Living Tradition
ORGAN OF THE ROMAN THEOLOGICAL FORUM
Editor: Msgr. John F. McCarthy, J.C.D., S.T.D.Distributed several times a year to interested members.
Associate Editor: Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D.  Not to be republished without permission.
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Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA

No. 19 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program September 1988

Contents:
Editorial
"On the Third Day He Rose"
Fr Eamonn Bredin and the Resurrection
 
EDITORIAL

by John F. McCarthy

        In his apostolic letter, Ecclesia Dei, published on the second of July 1988 in the sad circumstance of the illicit episcopal ordinations at Ecône two days earlier, Pope John Paul II calls upon all the Catholic faithful to find in this event occasion for "an open and thoroughgoing reflection on their own fidelity to the Tradition of the Church, sincerely expressed by the ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium, especially by the councils from the Nicene Council to Vatican Council II." From this new meditation, says the Pope, "all must become once again fully convinced of the need to broaden and increase their fidelity by completely rejecting false interpretations and arbitrary and illegitimate developments in things pertaining to doctrine, liturgy, and discipline." The Pope calls upon the bishops and the other members of the flock "once again to acknowledge not only the authority but also the accumulated riches of the Church, which together rest upon both the variety of charisms and the traditions of spirituality and apostolate which bring about the beauty of unity in diversity."

        The Holy Father points out that "the breadth and depth of the decrees of the Second Vatican Council demand a new effort of research activity on the part of theologians and other experts in ecclesiastical sciences by which the continuity of the Council with Tradition may be clearly brought out, especially in those points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not been understood by some sectors of the Church."

        The Pope, by virtue of his apostolic authority, not only announces that he is going to set up a commission to make easier full ecclesial communion with those who have been alienated by changes brought in since the Second Vatican Council, but also declares that the outlook of all those who feel tied to the Latin liturgical tradition is to be respected by means of a broad and generous application of the directives put out by the Apostolic See in 1984 for the use of the Roman Missal according to the 1962 typical edition.

        We do, indeed, find reason for deep gratitude to our Holy Father for this benevolent response to the needs of the Catholic faithful who hold dear to their hearts the precious dogmatic, moral, and mystical Tradition of the Church. A living tradition is one that constantly renews itself in the fonts of its origin, while adapting itself to the real needs of its time. The call of Pope John Paul II to theo1ogians and other experts in the ecclesiastical sciences to study more deeply the continuity of contemporary interpretations of the Council with the past of Catholic Tradition will be received with varying degrees of fervor, but it is like the sound of a trumpet for us. And the challenge lies in this, that many theologians and other experts of our time have failed to perceive the full presence of Tradition in the Decrees of the Council. Hence, a major reworking of contemporary theology needs to be done.

        We commend the patience and Catholic sentiment of those who have adhered to the unity of the Church under the authority of the Roman Pontiff amidst the storm of error and corruption that has afflicted many areas of the Church, and we rejoice that a light has now appeared at the end of the tunnel, held up by the Successor of Peter to guide us forward.



 
        "ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE"  

by Brian Harrison

        "Resurrexit tertia die." Thus does the Church, year in year out, century after century, proclaim her ancient faith in Jesus' Resurrection on "the third day" - the very heart of the "good news" of the Gospel.

        Some theologians and exegetes in recent years have speculated (rather implausibly) that "the third day," in Old Testament usage, may have a "theological" rather than a historical significance: that is, they say it may be an attempt to express the mysterious transtemporal context of an eschatological saving act of God's power, rather than a literal, chronological third day after some given event or date.

        The exegetical arguments for this theory seem very weak and tendentious to the present writer, but whatever may be said about "the third day" in certain Old Testament passages, there should be no serious doubt among Catholic Christians as to what the phrase means in the credal and New testament references to Our Lord's Resurrection: it means the first Easter Sunday morning after He was crucified - the day "after the Sabbath" (cf. Matt 28:1, Mk 16:1-2, Lk 24:1, Jn 20:1). One of the firm principles of Catholicism is that Scripture is to be interpreted in the light of Tradition and the Magisterium; and the universal and emphatic agreement of all the Fathers, Popes, Saints and Doctors - and indeed, the whole People of God for nearly two thousand years - gives us ample certitude that the New Testament Easter accounts are speaking to us historically, not in mere "creative" theological symbolism. Indeed, at Vatican Council II, the phrase, "until the day he was taken up (Acts 1:1-2)" was added to an earlier draft of the Council's Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum, 19), precisely in order to make absolutely clear the Church's conviction that the Easter narratives, just as much as the earlier parts of the Gospels, "faithfully" record "what Jesus really did and said for our salvation."

        Why are we stressing the historicity of "the third day"? Because there is a "hidden agenda" on the part of those who are currently trying to find exegetical pretexts for mystifying or "theologizing" this plainly chronological expression. It is not that they merely wish to suggest that perhaps Jesus actually rose on the second or fourth day, rather than third. What they are driving at is something much more radical: the idea that there was never any moment in time when the crucified corpse of Jesus was miraculously raised to life. His Resurrection, they maintain, was a purely spiritual, invisible event, by which the "person" of Jesus continues to live in glory with God the Father even after His death on the cross. This would imply, of course, that if a particular day is to be associated with the Resurrection, it would have to be the "first day," not the third: Jesus "rose" (i.e., continued to live spiritually) at the instant of His death on the cross.

        Aren't we perhaps splitting hairs, though? There are those who feel that it does not really matter one way or the other how or when Jesus "rose from the dead," as long as we believe He is now truly alive and reigning in Heaven.

        In fact, it matters immensely. Quite apart from the fact that the theory of an invisible "Resurrection" on the first day, instead of a visible one on the third day, is incompatible with Vatican II's reaffirmation of the historical truth of the final chapters of each Gospel, our belief that Jesus is alive and well needs to have some rational foundation. Faith is not just blind, wishful thinking: fideism - a faith which has no rational support - has frequently been condemned by the Church as unacceptable for Catholics. And if, as the "first-day" Resurrection theory implies, Our Lord's bones may be still lying around somewhere in Palestine to be unearthed eventually by archaeologists, then I can think of no reason why I should believe that He nonetheless lives on in heavenly glory, and that we too have the hope of joining Him after this earthly life is over.

        In the event of such a "bombshell" archaeological discovery, the Gospel accounts of a physical Resurrection on the third day would turn out to have been a myth all along. Why then should we place any credence in a "spiritual Resurrection" on the first day - for which, moreover, there is not a shred of evidence in the New Testament or in the Tradition of the Church? Catholic Tradition, on the contrary, has always insisted that the historical evidence for the physical, third-day Resurrection of Jesus is one of the rational foundations of our faith in Christian revelation as a whole. Pope St. Pius X, for instance, made a point of rejecting the kind of theology which makes Jesus' Resurrection into something like the Trinity or the Real Presence - that is, a truth which in itself is completely inaccessible to rational human investigation and has to be accepted purely on faith. Two of the opinions which that Pontiff condemned in the decree Lamentabili of 1907 were:

        (36) The Saviour's Resurrection is not truly a fact of the historical order, but a fact of the purely supernatural order - neither demonstrated nor capable of demonstration - which the Christian consciousness gradually derived from other truths;

        (37) Faith in Christ's Resurrection was initially not so much concerned with the Resurrection as a fact in itself (de facto ipso resurrectionis), but rather, with Christ's immortal life with God.

