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Sacred Scripture: Soul of Theology

Ma. Lucia C. Natividad

The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) stressed the value of Scripture in theology. It asserted that theology relies on the written word of God and hence the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of theology (Dei Verbum 24). Scripture, together with Tradition, are the sources in theology. Scripture as the soul of theology means that it is the animating force for all theological methodology. As the norm of Christian faith Scripture guides and nourishes the faith. The knowledge of faith is constantly challenged, extended and transformed by this authoritative text. However, for some people the Sacred Scripture is not inspiring and relevant in their lives because they think that they know everything about it from the Bible stories they have heard and read in the past. In contrast, there is an increased yearning among the youth to know Scripture as seen from the growing number of them involved in various Bible studies. There are two extremely divergent ways of reading and interpreting the Scriptures: There is the relativist approach that relies completely on the subjective faith of the reader. Such readers can fall prey to extreme ideologies or to fundamentalist sects that take the Scripture text literally and reject a critical study of Scripture. There is the erudite study of Scripture that becomes overly technical and abstract and thus separated from the religious dimension of Scripture. While the scientific historical study of Scripture has much informational value, it has little impact on the life of faith of readers who are yearning for spiritual nourishment, conversion and redemption. For example, a perusal of all the books of the Old and New Testament books and the year these books were written provides much historical data but little religious significance. These situations call for an effective and more holistic approach to Scripture that will help readers, especially students in theology, to develop a correct understanding and greater esteem for what Sacred Scripture actually is, and what it is supposed to do. Sacred Scripture is the Good News which aims at fostering Christian living. As the life-giving Word, Scripture nourishes the faith of people and motivates them to have faith so that through this faith in Jesus the Son of God, they may have life in his name (Jn 20:31). This paper discusses the nature of Scripture as an inspired, living and sacramental book of the Church and a work of art. This is followed by the

purposes and traditional senses of Scripture in view of the three dimensions of Christian faith. Finally, it presents interpretation of Scripture that aims to shed light on the believers interpersonal life of faith.

I. Nature and Purpose of Scripture

A. The Inspired Word of God
Scripture is the inspired word of God. Biblical inspiration was not like a dictation from God to some human secretary. Nor was it a division of labor between God and the writer where God wrote some parts of the work and the other parts were left to the human author. Inspiration was not a means of forcing writers against their will to record what God wanted them to record. Primarily this means God guided the human authors to compose the written accounts of his revelation to his people. He gave them a special grace called divine inspiration. Divine inspiration was the directing influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit under which the sacred writers wrote all that God wanted them to write and only what God wanted them to write (DV 11, CFC 85). Therefore, both God and human beings were the real authors of the whole of Scripture. The locus of the doctrine of scriptural inspiration is Pauls letter to Timothy, All Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16). While God stirred the minds of the human authors in their writings, they remained the true authors of Scripture. God did not change the human writers background and personality. He took the human authors as they were. These human authors wrote freely in their own way making use of their abilities and background putting a stamp of their own individuality in their work. Being a divinely inspired book, Scripture enjoys inerrancy. This means that Scripture teaches firmly, faithfully and without error that truth, which God wants, put into the sacred writings for the sake of the salvation of all. Details about age, dates and order of events and the like are not necessarily accurate. They are not the salvific truth that God is making known. The religious message in Scripture is inerrant because it contains that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation (DV 11). Scripture communicates the truth that God invites all to share in his divine life through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. The inspired Word of God also means that Scripture is provoking and animating because the word of God uplifts and rouses people to faith. It is composed of faith narrative accounts that describe encounters of faith to bring others to faith in God through the Spirit of the Risen Crucified Lord. Scripture is inspiring because it nourishes, guides and challenges peoples understanding of faith. The account of the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:4-42) gives a clear insight on the nature of Scripture as inspiring. This account begins with

