Showing posts with label Scripture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scripture. Show all posts

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Von Balthasar's Aesthetical Approach To Scripture

In the first book of the first part of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Trilogy, The Glory of the Lord: Seeing the Form, von Balthasar lays out his plan for a theological aesthetics. He envisions his project as a reversal of the ordering of the transcendentals in the works of Immanuel Kant. Kant began with his critique of pure reason (truth), then moved to a critique of practical reason (good), and finally a critique of judgment (beauty). Thus, von Balthasar begins where Kant ends and affirms that without beauty as the starting point, the other transcendentals are lost. ...

Continue reading my most recent article, Obstacles to Reading Scripture in Modernity: Von Balthasar's Response, over at Homiletic & Pastoral Review.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Blessings And Curses

Dr. John Bergsma over at The Sacred Page has a great post on today's readings about how the Sermon on the Mount resembles Old Testament covenant documents, such as the book of Deuteronomy. Go check it out!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Contradictions In Scripture?

Many people who like to deny the truthfulness of Sacred Scripture point to Genesis 2:7-9 as being a screaming contradiction of Scripture. For it says:

“then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food”

The denier would exclaim, “See! Scripture has to be false. In Gen. 2:7, it says that man is created. THEN after that in Gen. 2:9, God causes vegetation to grow. BUT THIS CAN’T BE TRUE, for Genesis 1 says that land and vegetation was created on the THIRD day and man was created on the SIXTH day! Therefore, Scripture is false.”
On the surface, it seems that the denier is correct. Scripture contradicts itself. How are we who hold that Scripture is inspired by God, and therefore inerrant (for God is not the author of error), to answer?
By following St. Augustine, of course!
St. Augustine, following Tyconius’ sixth rule of recapitulation (from his Book of Rules), provides the solution in Book III, Chapter 36 of his De doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine):

The sixth rule Tichonius calls the recapitulation, which, with sufficient watchfulness, is discovered in difficult parts of Scripture. For certain occurrences are so related, that the narrative appears to be following the order of time, or the continuity of events, when it really goes back without mentioning it to previous occurrences, which had been passed over in their proper place. And we make mistakes if we do not understand this, from applying the rule here spoken of. For example, in the book of Genesis we read, "And the Lord God planted a garden eastwards in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food." Now here it seems to be indicated that the events last mentioned took place after God had formed man and put him in the garden; whereas the fact is, that the two events having been briefly mentioned, viz., that God planted a garden, and there put the man whom He had formed, the narrative goes back, by way of recapitulation, to tell what had before been omitted, the way in which the garden was planted: that out of the ground God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food. Here there follows "The tree of life also was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." Next the river is mentioned which watered the garden, and which was parted into four heads, the sources of four streams; and all this has reference to the arrangements of the garden. And when this is finished, there is a repetition of the fact which had been already told, but which in the strict order of events came after all this: "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden." For it was after all these other things were done that man was put in the garden, as now appears from the order of the narrative itself: it was not after man was put there that the other things were done, as the previous statement might be thought to imply, did we not accurately mark and understand the recapitulation by which the narrative reverts to what had previously been passed over.

Now, the question that arises is, “Why would God make Scripture to be written in such a way as this?” The answer is so that you won’t rush through Sacred Scripture, but rather read it diligently and with extreme care, savoring every word the Sacred Author has written. Also, in order for you to dig deeper into Scripture and probe the depths of “the riches of the glory of this mystery” communicated by the Holy Spirit. Then you will “have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Text In Its Final Form

“Contrary to what I have heard said, it is perfectly possible to understand a text without knowing whether it is E or whatever. If I insist on a documentary setting, or an historical setting in which the text was composed, I am often, even usually, tied to pure hypothesis: the connection with a source is dubious, the existence of the source (E) is in question. In any case the historical setting of the passage’s composition is largely a guess. And still the text itself in its most important setting, its actual place in scripture, lies before me to study as a grammatical and literary structure that I can analyze with some confidence without beginning with a chancy guess about origins.”
-D.J. McCarthy, “Exodus 3:14: History, Philology and Theology,” CBQ 40 (1978).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Review: Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period

Length: 528 pages
6 x 9 inches
Binding: paperback
IVP Academic (July 2002)
ISBN: 0-8308-2678-5
IVP Order Code: 2678

