The Method for Understanding the Proper Meaning of the Biblical Book of Genesis


A modern reader of Genesis must bear in mind the principles of biblical exegesis laid down by St. Augustine in his great work De Genesi Ad Litteram (On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis). Augustine taught that whenever reason established with certainty a fact about the physical world, seemingly contrary statements in the Bible must be interpreted accordingly. He opposed the idea of a “Christian account” of natural phenomena in opposition to what could be known by science. He viewed such accounts as “most deplorable and harmful, and to be avoided at any cost,” because on hearing them the non-believer “could hardly hold his laughter on seeing, as the saying goes, the error rise sky-high.”

As early as 410 A.D., then, the greatest of the Western Church Fathers was telling us that the Book of Genesis is not an astrophysics or geology textbook. Augustine himself was a kind of evolutionist, speculating that God’s creation of the cosmos was an instantaneous act whose effects unfolded over a long period. God had planted “rational seeds” in nature which eventually developed into the diversity of plants and animals we see today. St. Thomas Aquinas cites this view of Augustine’s more than once in the course of the Summa Theologiae. St. Thomas, author Etienne Gilson writes,

was well aware that the Book of Genesis was not a treatise on cosmography for the use of scholars. It was a statement of the truth intended for the simple people whom Moses was addressing. Thus it is sometimes possible to interpret it in a variety of ways. So it was that when we speak of the six days of creation, we can understand by it either six successive days, as do Ambrose, Basil, Chrysostom and Gregory, and is suggested by the letter of the text . . . Or we can with Augustine take it to refer to the simultaneous creation of all beings with days symbolizing the various orders of beings. This second interpretation is at first sight less literal, but is, rationally speaking, more satisfying. It is the one that St. Thomas adopts, although he does not exclude the other which, as he says, can also be held.

In this century, Cardinal Bea, who helped Pius XII draft Divino Afflante Spiritu, wrote that Genesis does not deal with the “true constitution of visible things.” It is meant to convey truths outside the scientific order.

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The Bible: “Master Code” of Western culture

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ROME, May 1, 2009 – In a few days, the daily “la Repubblica” and the weekly “L’espresso” will offer to the Italian public, in hundreds of thousands of copies and at a reasonable price, the entire Christian Bible, in a new translation edited by the bishops’ conference (CEI), accompanied by extensive notes and illustrated with artistic masterpieces from all time periods.

The work will be published in three volumes: the first with the Pentateuch and the historical books; the second with the wisdom books and the prophets; the third with the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the letters, and Revelation.

The initiative is all the more unusual in that “la Repubblica” and “L’espresso” are the leading publications for secular opinion in Italy, and are often critical of the Catholic Church and the Christian faith itself.

(Also included: a letter from Pope Benedict XVI about scripture reading techniques)

by Sandro Magister. English translation by Matthew Sherry, Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.

Click here to read the entire article

Eisegesis can be considered to be the opposite of Exegesis

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Here is a good definition of Eisegesis right from Scripture:


1Corinthians 4:6
“I have applied all this to myself and Apol’los for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” RSV

From a dictionary:


Eisegesis
(eye-si JEE-sis), An interpretation, especially of Scripture, that
expresses the interpreters own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the
true meaning of the text.

How many false charges made by non-Catholics, against the Catholic Church, can you now refute, by using 1Cor 4:6?


How about the ‘Whore of Babylon’  for one?

In case you have never heard of Eisegesis, it can be considered to be the opposite of Exegesis:

Exegesis: investigation and study of Sacred Scripture through tradition,
history, archaeology, and criticism to find the true meaning. The antonym
for exegesis is eisegesis which means reading into a text something that simply is not there.

Submitted by Bob Stanley