As a convert to Catholicism, Scott Hahn was my security blanket for many years. I knew I could not go wrong reading him, and felt like I could relate to him in many ways. He wrote a mixture of accessible and scholarly works, and I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was able to upgrade to some of his more scholarly works. I would not be where I am today if it weren't for him and his many wonderful works. Consuming the Word is another one of those wonderful works.
If you ask a Christian today to tell you what the New Testament is, you will hear various answers like, "The second half of the Bible," or "Twenty-seven books," or "The Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation." All of those answers would be accurate by today's standards but not by the standards of the Early Church. Dr. Hahn points out that, first and foremost, books were a luxury in that time. The Church was around before the official canon of the New Testament was even formed. In fact, depending upon your geographical location, you might have found guidance from some works that aren't even in the canon today, like the Epistle of Barnabas or Clement's Letter to the Corinthians.
Hahn then goes on to explain how the term "New Testament" as we know it today is different in meaning from the times of the early Christians. The actual "New Testament," as the Early Church knew it, was the Eucharist. Let that sink in for a moment. It seems so obvious now, but I would have never made that realization without this book. Using and interchanging the terms testament and covenant, Dr. Hahn points out that the Eucharist is at the center of the New Covenant. He doesn't downplay the importance of Sacred Scripture, but instead tells us how Sacred Scripture, when we read at Mass, points us toward the "heart of the Church," which is the Eucharist.
I think what I liked most about this book is how Scott Hahn emphasizes both Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist. Even though Scripture is not considered a sacrament, it does possess a sacramentality. Using the examples of Ezekiel and the Apostle John, Dr. Hahn says, "We need to 'eat' the sacred texts - consume them - make them part of us. We have to assimilate the Word as food. We have to find the bread of life in Scripture just as we find it in the Eucharist."
Hands down, this was a brilliant book worthy of 5 stars. It is scholarly in that there is more than a smattering of Greek, but it is also an easy and captivating read. I couldn't put it down, even while rocking my 2 month old son. It definitely put the Eucharist in a new light for me. I wouldn't say it changed my view of the Body and Blood, but it deepened it. So whether you are a cradle Catholic, a convert, or a revert, you will want to pick up this book to not only read but to share.
What's not to love about a book with a foreword (by a cardinal, no less) that dives into the discussion of New Evangelization in the second paragraph? (Let the dog-earing and highlighting begin!)
I'll admit, I was wondering just what the New Evangelization had to do with a book by Scott Hahn about the Bible...and I was feeling a little less-than-ready, if I'm honest. Cardinal Wuerl didn't wait long to lay it out for me:
"The New Evangelization calls us to render that voice intelligible to our age. The Word never changes, but the voice must be clear and relevant. The tone must be alive and enthusiastic. Our witness must be heard in the places where our people are."
And the book does not disappoint. If you're a scholar-wannabe with a tendency toward snoring, this book is for you. If you find yourself walking around the house trying to finish a book, able to read blazing fast if only those people would quit asking for things from you, this book is for you. If you've ever wondered what the big deal about the Bible is and whether we Catholics really do have any clue at all, this book is for you.
One thing I particularly appreciated about Hahn's approach to the topic, the New Testament as more than just a document, is that he did it in a way that I would call very ecumenical and completely Christian.
This book isn't just for the Catholic reader, and I don't say that lightly. In fact, I almost didn't include it, except that I find it very curious and intriguing. I've tried to pass along other Scott Hahn books to non-Catholics and I've never really had success. They're heavy and pretty Catholic. They're not, in my experience, introductory reading.
This is a book that exemplifies "New Evangelization" in a way that doesn't need to use the phrasing.
If you feel like the Year of Faith is slipping through your fingers, like maybe you are slackering a bit (I'm holding up a mirror to my face here), let me make a suggestion. Pick up a copy of this book and read it slowly, prayerfully, and maybe with a friend. Consider the lessons Hahn includes and the fire he ignites for the Word of God, both as sacrament and as text. Let Hahn inspire you to make the Word of God your life's priority.
A book you'll be glad you read and one you'll want to share as you re-read it. Hopefully, though, it lights the fire under you to attend to the Word of God at Mass and in your life with a new fervor.
on May 30, 2013
If you walked into a first-century church and asked to see a copy of the New Testament, you'd get a bunch of confused looks. What do you mean a copy? The Bible didn't yet exist. For the early Christians, "New Testament" was a sacramental phrase. It wasn't a book; it was the Eucharist.
