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The Jesuit Bible Commentary: Part 2

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

This post is part of a special collaborative effort with friend and Reformed blogger Pilgrim Theology. He has already posted part 1 on his blog, which you can read here. His part covers the first edition of the Jerome Biblical Commentary from 1968, the subject of our project, whilst mine covers the 3rd edition from 2022. I advise you read his post first before mine.

As an additional and necessary note, since my copy of the Commentary is physical, all quotes below were typed by myself from the book, with as close adherence to the exact formatting as was feasible. I have checked for any errors and am confident there are none; but should I have missed anything, all page citations are provided in the bibliography should anyone wish to verify. If anyone finds substantial errors, contact me immediately.



Not too long ago I was hanging in my local Christian bookstore, which I frequent often for its sizeable academic section. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a curious volume in the single-volume Bible commentaries section; a large purple book. When I picked it up, my eyes were drawn to the name, The "Jerome" Biblical Commentary for the 21st Century. Jerome, you say? Was this a commentary informed by the scholar-saint himself? Or perhaps a more general patristic commentary? Neither of those, unfortunately. But my attention was quickly taken from the title to a small line of text above it:

"With a foreword by Pope Francis"

You read that correctly; a foreword by the Bishop of Rome, the Pontifex Maximus, the Vicar of Christ, [insert other grandiose, idolatrous titles here]. The Pope of the Roman religion himself gave a foreword endorsement of a scholarly Romanist commentary on the whole Bible.

When I processed this, the ramifications of this dawned on me. I have witnessed and personally engaged in numerous online and in-person arguments with Romanists on the interpretation of the Bible, whether "private" interpretation is valid, whether you can be certain in such interpretations without the authority of the Roman church, and so on. Myself and a number of others often retort that if the Holy See of Rome has such a power to clarify the meaning of Scripture with infallible certainty, why does it not just publish an infallibly protected commentary on the whole Bible and by consequence end all or at least most disputes on the teaching of divine revelation? We would employ this argument often as an illustration of how helpful such a power the Popes are claimed to have would be, yet which is never used to such an obvious end.

But lo and behold, while a biblical commentary with "Ex Cathedra" stamped under the cover does not exist, nor one with even ordinary magisterial authority, as of 2022 something of functional similarity does exist; a commentary on the whole Bible, written by and for Romanists, and endorsed by the Pope himself in a foreword. More still, the foreword does not merely have Mr. Francis the private theologian as its author, but "The Holy See" itself:

So, while not a clear exercise of authentic, ordinary, or extraordinary magisterial authority (given the precise criteria established for such in historic, traditional Romanism), this book has been endorsed - practically speaking - on an official level by the See of Rome itself. A couple of key paragraphs from the foreword illustrate this endorsement (emphasis mine):

It is now common for the Christian community to set aside moments to reflect on the great importance of the word of God for everyday living. The various local Churches have undertaken a wealth of initiatives to make the sacred Scripture more accessible to believers, to increase their gratitude for so great a gift, and to help them strive daily to embody and bear witness to its teachings. This new Jerome Biblical Commentary composed by an international team of Catholic scholars is further evidence of this important movement in the Church. {I}

And at the end of the foreword:

That is the importance and mission of biblical scholarship at the service of the community of faith, the type of scholarship exhibited in this volume of biblical commentaries. The ministry of opening the word of God to God's people is a sacred trust that demands serious study, deep love, and openness to the beauty and power of the Scriptures. In our exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, we spoke of this vocation of biblical scholarship and interpretation done in a spirit of faith: The best incentive for sharing the Gospel comes from contemplating it with love, lingering over its pages and reading it with the heart. ... {II}

Seeing all of this, I brought this volume to the attention to Dr. James White, who would then immediately order the book and comment on it in a Dividing Line episode. The very next day I would host a livestream that I had booked a few days prior going through the commentary's statements on parts of the Bible as requested by live viewers. Even further, Dr. Jules Gomes - a contributor to the major traditional Romanist news site Church Militant - would learn about the commentary through my stream, and subsequently publish an article on Church Militant exposing it to a wider audience, mentioning both Dr. White's stream and my own on the commentary. Soon after, other major figures like Jay Dyer would catch onto the story (see the latter half of his stream here).

Why mention this? In all honesty, I just want the pat on the back for getting the scoop.

