Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Reading of the Scriptures by Fr Felix, O.F.M.Cap. part 5.

Return from Egypt
From this point onward good commentators have their proper place; and by good commentators I mean those Catholic scholars who, beginning from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, have laboured in every century since to make clear the meaning of the Word of God in learned works of introduction, exegesis, and Biblical Theology. These books tell us, as far as possible, the history of the human author and of his time; the occasion which called forth a 'particular book of Scripture; the people to whom it was first addressed, etc. This is by way of preparation. They then take up the text verse by verse, and explain its meaning, and always in the light of the text of the original language (Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek) in which the book was written. A translation can never convey the meaning as the original will, and a good commentary will always be able to clarify little obscurities in the text by reference to the original. Thus, Philippians 3, 2: "Beware of dogs: beware of evil workers: beware of the concision," becomes much more intelligible from the Greek text which has: 'Beware of the dogs, beware of the bad workmen, beware of the concision.' St. Paul here refers to the Judaizing heretics of the early Church whom he calls `dogs'—symbolical of uncleanness; 'bad workmen'— because they destroyed, instead of building, the mystical Temple of God, i.e. the Church; 'concision' (metonomy--abstract for concrete) i.e. the mutilated,—an ironical reference to the circumcision which they sought to impose as of precept. Another useful matter in exegesis is the history of secular events contemporary with the biblical narrative. Thus, the history of the rise of the Persian Empire under Cyrus sheds much light on the text of the Books of Esdras : that of the Herodian dynasty on the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. In his explanation of St. Matthew 10, where we read of the return of the Holy Family from Egypt “when Herod was dead”, St. Jerome. has: "many err through ignorance of history thinking that the Herod by whom Our Lord was mocked during His Passion is the same as he who is here said to be dead. That Herod, who afterwards renewed friendship with Pilate is the son of this Herod and a brother of Archelaus." (Commentary on St. Matthew, Book I). The geography of Palestine is equally useful. In this latter we can assist ourselves by a little study of the maps which are found in all good editions of the Scriptures. We will easily familiarise ourselves with the physical and geographical features of the Holy Land; its position north of Arabia, south of Syria, with Phoenicia at the north-west; its capital, Jerusalem ; the course of the river Jordan,—rising at the foot of the Anti-Lebanon range of Mountains, flowing southward through Lake Merom (modern Hûleh), and the Lake of Genesareth, through the Jordan Valley (El Ghor) till it empties into the Dead Sea; the sites of Hebron, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Cana, Naim, Bethania, etc. A small country, no bigger than the Irish province of Munster, the Holy Land has been the theatre of the most wonderful events in the history of the world.