What does it mean to say that Scripture is God’s Word? And just how true is the Bible? Though sometimes dismissed as "fundamentalist" concerns, these questions also sent twentieth-century Catholic theology searching for a new paradigm of biblical inspiration. Theologians repeatedly attempted to reconcile the traditional conviction that the Bible shares in the omniscience of its divine author with scholarly findings that suggested otherwise. Joseph Ratzinger contributed both negatively and positively to this project, deconstructing the regnant manualist models of inspiration and constructing an alternative inspired by St. Bonaventure. The result is an ecclesial model of surprising comprehensiveness and balance. Indeed, The Inspiration and Truth of Scripture concludes that Ratzinger’s alternative provides the least inadequate paradigm currently on offer.
The Inspiration and Truth of Scripture breaks new ground in several ways. First, it situates Ratzinger within a broader Catholic quest for a theology of inspiration, showing his model offers advantages even relative to those proposed by modern theology’s most eminent minds: John Henry Newman, Pierre Benoit, Karl Rahner, and David Tracy. Secondly, this book shows how Ratzinger’s paradigm generates "tests" for identifying the perennially valid affirmations of Scripture, and thus an approach to resolving disputed biblical questions. Must one who accepts the authority of Scripture believe in the Devil? Are the Marian dogmas really "in" Scripture? To what extent does Jesus’s prohibition of divorce still apply in today’s changed social circumstances? Just how historical are Gospel narratives, like the Last Supper, intended to be? The result is a book that bridges the gap between normative theology and historical exegesis.
Overall, The Inspiration and Truth of Scripture presents Ratzinger not as an unimaginative enforcer of doctrinal conclusions but as a creatively faithful theologian, whose reconfiguration of inspiration should serve as the point of departure for all future reflection on the subject.
"This is a much needed book on the subject of inspiration and the crucial role it plays in a theological reading of scripture. Though the focus is on the contributions of Joseph Ratzinger, its larger scope includes a consideration of hermeneutical concerns that are basic to a Catholic interpretation of scripture in the 20th and 201st centuries. Pidel's sensitive and learned judgments provide a good guide to these crucial issues."~Gary Anderson, University of Notre Dame
"This is the best book on Ratzinger's theology I have yet read. With erudition and elegance, Aaron Pidel has captured both the immense sophistication and the wonderful simplicity of Ratzinger's approach to holy Scripture, an approach that stands at the heart of Ratzinger's work and that will endure, alongside his liturgical theology, as his greatest contribution. This book heralds the arrival of a new era in Jesuit dogmatic theology, with Pidel at the forefront."~Matthew Levering, James N. Jr. and Mary D. Perry Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
" The Inspiration and Truth of Scripture is a very significant contribution. The research is deep. It both offers an exposition of Ratzinger’s paradigm that has to be pieced together from scattered articles and a defense of the superiority of the paradigm, along with expositions of other competing paradigms. It is like offering three theses in one book."~Tracey Rowland, University of Notre Dame, Australia
"Following the Synod he called in 2008, Benedict XVI appealed to the Church's theologians to investigate the ‘inspiration and truth’ of Sacred Scripture. The response has been underwhelming. Aaron Pidel has just made a tremendously useful contribution, however, which we hope might help to jumpstart the wanting discussion. In this study, Pidel exposes at length for the first time Joseph Ratzinger’s own private theological thought on this matter, which as pope he clearly deemed to be urgent and which as an expert behind Dei Verbum he obviously knew well. Poised somewhere between Bonaventure and Newman, the theological theory probed in this study is proposed with critical sympathy as the most ecclesially ‘serviceable’ theology of inspiration on offer today."~Anthony Giambrone, OP, author of A Quest for the Historical Christ: Scientia Christi and the Modern Study of Jesus
"The vexed question of biblical inspiration will certainly not be settled by Aaron Pidel’s book any more than Josef Ratzinger’s work, as Pidel acknowledges multiple times, but he makes an excellent attempt and significant inroads. A case of first-rate theology that uses the work of one of the greatest theologian-popes to advance understanding of the soul of theology itself."~Catholic Books Review