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General Knowledge of the Bible

1.  Biblical Archaeology and Geography


Some Biblical Ancient People:


1. Hittites might have been the descendants of Heth, the local Canaanite people who co-existed with the Israelites. The Hittites might also have been the descendants of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom from whom King Solomon bought horses and chariots.


2. Egyptians has the longest ancient near eastern empire, producing a variety of dynasties and fortunes. They are known in the Bible as the people that enslaved the Israelites (Exodus 1).


3. Sumerians spoke the Sumerian language and developed a system of law and governance. They also devised measurements of time and distance.


4. Ammonties are the descendants of Lot. In the 9th century, they fought against the Israelites. In 2 Sam 10-12, it narrates that David conquered the Ammonites.


5. Phoenicians were a combination of city-states on the Mideterranean. Their central power was located around Tyre and Sidon. The Phoenicians were a wealthy and important people, well known in the middle east trade. Ezekiel lamented over Tyre in Ez 26:8.


6. Moabites are also the descendants of Lot. In the 9th century, they fought also against the Israelites. In Num 21 and Josh 3, they are known to have settled on the plains of Moab.


7. Sea Peoples were composed of nine sea faring peoples of whom only the Philistines appear in the Bible. They had occupied Ashkelon and Gaza, which are close to the Miditerranean. They were depicted as the rulers of the Israelites in the Book of Judges especially in the story of Samson and Delilah.


8. Edomites are the descendants of Esau. In the 9th Century, they fought against Israel and they were also conquered by David as indicated in 2 Sam 8.


Biblical Ancient Cities:


Samaria is the capital of the Northern Kingdom (Israel). The Assyrians conquered it in 722 B.C. It was considered by prophets as the center of Idolatry.


Shechem is the first Palestinian site mentioned in the Bible. It has been a center of cultic practice and in the time of the judges, it was a place connected with Canaanite worship. It was the capital city of Jeroboam and Abimelek destroyed it.


Jerusalem was settled by the Jebusites and captured by David. It is the capital of the united kingdom (Judah and Israel) in the 8th year of king David's reign. The city became the center of cult and administration. Solomon built a temple in this city. After the Babylonian captivity, it became again the center of the cultic life for the Jewish people.


Bethel has been a center of cultic practice and in the book of Judges, it is mentioned that the ark was there. Solomon came to Bethel annually and it was one of Jeroboam's centers for the calf worship in the Northern Kingdom.


Jericho is mentioned in the conquest narrative in Joshua 1-3. In the New Testament, Jericho is the place where Jesus had encountered Zaccheus and healed Bartimeus.


Beersheba was the place where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. In the Judges, it is mentioned as the reference point of the southern most reach of the twelve tribes of Israel "from Dan to Beersheba."


Hebron was the place where Abraham lived. It is the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives. David is anointed there as King of Israel and Judah. For seven and a half years, it was David's capital.


Some Places in the Bible:


Nazareth is the home of the holy family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is mentioned that Jesus was rejected by the people of his native place. Nazareth was derided by the scribes and the elders.


Bethany is the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. It is mentioned that Jesus was anointed there.


Calvary is the place where Jesus was crucified. At the time of Jesus, calvary was outside of the wall of Jerusalem and a garden with a tomb was nearby.


Temple is the place where Jesus was brought as a child and adolescence. Jesus cleansed the temple of commercial activities and he prophesied about the temple's destruction.


Mount of Olives is one of the places where Jesus had sought for prayer. In this place, Jesus had foreseen Jerusalem's destruction. It is also the place of Luke's account of Jesus' ascension.


Caesarea Philippi is the place of Peter's confession about Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:16).


Bethlehem is known as the "city of David" and the expected birthplace of the Messiah. It is the place of St. Luke's narrative of the birth of Jesus.


Caesarea Maritima is a place that was built by Herod the Great and the administrative city of the Herodian kings and Roman procurators. It is the place where Philip first proclaimed Christ, where Peter converted the first gentile, Cornelius, and where Paul was imprisoned for two years.


Capharnaum is the town of Simon Peter and Adrew. It is also where Jesus called Levi. It was a city of military and financial significance with a military garrison and a tax officer.

2.  Introduction to the Old Testament


2.1 Theory of the JEDP Sources



J is written in the 10th century in the Southern Kingdom and focuses on Judah. God is more anthropomorphic, vivid storytelling, “younger son” theme. Patriarchal Saga Gen 12-50.


D is written in the 9th century in the Northern Kingdom. Elohim is used for the name of God until the giving of the divine name to Moses. God is more distant and speaks in dreams, visions, in fire, clouds and through angels. Moses and the Exodus.


E is written in the 7th century in the Northern Kingdom but was brought to the south after the fall of Israel. Obedience to the Lord and his commandments is based on love and fear. There is the theology of divine “name” that dwells in the temple. Cult is more heavily centralized but still some acknowledgment of rural cultic practices. There is a high regard for ethical behaviour toward the poor. Deuteronomy.


P is post-exilic source from the priestly caste centered around the temple. It focuses on ritual and purification holiness. It envisioned a world ordered by God. Gen 1:1-2:4; Ex 25-Num 10.


2.2  Literary genres. What is a literary genre? What is the "Sitz im Leben" of a literary genre? What are the main literary genres of the Psalms?


Literary genre is a type of literature, ex: prose or poetry. In the Old Testament, the genres are the law, prophecy, poetry, song, hymn, saying and genealogy.


Sitz im Leben is the  “situation in life.” It is not the historical circumstances behind the development of the text but the situation for which a text was composed, for example, the temple worship.


The main genres of Psalms are hymns, lamentations, thanksgiving, wisdom, liturgical, messianism, repentance and pilgrimage.


2.3  Main sections and themes of the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles.


Genesis:   1-11       Primeval History

                 12-50     Patriarchal Narrative


                  Divine-Human relationship, promise, land, covenant


Exodus:    1-18       Deliverance Narrative

                19-40      Covenant


              Israel exists by virtue of the powerful saving action of God. Israel and the Lord are in a covenant which holds                   the promise of a glorious future.


Leviticus:    1-7         Laws of sacrifice

                   8-10      Ordination rites of priests

                  11-16      Laws of purity

                  17-26     Holiness code


             Reflects a priestly worldview. Holy people and actions.


Numbers:   1-10       Priestly code continued

                  11-21      The journey continues from Sinai to Moab

                  22-36      Events in Transjordan


            The book talks about the organization of the Israelite encampment. Regulations for the nazirite vows were given.             The tabernacle was dedicated, Miriam complained about Moses and was infected with leprosy. Moses got water             from the rock by striking it. Moab feared Israel and tried to curse them using Balaam, but this failed.