But before most of the last paragraph had occurred, I brought the commentary to the attention of my blogger friend Pilgrim Theology, and his interest was immediately piqued. We decided to look at a digitized copy of the first edition published in 1968 (before I had bought the 3rd edition and taken it home; I was reading it at the store itself) to see what groundwork it had laid, and you can check his post linked at the top of his article for a taste of that. But I quickly found the higher-critical liberalism of the 1st edition to be a rad-trad diatribe in comparison to the insanity of this latest edition, which, again, has been endorsed by a Pope. Just how liberal this commentary is and the significance of its existence in the Roman communion will now be demonstrated in this essay, starting with a brief look at the background of one of its main editors. Note that this will not be truly comprehensive, as the commentary is over 2000 pages long. But I will provide a great number of examples to show just how pervasive its liberalism is.

I - On John J. Collins,

Giving a profile of all four main editors would be an essay in its own right, even if only focused on their particularly liberal views. So, this article will focus specifically on the editor whose name sits at the top of the list: John J. Collins. The commentary (henceforth 'JBC21') gives his summary profile as follows:

John J. Collins is Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale University, and honorary professor at the University of Pretoria. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard (1972). His most recent books are The Invention of Judaism: Torah and Jewish Identity from Deuteronomy to Paul (University of California, 2017) and What Are Biblical Values? (Yale, 2019). He serves as general editor of the Anchor Yale Bible and Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library. He has been president of the Catholic Biblical Association and of the Society of Biblical Literature, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds honorary degrees from University College Dublin and the University of Zurich, and has received the Burkitt medal for biblical scholarship from the British Academy. {III}

So, Collins is clearly a scholarly heavyweight. What caught my attention immediately in researching him was his book What Are Biblical Values?, listed in his JBC21 entry above. From the mere title itself and the atrocious portions of the commentary I had witnessed so far, I was immediately certain that it was a work of moral subversion in the form of "Hath God really said..."

Sure enough, that is exactly what it was.

To demonstrate the scope of his short book, here is the table of contents:

What Are Biblical Values?

one. Frames of Reference

two. A Right to Life?

three. The Bible and Gender

four. Marriage and Family

five. The Bible and the Environment

six. Slavery and Liberation

seven. Violence and Zeal

eight. Social Justice in the Hebrew Bible

nine. Social Justice in the Shadow of the Apocalypse

The Authority of the Bible

Nine key topics, nine chapters of pure subversion. To give an idea of just how bad it gets, here is an excerpt from chapter four on marriage and family (emphasis mine; same applies for all other quotes following with bold highlights within unless stated otherwise):

The most extreme example of biblical sexism is found in 1 Timothy 2:11–12: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.” The author repeats the faulty exegesis of Paul, that Adam was formed first and was not the one who was deceived. The passage grants, condescendingly, that a woman can be saved through childbearing. {IV}

And a little further down:

We will revisit the Pastoral Epistles in connection with biblical attitudes to slavery. They are sharply in contrast with modern Western values, but they are arguably equally in conflict with the teachings of Jesus and even those of Paul. These epistles are a long way from the ideal that in Christ there is no male or female. More than most parts of the Bible, they render any concept of biblical authority problematic in the modern world. {V}

And the paragraph that possibly takes the cake comes from the final chapter on the authority of the Bible. I will not bother emphasising key statements in bold; the whole paragraph is a sight to behold:

What, then, should we make of biblical authority? Not everything in the Bible can be accepted as a divine command even when it is presented as such. Wolterstorff has noted that the supposed divine command to extirpate the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 7 is found in a narrative now widely thought to be fictional. Archeological evidence, or lack thereof, shows that there was no violent conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. So, Wolterstorff infers, “if there never was a foreign people invading the land of Canaan and taking it by conquest, then there was also no such thing as God mandating a foreign people to do it.” The implications of this observation are more far-reaching than Wolterstorff acknowledges. The story of the revelation on Mount Sinai is no less fictional than that of the conquest of Canaan. The Ten Commandments were not boomed from a thunderstorm. Whatever we may believe about divine inspiration, the biblical texts are incontrovertibly the work of human authors and shaped by human purposes to at least some degree. {VI}

Remember: this comes from one of four main editors - in fact, the one with his name at the top of the list - of a scholarly commentary of the whole Bible from Romanist scholarship within the Roman communion, and approved by a foreword from the Pope himself as the Pope. The scandal this fact alone should produce is immense, before we even touch the content of the JBC21. Yet we will see that this characterises the worldview and epistemology of the commentary as a whole and its supplementary essays.

