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Traditions and reception: interpreting Vatican
II's ‘Declaration on the Church's Relation
to Non-Christian Religions’

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Abstract

I examine the question of how tradition is received and passed on within the Church's Councils with specific attention to the problems of continuity and discontinuity. I use the example of Vatican II's ‘Declaration on the Church's Relation to Non-Christian Religions’ to explore the question of hermeneutics in both receiving and passing on the teachings of the Church. By looking at the historical development of this document I try to show that three important factors at work: first, the question of biblical interpretation; second, the question of determining which elements of tradition are authoritative and which not; and third, the influence of non-theological factors upon theological articulations. Through examining these factors, I argue for one particular approach to Council hermeneutics that is able to include and correct three other approaches. I argue that correct interpretations of Council documents do not represent the closure of tradition, but the opening up of tradition to future reception and re-formulation.

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