Deuteronomy:    1-4:43    First address

                           4:44-28  Second address

                           29-30    Third address

                            31-34    Concluding events


          The book talks about the great commandment. God will speak through the prophets and the place that YHWH                  (adonay) will choose is Jerusalem. The theological heart of Deuteronomy is One God, one people and one faith,              in addition to the most important text in Deut 6 “shema’ Israel”.


Joshua:         1-12       military campaign

                     13-21     tribal territories

                      22-24    covenant considerations


           The conquest, distribution of land to the tribes of Israel, renewal of the covenant


Judges:         1-2:5      Failure to occupy Canaan

                    2:6-3:6    Theological framework

                    3:7-16     Judge narratives

                    17-21      Failures of Israelite tribes


              Loss of spiritual direction, abandon of YHWH for baal, lays groundwork for the rise of monarchy.


1-2 Samuel:     1 Sam 1-12      Samuel cycle

                        1 Sam 13-31     Saul cycle

                         2 Sam 1-24      David’s cycle


               David is presented as the model king. The rise of monarchy, presents both positive and negative elements.


1-2 Kings:      1 K 1-11         Solomon and the united monarchy

                   1K12-2K 17      Parallel histories of Israel and Judah

                    2 K 18-25        Judah to the Babylonian exile


               From the Golden Age with the construction of the temple through to the Babylonian captivity. Prophecy arises                 with Elijah and Elisha. Concerns with the quality of religious focus: if the people are faithful to God, God will be                 faithful. Kings are evaluated in the light of their religious and moral fidelity.


1-2 Chronicles:           1 Ch 1-10       Premonarchy history

                        1 Ch 11- 2 Ch 36       History of the Davidic monarchy


              The chroniclrer’s central themes in writing his history were the priesthood, the temple, and worship practices in              Judah.


2.4  The Three Major Law codes of the Pentateuch (the Covenant Code, the Law of Holiness, the Deuteronomic Code). 


The covenant code is found in Exodus 20-23. It is the earliest collection of covenant laws. It is casuistic in style “if…then.” It reflects a livestock economy and the primary directive is no idols.


The law of holiness is found in Lev 17-26 and it is concerned in purity and holiness.


The Deuteronomic code is found in Deut 12-25. It gives rules for family and community life. It is less centralized with cult.


2.5  Pre-exilic prophets: Amos, Hosea, Isiah, Jeremiah. 


Amos:      1-2        Judgment oracles against the nations 

                 3-6       Judgment oracles against Israel

            7-9:10       Judgment visions

           9:11-15      The restoration of David’s kingdom


              Amos preached in the Northern kingdom of Israel around 750 B.C. His central message is an emphasis on the              social justice as an expression of the covenant. The ideas of the coming day of the Lord and the hope of a                        remnant are highlighted. He also emphasized that the covenant with God carried obligations as well as promises.


Hosea:     1-3        Hosea’s family

                 4-14     Judgment against Israel


               Hosea was active from about 745 B.C. to perhaps 722 B.C. He described the relationship between God and              Israel as a marriage. His social themes were the danger of injustice at home and reliance on military alliances                   abroad. He talked about the compassion of God, and of God’s tender longing for God’s people.


Isaiah:     1-39       1st Isiah of Jerusalem (8th B.C.)

               40-55      2nd Isiah of the exile (mid-6th B.C.)

               56-66      3rd Isiah of the restoration (late 6th B.C.)


            Isaiah of Jerusalem was a counselor to kings from 740-701 B.C. During this time there were two major crisis:                 the war with Syria in 734 and the Assyrian threats from 734-701. Isaiah saw those events as expressions of God’s            will over the nations. He said that the cause of the wars was social injustice. God is working out punishment for               his people in the international arena.


Jeremiah:       1-25          Jeremiah’s prophecies and autobiographical material

                       26-29       Biographical interlude 1

                       30-31       New Covenant

                       32-45       Biographical interlude 2

                       46-51       Oracles against the nations

                            52        Historical appendix: fall of Jerusalem


             Jeremiah preached from  627-586 B.C. and it was the longest career of any of the prophets. Jeremiah’s                     prophetic themes and vocabulary indicate that he had a connection with the Deuteronomic school. Jeremiah                  prophesied in Jerusalem, but his family roots were from the north. Jeremiah affirmed the importance of the mosaic              formulation of God’s covenant with his people, but extended it by infusing it with an inward, spiritual quality, and                 calling it a “New Covenant”.


2.6  The exilic and post-exilic prophets: Ezekiel, Isaiah 40-66, Joel, Zechariah. 


Ezekiel:   1-24       Warnings (before 587 B.C.)

               25-48      Hope and restoration (after 587 B.C.)


            Ezekiel was a priest taken to Babylon in 598. Before 586, he preached a message of judgment and doom. After               586, he focused on hope and salvation. The source of his hope is not in any of the political powers of his day,                  but in God’s own nature and purpose. The temple is destroyed, but God is not bound by a temple and has moved           into exile with his people. The sins of the past will not keep the present generation from choosing life and                          salvation. The book ends with a great vision of the future restoration of the people and the temple.


              II Isaiah:  II Isaiah most likely come from the hand of a prophet who lived in Babylonian exile in the 6th                        century B.C. and they do not come from the hand of Isaiah of Jerusalem. II Isaiah consists almost entirely of poetic           passages, with little of the narrative type material found in I Isaiah. He talks about creation as a redemptive                      capability of YHWH in his power. YHWH created the world and he is powerful enough to bring Israel out of                         captivity. This book contains the four poems of the suffering servant and proclaims Cyrus the messiah.


Joel:      1:1-2:27        Locust plague

           2:28-3:21       Day of Yahweh


            Joel lived in a time of a great locust plague, which he saw as the beginning of the judgment of God. His central            theme is the Day of the Lord. The nations will be judged and Israel blessed. He talked about the outpouring of the            Holy Spirit.


Zechariah: 1-8          Zechariah

                  9-14       Second Zechariah


           He preached in Jerusalem around 520 B.C. in the reign of Darius of Persia. His message was that the temple                was to be rebuilt, and that the people were to come together into a purified and faithful community. The source of            hope was that God does keep his promises. When work on the temple is begun, Zechariah preached that God will         raise up the glory of  the house of David in Zerubbabel, the last known prince of David’s line.


2.7  Apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament. The Apocalypse of Isaiah (Isa 22-24) and Daniel. 


     The apocalyptic literature uses symbols, dreams and visions. It focuses on the heavenly throne room and was the heir of prophecy. It stresses on divine sovereignty over history. The apocalypse of Isaiah talks about punishment of cosmic powers, the end of death and the resurrection of the dead. A universal judgment of the nations and a new age of salvation, in which the cosmos will be radically transformed. While the apocalypse of Daniel was written to offer hope and consolation to the Jews who were suffering from persecution. The second part of the book of Daniel is a series of visions which reveal that the fate of the righteous is in the hands of God and that God can be trusted to keep the future safe for his people.


