You are on page 1of 8





\ r.

derived from Scripture in its details, or the actual form of Christian life as it had developed in the Church. Thus for the fathers of Trent, the question of tradition was more a question of the reform of Church life than a question of Church teaching.? One saw the question of tradition as the actual problem of the Church's existence, not the problem of the historical justification for each of the statements to be found in its catechism, as happened during the controversy of Vatican H. That people were incapable of realizing this is shown by the lamentable weakness and the impossibility of any inner solution to the bitter dispute on tradition, which ever since 1962 has divided the fathers on a question that must be regarded as fundamentally fruitless.f What has in fact, however, been achieved was the return to a more comprehensive view of the problem by the new understanding of revelation and a more general view of the phenomenon of tradition which results from it, but both the conception of tradition as an accumulation of statements and, consequently, the quantitative way of looking at it remained to the end an explosive source of controversy.

Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on Dei Verbum




1 !

Article 8 appears for the first time in Text E under the heading. De sacra Traditione and is an attempt to meet the widely expressed need for a clear and positive account of what is meant by tradition. It is not difficult (as in the additions in which Article 7 goes beyond Trent) to recognize the pen of Y. Congar in the text and to see behind it the influence of the Catholic Tbingen school of the nineteenth century with, in particular, its dynamic and organic idea of tradition, which in turn was strongly impregnated by the spirit of German Rornanticism.? The first section points out the total nature of tradition: primarily, it means simply the many-layered yet one presence of the mystery of Christ throughout all the ages; it means the totality of the presence of Christ in this world. Again the three divisions of Article 7 are taken up, which had outlined the perspectives of the reality of origin. Teaching, life and worship are named as the three ways in which tradition is handed on. It has its place not only in the explicitly traditional statements of Church doctrine, but in the unstated - and often unstatable elements of the whole service of the Christian worship of God and the life of the Church. This is the basis of the final comprehensive formulation of tradition as the "perpetuation", the constant continuation and making present of everything that the Church is, of everything that it believes. Tradition is identified, and thus
apostoliques non ecrites et suffisance de l'Ecriture", Istina 6 (1959), pp. 219-306, esp. pp. 289 ff.; ]. Ratzinger, Reuelaiion and Tradition (1965), pp. 57-62. 7 Ratzinger, op. cit., pp. 59f. B In his intervention at the Council on 5 October 1964, Archbishop Edelby expressed this from the viewpoint of the Eastern Church, in a manner that was both brilliant and highly enlightening for both sides of the conciliar controversy. It is printed in Hampe's Die Autoritt, I pp. 119-122. 9 Cf. the two-volumed work by Congar, mentioned in note 5 on the Introduction, in which he sums up the findings of numerous earlier works on this theme. On the idea of tradition in German Romanticism, especially in the Tbingen School, cf. the various writings of J. R. Geiselmann, and in particular, Lebendiger Glaube aus geheiligter berlieferung (1942); Die lebendige berlieferung
als Norm

defined, with the being and the faith of the Church. The danger that lurks in this statement (as altogether in the dynamic idea of tradition held by the Tbingen School) had been pointed out by Cardinal Meyer in an important speech on 30 September 1964: not everything that exists in the Church must for that reason be also a legitimate tradition; in other words, not every tradition that arises in the Church is a true celebration and keeping present of the mystery of Christ. There is a distorting, as weIl as a legitimate, tradition. As examples of this negative kind of tradition Meyer mentioned a kind of piety that is opposed to the spirit of liturgy and a casuistic and untheological moralism. He asked that the text should state not only that in statu viatorum tradition proceeds in a spirit of progess and ever deeper insight into faith, but that there is also the possibility of a deficere, and in fact, this possibility is constantly being realized. Consequently, tradition must not be considered only affirmatively, but also critically; we have Scripture as a criterion for this indispensable criticism of tradition, and tradition must therefore always be related back to it and measured by it.10 As a result of these objections the middle clause (omne quod habet) was deleted from the original formulation in three parts - in tradition the Church passes on omne ... quod ipsa est, omne quod habet, omne quod credit. On this point, the relatio in Text F states that this omission is intended to make clear that all that, and only that, proceeds from the apostolic tradition "quae substantialia sunt Ecclesiae ... " (ibid., p. 19). This concession, to which there is no reference in the present text, must be regarded as unsatisfactory, and it is to be regretted that the suggestion of the American Cardinal was not, in fact, taken up. Even Trent had not been able to give a positive account of the criticism of tradition, the need for which was not questioned (the necessity of reform was one of the reasons for the Council, and this reform was concerned with the traditiones) ; it is hidden away, hardly discernible for someone who is not historically informed, in the phrase ad nos usque pervenerunt. This was an attempt to formulate at that time, in the multiplicity . of the traditiones that had passed away and that still remained, a criterion of valid tradition. It was found in the reception by the whole Church - only traditions received by the Church were described as important for faith. A second criterion was apostolicity, which again was supposed to help in differentiating between true and merely factual tradition. In practice, however, the reception of a tradition by the Church was taken as a criterion of apostolicity, so that the latter was largely excluded as aseparate yardstick.H Nevertheless, an attempt had been made to make a distinction among traditions, unsatisfactory though it was, inasmuch as criticism of reception by the Church was scarcely possible. On this point Vatican II has unfortunately not made any progress, but has more or less ignored the whole question of the criticism of tradition. By doing this, it has
Cf. A. Wenger, Vatican II, III (1965), pp. 145f.; L. A. Dorn and G. DenzIer, Tagebuch des Die Arbeit der Dritten Session (1965), p. 103. Unfortunately this important speech was not included in Hampe's collected volume. n Cf. J. Ratzinger, op. cit., pp. 57ff., p. 63 (cf. note 6); Bevenot, loc. cit., p. 338.


