Living Tradition
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.
Please address all correspondence    e-mail:
Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA

No. 52 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program May 1994


by Brian W. Harrison

I - The Trap of Self-Contradiction
II - The Trap of Contradicting Literary Science
    a.  The Creation narratives: an "invisible" literary genre?
    b.  Unsuccessful attempts at discovering an inerrant non-historical genre
III - A Way Forward: Neo-Patristic Exegesis
        I. The Trap of Self-Contradiction  

        Those who anxiously whittle down and attenuate the traditional Catholic faith to the point where it includes no affirmations whatever about physical, material realities (such as conception, virginity, crucified corpses, the earth, sun, stars, etc.), on the grounds that such matters fall within the competence of "science," do a very good job of what they set out to do: their theological bomb-shelter is indeed impregnable against any possible bomb which might be launched by physicists, geologists, historians, etc. No such missile could ever damage that kind of "faith," any more than a cloud can be damaged by firing a shot-gun at it: there is nothing solid there with which the shot might possibly collide. Nevertheless, if the Catholic Church ever came to adopt, or even officially permit, this scientifically-ever-so-respectable theology, her rational credibility would suffer death by the "asphyxiation" of self-contradiction. Let us see why this is the case.

        The Roman Catholic Church's basic stance toward religious truth is not that of a plodding investigator. Rather, it is that of a faithful witness. Unlike scientists who search for truth in nature, or Protestants who search for it in the Bible, the original Church dating back to Christ Himself claims to have possessed the truth already for two thousand years, handing it on faithfully and continuously from generation to generation, like a flaming Olympic torch which is scrupulously kept alight as it is passed from runner to runner. This is why her theologians can never simply imitate the methodology of other disciplines, in which the mark of intellectual integrity is open-mindedness, and a modest willingness to acknowledge and correct past mistakes. That kind of "modesty" is a luxury which the Catholic Church simply cannot afford; or at least, she can afford it only to a limited and circumscribed extent: that is, in regard to past teachings or theological positions to which she has never committed herself in a thoroughgoing or definitive way.

        For the credibility of an investigator and that of a witness have to be judged according to very different criteria. An investigator only need avoid self-contradiction in what he says at any given time. Provided he does that, he may - and indeed, should - contradict what he said only yesterday, if he happens to have found new evidence overnight that his previous view was mistaken. But a witness in a court of law is subject to more exacting requirements. Unlike the investigator, he is asking us to believe certain things on the strength of his word, not on the basis of publicly available data which the rest of us can inspect and evaluate for ourselves. He is asking us to trust him as a reliable source of information which is otherwise inaccessible to the rest of us. This means that in order for him to be credible in the claims he makes, he must avoid not only contradicting himself while under cross-examination today; he must also avoid contradicting today what he said yesterday -or the day before. Once he gives his clear, emphatic, sworn testimony to something, he must forever stick by it, and be able to defend it, on pain of destroying his whole credibility. Now, things like creeds and dogmas and solemn papal or conciliar definitions are the emphatic "sworn testimony" of the Catholic Church in bearing witness to the truth of God as it is revealed in Jesus Christ and in the natural moral law. So are those doctrines which, even though not defined in such specific documents, have been taught by a solid consensus of Popes and Catholic Bishops round the world as being "definitively to be held." 1

        This analogy should help us to see the folly of those modern theologians and exegetes who think it admissible to indulge in "bomb-shelter" theology to the extent of discarding or "re-interpreting" those definitively taught doctrines from our Catholic heritage which they feel are - or even might be in future - vulnerable to scientific bombardment. Because they are imitating the investigative mentality of the merely human disciplines ("let's be humbly willing to correct our mistakes"), they can enjoy a superficial aura of intellectual sophistication and respectability, especially if (as usually happens) these scholars work in a university environment. What they fail to realize is that, precisely from the standpoint of intellectual credibility, this "pick-and-choose Catholicism," which clings to scientifically "untouchable" doctrines while surrendering the scientifically "vulnerable" ones, is simply laughable. If the Church were an unreliable witness on any one definitive doctrine - a "sworn statement" - then there would be no justification for continuing to believe any of the rest. If it were true that science could demonstrate the falsity of one or more such doctrines, the intelligent response would not be to "correct," "reinterpret," or otherwise patch up those particular doctrines, while continuing to preach and teach the rest as though nothing had happened. The intelligent response would be that which has in fact been chosen by such ex-theologians as Charles Davis and Anthony Kenny (but not, for instance, by Hans Küng): complete abandonment of the Catholic Church. Outright apostasy can at times have a certain amount of intellectual integrity and coherence about it; mere heresy is always intellectually bankrupt.

        There are many theologians today who speak as though revelation deals only with transcendent mysteries that are quite beyond the reach of human science or reason. But in fact the Church's two-thousand-year witness includes "sworn testimony" not only to `intangible“ mysteries such as the Trinity, the Real Presence, Grace, the Redemptive value of Christ's death, life after death, and so on, but also to "solid" truths in a more or less literal sense: those involving physical matter existing on this earth in time and space. The Church has insistently proclaimed as revealed truth, for instance, that Jesus was conceived in His Mother's womb while she was yet a virgin, and that His mortal remains were raised to life in His resurrection. As both Vatican Councils affirm, revelation includes not only the completely transcendent truths, but also others "which in themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason" but which for many people would in fact be difficult to ascertain by their own unaided reason. Thanks to their inclusion in revelation, however, such truths "can, in the present condition of the human race, be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty, and without the contamination of error." 2

        In his work, The Science of Historical Theology, 3 Msgr. John F. McCarthy has emphasized the importance of these revealed truths which are also accessible to reason - or at least, to some people's reason -and in particular those such as we have already mentioned, which belong to the field of history. As he says, they can be described as "revealed history," or "past revealed reality." The virginal conception of Our Lord, for instance, is a historical fact which is accessible to most of us only through revelation. (Indeed, it was accessible to the natural reason of only one person, Our Lady herself. Mary knew, without any help from revelation, that she had never had intercourse with any man and yet was pregnant. St. Joseph and all the rest of us needed a revelation from on high to guarantee such an extraordinary fact.)

        Today's fashionable bomb-shelter theology, however, in what might be called an overreaction to the Galileo case, refuses to accept the idea of "revealed history." One such theologian of my acquaintance scoffed at such a concept as an oxymoron - a contradiction in terms. According to him, if a truth is revealed, then by definition it cannot be historical, and vice versa. And he appealed to Vatican II's teaching on the "rightful autonomy of science" (which here means "science" in a broad sense to cover history as well as the physical sciences) in order to justify his position. He pointed out that in this passage the Council rebukes those Christians who neglect this autonomy. Such believers, it says, "have occasioned conflict and controversy and have misled many into opposing faith and science." 4

        This theologian's thinking went more or less as follows: " We churchmen burnt our fingers badly over the Galileo case. We went right out on a limb by making statements that were open to scrutiny from the human sciences: statements about concrete, empirically observable things and facts in time and space. And what happened? The limb was rudely chopped off! We were shot down in flames! Then we were almost shot down again when some of us tried to argue with what turned out to be the scientific fact of evolution. Now at last, with Vatican II, we've learned our lesson. From now on, theology cannot afford to present as revealed truth any kinds of propositions which, now or in future, might come up for scrutiny by the human sciences - history, biology, astronomy, geology, or whatever. All such propositions come under the jurisdiction of these sciences, and belong to their area of "rightful autonomy." The Church must stick to ethical statements, and truths which are completely supernatural: the kind which no human science could even investigate. That which science cannot in principle even touch, it can certainly never disprove!"

        In other words - according to this approach - the task of showing the harmony between faith and reason should now be carried out by sorting through our inherited doctrinal baggage and classifying its contents according to subject-matter. Those which make statements (especially controversial ones) involving historical and physical realities (e.g. dead bodies or the conception of babies) can now be discarded as excess baggage. We are to leave them lying above ground, as it were, where they will be exposed to possible bombing-raids on the part of the historical or physical sciences. If they never actually get hit, well and good. But if they do, it doesn't matter. They are expendable, negotiable. Meanwhile, we will gather up the remaining doctrines - the purely transcendent or supernatural ones we have received from our Catholic heritage - and scurry off with this "survival kit" to an underground bunker with a sign on the door saying "revealed truth." Here, in our theological bomb-shelter, our faith will be utterly impregnable from all possible scientific explosions.

        But this line of defence against the accusation that faith is unreasonable will not work at all. In the first place, it is clear that Vatican II cannot mean by the "rightful autonomy of science" the idea that revelation, by definition, can never include any statements of a "scientific" (i.e. physical/historical) nature. That would make the Council contradict itself. Gaudium et Spes cannot be read as contradicting Dei Verbum, which, as we have seen, repeats the teaching of Vatican I that some revealed truths are also truths in principle accessible to unaided reason. (In fact, the Council even gave a specific example of such truth: the textual history of the first sentence in Dei Verbum, §19, shows that it was carefully drafted so as to maintain that the historicity of the Gospels is a truth which is both revealed and accessible to unaided reason.) In rebuking Christians who do not respect the "rightful autonomy" of science, Vatican II did not mean there cannot in principle be any such thing as a revealed physical/historical fact; rather, it means that we must make very sure (by means of a careful exegesis of Scripture and careful survey of what has been said by the Church Fathers and Magisterium) that a given historical/physical proposition really is revealed, before we go asserting it as such to all the world. The Council had in mind here the Galileo case specifically. 5 But even assuming that Galileo's inquisitors were scientifically wrong (and there are now - since the 1970s - some Catholic and Protestant scholars with PhD's in physics and astronomy who maintain that they were scientifically right, i.e., that geocentrism is the truth 6), their error was not in supposing that if the Bible makes assertions about physical reality, these must be accepted as revealed truth (a supposition which they did indeed make - and very rightly). Rather, their error lay in faulty exegesis: in supposing that the Bible does in fact assert a particular physical proposition (geocentrism) which it does not really assert. We have to say that that was the error which led them to trespass unwittingly into the autonomous domain of science.