2.8  Wisdom literature. 


           These books are Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach and the Psalms. These books are interested in instruction and pedagogy. They rely on learning from experience rather than divine revelation. They deal with everyday life. They ask questions such as: Why suffering? Why the righteous dies and the evil remains alive? The wisdom literature has multiple literary genres for example proverbs has parables, discourses, songs, poems. Ecclesiastes speaks about the meaning of life while Job treats the problem of suffering.


2.9  The Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. 


          These books are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus and Baruch. They are called "deuterocanonica" because they were written in Greek and not in Hebrew, so they weren’t accepted by the Jews, but the Church included them in her Old Testament canon in the council of Trent. They are important because 1 and 2 Maccabees are helpful for understanding history of the intertestamental period especially the Maccabean uprising. The wisdom of Solomon shows the Greek influence of Jewish thought. Ecclesiasticus has Jewish critiques of Greek influences. 2 Maccabees speaks about the development of jewish religious thought, resurrection, martyrdom and miracles.


3.  Old Testament History


3.1  The problems of using the Old Testament as a source for the study of the history of Israel. Is the Old Testament a book of “history” or of “historiography” in the modern sense of the word? Why or why not?


     The documents of the Hebrew Bible that deal with the rise of Israel and the events of the monarchy are not first of all historiographic literature but ideological literature. No text references have been found that can confirm the accuracy of biblical history. This does not mean that the biblical story is necessarily inaccurate or that its players did not exist. Still it is fair to say the climate in biblical studies lends itself to historical skepticism given the arguably ideological nature of the texts. Today Palestinian archaeology and textual studies are pursued largely as disciplines independent of a biblical agenda. However, they retain a utility for those in biblical studies because they serve to build a context for Israel’s history.


  • Traditional chronology of the Patriarchal Era, of the stay in Egypt and of the Exodus, of the installation in Canaan (or the “conquest”) and of the beginning of the monarchy (Saul and David).

  • Patriarchal Era

  • Egypt

  • Moses and the Exodus

  • Canaan

  • United Kingdom


3.3  The more important kings mentioned in the Old Testament: David, Solomon, Jeroboam I, Jeroboam II, Hezekiah, Josiah. What are the most important facts of their reigns? With which kings are the prophets Amos, Hosea, Isiah and Jeremiah associated? With which king is the deuteronomistic reform associated? Why?


David: He is Israel’s second and greatest king. He captured Jerusalem and established it as his capital He unified the nation and built an empire that stretched from Egypt to Mesopotamia during a 40-year reign. He reigned from 1010-970 B.C. He is a messianic symbol.


Solomon: He is the third king of the kingdom of Israel and the second king of the kingdom of Judah in the 10th century B.C. He is especially renowned for his wisdom and for the construction of the temple.


Jeroboam I: He is the first king of the Northern Kingdom. He ruled from 922-900 B.C. He developed an independent political and religious system, installed golden calves at Dan and Bethel. He instituted a non-levitical priesthood, considered by prophets to have led Israel into sin.


Jeroboam II: He ruled from 786-746 B.C. in the Northern Kingdom. His reign was glorious but was marked by extreme wealth and poverty, empty religious ritual and false security. Amos and Hosea are associated to Jeroboam II's reign.


Hezekiah:  He ruled from 715-687 B.C. He re-established the true worship of YHWH in the purified and renovated temple, reaffirmed the covenant between YHWH and his people, and reinstituted the Passover on a grand scale. Isaiah is associated to Hezekiah's reign.


Josiah: He ruled from 640-609 B.C. He discovered in the temple the “book of the law” in 621 B.C. This is understood to be Deut 12-26 as his reforms focusing on centralization of cult and condemnation of idolatry match the ideas of the Deuteronomic code. There are three main aspects in Josiah’s reform: the purge of the temple and its precincts, the destruction of the high places in Jerusalem and Judah, and the desecration of the sanctuaries in the Old Northern Kingdom.


3.4  What are the most important political and religious differences between the kingdom of the north and that of the south?


The South is sacral and centralized. Ruled by the divinely chosen Davidic dynasty. Slow-moving, conservative and highly traditional. Jerusalem and it’s temple were the focus of national and religious life. It was a stable kingdom. Whereas the Northern Kingdom was unstable. In its 200 years of existence, it had 19 kings, only 10 of whom succeeded to the throne. The Northern Kingdom was more prosperous and powerful.


3.5  Importance of the following persons in the history of Israel: Tiglath-Pileser III, (Pûlu; see 2 Kings 15:17), Sennacherib, Neco, Nabuchadnezzar II, Cyrus, Alexander the Great.


Tiglath-Pileser III: He is an Assyrian king who invaded northern Israel twice and captured various regions of the Northern Kingdom such as Galilee and Gilead.


Sennacherib: He is an Assyrian king who invaded Judah during the reign of Hezekiah. Hezekiah paid valuable tribute to buy him off.


Neco: He is an Egyptian Pharaoh and major foe of Babylon. He passed through Judah and he sought an alliance with Josiah who refused him. They fought and Josiah died.


Nebuchadnezzar II:   He is a Babylonian king. He besieged and conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and deported the people.


Cyrus:  King of Persia who conquered Babylon and released its captives. His policy was to rule his empire while respecting local traditions and cultures. He permitted the rebuilding of the temple.


Alexander the Great: He demolished the Persian Empire. He introduced Hellenistic culture into the ancient near east.


3.6  The fall of Samaria, the fall of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon: the date and main information concerning these events; a brief chronology of these events, names of the main historical persons who were involved, the biblical books (historical and prophetic)which speak of these events.


     721  Fall of Samaria

           2 kings 17:1-41

           Shalmaneser was king of Assyria

           Hoshea was king of Israel

           Hoshea made overtures to king So of Egypt and withheld tribute to Shalmaneser

           Shalmaneser imprisoned Hoshea

           Shalmaneser invaded Israel and besieged it for 3 years

           Samaria fell to Shalmaneser’s successor Sargon II

           He deported many Israelites


      586 Fall of Jerusalem

            2 kings 25; Jeremiah 52; 2 Chronicles 36

            Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylonia

           Jehoiakim was king of Judah


       587 The exile to Babylon

            Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and its temple

            First deportation of captives

            Second deportation with more captives


3.7  The reform of Ezra and Nehemiah. The origin and general evolution of the Maccabean revolt.


Ezra led a group of Jews back to Palestine and re-established adherence to Mosaic standards of law and religion (458 B.C.) and Nehemiah in 445 B.C. organized the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and returned religious and civil authority to the levites. Ezra saw that one of the most serious problems of the Judeans was mixed marriages and this was a fact to remain separate from non-Israelite people. Ezra dedicated the people to keep the Torah and read it, but since Hebrew was no more the native tongue it has been replaced by Aramaic and by this way we have the Targum which is the first practice of translation of the Scripture. The origin of the Maccabean revolt was in 167 where the Jewish religion abolished and the temple was defiled and all those not complying were tortured but in 164 the temple was purified.

