10 April 2015

Regensburg (1)

As with many of you, the 'Islam question' has inspired me to a new reading of Pope Benedict's Regensburg lecture. I have also checked, as carefully as one can on the Internet, the assertion made in some newspapers that Cardinal Bergoglio spoke very harshly about that lecture when it was delivered. My conclusion is that Bergoglio did nothing of the sort, and that the words cited as his were uttered by a cleric who did not even claim that he was speaking on behalf of the Cardinal Archbishop. That part of the episode, it is pretty clear, was a journalistic fabrication. We must beware of believing what the Press tells us. Journalists are often not very clever and are not experts in either Catholic teaching and practice, or even in the minor diversion of Vaticanology. Above all, they need Sensation; they need a Story.

But that is not what I want to post about today. Nor do I mean to discuss the argument of the lecture as a whole (although I would particularly commend to you the paragraphs in which Pope Benedict spoke about the modern liberal Protestant campaign to eliminate 'Hellenisation' from the 'simple message of Jesus'). It is a very fine exposition of the relationship between God and Logos. It is worth spending time on. Not least because the Wolves spat such venom ... no, I suppose you're right ... wolves don't spit ...

No; for today I would like to draw two sentences to your attention. "Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced in Alexandria - the Septuagint - is more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter [between 'biblical faith' and 'the best of Greek thought'] in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion."

'Modern Biblical Scholarship' has, in Western academic circles, seen one of its tasks as being to practise 'Textual Criticism'. This phrase does not mean what most people assume; what it does mean is comparing the different manuscripts (and other evidences) of a ancient text so as to analyse the differences between them and to reconstruct what the 'original' text said. So the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, was commonly viewed as just one source of evidence for reconstructing the original Hebrew text (which, until such discoveries as the 'Dead Sea Scrolls', had medieval Jewish manuscripts as its earliest witnesses ... manuscripts which we shall call the MT). The LXX (= the Septuagint) was found lacking because it seemed to be an inaccurate rendering of the Hebrew. This was never very fair, and recent discoveries suggest that that the Hebrew manuscripts from which the LXX was translated have every claim to be given no less consideration than the MT. Furthermore, a very interesting Methodist scholar called Margaret Barker has plausibly argued that, where LXX and MT differ, this can sometimes be the result of the MT text having altered original readings which were seen by Rabbinic Judaism as too favourable to Christianity. Another Furthermore: a number of textual critics (such as an American called Epp) now doubt whether the concept of an 'original text' actually is a viable idea when we are dealing with ancient manuscripts both sacred and secular. I happen to share that view, and will return to it later.

But I have strayed a little way from the main point which Pope Benedict is making, and to which I hope to return in Part 2.

5 comments:

Ivan said...

Thank you for the post, Father. This interests me both as a Catholic and as someone who studies classical philology.

With you being more informed about this, do you know what are the oldest manuscripts of the Old Testament and whether we should maintain that the LXX is the most faithful Greek translation of the OT (especially since they must have had access to a lot more manuscripts and, living in the time in which they lived, they had much more insight into the Hebrew as well)? It is natural that I would side with our faith and tradition, since I do not see how this could simply be judged by "comparing manuscripts" etc.

Deacon Augustine said...

As the Septuagint is used in approx 45% of the OT quotes found in the NT, it is obvious that this text was both known and used by Our Lord and the apostles. The Gospels place citations from the LXX on Our Lord's own lips.

Therefore, if it was good enough for God, why should we give any greater credence to the Masoretic text which was fabricated by a medieval Jewry which had a vested interest in playing down anything which lent credence to Christianity?

Oliver Nicholson said...

Alas, poor Lachmann, I knew him well....

Jacobi said...

I wish I had read in detail Benedicts speech before. It is profound, and in the light of what we now see happening, prophetic. It will take some time to study however, and I am only a poor retired scientist not a theologian - whatever that is.

I suspect however that Benedict will go down in history not just as the pope who re-established sacred Catholic liturgy, something which has taken up my attention, but as the pope who finally established the Truth of Christianity and the Contradiction of Islam.

Look forward to Part 2

Pastor in Monte said...

It is so strange that the LXX should be disregarded, for the reasons Fr H gives. After all it was created a thousand years prior to the Masoretic Text. This argument should also have repercussions for the Vulgate, the new version of which makes too many concessions to the demolishers.

De-Hellenization has a long history among the Germans: a century before the Regensburg Address, Harnack was taking his wrecking ball first to the creeds, then even to the New Testament on the strange, but very Protestant, grounds of Scriptura Sola. Who decides what should be in Scripture? I do!