Saturday, May 21, 2005

Papacy & prophecy

Vatican I says the following:



Session 3: 24 April 1870

Dogmatic constitution on the Catholic faith

On faith

4. Nevertheless, in order that the submission of our faith should be in accordance with reason, it was God's will that there should be linked to the internal assistance of the Holy Spirit external indications of his revelation, that is to say divine acts, and first and foremost miracles and prophecies, which clearly demonstrating as they do the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are the most certain signs of revelation and are suited to the understanding of all.

5. Hence Moses and the prophets, and especially Christ our lord himself, worked many absolutely clear miracles and delivered prophecies; while of the apostles we read: And they went forth and preached every, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it [18]. Again it is written: We have the prophetic word made more sure; you will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place [19].


Needless to say, appeal to the oracular character of Moses and the OT prophets is only as good as the traditional authorship of the OT.

This is what John-Paul II has to say about the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch:


From the point of view of biblical criticism, it is necessary to mention immediately that the first account of man's creation is chronologically later than the second. The origin of this latter is much more remote. This more ancient text is defined as "Yahwist" because the term "Yahweh" is used to denominate God. It is difficult not to be struck by the fact that the image of God presented there has quite considerable anthropomorphic traits (among others, we read in fact that "...the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gen 2:7).

In comparison with this description, the first account, that is, the one held to be chronologically later, is much more mature both as regards the image of God, and as regards the formulation of the essential truths about man. This account derives from the priestly and "elohist" tradition, from "Elohim", the term used in that account for God.


And this is what Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XIV, has to say about the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch:


The moment when creation became a dominant theme occurred during the Babylonian Exile. It was then that the account that we have just heard—based, to be sure, on very ancient traditions—assumed its present form.

“In the Beginning…” (Eerdmans 1995), 10-11.


Anyone conversant with the history of higher criticism can see that the position staked out by John-Paul II and Benedict XVI is a variant on the old Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis.

And this also is what Ratzinger has to say about authorship of Daniel:


We have today good reason to date the book of Daniel in its present form from 167 to 163 B.C., that is, to a time when Israel's faith was harshly persecuted by the Hellenistic kind, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Through extreme tribulations the faith of God's people and its historical hope seemed to have definitively reached a dead end. As a result, however, the prophet had a new vision of history in its totality.

J. Ratzinger, THE GOD OF JESUS CHRIST (Franciscan Herald Press 1979), 55.

Posted by Steve Jackson


In other words, the Book of Daniel does not record the oracles of the 6C prophet, even though that is what it says (cf. Dan 8:1; 9:2,20; 10:2)—an attribution confirmed by Jesus Christ (Mt 24:15).

To judge by this, one assumes that Ratzinger would also deny the Isaian authorship of Isa 40-66.

It is striking that the highest reaches of the magisterium feel free to deny what an ecumenical council affirms. Yet that is standard operating procedure in contemporary Catholic circles.

If OT “prophecy” can be reconstrued as retrodictive (vaticinium ex eventu) rather than predictive, then the argument from prophecy codified by Vatican I is effectively abrogated by the modern magisterium and its functionaries.


  1. As additional proof of Rome's liberal attitudes toward Scripture, I'd point to ecumenical dialogue with liberal protestants, which omit (to the best of my knowledge) questions of biblical inspiration.

    Rome has told the Anglicans that women priests & bishops are a problem, yet I don't think Rome has said that the view of the Bible taught in Anglicanism presents any ecumenical difficulty.

    Ditto with dialogue with modernist Lutherans.

  2. I can concur regarding the liberal Lutherans.

    I remember at graduate school dealing with the female liberal Lutherans who had semi-official or official positions, and they avoided scripture like the plague, preferring to substitute their own speculations about what should be.
    I asked one once "Just exactly how are you Lutheran or Christian?" and never received anything resembling an answer.

    I also own a liberal Lutheran dogmatics volume, and in the introduction the authors proudly claim that they make no effort to be logically consistent. So much for one's view of scripture's internal coherency!!


  3. Relevant to this discussion are Steve Hays' critique of Philip Blosser's critique of sola scriptura, "By Scripture Alone," and Blosser's rebuttal, "Sola Scriptura revisited: a reply to Steve Hays (in 95 antitheses)."