Scholars and Ordinary Believers

Scholars are usually cautious about what they say or write, particularly if other scholars are checking on what they say. I think that’s so with scripture scholars.

I haven’t read every commentary on the Letter to the Ephesians–which we’re reading these days in our liturgy– but I think the commentary in the New American Bible might be typical. The writer, or writers, say that the letter is written to the Ephesians, but it’s probably written for other churches as well. There doesn’t seem to be any particular reference to any problems or difficulties in the church at Ephesus. They wonder too if Paul was the writer of the letter, or was it written by a secretary. Paul wrote it from prison, but was he in prison in Jerusalem or in Rome? 

Scholars can only go so far when they sift through the words of scripture. 

And that where believers come in:

“The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful… to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:8). “For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”(5) Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading,,, And let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for ‘we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying.’ (Dei Verbum 25 )

That strong statement from the Second Vatican Council asks ordinary Christians to read and pray the scriptures. We have good commentaries and translations from the scholars, now it’s the turn of ordinary Christians to do their part. That’s not a small matter.

The Constitution on Holy Scripture from Vatican II speaks of a growth in understanding, both of the plan of God and our place in it, that takes place through the prayerful reading of the scriptures:

“For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51)… For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.” ( Dei Verbum 8 )

The Spirit awaits this prayerful reading of the scriptures to bring God’s blessings to us.

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