The Second Temple Period, spanning from 586 B.C.- A.D. 135, was a fascinating time of joy (due to the return from exile in Babylon) and hope (of a future return of the ten northern tribes who had been scattered by Assyria). Mixed with the joy and hope are themes of tribulation, restoration, nationalistic identification, liturgical purification, and eschatological and messianic expectation which all help to further our understanding of the New Testament. With Larry Helyer’s Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students, he takes on an ambitious task...and succeeds. In 528 pages he surveys over 35 documents from the Second Temple Period, from the Babylonian Exile to the rise of Rabbinical Judaism and the Apostolic Fathers.
For each document, Helyer provides an introduction (discussing authorship, dating, purpose, and structure), outline, and analysis. Concluding each analysis is a section pointing out each Second Temple document’s significance for the New Testament. What really makes this book worth its weight in gold for students of the New Testament, however, is the discussion questions, the recommended readings for further study, and the advice concerning which texts to use for each document. These resources make the book perfect for independent study with Helyer as the guide. With the Second Temple documents in one hand and Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period in another, the student is well equipped to dive into these sources and bear much fruit for understanding the New Testament.
While I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to all, I do so with a few caveats for Catholic readers. Being a Protestant, there are issues with Helyer’s understanding of the Old Testament Canon. Although his rejection of the seven books of the Old Testament that the Church has always held as canonical do not prevent the book from being profitable (for more on the Old Testament Canon, see my review of Walter Kaiser’s The Old Testament Documents). What is more of a concern is Helyer’s Calvinistic presuppositions that influence his understanding of the texts. For example, he seems to suggest that the Qumranites are proto-Calvinits:
“The doctrine of the two spirits actually attributes the evil impulse to God. Though accountable for their sin, the wicked, by virtue of God’s eternal plan, have no recourse but to succumb to the evil angel and the resultant misdeeds.” (256)
Did the Qumran community really believe in double predestination? That is highly debatable, which is why it is startling to see him state immediately after, “This theological problem is never raised or discussed in the Qumran literature; it is simply assumed as a fact.” If the problem is never raised or discussed, who is assuming it as a fact? The Qumranites or Helyer? His search for a proto-Calvin doesn’t end with the Qumranites, however. A couple of pages later in discussing how the Qumran literature is significant for the New Testament, Helyer states that Paul believes in the predestination of the elect. I have no problem with that. But, then he goes on to say, “Paul does not, however, explicitly state the contrary, namely, that the wicked are predestined to damnation” (259). The problem is that Paul nowhere, even implicitly, argues for double predestination! Yet, Helyer seems to think that Paul comes close in the following quote from Romans:
‘What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?’ (Romans 9:22-23)
Is Paul saying that God has predestined some here for damnation? By no means! God is patient with the all. If the evil doer fails to repent of his ways, it is he himself who is responsible for his damnation, not God. St. John Chrysostom explains:
“Why are some people vessels of wrath and others vessels of mercy? It is by their own free choice. God, being very good, shows the same kindness to both. For it was not only to those who were saved that God showed kindness but to Pharaoh also, as far as he deserved. For both Pharaoh and God’s people had the advantage of God’s patience. And if Pharaoh was not saved it was because of his own will, since God had done as much for him as he had done for those who were saved.” (Homilies on Romans 16)
Elsewhere in the context of the churches established by Paul, he suggests that they “appear to have been autonomous” (224). To his credit, however, he adds in a footnote, “This statement, of course, will not go unchallenged by many who are convinced that the NT displays more of a hierarchical structure than I have allowed. I own up to my Baptistic presupposition on this point!”
Aside from the above mentioned issues, I think Helyer does a fantastic job surveying such a wide breadth of literature in one book and should be commended for his effort. Anyone who wishes to do a serious study of both Second Temple Literature and the New Testament should get this book!
Many thanks once again to Adrianna Wright and the good folks at InterVarsity Press who have provided me with a review copy of Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who's Dwelling In Shem's Tent?