II - The Introduction

The introduction that immediately follows the foreword already provides immense foreshadowing as to the nature of the commentary to come. It devotes some space towards praising one of the main editors of the first edition (1968), Fr. Raymond E. Brown, a Roman priest and scholar who was notorious among the traditionalists (and really all lowercase-O orthodox) for his devotion to the higher-critical methodology in vogue at the time. Here is the key excerpt:

It was Raymond Brown, the Sulpician scholar (1928–98), perhaps the most respected Catholic biblical scholar in the English-speaking world of his time, who had the original idea to demonstrate the maturity of Catholic biblical scholarship through a comprehensive commentary on each book of the Bible, along with other topical articles that would probe issues related to the history and interpretation of the biblical text from a Catholic perspective. Brown invited two other outstanding and prolific Catholic scholars—Joseph Fitzmyer, SJ (1920–2016), and Roland E. Murphy, OCarm (1917–2002)—to serve with him as an editorial team and together they recruited other Catholic scholars to produce a work that quickly became a classic resource, not only among Catholics but for a wider Christian audience. Reflecting later on the origin of the JBC, Joseph Fitzmyer stated that he had suggested the idea of calling it "The Jerome Biblical Commentary" to signal that it was intended for more than a Roman Catholic audience. The success of the JBC demonstrated the value of critical biblical scholarship for the life of the Church and reflected the hard-earned efforts of a generation of scholars and church leaders.{VII}

Why this ringing endorsement should raise alarm bells for traditionally-minded Romanists can be readily seen in Fr. Brown's own work. Prominent among his controversial views was his open questioning (though not a strict denial) of the historicity of the virgin birth, a dogma of the Roman faith. For instance, at the end of his analysis of the historicity of the virgin birth in his The Virginal Conception & Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, he makes the following conclusion:

My judgment, in conclusion, is that the totality of the scientifically controllable evidence leaves an unresolved problem—a conclusion that should not disappoint since I used the word “problem” in my title—and that is why I want to induce an honest, ecumenical discussion of it. Part of the difficulty is that past discussions have often been conducted by people who were interpreting ambiguous evidence to favor positions already taken. {VIII}

And towards the start of the book, regarding questions of biblical prophecy respecting the virgin birth and resurrection:

The prophet [Isaiah] was referring to the birth of a child taking place some seven hundred years before Jesus’ time, a child whose coming into the world was a sign of the continuance of the royal Davidic line. Because Matthew regarded Jesus as the completion of this royal Davidic line, and because he read the passage in a Greek translation of Isaiah which spoke of a “virgin” (as distinct from the Hebrew which has only “young woman”), Matthew saw the applicability of this text to the birth of Jesus from the Virgin Mary at Bethlehem. It was a proof for Matthew who had an insight as to how Jesus’ birth fulfilled God’s plan; but, so far as we can tell, Isaiah knew nothing or foresaw nothing about Jesus' birth. {IX}

Now we will move onto some highlights in the Commentary itself.

III - The Commentary

It goes without saying that the actual commentary takes up the vast majority of space in this book. Given that the whole volume is 2000+ pages of double-column text, I will only be able to comment on some highlights, focusing on particularly liberal/progressive/heretical comments by the commentators.

Genesis 1:1–2

To begin with, we will look at the very first page of the commentary in Genesis 1:1–2. The Genesis commentary is written by Mark S. Smith. This choice of contributor is significant, since some of his major work elsewhere has been on the development of Israelite monotheism, including the proposition that Yahweh and El were originally two separate deities, as he argues in The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel:

The original god of Israel was El. This reconstruction may be inferred from two pieces of information. First, the name of Israel is not a Yahwistic name with the divine element of Yahweh, but an El name, with the element, *'ēl. This fact would suggest that El was the original chief god of the group named Israel. Second, Genesis 49:24-25 presents a series of El epithets separate from the mention of Yahweh in verse 18 (discussed in section 3 below). Yet early on, Yahweh is understood as Israel's god in distinction to El. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 casts Yahweh in the role of one of the sons of El, here called 'elyôn... {X}

