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The Traditional Literal Historical Interpretation of Genesis

My parish recently invited The Kolbe Center director to come and speak on traditional Catholic teachings. He spoke to the students at the parish grade school and the parishioners after mass. The information presented was considered to be authoritative traditional Catholic doctrine and intended to improve our understanding of what it means to be a Catholic.

My student came home from school with questions, after a presentation by the Kolbe Center. The students were told that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible (Pentateuch). When my student asked me if this was true I had to say – NO.

It should be noted that the authorship of Genesis has had a troubled Catholic history, but the Biblical information provided by the Kolbe Center is out of step with current Catholic scripture scholarship.

-History Lesson-
In 1906 the Pontifical Biblical Commission made it clear that Moses wrote the Pentateuch and this was to be the orthodox position. Any scholars who dissented from this exegetical position were considered to be outside of the Church orthodoxy. This all changed with Divino Afflante Spiritu. However, those Catholics who believe that the Catholic Church of today has broken with the traditional magisterium and has been infiltrated by modernist heresies still hold to those old orthodoxies. The pastor and parish council of my parish still hold onto those old orthodoxies.

This may not seem like much to the casual observer, but this is a complex issue that my child will have to navigate for the remainder of school, because with my answer to the question of the authorship of Genesis I also had to explain that this information must not be repeated at school as the parents and teachers may become angered if the students open a discussion on this topic.

When confronted with current scripture scholarship the traditional Catholic parent may reiterate the traditional orthodoxy but go to the pastor to complain. The Catholic school teacher may worry that allowing non-traditional orthodoxy to be questioned in the classroom may lead to questions about religion lesson plans. As an adult coming from a traditional Catholic background I can navigate these waters, but grade school students aren’t expected to understand the fragile nature of a traditionalist Catholic. I will not consider homeschooling and I do not want to change schools. We will continue to move forward as best we can.

In the interest of full disclosure I must warn you that I do not believe that the Catholic Church of today has broken with the traditional magisterium and there are no modernist heresies. If you believe that the Catholic Church has broken with tradition you can stop reading and simply enjoy the links to the Kolbe Center.

The purpose of this post is to try to open a discussion about how we might be able to communicate better between traditional and non-traditional Catholics. To work together for the salvation of our families should be our goal. Any suggestions are welcomed.

We will begin the discussion with a question: How do traditionalists resolve the conflict caused by the assertion that the Church has broken from the traditional magisterium, has been infiltrated by modernist heresies, and that it is still the same Roman Catholic Church? To understand this better, surfers, you will need to be familiar with the psychological term cognitive dissonance.

… when confronted with challenging new information, most people seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists.
Cognitive Dissonance

In other words cognitive dissonance means your mind recognizes that something is different but is willing to be tricked into thinking that nothing has changed.

Let me explain what I mean. On the Kolbe Center Web site is an explanation of the basics for traditional Catholic scripture study.

According to two Ecumenical Councils—Trent and Vatican I—the unanimous agreement of the Fathers on any interpretation of Scripture concerning a doctrine of faith and morals is authoritative for Catholics. And the Fathers were unanimous in holding that Genesis 1-11 is a sacred history and that the events contained in that history happened as written.

The Magisterium has upheld the primacy of the Fathers as commentators on Scripture just as it has upheld the historicity of Genesis 1-11.

The traditional Catholic interpretation of Genesis upholds the historical truth of the post-creation events related in Genesis 1-11, in the light of the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers and the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium. The Kolbe Center

The Kolbe Center Web site makes no references to Divino Afflante Spiritu, or Dei Verbum which are the current Church guides on scripture study. These documents modify and update the documents from Trent and Vatican I. Here is a summary:

This dark cloud [of ecclesiastical censures] was happily lifted during the pontificate of Pius XII (1939-58), whose numerous efforts to promote among the faithful an active interest in the Bible helped to inaugurate a renaissance in Catholic biblical studies. Chief among Pius XII’s interventions in the promotion of biblical scholarship was the promulgation of his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu on Sept. 30, 1943.
Dean Bechard S.J.

As a result of this encyclical and dogmatic constitution new light was cast upon the traditional understandings of Genesis. The scripture scholars understanding of the authorship of Genesis changed and so did the understanding of the Catholic Church.

Because of cognitive dissonance the Divino Afflante Spiritu encyclical issued by Pope Pius XII and the Dei Verbum Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revalation issued by Pope Paul VI have been ignored by the Kolbe Center.

Here is a summary of new scripture scholarship since Divino Afflante Spiritu.

For millions of Jews and Christians, it’s a tenet of their faith that God is the author of the core text of the Hebrew Bible – the Torah, also known as the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses. But since the advent of modern biblical scholarship, academic researchers have believed the text was written by a number of different authors whose work could be identified by seemingly different ideological agendas and linguistic styles and the different names they used for God.
Huffington Post

Moses, the religious genius who put his stamp on the religion of the Old Testament more powerfully than any other figure, died about 300 years before the first story of Moses entered the written form we call Holy Scripture.

This means that everything we know about Moses in the Bible had to have passed orally through about 15 generations before achieving written form.
John Shelby Spong

Moses is no longer believed to be the author of Genesis, as a result of the Biblical Commission’s efforts.

The biblical story of creation is actually two stories written by different people at different times for different purposes. Pope John Paul II was able to draw on this new scholarship to specifically identify the first creation story in one of his apostolic letters.

According to the Priestly writer of the first biblical creation story, then was born the “Sabbath”, so characteristic of the first Covenant, and which in some ways foretells the sacred day of the new and final Covenant.
Dies Domini (Apostolic Letter from Pope John Paul II)

You see, dear surfers, the evidence is overwhelming regarding the authorship of Genesis. I do not expect the traditionalists to overcome the cognitive dissonance that is holding them back from accepting this information. I do expect to be able to worship in my parish even though I don’t hold the beliefs of the traditionalists.

One last thought before I sign-off.

The church needs a massive Bible education program. The church needs to acknowledge that understanding the Bible is more important than memorizing the catechism. If we could get Catholics to read the Sunday scripture readings each week before they come to Mass, it would be revolutionary.
Thomas Reese

God bless,

About neodecaussade

I am a Roman Catholic quester. You will find that I have scripture based academic interests. You will discover that I am a conservative Catholic but I am also prone to heterodox tendencies. I am versed in highly pietistic traditionalist practices but I am not a traditionalist. I am interested in entering a discussion on the future of the Roman Catholic Church. I would like to have a role in discussing how the future Church will be shaped.

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