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

“All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim 3:16). The account of the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:4-42) gives a clear insight on the nature of Scripture as inspiring. Scripture enjoys inerrancy. The Inspired Word of God Scripture is the inspired word of God. The inspired Word of God also means that Scripture is provoking and animating because the word of God uplifts and rouses people to faith. Inspiration was not a means of forcing writers against their will to record what God wanted them to record. Biblical inspiration was not like a dictation from God to some human secretary. While God stirred the minds of the human authors in their writings. put into the sacred writings for the sake of the salvation of all. God did not change the human writer’s background and personality. This account begins with . Therefore. both God and human beings were the real authors of the whole of Scripture. 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. Nature and Purpose of Scripture A. The locus of the doctrine of scriptural inspiration is Paul’s letter to Timothy.purposes and traditional senses of Scripture in view of the three dimensions of Christian faith. Being a divinely inspired book. guides and challenges people’s understanding of faith. which God wants. He took the human authors as they were. 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. Primarily this means God guided the human authors to compose the written accounts of his revelation to his people. This means that Scripture teaches firmly. Scripture communicates the truth that God invites all to share in his divine life through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Scripture is inspiring because it nourishes. it presents interpretation of Scripture that aims to shed light on the believer’s interpersonal life of faith. dates and order of events and the like are not necessarily accurate. Details about age. 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). 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. they remained the true authors of Scripture. faithfully and without error that truth. Finally. I. They are not the salvific truth that God is making known. He gave them a special grace called divine inspiration. CFC 85). 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.

1 nor distant from his people. the woman puts before him a problem that was dear to the prophets of Israel. She is no longer an anonymous water carrier in an obscure Samaritan village. tired and hungry from his journey Jesus rests at noon next to a well. God speaks most perfectly through the Word who has “come into the world” through the power of the Holy Spirit.  God speaks most uniquely in his Incarnate Son. Jesus’ knowledge of the woman’s past moves her to faith. Jesus replies. is utterly concerned with his creatures. reveals to her that he knows about her private life. The Samaritans invited Jesus to stay with them and he stayed there for two days. on the contrary. A woman fetched water at the revered well which dates back to their ancestor Jacob who gave the well to his son.Jesus leaving Judea to Galilee to the north. Addressing . He was in the beginning with God. where. and is already here. 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. and the Word was God. I can see that you are a prophet” (Jn 4:19). Jesus’ words must have led the woman to wonder whether he is the Messiah. the mediator and fullness of God’s revelation (DV 2). All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be” (Jn 1:1-3). God is the living God and as such is not constrained by time. Israel. when authentic worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23). “He spoke to us through a son whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe” (Heb 1:2b). The woman is not impressed by Jesus’ promise of living water until he. Jesus Christ. She becomes a herald to her townspeople preparing the way of the Lord. In the process the Samaritans discovered Jesus for themselves and enabled them to confess that Jesus is the Savior of the world. Along the way he passes through Samaria.  God reveals himself in the historical events and in his covenant relationship with his people. The well was deep containing flowing. namely the true worship of God. B. at Shechem. “Yet the hour is coming. but. Recognizing that Jesus is a prophet because of his knowledge of her private life. God speaks in many and various ways:  God creates all things through his Word: “In the beginning was the Word.  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. 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. living and running water. “Sir. The Living Word of God Scriptural narratives make known a God who is not silent. “I who speak to you am he” (Jn 4:26). Jesus reveals to her his identity as the Christ. Joseph. Leaving her jar symbolizes the transformation she experienced after her encounter with the Lord. and the Word was with God. a stranger and a Jew. Jesus’ fountain of water welling up to eternal life surpasses the water of Jacob’s well.