Jesus leaving Judea to Galilee to the north. Along the way he passes through Samaria, where, at Shechem, tired and hungry from his journey Jesus rests at noon next to a well. A woman fetched water at the revered well which dates back to their ancestor Jacob who gave the well to his son, Joseph. The well was deep containing flowing, living and running water. Jesus fountain of water welling up to eternal life surpasses the water of Jacobs well. The woman is not impressed by Jesus promise of living water until he, a stranger and a Jew, reveals to her that he knows about her private life. Jesus knowledge of the womans past moves her to faith. Sir, I can see that you are a prophet (Jn 4:19). Recognizing that Jesus is a prophet because of his knowledge of her private life, the woman puts before him a problem that was dear to the prophets of Israel, namely the true worship of God. Jesus replies, Yet the hour is coming, and is already here, when authentic worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23). Jesus words must have led the woman to wonder whether he is the Messiah. Jesus reveals to her his identity as the Christ. I who speak to you am he (Jn 4:26). Once the woman believes that Jesus is the Messiah she leaves her jar and goes off to the town and proclaims the good news to her people and brings them to Jesus. Leaving her jar symbolizes the transformation she experienced after her encounter with the Lord. She is no longer an anonymous water carrier in an obscure Samaritan village. She becomes a herald to her townspeople preparing the way of the Lord. The Samaritans invited Jesus to stay with them and he stayed there for two days. In the process the Samaritans discovered Jesus for themselves and enabled them to confess that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

B. The Living Word of God

Scriptural narratives make known a God who is not silent,1 nor distant from his people, but, on the contrary, is utterly concerned with his creatures. God speaks in many and various ways: God creates all things through his Word: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be (Jn 1:1-3). He spoke to us through a son whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe (Heb 1:2b). God reveals himself in the historical events and in his covenant relationship with his people, Israel. God speaks most uniquely in his Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, the mediator and fullness of Gods revelation (DV 2). God speaks most perfectly through the Word who has come into the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit continues to abide and dwell in the life of the Church and in the hearts of the faithful. In the inspired text of the Bible. God is the living God and as such is not constrained by time. His speech is not simply a voice of the past but is living and active and speaks to each generation living in the present and until the end of time. Addressing

people today as much as the people in the past, Gods voice in Scripture is always contemporary. The psalmist exhorts all to listen and to respond to Gods word, That today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts (Ps 95:7-8). Gods today is everyday. The word of God is living and powerful. It is effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart (Heb 4:12). God constantly speaks to all people through his written word to reveal himself and his plan of salvation for all humanity fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Scripture as the living word of God is powerful and authoritative for authentic Christian living.

C. Sacramental Nature of Sacred Scripture

Scripture is sacramental. Scripture is not to be confused as one of the seven sacraments. A sacrament is a tangible material reality signifying and bringing about the presence of a spiritual realityGods Self-Revelation. Gods Self-communication is manifested in human language in the divinely inspired book. Word. This nature of Scripture is likened to the Incarnation of the Divine

Indeed the words of God, expressed in human words, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness became like us. (DV 13) Origen, a great 3rd century church father, explained the sacramental nature of Scripture by stressing the presence of the Lord that dwells in, and is proclaimed through, the inspired scriptural narratives. The divine presence in Scripture is a real and active presence, whose primary purpose is to communicate with its actual hearers. Like all sacramental realities, reading and interpreting Scripture is a dynamic and relational liturgical action through which the divine and human encounters call for personal transformation.2 Isaiah prophesied that a Servant was spurned and avoided by men: He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured He was pierced for our offenses crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth;

Like a lamb lead to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. (Isa 52:13-53:12) The deeper and fuller meaning of this prophecy is seen in the light of Jesus messianic mission. He identified himself as the Suffering Servant who had to suffer, be rejected, be put to death and rise after three days (Mk 8:31). This radical new idea of a messiah was not understood even by Jesus chosen twelve, despite his warnings. On the day of the resurrection, the Risen Christ joined two of his disciples who were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The Lord had to explain the true meaning of the Messiahs mission. Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory? (Lk 24:26). Jesus invites his disciples to take the same path of self-emptying love in order to find life. Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? (Mk 8:36-38).