4.  Introduction to the New Testament


4.1 The principal literary genres of the New Testament


They are the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Epistles/Letters and Apocalypse.


4.2 Datings of the writings of the New Testament (c.f. Jerusalem Bible).


          50            1 and 2 Thessalonians

          56-57       Philipians

          57           1 and 2 Corinthians

          57-58      Galatians, Romans

          61-63      Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon

          62           James, 1 Peter

          64           Mark

          65-80      1 and 2 Timothy, Titus

          70-80      Matthew, Luke, Acts, Jude, 2 Peter, Hebrews

          95          Apocalypse

          100        Johannine corpus


4.3 Meaning of the following adjectives in relation to the  writings of the New Testament: “anonymous”, “apocryphal”, “authentic”, “pseudepigraphic”. Give examples of each.


Anonymous means not signed. Ex: the letter to the Hebrews.


Apocryphal shares with the writings of the New Testament proper form and the content is of apostolic origin but not accepted as canonical. Ex: the gospel of Thomas.


Authentic is judged to have been written by signatory. Ex: the letter to the Philippians.


Pseudepigraphic is  judged to have not been written by signatory i.e. attribution of authorship to famous persons. Ex: the letter to the Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and possibly 2 Thessalonians are pseudepigraphical.


4.4 What is a “canonical” work? Give the name of one non-  canonical work in ancient Christian literature.


The canonical work is the work judged by the Church to belong to the canon i.e. the corpus of works which are considered authoritative and standard for defining and determining orthodox belief and practice. Example of non-canonical work: The Shepherd of Hermas.


4.5 What is meant by “high Christology” and “low Christology”?


High Christology means that the divine is made man (Word Incarnate) and low Christology is that the human reveals the divine (Son of God).


4.6 What are the main theological characteristics of the Christology, ecclesiology, eschatology and moral theology of the principal New Testament writings?





It was written mostly to the gentiles who had some contract with Judaism (explanation of Jewish customs but not all feasts, etc.), outside of Palestine (spoke no aramaic and needed translations), with an overheaded expectation of the parousia (cf. ch 13), and facing persecutions.


Style of Greek                                              Grammatically poor

Geographical focus                                      Galilean towns and villages; some Gentile territory

Literary features                                           Quick action (“and then”; immediately…”); loosely connected episodes

Christology I                                                 Christ/Messiah & Son of God; Suffering Son of Man; Eschatological

Main titles for Jesus                                     Judge

Christology II:Jesus’ Major Actions              Miracles; overcoming evil powers; arguing with religious authorities

Discipleship I:Teachings about Discipleship      Persevere in faith despite suffering; follow Jesus “on the way” to                                                                                  the cross; be ready for his return

Eschatological Expectations                              Imminent and suddenly, but no one knows when; so “keep awake”                                                                              (13:1-37)

Basis for final judgment                                Whether you persevere in faith despite persecutions (13:13)

Other major themes                                      Messianic Secret; Main disciples don’t understand, but minor                                                                                       characters do believe                                    




Probably in or near Antioch in Syria.

It was written to a majority Judeo-Christian community involved in polemic with pharisaic Judaism from whom they had probably separated.


Style of Greek                                                         Semitic influenced

Geographical focus                                                 Galilee, esp. mountains; mostly Jewish areas

Literary features                                                      Five major discourses; well-organized sections of collected                                                                                         pericopes

Christology I:Main titles for Jesus                           Son of David, Son of Abraham; Great Lawgiver and teacher (like                                                                                 Moses); Emmanuel; king of Jews

Christology II:Jesus’ Major Actions                         Teaching the disciples; decrying religious hypocrisy

Discipleship I:Teachings about Discipleship            Be righteous; forgive always; live ethically (golden rule); fulfill                                                                                     God’s laws, esp. charitable deeds

Eschatological Expectations                                   False prophets will arise; many will fall away; Gospel must first                                                                                   be preached to all (24:10-14)

Basis for final judgment                                          What you do for “the least” people; sheep and goats parable                                                                                      (25:31- 46)

Other major themes                                               Fulfillment of Scripture; divisions within the community; final                                                                                        separation of good versus bad




Probably in Greece;

It was written to mostly gentiles (Greeks) for whom the synagogue was always a foreign institution. A strong universal perspective and the elimination of Judeo-christian material of Q. Jewish titles are replaced with Greek (kyrios or epistates…).



Style of Greek                                                       Good, elegant, literary

Geographical focus                                               One long journey to the goal: Jerusalem                

Literary features                                                    Stories often in pairs (esp. Male/Female characters); many                                                                                          extra parables

Christology I:Main titles for Jesus                          A great prophet (in word & deed); Lord (of all nations); Savior                                                                                      (esp. of the poor)

Christology II:Jesus’ Major Actions                         Healing sick & impaired; forgiving sinners and debtors

Discipleship I:Teachings about Discipleship           Leave everything to follow Jesus; share with poor; accept                                                                                             everyone, esp. outcasts, women, enemies

Eschatological Expectations                                   After Jerusalem is destroyed & the gentiles’ time is fulfilled;                                                                                         not so soon; pray! (21:20-24,28,36)

Basis for final judgment                                          How you use wealth/possessions; parables of Rich & Poor

                                                                              (16:1- 31)

Other major themes                                               Fulfillment of God’s plan; eschatological reversal; tax                                                                                                    collectors & sinners favored





Christology I:

Main titles for Jesus                                                Divine Logos (word made flesh); Son sent from Father;                                                                                               Passover Lamb; “I am…” / “equal to God”

Christology II:Jesus’ Major Actions                         Speaking God’s words; doing God’s works; revealing God and                                                                                     himself

Discipleship I:Teachings about Discipleship           See, believe, know, remain in Jesus & God, despite hostility;                                                                                       love one another; be in unity; serve humbly

Discipleship II:Role of Models for Disciple.             John Baptist (ch.1); blind man (ch.9), Martha (11:27); the B.D.                                                                                     (13:23 ff)

Eschatological Expectations                                   Realized eschatology; all who hear & believe have eternal life                                                                                     already now and are not judged (5:21-25)

Basis for final judgment                                           Whether or not you believe in Jesus (3:16-18;5:19-24;12:44-50)

Other major themes                                                “eternal life”=”life in his name”;Paraclete = Holy  Spirit;                                                                                                  Christian unity; mutual indwelling of God/Jesus



4.7  Gospels and Acts


4.7.1 What does the “synoptic question” mean? What are the main solutions which have been proposed? What is meant by the “theory of the two sources”?


