The Septuagint in the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI

In ascribing to the Septuagint a theological relevance reaching above and beyond the literal content of its Hebrew source, making it an “independent textual witness,” Benedict is drawing upon the theology of revelation that he began to develop in his habilitation research.

Pope Benedict XVI in his landmark 2005 lecture at Regensburg characterized “the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria—the Septuagint”—as “a distinct and important step in the history of revelation,” one which brought about an encounter between biblical faith and the best of Greek thought “in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity.” 1 In doing so, he drew upon an understanding of the Septuagint that he had developed over the past forty years—and perhaps even longer—if the theological explorations he undertook while researching his habilitation thesis are taken into account. 2

A review of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict’s writings on the Septuagint reveals that he does not see the translation’s importance as being confined to the past. Because it shaped not only the Church’s reception of divine revelation, but also her conception of the relationship between faith and reason, he holds that it remains a deeply relevant source for Christian theology. For this reason, Benedict’s observations on the Greek translation of the Old Testament provide an entryway into the central insights of his own theological works. This will become clear as we examine his Regensburg comments about the Church’s reception of the Septuagint within the context of his other writings on the subject—particularly two instances he has cited in which the Greek translation added a level of meaning that pointed towards the universalization of faith in Israel’s God.

Three points made in the Regensburg lecture are of particular importance for understanding the outlines of Pope Benedict’s thought on the Septuagint: 3

  • The Septuagint is “more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation.”
  • It “brought about this encounter (between biblical faith and the best of Greek thought) in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity.”
  • It therefore comprises “a profound encounter of faith and reason,” “an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion.”

Each of these points is, in Benedict’s theology, a touchstone that leads to deeper and wider insights.

“(More) than a simple … translation”
In ascribing to the Septuagint a theological relevance reaching above and beyond the literal content of its Hebrew source, making it an “independent textual witness,” Benedict is drawing upon the theology of revelation that he began to develop in his habilitation research. He also is drawing on the writings of Scripture scholars such as Adrian Schenker, whom he cites in a footnote to his lecture text. 4

In his memoirs, Ratzinger describes how his research for his habilitation thesis, in which he studied the relationship between revelation and salvation history in St. Bonaventure, brought insights that would shape his future thought on Sacred Scripture:

I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of “revelation,” by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as “revelation.” Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, “revelation” is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of “revelation.” Where there is no one to perceive “revelation,” no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. 5

Emphasizing how important these insights would become for him at the time of the Second Vatican Council, Ratzinger goes on to say that:

… if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (“by Scripture   alone”), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition already given. 6

In Introduction to Christianity, Ratzinger gives an in-depth account of how revelation is the communication of the Word (Logos) by the God who has revealed his very being as Logos. This “self-communication” of God finds its telos in the Church’s reception of the Word. 7

Ratzinger sees the episode of the burning bush as a pivotal moment for the faith of Israel, not only because of the way it was transmitted in the Hebrew Bible, but also because of the way it was taken up into a different level of interpretation in its Septuagint translation. Both the meaning conveyed by the Hebrew and that which is conveyed by the Greek are, in turn, taken up by the Church, which recognizes the two understandings of the name of God in their complementarity. 8

An encounter “decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity”
In the Hebrew Bible, Ratzinger writes in Introduction to Christianity, God shows, in giving his name to Moses as “I am,” that he “cannot give his name in the same way as the gods round about, who are individual gods alongside other similar gods and, therefore, need a name. The God of the burning bush will not put himself on a level with them.” 9 In this way:

… the explanation of the name Yahweh by the little word ‘am’ thus serves as a kind of negative theology. It cancels out the significance of the name as a name; it effects a sort of withdrawal from the only too well known, which the name seems to be, into the unknown, the hidden. It dissolves the name into the mystery, so that the familiarity and unfamiliarity of God, concealment and revelation, are indicated simultaneously. 10

Ratzinger expands upon this point in the later work, Truth and Tolerance, emphasizing that God, in revealing his word, presents a challenge that requires those receiving the revelation to overcome their preconceptions:

The word of God reveals itself gradually in a process of encounters, in the course of man’s search for answers to his ultimate questions. It did not simply fall directly down from heaven, but it is a real synthesis of cultures. Yet, looking more deeply into it, we are able to perceive a process in which God struggles with man and gradually opens him up for his most profound Word, for himself: for the Son, who is the Logos. 11

