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Footnotes: Henri de Lubac and the critique of scientific exegesis

{1} Dain Cohenel Dolino Ruotolo, "Un gravissimo pericolo per la Chiesa e per le anime: Il sistema critico-scientifico nello studio e nell'interpretazione della Sacra Scrittura, le sue deviazioni funeste e le sue aberrazioni" (Naples: np., 1941), 40. Unfortunately this tract is not available in the U.S. Thus, for quotes from and a summary of the pamphlet we are forced to rely on the Pontifical Biblical Commission's (hereafter PBC) "Letter to the Italian Hierarchy" (20 August 1941), Acta Apostolicae Sedis 33 (1941): 465-472. [For an English translation, see Biblical Interpretation, ed. by James J. Megivern (Wilmington, N.C.: Consortium, 1978). 304-313.

{2} Ruotolo's ten thousand page commentary series, entitled La Sacra Scrittura: Psicologia, commento, meditazioni (Naples: n.p., 1929- 39), is also unavailable in the U.S. This collection was evidently so outlandish that it was placed on the Index by a decree of the Holy Office dated 20 November 1940.

{3} See "Introduction" to Homélies sur la Genèse by Origen, trans. and notes by L. Doutreleau, Sources Chrétiennes, no. 7 (Paris: Cerf, 1944).

{4} See Histoire et Esprit (Paris: Aubier, 1950) and Exégèse Médiévale, 2 pts. in 4 vols. (Paris: Aubier, 1959-64).

{5} John L. McKenzie, "A Chapter in the History of Spiritual Exegesis: De Lubac's Histoire et Esprit," Theological Studies 11 (1950): 379.

{6} For this, see Marcellino D'Ambrosio, "Henri de Lubac and the Recovery of the Traditional Hermeneutic" (Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 199 1).

{7} For an example of de Lubac's use of the former term, which refers to the general method of critical historiography utilized by scientific exegetes as well as other contemporary historians, see his Paradoxes of Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1987), 203. For examples of his use of the term 'scientific exegesis,' which could be defined as the specific application of historical criticism to biblical texts, see his Sources of Revelation, trans. by Luke O'Neill (New York, Herder and Herder, 1968), 58 n.9, and "De Lubac: A Theologican Speaks," trans. by Stephen Maddux (Los Angeles: Twin Circle, 1985), 31. Though the only instance which I have found wherein de Lubac employs the term 'historico-critical method' is in context of stinging criticism see his The Church: Paradox and Mystery (New York: Alba House, 1969), 110, this is probably purely accidental. I cannot conceive of any objections on his part to the use of such terminology. Thus, from this point on, I will use these various terms interchangeably.

{8} PBC, "Instructio de historica Evangeliorum veritate," Osservatore Romano, May 14, 1964, par. 1 (Megivern, Biblical Interpretation, 392).

{9} This is generally how Edgar Krentz describes 'critical' method in the Historical-Critical Method (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 6. The clearest and most concise description I have found of historical-critical method of biblical study is that of Joseph Fitzmyer, "Historical Criticism: Its Role in Biblical Interpretation and Church Life," Theological Studies 50 (1989): 249-252.

{10} Mémoire sur l'occasion de mes érits (Namur: Culture et Vérité, 1989), 312-13.

{11} Paradoxes of Faith, 7. The original context of this affirmation was the preface to Nouveaux Paradoxes, published in 1954. See also Mémoire, 86 and "A Theologian Speaks," 32.

{12} Exégèse Médiévale 1/1: 17-18, citing Béda Rigaux, "Le congrès international des sciences bibliques de Louvain," La Croix, 5 Sept. 1958 (de Lubac provides no page reference); Exégèse Médiévale 1/1:19.

{13} Paradoxes of Faith, 203.

{14} "The Church in Crisis," Theology Digest 17 (1969): 321 augmented French vers. published as L'Eglise dans la crise actuelle (Paris: Cerf, 1969). See also Paradoxes of Faith, 145: "Christianity is not one of the great things of history: it is history which is one of the great things of Christianity."

{15}Paradoxes of Faith, 154.