This will probably be the last citation I give of problematic statements made elsewhere by contributors to the JBC21; there are simply too many, so I will let their words in the JBC21 speak for them from now on. As I said, the spice begins on page 1 (technically 205 but who's counting?) of the actual commentary on the text itself. From the second paragraph:

The very first word of Genesis, [bereshit], literally "in beginning of," is not a prepositional phrase, "in the beginning," as often rendered. It starts a "when-clause" (a temporal clause), "when at first God created the heavens and the earth." Such "when-clauses," followed by "then clauses" (here probably in v. 3), are known in other major literary works outside of the Bible, including other creation accounts (cf. "when-clause" in 2:4a; for the syntax, see Jer 7:22 and Hos 1:2). Verse 1 tells the time of creation, a divine process that does not commence until verse 3. The waters in verse 2 are already present at the beginning of God's creation. Thus, contrary to popular belief, Genesis 1 does not narrate the absolute beginning of everything. {XI}

Consider this whole paragraph, but in particular that one highlighted clause. Right here, on the very first page of commentary, we have a denial of Genesis' teaching the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing). One can perhaps try a charitable (re)interpretation of Smith's words and argue that he only says Genesis is speaking of the time of creation after the waters came, but not necessarily that the waters themselves were not created by God prior, just that such was not mentioned here. But this attempted harmony is almost certainly precluded by the highlighted clause, which interprets Genesis as describing "creation" as a "process that does not commence until verse 3." More than likely, then, we already have our first interpretation of Holy Scripture which denies a core doctrine of Rome and other traditions. As a reminder:

Gospel Authorship

The commentary likewise casts doubt on the traditional Gospel authorship, accepted universally in the tradition Rome has historically professed. Here are each of the commentators for the 4 Gospels and their most relevant comments on authorship:

I - Matthew (Ian Boxall):

Tradition names the evangelist as Matthew the apostle, whom this Gospel identifies with the tax-collector from Capernaum (9:9–13; 10:3), named Levi by Mark and Luke (Mark 2:13–14; Luke 5:27–28). A key witness is Papias, second-century bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor...

... its substantial dependence upon Mark's account makes it unlikely that this Gospel is the work of an apostle or eyewitness. If logia refers to sayings of Jesus, or a collection of OT prophecies, then the traditional attribution may reflect the memory that one of our evangelist's sources was connected to Matthew the apostle. {XII}

So, the score opens with 1 for 1 on scepticism for traditional authorship and preference for anonymity. Next up is Mark:

II - Mark (Stephen P. Ahearne-Kroll):

Nowhere in the Gospel is the author identified, and "according to Mark" was likely added decades after the first versions. Efforts at linking the Gospel's author with John Mark of the second half of Acts are impossible to substantiate historically. The earliest tradition of authorship comes from Papias, a second-century bishop of Phrygian Hierapolis in Asia Minor, who calls "Mark" the "interpreter" (hermēneutēs) of Peter, but Papias also claims that Mark was not a follower of Jesus but of Peter (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.146). Papias' claim is reported by Eusebius two centuries later, which injects a level of uncertainty since this is the only version of Papias' remarks that survive. Papias' remarks form the basis for subsequent patristic attribution of the Gospel to Mark. Otherwise, we know nothing about the Gospel's authorship. {XIII}

That's 2 for 2. How about Luke? For him, we have a shocking turn of events:

III - Luke (Michael Patella, OSB):

The Gospel of Luke, along with its companion volume, the Acts of the Apostles, is attributed to a single author named Luke. Anything known about this person comes from what scholars have gleaned from two sets of early Christian writing. The first source are other biblical texts, which cite Luke's name and inform us that he was a physician and a friend of Paul (Col 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11; Phlm 1:24). This testimony includes Paul's reference to a brother "who is praised in all the churches for his preaching of the gospel" (2 Cor 8:18), a phrase which substantiates the other NT passages even if it does not establish Luke's identity with certainty. For example, the "We Passages" in Acts itself present the writer, Luke, as Paul's travelling companion (16:10–17; 20:5–15; 21:1–18; 27:1–28:15).

The second body of literature of literature consists of extra-biblical sources, such as the Muratorian Fragment, a seventh-century copy of a fourth-century text, itself perhaps Papias' own composition (c. 70–163), in which he tells us that Luke composed the Gospel in his own name. Irenaeus also identified Luke as Paul's companion who wrote the Gospel that Paul preached (see below). Tertullian as well connects Luke to Paul, as do Origen and Jerome.