In other words, even before the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, Israel had encountered the Lord in a manner that forced them to transcend their cultural perception of who and what their God was. The Septuagint, therefore, was not the first medium through which divine revelation was deepened through a “synthesis of cultures.” Rather, the translation continued the “process of encounters” that God had initiated. Ratzinger goes on to explain that:

 … the feature peculiar to (the books of the Old Testament) is this struggle of faith against what is Israel’s own, in this leaving behind of one’s own, which starts with the wandering of Abraham. 12

Benedict sees a parallel between the purification of Israel’s faith and a similar purification that took place in the world of Greek philosophy, likewise prior to the Septuagint translation:

The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names, and simply asserts being, ‘I am,’ already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates’ attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. 13

It is precisely because both Israel and the Greek world were already engaged in processes of self-transcendence that the encounter of the Old Testament with Greek culture was made possible through the Septuagint. 14 That encounter in turn paved the way for the encounter of Israel’s faith and Greece’s philosophical wisdom with Christian revelation:

Paul’s struggle to break out from the limits of the law, which he wages on the basis of his encounter with the risen Jesus Christ, takes this fundamental movement of the Old Testament (the “leaving behind of one’s own”) to its logical goal. This signifies the complete universalizing of the faith, which is freed from being proper to the social order of a particular people. 15

A “profound encounter of faith and reason”
Ratzinger employs teleological terms—“process,” “movement,” “goal”—to emphasize that the revelation handed down in the Old Testament is not merely a static word, but an act. Such language completes his understanding of the word “revelation” as referring to “the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act.” 16 Here, we see another dimension of his argument that “there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura.” 17 Revelation requires a receiving subject because it is God’s act of “self-communication” 18 —the Logos calling 19 man to communion through “dia-logos.” 20 As he writes in Milestones, again hearkening to his habilitation thesis:

Revelation, which is to say, God’s approach to man, is always greater than what can be contained in human words, greater even than the words of Scripture. As I have already said in connection with my work on Bonaventure, both in the Middle Ages and at Trent, it would have been impossible to refer to Scripture simply as “revelation,” as is the normal linguistic usage today. Scripture is the essential witness of revelation, but revelation is something alive, something greater and more: proper to it is the fact that it arrives and is perceived—otherwise it could not have become revelation. 21

That is why the historical-critical method “cannot be the last word concerning revelation; rather, the living organism of the faith of all ages is then an intrinsic part of revelation. And what we call ‘tradition’ is precisely that part of revelation that goes above and beyond the Scriptures, and cannot be comprehended with a code of formulas.” 22

Therefore, as the Holy Father explained to representatives of the world of culture in Paris in 2008:

 … the Catechism of the Catholic Church can rightly say that Christianity does not simply represent a religion of the book, in the classical sense (cf. par. 108). It perceives in the words the Word, the Logos itself, which spreads its mystery through this multiplicity and the reality of a human history. This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation. It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. 23

“In effect,” the Pope continues, making a point that he would later incorporate into Verbum Domini, “the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text.  To attain to it involves a transcending and a process of understanding, led by the inner movement of the whole and, hence, it also has to become a process of living” 24 (that is to say, a “vital process,” as the English translation of Verbum Domini puts it). 25

It is within this understanding of the Word as calling man (both on the individual level and on the level of culture) to a self-transcending process of dia-logos that Benedict at Regensburg asserts forcefully that the aspects of the Christian message that critics target for “dehellenization” are not merely extrinsic accretions that can be discarded. Against those who claim, in the name of “cultural pluralism,” that “(the) synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was an initial inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures,” the Holy Father says that the New Testament, written in Greek:

 … bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself. 26

Benedict’s words recall the similar opposition of contraries that he noted with regard to competing understandings of the Second Vatican Council—the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” versus the “hermeneutic of reform.” 27 If the “Greek spirit” of the New Testament “had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed,” then those who seek to purge Christian faith of Hellenism are arguing for a radical discontinuity. If enacted, such a purge would not merely deprive the faith of its Greek cultural context; it would, rather, tear away Christianity’s Jewish foundations. Dehellenization is effectively de-Judaization. The Septuagint here plays the role of the “hermeneutic of reform.” It provides a medium through which the Church’s understanding of the relationship between faith and reason may be seen both in its historical context and in its present vitality.

