptures

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2010 »Volume 47 2010 Number 2 »Approaches To The Study Of Sacred Scriptures

Miriam R. Alejandrino, OSB



Years of studying1 and teaching2 Sacred Scriptures have taught me that not a single method of Scripture study could exhaust the rich meaning of the Word of God. The Church admits: “No scientific method for the study of the Bible is fully adequate to comprehend the biblical texts in all their richness… other methods and approaches are proposed which serve to explore more profoundly other aspects worthy of attention.”3 In the biblical-pastoral field, there is a growing desire among the faithful to make the Bible their book of life, and this need could be appropriately responded to only if they learn the necessary methods and approaches to the reading and study of Sacred Scriptures.

It has to be clear at the outset that this article does not intend to propose specific methods and approaches to the study of Sacred Scriptures. The aim is rather to learn from the biblical interpretation of our ancestors in the past and be enriched by the present teachings of the Church and experiences in the biblical-pastoral ministry, so as to grow in our personal knowledge of Jesus Christ,4 and consequently increase our faith, hope, and charity as we journey toward the future. To achieve this goal, the first section of this article is a survey of the different approaches5 in the study of Sacred Scriptures in the past till the publication of the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church.6 The second section looks into the present trends in biblical interpretation after 1993, both in the academe and in the biblical-pastoral ministry. Then we conclude with some insights on how to make Scripture study a real encounter with the risen Christ, the living Word of God who pitched God’s tent among us (see Jn 1:14).

Past: A Historical Survey7

Biblical times

The interpretation of the Bible begins in the Bible itself, both in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible), that is, the posterior books interpret anterior books, and in the New Testament, which interprets the Old Testament through glosses, changes of words, redactional combination of oracles originally distinct which explain one another, regrouping in one “book” different authors (as in Isaiah and Zeccariah), and explicit references, e.g., Daniel interprets the 70 years of servitude to the king of Babylon in Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10 as 70 weeks to end the Israelites’ transgressions (see Dan 9:24ff).

Isaiah 14:24-26, which originally was an oracle against Assyria, was after two centuries adapted against Babylonia, then it was extended to all the enemies of Israel so that it assumed an eschatological-messianic dimension in the Targum.

Jesus followed the methods formally used during his time, e.g., midrash pesher (Lk 4:16-21). When he explains the commandments, he uses the Old Testament texts in a very original way. Jesus does not deduce his teachings from the Bible as the rabbis did. He comes to bring a new revelation and speaks of his own authority, reinterpreting even the ancient precepts in his six antitheses in Matthew 5:21-48. His relationship with the Old Testament is one of prophetic fulfillment and moral perfection. He applies to himself Psalm 110, Isaiah 53 and 61, Daniel 7, and different passages of Zechariah, contrary to the contemporary rabbinic use. While Jesus maintains the exegetical method of his time, he starts from a new hermeneutical principle to arrive at exegetical conclusions original in the Palestine of his time, that is, the will of God.

Paul followed the rabbinical exegesis, but the hermeneutical principle in which he read the whole Bible is the resurrection and the activity of the Spirit in the Church. Sometimes Paul uses allegory or typology, e.g., in Galatians 4:21-31 on Sarah and Hagar, and in 1 Corinthians 9:9, the prohibition to put a muzzle on the ox, which indicates threshing, is applied by Paul to the workers of the gospel. He also uses midrash pesher not only when he explains certain passages with actualizing explanation like “the rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:3ff.), but particularly when he speaks of the hidden mystery during the centuries but now revealed to himself (see Rom 16:25-27; Col 1:26ff; Eph 3:1-11).

Patristic Period

The patristic hermeneutics in the second century was characteristically anti-pagan, anti-gnostic, and anti-Judaic polemics. The center of discussion was on the value and the way of interpretation of the Hebrew Bible.

