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theology | Truth & Charity
Another Bible Translation?

Another Bible Translation?

As a catechist, I often feel pulled in different directions when it comes to the Scriptures. My own favorite translation for everyday use is the Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition (hereafter, RSV-CE2), but there’s also the beautifully traditional language of the Douay-Rheims (DR), what with its connection to our Latin heritage. Nevertheless, my classroom is equipped with the translation used in the Mass, the New American Bible (NAB), which is no longer available online at the USCCB website, where the new New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) has replaced it. For purposes of scholarship, I also have handy a Clementine Vulgate and a Greek New Testament. Of course, when I use the Psalms, I prefer to use them as they appear in the Liturgy of the Hours, for the sake of plugging my students into the liturgical tradition of the Church, and that means using the Grail Psalter, which has in the last few years been revised by the monks who once taught me back in my seminary days, so that now we have the Revised Grail Psalter. Confused? “The U.S. Bishops have announced a plan to revise the New Testament of the New American Bible so a single version can be used for prayer, catechesis, and liturgy.” –Catholic News Agency Greeeeeeeeeaaat. Just what we needed. Really, it’s a great idea. One of the reasons we American Catholics use so many different sources is that prayer, catechesis, and liturgy have different demands. We tend to prefer our prayer texts to have a blend of formality and accessibility that both reaches out to us and elevates us in our...
Labor Pains and Difficult Farming: An Explanation for the Punishments of Adam & Eve

Labor Pains and Difficult Farming: An Explanation for the Punishments of Adam & Eve

One of the least understood parts of the Bible, shrouded in the mystery of prehistory, is the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. It’s easy to read the story, only one chapter of Genesis, and long for more details. Just what does it mean? Does the fruit represent something? What type of fruit was it? Why did God punish Adam and Eve the way He did? That last question, in my experience, is asked mostly by women who aren’t very happy about the looming prospect of child labor. Who can blame them? I’m certainly not going to, mostly for fear of the doghouse. In order to understand this, we need a basic overview. You can read the full account here, but I’ll summarize: Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, minding their own business, when a serpent (representing Satan) approached Eve and asked her whether God had really told her not to eat any of the fruit in the garden. Eve answered that she couldn’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil because she would die. Satan responded with the half-truth that she would not die. In response, Eve took some of the fruit and ate it and gave some to Adam to eat. They both realized they were naked and hid themselves. God discovered them, they all pointed fingers at each other, and God pronounced the sentences: the serpent would crawl on his belly and eat dirt, the woman would have labor pains, and the man would toil and sweat when he’d farming. Then Adam and Eve were exiled...

Mystery: Cataphatic vs. Apophatic Theology

by Micah Murphy Pssst. Don’t tell any Cappadocians or Medieval Scholastics we’re having this conversation. I just don’t want to be caught in the middle of those arguments again. Theologians are frequently tossed into the middle of epic battles: Aquinas v. Augustine, Incarnation-Because-Of-Sin vs. Incarnation-Because-God-Loves, Molinism vs. Thomism, Cataphatic vs. Apophatic. I have friends who seem to think that cataphatic and apophatic theology are opposed. They aren’t. Cataphatic theology, also called positive theology, says what God is, based either on what God has told us in Divine Revelation or what we may learn about God through natural reason. However, it has very significant limits. Because God is beyond our ability to define, anything we say about Him cataphatically must be understood to be only an analogy. Apophatic theology, also called negative theology, says that because God is undefinable, we can’t ever say what He is, but only what He is not. Both approaches respect that God is undefinable, but in their own ways. By way of metaphor, let’s say that I tell you to find a single sheep in a pasture. It’s a really, really big pasture, big enough that you couldn’t practically go and find the exact location of the sheep. Fortunately for you, the sheep is standing still. How can you approach this problem? The first thing to do is to figure out where the sheep is not. You carry a piece of graph paper with you and draw a little map of the pasture. Then, as you move about, you mark each section where the sheep is not standing. Each time you check off a square,...

Theology vs. Catechetics

by Micah Murphy   If you’re a Catholic nerd like me who goes around distinguishing between “the Reporter” and “the Register” without any further clarification, you may have heard that the former has awarded a questionable scholar, Elizabeth Johnson, with the title Person of the Year. If you doubt whether her work is questionable, know that the USCCB Committee on Doctrine this year released a statement concluding that her recent work, Quest for the Living God, contained “misrepresentations, ambiguities, and errors that bear upon the faith of the Catholic Church.” The journalists at the National Catholic Reporter recently expressed their concerns that this action by the bishops will stifle the work of theology and turn their field into one of propaganda. The original article quotes Professor Susan Ross of Loyola University in Chicago: “The theologian’s task, while sometimes involving some kinds of catechesis, is more properly the task of asking questions about the tradition, pushing forward new ways of theological expression … and pointing out ways of understanding what Catholics/Christians believe.” The specific words Prof. Ross uses are not incorrect. There is a distinct difference between theology and catechetics, and the role of theology does indeed include asking questions and finding new ways to express what Catholics believe. Unfortunately, many theologians today believe that this means the task of a theologian is to challenge the tradition and to push the envelope not in finding new expressions of the faith, but in finding a new theology altogether. Fortunately for us, Pope John Paul II clarified the distinction between theology and catechesis rather well in his Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae (On...

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