In "Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church" (Image, 2013), renowned biblical scholar Dr. Scott Hahn explains that for the Biblical writers, the words "testament" and "covenant" were interchangeable. Both the Greek word for "testament" (diatheke) and the Hebrew equivalent (b'rith) are most accurately rendered in English as "covenant." Therefore when Jesus offered a cup of wine to his disciples at the Last Supper, saying "this cup is the new covenant [he kaine diatheke] in my blood" (1 Corinthians 11:25), the Jews would have understood him to say, "this cup is the new testament in my blood." Thus the New Testament was a sacrament at least a generation before it was a document.
But why is that important? It reveals the deep connection between the New Testament books and the liturgy. These biblical documents were intended to be proclaimed within the context of the sacrament we call the New Testament. Unlike many Protestants, who focus exclusively on the Scriptures, Catholics dine at two tables according to Pope John Paul II: "one of the Word of God, the other of the Eucharist. The work that we take on ourselves consists in approaching these two tables in order to be filled."
Hahn's book offers many fascinating insights on this connection. However, some readers may find "Consuming the Word" uncharacteristically disjointed. The chapters don't flow with the same linear and breezy style of titles like "The Lamb's Supper" or "Hail, Holy Queen". Instead, the book reads more like a collection of related, but disconnected essays. Also, readers might find the title a bit deceptive. The book isn't so much concerned with the New Testament canon, or the development of Eucharistic theology, as it is with Christian semantics and the Bible's liturgical context.
Nevertheless, Consuming the Word effectively argues that to understand Christianity's most basic terms, we must see them as the early Christians did. And for them, the phrase "New Testament" was at once sacramental and biblical. It affirmed that the Bible's proper home was in "the heart of the Church." Today, we must follow the early Christians by communing with Christ through both letter and Spirit.
on June 9, 2013
I have anxiously been awaiting Dr. Hahn's newest book which has been expected for some time now. This author has a way of totally blowing my mind with truths that just light up my world and positively show me the light of Christ. Hahn's books are usually written for the layperson and very easy to read, Consuming the Word, however is his third book written for both the layperson and priest thus, as noted in the Preface, requiring just an extra bit of effort on the layperson's part but by no means does that make it "difficult" to read.
After reading this book I will never hear the words "New Testament" and think the same as I did before I read the book. Hahn has us go back to the first century Christians and shows us how they thought and teaches us how to think like them. So much of the meaning of the "Bible", the "Word" has been lost in modernity that we need to see what the "Word" meant to those who started following Jesus' orders understood it to be. The New Testament is not a book, it is not written text; it is a divine being. Jesus wrote no words. The first century Christians had established traditions before they had written words. That tradition was the Eucharist which started in the Upper Room when Jesus instituted it. Reading this book is absolutely amazing as you see how the Eucharist came first, how it contains what we call "The New Testament" and how the NT came about *because of* the Liturgy.
As I read I would suddenly just have to stop because my mind would clear and it would all make sense as I saw and understood what Hahn was telling me. I understand the importance of knowing what the original Hebrew and Greek words mean, especially when they have no exact Latin or English translation. We must always remember to read the OT as a prophesy of the NT and the NT as a fulfillment of the OT. But at the centre of it all is the spoken word, the actions, the divine being of Christ which is celebrated daily all over the world in the Sacraments, the Eucharist, the Liturgy, the Mass.
If you are Catholic, read this book. If you have forgotten the real presence of Christ, read this book.
This is the best book by Hahn that I have ever read. If only we can get people to read it, it is certain to change minds, and change hearts forever. Buy two or three copies and start handing them out!
Yes, it's that good.
Every page has a new intriguing statement. He points out that "Jesus...was a great devourer of books. he had been schooled in the Law, the Prophets, and this histories of ancient Israel, and even the day he rose from the dead he spent interpreting these books" (p XIV).
The Second Temple Jews greatly revered their sacred books. "We find from the very beginning a profound reverence for the sacred writings: graphai...Scriptures" (p 12).
Certainly the early Christians continued this reverence, but with an added meaning. Consuming the word is a type, a trope, in the Bible, as when John and Ezekiel are told to eat scrolls.
In fact, Hahn point out that the very words 'New Testament' - kaine diatheke - could better be translated as permanent covenant. And when do we first hear of Jesus using the words 'he kaine diatheke"'? In 1st Cor when St Paul explains how Jesus said of the bread he was sharing 'This is the cup of the new covenant'.
Hahn argues that "What the first Christians knew as the 'New Testament' was not a book, but the Eucharist...The New Testament was a sacrament at least a generation before it was a document" (p 39-40).
The New Testament is drenched, soaked in liturgical statements and foreshadowings that refer to the celebration of the Eucharist. And to accomplish the ceremony, "God made Paul and other Apostles ...minister...diakonous, deacons'...the title of a liturgical office, a sacred ministry" (p 22).
Many of the scenes in the New Testament are 'Eucharistic', Hahan states.