Justin, in his Dialogue with Trypho,8 did anti-Jewish polemics, using the Hebrew Bible in a materially literal way. Justin emphasized the continuity and unity of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. He gives a Christological interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and distinguishes between “types,” events in the Hebrew Bible that foreshadow New Testament events and “prophetic words” which explain facts and events.

Irenaeus wrote against the different gnostic sects, some of whom did not only attribute the Old Testament to a demon who worked through God, but also allegorized biblical narratives to accommodate them to their theosophic speculations. Irenaeus’ method was close to literal exegesis, but he also made use of many symbolisms and allegory to illustrate the true Christian faith. His allegory was not limited to his exegesis of the Old Testament but he extended it also to the parables in the New Testament. Since the divergences with the gnostics could not be resolved by an internal hermeneutical principle, he had to make an appeal to an external rule, that is, the regula fidei, or the confession of faith pronounced at baptism and transmitted through tradition.

The regula fidei by itself does not explain the Scripture but provides the framework within which every exegesis must remain in order that it may not err in its conclusions. Irenaeus also established a very important principle, the analogia fidei, in the interpretation of the Bible. The Bible has God as the sole author, thus the Old and the New Testaments do not contradict. Irenaeus’ rules are: first, to interpret a passage or text in its immediate context; second, to see the broader context, that is, the whole Scripture since there is only one God; and third, to consult the regula fidei.9

Allegorical interpretation in Alexandria, Egypt

Philo made great use of Greek philosophy to explain the Scripture and he had lavishly used allegory.10

Clement of Alexandria took up the work of Philo in a Christian sense. He found two senses in the Scripture: he called the obvious one the “literal sense,” and the other sense he named the “concealed one,” which could be discovered only by Christians who had reached the true gnosis. Clement explained that because the whole Scripture is the work of the Word, one can speak of one Testament. Since the whole Old Testament speaks of Christ, its hidden meaning can be discovered only through allegory or symbolism. But in order that allegory would not fall into gnostic speculations, it must content itself within the limits of the analogia fidei and to ecclesial tradition, as Irenaeus had already insisted. For Clement, the symbolism was not only intertestamental but also cosmic because the Greeks could also ascend to God through the world and their conscience, and therefore, there is a unity between creation, reason, conscience, and revelation. He spoke of “cosmic sacramentalism,” that is, the world becomes a parable, which speaks of God and is a sacrament of the Church.11

Origen is considered the father of allegorical exegesis. According to Origen, Sacred Scripture has three senses, which correspond to a person’s body, soul and spirit: (1) the literal sense, (2) the psychical sense, and (3) the pneumatic sense. For Origen, the letter does not make sense; what is symbolized by the letter gives the significance.12

Literal interpretation in Antioch

Representatives of literal interpretation were Diodorus of Tarsus (+ca. 393), Theodorus of Mopsuestia (360-428), and John Chrysostom (344-407). These three proposed respect for the literal sense, including the metaphorical meaning, which the Alexandrians called “allegorical.” The hermeneutical foundation of the Antiocheans was the doctrine of theoria or “vision,” the “higher consideration.”

To the doctrine of theoria, John Chrysostom adds the theory of synkatabasis or condescension to explain the anthropomorphisms or the metaphors. God in him/herself is incomprehensible, thus, God reveals him/herself in a way comprehensible in human condition. God’s way of expression is adapted to circumstances of the time. Sacred Scripture is God’s letter addressed not only to Israel but also to the Church and to the whole humanity, a letter of affective tone, which speaks the language of the receivers to lead them to theoria or vision of God. But in order that the letter is understood, it must be read with the needed spiritual ascesis.13

The Cappadocian Fathers, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, could be considered as the bridge between Origen and the Antiocheans. They were more interested in biblical theology.