des christlichen Glaubens (1959).


missed an important opportunity for ecumenical dialogue. In fact, it would have been ecumenically more fruitful to work out a positive possibility and to stress the necessity of the criticisrn of tradition wirhin the Church than to engage in wh at must be called an unreal controversy about the quantitative completeness of Scripture. The second paragraph of our text points out the dynamic character of tradition, thus arousing lively opposition on the part of the Canadian Cardinal Leger. It states that tradition, which sterns from the Apostles, develops under the assistance of the Holy Spirit in the Church, i.e. that there is a growing understanding of the words and realities that have been handed down to us. Again, three factors of this growth are listed: contemplation and study on the part of believers; inner understanding, which comes from spiritual experience; and the proclarnation by the teaching office. The final point is made that the Church and its understanding of revelation is moving forward towards the fullness of the divine word in the Church in the eschaton. It is important that the progress of the word in the time of the Church is not seen simply as a function of the hierarchy, but is anchored in the whole life of the Church; through it, we hear in wh at is said that which is unsaid. The whole spiritual experience of the Church, its believing, praying and loving intercourse with the Lord and his word, causes our understanding of the original truth to grow and in the today of faith extracts anew from the yesterday of its historical origin what was meant for al1time and yet can be understood only in the changing ages and in the particular way of each. In this process of understanding, which is the concrete way in which tradition proceeds in the Church, the work of the teaching office is one component (and, because of its nature, a critical one, not a productive one), but it is not the whole. The dynamic concept of tradition, with which the Council here develops its positive conception of traditio, was strongly attacked from two quite opposite directions. On the one hand, Cardinal Ruffini rejected it from his position of traditionally neoscholastic theology, but on the other, Cardinal Leger attacked it from an ecumenical standpoint.P In spite of the sharp division in their general theological orientations, the arguments of these two Council fathers were astonishingly similar.P Ruffini firmly emphasized the idea of revelation being concluded with the death of the last Apostle, rejected the idea of including disciples of the Apostles among the origins of revelation, and opposed the idea of a living and growing revelation, for, in accordance with the text of Trent and Vatican I, he considered that this should be mentioned only in connection with a strong
12 The text of the speeches can be found in Hampe's Die Autoritt, pp. 112ff. (Ruffini) and pp. 114ff. (Leger). 13 Cf. the comment made by G. Maron on the discussion on tradition in his Evangdischer Bericht vom Konzil (1965), p. 32: "Again - as so often during this Councilthe strange situation has arisen that many Protestant observers of this development are (relativeIy!) doser to the traditionalists than to the progressives."

emphasis on the strict unchangeability of a revelation that had been concluded once and for all, with which he referred to an appropriate text by Vincent de Lerin, quoted at both Councils. In the concept of the schema, and especially in its emphasis on spiritual experience as a principle of the growing knowledge of revelation, he detected theological evolutionism, condemned as modernism by Pius XII. In another tone and with other reasons Cardinal Leger insisted on the same point, He found that the Schema, especially in its idea of progress, which seemed to refer no~ only to the knowledge of tradition, but tradition itself (Haec ... Traditio ... proftcit), blurred the strict distinction between apostolic and post-apostolic tradition and endangered the strict transcendence of divine revelation when it was confronted with the statements and actions of the teaching office of the Church. The Cardinal was concerned that the Church should bind itself firmly to the final and unchangeable word of God, that does not grow, but can only be constantly assimilated afresh and cannot be manipulated by the Church. The Theological Commission considered the question carefully, but decided not to make any major alterations in the text. It pointed out that the clause " ... Traditio proficit" is explained by a second clause "crescit ... tarn rerum quam verborum perceptio", i.e. the growth of tradition is a growth in understanding of the reality that was givc;n at the beginning.14 It formulated the idea of religious experience more cautiously, without abandoning it, but it refused to quote again the text of Vincent de Lerin, cited by past councils, in view of the dubi~us light in which this Church writer is now seen by historical research.P He no longer appears as an authentic representative of the Catholic idea of tradition, but outlines a canon of tradition based on a semi-Pelagian idea. He at tacks Augustine's teaching on grace as going beyond "what had always been believed", but against this background this proves to be an inappropriate attempt to express the relationship between constancy and growth in the testimony of faith.J" The rejection of the suggestion to include again Vincent de Lerin's well-known text, more or less canonized by two councils, is again a step beyond Trent and Vatican I, a productive revision oftheir texts, a phenomenon that we have come across several times already. It is not that Vatican II is taking back what was intended in those quotations : the rejection of a modernistic evolutionism, an affirmation of the definitive character of the revelation of Christ and the apostolic tradition, to which the Church has nothing to add, but which is its yards tick, but it has another conception of the nature of historical identity and continuity. Vincent de Lerin's static semper no longer seems the right way of expressing this problem. This kind of new orientation simply expresses our

Thus in the volume published after the votes of 20 to 22 September 1965, with the Expensio

modorum, pp. 20f.




