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SIDIC Periodical I - 1968/1
Biblical Studies (Pages 02 - 03)

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The Bible, Nourishment and Rule of Life
Prof. C. A. Rijk


In the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, Vatican Council II states: Like the Christian religion itself, all the preach ing of the Church must be nourished and ruled by sacred Scripture (No. 21). It is common knowledge that in the twenty centuries of the Church's existence, the Bible has not always held its rightful place in Christian thinking and daily life. While the Church, in official statements, has always stressed the importance and the riches of Sacred Scripture, and has preserved the reading of many parts of the Bible in her liturgy and official prayer, its private use by the faithful has undergone many fluctuations. For several centuries, Bible-history books replaced the direct use of the Bible.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, a remarkable change is noticeable in this pattern. Several elements have cooperated to create a new climate, to awaken and stimulate a new desire for a deeper and more personal contact with Sacred Scripture. In this movement, institutions and documents, . including papal encyclicals (1893, 1920, 1943), have helped Catholics to appreciate and to live the Bible in a new and fruitful way. Increasing collaboration between Catholic and non-Catholic biblical scholars and experts has largely contributed to a better understanding of the Scriptures. Reviews and magazines of varying intellectual levels, aim at enriching the faithful in their Bible reading. Theology, teaching, and preaching are returning more and more to a deep, biblical inspiration.

Although many difficulties in this new contact have been overcome, many problems still remain to be solved. But, this strong movement back to (or towards) the Bible, will have great influence on the lives of many Christians, as indeed, it has already. However, we will not digress.
What I want to point out is some of the consequences of this new awareness of the Bible as source, nourishment, and rule of life. A more familiar and existential contact with the Bible must, of necessity, make Christians encounter the people of the Book as the Jews are sometimes called. It still happens that Christians are shocked when they realise that Jesus was a Jew, that he worked, lived, prayed, and also suffered as a Jew. Apart from many other things, this fact clearly indicates to what extent Christians are alienated from their origin. Through study and reading of the Bible, they are constantly confronted with Jewish authors, since all, with the exception of St. Luke, were Jewish. By trying to understand and live what the Lord says to us through the spirit, words, and manner of expression of these Jewish writers, we will arrive at a new and deeper awareness that he established his covenant with a definite people at a certain moment in history, and that Jesus opened the way for the whole of mankind to participate in unique way in this very covenant. Realising this, we will be able to discover, or re-discover - almost as a surprise - that this same Jewish People still lives among us. This discovery can prepare for a new encounter, solidly based on revelation and Scripture.

Besides, the Bible deals with the human hope and the divine promises concerning the coming of the kingdom of universal love, peace, justice, and life. Against this background, the New Testament books proclaim the coming of Jesus as the Messiah - who is awaited still as the glorious Messiah. It goes on then to speak of the relation between those, either Jew or Gentile, who accept Jesus as the Christ and those Jews who do not accept him as the Messiah. This relation, according to the New Testament, was a real problem for the first Christian community. Struggling for years with it, St. Paul called this relation a mystery (Rom. 11:25) - that means a secret, hidden plan of God's salvation history. Thus, the Bible itself, basis and rule of faith, confronts us constantly, not only with the Jewish origin of Christianity, but also with the enduring relationship between the Church and Judaism. Living in the spirit of the Bible then, we should search into this unique mystery in view of the complete fulfilment of the promises.

Finally, the Bible has always needed interpretation. To become alive in the community, to be really the living Word of the Lord (see Deut. 30:14, Is. 55:10-11, Heb. 4:12) the Bible needs, not only a climate of receptivity, but translation, preparation, and explanation as well. Now, there exists a remarkable correlation between the interpretation of Scripture and contacts of Christians and Jews. An open and existential understanding of the Bible will reveal the lines of a JewishChristian mystery, and this will further the actual contacts between Jews and Christians. A more "closed" view of the Bible will not even see a problem, and therefore, will not consider JewishChristian relations as a concern of the Church. On the other hand, where serious relations between Jews and Christians develop, the biblical aspects of this relationship will be carefully studied, and will become an essential part of Christian thinking and attitude. Throughout history, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture in commentaries, introductions, notes, etc., has done much harm to the understanding of the relationship between the Church and Judaism, with disastrous consequences. Sound biblical exgesis will also contribute vitally to a positive understanding of this relationship.

May a greater receptivity to the value of the Bible as a source of nourishment and a rule of life finally educate Christians and Jews in a spirit of openness, comprehension, and love, in which they may collaborate and look forward to the complete realisation of the word of the Lord to Abraham: In you all the families of the earth will be blessed (Gen. 12:3).


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