Scripture, Tradition, Office
Introduction byPeter Hünermann and
Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, published three volumes in the
series Quaestiones Disputatae: two as professor on theology, and one as
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. All three
include important pieces from his pen; all three have attracted a good
deal of notice; all three are concerned with how God's word is alive in
the Church; all three were written with ecumenism in view; and they all
respond to the question of how the truth of the Christian faith can be
recognized and articulated, how we can witness to it and hand it on to
others. The two earlier pieces are from the context of the Second
Vatican Council, and the third is of paradigmatic significance for the
development of Vatican theology.
In 1961, in the midst of the preparations for the Second Vatican
Council, Joseph Ratzinger, together with Karl Rahner, published the
volume Episkopat und Primat (The Episcopate and the Primacy). His
contribution was entitled "Primacy, Episcopate, and Successio
Apostolica". At the end of the first section, the writer comes to this
The Vatican Council [he means the First Vatican
Council] represents a condemnation of papalism just as much as of
episcopalism. Actually, it characterizes both doctrines as heresies,
and, in place of one-dimensional solutions on the basis of late
theological ideas or those of power politics, it sets the dialectic of
the reality already given, stemming from Christ, a dialectic and a
reality that confirm their obedience to the truth in their very
renunciation of a uniform formula satisfying to the intellect.
The fact that, according to the Vatican Council, not
only episcopalism but also papalism in the narrow sense should be
regarded as a condemned doctrine is something that must no doubt be
impressed in the public consciousness of the Christian world to a far
greater extent than has hitherto been the case. 
In the second part, the nature of the apostolic succession, as "being
taken into the service of the word"  and as following the apostles,
is shown as essentially based on and influenced by the apostolic
tradition. "'Apostolic succession' is by its nature the living presence
of the word in the personal form of the witness."  It is against
this horizon that the agreement and the difference between papal and
episcopal succession are determined.
In 1965, during the final year of the Council's work, Joseph Ratzinger
(again, together with Karl Rahner) published volume 25 of the
Quaestiones Disputatae, under the title of Offenbarung und
Überlieferung (Revelation and Tradition, QD 17). His own [first]
piece is also entitled, "The Question of the Concept of Tradition: A
Provisional Response". The question that sets the tone is of ". . . the
way the word of revelation uttered in Christ remains present in history
and comes to man".  Joseph Ratzinger begins with an analysis of the
way the question was put in the Reformation period, then works out
fundamental theses regarding the relation between revelation and
tradition, and thus interprets the concept of tradition in the
documents of Trent. In his concluding reflection, he sums up his
findings: "We are faced with a concept according to which revelation
does indeed have its [its 'once-for-all' character], insofar as it took
place in historical facts, but also has its constant 'today', insofar
as what once happened remains forever living and effective in the faith
of the Church, and Christian faith never refers merely to what is past;
rather, it refers equally to what is present and what is to come." 
1. the inscription of revelation ( the gospel) not
only in the Bible, but in hearts;
2. the speaking of the Holy Spirit throughout the
whole age of the Church;
3. the conciliar activity of the Church;
4. the liturgical tradition and the whole of the
tradition of the Church's life. 
In 1989, Joseph Ratzinger published Quaestio no. 117, Schriftauslegung
im Widerstreit (Biblical Interpretation in Conflict). This records the
"Erasmus Lecture" that the writer delivered at the Lutheran Center for
Religion and Society in New York and the papers discussed in the
subsequent workshop with scholars of various Christian denominations.
The Cardinal's lecture is entitled "Biblical Interpretation in
Conflict: The Question of the Basic Principles and Path of Exegesis
Today". This represents a fundamental discussion of questions
concerning biblical exegesis ecumenically, and, starting from a
"self-critical reflection"  on mod- ern critical methods, it
sketches the outlines of a new synthesis. The central watchwords of
this new synthesis are:
1. The unity of "event and word"; if these are separated in a dualist
scheme, then this cuts "the biblical word off from creation and
abolishes the interrelationship of meaning between the Old and New
2. The way that revelation is "greater" in relation to the news about
it. "The biblical word bears witness to the revelation but does not
contain it in such a way that the revelation is completely absorbed in
it and could now be put in your pocket like an object."  It follows
from this that, "There is a surplus of meaning in an individual text,
going beyond its immediate historical setting." And at the same time,
Scripture as a whole has its own status. "It is more than a text pieced
together from what the individual authors may have intended to say,
each in his own historical setting."  This essentially stems from
the fact that Scripture witnesses to the word of God, which tradition
These three pieces are closely related to the central task that
Benedict XVI sees as being set for his pontificate. In his "First
Message", of April 20, 2005, before the cardinals in the Sistine
Chapel, and which he was addressing, not just to his "most reverend
brothers", but also to his "dear brothers and sisters in Christ" and to
all "men of goodwill", he said,
Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics
cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which
Christ expressed so ardent a hope in the Upper Room. The Successor of
Peter knows that he must make himself especially responsible for his
Divine Master's supreme aspiration. Indeed, he is entrusted with the
task of strengthening his brethren (cf. Lk 22:32). With full awareness,
therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that
Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his
primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and
visible unity of all Christ's followers. 