Gregory of Nyssa claimed that the scope of Scripture is to teach humanity about God’s design in the history of humankind. He spoke of akolouthia, or “logical connection” between God’s deeds and historical facts, which applies both to the Old and New Testaments. For Gregory of Nyssa, we must not pay attention to one (word) and forget the other (action). Human words and actions have divine significance.14

Latin Fathers

Jerome is considered the father of scientific exegesis because he underlined the importance of the knowledge of the Aramaic and Hebrew languages for the Old Testament, the Greek for the New Testament, and the superiority of the original text over translations.15 He made use of textual criticism, compared manuscripts, and used internal criticism to correct errors. Theoretically, he preferred the short canon (the protocanonical books) at least in case of controversies. In spite of his authoritative character, he wanted that the opinions of others on the exegesis of a passage be also expounded, considering them as a “partner” in the research. He valued above all orthodoxy in the explanation of the Sacred Scripture. Although he said that sometimes allegory is allowed, for him the sense of the text was the literal sense. But the Old Testament in its prophecies generally speaks of the Christian economy and of Christ. Jerome also knew the midrashic rabbinic interpretations. His translation of the Vulgate from the original Hebrew text and his revision of the Vetus Latina in the New Testament have provided the Roman Church with the official version of the Bible.

Augustine was actually a theologian, not an exegete. As synthesized in his De Doctrina Christiana (CSEL 80), his hermeneutical principles were: (1) to understand Scripture, one must purify the soul; (2) the ultimate scope of Scripture study is to lead us to the love of God; (3) to arrive at the love of God, humility is needed; (4) read and study Scripture for life and faith; (5) in case of doubt, consult the regula fidei; (6) see the immediate context in case of ambiguity. The meaning of a word could acquire different nuances according to its context. He considered the biblical author’s intention as the meaning intended by the Holy Spirit through the human authors.

Middle Ages

The Middle Ages was characterized by full scriptural activity. In the monasteries, lectio divina16 was practiced, while in the universities, the sacred text was explained. It began at San Victor in Paris. Their way of explaining the sacred text was mostly through catenae, that is, single passages of Sacred Scripture were explained by patristic passages, e.g., Catena Aurea of Saint Thomas on the four gospels. The Latin Fathers, especially Augustine, and the Greek Fathers were often quoted; Glossae, that is, marginal notes to the sacred text, which later became proper commentaries, and Jewish exegesis (midrash, etc.) were used by some.

But all this exegetical activity did not make much progress in the field of hermeneutical principles. The hermeneutical principles of the Fathers were codified into distinguishing the four senses of the biblical passage: literal (littera gesta docet), e.g., literally, Jerusalem is the historical city in Palestine/Israel; allegorical (quid credas allegoria), e.g., allegorically, Jerusalem represents the Church; moral (moralis quid agas), e.g., morally, Jerusalem stand for the soul; and anagogic (quo tendas anagogia), e.g., anagogically, Jerusalem refers to heaven.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica I,1,10,17 reduces these four senses into two: literal sense, which corresponds to the historical, etiological and analogical senses of Augustine; and spiritual sense, which includes the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. In his commentaries, Saint Thomas adheres so much to the letter on which he bases his theology with a philosophical-Aristotelian pre-understanding.

The point of departure of Catholic exegesis from the Patristic period till the Middle Ages had been the regula fidei, to be faithful to the Catholic doctrines.

The 16th to the 19th centuries

All this has been changed in the exegesis of the Reformation by Martin Luther, who placed the Word at the center of every authority because for him, it was in the Word that we encounter God. He explained that Word is broader than the Bible; it is the “preached Word.” The Old Testament is “Scripture,” while the New Testament is “announcement” and was written in superabundance. The whole of Sacred Scripture is gospel. The Lutheran hermeneutical principle is “Christocentricity,” without reference to Tradition or the magisterium. Luther did not accept the deuterocanonical books as canonical; he called them “apocryphal books.”

The Lutheran Reformation led to the convocation of the Council of Trent which defined that:

  • The sources of divine revelation are Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
  • The biblical canon includes the deuterocanonical books.
  • The Vulgate is the official text of the Church, for preaching and theological studies.
  • The Church is the sole interpreter of the Bible in questions of faith and morals.
  • The Church warns against abuses in the use of the Bible.
  • Catholic editions of the Bible should have an imprimatur.

