Some of us read the Bible with a desire to find out what it says to me, caring little about any background contextual information. This method can lead to treating the Bible as a book written by God and handed directly to man (as the Muslims see the Koran). It tends to ignore that the text was written through a person, at a time, and in an historical setting.
Some of us are inclined to see the Bible as more of a challenging puzzle with any meaning to be found distanced from us personally and only obtainable through study. This method can lead to treating the Bible as a book with a message for a people long ago, while forcing us today to see only general truth and moral guidelines, but no really personal message or meaning.
But in his wisdom, the Holy Father sees truth in both together, and danger in each individually. The truth, as it often does, lies at the center.
The Holy Father indicated how Jerome also affirmed "the need to go back to the original texts, ... to the Greek in which the New Covenant was written" and "to the Hebrew" for the Old Testament, "thus everything that arises from the source 'we may find in the streams'" he said, again quoting the saint.
It was Jerome's view, the Pope explained, "that commentators must present multiple opinions" so that readers, "having read the various explanations, ... may judge which is the most trustworthy."
The saint "energetically and vigorously refuted heretics who attacked the tradition and faith of the Church. He demonstrated the importance of Christian literature, which by then was worthy to bear the confrontation with classical literature," having become part of "a true Christian culture."
"From Jerome," Pope Benedict went on, "we must learn to love the Word of God in Holy Scripture," because to ignore it "is to ignore Christ." Hence it is important "to live in contact and living dialogue" with Scripture.
"Such dialogue must have two dimensions. On the one hand it must be a truly personal dialogue ... because God has a message for each one of us. We must read Scripture not as words from the past but as the Word of God Who talks to me, and seek to understand what the Lord is telling me."
However, "in order not to fall prey to individualism, we must bear in mind that the Word of God is given to us to build communion, to unite us in that truth, in that path. ... The Word of God, though it is always personal, is always a Word that builds ... the Church. For this reason we must always read it in communion with the living Church. And the privileged place for listening to the Word of God is the liturgy."
"The Word of God transcends time," the Pope concluded. "Human opinions come and go, ... the Word of God is the word of eternal life. It carries eternity within and is valid forever."
Wow, he should write a book.