"The structure of Genesis 9:25-27 is a heptastich which is divided into three parts by the repeated refrain of Canaan’s servitude, a son of guilty Ham:
                And he said,      
                   Cursed be Canaan;
                   A servant of servants will he be to his brother.
                                                                -Verse 25
                And he said,
                    Blessed be the Lord God of Shem;
                   Let Canaan be a slave to him.
                                                                -Verse 26
                God will enlarge Japhet,
                   But He will dwell in the tents of Shem;
                  Let Canaan be a slave to him
                                                                -Verse 27
Now the key issue is this: Who is the subject of the verb ‘he will dwell’ in Genesis 9:27? We concur with the judgment of the Targum of Onkelos, Philo, Maimonides, Rashi, Aben Ezra, Theodoret, Baumgarten, and Delitzsch that the subject is 'God.' Our reasons are these: (1) the subject of the previous clause is presumed to continue into the next clause where the subject is unexpressed; (2) the use of the indirect object of the previous line as subject (‘Japhet’) would require strong contextual reasons for doing so; (3) the context of the next several chapters designates Shem as the first in honor of blessing; and (4) the Hebrew phrase weyiškōn be’oh°lê šēm, ‘and he will dwell in the tents of Shem,’ hardly makes sense if attributed to Japhet, for Japhet had already been granted the blessing of expansion.
The plan of the whole prophecy appears to devote the first strophe only to Canaan, the second to Shem and Canaan, and the third to all three brothers. On the balance, then, the best option is to regard God as promising to Shem a special blessing. He would dwell with the Semitic peoples. The word for ‘dwell’ is related to the later concept of Mosaic theology of the Shekinah glory of God wherein the presence of God over the tabernacle was evidenced by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Hence, the man Shem would be the one through whom the ‘seed’ promised earlier would now come. Had not God said, 'Blessed be the Lord God of Shem’ (Gen. 9:26)? And why did He use this distinctive form of address? Could it not be that the blessing and indwelling were linked? And could it be that they were God’s next provision to earth’s latest crisis?"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Ten Commandments: An Echo Of The Creation

“The words ‘God said’ appear ten times in the creation account. In this way the creation narrative anticipates the Ten Commandments. This makes us realize that the Ten Commandments are, as it were, an echo of the creation; they are not arbitrary inventions for the purpose of erecting barriers to human freedom but signs pointing to the spirit, the language, and the meaning of creation; they are a translation of the language of the universe.”
-Joseph Ratzinger, ‘In the Beginning…’

Monday, August 16, 2010

Did Paul Invent Christianity?

“Paul is the most luminous personality in the history of primitive Christianity, and yet opinions differ widely as to his true significance. Only a few years ago we had a leading Protestant theologian asserting that Paul’s rabbinical theology led him to corrupt the Christian religion. Others, conversely, have called him the real founder of that religion. But in the opinion of the great majority of those who have studied him, the true view is that he was the one who understood the Master and continued his work. This opinion is borne out by the facts…As we cannot want to be wiser than history, which knows him only as Christ’s missionary, and as his own words clearly attest what his aims were and what he was, we regard him as Christ’s disciple, as the apostle who not only worked harder but also accomplished more than all the rest put together.”
-Adolf Von Harnack, What Is Christianity?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scheeben On The Theological Principles Of The Assumption Of Mary Premised By The Sacred Scriptures

“Mary’s special participation with Christ in the resurrection and glorification of the body is guaranteed by a series of theological factors, based either directly or indirectly on her divine motherhood. Their meaning can be strengthened still further by the application of various general principles premised by the Sacred Scriptures:
1. In the Mother of God, precisely because she is such only through and in her body, a permanent separation of body and soul is unthinkable, just as in Christ the separation of His body and soul from His divinity would be inconceivable on account of the hypostatic union.
2. Mary’s quality as motherly bride of Christ requires a permanent and complete unity of life which could be dissolved only temporarily in view of the ends of that union. To this the teaching of St. Paul must be applied concerning the love of a man for his wife as his flesh, which was ideally realized in Christ’s love for His Church; and this the more so since Mary, in a singular way, is the flesh of Christ and the principal member of His Church. Accordingly, the power of Christ’s love for His Church had to be revealed in Mary in a specific and complete manner.
3. To this can be added the principles of the Sacred Scriptures concerning the honor due to father and mother, and also concerning the participation in Christ’s glory, promised to those who share in His sufferings and death. The honor of the mother requires the complete safeguarding of her entire existence. The material service performed by Mary, whereby she used the substance of her body for the formation and sustenance of Christ, demands the glorification of her body in a distinctive manner. Furthermore, Mary’s singular, intimate, and absolute union with Christ in His sufferings and death requires the perfect participation with Him in His life of glory.
4. As instrument and cooperator in the work of redemption, Mary must most perfectly experience in herself the fruits of that sublime work; and this fruit so much the more, since only in a risen and glorified body could she, in union with Christ, effectively continue her office as mediatrix, and be the perfect surety of the efficacy of the act of redemption for the rest of mankind. In this respect it may be said that, without Mary’s resurrection and glorification, there would have been not only a weakening of that union with Christ, in virtue of which as the new Eve, she belongs at the side of the heavenly Adam for the complete possession of life, but the guaranty for our redemption would also be lacking precisely where, apart from Christ, the evidence of the efficacy of redemption should be most sought and expected. Moreover, in the economy of redemption, the peculiar type of the indefectibility and eternal vitality of the Church would be lacking.”
-Matthias Joseph Scheeben, Mariology, vol. 2.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book Review: The Old Testament Documents