        This can perhaps be explained more clearly with the aid of a diagram. The propositions of revelation and those of the physical/historical disciplines are not, as bomb-shelter theologians try to make out, in two totally separated compartments. Rather, they can be thought of as enclosed by two overlapping circles ("intersecting sets," to use the standard mathematical term) which produce three compartments:

revealed vs physical/historical propositions         In compartment 1 belong completely supernatural revealed truths, which no human science could ever discover (for instance, "There are three Persons in one God," "Grace is necessary for salvation," "Purgatory exists"). At the opposite side of the diagram, in compartment 3, we have all the myriad non-revealed propositions, both true and false, of the human sciences (e.g., "Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen;" "There are six planets in our solar system;" "Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941"). And in the middle (Compartment 2) we have those truths with "dual citizenship," as it were, belonging both to the set of revealed propositions and to the set of historical/physical propositions (for example, "Jesus was virginally conceived," "Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt," "The emptiness of Jesus' tomb was due to a miracle involving His corpse").
        Now, bomb-shelter theology thinks there cannot in principle be any truths at all in Compartment 2 - that it must be an "empty set," as mathematicians say. It sees the whole of Circle B as a "danger zone" for theology, and as falling unilaterally under the autonomous domain of scientists. Its proposed solution, therefore, is simply to declare that only those doctrines found in Compartment 1 can qualify as revealed truth. Compartment 1 is in fact the bomb-shelter - safely out of range of any possible weapons, present or future, of the human sciences, by the very nature of its subject-matter.

        But this is certainly not what the Catholic Magisterium implies when it speaks of the "autonomy" of human disciplines. The Church's "sworn testimony" (whether by her ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium) includes many assertions which belong in Compartment 2. The fault which Gaudium et Spes finds with Galileo's inquisitors, then, cannot be their insistence that there are in fact some truths in Compartment 2, but their theological/exegetical incompetence, which led them to think that a certain proposition (geocentrism) was part of the Church's non-negotiable "sworn testimony" (Circle A), when in fact it was not. So they insisted on locating it in Compartment 2, when in reality this proposition belonged in Compartment 3, along with all those other merely human hypotheses about physical/historical reality, which, enjoying no necessary guarantee of being true by virtue of being revealed, are under the exclusive jurisdiction of scientific investigation by scientific methods. And it was by those methods that (if we are to believe the great majority of scientists) geocentrism was proved false. In short, the inquisitors' defective awareness of the autonomy of science was the result of a prior defect in their understanding of the Bible.

        Propositions which really do belong in Compartment 2 are also within the jurisdiction, but not the exclusive jurisdiction, of scientific and historical method. Since they are revealed, the Catholic can know a priori that a correct use of scientific and historical method will never refute such truths. They are on open, exposed, ground rather than down in the bomb-shelter; but faith assures us that any bombs directed at them by skeptical scientists will always in fact miss the target, falling safely to the right or the left. That is, such attacks will always turn out to be bad science, just as Galileo's inquisitors were guilty of bad theology. For between good science and good theology there can never be any real contradiction. 7 (It is bad science, for instance, to say, "It is impossible for any virgin ever to have a baby." Good science can only say, "In the normal course of natural events, virgins cannot have babies" - a truth which does not conflict with the supernatural exception to the rule which took place in the case of Our Lady.)

        The "bomb-shelter" attempt to guard the rationality of faith, then, far from being taught by the Church's Magisterium in Vatican II, is excluded by the Council, as it is by the pre-conciliar tradition as well. However, this approach not only contradicts the Magisterium; it also contradicts reason itself by flouting the first law of logic, "Thou shalt not contradict thyself." Instead of helping the intelligent unbeliever to accept the faith, it will only make the faith appear more ridiculous than ever to him. This is the point we wish to explain more fully now.

        As we have already remarked, the Catholic Church's fundamental posture towards the truth she proclaims is not that of an investigator reporting on the latest state of his research, but that of a witness bearing personal testimony. The Church is a 2000-year-old "person," who remembers what Jesus and the Apostles taught, and is committed to handing on this message intact. Now, can a witness under cross-examination in a court case change his testimony from one day to the next without losing his credibility? It depends on what we mean by "change." He can add further details which might be drawn out of his memory by further questioning; he can clarify the meaning of what he said before, if it looks as if his interlocutor has misinterpreted him; he can change his emphasis, if it looks as if too much or too little attention has been given to something he previously said; and he can even get away with contradicting himself on a few details that are not central to his testimony, and were mentioned more or less in passing, rather than clearly, repeatedly and emphatically affirmed. In spite of the inevitable rhetoric of the interrogating lawyer in regard to such lapses, the jury may well decide, prudently, that they are due to normal and honest imperfections in human memory which do not seriously undermine the witness's credibility in what really matters.

        These kinds of acceptable "change" in the witness's testimony find their parallel, of course, in what we call the development of Catholic doctrine, which continually presents new facets in keeping with the new circumstances - and new questions - that arise in every age. But just as an individual witness will destroy his credibility by contradicting previous sworn testimony which was asserted firmly, emphatically, and perhaps repeatedly, so the Church would destroy her credibility by attempting to "correct" a supposed "error" which had at any stage in the past formed part of her firm, emphatic, and perhaps repeated, "sworn testimony" - her solemn ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium. 8

        If it is a question, then, of deciding whether a given doctrine under fire could possibly be an error, standing in need of correction, the first and most basic question to ask is not "Does this issue fall within the competence of some human science?", but quite simply, "How emphatically have we asserted this in the past?" We must look first not at its subject-matter, but at Denzinger. And if we should find there (or, of course, in other records of past magisterial teaching) that our "sworn testimony" on this particular doctrine is absolutely firm and emphatic, then it is already much too late in the day for us to consider the possibility of "correcting" it. We must stand by our testimony, and "stick to our guns" in the face of all possible "scientific" arguments against the doctrine. Even if we do not always have a ready answer to such arguments, we can know on the basis of our faith that they are invalid and that true science will in due course find an answer to them, since any real contradiction between faith and science is impossible.

        This is the approach insisted upon by Pope Leo XIII in the great encyclical on biblical studies, Providentissimus Deus (18 November 1893), the Centenary of which we have just celebrated. Recognizing - and therefore repeating - the massive, emphatic and virtually unanimous consensus of Tradition regarding the absolute inerrancy of Scripture, the Pope explicitly rejected the facile and faithless "solution" of trying to "back down" and surrender to the "autonomy of science" some part of the field which had previously been claimed by the Church and her Magisterium. In a passage of the encyclical which is quoted in a footnote to Vatican II's teaching on biblical inerrancy, 9 Leo XIII urged exegetes to confront rationalistic objections to the historical and scientific truth of Scripture in the spirit of "the Fathers and Doctors," who engaged in what is ridiculed by most of today's biblical scholars as "concordism": the time-honored process of "ingeniously and devoutly laboring to harmonize and reconcile with each other those many passages which seemed to imply some contradiction or discrepancy (and they are the same objections which are raised today in the name of a `new science“)." 10

        In a controversial article which eventually elicited a Vatican correction, 11 the Australian theologian Fr. David M. Coffey attempted to justify his view that Our Lord's resurrection was purely `spiritual“ (in the sense of not involving His corpse in any way) by what could be described as a classic one-line statement of bomb-shelter theology: "the magisterium has no competence in matters known or knowable from science." 12 In terms of our above diagram, the basic mistake is in trying to withdraw Church authority altogether from Compartment 2, so as to leave the whole of Circle B to the unilateral jurisdiction of the human disciplines, whereas in fact they are entitled to that sort of total autonomy only in Compartment 3. What a faithful Catholic has to say is that the Magisterium has competence wherever it has constantly, emphatically and firmly claimed competence in the past. Such claims form the Church's non-negotiable "sworn testimony," which she can never go back on from now until Judgement Day without destroying her credibility as a reliable witness to divine revelation.

        It should be clear by now why this kind of dogged persistence in sticking by what we have said for two millennia is not "triumphalism," pride, obscurantism, or mere "fear of change." It does not harm the Church's rational credibility at the bar of reason, as bomb-shelter theologians imagine, but is essential precisely in order to save it from the manifest irrationality of their own "solution." A witness, in contrast to an investigator, cannot afford to "correct" serious mistakes, because he cannot afford to admit ever having made them! Imagine a witness in a court of law who finds himself embarrassed by the contrary evidence of a certain Miss A., or by that of several other witnesses in regard to his activities on a certain date at Village X. And imagine the response if the witness tries to get out of his difficulty by asking the court to continue believing only certain areas or sections of what he had previously sworn emphatically under oath: "Yes, well, what I said about Miss A. wasn't really too accurate, I guess. But I assure you that what I said about Mr. B and Mrs. C is God's truth! And as regards what I said about what happened at Village X on April 15, you'd best forget that. But you can take my word for it - scout's honor! - that on April 16 I spent the whole day at Village Y, just as I said before!"