The synoptic question is that why are Mark, Matthew and Luke so alike but yet so different? There are texts which share not only the same thought but also exactly the same language. Who copied from who?


Main solutions which have been proposed are the following:


1-   The Traditional Theory (Augustinian Hypothesis 4th century)


     It is the oldest explanation. This theory explains that Matthew was written first, Mark severely abbreviated Matthew, and then came Luke, with each drawing on its predecessors.


2-   The Griesbach Theory (Two-Gospel Hypothesis 18th century)


     Griesbach proposed a theory of dependence  in which the order was Matthew, Luke and Mark.


3-   The Farrer/Goulder Theory (with Markan Priority)


     Mark was written first and both Matthew and luke drew on it, and there is a form of this approach that goes on to      hold that Luke drew on Matthew as well.


The theory of the two sources


     The most common thesis posits that Matthew and Luke depended on Mark and wrote independently of each other. What they have in common and did not derive from Mark (the double Tradition) is explained by positing Q (a source reconstructed entirely from Matthew and Luke). Thus, this is known as the two source theory.


4.7.2 What is the generally accepted origin and what are the various stages of redaction of each of the synoptic Gospels?


Activity of the Historical Jesus/ Oral Tradition (kerigma)/ Written tradition (catechesis, worship, mission…)/ systematizing.


4.7.3 What is its relationship to the other gospels? What are its main theological characteristics?


There are materials found only in the Fourth Gospel and not in the Synoptic Gospels (the prologue, wedding at cana, bread of life, raising of Lazarus…) and on the other hand the Synoptic Gospels have familiar material not found in John, the Fourth Gospel (infancy narrative, baptism of Jesus, temptation in the desert). There are also material significantly different in John and the Synoptics. For example the main focus of the Synoptics is the kingdom of God whereas in John it is eternal life…


4.7.4 What are the purpose and the message of the Acts of the Apostles?


The Acts of the Apostles describes the fulfillment of the mission entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles at the end of Luke’s Gospel (and again at the beginning of Acts). Salvation offered through grace to all, regardless of race, faith or nation.


4.8 Pauline Literature


4.8.1 What are the “deutero-Pauline” letters? What does this mean?


They are the letters, believed by majority of scholars, to have been written by a disciple of St. Paul. These letters are: Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.


4.8.2 Main theological concepts of the following letters of St.Paul: 1 Thess, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, Gal, Rom, Phil.


1 Thessalonians: Immanent parousia, remain faithful, be ready.


1 Corinthians:  Pastoral concerns – marriage, food, sacrifice to idols, eucharist, charisms. These become the launching pad for Paul’s thoughts of Christian freedom, union with Christ, sanctification of the body, supremacy of love.


Galatians: Justification through faith apart from the works of the law.


Romans: Like Galatians. Christians share in the death and resurrection of Christ through faith and baptism. Our vocation is to be children of God.


Philippians: Pastoral letter – thanking for a gift. 2:6-11 hymn of early Christians of humility of Christ who emptied himself taking the form of a slave. Has received a name above all other names.


4.8.3 The letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians. What are the similarities and the differences with respect to the other Pauline letters?


These two letters have a heavy and repetitious style not found in earlier letters, in addition to the characteristic Pauline language which disappears like righteousness, to believe, law, to save.



Category of Theology                      Col/Eph                                                          Early Paul

Christology:(jesus)                  Cosmic,divine,exalted [like John]                        Earthly,human,suffering [like Mark]

                                                (Col 1:15-20;2:9-10; Eph 1:21-22)

Ecclesiology:(church)              One world-wide body, with Christ as                   Many local churches, each forms the                                                head of the body(Col 1:18; Eph 1:22-23;3:10)     body of Christ” (Rom 12:4-5;1 Cor                                                                                                                                  12:12-27)

Soteriology:(Salvation)          Present: we share the resurrection life already      Future: we will be raised on the last                                                now(Col 1:12-14;2:12-13;3:1;Eph 2:6)                   day                                                   Moral Theology(Sin&forgiveness)  Forgiveness of sins through Christ                Freedom from sin

                                                        (Col 1:14;2:13;3:13)

Eschatology: (End times)     Realized, spatial focus [Christ reigns above]; we      Imminent,temporal focus [Christ 

                                              have already been raised in Christ                           returns soon]

                                              (Col 3:1-2; Eph 1:20;2:6)



4.8.4The pastoral letters. 


What is special about the pastoral letters is that they are concerned with evangelized communities and not with missionary activity. They focus on the structure of the church, the selection or appointment of bishops,overseers and deacons. Paul does not argue against false doctrine but just condemns it.


4.8.5 How is the “Heart of the Gospel” according to St. Paul generally presented?


The Heart of the Gospel is presented in the letter to the Galatians as justification through faith apart from the works of the law, and in the first letter to the Corinthians: Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.


4.9  The other writings of the New Testament


These letters are: James,Jude,1 and 2 Peter,1-2and 3 John.


The term “catholic letters” means letters to all Christians.


James: Jewish Christians-faith leads to faithful living.

Jude: warns against the doctrine that God’s grace allows for immoral living.

1 peter:   letter to the churches in Asia Minor. Hope in Christ in face of persecution.

2 Peter:   Immanent parousia - be faithful

1,2 John: supreme commandment of love

3 John: warns against a false teacher


4.10 What does the word “apocalypse” mean and designate?


An apocalypse is a revelation that is recorded in written form. It is a piece of crisis literature that reveals truths about the past, present, and/or future in highly symbolic terms. It often comes in dreams or visions and usually needs to be interpreted with the help of an angel. It is intended to provide hope and encouragement for people in the midst of severe trials and tribulations.


4.11 Dating and ecclesial situation of the Apocalypse of John.


The most common opinion is that it was written during the reign of Domitian in about 95 A.D. to the churches in the Western sector of Asia Minor. It was written during a period of disturbance and bitter persecution to increase the hope and determination of the infant church.

5.  New Testament History


5.1 Palestine invaded by the Romans


     Palestine was invaded by the Romans in 63 B.C.


