- Paperback: 312 pages
- Publisher: The Catholic University of America Press (September 19, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0813221560
- ISBN-13: 978-0813221564
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #902,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and St. Thomas Aquinas Paperback – September 19, 2013
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Matthew J. Ramage undertakes an encounter with the "dark passages" of the Bible and does so with candor, depth, and profound attention to the Catholic tradition of reading Sacred Scripture. His work...comprises a thorough synthesis of historical-critical exegesis and dogmatic interpretation that greatly respects and draws upon both approaches, bringing them into a fruitful synthesis that he applies, with great benefit, to some of the most unsettling passages of Sacred Scripture.
Ramage's work is an excellent contribution to a project that is only beginning and was indicated by Ratzinger himself as a work that woul dtake at least a generation to realize. One major benefit is that the work draws together manifold examples from Joseph Ratzinger to show how he interprets the Bible and illumines why he takes modern exegetical methods and their fruits seriously while never compromising his commitment to the Bible as the word ofGod. The courage of Ratzinger to carefully work in obedience to conciliar teaching on biblical interpretation has a subtle but powerful lesson for Catholic scholars and preachers. It is not simply a moral lesson about the virtue of obedience, but a lesson about the very relationship between faith and reason itself. In its use of Ratzinger and Aquinas, but also in Ramage's own careful and responsible conclusions, Dark Passages is particularly helpful for revealing Catholic biblical exegesis as one very important function of that relationship. It will be an important resource for all Catholics who wish to bridge the gap into which the cursing Psalms have fallen and out of which the criticisms of the New Atheists resound incessantly.
- Christopher T. Baglow, Notre Dame Seminary New Orleans, Louisiana
Dr. Ramage's work is written in a very lively and accessible style, and shows obvious enthusiasm for the work of Benedict XVI and St Thomas, and how their insights and exhortations can help us move beyond any perceived impasse between Method A and Method B approaches to sacred scripture...The book would be an excellent introduction to the whole subject for, for example, seminarians, and would also help those critical of the sacred scriptures to appreciate that the church's tradition has always recognised the obscure and sometimes alarming nature of the sacred texts.
- Neil Ferguson, O.P., Blackfriars Studium, Oxford
About the Author
MATTHEW J. RAMAGE is Associate Professor of Theology at Benedictine College.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
In chapter 1, the author, Matthew Ramage, identifies three "challenging biblical themes." They are:
(a) The nature of God. Ramage points out that the nature of God as the only divine being appears to change over the course of the Bible. Monotheism seems to be contradicted in places where God speaks about "we" and "us." Other passages appear to refer to God as the God of the Hebrews alone, i.e., a specific divine being among other divine beings. (p. 19.) References in the Pslams, for example, to God being a "great King above all gods" (Ps. 95:3) point to the original Hebrew religion as being henotheism or monolatry. (p. 20.)
Ramage also points out the "interesting" way that "The Lord" is interchanged with subordinate agents such as his dabar or "word" or ruach or "spirit" and with his divine messenger or "angels." (p. 24.) For example, in the burning bush scene, the burning bush that interacts with Moses is described as both "the angel of the Lord" and as God. (EX. 3:2 - 6.) Similar confusion occurs in Jacobs dream (Gn 31:11 - 13.) and in other portions of the Bible. (Zec. 3:1 - 2.) The point seems to be that "we observe that Israelites were not privy to a clear distinction between Yahweh and his divine messenger." (p. 25.)
(b) The nature of good and evil. These issues involve those situations where God slays all living creatures, except Noah and the creatures on the ark, or when an angel of the lord slayed 85,000 Assyrians through a plague or orders the slaying of everything that breathes in the cities of the Hittites and Amorites and Canannites, etc.. (Gn 7:23; 2 Kgs 19:35; Dt. 20:16-17.) (p. 31.) And there are other dark passages where God seems to make people do evil things. (1 Kgs 22:19-22; 2 Chr. 18:21.) (p. 35.)
(c) The Afterlife. Early Hebrew scriptures do not seem to consider the possibility of an afterlife. some texts - such as Ecclesiaste - seem to affirmatively deny the possibility of an afterlife.(Eccl. 2:19 - 21.) (p. 48.)
In Chapter 2, Ramage discusses three methods of doing biblical interpretation. Ramage calls "Method A" the traditional ancient, patristic-medieval method approach which spiritualizes the text and uproots the text from any literal grounding. (p. 9.) Method A includes the traditional "Four senses of scripture" - "The letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith; the Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny." (p. 61.) The weakness of Method A is that it doesn't treat the literal sense of scripture with the respect that the original authors may have intended.