        Nobody in the courtroom, of course, will henceforth take this witness's word for anything. He has destroyed himself. And neither will any intelligent agnostic (the type of "modern man" for whom an attenuated, "demythologized," bomb-shelter theology hopes to make the faith more credible) take the Church's word for anything, if she retracts her previous emphatic "sworn testimony" on even one important point. If the Church could be wrong in proclaiming for two thousand years (in the teeth of rationalistic opposition, ancient and modern) that Jesus' dead body was raised to life on the third day, why should anyone in his right senses regard her as trustworthy when she keeps on proclaiming that there are three Persons in one God, or that we are destined for heavenly glory after death?

        Here, then, we see the basic error of bomb-shelter theology. It is so intent on guarding the faith from all possible attacks from the "bombs" of the secular scholarly disciplines that it unwittingly prods the Church toward a suicidal self-contradiction. In its excessive preoccupation with appearing "respectable" in the sight of the physical and historical sciences, it unconsciously flouts the first principle of the even more fundamental science of logic.

        II. The Trap of Contradicting Literary Science  

        A) THE CREATION NARRATIVES: AN "INVISIBLE" LITERARY GENRE?   The second way in which the Church would risk being "asphyxiated" by irrationality if she were to commit herself to the "bomb-shelter" approach has to do more with the field of biblical studies as such than with dogmatic theology. If the Roman Catholic Church must forever persevere (under pain of a fatal self-contradiction) in affirming the dogmatic principle that there exists a category of "dual-citizenship" truths which are both revealed and physical/historical, one of the specific questions that arise when we apply this principle to the field of Scripture studies is whether the truth of the creation accounts (Genesis 1-3) falls into this category, or not. Few people professing to be Catholics will want to say that this opening section of the Bible is simply "false" or "untrue." The big question is, What sort of truth does the Holy Spirit want to communicate to us here? I want to suggest that the dominant "bomb-shelter" approach to this question among Catholic scholars seems to run the grave risk of being so one-sidedly barricaded up against the perceived threat of contradiction from the physical/historical sciences (in this case, their "cosmological" branches which investigate the beginnings of the universe, the earth, and life) that it is becoming wide-open to the unperceived threat of contradiction from the literary sciences: those which help us to understand the meaning of written documents of all types.

        In a recent article on the problems of Genesis 1,
13 Msgr. John. McCarthy has recalled the impressive (some theologians might say "ominous") weight of Catholic tradition to the effect that Genesis 1-3 was intended to be understood as physical/historical truth, and insists that we take this seriously. He reminds us 14 that on 30 June 1909 the Pontifical Biblical Commission gave us an unqualified and emphatic decision to that effect. It insisted not merely that these three chapters contain "objective reality and historical truth," but also that they contain nothing else! That is, the Church's supreme authority on biblical matters, and the Pope himself, forbade Catholics to hold that these chapters contain "legends partly historical and partly fictitious." 15

        Now, the stock reply of today's bomb-shelter theologians and exegetes is that this is a "non-infallible" teaching which has become such an embarrassment to the Church that the very Magisterium has long since tacitly disowned it as another Galileo-type blunder. It is true that neither this statement in isolation, nor any other isolated magisterial statement saying the same thing, qualifies as an infallible ex cathedra definition; and in what follows I will assume, purely for the sake of argument, that the teaching itself is not infallible. That is, I will assume that there has never in the course of Church history been any significant period wherein a consensus of Popes and Catholic bishops round the world have taught it as "definitively to be held" 16 that Genesis 1-3 narrates "objective reality and historical truth," with no admixture of "legend" or "fiction." As a matter of fact such an assumption appears to me at first sight dubious; but to investigate whether it is well-founded or not would require another complete study. One suspects strongly that the Biblical Commissioners in 1909, conscious of the Galileo precedent, would already have made such a study - very competently - before feeling obliged to "go out on a limb" yet again against the prevailing views of the physical sciences. No matter. For present purposes let us assume that the Commissioners overestimated the strength with which Sacred Tradition had asserted the complete historicity of Genesis 1-3. We shall suppose for the moment that this belief, like geocentrism in ancient and medieval times, was merely taken for granted by Church leaders as a `secular“ truth or a common opinion, rather than affirmed emphatically as religious "sworn testimony" which Christians are forever obliged to proclaim and defend.

        On this assumption, one cannot accuse the various `symbolical“ rather than `literal“ views of Genesis 1-3 which prevail at present among Catholics of nudging the Church toward that kind of fatal self-contradiction which we explained in section I of this essay. The supposedly untenable literal view would be like the minor or unemphatic details (obiter dicta) in a courtroom witness's testimony. He can "get away with" correcting them - still maintaining his overall credibility on the things he has really emphasized.

        This consideration, however, by no means implies that our apologetic difficulties with Genesis 1-3 are resolved, as is supposed by bomb-shelter exegetes, who, nervous at the thought of the Big Bang and all the other astronomical and geological affirmations of modern science, hurry to "reinterpret" these chapters as saying nothing whatever that could possibly be either confirmed or demolished by physical/historical science. Such an approach is now standard even among Catholic scholars and journals with a reputation for theological sobriety -even conservatism. A good example is a recent article 17 in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review by the renowned scholar, Fr. Stanley L. Jaki, who would probably be the last person to "demythologize" such doctrines as the Virginal Conception or Bodily Resurrection of Our Lord. We shall return to this article in due course, but first it seems useful to express in the form of a syllogism the "conservative" Catholic position which Fr. Jaki appears to represent:

        (I call this a "conservative" Catholic position, because more liberal Catholics would not even accept the major premise, even though it has been asserted perennially, emphatically and unwaveringly by the Magisterium up to and including Vatican Council II, in Dei Verbum, §11. They are quite happy to say openly that biblical assertions can be outright errors - a position which the Church could never of course adopt without destroying her rational credibility for the reason explained in section I above. Some of these liberals would argue that, according to Vatican II, only those biblical assertions which are "for the sake of our salvation" are guaranteed to be error-free - and that there are other (non-salvific) biblical assertions which enjoy no such guarantee. This interpretation - which even has to suppose bad Latin on the part of the Council Fathers! - is ruled out by the official relatio given to the Fathers in explanation of the text. What DV §11 means is that all biblical assertions are there "for the sake of our salvation" - some of them, of course, related to it much more remotely than others, and thus requiring less precision or exactitude in order to count as error-free, i.e., true, in the context of literature which does not aim to teach science or history for their own sakes.) 19

        Let us consider the above syllogism. At first sight it seems to have solved the problem of science and Genesis with such spectacular and effortless success as to make it look almost like a non-problem to begin with! It respects logic (the conclusion follows ineluctably from the premises); it respects Catholic orthodoxy regarding the Bible (it is faithful to the Church's solemn Magisterium - her non-negotiable "sworn testimony"); and by accepting the minor premise, the believer can feel perfectly confident and at ease with any possible scientific theory or demonstration of how the universe and ourselves really came into being. What could be more satisfactory! Pity those poor fundamentalists wallowing in the mires of a "concordism" which seeks vainly, and above all unnecessarily, to reconcile the specific affirmations of Genesis with those of science! Surely Fr. Jaki's condescension is justified as he exhorts such benighted souls to "remind themselves that it remains the duty of all genuine Christians to make their faith, in the words of Paul ... (Rom 13:1), a fully reasoned worship?" 20

        Such is the facile solution offered by a "bomb-shelter" hermeneusis of Genesis. One just reduces the asserted content of the creation accounts to a few simple transcendental propositions (for instance, "God made everything good"; "God made man in his own image"; "God made everything there is with the greatest ease") so that their "true" meaning is safely secluded or cordoned off from any conceivable damage that could be occasioned by the bomb-blasts of empirical science. However, it may be that among the ranks of the "fundamentalists" there are some who, far from needing to be "reminded" of St. Paul's appeal for a "fully reasoned" faith, are motivated by it in their own creationist research, and are perturbed that it is precisely the bomb-shelter brigade who seem to be oblivious to it.

        Consider this little parable. In a certain far-off land the dominant religion includes the dogma that on the dark side of the moon there are large craters full of salt water. Comes the twentieth century and space-travel. Rocket-ships finally get to photograph all angles of the moon, including the dark side. The believers are cast into deep anguish and a crisis of faith by the terrible news that, while the new photographs indeed show plenty of craters, all of them are bone-dry! At first there is a reaction of rejection. The hierarchy assures the faithful that the photographs are all faked, as part of a Satanic plot. As time goes on, however, this becomes hard to sustain, since some astronauts of hitherto unquestioned orthodoxy themselves take part in a space-flight to the moon and see for themselves the faith-shattering emptiness of those great craters, reporting this sad news to their brethren on return.

        Many of the faithful leave the Church in disillusionment; but for others, faith does not remain shattered for very long. The more learned theologians soon come up with a "bomb-shelter" solution which satisfies well-educated, sophisticated believers. It can be set out in another syllogism.

        This eminently reasonable solution comes to be accepted by the bulk of the faithful, because after all, it is logical (the conclusion follows ineluctably from the premises); it is orthodox (the traditional dogma is faithfully preserved); and by accepting the minor premise, this revised faith is perfectly in line with the latest developments in science. Armed (and comforted) by this modern development in doctrine, the guardians of the new orthodoxy can afford to shake their heads condescendingly at the tiny minority of fundamentalists, who, in their naive literalism, regard the new theology as nonsense and continue to insist on the hypothesis of hoax and fraud in all the photographs and testimonies regarding the craters. These theological illiterates, locked into their narrow, fortress mentality which leaves no room for growth or flexibility, keep on stubbornly maintaining that if the traditional interpretation of moon-water turns out to be indefensible, the whole religion will be indefensible. The only perplexing thing for the more enlightened believers is that the great bulk of their contemporaries seem to agree with the fundamentalists on this last point. The new theology, designed especially to make faith more credible for modern scientific man, seems to hold little attraction for him. The churches keep on emptying, as a greater consensus grows outside the Church that there is, quite simply, no water of any sort on the dark side of the moon.