sharper than any two-edged sword. joints and marrow. and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole. Scripture is not to be confused as one of the seven sacraments. he submitted and opened not his mouth. God’s “today” is everyday. “That today you hear his voice. Scripture as the living word of God is powerful and authoritative for authentic Christian living. a man of suffering. God’s Self-communication is manifested in human language in the divinely inspired book. Like all sacramental realities. God’s voice in Scripture is always contemporary.people today as much as the people in the past. This nature of Scripture is likened to the Incarnation of the Divine Indeed the words of God. 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. The word of God is living and powerful. whose primary purpose is to communicate with its actual hearers. and we held him in no esteem. The divine presence in Scripture is a real and active presence. just as the Word of the eternal Father. our sufferings that he endured … He was pierced for our offenses crushed for our sins. when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness became like us. are in every way like human language. One of those whom men hide their faces. C.2 Isaiah prophesied that a Servant was spurned and avoided by men: He was spurned and avoided by men. harden not your hearts …” (Ps 95:7-8). reading and interpreting Scripture is “a dynamic and relational liturgical action through which the divine and human encounters” call for personal transformation. A sacrament is a tangible material reality signifying and bringing about the presence of a spiritual reality—God’s Self-Revelation. Sacramental Nature of Sacred Scripture Scripture is sacramental. expressed in human words. The psalmist exhorts all to listen and to respond to God’s word. explained the sacramental nature of Scripture by stressing the presence of the Lord that dwells in. a great 3rd century church father. the inspired scriptural narratives. spurned. and is proclaimed through. (DV 13) Origen. It is “effective. accustomed to infirmity. . penetrating even between soul and spirit. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore. Word. by his stripes we were healed … Though he was harshly treated.

from whom she receives everything. The Church is charged with the continuing task of guarding it. It was written by persons from the people of God. He identified himself as the Suffering Servant who had to suffer. This radical new idea of a messiah was not understood even by Jesus’ chosen twelve. Scripture. Tradition. Scripture is a collection of inspired books that are from the Church. until such time as she is brought to see God face to face as he really is (DV 7). the norm and basis of the living tradition of the Church. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself. for the people of God. The Sacred Scripture of both testaments is like a mirror in which the Church contemplates God. On the day of the resurrection. and interpreted their experiences. 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). be rejected. Scripture fundamentally belongs to the Church yet Scripture enriches the Church and her traditions. Scripture is written principally from the heart of the people of God or the Church. remembered. about the God-experience of the people of God (CFC 81). The Lord had to explain the true meaning of the Messiah’s mission. . What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mk 8:36-38). but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. coherence with essential Gospel message. the source. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. he was silent and opened not his mouth. be put to death and rise after three days (Mk 8:31). the Risen Christ joined two of his disciples who were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus invites his disciples to take the same path of self-emptying love in order to find life. These inspired books in both the Old and New Testament in terms of their apostolic origin. despite his warnings. enables the Church to penetrate the truth and the meaning of Scripture more fully. and constant use in Church’s liturgy (CFC 88). the life of the Church under the animating force of the Holy Spirit. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Church established the Canon of Scripture or the list of inspired books. by the Church and for the Church.Like a lamb lead to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers. Sacred Scripture as the Book of the Church Sacred Scripture is a record of God’s dealings with his people and how they responded to. take up his cross and follow me. basis of the Good News of salvation. “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:26). (Isa 52:13-53:12) The deeper and fuller meaning of this prophecy is seen in the light of Jesus’ messianic mission. is the book of the Church. D. Scripture forms the book of the Church.

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

The dynamic meaning of the text is brought to light when Scripture is read in a new context. what one can know. beginning with Pope Pius XII’s 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. warning against the errors of the false teachers. so that one who belongs to God may be competent. and taught in its two-thousand year history continuing to the present. A. to die and to rise again. Purpose of Sacred Scripture In his second letter to Timothy. The Pontifical Biblical Commission recognizes that the literal sense can have more than one level of reality as in the case of poetry. equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). according to the literary convention of composition. the allegorical or what is to believed. Paul’s view on the purpose of Scripture. Literal Sense The literal sense is not to be confused with the “literalist” sense to which fundamentalists are attached. within its literary and historical context. hands and heart (CFC 128-133). Paul. the anagogic towards what we must strain (CFC 94). practiced. the moral or what should be done and 4. 3. The literal sense teaches what happened and continues to be bearers of light and life so . II. For almost fifty years. 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 God’s word that affect and relate to the subjective reality of Christian faith as believing. brings into light the accepted structure of the four traditional senses of Scripture: 1. the literal or the historical which teaches what happened.Biblical words do not only reveal “God who is with us” but also the mystery of human beings in relation with God. love. Divine inspiration can guide the human utterance as to create more than one meaning. for refutation and for correction and for training in righteousness. Paul brings out the built-in functions of Scripture. 2. doing and entrusting/worshipping which touches every part of the individual believer: minds. and hope for. 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. The biblical words help and encourage us to use and develop all our faculties of reason. that is what the Catholic Church has believed. affectivity and imagination in order to become what we are meant to be. By its very nature Scripture “is useful for teaching.4 The literal sense is ascertained by a careful analysis of the text. for Scripture gives wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15). Catholic biblical scholars use the historical-critical method to determine the literal sense. invites Timothy to reread the Old Testament in the Christian context.

