The Church and Her Scriptures

What is the Bible’s relationship to the Church? How did the Bible emerge from the Church? How does the Church read, interpret, and teach the Bible? A critical answer to these questions is provided by Vatican II’s statement on biblical interpretation, Verbum Dei (1965).

Fr. Patrick J. Hartin, Verbum Dei, and the Task of Biblical Interpretation

In our time, one who has practiced reading the Bible in communion with the Catholic Church most intentionally, earnestly, and generously—both in his native South Africa and in the United States—has been Fr. Patrick J. Hartin. Although he is extremely well-versed in all of the current methods of reading the Bible, and especially the New Testament, he also advocates for the study of the Bible in the manner of the early Church, and especially for Augustine’s approach to the New Testament.

Most of all, Fr. Hartin has always taken to heart James’s exhortation, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jas 1:22), and he has always accepted James’s assertion—echoing Proverbs—that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). A native of South Africa, Fr. Hartin recalls that he was extremely pleased as a twelve-year old boy to be Catholic because of the Church’s resistance to the apartheid regime. He was ordained a priest in Johannesburg in 1971 and, after studying in Italy, he taught languages and eventually became headmaster of St. Benedict’s College high school. After earning two doctorates from the University of South Africa (in Ethics and in the New Testament), he taught at two of South Africa’s finest universities, the University of Witwatersrand and the aforementioned University of South Africa, earning tenure at both institutions. He served the Catholic Church in South Africa not only as a teacher and scholar, but as a very successful author of religious education textbooks as well as columns and short articles aimed at adult faith formation. The opportunity to study and serve as Catholic Chaplain at Claremont McKenna College brought Fr. Hartin to the United States originally; from there he soon went to Gonzaga University where he was tenured for the third time and served for the final 21 years of his 43-year career. There he taught and wrote especially on the New Testament, but also in that University’s Classical Civilizations program. During those years, he also published ten of his eighteen books. After he retired from Gonzaga in 2016, he continued to teach at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California and to write on the Bible and biblical interpretation. He has said that what has motivated his productive academic career has been his students, his teaching, and his scholarship—in that order. He has also been active in contributing to seminaries and has ministered to several parishes within the Diocese of Spokane.

Fr. Hartin and Fellow Scholars Address the Ongoing Task of Biblical Interpretation

On February 16, 2016, Fr. Hartin delivered his final public lecture as professor at Gonzaga, “The Gift of Dei Verbum.” Sponsored by the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute and the Gonzaga Socratic Club, the talk addressed the principles that motivated and animated his entire career in biblical studies. He credited those principles as arising not directly from himself, however, but from Vatican II’s statement Verbum Dei. As a result, his lecture was devoted to commenting on that document of the Church.

Inspired by Fr. Hartin’s remarks, the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute sponsored panels of public talks over a three-year period devoted to the question of how the Church had read the Bible throughout its history, and especially in the period of the early Church. Scholars from Europe, North America, and Australia participated. Fr. Hartin’s lecture and the responses inspired by it were such valuable statements that two scholars associated with the Faith and Reason Institute decided to collect them for publication. Additional contributions were invited from scholars of the Bible who work along the same lines as Fr. Hartin. Together, the collected essays are intended to limn and extend the “Hartinian” approach to reading the Bible with the Church, which approach has its roots in Verbum Dei.

The Church and Her Scriptures (2022)

The Church and Her Scriptures by Catherine Brown Tkacz and Douglas Kries book cover

The final product of this work is The Church and Her Scriptures: Essays in Honor of Patrick J. Hartin, edited by Catherine Brown Tkacz and Douglas Kries (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2022). A highlight of the volume is the capstone essay of the honoree's career, the lecture sponsored by the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute in 2016, “The Gift of Dei Verbum.” With the publication of this volume, the Most Reverend Thomas A. Daly, Bishop of Spokane, and the Faith and Reason Institute at Gonzaga University extend their thanks and congratulations to Fr. Hartin for the enormous service he has rendered to the Catholic Church in Spokane.

Copies of the book may be purchased at your favorite bookstore or directly from the publisher.