Sorry I've been quiet for a while; I'm in the midst of adjusting to my new job at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. A new job means new classes, which means new preps, and new work!
Right now, I'm working up a new course on Biblical Methodology, which has been a ton of fun so far. In it, we are currently doing a close reading of the three papal encyclicals on the Bible.
1. Pope Leo XIII,
Encyclical Letter On the Study of Sacred Scripture,
Providentissimus Deus, 1893
2. Pope Benedict XV,
Encyclical Letter Commemorating the Fifteenth Centenary of the Death of St. Jerome,
Spiritus Paraclitus, 1920
3. Pope Pius XII,
Encyclical Letter Promoting Biblical Studies,
Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1943
As I'm reading through these encyclicals again, I'm struck by what a treasure trove of teaching they are on a whole host of issues: inspiration, inerrancy, interpretation, the literal and spiritual senses of Scripture, the role of the Scripture in the spiritual life and mission of the Church, and on and on.
But I'm also struck as I look around in secondary literature, both Catholic and Protestant, that no one seems to be actually reading these encyclicals and engaging them. This is an odd situation, one that seems to be peculiar to biblical studies. At least in Catholic circles, no moral theologian worth his or her salt would ever presume to speak about, say, the Church's teaching on contraception without reference to Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Of Human Life, Humanae Vitae (1968). Likewise, Catholic philosophers regularly make their students study John Paul II's Encyclical Letter On the Relationship between Faith and Reason, Fides et Ratio (1998), in close detail.
By contrast, when it comes to introductions to the Bible, including Catholic ones, authors often precede blissfully along as if no detailed papal teachings on Scripture have ever been penned--or at least they mention them only in passing without any detailed analysis. Why?
So, here's my questions:
If you are a Catholic, have you read any of the papal encyclicals on the Bible? Why or why not?
And if you are not Catholic--in particular, if you are a Protestant biblical scholar--have you ever read the papal encyclicals on the Bible? If not, why not?
P.S.: If actually you want access to these encyclicals on the Bible, you can find them all online at the Vatican website, or, even more handy, in Dean P. Bechard's excellent book, The Scripture Documents: An Anthology of Official Catholic Teachings (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2002).