Ramage offers some Catholic commonplace observations, such as noting that Pope Benedict observes that "the whole of Scripture is nothing other than Tradition." (p. 65.) Ramage cites Yves Congar as defining tradition - "Tradition comprises the holy scriptures, and besides these not only the powers of the ministry, customs and liturgical rites - in fact all the Christian realities themselves." (p. 64.) Likewise, "Pope Benedict tells us that ' a book was recognized as canonical if it was sanctioned by the Church for use in public worship...In the nascent Church the reading of Scripture and the confession of faith were primarily liturgical acts." (p. 67.)
"Method B" is the historical-critical method. (p. 10.) The strength of Method B is that it focus on the literal meaning of the text as to particular verses. The weakness of Method B is that it presupposes the denial of what Christianity affirms. Christianity affirms that the Bible is a unitary whole inspired by God in an "inspired unity." (p.80.)
Method C is what Ramage refers to Pope Benedict's exegetical approach which is to combine the prior methods. "A method C hermeneutic aims to appropriate the tools and questions of modern scholarship while purifying these from any anti-metaphysical or anti-Christian bias." (p. 85.)
In Chapter 3, Ramage looks at the Problem of Development. Ramage relies on Aquinas to demonstrate that the substance of the Judeo-Christian faith did not change, although there was a development in the number of truths believed by the faithful . (p. 92.) Ramage notes that Hebrews 11 defines "faith" as the "substance" of things hoped for, and "substance implies "that the Christian faith is an organism with a unique and enduring identity." (p. 93.) This insight means that every Christian doctrine believed in today was believed in an inchoate way throughout salvation history. (p. 95.)
Aquinas distinguishes between the "deposit of faith" and the "articles of faith." Articles act like joints that connect the truths of the faith to each other; each of them designates a fundamental revealed truth, from the Trinity to the Incarnation." (p. 95.) Aquinas described the "embryo" of faith as God's existence and providence: "For St. Thomas, all that is essential to the Christian faith (the Resurrection, the triune nature of God, the moral law, etc.) is rooted in the two primary "matters" (credibilia) of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11:6, namely, God's existence and his providence. (p. 97.) This leads to the interesting insight that "Those who have faith but have not explicitly accepted Christ are fellow travelers with Christians."(p.99.)
Development means that God teaches divine truths gradually, through "divine pedagogy," presumably fitting the information provided at any time to human need and ability to receive it. (p. 101.) (Aquinas also affirmed that some pre-Christian Jews, such as King David, had explicit knowledge of Christ's incarnation. (p. 106.) (ST II-II, q.1.a.7.) On the other hand, if a man who lived without explicit knowledge of Christ obtained salvation, it was on account of his affirmation of God's providence. (p. 107.)(ST II-II, q.2.a.7 ad. 3.)
In Chapter 4, Ramage deals with "apparent contradictions." This long section takes the reader into a lengthy analysis about what we mean be "inspiration" and "revelation.
Ramage's first move is to discuss the "two dimensions of prophecy: inspiration and revelation." through Aquinas' "theology of inspiration (p. 117.) Aquinas distinguished between "inspiration" and "revelation." (p. 120.) All scripture is inspired, but it is not all revelation. God inspired scripture so that they could serve a unique role in salvation history and in the formation of the church. (p. 122.) "The inspiration of scriptures lies precisely in the role that they played in salvation history and in the constitution of the church." (p. 123.) Because inspiration is not always revelation, and the purpose of inspiration is tied to its function in the church, there can be "inspiration without revelation" ("revelation in the strict sense") and "inspiration with revelation" ("inspiration in the broad sense.")
Another point that Ramage makes is that Aquinas Theology of Inspiration reckoned that God inspired authors by sharing with them "some species (a dream, a vision or a locution which ultimately furnishes the material for the idea) and enlightened the author's mind from within. From this enlightenment, the prophet made a judgment about the truth of the dream or vision, and the judgment completes the the prophetic knowledge. (p. 130.)
As an example of the separation of revelation and inspiration, Aquinas points to examples like Pharaoh who received visions but were not able to comprehend them.Joseph was able to comprehend the Pharaoh's vision, but did not experience directly the "species" that God manifested. (p. 131.) Thus, God can enable a faithful man to make prophetic judgments concerning a revealed species even though he was not the one who received it; there also exist cases in which prophets receive the light to judge reality in a supernatural manner without the involvement of any revealed species at all." (p. 132.) Moreover, revealed truth lies in the act wherein the prophet's intellect correctly apprehends a supernatural reality shown by God, (p. 133) but not every statement in scripture constitutes such a judgment.(p. 133.) "Indeed it seems clear that biblical authors conditioned their judgment, sometimes speaking about divine affairs without intending to make definitive judgments or to teach regarding them - even sometimes in matters of "faith and morals" such as the nature of God, the nature of good and evil, and the afterlife...."(p. 133.)
So, the question then becomes, "what was the judgment that the author was trying to make?" Scriptures are not inerrant from every conceivable point of view." (p. 135.) Pope Benedict makes the point by trying to focus on the "essential point" of the biblical text. (p. 133.)