On this evidence, we can conclusively say that the author of both this Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles may have been a physician in addition to being a biblical writer. Furthermore, the citations from Colossians, Titus, and Philemon strongly suggest that the writer named Luke was well known among important circles in the early church. {XIV}

Patella then briefly addresses a couple of scholarly arguments against Luke's personal acquaintance with Paul. But with this testimony, we have a commentator of the JBC21 who bucks the trend and actually affirms the traditional authorship of a debated text. So, the score is 2 for 3 for Gospel anonymity. Now, what about John, arguably the most theologically significant of the four Gospels? Will the commentator join Patella in actually defending his Church's tradition?

IV - John (Mary L. Coloe PBVM & Urban C. von Wahlde):

The second-to-last commentator's comments on John's authorship {XV} happen to be by far the longest of the sections on Gospel authorship. She gives a detailed yet succinct and helpful summary of the available internal and external evidence for the authorship of John's Gospel, including questions about whether one or multiple "Johns" were behind the whole corpus (inclusive of the Gospel, letters, and Revelation). The closest thing to a conclusion that Coloe proposes is that there was "an" author (thus not subscribing to a radical redaction theory) who "is an educated Judean Jew, rather than a Galilean or Diasporan Jew," whom she appears to identify with the Blessed Disciple within the Gospel, but without further identifying this as John the Son of Zebedee (per Church & Roman tradition).

Further on, Coloe gives some speculations regarding a "Johannine Community" in which a "first draft of the Gospel was taking shape" (ca. A.D. 60s according to Coloe) and that this was "from the preaching of John," encompassing John 1:19 to 14:31 and the Passion narrative of ch.18 to 20. The final form of the Gospel from 1:1 to 20:31 was calcified in the mid-90s A.D. and, according to Coloe, was done "while the [Blessed Disciple] was alive to write or dictate to his scribe, based on his witness of Jesus, and also the ongoing experience of the Paraclete." She then speaks of the Blessed Disciple later adding the epilogue of John 21 in response to community changes as well as the writing of 1st John.

In sum, then, Coloe appears to give a quasi traditional attribution, affirming an eyewitness "Blessed Disciple" as being the primary author of this Gospel text, though without explicitly identifying him with the Apostle John, the Son of Zebedee. This is still far closer to traditional authorship than to other sceptical theories, and so I will award a half-point to the traditional authorship count.

Coloe's comments above come from the section introducing the Johannine corpus at large. The specific commentator of the Gospel itself, Urban C. von Wahlde, has this to say:

The traditional view of the authorship of the Gospel is that it was written by John, the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve apostles. However, there are numerous difficulties with this view and it has been largely abandoned in critical scholarship. We are on more solid ground if we ask about the source of the traditions enshrined in the Gospel. It is very likely that the person responsible for the theological perspective of the Gospel in its final form was another "John"—John the Elder, an original disciple of Jesus, but not one of the Twelve (cf. Papias, quoted by Eusebius, Hist. 3.39.4). This disciple is the same as the one identified as "the Elder" in 2 and 3 John. Although he is not named in 1 John, the Elder is undoubtedly also the one responsible for that work. Because of his importance to the community and the produndity of his (Spirit-driven) insight into Jesus, he is given the honorific title "the disciple whom Jesus loved." ... {XVI}

In summary, then, the JBC21 casts doubt on the traditional authorship of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, affirms the authorship of Luke, and affirms an element of traditional authorship for John (Coloe) but then denies the ultimate claim (Wahlde), albeit without substituting it for a liberal theory of anonymous communal authorship. Unfortunately, anything less than a 4 for 4 in favour of traditional authorship simply adds to the evidence of this commentary's bucking of traditional Roman (and Christian) teaching. Now we will move onto comments on some socially spicy passages (which is where the real fun begins).