        (During the days of the worker-priest movement in France after World War II, one of its leaders, the Abbé Michonneau, reported that he had had to revise one of his presuppositions when confronted with social reality. The movement started largely under the influence of a fashionable left-leaning theology. The workers have become alienated from Christianity mainly because they see the Church as standing on the side of capitalist exploiters, right? Wrong. Michonneau found, when talking to real workers, that a much more common reason given for unbelief was the conviction that modern science had demolished the Book of Genesis. 21)

        What lesson, then, can be learnt from this comparison? Somebody will say that my imaginary syllogism is a mere caricature of the very real and currently respectable one regarding Genesis. And perhaps some non-Catholic reader will say that I seem to be very free in throwing stones for one who himself lives in a glass house: who am I to go laughing at a belief in "invisible water" when I and all orthodox Catholics profess a firm belief in the invisible Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist?

        But I am not laughing at a belief in "invisible water" as such. If the conclusion to my second syllogism raised any sort of a smile on your lips, dear reader, then ask yourself why it did so. After all, suppose I had begun my tale by saying, "Once upon a time there was a tribe that venerated water as the source of all life. One of the mysteries handed down from their ancestors was that a certain sacred shrine contained an ancient phial which, as far as human eyes could see, was quite empty, but which in fact contained a sacred, supernatural water - the source and well-spring of all earthly water." I suspect this would have elicited very few guffaws. You might have thought, "Well, they were pretty superstitious tribesmen. Anyway, what next? If this is a joke, I'm waiting for the punchline." Whereas when you read the Conclusion to my syllogism about the moon-water, you immediately knew it was the punchline of a joke.

        And that is precisely the point. What makes the "invisible water" laughable in the syllogism is the fact that it comes at the end, and not at the beginning. One expects religions to have mysteries, but normally they are traditional mysteries, handed down from what are (or at least, what believers understand to be) the authoritative, foundational sources of the religion itself. (This of course is the case with Catholic belief in the Eucharistic Presence.) But in our parable of the moon-water, its invisibility is a brand-new "mystery," which no believer (or unbeliever) has ever heard of before! It pops up out of nowhere at the end of a syllogism. And it springs, moreover, not from some kind of organic or logical development based on the religion's own doctrinal and spiritual patrimony; rather, it is forced abruptly upon the believers by a minor premise coming from an outside source which is coldly indifferent - even irreverent - toward these sacred sources: the merciless glare of empirical observation. The real incongruity in the situation, of course, is that the learned theologians are engaging in sophistry in accepting this new "development," while the "stupid" fundamentalists (like the faithless bulk of their ordinary fellow-citizens) have enough common-sense to see that the whole thing is completely "phoney," even if they might not be able to explain in an abstract way where the fallacy lies. As in the old fable, it takes the simplicity of a child to see that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.

        It is not in fact as easy as one might think to give an abstract exposition of this common-sense insight; but perhaps the basic grievance of the poor fundamentalist gives us the clue. For the reason we have already given, his major complaint with the new theology of moon-water - and a very reasonable one it is - will not so much be its intrinsic implausibility (his faith may well already include other marvels as wondrous as invisible water), but rather, "Why didn't we ever hear before now that the moon-water was invisible? And anyway, since when were we supposed to learn our religion from astronauts rather than from the gods?" Reflecting on these naive, but very pertinent questions, we can perhaps formulate the following principle:

        If, in a syllogism wherein the truth of at least one premise is not immediately obvious, the Conclusion: (a) is not itself true in any obvious way; (b) is the sort of proposition which, if true, is normally reached by quite different methods of inquiry from those of the syllogism; and (c) has never been, and is not now, supported by any evidence from those methods proper to it, or by any other evidence independent of the Major and Minor of the syllogism; - then in that case it is gratuitous and unscientific to affirm that Conclusion as true. Rather, it should be presumed that one (or perhaps both) of the premises which entail such a groundless assertion must be false.

        In the case of our parable, the Conclusion fulfilled condition (a), because the assertion that invisible water exists is by no means obviously true. It fulfilled condition (b), because it is the kind of proposition which, if true, would normally have to be proposed as a supernatural mystery, backed up by some pretty convincing and well-attested miracles on the part of the one proposing it. This is not, however, the way in which the sect's theologians arrived at their "new mystery." And it fulfills condition (c), because the founding fathers or prophets of the religion never so much as hinted that the moon-water might turn out to be invisible. Nor has any new prophet appeared declaring that the invisible water is indeed there, and backing up his claim with some astounding prodigies. And finally, there is not a shred of evidence from any other independent source for the truth of the conclusion.

        (There could conceivably be such evidence, of course. We can imagine a scenario in which, with the further advance of technology, space-ships can not only photograph, but also visit, the craters. But as the first landing-craft approaches the crater-floor, disaster strikes! As it descends past the rim of the crater, still 400 feet above ground-level, the craft is rocked by a resounding SPLASH! The crew feel first their boots, then their trousers and other clothes, soaked by a rising inundation of ... water no human eye can see! With the whole of planet earth watching in horror on television, the craft takes its passengers to an invisible watery grave; but the last words transmitted to earth by the doomed radio-man before his equipment sputters out remain forever engraved on the memory of the human race: "The water! It's (gulp) - it's (glug) - SALTY!!" For the faithful, victory has indeed been snatched from the jaws of defeat: the naked Emperor turns out to be clothed in splendor and majesty after all. The only moon-water believers who seem slightly embarrassed in the midst of this spectacular triumph are the more radically progressive bomb-shelter theologians, who have for years been teaching the new generation of clergy not to be so naive as to anticipate this kind of outcome from the long-awaited crater-landing. It had become axiomatic in such sophisticated circles that moon-water is to be understood as not only invisible, but also intangible.)

        Once again, certain readers may object that while some people might find this all very diverting, there is no serious point to it all. After all, am I not just caricaturing responsible modern theology by my syllogism about the moon-water? Well, only in that its Major premise is clearly a lot more implausible than that of the first syllogism (i.e., the divine inspiration of the Bible), so as to make the point more clearly. But I am seriously maintaining that the reasoning process which leads today's respectable Christian theologians to postulate a "non-literal," or "non-factual," literary genre for the Genesis creation accounts is every bit as invalid and unscientific as that which led our "moonies" to revise their theology in such a startling way. They produced a brand-new mystery unsupported by any appropriate evidence: invisible water. And our learned men since the middle of the last century have also produced a brand-new mystery, unsupported by any appropriate evidence: an invisible literary genre.

        If anything, I think the moonies' conclusion is more scientifically respectable than that of our own wise men. By limiting themselves to the proposition that the water is invisible, they did not retreat completely into the bomb-shelter. That is, they still left their dogma exposed or vulnerable to further scientific scrutiny by leaving open the question of whether the moon-water (though demonstrably invisible) was at least tangible or not. And that very exposure to scientific testing, which placed them in great danger of yet more blows and ridicule from science, also left them a slim chance of having their traditional religion triumphantly vindicated by science! That was the point of the parenthetical paragraph above.

        However, our real-life situation regarding Genesis seems to me more desperate. A century and a half after the existence of a "non-historical" literary genre for Genesis 1-3 was suddenly "deduced" from the studies (not in Hebrew literature, mind you, but in geology and biology) of scholars such as Lyell and Darwin, our exegetes are still looking for it. One recalls here the status of the planet Pluto in the late 1920s: astronomers had deduced that it "must" be out there before they actually spotted it with telescopes. Since their deduction was based on methods proper to the discovery of heavenly bodies, it is not too surprising that they found what they were looking for in short order (in 1930, to be precise). And since our deduction about the existence of a "non-factual" literary genre in Genesis 1-3 was not based on methods even remotely connected with literary criticism, it is also unsurprising that we have not found what we are looking for, even after more than a century of searching. Unsurprising - and also unreassuring as regards any reasonable prospect that the search might one day be successful. Since all appropriate literary methods have so far failed to identify the creation accounts as belonging to any known "non-historical" genre (such as poetry, drama, apocalypse, fiction, midrash, allegory, parable, etc.), and since the field of literature (unlike that of nature) now contains very little unexplored territory, then it might be time to recognize honestly that this genre which just "has to" be there is one which is permanently undiscoverable by any method at all which human ingenuity can devise! In terms of the parable, our "water" has failed not only the visibility test, but also the tangibility test. For us, not only the crater photographs, but also the crater landing-craft, have failed to discover that "water" which we believe "must" be there. This is why I say that our fantasy syllogism about the moon-water, far from caricaturing the real-life syllogism about science and Genesis, is actually too gentle with it! Today's new "orthodoxy" regarding the literary genre of Genesis 1-3 is in fact more ridiculous than the "new interpretation" of moon-water produced in the moonies' hour of crisis. They felt obliged to postulate the reality of invisible water; our most respected Catholic theologians have for decade after decade felt obliged to postulate an invisible and intangible literary genre for the Genesis creation accounts.

        Of course, not all of our exegetes and theologians are as honest as the moonies in openly admitting that the object of their search remains invisible (i.e., undiscovered by independent methods or evidence). It is now very common to hear, for instance, that the true genre of the creation accounts has now been identified as "folk history" 22 or "popular history." But when we scratch the surface it becomes evident that these "genres" will by no means qualify as the kind whose existence was deduced in the syllogism on page 6 above, for the simple reason that they would contradict its major premise: the inerrancy of Scripture in all that the author asserts. It is dishonest to try to disguise error (or what one believes to be error) by the simple expedient of inventing a new label for it and then calling it a "genre." We can imagine the reaction in court if a witness whose testimony has been exposed as full of lies tried to defend himself by saying, "I was not `lying;“ I was merely speaking in a non-historical genre!" But the "genre" of "folk history" or "popular history" is no less a sophistry than this: at least, when it is postulated by someone who professes to believe that every assertion in Genesis 1-3 is free from error. For these "genres" turn out to mean, more or less by definition, mixtures of truth and error.