        Besides these considerations which apply specifically to the Resurrection, there is another, more general, reason why we cannot "reinterpret" the credal formula "on the third day he rose" so that it comes to mean a non-physical, non-miraculous "Resurrection" on the first day, at the instant of Christ's death on the cross. This more general reason is simply that the meaning of each and every article of Catholic faith is necessarily fixed and immutable. This does not mean there can be no development of doctrine, in the sense of adding various nuances or explanations to clarify the original meaning. It means that the original meaning cannot ever come to be replaced by a contradictory meaning, which negates what was previously understood by a given article of faith.

        The reason is clear enough. Once we were to admit the principle of giving to an article of Christian faith a quite different meaning from that which the Church has always intended and understood, all Christian doctrine would be menaced by a chaotic and destructive nominalism, in which the words by which we express our faith become mere empty labels, devoid of any clear, stable, and objective meaning. The Mormons, for instance, firmly profess belief in the "Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"; but by these words they mean three quite separate "gods" - a radically un-Christian idea! It was for this reason that Vatican Council I solemnly and infallibly condemned with an "anathema" the view that, "in accordance with scientific progress, the Church's dogmas can sometimes be given a different meaning from that which the Church has understood and understands" (Denzinger-Schönmetzer, 3043). If we apply Vatican I's principle to the particular case of Jesus' Resurrection, it is an undeniable fact that when the fourth-century Fathers of Nicaea formally defined the credal statement, "On the third day he rose," they intended to affirm a literal, historical understanding of the Gospel accounts: that is, in their minds the statement meant, "On the first day of the week - the third day after Jesus' death on the cross - His crucified body was truly raised to life." It follows that any subsequent theology of the Resurrection which would involve a denial of this fourth-century meaning - the meaning which the Church has always vigorously upheld - is excluded for Catholics.

        This is not just my opinion. When the old liberal Protestant idea of a "Resurrection" which supposedly did not involve Jesus' corpse began to surface in European Catholic thought some twenty years ago, the authentic teachers of the faith in that region were quick to exercise their collegiality in pointing out the falsity of this theology. In a letter directed to all those entrusted with teaching the faith in Germany, the Bishops of that country wisely drew attention to the same danger which Vatican I had in mind - the dissolution of all stable, objective meaning in the Church's formulations of faith. They rightly noted how - once we depart from the accepted, literal meaning of the Easter proclamation "Christ is risen!" - we are on our way down a slippery-dip consisting of ever more sceptical interpretations of that phrase, with no logical stopping-place short of its reduction to a mere pious metaphor. Said the German Bishops:

If the Easter proclamation represented nothing more than the attempt to manifest an internal experience, it would follow that the original interpretation of the primitive (Christian) community would lack any absolute, normative value. The experience of faith, according to which the real fact of Jesus continues, would lend itself to another interpretation - for example, that Jesus' faith and love have a permanent significance. ... The confession of Jesus' Resurrection as a real event belongs necessarily to the Christian faith: it cannot be understood as the product of a historically-conditioned interpretation - one capable of alternative formulations - of an internal experience within history, the world, and man. (L'Osservatore Romano, 16 December 1967, p. 5.)

        Three years later, when addressing the theologians and exegetes participating in a congress on Jesus' Resurrection, Pope Paul VI issued a grave warning to those "who call themselves Christians" while "denying the historical value of the inspired testimonies" to the Resurrection. The Pontiff insisted that Jesus' existence now is "not merely a glorious survival of his 'ego,'" and rebuked those authors who "interpret Jesus' physical Resurrection in a merely mythical, spiritual or moral way" (AAS 62 [1970] pp. 221-223).

        Then, in the early 1970s, when Fr. Xavier Léon-Dufour published a work suggesting that the emptiness of the tomb might have been due to some cause other than the restoration of life to Jesus' mortal remains, the French episcopate - by no means one of the more conservative Bishops' conferences - did not hesitate to speak out clearly against the deviant view of this internationally renowned French scholar (who, to his credit, revised this opinion in the next edition of his book). The Bishops of France declared:

The resurrection cannot be considered as a mere subjective experience, nor simply as the living Christ's "invasion" of the private lives of the Apostles.  ...  It is really the self-same body which the Word of God took from the Virgin Mary by the power of the Spirit, which was crucified and buried, and which was transfigured by the power of the Spirit. Such an affirmation has always scandalized those who claim to determine limits to the power of God and to the freedom of his love. ... The texts of the Gospels, demonstrating for us the continuity between the burial and the resurrection, the discovery of the empty tomb, and the sense-perceptible quality of the apparitions, intend to bear witness to the continuity of the buried body and the risen body, "to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:11). (L'Osservatore Romano, 26 March 1972.)

        John Paul II has recently stressed again the physical reality of the risen Christ. In his catechetical address of 27 January 1988, the Pope reaffirmed the immutable meaning of this article of faith:

To rise again means to return to life in the body. Although transformed, endowed with new qualities and powers, ... it is a truly human body. In fact the risen Christ makes contact with the Apostles; they see him, look at him, touch the wounds which remained after the crucifixion. He not only speaks to them and stays with them, but he also accepts some of their food. (L'Osservatore Romano, English ed., 2 February 1988.)

        As the French Bishops pointed out, this unashamedly physical character of Jesus' Resurrection has always scandalized those in whom a worldly spirit of skepticism about miracles has replaced a childlike trust in the power and freedom of God. This simple weakness in faith is the sad reality behind the exegetical sophistries which purport to "reinterpret" Our Lord's Resurrection on the third day. But in regard to this false, a priori scepticism about miracles in general, Pope John Paul II is no less definite and severe. We can do no better than conclude this brief reflection by quoting his catechesis of 9 December 1987:

As facts, they [i.e., miracles] belong to evangelic history, and the accounts of them contained in the gospels are as reliable and even more so than those contained in other historical works. It is clear that the real obstacle to their acceptance as facts of history and of faith is the anti-supernatural prejudice already referred to. It is a prejudice of those who would limit God's power or restrict it to the natural order of things, as though God were to subject himself to his own laws. But this concept clashes with the most elementary philosophical and theological idea of God, infinite, subsisting and omnipotent Being, who has no limits except in regard to non-existence and therefore the absurd. (L'Osservatore Romano, English ed., 14 December 1987, p. 3.)



