- American Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A History from the Early Republic to Vatican II by Gerald P. Fogarty, S.J. (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 54, Number 2, April 1990
- pp. 355-357
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS American Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A History from the Early Republic to Vatican II. By GERALD P. FOGARTY, S.J. Society of Biblical Literature Confessional Perspectives Series. San Fran· cisco: Harper & Row, 1989. Pp. xviii + 424. $34.95 (cloth). Gerald Fogarty has produced a book long needed by American Catholics, especially by the community of biblical and theological scholars . For too long, the impression has perdured that American scholarship has no particular shape or character but largely mirrors the works of the great European theologians, while remaining a docile handmaid to Roman guidance. By producing an excellently researched and carefully documented history of Biblical scholarship, the author has shown that this generalization does not hold true. Rather, the Church in the United States, at least since the founding of the Constitution, has always had a number of dynamic scholars who pursued the goal of making the Bible alive to the special spirit of inquiry and the characteristic openness of American culture. These qualities have shaped the directions of theological and biblical study and are now finding expression among a wealth of leading church scholars writing and teaching in this country today. Fogarty treats a two hundred year development of biblical scholarship in four large blocks. The first hundred years (1784-1885) were largely concerned with getting a useful translation of the Bible into the hands of the people in a new country. This primarily pastoral con· cern was chiefly the initiative of bishops. The focal issue was the adequacy of the Douay-Rheims English translation and its possible revi· sion. This first century revealed the docile, very Roman outlook of the American hierarchy and seminary faculties, but also produced the almost charismatic brillance and foresight of Bishop Francis P. Kenrick of Baltimore. His ideas on inspiration, revelation, and translation theory foreshadow many contemporary views, although he was unable to win over his own generation. There is no doubt, however, that his was a distinctly American contribution that provided solid roots for later developments. The second period in this history coincides with the founding of the Catholic University of America and the issue of Americanism as a heresy (1889-1903). It was an era of mixed signals. A whole range of young Catholic scholars, such as Joseph Bruneau, S.S., and Henry 855 356 BOOK REVIEWS Poels, experimented with the new biblical criticism that was sweeping Europe. However, they ran into a strong reaction in the theological community in men such as Anthony J. Maas (and the new journal The American Ecclesiastical Review), who feared all inductive ap·proaches to the questions of revelation and inspiration. At the same time, Pope Leo XIII encouraged study of the Bible in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus (1893) but sided strongly against its current directions in Testem Benevolentiae (1899). The latter condemned "Americanism," which emphasized the guidance of the Holy Spirit upon the individual interpreter of the Scriptures. All of this tension was only a prelude to the even greater turmoil of the Church's battle against modernism, which dominated the third period of Fogarty's history, from 1903 to 1938. Many Catholic biblical' scholars in Europe and the United States had readily accepted the conclusions drawn by the liberal critical movement, fostered primarily by German Protestant scholars in the nineteenth century. Modernism was moving toward a less literalistic understanding of biblical texts and toward more of an historical interpretation of their development and meaning. This generated a new wave of fierce opposition within the Church in Europe from conservative theologians concerned by a doctrine of divine revlation that threatened biblical inerrancy. With the ascent of Pius X to the papacy, the war began in ernest. The popewas determined to root out all who questioned the traditional primacy of a literalistic reading of the text, or doubted the total inerrancy of Scripture, or challenged the idea of Tradition as an independent source of revelation. Poels was fired from Catholic University, Francis Gigot, S.S., was forced out of the Sulpicians, and all further discussion of new directions in biblical research came to a halt. It seemed as though theChurch would stand still forever at the level of the Council of Trent. Two events signalling a...