5.2 The presence of the roman procurators in the New Testament writings.


     The procurators were entrusted with full authority, even with the power of capital punishment. These procurators were:


Pontius Pilate: ruler of Judea when John the Baptist began preaching. He conducts the trial of Jesus, permits Joseph of Arimethea to bury Jesus, permits the Jewish authorities to post a guard at Jesus’ tomb.


Felix: After St. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, Felix imprisoned Paul in Caesarea and Paul had an initial hearing before Felix.


Festus: After being incarcerated for about two years, Paul receives a longer hearing before Festus.


5.3  Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I. 


Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.)    

He was the king of Judah. He appointed priests, slaughtered opponents, expanded his territories and was engaged in a massive building program. In 19 B.C. he began to reconstruct the temple.


Herod Antipas (4 B.C.-39 A.D.)

     He was the son of Herod the Great. He was a ruler of Jesus’ home province in Galilee. Antipas was given an opportunity to question and ridicule Jesus during his trial before Pontius Pilate.


Herod Agrippa I (37-44 A.D.)

     He was the grandson of Herod the Great. His kingdom was roughly equal to his grandfathers. We know from Acts 12 that he persecuted the Christians, he beheaded James and arrested Peter.


5.4  Flavius Josephus


He was a jewish historian born in 37/38 A.D. and died early in the 2nd century. His works provide indispensable background material for the New Testament history. In them we meet many figures, both Jewish and gentile, who are well known to us from the New Testament. Sometimes his writings supply a direct commentary on the New Testament references. Of special interest are his references to John the Baptist, James the Lord’s brother and our Lord.


5.5  The main religious groups in first-century Judaism and their main characteristics


Pharisees: They advocated and adhered to strict observance of the Sabbath rest, purity rituals, tithing and food restrictions based on the Hebrew Scriptures and on later traditions. They were mostly laymen but possibly also some priests. They believed in the resurrection of the dead.


Sadducees: They followed the laws of the Hebrew Bible but rejected newer traditions. They did not believe in life after death or in angels or spirits.


Essenes:   A small group or sect that lived a communal monastic lifestyle at Qumran. Originally was a group of priests, founded and/or led by a teacher of righteousness during the early Maccabean-Hasmonean era. They live a communitarian life with strict membership requirements, rules and rituals. They probably also practiced celibacy. Some scholars think that John the Baptist was closely associated with the Essenes, but a direct connection is unlikely.


Herodians: Probably a faction that supported the policies and government of the Herodian family.


Zealots: One of several different revolutionary groups in the 1st century who opposed the Roman occupation of Israel.


High priests, Chief priests, Priests and Levites:

           Members of the tribe of Levi who were responsible for the temple and its sacrifices, and thus they were the religious and social leaders of the Jewish people.


Scribes:   Men specially trained in writing, and thus influential as interpreters and teachers of the law, and agents of the rulers.


Elders:    The older men of a community who formed the ruling elite and were often members of official councils.


Disciples of John the Baptist:

           During his lifetime and for several centuries thereafter, certain groups of people considered themselves followers of John the Baptist, some of them became Christians, but others maintained that John was earlier and more important than Jesus.


Followers of Jesus of Nazareth:

           Starting with smaller numbers of jews in Galilee and Judea during his lifetime, those who believed in Jesus grew over the decades, spreading the “Jesus movement” to other nations, cultures and languages throughout the ancient Mediterranean.


5.6  Bibliorgraphical information on St. Paul. What is the approximate dating of his various missionary voyages?


36 A.D.    Conversion to Christ

46-49      First Missionary Journey

50-52      Second Missionary Journey

54-58      Third Missionary Journey

58-60      Arrested in Jerusalem; imprisoned 2 years in Caesarea

60-61      Fourth long sea journey to Rome

61-63      Prisoner in Rome for two years

64-67      Death in Rome under Nero


5.7  The first Jewish war


The first Jewish war took place between 66 and 73 A.D. The name was given by some scholars due to the uprising of the Jews against the Romans. The background was the famine of the year 48, the disenfranchisement of rural class, the growing gap between rich and poor, the high taxes, conflict between Judaism and paganism, population increase in addition to lack of organization. The destruction of the temple was the year 70 A.D.


5.8 History of Massada.


     It is a vast fortress on the west bank of the dead sea extended and strengthened by Herod the Great during his reign, and used to accommodate his relatives in safety during his absences. It was taken over by the Jewish rebels early in the war against the Romans in 66 CE and was the last stronghold of resistance.


5.9 The Christian persecutions of the first century A.D.


     There was a persecution against Christians by Nero after the fire in Rome of 64 CE and correspondence between the governor in Bithynia, Pliny the younger in 110 and the emperor Trajan suggests a formal state policy to get rid of uncompromising Christians. Actual experience of persecution is implied in the book of Revelation through the threats of the Emperor Domitian 81-96 A.D. who wished to be called “Lord and God”.



6.  Hermeneutics


6.1  General knowledge of the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum


1-   God revealed himself to his people so that they can draw near to the father through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

2-   After the fall, God felt himself responsible for man and continued to take care of him in order to give him eternal life and retain the relation with God.

3-   The complete revelation was in Jesus Christ and there will be no revelation after him. He revealed that God was with his people through his words and deeds, his death and resurrection.

4-   God revealed himself to his people, but he always expects an answer from them. This answer is the obedience of faith, because by faith one commits himself entirely to God. But this faith needs the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit.

5-   Jesus himself is the complete and entire revelation because he fulfilled all what was promised by the fathers and prophets.

6-   By preaching and handing on what they have received, the apostles warn the faithful to maintain the traditions which they had learned and through this way, faith will be transmitted to all generations.

7-   The known realities in the church progress by the help of the Holy Spirit and through believers who pondered these things in their hearts.

8-   Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are bound closely together and communicate with one another and move towards the same goal. Sacred Scripture is the utterance of God put as it is in writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whereas the Sacred Tradition transmits the word of God entrusted to the apostles by Jesus and from the apostles to their successors.

9-   The Magisterium of the church is not superior to the word of God but rather a servant, and teaches only what has been handed on to it.

10-  God used certain men “inspired authors” in the composition of the Sacred Books, who wrote only whatever God wanted to be written and no more, even if the writing was in a human fashion with literary genres.

11-  Interpreting scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the church which is the only one entrusted to watch over and interpret God’s words. This also includes keeping the whole unity of the Bible without extracting texts out of their context trying to interpret them.

12-  The objective of the Old Testament was to prepare and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, and the messianic kingdom.

13-  The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the latter is manifested in the former, and this is because the books of the Old Testament attain and display their full meaning in the New, and in their turn, shed light on it and explain it.

14-  Among the writings of the New Testament, the gospels have a special place, because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the incarnate Word.