It continues through the story of alienation from God through sin. sacramental and beautiful. He is the new and eternal covenant God established with his people (CFC 96). Allegorical Sense The allegorical sense of Scripture is the meaning derived when individual passages are interpreted against the background of the story of God’s work in the world beginning with God’s creation of the material world and the human being. though us and beyond us. powerful. reconciling work in the person. the Way. “But they were written of the purpose of our instruction. 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.that people may come to believe. 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. living. to the surprising gift of insight that rises in us. Jesus Christ. Moral Sense Scripture narratives mediate the self-revelation of God who invites and admonishes people to respond immediately. The truth proclaimed from Scripture lays claim to our beliefs and convictions. and paschal mystery of Jesus Christ and his return at the end of time. upon whom the end of ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11). the cornerstone of Christian faith and the heart and center of the whole of Scripture (DV 4). But he removed all limits whom people are called to love which often times included only one’s family and friends. from others and from one’s very self (Gen 1-11). Jesus . The allegorical sense opens up to the deep meaning of life. 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). A re-reading of the Scripture texts in the context of Jesus Christ is entering more fully in the nature of Scripture as inspiring. Jesus called people to respond to the ancient law “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 19:19). The moral sense corrects the common misunderstanding associated with faith. “follow me” (Mk 2:14). Mark’s narrative on the blind Bartimaeus. words and deeds. Jesus is the Messiah. This is because the One who proclaims and the One who is proclaimed in Christ himself. The allegorical sense points to Jesus. the Son of God made man is the fulfillment of the plan of salvation. God’s call of a particular people to be the vehicle of his revelation and blessing and the climax of this saving. The moral sense exhorts people to a sense of urgency to accept immediately Christ’s call. dynamic. B. the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6) C. and reproves and admonishes people to choose life.

just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:35c-36). and then he launches forth. my fortress.” He cries. The moral sense of Scripture exhorts all to respond immediately to God’s call to a liberating relationship with him by following Jesus’ call to discipleship (Mk 2:14). Lord and Savior. norm and goal of faith. rock. “He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. reflected upon. It is a moral teaching of general selflessness as an imitation of the heavenly Father who is the ultimate source and origin of love. and received in faith. Jesus also commanded to “love your enemies” (Lk 6:27-31). hymns and prayers describe God with an overabundance of metaphors: king. the horn also of my salvation and my refuge. This ethical teaching is not about reciprocity or retribution. D. His formulation of the Golden Rule is unique and does not have precedents in the thought world of his time. Jesus Christ offers fullness of life. Be merciful. This covenantal relationship liberates people from selfabsorption to a love directed to others. by way of living and in the celebration of the Church’s liturgy and sacraments especially the Eucharist. 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 . my Savior. Following the Church’s liturgical use of Sacred Scripture. The renewed hope becomes an image that becomes a pattern for a renewed Christian way of thinking and acting. One psalmist runs through much of the repertoire: “I will love thee. (Ps 18:1-3) Such images are edifying. shepherd. Scripture is read. O Lord. husband. my God and my might in whom I will trust. “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). For example. in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. My buckler. The Catholic Church from history did not study Scripture as a subject but learned it within and from the practices of piety.upturned the accepted social priorities in his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:29-37). brother and friend. “the Lord” is my rock. A willing and generous response opens up a deeper and fuller life promised by Christ. my strength. and is shared with others through story. psalms. This meaning brings a sense of renewed hope in one’s life today and in anticipation of the eternal banquet. Anagogic Sense The anagogic sense of Scripture’s training in righteousness or holiness directs the human race to be sharers in the life of God in Jesus Christ through the Spirit. who is the source. Through the empowering love of the Spirit one takes up the challenge of keeping God’s commandments and imitating Jesus’ self-emptying love. comforting and moving especially in the light of Jesus Christ. interpreted.

