Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review 3: Consuming the Word

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Go here to check out my review of Scott Hahn's new book, Consuming the Word.

Or you can just read it here:

Americans of course remember that we won our War of Independence at Yorktown in 1781, ending a long and formal relationship with the British Crown. But the Constitution didn't go into effect until 1789; how did the newly-United States manage while a new model was being worked out and authoritatively written down? And how about after World War 1: empires swept away, assorted tribes each wanting an independent state of its own. Who will succeed? Who will fail? Who says?

I've always been fascinated by such periods of coalescing that lie between an old way of thinking, or governing, or living; and a new way. For Christians, the most compelling example of those times of flux would be that of the Early Church: the centuries between Pentecost, and the closing of the Canon of the New Testament. I've had some vague sense that the oral teaching authority of the Apostles and their appointed successors spanned those many years, and that they weren't bumping into each other and pratfalling like Keystone Kops. But in particular, what did the typically illiterate Christian believe? How did they learn the faith? Were there only "Old Testament" readings on Sunday? What Scriptures would Bereans ‘diligently search’ in 120 A.D.? I had no idea.

 Well, I had no idea until I read Scott Hahn's recent book, Consuming the Word: The New Testament and The Eucharist in the Early Church.  It’s not so much a book on apologetics as it is a story; you know, more like a Gospel than an Epistle. Not quite a reflection; but like reflections, it’s a gentle read that communicates a certain amount of academic information without seeming academic. The reader will meet some Church Fathers; learn some conceptual  stuff about a few (really, just a few) Greek and Latin words; read bits of letters; watch the Church collate a new batch of Scriptures, that is, writings; and attend the Eucharistic celebration on the New Sabbath (Sunday) with early Christians.  As it turns out, going to Mass had a whole lot to do with how and why the Church assembled and authorized a written “New Testament;” and decided there should be a New Testament at all. Hahn shows that Catholic distinctives such as the literal understanding of John 6 and apostolic authority were critical to sustaining and defining the Church through that time of flux; and that those same traits support worldwide Christianity (not just Catholicism) until today.
Because the story unwinds like a mystery, I don’t want to give away any of the plot.  At 150 pages the book isn’t long.  I wouldn’t call it an easy read, but you don’t have to be a closet apologist or polyglot to enjoy it.

Check out Chapter 1 here:

In my opinion the rest of the book is better than Chapter 1. The publisher doesn’t want to give the plot away, either.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Never Noticed This Either

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

 The beggar cried out, "Lord, I have not tasted food in three days."
 And Jesus saith to him, "Don't worry- it still tastes the same."

This is a follow-up to an earlier post; same subject, different angle.

It just occurred to me today: when Jesus worked miracles, did he ever partake of the benefits? I culled a list of a few dozen- didn't find a single case where he did. Which makes sense: why would God do something miraculous for Himself? In particular, consider the food miracles:

1. Water into Wine: He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from..."

2. Miraculous Catch of Fish: "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them."

3. Jesus Feeds Multitudes: "Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten."

4. Another Miraculous Catch of Fish: Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish...When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish [already] lying on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish."  

On the other hand, I don't think Jesus ever met a meal He didn't like:

"...the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?"

 "The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners..."

 "And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat."

"See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have."...And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, "What else ya got?" Just kidding.

 And: "Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?"

Yet per the prior post, Jesus eats the passover meal with the apostles only until He says, "This is my Body...this is my Blood... Take, eat...Drink of it, all of you." Looking at Jesus' miracles in general, and food miracles in particular, it makes sense that this was also a food miracle, although one not like the rest. That is, by not partaking of the food, Jesus shows that his words had effected a miracle; but one that requires we see it through faith, not through sight.