The post-Tridentine Catholic theologians had deepened the notion of biblical inspiration, but had not reelaborated much hermeneutical principles. Till this time, the differences in the hermeneutical ideas are limited to the preference of the literal sense to that of the allegorical sense, to the acceptance or not of the ecclesial tradition and to the way of interpreting inspiration. However, both Catholics and Protestants accepted the existence of a creator-transcendent God, the fact of revelation, the possibility and the fact of miracles, the Bible as a sacred and inspired book, to be interpreted according to particular canons.

All these changed radically in the 16th and 17th centuries with the start of rationalism, French illuminism, and empiricism in the philosophical field; in the scientific field, with the progress of positive sciences; and finally in the historical field, with new methods of research and new discoveries, added to the innovations in the field of political ideas.

In his encyclical, Providentissimus Deus (PD, 1893), Leo XIII protected the Catholic interpretation of the Bible from the attacks of rationalistic science. His recommendation was to “study ancient languages…let them (biblical scholars) be alert to adopt without delay anything useful that each period brings to biblical exegesis”.18

Leo XIII emphasized that the guidance of the Holy Spirit and fidelity to the Church are needed for a correct orientation of exegesis. It is a great service of exegetes to the community of believers when the fruits of their Scripture study nourish the faith of the people and guide their life of charity.

The 20th century

Pius XII in his encyclical, Divino Afflante Spiritu (DAS, 1943), defended Catholic interpretation from those who opposed the use of science by exegetes and wanted to impose a non-scientific or the so-called “spiritual” interpretation of Sacred Scripture. He adapted the recommendations of Providentissimus Deus and encouraged the study of literary genres and the use of historical and human sciences in biblical studies (EB, n. 546).

PD and DAS reject a split between (1) the human and divine, (2) scientific research and respect for faith, and (3) literal sense and spiritual sense.

The Second Vatican Council in Dei Verbum adapts the provisions of PD and DAS at the same time emphasizes the “theological” significance of the literal sense (EB, n. 551).

The Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (IBC) examines methods, approaches, and interpretations of the Bible and affirms that they have valid elements for an integral interpretation of the biblical text.19 IBC recommends the balanced and moderate use of the diachronic (historical-critical method) and synchronic (literary analysis) methods.20

The late John Paul II explained that “it is necessary that interpreters perceive the divine Word in the texts. They can do this only if their intellectual work is sustained by a vigorous spiritual life…the Word of God invites each person to come out of himself to live in faith and love.”21

Present Trends in Biblical Interpretation

In the academe

I often hear comments from non-biblical scholars that exegetes limit themselves only to the use of the historical-critical method or the diachronic approach. This is of course not true. PD, DAS, DV, and IBC recommend that any study of Sacred Scripture should start with a study of the historical background of the text and the author, the Sitz-im-Leben of the biblical text. This was confirmed recently by Pope Benedict XVI. However, the use of the historical-critical method serves only as a starting point for a deeper understanding of the biblical text, that is, to study the biblical text itself or the synchronic approach.23

Ideally, study of the Scriptures should start with the original biblical languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic). Theological schools and seminaries in Asia24 and Africa have already introduced biblical languages in their curriculum. After the Second Vatican Council, many good English translations have been published, e.g., the Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible, New Revised Standard Version, and the New International Version, which can be the basis for scientific study also.

