Fundamentalism of the Sources: Problems with Some Practices of Source Criticism – Part 7

Ah! In the ComBox, John has been raising the persistent question regarding “Dictation Theory.” In prepping for a class (soon to take place) on revelation, I had occasion to re-read Leo XIII, of most happy memory. His immortal Providentissimus Deus is must read.

And Lo and Behold! He chastises me for my choice of words. Now, I did define “Dictation Theory” as “Without the freedom – i.e. intellectual creativity etc. – of the human, secondary author.” So ubiquitous are the tentacles of modernism that no one questions the criticism of Dictation Theory. No one except John in the ComBox. Well, a thank you to John.

Leo – and indeed the First Vatican Council – stress the primacy of God’s authorship so much that they indeed drill home the notion that the Holy Spirit intimately, and to the very depths of conception and expression, guides the process of writing. Not as a Deistic First Cause. But as Pure Act, author of all, supernaturally acting here to produce the Divine Scriptures.

I let Leo correct the previous post then. Not my definition. But rather the flippant use of terminology that in fact is approved by the greatest authority on earth. I retain the point that the overriding of freedom is a false conception. (Except for certain passages, such as divine oracles. And these do not override freedom; but they do seem to come as pre-formed, one might say.)

Thus Spake Leo:

For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican. These are the words of the last: “The Books of the Old and New Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enumerated in the decree of the same Council (Trent) and in the ancient Latin Vulgate, are to be received as sacred and canonical. And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor only because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.”(57) Hence, because the Holy Ghost employed men as His instruments, we cannot therefore say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have fallen into error, and not the primary author. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write-He was so present to them-that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. “Therefore,” says St. Augustine, “since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His members executed what their Head dictated.”(58) And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: “Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things-we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution. “(59)