11' iH'I'

Ibid., p. 21: "Interpretatio autem Vinc. Lirin. controvertitur." Cf. B. Altaner and A. Stuiber, Patrologie (7th ed., 1966), p. 454f. (and bibliography); K. Baus: LTK, X, cols, 800f. (and bibliography); J. Ratzinger, Das Problem der Dogmengeschichte in der Sicht der katholisthen Theologie (1966), p. 9.
15 16








deeper knowledge of the problem of historical understanding, which is no longer adequately expressed by the simple ideas of a given fact and its explanation, because the explanation, as the process of understanding, cannot be clearly separated from what is being understood. This interdependence of the two, which does not remove the ultimate basic difference between assimilation and what is assimilated, even if they can no longer be strictly isolated, is weil expressed by the dialectic juxtaposition of the two clauses Traditio projicit and crescit perceptio. After the Council the objection ofCardinal Leger (and thus indirectly also that of Ruffini) was again taken up by Protestant theologians - cautiously by J. C. Hampe'" and emphatically by O. Cullrnann-" and J. K. S. Reid,19 who says of the statement about the development of tradition that it is "both unclear and untrue".20 He considers that this is to make the commission of the Lord identical with its actual fulfilment and continues: "Here we stand before the broadest and deepest gulf that separates the Reformed Churches from the Roman Catholic."21 Cullmann referred, in this connection, to his well-known theory, according to which the establishment of the canons of Scripture and the self-submission of Scripture to this canon "were decisive events in the history of salvation and an essential part of it - in fact, its climax". 24 The Bible itself, however, knows nothing of this climax of the his tory of salvation, and there is nothing to show that the Church of that time saw it as such. This thesis is rather the expression of a special theological theory, a conception of the his tory of salvation developed by Cullmann, but by no means generally shared, even by Protestant theologians.P" If one wanted to pursue a comprehensive and proper discussion of the problem, one would also have to take account of the many other positions that are to be found in Protestant theology on this question, and above all the whole would have to be placed within the wider framework of the fundamental question of the possibility and nature of historical understanding altogether. This cannot be the purpose of our commentary. The important problem raised by Cullmann is not the question of development, but that of the relation between Scripture and Church, which we shall have to consider in detail in our commentary on Articles 9 and 10. Let it suffice here to say that both Cullmann and Reid, like Ruffini and Leger, ignored the problem of understanding, the emergence of which over the last decades has dissolved the clear antithesis of object and subject, without leading to an identification of both, in a way that is simply not in accordance with the present situation in hermeneutics and that, both historically and theologically, makes things too easy for itself. This was also clearly shown by the conference on
Hampe, Die Autoritt, I, p. 116,note 3. Ibid., pp. 189-97. 19 Ibid.,pp. 223-31, esp. pp. 229ff. 20 Ibid., p. 229. 21 Ibid., pp. 230f. 22 IbM., pp. 192f. Cullmann has elaborated this view in Die Tradition (1954), pp. 42-56. 23 Cf. Cullmann's treatment of the Bultmann school in Heil als Geschichte(1965).
17 18


faith and the nature of the Church at Montreal in 1963, which was concerned, at many different levels, with the same problem.P' The last paragraph of Article 8 (Sanctorum Pa trum .. .) presents in concrete form the preceding general definition of the idea of tradition and at the same time tries to formulate from the new position the particular importance of the Church Fathers for the faith of the Church. They can no longer be seen, as in the static conception, as the bearers of individual apostolic traditions in the form of statements, but rather their importance is to be revalued in the light of the dynamic understanding of tradition. Their writings testify to the living presence of tradition and are, as it were, a living expression of the perpetuation of the mystery of Christ in the life of the Church. This raises, rather than answers, the question of the special position of the fathers, for the same thing could be said about the theological and spiritual writings of ail the other periods of the Church's history. Nevertheless, the purpose of the statement is to declare that the fathers are a specific source of tradition, not in the sense of settled individual statements, but as an expression of the act of understanding, which assimilates what has been passed down and holds it for the present. Again there is a reference to the "practice and life" of the "believing and praying Church", in which the wealth of tradition effectively realizes itself. It is important to note the concrete way in 'which the effects of tradition are described: through it the canon of Scripture is made known and made active, in a constant dialogue of God with men - not in the sense of a pietistic and individualistic conception - but as the converse of the Son with his bride, the Church. That in no way excludes converse with the individualhe will be affected in this dialogue by the word that is spokento him in a new and highly personal way - but it places the individual dialogue within the dialogue between the Son and his bride, thus presenting in a wholly scriptural way the irreplaceable importance of the Church for the process of understanding Scripture. In this context we can now finally see the pneumatological character of the idea of tradition. Tradition is ultimately based on the fact that the Christ event cannot be limited to the age of the historical Jesus, but continues in the presence of the Spirit, through which the Lord who "departed" on the cross "has come again" and through which he "reminds" his Church of what had happened, so that it is led, as it remembers, into its inner significance and is able to assimilate and
Cf. the profound remarks of E. Dinkler in his article "Theologische Aufgaben der kumenischen Arbeit heute" in kumenische Rundschau 14 (1965), pp. 116-32, esp. 117-27. On the connections between the Constitution and what was said at Montreal cf. Schutz and Thurian, La parole, pp. 101ff.; E. Stakemeier in Hampe, Die Autoritt, pp. 182f. Both refer to nos. 44-46 of the official report of the conference, where we find the important sentences : "Thus we can say that we exist as Christians through the tradition of the Gospel, to which Scripture testifies and ~hich is passed on to the Church through the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus we understand tradition as. actualized in the preaching of the word, in the administration of the sacraments, in the worship of God, in Christian instruction, in theology, in missionary work, and in the testimony that the members of the Church give for Christ through their lives ... "