15-  The church has always venerated the Divine Scriptures as it has venerated the Body of the Lord and this is expressed mostly in the Divine Liturgy.

16-  Catholic exegetes and other workers in the field of sacred theology, should work diligently together and under the watchful eye of the sacred Magisterium.

17-  Those who are officially engaged in the Word of God and its ministry, should immerse themselves in the Scripture by spiritual reading and diligent study, so that they won’t become empty preachers of the word of God, not being hearers of the word in their own hearts.

18-  Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. Prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that it becomes a dialogue between God and the human reader. For we speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles.


6.2  General knowledge of the document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in The Church (Rome 1993).



I. The Foundational Principle


1. The Word of God in Human Language.  

Sacred Scripture is the word of God expressed in human language. The thought and the words belong at one and the same time both to God and to human beings in such a way that the whole Bible comes at once from God and from the inspired human authors.

It is the canonical text in its final stage which is the expression of the word of God.

Because it is the word of God, Scripture fulfills a foundational, sustaining, and critical role for the Church, for theology, for preaching and for catechesis. Scripture is a source of the life of faith, hope and love of the People of God and a light for all humanity.


II. "In Human Language": Catholic Exegesis and Human Knowledge


2. Catholic Exegesis and Science  

Biblical texts are the work of human authors who employed their own capacities for expression and the means which their age and social context put at their disposal. Consequently, Catholic exegesis freely makes use of scientific methods and approaches which allow a better grasp of the meaning of texts in their literary, socio-cultural, religious and historical contexts.

Catholic exegesis should be carried out in a manner which is as critical and objective as possible.

Catholic exegesis actively contributes to the development of new methods and to the progress of research. In this enterprise Catholic scholars collaborate with scholars who are not Catholic.

3. Catholic Exegesis and History  

Catholic exegesis is concerned with history because of the historical character of biblical revelation. Although the Bible is not a history book in the modern sense and although it includes literary genres that are poetic, symbolic and imaginative, Scripture bears witness to a historical reality, i.e., the saving actions of God in the past which have implications for the present.

Interpretation of a biblical text must be consistent with the meaning expressed by the human authors.

Historical study places biblical texts in their ancient contexts, helping to clarify the meaning of the biblical authors' message for their original readers and for us.

Although Catholic exegesis employs a historical method it is not historicist or positivist, confining its view of truth to what can be demonstrated by supposedly objective historical analysis.

4. The Use of Philological and Literary Analysis  

Because Scripture is the word of God that has been expressed in writing, philological and literary analysis are necessary in order to understand all the means biblical authors employed to communicate their message.

Philological and literary analysis contributes to determining authentic readings, understanding vocabulary and syntax, distinguishing textual units, identifying genres, analyzing sources, and recognizing internal coherence in texts . Often they make clear what the human author intended to communicate.

Literary analysis underscores the importance of reading the Bible synchronically, of reading texts in their literary contexts, and of recognizing plurality of meaning in written texts.

5. The Contribution of Philosophical Hermeneutics   

Because interpreting the Bible entails an act of human understanding like the act of understanding any other ancient writing, it is fitting that philosophical hermeneutics inform Catholic interpretation.

It is not possible to understand any written text without "pre-understanding," i.e., presuppositions which guide comprehension. The act of understanding involves a dialectic between the pre-understanding of the interpreter and the perspective of the text. Nevertheless, this pre-understanding must be open to correction in its dialogue with the reality of the text.

Since interpretation of the Bible involves the subjectivity of the interpreter, understanding is only possible if there is a fundamental affinity between the interpreter and his object.Some hermeneutical theories are inadequate due to presuppositions which are incompatible with the message of the Bible.

Philosophical hermeneutics corrects some tendencies of historical-criticism, showing the inadequacy of historical positivism (II.B.2.c), the role of the reader in interpretation, possibilities of meaning beyond of a text's historical setting, and the openness of texts to a plurality of meaning.

Because in the Bible Christians seek the meaning of ancient writings for the present, literary and historical criticism must be incorporated in a model of interpretation which overcomes the distance in time between the origin of the text and our contemporary age. Both the Bible itself and the history of its interpretation demonstrate a pattern of re-reading texts in the light of new circumstances.



III. "The Word of God": Catholic Exegesis and Christian Faith


6. A Hermeneutic of Faith  

Biblical knowledge cannot stop short at an understanding of words, concepts and events. It must seek to arrive at the reality of which the language speaks, a transcendent reality, communication with God.

Reason alone is not able to fully comprehend the events and the message recounted in the Bible. In order to truly understand the Bible one must welcome the meaning given in the events, above all, in the person of Jesus Christ. Because the Bible is the word of God, it must be approached in the light of faith in order to be properly understood.

Therefore, exegesis is a theological discipline.

The light of the Holy Spirit is needed to interpret Scripture correctly. As someone grows in the life of the Spirit, his or her capacity to understand the realities of which the Bible speaks also grows.

7. The Role of the Community of Faith  

The believing community, the People of God, provides the truly adequate context for interpreting Scripture. Scripture took shape within the traditions of faith of Israel and the early Church, and contributed in turn to the development of their traditions.

The Scriptures belong to the entire Church and all of the members of the Church have a role in the interpretation of Scripture.  People of lowly status, according to Scripture itself, are privileged hearers of the word of God.

Various special roles in interpretation belong to clergy, catechists, exegetes and others. Church authority is responsible to see that interpretation remains faithful to the Gospel and the Great Tradition, and the Magisterium exercises a role of final authority if occasion requires it.

8. Interpretation in Light of the Biblical Tradition, the Unity of Scripture, and the Canon  

Catholic exegesis seeks to interpret the Sacred Scripture in continuity with the dynamic pattern of interpretation found within the Bible itself. In the Bible later writings often depend on earlier texts when their authors re-read what had been written before in light of new questions and circumstances. Catholic exegesis seeks both to be faithful to the understanding of faith expressed in the Bible and to maintain dialogue with the generation of today.

Catholic exegesis recognizes the essential unity of Scripture, which encompasses differing perspectives, yet presents an array of witnesses to one great Tradition.

Catholic exegesis interprets individual texts in the light of the whole canon of Scripture.

9. Interpretation of the Old Testament in Light of the Paschal Mystery  

The Church regards the Old Testament as inspired Scripture, faithfully conveying God's revelation.

The New Testament interprets the Old Testament in the light of the paschal mystery. Jesus' life, death and resurrection fulfill the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus' own interpretation of the Old Testament and that of the Apostles expressed in the New Testament under the inspiration of the Spirit are authoritative, even if some of the interpretive procedures employed by New Testament authors reflect the ways of thinking of a particular time period.