Whereas before most of the biblical commentaries were written by western scholars, at present many non-western biblical scholars are also coming out with scholarly works, and the methodology has shifted from the purely diachronic approach or historical-critical method to synchronic approach or literary criticism. There is also a move to develop an Asian biblical hermeneutics.25

Sandra Schneiders gives a comprehensive approach to the study of Sacred Scripture with her proposal to study the (1) “world behind the text,” (2) “world in the text” and (3) “world before the text.”26 The diachronic approach serves as a “window” through which we can see what happened behind the text and what the biblical authors intended to say, while the synchronic approach examines the biblical text itself and brings out what the message of the text is. As the message of the biblical text surfaces from the study of the “world behind the text” and the “world in the text,” the interpreter now relates the message of the biblical text to her/his life—the “world before the text.” Learnings and insights from the academe should be shared with the faithful to nourish their faith and to serve as a guide for a life of charity. This is a challenge in the biblical-pastoral ministry, which I discuss in the next paragraph.

In the biblical-pastoral ministry

The Church’s interest in the Bible is not limited to what the text meant to its author and original readers; the Church emphasizes what the text means today as a living word for Christian faith.27 Catholic exegetes arrive at the true goal of their work only when they have explained the meaning of the biblical text as God’s word for today.28 The Christian community, the people of God, provides the truly adequate context for interpreting the Sacred Scripture.29

Schneiders explains that

The ultimate goal of interpretation, the existential augmentation of the reader, takes place in her or his participation, through the text, in the world before the text. The ultimate objective of reading is enhanced subjectivity, an experience that belongs finally… to the sphere of spirituality… To really enter the world before the text… is to be changed, to ‘come back different,’ which is a way of saying that one does not come ‘back’ at all but moves forward into a newness of being… Appropriation… is an experience of conversion by participation in the world before the text.30

The approaches to the study of Scripture in the academe cannot and should not be “transported” verbatim to the ordinary faithful. The Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church uses the term “actualization,” that is, to “re-read [the Bible] in the light of new circumstances and apply to the contemporary situation of the People of God… to reveal their [the biblical texts’] significance for men and women of today… to apply their message to contemporary circumstances and to express it in a language adapted to the present time.”31

In his major paper presented during the Seventh Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation, held at Dar es Salaam last June 24 to July 3, 2008, Ralf Hüning, SVD,32 claims: “In the Catholic Church there is the liturgical-institutional space, in which the faith of the tradition is the key to the interpretation of the Bible; the academic space, in which interpretation is particularly focused on the text itself, its origin and its structures; and the community space, in which access to the text is found through the life and faith experiences of interpreters.” He visualizes the relationship of these spaces through the following diagram:3

Academic realm: text; scientific approach

[Missing Images]

The diagram above shows that the interpretation of the Bible in the Church should not take place in a single hermeneutical realm; text, life situation, and faith have to come into a dialogue. According to Carlos Mesters, these are “three forces which come into operation when we try to explain the Bible to the people: the force of the particular problem burdening the people’s lives, the force of the scientific investigation carried out by exegesis, which questions established certainties, and the force of the Church’s faith awakening in the ‘memory’ of Christians.”34

In the liturgy, where “Christ is present in His word since it is Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church,”35 Christ enters into a dialogue with women and men to lead them to salvation. The liturgy is like a spring of water gushing up to eternal life (see Jn 4:14). The faith of the Church expressed in the liturgy (lex orandi lex credendi) is the particular vision with which Christians approach the Bible, seeking in it a dialogue with God.

In the liturgical-institutional space, the “pure and lasting fount of spiritual life,” the Word of God (DV, 21) is guarded and transmitted. As a solicitous Mother, the Church through its magisterium “discharges this function within the koinonia of the Body, expressing officially the faith of the Church, as a service to the Church; to this end it consults theologians, exegetes and other experts, whose legitimate liberty it recognizes and with whom it remains united by reciprocal relationship in the common goal of ‘preserving the people of God in the truth which sets them free’.”36

