Spring 2001

Sacred Scripture: God’s Word and the Church’s Word

Leo Scheffczyk

"Because she is gifted with the Spirit, the Church possesses the genuine capacity to lend her voice, through her preaching, to the Word of God in Scripture, and to make it public in properly human words without detriment to its essence."

Since Christianity is the ultimate divinely revealed religion,1 it possesses from the outset a special affinity to the reality of the word. It has its origin in the (analogous) characterization of the inner-trinitarian Logos2 as the "Word of the Father," which, as the self-expression of a divine I to a Thou, immediately sheds light on the experiences that constitute a "speech-event"—personal opening, selfless sharing, and generous self-gift. The speech-event acquires a unique and unrepeatable intensity in the divine sphere. However, insofar as it extends in the freedom of God's will to creation, and insofar as it addresses itself to human beings, the revealed Word3 or the Logos made flesh is transformed from an inner-trinitarian Logos into an "opening of the Father";4 he becomes the revealer par excellence, the one who remains the source, content, and norm for every further transmission of revelation.

The transmission of grace-filled revelation can likewise be grasped at bottom only as a word-event, even if the divine Word subsequently passes into the medium of human speech and thus takes on various forms, from the words of the prophets, to the preacher's homily in the Church.5 In this, we see a certain line of development of the reality of the word, which, like the history of revelation, can be understood as a "history of the word."


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1. Cf., in this regard, t he Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's statement "Dominus Jesus: On the Unicity and Saving Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church" (6 August 2000).

2. On the derivation and determination of the Johannine concept of "Logos," see R. Schnackenburg, Das Johannesevangelium I (Freiburg, 1965), 257-69.

3. On the passage from divine, primal word to the word of revelation, see "logos," by O. Proksch, in ThWNT, vol. 4 (Stuttgart, 1942), 93.

4. J. Gnilka, Theologie des Neuen Testaments (Freiburg, 1994), 237.

5. On the "forms" of the Word of God, see P. Stuhlmacher, Von Verstehen das Neuen Testaments: Eine Hermeneutik (Göttingen, 1979), 45-47.