Christians do not limit the meaning of the Old Testament to the ways in which it prepares for the coming of Christ. Rather the Church esteems the canonical interpretation of the Old Testament before the Christian Passover as a stage in the history of salvation.Christians continue to draw sustenance from the inspired message of the Old Testament.

10. Interpretation in Light of the Living Tradition of the Church   

Catholic exegesis deliberately places itself within the stream of the living Tradition of the Church and seeks to be faithful to the revelation handed on by the great Tradition, of which the Bible is itself a witness.

Within this living Tradition, the Fathers of the Church have a foundational place, having drawn from the whole of Scripture the basic orientations which shaped the doctrinal tradition of the Church, and having provided a rich theological teaching for the instruction and spiritual sustenance of the faithful. However, Catholic exegesis is not bound by the Fathers' exegetical methods.

11. The Aim of Interpretation: To Explain Scripture's Religious Message  

The primary aim of Catholic exegesis is to explain the religious message of the Bible, i.e., its meaning as the word which God continues to address to the Church and to the entire world. The ultimate purpose of Catholic exegesis is to nourish and build up the body of Christ with the word of God.



IV. The Meaning of Inspired Scripture


12. The Literal Sense  

The literal sense of Scripture is that which has been expressed directly by the inspired human authors. Since it is the fruit of inspiration, this sense is also intended by God, as principal author. One arrives at this sense by means of a careful analysis of the text, within its literary and historical context.

The literal meanings of many texts possess a dynamic aspect that enables them to be re-read later in new circumstances.

13. The Spiritual Sense, Typology  


The spiritual sense of Sacred Scripture is the meaning expressed by the biblical texts when read under the influence of the Holy Spirit in the context of the paschal mystery and of the new life which flows from it.

The spiritual sense is always founded on the literal sense. A relationship of continuity and conformity between the literal and the spiritual sense is necessary in order for the literal sense of an Old Testament text to be fulfilled at a higher level in the New.

Typology is an aspect of the spiritual sense.

14. The Fuller Sense  

The fuller sense (sensus plenior) is a deeper meaning of the text, intended by God but not clearly expressed by the human author. It has its foundation in the fact that the Holy Spirit, principal author of the Bible, can guide human authors in the choice of expressions in such a way that the latter will express a truth, the fullest depths of which the authors do not perceive.

The existence of a fuller sense to a biblical text can be recognized when one studies the text in the light of other biblical texts or authoritative doctrinal traditions which utilize it.

V. "In Human Language": Methods and Approaches


15. The Use of the Historical-Critical Method  

The historical-critical method is the indispensable tool of scientific exegesis to ascertain the literal sense in a diachronic manner.

In order to complete this task, it must include a synchronic study of the final form of the text, which is the expression of the word of God.

The historical-critical method can and must be used without philosophical presuppositions contrary to Christian faith.  Despite its importance, the historical-critical method cannot be granted a monopoly, and exegetes must be conscious of its limits. Exegetes must recognize the dynamic aspect of meaning and the possibility that meaning can continue to develop.

16. A Plurality of Methods and Approaches  


Catholic exegesis is characterized by openness to a plurality of methods and approaches. Although the historical-critical method retains its primacy, literary methods and approaches based on tradition, the social sciences, or particular contemporary contexts can yield important insights into the meaning of the biblical word. However, the value of these insights will correspond to their harmony with the fundamental principles which guide Catholic interpretation.


VI. Interpretation in Practice


17. The Task of the Exegete and the Relationship of Exegesis with Other Theological Disciplines  

The task of the Catholic exegete is both a work of scholarship and an ecclesial service. Because sound interpretation requires a lived affinity with what is studied and the light of the Holy Spirit, full participation in the life and faith of the believing community and personal prayer are necessary.

The primary task of the exegete is to determine as accurately as possible the meaning of biblical texts in their own proper context, that is, first of all, in their particular literary and historical context and then in the context of the wider canon of Scripture.

Catholic exegetes arrive at the true goal of their work only when they have explained the meaning of the biblical text as God's word for today. Exegetes should also explain the christological, canonical and ecclesial content of biblical texts.

Exegesis is a theological discipline, which exists in a relationship of dialogue with other branches of theology.

18. Actualization  

The Church receives the Bible as the word of God addressed both to itself and to the entire world at the present time. Actualization is possible because of the richness of meaning contained in the biblical text, and it is necessary, because the Scripture was composed in response to circumstances of the past and in language suited to those circumstances.

Actualization presupposes a correct exegesis of a text, part of which is determining its literal sense. The most reliable and fruitful method of actualizing Scripture is to interpret Scripture by Scripture. The actualization of a biblical text in Christian life proceeds in relation to the mystery of Christ and the Church.

Actualization involves three steps: 1. to hear the Word from within one's own concrete situation; 2. to identify the aspects of the present situation highlighted or put in question by the biblical text; 3. to draw from the fullness of meaning contained in the biblical text those elements capable of advancing the present situation in a way that is productive and consonant with the saving will of God in Christ.

19. Inculturation  

The foundation of inculturation is the Christian conviction that the word of God transcends the cultures in which it has found expression. The word of God can and must be communicated in such a way as to reach all human beings in their own cultural contexts.

The first stage of inculturation consists in translating Scripture into another language. Then comes interpretation, which sets the biblical message in more explicit relationship with the ways of feeling, thinking, living and self-expression proper to the local culture. Finally, one passes to other stages of inculturation, leading to the formation of a local Christian culture, encompassing all aspects of life.

The relation between the word of God and the human cultures it encounters is one of mutual enrichment. The treasures contained in diverse cultures allow the Word of God to produce new fruits, while the light of the word of God allows helpful and harmful elements in cultures to be discerned.

20. The Use of the Bible in the Church  

Interpretation occurs in all the ways in which the Church uses the Bible-in the liturgy, lectio divina, pastoral ministry and ecumenism.

In principle, the liturgy brings about the most perfect actualization of the biblical texts since it is Christ himself who "speaks when Sacred Scripture is read in the church". The liturgy gives a privileged place to the Gospels, and the cycle of Sunday readings, which associate an Old Testament text with a Gospel reading, often suggests a typological interpretation.

Lectio divina is a reading of Scripture as the word of God, which leads, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to meditation, prayer and contemplation.

Pastoral ministry makes use of the Bible in catechesis, preaching, and the biblical apostolate. Scripture provides the first source, foundation and norm of catechetical teaching and preaching, where it is explained in the light of Tradition. The role of the homily is to actualize the word of God.

In ecumenism, the same methods and analogous hermeneutical points of view permit exegesis to unite Christians by means of the Bible, the common basis of the rule of faith. 

Source: the Pontifical Biblical Institute Reviewer 2003-2004

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