 
        FR. EAMONN BREDIN AND THE RESURRECTION  

by Brian Harrison

        Fr. Eamonn Bredin is a lecturer in Systematic Theology at the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Mount Oliver in Dundalk, Ireland. In a recent book, Rediscovering Jesus (Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, Connecticut, 1986), Fr. Bredin devotes an important chapter ("Reading the Easter Narratives," pp. 214-229) to Our Lord's Resurrection. His ideas on this subject - unfortunately - are typical of a kind of "reinterpretation" which has become rather widespread in the last decade or so; therefore, in examining what Fr. Bredin has to say on this matter of crucial importance to our Catholic and Christian faith, we need to be conscious of not a few other theologians who have introduced into the Catholic fold very similar "re-readings" of the Gospel narratives. (There is nothing especially new about Fr. Bredin's basic approach; I remember reading not long ago an essay by Msgr. Ronald Knox, written in 1913, refuting the same basic "reinterpretation" of the Resurrection. The only novelty is that the approach has now been adopted by those teaching in the name of the Catholic Church - Knox was arguing against a liberal Anglican.)

        Church Teaching: The Easter Narratives Are Historical

        Since Fr. Bredin is offering us advice on "reading" the Easter narratives in the New Testament, Catholics will want to ask how this advice compares with the Church's perennial teaching - expressed recently and authoritatively by Vatican Council II - on how these narratives are to be read. The Council's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, article 19, makes it clear that

Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy maintained and continues to maintain, that the four Gospels,... whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up (cf. Acts 1:1-2).

        The Council goes on to point out that while the evangelists selected and edited the material that had come down to them, this was "always" (semper) done in such a way as to hand on to us "the honest truth about Jesus." As regards the Resurrection, the Council went out of its way to stress the historicity of the final chapters of each Gospel, which deal with the great miracle of Easter: the words "until the day when he was taken up," in the above quotation, were added to the final draft of the conciliar Constitution precisely in order to express unambiguously the Church's faith in the historicity of the Resurrection narratives.

        Fr. Bredin, however, insinuates right from the beginning that he is going to reopen a question that Vatican II says is closed. He begins his chapter on the Easter accounts by telling us:

These narratives came into being in the first place because disciples brought two thousand years of Israel's tradition to bear on the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth.

        But do fact-reporting narratives "come into being" because people "bring to bear" ancient traditions on anything? They come into being because people have witnessed real, new events; traditional ideas might well influence the interpretation placed on those events, but they do not cause the report of the events themselves.

        In fact, Fr. Bredin's basic methodological presupposition seems to be exactly the opposite of that which faithful Catholics must follow:

It is easy to be convinced that we already know what these narratives are saying before we approach them because of our traditional faith in resurrection.

Because we assume that we know what Easter is, what resurrection means, who God is, how history is to be understood, we will simply hear these narratives as confirmation of what we already know and not as a proclamation of what is shatteringly new. ... If we could admit the extent to which we are held captive by our presuppositions and consequently be prepared to redefine our cherished notions of history, of the relationship between God and the world, of what is and is not possible in the light of these narratives, we might be in a position to hear what these narratives are really saying to us. 1

        Now, as we have seen, Vatican II reaffirms emphatically that we must understand the NewTestament narratives (Like Scripture in general) in the light of the Church's Tradition. Fr. Bredin, however, seems to say the contrary - that if we want to "hear what these narratives are really saying," we must let this Tradition ("our presuppositions") be judged and corrected by some new insights or discoveries of himself and other modern scholars. We can hardly avoid suspecting that Fr. Bredin is going to ask us - presumably in the name of recent progress in exegetical and other sciences - to discard the traditionally accepted meaning of the article of faith, "On the third day he rose," in favour of a different meaning. But if so, such a proposal is ipso facto condemned infallibly by the solemn anathema of an ecumenical council of the Church. Vatican Council I defined:

If anyone should say that, in accordance with the progress of science, a meaning must sometimes be attributed to dogmas declared by the Church which differs from that meaning which the Church has understood and understands, let him be anathema. 2

        Unfortunately, Fr. Bredin soon lends further support to our suspicions. He even seems to cast doubt on whether it is possible ever to report events substantially the way they took place: "Human beings," we are told, "cannot express themselves without interpreting or interpret without transforming." 3 And, in fact, while the Church of Vatican II and all previous ages firmly believes that these Resurrection narratives faithfully hand on what Jesus really did and said, Fr. Bredin tells us that

it is helpful to realise that the Easter narratives are much more the poetry of love, expressing the most liminal of experiences, rather than pedestrian literal descriptions. 4

        The apostles' "experience" of the risen Jesus, according to Fr. Bredin, was analogous to the experience of "interpersonal love." 5 In other words, it was an internal experience of the heart and the affections, not a tangible encounter with one who had physically risen, who ate food with his disciples, and showed them his hands and sides bearing the marks of the nails.

        A "Resurrection" With No Visible Effect on Jesus' Corpse?

        So far, it will be noted, Fr. Bredin has not offered us any evidence for believing that the Resurrection narratives are "poetry" rather than literal fact. We are told that they are, but not why we should believe this new interpretation. Fr. Bredin goes on to acknowledge that after Jesus' death - which was immediately followed by the scattering of his disciples - something happened which led them to a very different position: they came to proclaim this Jesus "as not 'held' by death." 6 Our author very rightly sees that whatever caused this change of heart, which led to the emergence of Christianity as a world religion, "must have been extraordinarily strong and distinctive, otherwise they would have been reabsorbed easily into Judaism." 7 All the Gospel narratives, as Fr. Bredin observes, "give expression to the same basic Easter message: 'God has raised Jesus and he has appeared to Simon/me/us/them.'" 8

        Now, why are we supposed to interpret these "appearances" to the Apostles as something internal and invisible, when the narratives themselves, taken at face value, say the opposite? Fr. Bredin says that all too often, "visual representations of Easter" have "drawn on ... a literal reading of the Easter stories." 9 But he has still not told us why the stories should not be taken literally. He also states that our traditional "visual representations" have also unfortunately drawn on the apocryphal accounts of the Resurrection, such as the so-called "Gospel of Peter," which gives an alleged eyewitness account of Jesus actually coming forth from the grave. One suspects that very few Christian artists or ordinary faithful have, over the centuries, even been aware of the existence of these apocryphal "gospels," much less "drawn on" them for artistic inspiration. Bredin cites no documentary evidence to the contrary, but by now one is beginning to suspect that he regards such evidence as scarcely necessary: his seems to be an a priori feeling or conviction that things just couldn't have really happened the way the Gospels describe them. This suspicion is reinforced when we read, for example, that Our Lord's overcoming of death

is something that took place between the crucified Jesus and his God and Father and obviously there could be no eyewitness to such an event. 10

        The last clause here does not seem to this writer true at all, much less "obviously" true. Indeed, it so happens that there were in fact no eyewitnesses to the moment of Resurrection itself, because nobody was inside the sealed tomb with Jesus' body. But to say that "obviously there could be no eyewitness to such an event" seems to imply that the Resurrection had no visible or tangible effect on the crucified body of Our Lord at all, much less did it empty the tomb! Andthis is somehow supposed to be "obvious"!

