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Pro Ecclesia Vol 18-N1: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology

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Pro Ecclesia is a quarterly journal of theology published by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. It seeks to give contemporary expression to the one apostolic faith and its classic traditions, working for and manifesting the church's unity by research, theological construction, and free exchange of opinion. Members of its advisory council represent communities committed to the authority of Holy Scripture, ecumenical dogmatic teaching and the structural continuity of the church, and are themselves dedicated to maintaining and invigorating these commitments. The journal publishes biblical, liturgical, historical and doctrinal articles that promote or illumine its purposes.

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1 CORINTHIANS: INTERPRETED BY EARLY CHRISTIAN COMMENTATORS, TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY JUDITH KOVACS

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Kathryn Greene-McCreight

In Vladimir Soloviev’s story of the Antichrist, the Redeemer’s eschatological opponent recommends himself to believers not least by alluding to the fact that he has been awarded a doctorate in theology at Tübingen and that he has written an exegetical work recognized by experts as groundbreaking. The Antichrist as a famous exegete—it is with this paradox that Soloviev, almost a hundred years ago, drew attention to the ambivalence of modern methods of interpreting the Bible. Today, to speak of the crisis of the historical-critical method has become almost a truism. And yet it had set out with enormous optimism.1

So begins Pope Benedict XVI’s essay, Biblical Interpretation in Conflict. He expresses a growing ambivalence toward historical-critical methods of the study of the Bible, an ambivalence shared by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike. And so this “enormous optimism” that saw the beginnings of historical-critical methods has waned in parts of the academy, and many scholars are seeking different methods and readings. The something different proposed by different quarters of both scriptural and theological studies has been, in part, the reconsideration of patristic exegesis, its postures and assumptions about the nature of the biblical text, and the results of its readings.

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THE SONG OF SONGS: INTERPRETED BY EARLY CHRISTIAN AND MEDIEVAL COMMENTATORS, TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY RICHARD A. NORRIS JR.

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Paul J. Griffiths

Richard Norris’s Song of Songs was the first volume to appear (in 2003) in The Church’s Bible, a series of commentaries “designed to present the Holy Scriptures as understood and interpreted during the first millennium of Christian history,” as Robert Wilken, the editor of the series, then put it (vii). This purpose applies to all the volumes in the series (two more, on 1 Corinthians and Isaiah, had appeared by the summer of 2008), and Norris applies it to the Song in the following way: “This volume is intended to illustrate Christian exegesis of the Song of Songs in the Church of the first six centuries and of the Latin Middle Ages” (xvii). To this end the volume contains the following elements.

First, there is a brief introduction (xvii–xxi) to the tradition and range of Christian interpretation of the Song. Second, two complete English versions of the Song are presented in parallel columns, one made from the Greek of the Septuagint (LXX), dating from perhaps the second century B.C., and the other from the Latin version (Vulgate) made by Jerome at the end of the fourth century A.D., which became the standard text for the West for a millennium. The two English versions are necessary because the mentioned Greek and Latin versions (there were others) frequently, and sometimes significantly, differ one from another; and since some of the commentaries Norris renders are responding to the Greek and some to the Latin, it is essential for readers to have before them renderings of both so that the detailed discussions of verbal particulars often provided by the commentators might make sense. Norris divides his double translation of the Song into sections according to breaks in sense (deciding when these occur is itself a difficult matter), and he follows each section with brief (usually less than a page) summary comments of his own on its themes and difficulties. This is the volume’s third element.

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ISAIAH: INTERPRETED BY EARLY CHRISTIAN AND MEDIEVAL COMMENTATORS, TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY ROBERT LOUIS WILKEN

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Claire Mathews McGinnis

This volume, as part of The Church’s Bible, is not simply a compilation of early Christian interpretations.1 Nor is it primarily a sustained reading of Isaiah. It is, rather, an attempt to evoke the intersection of the two, namely: the book of Isaiah as it was heard by early Christian readers, and as the prophet’s words became their own words, in prayer and praise to the Triune God. Readers who wish to be schooled in early Christian interpretation of Isaiah will find in this volume a thorough collection, representative of the variety and breadth of patristic readings, chosen for their spiritual, exegetical, and theological significance, conveniently arranged according to the chapters of Isaiah.

The volume’s introductions, which include discussion of the multiple (and I’m sure, painful) compromises its editors were required to make, reveal just what a complex collection this is. While a surface reading will certainly provide the novice with a window to the varied world of early Christian interpretation of Isaiah, this is not how the work functions best. The necessary brevity of the chapter introductions, the variety of the selections, and their ordering within a chapter demand of the reader careful attention and even clarity of purpose in order for the volume to yield its rich results.

