It is almost twenty years old, but this article gives another reason why Jason and the Callers may have bitten off more than that for which they bargained. This piece (thanks to one evangelical convert to Rome who notices aspects of church life that JATC don’t) places contemporary Roman Catholic biblical scholarship in historical perspective and shows the triumph of Protestant approaches to Scripture for the folks with whom JATC now commune:
A half-century ago, during the darkest days of World War II, on the feast of St. Jerome (Sept. 30, 1943), Pope Pius XII issued his encyclical on “The Most Opportune Way to Promote Biblical Studies,” Divino Afflante Spiritu (literally, “Inspired by the Divine Spirit”), in commemoration of the encyclical Pope Leo XIII had issued on Nov. 18, 1893, Providentissimus Deus (“The God of All Providence”), which itself represented a cautious opening to historical criticism of the Bible. Pius’s encyclical, often called the Magna Carta of Catholic biblical scholarship, offered the first official rays of light after the long, dark winter of anti-modernism.
Modern biblical studies emerged in the late-17th and 18th centuries as the old order crumbled amid religious wars and divisions of the period. Enlightened reason was seen as a liberation from the biblical dogmas that fostered hatred and division. The rise of natural science in the 19th century further undermined the biblical view of the world, and the discovery of biblical manuscripts and records of other ancient civilizations challenged traditional notions of biblical inspiration and revelation.
Protestant theology, especially in Germany in 19th century, is a history of response to the challenge of Enlightenment rationalism and the new historiography. Names such as Friedrich D. Schleiermacher, David Friedrich Strauss, Ferdinand Christian Baur and Johannes Weiss, to name but a few, are still part of an unofficial “canon” for any course in the history of biblical scholarship. Yet the “battle for the Bible” caused deep divisions within Protestantism. Its contemporary legacy is the spread of fundamentalism that continues to divide major denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention.
Throughout the tumultuous years of the 19th century there were tentative attempts by Catholics (like the members of the Catholic Tubingen school) to incorporate emerging biblical scholarship and to dialogue with its proponents. Yet official Catholic theology and teaching remained suspicious and defensive.
That was then, then Vatican II happened:
The immediate history of post-Vatican II Catholic biblical scholarship, in concert with other theological disciplines, presents a dazzling kaleidoscope. One immediate effect was the commitment to biblical and theological studies by a great number of people. More and more talented lay people, especially women scholars, entered the field. . . . Protestants became leading members of the Catholic Biblical Association. The biblical renewal became the soul of bilateral ecumenical dialogues, as groups turned to the scriptural roots of disputed issues only to find that a historical-critical reading of the Scriptures challenged positions once thought to be set in concrete. Redaction criticism helped to uncover the theological creativity and literary achievement of the Evangelists and disclosed a multicolored pluralism in the New Testament itself. Fresh translations from the original languages such as the Bible of Jerusalem and the New American Bible were produced, and Catholics participated in the production of commentaries no longer divided along confessional lines. Creative theological movements such as feminist and liberation theology wrestled critically with the biblical texts as a source of their insights. Literally thousands of religious and lay people flocked to summer institutes and workshops sustained by joyful discovery of the manner in which the Bible touched their lives. The church was being transformed “from below” as individuals and groups defined their lives and faith in dialogue with the Bible.
The irony is that JATC went from communing with one sort of Protestant to communing with another sort.