Saturday, February 08, 2014
"Lumen Fidei" (light of faith) is the first encyclical of Pope Francis, though Francis admits that it was mostly written by Benedict, his predecessor. And in my usual eccentric way I used part of my secular Sabbath to read it.
There is no doubt we encounter the mind of a real scholar in it. He actually mentions the name of God (YHWH) as given in the Hebrew Bible -- which is bordering on the eccentric in both the Christian and Jewish traditions. It would appear however to be what YHWH himself wanted according to Psalms 83:18 ("That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth" KJV) and other OT passages. That the commandment to respect YHWH's name is taken to require suppression of it is incredibly perverse and would certainly make YHWH throw up his hands if he had any hands.
And Benedict's attempt to reconcile a Septuagint rendering of Isaiah with the Masoretic version is surely heroic, given the obvious divergence. But the fact that he refers to the Septuagint at all is impressive. There is a view that the Septuagint -- or at least part of it -- is based on a text older than the Masoretic version and may hence be closer to the original.
But despite such flashes of unusual scholarship, the encyclical as a whole is quite unoriginal. Perhaps an encyclical has to be that way. The encyclical is a very thorough survey of past and present enthusiasm about faith and that is about it. But that may enthuse others more than it does this hard-hearted old atheist.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).