To live is to change. A warning regarding this book.
This book was issued by a Catholic publisher in 1995 with the aim of promoting the implementation of the decrees of Vatican II. It is still in circulation and many will have read it. As a keen supporter of Vatican II, I was at first reluctant to criticize it.
But this is necessary because of its false description of how the gospels were written. Although claiming to represent the thought of Vatican II, the section on Dei Verbum misrepresents what De Verbum stated. The wordings are set out below, so our readers may judge for themselves.
The Church has always maintained that two of the Gospels were written by the Apostles Matthew and John who had lived with Christ. This was based on the evidence of the earliest historians. The other gospels were written by close associates of the Apostles.
In recent times some non-believers and Christians came to accept a theory that scientific examination of the texts showed this was not correct. The theory claimed that an unknown man who had not known Jesus, had written the first gospel, now known as: ‘Mark’s Gospel”. The theory then said Matthew and Luke based their gospels on it. This was known as: ‘The Markan priority theory.’
At the Vatican Council, a group of bishops asked the Church to abandon its traditional stand and accept this ‘scientific evidence’. Another group, led by Abbot C. Butler, OSB which opposed the Markan priority theory, said efforts to disprove the theory were being hampered by laws of the over-cautious Pontifical Biblical Commission.
To assist them, the Council reduced the powers of the PBC from a disciplinary to a consultative body. And when the bishops issued Dei Verbum, they firmly upheld the Church’s traditional stand: The Vatican web site gives the following:
Therefore Christ …commissioned the Apostles to preach to all men that Gospel …. This commission was faithfully by the Apostles who … handed on what they had received from the lips of Christ, from living with Him, and from what He did … The commission was fulfilled too, by those Apostles and apostolic men who … committed the message of salvation in writing. (7).
… the Apostles preached in fulfilment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, …handed on to us in writing: … the fourfold Gospel, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (18),
The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels … For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the eyewitness of those who themselves “from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”, we might know “the truth” … (19).
At about the same time as: To live is to change was beginning to circulate (1994), The Catechism of the Catholic Church, was published. Item 76 reads:
In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:
- orally ‘by the apostles who handed it on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received – whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learnt it by the prompting of the Holy Spirit’,
- in writing ‘by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing.’
- See also item 96.
Let us now compare these quotations with page 42 in: To live is to change.
‘The four gospels are historical documents. First, the apostles passed on to their hearers what Jesus had said and done. Next, inspired writers composed the four gospels. They selected some things from the abundant material already handed down, orally or in writing. Other things they synthesised or explained with a view to the needs of the Churches (19)’.
The author does not say how the apostles passed on what Jesus had said.
He says ‘the hearers’ rather than: ‘the hearers and readers of the apostles’.
He doesn’t tell us of the reliability of those ‘handing down orally or in writing’.
He implies a time gap between the apostles and the inspired writers.
This wording seems to be deliberately vague.
A reader of this paragraph in: ‘To live is to change’ would think he had read a summary of the teaching of the Council. So he may not spend his time reading Dei Verbum and the Catechism.
This is why a reader of this book should be given a warning.
Note: 1. Our warning does not extend to the book as a whole.
Note: 2. Recently, The Clementine Gospel Tradition has answered the scientific challenges made by the Markan priority theory.
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[G 361] This version: 16/11/015