D. Sacred Scripture as the Book of the Church

Sacred Scripture is a record of Gods dealings with his people and how they responded to, remembered, and interpreted their experiences. Scripture is written principally from the heart of the people of God or the Church. Scripture is a collection of inspired books that are from the Church, by the Church and for the Church. Scripture forms the book of the Church. It was written by persons from the people of God, for the people of God, about the God-experience of the people of God (CFC 81). Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Church established the Canon of Scripture or the list of inspired books. The Sacred Scripture of both testaments is like a mirror in which the Church contemplates God, from whom she receives everything, until such time as she is brought to see God face to face as he really is (DV 7). These inspired books in both the Old and New Testament in terms of their apostolic origin, coherence with essential Gospel message, and constant use in Churchs liturgy (CFC 88). Scripture fundamentally belongs to the Church yet Scripture enriches the Church and her traditions. It is never to be separated from the people of God whose life and history (Tradition) formed the context and writing and development (CFC 82). Scripture, basis of the Good News of salvation, is the book of the Church, the source, the norm and basis of the living tradition of the Church. Tradition, the life of the Church under the animating force of the Holy Spirit, enables the Church to penetrate the truth and the meaning of Scripture more fully. The Church is charged with the continuing task of guarding it,

listening to it, living it, and interpreting it properly. The Holy Spirit guides the Church to the truth and directs her in avoiding error until the end of time. Deepened understanding of the words and realities of salvation history is an aspect of the Spirits continuing work in the Church and in the world today.

E. Work of Art
Biblical language contains profound metaphors communicating truth about God. In the inspired text of the Bible, God communicates himself in a language that is intelligible to human beings. Through symbolic language found in various biblical literary forms such as psalms, narratives, parables and allegories, God initiates and deepens an ongoing relationship with all people. Scripture is a work of art which brings in three attributes of beauty: 1. Scripture shines out and illumines truth about the divine mystery. In aesthetics, beauty is that quality or combination of qualities that give pleasure. The harmony of Gods perfections and the interplay of forces in the drama of salvation history produce delight through their beauty. Scripture radiates Gods holiness worthy of enormous reverence as the Holy Being. Such for example is the opening verse of Ps. 18: I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. We can contemplate this beauty in the glory and splendor that Christ revealed as the only begotten Son of the Father. The fourth Gospel proclaims, We beheld his glory, the glory of the Fathers only Son, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). 2. Scripture has form and structure, symmetry and integrity indicative of the beautifulcatching the mind with its silent coherence. 3. Scripture can inspire, guide and empower the readers to goodness and truth as all things beautiful do. Beauty holds together and rewards the onlooker with delight, pleasure and satisfaction.3 Pauls encounter with divine beauty in the blinding light from the sky that flashed around him on the road to Damascus led to his conversion (Acts 8). Scripture is rich and full of poetic language, figurative discourse, of metaphor, symbol and myth, because this is the only way the literally inexpressible truth of God and the essence of graced faith can be communicated. The biblical words show forth the transcendent qualities of God as the uniquely One, True, Good and Beautiful. The beauty of God can seize, captivate, enchant and even seduce the readers. Beauty, however, must not be confused with mere prettiness. Isaiah shows that the beauty in Scripture is often terrible and disturbing. He speaks of a servant who is a man of suffering: He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces; spurned, we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured. (Isa 53:2-5)

Biblical words do not only reveal God who is with us but also the mystery of human beings in relation with God. In every human being there is the fierce yearning to answer the ultimate questions of origins and meaning of life: what it means to be born, to die and to rise again; what one can know, love, and hope for. The biblical words help and encourage us to use and develop all our faculties of reason, affectivity and imagination in order to become what we are meant to be.

II. Purpose of Sacred Scripture

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul brings out the built-in functions of Scripture. By its very nature Scripture is useful for teaching, for refutation and for correction and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). Paul, warning against the errors of the false teachers, invites Timothy to reread the Old Testament in the Christian context, for Scripture gives wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15). Pauls view on the purpose of Scripture, brings into light the accepted structure of the four traditional senses of Scripture: 1. the literal or the historical which teaches what happened, 2. the allegorical or what is to believed, 3. the moral or what should be done and 4. the anagogic towards what we must strain (CFC 94). The objective realities seen in the four purposes of Scripture noted by Paul together with the four traditional senses of Scripture embrace the full range and depth of Gods word that affect and relate to the subjective reality of Christian faith as believing, doing and entrusting/worshipping which touches every part of the individual believer: minds, hands and heart (CFC 128-133).