        As well as the "mistakes" of reading the Gospel accounts literally (why not?) and drawing on ... the apocryphal writings" (who did so? - and when and where?), another reason for our traditional "misunderstanding" of the Easter narratives is "our own desire to reduce everything to the empirical level," according to Fr. Bredin. 11 Once again, a bare, unsupported assertion. Who are the "we" implied by the author's "our"? All Christians? The human race in general? What evidence is there that "we" in fact have such an all-encompassing "desire"? In any case, Fr. Bredin appeals to such phantom causes as these to explain a phantom effect: they make it "difficult," he says, "to think of Easter as being anything more than the simple resuscitation of a Jesus who is larger than life." 12

        Here we have quite a masterpiece of obfuscation and innuendo. In fact, if by "simple resuscitation" is meant a miracle such as the raising of Lazarus, then few Christians (other than the most ignorant and ill-instructed) have ever experienced the "difficulty" which Fr. Bredin implies is widespread. Ordinary Christians have always been well aware that Christ, unlike Lazarus, experienced something far greater than a return to ordinary mortal life, at the end of which He would eventually have to die again. The Gospel accounts of Our Lord's appearances make it clear that His glorified body enjoyed strange powers and qualities which ordinary mortals do not possess. It is hard to imagine that Fr. Bredin does not really know that most believers have always been quite aware of the difference between these two kinds of resurrection. What then is he driving at in his constantly repeated warnings against an error which no well-catechised believer ever commits? In the light of his previous statement that the Resurrection was "obviously ... such an event" as to be invisible to any possible eyewitness, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that by belittling the concept of "resuscitation," Fr. Bredin intends to prepare his readers gently for something which would alarm too many of them if he spelt it out bluntly: namely, the view that Jesus' dead body was never raised to life in any way at all. If it was raised, then, of course, a hypothetical eyewitness would have been able to see it either move, or simply vanish from inside the grave-clothes. Disparaging the idea of such a miracle by innuendo is a good way to prepare people for an eventual denial of it.

        Fr. Bredin goes on to attribute ambiguous, modern-sounding language to the disciples themselves, in their efforts to describe the Resurrection. According to our author, "they say" that their conversion is "due ... to an antecedent transformation of the crucified Jesus by God" - a Jesus who has now "graciously made himself present" to them. 13 "They claimed," we are told, that Jesus "had enabled them to encounter him in a new way after death." 14 But the "canonical accounts" which Fr. Bredin appeals to here do not confirm any such vague jargon, which could equally well describe a purely spiritual, non-physical, "survival" of death. According to the disciples, we are informed, Jesus

is now at the very heart of the heart of God. Here disciples begin to stammer, "for not everything has a name" and "words strain and crack and sometimes break ..." and "... after speech reach into silence." 15

        Once again, this is obfuscation: it is Fr. Bredin, not the disciples, who is "stammering." The Gospels and Acts clearly speak of a physical, tomb-emptying Resurrection, while Fr. Bredin studiously avoids joining them in that affirmation. He rightly claims that Jesus' Resurrection is something "more" than a Lazarus-type resuscitation; but what he seems to regard as "more," the disciples and commonsense Christians of all ages would regard as less - a "Resurrection" which did not even raise Jesus' body from the grave, let alone endow it with glorious supernatural qualities which the risen Lazarus did not enjoy.

        God's "act ... on behalf of the crucified Jesus" should not be understood, says Fr. Bredin, as

one act among other acts within our space and time and history. We are trying to come into contact with something that takes place beyond the fringes of human experience, that is metahistorical and yet is graciously refracted through human history. 16

        Would it not be better to say that the Resurrection took place at the fringes of human experience, not "beyond" them? We can, if we wish, think of Jesus' Resurrection as an exit or passage from "our space and time and history" to a new mysterious dimension of glorified existence. But just as an exit door at the "fringe" of a building is located at a definite spatial point of the building itself, so Our Lord's transition from death to glorified life had its starting point in ordinary human history: that is, at a definite time (36 hours or so after His death on the cross) and at a definite place (the tomb where His body was laid). To say this is by no means to "leave no room for wonder or mystery," or to "diminish" the Resurrection accounts to "a Lazarus-type return to this life" or to "the resuscitation of a corpse and nothing more." 17 Jesus' Resurrection is the resuscitation of His corpse and something more, namely, the mysterious, trans-historical glorification which leaves all the room in the universe for wonder and mystery.

        As we read on, the confusion sown (intentionally or otherwise) by Fr. Bredin becomes murkier still. Once again he warns us against "reducing the new creation to nothing more than the revival of a corpse." 18 This, he warns us, would be to stress the identity between the earthly and the risen Jesus at the expense of neglecting the glorious transformation which the Resurrection involved. 19 Now this warning would be perfectly orthodox (although, as we have said, rather trite and unnecessary) if it simply meant to remind us that we should not equate Jesus' Resurrection with the kind of miracle represented by the raising of Lazarus. But that Fr. Bredin does not simply mean this becomes clear when he goes on to say that we would be neglecting his warning if we were to "read, for example, the gospel stress on the identity and reality of the Risen One as literal physical description." 20 But, as Fr. Bredin must surely be aware, a literal reading of the Easter narratives clearly would not lead us to conclude that Jesus' Resurrection was just like that of Lazarus. As he has already said,

Even in the Easter stories that come closest to a more physical description of Jesus as raised (especially in Luke and John), he is nevertheless presented as no longer confined to our time-space continuum. 21

        It seems reasonable to conclude once again, therefore, that by telling us not to "reduce" the Easter event to "nothing more than the revival of a corpse," Fr. Bredin really wants to intimate that Jesus' corpse was not brought to life in any way at all. He offers no argument for this position, however, and leaves it with a thin veneer of orthodoxy only by insinuating - at a superficial level - a false identification between the idea of corpse-revival in general and the mere corpse-revival experienced by Lazarus.

        The Appearances of the Risen Christ

        When he comes to treat of the appearances of the risen Lord, Fr. Bredin also shows a tendency to attenuate the literal reality of what the disciples experienced.

        It may well be true that "the everyday experience of 'seeing' does not measure up to the uniqueness of these revelatory experiences." 22 Given the mysterious nature of the Lord's risen body, as this emerges from the Gospel accounts themselves, it could be true - although we cannot be sure of this - that one may have needed a special supernatural grace of some sort in order to see and touch Him after the Resurrection. If so, this in no way would mitigate the objective reality of His physical presence, any more than the objective reality of Mary's apparitions to young children in recent times is rendered doubtful by the fact that other bystanders could not see her.