Dei Verbum, 22 acknowledges the important task of translation of the biblical text into modern languages. This requires doing justice both to the original text and also to the readers of this text in the various translations. Here the close connection between the academic realm and the community realm comes to light. As a translator, the biblical scholar must at the same time be an advocate of the text and of the reader of today. Through this translation work, the biblical scholar must on the one hand contribute to making the text received and respected in itself, but on the other hand, through this same translation work, the biblical scholar must bridge the distance between the time of the biblical text and the time of the present readers. This double duty can only be fulfilled if the exegete/translator is familiar not only with the biblical text but also with the life-realities of its recipients. For this reason, participation in the life of the interpretation community is an indispensable presupposition for the work of biblical scholarship.37 For a correct understanding of the biblical text, the Pontifical Biblical Commission underlines the fact that “the interpretation of Sacred Scripture requires full participation on the part of the exegetes in the life and faith of the believing community of their own time… dialogue with the understanding of the faith prevailing in earlier times must be matched by a dialogue with the generation of today.”38

The third hermeneutical space, community realm, is acknowledged by the Pontifical Biblical Commission when it describes the roles of various members of the Church in biblical interpretation because “the Scriptures, as given to the Church, are the communal treasure of the entire body of believers.”39

According to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, “there is reason to rejoice in seeing the Bible in the hands of people of lowly condition and of the poor; they can bring to its interpretation and to its actualization a light more penetrating, from the spiritual and existential point of view, than that which comes from a learning that relies upon its own resources alone (cf. Matt 11:25).”40 This document is an important milestone with respect to the appreciation of the interpretive competence of the poor. This indeed poses a challenge to a long time presupposition that the subjects in the academic and liturgical-institutional realms are the “educated class” who are the only capable people to break the Word of God to the poor. The document insures that the community realm, the life situation of the poor, is listened to in the interpretation of the Bible in the Church.

The rediscovery of the community space took place not in countries where scientific scholarship had become a way of life, but rather among the poor, who, because of a basic lack of specialized training, had at their disposal only a kind of “wisdom knowledge” as a medium of access to the Bible.41

Carlos Mesters has pointed out the danger of doing violence to reality when in the past “exegesis got the upper hand, took over interpretation, and the other functions were left behind. Faith and life were left without any particular function, more or less subordinate to scientific exegesis… If we separate them [text, life-situation and faith], we destroy the correct use of the Bible and prevent the manifestation of the liberating power of the Word of God.”42

Since the last century till the present, several attempts have been made by groups and individuals to produce modules on the study of Sacred Scriptures for the faithful.43 The 12 regional Biblical centers in the Philippines, under the supervision of the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate, are responding to the growing need of bringing the Word of God to the faithful through seminars, bibliodrama encounter with the Word, youth encounter with the Word, family encounter with the Word, and other related activities.

Some Insights

Our historical survey in the first and second sections of this article has shown that there have been several approaches in the study of Sacred Scriptures, applied to different audiences in different situations. Whatever method is used, the challenge for every biblical interpreter is to be able to present the Word of God to contemporary audience in such a way that they can experience it as a living and transformative Word. As the Pontifical Biblical Commission writes: “The task of Catholic exegetes… is an ecclesial task, for it consists in the study and explanation of Holy Scripture in a way that makes all its riches available to pastors and the faithful.”44 For Mesters, “interpreting is not just teaching and giving information; it is also transforming and bringing to birth.”45 This demands much creativity and dedication from the interpreter, without, of course, forgetting that the Holy Spirit is the teacher par excellence. Mesters writes: “In the interpretation of the Bible there must be room for both scientific investigation and the liberating action of the Spirit.”46

My experiences in the biblical pastoral ministry in the past years have taught me that biblical interpretation is not an exclusive field for trained exegetes. The Pontifical Biblical Commission explains: “No single interpretation can exhaust the meaning of the whole, which is a symphony of many voices. Thus the interpretation of one particular text has to avoid seeking to dominate at the expense of others.”47 Even Saint Jerome himself had already acknowledged the need for “partnership” in the interpretation of Sacred Scriptures.