A. Literal Sense
The literal sense is not to be confused with the literalist sense to which fundamentalists are attached. For almost fifty years, beginning with Pope Pius XIIs encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) the literal sense has been defined as the sense which has been expressed directly by the human author and which the written words convey.4 The literal sense is ascertained by a careful analysis of the text, within its literary and historical context, according to the literary convention of composition. Catholic biblical scholars use the historical-critical method to determine the literal sense. The Pontifical Biblical Commission recognizes that the literal sense can have more than one level of reality as in the case of poetry. Divine inspiration can guide the human utterance as to create more than one meaning. The dynamic meaning of the text is brought to light when Scripture is read in a new context, that is what the Catholic Church has believed, practiced, and taught in its two-thousand year history continuing to the present. The literal sense teaches what happened and continues to be bearers of light and life so

that people may come to believe. But they were written of the purpose of our instruction, upon whom the end of ages has come (1 Cor 10:11).

B. Allegorical Sense
The allegorical sense of Scripture is the meaning derived when individual passages are interpreted against the background of the story of Gods work in the world beginning with Gods creation of the material world and the human being. It continues through the story of alienation from God through sin, Gods call of a particular people to be the vehicle of his revelation and blessing and the climax of this saving, reconciling work in the person, words and deeds, and paschal mystery of Jesus Christ and his return at the end of time. The allegorical sense points to Jesus, the cornerstone of Christian faith and the heart and center of the whole of Scripture (DV 4). Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man is the fulfillment of the plan of salvation. He is the new and eternal covenant God established with his people (CFC 96). A re-reading of the Scripture texts in the context of Jesus Christ is entering more fully in the nature of Scripture as inspiring, dynamic, living, powerful, sacramental and beautiful. The allegorical sense opens up to the deep meaning of life, to the surprising gift of insight that rises in us, though us and beyond us. The truth proclaimed from Scripture lays claim to our beliefs and convictions, and reproves and admonishes people to choose life. This is because the One who proclaims and the One who is proclaimed in Christ himself. Jesus is the Messiah, the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6)

C. Moral Sense
Scripture narratives mediate the self-revelation of God who invites and admonishes people to respond immediately. They witness to the disastrous effects of human evasion. Such miserable consequences of human refusal to respond are depicted in myths on alienation from God, from others and from ones very self (Gen 1-11). The moral sense exhorts people to a sense of urgency to accept immediately Christs call, follow me (Mk 2:14). This means to share in his power as one who suffers greatly as a ransom for the sins of the people. A willing and generous response opens one up to a deeper and fuller life promised by Christ. Marks narrative on the blind Bartimaeus, for example, inspires and motivates faith in those who seek to follow Christ by highlighting Bartimaeus faith that enabled him to persevere against strong opposition in petitioning Jesus to cure his blindness and be able to follow Jesus on the way (Mk 10:52). The moral sense corrects the common misunderstanding associated with faith. Jesus called people to respond to the ancient law love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 19:19). But he removed all limits whom people are called to love which often times included only ones family and friends. Jesus

upturned the accepted social priorities in his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:29-37). Jesus also commanded to love your enemies (Lk 6:27-31). His formulation of the Golden Rule is unique and does not have precedents in the thought world of his time. This ethical teaching is not about reciprocity or retribution. It is a moral teaching of general selflessness as an imitation of the heavenly Father who is the ultimate source and origin of love. He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Lk 6:35c-36). The moral sense of Scripture exhorts all to respond immediately to Gods call to a liberating relationship with him by following Jesus call to discipleship (Mk 2:14). This covenantal relationship liberates people from selfabsorption to a love directed to others. Through the empowering love of the Spirit one takes up the challenge of keeping Gods commandments and imitating Jesus self-emptying love. A willing and generous response opens up a deeper and fuller life promised by Christ.