        However, Fr. Bredin goes on to "suspect that the categories of 'speaking' and 'hearing' may also be less than adequate" for an understanding of the messages communicated by the risen Christ to His disciples. 23 The meaning of their encounter with Him, we are told,

was communicated at a level literally too deep for words and yet was grasped by them at that profound pre-linguistic level. The experience of non-verbal communication in contemplation or between lovers ("We were together and said nothing all the day") may help to throw some light on this experience. 24

        Within one brief paragraph Fr. Bredin moves from a mere suspicion that this might be the case ("we might begin to suspect" it) to an assertion that it was the case - but without any argument being given to justify such a transition. But it certainly needs justification: judging by the experience of recent visionaries, such as the children at Lourdes and Fatima, such supernatural communication can very definitely be a verbal one, even though the words received in such an experience were obviously not spoken in the "everyday" manner. Sister Lucia has always insisted that Our Lady of Fatima and the Angel of Portugal communicated certain precise words to her and the other shepherd children in 1916-17. Bernadette at Lourdes was given the exact words "Immaculate Conception" which were previously quite beyond her own limited vocabulary. How, then, can Fr. Bredin be so confident that the disciples did not really receive from the risen Christ the words attributed to Him in the Gospels themselves?

        Without answering that question, Fr. Bredin proceeds to an even more extraordinary non-sequitur. On the basis of this "suspicion" of a "non-verbal communication" - a "suspicion" which magically turned into knowledge within a few lines - he infers immediately that the words attributed to the risen Christ in the Gospels were not even due to the Apostles' own attempts to verbalize what they had "grasped" at this "pre-linguistic level"; rather, they were due to the attempt of later Christians:

It seems permissible then to say that the words placed on the lips of the Risen Jesus in the Easter stories are later attempts by the community to give expression to what had at first been communicated to them at this most profound level. 25

        The word "then" implies of course that this assertion is supposed to follow logically from what has already been said. But so far we have been shown no reason for supposing even that there was a "non-verbal" communication instead of the real words recorded in the Gospels, much less that these words were "placed on the lips of the Risen Jesus" by the later community rather than by the Apostles who first encountered Him. In other words, Fr. Bredin is simply presenting us with an unsupported hypothesis - one which in fact is by no means in harmony with the constant teaching of the Church regarding the historicity of the Gospels.

        The Tomb's Emptiness - Not Caused By the Resurrection?

        It is Fr. Bredin's treatment of what he calls "the tomb stories" which, perhaps, reveals most clearly his dissatisfaction with the traditional Christian belief that Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

        He begins by warning that "we may be tempted to more or less identify resurrection and the empty tomb"; however, "The Scriptures offer no basis for such an identification." 26 Now, to begin with, this statement (like much contemporary theological writing) is simply poor English expression. Clearly, nobody could be "tempted" to "more or less identify" an event (the Resurrection) with the empty tomb, which was not an event at all, but a thing, a place, an object. It would be nonsense to "identify" (that is, equate) an event with a non-event. What Fr. Bredin presumably means to say is that we may be "tempted" to postulate a causal connection between the Resurrection and the empty tomb, but that the Scriptures offer no basis for our doing so.

        In view of such passages as Mark 16:6 - "He is risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him!" - this is surely an astounding position to adopt. Any child could see that the Gospel accounts present the emptiness of the tomb as an effect of Jesus' Resurrection; and yet we are solemnly assured by Fr. Bredin that this is not the case! (Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, after making a similar error in his book Jesus, at least corrected it subsequently. 27)

        When we look for evidence in support of this novel interpretation of the Gospels, all we find is further non-sequiturs. Fr. Bredin tells us that

there are so many difficulties and inconsistencies within the tomb stories themselves that no harmonization of details is possible. 28

        Now, even if it were true that the details cannot be harmonized (a position which we consider mistaken, but will not undertake to rebut here), that would not alter the fact that all four Gospels clearly agree on the substantial elements: that the tomb was found empty by one or more worsen on the first day of the week, and that this emptiness was proclaimed by one or more angels to be due to Our Lord's bodily Resurrection. Where, then, is Fr. Bredin's evidence that "the Scriptures offer no basis" for our thinking that the Resurrection was the cause of the tomb's emptiness? Our author goes on to quote with approval Walter Kasper, who maintains that although Mark's tomb story is older and less "legendary" than the others, "It is clear that in its present form at any rate, it is in no way a historical account." 29 If Mark's account, and therefore the more "legendary" ones as well, are "in no way" historical, that means they are substantially non-historical. Fr. Kasper's reasons for saying this appear ostensibly to be largely literary ones. As quoted by Fr. Bredin, he says that in Mark's empty tomb narrative,

We are faced not with historical details but with stylistic devices intended to attract the attention and raise excitement in the minds of those listening. Everything is clearly constructed to lead very skilfully to the climax of the angel's words: "He is risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him" (16:6). 30

        For the substantial non-historicity of the "tomb stories," then, we have been offered only two pieces of "evidence," namely, the (supposed) incompatibility of the details in the respective Gospel accounts, and the alleged literary skill of Mark in presenting his account. But this is completely unconvincing. If several witnesses write an account of some dramatic event - say, a fire in a large building - some years after it took place, we will almost certainly find some discrepancies of detail - differences, for instance, as to what time it broke out, how long it took to be extinguished, how many people were seen to jump from its windows, and so on. But what serious historian would take this as evidence that the reports were "in no way historical," and that perhaps the fire never took place at all?

        Likewise, the argument from literary style proves nothing at all. Even if Mark had written his account even more "skilfully" - in the form of exquisite poetic verses, let us say - that would not be an argument against its historicity. Gerard Manley Hopkins, for example, wrote a very moving poem, "The Wreck of the 'Deutschland,'" after reading in a newspaper an eyewitness account of this real-life shipwreck. He kept to the essential facts, even while expressing them in a creative and imaginative way. Any critic who argued from the mere fact of the poetic literary form adopted by Hopkins to the non-historicity of what he describes would of course be deceiving himself. Moreover, one suspects that in the case of Kasper's argument from the absence of conventional historical form to non-historical content in the Gospel "tomb stories" there is an additional fallacy - that of begging the question. What evidence does Fr. Kasper offer for his claim that the form of these stories is not in fact that of conventional historical writing or fact-reporting, but rather, that of "a narrative intended as the basis for a cultic ceremony"? 31 One would want to ask Fr. Kasper, "Supposing the women did in fact go to the tomb on the first day of the week, find it empty, and meet an angel who told them that Christ had risen from the dead; how in that case would a normal first-century historical form of reporting these extraordinary events differ significantly from the form which we in fact find in Mark's canonical account?" One suspects that no convincing answer at all would be forthcoming; certainly, Fr. Kasper himself offers none. This in turn strongly reinforces one's suspicion that Kasper's appeal to style and form is only a smokescreen: he seems to have judged the form of these stories to be non-historical simply because of their content; that is, because of what they say rather than how they say it. Thus, Fr. Kasper feels entitled to call Mark's mention of the angel a "stylistic device," not because of the way the evangelist talks about the angel, but simply because he talks about it at all. Angels as such are to be understood as a "stylistic device."