Working at this task demands both boldness in the Spirit and an
authenticity of action founded in faith. It requires profound insight
into theological relationships. These three publications offer us
essential insights into the problem areas posed by this task. They open
up perspectives toward solutions that Joseph Ratzinger saw as a
theologian and cardinal and that remain important for his pontificate.
The main focus that Benedict XVI is setting for his pontificate has
prompted the Herder publishing house and the current editors of the
Quaestiones Disputatae series, with its wealth of tradition, to reissue
these important texts. They wish that Benedict XVI may have the
"assistance" that Jesus promised and all that help which is essential
for the achievement of this task.
 See below, 20.
 See below, 23.
 See below, 30.
 See below, 41.
 See below, 86-87.
 See below, 87.
 Schriftauslegung im Widerstreit, QD 117 (Freiburg im Breisgau:
Herder, 1989), 24.
 See below, 121.
 See below, 122-23.
 See below, 123.
 "First Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI at the End of the
Eucharistic Concelebration with the Members of the College of Cardinals
in the Sistine Chapel", Wednesday, April 20, 2005, no. 5.
Scripture, Tradition, Office | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
In this book Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, presents the Word
of God as a living reality in the Church. God's Word, according to
Ratzinger, is encountered in the Bible, in Tradition, and through the
teaching Office of the Bishop, who, through apostolic succession, is to
be the servant of and witness to the divine Word. Ratzinger examines as
well the relationship between the Episcopacy and the Papacy. He also
considers the nature of Apostolic Succession, and he responds to
Reformed objections to the Catholic view of the subject. His treatment
is sympathetic to the concerns of non-Catholic Christians while
remaining faithful to Catholic teaching and practice.
This book also includes the famous Erasmus Lecture of Cardinal
Ratzinger, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of modern
critical approaches to biblical interpretation. Ratzinger proposes a
new approach that avoids the pitfalls of a narrowly critical outlook on
the Bible without succumbing to fundamentalism. God's Word provides
profound insights into Pope Benedict XVI's efforts to renew the
Church's participation in God's Truth through the divine Word, as well
as the Church's mission to proclaim the Word to all people.
"The calm, clear, and precise teaching that has characterized the
theological work of Joseph Ratzinger as Peritus, Archbishop, Prefect,
and Pope is placed before the Christian reader in this newly
republished volume, God's Word:Scripture, Tradition, Office. Both
refreshing and prophetic, this writing lays the groundwork for the two
great initiatives that Pope Benedict XVI has stated are the top
priorities of his pontificate, evangelization and ecumenism. Bypassing
the bland contemporary approach that reduces these noble objectives to
mere niceness, this book faces the problems that, if resolved, will
make possible the 'New Evangelization' envisioned by Pope John Paul II
and the 'full and visible unity of all Christ's followers' so desired
by Pope Benedict XVI himself. This book, though not light reading, will
be of interest and inspiration to all Christians who honestly seek
truth and unity." -- Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz
"This book brings together three important treatises on the issue of
Scripture and Tradition from the pen of one of the greatest theologians
ever to hold the papal office. Written with clarity and insight, this
book helps us to trace the development of this important theme in
Catholic theology since Vatican II, and it also opens up fruitful
avenues of ecumenical advance. A little masterpiece!" -- Timothy
George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School Samford University.
Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was for over two decades the
Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope
John Paul II. He is a renowned theologian and author of numerous books.
A mini-bio and full listing of his books published by Ignatius Press
are available on his IgnatiusInsight.com Author Page.