D. Anagogic Sense
The anagogic sense of Scriptures training in righteousness or holiness directs the human race to be sharers in the life of God in Jesus Christ through the Spirit. This meaning brings a sense of renewed hope in ones life today and in anticipation of the eternal banquet. Jesus Christ offers fullness of life, I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10). The renewed hope becomes an image that becomes a pattern for a renewed Christian way of thinking and acting, and is shared with others through story, by way of living and in the celebration of the Churchs liturgy and sacraments especially the Eucharist. Following the Churchs liturgical use of Sacred Scripture, Scripture is read, interpreted, reflected upon, and received in faith. For example, in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, psalms, hymns and prayers describe God with an overabundance of metaphors: king, rock, shepherd, husband, brother and friend. One psalmist runs through much of the repertoire: I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. He cries, and then he launches forth, the Lord is my rock, my fortress, my Savior, my God and my might in whom I will trust. My buckler, the horn also of my salvation and my refuge. (Ps 18:1-3) Such images are edifying, comforting and moving especially in the light of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, who is the source, norm and goal of faith. The Catholic Church from history did not study Scripture as a subject but learned it within and from the practices of piety. The yearly procession taking place in the city and more especially in the provinces during the Holy Week is a very powerful and moving means of understanding the depths of

Jesus passion, death and resurrection and invites the faithful to share and participate in his dying and rising to a new life. The Word of God when received in faith celebrated in life, prayer and sacraments can gradually form and transform disciples to a life of holiness having this mind among [them] which was in Jesus Christ (Phil 2:5) and fashioning them into a closer likeness to Christ in his Paschal Mystery through the power of the Holy Spirit (CFC 1531).

III. Interpretation of Scripture

A. Literal Interpretation
The literal sense, which is expressed directly by the inspired authors of Scripture, is discovered by exegesis that follows the rules of proper interpretation. The primary aim of the historical-critical method is to discover with the greatest possible accuracy the literal sense of the biblical text by using a wide variety of methods such as historical studies of the background and influence on a given writer, and examination of literary genres and styles of a given document, and study of related literature of antiquity.5 The Pontifical Biblical Commission, recognizes that Scripture can have more than one level of meaning: when a written text has the capacity to be placed in new circumstances which will illuminate it different ways, adding new meanings to the original sense.6 Scripture is read in the light of what the Catholic Church has believed, practiced and taught in its two-thousand year history continuing to the present. The reading in a new context does not mean that any meaning drawn from a wholly subjective interpretation can be attributed to a biblical text.

B. Spiritual or Pneumatic Exegesis

The spiritual senses of Scripture are brought to light when Scripture is read and interpreted with its divine authorship in mind. Attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture the Tradition and the entire Church and the analogy of faith (DV 12). The spiritual senses of Scripture are the deeper meanings expressed in the symbolic language and images that lie beneath the surface of the literal or historical sense. The spiritual sense is the meaning expressed by the biblical text when read and interpreted under the influence of the Holy Spirit and in the light of Jesus paschal mystery and the new life he gives. This sense is meant to be written in the whole life of every believer and of the Church. The profound and deeper meaning of the creation story is elicited when it is read in the light of Johns Prologue. In Gen 2:7 God created man and woman in his image and likeness. The Prologue of John speaks of the

Word of God through whom everything came to be and what came to be was life, the light of the human race. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:1-4, 14) The mystery of the Incarnate Word sheds light on the mystery of the human person (GS 22). The meaning of the human person as an image of God is illumined in the person and mission of Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, who, though in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:6-11) Viewing Scripture in terms of the apostolic heritage living on the church through the Holy Spirit who helps the people of God to live a holy life and growth in faith brings out the spiritual sense. Through the vast and varied cloud of witnesses in the eras of the Church consisting of the ecumenical councils, church fathers, teachings of bishops, work of theologians, liturgy and prayers of the church, sense of the faithful and lives of saints, the Church makes progress in understanding the hidden meaning of Scripture and shows the dynamic transmission of faith and the richness and diversity of being in communion in loving the same God and their neighbor, being disciples of the same Lord, and animated by the same Spirit (CFC 1429). Spiritual or pneumatic exegesis accentuates and motivates a personal response to Jesus Christ as he is encountered in the Gospels. This means simple things like learning to call Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and praying to God as Abba, Father, as Jesus taught, and empowered by the Spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15). Through the interior action of the same Spirit, people are able to share the mysteries of Christs life and Paschal Mystery, thereby being gradually transformed into Christ-likeness. Such is the purpose of meditating on the Gospel narratives in St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercisesto know Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly, as expressed in a popular song. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me, exclaims Paul (Gal 2:19-20). Scripture, interpreted through pneumatic exegesis, thus brings about a Christian thinking about faith, with faith and for faith.

