It’s hard to find a single website which lists the pre-Vatican II teachings on Sacred Scripture. But, contrary to certain popular beliefs, the Second Vatican Council and it’s Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum is not the source and summit of Catholic teaching on the subject!
A long time ago someone commented that the position put forward on this blog (that Christ taught a Way of non-violent love of friends and enemies, and bound His Church and followers to practice such Way) was not consistent with Sacred Scripture. That I was essentially putting God the Father vs Jesus. Which of course is nonsense in lots of ways.
So I am dedicating this post to the question:
Is Gospel Non-violence consistent with Sacred Scripture?
The short answer is yes, of course it is. I’m not making this stuff up, you can read the words of the Divine Lawgiver right here – Mt 5:21-25.
So the question is really, how does a Catholic reconcile Christs teaching of non-violent love of friends and enemies, with the God of the Old Testament.
There are a lot of references, which to an uneducated mind, point towards a homicidal God. A war-approving God. Here’s a few: Gn 6:8; 19:4-5,26; 38:7,9-10. Ex 12:29; 14:28. Lv 10:1-3. Nm 11:1-3,4-35; 14:36-38; 16:27-32,35,49; 21:4-9; 25:9. Js 10:10-11. Ez 16:46-47, 49-50. 1Sm 6:19; 25:38. 2Sm 6:6-7; 12:14-18; 24:13. 1Kn 13:1-24; 14:10-18; 20:35-36; 22:51. 2Kn 1:9-12; 2:23-24; 17:25-26; 19:35. 2Ch 13:20; 21:14-19.
The problem of course, is that the Gospels are conspicuously different. In the Gospels, God is not a perpetrator of violent torture and murder. He is the victim of it. In fact, God in the Gospels expressly forbids it.
So what, did God change His mind? No, God cannot change His mind. He always Was, always Is and always will Be the same. He is the Eternal Constant.
So Sacred Scripture is wrong? No, Sacred Scripture is not wrong. The Prophets of Old were not mistaken in what they wrote. To say that Sacred Scripture can err is one of the manifestations of the heresy of Modernism. It was Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus, who beautifully and comprehensively explained the role of Sacred Scripture – please have a read!
As St Augustine explained in his letter to St Jerome, where there is an inconsistency with Sacred Scripture. It is not God at fault. It is not the inspired author at fault. It is the reader. I am misunderstanding Scripture.
For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.
St Augustine also points out that the Gospels are the primary revelatory documents of the Church in his work “On the Catechising of the Uninstructed“.
So, for you Traditional Catholics trying to reconcile the Old Testament with the New. Stop. Read Leo XIII, read St Augustine, and relax. The Gospels are the Gospels. Christ is God. His teachings are Gods teachings.
Please, please please listen to this audio file from Fr Emmanuel McCarthy – “Question and Answers on Gospel Non-Violence – What about violence in the Old Testament?” which so eloquently answers this particular (apparent) conundrum:
I will leave you with this quote on interpretation of Scripture from Leo XIII, which is a gem.
The authority of other Catholic [newer] interpreters is not so great; but the study of Scripture has always continued to advance in the Church, and, therefore, these commentaries also have their own honourable place, and are serviceable in many ways for the refutation of assailants and the explanation of difficulties. But it is most unbecoming to pass by, in ignorance or contempt, the excellent work which Catholics have left in abundance, and to have recourse to the works of non-Catholics – and to seek in them, to the detriment of sound doctrine and often to the peril of faith, the explanation of passages on which Catholics long ago have successfully employed their talent and their labour. For although the studies of non-Catholics, used with prudence, may sometimes be of use to the Catholic student, he should, nevertheless, bear well in mind-as the Fathers also teach in numerous passages(41) – that the sense of Holy Scripture can nowhere be found incorrupt outside of the Church, and cannot be expected to be found in writers who, being without the true faith, only gnaw the bark of the Sacred Scripture, and never attain its pith.
41. Cfr. Clem. Alex. Strom. vii., 16; Orig. de princ. iv., 8; in Levit. hom. 4, 8; Tertull.de praescr. 15, seqq.; S. Hilar. Pict. in Matth. 13, I.
So as a last note to you Traditional Catholics, the Second Vatican Council does not have all the answers regarding Sacred Scripture.
Yes, You have to scrape around for the teachings and traditions regarding our traditional teachings on Sacred Scripture, but they are there!
We can much more effectively argue the Inerrancy of Scripture, the Primacy of the Gospels, and many other points, without ever having recourse to Dei Verbum – Thanks be to God!