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. death and resurrection and invites the faithful to share and participate in his dying and rising to a new life. This sense is meant to be written in the whole life of every believer and of the Church.” The Prologue of John speaks of the . 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). adding new meanings to the original sense. practiced and taught in its two-thousand year history continuing to the present. In Gen 2:7 “God created man and woman in his image and likeness. The profound and deeper meaning of the creation story is elicited when it is read in the light of John’s Prologue. 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. and study of related literature of antiquity. 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. Literal Interpretation The literal sense.5 The Pontifical Biblical Commission. 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). Interpretation of Scripture A. 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. is discovered by exegesis that follows the rules of proper interpretation. III. and examination of literary genres and styles of a given document. 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.Jesus’ passion. B. which is expressed directly by the inspired authors of Scripture.6 Scripture is read in the light of what the Catholic Church has believed. The Word of God when received in faith celebrated in life. 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.

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

imaginative activity involves the workings of the intellect and emotions. 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. D. an encounter with the infinite truth. Christian imagination seeks Scripture with a poet’s sensibilities and yearning for a meaning. acting and hoping and are shared to others through stories. For example. When this takes place then God is not only active in the world in Scripture but most profoundly in today’s world. These patterns bring a sense of renewed hope that becomes an image or symbol for human thinking. obedience and complete dedication to the Father’s will. redeemed by God’s incarnate Word. symbols and metaphors with both critical precision and with a believer’s engagement in order to grasp the truth contained in the text. 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. and indwelt by God’s Spirit.7 This is the way to pursue what lies hidden beneath the words. when the verse is read in view of the whole psalm and Jesus’ life and ministry. The work of imagination connects the sacred text to God’s presence in the life of the people today. This verse is often misread as Jesus’ feeling of abandonment. likens the interpretation of Scripture to the performance of a classic symphony or stage drama. my God. his universal call to repentance and merciful forgiveness of sinners. Scripture describes certain patterns characteristic of God’s dealings with humanity as seen in Jesus’ compassion for the little ones. “Performance” in interpreting Sacred . which aims to bring out Scripture’s true nature as the living Word of God. move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). and offered by persons who were severely sick and threatened by death. Far from being opposed to reason. 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. ways of living and celebrations in the Church’s liturgies and sacraments particularly the Eucharist. This means seeing the world as one created and sustained by God. This prayer expresses what it means to Jesus and to us to be children of the Father by our filial love. Imagination enables the readers to imagine the world Scripture imagines. why have you forsaken me” (Ps 22:2).need. However. 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. He is everything that every human being desires.8 But a more holistic imaginative interpretation of the text calls to mind Jesus crucified praying this psalm. images. “My God. it actually expresses with incredible poignancy Jesus’ profound intimacy and complete dependence on his Father. Performance Hermeneutics This approach. “In him we live. It calls for an arduous work of paying attention to Scripture’s language. Psalm 22 begins as a prayer of lament and petition.

actualized and appropriated in our daily lives. Rather. it refers to the total act of “communicating the Good News” involving the communicator. “Performance hermeneutics” as an approach to Scripture is not a detached academic endeavor involving a historical or archaeological pursuit of an ancient text. healing. and a deep sense of prayer and worship of the triune God. the Scripture text itself. This happens when the reader receives in faith and love God’s living Word through a gradual penetration of the Word into one’s mind and heart. Rather it is a practical. This narrative may well be used as a general paradigm for the proposed holistic approach to Scripture. and genuine worship that reach out to God. singing. and from bereft comprehension to understanding. This is the good life. 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. the singing of Psalms in prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving. and is involved in. affects real convictions. witnessing together and teaching the people and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus (Acts 4:2). that God wants all people to have. and “in response to God’s active presence for the life of the world in Jesus Christ”12 through the Spirit. to a loving relationship with others. This means that the reader participates in. Through an ever-deepening knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture is actualized in Christian practices which are actions that believers do together over time. He listens to them as a friend and to their narration of what they be- . the divine revelation being communicated in Scripture. 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). relates to. personal and communal9 endeavor. holy fear and repentance. sharing their possessions with those in need. This recognition of Scripture’s direct relevance to our daily lives is usually achieved only gradually when Scripture texts begin to be exemplified and actualized in our lives. accompanying them. joy and suffering. and the receivers of the message—all in the concrete context of the action. These are but a few examples on how the Scriptures have been performed. The Christian message. This way of life is characterized by Christian affections such as reaching out to the poor. moral values of love and compassion. from lack of faith to faith. and enacting scenes from the life of Christ such as the breaking of the bread and the washing of the feet. The risen Jesus first joins and walks with his disciples.Scripture is not simply “play-acting” or role-playing. we then become sharers in the divine life. The reader or hearer is not simply a passive receiver of God’s word but takes an active role in the receiving of God’s Word by embodying or “performing” the meaning of the sacred text.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. and dialoging with them.”11 These practices or patterns of shared life in the community addresses fundamental human needs in the light of. from closed eyes to open eyes. a whole and integrated life.