{16} lbid., 57-58. See also McKenzie, "Chapter," 379.

{17} The "disadvantages resulting from a fragmentation in the Middle Ages between exegesis, theology, and spirituality which had become necessary can very well invite us to new efforts of synthesis; they ought not provoke in us a romantic nostalgia for indistinctions of the past." Exégèse Médiévale 2/1:424. Of course, de Lubac is nevertheless careful to point out and criticize several unhappy results of what he calls "this ambivalent evolution" of a unified theology into three distinct specializations. See Exégèse Médiévale 2/1:418-36. Cf. Corpus Mysticum (Paris: Aubier, 1944), 297, where de Lubac in similar fashion affirms that the passage from the symbolic theology of the Fathers to the scientific theology of the Scholastics constituted a step forward, though it too was not without negative consequences.

{18} Oscar Cullmann, "La necessité et la fonction de l'exégèse philologique et historique de la Bible," Verbum Caro 3 (1949), 13, cited in Sources of Revelation, 58 n. 9 (Histoire et Esprit, 424).

{19} Sources of Revelation, 58 n. 9 (Histoire et Esprit, 424).

{20} Jacques Guillet, "Le Cardinal Henri de Lubac," Etudes 358 (1983): 281. Guillet does not provide his source for this statement.

{21} This was a common feature of the French ressourcement theology of the period, as Austin J. Lindsay, "De Lubac's Images of the Church" (Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 1974), 81, points out.

{22} The paucity of direct references to German biblical scholarship is not surprising given de Lubac's ignorance of the German language.

{23} Histoire et Esprit, 12, citing an unacknowledged source.

{24} Ibid. Cf. Sources of Revelation, 2 (Histoire et Esprit, 376).

{25} See Exégèse Médiévale 1/1:101-6, esp. 104 on Claudel.

{26} De Lubac often cites Claudel approvingly in Catholicisme, Histoire et Esprit, and Exégèse Médiévale, and numerous other works. Claudel visited de Lubac at Fourvière in January of 1943 ostensibly to discuss his approach to spiritual exegesis. He subsequently wrote to de Lubac that "it is a great comfort to me to know that my way of understanding Scripture is approved by men such as you and Fr. Fontoynont." Mémoire, 232. Nevertheless, see Exégèse Médiévale 2/2: 84 where de Lubac takes Claudel to task, and Sources of Revelation, 71-2 (Histoire et Esprit, 435) where he attributes unfairness to both Claudel and Léon Bloy.

{27} Paradoxes of Faith, 107.

{28} I discuss the general influence of Blondel on de Lubac's thought in "The Recovery of the Traditional Hermeneutic," 41-4. Here I will focus on Blondel's influence on de Lubac's critique of exegetical science.

{29} M. Blondel, L'Action (Paris: Alcan, 1893), 453. Cf. Blondel's "History and Dogma," in The Letter on Apologetics and History and Dogma, trans. by A. Dru and I. Trethowan (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1965), 238. Originally this essay appeared in three parts: "Histoire et dogme: Les lacunes phiosophiques de l'exégèse moderne," La Quinzaine 56 (1904): 145-167; 349-373; 433-458.

{30} Blonde1, L'Action, 78; 483; and 438-9.

{31} Blondel, "History and Dogma," 237 and 239.

{32} Ibid., 267.

{33} Blondel, L'Action, 405-423.

{34} Ibid 404.

{35} Ibid., 403.

{36} B1ondel, "History and Dogma," 277.

{37} Ibid., 232.

{38} Ibid., 237. See also 236.

{39} Ibid., 239-41. While in this series of articles Blondel avoids linking this position with any names, he makes clear in his personal correspondence that he thought Alfred Loisy was, at least at points, guilty of historicism. See M. Blondel to F. von Hügel, 19 February 1903 in René Marlé ed., Au coeur de la crise moderniste: Le dossier inédit d'une controverse (Paris: Aubier, 1960), 130. For an interesting review of von Hügel's critique of Blondel's interpretation of Loisy, see James J. Kelly, "The Modernist Controversy: Von Hugel and Blondel," Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 55 (1979): 297-330.

