Sunday, June 03, 2007

Preliminaries to Reading Josef Ratzinger-Benedict XVI's "Jesus of Nazareth"

Precis: Jesus Christ as Person is the unique revelation of the Father. Revelation only takes place in other persons when they experience the "I" of Christ by a subjective identification with Him. Since He is act of relation to the Father that reveals itself as prayer, only the person who enters into this prayer of Christ interiorly and subjectively experiences who He is and can be said "to know" Him in His divinity as "Son of the living God" (Mt. 16, 16).

Sacred Scripture is not revelation but the "objetification," or reduction of it in concepts and symbols. Its meaning, then, can be found only within the personal experience of Christ. The empirical scientific investigation of Scripture as literary reality should be fully deployed since Christ is a fully historical reality in space and time, but His inner identity as Son revealing the Father can only come from another horizon and another center of gravity.

This is the burden of the Ratzinger-Benedict XVI "Jesus of Nazareth."



1) Ratzinger’s “Habilitation” Thesis: The Content: “I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of ‘revelation,’ by which we are normally in the habit or referring to al the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as ‘revelation. Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, ‘revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the concilar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that here can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (‘by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given. At the moment, however… Michael Schmaus… saw in these theses…(however, to this day I still affirm the contrary)… a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation.”[1]

2) The Ratzinger summary of the argument from J. R. Geiselmann (Die Heilige Schrift und die Tradition (Freiburg, 1962): “Catholic dogma also derives all its content from Scripture; therefore, Scripture as material principle is complete. However, if this were true, then it would ultimately mean the same as if one were to look on the Bible also as the formal principle. A controversy over this issue is no longer worth the trouble. Geiselmann’s conclusion, however, is false in two respect. When pushed, one can describe Scripture as the encompassing material principle of Catholic theology in the sense that all dogmas must be linked back to Scripture. But the real question is, what kind of connection is it? The eager ones at that time wanted to deduce from the so-called material completeness of Scripture the notion that in the future every dogma musts be proven from the Bible. But then one had logically to apply the requirement also to the past, that is, to all existing dogmas. If in a further step one finally understands ‘prove’ to mean the consensus of exegetes, then it is clear that from then on there could be no more dogma. To this extent the issue of the material principle is a meaningless tautology in which the real question is obscured – namely how does one come to a knowledge of what Scripture means; who is the actual subject of Scripture, its current bearer?... The fascination with which Geiselmann’s thesis was spread at the time shows how dangerous it is to make oneself dependent on theological insights and methods popular at a given moment…. A crude version of Geiselmann’s position, for which one cannot hold the Tubingen professor responsible, has moreover worked its way into the Church’s consciousness. From then on it has largely been held that also in the Catholic Church only what can be proven from Scripture is valid. It seems to me that this thesis has contributed significantly to the post-conciliar crisis of the Catholic consciousness, which has become no longer sure of the Church’s continuity with its past and which has felt compelled to question whether everything previous to the Council has ceased to be valid….

“The schema [from Vatican II on Divine Revelation] spoke the ‘two sources of revelation,’ by which it meant Scripture and tradition. This expression can suffice, the cardinal [Frings] remarked, if one understands it strictly on the epistemological level: we experience what revelation is from Scripture and tradition. In this sense Frings confirmed the twofold character of the sources.

“According to the comment of the Archbishop from Cologne [Frings], however, the formula is completely false if one looks at it on a metaphysical level for there the sequence is reversed: revelation does not flow from Scripture and tradition, but both flow from revelation, which is their common source. Now, on first hearing, one can be inclined to consider this a learned game of semantics, and so it appeared to most of the council Fathers, who did not know what to do with it and who wanted, insofar as they knew of the controversy, to count Frings on the side of Geiselmann. But in reality a crucial issue is at stake. For if one does not hold clearly that revelation precedes it objectifications in Scripture and tradition, remaining always greater than they, then the concept of revelation is reduced to the dimensions of the historical and simply human. From what is divine and great, which can arise in no human form but exceeds and bursts into something greater, there comes about a collection of texts and customs which are then themselves revelation (italics and underline mine).



