By Dom PETER DAMIEN
The Bible, Word of God in Words of Men, by Jean Levie S.J., (Chapman, 30s.).
Mechanism and Vitalism, Philosophical Aspects of Biology, by R. Schubert-Soldern (Burns & Oates,
Saint Joseph, by Boniface Llamera, O.P. (Herder, 44s.).
Prayers for Meditation, by Hugo Rahner and Karl Rahner (Herder Nelson, 9s. 6d.).
HE majority of Catholics arc probably unaware of, and would almost certainly be shocked by, the revolution, which has taken place during the present century in the manner of interpreting the Bible.
Nobody likes to revise ideas, least of all those learnt at mother's knee. We are liable to suspect of heresy a writer who tells us that Noah's flood almost certainly did not submerge Mount Everest, even though we may have been dimly but uncomfortably aware of the difficulties of maintaining that it did. We would be still more uncomfortable if the writer replied that he had no less a person than Pope Pius XII on his side.
Father Levie, translated by S. H. Troman, has written a useful handbook describing his revolution and the present state of Biblical exegesis. It is a subject in which the use of technical terms cannot be avoided, but he has managed to keep them down to a minimum so that the hook should have an appeal beyond the restricted circle of dedicated scripture scholars. It is most necessary that ordinary Catholics should have some knowledge of this state of affairs. that in defending the Scriptures against the attacks of unbelievers they
should know precisely what is to be defended and in what way.
"MECHANISM A N D IV-R. VITALISM", will. I suppose, convey little to most people and, it must be confessed that for the layman the hook bristles with technicalities. Nevertheless the theme of the book is relevant to Catholic teaching. And the author's handling of it. with his accounts of various astonishing
experiments directed towards unravelling the mystery of life, is quite compelling.
Broadly speaking the mechanist school holds that there is no mystery of life, that there is no fundamental difference between animate and inanimate matter, simply that living things are more complex structures of atoms and molecules.
The common sense view would reply that this is a crass example of not seeing the wood for the trees. May be it is, but in his introductory chapter the author shows how immensely complex the question in fact is. He himself adopts a vitalist position, that in all living things there is a form, soul or life principle which controls and works through the various mechanisms and substructure. It is fair to say that his form of vitalism, so profoundly influenced by the long debate, would be scarcely recognised as such by his predecessors cf a century ago -but that is the way thought grows and develops. The book is edited by P. G. Fothergill.
FAT HER LLAMERA'S book tells us that devotion to Saint Joseph is a comparatively modern phenomenon and that he was practically ignored by theologians until the sixteenth century. The author certainly makes up for this lack of attention by his formal, set-piece attack on the question.
He aims to put Saint Joseph on a firm theological footing and to work out in scholastic terms the implications of his position in Scripture and the Church's tradition. The result, however, is singularly uninspired and the scholarship is not always as might appear at first sight. Translation by Sister Mary Elizabeth, O.P.
THE two distinguished Jesuit brothers composed "Prayers For Meditation" for use at a retreat which they gave to students at the University of Freiburg. They arc long, meditative prayers and should be helpful to those who are learning their way in mental prayer. The meditation on Study and Daily Life is particularly well done.
The book, translated by Rosaleen Brennan, is well produced in a size convenient for the pocket.