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A NICENE CHRISTOLOGY? ROBERT JENSON AND THE TWO NATURES OF JESUS CHRIST

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Tee S. Gatewood III

The integrity of the church and the coherence of Christian theology depend on a proper identification of Jesus Christ. Without a clear understanding of this person’s relation to God and the human community, the church’s identity, message, and self-critical reflection collapse. Christoph Schwöbel has argued that the current disintegration of Christian identity and theology indicates an acute crisis within technical Christology.1 Seeking a way toward recovery, Schwöbel suggests that the church desperately needs a Trinitarian focus and hermeneutical framework within which thought about Jesus can transcend approaches from above and below. He proposes that this essential refocusing should begin with an appreciation of the notion of the person as developed by the Cappadocians.2

Chief among the current advocates of this type of theological approach is John Zizioulas. Zizioulas’s line of thought can be succinctly summarized in three points:

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THE SPEED OF SLOTH: RECONSIDERING THE SIN OF ACEDIA

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Jeffrey A. Vogel

In his book Time Exposure, the sociologist Richard Fenn argues that the haste characteristic of life in contemporary Western societies stems from a loss of belief in divine providence. This loss, which he notes is compatible with continuing belief in God, exposes human beings to pure time, with no guarantee of meaning other than that which they fashion for themselves. As he puts it, “To live in the secular world, then, is to take the world on its own terms. It is this world, not some other, that holds the secrets behind our own existence. Bereft of the shelter of institutions that transcend the passage of time, individuals have to seize their own times; time is indeed all they have.”1 Though the traditional doctrine of providence has never been a guarantee of access to the meaning of events, it has made the time things take acceptable, as the believer can imagine a time more decisive than his own, that is, God’s time. With the “secularization of time,” however, waiting has become “exceedingly problematical.” The full weight of importance falls on the accomplishment of an action; the time it takes to do anything is merely something to pass through, and the more time it takes, the more one feels that one is lagging behind others who are faster. The only way to guarantee survival into a future that has been evacuated of God is to take it by force, to arrive there earlier, to never miss an opportunity to begin to stake one’s claim. When the future is envisioned in terms of scarcity, it “is the fool who is willing to be kept waiting.”2 Though the unencumbered freedom of possibility that follows the loss of belief in providence may be “heady,” it also “brings with it the burden of time. The awareness of the passage of time makes every one, in the end, marginal.”3 If the believer in providence trusts that everything is encompassed within the divine initiative, that there is no far side, no edges, which, if crossed, would put one beyond God’s regard, the secular person has a distinct feeling of being exposed to time, left to his own devices not to fall behind.

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STEWARDS, INTERROGATORS, AND INVENTORS: TOWARD A PRACTICE OF TRADITION

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Mark S. Medley

Writing with reference to ongoing discussions of Baptist identity, Philip Thompson says, “Baptists would do well to discuss seriously the normativity of tradition.”1 As a participant in this conversation I concur. Baptists need to discuss the normativity of tradition; yet, few Baptists have an adequate concept of tradition to carry on such a conversation. In fact, as Thompson correctly says, “Baptists have come to make a tradition of rejecting tradition, Baptist or otherwise.”2 Historically, Baptist and other free church and evangelical theologians in North America often do not reflect on tradition as a theological category.3 The tendencies to adopt a crude sola scriptura biblicism, to overly stress the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual believer (while underplaying the work of the Spirit in church), and to consider wrongly tradition as “an artificial and later product of hierarchical Catholicism, and therefore a corruption of New Testament faith” are the most likely culprits for this absence of intentional theological reflection on tradition.4

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HOW TO READ CHARLES TAYLOR: THE THEOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF A SECULAR AGE

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D. Stephen Long

Reading Charles Taylor can be a frustrating experience. He has a penchant for writing large books with subtle but complicated theses that examine broad swaths of history. Although his writing style is clear, both the genre and thesis of his works are not. Where do we place his work? It is not quite history, social science, political philosophy, cultural studies, or theology, but it draws upon all these disciplines. What is he saying to us, especially those of us who are theologians, about the relationship between faith and secularism? To answer this question too quickly will surely be to misread him, for the theological significance of his work is complex and not easily discerned, largely because he often seems to be for and against something at the same time. Take for example some of the recurring themes throughout his work: romantic expressivism, the Reformation’s affirmation of ordinary life, benevolence or mutual benefit as the basis for a modern moral order, and modernity itself. Each of these themes receives positive and negative evaluations. For instance, although he continually distances himself from “knockers” or “boosters” of modernity, he himself regularly displays both attitudes. This raises a question: is modernity for Taylor a gain to be preserved or a decline to be remedied? The answer seems to be both, and determining which is which is part of the theological significance of his work.

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