        In short, we are told that the content is not historical because the form is not historical (which in itself would be a non-sequitur), only to find out that the reason for judging the form to be in fact non-historical is its (self-evidently) non-historical content - angels appearing and bodies being raised to life.

        The exegetical arguments offered here for "non-historicity" are in themselves so transparently flimsy, as we have seen, that we doubt they could convince men as intelligent as Kasper and Bredin unless bolstered up by some powerful "hidden persuader," such as a philosophical world view which excludes direct or miraculous actions of God in the physical order as outside the realm of the possible or credible. But, as Pope John Paul II affirmed in a recent catechetical address, such a world view "clashes with the most elementary philosophical and theological idea of God." 32 Disbelief in miracles (in the true and proper sense of sense-perceptible events which cannot be explained by secondary, natural causes) is thus radically incompatible with Christian faith. 33 Yet this indeed seems to be very close to the world view of Fr. Kasper as recently, at least, as the mid-seventies. 34 He then wrote of the theological "task of coming to terms with the modern understanding of reality as represented primarily by the natural sciences" (as if there were only one such "modern understanding"). 35 Kasper continues:

The premiss of the scientific approach is a wholly law-bound determination of all events. ... In scientific theory there is no room for a miracle in the sense of an event with no physical cause and therefore no definable origin. 36

        That Fr. Kasper is confusing this particular philosophical position with real science - in the sense of certain and true knowledge which "modern" man just has to accept - becomes clear a little further on, when he tells us that any "miraculous" event

always comes about through the action of created secondary causes. A divine intervention in the sense of a directly visible action of God is theological nonsense. 37

        On the contrary: it is precisely this opinion of Fr. Kasper - which amongst other things would presumably rule out such "directly visible actions of God" as the raising of a dead body and a virginal conception - that seems like theological (and philosophical) nonsense. Why should the One who created the material universe from nothing find it impossible or unseemly to work further marvels?

        Let us return to Fr. Bredin. He concludes his discussion of the "tomb stories" with another tendentious piece of bad reasoning - and bad theology. These stories are important, he says,

but of itself an empty tomb does not prove anything, least of all the resurrection of Jesus (Jn 20:8-9). In fact, these stories are emphatic that its emptiness at first led to confusion, fear, and dismay because it was open to many interpretations. If it were empty, it needed an explanation. The faith of the disciples is faith in the raising of Jesus, not in an empty tomb. 38

        Why this constant stress on the ambiguity of the empty tombs Of course it is true that "of itself" an empty tomb does not prove that Jesus rose from the dead. But no traditional Christians have ever supposed that it did. Nobody has ever imagined that, without the appearances of the risen Christ, an empty tomb alone would be sufficient evidence that He had been raised to life. What one looks for, and significantly fails to find, in this sort of currently fashionable theology, is the recognition that the tomb's emptiness, although not indeed sufficient, is nonetheless necessary, for an authentic, well-founded belief in the Resurrection (not to mention the Church's teaching that the Gospels are historically reliable). It is essential because, if Christ's mortal remains stayed permanently lifeless (whether in the original tomb or somewhere else) then His triumph over death was less than complete. There would in that case be no evidence that His entire human nature was raised to eternal life; on the contrary, the corpse would be devastating evidence that it was not, and that any subsequent apparitions of the risen Christ - no matter how lifelike - were basically just illusions or at best, visions of a more conventional type. (Angels, after all, are often recorded in Scripture and elsewhere as appearing in human form, even though they are by nature invisible pure spirits.) Now, if Christ's whole human nature was not raised and glorified for all eternity, what grounds have we for hoping that our bodies, too, will be restored to us?

        And what becomes of the Incarnation itself? A God who becomes incarnate in "throwaway" flesh which is ultimately left to rot in the grave seems more akin to the Manichaean or gnostic deity than to the God of the Bible. (Apart from any other consideration, how could we be said to receive the true Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist if the tomb was not emptied by the miraculous raising of that Body and Blood?) Indeed, the whole tone of Fr. Bredin's discourse seems somewhat out of harmony with a robust faith in the God who took our flesh: his repeated disparagement of "mere" resuscitation of a corpse; his denial that the apparition accounts are a "literal, physical description"; his rejection of any "identity" (presumably meaning inseparable causal connection) between the Resurrection itself and the empty tomb; and his scandalous quotation 39 of 1 Corinthians 15:50 ("Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable") in a context which insinuates that St. Paul himself did not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus' flesh and blood. (The Apostle clearly means only that this mortal flesh and blood as we now know it - weakened and destined for death because of sin - cannot "inherit the kingdom of God.")

        The "Third Day": Real and Chronological or Only "Theological"?

        Fr. Bredin's implied thesis - that Jesus' crucified body was never raised to life at all - becomes all but explicit when he criticizes traditional believers who may "tend to say" that "the resurrection took place on Easter Sunday morning." 40 All true Christians, of course, must not merely "tend to say" this, but confidently assert it. This belief, however, is not caused by "our desire to locate the eschatological," as our author asserts, 41 but by the Hew Testament accounts themselves. Fr. Bredin makes the unconvincing suggestion that by "the first day of the week" the Gospel writers did not really mean "Easter Sunday morning": instead of "understanding Sunday in terms of the Jewish Sabbath," says Fr. Bredin, we should take this Gospel expression in some symbolical, trans-temporal sense, since it is "speaking to us about the significance of the new week of the new creation." 42 We are given no evidence whatever in support of this non-chronological understanding of "the first day of the week" - just bare assertion. But the Gospels themselves make it transparently clear that they are speaking literally and chronologically, "in terms of the Jewish sabbath." According to Matthew, the women went to the tomb "After the sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week" (28:1); Mark says they went on the first day of the week "very early in the morning" and "when the sabbath was over" (16:1); Luke says the women set off "On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn" (24:1); while John says it was "very early on the first day of the week and still dark" (20:1). (Fr. Bredin does not ex plain how a mystical, non-temporal "first day" could be "dark" or show "signs of dawn," nor why all four evangelists should have lapsed suddenly into a non-literal, poetic genre for a few words in the middle of an otherwise straightforward record of events following on from the account of Christ's death and burial.)