        Fr. Bruce Vawter, for instance, defines "folk history" as a "genre" in which "historical and legendary elements frequently and inevitably appear side by side." 23 Of course, the "legendary" elements which Vawter thinks are in Genesis 1 would not count as "errors," any more than our Lord's parables are to be considered "errors," if there were some way in which the inspired author communicated to his readers that these "legendary elements" were in fact legendary, and were being presented not as historical or scientific fact, but as symbols or metaphors with some didactic purpose. But Fr. Vawter, far from presenting evidence that the author and his readers recognized the "legendary" elements as legendary, assures us they did not! He tells us that their "non-scientific mind" mistook the legends for reality. The Genesis author asserts, for instance, that the sun was created on the fourth day, after light was already created on the first day. Fr. Vawter's comment is that this shows us how he (and his readers) "did not necessarily see a connection between the sun and daylight." 24 In other words, we are being told that the Genesis author both asserted and believed something which did not correspond with reality. That of course is the very definition of error; but Fr. Vawter will not say it is an error, because Catholics are forbidden by the Magisterium to say that Scripture errs. The problem is "solved" by resorting to a euphemism: instead of calling statements of this sort errors, one simply classifies them as part of a "genre" called "folk history."

        Thus, our main point still stands. The "non-historical" (but still inerrant) genre for Genesis 1-3 whose existence was deduced from the scientific revolution by last century's "progressive" Catholic exegetes, was rejected by the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1909, but is now accepted by nearly all "conservative" Catholic exegetes, remains perennially "invisible." That is, it remains a deduction, a postulate, which has yet to be discovered and identified by the methods proper to the study of literature. Such scholars are agreed only as to what sort of genre these chapters are NOT (namely, the "genre" of reliably stating physical/historical fact); but (if we exclude "genres" like "folk history" or "popular history," which are thinly-veiled admissions of error), there is no agreement as to what sort of genre they ARE.

        In brief, what urgently needs to be discovered by the champions of our syllogism, and has notoriously not been discovered by them, is convincing empirical evidence from the literary sciences to back up and give credibility to their a priori deduction from the physical sciences that these opening chapters of the Bible were never intended by the author to be taken as factual step-by-step accounts of what really happened.

        B) UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS AT DISCOVERING AN INERRANT NON-HISTORICAL GENRE.   The point we have been making so far may be appreciated more readily if we consider a couple of recent attempts to discover and identify a "non-historical" genre for the Creation accounts which (unlike "folk history" and its like) would genuinely avoid the attribution of formal error to the inspired author(s). First, however, some preliminary observations will be in order regarding the criteria to be used in evaluating the success or otherwise of such attempts.

        Let us look again at the Conclusion to our syllogism. One deduces from the inerrancy of all biblical assertions, and from the supposed scientific refutation of a literal reading of these accounts, that "the author(s) of Genesis 1-3 did not intend to assert in these chapters a factual, historical account of how the world and man began." This raises the following question: if indeed the Genesis author(s) never even intended to give a literal, factual, step-by-step account of what really happened, was there some way that the original readers or listeners might have been expected to discern this non-literal intention? Was there some convention of style or language (like "Once upon a time ...," which tells modern readers that what follows belongs to the literary genre we call a fairy tale)? Or perhaps some "give-away" characteristic in the structure or composition of Genesis 1-3 which provided a key to the author's real intention for his audience? After all, they certainly knew nothing of those scientific considerations which motivate modern Christians and Jews to be on the look-out for some kind of poetic or imaginative literary genre in these chapters.

        Now, if we answer "No" to this question - that is, if we suppose that the inspired writer intended to speak figuratively, symbolically or imaginatively rather than historically and factually, but gave no clue whereby his Hebrew readers could have discerned this intention - then this amounts to saying that he was consciously deceiving them. The true "genre" of Genesis 1-3 would in that case be practically the same as that which moralists call a "strict mental reservation" - something which is rightly denounced as being merely a thinly-veiled lie.
25 A strict mental reservation occurs when I say something which I know you will understand in a certain way, and which, when understood in that way, does not correspond to the truth. However, I pretend that I am not lying to you by telling myself that I "really" mean the statement in another way which is in fact true. But there is no possible way you could be expected to guess or discern this "true" or "secret" meaning! So I am really being hypocritical in pretending to myself that I am not lying. The example given by moralists Jone and Adelman is someone who says: "`I have not stolen“ - and adds mentally - `with the left hand, but with the right.“" 26

        Now, since conscious deception is clearly incompatible with divine inspiration, this negative answer to our question is ruled out. Those who wish to sustain the syllogism will thus have to answer that the Genesis author(s) indeed must have provided the original audience with some clear means of discerning that non-literal intention which modern Jews and Christians have now felicitously rediscovered thanks to scientists such as Darwin and Lyell. But a formidable difficulty attends this position: what is this clue or convention by which the Genesis author flashed a "Don't-take-this-literally-now-folks!" signal to his original readers or listeners? And why was it that all subsequent scribes and rabbis for at least two millennia - men who dedicated their lives to the study of the Hebrew Scriptures and could scarcely be accused of ignorance about its literary conventions - simply lost sight of this vital key to the interpretation of Genesis, transmitting to posterity (including the Fathers of the Christian Church) the disastrous error that it is intended to be taken literally?

        This massive testimony of tradition as to the truly historical character of Genesis 1-3 is after all what weighed so heavily with the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1909. It will not do to brush this aside with a remark to the effect that science has come a long way since 1909. The point is that, whether or not that be true, rabbinic and Patristic studies have not come very far at all since that date. Not, at least, in what concerns the present controversy. Our knowledge of what the Church Fathers and old Jewish commentators said about Genesis 1 is practically the same now as it was at the turn of the century. The Biblical Commission knew then, and we know now, that practically none of them read Genesis as "imaginative" or "symbolical;" practically all of them understood it to affirm the way things actually took place. Fr. Jaki states regretfully that "Even the greatest" classical commentators such as Basil, Augustine and Aquinas were "guilty of concordism," which he considers a "radical misunderstanding" of the text. 27 Fr. Jaki defines "concordism" as any attempt, ancient or modern, to show "that there is an agreement, a concordance, between the majestic diction of Genesis 1 and the science of the day." 28 He insists that this grievous error must be utterly uprooted and cast out, in favor of what we have called the bomb-shelter approach: we are now to understand the Genesis author as intending to say absolutely nothing about how the universe really and factually came into being ("cosmogenesis"). We thereby ensure a priori that he can never possibly be "shot down in flames" by any conceivable proofs, now or in the future, coming from astronomy, biology, or geology. Fr. Jaki's final stern warning to his readers is that Genesis 1 "should not be defended under any circumstances as a cosmogenesis, with any reference, indirect as it may be, to science." 29

        On these terms, Genesis 1 is indeed forever out of reach of all possible slings and arrows of outrageous science: scientific truth, after all, can only ever refute scientific error, not poetry, fiction, or some other kind of imaginative or symbolic discourse. But how can Fr. Jaki be so supremely confident that he knows so much better than all the earlier Fathers and Rabbis what was really going on in the mind of the Genesis author? Where does he find that literary "key" - mysteriously and tragically lost for two or three millennia - which demonstrates that in fact the author did not intend to be taken literally in what he says about the creation of the earth, sea, firmament, sun and moon, plants and animals, etc.?

        Fr. Jaki's "solution" to this problem seems to me astonishingly weak and unconvincing, coming as it does from a scholar of his brilliance and international renown. If even a Stanley Jaki cannot produce a better case than this for a "bomb-shelter" hermeneusis of Genesis 1, then this may be a symptom that he is trying to defend the indefensible. The Genesis author, we are told, intends to affirm in this chapter various trans-scientific truths, including the general truth that God made the whole universe ("the all") and did so "with the greatest ease." 30 Fr. Jaki then informs us that

to convey the notion of all, the author of Genesis 1 relied on a by then hallowed biblical device. It is the device of stating the whole in terms of its constituent parts. Herein lies the key to the literary genre of Genesis 1. (It is also a universally used device as witnessed, for instance, by the effectiveness of conveying the entire fishing gear by listing only its main parts, "hook, line, and sinker.") Thus in Psalm 113 the total deadness of idols is conveyed by listing, one after another, the insensitivity of the sensory organs. In Psalm 49 the breaking of all commandments is stated by listing the breaking of the principal commandments. One could quote many other scriptural examples which are, however, still to be taken up in a systematic study by biblical scholars, especially the ones barking up sundry wrong trees in their avid pursuit of the literary genre of Genesis 1. 31
        Fr.  Jaki is far from hesitant about his own solution of this problem. He, after at least two and a half millennia of Genesis studies, has at last found the right tree up which to bark, even though all the `greats,“ both ancient (Basil, Augustine, Aquinas 32 ) and modern (Hummelauer, Père Lagrange, H. Gunkel 33 ) have been searching among fruitless branches and barren foliage for that Holy Grail which seems to have been so elusive -"the key to the literary genre of Genesis 1." However, this very elusiveness (elusive, that is, according to Jaki's own account) does not augur well for the validity of his proposed solution. As we have already remarked, what his theory needs in order to absolve the Genesis author from the charge of dishonesty towards his original readers is a clear and unambiguous "key" which enabled them to "cotton on" to his non-factual, non-historical, non-scientific genre and intentions as soon as they read what he wrote. But if this key was so clear and unambiguous, how could it have been lost from sight so quickly - and so permanently! - by its professional custodians, the scribes and doctors of Israel? After all, these learned men showed themselves quite capable of guarding the key to the literary genre of Job, a book which at a very superficial reading might seem to be straightforward history. Because of the clearly poetic language and dramatic style of the dialogues forming the bulk of this work, the Jews never maintained that these were a faithful reproduction of conversations which actually took place outside Job's tent, and for that reason classified the book as a whole as part of the Wisdom literature rather than with the historical books.

