Friday, July 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

One of my tremendous pet peeves is when people talk about how we used to interpret, for instance, Genesis "literally" but now we interpret it "figuratively."  So now we understand that the literal meaning might be that God created in six days, but the figurative or symbolic meaning is that these "days" represent millions of years, or something like that.  What we end up doing is abdicating to the fundamentalists something they do not deserve.  

We interpret Genesis literally more correctly, not them.  And we do so because we, not they, understand what "literally" means.  It means to understand a passage according to the literary genre in which it was written.  We would never allow a fundamentalist to use the word "literally" to explain the figure of speech "the creek laughed" to mean that the water started talking.  We would "literally" understand this to mean that maybe it was not stagnant, sounded nice, etc.  Yet we allow them to do this with the Bible!  Not that we actually approve, but we grant to them the language of the word "literal" to describe what we do.  So, with that background, my quote of the day from Karl Rahner, SJ: 
A way of talking as if the account in Genesis was understood more literally by the older exegesis whereas this is no longer the case, should be altogether avoided, because it is false and confusing.  A statement is all the more literally understood, that is the to say, all the more fully and precisely, the more clearly and consciously the literary character of the statement in question is recognized.  If we can do this better now than some time ago, it is we, not the exegetes of the nineteenth century, who understand the text "more literally." 

Karl Rahner, Hominisation, 1965

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

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