experience it as a present event.P Only if this pneumatic dimension is taken into consideration, can Christology be seen in its full New Testament breadth, and at the same time the scriprural equivalent of our modern problem of understanding become apparent. In this necessary correction of a Christocentric view that had become too narrowly incarnational the Council was able to learn much from the views of those fathers who stood in the tradition of the Eastern

With regard to the objections by Protestant theologians mentioned above, it seems important that our text sees the function of tradition as wholly related to Scripture. First it guar an tees the canon, not simply in terms of an act of salvation history that has taken place in the past, but also in that acceptance of the canon that necessarily involves accepting tradition, and if there is a fundamental rejection of tradition --'- tradition as the dynamic realization of faith, not as a propositional statement by the Apostles -, the canon also would cease to exist as such, and there would no longer be any reason why this particular selection of writings is to be regarded as "Scripture". Tradition is further described as the process whereby Litterae are a col/oquium. Both these functions of tradition are concerned wholly with Scripture, but at the same time Scripture is placed wirhin the framework of tradition. This will no longer appear strange if we remember that the Montreal Conference, at the suggestion of the Orthodox theologians, thought seriously of replacing sola scriptura by sola traditioneF' Article 9 takes us to the focal point of the controversy, the question of a mutual relation of Scripture and tradition. The text shows clear signs of the firm position taken during the discussion against the idea of "two sources" of revelation. Two objections were made to this idea. The first was that, in a typically

Cf. F. Mussner, Diejohanneische Sehweise (1965); id., "Die johanneischen Parakletsprche und die apostolische Tradition", BZ 5 (1961), pp. 56-70. This idea is firmly expounded by the Bultmann school - partly overshooting the mark - as, for example, when E. Ksemann attacks J. Jeremias, who had made the point that revelation has been concluded by saying: "The proc!amation of the Church is not itself revelation. To put it in an extreme way, revelation does not take place on Sundays from 10 to 11 o'c!ock." Ksemann maintains that the difference between Gospel and kerygma, which has no foundation in the New Testament, avenges itself here, "by separating the testimony, produced by the Spirit, from the gospel of Jesus, and thus ultimately separating the Spirit and Christ. Do not the farewell discourses in St. John's Gospel teach that Christ, Spirit and preaching are one in the promised Parac!ete and that the revealing function of the Spirit is manifested in preaching? ... If revelation is limited to the years from 1 to 30 A.D., this creates, in my opinion, a new dogma" (E. Ksemann, Exegetische Versuche und Besinnungen, 11 [1964), pp. 38f.). 26 The speech of Archbishop Edelby mentioned in note 8. Cf. also the criticism of the Constitution on Revelation made by N. A. Nissiotis who again takes up this idea: "Report on the Second Vatican Council", EcumenicaJ Review 18 (1966), pp. 190-206, esp. pp. 193f. The idea of a more pneurnatological view found a firm supporter among the periti in H. Mhlen, see his Der Heilige Geist als Person (2nd ed. 1966), 27 Cf. E. Dinkler, loc. cit., p. 118 (cf. note 24).