For example, on the road to Emmaus Jesus is only recognized when he took bread and gave it to them. Then, and only then, were their eyes opened.
Even the events at Cana, the early church Father believed, was a foreshadowing of the Mass, since Jesus changed water into wine.
"The new Testament as a document presumes and depends upon the New Testament sacrifice and the New Testament meal." (p 45).
Hahn takes us through the history of the Eucharist in the church. Hahn finds the early Christians believed "Salvation comes by means of a covenant...and the covenant must be consumed so that it can be shared" (p 5).
Everywhere around us, there is the evidence of the collapse of religion in the western world. In Europe, a rising tide of secularization has led to a catastrophic decline in population and empty churches. Here in American, our own government is currently trying to force Catholics, against their faith, to provide abortifacients and contraceptives to everyone in our employ.
So it's wonderful...breathtaking...to have this new book by Scott Hahn, in which he urges us begin a new evangelization that will transform our society, and bring souls back to Christ.
on May 29, 2013
In his introduction Dr. Hahn writes: "God reveals himself and gives himself in the scroll. What begins as poetry, however, we can allow to degenerate into jargon; and so the Greco-Latinate terms "covenant," "testament," "liturgy," and "Eucharist" - all workaday words that inspired our ancestors to sing - now drop with a thud of a technical vocabulary."
Catholics and even non-Catholics are intimidated by Catholic terminology. In 2011 when we received the New Translation of the Roman Missal - the text that Catholics use at worship - there was great lamentations and gnashing of teeth when the phrase "one in being" in the Creed was changed to "consubstantial". We were told by "liturgical experts" that no one would understand it. However it is that dumbing down of our faith for decades that has lead the faithful to be separated from the mystery experienced in the words of our faith. Dr. Hahn opens up these words and their meanings in the Early Church for us. When we hear "New Testament" we immediately think of the books that encompass the last 1/3rd of the Bible. What did "New Testament" mean to the early Church, long before we had a canon of which books belonged in the Bible? We even find the term in Jeremiah 31:31, far before the time of Christ.
Learning the answers to these sorts of questions is not mundane, but a fascinating journey into the Sacred Scriptures. It will give the lay reader a new sense of wonder for what they experience at Mass. Do not be intimidated that Dr. Hahn uses Greek and Hebrew words - he does an excellent job explaining them and the chapters are short. It is very readable for the lay person who takes their time with the text. Those who are avid readers of theological material will be able to "consume" this text in a day.
Dr. Hahn relates his work to the New Evangelization, and helps us understand that by entering into the Eucharist into the Early Church and learning to evangelize as the early Church evangelized, we can hope that "perhaps our world can be remade and renewed as theirs was remade and renewed." Not quite as satisfying as the Lamb's Supper, it still earns 5 stars and is another stellar text by Dr. Hahn that deserves to be read and talked about. I know I will be passing along to my fellow co-workers in the vineyard.
on August 4, 2013
In this book, you can see a great example of what made Dr. Hahn so popular. In this book, Dr. Hahn continues his look at the Eucharist in Scripture and what it is that made the Eucharist the center of the Catholic faith. Specifically, this book looks at the New Testament and the Eucharist in the early Church, and the way that they took their form. In the way that Dr. Hahn is so skilled at doing, he takes this incredibly difficult and dense topic and presents it in a way that scholars will benefit from; even more impressive, though, is that he presents it in a way that the ordinary and more or less uninformed Catholic can also benefit from. This book goes through the New Testament texts and the writings of the early Church fathers, explaining how the Eucharist became, or, as he explains, always was, the central part of the Christian life.
One of the most beautiful things that Dr. Hahn does throughout this book is to talk about the way that the New Testament (as we know it) took the name Testament. This word, he explains, comes from the word covenant, meaning an extension of kinship. or bringing a person into one's family through a relationship. What does this mean? What Dr. Hahn shows throughout a large portion of this book is that what that means is that the idea of the New Testament was to show the covenant which Jesus Christ had established with His Church in the Eucharist. For the Early Church, he shows, it wasn't about a group of texts which were known as the "New Testament," but rather it was about the Sacrament of the Eucharist, where these texts would be proclaimed to the people. The texts we know as the New Testament weren't a Testament to them; they were a Person, the Word, the person of Jesus who lived on through the writings of His followers. Testament, the word we use, came to be through the idea of this being a covenant, a relationship of the Word of God, the person of Christ, with His people.
