Above my pay grade

St. John of the Cross has this to say about the meaning of Scripture:

Many things have been spoken by the Holy Ghost, the meaning of which is different from that which men conceive.
(Ascent Of Mount Carmel)

He enumerates a few examples from the Bible where man’s views of God’s Word don’t quite match up with what God meant, particularly concerning the nature of Christ’s kingdom (which the apostles were still getting wrong right up to Ascension Day).

This is exactly why reducing interpretation of the Bible down to grammatical-historical exegesis is a dead end fraught with mistakes and blunders. Even the Jews of the Old Testament and inter-testamental period, who knew Hebrew and Aramaic way better than we do, got things wrong. Witness how completely flummoxed they were by Jesus’s question about Psalm 110, where David calls his son Lord.

This is also why we need to read the Bible within the living tradition of the Church, as the Catechism tells us. Mere human exegesis will never go beyond the human authors’ intentions, and it is a huge a priori gaffe to assume identity between the human author’s intended meaning and the meaning that God intends. The church has always insisted that the two are not coextensive. God may mean one thing while the human author means something else entirely. This does not invalidate the so-called literal meaning of the text, but it does mean that we cannot stop there and presume that we have deciphered what God meant too.

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Posted in Apologetics, Scripture, Solo Scriptura

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