modern spirit of positivisrn, it identified revelation with its historical presentation and thus falsified the original idea of "sources" in the theological sense in favour of an historical idea of "sources". One could here point to Trent, which still used the term "source" exclusively in the singular to refer solely to the "Gospel", which, as the word of Christ, precedes and is the basis of all historical forms of traditions. The second objection was that the idea of partim - partim, which is contained in the idea of the two sources, dis tributes revelation in a mechanical way between two vessels of revelation that are independent of each other and thus again fails to recognize its true nature, which is not a collection of propositions thatcan be divided up at will and sheered out between two different compilations, but a living organic unity which can only be present as a wh ole. Following the Tbingen theologians of the nineteenth century, Geiselmann had thrown into the debate the formula "totum in sacra scriptura - totum in traditione" as an anti thesis to "partim - partim" and asked that the relation between Scripture and tradition should not be understood in terms of a mechanical juxtaposition, but as an organic interpenetration.P Both points have been incorporated in the text. It is emphasized that both Scripture and tradition flow from the same sourees. However, in order to avoid the clash between the singularist and pluralist understanding of the word fons, the word scaturigo is used, and then it is possible to continue to speak of the duo fontes. In fact, however, the comprehensive theological view of Trent is restored, as compared with the superficial approach of neo-scholastic theology and is even given a deeper dirnension, insofar as the idea of revelatio behind it, as was shown in Article 7, is conceived more personally and less legalistically than in the text of 1546. Also, the idea of unity, of organic interpenetration is formulated in strong terms both here and again at the end of Article 7 (unum sine aliis non consistat) . One may ask, however, whether this was reallya gain and whether the Catholic idea of sola scriptura, which it intended to make possible in this way (an idea that must now, in this formulation, always be thought of as combined with that of totum in traditione), has not been bought at a rather high price. While the first of these two points, the pre-eminence of revelation over the concrete forms in which it is presented, was able to be accepted by Protestant theologians without any difficulty, the firm emphasis on the unity of Scripture and tradition has aroused the strongest opposition and shown that the Protestant idea of sola scriptura is less concerned with the material origin of the individual statements of faith as with the problem of the judging function of Scriptute in relation to the Church. This emphasis, however, on the indissoluble interpenetration of Scripture and tradition, or (according to Article 10) of Scripture, tradition and teaching office, seems to have excluded this idea even more fully than would a
28 Geiselmann, Die Heilige Schrift ... (1962), P: 282; id., Das Konzil von Trient ber das Verhltnis der Heiligen Schrift und der nicht geschriebenen Traditionen in M. Schmaus, Die mndliche berlieferung (1957), pp. 203 ff. '







more mechanistic conception, which still preserves the difference between the individual entities. Thus we have the paradoxical result that today it is precisely those formulations of our Decree which were the product of the attempt to take into account, to the widest possible extent, the points made by the Reformed Churches and were intended to keep the field open for a Catholic idea of sola scriptura that have met with the strongest opposition on the part of Protestant theologians and seem to have moved dangerously away from the meaning and intention of the Protestant idea of sola scriptura. The critical voices of Cullmann and Reid, mentioned above, have also been directed precisely against the vision of the unity between Scripture and tradition as developed by Articles 9 and 10 of our text. If we try to make up our minds ab out this question, the first thing to be noted is that such an end to a dramatic attempt at ecumenical encounter is not of course simply an unhappy mischance or the result of misunderstandings. Rather, it indicates the factual divergence of the starting-points on both sides, which is the origin of the schism in the Church - a schism which can by no means be simply regarded as the result of a misunderstanding.t" This does not, however, me an that both positions must rigidly confront each other, awaiting the capitulation of the other side. In the first place, it is generally recognized that, despite the fundamental difference that emerges in Articles 8-10, the Constitution as a whole marks a great step towards reconciliation, in that both the fundamental understanding of revelation and faith as weil as the actual function of Scripture in the Church are interpreted in a way that largely takes the sting out of a number of controversial issues. K. Barth has rightly pointed out that as against one chapter on tradition, in which in any case tradition is considered entirely in relation to Scripture, there are fo ur chapters which are concerned more or less exclusively with Scripture. Thus even the external structure shows what importance the text accords to Scripture in the life of the Church and the building-up of its faith.P'' Scripture is factually presented as a yards tick, and that is even stated in a wellknown passage in Article 21, which says that all the preaching of the Church and the whole Christian religion must be nourished and ruled by Scripture ("nutriatur et regatur oportet"). There is a similar statement in Article 10, which declares that the Church's teaching office does not stand above the word of God, but serves it. (It is true that here the idea of the ward of God is not expressly limited ta Scripture, so that it can also include tradition and thus is, to same extent, indeterminate. ) As far as the more important objections of Cullmann and Reid are concerned, let us make, briefly, two points. a) As stated above, we shall have to acknowledge the truth of the criticism that