The other main point which stuck out to me in Dr. Hahn's book was the very idea of the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ, and the way that we encounter Him in the Church today. In a beautiful way, Dr. Hahn spends a portion of this book explaining that for the early Church, and still for the Church today, the Mass is the place where the faithful receive the Word through Scripture and through Sacrament. What this amounts to, he explains, is to lead us to the full communion between God and man, the "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9), where "the human family is 'divinized,' made to dwell with God, made full participants in the life of the Trinity." The Mass, Dr. Hahn shows us, is the place where this is lived out on earth, where we are brought into communion with the Father through His Son, the Word, whom we receive at each and every Mass.
If you are Catholic, Christian, or otherwise interested in the Eucharist and the way that it plays into the life of the Catholic Church, this is the book for you. At 146 pages it took me only 2 days to read this book, so if you don't have a lot of time it is perfect for you. If you are more theologically minded, parts of this book will be a review, but there will certainly be parts of this book which are new will help you in your journey of faith. If you are not theologically minded, this book, along with most of the corpus of Dr. Hahn's work, is a perfect way to bring you into deeper relationship with Christ through the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2).
To close, I want to finish with the quote that Dr. Hahn finishes his book with, speaking of the way that we receive the Word made flesh, the promise of the Old Testament, explained in the New Testament, and alive in the Church today. May God bless any of you who read this!
"We live the dream of the prophets and the seers, we live the promise of the divine covenant, we are given the bread of angels, whenever we consume the Word."
on June 13, 2013
Scott Hahn has a tremendous knack for revealing covenantal truths from the Old to the New. This book is written by a scholar but for the non-scholarly. He doesnt assume we understand complex theological suppositions, so he delves in deeply to reveal for us the fundemental truths of Christ that may have been hidden from us. Case in point, he ananlyzes the biblical languages to help us understand that the names like New or Old Testament are misnomers. Instead of Testament , a better understanding is Covenant , which is the oath between God's people and God. He explains that Jesus is the New covenant that he presented to us at the last supper before he was to be crucified. Hahn also explains how the written Word can not be separted from the spoken Word, and that what is revealed in the written Word can not be separated from The Word made flesh. The apostles and earliest believers could not understand God apart from the Divine Liturgy. The new Testament or Covenant came alive in the liturgy, particularly when Jesus took Bread and Wine and gave them to us as part of the new Covenant. Consuming the written Word means consuming the Word made flesh who dwelt amongst us. The truth comes by hearing. The proclamation of the gospel at the Mass was where people heard the Word and consumed the Word. It is where they witnessed the sacrifice of Christ, the final living sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Hahn reveals the new covenant once again, and we can continue to witness the ever present love of Christ as it is proclaimed at the mass. This book is an excellent followup to Hahns book, "The Lambs Supper" and is particulalry useful to compel the curious to investigate the Divine Liturgy which embodies the words of Christ to "Do this in remembrance of Me."
on July 29, 2013
Hahn begins his work with the story of St. Romanus the Melodist, who was a sixth-century composer of homilies in hymn form. He recounts how St. Romanus, like Ezekiel and John the Seer, was commanded to eat a scroll, in this case by the Blessed Virgin Mary. As Saint Jerome remarks: "Unless we eat the open book first, we cannot teach the children of Israel (4)." Truly, you cannot give what you do not own. The New Evangelization needs more lay people who have consumed the Word and are ready to go out into the world proclaiming that Jesus Lives!
Yet there is more to this than just a need to understand his written word really well, although that is important. Hahn points out that Romanus, Jerome, Ezekiel, and John all knew that "Salvation comes by way of a covenant-a covenant embodied in a Word, a Word that is made flesh, a Word that is consumed (6)."
What it means to "consume the Word" is examined over the rest of the book, particularly in light of the Scriptural and Patristic evidence. For Hahn, it is essential that we understand how the early Christians understood those particularly important theological terms like "covenant," "testament," "liturgy," and "Eucharist." This is the main reason Hahn wrote this book. The need to understand what these basic, though essential, theological terms meant to the sacred authors and the earliest Christians will not only have a profound impact on our own lives, but also on how we spread the Gospel in the 21st Century. "Our recovery of the newness of that vocabulary-the New Testament, the New Covenant-is especially urgent right now, as the Church embarks upon a New Evangelization (7)."
Ultimately, Hahn shows us that Christ did not establish a school of scribes before he ascended to heaven. Instead, it is clear that he founded a Eucharistic community, built upon the Apostles, who were sent out to proclaim the Gospel to all nations. We are indebted to Dr. Hahn for reminding us these basic facts as we strive to share the Gospel with others.
on February 5, 2014
Dr. Hahn recommends that we realize what happens when we as Catholics partake of this sacrament. He brings old truths to new light in this books. I always learn something from reading his books. The only problem I have with some of them, this one in particular, is that he gives such a dizzying of scripture references for some of his points that by the time I have looked them all up, I have lost my original train of thought! That sid, please read his books. They are all well done and worth your time.