In Truth and Tolerance, Ratzinger identifies the translation of the Septuagint within the second of two moments through which post-Exilic Judaism pointed toward a universal religion. First came “the rise of the so-called wisdom literature and the spiritual movement that underpins it.” 28 “The view of the wisdom books…links God and the world through the idea of wisdom and conceives of the world as reflecting the rationality of the Creator.” 29 The second moment is “the transition of Judaism into the Greek world, which took place above all in Alexandria, as the central meeting point of various cultures,” with “(the) most important step in the process (being) the translation of the Old Testament into Greek.” 30

Noting that the term “Septuagint” derives from the tradition that the translation was the work of 70 scholars, Ratzinger observes:

According to Deuteronomy, 70 was the number of peoples in the world. Thus, this legend may signify that with this translation the Old Testament moved beyond itself, reaching out to all the peoples of the earth. That was, indeed, the effect this book had, and its translation did indeed in many respects further accentuate the universalistic trait in Israel’s religion—not least, in its picture of God, since the name of God, JHWH, no longer appeared as such but was replaced by the word Kyrios, “Lord.” Thus, the Old Testament’s spiritual concept of God was further developed, which was, for practical purposes, entirely consistent with the inner tendency of the development (towards Greek enlightenment and philosophy) we have mentioned. 31

In this way, he finds in the Septuagint translation the continuation of the encounter brought about by God’s revelation in the burning bush—only here it is the pagans, not the people of Israel, who are confronted with the radical challenge of biblical monotheism:

The Greek translation of the Old Testament, in substituting the word “Lord” for the name of God, had carried the biblical faith in God unambiguously into the pagan world and for the first time had brought the monotheistic character of this faith to light completely, in contrast to the many gods with their individual names. 32

Another key instance cited by Ratzinger in which the Septuagint translation adds a universalizing shade of meaning occurs in Isaiah 7:9. Ratzinger gives the original Hebrew as, “If you do not believe (if you do not hold firm to Yahweh), then you will have no hold.” 33 “Faith is thereby defined as taking up a position, as taking a stand trustfully on the ground of the word of God.” 34 The Septuagint translation, ἐὰν μὴ πιστεύσητε οὐδὲ μὴ συνῆτε, “transferred the above-mentioned sentence onto Greek soil not only linguistically, but also conceptually by formulating it as, ‘If you do not believe, then you do not understand either.’” 35

Ratzinger acknowledges that the translation has often been cited as “a typical example of the process of Hellenization, of the way in which the Septuagint is less ‘biblical’ than the Hebrew text,” removing the ground of faith from God’s word and replacing it with an intellectual foundation. “There may be some truth in this,” he admits, but “on the whole the essential meaning is preserved, even if the imagery is different.” 36 That is because, in the Hebrew, the root of the word used for “hold” is “mn,” which is directly linked to “Amen”—a word that expresses “(the) Christian attitude of belief,” in which:

 … the meanings: trust, entrust, fidelity, firmness, firm ground, stand, truth, all interpenetrate each other; this means that the thing on which man can finally take his stand, and which can give him meaning, can only be truth itself. Thus, the Christian act of faith intrinsically includes the conviction that the meaningful ground, the logos, on which we take our stand, precisely because it is meaning, is also truth.… The tool with which man is equipped to deal with the truth of being is not knowledge but understanding: understanding, the meaning to which he has entrusted to himself. 37

Because “(understanding) grows only out of belief,” Ratzinger goes on, “theology as the understanding, logos-like (= rational, understanding-through-reason) discussion of God is a fundamental task of Christian faith.” 38 He finds in this “the basis of the inalienable right of Greek thought to a place in Christianity”:

Believing and understanding belong together no less than believing and “standing,” simply because standing and understanding are inseparable. To this extent the Greek translation of the sentence in Isaiah about believing and abiding reveals a dimension which is implicit in the biblical attitude itself if it is not to be degraded into fanaticism, sectarianism.