The ordinary faithful, if properly taught with some basic principles of biblical interpretation, have great potentials to be “exegetes.”48 There has been a “biblical reawakening” among the faithful throughout the world. This was clearly evident in the sharings and reports of 230 delegates and observers from 133 countries during the Seventh Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation held at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last June 24 to July 3, 2008. Problems and challenges caused by political, social, economic, and cultural exigencies and limitations in the society have not extinguished the “fire burning within the hearts” of the faithful as they read, study and pray the Scriptures.49

Our search for appropriate methods and approaches for a helpful and meaningful study of Sacred Scriptures has to be guided by principles given by Mother Church as well as motivated by the desire to understand the message of Jesus for us today. Our study of the Sacred Scripture should lead us to a personal encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ,50 the Way, the Truth, and the Life (see Jn 14:6), and to the building up of the Christian community.


1. For seventeen years, from postulancy to juniorate till I obtained doctorate in theology, major in biblical theology.

2. For twenty-one years, as a young junior professed in the Congregation till the present, interrupted by my studies on philosophy and theology.

3. The Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, ed. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Studia Biblica 18 (Rome:  Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1995), I.B, 50-51, 53.  This document, henceforth cited as IBC, gives a brief description of the various methods and approaches, indicating the possibilities they offer and their limitations, see 26-108.

4. As the famous saying of Saint Jerome goes, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ;” quoted in DV, 25.

5. IBC, 24, n. 1, explains:  “By an exegetical ‘method’ we understand a group of scientific procedures employed in order to explain texts.  We speak of an ‘approach’ when it is a question of an enquiry proceeding from a particular point of view.”

6. The original version was in French, “L’Interprétation de la Bible dans l’Eglise (Vatican City:  Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993).

7. This section follows the presentation of Prospero Grech in his book, Ermeneutica e Teologia Biblica (Rome:  Brola, 1986) with some modifications.

8. For the full text, see Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh:  T&T Clark, reprinted 1989), 194-270.

9. Ibid., 309-331.

10. Charles Duke Yonge, trans.,  The Works of Philo Judaeus,  Series Early Christian Writings (London:  H. G. Bohn, 1854-1890).

11. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Fathers of the Second Century with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Vol. II (Edinburgh:  T&T Clark, reprinted 1989), 309-310.

12. Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Fathers of the Third Century, Vol. IV (Edinburgh:  T&T Clark, reprinted 1989).  349-382.

13. F. Fabbi, “La ‘condiscendenza’ divina nell’ispirazione biblica,” Bi-blica 14 (1933):  330-347; P. W. Harkins, Text Tradition of Chrysostom’s Commentary on John, Diss. (University of Michigan, Ann Harbor, 1948).

14. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Gregory of Nyssa, Vol. V (Edinburgh:  T&T Clark, reprinted 1988), 474-476.

15. Schaff and Wace, eds., A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Gregory of Nyssa, The Principal Works of St. Jerome, Vol. VI (Edinburgh:  T&T Clark, reprinted 1989).

16. This term was coined by Caesarius of Arles, explained by DV, 25 as “diligent sacred reading;” see IBC, IV.C.2, 181-183, for an extensive explanation of this term.

17. Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Vol. I (New York:  Doubleday & Co., 1955).

18. Enchiridion biblicum:  Documenti della chiesa sulla Sacra Scrittura:  Edizione bilingüe, n. 140 (Bologna:  Eidzione Dehoniane, 1993).   From here one, EB.

19. See note 3 above.

20. IBC, I.B, 51-53.

21. An excerpt from the late Pope’s address given on the 23rd of April 1993 during the course of the audience commemorating the centenary of Providentissimus Deus and the fiftieth anniversary of Divino Afflante Spiritu, wherein the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger presented the Pope with the document of the Biblical Commission on the interpretation of the Bible in the Church; see Studia Biblica 18, p. 4.