        The fact is that these accounts, infallibly interpreted as historical and factual by the unanimous and emphatic consensus of the Fathers and two millennia of sacred Tradition and the Magisterium, affirm unmistakably this "location" of the Resurrection-event at a definite point in time, as well as in space. Like Edward Schillebeeckx and various modern exegetes, Fr. Bredin also wants to "de-temporalize" the credal expression, "the third day." He tells us that, in Scriptural usage, this expression

is not primarily about chronology but about theology and salvation. In the Bible the third day is a way of speaking of divine vindication and fulfilment. It is the crucial time, the decisive turning point when God overcomes all distress and disaster (see Hosea 6:2-1) [sic]. 43

        One need only glance at the "evidence" offered for this interpretation in order to see that it is a merely sophistical attempt to rob words of their obvious meaning. One piece of "evidence" does not come from the Bible at all: Fr. Bredin speaks of a "Jewish tradition" which anticipated the resurrection of all the dead "three days after the world's end." 44 (Even then, he presents us with no reason for supposing that the ancient Jews who held that tradition did not understand it literally and chronologically.)

        What of Fr. Bredin's Biblical evidence? He refers us to Hosea, where the prophet speaks of God's chastisement and subsequent comfort:

Come, let us return to Yahweh.
He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us;
he has struck us down, but he will bandage our wounds;
after a day or two he will bring us back to life,
on the third day he will raise us
and we shall live in his presence. 45

        We have here a typical example of the well-known parallelism in Hebrew poetry, wherein an idea is repeated using slightly different wording. The Jerusalem Bible, in a footnote on this passage, observes that even within this poetical form, the temporal expression still has a chronological meaning: the phrase, "after a day or two ... on the third day," means "before long." Another footnote makes the same point about the words "on the third day" used by Jesus in predicting the consummation of his ministry (cf. Luke 13:31-33, verses which Fr. Bredin also quotes). A brief time - even if not a precisely specified time - remains the essential meaning of the phrase in that context. Fr. Bredin then also refers to the words attributed to Jesus by His accusers regarding the raising up of the temple "in three days" (Mk 14:58, Mt 26:61). No more evidence than this is offered - and no more argument. How then can Fr. Bredin feel justified in concluding that, "In the Bible the third day is a way of speaking of divine vindication and fulfilment"? The "logic" seems to be:

        1. We find the expression "third day" in Biblical passages speaking about divine vindication and fulfilment.

        2. Therefore, the expression is not to be taken literally as referring to a point or period of time, but to the divine vindication and fulfilment (or, as Fr. Bredin also puts it, texts about Jesus rising "on 'the third day' are speaking primarily about the definitive action of God" inaugurating the new creation 46).

        It need scarcely be pointed out that this is a non-sequitur. One might as well argue that since the expression "nine months" occurs repeatedly in the literary context of discussions about pregnancy, childbirth, and pre-natal care, it should not be taken as a literal expression of time, but as a symbolical reference to the process of procreation as such, or to the dignity and wonder of motherhood.

        The demythologized "third day" theory would thus be entirely gratuitous, even if the Bible always did in fact use this expression when talking about "divine vindication and fulfilment." But this is not the case. On the one hand, only some of the "third days" in Scripture occur in such a context, while on the other hand, some events which do show such "vindication and fulfilment" are recorded as taking place on various numerically specified days other than the "third." Apart from Hosea's prophecy and the New Testament references to the Resurrection itself, we do indeed find that in Exodus 19:11,15, and 16 the expression "third day" occurs in a context which suits Fr. Bredin's thesis: the Lawv was given dramatically at Sinai on "the third day." The same could be said for its occurrence in Judges 20:30, Esther 5:1, 1 Kings 12:12, 2 Kings 20:5,8 and John 2:1.

        But in Genesis 1:13 (the third day of creation) God is not "vindicated" more than on the other days of creation. In Genesis 22:4 we learn that Abraham's offering of Isaac took place on the third day after he and the lad had left home; but the emphasis here is on the "vindication" of Abraham, not of God. It is the patriarch who is put to the test and found worthy of God's promises. In Genesis 31:22 the expression comes in a matter-of-fact narrative in which nobody is "vindicated" or "fulfilled," while in Genesis 34:25 it is a treacherous massacre on the part of Simeon and Levi which occurs on the "third day," resulting in the displeasure of their father Jacob. In Acts 27:19 the "third day" is merely one stage in a storm at sea that lasts several more days, while in Leviticus 7:17 and Numbers 19:12,19; 29:20; and 31:19 we have ritual prescriptions for certain actions to be carried out on the "third day," none of which involves any special action or manifestation of God's power. In short, the majority of Old Testament references to the "third day" do not in fact contain any special reference to the "divine vindication and fulfilment. "Various other passages certainly do, however. God "fulfilled" his creative work on the sixth day, not the third - and rested on the seventh (Genesis 2:2). In Joshua 10:32 we read that "Yahweh gave Lachish into the power of Israel and Israel took it on the second day and struck it and every living creature there with the edge of the sword." Yahweh was triumphantly vindicated and praised on the "fourth day" after Judah's victory over Edom (2 Chronicles 20:26), and it was surely a great day of vindication for God when, after the Israelites arrived back in Jerusalem from exile, the precious silver and gold vessels were restored to the temple on the "fourth day" after their return (Ezra 8:33). And of course, for the Jews the day of divine vindication par excellence was the great feast of the Passover, commemorating the Lord's preservation of Israel from the angel of death who slew the first-born of the Egyptians. But this event - and the Jewish feast commemorating it - took place not on the third, but the fourteenth day (Exodus 12:6, Leviticus 23:5, Numbers 9:3, etc.)

        The point, we think, has been sufficiently made, and we shall not weary the reader by piling up further examples. As any Biblical concordance will show, there is at least one Scriptural reference to each numerically specified day from the "first" to the "seventeenth" inclusive, and after that to the 20th, 21st, 23rd, 24th, 25th and 27th days. Those with sufficient time and interest can investigate for themselves just how many of the events recorded in these dozens of verses might be understood as constituting in some sense a "divine vindication or fulfilment." Small wonder that Old Testament exegetes never detected any particularly privileged status in this regard for the "third day" until the post-Bultmannian age, when a priori worldly scepticism about miracles made Jesus' crudely temporal (and therefore physical) Resurrection an embarrassment for some exegetes, and prodded them to seek some recondite pretext for "de-chronologizing" that vital credal phrase, "on the third day."

        Just how exegetically weak that pretext is becomes even clearer if we notice that in few if any of the above references is there even the slightest literary indication that the mention of a numerically specified day is to be understood in some symbolical, non-literal, atemporal sense. The overwhelming majority of these references - whether to the "third day" or to any other specified day - occur in the context either of matter-of-fact historical narratives, or of ritual prescriptions for Israel's ceremonial law. And these, by their very nature, require a straightforward literal interpretation.