Pablo Blanco Sarto identifies this connection between “understanding” and “standing” as a fundamental point of Ratzinger’s theology, enabling him to show how the faith that results from dia-logos is intrinsically ecclesial. For Ratzinger, Sarto writes:

 … faith is the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church, by which we obtain the privileged knowledge that we can reach through reflection and through this trust (confidence in the Church). This verstehen—an understanding—takes as its starting point a stehen, of being in the church. In the communion of the church—which is a reflection of the Trinity—all the truth of the faith comes into view. So faith—both rational and relational—is also at the same time “theological” (given from God) and ecclesial, as an answer to the act of giving and revelation that comes from God, which is expressed materially in the sacrament of baptism. 39

As pope, Benedict has emphasized that it is through this ecclesial dimension of the faith that the self-communication of the Logos comes full circle: “If a way is to be opened up into the heart of the biblical word as God’s word, this word must first of all be proclaimed outwardly … The Logos, the reason for hope, must become apo-logía; it must become a response.” 40

The Church “from the very beginning accepted as her own” the Septuagint (Dei Verbum 22), and biblical scholars, such as Adrian Schenker, have in recent years drawn renewed attention to its significance for the faith. Yet, Pope Benedict has given the translation new relevance, through integrating an account of its historical, philosophical, and theological significance into his own theological approach—an approach centered on an exploration of the meaning of logos. It is largely because of his own extensive writings on the subject that he can confidently assert, as he did at Regensburg, that the “inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry” embodied in the Septuagint “is an event which concerns us even today.” 41

Benedict’s words, with regard to the Church’s ancient liturgy, could be said to apply to his understanding of the Septuagint as well: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.… It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” 42

Further Reading
Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, May 25, 2005,
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20050525_en.html

Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, December 25, 2005, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html

Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with the Representatives of Science (University of Regensberg, “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections,” September 12, 2006, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg_en.html

Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Midnight Mass, December 24, 2006, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2006/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20061224_christmas_en.html

Pope Benedict XVI,  Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, June 29, 2009, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_en.html

Pope Benedict XVI,  Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, September 30, 2010, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini_en.html

Pope Benedict XVI,  Homily at Midnight Mass, December 24, 2010, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20101224_christmas_en.html

Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with the Parish Priests of the Diocese of Rome, “Lectio Divina,” February 18, 2010, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2010/february/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20100218_parroci-roma_en.html

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, November 16, 2011, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20111116_en.html

Ratzinger, Joseph, Introduction to Christianity. New York: Herder and Herder, 1970.

Ratzinger, Joseph,  The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1989.

Ratzinger, Joseph,  A New Song for the Lord: Faith in Christ and Liturgy Today. New York: Crossroad, 1997.

Ratzinger, Joseph,  Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997.

Ratzinger, Joseph,  The Spirit of the Liturgy. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000.

Ratzinger, Joseph,  God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2001.

Ratzinger, Joseph,  On the Way to Jesus Christ. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.

Ratzinger, Joseph,  Truth and Tolerance. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004.

Ratzinger, Joseph (Pope Benedict XVI), Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration. New York: Doubleday, 2007.

Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.

Ryan, Stephen D., O.P., “The Word of God and the Textual Pluriformity of the Old Testament,” address given at the 2nd Quinn Conference, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 9-11, 2001 (unpublished).

Schenker, Adrian, “L’Écriture sainte subsiste en plusieurs formes canoniques simultanées,” in L’Interpretazione della Bibbia nella Chiesa: Atti del Simposio promosso dalla Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede. Vatican City: 2001, 178-186.