Since scripture was not intended to be inerrant from "all points of view," Ramage distinguishes between formal errors and material imperfections. (p. 135.) For example, even under Method A, the Church taught that scripture did not treat of astronomy for its own sake, and so statements about astronomy are material imperfections, but not necessarily formal flaws.(p. 137.) The purpose of Genesis in that regard was to teach about the place of man in a universe wisely ordered by God, not about how the universe is arranged. (p. 137.) "Properly applying the historical-critical method may involve recognizing that the things we demand of scripture were not concerns for those who wrote it.(p. 143.) This is why it is crucial to discern the intention of the sacred authors and to demonstrate that their purpose was not always to teach propositional truths after the manner of a textbook. (p. 143."
Because of the human factor, Ramage also suggests that some "material imperfections" arise from the presence of "environmental defects" or "glitches" within the Bible. "These glitches do not violate the doctrine of inerrancy because "truth or error results from an author's judgment, and the Catholic faith requires us to hold that the substance of what the sacred author wishes to affirm corresponds to reality." In point of fact, in cases such as Ecclesiastes we have a state of affairs.in which a sacred author is not only epistemically warranted in his imperfect conclusion but might even be obligated to it." (p. 146.)
In addition, following Aquinas, Ramage distinguishes between "speculative" knowledge and "practical" knowledge. Sacred authors might include information not because they intend to impart propositional information, but in order to achieve a practical end, such as consoling, threatening, admonishing, charming, relaxing or even entertaining someone with a good story.(p. 149.) When the sacred author recounts the misdeeds of David, for example, it is unlikely that he wants his audience to simply learn new truths or imitate David's behavior. Far from it; he probably has the practical goal of getting his audience to learn from the failures of his ancestors..." (p. 149.)
In Chapter 5, Ramage applies the Method C principles to the problems he raised at the beginning of the book.
a. Nature of God - Ramage's approach is to acknowledge the problem that the early Old Testament is consistent with polytheism. However, it doesn't teach polytheism, and it shows a definite trajectory of growth toward monotheism. (p. 164.) Ramage explains concerning the former "When looked at in light of their entire context, they thus do not constitute true, formal errors since they are not the principle affirmations of the sacred writers and are not taught for their own end." (p. 176.)
b. The Nature of Good and Evil - Christopher Hitchens' heavy-handed polemics are mentioned in this section. (p. 179.) Ramage offers the following Method C approach:
//"the Bible's sacred authors applied this same line of reasoning in the case of genocidal wars that they victoriously fought for the sake of Yahweh. If it seemed clear that God wanted a certain battle won, and the tactics employed therein were successful, then God must have sanctioned or even directly willed those tactics.// (p. 188)
What seems to have been happening according to Ramage was that the Jews developed a more nuanced understanding of causality. Ancient Israel placed everything under God's providence; subsequently, Israel began to distinguish between God and other causal factors.(p. 189.) Again, Ramage points to a trajectory of development from a kernel that contained the substance subsequently affirmed.
Chapter 6 deals with Method C exegesis and the afterlife.This is a fascinating chapter that looks at the development of the idea of the afterlife in Ancient Near East. Ramage's point is that Israel initially fell into the common understanding of the ANE that either there was no afterlife or that the afterlife was a grim place. Over the course of time, Israel was "purified" of its ANE elements and developed along a trajectory toward a more robust and nuanced understanding of the afterlife. With respect to Ecclesiastes and its denial of an afterlife, Ramage argues that Ecclesiastes was written for a practical goal, which was to showcase the vanity of existence apart from hope in a redeemer.(p. 238.)
This is obviously a book for those with a deep interest in a thoroughly well-developed argument based on Thomistic insights. As someone who engages in internet apologetics, I think that some of the distinctions that are explored offer a way of dealing with the usual tropes of New Atheists, albeit I suspect that the ideas of this book will not be all that easy to boil down into "soundbites."
This is also an excellent resource for those interested in Aquinas' approach to biblical interpretation.
God's inspiration to the human authors of the bible always respects and works with the human authors own limited understanding, theology, and world-view. This is how one would expect a loving and patient God to work. The human authors of the bible did not merely take dictation from God ! This is always the case with divine revelation. Even if God directly spoke to me, the next minute I'd be left with my limited understanding of what God said and meant, and by the time I'd written it down the meaning would have varied yet again. A reader reading what I wrote would have yet another understanding.
This book is solidly based in Catholic doctrine on how to read sacred scripture and quotes extensively from St Thomas Aquinas and Pope Benedict.
Well worth reading for the many of us who are deeply troubled by passages in the bible which appear to condone or even command violence, genocide, war, the death penalty, slavery, discrimination, the opression of women and other harsh and inhuman sins.
Deacon Chris Sullivan
Bottom line, if you struggle with certain biblical passages (israel's early polytheism, the mass slaughters by God, the hardening of Pharoah's heart, etc.), this will give you a great way to interpret them with the whole of the Bible
Most recent customer reviews