A Synthesis of Ancient and Modern Approaches to Scripture
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
There is broad support today for the idea that biblical scholarship ought to be informed by the faith of the Church and serve the life of the Church. In a word, it should be ecclesial. There is far less agreement, however, when one asks how this goal is to be achieved and what ecclesial exegesis ought to look like. In 1988, Joseph Ratzinger put forth his "Method C" proposal, calling for the development of a new exegetical and hermeneutical synthesis. This would be neither a retreat to the patristic-medieval approach (Method A) nor the continued hegemony of the historical-critical approach (Method B). The latter must be purified of its positivism through a transformational encounter with the former, so that the gifts of both might be released for the life of the Church. Such a synthesis, Ratzinger claimed, would require the philosophical, theological, exegetical, and hermeneutical work of "at least a whole generation" of scholars.
Gregory Vall has devoted over thirty years to the development of ecclesial exegesis, and the present volume represents the mature fruit of his labor. Over against those who treat Dei Verbum as Vatican II’s endorsement of the historical-critical method, he demonstrates that the dogmatic constitution actually points to something very much like Ratzinger’s Method C. Employing a dialogic movement between the inductive-exegetical and the deductive-dogmatic, Vall offers nine studies that bring to the surface issues such as the relationship between Old Testament and New Testament, literal sense and spiritual sense, and Scripture and Tradition. While Vall brings theological knowledge and hermeneutical skill to the quest for Method C, he also provides a great deal of valuable exegesis of both testaments. Ecclesial Exegesis is not simply another book of theory. It demonstrates how Method C can be done.
" Ecclesial Exegesis is a joy to read... so well-written, so engaging, and so insightful. The sheer scope of the topic is impressive. In his effort to take up Benedict’s challenge, Vall offers a fair-minded and nuanced critique of Catholic exegesis since Vatican II and Dei Verbum, a substantive discussion of Benedict’s Method C, and, in essence, an erudite primer on how to read the whole of Scripture as a Catholic."~Jody V. Lewis, Dominican House of Studies
"In this magisterial study, Gregory Vall offers not only advanced insights on the method of scriptural exegesis, but he combines this with careful and illustrative examples showing how the text can be handled responsibly by people of faith. This book rejects sharp and dichotomizing binaries of either modern scholarship or ancient faith-based exegesis. Instead, Vall shows how, both in theory and in practice, the two can operate together in a creative synthesis that enriches and enlarges one’s understanding of the biblical text."~Paul Foster, University of Edinburgh
"Can historical-critical tools really serve to tell us not only what Scripture meant, but what it means now? Can they serve to restore Scripture as a present locutio Dei to the Church? They can, but only once they are inserted into a more self-consciously appropriated framework of philosophical and theological presuppositions that break the positivist prison within which the Enlightenment confined the Book. Ecclesial Exegesis is an exemplary instance of how this program is no mere theoretical dream of Cardinal Ratzinger but can be practically implemented. That being said, Vall's exposition of the theory is also very welcome."~Guy Mansini, OSB, Saint Meinrad Seminary
"Gregory Vall’s exegetical studies offer valuable enrichments to fundamental and systematic theology. His approach to Scripture takes seriously how Vatican II placed the principles of Catholic biblical interpretation in Dei Verbum, Chapter III, after the profound account in Chapter I of God’s revelatory and saving economy in Christ."~Jared Wicks, SJ, Gregorian University, Rome
"Those….who hunger for a deeper analysis of biblical exegesis, and are open to spiritual insights for personal and ecclesial renewal can expect rich rewards if they read and study Ecclesial Exegesis."~Catholic Books Review