  1. “Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature. Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria—the Septuagint—is more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity.” Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with the Representatives of Science (University of Regensburg), “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections,” September 12, 2006, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg_en.html (accessed April 30, 2012).
  2. In his introduction to the 1989 publication of his habilitation thesis, Ratzinger wrote that the questions that inspired his research included, “{Has} not the ‘Hellenization’ of Christianity, which attempted to overcome the scandal of the particular by a blending of faith and metaphysics, led to a development in a false direction? Has it not created a static style of thought which cannot do justice to the dynamism of the biblical style?” See Joseph Ratzinger, The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1989), xi. In addition, as will be noted later, he made discoveries during the course of his habilitation research that would profoundly inform his understanding of how the Church understands revelation.
  3. Footnote 1 above includes the following three points in context.
  4. The work cited is Schenker’s “L’Écriture sainte subsiste en plusieurs formes canoniques simultanées,” in L’Interpretazione della Bibbia nella Chiesa (Vatican City : Atti del Simposio promosso dalla Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede, 2001), 178-186.
  5. Joseph Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997), 108.
  6. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, 109.
  7. Benedict XVI uses the term “self-communication” in “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections” when encapsulating points that he made in Introduction to Christianity of the episode of the burning bush. In footnote 8 of that talk, he refers the reader to the chapter of Introduction to Christianity titled “The Biblical Belief in God” and says with regard to his interpretation of the burning bush episode, “I think that my statements in that book, despite later developments in the discussion, remain valid today.”
  8. Cf. the quotation from the Regensburg lecture cited in footnote 1. As noted above (in text and footnote 4), Ratzinger footnoted his statement in that lecture regarding the “independent textual witness” of the Septuagint with a reference to Adrian Schenker’s article “L’Écriture sainte subsiste en plusieurs formes canoniques simultanées.”  He made a similar point three years earlier, also citing Schenker (as well as Emmanuel Levinas), in Truth and Tolerance: “The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which was the Bible of the New Testament, is not—as we now know—to be regarded as a Hellenizing version of the Masora (the Hebrew Old Testament); rather, it represents an independent textual tradition; the two texts stand before us, each with its own value, as witnesses to the development of the biblical faith.” To this he added the key point—giving explicit articulation to an assumption implicit in Introduction to Christianity—that, in its reception of those two textual witnesses, “{the} early Church continued the consistent development of an intercultural encounter that was locked into the core of the biblical faith itself.”
  9. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970) 86.
  10. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 87.
  11. Joseph Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 198.
  12. Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 199.
  13. Pope Benedict XVI, “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections.”
  14. Cf. Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 200.
  15. Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 199.
  16. The phrase is from Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, 108, quoted in context above. See also Truth and Tolerance, 198, also quoted above.
  17. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, 109.
  18. Benedict often uses the expression “God’s self-communication” to refer to revelation in general and the Word in particular; see the Regensburg lecture and particularly Verbum Domini 7.
  19. Pablo Blanco Sarto encapsulates Ratzinger’s account of dia-logos as “the calling and the answer”: “The Logos is turned into dia-logos, because it is directed to humanity. … The dabar offered by God—the revelation in Christ—will be the origin of the faith, which must be received by human beings with free assent, ‘And the Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14); the Word entered history and is constituted as the intermediary between God and his people. Here we find the dynamics of the calling and the answer, das Wort und die Antwort, as Ratzinger would say.” Pablo Blanco Sarto, “Logos and Dia-Logos: Faith, Reason, (and Love) According to Joseph Ratzinger,” Anglican Theological Review, Vol. 92, No. 3, (Summer 2010), 501. It is important to note that, in using the conjunction dia-logos to highlight the fact that revelation requires a receiving subject, Ratzinger does not mean that the Word engages in “dialogue” in the worldly sense of adapting itself to man’s response.  The Word is Truth, and so cannot be relativized. “Truth, in fact, is lógos which creates diá-logos, and hence communication and communion. Truth, by enabling men and women to let go of their subjective opinions and impressions, allows them to move beyond cultural and historical limitations and to come together in the assessment of the value and substance of things.” Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate §4, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_en.html (accessed May 7, 2012), italics in original.
  20. Cf. Caritas in Veritate §4.
  21. Ratzinger, Milestones, 127.
  22. Ratzinger, Milestones, 127.
  23. Pope Benedict XVI, “Meeting with Representatives from the World of Culture,” September 12, 2008, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080912_parigi-cultura_en.html (accessed May 7, 2012).
  24. Pope Benedict XVI, “Meeting with Representatives from the World of Culture.”
  25. Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini §38.
  26. Pope Benedict XVI, “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections.”
  27. Pope Benedict XVI, “Christmas Greetings” to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2005, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/december/documents/hf_ben_xvi_spe_20051222_roman-curia_en.html (accessed May 7, 2012).
  28. Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 148.
  29. Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 151.
  30. Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 152.
  31. Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 153.
  32. Joseph Ratzinger, On the Way to Jesus Christ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), 57.
  33. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 39.
  34. Ibid.
  35. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 39-40.
  36. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 40.
  37. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 45.
  38. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 45.
  39. Blanco Sarto, 506-507.
  40. Pope Benedict XVI, “Meeting with Representatives from the World of Culture.”
  41. Pope Benedict XVI, “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections.”
  42. Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum.
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avatar About Dawn Eden

Dawn Eden holds a master’s degree in theology from the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at Dominican House of Studies, where she is currently studying toward an S.T.L. She is the author of: "My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints" (Ave Maria Press, 2012).