From its nature as the inspired and inspiring. 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. living. discover God’s presence in the very events that discouraged them. By citing the Scriptures. Natividad. inspire and nourish faith through the ages. They said to each other. 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). Then later at the breaking of the bread they recognized him. is the animating source of theological discipline that does not simply intend to relay historical information or simply supplies a body of prepositional knowledge. sacramental book of the Church and work of art. This message touches and affects a person’s real Christian convictions (believing). Lucia C. Ma. Ph. It is a source of continuing transformation. the soul of theology. Conclusion Scripture is the Spirit-filled narrative of God’s self-revelation through words and deeds in human history. This encounter with the Lord led them immediately to return to Jerusalem to proclaim to the other disciples. Scripture. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets Jesus interpreted to them what referred to him in all Scripture. “The Lord has been raised!” (Lk 24:34). the Word of God ringing out in the world today through the Holy Spirit. The essential part of the interpretation of Scripture is how the Christian message is peformed. appropriated and lived-out in one’s daily life. Scripture must be read and interpreted not only in its original historical and literary context.lieved was a hopeless situation. . real growth in faith and profound sharing in God’s life in Jesus Christ’s paschal mystery through the power of the Spirit. by using Scripture. but precisely to rouse. Jesus helped the disciples realize that they were not lost.D. moral values of love and service to others (doing) and genuine sacramental worship that reaches out to God (praying). but could. “Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us” (Lk 24:32). reprove. The spiritual senses of Scripture that teach. 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). how this faith is lived out and performed in their loving service for others and in the meaningful celebration of the Church’s liturgy and sacramental worship of God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.

2002): 1332. “A Theological Understanding of Christian Practices. Poetics and the Deep Reading of Scripture. 6 The Biblical Commission’s Document : The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. “Things Old and Things New in Biblical Interpretation. 7 Mark S. Fitzmyer (Rome: Editrice Pontifico Instituto Biblico. 71:9-29.” Scottish Journal of Theology (1999): 184. Fitzmyer and Roland E. “Performing the Scriptures: Interpretation through Living. 1 2 . NJ: Prentice Hall.” Furrow 33 (August 1982): 467-74. “Some Light from Origen: Scripture as Sacrament. 9 Nicholas Lash. 10 Shannon Craigo-Snell. Joseph A. Donahue. Bass. 4 Raymond E. 5 John R. 12 Craig Dykstra and Dorothy C. 8 Gregory Vall.” Interpretation 56 (April 2002): 173. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs. 1995) 122-23.” in New Jerome Biblical Commentary . 1990).” Theology 104 (March-April 2001): 94.” Worship 73 (Sept. “Scripture. “The Gospel as a Work of Art. MI: William B. Eerdmans. “Psalm 22: Vox Christi or Israelite Temple Liturgy?” Thomist 66 (2002): 178. 3 Paul Avis. “New Testament Interpretation as Performance. 11 Stephen Barton. edited by Joseph A.” Modern Theology 16:4 (October 2000): 480. Burrows. 1999):399. “Command Performance: Rethinking Performance Interpretation in the Context of Divine Discourse.” Pacifica 6 (1993): 87.” The Way Supplement 72 (1991): 20. ed.” in Practicing Theology (Grand Rapids.Graeme Garrett. Brown. Daniel Shin. “To Taste with the Heart: Allegory. Inspiration and the Word of God. “Hermeneutics. Brown. Raymond E.

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