1st Timothy 2:12 & Authorship

At the publishing of this essay Rome is embroiled in controversy regarding the ordination of women to the Diaconate (with some pushing for ordination to the priesthood). One would think that the locus classicus of this question - 1st Timothy 2:12 - would be enough to settle the matter. Not so, according to the Papally-approved Biblical commentary (through Henry Wansbrough, OSB):

The instructions for men focus on a suitable frame of mind; for women the restrictions are more stringent: not only must they be modest and simple in attire, but they must keep silent during instruction—presumably in the assembly. This is justified by the man's temporal priority in creation and the woman's priority in sinning, with a grudging concession that a woman can be saved by child-bearing and modesty. Such relegation of women agrees with the surface meaning of Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 (see Commentary there), but is hardly consonant with the important part played by women in the Pauline communities. The deacon Phoebe carried the letter to the Romans (Rom 16:1); Priscilla played her part as a catechist with her husband (Rom 16:3; Acts 18:2, 18–26), and several other women in the Roman churches are congratulated for their hard work for the community (Rom 16:6–15). ... The author here is considerably more repressive of women than the Paul of the earlier letters; the instructions are not the last word for the changed social environment of today. {XVII}

Spicy and Egalitarian-pilled. But did you catch that? Why is "the author" juxtaposed with Paul? Here's Wansbrough just a couple of pages earlier:

It has been suggested that Paul was using a secretary, as he often did in writing or co-authoring his letters. This secretary, however, would be so different from Paul that Paul could hardly have sent the letters as his own; the writer would be an independent author. ... He is no longer working out the theological implications of the Resurrection; rather he is laying down observances, regulations, and safe, traditional doctrine. The firm church structure he envisages has no precedent in the loose, Spirit-filled leadership of the Corinthian community, nor in the house-churches of the Roman Christians. {XVIII}

And just one page over:

Although some immediate historical connection with Paul cannot be wholly ruled out—and each of the letters contains some personal notes which seem to come from Paul—it may be safer to accept that these letters are pseudepigraphal. {XIX}

But even more than this, Wansbrough briefly raises other examples of pseudepigraphal texts, including, in his opinion, 2nd Peter. Note this very significant comment he makes regarding such:

Reputable scholars hold that several of the non-Pauline letters of the New Testament are pseudepigraphal; thus 2 Peter, probably the latest writing of the New Testament, is almost certainly not the work of the Apostle Peter; this is perfectly compatible with the view that it is inspired. {XX}

Take not of this remarkable statement, and then consider how this exact same view was recently promulgated by Roman apologist Trent Horn, also regarding the authorship of [1st Timothy]. Liberal presuppositions on historical method are becoming so pervasive as to even gain endorsement from some traditional Romanists. And remember:

The "Clobber Passages"

Anyone familiar with the "Affirming" Church movement (read: the Synagogue of Slaanesh) has likely had the misfortunate of encountering their "exegesis" (henceforth 'memegesis', pronounced meem-eh-gesis) of what they term the "clobber passages" of Holy Scripture - those statements in which homosexual behaviour is condemned.

True to form, the JBC21 employs memegesis in the same passages, starting with Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13:

Leviticus 18:22–23 similarly prohibits sexual practices that do not produce offspring for the community (anal penetration between two males or intercourse with an animal). Leviticus 18:22 does not speak about the modern concept of "homosexuality" or "homoeroticism," which in general was not known as a possible sexual orientation in Antiquity. The anal penetration of a male by a male was a way to denigrate the penetrated one, to humiliate strangers or the inferior party in warfare (see, e.g., Genesis 19 and Judges 19). Thus, the Bible does not speak about same-sex love as one does today. The major interest of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is to assure that males procreate offspring for the community. Hence, it is hermeneutically inappropriate to use these verses and similar passages in the Bible to ostracize homosexual males. {XXI}

And the memegesis only gets better with Romans 1:26:

Because the pericope in Romans 1:24–27 has been used as a "clobber text" to denigrate persons with same sex orientation, it is worth reminding the reader that such a use strips the text of its social and historical contexts and brings it to bear on an issue Paul's own audience would never have imagined or understood. Paul's contemporaries would have been familiar with multiple types of exploitative sexual relationships, including pedophilia, prostitution, and slavery. In each case, such relationships reveal and inscribe abusive power structures; they have nothing to do with loving sexual relationships between consenting adults. Whatever contemporary moral arguments one wants to mount against same-sex relations, it is ethically irresponsible to use this passage in Romans 1 to close off contemporary explorations of the issues. {XXII}

Incredible. Note the employment of post-modern buzzwords like "exploitative" and "power structures," with a brief foray into "classical" liberalism in pinning the moral standard upon "consenting adults." But for the cherry on top, the commentator (Sheila E. McGinn) actually uses the apostate buzzword "clobber text" in reference to Romans 1:26.