there is, in fact, no explicit mention of the possibility of a distorting tradition and of the place of Scriptute as an element wirhin the Church that' is also critical of tradition, which means that a most important side of the problem of tradition, as shown by the history of the Church - and perhaps the real crux of the question of the ecclesia semper reJormanda - has been overlooked. In particular a council that saw itself consciously as a council of reform and thus implicitly acknowledged the possibility and reality of distortion in tradition could have achieved here in its thinking areal achievement in theological examination, both of itself and of its own purpose. That this opportunity has been missed can only be regarded as an unfortunate ornission. b) On the other hand, Cullmann's position does not offer any real alternative, and we can see here the inner difficulties of the Protestant position. To contrast Scripture strictly with the Church, as it demands, is not only impossible from the start (as shown above) because the writings gathered together in the Bible are, and can be, a "Bible", "Scripture", only within the Church, but it would also involve the absurdity of making faith the function of historical research and expose it to scientific criteria, the certainty of which cannot go beyond a very moderate form of probability and is on quite another level from that of faith. This kind of position can be basically maintained if we disregard our fundamental hermeneutical situation. On this point the Bultmann school has clarified the situation once and for ail in such a way that we can no langer return to the situation that existed before. When Cullmann says that there can be mistakes in exegesis, but that they can be "reduced to aminimum" by means of the historicalliterary method that we must also regard as a gift of God, then we only have to read what E. Ksemann has said, with biting irony, against the same argument by J. J eremias. Jeremias had stated that there had been errors in exegesis, but that ever more exact methods would give ever more effective protection against them, so that it would become more and more reliable. If we make ourselves dependent on exegesis, we da not need to fear "that we are setting about a dangeraus undertaking to which there may beno end". Ksemann's comment on this is: "On the contrary, it seems to me safer to walk through a minefield blindfold. Is it possible to forget for a second that we are daily concerned with a flood of doubtful, even abstruse ideas in the fields of exegesis, his tory and theology, and that our scholarship has gradually degenerated into a world-wide guerilla warfare , .. ? Can we free ourselves from the massa perditionis? Can we pursue our craft in any other way than in the knowledge that those who will carry us out have long been standing outside the door ?"31 How ever much we may materialiter agree with Jeremias and Cullmann and disagree with Ksemann and Bultmann, the latter have seen more clearly the point of the basic formal problem. There is no recourse to history against kerygma} and (we must add) kerygma does not exist in


Dinkler stated this correctly, if exaggeratedly loc. cit., p. 117. His treatment of the problem shows that both positions are not as rigid and irreconcilable as one would have thought from the Introduction. 30 Barth, loc. cit., p. 51f. (note 4 to Chap. I).


Ksemann, loc, cit., pp, 36 f (cf. note 25).

any other way than as Church kerygma. Historical research has done away with the Reformation idea that Scripture itself has one clear meaning, or, rather, that this meaning can only have a relative character, namely within the framework of the kerygma. This means that an opposition between Scripture and the Church is ultimately not possible, and this is why we cannotaccept as a whole the objections of Cullmann and Reid, however much they contain that is essential and necessary. Moreover, there is no solution without risk and without trust. When Cullmann tells us to put our faith in the exegetes, i.e. in their being led by the Holy Spirit, then we must say that fear of the terrifying possibilities of the teaching office can equally be dispelled only through confidence in the Spirit that guides his Church. This is, however, in no way intended to devalue or remove the place of vigilance. If we return to our text, we shall see that, following the stress on the unity of Scripture and tradition, an attempt is made to give a definition of the two entities. It is important to note that only Scripture is defined in terms of what it is: it is stated that Scripture is the word of God consigned to writing. Tradition, however, is described only functionally, in terms of what it does: it hands on the word of God, but is not the word of God. If this makes clear the nature of Scripture, we can see from the more detailed characterization of tradition, whose task it is to "preserve (it), explain it, and make it more widely known", that it is not productive, but "conservative", ordained to serve as part of sornething already given. The next part of the sentence quo fit ... hauriat is the result of a modus suggested by 111 fathers. They had wanted, with small variations, something like the following addition: quofit ut nonomnis doctrina catholica ex (sola) Scriptura (directe) probari queat.32 Clearly, the problem of the material completeness of Scripture once more crops up here, the problem that had caused fierce debate in the Council in its first and third sessions. When the question was treated in the Theological Commission on 6 October 1965, a dispute flared up. Mgr. Philips, its secretary, made a conciliatory proposal, which met with no success, so that finally the idea of any addition of this kind was rejected. On 18 October, the President of the Commission, Cardinal Ottaviani, was given a letter written by Cardinal Cicognani at the request of the Pope, which, apart from a few improvements in Chapter UI, also stated that it would be desirable ( magis opportunum) to have an addition at this point. The letter included seven textual suggestions, on which the Secretary of State commented in his letter: "His enim formulis ii etiam assensum ac suffragium praestaturi esse censentur, qui in maiore Concilii parte pollent. " After careful deliberation the Council decided on the third of the suggested formulations, which was probably the work of C. Colombo. It now stands in the text. Prom the ecumenical point of view there can be no objections