Length: 239 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches
Binding: paperback
IVP Academic (August 2001)
ISBN: 978-0-8308-1975-1
IVP Order Code: 1975

With the wasteland of scholarship that exists in modern biblical studies, it is refreshing to find a scholar who approaches the Old Testament texts as the Word of God. That scholar is Walter C. Kaiser Jr., president emeritus and Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Kaiser envisions his The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? as a companion volume to the classic work by F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

Kaiser’s book serves as a refreshing introduction to the Old Testament. The books are judged on their own merit and based on their own claims—which are to be the revelation of God given to His people. He lays great importance in discovering what the texts, as they stand, mean to us. The several books are united by virtue of being the Word of God and so they should be read as a unity, each individual book having its place in the wider narrative of salvation history. With this hermeneutic in mind, he brings to light evidence against the tendency to break up individual books (specifically the Pentateuch) into little pieces in hopes of finding supposed sources, such as the Wellhausenian J, E, P, and D.

The greatest treasure of this book is the copious amounts of archeological corroboration Kaiser uses to show that the Old Testament documents are indeed reliable. One such example is of the walls at Jericho, which in the biblical account fell after Joshua led his army around while blowing trumpets. Many modern scholars doubt that this evident ever happened, or at least not as is told in the book of Joshua. Yet, Kaiser explains that the archeological excavations done at Jericho show that the walls fell outward supporting Joshua’s description that the walls “fell down flat” (Josh. 6:20) making it so that every man could charge straight into the city. Also, the mass amounts of grain found in the city support the biblical account of a swift fall of Jericho, rather than a long siege in which the attackers waited for the inhabitants to starve.

Kaiser also talks about the Old Testament Canon and here is where I, as a Catholic, disagree with the eminent Protestant. Kaiser and other Protestants affirm only 39 books of the Old Testament as Canonical (they leave out Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus [also known as Sirach], Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees), whereas Catholics hold that there are 46 books. Kaiser asks the question, “Who…made the decision as to what books were to be included in the canon and what were the criteria that were used?” He answers his question by stating, “The answer we could give is that there is no evidence that any group, council, or any other religious or nonreligious body made such as decision, much less left a clue as to what their criteria were.” This is simply false.

The Christian Canon of the Old Testament was established first in 382 at the Council of Rome which was held under Pope Damasus. Here is what is has to say:

“Likewise it has been said: Now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun.

The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis one book, Exodus one book, Leviticus one book, Numbers one book, Deuteronomy one book, Josue Nave one book, Judges one book, Ruth one book, Kings four books (meaning 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings), Paralipomenon two books (1 and 2 Chronicles), Psalms one book, Solomon three books, Proverbs one book, Ecclesiastes one book, Canticle of Canticles one book, likewise Wisdom one book, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) one book.

Likewise the order of the Prophets. Isaias one book, Jeremias one book (Baruch is included here), with Ginoth, that is, with his lamentations, Ezechiel one book, Daniel one book, Osee (Hosea) one book, Amos one book, Micheas (Micah) one book, Joel one book, Abdias (Obadiah) one book, Jonas (Jonah) one book, Nahum one book, Habacuc one book, Sophonias (Zephaniah) one book, Aggeus (Haggai) one book, Zacharias one book, Malachias one book.

Likewise the order of the histories. Job one book, Tobias one book, Esdras two books (Ezra and Nehemiah), Esther one book, Judith one book, Machabees two books.

