Friday, March 7, 2008


Here Jim Martin has a post about the death of the famous Jesuit Walter Abbott. A brilliant man, he came out with the first English translation of the documents of Vatican II in record time. Of course, with any quick translation are mistakes, or, I suppose, intentional "dynamic equivalence." One such translation was the famous paragraph 11 of Dei Verbum. Austin Flannery's translation would later correct what Abbott translates in this way:
Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.
This is the so-called minimalist approach to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. Notice that last line. It renders itself easily as a minimal interpretation. What must be believed in Scripture is what the Holy Spirit asserted through the human authors, namely, the truth asserted "for the sake of salvation." This delineates what particular truths are deemed inspired and inerrant. Probably no historical truths or possibly even moral truths. Only those asserted "for the sake of salvation," whatever that is deemed to mean. Flannery on the other hand rightly translates the Latin of that last clause:
The books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures.
Scripture teaches the truth which God confided to them. This truth is for our salvation, but not limited to what is deemed to be "for the sake of salvation." All of Scripture is for the sake of salvation. This is what Flannery's translation brings out. It contradicts the minimalist reduction that our Father Abbott applied to it.

Markel, SJ

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