What is Man? An Itinerary of Biblical Anthropology

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Pietro Bovati, SJ

 Pietro Bovati, SJ / Church Thought / 7 April 2020


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“What is Man?” (Ps 8:5). An itinerary of biblical anthropology is a new document from the The Pontifical Biblical Commission (DPCB), currently it is available only in Italian from the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The study was requested by Pope Francis, who considered it necessary to bring clarity to issues of great importance for contemporary culture, drawing light from the Bible. There are many interesting aspects and innovations in the document; this contribution aims to illustrate them.

A first innovative element is immediately evident in the fact that the document is much more voluminous than previous pronouncements by the same Commission. The breadth of the discussion is justified by the theme addressed: the question, “What is man?” can only find an adequate answer by means of an in-depth analysis of the texts, images and stories that constitute the expressive contents of the entire Bible.

Scripture is in fact a complex whole made up of various types of literature that were written and reworked in different eras, with approaches and use of language that are not immediately convergent. To account for such a heritage requires the patience to examine elaborate literary pathways. It would not be appropriate (Christian) hermeneutics to take some quotations from the scriptural heritage in order to validate a predetermined discourse, set out as a true and normative outcome of rational procedure. The Word of God was not delivered to us to confirm what human reason has intuited and theorized: instead, it is the otherwise unheard of Revelation of the divine mystery, and we fail to obey the faith when we do not recognize in Sacred Scripture the matrix of authentic Christian thinking.

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