Notice that there isn’t any talk of a “second-canon” or “deuterocanonical” books. There was only ONE canon of Sacred Scripture. The seven books that the Protestants reject never had a secondary status! The later councils of Hippo and Carthage (393 and 397) both affirmed the same books as being canonical. Then in 405, Pope Innocent I in his epistle “Consulenti tibi” to Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse, enumerates the same books that were listed at Rome, Hippo, and Carthage as being canonical. From here on until 1442 there is no more talk of the canon amongst the Popes or councils of the Church. The Council of Florence in 1442 lists the same as has been listed previously, again with no mention of a second canon. There has always only been ONE canon, and one alone. Then in 1546, at the Council of Trent, the Church reaffirms the list found at Florence in reaction against the Protestants taking out of the seven books mentioned previously. Thus, history witnesses against Kaiser’s claim that “At the Council of Trent (A.D. 1546), the Roman Catholic Church also added as canonical [the seven books]…though always with a secondary or deuterocanonical status.” Although, to Kaiser’s credit, he does not try to invoke the oft used myth that a council of rabbis took place at Jamnia which settled the Hebrew canon in 90 A.D. Instead, he firmly rejects the notion and states that all that took place at Jamnia was a discussion on how to interpret the books of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. There was no mention of their canonical status. On top of all that, if Jamnia did settle the Jewish canon, which it did not, why would the Church be bound to accept it? It wouldn’t and any notion that it should is to be rejected as ludicrous.

Canon issues aside, the book on a whole is a great introduction to the Old Testament. Are the texts reliable and relevant? Walter Kaiser is no Marcionite and the answer is a definite “Yes!” I highly recommend this book to all and praise IVP Academic for publishing it. It is books like this that makes Intervarsity Press one of my favorite publishers! Many thanks once again to Heather Mascarello and the good folks at InterVarsity Press who have provided me with a review copy of The Old Testament Documents by Walter Kaiser.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two Creation Accounts?

Here is a good summary of the reasons to reject the Documentary Hypothesis concerning Genesis 1-2.
Another point concerning the two names for God found in Gen. 1 and 2, that the author of the article did not mention, is that since Gen. 1 describes a broad view of creation, the generic name for God ("Elohim") is used. Whereas in the more intimate account of creation in Gen. 2 focusing on man, the covenant name for God ("Yahweh") is used, which is entirely fitting.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Biblical View Of Covenant

“In the Bible, what we call ‘covenant’ is not a symmetrical relationship between two partners who make a contractual agreement involving reciprocal obligations and penalties: this idea of a partnership among equals cannot be reconciled with the biblical concept of God. According to the latter, man is in no position to create a relationship with God, let alone give him anything and receive something in return; it is quite out of the question that man should bind God to obligations in return for undertakings on his own part. If there is to be a relationship between God and man, it can only come about through God’s free ordinance, in which his sovereignty remains intact. The relationship is therefore completely asymmetrical, because God, for the creature, is and remains the ‘wholly other.’ The ‘covenant’ is not a two-sided contract but a gift, a creative act of God’s love. This last statement, it is true, goes beyond the philological issue. Although the covenant is patterned on Hittite and Assyrian contracts between states, in which the lord imposes his law on his vassal, God’s covenant with Israel is far more: here God, the King, receives nothing from man; but in giving him his law, he gives him the path of life.”

-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Many Religions—One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christ Is The Key

"Christ is the key to all things and only by joining the disciples on the road to Emmaus, only by walking with Christ, by reinterpreting all things in his light, with him, crucified and risen, do we enter into the riches and beauty of sacred Scripture."

-Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Lenten Meeting with the Clergy of Rome (Feb. 22, 2007)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ask A Father

Q: St. Cyril of Alexandria, why did John write his Gospel?
A: ....Since there was no slight disturbance in regard to these things[heresies] amongst them that had believed, and the ill of the scandal thereof was consuming like a plague the souls of the simpler (for some drawn away from the true doctrines by their prattle imagined that the Word was then barely called to the beginning of Being, when He became Man), those of the believers who were wiser being assembled and met together, came to the Disciple of the Savior (I mean this John) and declared the disease that was pressing upon the brethren, and unfolded to him the prattle of them that teach otherwise, and besought that he would both strenuously assist themselves with the illumination through the Spirit, and stretch forth a saving hand to those who were already within the devil's meshes.

The disciples grieving then over them that were lost and corrupted in mind, and at the same time thinking it most unnatural to take no forethought for those that should succeed and come after, betakes himself to making the book: and the more human side, the genealogy of the legal and natural Birth according to the flesh, he left to the other Evangelists to tell at fuller length; himself with extreme ardour and courage of soul springs upon the prattle of those who are introducing such things, saying, IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD.