Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Reading of the Scriptures by Fr Felix, O.F.M.Cap. part 4.


Metaphors are frequent in the Bible, and a metaphor may be described as "a simile with the words of comparison omitted," as, for instance, where Our Lord says: "And why seest thou the Mote that 'is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own, eye?" (St. Matthew 7, 3). People who criticise little imperfections in their neighbour's conduct when (as often happens in the case of critics) their own conduct is gravely wrong, are described, as it were concerned about a particle of dust in another's eye and oblivious of the presence in their own of a beam of timber. There is here hyperbole (i.e. exaggeration for rhetorical effect) as well, as again in the description of those "who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel" (St. Matthew 23, 24); this lends additional emphasis. The allegory bears the same relation to the metaphor as the parable does to the simile—it is a sustained metaphor. Thus, the necessity of Divine Grace is forcibly taught in the Gospel passage where Our Lord says: "I am the true vine; and My Father is the husbandman,. . . Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. . . . Without Me you can do nothing" (St. John 15,1-5). These four figures of speech are all closely related. To understand one is to understand all. Then, that done, we have already acquired much that will help us to understand the doctrine and to appreciate the literary charm of the Scriptures generally, and of the Gospels in particular.


After the text, the matter next in importance is the context, i.e., the part of the book before and after a particular passage. This gives us the general trend of the sense. Many difficulties which arise will be resolved by reconsidering a text in the light of the general argument, or theme of the chapter or book. And many of the objections which are urged against Catholic doctrine are simple instances of texts of Scripture arbitrarily wrenched from their context and then given a meaning which they do not bear in the Scripture itself. Even already in apostolic times there were "the unlearned and unstable" who similarly "wrested the Scriptures to their own destruction." (cfr. 2 St. Peter 3, 16).