While these regurgitated claims have been comprehensively refuted elsewhere {XXIII}, it is now manifest that the line of distinction between a Roman Catholic scholar and Matthew Vines has been obliterated. And, to remind you once again:

We will look at the comments on one more bonus "clobber" text which I thought of as I was writing this very section; Deuteronomy 22:5. I flipped open my JBC21 commentary to that section and, sure enough, was greeted by yet another social sermon:

Cross-dressing was not associated with sexual orientation, but with unauthorized social status. Life-giving women should not disguise their status by carrying the weapons of life-taking men. ...

Some appeal to traditions like these in Deuteronomy as evidence that heterosexuality is the norm in every culture and in every period of human history (Gen. 9:18–27; Lev: 18.3–14; Judg 19; 1 Sam. 20:30; Hab. 2:15). As David Tabb Stewart demonstrates in LGBT/Queer Hermeneutics and the Hebrew Bible (2017), however, privileging heterosexuality to prohibit homosexuality first appears in the nineteenth century, not in the world of the Bible. For diverse and carefully nuanced reasons, biblical traditions regulate same-sex behavior and prohibit sex with animals; incest by men with men and women; rape of women by men; sex with menstruating women by men; adultery by women with any man, and by men with other men's wives, but not because they considered heterosexuality as the norm. {XXIV}

Yet again, a paragraph that could have been ripped from (abandon all hope, ye who click on that link), but has made its way into the most pre-eminent Biblical commentary produced by current Romanist scholarship with an endorsement from the Bishop of Rome himself.

This set of quotes from the commentary, as many as they appear, are but a fraction of a percent of the whole book. Lord knows how many more statements like the above there are for other passages of Holy Scripture.

IV - The Supplementary Essays

Following the main commentary is a series of supplementary essays, some of which provides some genuinely useful information (e.g. the history of biblical interpretation in the Roman tradition). But there are sections within these essays which yet again betray the post-modern epistemology of the commentary, and there are even whole essays whose very premise does. Here are some essay titles from the table of contents:

How fallen our world must be wherein scholarly ink is spilled exploring "Latinx Biblical Interpretation."

Unfortunately, due to time restraints and the already late state of this essay, the initial release won't include specific quotes from these essays, but will be updated with them shortly after in an appendix. However, one key quote I will include undergirds all of these and the wider commentary's ideology, and it comes from the very first essay; "According to the Scriptures": Biblical Interpretation prior to 1600, which expresses the interpretive epistemology of the whole commentary in compact form:

All interpretation is relational, consisting of a triangle in which (1) an exegete (2) explains a text (3) to an audience. Texts do not so much "possess" meaning as some fixed characteristic or quality, as they are given meaning based on the interests, presuppositions, and skills of exegetes for the purpose of instructing and/or motivating particular audiences. Meaning exists within the dynamic activity of the interpretive triangle itself. From this perspective, the plain, or literal, sense is what a community of believers takes to be the primary significance of the text; the adapted meanings, whether we want to call them spiritual, allegorical, figural, or whatever, will be what the community judges appropriate to help make use of the text in their lives. All three angles of the interpretive triangle are constantly shifting. The biblical text itself was not stable, but often changed, due tot he work of copying, editing, and above all translating. Exegetes and the audiences they addressed also shifted. ...

... For modern interpreters the Bible is thus not a unified collection with a central theme, as it was for the Fathers and medievals, but is a gathering of diverse texts written by Jews and Christians over more than a millennium. Different, even contradictory, views are to be found among many of these texts, and sometimes even within books composed of different strata. ... {XXV}

This right here gives away the whole game; meaning does not statically inhere with a text, but a text and its interpreters and the recipient community. Readers are not simply the agents whose task it is to draw the substantial meaning given by the author, but is himself an authority in circumscribing that meaning. In other words, the essential components of post-modern thought.