Comments

  1. avatar bill bannon says:

    Interesting piece. I would just warn that Greek wisdom can lead away from the biblical and did in Pope Benedict in the area of Biblical violence and trickery. Read section 42 of Verbum Domini where Benedict declaims against the massacres and trickery of the Old Testament without ever noticing that both are re-present in Christ who announces the worst massacre which actually takes place in Jerusalem in 70 AD and Christ is not simply predicting a Roman sin but He is predicting an act of God since Christ gives its reason as follows: Luke 19:41 on.. NAB Bible…” As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it,
    42 saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.
    43* For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.
    44 They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    It’s fashionable now to imply that sin is its own punishment and that it’s punishment is sort of a Catholic karma. Christ did not talk that way but said to fear him who could destroy both body and soul in everlasting fire. This area of violence was also a weak link in John Paul II in section 40 of Evangelium Vitae wherein like Benedict in VD 42, John Paul saw the Jews evolving away from the old testament Levitical death penalties. No…those death penalties for personal sin ended with Christ bringing grace. God gave those death penalties since man prior to grace needed great threats to be good. After grace and after Christ reduced the power of satan, man no longer needed a death penalty
    to avoid adultery…so Christ ended them beginnong with the woman caught in adultery incident.
    In a odd moment in Verbum Domini section 42, Benedict sees the prophets as thoroughly pacifist and he writes: ” ” the prophets… challenged every form of violence”. They did not…they challenged unjust violence at times but the psalms actually are better at that. The prophets prior to Christ bringing sanctifying grace were dealing with graceless mankind and in that dispensation were mandated by God to use violence. Elijah in I Kgs.18:40 slit the throats of 450 prophets of Baal; Samuel “hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal” because Saul did not do it as ordered by God; Eliseus cursed 42 children who were killed by bears; and Jeremiah curses the Chaldeans if they do not massacre the
    Moabites in Jer.48:10. “Cursed are they who do the LORD’s work carelessly, cursed those who
    keep their sword from shedding blood.”
    Both Popes were horrified by OT violence and wanted both God and the prophets to be above that violence. Well…ancient gnostics disliked the OT God and such things also; but Christ as I said announces the worst massacre of 70 AD in which Tacitus gives 600,000 killed and Josephus gives 1.1 million dead and Christianity rarely talks of that post New Covenant massacre/ Divine punishment….and watch when it does. You will think that only the temple was destroyed since only that is mentioned time after time. Christ by the way left instructions in the gospel how to escape that week in 70 AD. His instructions had over three decades to filter throughout Jerusalem and anyone who obeyed those instructions were saved by His words. Do I think those killed in Jerusalem went to
    hell? No…because Christ asked the Father…” forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”
    Many if not most in Jerusalem in 70 AD were younger than the actual rejecting Christ generation also.
    Ezekiel 18:20 assures us that the son will not die for the sin of the father…where “die” has the meaning of damnation. But David’s son by adultery did die physically for the sin of his father but did not go to hell…such was the import of Deuteronomy’s revelation that down to the third and fourth generation, the offspring of those who sinned aginst God would be punished ( Deut. 5:9).
    On the trickery issue of Verbum Domini 42, read Christ’s words to the Canaanite woman that He has come only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel….not true that exclusively… because He says no such thing to the centurion but helps him immediately.

    • avatar bill bannon says:

      ps….Benedict is against all fibbing as his catechism slants the matter as to the 8th commandment. That was the Aquinas/Augustine view also probably via Aristotle for Aquinas. Jerome differed and noted that Jehu’s fibs to the Baal worshippers was crucial to obeying the martial mandate from God.
      Judith lies like a Bokara rug in her victory over Holofernes and Solomon fibs…” soldier, cut the infant in two”… and produces the real mom thereby just as Christ produced greater faith in the Canaanite woman by His fib in her earshot. But Benedict missed all this through his Greekness I’m afraid…but he is right…it is productive but has its weaknesses….I Cor. 1:23 on Greek rationality’s limits.

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