C. Christian Imagination
The nature of the sacred text as inspiring, living, sacramental and as a work of art calls for an approach that involves the imagination that leads the reader to encounter the presence of divine mystery. Imagination should not be identified with fantasy or some capricious image called up to fulfill a felt

need. Far from being opposed to reason, imaginative activity involves the workings of the intellect and emotions. Christian imagination seeks Scripture with a poets sensibilities and yearning for a meaning, an encounter with the infinite truth. It calls for an arduous work of paying attention to Scriptures language, images, symbols and metaphors with both critical precision and with a believers engagement in order to grasp the truth contained in the text.7 This is the way to pursue what lies hidden beneath the words, the veiled infinite mystery. The divine mystery is not a problem to be solved but there is always more to understand and love in him. He is everything that every human being desires. In him we live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Imagination enables the readers to imagine the world Scripture imagines. This means seeing the world as one created and sustained by God, redeemed by Gods incarnate Word, and indwelt by Gods Spirit. Scripture describes certain patterns characteristic of Gods dealings with humanity as seen in Jesus compassion for the little ones, his universal call to repentance and merciful forgiveness of sinners. These patterns bring a sense of renewed hope that becomes an image or symbol for human thinking, acting and hoping and are shared to others through stories, ways of living and celebrations in the Churchs liturgies and sacraments particularly the Eucharist. The work of imagination connects the sacred text to Gods presence in the life of the people today. The world perceived in Scripture is made present when people participate and share in the life of God through the ordinary graced events of their human lives. When this takes place then God is not only active in the world in Scripture but most profoundly in todays world. The imaginative activity enables the grace of the Spirit to work within the human hearts to generate a genuine conversion and graced-empowerment Christian practices that actualize the Gospel way of life today. For example, a technical interpretation of Psalm 22 either describes the afflictions suffered by David during the revolt or is a prayer composed for use in the Temple liturgy. Psalm 22 begins as a prayer of lament and petition, and offered by persons who were severely sick and threatened by death.8 But a more holistic imaginative interpretation of the text calls to mind Jesus crucified praying this psalm, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Ps 22:2). This verse is often misread as Jesus feeling of abandonment. However, when the verse is read in view of the whole psalm and Jesus life and ministry, it actually expresses with incredible poignancy Jesus profound intimacy and complete dependence on his Father. This prayer expresses what it means to Jesus and to us to be children of the Father by our filial love, obedience and complete dedication to the Fathers will.

D. Performance Hermeneutics
This approach, which aims to bring out Scriptures true nature as the living Word of God, likens the interpretation of Scripture to the performance of a classic symphony or stage drama. Performance in interpreting Sacred

Scripture is not simply play-acting or role-playing. Rather, it refers to the total act of communicating the Good News involving the communicator, the Scripture text itself, and the receivers of the messageall in the concrete context of the action. This happens when the reader receives in faith and love Gods living Word through a gradual penetration of the Word into ones mind and heart. The reader or hearer is not simply a passive receiver of Gods word but takes an active role in the receiving of Gods Word by embodying or performing the meaning of the sacred text. This means that the reader participates in, relates to, and is involved in, the divine revelation being communicated in Scripture. This recognition of Scriptures direct relevance to our daily lives is usually achieved only gradually when Scripture texts begin to be exemplified and actualized in our lives, from lack of faith to faith, from closed eyes to open eyes, and from bereft comprehension to understanding. Through an ever-deepening knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, to a loving relationship with others, and a deep sense of prayer and worship of the triune God, we then become sharers in the divine life. The Christian message, actualized and appropriated in our daily lives, affects real convictions, moral values of love and compassion, and genuine worship that reach out to God. This is the good life, a whole and integrated life, that God wants all people to have. Performance hermeneutics as an approach to Scripture is not a detached academic endeavor involving a historical or archaeological pursuit of an ancient text. Rather it is a practical, personal and communal9 endeavor. For example, the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul give a glimpse of the early Christian communities breaking bread together in memory of Jesus, sharing their possessions with those in need, singing, healing, witnessing together and teaching the people and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus (Acts 4:2). Scripture is actualized in Christian practices which are actions that believers do together over time. This way of life is characterized by Christian affections such as reaching out to the poor, the singing of Psalms in prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving, holy fear and repentance, joy and suffering, and enacting scenes from the life of Christ such as the breaking of the bread and the washing of the feet. These are but a few examples on how the Scriptures have been performed.10 Such interpretations of Scripture have much to do with the present lives of people that are changing and being changed according to the image of the triune God whose story the Bible proclaims.11 These practices or patterns of shared life in the community addresses fundamental human needs in the light of, and in response to Gods active presence for the life of the world in Jesus Christ12 through the Spirit. One extraordinary example of performance of Scripture is the catechetical pedagogy presented in the account of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35). This narrative may well be used as a general paradigm for the proposed holistic approach to Scripture. The risen Jesus first joins and walks with his disciples, accompanying them, and dialoging with them. He listens to them as a friend and to their narration of what they be-