to it. H. Ott says: "Moreover, it is surely also true for a Protestant who has not forgotten the basis of the Reformation that we do not acquire certainty about God's revelation only from Scripture, but also through preaching and the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit."33 Actually, there would have been nothing to object to in the text of the 111 fathers, for no one is seriously able to maintain that there is a proof in Scripture for every Catholic doctrine. The ecumenical difficulties of the text lie, as we have seen, in quite different points. Emotions had becotne attached to a point where they were completely superfluous. Purthermore, when one analyses this text calmly, it appears as a positive contribution towards the clarification of the problem of tradition. The function of tradition is seen here as a making certain of the truth, i.e. it belongs in the formal and gnoseological sphere - and, in fact, this is the sphere in which the significance of tradition is to be sought. More difficulties for ecumenism, however, are presented by the last sentence, . which repeats the formula of Trent, according to which Scripture and tradition are to be accepted and revered pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia. This phrase had already been discussed at Trent with some warmth. Probably the only reason why it was accepted then was that, handed down through the Decree oj Gratian (D XI c 5), it was considered to be a text of Basil's, to whom it does go back in substance.P In Basil, of course, the statement refers to the eucreew;, to the realization of faith in its affirmation and the worship of God, not to a doctrine distinct from this. This was also the starting-point for the fathers at Trent, who were primarily concerned with the sacredness of the canon of the Mass, as the centre of the consuetudo ecclesiae. In the present Council the text was not reconsidered. It was, for a minority, a symbol of the fidelity to Trent, to the totality of the Church's faith. Por this reason it was inevitable that those attempts undertaken at the third session of the Council to achieve a progressive revision of what had been said at Trent, were doomed to failure. But this also allows us to state precisely what the text means in the context of the Constitution. It is not a total
In Hampe's Die Autoritt, pp. 173f. Cf. Bevenot, 10c.cit., p. 336 (cf. note 7 to the Introduction). The text in Basil reads:

33 34



txx):y)cr(i.\' 1te<puAIXY[LV<ilV

8oY[L&'t"<ilV xlXl Ky)PUY[L&'t"<ilV 't",x [LeV tx TIj<; tyyp&<pou 8tlhcrXIXA(IX<; ~XO[LEV, 't",x 8e tx TIj<; 't"wv &1tOcr't"6A<ilV 1tlXplX86cre:<il<; 8t1X801Hv't"lX 7)[LtV tv [LucrTI)p(ep 1tlXpe:8e1;&[Le.&lX&1tep &[L<p6nplX TI)V IXUTI)V laxuv ItXEt 1tpo<; TI)V e:uCJeEtIXV


Expensio modorum, pp. 23ff. (modus 40) (cf. note 14).

(De SpirituSancto, XXVII, 66: PC, XXXII, 188). In Gratian we read in D 11 c 5: "Inviolabilis est consuetudo, quae nec humanis legibus nec sacris canonibus obviare constat." Basil is quoted as auctoritas in the following: "Ecclesiasticarum institutionum quasdam scripturis, quasdam vero apostolica traditione per successiones in ministerio confirmatas accepimus; quasdam vero consuetudine roboratas approbavit usus, quibus par ritus et idem utrisque pietatis debetur affectus ... "





description of the relationship between Scripture and tradition, but simply a profession of faith in the unassailability of dogma, the outward form of the Church's faith. Certainly, ecumenically speaking, a line has been drawn here, but it is not different from the one that is presented by the different starting-points of the contesting parties, which we have come up against several times in the foregoing. Article 10. The last sectionof Chapter II describes the relation of the Church to Scripture and tradition as the heritage which has been entrusted to it, It first makes the point that the preservation and active realization of the word is the business of the wh oIe people of God, not merely of the hierarchy. The ecclesial nature of the word, on which this idea is based, is therefore not simply a question which concerns the teaching office, but embraces the whole community of the faithful. If one compares the text with the correspondingsecrion of the encyclical Humani Generis (DS 3886), the progress that has been made is clear. The latter had stated, in a strictly antithetical way, that the divine saviour had "entrusted his word neither to the individual believers, nor to the theologians as such for its authentic explanation, but solely to the teaching office". This idea of solo magisterio is taken up here in the next paragraph, but the context makes it clear that the function of authentie interpretation which is restricted to the teaching office is a specific service that does not embrace the whole of the way in which the word is present, and in which it performs an irreplaceable function precisely for the whole Church, the bishops and the laity together. Thus this short section presents us also with an important achievement of a renewed theology of the laity, seen here in connection with the theology of the word and making clear not merely the secular function, but also the truly ecclesial and spiritual function of the layman. It is to be regarded as a fortuna te decision of the Council that, in emphasizing the share ef the laity in the work of keeping the word pure, it did not become involved with the theory of the consensus of faith, which, in connection with the dogmas of 1854 and 1950, resulted in the acceptance of the view that the whole Church has a share in the making manifest of the word.35 For there is still . too much that needs clarification in this theory before it can be regarded as a safe expression of this particular point. It is difficult here to regard entirely as unjustified the doubts of the Tbingen dogmatic theologian J. E. Kuhn, who feared that the theory of the consensus of faith would favour arbitrary and secondary traditions.w The function of the total Church lies rather, as history teaches, in the idea of perseuerat, to which the text gives a central place: in the power of persistence, which recogriizes as such the false innovation that is contrary to faith and condemns it, while holding firmly, on the other hand, to the original truth. The essential contents
35 36