        It comes as no surprise, then, that Fr. Jaki's proposed "key" to Genesis 1 is entirely unconvincing. In fact, it could sound plausible only to an audience which is already committed strongly - even absolutely - to the truth of both the Major and Minor premises in the syllogism set out on page 6 above. Such an audience is unlikely to be rigorously critical in evaluating hypotheses which offer to bolster up that commitment. On the other hand, both traditional Christians who reject the Minor premise, and unbelievers who reject the Major, will readily see that it is in fact Fr. Jaki who is barking up the wrong tree in claiming to reveal to the world the long-lost "key" to the meaning of Genesis 1. Indeed, traditionalists and unbelievers alike, after reading Fr. Jaki, will probably be more solidly confirmed than ever in their common conviction that in fact the key was never lost in the first place, so that the Conclusion in our syllogism is quite false. That is, they will be reinforced in their common belief that the Jewish scribes and rabbis of old - and after them the Fathers of the Church - did an excellent job of understanding and handing on to future generations the true meaning and intention of the Genesis author, namely, that his chosen genre is precisely that which it seems to be (but which Fr. Jaki says it is not): a "cosmogenesis." It is a series of assertions as to how (in the mind of the author) the world and man really and historically came into being. Of course, traditionalists and unbelievers will continue to disagree radically as to whether the Genesis author was right or wrong; but they will be in complete agreement as to what he meant.

        After all, what solid evidence does Fr. Jaki adduce that the ancient author meant to write something other than a literally true cosmogenesis? None at all, as far as I can see. He may well be quite correct, of course, in saying that the writer uses a "hallowed biblical device" which consists in"stating the whole in terms of its constituent parts." If so, then that would mean the writer's main end is to affirm that God made everything there is, and that the listing of the various component parts of the universe on the six days of creation is the means he employs to achieve that end. But there is nothing in this "parts-to-whole" relationship which even begins to suggest that the writer intended his affirmations of the day-by-day "parts" of the creation to be less literally true than his affirmation of the "whole."

        If Fr. Jaki wants to show that the original readers of Genesis 1 would have readily (and correctly) gathered from this "hallowed device" that the author wished to affirm the literal truth only of this transcendent, general message ("God made everything with great ease"), and that all the specific component affirmations about the six days were to be understood as mere poetic inventiveness designed to express that simple general truth in a metaphorical or symbolical way, then he would need to show us other clear examples of this kind of thing in ancient Hebrew literature. Far from producing the kinds of examples he needs, however, Fr. Jaki actually provides ammunition for his opponents! All the parallel examples he cites of the "hallowed device" are ones in which the "constituent parts" have to be understood just as literally and factually as the "whole." Insofar as the expression "hook, line, and sinker" is actually used in connection with fishing (and I think it is more often applied metaphorically to completely different activities or situations), it refers to objects which are just as real, concrete and factual as the "entire fishing gear." In regard to the next example given, the biblical denunciation of idolatry in Psalm 113, it is evident that the "insensitivity" of each "sensory organ" on a carved idol is a fact just as literally true as the "total deadness" of the idol as a whole. And in the case of Psalm 49, it is only by really and literally breaking the individual commandments that one can come to violate the Decalogue as a whole.

        After citing these far from convincing examples, Fr. Jaki continues:

Here let us concentrate on Psalm 148. It deals with the praise which all creatures owe to God. In fact the entire Psalm is structured so clearly on that device of stating the whole in terms of the parts that its thirty or so lines are a mere amplification of the seven parts of the following short phrase: In the heavens / everybody / everything // on the earth / everything / everybody / praise the Lord. 34
        But here we must make the same criticism as before. Very possibly the literary device and structure used by the Psalmist are correctly described here by Fr. Jaki. But this literary form in no way implies that the Psalmist intended any of his "component" affirmations to be less literally true than the "short phrase" which sums up their total message. On the contrary, the component parts of "everybody," for instance, are listed by the Psalmist as "all kings on earth and nations, princes, all rulers in the world, young men and girls, old people and children too" (Psalm 148:11-12). True and real human beings, all of them, who truly and really owe praise to God! And the same is true for the other subdivisions of the Psalm. This is why, as we have said, the literary evidence adduced by Fr. Jaki actually reinforces the classical interpretation of Genesis 1: that the author intended to be taken literally in all that he said about the six days of creation, and was understood in that sense by his original audience. After all, if all the parallel examples of this particular literary device display "parts" which are obviously meant to be taken just as literally as the "wholes" which they constitute, then we must presume that the same is true when that device is used in Genesis 1. In short, far from coming up with the kind of literary convention which is so badly needed by those who wish to sustain the Conclusion of our syllogism -a convention, that is, by which the Genesis author would have clearly signalled to his readers not to take him literally and historically - Fr. Jaki has come up with a convention which suggests the exact opposite. He has thereby rendered more dubious than ever that very conclusion which he set out to defend.

        Another supposed indication of non-literal intention on the part of the Genesis author is often said to be the fact that it presents God as creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh (Gen 2:1-2). In a new book on the Old Testament (which, significantly, was offered to members of the Conservative Book Club, whose religious selections aim to cater for Protestants and Catholics believing in biblical inerrancy), Fr. Michael Duggan, a graduate of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, makes this point. He sees an "indication of the Priestly author's mentality" in "his portrait of creation in seven days, which reflects his perception that the climax of all life is the observance of Sabbath rest (Gen 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11)." 35 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger makes the same point in commenting on Genesis 1: the "symbolic element" of the seven days teaches us that "Creation is oriented to the sabbath," or, in terms still applicable under the New Covenant, "Creation is designed in such a way that it is oriented to worship." 36 For Fr. Jaki, this is "possibly the chief message" of Genesis 1, 37 even though, as we have seen, he finds the "key" to its "literary genre" in a quite different feature of the text.

        Since the text of Genesis explicitly links the Sabbath rest with the days of creation, it may well be true that the inspired author wished to communicate the profound and beautiful message that creation is oriented to the worship and glory of God, and that his original audience duly understood that message. But this by no means implies that they also understood him to be speaking in a "non-historical" genre. They might well have concluded that God did indeed make the world in the historical period specified in Genesis 1, with a view to teaching His chosen people that "creation is oriented to worship." After all, the Jews of the fifth or sixth centuries B.C. (when the "Priestly" writer(s) are supposed to have written Genesis 1, according to the common form-critical view) were accustomed to didactic or prophetic actions which were simultaneously symbolical and truly historical. If Jeremiah could historically carry out a symbolic action with a broken jug (cf. Jer 19:10-11), and Ezekiel with two sticks (cf. Ez 37:1ff), then why should any Jew of this period have thought it unlikely that God could have acted both historically and symbolically to create the world in exactly the way Genesis 1 says He did.

        Indeed, the point seems to be implicitly conceded by some of the scholars who emphasize this "Sabbath" symbolism in Genesis 1. Fr. Jaki maintains that the priests had to give "renewed emphasis" to Sabbath observance at a time when the laity were being tempted by the bad example ("especially on weekends") of the "careening and carousing Babylonian and Canaanite crowds." He continues:

This didactic purpose could powerfully be achieved by portraying God as one who himself rested on the seventh day. This in turn necessitated the presentation of God as one who had done a six-day work. With that picture of God who worked for six days and rested on the seventh the Jews were given a pattern to follow ... 38
        But surely this "purpose could be powerfully achieved" only to the extent that the Jewish laity for whom the message was destined actually believed that God really had given them this "pattern to follow"! Why should they feel "powerfully" motivated to follow a "pattern" which they knew God had never given them at any time? Why should they feel restrained from "careening and carousing" on weekends because of a recently-invented story whose avowed authors - the priests - made no pretence whatever that it was historically true? The genre which Fr. Jaki suggests for Genesis 1 is that of a "didactic treatise;" 39 but it could have the "didactic" effect which he postulates only if the original readership believed that the seven days of creation were historical as well as symbolic. But since Fr. Jaki emphatically denies that any history of the earth ("cosmogenesis") was intended by the author in this chapter, the real implication here is that of clerical fraud! We are back to "strict mental reservation:" the priests make up a story which they know is of a "non-historical genre;" but this little secret is not to be divulged to the unsuspecting laity. On the contrary, the story has been composed to deceive them into thinking that they have, truly and historically, been "given a pattern" of work and rest by God Himself at the beginning of time.

        Does Fr. Jaki realize that his theory implies this? He certainly makes no attempt to explain how it could possibly be compatible with divine inspiration. (It seems much more in line with the Marxist view of religion: priests are understood to be constantly fabricating myths and lies to be fed to "the masses" as divine truth, in order to maintain the priests' own control over their lives.)