lieved was a hopeless situation. Jesus then interpreted their situation in the light of the Scriptures: He interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him (Lk 24:27). By citing the Scriptures, Jesus helped the disciples realize that they were not lost, but could, by using Scripture, discover Gods presence in the very events that discouraged them. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets Jesus interpreted to them what referred to him in all Scripture. Then later at the breaking of the bread they recognized him. They said to each other, Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us (Lk 24:32). This encounter with the Lord led them immediately to return to Jerusalem to proclaim to the other disciples, The Lord has been raised! (Lk 24:34).

Scripture is the Spirit-filled narrative of Gods self-revelation through words and deeds in human history. From its nature as the inspired and inspiring, living, sacramental book of the Church and work of art, the Word of God ringing out in the world today through the Holy Spirit, Scripture must be read and interpreted not only in its original historical and literary context, but precisely to rouse, inspire and nourish faith through the ages. The essential part of the interpretation of Scripture is how the Christian message is peformed, appropriated and lived-out in ones daily life. This message touches and affects a persons real Christian convictions (believing), moral values of love and service to others (doing) and genuine sacramental worship that reaches out to God (praying). Scripture, the soul of theology, is the animating source of theological discipline that does not simply intend to relay historical information or simply supplies a body of prepositional knowledge. It is a source of continuing transformation, real growth in faith and profound sharing in Gods life in Jesus Christs paschal mystery through the power of the Spirit. The spiritual senses of Scripture that teach, reprove, correct and train in holiness instruct people in the theological discipline in order for them to understand more fully the truth about the Christian faith, how this faith is lived out and performed in their loving service for others and in the meaningful celebration of the Churchs liturgy and sacramental worship of God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Ma. Lucia C. Natividad, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of the Theology Department of the Ateneo de Manila University and chair of the FIRE program (Formation Institute of Religious Educators).

Graeme Garrett, Scripture, Inspiration and the Word of God, Pacifica 6 (1993): 87. Daniel Shin, Some Light from Origen: Scripture as Sacrament, Worship 73 (Sept. 1999):399. 3 Paul Avis, The Gospel as a Work of Art, Theology 104 (March-April 2001): 94. 4 Raymond E. Brown, Hermeneutics, in New Jerome Biblical Commentary , ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), 71:9-29. 5 John R. Donahue, Things Old and Things New in Biblical Interpretation, The Way Supplement 72 (1991): 20. 6 The Biblical Commissions Document : The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, edited by Joseph A. Fitzmyer (Rome: Editrice Pontifico Instituto Biblico, 1995) 122-23. 7 Mark S. Burrows, To Taste with the Heart: Allegory, Poetics and the Deep Reading of Scripture, Interpretation 56 (April 2002): 173. 8 Gregory Vall, Psalm 22: Vox Christi or Israelite Temple Liturgy? Thomist 66 (2002): 178. 9 Nicholas Lash, Performing the Scriptures: Interpretation through Living, Furrow 33 (August 1982): 467-74. 10 Shannon Craigo-Snell, Command Performance: Rethinking Performance Interpretation in the Context of Divine Discourse, Modern Theology 16:4 (October 2000): 480. 11 Stephen Barton, New Testament Interpretation as Performance, Scottish Journal of Theology (1999): 184. 12 Craig Dykstra and Dorothy C. Bass, A Theological Understanding of Christian Practices, in Practicing Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2002): 1332.
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