of the second paragraph


mentioned when we dealt with Article 9. Again a comparison with the previous text from Humani Generis (DS 3886), which underlies it, shows the progressive nature of the revision that the Council has carried out here.F For the first time a text of the teaching office expressly points out the subordination of the teaching office to the word, i.e. its function as a servant. One can say, it is true, that there could never have been any serious doubt that this was in fact the case. Nevertheless the actual procedure often tended somewhat to obscure this order of things, though it had always been acknowledged in principle. Thus the risk of a false orientation cannot be dismissed when Humani Generis (which incidentally quotes Pius IX on the point) declares that it is obviously wrong to seek to clarify what is clear by the help of what is obscure - which means in the context that it is not the teaching office that can be clarified by Scripture, but only, on the . contrary, Scripture by the teaching office. This is then developed to the point at which the task of theology is described as that of showing how what the teaching office has established is contained in the sources - "and that precisely in the sense in which it has been defined". One can hardly deny that the point of view which sees only Scripture as what is unclear, but the teaching office as wh at is clear, is a very limited one and that to reduce the task of theology to the proof of the presence of the statements of the teaching office in the sources is to threaten the primacy of the sources which, (were one to continue logicaUy in this direction) would ultimately destroy the serving character of the teaching office.38 When seen against this background, the explicit emphasis on the ministerial function of the teaching office must be welcomed as warmly as the statement that its primary service is to listen, that it must constantly take up an attitude of openness towards the sources, which it has continually to consult and consider, in order to be able to interpret them truly and preserve them - not in the sense of "taking them into custody" (to which sometimes the activity of the teaching office in the past may have tended), but as a faithful servant who wa~ds off attempts at foreign domination and defends the dominion of the word of God both against modernism and against traditionalism. At the same time the contrast between the "listening" and the "teaching" Church is thus reduced to its true measure: in the last analysis the whole Church listens, and, vice uersa, the wh oIe Church shares in the upholding of true teaching. The last paragraph of the text is a summing-up, in that it gives expression to the reciprocal and inseparable functional relations hip of Scripture, tradition, and the Church's teaching office, none of which could be conceived independently of the other. The objections to this position, as weil as their insurmountability, have probably been pointed out adequately in what was said about Article 9. It is true that Scripture simply cannot be conceived separately from tradition, n~)f

Article 10 were already


Cf. the bibliography mentioned in the Introduction, note 4. Cf. Geiselmann, Das Konzil von Trient ber das Verhltnis ... , pp. 201 f. (cf. note 28).

Cf. Latourelle, La Rivilation, p. 34. Cf. J. Ratzinger, "Das Problem der Mariologie", Theologische Revue 61 (1965), pp. 73-82, and on this point, pp. 80ff., which discusses J. A. de Aldama, De quaestione mariali in bodierna uita Ecciesiae (1964), pp. 77-99. .

tradition separately from the Church, nor the latter separately from either of the two others, without the specific function of these three entities being thereby called into question. This has also been made sufficiendy clear in the foregoing. Again the whole is placed within the pneumatological context, which avoids the danger of being seen in terms of a merely ecclesiastical functionalism. The last clause brings in the idea of the "saving power of the word" and thus again contributes an important element to a theology of the word, which, in the dialogal conception of the Constitution of necessity no longer appears merely as a preliminary condition for the actual sacramental reality of salvation, but itself as the dialogue of salvation.P?
This idea was dominant in the schema prepared by the Secretariat for Christian Unity called Decreti pastoralis De Verbo Dei (supplementary Text II, according to A. Grillmeier's classification). Of the growing number of Catholic attempts at a theology of the word see H. Volk, Zur Theologie des Wortes Gottes (1962); O. Semme1roth, Wirkendes Wort (1962); L. Scheffczyk, Von der Heilsmacht des Wortes (1966).


The Divine Inspiration and the Interpretation of Sacred Scripture

by Alois Grillmeier



The growth of the text and of the theological statement of Chapter III of the Constitution

Chapter III of the Constitution gives a short account of the Church's doctrine on the inspiration of Scripture, its truth (inerrancy) and the principles of Catholic exegesis. In the course of the growth of the text as a whole, the position, title and text of this chapter underwent important changes. At a cursory glance they may seem unimportant; but in their development they reveal a particular intention of the Council that cannot be found directly in the actual words of the text. Hence it is essential to indicate the different stages of the growth of the text in order to have an historical basis for the interpretation of its final form.

1. The inspiration

and inerrancy of Scripture

1. The teaching on S cripture in Form C (1962) The text of Chapter III presented to the Council fathers in the first session was, like the previous Forms A and B, strongly influenced by the attitude of the whole schema. Hence the twin sources of revelation were also a major issue in the preceding Chapter II, "De Scripturae Inspiratione, Inerrantia et Compositione litteraria". The introductory Article 7 shows this: "Praeterquam viva Prophetarum et Apostolorum voce, Deus in Scripturis quoque sanctis Veteris ac Novi Testamenti, quae alterum ac praeclarum constituunt supernae revelationis fontem, verbum suum hominibus tradere et accuratius conservari voluit. Haec est Scriptura 'divinitus inspirata' (2 Tim 3: 16), ab Apostolis catholicae Ecclesiae tradita atque in sacro canone rite agnita et recepta, ad perpetuum eiusdem Ecclesiae usum, ut munus suum adimpleat docendi, ad christianae vitae moderamen et ad omnium hominum salutem."