Passing on the Word
A Pastoral Guide to the Bible edited by George J. Dyer (Gill and MacMillan, £2.75)
Pastoral guide this little book undoubtedly is, in its aim to be of assistance particularly to the preacher, albeit for many readers the immediate impression will be that it is a guide to the views on Biblical matters current amongst Scripture technicians today. But the suggestion is not that one should draw on the book to concoct talks that parade the fascinating technical prowess of the biblicist, much less squander the precious moments of the preaching time to that purpose, which because of their brevity if nothing else, would carry all the dangers of a little knowledge handed to the listeners and the illusory comprehension of popular science.
The object of the compilers of this book, and they are legitimately optimistic about it, is rather to brief the preacher himself in what Biblical scholarship has to offer, so that he may pore over the scriptures with a delight and a creativity that will in turn draw his listeners to God through the attraction of His Word.
The book is most likely to achieve this object in the last chapter. It ought to be the first, pace the professorial bent for logical ordering and its innocence with regard to the advantage of
The latest impression, the second this year, of the Oxford Dictionary of Saints by D. H. Farmer contains a calendar and new articles on St Martin de Pori-es and St Moluag of Lismore, and corrects printing errors. The price is unchanged at £7.50.
capturing from the start.
But it does one practical thing. It uses the apparatus or carefully worded questions that keep the scriptural scholars to a specific point, in answers from a few lines to a page or so.
There are 43 questions (chapter one) on methods, terminology and presuppositions of Biblical scholarship, other sets on history and revelation, revelation in prophecy and wisdom, on eschatology, on Christ as discovered in the Gospels, and on the Church and ministry as found in scripture.
"As found in scripture". in the views or Biblical scholarship, is the operative phrase. The autonomy of Biblical scholarship is stressed, in the sense that the Biblical scholar, whilst leaving philosophy and theology to pronounce on the validity of dogmatic assertions, seeks to decide whether such assertions are supported by scripture.
The individual scholar's findings come under control "by. rational dialogue with other competent scholars and theologians". Raymond E. Brown's views on what Vatican II meant in its statements on the nature of scripture are predictably quoted: the reader may not know that the Brown theories have not gone unchallenged, in particular on the matter of the historicity of the Gospels.
With their quite different tones of voice, the Philistine and the reader seasoned by long years of watching the enthralling procession of scholarly opinions go by, will reflect that the satisfaction expressed by scholars at the passage of outmoded techniques and interpretations is by the same token, or should be, a healthy awareness of the transient nature of much that is ardently held today.
The hook works within the confines of endeavouring to show what scripture has and has not to give. Although there are moments
when you feel it is about to mention the teaching authority of the Church, its seven scripture scholars have not in fact been set the task of working out the relationship between scripture, Erudition and that authority.
The treatment would have been perhaps more rounded if the role of the Holy Spirit had been explicitly explained. Nowhere is the angle taken of the scriptures as the work of the Holy Spirit (who only gets eight lines, on p.10); in answer to: "How is the church the community of the Holy Spirit?").
Such an approach would have established an immediate consciousness of the scriptures within the totality of the Church's teaching mission.
The scant reference to Biblical inspiration follows: a first mention, almost a slip of the pen, comes on page 31, an inadequate statement in nine lines on p.47, and half a nod on page 55. Compare and contrast the richness resulting front, say, Xavier Leon-Dufour's treatment in the related articles in the "Dictionary of Biblical Theology".
The book, which first appeared as a special issue of Chicago Studies (and this presents some problems of its own: what does "hack the metaphors" mean?), does however, offer a wealth of information.
William Burridge WF