Wednesday, April 13, 2022

"Why a C. S. Lewis Bible?"

Well, if you want absolute orthodoxy, not the best choice - but for modern (post-1950) study Bibles, it's also far from the worst.

I just noted there exists such a thing as a C. S. Lewis Bible:

The C. S. Lewis Bible*
1st of Nov. 2021 | Bible Buying Guide

There are three introductory essays about C. S. Lewis and this study Bible project, and the first is by his son Douglas Gresham.

The second paragraph is a very good answer. It's a good choice because C. S. Lewis while a good Bible scholar in fact was too humble to think of himself as a Bible scholar, citing only sentences 2 to 4 of it:

This is the case of the understanding of a man who never regarded himself as a theologian, but always regarded himself as as rank amateur in such matters, and yet is now, more than forty-five** years after his death, regarded as one of the leading theologians of his day. This is a man who never presented himself as any kind of psychologist*** and yet is now thought of as a man who understood human thinking and humanity better than any other writer of his time. This is a man who never imagined himself to be a biblical scholar and yet a man who read and memorised a chapter of the Bible every single day.°

Now, the first paragraph would be misleading if applied to the Haydock Bible.

It seems to me that many annotated Bibles are exercises in one man, or one committee of men, presenting their own wisdom and the results of their own biblical studies to the public at large, and while I ascribe to them the very best motives in the world, there still seems to me to be a touch of arrogance attached to such an endeavour. After all, what is being said is "I/We have studied the Bible for years and I/we have achieved such wisdom therefrom that you need to read my/our comments in order to understand the Bible as deeply and as well as I/we do, which is of vital importance for you to do."

Why is this not a valid criticism of the Haydock Bible? To be fair to Douglas Gresham, he never said (here at least) he was thinking of the Haydock Bible. But still, why does this not apply to it?

First of all, a bishop exposing the Bible is acting on God's command. If he is a bishop of the Catholic Church that is. It's a bit like why L'Histoire d'une âme is not conceited on part of St. Therèse Martin : she didn't chose to write it, she was ordered to, by her Carmelite prioress°° who represented to her the bishop of Lisieux, who represented in the see of Lisieux the authority of God the Father, like a priest represents that of God the Son, like a deacon that of God the Holy Ghost.

Similarily, when a bishop like Witham or Challoner (often cited in the Haydock comment) for instance comments on the Gospel to counter Protestant misrepresentation of it - Witham on John 4:23 for instance:

Ver. 23. Now is the time approaching, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth, without being confined to any one temple or place; and chiefly in spirit, without such a multitude of sacrifices and ceremonies as even the Jews now practise. Such adorers God himself (who is a pure spirit) desires, which they shall be taught by the Messias. Wi. ...

... he is not presenting his understanding as his own, but as a gift of God, like St. Paul told St. Timothy: That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work. (II Tim 3:17) Since, you see, a bishop is a "man of God" (like St. Timothy was).

Now, George Leo Haydock was not a bishop. But he cited on occasion bishops Witham (as here) or Challoner (who is also regularly cited in the Douay Rheims, which he revised) and saints who were bishops (like St. John Chrysostom) or saints who were not bishops (like St. Thomas Aquinas) or bishops who were not saints (he does on occasion cite Jansenius, a work of whom was condemned by the Pope after his death). He even applied a non-saint and non-bishop's work to the pages, since more than one passage of Genesis and Exodus is supplemented with the Ussher year (given both as Anno Mundi and as BC). However, he does also give his own comments. Here is a good one:

Concerning the transactions of these early times, parents would no doubt be careful to instruct their children, by word of mouth, before any of the Scriptures were written; and Moses might derive much information from the same source, as a very few persons formed the chain of tradition, when they lived so many hundred years. Adam would converse with Mathusalem, who knew Sem, as the latter lived in the days of Abram. Isaac, Joseph, and Amram, the father of Moses, were contemporaries: so that seven persons might keep up the memory of things which had happened 2500 years before. But to entitle these accounts to absolute authority, the inspiration of God intervenes; and thus we are convinced, that no word of sacred writers can be questioned. H.

It's the last words he added as comment on Genesis 3. From same chapter in the C. S. Lewis Bible, I saw a disaster:

We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they remained in the Paradisal state. ...

Yes, we do. Trent, Session V, makes it clear that the sin we all bear the consequences of was committed by one man, precisely as St. Paul also made clear, so we have a Bible text telling us, God created exactly two of these creatures. And we know they fell before they conceived Cain.

I am an ex of those who took C. S. Lewis as the utmost orthodoxy, I am now a Catholic. And I am very glad this allows me to be unabashedly a Fundie.

However, Haydock had, like Homer, moments of nodding:

It is not material whether the sun turn round the earth, or the contrary. H.

From the Josue 10:12 comment. Yes, it is, since the words "Move not, O sun, toward Gabaon, nor thou, O moon, toward the valley of Ajalon," are not simple narrative, where a phenomenal language could be used, but the words of a miracle worker, where he must be assumed to adress the entity that shall miraculously change normal natural behaviour.

But I am thankful I had C. S. Lewis rather than John Shelby Spong and rather than an Adventist as a teacher about orthodoxy before I turned to Catholicism for it. There are worse examples of praeparatio evangelica.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Wednesday of Holy Week

* I watch the video with French automated translation, impossible to get rid of, but suppose the title "La revue biblique de C. S. Lewis" means "The C. S. Lewis Bible" or perhaps "The C. S. Lewis Study Bible".
** 1963 + 45 < 2008 or early 2009, which would be when the first edition is from.
*** Certain people would differ : if you ditch Freud (as he did), you obviously think you are a better expert in psychology than Freud, they would say. I judge that after how they deal with me.
° He may not have used the "Apocrypha section" when doing so, but if he did, this would land him at 1184 days with lectio continua, as that is the number of chapters in a Catholic Bible. 3.24 years. He probably started over again, time after time and used different languages (King James, Vulgate, LXX with Greek NT) - as far as I know, Hebrew was not among his languages, Latin and Greek most certainly were.
°° I think Carmelites are a mendicant order and as such have no abbotts or abbesses.


Hans Georg Lundahl said...

I had brought up the Haydock Bible in an answer to Ray Comfort as well:

Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere : Reasoned Answer to Ray Comfort

While it is from April 1st, I make it clear in it that my April Fools Joke on that day was another article, a celebration of atheism.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

The video says, erroneously, that CSL when doing theology takes a Calvinistic view - false at least for freewill and grace. By the way, he was an Anglican, but those do count Calvin as one of the Reformers.