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Conference of the new student group in Heiligenkreuz 2018

Biblical hermeneutics and churchliness


Around nine months after the request of Pope em. Benedict XVI in Rome, the new school group Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI met. e. The host in Heiligenkreuz Abbey was Abbot Dr. Maximilian Heim OCist, who is himself a member of the New Student Circle and invited to participate in the prayer times of the monks, which was gladly attended by the members of the New Student Circle.

The invitation of the board around Prof. Dr. Christoph Ohly (1st Chairman), P. Dr. Sven Conrad FSSP (2nd Chairman) and Dr. Rainer Hangler (treasurer) was followed by around 20 members of the new student group. The long-standing speaker of the Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI student group, Prof. em. Fr Dr Stephan Horn SVD, and Dr. Josef Zöhrer, Chairman of the Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI Foundation.


New Testament scholar Prof. Dr. Marius Reiser: "We have lost sight of the goal in biblical hermeneutics."

The focus of the meeting in Heiligenkreuz Abbey was, in addition to the question of the further development of the New Student Circle eV, the personal and academic exchange around the work and thinking of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope em. Benedict XVI

In the light of the current discussion within the new group of students with Pope Benedict's book trilogy "Jesus of Nazareth" (2007-2012), the special focus this year was on the question of correct biblical hermeneutics and text exegesis within academic theology. Marius Reiser, a longstanding professor of the New Testament in the Department of Catholic Theology at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, could be won as a speaker.

In his lecture, the theologian, philologist and biblical scholar clarified the decisive change that biblical hermeneutics and textual exegesis have undergone since the Enlightenment: While from the time of the fathers to the epoch of humanism, the Holy Scriptures were considered an inspired book in which the Holy Spirit ( seemingly opposing) parts to form a unit and from Origen to Thomas Aquinas the allegorical interpretation of Scripture was justified in addition to the literal meaning, since the Enlightenment the Bible has instead been regarded "as a book like any other" (Reiser). and thus the content emphasizes the contrasting rather than the uniform and allegorical interpretations are considered unscientific. According to Reiser, the consequence is that biblical exegesis has developed from an exegesis oriented towards the church or towards the regula fidei to a literary-historical exegesis and this leads to the “danger of antiquarian exegesis of the classics” (Reiser).

Especially in the 20th and 21st centuries there was a real "explosion of new theories and methods" (Reiser) in the field of biblical exegesis, the only common denominator of which was that they opposed a purely theological interpretation of Holy Scripture. Because this is generally considered "pre-critical" - an arrogance towards the fathers' hermeneutics, which, as Prof. Reiser regretfully stated, can even be found in the letter of the Pontifical Bible Commission "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church" from 1993. For his part, Marius Reiser accused those researchers who regarded pre-Enlightenment Bible exegesis as "pre-critical" of hubris and arrogance and also pointed out that the decoupling of the Bible from its ecclesiastical and spiritual origins has been shown to lead to a complete alienation of exegetes from church and tradition because, according to the methods of historical research, both God and essential content of the New Testament, such as Christ's miracles, would have to be rejected as unhistorical or untenable. Thus, since the Enlightenment, Bible exegesis has tended to be a-theological and a-theistic from the ground up.

Marius Reiser pleaded in front of the new student circle for a convergence of "old" and "new" biblical hermeneutics. It is important to take an unobstructed look at the respective achievements of the two biblical hermeneutics - but in the present time above all to rehabilitate the original biblical hermeneutics, which are considered "pre-critical", and to demand more churchliness in biblical exegesis (and also the exegetes themselves). As important examples Reiser called Benedict XVI's "Jesus of Nazareth" book trilogy and his post-synodal apostolic exhortation of 2010, "Verbum Domini", a successful reconciliation of both hermeneutics.

The lecture by Professor Reiser and two shorter lectures by the members of the New Student Circle, PD Dr. Michaela Hastetter (a comparison between Georges Florovsky and Joseph Ratzinger) and Prof. Dr. Achim Buckenmaier ("Origin, meaning and effect of the incognito of God in the work of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI.") led to lively discussions and were supplemented by the joint celebration of the liturgy and a cozy get-together after the meetings. The new student group would like to thank Abbot Maximilian Heim for a successful national meeting in Heiligenkreuz Abbey and is already looking forward to the meeting with the student group in Castel Gandolfo at the beginning of September.


Stephen Ahrens

Photos: Rainer Hangler

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