The Bible in the Churches: How Various Christians Interpret the Scriptures, 2d ed.
This book is a helpful collection of essays on the place of the Bible in several Christian traditions. It presents Donald J. Harrington on Roman Catholic, Michael Prokurat on Eastern Orthodox, Joseph A. Burgess on Lutheran, and Grant R. Osborne on Evangelical views of the Bible. Each author interprets Ephesians 2:1-10, to show how a specific passage can receive varying emphases in interpretation. There is also a sketch by Hagen of the history of the interpretation of the Bible in the churches, and a concluding chapter by George Tavard on the ecumenical task in biblical interpretation.
Hagen's study pictures a lengthy history that moves from an unreflective grounding of theology and church life in the Bible to the present when too often the methods of study of the Bible create a distance between the text and the reader. He closes by asking whether these methods have really helped us understand the Bible better. Harrington's essay on Roman Catholic interpretation is differently focused. The recovery of a central place for the Bible in Catholic education and worship has brought with it an enormous flowering of many sorts of biblical study. Also noteworthy is the fact that third-world exegetes appear only here in these essays.
For most readers, Prokurat's on the Orthodox churches will be the section most filled with new information. His presentation of scripture as fundamentally liturgical both in origin and in function opens a perspective unfamiliar in the West. Burgess's study of scripture in the Lutheran tradition centers on the question of authority. He summarizes with five principles: the Second Testament interprets the First; the clear interprets the unclear-, scripture interprets itself; was Christum treibet (what furthers Christ) is the truth; interpreting scripture can only be done within the church.
Osborne's study of the Evangelical engagement with the Bible shows the variety within this tradition, at the same time stressing certain common principles, especially the inerrancy of scripture. Tavard's penetrating essay uses Augustine's understanding of time to show that tradition is not simply a deposit from the past but a changing, always unfinished and imperfect reality. Neither he nor Harrington is defensive toward the "world."
These irenic yet clearly stated essays will further ecumenical conversation about the Bible. They provide fine statements of what these groups bring to the task, but it would be sad if the conversation were directed simply by attempts to mediate among established positions. Tradition is always in the process of change, for it is always broken. Each participant needs to be open not simply to the enlargement but also to the transformation of the tradition, which will mean giving up as well as seeing freshly. When Christ is sought as the generating agent of transformation, the giving up of destructive elements such as anti-Judaism and patriarchy can be seen as authentic developments, even though this runs against the current of established tradition.
William A. Beardslee, Center for Process Studies, Claremont, CA
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|Author:||Beardslee, William A.|
|Publication:||Journal of Ecumenical Studies|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1998|
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