{40} Blondel, "History and Dogma," 237-8.

{41} Histoire et Esprit, 205.

{42} Sources of Revelation, 39 (Histoire et Esprit, 407).

{43} Histoire et Esprit, 205.

{44} Paradoxes of Faith, 107-8. Cf. The Drama of Atheist Humanism, trans. by Edith Riley (New York: Meridian, 1963), 44: "We know . . . that the most penetrating criticism cannot produce one atom of being.

{45} For de Lubac, explaining is an analytical process of breaking a thing down into its constituent parts while understanding is a synthetic grasping of the whole. See Sources of Revelation, 148-9 (Exégèse Médiévale 1/1: 355).

{46} Exégtèse Médiévale 1/2: 486; 485; 486, citing Karl Barth, Dogmatique, vol. 1, t. 2,1, pp. 75 and 118.

{47} Paradoxes of Faith, 102. This recalls the last line of an article written by de Lubac and other Fourvière Jesuits in 1946: "The first rigor to exercise in dogmatic maters is a rigor against oneself." See "La théologie et ses sources: Réponse aux Etudes critiques de la Revue Thomiste (May-Aug., 1946)," Recherches de Science Religieuse 33 (1946): 398.

{48} De Lubac, Preface to La Mystique et les mystiques, ed. by A. Ravier (Paris: Desclée, 1965), 11; a slightly expanded English version of this essay appears as "Mysticism and Mystery," in Theological Fragments, trans. by R. H. Balinski (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989), 35-69.

{49} Paradoxes of Faith, 97.

{50} Histoire et Esprit, 205. De Lubac declines to give specific examples. Exégèse Médiévale 2/1:10 also mentions how the positivistic historiography of previous generations tempted even Christian historians of exegesis to relegate symbolism "en masse to the domain of the irrational," a theme which de Lubac also picks up in Athéisme et sens de l'homme (Paris: Cerf, 1968), 34.

{51} De Lubac neglects to mention the specific Barthian work he has in mind, but I assume it is La théologie protestante au XIXe sièle, trans. by Lore Jeanneret (Geneva: Labor et fides, 1969) to which de Lubac refers elsewhere, notably in L'Eglise dans la crise actuelle, 18. {52} "The Church in Crisis," 318, citing Barth, Credo, trans. by P. and J. Jundt (Paris: Je Sers, 1936), 226. For an English translation, see Credo, trans. by Strathearn McNab (New York: Scribner, 1936).

{53} "A Theologian Speaks," 31.

{54} "The Church in Crisis," 317. See also ibid., 318 and 322-3 where de Lubac cites Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, trans. by E. Leiva-Merikakis (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1982), 471.

{55} Athéisme, 33-4. This type of exegesis is contrasted with the "deepening exegesis" [l'exégèse approfondissante] which proceeds from faith and leads to its understanding. De Lubac here goes on to designate what Ricoeur has named the hermeneutic of suspicion as one species of "reductionist exegesis" and "demythologizing fever" (ibid., 39) as another.

{56} "The Church in Crisis," 317. Cf. Mémoire, 157, where de Lubac refers to the "pulverizing," "pan-critical mentality," which reigns in the Western world in these closing decades of the twentieth century.

{57} L'Eglise dans la crise actuelle, 73, citing Balthasar, Glory, 1: 471.

{58} L'Eglise dans la crise actuelle, 37 n. 22. Interestingly enough, a very similar analysis of the a-priori presuppositions that govern Bultmann's exegesis can be found in Fitzmyer, "Historical Criticism," 253. For an analysis of the Englightenment presuppositions latent in Bultmann's demythologization program, see Roger A. Johnson, The Origins of Demythologizing: Philosophy and Historiography in the Theology of Rudolf Bultmann (Leiden: Brill, 1974).

{59} L'Eglise dans la crise actuelle, 73-4, citing Heinz Zahrnt, The Question of God: Protestant Theology in the Twentieth Century, trans. by R. A. Wilson (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969), 333.

{60} Despite his sharp criticism of Bultmann, de Lubac is convinced that the problems which gave rise to Bultmann's demythologization program are extremely important and worthy of further attention. See The Eternal Feminine, trans. by R. Hague (London: Collins, 1971), 178. De Lubac is considerably more positive about several of Bultmann's pupils such as Ernst Kasemann, Gunter Bornkamm, and Ernst Fuchs who he deems to be less encumbered than their master with doctrinaire prejudices and who also benefit from a more mature science (see L'Eglise dans la crise actuelle, 74). I find it disappointing, however, that here, as in his criticism of Bultmann, de Lubac is relying too heavily on Zahrnt, The Question of God.

{61} PBC, "Historical Truth," 1 (BI, 393).

{62} Exégèse Médiévale 2/1, 364-5. Depending upon Objectiones magistri Andreae in Richard, De Emman. prol. (PL, 196, 603-4), de Lubac notes that Andrew, as a believer, admitted the christological interpretation of certain Old Testament prophecies, but made no allusion to it in his exegesis, thus prompting his brethren to accuse him of "judaizing." Though apparently not confident that Christian thinkers had ever adequately responded to Jewish objections to Christian exegesis of the Old Testament, Andrew nevertheless excused himself from entering the debate on the grounds that his inept attempts to defend the Christian cause would most likely do more harm than good.

{63} Clearly the title of his book on Origen, Histoire et Esprit, also alludes to the centrality of this issue for de Lubac. It also echoes the title of Blondel's essay "Histoire et Dogme."

{64} Exégèse Médiévale 2/1: 366, referring to the subtitle of Blondel's "Histoire et Dogme."

{65} See "Les humanistes chrétiens du XVe-XVIe siècle et l'herm&eacure;neutique traditionelle," in Ermeneutica e Tradizione, ed. by E. Castelli (Rome: The Institute of Philosophical Studies, 1963), 173-177 as well as Exégèse Médiévale 2/2: 409 where this phrase is employed. For a detailed exposition of the "traditional hermeneutic" as de Lubac understands it, see D'Ambrosio, "Recovery," 144-219.

{66} For more on this traditional hermeneutic circle of understanding and application, see Exégèse Médiévale 1/2: 558-71, Sources of Revelation, 19-23 (Histoire et Esprit, 389-393), and Histoire et Esprit, 303-4.

{67} Sources of Revelation, 58 n. 9 (Histoire et Esprit, 424 n. 171).

{68} "The Church in Crisis," 322-3. Cf. The Church: Paradox and Mystery, 110, where he lauds Balthasar for resisting "the totalitarian claims" of the human sciences, especially exegetical science.

{69} Paradoxes of Faith, 202-203.

{70} For de Lubac's critique of "the new scientific reductionism" exhibited by some schools of psychology and sociology, see his A Brief Catechesis on Nature and Grace, trans. by R. Arnandez (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1984), 66-7 and 143-7. See also his Paradoxes of Faith, 119-122, and Mistica e Mistero Cristiano, trans. by A. Sicari, Henri de Lubac Opera Omnia, vol. 6 (Milan: Jaca Book, 1978), 157-62.

{71} Paradoxes of Faith, 122.

{72} Exégèse Médiévale 2/1: 311; see also 309-10.

{73} Denis Farkasfalvy, "In Search of a 'Post-Critical' Method of Biblical Interpretation for Catholic Theology," Communio 13 (1986): 295. De la Potterie calls it "an undeniable fact" that criticism of the historical-critical method has been multiplying for the last twenty years or so. See "Reading Holy Scripture 'in the Spirit': Is the Patristic Way of Reading the Bible Still Possible Today?" Communio 13 (1986): 308.

{74} R. Bultmann, "Is Exegesis without Presuppositions Possible?" in Existence and Faith, ed. by Schubert M. Ogden (London: Fontana, 1964), 289-296. M. Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (1st ed., Halle: Niemeyer, 1927; 7th ed., Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1963), 150. Barth also made the point in the preface to his 2d 1921 ed. of Epistle to the Romans, 10-12.


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