Of course, having engaged in formal and informal study of hermeneutics and exegesis, I take for granted the fundamental nature of presuppositions, that bare "neutrality" does not exist at any level. Nonetheless, a clear distinction exists between a position that I (and pre-moderns) hold wherein presuppositions serve to correctly draw out the particular meaning substantially expressed by an author in time and space, versus presuppositions as an essential instrument of imputing meaning upon a text, particularly in ecclesial contexts. Ironically enough, the sentence prior to the partial quote of the second paragraph above assumes this former view with respect to determining the authorial intent of these texts, but then, as the above quote shows, divides this from the view of Scripture as fundamentally univocal in its message, a division that is completely at odds with the Christian tradition (as even the quote itself admits), including the Roman branch. One last time, I remind the reader:

V - Implications for the Roman Communion & Conclusion

It is entirely possible - common sense notwithstanding - for a Romanist to glean over the tonnes of commentary quotes above, shrug his shoulders, and remark "So what?" I answer this potential response thusly:

First, as acknowledged at the beginning of this essay, the Pope's foreword does not bear magisterial weight; authentic, ordinary, or extraordinary. It is, however, official nonetheless. It was not ascribed to Jorge Bergoglio the private theologian, but Francis (his Papal/regnal name) and, more prominently, the Holy See, Rome itself. The commentary is therefore - in real, practical terms - officially endorsed by the Pope of the See of Rome.

In light of this above fact, we have in our possession clear evidence of impending disaster in the Roman communion, akin to a receding tide before a tsunami. This is what the sitting Pope has commended to the faithful as "further evidence" of the "wealth of initiatives to make the sacred Scripture more accessible to readers" and to help them "bear witness to its teachings." {XXVI} Members of the Reformation and post-Reformation traditions have been lectured time and again by Roman apologists about the clarifying power of the Roman magisterium, how it's necessary for "settling" doctrinal disputes, and - according to some - is even the essential precondition for knowledge/certainty on the teaching of Scripture (see Casey Chalk's The Obscurity of Scripture, a review series of which is in the works). And yet, the Roman magisterium throughout history has been the instrument of further division and confusion, not unity and certainty, especially in this present pontificate, with a true climax of irony embodied in the JBC21.

"But it's not of magisterial authority!" will be the usual line of retort, as if this changes anything, which it doesn't. We live in a practical and material world, not in the aether of abstractions. That the Pope did not say Simon Says when writing this foreword is irrelevant to the practical fact that he did write the foreword and did endorse this commentary as the Pope to the faithful, thus striking at the very heart of arguments for Rome's role in resolving disputes and preserving orthodoxy. To the contrary, faithful Romanists now (and really since Vatican II) have to engage in the process of personal research in spite of present authorities - something mocked by many a Roman apologist as Protestant arrogance - just to keep a hold on the traditional teaching of their Church in the face of its present promulgation of modernism. And I say all of this not as derision or mere point scoring against Rome, but as a violent wake up call, because I want to fight this abomination with my Roman friends, even while they remain Roman (though God willing, from my perspective, they eventually leave Rome).

As an ultimate summary, the Jerome Biblical Commentary for the 21st Century hails the capitulation of Rome on orthodox teaching and the collapse of present arguments for that church's necessity in maintaining said orthodoxy and unity. On the contrary, it too needs saving. What, then, is the solution? Where must the Church go to for grounding orthodox? I believe the Sacred Scripture gives this answer in many places, including in the very first of the Psalms:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

~ Psalm 1 (KJV)


I - The Jerome Biblical Commentary for the 21st Century, p.vii.

II - JBC21, p.viii.

III - JBC21, after p.xiii.

IV - Collins, John J. What Are Biblical Values?, p.106

V - Ibid.

VI - Ibid, pp.216 - 217.

VII - JBC21, p.x.

VIII - Brown, Raymond E. The Virginal Conception & Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, pp.66 - 67.

IX - Brown, p.16.

X - Smith, Mark S. The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (2nd edition), ch.1, section 2, par. 1.

XI - JBC21, p.205.

XII - JBC21, p.1170.

XIII - JBC21, p.1240.

XIV - JBC21, p.1289

XV - JBC21, pp.1363–1367.

XVI - JBC21, p.1378.

XVII - JBC21, p.1741.

XVIII - JBC21, p.1737.

XIX - JBC21, p.1738.

XX - Ibid.

XXI - JBC21, p.298.

XXII - JBC21, 1540.

XXIII - For example, Dr. Robert Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, but also a lesser known tome (yet one of my favourites), Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, by Richard M. Davidson. See also my own videos here and here.

XXIV - JBC21, p.350.

XXV - JBC21, p.1892.

XXVI - JBC21, p.vii.

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