Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 6, 1952
NUMBER 43, PAGE 6,11b

Roman Catholic "Interpretation"

Robert F. Turner

One of the chief principles of the Roman Catholic structure is their "Interpretation of Holy Scripture." The matter is clearly stated on page 38, "Catholic Belief," by J Faa' Di Bruno; "The Bible in the original language or when truthfully translated, is indeed in itself the Word of God, and infallible; but the Bible is neither the Word of God, nor infallible, with regard to us, unless rightly interpreted, that is, interpreted with authority, certainty, and infallibility." In an article: "When Water Ran Uphill," published by the Phoenix Holy Name Union in Phoenix Republic-Gazette of May 5, 1946, this statement appeared: "So when the Pope, as head of the Church, defines a religious truth, he creates nothing, but with the authority of God and by the direction of the Holy Ghost, he clarifies a supernatural truth so that the world may believe with confidence."

Catholics point with scorn at the divided Protestant religion as evidence of the error of "private interpretation." They contend that the Roman Catholic Church is the guardian of truth, and that without this authoritative, infallible interpretation, the world gropes hopelessly in darkness. Note a further statement from "Catholic Belief," p. 47-48: "This infallibility does not depend upon the learning which exists in the whole body of the Episcopate united to the Pope, when discussing and deciding points of faith or morals, but on the promised aid of the Holy Ghost, who enlightens their minds and guides their counsels. —By this divine assistance, the Bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome do not become the medium of a new revelation, but are divinely assisted and enlightened, according to the unfailing promise of God, to understand clearly what has been revealed, and to declare rightly the true meaning of that revelation."

The Mountain Labored

With the whole world depending upon their "infallible interpretations," and with their "unbroken line of succession of Popes, from the apostle Peter to our present Pope Pius," it comes somewhat as a jolt to learn that so little has been done. I refer to a statement in the letter which follows, which says, "Very few texts have been infallibly interpreted; I believe only about eight" The mountain labored, and brought forth a mole hill.

This letter came into my possession as the result of a correspondence regarding a "Catholic Information" article, "Heaven? . . . Now my idea is this . . ," published in Phoenix Republic-Gazette in 1946. Seeing an opportunity to question local Catholic authorities on the subject "'Interpretation," I wrote the publishers of the article and questioned their use of 1 Cor. 2:9. (They had applied the passage to "heaven.") Pointing out the application of the verse as seen in its context, I asked, "Would your application of the passage in the above mentioned article represent the official infallible interpretation of the Roman Catholic Church? Just what is Roman Catholic teaching concerning the interpretation of various passages of scripture which one might encounter in the course of Bible study?"

Over two months later I received a reply from Father (?) Louis Schoen, 0.F.M., St. Mary's Church, Phoenix, stating that he had forwarded my letter to a friend, and had just received his reply. Mr. Schoen was in a hurry, and instead of rehashing and polishing a reply to my inquiry, he simply forwarded his friend's (Friar Virgil's) letter. This letter, dated January 26, 1947, is written in long-hand upon stationery of COMMISSARIAT OF THE HOLY LAND, Franciscan Monastery, Washington, D.C. The letter follows:

"Dear Father Louis, I don't know whether or not I am too late in answering your letter. As you know by this time, I was sent to Washington for higher studies; your letter followed me across the country and finally caught up with me. I hope that this is not too late. To answer the questions: (1) We were told, and I personally believe so, that 1 Cor. 2:9 should be given a broader interpretation than merely heaven. You might express it as referring to the whole dispensation of grace, of which heaven is the consummation; or grace and glory. The context seems to force one to extend "the things prepared" to more than heaven, for a comparison is made between worldly wisdom and the true wisdom of those to whom God has revealed it already on earth; yet some interpreters restrict it to heaven.

(2) No! The interpretation given does not represent the official infallible interpretation of this passage by the Roman Church. Very few texts have been infallibly interpreted; I believe only about eight.

(3) In interpreting various passages of scripture, we must keep in mind, a) the authentic interpretation of the Church. As mentioned above, if the Church gives us the authentic sense of a text, we must retain it; if no explicit authentic interpretation has been given, but a definite meaning has always and everywhere been proposed, this traditional explanation must be retained. The basic argument here is the familiar one of the Church before the Bible. b) As regards Tradition, there is the 'authority of the Fathers. Unanimous consent of the Fathers must be accepted. c) Third morn: Analogy of Faith, i.e., harmony or agreement which exists between all the truths of revealed religion. Any interpretation opposed to The doctrines of the Church must be wrong. If many interpretations correspond with the analogy of faith, then search the context, parallel passages, authority of Fathers and reliable interpreters, etc., for the true sense.

'The passage in question is proof of the moderate freedom allowed the exegete.

This has been a rather hurried answer, but sound. I am still trying to arrange things here and acquire my needed books. As regards the last question more can be found in Steinmuller's "General Introduction," Vol. 1, pp. 240 sr. . . ." (Few remaining lines of letter are personal greetings.) (RFT)

This pis a truly remarkable letter—concise, to the point. Coming from a Catholic scholar of no mean reputation, ft is worthy of careful study. In following correspondence this same "Friar Virgil" names the passages of scripture that have been "infallibly interpreted,' 'and gives the "interpretation"; but these must be examined in a later article. For now, let us note that the Catholic scholar arrives at an 'interpretation" of the scriptures just as any other scholar, with -'the exception of his "infallibly interpreted" ONLY ABOUT EIGHT passages. The "traditional interpretations" of the Fathers, which he must consider (the "Church" -before the Bible) are interpretations none-the-less, but they "must be retained." Here is raw creedalism, indeed. Accepting the "authority of the Fathers" is accepting something other than the Bible as "source material," and does not enter into our subject of "Bible Interpretation" in the strict sense.

"VERY FEW TEXTS HAVE BEEN INFALLIBLY INTERPRETED; I BELIEVE ONLY ABOUT EIGHT." World scholars, Protestant "private interpreters," all ... come humbly to the great Roman Church for infallible truth. All of your studies are in vain, for you can not know the "certainty" ,of truth without depending upon this "authoritative" Supreme Court. Laboring diligent over a period of hundreds of years, divinely assisted and enlightened by the Holy Ghost, EIGHT passages have been infallibly interpreted.

In our following article, we will examine those eight passages, and the "infallible'' interpretations.