        "Humpty Dumpty" Theology: Discarding Doctrines by "Redefining" Them

        How, it might be asked, can a theory so lamentably defective from the viewpoint of honest exegesis come to be taken seriously by scholarly churchmen such as Schillebeeckx, Bredin, Kasper, and others? After all, most intelligent unbelievers would join with intelligent orthodox Christians in recognizing as sophistry the idea of reading a plainly chronological term so "theologically" that its meaning becomes lost in cloudy realms of mystification; and of "reinterpreting" a physical, tangible, visible miracle account as the record of an inward "revelatory experience" in which "Simon 'sees' Jesus as no longer held by death." 47 As Michael Dummett (head of the department of Logic at Oxford University) has recently remarked, currently fashionable "reinterpretations" of this sort can succeed only in making the Catholic Church "a laughingstock in the eyes of the world." 48 Normally, well-educated people recognize that if you cannot accept the message conveyed by the clear, natural meaning of words, you should admit your disbelief candidly - to yourself and others - rather than behave like that classically ridiculous figure, Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty, who made words mean whatever he wanted them to mean.

        That this recognition is evidently lacking amongst many highly cultured theologians and exegetes therefore requires explanation. The explanation, we suspect, is largely sociological. The revisionist scholars are largely clerics and religious: they form part of a Church community to which, at the human level, they have deep personal and emotional attachments. An open abandonment of that community - a step which would naturally follow from explicit abandonment of the community's faith - would in many or most cases be very traumatic; and so "reinterpreting" the familiar and reassuring language can produce a comforting illusion of continuity with tradition.

        Compounded with this is the factor of peer-group reinforcement. The elite group of theologically liberal scholars who currently control the most prestigious Church academies and publications tend to share the same basic assumptions, and thus constantly reassure each other of the correctness - or at least, the acceptability - of those very positions which appear most obviously weak to thoughtful observers (believers and unbelievers alike) outside the elite.

        A final sociological factor encouraging the theological "newspeak" which robs words of their authentic meaning is the existence of doctrinal controls (however debilitated and inactive) in the Christian denominations - and in particular, the Catholic Church. Unlike a secular university professor, a teacher of theology does not (and indeed, should not) possess the "academic freedom" to teach whatever his own private thinking and research may lead him to believe. He is accountable to a particular religious community which expects its own fixed creed to be up held by those who teach in its name. This Leads inevitably to a certain subculture of euphemism, innuendo and ambiguity: a kind of theological literary genre develops in which writers tend to avoid clarity of expression and precise, honest statement of their views. After all, that might shock the ordinary faithful too brutally, and provoke disciplinary action by ecclesiastical authority. It is often much more effective and reassuring (to oneself and others) to abandon traditional doctrine by means of "reinterpretation" rather than by outright denial.

        Abandonment, however, it remains. The revealed truth in question is injured just as surely whether it is betrayed by a kiss or by the sword. In the case we have been considering, we find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that Fr. Bredin has abandoned one of the foundational truths of the Gospel - the "good news" of Jesus' Resurrection - even while strenuously professing (and no doubt sincerely intending) to uphold it. He damns it with faint praise - or rather, denies it with faint affirmation.

        Resurrexit tertia die - "On the third day he rose." This is a central article of the Christian creed, and the traditional universal sense of the Christian faithful - not to mention Vatican I's anathema against giving new meanings to old dogmas (DS 3043) - guarantees that the original, authentic, essential and immutable meaning of this central credal affirmation is precisely that Jesus' body was raised to life on the (chronological) third day after his death on the cross. Therefore one must conclude by asking whether Fr. Bredin, who implies clearly that no such miraculous event ever took place at all, can be said to believe truly in Jesus' Resurrection, any more than a pantheist (who acknowledges, but "redefines," the Supreme Being) can be said to believe in the God of the Bible.


ENDNOTES

1. Cf. Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II (Rome: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1978), vol. IV, part V, p. 723.

2. Bredin, Eamonn, Rediscovering Jesus (Mystic, Connecticut: Twenty-Third Publications, 1986), p. 214.

3. Ibid., pp. 214-215.

4. Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum, No. 3043.

5. Bredin, op. cit., p. 215.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid., p. 216.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid., p. 217.

12. Ibid. (emphasis added).

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., p. 218.

18. Ibid., p. 219.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid., p. 221.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid., p. 220-221.

24. Ibid., p. 223.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid., p. 224.

29. In the "Annexed Note" to the letter of 20 November 1980 sent by Cardinal Franjo Seper (Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) to Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, is the following "Rectification" made by the latter (Section I:C, n. 3): "Dans Jezus ..." (p. 284) "je ne mettais pas assez de lien entre le tombeau vide et la resurrection. J'ai par la suite réalisé que ce lien était pour les auteurs du N.T. plus étroit que je ne l'avais pensé d'abord." ("In Jesus ... I did not do justice to the link between the empty tomb and the Resurrection. I have since realised that for the authors of the New Testament this link was a stronger one than I had thought at first.") Published in the volume Documenta Inde a Concilio Vaticano Secundo Expleto Edita (1966-1985), published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Rome, 1985, p. 200.

30. Bredin, op. cit., pp. 224-225.

31. Kasper, Walter, Jesus the Christ (Ramsey, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1977), p. 127. Quoted in Bredin, op. cit., p. 225.

32. Ibid.

33. Ibid.

34. Speaking of miracles in his Wednesday allocution of 9 December 1987, the Holy Father said, "As facts, they belong to evangelic [sic] history, and the accounts contained in the gospels are as reliable and even more so than those contained in other historical works. It is clear that the real obstacle to their acceptance as facts of history and of faith is the anti-supernatural prejudice already referred to. It is a prejudice of those who would limit Godís power or restrict it to the natural order of things, as though God were to subject himself to his own laws. But this concept clashes with the most elementary philosophical and theological idea of God, infinite, subsisting and omnipotent Being, who has no limits except in regard to non-existence and therefore the absurd." (L'Osservatore Romano, English ed., 14 December 1987, p. 3 [emphasis in original].)

35. Vatican Council I solemnly defined, "If anyone shall have said that miracles are not possible, and hence that all accounts of them, even those contained in Sacred Scripture, are to be banished among the fables and myths; or that miracles can never be known with certitude, and that the divine origin of the Christian religion cannot be correctly proved by them: let him be anathema." (DS 3034.)

36. It was reported at the time of the 1985 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops that Fr. Kasper, who was appointed theological secretary of the Synod, had changed some of his opinions in a more traditional direction in recent years.

37. Kasper, op. cit., p. 93.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid., p. 95.

40. Bredin, op. cit., p. 226.

41. Ibid., p. 221.

42. Ibid., p. 227.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid.

46. Ibid.

47. Hosea 6:1-2 (Jerusalem Bible translation).

48. Bredin, loc. cit.

49. Ibid., p. 228.

50. Dummett, M., "A Remarkable Consensus," New Blackfriars, October 1987, p. 431.


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