        It transpires, then, that neither the "whole-in-terms-of-parts" theory nor the "Sabbath-symbolism" theory provides us with the least trace of that literary evidence which is so desperately needed in order to sustain the credibility of the syllogism we are considering: the syllogism expressing what has now become the conventional, "conservative," Catholic understanding of the Bible's opening chapter. That is, these theories reveal no trace of any linguistic or structural conventions which could have "signalled" to the original readers that they were definitely not to understand this chapter as a "cosmogenesis" - a literal, historical narration of how the universe really began. It is precisely by means of such conventions that a non-literal, non-historical genre is made `visible“ or discernible to its intended audience, and to subsequent generations of readers as well.

        Why, then, are our wise men still clutching at the kind of straws presented to us by Fr. Jaki? Mainly, one suspects, because the only two alternatives are seen as unthinkable in such circles: either a lapse into modernism or unbelief by rejecting the Church's dogmatic and emphatic "sworn testimony" that the Bible is without error in everything asserted by the authors; or a return to what is seen as pre-Darwinian literalism, fundamentalism or creationism. In short, for Christians committed to what is called "the modern scientific world-view," there is a nearly overwhelming temptation to close one's eyes to a deeply disturbing truth: that going by proper, scientific literary criteria, there is every reason to suppose that the ancient author of Genesis 1 understood himself to be making a series of true physical and historical assertions about how the world and man really began. And the same is very probably true for Genesis 2-3 as well (with perhaps a few minor qualifications regarding the "anthropomorphic" features attributed to God: He "walks" in the Garden and "breathes" into Adam's nostrils). In that case, the "naive," but very pertinent question which has been posed by "creationists" for more than a hundred years now - "Why did we never hear about a `non-historical genre“ for Genesis 1-3 before Darwin came along?" - receives the all-too-obvious answer: We never heard about it because it is not there. Its perennial invisibility is explained by its non-existence. Like those of our famous Emperor, Genesis' New Clothes are really No Clothes. The text stands "naked and not ashamed," like the man whose creation it recounts. Its true meaning - that intended by the author - has always been exposed plainly for those who have eyes to see; and the wraith-like garments of some "non-historical genre" which we have peered and squinted to discern for over a century (through our evolution-tinted spectacles) are seen at last as a few mere wispy cobwebs, at best. Genesis asserts its cosmogenesis in innocent unawareness of the anguished questions which this will come to provoke thousands of years later with the rise of hitherto unheard-of theories in geology, biology, and astronomy.

        Those whose anguish has driven them to take refuge in a "bomb-shelter" interpretation of the text under the perceived attacks of these physical sciences have only succeeded in falling foul of the literary sciences. By rushing to insist that the Genesis author never intended to affirm anything at all which physical science could ever even scrutinize (much less refute), they are left not only defending, but dogmatically asserting, what literary science can both scrutinize and refute: the absurdity of a "literary genre" which turns out to be quite as invisible and intangible as the water on the moon.

        III. A Way Forward: Neo-Patristic Exegesis  
        If, as we have argued, the Conclusion in our original syllogism (i.e., the idea that the Genesis author had no intention of narrating how the world and man really began) is groundless and unscientific when judged by the appropriate canons of literary science, then one or both of the premises which logically entailed it must also be groundless and unscientific. That is, either there are no sufficient grounds for holding that all biblical assertions are free from error (the Major premise), or else there are no sufficient grounds for holding that science has demonstrated factual, historical errors in the assertions, literally understood, of Genesis 1-3 (the Minor premise).

        In Catholic theology the Major here is accepted on the authority of Christ's Church, who in turn rests her claim to credibility on a convergence of factors - spiritual, moral, historical, logical, well-attested miracles, etc. - which we will take for granted in the present paper. The Catholic who is not prepared to depart from orthodox doctrine in regard to biblical inspiration and inerrancy will therefore conclude (if he agrees with us about the untenability of the syllogism's Conclusion) that there must be something wrong with the Minor premise.

        This is in fact the position of what we in the Roman Theological Forum refer to as "neo-Patristic" exegesis. Not only do those of us who advocate such an approach deny that "science" has demonstrated factual or historical errors in a literal reading of Genesis; we also deny, on the basis of our faith, that such errors will ever be demonstrated in the text at any future date. The reader is referred here to the recent articles of Msgr. John F. McCarthy on Genesis 1 in Living Tradition
40 for a more detailed definition and practical illustration of this approach, which is basically that recommended by the great papal encyclicals and other magisterial documents on Scripture up to and including the new Catechism of the Catholic Church. One does not go postulating "non-historical," literary genres unless there are serious literary (as distinct from merely apologetic) reasons to justify such a judgment. Otherwise, one defends the literal, historical sense of Scripture, as the Church Fathers did. Also like the Fathers, the neo-Patristic interpreter will be on the look-out for the spiritual senses of Scripture (allegorical, moral, and anagogical) as well as its literal sense. In contrast to them, however, he will critically take into account the new scientific arguments which had never been so much as dreamed of in the Patristic and medieval eras.

        In addition to the criteria explained by Msgr. McCarthy in the essays already cited, the following points may help us to see how the harmony between genuine science and genuine biblical exegesis may be seen and explained as time and research continue.

        (a) A healthy skepticism as to what the natural or physical sciences have really "demonstrated" in regard to events in the very remote past is in order. All that such sciences can "demonstrate" are facts and regularly-recurring phenomena observable in the universe at the present time. Any inferences regarding events which supposedly took place billions of years ago cannot be scientific demonstrations, because they depend on two unprovable and untestable assumptions: first, that in the initial stages of the history of the universe, matter and energy behaved according to the same laws as those which we observe today; and secondly, that even if those laws have remained constant (at least since the commonly-accepted `Big Bang,“ let us say), God never at any stage intervened supernaturally (miraculously) in the "birth" of planet earth, as He was later to do in the birth of its most important Inhabitant, His incarnate Son. The content of the first chapters of Genesis, therefore, does not fall primarily within the competence of natural science at all. Rather, it belongs first and foremost to the field of history, in which the object of study consists of specific, unrepeatable events rather than regularly-recurring phenomena, and in which the chief means of acquiring data is not empirical observation of present events, but seeking out the testimony of reliable witnesses to past events. And in the present case, Christians who believe seriously in biblical inspiration and who reject the unscientific sophistry of an `invisible“ literary genre will realize that in Genesis 1-3 we have an account given by the most reliable Witness of all: God.

        What honest evolutionists must admit in this regard holds equally well for the history of the "inorganic" universe (i.e., the history of the cosmos before the emergence of life). Nobody will accuse Dr. Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist of the British Museum of Natural History, nor Professors Paul Ehrlich and Charles Birch (Stanford University and the University of Sydney respectively) of harboring any sympathies for creationism. Nevertheless, they are honest enough to admit that their belief in biological evolution is not a matter of empirical science (and hence, by implication, that it depends on a philosophical choice or position of their own preference). Speaking of the supposed evolutionary process in living organisms, Patterson says: "This process must be unique and unrepeatable, like the history of England. This part of the theory is therefore a historical theory, about unique events, and unique events are, by definition, not part of science, for they are unrepeatable and so not subject to test." 41 Again: "It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favored by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test." 42

        Ehrlich and Birch, for their part, state that the biological theory of evolution "is `outside of empirical science“ but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training." 43

        These considerations are highly relevant also for the questions of cosmogenesis raised by Genesis 1:1-10, dealing with what took place before any life existed on earth. Fr. Bruce Vawter, as we have seen, regards as incompatible with "science" the Genesis assertion that light existed before that star which we call the sun existed as a separate entity. But what possible experiment could he or anyone else devise in order to test and refute that assertion? Fr. Jaki asks rhetorically how one could "answer scientifically" such questions as "How could the earth, a planet, come before the sun? How could plants, which live on photosynthesis, thrive prior to the sun's appearance?" 44 But since these are historical, not scientific, questions, arising from historical and not "scientific" assertions on the part of the Genesis author, one who believes in the literal truth of Genesis is not under any obligation to furnish "scientific" answers to those questions. 45

        (b) Defending the classical doctrine of biblical inerrancy does not require us to insist that the Bible's cosmological assertions be expressed in the kind of language which modern scientists would regard as precise and accurate. The tired old platitude that "the Bible is not intended to be a textbook of science" is true in that sense. (It is false when, as is often the case, it means that biblical assertions about the cosmos, when taken literally, can be just plain false or erroneous.) Pope Leo XIII's observation in Providentissimus Deus to the effect that there is no true error involved when the biblical author affirms some physical phenomenon "according to the appearances" is well-known. What the author truly affirms in Joshua 10:13, for instance, is that a miracle took place in which the sun was seen by human eyes to remain motionless for a whole day. Whether, scientifically speaking, it was the earth that stopped, the sun that stopped, or neither that stopped (in which case there would have been a sun-miracle like that of Fatima, in which the sun and the earth appeared to come closer together, but did not really do so) is immaterial to the point being made by the author.

        What may in practice amount to much the same thing as the principle just enunciated is the principle that the traditional doctrine of biblical inerrancy requires us to hold as true only what the author actually asserts, and not necessarily other assumptions which may well have mentally accompanied that assertion. For instance, it is well known that in their accounts of the resurrection, Matthew (28:2ff) and Mark (16:5ff) mention only one angel at the empty tomb, while Luke (24:2) and John (20:12) assert that there were two. The traditional Christian will therefore believe that there were in fact two angels present. Does this mean he is obliged to believe that Matthew and Mark were also aware that there were two angels, but for some curious reason decided not to mention the other one? Not at all. The natural impression one receives from Matthew and Mark is that in the incomplete account of the resurrection they had received, only one angel had been specified, so that they probably assumed - wrongly - that there was only one angel at the tomb. However, neither of them asserts that there was one angel, and one only, at the tomb. Therefore the inspired text itself does not lapse into error at this point.