22. For some studies on this subject, see Donald McKim, A Guide to Contemporary Hermeneutics: Major Trends in Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986); J. Severino Croatto, Biblical Hermeneutics: Toward a Theory of Reading as the Production of Meaning (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 1987); Robert Morgan with John Barton, Biblical Interpretation (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1989); R. S. Sugirtharajah, Asian Biblical Hermeneutics and Postcolonialism:  Contesting the Interpretations (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 1998); and Still at the Margins. Biblical Scholarship Fifteen Years after Voices from the Margin (London, New York:  T&T Clark, 2008).

23. For an exposition of new methods of literary analysis, see IBC I.B., 50-67.

24. At the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay, Philippines where I teach Biblical Hebrew, some key lay men and women (both single and married) take the course.

25. E.g., Sr. Maria Ko Ha Fong, FMM, “Toward an Asian Biblical Hermeneutics,” delivered during the Asia-Oceania Biblical Workshop held in Tagaytay in February 2002.

26.  For an extensive discussion of this topic, see Sandra Schneiders, The Revelatory Text:  Interpreting the New Testament as Sacred Scripture (San Francisco:  Harper, 1991), 97-131.

27. See IBC, IV, 170-188, on the use of Scripture in the Church.  

28. IBC, III.C.1, 156.

29. IBC, I.C, 1, 72.

30. Schneiders, The Revelatory Text, 167-168.

31. IBC, IV.A.1, 171.

32. Ralf Hüning, “A Dialogical Reading of the Sermon on the Mount… In Search for Reconciliation, Justice and Peace,” unpublished manuscript.

33. I have presented this diagram during my talk in a symposium at Makati last July 21, 2008 on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the Don Bosco Center of Studies.  The full text is published in Lantayan, A Pastoral-Theological Journal, Vol. 7 (Silver Jubilee, Second Issue 2008-2009):  57-76.

34. Carlos Mesters, Defenseless Flower. A New Reading of the Bible (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books; London:  Catholic Institute for International Relations, 1989), 46; originally published as Flor Sem Defesa: Uma Explicaçāo da Biblia a Partir do Povo (Petrópolis, Brazil:  Editora Vozes Ltda., 1983), 106-107.

35. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7.

36. IBC, III.B.3, 155. 

37. Hüning, “Bibelwissenschaft im Dienste popularer Bibellektüre. Bausteine einer Theorie der Bibellektüre aus dem Werk von Carlos Mesters,“ Stuttgarter Biblische Beiträge 54 (Stuttgart, 2005):  238-240.

38. IBC, III.A.3, 141.

39. IBC, III.B.3, 150.

40. IBC, IV.C.3, 85.

41. This originated from Latin America, especially with the work of the so-called “liberation theologians;” see Hüning, Bibelwissenschaft, 240. 

42. Mesters, Defenseless Flower, 108-109.

43. E.g., Oletta Wald, The Joy of Discovery in Bible Study (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1975), modules prepared by Ms. Carmencita Rojas of the East Asian Pastoral Institute; and modules designed by the staff of the John Paul I Biblical Center led by Fr. Luger Feldkämper, SVD, and the late Sr. Henrietta Sebastian, OSB, to mention but a few. 

44. IBC, III.C, 155.

45. Mesters, Defenseless Flower, 46.

46. Ibid.

47. IBC, III.A.3, 140.

48. See for example, Mesters, Defenseless Flower, 12-17, where, at the Third Inter-Ecclesial Meeting of the Basic Communities held in Vitória in 1977, he describes the way the Bible was used and interpreted by the people of the base communities when they came together.

49. This comment is based on the sharings of the participants from Myanmar, Vietnam, China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, among others, during the recently concluded Biblical Pastoral Training Course at EAPI, January-April 2010.

50. Sr. Maria Ko Ha Fong writes:  “A fruitful biblical apostolate in Asia needs adequate methods, but also, and even more, disciples and witnesses with burning hearts… We do well to elaborate an Asian Biblical Hermeneutics, but we must not forget that the encounter with the Risen Lord transcends all our methodologies.”  See “Reading the Bible in an Asian Context,” Bulletin Dei Verbum 40/41 (1996):  16.

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