The Pope said he was writing “to avoid a split” in the Church after (German Bishops Conference President Archbishop Robert) Zollitsch told him during a March visit that “the bishops in the German-speaking world were still divided on this issue”.
Benedict said that when the Roman Missal was translated into German in the 1960s there was “exegetical consensus” that the word “many” was a Hebrew expression for an entirety. “This exegetical consensus … no longer exists,” he said.
Will the bishops accept this bit of scholarship from the scholarly pope, that the exegesis, which was clear fifty years ago, has muddied in the two generations since?
From this Sunday’s Gospel:
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16)
The NAB note ponders these mysterious “other sheep.” Maybe the “dispersed children of God” mentioned in John 11:52, and maybe other Christian communities on the outs with those who received John’s Gospel. My own sense is that “other sheep” are a lot more widespread than is supposed. In fact, if all wooly hides were exposed to view, I imagine that even I would be surprised who was counted among the Shepherd’s flock. God seems to take a great pleasure in turning expectations upside-down. I think Pope Benedict can feel more secure and unified thinking of Christ’s salvific act “for many” instead of “for all.” If there are exclusions, the first would probably be within the Church itself.
God chose an elderly man to father a nation, a virgin to bear a savior, fishermen and tax collectors to be his closest disciples. Two-thousand years later, and I have no evidence God has abandoned the first, best plan and neglects the unexpected.
My take is that if people want to insist on “many,” they’re still going to get their socks knocked off by some wheat/chaff and sheep/goat revelations in the future.