        Another example worth mentioning in this context is the classical case of alleged biblical "error" on a scientific matter to be found in Leviticus 11:6, where the hare is said to be a "ruminant," i.e., an animal like the cow which brings the food back up to the mouth to be chewed again before passing on to another stomach. In fact, hares do not do this. However, recent studies of the nocturnal habits of rabbits (which are similar to hares in this respect) have revealed that they do in fact carry out a function which, though "mechanically" different from the rumination of cows, fulfills the same biochemical function in the digestion process. So they do in fact deserve the name "ruminants." Rabbits and hares return the semi-processed food to the mouth to be chewed again, not from within their body, but from outside it, in a fashion which at first sight seems distasteful. Their colon expels through the anal canal not only faeces, but also little balls of semi-digested fodder. The animals deposit these after dark and devour them avidly. This process or function is now well-established scientifically, and is given the technical name "caecotrophy." 46

        Now, does a belief in biblical inerrancy require us to believe that the human author of Leviticus also knew about this function in rabbits and hares, and had it in mind when he called the latter "ruminants?" Not necessarily. He may well have assumed that the constant "chewing-style" motion of the lips of the hare was evidence that it had exactly the same internal system as that of the cow. If so he asserted the right thing for the wrong reason. But what he asserted was not in itself an error.

        It is beyond the purpose of this present paper to enter into detail about passages of Scripture which in one way or another present a challenge to the traditional doctrine of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. That is the task which needs to be taken up again after a half-century or so of increasing neglect on the part of Catholic exegetes who have fallen under the spell of false, rationalistic critical principles. Now, as we celebrate a full century since the great encyclical which charted a safe course for the renewal of biblical studies, the principles laid down in Providentissimus Deus by Pope Leo XIII, and developed coherently by his successors and by Vatican Council II, are more relevant than ever. Those who undertake a neo-Patristic exegesis at the end of the twentieth century can of course expect to hear pejorative labels such as "concordism" and "fundamentalism." But now that the overworked and outworn appeal to will-o'-the-wisp "literary genres" as an apologetic panacea is becoming more obviously indefensible with every passing year, one can reasonably foresee a gradual change in the academic climate. An honest encounter between the Bible's historical and scientific affirmations and the data provided by secular research is the path we must tread once again, resisting the temptation to evade that encounter by taking refuge in the false and illusory security of bomb-shelter theology and exegesis.

1. Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, §25. The Council teaches that doctrines proposed with that degree of authority are infallible.

2. Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum, §6, quoting Vatican Council I (Denzinger-Schönmetzer [DS] 3004-3005).

3. John F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology.

4. Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, §36.

5. Footnote 7 to Gaudium et Spes, §36, cites the two-volume work of Pius Paschini, Vita e Opere di Galileo Galilei, published by the Vatican Press in 1964.

6. The Tychonian Society (now the Association for Biblical Astronomy) was founded in 1971 and publishes The Biblical Astronomer. This Protestant group argues for the total immobility of the earth. The French and Belgian group CESHE (Cercle Scientifique et Historique) is composed of Catholics, some of whom support the above position. Others accept the diurnal rotation of the earth but maintain that it is located at the "axis" of the universe, around which the sun and all the stars revolve annually, with the planets of our solar system (excluding earth) also revolving round the sun.

7. Cf. DS, 3017-3019, 3042.

8. Cf. Lumen Gentium, §25.

9. Cf. Note 5 to Dei Verbum, §11, the third passage cited in this footnote from Providentissimus Deus.

10. Enchiridion Biblicum, §126-127 (sections 20-21 in the English version of Providentissimus Deus).

11. The controversy is accurately reported in "Did Jesus Emerge From the Tomb?" by Michael Gilchrist, 30 Days, September 1989, pp. 20-24. Fr. Coffey was required to "align his teaching with that of the Magisterium of the Church, which is that the physical remains of Jesus, placed in the tomb after his death, were raised in his resurrection" (ibid., pp. 21-22).

12. D.M. Coffey, "The Resurrection of Jesus and Catholic Orthodoxy", in Essays in Faith and Culture (Sydney: Catholic Institute of Sydney, 1980), p. 14.

13. John F. McCarthy, "A Neo-Patristic Return to the First Four Days of Creation," Living Tradition 45, March 1993.

14. ibid., p. 7 (Cf. DS 3513).

15. "legendas ex parte historicas et ex parte fictitias" (DS 3513). In his Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae (18 Nov. 1907), Pope Pius X declared that all Catholics were bound in conscience to submit to (past and future) decisions of the Biblical Commission ("universos omnes conscientiae obstringi officio sententiis Pontificalis Consilii de re Biblica ... se subiciendi") (DS 3503).

16. Lumen Gentium, §25.

17. Stanley L. Jaki, "Genesis 1: A cosmogenesis?", Homiletic and Pastoral Review, August-September 1993, pp. 28-32, 61-64.

18. That this is a fair statement of Fr. Jaki's position is I think sufficiently demonstrated by his endorsement of what he calls "a very sound precept," namely: "Whenever well-established scientific evidence stands in contradiction to this or that statement of the Bible about the physical world, it is the Bible that should be given an appropriate reinterpretation" (op. cit., p. 29). Fr. Jaki claims that "the greatest" Fathers and Scholastics had "formulated" this precept: he then expresses "perplexity" at their failure to adhere to it consistently (ibid.). He gives no "chapter and verse" for this alleged formulation of the "precept" by Basil, Augustine and Aquinas; one suspects that their failure to observe such a dubious precept was not due to their having "forgot(ten)" it, as Fr. Jaki claims, but because they never really "formulated" it in the first place.

19. Cf. Giovanni Caprile, "Tre Emendamenti allo Schema sulla Rivelazione: appunti per la storia del testo," La Civiltà Cattolica, 5 February 1966, pp. 223-227. For an explanation in English of Caprile's authoritative commentary, cf. Brian W. Harrison, "For the Sake of Our Salvation," The Wanderer, 21 November 1985, p. 3.

20. Jaki, op. cit., p. 63.

21. Ibid., pp. 62-63.

22. Cf. McCarthy, "A Neo-Patristic Return ...," Living Tradition 45, p. 3, citing Bruce Vawter, A Path Through Genesis, London, Sheed & Ward, 1957, pp. 31, 34.

23. Ibid. Msgr. McCarthy rightly points out (pp. 6-8) that Fr. Vawter's treatment of Genesis 1, while citing the Pontifical Biblical Commission, is not in conformity with its decrees.

24. Ibid., p. 8, (citing Vawter, op. cit., p. 42).

25. Cf., for example, H. Jone and U. Adelman, Moral Theology, Westminster, Newman Press, 1958, p. 249.

26. Ibid.

27. Jaki, op. cit., p. 29.

28. Ibid., p. 28.

29. Ibid., p. 64. This citation is also `headlined' by the editor on p. 62.

30. Ibid., pp. 32, 61.

31. Ibid., p. 61 (emphasis added).

32. Ibid., p. 29.

33. Ibid., p. 30.

34. Ibid., p. 61.

35. Michael Duggan, The Consuming Fire: A Christian Introduction to the Old Testament, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1991, pp. 74-75. (Ignatius Press is the leading "conservative" Catholic publishing house in the United States. We are stressing this point, because we wish to underline the extent to which biblical positions severely censured by Pope Pius X (cf. note 16 above, and DS 3394) have now in effect become a new "orthodoxy." DS 3394 rejects the now "standard" Wellhausen theory which Fr. Duggan takes for granted here - a theory which maintains that the greater part of the Pentateuch was composed centuries after Moses by unknown writers such as the "Priestly" author(s) and the "Deuteronomist.")

36. Joseph Ratzinger, In the Beginning: a Catholic Understanding of the Story of the Creation and the Fall (trans. Boniface Ramsay), Huntington, Indiana, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1990, pp. 40-41.

37. Jaki, op. cit., p. 31.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid.

40. Cf. McCarthy, "A Neo-Patristic Return ...," op. cit., and also Parts II to VI of the same essay, Living Tradition, nos. 46-50 (May 1993 to January 1994).

41. Colin Patterson, Evolution, London, British Museum of Natural History, 1978, pp. 145-146.

42. Colin Patterson, letter to Luther D. Sunderland (10 April 1979), cited in the latter's Darwin's Enigma, San Diego, Master Books, 1984, p. 89.

43. Paul Ehrlich and Charles Birch, "Evolutionary History and Population Biology," Nature, Vol. 214, 22 April 1967, p. 352. (This and the two preceding references, i.e. notes 41 and 42, are given in an excellent essay published privately by the Australian biologist David Bird, Evolution: Fact or Faith?, Doncaster, Australia, 1992, p. 8.)

44. Jaki, op. cit., p. 29.

45. In this context, I, like Fr. Jaki, am using the word "science" in its commonly accepted modern sense of "natural science." This could perhaps be defined as "the knowledge of the regularly recurring features of material reality," in contrast to Msgr. McCarthy's use of "science" in the broader, more classical sense: "the knowledge of reality as such" (op. cit., Living Tradition 45, March 1993, p. 8).

46. Cf. Fr. Jules Carles, Regards sur la Vie, Editions Ouvrières, 1977, pp. 29-38, "Le secret du lapin" (cited in Bruno Primavère, "Le Lièvre Est-Il Un Ruminant?", Science et Foi, No. 21, 3rd trimester, 1991, pp. 29-30). Fr. Carles is a biologist of the Institut de Physiologie de Toulouse, and has carried out a specialized study of the digestive system of rabbits.

Go to: Roman Theological Forum | Living Tradition Index | Previous Issue | Next Issue