“If I equate revelation with the text so that the boundaries of the one perfectly coincide with the boundaries of the other, then it cannot grow and develop; then there is nothing living but rather something dead – having settled down in illo tempore. Then revelation is delivered up to historicism; it is subjected to human criteria. If, on the contrary, it is true that Scripture is the objectification of revelation which precedes it, which cannot be fully caught in any human word, then exegesis must look beyond the letter and read the text in connection with what is alive, must understand it in such a connection with life. Exegesis then certainly needs the historical method and its care, but this is not the whole. For it is further true that what is living, revelation itself, is Christ, that Christ is still alive, and that he did not only live in illo tempore, then it is clear that the subject of revelation is precisely this Christ himself and that the is such through his Body with which he binds us irreversibly to that beginning in illo tempore and at the same time leads us forward to his ‘full maturity’
[2] (underline mine)

3) Theological Epistemology: If the Person of Christ is the revelation of the Father (“No one has at any time seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed;” Jn. 1, 18; “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him,” Mt. 11, 27), then Ratzinger’s “theological epistemology” becomes critical, and the presupposition of the exegesis that he does in “Jesus of Nazareth.”

To wit: “Thesis 3: Since the center of the person of Jesus is prayer, it is essential to participate in his prayer if we are to know and understand him.
“Let us begin here with a very general matter of epistemology. By nature, knowledge depends on a certain similarity between the knower and the known. The old axiom is that like is known by like. In matters of the mind and where persons are concerned, this means that knowledge calls for a certain degree of empathy, by which we enter, so to speak, into the person or intellectual reality concerned, become one with him or it, and thus become able to understand (intellegere = ab intus legere)….

“In Thesis 1 we saw that prayer was the central act of the person of Jesus and, indeed, that this person is constituted by the act of prayer, of unbroken communication with the one he calls ‘Father.’ If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it. This is suggested by Jesus’ saying that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6, 44(. Where there is no Father, there is no Son. Where there is no relationship with God, there can be no understanding of him who, in his innermost self, is nothing but relationship with God, the Father – although one can doubtless establish plenty of details about him [historico-critical method]. Therefore a participation in the mind of Jesus, i.e., in his prayer, which … is an act of love, of self-giving and self-expropriation to men, is not some kind of pious supplement to reading the Gospels, adding nothing to knowledge of him or even being an obstacle to the rigorous purity of critical knowing. On the contrary, it is the basic precondition if real understanding… is to take place.”
[3]




Conclusion

“Jesus of Nazareth” has to be read understanding that Benedict XVI is doing an exegesis of the Old and New Testaments within the context of the revelation of the Person of Christ that is his from his own prayer life ("like is known by like"). He understands (intellegere: ab intus legere) Jesus Christ from within himself where to be = to be in relation (the Trinitarian metaphysic of Person as relation: self-gift) and makes an interpretation of the texts of both Testaments in the wholes and in their parts bathed in that light of revelation, and therefore the “meaning” of the texts.

N.B. "Now, it is true that this leads to the great question that will be with us throughtout this entire book: What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peaqce, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?

"The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually, first to Abnraham, then to oMoses and the Prophets, and then in the Wisdom Literature - the God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was also honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises. It is this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the treue God, whom he has brough to the nations of the earth.

"He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God's power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power. Again and again, God's cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves. The earthly kingdoms that Satan was able to put before the Lord at that time have all passed away. Their glory,their doxa, has proven to be a mere semblance. But the glory of Christ, the humble, self-sacrificing glory of his love, has not passed away, or will it ever do so" (44).


[1] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones, Memoirs 1927-1977)” Ignatius (1998) 180-109.
[2] J. Ratzinger, Cardinal Frings’s Speeches During the Second Vatican Council: Some Reflections Apropos of Muggeridge’s ‘The Desolate City’,” Communio Sp[ring 1988, 136-138.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 25-27.

1 comment:

Seek Find Know Love Serve said...

I understand the first sentence of the paragraph below but not the second sentence. I can almost grasp, in fact I might but I was wondering if you might explain that part, draw it out, or elaborate on it.
I know that in order to understand the paragraph below you need to know what is said in the second paragraph I pasted below (from earlier in you post).

thanks

“Jesus of Nazareth” has to be read understanding that Benedict XVI is doing an exegesis of the Old and New Testaments within the context of the revelation of the Person of Christ that is his from his own prayer life ("like is known by like"). He understands (intellegere: ab intus legere) Jesus Christ from within himself where to be = to be in relation (the Trinitarian metaphysic of Person as relation: self-gift) and makes an interpretation of the texts of both Testaments in the wholes and in their parts bathed in that light of revelation, and therefore the “meaning” of the texts.



To wit: “Thesis 3: Since the center of the person of Jesus is prayer, it is essential to participate in his prayer if we are to know and understand him.
“Let us begin here with a very general matter of epistemology. By nature, knowledge depends on a certain similarity between the knower and the known. The old axiom is that like is known by like. In matters of the mind and where persons are concerned, this means that knowledge calls for a certain degree of empathy, by which we enter, so to speak, into the person or intellectual reality concerned, become one with him or it, and thus become able to understand (intellegere = ab intus legere)….