Sunday, 13 March 2011

Placing the text

The study of Sacred Scripture is related with Theology; I offer here a schema to show the basic relationships which are involved.

Fundamental Theology concerns the study of Theology in itself; what it means to study God. Its methods, sources, parameters and its relationship with other sciences. Sacred Scripture is here, one of the sources of Theology.

Theology is the science of revealed religion; a disciplined reflection on divine revelation (as against the "study of religions" - which is a human science.)

Within Theology there are three main branches:
1. Positive Theology, which is an inventory of dogma and draws on the two soucres of Revealed Truth - Scripture and Tradition. It also includes the historical development of dogma.
2. Scholastic Theology, which is a systematisation of the Faith into a unified structure, using reason.
3. Biblical Theology is the unified understanding of the saving truths contained in the Scriptures which are given to us in the Church's Tradition. Biblical Theology draws only upon Scripture and its work is to collect the results of exegesis, so that they can be compared, assigned a place in the history of Revelation, and so that Scholastic Theology can be given with a firm foundation. Biblical Theology then, flows out of exegesis and is the foundation of Scholastic Theology.
A word about exegesis. Exegesis is the interpretation of biblical texts. Its method, which has come out of the Enlightenment, is analytical and scientific; it looks at the parts of the whole.
Biblical Theology, on the other hand, is synthetic; it looks at how the parts of Scripture relate with the whole. As such it complements exegesis by making exegesis a Theological discipline, rather than it being a purely secular study. Biblical Theology bridges the gap between exegesis and Theology: the Second Vatican Council taught that Sacred Scripture was to be the soul of Theology. In the past, Theology sometimes tried to do its work without referring to the Scriptures. However, Biblical Theology is not autonomous, it is not the whole of Theology as it draws only on Sacred Scripture. Theology must draw on both sources of Revelation, Scripture and Tradition.

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